Thursday, August 30, 2007

Leprechaun Dogs

Since the Adorable Husband was on vacation with his family last week, the grass in the back yard has had a chance to reach African Grassland length -- I haven't seen any wildebeest yet but in another day or so I was going to start looking for them!

We left the weasels outside while he mowed -- and this is the result: the picture didn't quite do it justice (I think the digital camera is too smart and kept trying to re-adjust the obviously wrong greenish cast in the photo), but Berit's feet are Leprechaun Green up to the elbow. Rowan, too, but he wasn't so cooperative in getting a picture.

Not My Dog

Ok -- while this might look like one of our dogs, it's NOT.

But the photo made me laugh out loud.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Surreal Parenting

I try very hard not to compare raising kids to raising puppies, but sometimes the similarities are rather funny. I had a conversation at lunch today with a coworker that definitely slipped into the surreal...

They called from her daughter's daycare to say that she (about 3 1/2) had bitten another child in the class not once, but THREE times this week. The first two times were just sort of in the heat of the moment, but this last time showed some serious intent. Apparently, the little girl lunged at the other kid and just chomped on her.

It's not often that my experiences with the puppies -- who rove around the house with razor-sharp puppy teeth like land sharks, biting anything that happens to get in their way, or waiting until I walk past to lunge out and nip at my toes -- parallel so closely with the experiences of a mom with a feisty kid. I

We both got a good laugh about it, and agreed that the rules for raising kids and puppies aren't that different - don't pee in the house, don't bite anybody, don't chew on the window frames, pay attention!

Mystery Illness

The test back from Cornell University to determine if the little beastie have Canine Influenza has come back just as non-diagnostic as the previous tests. The definitely show that they've been exposed, but it's not conclusive proof that the "dog flu" is what made them so sick.

To be honest, I'm not so concerned with knowing what it was but I am very concerned to know that it is NOT distemper. Either way, the tests were in that gray area of "well, maybe, this has a number of different interpretations.." Gah. I want YES/NO. I'm not going to get it, of course, the tests aren't that simple.

The weasels seem to be improving a little bit every day, and are definitely running around more and eating better. We've been expanding their space in the house, so hopefully by the end of the week they can be sleeping out int he house (downstairs at least) and my office will no longer be Puppy Central. Yeah!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Future world leaders

A pageant contestant was asked why she thought so many americans (1/5) can't find the US on a world map. Her answer is...well, incomprehensible. She'll make a good politician, I think.
I personally believe that US Americans are unable to do so, because, uh, some...people out there in our nation don't have maps, and, uh, I believe that our 3education liie such as South Africa and, uh, the Iraq everywere like, such as and ... I believe that they should, our education over here in the US should help the US, er, should help South Arica and should help the Iraq and the asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future, for our children...
Huh? Don't have maps?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Freaked out again

Talked to our vet today, who -- after asking how the puppies were and reassuring me that they seemed to be on the mend -- told me that the distemper test they sent off to the lab has come back positive. She explained that she expected that, since they were just vaccinated (three weeks ago) and the test is an antibody titre test.

The other vet in the office said that it shoudl be accurate 2 weeks after vaccination, and we were three weeks out, so I don't know what to think. I think I stopped breathing for a minute there.

However, since the little weasels have only ever had ONE symptom (horrible snot), it really is unlikely that they have anything more than a viral flu. At least, that's what everyone tells me!

So, we're going to test again in two weeks just ot confirm that the titre levels (or is it titer) have not gone up, indicating an actual infection. I'm wondering if they got sick as a result of the vaccine itself. It's an attenuated live vaccine, and they got sick just about a week after the shot. Who knows -- in the meantime, I will just quietly worry. Or maybe loudly worry.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The 1-10 Weasel Scale

Still no lab results, but the weasels are working their way back up to their normal crazed-weasel selves. Running around the yard, playing more, sleeping less.

And as evidence. I present:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trust Issues?

A letter to Dear Prudence in Slate Magazine begins with:
My husband and I have separate bank accounts, with a joint account for bills. Since we make roughly the same amount of money, the bills are split 50/50 through the joint account, and the rest of our personal paychecks are for ourselves to spend as we wish.
The writer then goes on to say that she and her husband are trying to have a child, and that he is not pitching in money to help with fertility treatments and any medical expenses. She wants to know if it's reasonable to expect him to pay for procedures that are "her problem".

