Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dog Show

I don't think I've ever been to a dog show before -- I've watched them on television (Westminster), but never gone to one in person. I've been talking to people about puppies for two weeks now, and someone suggested that I go to the show in Loveland this weekend.

The Buckhorn Valley Kennel Club show had 18 Akitas competing, as well as about 1500 other dogs of all breeds. It was a lot of fun to see all the dogs, and wander around looking at all the "dog stuff". It wasn't the most productive visit -- no one I talked to locally has any planned litters -- but it was fun, nonetheless.

My sister and her husband show their Pug, Truman. Or rather, the breeder who co-owns him shows him on their behalf and he's been doing really well. They love the whole dog-show thing, and it's definitely eaten up their weekends traveling locally to shows with the little beast.

I can't say that I want to show dogs. There seems to be two level of interest in this "sport" -- those who enjoy the company and the competition, and those who reaaaaaalllly like winning. I guess it can be pretty cut-throat at higher levels, but this show was a local one, and everyone was pretty laid back and nice. I've heard that talking to exhibitors during some of the larger national shows is a no-no; they are likely to bite your head off for trying to engage them before a show. They want to show off their dogs, of course, but only to the judges.

Everyone we me was thrilled to talk to us about their breed, ask about our own dogs, and in general was thrilled to see people coming out to the show. Rather nice!

Otherwise, it was just HOT this weekend.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Expensive Beer

Last week, I was posting about Ethanol and biofuels and how I really feel like I'm being sucked into a bad marketing campaign. I'm pretty skeptical about the claims of how fabulous Ethanol is and how it will solve our energy problems...

I still don't think so, and I think the side-effects of everyone rushing off to the Super Fabulous Solution to all our Problems are going to difficult. Apparently, Germany is thinking the same thing. Beer in Germany is up over 40%, and the brewers are blaming the rush to grow food crops for fuel.
The head of the German brewers' association, Richard Weber, has caused outrage among friends of the annual Oktoberfest beer jamboree by predicting the hefty price rise. He pointed out that the German barley crop has been halved this year and that prices have soared by 50 per cent within 12 months

Brewers are demanding that farmers stop growing crops to make fuel (well, perhaps not the best response to the problems) and I think are highlighting a problem that makes many of us nervous: if we're using the acreage to grow crops for fuel, what happens to food production and food prices? I'm far more concerned that people worldwide won't be able to afford food -- or even get food -- than I am that the First Worlders can feel better about driving their SUVs.

Maybe biofuels are part of the solution, but they are no panacea.


I've been combing the Internet for Akitas breeders, trying to find a puppy to add the the Phouka household. Uulaq is becoming more and more neurotic being alone, and we definitely miss having two beasts.

Not much luck, really. No one has puppies, and only a few are planning litters this year. We found a local woman who has a litter of puppies on the ground now, but she's definitely a "backyard breeder" who isn't genetically testing her two dogs, and while she loves her dogs they are not the best examples of Akitas that I've seen. Not even close. We found a really, really cute white puppy there, but we're balking at getting him because his dad has the weirdest looking head we've ever seen. I've never seen a jowly akita before.

But one of the sites that I found has a 9-month-old Akita puppy for sale. He was originally kept as a show dog, but didn't quite make the cut. I opened the site and burst into tears. It was Rukh. Seriously -- the pictures are so eerily similar that I'd be hard pressed to identify who's who if I saw them side by side. It's kind of freaky.

My gut went "now! your dog! get him now!" but the rational part of my brain freaked out a little at the thought of getting a dog that was such a perfect doppleganger for our old dog. That might just be a bit weird.

But it's Rukh's face. Click on the 'for sale' link here to see. The picture above is of Rukh, of course.

La-la-la-I Don't Hear You!

Apparently Bush and Congress are headi1ng to a showdown over the subpeonas. Bush has claimed executive privilege and Congress (through Leahy) is taking steps to knock him down a notch. Fielding cites opinions by Paul Clement -- a poor choice to bolster this uber-secrecy practiced by the White House, as his conflict of interest is awfully clear. He is--already, even before we hit the courts--in a position where he is simultaneously defending the White House, and investigating it. Must be nice, eh?

Fred Fielding's letter telling Congress to f--- off is not so much a legal notice, but a lecture. It spends two paragraphs saying "no," one paragraph spinning the White House as cooperative, and then seven paragraphs talking about the exalted tradition of executive privilege.

More troubling, however, is what Fielding attaches: an opinion written by Solicitor General Paul Clement, explaining that OLC has reviewed Congress' requests and found that those requests fall squarely within the realm of executive privilege.
Paul Clement, as you'll recall, is the guy currently in charge of any investigation into the US Attorney firings, since Alberto Gonzales recused himself some months ago. He's the one who technically oversees the Office of Special Counsel investigation into whether politics played an improper part in Iglesias' firing or the hiring of career employees in DOJ, he's the one who oversees the joint Office of Professional Responsibility and Inspector General investigations into whether anything improper--including obstruction of justice--occurred in the hiring and firing of USAs. And now, he's the guy who gets to tell the President that he doesn't have to turn over what might amount to evidence of obstruction of justice in the Foggo and Wilkes case, among others.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

We're back!

