Friday, November 27, 2009

Sage and more sage

Historically, we've gone shopping for The Turkey Feast and bought a bottle of sage. Since my recipe uses about half a bottle of sage, some time last year we looked in the cupboard and had...SEVEN half-empty bottles and cans of sage.

So when on the shopping trip this year, we both looked at the spice aisle and said to each other -- "oh, no, we have TONS of sage at home and dont' need another bottle to add to the collection!"

So, as I was making my fabulous stuffing this evening, I reach into the spice cabinet for sage.


Nothing. We both rummaged through the cupboard, disbelieving. How could there be NO sage? How could we possibly be OUT?

Well, at some point during the year, we apparently decided to clear out all the old, half-used bottles and made a note to buy a fresh new bottle from Penzey's before Thanksgiving. And forgot.

The Adorable Husband is currently at the grocery store, buying sage, while I do the rest of the stuffing recipe. Hah!!

Eating Bees

Berit, sneaky weasel that she is, ATE A WASP (or two) late on Wednesday night. It apparently stung her on the tongue and roof of her mouth, so her eyes swelled shut, her face is all lumpy and blotchy, and she feels really, really sick. We pumped Benadryl into her fast, and the swelling went down, but she just got more and more agitated and spent the night pacing and whining and crying. DH slept out on the porch with her, since the cold air seemed to calm her down a bit. SHe was up all night and she looks just horrible.

Took her to the vet this morning, thinking she had some sort of intestinal problem (the pacing and crying are classic signs of bloat/torsion), and our vet thinks that she is just VERY allergic to wasps and that as it goes through her system (the little dead wasp carcass, that is), it will continue to make her sick for a day or so. Steroids and benadryl to make sure she isn't so twitchy and agitated, but poor stupid puppy!

I wonder if we need to have an epi-pen or something? She was breathing, ok, but her whole face swelled up, and her tongue was all lumpy. Scared us to bits!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Catholic Church Threatens To Stop D.C. Services For Needy If Gay Marriage Passes
The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn’t change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.
Apparently a medieval dogma is far more important than, you know, actually doing good. Nope, can't actually love they neighbor if it contradicts your systematic and entrenched bigotry. So let's pull out of helping the poor, ministering to the needy, if the city doesn't kowtow to our demand that they deny marriage to a part of the population.

What with this and the latest offer to the Anglican church to take back their anti-gay members...well, the Catholic church has mad it very clear that they are more interested dogma than in people. Shame on them.

And, since they seem to be throwing their weight into the political arena - perhaps we should be considering their tax exempt status. That seems fair.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you.

To all those who served, to all those who have fallen, thank you.

The world is better for the sacrifices you have made, the risks you have taken, the difficult tasks you have performed. Risks and sacrifices that most of us never have to face.

Thank you.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Shrinky Dinks

Remnember Shrinky Dinks? The acetate sheets you colored, cut out, and then shrunk to thick, clunky plastic in the oven? Did you ever think they'd be useful in a scientific lab? Hah!

In 2006, Michelle Khine arrived at the University of California­'s brand-new Merced campus eager to establish her first lab. She was experimenting with tiny liquid-filled channels in hopes of devising chip-based diagnostic tests, a discipline called microfluidics. The trouble was, the specialized equipment that she previously used to make microfluidic chips cost more than $100,000--money that wasn't immediately available. "I'm a very impatient person," says Khine, now an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine. "I wanted to figure out how I could set things up really quickly."

Racking her brain for a quick-and-dirty way to make microfluidic devices, Khine remembered her favorite childhood toy: Shrinky Dinks, large sheets of thin plastic that can be colored with paint or ink and then shrunk in a hot oven. "I thought if I could print out the [designs] at a certain resolution and then make them shrink, I could make channels the right size for micro­fluidics," she says.

So she drew out the designs, and when they were shrunk, used them as a mold for her microchannels. While not perfect, the solution has gotten a lot of attention -- both critical and enthusiastic. Now that she's started, of course, people are working on other applications of her "shrinky-dink model". How very cool!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

..into the silence

Yeah, I've been quiet for a few days.

New computer game.

Very absorbing, time-suck of a computer game. So instead of doing anything constructive with my evenings, I've been battling ogres and dragons and zombies.

I'm seriously getting too old to stay up until 2am playing games. It makes getting up for work pretty hard in the morning. But it's fun!

Dragon Age: Origins

Lovely game, and - -as I've found out over the last four days -- it drags you in for hours. Great voice acting, good graphics (although not the best I've seen) and an engrossing storyline with so many different options that I've barely made it out of the first city. I keep wandering around talking to everyone.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Trick or Treaters SCORE!

Perfect weather, and we had TONS of trick-or-treaters. It's been hit or miss around here, really. The first couple of years, we had a total of 10 kids show up - we were apparently too far out on the edge of the development to be worth hiking all the way out for candy (at least for most kids).

At the old house, we used to get HUNDREDS of kids on Halloween. But Old Town is neat little rectangular blocks and is pretty small. Every single kid went out and followed the same path. The new development is all curvy and full of dead-end cul-de-sacs and we apparently just don't get the volume. Lots of parents around here take th elittlest kids to the mall for trick-or-treating, though.

It doesn't stop us from buying a bazillion bags of candy, though, so when we actually did get a ton of kids last night we had plenty of candy! Lots of neat costumes -- plenty of star-wars Clone Wars, ninjas, a fire-fighter, Indiana Jones, plenty of little fairy princesses and gangsters. Even a tiny little munchkin dressed as a cow who managed to say 'ticker teet' and 'fank yoo' loudly and with enthusiasm, albeit with a little prompting.

Intellectual Dishonesty

[Edited to add (11/4/09) that not only is Comfort dishonest, he's a plagiarist, as well - see the comparison of his "introduction" to "A Brief History of Charles Darwin" by Dr. Stan Guffe]

When Ray Comfort announced that he was going to give out free copies of Darwin's Origin of Species with his own, special introduction, I was ticked off, but figured that getting the book into people's hands was more important than worrying about the fifty pages of dribble that Comfort felt he had to put in the intro. Bad enough, but his idiocy is pretty easy to debunk and no one interested enough in reading Darwin's book was going to give him any credit.

But now, I've read that the book is actually EDITED. Yup, whole chapters are missing -- you know, the ones that Comfort doesn't agree with, and that ones that contradict his little fairy story of how life ended up where we are. He can, of course, the book is out of copyright, but if he's going to drop chapters from the book, he should be honest enough to admit it. Honest enough to leave the book intact and let his "arguments" stand for themselves. He can't. He's got nothing but debunked and rejected stories that can't stand up to criticism or even casual attention. So he has edited the book shamefully while still representing it as the original. It's dishonest to the extreme.

His response? It was too expensive in the initial printing -- "too many pages", but the second printing, the one that will go to students, is intact. I'll believe that when I see it - he's shown that truth is a rather fluid concept.

Ray said "The first printing of 30,000 was an abridged edition. It was abridged because it was too many pages (too expensive) for a giveaway. In the book, we explained that the removed chapters could be downloaded freely online at

The second print of 175,000 (which has just come off the press) was the complete book--that's the one that will go to students. Nothing is missing from the original book. Not a dot. Thanks for asking. I appreciate it. Best wishes."

Does this make any sense to anyone? So, it was too expensive to give away the full book, but now they are going to give away the full book for free. That's a pretty thin excuse. Didn't expect to get caught, I imagine.

In the meantime, the absurd abridgement is out in the wild. It's been sent to various outlets for review and can be pre-ordered on Amazon. Which version has been sent out? Guess.

Eugenie Scott, of the National Center for Science Education, wrote her review of the book.

Unfortunately, it will be hard to thoroughly read the version that Comfort will be distributing on college campuses in November. The copy his publisher sent me is missing no fewer than four crucial chapters, as well as Darwin's introduction. Two of the omitted chapters, Chapters 11 and 12, showcase biogeography, some of Darwin's strongest evidence for evolution. Which is a better explanation for the distribution of plants and animals around the planet: common ancestry or special creation? Which better explains why island species are more similar to species on the mainland closest to them, rather than to more distant species that share a similar environment? The answer clearly is common ancestry. Today, scientists continue to develop the science of biogeography, confirming, refining, and extending Darwin's conclusions.