I don't get this whole financial situation -- this ia married couple, and yet they have entirely separate finances, splitting the household bills like roommates. I could imagine that situation if all they really were was roommates, but married? Shouldn't married couples merge their finances as well as their furniture and cd collections when they get married? I find the whole idea of having "his" money, and "her" money and some generic pool of "bill money" to be absurd. It's even more absurd when the income levels are very different: if one partner makes minimum wage and the other a six-figure salary, is it fair that the executive is able to buy every toy s/he desires, while their partner can't even buy new jeans? I can't imagine one person saving for months to get a new cell phone when the other can pick up an iPhone on their way home, along with an iPod and new stereo system. what sort of resentment does that kind of situtation engender? I assume that household bills are split according to salary amounts, but what about things like vacation? Do you go through the phone bill and highlight each person's long distance?

Many years ago a worked with a woman who had two kids and had remarried to a man with no kids of his own. They had the whole "separate finances" thing going, and the new husband did not pay for naything having to do with the kids. That had to come from *her* money -- school clothes, christmas presents, medical bills, toys...they were her kids so she funded everything. He apparently paid half the utilities and rent, but otherwise, he spend his money on his own hobbies and toys. And she was okay with this arrangement! In fact, she thought it was quite reasonable and was surprised that it wasn't the way everyone else did it. She saw nothing wrong with her husband, the man she married and ostensibly loved, not investing anything into their financial life together beyond splitting the rent payment. I was horrified -- but she's not the only person I've talked to who has the same sort of arrnagement.

Maybe I'm naive -- it was never an issue between the Adorable Husband and I; when we got married, we quite literally didn't have a pot to piss in, so our finances were combined out of necessity: neither one of us could have managed on our own. We have joint checking, our investments are in joint accounts, we have the same credit cards. Meybe for couples who already have established themselves alone, merging everything is not such an easy process. But shouldn't it be the goal? Isn't part of marriage *trust*?

Snot Monster Update

I think we're on the road to reccovery -- less snot, less snorting, higher energy. Still no blood test results (I expect them today), but they definitely seem perkier. We even went for a short walk last night and it didn't wipe them out entirely. Yeah!

They still don't want to eat, but if they are feeling better, I can probably live with the Adorable Husband's view on things: when they're hungry, they'll eat.

I apparently should have been an Italian Grandmother -- 'Eat! Eat! You're too skinny!'

Theater on a Grand Scale

Washington Post Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Want to wear a t-shirt protesting Bush? Want to hear one of his speeches, but don't really support him with the blind fervor of the neo-con right? Well, the organizers of those events have some pretty detailed instructions on how to deal with you, a "potential protestor". S

A White House manual from 2002 has recently come to light. The secret document gives presidential advance staffers extensive instructions in the art of "deterring potential protestors" from President Bush's public appearances around the country. And you thought that this sort of thing was covered under Free Speech, right? Nah, every single appearance by the president is carefully choreographed, carefully screened, and ever-so-carefully presented to the public.
The manual offers advance staffers and volunteers who help set up presidential events guidelines for assembling crowds. Those invited into a VIP section on or near the stage, for instance, must be " extremely supportive of the Administration," it says. While the Secret Service screens audiences only for possible threats, the manual says, volunteers should examine people before they reach security checkpoints and look out for signs. Make sure to look for "folded cloth signs," it advises. [...]

But that does not mean the White House is against dissent -- just so long as the president does not see it. In fact, the manual outlines a specific system for those who disagree with the president to voice their views. It directs the White House advance staff to ask local police "to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in the view of the event site or motorcade route."
So, dissent and the expression of opposition to the president must be carefully shielded from Bush. I've been searching the news sites and can't find reports of this sort of thing from previous presidents. Protest has always been part of our political system, protesters have always shown up at presidential speeches, and their opposing views have never been squelched like this. We didn't have "free speech zones" set up before -- only now, when the president is attempting to garner unprecedented power to himself and is so unpopular that even the die-hard base is starting to question things. Can't let him see that people don't love him. Can't let him see that not everyone thinks he is right and righteous.