What a lovely weekend! Of course, now I've got blisters on my feet (never wear new shoes out and about!) and the top of my head is sunburned to a crisp (wear a hat!) but we had a great time.

Stayed at the Hotel Monaco downtown, right on the 16th Street Mall, so we could wander about and have great food, went to the Colorado Renaissance Festival (the source of the sunburn!) and then went down to check out a litter of Akita puppies in Colorado Springs. We saw the new Cirque du Soleil show Corteo on Sunday, and walked through the La Piazza del Arte Festival (the source of the blisters)

Finally, we saw the Titanic exhibit ta the Science Museum yesterday, followed by dinner at The Fort (where we had rattlesnake as an appetizer).

I'm exhausted. But what fun!

Friday, June 22, 2007


The Adorable Husband has planned a weekend out on the town -- and is refusing to divulge the details, so I assume that I will be offline until Tuesday.

It's making me crazy not to know, but it should be fun!

How to Hug a Baby

This arrived in my email yesterday, and I'm still chuckling. So -- for your edification: How to Hug a Baby. (Note that I have no idea whose pictures these are).

1. First, spy a baby.

2. Then, confirm that the object really is a baby by employing classic sniifing techniques. If you smell wet diapers, this is indeed a baby. Proceed.

3. You will need to flatten the baby before actually beginning the hugging process. *NOTE: the added slobber will assist in future steps by making the baby easier to manipulate.

4. The "Paw Slide" -- slide paws around baby and prepare for close up.

5. If a camera is present, you will need to execute the difficult "hug/smile/lean" maneuver to achieve the best photo quality.

My sister has a mastiff like this one -- although her beast is fawn-colored, and a bit bigger. At his last vet visit, Colonel weighed in at an astounding 209 pounds. Makes my dogs seem tiny in comparison!

I am! I'm not! I am!

Vice President Cheney is insisting that the VP is not part of the Executive Branch of Government. Or, to be entirely accurate, is "also part of the legistlative branch" because of the role as president of the Senate. Thus, he is not subject to rules for the executive branch.

Why? Well, to bypass the rules, of course. Cheney is refusing to comply with a presidential order regarding annual reports on security with the National Archive. All federal offices are required to file reports, based on a presidential order to provide a uniform, government-wide system for safeguarding classified info. Cheney filed in 2001 and 2002...but since then? He has decided that he doesn't have to. He's not "fully part of the executive branch", so the rules doesn't actually apply to him. He has also refused to comply with orders to disclose how much information was begin classified and declassified.
The Vice President's office's refusal to comply with the executive order and the National Archives's request prompted the National Archives to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office. But the Justice Department has not followed up on the Archives's request. [Rawstory]

Isn't that nice? He has 'executive privilege' or 'executive immunity' whenever it suits him, but when it doesn't suit him (as when he's been requested to provide information to Congress regarding his activities and those of his close aides), he claims executive privilege. Nice to have it both ways isn't it?

When the National Archives lodged a complaint with the Justice Department, Cheney's office retaliated:
It has requested changes in the executive order that would abolish the ISOO and
eliminate the ability of the National Archives to appeal disputes to the Attorney General.

At least he didn't shoot anyone.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Joke for Grammarians

[slightly off-color joke to follow]

Harry is getting older, and find that he is unable to...ahem...perform to his satisfaction. Visits to his doctor result in pills and such, but nothing works. Finally, desperately, Harry seeks the help of a local witch doctor.

After much chanting and smoke and incantations, the witch doctor tells Harry, "This is a very powerful spell, so it will only work once every year. Just say '123' and you'll have an erection for as long as you like!"

Harry is very pleased "What about when it's over, and I don't want to continue?"

"You or partner just have to say '1234' and it will go down. But remember--you can't try again for another year!"

Harry rushes home, eager to try the new spell. He spiffs himself up, shaves, uses his best cologne, and climbs into bed next to his wife. Putting his hand lovingly on his wife's shoulder, he whispers, '123' and suddenly is more aroused than he has ever been in his entire life! It worked! Just like the witch-doctor promised!

His wife rolls over sleepily, and asks, "Harry? What did you say 123 for?"

And this, dear readers, is why you never end a sentence with a preposition.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dog Cooties

Anyone with a dog knows that you have to be careful that you don't inadvertently continue eating with the fingers you just fed the dog with -- sometimes you forget, and suddenly realize that you just picked up another chip with the hand you fed one to the beast with. Eeeu!

Well, I shouldn't cringe away in horror, it doesn't actually gross me out that much, but I know if really gives some people the heeby-jeebies.

We noticed a very strange phenomenon, though.

After dinner, we usually give Uulaq the bits of leftovers (the rest of the rice, or the last few meatballs, that sort of thing) on one of the dinner plates (and no, don't worry, we prety much scald them into an antiseptic state in the dishwasher!). So the Adorable Husband mixes the rest of the veggies in with brown rice with the serving spoon and both of us suddenly realize that we both now consider the spoon "dirty" and, even though we haven't done anything with it but touch the food that we were planning to give to the dog, the spoon had cooties. The spoon went from perfectly fine serving spoon to "touched-the-food-for-the-dog" icky just by intent.