Likewise missing from Comfort's bowdlerized version of the Origin is Chapter 13, where Darwin explained how evolution makes sense of classification, morphology, and embryology. To take a simple example, why do all land vertebrates (amphibians, mammals, and reptiles and birds) have four limbs? Not because four limbs are necessarily a superior design for land locomotion: insects have six, arachnids have eight, and millipedes have, well, lots. It's because all land vertebrates descended with modification from a four-legged ("tetrapod") ancestor. Since Darwin's era, scientists have repeatedly confirmed that the more recently two species have shared a common ancestor, the more similar are their anatomy, their biochemistry, their embryology, and their genetics.

So, Mr. Comfort, because he can't really counter the information, simply omits it. Where their "evidence" fails, they just ignore it. No one with on iota of ethics is going to support it, and this has simply cemented the opinion of rational, thinking people that Comfort is intellectually dishonest (as if we actually needed this particular incident, but there it is). He has a fabulous strawman idea of what atheists believe and continually conflates evolution with abiogenesis, and procedes to tilt madly at those instead of actually addressing the reality of evolution and scientific fact. It would be funny if it weren't for the people who actually think he's honest and accurate.

If you want to propose a different model for life on earth, you really do have to address ALL of the points of the other model. Your new theory has to account for ALL the empirical evidence and ALL of the facts available. Ignoring them simply shows that you can't and it's pretty pathetic.

If he wants to slice and dice the book, fine. But at least have the decency to note that it is NOT the entire text, that you have abridged and edited it to fit your own agenda, and don't attempt to market this as the real thing. What he is doing is dishonest and manipulative.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Some more Creepy

The Uncanny Valley is the observable revulsion that humans feel when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans just a little too well They become "too real" but there's something just a little off that squicks you out.

The best example I've seen is the live-type animation used in The Polar Express -- the characters looks real, but not real enough, and in fact (to me) resembled animated corpses. Your brain initially thinks "oh! person!" and then something subtle (or not so subtle) about the face starts to make you uncomfortable. New video games often have this problem - the characters are rendered close enough to humans that you begin to really notice the not-human twitches and tics and movements and it is unsettling.

There is a really good gallery of images that trigger the Uncanny Valley "ick" factor -- it's interesting ot see which ones really make you cringe. (nothing gross, just some weird and creepy faces, don't worry).

My first exposure to this sort of effect was when someone sent me the link to a child pageant photo retouching website -- weird zombified freaky kid pictures for pageants. Eeeu. The site is worth clicking through (keep clicking "more" on each page) just to see how totally bizarre they are.

And for some truly fantastic CGI art (that may or may not fall into the Uncanny Valley), check out the gallery here. WOW.

Creepiest Pumpkin Ever

From Coastal Surfing, no idea where the original photo is from, but Creepiest Punkin EVAH!

Bwaaha! Beware!

I hope you will all stay far, far away from the demonic candy this Halloween season...Prayed over by witches, you know. And passing curses with each trick-or-treater.

Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network posted a blog by Kimberly Daniels recently that warns Christians to forgo celebrating Halloween because of its evilness. Daniels specifically calls out candy as a source of soul-molestation:
"During this period demons are assigned against those who participate in the rituals and festivities. These demons are automatically drawn to the fetishes that open doors for them to come into the lives of human beings. For example, most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches."
Seriously, I thought this was a fine example of Poe's Law -- it was just so ridiculous and over-the-top that I thought it was a joke. It's not, sad to say. People are unbelievably ignorant of Hallowe'en history, and prefer to make up an anti-christian strawman for this co-opted holiday of Samhain. I can't believe anyone takes it seriously -- it's a secular holiday here, and has been for a very long time. Any demonic taint has been created by the overly-gullible

Of course, the CBN page linked above has been "removed" (oh, I wonder why!) but you should still be able to read the whole lovely screed from Google's cache.
Consider for a moment, though, just how batshit insane you have to be to be scrubbed from Robertson's website.

(and just edited to add: have they considered that if these hypothetical demons really wanted to have the most impact, they would curse christmas candy and christmas presents, and be drawn into all those nice christian holiday festivities. I mean, really, possessing candy at Halloween is for amateurs.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just a note

Two things about snow: 1) if you must go out and shake snow from the trees, wear a scarf and a hat with a brim and 2) it is impossible to see what two WHITE dogs are doing in the dark in the snow. They vanish entirely.

Most of the lovely snow will be melted by the weekend, though. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Snow snow snow

Ha! Snow at last! And bunches of it! I have to admit I love the snow, when I can sit at home, all cozy and warm and don't have to go anywhere.

The Adorable husband, of course, drove down to Aurora to class today. He took E470 around and it was slippery enough that he slid off the road, through the median, across the two lanes of oncoming traffic (not that there was any, luckily) and into the ditch on the opposite side. He was able to drive back out, didn't even need a tow or anything, but WOAH! It took him an hour and a half for a normally 40 minute drive.

He has two days of class way down south -- last night, after looking at the weather projections (up to 2 feet of snow), I made him a hotel reservation about 2 miles from his class. I totally don't want him to be trying to drive home if it's supposed to keep snowing 1+ inches per hour all day.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

And so it goes

Just to let you know how our weekend is going -- the Adorable husband went to Veloswap yesterday and bought a new bike. Quite nice - a hefty commuter sort of bike (not a lightweight racing bike, and not a heavy-duty off-roader, sort of in-between), and once he brought it home and put it all together, off he went to test out the bike.

It has front shocks, so he figured he'd try riding in the field near our house.

Which is why, less than ten minutes later, it is back in the garage and we are off to buy new tubes for both wheels.

Goatheads. The little suckers are sharp enough to easily pierce the tires and puncture the tubes. He had to pick them out of the tire by hand before he could put in the new ones - the thorns are tough enough to go through shoes (tip: never wear Crocs in a field with goatheads).

That's just how things have been going. We're both crabby and snarky today.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Which one?

This flowchart is slightly offensive and rather funny -- of course it only covers a half-dozen of the thousands of options, but it does narrow the field a bit, if you were not-so-seriously wondering....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

122 below windchill

A friend of ours is currently at the South Pole - isn't that cool? He's scheduled to come back in November after four months in the cold and snow. One of the engineers also at the site has been posting a blog and videos - the one below is the walk from South Pole Station to the lab. It's rather long and a bit boring, but it definitely gives an idea of what the weather is like. Oy!

You can read the blog (not by our friend, but by one of the other engineers) at FreezeDriedEngineer

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I often post that I am lucky enough to have a spouse who is Very Handy. He can fix just about anything. In fact, when he can't fix something, I start to worry!

But he is BRILLIANT.

Case in point: we discovered yesterday that we have a substantial water leak in the basement somewhere -- the carpet in the workout area downstairs is in varying states of damp --> soaked across most of the room.

But we couldn't SEE any source of the water. It was somewhat obvious that it had to come from the utility room somewhere, but the floor was dry. There was no spot near the baseboard along any wall where the carpet was "more wet" to indicate a leak, there were no pipes in any of the other walls, no sign of water on any of the walls or baseboards, and the really, really wet spot was in the middle of the room. Huh? How?

We briefly thought that it was actually seeping up from the floor, but that made no sense at all.

So, we st up the fans to start to dry things out, to see if we could find the source o the problem.

Now, I have a really serious phobia about water in the house -- having lived in an old house with various leaks and weirdness, the sound of running water in the house freaks me out, and the thought that we had water from SOMEWHERE leaking into the basement made me very, very anxious. When the Adorable Husband simply shrugged and said we were doing all we could and had no idea what was going on...well, I mgiht have been a bit snarky, too.