So what to do when those pesky citizens want to express their opinions? Well, set up your own operatives to shout them down, wave supportive signs, and keep a weather eye out for anyone who might disagree. Apparently, the actual supporters aren't excited and vocal enough for the producers of these moments of grand theater. They have to place shills in the audience to make sure that the watching public thinks that there are active supporters. Bush only performs for Potemkin audiences.
To counter any demonstrators who do get in, advance teams are told to create "rally squads" of volunteers with large hand-held signs, placards or banners with "favorable messages." Squads should be placed in strategic locations and "at least one squad should be 'roaming' throughout the perimeter of the event to look for potential problems," the manual says.

Advance teams are advised not to worry if protesters are not visible to the president or cameras: "If it is determined that the media will not see or hear them and that they pose no potential disruption to the event, they can be ignored. On the other hand, if the group is carrying signs, trying to shout down the President, or has the potential to cause some greater disruption to the event, action needs to be taken immediately to minimize the demonstrator's effect."
Theater. Grand theater, but requiring a level of disbelief that not many people can summon anymore. I'd rather see the latest Harry Potter movie. At least everyone there knows that it's fiction.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

What is wrong with people?

I am surprised, nay -- horrified -- that most people simply don't read. A recent poll noted that:

One in four adults read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. Of those who did read, women and older people were most avid, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices.

The survey reveals a nation whose book readers, on the whole, can hardly be called ravenous. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year - half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn't read any, the usual number read was seven.

How? How can these people survive? How can it be considered "normal" not to read books? (Or to read only FOUR in a year? Four? In a good week, I'll read at least that.

I am deeply, deeply suspicious of people who do not read. Oh, I understand that kids at home, busy jobs, etc, mean tha tyou don't have a lot of time to delve into that paperback novel sitting on the coffee table, but not to read at all? How is that possible?

I'm a serious bibliophile -- the Adorable Husband jokes that he can't leave me alone in the car without reading material, or I'll pull up the floormats looking for a new label I haven't read yet. I don't go anywhere without a book, just in case. Life has gotten busier lately, but I still read through a few books a week -- from fiction to reference books to whatever.

The internet, iPods, video games, and television bear the brunt of the blame for no reading, but that's really a crock, if you ask me. The most common reason? "Not enough time". Well, I'm sorry, I don't buy that. I fyou want to read, there's always time you can eke out from your day (I mean, really, you never go to the bathroom?) I think it's simply that many people don't want to have to expend any effort at all to be entertained. Reading a novel requires that you commit to the story, that you immerse yourself in the flow of the words and rev up your imagination; reading non-fiction requires that you at least engage your brain to process things. So many people want to sit back, passively, and just be amused by whatever. At least some poeple try to "explain away" the bizarre results by claiming that people do read, of course, they just read stuff on the internet, like news sites and other stuff. Maybe, but that doesn't replace reading a BOOK (whether physical or virtual). Reading a paragraph summary of the news isn't even reading -- that's the equivealent of reading the headlines scrolling across the bottom of the CNN screen.

It's rather frightening, actually, and I will freely admit to judging people who do not read as stupid, uninformed, and uninterested. If you can't be bothered to invest time in a good book, how am I to believe that you spend any time at all trying to educate yourself? It's not a fair assessment, I'll also admit; but if you simply cannot fit reading into your schedule, at least express regret about the loss! Those people who shrug and laugh and say they simply aren't interested in reading, or "it just makes me sleepy", as one respondent said...well, I don't even know what to say. I'm just flabbergasted.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tare Weight

Ok, so we took the puppies into the vet on Saturday to draw blood for a distemper test and canine influenza test, since they were not really any better. We weighed them -- and had a Huge Freakout about the weasels losing 2-3 pounds since they had been in the previous Wednesday. I freaked, the vet freaked, even the unflappable Adorable Husband was a little freaked.

I spent the weekend in absolute terror that they had distemper. Couldn't sleep, totally anxious, convinced that they had this horrible disease that is 80% fatal in puppies.

Took them in this morning (for my mental wellbeing check) and weighed them....34 and 35 pounds. Huh. That would mean that they had gained five pounds since Saturday. While I suppose it's possible, probably not.

We puzzle over this a second, when I remember that Laura, the vet tech who was in on Saturday, made a comment about taking off the rubber pad on the scale to clean it.

The rubber pad that weights just about... 3 pounds.

She didn't re-zero the scale.