The dog at this point is still outside, hasn't even seen the bowl yet, and we realize that we are both absolutely unwilling to use the spoon again. Same thing a fork or knife used to cut up something. In this case, we had been eating the rice and veggies all mixed up anyway, so it wasn't even that the food was in some sort of weird mixed-up, inedible combination. We had just decided that it was now the dog's leftovers.

Weird, eh?

Annoying Alarmclock

If you're like me, you reached over and hit the snooze a couple of times this morning. Every morning. Or even turned off the alarm entirely and fell back to sleep. (Luckily, I work from home and can't really be "late." Those seven minutes or so of snooze-time are the best sleep of the whole night, if you ask me.

But it does make it a bit more difficult to actually get up and get going in the morning. Well, a designer (Ena) has designed an alarm clock that might actually get even the most snooze-happy people out of bed. You'd have to get up -- the bloody alarm clock is buzzing around like a manic bumble-bee and you have to chase it down. In the air. Perhaps with a net, if you have tall ceilings.

When your alarm goes off, the little ball starts up, levitates, and then zooms around the walls and ceiling until you catch it and turn it off. Unless you happen to keep rocks next ot the bed to throw at the thing and knock it out of the air!

And then, of course, there's Clocky, which runs away and hides when the alarm goes off so you have to follow it around to turn it off.

Seriously, these things were designed by chirpy morning people to torture those of us who don't get going until we've been up for an hour, right? That could be the only reason that people are developing this stuff. They get some sort of sadistic pleasure out of forcing the rest of us to be "morning people!"

History of Western Philosphy

One of the courses that I listen to from the Teaching Company mentioned Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. I haven't read it (although I just ordered a copy!) and I was surprised that it also came up in a discussion forum just today. One of the quirks of the Internet, I guess.

On the forum, it came up in a discussion regarding admonitions about marriage and how the rules about who to marry, who not to marry, etc were derived. So someone asked the rather odd question of how it was determined to be "bad to marry your brother or sister". Well, we all sort of know this, right? I mean, cultural taboos against incest are pretty deeply grounded. And we all know now that there are some very good physical reasons not to interbreed (the Hapsburg Chin, anyone?), but how has this decision been explained by others?

Well, someone remembered a discussion by St. Thomas Aquinas regarding the topic, and we all were rather amused by the hilarious justification he gives for not marrying your sibling (quoted here from Russell's book):
[According to St. Thomas] Divine Law directs [...] There must be strict monogamy; polygyny is unfair to women, and polyandry makes paternity uncertain. Incest is to be forbidden because it would complicate family life. Against brother-sister incest there is a very curious argument: that if the love of husband and wife were combined with that of brother and sister, mutual attraction would be so strong as to cause unduly frequent intercourse. (H.W.P.p459)

Thomas Aquinas wrote the Summa Theologica, which has commentary on any number of questions and is intended as a teaching tool for theology of the 13th century He's generally considered to be a fantastically smart guy. But the reason he could come up with to bar sibling marriage was too much sex? You have to admit that's pretty funny, and pretty telling about medieval attitudes towards women and men and the natural things they do together!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ethanol numbers

I've been hearing a lot of advertising for GM "flex-fuel" vehicles, and supported ads for ethanol producers telling us to "go green!" It's a hot topic, and it seems that the verdict really isn't in on whether moving to ethanol as an alternative fuel (E85- - 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) is a good idea.

It sounds good on the surface, of course -- fewer emissions, using a "renewable" resource vs reliance on fossil fuels (and the necessary reliance on foreign supplies of oil). I'm all for changing what we do if it's really better; I'm not a tree-hugger by any means, but I think we all have a responsibility to use resources better and try to keep our impact on the rest of the world as small as possible. We Americans love our cars, and I think we need to be more careful how we use them and fuel them.

But the ads that I've been hearing have some disturbingly vague information. Most notably, the "Live Green, Go Yellow!" campaign touts that "Ethanol can cost up to a dollar less per gallon and save x dollars a year in fuel!".

Well, not quite. First, in many states, E85 is actually more expensive than gasoline, and it is available in only a few places. In March, the adjusted average for gasoline was 2.30 a gallon, for ethanol, 2.96. The difference was a bit smaller recently, but only because gas is climbing near the 3.50 mark, at least around here.

Second--and more importantly--Ethanol has fewer BTUs than gasoline (about 80K/gallon, vs 109-125K), that is. it has less energy in it. So, your car gets fewer miles per gallon of ethanol than it does for gasoline, despite the higher octane. Estimates range from 25-25% decrease in fuel efficiency. The latest studies from the Energy Dept suggest that the drop could be as high as 40%. (Their tools are here)So that mythical dollar you save on buying ethanol is easily outweighed by the additional gallons you have to buy. It's hard to get actual numbers, since Ethanol is not yet widely used and most cars mix a tank of gasoline in once in a while, but at least one example noted a 17% difference in fuel efficiency running "mostly E85" and 24% using solely E85.