So the Adorable Husband, after dinner, sets off downstairs to find the source of the problem - humoring me, of course. About an hour later, he emerges triumphantly from the basement...we have a humidifier on our furnace, which has a drain pipe that is wired to the drain in the floor. It was not "leaking" or missing the drain...but the drain itself was silted in and after about ten minutes, it filled in entirely, and the water runoff from the humidifier filled in the small depression and was wicked up by the carpet. It would only happen when the heat was on -- which it was quite often last week, but hasn't been for a week, and only when it twa son often enough to fill up the drain and overflow. We hadn't been down in the basement for a week or so, so the carpet has been sittig down there, soaking for a at least week, even though th eheat hasn't run in at least that long. Ugh.

We apparently hit the right combination of temperatue and furnace activity to cause the problem. I'm really surprised at the amount of water that travelled along a low point in the concrete and into the other room. Wow. Luckily, it is absolutely clean water, so I hope if we get it dried out, we won't have weird mold problems.

But Yeah! for patient, handy Adorable husband!


Rugby makes football look like a sissy game.

Even though they have a dance routine.

Another version here: All Black's Haka, and here: Rugby Dance

Friday, October 16, 2009

Good Life Lessons

"New Moon: Because what healthier lesson to teach teenage girls than that attempted suicide will make their boyfriends come back to them."

I've read the whole Twilight series, mostly out of curiousity because my niece was hooked on it, and all the internet buzz. Ugh. Not only are they ill-written, Bella is the mary-sue-iest Mary Seu Evah! -- but the message in the books: stalking and desperate neediness and control are good things is a bit worrisome to me. I can see why it appeals to the 13-year-old girl crowd, but to adults? If vampires float your boat, there are far better series out there for you.

And they don't sparkle.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Come Fly Away

If you watched television at any point today, you probably saw video of the runaway UFO-looking balloon north of Denver today. The story was that a 6-year-old boy had climbed into the balloon and it had taken off unexpectedly (whether he did it on purpose or not was the topic of much speculation). It careened from near Fort Collins down towards the airport, which shut down northbound flights, climbing as high as 13,000 feet before touching down in a field in Weld County.

I could see the helicopters just north of our house.

The kid was fine, btw. He apparently accidently set loose the balloon and hid in the attic of the garage, afraid of getting punished. Just about what I'd expect from a six-year-old who had just lost his father's experimental weather aircraft/balloon thing. I'm glad he's ok.

The news coverage was instant, constant, and inane. This is national news? This required every single idiot on Twitter to post about it? I'm sorry, but the first thing I thought was "oh, how horrible, I hope the kid is alright...." and then the immediately thought that this is simply Tragedy Porn.

You know, endless breathess coverage, interviews with anyone who has ever seen the family, footage of crying family members and endless discussions about the situation back and forth among the television crew and in-studio anchors, repeating over and over the few facts they know. This was fairly unusual-how often do you see a floating UFO balloon?--but the story affected no one but the family, possibly their neighbors, and the rescue personnel called out to respond to this possible emergency.

There might have been a frightened six-year-old in the balloon, and I can only imagine how terrified the family was...but to throw it up on television for a few hours and bring all other news and activity to a screeching halt is ridculous. Reminds me of the hours of live television coverage of the white bronco attempting to flee police at low speed. Really? This required all stations to cover it and live footage online and thousand and thousands of Twitter posts? (don't get me started on twitting, either, or tweeting or whatever they call it).

People glued to the television waiting with bated breath for the next moment's news. Watching people digging out of an earthquake, watching video of tsunamis over and over again. Hours and hours of video of a fire burning.

Tragedy Porn.

Or maybe I'm just a horrible curmudgeon.

Bigotry is Alive and Well and on the Bench

A justice of the peace in Louisiana has refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple. I thought we were a couple of decades past that kind of bigotry, but apparently not.
"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.
Um, no you don't. You classify them as "other" so you can avoid mixing them up with "your type". If you won't marry one of them to someone that they love, you clearly aren't treating them like everyone else.

And don't you just love the "I'm not racist....i have tons of black friends" defense? It's the first thing a true bigot brings up when they're called on their behavior. Oh, I don't hate gay people I have ton of gay friends! I don't hate mexicans, some of my best friends are mexican! Bah.

And he keeps defending the action! He seems to believe that we should allow bigotry to exist because to accept an interracial couple might offend someone? He really doesn't get that he -- in a position to enforce the law --has been breaking the law for years. I'm embarrassed that we still have people on the bench in this country who are such blatant idiots and racists. Everyone should be.

I hope he's disbarred or impeached or fired or whatever you do to Justices of the Peace. And sued.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hello, Robot Sex Pillow

I really have no idea what to make of this, except that it's probably NSFW.

A body-pillow that changes shape and moves depending on how you hold it. Um, yea, that's for comfort only, I'm sure. Yeeeeahh. Suuuure it its. All it needs is a wakka-wakka soundtrack.


More Bible News

Claiming that all translations of the Bible except the King James Version are false and satanic, a pastor in North Carolina is having a book-burning for Hallowe'en. He's burning Bibles that aren't his precious KJV and whatever else his deranged mind considers "satanic" -- which includes books by religious authors who "have occassionally used Bibles other than the King James Version"

This guy is a loony-toon. He might be King of the Loony Toons.

I knew some religious fanatics were insane, but this one really takes the cake. It reminds me of the Texas legislator who proclaimed "if English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me" -- isn't this sort of adoration of the Bible a sin? Bibliolatry?
According to the church’s Web site, members will also burn “Satan's music such as country, rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul (and) oldies.

“We will also be burning Satan's popular books written by heretics like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll, John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham, Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa, The Pope, Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning (and) William Young.

Wow. I think he covered just about every evangelist who writes books, and the Pope. Must be nice to be so absolutely convinced of your own righteousness. (although, I do have to agree that Graham, Swaggart, Roberts, and some of the other televangelists deserve worse than having their books burned...evil people, the lot of them).

But book burning? Well, I suppose you can't expose your flock to any ideas that you haven't spoon-fed them. Can't expose them to any other ideas that might cause them to think. Can't expose them to a different interpretation of religion than your own, or you will lose control over them. Apparently this particular pastor is absolutely, 100% sure that HE is the only one with the right answers. Hah!

Burning books is an infantile, stupid way to suppress the ideas in them. It's counter-productive - you end up legitimizing the content that you are trying to suppress, while convincing the sane people around you that you are an idiot and harmful to society. I guess, though, that to this guy, ideas really are dangerous and should be squashed.

I can't believe that they lack even basic self-awareness and historical context to realize that they are co-opting something that is as strongly associated with fascism and totalitarianism as burning books they don't agree with. Perhaps that's the intent, though -- absolute, total control of thought and ideas in their congregation (and as many others as they can influence)

I am boggling at the idea that the KJV is the "one, true version", unsullied and correctm too. Um, no. It, like every single other translation of the Bible into English, has copyist errors, introduced errors (because of a political or religious agenda) and is a flawed historical document. Picking this one out of the several hundred translations is pretty damn funny. I'm sure that many of his congregation have no idea of the literary history of the Bible, and they surely don't accept the fact that it was written in a different language. (Yes, I've met people who believe the Bible was written in English - just a few, but even ONE is a bit frightening). I've also met a number of KJV "worshippers", who view this particular translation as the only acceptable one, who have no idea of the history and plan behind the translation. Sure, it's a good one, and wonderfully archaic and poetic, but "correct"? Please.

And the best part about all of this? They'are having barbecued chicken and "all the fixins" to go along with their bonfire of idiocy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Costume Options for the Burly Guy

Check out the best Plus-size Halloween costumes for men, because "sometime between Star Trek 6 and Star Trek: Generations, Captain Kirk discovered gravy."


I also like the Tooth Fairy. Too funny!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Berit Update

I realized I haven't posted an update for a bit on Berit -- she was walking stiffly, and having some weird problems with spots in her mouth and on her belly, and the corners of her mouth were dry, cracked, and bleeding. Took her in to the vet on Monday for blood work and it came back that it's not a tick-born disease, her blood chemistry is fine, but her platelet count is about 1/4 normal.