The whole office got a huge laugh out of this -- even me, after I managed to blurt out, 'Not funny! I totally freaked the hell out that they had lost all that weight! Not funny at all!" She's not going to hear the end of this for a long time. (I love her to bits, so I'm not really mad, but I'm seriously going to kick her butt!)

Whew. Less snot today, no wheezing, much more energy. Things are looking better!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Your Papers, Please

From CNN:
"Americans may need passports to board domestic flights or to picnic in a national park next year if they live in one of the states defying the federal Real ID Act."
This barely noticed change to the original "Patriot Act" will require that every citizen report to a DMV with proof of identity, birth certificate, proof of SSN, photo id, proof of residency, etc, and get an official "Real ID" which will be required for any "Federal purposes", including getting in an airplane, using public parks, opening a bank account etc. It was originally dropped as legislation, but passed when it was attached to a military funding bill in 2005. This version wasn't even debated, just back-doored into the process because no one wants to vote against funding for the troops. Niiice.

I don't know about you, but I don't trust the government to keep the records it has safe, and I have no faith whatsoever that they can keep this sort of centralized information database intact and safe. The almost unnoticeable mention that the card will "use common machine-readable technology" means that they can track information about the card, about the user, and about its use. And the law itself is vague enough that the dept of Homeland Security (gah, I hate that name) still hasn't really defined what sorts of things can be included -- prints, bio-data, RFID tracking? They have said they can include these things, but haven't decided...yet. And who else will be using this sort of information?

I find this Readl ID to be a serious breach of privacy. I already have all these identifications. I have a passport. I shouldn't have to prove that I have the right to interstate travel within the US, or to provide my identification papers in order to go about my daily business.

Quite a few states have already passed legislation that states they will not comply with the RealID legislation. Luckily, Colorado is one of them. Other states have embraced this big-brother national identity system whole heartedly. Maybe it's a good thing we've identified them now.

The whole idea is a mess. It creates a national identity card (which the citizens have strongly opposed), imposes huge fiscal and bureaucratic costs on states, ups the risk of identify theft (because of a centralized database), while doing absolutely nothing to "prevent terrorism"'s primary stated purpose. Apparently, terrorists will be too stupid to adopt the technology of the RealID, or fake the documents needed to get one of their own. .

Yeah. Right. There is an (admittedly strongly anti-id) FAQ here, if you want an overview

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Total Relaxation

Happy Happy!

I am feeling quite content and happy today -- we headed up into Longmont to search out food and decided on a new Italian restaurant that the Adorable Husband had just heard of. We stopped in front, realized that it was more of a bar than a restaurant and the music blaring out was so loud neither of us wanted to go in.

So we wandered up the street and found Pinocchio's -- a little Italian bistro with red-checked tablecloths. When we sat down, the menu suddenly looked really familiar! Wait a minute...this looks just like the menu from our favorite little Italian place in Lafayette...which CLOSED abruptly a few years ago.

Yes! The same chef who ran the Sweet Tomato (where we practically lived while doing our kitchen renovation) is the owner! We were so glad that the other restaurant was just not attractive to us, or we'd never have discovered Pinocchio's.

This simple discovery has made me very, very happy today.

Everything is Secret

The Republican National Committee said it will not abide by a subpoena and turn over documents to a Congressional committee investigating the firings of at least eight US attorneys last year because the RNC is waiting to see if the White House will assert executive privilege over RNC documents at the center of the controversy, according to an outside law firm retained by the RNC.
Let me get this straight. The RNC, a political organization, is waiting to see if the president is going to claim executive privilege over their documents? Just how, exactly, is that supposed to work? It's stretching quite a bit to say that the entire RNC is "the kings man", and in a position where the president could claim that they are an advisor of such importance that they need protection. I suppose they're going to argue that since the president might have seen the documents, or that they might have been seen by someone else the president has declared "off limits" that they can refuse to provide them. Must be nice.

JK Rowling would be proud. Once again, Bush is trying to make the narrow accepted definition of executive privilege do double-duty as is personal Secret Keeper. He seems to think he can just decide that information that might make him look bad is simply unavailable to anyone else, for whatever reason he wants, for as long as he wants.

The day a political party gets executive privilege, the whole concept of "democracy" gets set by the wayside.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

2 on the Weasel Scale

We still don't know what's wrong with the puppies, except that they have some sort of respiratory infection (viral or bacterial, we aren't sure, since the antibiotics don't seem to have had much effect.

