Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bees love Junk Food, too

I know that I'd be a bit concerned with red honey, but with a name like Cerise, what did she expect?

Apparently her bees have been ignoring the local nectar in favor of the runoff from the Maraschino Cherry factory a few miles away....

Huh. So bees like junk food, too!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yes, yes, I know!

Yes, yes yes..I know, I've been gone for ages, but I had to pop over here to link to the funniest thing I've read in...well, possibly ever.

My cheeks hurt, I've been laughing to hard. I have actual tears in my eyes. I've summoned both dogs, who think that I'm cackling in a very disturbing manner.

I will note that you might not find this as funny if you don't have a "short bus" dog, but damn this is exactly how it is....

Dogs don't understand moving

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


According to a recent survey, the people most knowledgeable about religion are atheists and agnostics -- not surprising, really; part of understanding why we don't believe is understanding what is is that others do believe and the history of both the religion and the scripture of the major religions, and many religious sects strongly discourage that sort of knowledge, for fear it will detract from faith.

I got 100% on the sample quiz (15 of the 32 questions that were given to the phone survey participants). I'm curious what the rest of the questions were -- they seemed pretty basic (I'm surprised that over half of all protestants don't know that Luther inspired the Protestant Reformation, for example, that seems to be a core sort of understanding of church history).

I'm a little fuzzier on Jewish history, though. One of the questions (not in the sample) was about Maimonides..I had to go look that one up. Although I think I might have guessed he was Jewish, since it was a multiple choice question.

Ah, well. What does this mean? I'm not sure. It certainly doesn't mean non-believers are smarter and believers are stupid -- as some of the comments have suggested. But it might give us a hint into what and why people believe the way they do, and how they approach that knowledge. Most atheists and agnostics are non-believers because they have studied the lessons of the religion they left - often in-depth and often with the hopes of rekindling faith, if you read any of the stories they tell of their passage to atheism.

Interesting, at any rate. And sure to raise a lot of hackles.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I've got mine, screw you

Huckabee was blathering yesterday about the republican plan to revoke the 'pre-existing condition' clause in the new health care bill. The one that no longer allows insurance companies to refuse to cover a person because they either have a condition or have been treated for it in the past. Say, you were treated for colitis years ago, and have had a recurrence. An insurance company can refuse to pay for your treatment now and can reject you for insurance. Cancer treatment makes you pretty much uninsurable for any other insurance coverage. People get dropped from insurance rolls, and cannot get reinsured, because of this loophole in the insurance regulations that favor insurance companies.

At any rate, he compared the requirement that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions to homeowners insurance companues being required to cover your burned-down house. Oh, it would be a nice thing, but it's patently ridiculous, he sneered.

No, you slack-jawed moron. Your analogy is absolutely wrong, and patently dishonest.

The analogy should be: Having an insurance company refuse you coverage because of a pre-existing condition is like trying to get homeowners insurance when your house burned town ten years ago, and you have rebuilt it, and they refuse to cover your existing house for fire because you once had a house fire.

What Huckabee is describing is what happens when you have no insurance, and finally end up in the emergency room trying to get treatment and pay for a condition that you currently have. He has completely misunderstood (or misrepresented, more likely) the entire issue. But it makes a nice soundbite, though, so I'm sure it will be touted as "truth" in no time.

Once again, the modern conservative movements credo is shining through: I've got mine, screw you. Look, if you dislike the idea of requiring insurance companies to provide insurance, regardless of pre-existing conditions, then argue against it; that's you're right. But do it honestly, eh? If you've got facts and evidence, provide them. If not, fanning the flames of fear and anxiety is not an acceptable alternative.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Pot Rack Incident

We're having another scope creep issue here at Chez Phouka -- remember the pot rack in the old kitchen? The small hole in the wall to add a support for the pot rack ended up the impetus for totally redoing the bathroom?

At any rate, we finally got an offer from Comcast to swap over internet and tv and telephone that was too good to pass up, so we're moving all the services to Comcast from our current combination of Directv and Qwest. We're not unhappy with the service, but saving 70+ bucks a month for faster internet and HD cable was enough to do it.

But we only have one HD television, the projector in the theater downstairs. It's time to consider replacing the 15-year-old television in the living room with a new HD television, we decided.

...which will require getting a new piece of furniture, since the current entertainment armoire will fit the existing 32" CRT television and nothing else. We want a flat screen, and large enough to be worthwhile watching HD television, so it has to go, and we need some other component storage/media cabinet. This is surprisingly difficult for us - that armoire was the first piece of furniture we ever bought, and we both love it, it's just not workable.