So, she's not clotting well, and our vet told us to keep her quiet so she doesn't get banged up. She went back in today and we took more blood to test for some immuno-responsive stuff. It's possible, but unlikely, that she has systemic Lupus. Hopefully not -- she's pretty young.

But she's racked out by my desk, we have to wait another 24 hours before we can give her steroids (which should get things back in a more normal range) and she seems to be doing pretty well today. Not sick, really, just tired and still very itchy. Poor beastie.

Big Dog!

That is a really, really, REALLY big dog. Woah.

Oklahoma sucks

Oklahoma has passed a law requiring the publishing on a website the personal information about every woman who has an abortion performed in the state.

They're going to require women to provide, among other things, age, marital status, previous pregnancies/miscarriages/abortions, education level, race, residence, relationship to the father (but not any information about the father, of course) - not names (not yet). To what purpose is this data being made public? There is enough information here to identify someone from a smaller communities - its only purpose can be to bully women out of seeking an abortion and frighten doctors out of providing them. I'm not against collecting data - that helps provide the basis for programs and funding, but making it public? For what purpose?

What about the privacy of medical records? OH, don't worry - they're just collecting statistical data and, well, lookie-lookie, the identity and privacy of the father is not being reported. So, no harm, no foul, right?. I mean, we're only punishing those sluts who get pregnant and have an abortion, right? (In fact, the law was proposed as a measure to eliminate abortions based on the gender of the fetus - how that relates to this law, I can't figure out). What the fuck is wrong with people?

I wonder how they'd feel if a law was passed requiring that the identifying information about the father was also collected, or perhaps everyone who buys alcohol, or viagra, or perhaps tracking what church they attend? This law is simply an invitation for women to be abused and shamed by a bunch of narrow-minded religious zealots intent on banning abortion. Great approach, don't you think?

I suppose we can rely on red-state Oklahoma to pass some of the most backward, misogynist laws imaginable, and, while screeching about government getting it's hands out of their business, will give one tremendous fuck you to women in the state.


Thursday, October 08, 2009


If you're not familiar with Etsy, it's an online marketplace for crafters and artisans to sell their stuff. Some is fabulous (a lot of jewelry makers and fun t-shirts, for example) and some is rather horrifying.

This, though...THIS is funny. The Regretsy blog -- highlighting the weird, the wonderful and the simply odd.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fully Conservative!

I can't decide whether to laugh or sigh over this one. Apparently conservatives over at the near-parody site, Conservapaedia (where they have started to define their own little reality, as opposed to the rest of the world, I guess) aren't happy with the Bible and have decided to rewrite it. (And no, this is apparently not a hoax nor a bad joke.)

That Jesus fellow was a bit too liberal for them. Too much 'give to the poor', 'care for your neighbor' and 'do unto others'. Nope! They want more support for the free market, less touchy-feely niceness, more condemnation, more paternalism, and more hellfire and damnation.

I shouldn't be surprised, I guess. Every single religious group wants to rewrite the bible/reinterpret the bible to fit their own views. That it took this long for "conservatives" to add their heavy-handed dose of moralism and politics to to the list is the actual surprise. I'm sure this version will emphasize their "family values", even if it means bastardizing the text to do so.

Where they got the idea that it was the "liberals" who wrote, edited, collated, and interpreted the bible, I have no idea. Obviously they aren't that knowledgeable about biblical (or world) history. But they want a Whole New Bible with all the 'bias' removed. Because, you know, two thousand years of biblical criticism, theology, and religious analysis have been totally wrong the whole time! Aren't you just quivering with excitement that a bunch of 'conservatives" have decided to FIX the bible?

What about the Biblical Literalists? Aren't the most conservative of the christian sects on the end of the spectrum that believes the bible is without flaw? And even if it is not inerrant, it is divinely they really believe that everyone is wrong and that rewriting it is necessary? Will anyone using another bible transation be considered an un-believer now, since the message is changed? So much for the Bible as a holy book with inspirational power, eh?

And, just to add a dose of hilarity to the process - -they aren't actually going to go back to the original texts...they are going to rewrite the King James Version of the bible to fit their lovely set of beliefs. I suppose it's like a meaner, less-accurate version than the Surfer Bible, when you come right down to it. A target for ridicule and mockery, nothing more.

And just look at the criteria! I had no idea that christians were clamoring for a "fully conservative" version of the bible. Can you even call that a bible anymore?

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity

Oh, yes, gotta make sure to preserve that paternalistic, opporessive male-dominated society. Them uppity wimmen are just causing problems left and right. (I'm curious where they are finding 'gender inclusive' language in any standard translation of the bible, except perhaps for humankind instead of mankind.) Is that what is emasculating? That we might say "humankind" or take the meaning of 'mankind' to mean men and women? Ok, let's go back to the sexist language of the bible and make sure to put women in their place - at home, as chattel. Oh, goody.

3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level

So, they should be reading in the original Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin, right? Admittedly, there are a boatload of "new age" translations of the bible that remove the purposely archaic and ponderous language of the KJV to make it more accessible to many people. It is dumbed down if it doens't contain the thees and thous and spakests? On what do they base the idea that a passage is "dumbed down"? -- just disliking the text is not reason enough. Well, ok, maybe it is for them. The KJV is already a primarily word-for-word translation, and the NIV is only slightly more understandable.

Anyone who has actually tried to read the bible in any of the original languages, or in a word-for-word parallel translation, would never say that the bible is 'dumbed down' and needs to be fixed. And, without understanding the very complex koine Greek (the original language of the New Testament), how can they possibly make any word changes based on the KJV alone? That is just dishonest and deceitful. But, truth doesn't seem to be the goal of this particular endeavor.

And, how insulting - the NIV is the 1978 translation of the Bible, long hailed as a very good translation, and is the most popular bible translation used by evangelical churches. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to be told that they are wrong.

4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.

Oh, yes. Because the original Hebrew and Greek texts used the wrong word. Words have specific meaning that can't just be discardes. That's staying true to the message of the original text. So this version is going to be specifically geared towards a conservative political and social agenda, no matter what the actual words in the original are. They don't really matter any more -- it's the way that they can be used and twisted now that are important. Gotcha. That sort of throws the infallibility and god's word part of biblical history down the tubes. And on what sort of scholarship do they base the comment "defective translation"? None, I'm guessing. I'm sure it's "We really want Jesus to say HATE here instead of FORGIVE, so we'll just change his words a teeny little bit...there! Now our social agenda has a biblical basis!"

This is the "goal" that is most objectionable, actually. What in the hell are 'powerful conservative terms"? Loaded code words? Why is the use of comrade - a venerable and context-appropriate word, objectionable? Because to the simple-minded it cannot mean anything except a left-wing label? Comrade and volunteer are not the same word and have very different meanings. What purpose replacing them except to skew the text?

5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”;[5] using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census

6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.

Conservative religion is nothing without the opportunity to threaten your opponents with hell and damnation. The bible actually has very little to say about hell...they must be adding it in to fulfil their own fantasy. Kind of scary, actually. And, this really sort of contradicts number 8 below about 'adding shit in that wasn't there to start with'. Must be ok if its their stuff.

7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning

Oh, because first century prophets were proponents of the free-market philosophy and Jesus was all for corporate sponsorship and wide-open capitalism. Well, that's obvious! How could we have missed that in the existing text?

8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story

Um, inserted by who, exactly. What about the later-inserted passages that aren't so liberal, but that support their ideology...those are ok, right? These right-wing ideologs know better than the combined scholarship of the church history, what should and shouldn't be included? And we're talking about the collection of stories with possibly hundreds of authors, copied and rewritten hundreds of times with all the intention and unintentional changes that entails. THsi is like making a copy of a copy of a copy a thousand times removed and claiming that you have recovered the original meaning. What unmitigated arrogance.

9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels

Ah, so we can pick and choose which bits of the gospel they want to believe, because all those other authors aren't as accurate as a purported eyewitness without much evidence and who wrote contradictory stories. Got it.