They are not their normal perky little selves. Maybe a 2 on the 1-10 scale of Weasel-ness.

Poor puppers. They don't feel well at all. The vet office is calling twice a day to check on them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Still more mucus

The weasels are still sick today, even after three doses of major antibiotics. Much more mucus and snorfling and they really just look like they feel horrible.

I woke the Adorable Husband up last night to make him look at a tissue of puppy snot. Lovely man that he is, he dutifully got up and assured me that it was perfectly fine and that no, it wasn't a sign of something horrible.

If they are still sick tomorrow, we're back to the vet. Sigh.

No Constitution

From one of the posters on TableTalk, where I often hang out -- the gentleman put this much more clearly than I ever could:
If you accept the logic that the government can do in secret what it is expressly prohibited from doing by the constitution, and BECAUSE it is secret neither the actions themselves nor the decisions to do them can ever be challenged, then you no longer have a constitution.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Welsh Signage

I ran across this comment in a ScienceBlog regarding the change in US road signs to a new font called 'clearview', which purports to make the signs more readable. Hey, I'm all for more readable signs, but one of the commenters on the blog had this to say, which made me snort with laughter in a very unlady-like fashion.
The problem is there is no consistency as to where on the signs the two languages are placed. Sometimes the English is on top and the Welsh on bottom, sometimes it's the other way around, and sometimes (albeit rarer, as far as I can recall) they are side-by-side (and, I assume, which one is on the left probably varies?). That makes navigating in Wales a real treat, especially since the spelling in either language isn't always agreed--the map says Bygtih (I just made that up) whilst one sign says Buthr/Yobithge/10miles and the next sign says Bezoug/Bigyth/12miles, and when you finally get to the place (3 miles later), the "Welcome to..." sign says Oythiryg. All pronounced "Neigh".

Snorking Mucus SIckness

There has been much sneezing and snorting and puppy snot at our house since yesterday. The weasels are definitely not feeling well -- they're at about half-speed, if that. We've had to pick Rowan up and take him outside to pee a few times now, otherwise he just sleeps and snorts and blows little puppy boogers all over the place. Yuck!

So, off to the vet this morning. They aren't feverish, and there isn't anything obviously wrong with them, so she thinks it's probably just a respiratory bug and put them on antibiotics and antihistamines to get rid of the snorkling.

I get them home, give them the pills and then, this is all I've seen since:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Parade of Homes

This is the fourth (fifth?) year we've gone to the Denver Parade of Homes -- it's always fun to see what a 2 million+ dollar house is like, and see the design trends and nifty stuff in these showplace houses.

Last year, there was one house that was such a standout in the group that we went back to see it three times. This year, nothing really stood out much. THey were nice houses, but seemed 'overdone', and also seemed to be much more expensive than I would expect. Some of the houses this year were 2.6 and 2.7 million dollars. While the house itself is pretty big (most were about 6,000 square feet), the lots were TINY (smaller than our lot) and the price just seemed outrageous, even if you could classify the houses as "shorefront" because they could see, off in the distance, the small lake.

The theme this year was oceanfront/beach houses, and each house had a strong thematic element of the ocean, the shore, beaches, blue sky, that sort of east-coast-Cape-Cod sort of house. Rather odd for the middle of Colorado, if you ask me. It was also down in Aurora -- about an hour drive for us.

One home had a three-story gazebo sort of thing in the backyard, with a great pool that had an in-pool bar and waterfall; another had a spiral staircase to an "Artists Loft". Out of the five houses, I really liked only one of them -- the ranch-style -- which had a great vaulted and beamed ceiling in the kitchen and living room, and a ton of "outdoor" spaces. But, at 2.6 million (including furnishings) the price was a astonishing.

Still, it's fun to take pictures and notes and dream about your own "perfect house" -- and each year, some detail from each of the houses ends up on our lists. This year? The extra-tall doors and pedestal slipper tub for me, and the five tankless water-heaters and washer-dryer in every bedroom for the Adorable Husband. Oh, he liked the huge garages, too, of course.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics

Global warming, organic produce, hybrid vehicles, low-carbon lifestyles. Just about every day brings a story about one of these topics into my inbox. The claims range from "global warming is a myth" to "get 100 mpg!" and it's always a bit of a hoot to read through and see what particular brand of pseudo-science or statistical manipulation form the basis for the claim.