[Businessweek] From General Motors, an ad campaign called "Live Green, Go Yellow" gave America the impression that by purchasing GM vehicles capable of using E85 ethanol, we could help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

What GM left out of its ads was that the use of this fuel would likely increase the amount of smog during the summer months (as the EPA's own attorneys had admitted in 1995) -- and that using E85 in GM products would lower their fuel efficiency by as much as 25%. (USA Today recently reported that the Energy Dept. estimated the drop in mileage at 40%.)

Newer cars, with computer-managed fuel-injection systems are likely to do better, but even cars designed as flex-fuel vehicles show a definite drop in fuel efficiency. Ok, so it doesn't cost less -- that has never really been a goal of using alternate fuels (although it sure seems to be touted as a benefit in advertising). Does it at least cost less to produce? Early data suggested that it actually was a zero-sum game: it took as much energy to produce a gallon of ethanol as it contained. Newer methods of generating ethanol are not as bad, and there is a net energy gain from ethanol. I was also surprised to learn that ethanol cannot be transported in pipelines like gasoline (it picks up impurities and excess water too easily) and thus must be trucked to processing plants and distribution centers. If you balance the cost of having to drive trucks to haul the stuff, the balance sheet doesn't look as good, either. [Ethanol's Net Energy Balance]

But cost of fuel is not really the driving issue here. Even if it costs you the same to drive with E85, the benefits of cleaner air, etc, would be enough to get people to swap, right? Well, even that is up in the air. E85 use can actually cause more smog during some periods even if it doesn't belch out hydrocarbons and other greenhouse gasses.

But it's the invisible cost that strikes me as more dangerous. If we pursue creating ethanol from food crops (corn, beets, etc) as a primary use, we're going to drive up the cost of food. No one is really sure just how far the ripple effect will go -- but the demands of producing corn, for example, as a source of ethanol have already impacted corn prices and land use. Recently, the UK reported that:

the final figure is equivalent to 1.2 billion litres of bioethanol and 1.35 billion litres of biodiesel. If this were to be produced in the UK, 1.2 million hectares would be required, about 20% of the UK's arable land.

Now, the US has a lot more land under cultivation, as does the rest of the world, so the assumption is that most ethanol/biodesiel will be shipped around the world from producers to users.

So if I sound skeptical about the lovely claims that ethanol is "the perfect plan", I am. Perhaps in the balance, it is a better choice, but the campaign to get it accepted seems to be relying on some pretty shady marketing tactics. Appealing to my pocketbook might get me to look at other options, but when in the end, it might cost more to use it, I'm definitely going to be doing a lot more research first. If a large chunk of the things I buy get more expensive because we shifted land-use, transportation methods, and other costs from oil to cover crops...the benefit of fewer emissions may not be enough to sway most people away from common, (relatively) cheap and familiar gas.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ages and Ages

Today is our 18th Anniversay -- and as I told the Adorable Husband today, I'd do every single minute again....well, perhaps not the giant flying bug part while living in Georgia, but you know what I mean!

It's odd, really. Most of our peers haven't been together half as long, and many are on their second or even third marriages. We've been very, very lucky, I know that. I still look over in the morning and think, "Damn, I'm lucky I married this man!"

We've actually been together a bit over 25 years. Couple that with turning 41 next week, and attending the graduation party of our friend's daughter (when I remember her when she was TEN) and I'm feeling quite old this week.

I say it in a rather facetious way, because I certainly don't really feel old except for those first few minutes in the morning when I'm trying to get my back straightened out. But in general, I realize that I've definitely hit adulthood with all the requisite responsibilities and stuff. Kind of daunting, actually! I suppose I can get older but I'm not going to grow up. Nya-nya-nya!

The Adorable Husband was on call all weekend, so we are taking time off next weekend to wander around Denver, see the new Titanic exhibit at the museum, go to dinner, that sort of thing. It'll be fun!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Think we didn't notice?

[From ThinkProgress] Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had once again bypassed the Senate and used an obscure Patriot Act provision to appoint an interim U.S. attorney in California. In doing so, he exercised an authority that was specifically banned by a bill that passed both chambers of Congress and passed to Bush on June 4.
That bill, the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007, has been on the president’s desk since June 4th. Do you know it seems he just can’t bring himself to sign it? Instead, we were informed yesterday through the Justice Department that the attorney general has used the power that we voted to repeal again.
Well, Bush got what he wanted, and by delaying, he was able to get one more loyal Bush-follower into a public office. The bill was finally signed yesterday. After Gonzales did his spiffy little two-step around the law.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Summer vs Winter Temps

So, I've been wondering: why in the winter does 50 degrees feel warm and we're outside in shorts basking in the pale sun, while the same temperature in the summer is frigid and requires a coat?

This has been a topic of much discussion in the Phouka household this week. We open the house up at night to take advantage of the lovely Colorado summer weather, and the temperature in the house in the morning has been dipping into mid-50s territory. It's perfect sleeping weather, and if we are conscientious about shutting the windows in the morning, the house stays cool enough that the air conditioning doesn't really come on until early evening, even on the 90-degree days. That sun blasting into the house from the west tends to heat things up a bit, but otherwise, it's pretty comfortable. The temp outside was 85, and even at 4pm it was still only 68 in the house.