10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”

But they're not going to "dumb down" the bible, (see 3, above), just remove all that exceess, high-falutin' academic wordiness...complex ideas can rarely be expressed in simple terms, but these idiots are more concerned with the appearance of intellectualism than with actual accuracy. Hah. And what is "word-to-substance' ratio? I suppose that some of the more nuanced ideas might be a bit too dififcult for the Fox News cohort to grasp. They seem to want a soundbite bible, without any neccessity for actual critical thought or worry about shades of gray in interpretation.

They also don't seem to understand the reasons behind the different words and the ambiguities in the bible - preferring instead to gloss over the different authors, different ideas, different contexts to clarify their New Word for a simpler, more gullible audience.

What idiots.

It's not much different than the thousands of interpretatios and 'teachings' put forward by various churches, really. I've heard some really ridiculous and somewhat scary "meanings" attributed to bible verses by some people. So finally trying to codify your own "version' of the bible by publishing your edited, bowdlerized, "special" version isn't too far off. It's the next step, I guess - you can now claim the bible says anything you want, just rewrite it to say what you want and voila! Instant validation, espeically if you can still manage to claim divine inerrancy and the factual truth of the now-rewritten bible you just produced. How convenient.

Now, I don't take anything in the bible is anything more than allegorical myth, but I do accept that there is a historical body of scholarship that lies behind it. There are reasons that it says what it says, and contains what it contains, and you can evaluate the context, history, authorship, and concordance of the bible based on well-accepted criteria. As a work of literature, it has a long and colorful history. As a work of religious expression, it has been used and misused through history to rationalize and justify behavior, both good and bad.

I suppose that I should not be so upset over this particular revision - with several hundred bible revisions in English alone, the differences and changes are monumental already. I just recoil at the idea of rewriting it with a specific purpose in mind and presenting it as a 'corrected version' that fundamentally intends to change the content, not just the dialect, with very little scholarly input. It is as offensive an effort as expurgating classics, like rewriting Huck Finn to eliminate the racial content because it offended someone, or changing Shakespeare to eliminate "new" word usage, which are considered a gift to the English language. Neither of these things is improved by changing content, which is far different than translation. It's one thing to express the intent of the text in another language (even Cockney or Ska!) , quite another to change the meaning of the words without valid reason to.

logos (word) does not equal Truth, no matter how much you want it to (one of the suggestions is to replace the word "word" in the beginning of the Gospel of John, and replace it with "truth"). The rest of their "examples" on the website are equally specious. Shrewd does not equal resourceful, unless you intend to change the meaning of the passage. And only in the mind of a fanatic does using the word 'laborer' mean that the author has a socialist agenda. Tin-foil hat time, people. Get a grip.

Do we really need a more conservative message shouted from the pulpit? -- that's the way to create a Christian Taliban: don't question, don't think, just obey the hyped-up language and political ideals spoken from a religious leader. This rewrite seems to imply that every christian worshipping today needs to be more conservative, to combat some imagined flaw in society. And if you aren't that conservative, you are reading a dumbed down version (NIV) and not getting the 'real' message. That turns the tables a bit, actually - how often have non-believers heard "you're not reading it right. You don't understand it properly".

I think the bible has a lot of good ideas in it, and I think that using it as a guide for figuring out 'the truth' helps a lot of people. But combine the idea that 'we need to conservatize the bible with a political agenda' with the widespread acceptance of the bible as "gods words" - how many people will go along with the idea and shove the philisophy of the christian church even further to the right?

Hopefully, this farce will be rejected for what it is: a novelty, a boutique version of a book that is clearly recognized as a parody or amusing alternative version. Hell, the bible has been translated into Klingon and Elvish, there is a Rasta version and Surfer Bible and and Illumintaed Goth version. I think, though, that these translations are not trying to change the basic message, as the Conservapaedia version seems to intend. Hence, my complaint.

Well, maybe not the Klingon version. I can't imagine they're all into the Golden Rule.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Push Poll

I got an automated push-poll from Huckabee this weekend that really irked me. Now, I tend to get calls for polls all the time from a variety of sources and I usually participate. I was quite fun when I was targeted by polls from every single candidate in the last election --I was getting two or three a day for a while right before the election.

At any rate, this one seemed like a particularly egregious push poll. I know that writing poll questions is an art -- the slightest change of wording in a question can radically change the response, and skilled question writers are in demand to get the questions "just right" so they get the answers they want. It's usually fun to figure out what the goal of a particular poll is based on the questions, and some are so biased to one particular answer that they are hard to respond to at all. Equating two unrelated things, for example (Do you think Obama should force through a public option regardless of public opinion, or should he institute death panels?) is one common approach.

At any rate, this started off with Huckabee's cheerful announcement that we were facing the worst crisis ever in health care and we needed to act and asked if I was willing to answer a few questions on "issues facing the nation". Sure. Why not?

First question: Do you consider yourself "pro-life"?. In the politically charged parlance of the anti-abortionists agenda, no, I do not. (I am always angered by the semantics used by them, too - the opposite of pro-life is not anti-life or pro-abortion, but that's a screed for another time). In any case, I replied 'no' to the voice-recognition poll.

There was a pause, a click, and then "thank you. We have a few demographic questions for you. Are you male? Thank you." Click.

The poll was apparently designed to either ignore or minimize any "non-pro-life" respondents, as far as I can tell. It definitely felt as if it was just cut off when I didn't answer in the positive to their filtering question. Would there have been further questions about health care and immigration and the rest of the issues Huckabee is always peddling if I had said that I was a pro-life voter? Will my response, that I don't agree with his basic premise, even be counted? Push polls are generally biased and heavy-handed, but this was surprising.

Most of the time these things don't bother me -- I've been called with questions that are pretty questionable from politicians of all sides, so this is not a right-wing or left-wing problem--it was just the abrupt nature of "oh, you didn't answer our question properly, we don't want YOUR opinion" that I came away with that left me feeling angry and testy.

I'm just too crabby today I guess. Ishoudl be outside in the cool, cool weather and enjoying the beautiful fall day.

Over the line

I disliked George Bush a lot. I thought he was a nasty piece of work, as did a lot of Democrats, Progressives, and Liberals. For eight years, we criticized his policies and actions.

I don't recall seeing the sort of hate speech that is currently being directed at Obama, being said about George Bush. I see signs to "kill him!", quotes from teabaggers that he should be killed, people openly carrying guns to his speeches, the knuckle-dragging gun nuts buying up guns and ammo "just in case" -- and stuf like this - a facebook pool "should Obama be killed?" (not the actual poll, but a screenshot and note on another blog).

No, I don't think this was a "joke". No, I don't think this was even remotely funny. I hope the secrete service pays a visit to this person. I'm not sure what this says about the conservative mindset or "the base" who is screaming about Obama, except that these are not the sort of people that I want in control of anything.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Joy of...Reheating?

Isn't this just the most oxymoronic product that ever existed? The Joy of Cooking was supposed to bring fresh cooking to the family table easily and without any muss or fuss...and they are now marketing prepared-ready-to-heat foods in the supermarket.

"Our products conveniently located in a single freezer door"

Um, doesn't that sort of fly in the face of, say, cooking?

Sure, prepared foods are much easier on the schedule, but I have to admit that I laughed at the source. I haven't had any of them, but reviews online are not particularly positive. Like any mass-produced, pre-packaged meals, they tend to be overly salty and unimaginative.

Of course, I shouldn't throw stones from my glass house. We don't often cook anything more complicated than baked chicken or paninis at home anymore. We've succumbed to the idea that our time is better spent elsewhere (and indeed, while it was available, we relied on Entres Vous for our meals). But Joy of Cooking Foods? Couldn't they have at least changed the name?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nerdiest Nerd Ever

Ok, I'm the nerdiest nerd ever. I just loved this! Brilliant!

Jones soda has released the Dungeons and Dragons Limited Edition Spellcasting Soda. It comes in Sneak Attack, Potion of Healing, Illithid Brain Juice, Dwarven Draught, and Bigby's Crushing Thirst Destroyer. I totally need some of this!