I'm not a scientist, of course. But I hope that I'm a decent evaluator of information and can at least identify the whackoloons and crackpots. (Well, Snopes helps, too.)

For example, I spent a lot of time trying to explain to people on a pet food board that organic does not necessarily equal "safe" -- nor does it mean "better" or "more nutritious"-- when the pet-food tainting story came out a few months ago. There might be many reasons to choose organic produce or free-range chicken, for example, but that is no automatic guarantee of safety and goodness. Taking herbal supplements or using homeopathic remedies is not safe simply because it's "natural", whereas taking aspirin is dangerous because it's made in a lab.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics, right?

So I was amused to find an article in the Times of London that makes the rather outrageous claim that it actually "costs more" in terms of carbon emissions and energy usage to walk around the city than it does to drive. The analysis is flawed (for example, not taking into account the cost of making the automobile and providing gasoline, while counting everything in the lifetime of a cow and assuming that 100% of our energy comes from meat) but the article is in a major (read: non-tabloid) newspaper and makes some rather outrageous claims that sound persuasive and reasonable. I'm sure that most people reading the article will file it away as "correct"
Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.

The sums were done by Chris Goodall, campaigning author of How to Live a Low-Carbon Life, based on the greenhouse gases created by intensive beef production. “Driving a typical UK car for 3 miles [4.8km] adds about 0.9 kg [2lb] of CO2 to the atmosphere,” he said, a calculation based on the Government’s official fuel emission figures. “If you walked instead, it would use about 180 calories. You’d need about 100g of beef to replace those calories, resulting in 3.6kg of emissions, or four times as much as driving.
Mr Goodall is a Green Party parliamentary candidate. Obviously, this sort of analysis supports his particular campaign, but the logic doesn't quite stand up to scrutiny. The article is not entirely wrong, of course -- Goodall makes some good points that we need to consider the distance that our food travels as part of the "cost", and how much energy is needed to process, store, and then cook the foods that we buy. It's not an unreasonable suggestion, of course, but the misleading claim that 'walking is worse than driving' tends to make me skeptical about the rest of his "science".

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rum Runner

Years ago, the Adorable Husband spent some time in Key West, FL, most of it lounging about on the beach and drinking a lovely frozen concoction called a Rum Runner. We used to have the faded square of plastic the he cut from the glass he ordered it in, with the recipe on it; it disappeared somewhere in one of our moves.

Why did this come up all of a sudden? I got a catalog from Frontgate (a lovely, albeit very high-end house-stuff catalog) that included this lovely item: Granita Frozen Drink Maker. Basically, a home Slushy machine! At $2500 bucks, it's a ridiculous appliance, but it reminded me of how lovely those frozen slushy Rum Runners were. We often joked about renting a slushy machine to have them at a block party.

So I sent out to find the recipe and met with a bit of frustration -- about fourteen sites claim to be the "Original Tiki John's Rum Runner" recipe -- from the Holiday Isle Beach Resort & Marina, Islamorada, Florida, submitted, the story goes, by a bartender called Tiki John. The recipes were all a bit different, but the two primary options are these:

1/2 Oz. Rum Light
1/2 Oz. Rum Dark
1/2 Oz. Banana Liqueur
1/2 Oz. Blackberry Liqueur
1/2 Oz. Grenadine
1/2 Oz. Lime Juice (Rose's)
1/2 Oz. Rum 151-Proof
3/8 oz. Bacardi Black Rum
3/8 oz. Bacardi 151 Proof Rum
3/4 oz. Creme de Banane (Preferably Hiram Walker's)
3/4 oz. Blackberry Brandy (Preferably Hiram Walker's)
3/4 oz. Lime Juice
Dash of Grenadine (Preferably Giroux's)
In both cases, blend with ice in a blender and serve in a 12oz glass. That Granita Maker is looking pretty alluring.

MN Bridge

Listening to the radio last night, I heard a few things about the bridge collapse in Minneapolis that surprised me -- one, they finally have a navy salvage dive team going through the wreckage, and two, that the bridge had been classified as "structurally deficient" for almost two decades. Not that 'structurally deficient' was any particular reason for the bridge to fall -- hundreds of bridges in the US are in the same or worse shape.

