Friday, March 30, 2007

Slower than Molasses in January

I never thought about the old saw, "Slower than Molasses in January", but I never would have thought it derived from an actual event.

In 1919, a huge molasses tank in Boston, owned by US Industrial Alcohol, exploded and flooded the town with a sixteen-foot-tall wall of molasses that killed 21 people, injured over a hundred, and took out several buildings. Two and a half million gallons of molasses (about 14,000 tons) leveled several city blocks. The molasses was for distillation purposes (for industrial alcohol and rum)-- and the accident precedes the start of Prohibition by one day.

More here, and a writeup on the accident here.

As I read through some of the articles, I discovered that this is not the only Molasses Flood. This happened in 1911 in New Orleans, as well.

And how fast is molasses in January? Well, estimates say that the molasses ran through the streets and through buildings at about 35 miles per hour.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Woke up this morning to about six inches of SNOW.

Last weekend it was near 80 degrees. Yesterday was in the 70s and sunny and beautiful. Last night at 1am (when I finally staggered up to bed) it was clear as a bell.

This morning? SNOW. Lots of it.

Good news for us, since we've got family coming in today who want to go skiing over the weekend. Yeah!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another Decider

Hypocrisy, thy name is Dobson.

James Dobson, from Focus on the Family, has self-righteously decided that HE is the arbiter of who is christian and who is not. According to Dobson, Fred Thompson (a former TN senator who may throw his hat in the ring for the 2008 election) is not a Christian. Dobson weighed in (apparently with the self-described role of judge) on the presidential hopefuls for 2008. Apparently, most of them aren't really least according to the definition that Dobson made up.

Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger stood by Dobson's claim. He said that, while Dobson didn't believe Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless "has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his faith."

"We use that word—Christian—to refer to people who are evangelical Christians," Schneeberger added. "Dr. Dobson wasn't expressing a personal opinion about his eaction to a Thompson candidacy; he was trying to 'read the tea leaves' about such a

So according to Dobson, to be a Christian you must “talk openly about your faith”. Non-evangelicals aren't Christian? Oh, really? Pulled that out of your ass, did you? Does it matter that you're directly contradicted by your own religious foundation?

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. (Matthew 6:5)

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think it’s up to somebody who consistently acts in opposition to the teachings of the Christ to decide who’s a Christian and who isn’t. I know a lot of good people who are christians, in act and deed every single day. They don't go around proclaiming how righteous they are, how much better they are -- they just do it. Every day. Dobson talks the talk but he certainly doesn't walk the walk.

Of course, the fabulous construct that he used: I don't know he's X because I've never seen him do Y, has no basis in logic, no basis in fact, and I think we should use the same idea to characterize everyone else, too. I don't know that Dobson isn't a child molester, because I've never seen him throw up when someone mentions it. I don't know that Newt Gingrich isn't addicted to crack because I haven't seen him refuse to buy some.

Hey, this is FUN! I can make up some cockamany definition of something and then hold everyone up to it, or accuse them of being horrible people. Don't eat popcorn? You're obviously a terrorist. Watch Friends on TV? You're definitely stealing from your employer. Drive a pickup truck? You're a shoplifter. See how easy this is?

Well, if you don't mind being a hypocrite.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


So far, the one and only travel requirement for my current client has been one day travelling to Wichita for a face-to-face meeting. Well, it ends up taking two days, since you can't get a direct flight except in the evening, but that's it. One day.

So I flew out with the project manager on Monday night and returned Tuesday night. It was a fun trip, to be honest. They took us out (all of the project team -- some 12 people) to a veeeeerrry nice steak dinner when we arrived, and then we spent a day in a meeting.

Sometimes those can be horrible -- people aren't prepared, the people in the room can't make decisions, all the worst behavior you find in business settings. We may have been bemoaning the fact that the client doesn't seem to have done large projects before, and that they don't quite understand the importance of the requirements and design phase of things....but they were absolutely on the ball for this meeting and it was tremendously productive. Wow.

Of course, my travel karma reared its ugly head, and our flight out was delayed 2 hours and the flight back by nearly an hour. Pretty tame, compared to my usual travel chaos.

I am SO looking forward to starting the development on the project!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Manual vs Automatic

Both the Adorable Husband and I drive manual transmission cars -- we both prefer them, and have driven sticks since we started buying our own cars. But they're getting harder to find, as most new cars are build with advanced automatic transmissions (Triptronic, etc) and only a few car options on the very cheap end and the very expensive sports car range continue to offer manuals.