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fast Food Neophyte

We went to KFC for chicken for dinner today, as we are wont to do every so often, and as we sat in the restaurant eating our chicken bits and mashed potatoes...a couple and their little girl came in.

Their food arrives, and within seconds, the mom is back up at the counter 'returning' her mashed potatoes and gravy and asking for "fresh ones" because they have been sitting in the warmer for a while. (they package up the cups of potatoes and gravy and keep them warm, this has always been true). She is given a new order of mashed potatoes and gravy. Fair enough. Perhaps they were cold or the gravy was lumpy, I don't know.

But then, moment after she bustled back to her seat and rejoined her family, she is once again up to accost one of the clerks because her sandwich isn't "right". When poor employee made the mistake of asking what was wrong with it, she dragged him up to the counter to complain that her little snack sandwhich had 'the wrong bread' and didn't look like the picture on the menu. She actually pointed and demanded that this poor person acknowledge that the bread she had was different than the bread on the picture.


Really, lady? You're browbeating a minimum wage employee because your sandwich DOESN'T LOOK LIKE the picture on the giant menu?

Have you never eaten at a fast food restaurant before? The food NEVER looks like the picture on the menu. That food is carefully arranged and painstakingly photographed to be the best looking food ever. The food actually made at whatever restaurant you have decided to frequent, is usually hot, usually fresh, but it's not photo-ready.

Oh, but she continued her tirade, demanding to know the phone number of the "higher up" manager (as opposed to the teenage manager on duty) to complain about how this was totally unacceptable. It didn't LOOK like that picture, not at all, totally different bread and they spent twenty whole dollars on dinner and they could have, you know, gone somewhere else and gotten fresh, carefully prepared food. Yes, she actually said that.

It was all the Adorable Husband and I could do, to not laugh out loud at them. We just rolled our eyes and snarked quietly as they continued dinner, with at least one more visit to the counter to complain about something else.

For pete's sake, you went to KFC. What did you expect? Haute cuisine and lovingly prepared entrees? Get a grip!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bad Logic

Discussions with your doctor...

It's somewhat funny (but sad) because it's true.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Trained Monkeys

I got clued in to some"online computer training' that was being offered (name withheld to protect the innocent) and I've just been laughing my butt off over this.

Go ahead -- try it! Mousing Around Training

Really? Are there actually people out there who don't have any clue whatsoever how to use a mouse on a computer? Well -- perhaps there are. My father is not the most computer-savvy person, and I suppose his first introduction was rather hard for him. But most people are at least familiar with what they are, aren't they?

But eleven slides about the mouse before you even TOUCH it? That has to be the most simplistic training that I"ve ever seen.

I suppose it is a way to make sure that everyone has the same, very basic, knowledge about how to use the mouse and navigate in web pages. Of course, it's a bit insulting that the training is at the "trained monkey could do this" level.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Exotic" mortages

I wish someone would explain why this sort of loan is even legal -- interest only, or worse, an option that lets you pay LESS than the interest payment, so the principal of the loan actually goes up every month.

I know that this sort of thing was popular to allow people who normally couldn't afford the payments to get much more house than they could normally buy. If you only have to pay the interest payments (or less!) then you can get a much more expensive house! You don't need to be "limited" to the houses you can actually pay for, but you can move up a notch and get a bigger McMansion for the same price! (Well, not really, but a lot of people didn't really anticipate this).

Of course, this sort of things works fine when the housing market is booming - your house will increase in value, so you will always be "ahead". But a slump in housing? You might owe substantially more than your house is worth, if you weren't making a dent in the actual loan amount.

That people were encouraged to get loans like this -- and sought them out because of greed or ignorance-- means that these homeowners are now behind the eight ball. They owe more than the house is worth, they are looking at payments that are going to reset and go up dramatically, and they can't afford to actually pay for the house they have already bought. I feel some sympathy for them, but it's tempered with the thought that they should have been more conservative and planned ahead. It's like all the poeple who got adjustable rate mortgages and were "surprised" by the huge increase in their payments as the rates went up 2 or 3 or even 5 percent at a time. How did they not know that was going to happen?

During the worst of the mortgage idiocy, people with no income, no savings, no jobs (I think they were calling them NINJA loans) were getting loans to buy houses. Now, I'm all for home ownership...but if you don't actually have income, you should never qualify, period. Irrational exuberance isn't going to pay the mortage payment when it comes due.

The housing market has improved some - it seems to be on the road to recovery here in Denver, anyway. But still, the house next to us - a new, custom-built home, is still sitting empty after nine months and the asking price has fallen from 740 to 620K. And still, people are just not nibbling. (Well, it is the most expensive house on the culdesac and while it's a nice house, it doesn't look like that much more house than the rest of us.

All the people who are now 'upside down' on their houses are in more desperate straits - many of them are going to just walk away from the deal. I wonder if we're going to see another wave of foreclosures even as the housing market improves, as these loans are adjusted.

And I still see ads on television for loans with no credit check. Aargh.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

FINE Scottish Weather

We spent the day up in Estes Park at the Highland Festival -- and it was cold and rainy and gray the whole day. We were bundled up in good rain jackets and it didn't slow us down at all . Well, a little bit, sitting in the bleachers during the piping competition did get a little chilly and damp, but otherwise, it was a lot of fun.

We watched the Highland Games competition -- who on earth decided that flipping telephone poles end-over-end (caber tossing) was a good idea? Or throwing a 56 pound weight straight up over your head and over a bar 16' up in the air? Throwing rocks, hurling a hammer (a weight on the end of a pole) and flinging weights on's a show of pure strength in mots cases. The guy who won most of the competitions looks like an Iowa farmboy (well, a bit older now, and he's actually from Missouri, but you know the type). It was a ton of fun and everyone really got into cheering, even in the rain.

We learned the differences between Irish step dancing and Scottish step dancing (not the least of which is that the Irish step dancers have super-extra-curly-bouncy-hair), and sat out in the rain to hear the Piping Band competition - and even spent some time watching the herding dog demonstration. It was a ton of fun.

Lots of people in tartan, men in kilts and women in skirts, bagpipers everywhere, "traditional food", pints of Guinness. It was interesting to watch the men who were wearing the full kit (kilt, sporran, gillies, sporran, etc) : about half of them looked and acted like they were wearing a costume, and the other half were simply wearing clothes. Obviously some are more comfortable in the kilt than others. I think more men should wear them!

I found out that there is a local Gaelic-speaking group that meets in Boulder every week, so I may have to sign on and learn a bit of Scots Gaelic (as opposed to Gailge, or Irish Gaelic). Could be fun - and the group of people at the booth seemed really nice.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wild Weekend

We're heading up to the Estes Park Highland Festival this weekend (even though the forecast says 'rain' - we've been toughened up by the recent trip to Scotland and we are quite sure we won't melt). Love the bagpipes, though!

But we are also considering attending the Eagle Potatopalooza! A potato festival! It just makes my little Polish antennae perk right up. A whole day devoted to POTATOES! Woot!

Potato races, baked potato contest, a street fair. All about potatoes!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Something's off

There is something wrong with the fact that a Kentucky school has not censured or even reacted to the fact that one of their coaches bussed the team to his church and had them baptized without telling the parents...

...yet the same school required parental permission slips for the students to watch President Obama's speech about staying in school and working hard.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Giant Maps

Mae was kind enough to come over and install the huge mural map that we bought - now we have a fabulous National Geographic map in our upstairs sitting room, just ready for pins and flags and pictures. It covers the whole wall -- it's about 9' x 6'.

(The picture is not our house, though -- my camera battery died and so I didn't get a picture of it in situ. I'll replace this one when I get the batteries charged!)

The Adorable Husband and I did not attempt to put this up ourselves - we know that wallpapering is dangerous work. Married couples should not wallpaper - they'll end up yelling at each other. Or at least, crabbing at each other quite seriously.