The dive team wasn't really a surprise, I guess , but it took quite a while for them to be involved. The local rescue organizations simply don't have the right equipment or the right training to dive into the swift-moving water amidst the wreckage of the both the concrete and steel bridge, and the cars. There are still eight people missing.

Yesterday, rumors emerged that the problem with the bridge may have been something called "gusset plates", which are used to connect steel girders and are used in many bridges, not just the 35W bridge. There seems to be some concern that the bridge was under-designed from the start. They are even suggesting that the additional weight of equipment that was being used to repair the decking of the bridge may have been enough to cause the failure in these bolted plates. But the bridge has been cited for years as having severe problems -- corrosion, cracks, even missing bolts.

It's certainly making me look at every bridge I drive over or under with a much more critical eye.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Unnecessary Parsing

I've been reading a lot of commentary on the recently demanded (and granted) powers in the new FISA act -- which basically expands the ability of the government to spy on citizens, using some fairly specious arguments about national security and the ever-present Terra! fear.

There's been much discussion about whether the new rules would allow any incoming or outgoing foreign call from the US would allow surveillance, or whether it has to be a foreign-to-foreign call that just happens to use some US circuits (huh? How does that work?). Even more discussion about how sunsetting the rules somehow makes all this "ok", and that anyone worried about is must be a "tin-foil-hat conspiracist" because the government wouldn't be able to spy on Americans. I think it's been rather conclusively proven that they have, indeed, spied on Americans -- but the rules they defined are such that they don't have to tell anyone about it. See how nicely that works? They can do anything illegal that they want, because they aren't required to actually defend the act, because they explicitly exempt themselves from having to tell anyone about what they do.

But all of this is just unnecessary parsing -- there's no need to pick this apart. Once the executive is empowered to spy on citizens without a warrant, for any reason, and to claim that the details of the surveillance are secret because they impact some nebulous idea of "national security" and do not need to be justified or even revealed to congress or the courts..well, then the executive is empowered to spy on any citizen, any time, for any reason. Period.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Handsome Fuzzy Weasel

Bigger Weasels

They're starting to look more like dogs and less like puppies. In fact, Rowan's puppy fur is almost all gone and he has regular hair instead of fluff. Berit is still pretty puppy-fluffy, though. Of course, she's the less snuggly of the two.

They have learned that we don't appreciate being nipped, but that realization seems to occur to them only after they've done it once or twice. In the last day or two, both of them have taken to sidling up to us and licking us gently -- puppy kisses -- which seems to be a prelude to biting us like sharks. Lick lick lick...CHOMP! And they manage to look very surprised when we yell!

Our neighbors brought over a wading pool for the weasels -- it too a few days for them to decide they liked it, now they either stand in it or flop down in the water and become soggy puppy sponges. It's been hot and humid here, so it feels pretty nice.

Rowan always looks so worried.

They eat mulch. Not just chew on the sticks, or gnaw on things...they seem to actually eat the stuff. It's a losing battle to keep taking it away from them, so we've taken the tack that it's just roughage. So far, so good.

And more pictures in flickr, as usual.

Competitive Bunny Jumping

Yes, I'm serious. There is Competitive Bunny Jumping in Denmark.

It's kind of cute, really.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Enhanced Internet Experience

We had been with Sprint Broadband since about 2000, and we have been really happy with the service. About a month ago, however, we suddenly started having serious problems -- timeouts, unable to connect, download speeds so slow I was convinced that they were handwriting the packets and delivering them via camel train.

We've had minor issues in the past. We think that it's related to either a) the power lines between us and the tower, or b) everyone around us getting Mesa Networks antennae, which are rumored to cause interference with everyone else. Each time before, they've been able to tweak things or move the antenna a bit and thigns went back to normal for a while. This time, though, no joy. No matter what he did (on three separate visits) got us reliably connected. Since I work at home most of the time, having a connection that's fast, reliable, and consistent is pretty important!

So we swapped over to Qwest DSL, which offered us a much faster connection. We went from 1.5 Mbps to a possible 7. In reality, we're getting about 5 -- but still! Enhanced Internet Experience!