Not so in Europe, of course, were most cars are still manuals. But in the US, only 17% of the cars on the road are stick shifts. This came up recently because we're just starting to look for options for a next car for the Adorable Husband (in two years or so) and his current favorite -- the Passat -- is moving away from offering a manual transmission and opting for their Triptronic automatic in all their cars. You can apparently still order a manual, but it's now more expensive than the automatics. Instead of the surcharge for an automatic, which was the norm for many years, it's now a premium to have a stick.

What surprised me more was the percentage of people who are driving sticks and looking for cars with manual transmissions. From Product Design and Development,

...consider the findings of Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, which conducts extensive surveys at the retail end of the automotive business. He says that for the past three years, women, not men, have driven the manual transmission market.

In last year’s survey, 14.3 percent of women versus just 8.5 percent of men were shopping for a stick shift. In 1985, the numbers were dramatically reversed: 4.4 percent of women versus 52.8 percent of men.

I wonder what has prompted the change? Control? Manuals used to be cheaper? Flexbility? One of the suggestions about why over 80% of cars on the road are automatics is that people are doing so much more intheir cars -- cell phones, Starbucks coffee, etc. They don't have a hand free any longer to shift. Sounds reasonable to me.

Although I'm still looking for manuals when I buy my next car.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Beastie Update

Just an update on Rukh. He's doing pretty well, although we can tell that he's not feeling terrific. We're not sure if it's because of the new drugs he's on, or just feeling crappy in general. He's on a major antibiotic daily, Piroxicam (like Rimdayl) as an anti-inflammatory, and Cytoxin every other day as a low-dose chemo drug.

It's supposed to slow things down a bit, but we're not sure that it's worth it if the combination makes him queasy and unhappy. If he's only got a few weeks or months left, I'd rather they all be as happy as possible, you know? So, we're giving it a week and we'll see if he perks up or not.

We're also looking at putting him on thyroid meds to see if that also makes him feel a bit better. HE's always been on the low end of normal, which is low for an Akita. He wasn't symptomatic before, but with everything else that's going on, he seems to be now -- losing his fur, feeling lethargic, etc. It's hard to decide what to do; with so many drugs in his system, and so much happening in the last few weeks we can't tell what's causing the problems, so it's just shooting in the dark.

But, he's still happy to go for a short walk, get's excited about biscuits, and seems to be feeling ok, if not good at this point. He gets tired really quickly, and sleeps a lot, but that's to be expected. At the moment, he's racked out inthe living room, after having had pizza for lunch.

Dog Food Recall

By now, everyone knows about the Menu Foods pet food recall -- apparently the new info is that hte culprit is a chemical used as rat poison that contaminated the wheat-gluten that the company imports from China. The chemical is not illegal in China.

If you feed either canned food or those little foil packets of food from any of fifty three name brands, definitely check the list of recalled foods here.

Makes me wonder if it's worth paying a premium for Eukanuba when the same plant produces wall-mart brand goods, too. So far, this does not extend to dried kibble, but I have to wonder.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I heard a perfectly common-sense theory on why women's clothing buttons "backwards" -- ie, left-handed with buttons on the right, and men's clothing buttons right-handed, with the buttons on the left. I never really thought about it, except to laugh a bit when one of my coats is "backwards" for me or I wear on of the Adorable Husband's shirts.
The explanation? Buttons showed up on women's clothing in the mid-19th century, when the whole concept of "idle rich" was a real biggie. Women's buttons were backwards because the had to be right-handed for the maid. Men usually dressed themselves (although not always, I guess), and so they needed to have the buttons properly placed for a right-handed person to dress themself, while women had assistance and thus the buttons were placed for a right-handed person to dress someone else.
Kind of elegantly simple, don't you think?
There are, of course, many other theories (including some cockamamie idea that it forces women to use their inferior hand to remind them that they are inferior to men).
Someone else has spent a LOT of time thinking about the buttons quandary, and has written up a neat article on it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Archaeologists have argued and puzzled about how the enormous stones of Stonehenge were moved and set upright, how the many-ton blocks of the pyramids were moved, how people without benefit of pulleys and complex machinery could move these enormous weights.

Well, the elegant and amazingly simple solution of a retired Flint, MI carpenter may be just the ticket. Wally Wallington has figured out how to move enormous stones by himself, how to tilt up the standing stones, he even moved his son-in-law's barn 300 feet by himself. He has a website explaining how he figures all of this out. Brilliant. You can watch the entire proces here.