Anyway, it's pretty dang chilly in the house in the morning, and even cooler downstairs. The Adorable Husband has been exercising in the basement each morning, and enjoying the cool mornings. I had to laugh at him -- if the house was the same temperature in January, say, he'd be bitching to high heaven that the house was like an icebox and refusing to get out of bed in the morning! (Well, me, too, but I tend to like it cooler than he does in general).

But now? When the days are climbing to 90 degrees? It's "refreshing" and perfectly ok that the house is at 56 in the morning while he runs around in pajama bottoms and no slippers.

Well, why does this happen? Obviously, it has to do with perception of "hot" and "cold" compared to the normal environment (I found an interesting explanation here in Hot and Cold Questions), but my body temperature is the same. Do I just get used to it being warmer, so my body thinks that 75 degrees is the "right" temperature instead of 35 degrees? So at some point in the spring and fall my body temperature sensors readjust? What triggers it? Average outdoor temperature? Longer daylight hours? Humidity?

It's all a sensory illusion, of course. 55 degrees is 55 degrees, but the relative difference in what we see as "normal" temperature accounts for the difference. I'd be curious, though, to find out the specific trigger points for when we think 55 is hot vs when we think 55 is cold.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ice Cream Confessions

The Adorable Husband has insisted that I post this anecdote about myself (since I so gleefully made fun of my sister borrowing a lamp during a power outage). He has made the comment that his family just doesn't divulge that sort of minorly embarassing stuff to all and sundry. Where's the fun in that? My family? Oh, pretty much any bone-headed thing you do is going to make the rounds at every family gathering for years to come.

Many moons ago. the Adorable Husband bought a truly inspired flavor of ice cream: Dreyers Ultimate Caramel Cup. Caramel ice cream, caramel swirl and--the best part--caramel filled chocolate chips.

Mmmmmmm. Caramel-filled chocolate chips. Like teensy little Rollo candies. Bliss.

At first, we ate the ice cream like normal people. But then, in what I now shall call The Perfect Crime, I started to pick out the caramel cups and just eat those.

Soon, this was not enough. I discovered that if I left the ice cream out for just a bit to get soft, I could root through the entire carton of ice cream, eating ALL the caramel cups, and then sort of squish the ice cream back down into the bottom of the container so it looked all normal again. Like I said, The Perfect Crime.

The poor Adorable Husband must have wondered if there was some sort of manufacturing problem, that the top of the container had plenty of chocolate bits, and the bottom half was strangely devoid of anything resembling a Caramel-filled chocolate chip.

Everest vs Mauna Loa

Weird thing I learned today? While Everest is usually first on the list when you ask people to list the "tallest mountain", that's actually--technically--not true.

Mauna Loa is the tallest mountain. Measured from the base of the mountain (which starts on the sea floor), Mauna Loa towers over Everest by about 3/4 of a mile -- at about 30,080 ft. Of course, about 15,000 of that is under water, but the mountain rises as a single slope from the sea bottom to its crown.

A technicality, to be sure, but at least one other site notes that
Geophysical evidence indicates that the full height of Mauna Loa above its base is an astounding 19 kilometers, more than twice the height of Mount Everest above sea level.


Poachers in Zambia have shot the last two white rhinos in the country. One is dead, the other may still survive. The f--ing poachers took the horn of the dead female. Obviously, these are not the last white rhinos around, but the six that Zambia acquired for their game preseve have now all been shot by poachers.

I think we should start actively hunting poachers. Round them up and shoot them in public. It might be a useful deterrent. Or at least, thin their ranks a little bit.

Although, perhaps we ought to target the people buying the black-market animal parts. As long as the market exists, and money can be made, some poacher is going to kill an endangered animal. Powdered rhino horn is primarily used in Asia as an aphrodesiac, and in folk medicine. Pisses me right off that an endangered animal is killed so some jerk can get it up. Let's ship them viagra by the truckload instead, eh?

Monday, June 11, 2007


Ok, so it wasn't enough to get freaked out about the History channel show, oh, no -- I had to do a bit more googling to see what else I could find out. (Me? Obsessive?)

One of the scenarios in the show was the enormous eruption of the Yellowstone caldera, releasing about 1000 cubic km of material into the atmosphere as it did 640,000 years ago. It tends to erupt about every 600K years, according to the layers in the surrounding park, and an eruption of this size would be catastrophic to life in the US. (To compare -- Mt. Saint Helens burped up only 1.2 cubic km of material. A tiny little blip in the company of the "supervolcanos".

So what else do I discover? That the largest supervolcano caldera ever discovered is in Colorado!

From Wikipedia:

La Garita was the site of truly enormous eruptions about 26–28 million years ago, during the Oligocene Epoch. The scale of volcanism was far beyond anything known in human history. The resulting deposit, known as the Fish Canyon Tuff, has a volume of approximately 5,000 cubic kilometers. That is more than enough material to fill Lake Erie. For comparison, the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens was only 1.2 cubic kilometers in volume. The area devastated by the La Garita eruption must have covered a significant portion of what is now Colorado, and ash could have fallen as far as the east coast of North America and the Caribbean.

It was one of the largest known eruptions, if not the largest, to have occurred in Earth's history.

Well. At least it is considered "extinct" at this point. We hope.