I got to do a brief 'told you so' dance about our new DSL connection, though. One of the requirements is that you have a special filter on all phone lines (DSL comes over the copper phone line, and you need to filter out the higher frequences so taht your phone still works). The Adorable Husband put filters on all the phones we use, ad disconnected (he thought) all the others. Our phone was still full of hissing and popping. I was sure that we still had a phone somewhere that wasn't filtered and he argued ith me that it wasn't necessary to filter ALL the phones, only those that you might talk on. As long as the filter was one the phone you were using, you'd be fine.

Well, hah! I was right. We had forgotten the telephone connection from the cable box downstairs and once I unplugged it not only did the phones clear up immediately, but the download speeds on our connection went through the roof! Yeah!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Rise of the Undead

This site might be one of the most disturbing things I've seen on the web in quite awhile.

Photo retouching for children's photos -- from snapshot to glamor shot.

Eeu. I mean, I get squicked out by the whole thought of kiddie pageants anyways -- the whole five-year-old beauty queen thing, and the weirdness that is a Pageant Mom are really just...kind of sick.

Some of the photos are just plain creepy. Like little dead children with perfect makeup applied by the mortician. I've seen dolls that look more alive than some of the retouched "after" pics.

The photo retoucher is technically adept-- if you like that sort of undead zombie teeny sex-queen effect. The retouches of the wedding photos are good, and seems more normal. Why on earth would anyone want their little girl to look like the "after" photos, though. Can you imagine the poor kid looking at the pictures and not even recognizing herself?

Anyway, make sure you keep clicking on the "see more samples" on each page -- there are a good dozen or so bizarre, undead-looking photoshopped versions of kid pictures, each weirder than the last.

You're not invited

Apparently, Bush is going to "visit" Minneapolis and the site of the collapsed bridge on Saturday.

Great, like the Twin Cities really need to deal with the shutdown of other freeways, more clogged traffic, and the airport security for a presidential visit so that his highness can run his motorcade through the city and get his picture taken next to the ruins. Why? What possibly purpose is there for him to come to the site, that couldn't be handled by an actual, heartfelt statement from his vacation? Oh -- and Laura will be visiting all those kids who were in the bus and escaped serious injury.

Because Bush's response to Katrina was so woefully inadequate, it looks like we are going to be forced to endure his PR visits every time there is some sort of accident?

We're supposed to believe they care, I guess. Yeah. Right. If you cared, you wouldn't cut funding for federal projects, and then try to blame the state of Minnesota for the problems without acknowledging that perhaps a teensy bit of blame belongs on the Federal government as well, for a federal highway. Pfah.

Meanwhile, 80,000 bridges in the US are inadequate, infrastructure is failing in multiple cities (water mains in New York, sewer systems in Detroit, just in the last few weeks) and no one really seems to care until there's a tragic accident that kills enough people to make the evening news.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Domestic Goddess Lessons

If you're like me, folding fitted sheets involves bundling them with most of the edges squashed in, and sort of mashing them into the back of the linen closet in roughly blobbish form (or, as I've done lately, just shoving the entire set of sheets into one of the pillowcases willy nilly).

Of course, Martha Stewart has instructions on how to actually fold fitted sheets so they look nice and stack into the closet.

Martha frightens me.

Bridge Collapse in Minneapolis

A 35W bridge in Minneapolis, near the University, collapsed at about 6:05 this evening. Over 50 cars were on the bridge when it collapsed, many of them went straight into the Mississippi river -- although there were a lot of people (including a bus full of kids coming back from a field trip) who walked away from the collapsed bridge. There is more information on the Star Tribune web page.
[image from Yahoo/AP]

Everyone in our extended families is ok -- no one was on or near the bridge when it collapsed. This is the bridge that my sister drives on every day, though. She's a bit shaken up, since only a last minute change in her plans kept her from being on the bridge around six o'clock.

Daid of Cuteness

This video is adorable, and it's not even my puppies!

Whistling Puppy


Everyone knows several people who are just slightly in social situations -- a bit socially inept, uncomfortable with chitchat, often sort of oblivious to the social cues in a normal situation. I know that this is often related to mild Asperger's, a which syndrome on the autism scale and usually manifesting as problems with social behavior. Estimates of how many people are affected run from 3-71 people per ten thousand. It affects males much more than females.

I found a link to an interesting (if completely non-scientific) questionnaire to determine if you have tendencies to Asperger syndrome, with information on some of the social effects. I'm always a sucker for a questionnaire, and I scored a 12. Hm.