Absolutely brilliant. A wooden crossbar, a few stones and one human. He raised, moved, and set a 10-ton stone by himself with tools available to neolithic builders. Wow.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Carpet Woes

Once again, I am VERY thankful that I bought a SpotBot -- the little carpet cleaning thing from Bissel that you set on the spot, push a button, and voila! clean carpet.

We came home to a really stupendous spray of dog barf in my office. From experience, we know that these sorts of spots (mostly bile, I think) stain the carpet yellow. Seriously, after all the chemo and the rest of it, we're going to have to recarpet the house. But then again, what's a little urp and pee between friends, eh?

Anyway, this thing (the Spotbot) is amazing. Fill it with pet stain remover and some sort of Oxy-clean stuff and it pulls out even the worst stains with no effort at all. One of the best hundred bucks I've ever spent. I never anticipated using it this much, but I'm really glad that I bought it! No muss, no fuss, and it works like a charm. I don't often really recommend household appliances, but we've used this little carpet cleaner thingy more than anythign else in the house, including the vacuum.

Friday, March 16, 2007

No Pizza Delivery

How on earth do they get up here?

Yes, it's a real house -- of many on the page of Weird Houses. I just thought it was rather fun. I like the Trout house, too.
Pretty amazing view, though, he?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Crime in Erie

This was the FIRST item in the Police Blotter of our local newspaper. Obviously crime is a serious issue in our little town:
A man called Erie POlicy at about 8:30p.m., Wednesday, March 7, to report a suspicious peanut in his back yard.

The man told police he just wanted to document the incident at his home in the [local development].

No further information was available.
A suspicious peanut? I mean, can you imagine the poor officer having to respond to that without laughing hysterically? What could possibly be suspicious about a peanut? "Well, officer, it seemed to be....lurking."

Further rant

I'm bit better this morning, and Rukh seems to be perky as ever. Well, it's gray and rainy outside, so he's lumping around and snoring blissfully, but you get the idea!

The vet says that this isn't going to be painful, he'll just get sicker and sicker and eventually will have a hard time getting a deep breath. DH and I are on the same page about "quality of life", so hopefully the beastie will do his part and let us know when he really feels like crap.

On the no-hair front, the vet also thinks that it might be thyroid related -- that all the chemo and stuff set his hormones out of whack and he's hypothyroid, so the hair isn't growing back/thinning. He's pretty pink all over now, because much of his undercoat is thinned. So we're going to see if the blood test confirms that and get him on synthroid to see if we can make him feel better, even if only for a few weeks. Low thyroid might explain the blahs, too, so hopefuly that will help.

All I could think yesterday was "why can't we be the people who love pugs and yorkies, they live about twenty years!"

And I hope this doesn't sound really, really cold-hearted, but we had a talk last night about searching for a new puppy. We can't replace Rukh, we woudln't try, but we know from experience taht we cannot be a one-dog household. Uulaq is going to be a neurotic mess when he goes.We will be, too. It takes a long time to search for a good breeder and find a puppy, etc. We had figured to wait until fall before talking to people, but our schedule got a lot shorter.

Probably the first time in my life that a puppy for my birthday isn't a good thing. I don't want a new puppy. I want to keep the OLD one around longer! Nine years is not enough. Damn.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Today has been a truly shitty day.

No more chemo, I suppose that's good, but it's because the bone cancer has already metastazied into Rukh's lungs -- eight weeks ago, his chest xrays were clear. Today they show dime-size (+)tumors.

He'd been doing so well, too; he still seems to feel ok and has romped around the yard with Uulaq. Our vet said 2-4 months, tops. Maybe less. The fact that things grew so quickly doesn't bode well for more than a few months.

We expected this, of course -- but we thought we'd have a year or so.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Baad commercials

Working from home for me = having Discover Channel on all day. It's background noise, and I find that I'm actually more productive. Yeah, weird, I know, but it does seem to keep me focused.

(Unlike the Adorable Husband, who can't remember how to speak when the television is on)

But it does mean that I end up seeing a boatload of commercials during the day. When did advertising agencies adopt the theory that we're stupid and don't notice how awful the ads are? They're embarassing, or gross. I leap for the mute button when some of these show up.

There is currently an ad for colon cancer screening that actually involves a man making a colon-shaped gulley in a mound of mashed potatoes and dropping in a pea, all the while talkiing about polyps and how they can be removed...and then he eats the pea. Eeu.

A Healthy Choise talks about "adding flavor to taste" in the new ads for their food. What in the hell does that mean? Flavor to taste? Huh?

Dominos Pizza has the freaky facial-cgi guys.