So I was a bit surprised when Mae (who owns brought her husband (my co-worker) to help. They've put up a few of these, she says. Hah! We definitely detected a bit of snarking between the two of them as they measured andpasted. We stayed far away, and sipped wine in the kitchen with their son (our housesitter). We all got a laugh out fo the fact that we had to cut a hole in the map for the light, which got was smack dab in the middle of Kazakhstan. Since we probably won't be visiting there in th enear future, we aren't going to miss it much.

But we solved the problem with the proper application of good steaks, wine, and fettuccine. Yeah!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Go Green!

Oregon State University researchers say that if you're serious about reducing your carbon footprint, the best way to do it is to have one less child. They claim the effect is almost 20 times greater than recycling, driving a high-mileage car, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs over your entire lifetime.
I am hereby going to stop feeling guilty about my carbon footprint and my refusal to use fluorescent light bulbs (which I hate with a white-hot passion that their icky light can't match).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Onion Strikes Again

BBC: Two Bangladeshi newspapers have apologised after publishing an article taken from a satirical US website which claimed the Moon landings were faked.

The Daily Manab Zamin said US astronaut Neil Armstrong had shocked a news conference by saying he now knew it had been an "elaborate hoax".

Neither they nor the New Nation, which later picked up the story, realised the Onion was not a genuine news site.

Both have now apologised to their readers for not checking the story.

"We thought it was true so we printed it without checking," associate editor Hasanuzzuman Khan told the AFP news agency.

This is not the first time the Onion has fooled a foreign journalist, but it is pretty funny. I even saw a couple of nutty posts on local forums about how the conspiracists had been Right! All! Along! Heh.

"We didn't know the Onion was not a real news site."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Missed Marketing Opportunity

The venerable geeky shop RadioShack has decided to 'upgrade' their image and is currently marketing themselves with the oh-so-hip "The Shack" moniker. Same store, same we-have-everything-you-need stock of electronic gewgaws and connectors and bits and pieces, just a new, hipper, younger image.

Well, they think it is, I guess.

It's pretty lame, if you ask me. Their marketing department has missed the actual demographic pretty widely if they are trying to attract a younger market segment. 'RadioShack might sell mobile phones now but they are primarily a techno-nerd source for parts and bits you can't find anywhere else.

The new name, 'The Shack', is not cool, it's awkward in the way that your parents tried to be all cool and shit when you were growing up. Embarrassing, maybe, trying just a little too hard to be "hip" and use all those words that 'young people use today', without quite recognizing how weird they sound. The first thought I had was that the marketing decision was made by a 50-something white guy in a business suit. (Of course, the whole campaign is probably the brainchild of some edgy new marketing company where the median age is 20, so I'm completely off base)

If they were actually tuned in to their real demographic, they'd have renamed the entire operation Electrode Hut.We'd all get the joke. And we'd think they were pretty cool for doing it, too.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Statistical Risk of Flying

I may never fly again. Kidding - I found this image on Incredimazing. Interesting.

The real biggie here is that, statistically, you are more likely to die in a nuclear accident than in a plane crash, and five times more likely to get hit by lightning. Well, that, and sit in the back of the plane, but we all knew that.

Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

Sunday, August 30, 2009


This graphic is a fascinating look at the change in physical storage vs digital storage. As someone with a couple of terabytes of storage space on my desktop, it was pretty interesting.

From 8-track tapes to latest-generation iPods - the amount of stuff we can store. (click on image for the full version)

Disney Templates

Disney Templates: and you wondered why some of the Disney movies looked so familiar. I'm sure these are not the only ones, but someone spent a long time editing all this together. Cool

Saturday, August 29, 2009

More evidence of a single brain

We had a minor problem here at Chez Phouka - we usually sleep with the windows open, and due to an ordering glitch, one of our honeycomb blinds has the cord on the wrong side. So when we raise the blind to open the window and put in the big square fan, it dangles down between the two windows. Thus, when there is a breeze, it rattles against the window frame.

It's been like this for years, mind you. It's not like we just did this last week and realized we had a clacking/clicking problem. Our instant diy solution was to tie a ittle loop int he cord and then, when we opened the window, slip the loop over the dangling tassel on the drapes. (hey, don't smirk. It worked fine! Well, it worked fine until the tassel started to fray and we could no longer slip the loop over it. )

So, one afternoon, I was sitting at my desk and realized that I have a couple of those little 3M Command hook things to hang my headsets on. A-hah! I trot upstairs, peel off the little adhesive bit and put a hook up behind the drapes, so we can just toss the loop in the cord on it and voila! No more problem.

So the funny part, that night at dinner, the Adorable Husband comments that the drapery tassel is frayed and we should stop at Target and get one of those sticky-uppy hooks, we could mount it behind the drapery and no one would ever see....

No, he hadn't seen my solution. No, we hadn't talked about it. We just came up wit hthe same idea, at the same time. Again. And a weird idea to boot.

We have one brain. Just one.

Not that oversized blue one!

I know that this email has been making the rounds of the blogosphere for years, probably. In fact, I think it's a David Sedaris piece, but I can't remember where i saw it first. I think last Thanksgiving. I, of the Turkey Flowchart, probably shouldn't be too critical, eh?

I was browsing the site "emails from crazy people" and this just set me laughing again.

I think everyone should show up at Marney's house with soup spoons, incorrectly sized casseroles, gloopy sauces, and lots of red wine. If this is real, the woman needs an intervention. If it's not, well, it definitely seems to ring true with people about their family holidays and is an inspired holiday-from-hell sort of story.

Not at my house, of course. Bring wine, bring whatever you want, we'll always have a good time!

Pharmacology is GOOD

Well, I survived the flu just fine. It was the subsequent EARACHE which finally sent me to the doctor on Friday. Accompanied by a sore throat that rendered me mute and unable to swallow, and with swollen glands tht made me look like I had a goiter -- yes, I finally listened to all the medical personnel in my life and saw the Doc.

I don't know what it is about an earache, but it turns a sane, normal, adult into a whiny, crying toddler. I spent at least part of Friday in the living room chair just crying, because nothing even made a dent in the pain.

One dose of antibiotics (and about six hours) and I was actually able to sleep. And swallow. I'm still pretty miserable, but at least I'm not considering just poking out my eardrum to release the pressure anymore.

Better living through chemistry! Woot!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Virus Central

I'm still here, I've just been horribly, awfully sick with the flu. Probably just the regular, run-of-the-mill flu with sore throat, fever, aches, and chills, but it was enough to absolutely floor me for four days. You have to be pretty damn sick to stay home from work when you work from home. I could barely get out of bed on Monday and Tuesday.

I'm back at work today but my brain isn't firing on all cylinders yet. And one side of my throat is still really, really sore and I look like a lopsided pocket gopher. Bleagh. The earache from the sore throat/swollen glands/whatever has reduced me to tears.

Gah. I hate being sick. I've run out of Mrs. Grass's soup, too. I may have to go back to bed....

Saturday, August 22, 2009

And the Universe Implodes

In the long history of books made into movies, it is almost a given that the book is going to be better than the movie. The movie just can't capture the nuance and depth of a novel -- it might capture the look and feel of things, but there is always something missing in the movie adaptation -- the need to keep the movie under 2 hours, the inability to handle multiple storylines in that short a time, the need to simplify a complex plotlines for a movie audience...all of those things mean that while the movies may be interesting and enjoyable, the book is better.

But the rule is not always accurate. I've now read a book and seen the movie...and the movie is far superior to the book. As evidence, I present Julie&Julia based on the book/blog project by Julie Powell - a 30-year-old New Yorker who cooked her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, writing all along about the experience. The book is her memoir about the project, not just a book version of the blog. The movie is this book combined with Julia Child's own My Life in France, with the two stories interwoven.

The movie has gotten mixed reviews - most find Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child to be spot-on and perfect, and criticize Amy Adams' performance as "trying too hard".

I have to agree with the reviews on the "Julia" side of the movie -- the scenes with Streep and Stanley Tucci (as Paul Child) are absolutely charming. They are delightful together, and the story of how Julia Child came to cooking and then to writing the cookbook are lively and fun and inspired.