...which requires that we either figure out where else it can go in the house, so as not to lose it, or we have to get rid of it entirely, which is emotionally difficult. Sigh. Moving it somewhere else would probably require moving other furniture pieces (I suggested moving it to the guest room, but it's a wee bit too big for that) somewhere else. It's like playing musical chairs with large pieces of furniture.

It's never just one thing, it is? I almost wish I could be that person who changes their house up every few years, new furniture, new paint, new stuff. I'm not. It took us almost a year to negotiate the painting of the living room a new color and the purchase of a new couch. It's not easy for us, apparently.

Wish us luck! We're out to look at televisions today (although we'll probably buy on line for price) and new pieces of furniture. Send any suggestions, we need them!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Frankensteinian Medicine

If anyone suggests that you should have a Nerve Conductance Test, make sure you have enough time to drink heavily beforehand. Ow! I now know exactly where all the nerves are, in detail, in my leg and hip... I know this because the doctor stuck little electrodes on me and then used a tiny medical Tazer to ZAP! each of the nerves in turn. Sometimes 10 times in a row.

Ok, it's not really horribly painful. It hurts, but more because that is not something you ever to yourself. It's awfully weird-feeling, though. I kept having the mental image of the Frankenstein monster being 'jolted' to life. "It's aaaaaa-live! Alive!".

Follow it with a muscle response test (which involved NEEDLES stuck in my leg) and my leg now hurts more than when I went in. I think I should convalesce on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. Just in case.

But - the outcome is good. The meralgia paresthetica diagnosis from six years ago seems to be absolutely correct, and the new symptom of pain is not damaging anything, just an annoying side effect. It's not even a progression of symptoms -- it may do this for awhile, then subside and go back to just being the weird numb spot on my leg, or it may 'act up' for a long time. My concern was that the pain wasn't a sign that something else was being damaged or something, and that walking wasn't going to cause eventual muscle damage or other nerve damage that might be important. A sensory nerve isn't necessary (in fact, if it gets bad, they can just cut the nerve) but it certainly does make you notice it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Wow! I knew that some universities in the US have made courses available online (via video or mp3, class notes, etc) but I didn't realize the sheer number of classes out there. Yale University, Berkeley, NYU, Oxford, tons of others -- all consolidated at a website called Academic Earth.

Jackpot! Tons of interesting classes by the top universities and colleges -- free.

Damn, I love the interwebs.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Dog Training

Most of the time when I go downstairs to plod along on the treadmill, both dogs follow me. They tend to follow me everywhere (if I let them), of course. I can't figure out what they find so fascinating about me walking in place, but it's cool down there and they like to lounge about while I exercise.

But now, when I announce that "I'm going downstairs to walk..." they both RUN to the basement door and then thunder downstairs to stand expectantly by the storage room door, tails wagging. Why? Because I -- ONCE -- went into the storage room where the dog biscuits are stored to give them a cookie before I started on the treadmill.

Once is apparently enough to convince them this is what 'going to walk' means. It means: run downstairs and we'll get a biscuit! Yeah!.

So, unlike every other dog on the planet, the word 'walk' has nothing to do with outside or a leash or sniffing every shrub for four blocks...it means 'go in the basement'

That's somehow every embarrassing.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy Wine Day

We are now in possession of two cases of new 2009 Mollydooker wines -- including seven bottles of the absolutely perfect Velvet Glove. I'm going to have to start inventing important celebratory holidays to warrant drinking them.

Let's see... the anniversary of our first toaster purchase. Yup! Dog's birthday. Sounds good! No rain on Tuesday, that'll do.

We tend to hoard this just a bit, since it's so good. Plan to be at our house for a major anniversary or birthday and we'll probably share.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

For Booklovers

You know you're a bookish, geekish sort when....you can name all but one of the covers pictured in this little quiz.

Ok, I really did miss 2, I knew what the book was but it was picky about the exact wording. They are mostly american covers, and not always new ones, at that.

Extra points if you can name the author for each of them....

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Virtual Climbing

Well, real climbing, but a virtual hill, I guess!

According to my treadmill, I have walked 272 miles, and climbed over 38,000 feet. Woot!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Artistic Artichokes

Someone had too much time on their hands (and hopefully is not in trouble for misuse of an MRI machine), but the images of vegetables and fruits in the MRI are very interesting!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Food Porn

We've been trying to eat better here at Chez Phouka, more fresh veggies, cooking at home more often, just trying to do a bit better.

I've also been watching a lot of Food Channel and Cooking Channel shows as I huddle in the living room cross stitching, so I've been trolling the internet for recipes and new ideas. There are only so many ways to cook zucchini, you know?

And I discovered a blog that is a collection of the "foodie" sites -- TasteSpotting. It's just food porn, really -- beautiful pictures of fabulous food, descriptions of meals, and some really interesting recipes. It's just fun to browse.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Grass is Greener

I was thinking about this today, after a conversation with a friend over kids vs dogs.