Stupid People

I was talking about inept managers and childish executives with my Invisible Friends online. Everyone knows the type: the manager who "doesn't know how to run the copier", or the executive who asks how to get letterhead to print on the office printer, when s/he really means "do it for me because I am a grand-high-poobah and these things are beneath me!" Most of the time it's a power play -- they can demand that someone else do something for them.

My standard response to these is to explain it, once, and then jokingly reply, "Well, I know you're not stupid, you can do it!" And sometimes, not so jokingly. Most people can't figure out a way to reply to that without admitting that yes, they are indeed stupid. They either do it themselves, or find someone else to do it.

Now, I do sympathize with people when faced with a new technology -- but everyone can figure these things out once they've been shown how. Refusing to do it after you've been shown is just trying to be purposely helpless or blatantly arrogant.

A couple of excerts from the Invisible People:
That's my boss. She also believes when you fax a document, you lose it, so you
must make a copy of it before faxing. How she thinks the original document is
transported physically from our machine to another machine is something I should
ask her sometime.

And, finally, this absolutely hysterical exchange recounted by one poster:

"Did your boss ever live in Albuquerque, say around 1990? I ask because at that time my then BF, now DH was working in copy shop. This woman came in & really insisted, vehemently, that she needed to fax her daughter the airline ticket she was holding in her hand.

The daughter, who did not have a fax machine on her end, was sitting by the phone waiting for a physical piece of paper to arrive somehow & allow her to catch her plane. The one that left within a couple hours.

He tried to explain it to her, but she was so insistent that he started to lose his temper. I stepped in (I was waiting for him to get off work) and tried, too. She just would.not.believe us.

She and her daughter truly believed that the ticket would be sucked into the machine & spit out into the phone at the daughter's house. Eventually, I suggested calling the airline & seeing if they could reissue the ticket & have it waiting for her when she arrived, but that was declared a 'stupid' idea and she stomped off in search of a copy shop where they could HELP her.


You mean the movies got it wrong?

I've just given myself nightmares...possibly for weeks. I stayed up late last night watching a show on the History Channel called "Last Days on Earth" -- wherein extremely smart scientists ponder the top threats to the planet and how the earth might end (and, of course, what happens to us when this occurs). Gamma radiation bursts, supervolcanos, asteroids, black holes -- all discussed by the likes of Stephen Hawkings, astrophysicist Neil De Grasse Tyson, and experts in vulcanology, geology, etc.

Sure, there have been disaster movies on SciFi for years about the giant asteroid heading towards earth, or a volcano erupting in Los Angeles or something. At the last moment, while the desperate people on earth watch in awe, the asteroid is destroyed, or the lava is rerouted, or most people excape the giant tsunami. It's a popular genre.

But the reality -- as this History Channel special explains with computer simulations and detailed scientific explanations of the predicted results -- is never so pretty. A massive eruption of the enormous caldera that sits under Yellowstone Park could drop ten feet of ash and sulfuric acid over the entire US and within weeks over most of the globe. The oceans would have the pH of battery acid and the darkness would kill off most of the plant life for many years. And we're about 30,000 years overdue for a massive eruption, if history is any predictor.

A black hole swinging close to our solar system (not as far fetched as it sounds) would give us decades of warning that the earth was going to be destroyed. And not a damn thing we could do about it.

Asteroids are a common movie villain, but the rosy outlook promised by the movie Armageddon isn't quite reality, according to the experts. An asteroid the size of Connecticut is currently plotted to come close enough to the earth in 2029 that it will actually pass beneath the orbit of some of our communication satellites -- and when it returns seven years later, no one knows whether it will hit us or not. If it does -- well, we know how the dinosaurs died off, and if anyone actually survived the firestorm in the atmosphere that would follow such an impact, it would be a short and painful existence. One of the interesting discussions in the show was of the movie-version of an asteroid hitting the earth: everyone standing outside, lookup up as the glowing rock leaves a shooting-star trail across the sky. Nope, according to science. THese things move at hundreds of miles per second, supersonic. We'd never hear it, and if we were anywhere within a thousand mile radius, the heat of the asteroid coming through the atmosphere would fry people instantly. No pretty glowing trails in the sky, just boom!

We can't actually waste much time worrying about this sort of thing, of course. These events are of such scope and impact that there isn't anything we can do to stop them -- and if they occur, there isn't any way for anyone to "fix" things. We can plan and we can have warning systems in place, but these would be world-ending events. Or at least, species-ending events for anything that needed to breathe and eat and drink. Nothing we do will avoid mile-high tides caused by a black hole, or the blasts of gamma radiation that quite literally shuts down our cells. We can't respond to this sort of thing, and the reality is that we shouldn't spend a whole lot of time trying to do it.

Not quite the nice end to the weekend that I envisioned!

Keep an eye out for the show on the History Channel -- or pick up the DVD here. It's interesting, even if it is enough to keep you up at night staring and the ceiling and wondering.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Uitwaaien is Dutch for "walking in windy weather for fun" and boy, have we had windy weather for the last two days!

The house is making faint booming noises each time a wind gust hits, and even the closed and locked windows upstairs are whistling in the wind. The outer edge of a huge storm system is running through Colorado -- no rain, but hurricane winds!