I don't agree with the criticism of Amy Adams, though - her "trying too hard" and "too whiny" performance is spot on to the Julie in the book. In fact, I found the character on screen to be far more likeable and less snotty than the 'voice' of Julie in her book. The complaints are that the character comes across as very unsympathetic, and to those who thinks so, I say, "read the book". She is.

The book is quite funny in places, and even insightful, but when I put it down, I disliked Julie very much. She has a grasping, desperate ambition to be recognized for the great and important person she thinks she is, and an almost paralyzing jealousy of her friends (all of whom are doing memorable and exciting things). She comes across as shallow, vain, desperate for attention, self-entitled, and whiny--the 30-something who just knows, deep in her heart, that she is important and special and dammit, no one else is recognizing that! Perhaps in real life she is a normal sort of person, but in print, the book is one long whine about how awful her life is and then about how happy she is once people start to pay attention to her for this "project". I read the blog when she did in in 2002, and was quite charmed by it then. The resulting book is not as engaging at all. At least not to me.

The movie cuts out most of the scenes where she interacts with her friends and family (in fact, the one scene in the movie with her friends is painfully awful for her - you really do sympathize and wonder why on earth she remains friends with this trio of bitchy do-nothings). The book is riddled with comments about her friends' love lives, jobs, exciting opportunities, and how they just don't understand her and how desperately she wants to do something notable. The desperation just doesn't come out in the movie as much - the movie paints her as a sort of hapless, helpless, unhappy woman trying to find her own inner meaning, trying to find something that resonates with her life. There's a little too much weeping, but on screen, the meltdowns are actually rather amusing.

We thought the movie charming (in that heavy-blow-to-the-head style of Nora Ephron, of course, not a lot of subtlety there), thought Meryl Streep did an eerily good impression of Julia Child, and in general liked the juxtaposition of Julia's story and Julie's story.

I (since the Adorable Husband did not read the book) thought the book was a bunch of self-indulgent dribble trying to sound insightful and meaningful, wrapped around some very amusing anecdotes about actually cooking from Julia Child's book. Meh. Perhaps I would have liked it better had it actually had both stories in it - maybe reading alternating chapters of Julie&Julia and My Life in France would have been a better way to approach it.

Score 1 for the movie adaptation being better than the book.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Take Fewer Pills"

I've been seeing a commercial for Aleve fairly often lately -- and the gist of the thing seems to be "take Aleve! You have to take fewer pills!"

If you have arthritis pain, the voiceover intones somewhat ominously, if you take Tylenol, you could be taking "four times as many pills", a and shows a pained-looking woman looking at a box for another pain reliever..."two pills every six hours...that's 8 pills a day!" In another ad, we're assured that 2 liquigel Aleve work as well as four Advil.

While no one likes to take pills, I have to wonder about the line of reasoning that makes the simplistic argument that 2pills is better than 8 pills. Because those two pills purport to do the same thing as the eight or twelve pills the "other" medicine requires. You're simply taking more medication at one time.

Well, what if my headache or pain is gone in four hours, or six hours? Why would I take twelve hours worth of pain medication for it? Why overmedicate if you don't have to? Basically, the ads for Aleve are encouraging us to take more meds than we need, because it's "convenient" or easier. I'm sure I'm reading far more into this than I should be, but it airs so often during the day that I have become Officially Annoyed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is this necessary?

I just saw an ad for Chiquita Apple Slices Fruit snack. Basically, a bag of apple slices, marketed as a perfect, healthy snack! Pack it in your lunch, carry it with you -- perfect! Healthy!'s that hard to pack and carry an apple? Really? Why would I need to buy a pre-sliced, packaged apple? Apples are already one of the most perfectly packaged and portable foods. Small, roundish, protective skin....this is another of those products that are absolutely unnecessary, but they're trying desperately to convince people that they the nature-packaged, portable, easy-to-eat apple needed improvement. Why?

It's not like pre-made/packaged foods that actually do save some time (well, perhaps) like mixed salad greens or canned tomatoes or pineapple or something - -things that are not actually meant to be eaten as a single, self-contained snack. Then again, on the shelves at my grocery store are pre-cut carrot and celery sticks, salad packs, chopped and frozen onions, pancakes in a can, and a variety of pre-packaged foods. Some of them might save a little time, but others? Are we really so busy we can't eat an apple by ourselves?

I just had to laugh.

Monday, August 17, 2009

One of my Favorites

I've been going through the photos from the trip as I write the travelogue bits, and I really like this photo -- not perfect, of course, but it's one of my favorites.

Things have changed

A dozen people showed up with guns outside of the event center in Phoenix where Obama spoke yesterday. Two even had SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLES in addition to the dozen or more with handguns.

A man (later updated to 2 men) was seen carrying an assault rifle and a pistol outside the VFW Convention in Phoenix where President Obama spoke today, a local newspaper reports. (Click through for a photo.)

Local police said it's legal under Arizona law, but two officers kept close by him.

"If we need to intervene, we will intervene at that time," said Detective J. Oliver.

"Because we can" seemed to be the reason. Seriously? While yes, technically, these people could carry guns in public in Arizona, they decided that having them at a presidential event was a good idea? Wanting to exercise your right to bear arms is one thing, making a "statement" by carrying one to a presidental speech goes beyond that.

Can you imagine what would have happened if someone had showed up to a Bush event carrying an assault rife? For pete's sake, they hauled people away for wearing threatening T-SHIRTS whenever Bush spoke. There were "Free speech zones" for that sort of thing, you know.

To what purpose are these people bringing guns? I'm sorry, but I would be inclined to view this as an imminent threat, especially considering some of the signs being waved in the same vicinity and the not-so-subtle threats against the president aired by the teabagger brigade. Who do these idiots think they are? I'm sure they style themselves as some sort of patrioric freedom fighters, but I cannot see any purpose to their actions but intimidation and provocation. Why?

Let's put this in perspective, shall we? Wear an anti-Bush t-shirt to a Bush speech and get arrested. Carry a frikking RIFLE to an Obama rally's ok? Wow. Things really have changed. And not for the better.

And, in case you are wondering, I'm not an anti-gun fanatic. I don't agree with the NRA, but I believe that rational gun ownership is fine.


This was an interesting website -- statements about health care, ranked from true to false (with a few 'pants on fire!' graphics.) Michelle Bachmann is a lunatic, it seems.

There are an awful lot of lies floating around out there, and it's hard to figure out what the truth is if you don't have time to read the thousand+ page documents themselves. This was very interesting. I knew that the opponents were stretching the truth a bit, but, woah. I hadn't even heard some of these whoppers.

Quite a few of the quotes are from the campaign season last year, too. That's a bit misleading, but it does highlight how much all the candidates stretch things to make themselves look good.

I need to stop listening to the news. It's just pissing me off.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fact-checking, anyone?

Apparently, opponents of health-care reform think that their message is more important than actual facts...and didn't fact check things. Even the really, really obvious things that could have been check with a 2-second query in Google, for pete's sake.
Investors Business Daily, in criticizing the Obama health care plan, charged that if the famed scientist Stephen Hawking lived in Britain, its National Health Service wouldn’t save his life, which “because of his physical handicaps is essentially worthless.” Mr. Hawking, 67, who has a motor neuron disease that is like Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a British subject and has received lifelong care from that nation’s health system.
Not only are they wrong on the basics (Hawking does live in Britain, he is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University and has received lifelong medical care there, which he has recently praised for prolonging his life) they are also wrong on their assertion that medical care in Britain would have left him out in the cold.

The magazine ran a standard correction merely stating that Hawking actually lives in the UK. No mention of their false premise, no mention that they had banked on it being true to make their point. The Columbia Journalism Review pointed out that the error fundamentally invalidated the editorial's main argument.

When you make an error of that proportion, where the correct information COMPLETELY DISPROVES YOUR POINT, don't you think a little crow-eating is in order? This was a mistake of the worst sort, just half-assed, lazy journalism. Obviously, if it's more important that the initial idea was floated so people can spread the talking point properly -- the truth doesn't really matter much, does it?