Even Target has fallen into the trap. Their new "less" campaign has skinny models frolicking about while words emerge on the screen: fearLESS, endLESS, etc...and then marveLESS and fabuLESS. Huh? Marveless? Fabuless? Can they not spell? I wonder how many people noticed that one.

And those are ads for well-known, large corporations. The cheapo ads for fat-reduction pills, esurance, and Head-On are even worse.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Maps of Conquest

Someone spent a lot of time getting this right, and it's really cool -- a history of conquest in the middle east from 3000 BCE to today, as a 90-second flash movie. Egyptians, Macedonians, Mongols, British, and all the empires in between. Definitely worth a minute and a half of your time!
The Website, Maps of War, is an interesting browse. Cool!

Mistaken Identity

My dear friend Mark is buying a house. After years of renting, he found a really neat development and he closes on the new house next week. During the design phase of the housebuilding, he asked me to come along to the sessions to help him pick tile and carpet and flooring and all that "decorative" stuff. So I trundled along to the Design Center and helped him pick tile for the bathroom and laundry, countertops, bathroom fixtures, all that stuff.

It was kind of fun. We started referring to me as the "rental wife", since he doesn't have a woman in his life to give him a hand with all that.

Today was his final walkthrough prior to closing -- you know the drill, looking for things that need to be fixed, making sure tha l lthe doors and cabinets open and close, all the faucets work, that sort of thing. He asked me to come through and look for stuff.

So I arrive a bit early at the house, where the two representatives of the building company are waiting and introduce myself as the 'surrogate, rental wife'. They chuckled a bit, but Mark arrived shortly afterwards and Mark made the comment that I'd been really helpful, and that my husband was glad I wasn't doing it for our house.

"So, you're not married?" Chirpy walk-through woman says in surprise.


The look on her face was priceless. For just a second, before I could say that I was just giving Mark a hand with the aesthetics, you could tell that she was thinking...huh? What sort of weird sex triangle have I stumbled into? There's a husband somewhere?

We laughed like hyenas, which I imagine didn't help.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Data Mining is Dangerous

Had a DUI? A misdemeanor charge from back in college? Don't plan on going to Canada any time soon. At least don't expect smooth sailing.

Because of a demand by the US Dept of Homeland Security to have criminal background infomration from Canadians, there is a new program in place to share data between the US system and the Canadian system. Pretty much anything in your criminal record -- from speeding tickets to possession of marijuana back in 1960 -- that can be seen by a state sheriff is now available to the border guards in Canada.

Travellers are being turned back at the border for transgressions that are thirty years old.

...ask the well-to-do East Bay couple who flew to British Columbia this month for an eight-day ski vacation at the famed Whistler Chateau, where rooms run to $500 a night. They'd made the trip many times, but were surprised at the border to be told that the husband would have to report to "secondary'' immigration.

There, in a room he estimates was filled with 60 other concerned travelers, he was told he was "a person who was inadmissible to Canada.'' The problem? A conviction for marijuana possession.

In 1975.

The rules haven't changed, of course; Canada has always had laws controlling immigration and entry to the country. But now Canada has records, shared real-time (apparently) from the US, that make the job a bit easier. Canada has always turned away those have criminal records -- crossing the border is entering another country, even though we have taken for granted that things go pretty smoothly between the US and Canada. But this new data mining is overkill.

I imagine this is the result of the us demanding all this information and Canada (quite rightly) demanded reciprocity. I, for one, am a bit annoyed that the DHS both demanded this info of other countries and has made our crinimal databases available. I know that the intent is to find and refuse entry to actual criminals, but a misdemeanor charge from 1975? This is relevant how?

And this is only the beginning. Canada is only the first country with which we are sharing data. I'm sure others will demand the same access. Eventually, the criminal records of every US citizen will be collated and shared, probably with other countries, as they also request the data in return for their own records.

Does Canada have this right? Of course they do, just as the US has a right to screen those it lets through our borders. I'm not arguing that at all. Foreign nations have every right to make their own laws and enforce them. We don't get special treatment, and while it's going to be problematic for some travellers, Canada hasn't done anything wrong here.

That's not what makes me twitch about this -- what makes me all freaked about this is the beaurocrats and politicians suddenly thinking they know about databases, data mining, and the sharing of information. Records from the municipal, state, and federal leveel are being gathered into a single database and made available. It contains everything, even minor infractions, and are being opened up to beaurocrats all over the world.

This is what I do for a living, and believe me, I have ZERO trust that a slew of cooperating government agencies understands the ramifications of making this data essentially public. It's only a matter of time before something that shouldn't be public, that shouldn't be shared, makes it into that matrix.