It's died down a bit finally (only about 35 mph gusts, according to the Adorable Husband's weather center thingy) but yesterday evening would not have been a good time to fly a kite or walk a teeny little dog. Keep a hold of small children, too!

Here are a few of the recorded wind gusts:
Berthoud – 101 mph (north of us)
Boulder – 92 mph (just a wee bit east of us
Genesee – 74 mph
Louisville – 70 mph
Greeley – 58 mph
Estes Park – 53 mph


We're all royalty

Strange things come up in my online conversations, and this is one of the oddest in a while. A lot of people who do geneaology are thrilled to find that they are related to some noble somewhere, descended from Earl This or Queen That -- and apparently there is statistical evidence that this is probably true for everyone. Apparently, we're all descended from Charlemagne. Or Confucious. Or some poor peasant schlepping about in northern Germany in 300 CE.

A fairly recent notion in biology and genetics is the concept of Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) ; that is, if you go back far enough, there is a common person in everyone's lineage. No, this is not a pitch for a "Genetic Eve" or any such nonesense, it's actually much simpler than that, and computer simulations have suggested that a common ancestor for ALL people of European descent is as recent as 1700 years ago.

Now, I'm the last person to try to explain statistics...they are mostly incomprehensible to me. But a statistician at Yale has apparently done a proof that points back to a common ancestor from about 800 CE. The logic goes something like this: everyone has two parents, four grandparents, 8 grandparents, get the picture. That number get really really big, really really fast. At some point, it surpasses the actual available population alive at the time everyones great-to-the-40th or whatever grandparents were alive. So, this means that people obviously shared ancestors. So far, so good.

At some point, the statistical count of people and relationships and time and DNA testing and whatever other magic mathematicians use converges on such a small group of people that everyone is somehow related to everyone else.

I get pretty fuzzy at this point. Lots of people have died, right? Not everyone has children, some people have more children than others, etc. But the math is sound, although even the statistician who did the paper admits that ht has probably overlooked a variable or two. But his conclusion? Everyone of European descent is related to Charlemagne -- a random choice of people living at the time that the MRCA existed, but a plausible choice, nonetheless.

Further study (by a gentleman named Mark Humphreys, a profressor a the Sschool of Computing at Dublin City University) has generated computer models that show that everyone in the world is eventually related to the Egyptian Royal house (1600 BCE), and other equally throught-provoking results.

I don't even claim to understand how they got to that conclusion, but if you want more information, here's the blog that I discovered this morning, and another explanation of how it's supposed to work.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Just what we need -- powdered alcoholic drinks! Woot!

Basically, a little package of drink mix, a little water, and voila! Alcoholic lime-ade! Powdered alcohol has been sold as a "flavoring" in the US for a few years, but it looks like this bunch of Dutch science students have figured out how to powder the stuff and actually reconstitute the alcohol content.

Top it up with water and you have a bubbly, lime-colored and -flavored drink with just 3 percent alcohol content.

"We are aiming for the youth market. They are really more into it because you can compare it with Bacardi-mixed drinks," 20-year-old Harm van Elderen told Reuters.

I'm a bit concerned that the targeted markets is "youth", because it's not technically illegal in the Netherlands to sell this sort of product to minors -- only alcohol in liquid form is covered under existing law. Of course, the legal drinking age in the Netherlands is already at a low 16 years old.

The whole "alcopop" set of products-- sweet, soda-like drinks with the same alocohol content as watery beer -- has been pretty popular in Europe, where drinking ages are lower and punishment for DUI are higher. Personally, the allure of a sweet, fizzy lime-ade-like drink is rather hard for me to figure out. Sounds kind of gross, actually.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Right after we moved into the new house, the beasts had one of their extremely rare fights (this is the one where the Adorable Husband ended up with stitches because he tried to take an eye out on one of those tree-support poles). We didn't often give the dogs soft stuffed anumals, since Uulaq tends to get pretty possessive about them. Well, they had a serious fight over one of the fleecy gingerbreadman-shaped chew toys.

Uulaq loves them, and apparently Rukh went too close to it. Huge vet visit ensued (she bit him through his eyelid, among other things) and after we got everyone back to the house, we went out to search for the offending toy and get rid of it.

It had dissapeared.

We looked everywhere -- no signs of recently dug-up dirt, no holes in the "regular" places, no tucking it behind the bushes or under the porch. We combed the yard for over an hour looking for the thing. We coudln't find anywhere that it might be buried and finally gave up, figuring that one of us int he heat of the moment had probably tossed it, or it was somewhere outside the yard. It had quite simply vanished from existence.

Until yesterday.

Apparently bored with the fact that I sit in my office do not amuse her all day, coupled with guys digging holes in the yard for new trees -- Uulaq has unearthed the four-year-old, dirt and fungus-encrusted chewie man from his not-so-shallow grave under the oak tree. It's all digusting and zombified and lumpy with unspeakable grossness and she looooooves it.

I don't even want to touch the disgusting thing, but she is carefully guarding it's shallow resting place and tries to dig it up every few hours. I know it's unfair, and I should just dig the horrid thing up and throw it away (instead of telling her to 'leave it!' every time she tries to dig)...but it's sooooo gross. I will have to find some gloves and unearth the chewie-corpse and dispose of it. Perhaps by burning. Ugh.

The NEW chewie toys have been dropped completely in favor of Zombie Chewie. Dogs is weird.

Monday, June 04, 2007

We just need another attack!

The new GOP chief in Arkansas, Dennis Milligan, is settling in to a state where Republicans were soundly beaten in the last election. He was elected as the new chair of the Arkansas Republican Party just two weeks ago, and predicts many changes for the GOP in his home state. I can't imagine that a statement like this one is going to help:

He said he’s “150 percent” behind Bush on the war in Iraq.

“At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing, and I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001 ], and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country,” Milligan said.

I'm having a hard time believing that he actually wants another attack on the US, but his blithe assurance that it would get people to support the president is pretty off the wall. I know a few poeple who believe this sort of thing.
All we "nay-sayers" need is to have more people killed and we'll just realize how Fabulous and Special the boy king is? That we don't already understand the sacrifice of every man and woman who has died in this fiasco? Really? Is that a size twelve shoe you have in your mouth, there, Mr. Milligan? Or do you stand by this one?

Seriously, I have to imagine he's kicking himself for phrasing it that way. I sincerely hope he is.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Invisible Super-Fox

More neighbor stories -- can't help it; the weather is fabulous and we spend a lot of time lounging around on the porch drinking wine and talking to them. (Great neighbors!)

Just outside our culdesac, in a house that was build by the same builder who did ours, a very nice older couple from (we think) California moved in. Great house, they spend a ton of time in the yard doing gardening and that sort of thing. They have a little white westie dog, Baxter (and, since we are terrible with people's names, they are "Baxter's People". (This is not unusual, actualy, when we lived in the old house, we used to know everyone on the block by their dogs -- Ginger's humans, 'the people who belong to Yodie', that sort of thing. We remembered every dog's name, but the people? Well, they better have nametags.)

So, Baxter's Mom (and I use that term guardedly, since I hate it when people refer to themselves as their dogs' "parents", but for the sake of brevity I'll use it here) is a very nice worman, but every single time I talk to her, she has a litany of complaints. There is always something wrong -- with the house, the garden, the weather, you name it, and she has a long, sad, rant about how things are not going properly.

About a month ago, the complaint du jour was that there was a "vicious, attack-cat" hanging around her front yard that was preventing her from leaving the house. OOOOkay. We all got a kick out of this, as the cat in question -- a big gray tomcat -- was fairly friendly.

Last night, K reported that Baxter's Mom had spent a lot of time on the neighborhood computer forum trying to figure out what sort of animal was now spraying on her back porch -- the stone pillars and the barbecue grill just REEKED, and she was at a loss as to what to do. Every night, and it was just awful. She didn't think it was cats, since she had put down Serious. Cat. Repellent and hadn't seen a cat in the yard for weeks, but she didn't know what it was and how to make it stop!

I asked what sort of cat repellent she had bought -- and discovered that she had found something called 'SHAKE-AWAY Cat Repellent Urine Granules' which contain ' (Coyote and Fox Powder) ' -- powdered urine granules from coyotes and fox, both of which we have in abundance around here. Can you see where this is heading?

Our theory is that by putting down the urine powder to keep cats out of her yard, she has actually ATTRACTED either the coyotes who have staked out Erie Village as part of their territory, or the red fox we've seen hanging around the neighborhood for the last few weeks. Probably the fox -- which would have no problem getting into their yard and are known to 'spray' to mark territory.

So, Baxter's Mom basically set up her house as "belonging" to some extra-strong, unknown, and invisible super-fox -- so the poor fox has scented an interloper in his territory, found the "den" of the invisible super-fox, and is going to keep marking it over and over and over until the dastardly invisible creature either shows up to contest his marking, or disappears. And fox urine stinks. It's worse than a cat spraying.

No wonder we've seen the fox hanging around the house lately. We usually don't see them, but we've seen this one male fox loping about just behind the house at least twice in two days.

Not quite what Baxter's Humans had in mind, I'm sure.

And the stuff is nearly impossible to get rid of -- it's marketed as being weather resistant and long-lasting. Oops!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Primping Poodles

Late this afternoon, my neighbor called, "Are you home? I have to show you something!"

After warning her that I was still in sweats and looked dreadful, I said OK and went outside to meet her.

And what do I see? Her golden retriever puppy (well, not quite a puppy anymore, a year old) prancing up the driveway with a red bandanna with hearts on it around her neck, and two matching ribbons on her ears. And, to round out the ensemble, red painted toenails.

She had been to the groomer today.

I just about ruptured something laughing. K explained that she just laughed when she saw "nail polish" on the list of grooming options, and just had to check it. She thought it was hysterical.

Poor Maggie. She didn't really seem to care one way or the other about having red toenails, but she certainly didn't like every human who saw her bursting into slightly hysterical laughter.

People should NOT dress up their dogs in clothes, or dye them to match their purse, or paint their toenails. It's just wrong, people! Wrong! Next thing we know, K will have her in little legwarmers and a doggie sweater and we'll have to stage an intervention!