One of the few times I wish that my dogs were actually human children is when they wake me up urgently at 3am.

With a human child (at least a verbal one) they could tell me if the urgency is "hurry up I'm bored and you should play with me" or "I forgot to pee before I went to bed can I go now?" or "Imminent butt-splosion from all the bacon I ate! Defcon four! 911! HELP!"

That would be helpful. With the dogs, it's all the same facial expression, and "I just want to go outside to bark" has the same urgency as "I think I'm gonna barf now".

Most often, it's the former--they sleep all day and want to go out. One benefit, though, I can just close the door, leave them outside, and go back to bed. Probably not a good idea with children, right?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I wonder if she'll do it

Back in February, a facebook page went up:

It took 13 days. Do not mess with the power of the interwebs!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Galapagos Pictures

I've posted a quick set of pictures from the Galapagos Islands on Flickr. Just a quick run through - there are tons more! I'm working on it!

I'm not dead! Really!

Busy, busy, busy, though. I missed an entire month of posting. Oy. You must all think I've crawled under a rock or fled the country or something.

Well, I did sort of flee the country -- spent two weeks in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands with our family (wow! just wow!), celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary, my birthday (for an undisclosed number of years), and have been helping my sister plan her wedding. Apparently posting to the interwebs fell by the wayside.

No worries, we're alive! I promise.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Am I nuts?

Probably. I love doing counted cross stitch -- something about the precision, detail, and twiddly stitching really appeals to me; I find it calming, really (despite the fact that it makes the Adorable Husband twitch to watch me stitch).

I realized that I haven't stitched anything in almost two years. Not sure why - too much going on, not enough leisure time, always something else to do instead of plopping down for a bit of zen-like focus on a blank piece of fabric, a printed chart, and a photo of what it will eventually look like.

So I spent some time web-surfing and looking for what sorts of patterns are out there now. I've always like the huge charts from Mirabilia and the extremely detailed architectural charts that I've found. I tend to not like the "crafty" sort of charts that abound -- kittens and teddy bears and amish-style samplers aren't my style.

And then I discovered that, in the last few years the 'fine art' style of cross stitch has simply exploded. Scarlet Quince and Heaven and Earth Designs have page after page of absolutely stunning charts -- huge, detailed, multi-year projects. I'm in heaven. My wish list at both sites is embarassingly huge.

So, I've resolved to start a project - -and picked a piece designed by John Godward called 'Pompeiian Lady', which just leapt out at me on the site when I saw it. I ordered it immediately and expect it to arrive this weekend.

The chart that is. I still need to figure out what I'm going to stitch it on and collect the whole 'kit', which is at least part of the fun.

At my normal 'resolution', this thing is 22" x 47". I'm going to have to work smaller than I'm used to, or I won't be able to actually hang it anywhere, it will be too huge. 334,400 stitches.

I'm insane, aren't I?

And now I'm going to have to get the other charts for this artist from HaED, or risk them disappearing/being retired before I can finish. (hm, possibly a birthday gift? Must tell the Adorable Husband...)

Definitely insane. Possibly certifiable.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Yesterday was the Erie Town Fair, and there is usually a huge air balloon launch in the morning to kick off the festivities -- but Saturday dawned gray and cloudy, so no balloons.

Today, though, is gorgeous, and I was woken up by the hiss and pop of balloons heading over the house -- sometimes very, very close!.

Yes, it's done!

The Adorable Husband reminded me this morning that I had not posted evidentiary pictures of the "finished' garage door trim job. Yes, it's done -- primed, waiting for the painters to come and do the rest of the trim, but it really did only take one day to get all the new trim planed and put up.


Sunday, May 02, 2010


I woke up this morning, a lovely Sunday morning, to THIS....The Husband is dismantling the garage!

We're having the trim painted again this summer (dark colors + mile-high-city-sunshine = peeling paint) and as we looked around at the house, we realized that the trim on the garage -- just one corner, on the header over my garage door -- was a bit water damaged. Should be easy enough to replace, right?

So, the Adorable Husband got up early this morning to pull down the damaged piece and replace it.

Apparently it was a bit more troublesome than we imagined. Now there is a pile of red-painted ex-trim in the driveway, holes in the garage, and two carloads of new lumber.

I spent the afternoon helping him plane 2 x 8s into 1" x 6" headers and 2 x 6s into 1" x 4" frames. Seriously - nothing is nominal size lumber. It's all weird "exact" sizes that apparently don't exist at a regular Home Depot! Luckily the garage includes tools, including a planer. It is a most inefficient way to create eighteen bazillion cubic feet of sawdust, I promise!

The Adorable Husband is outside finishing up the caulking now, and I'm trying to snort out the sixty pounds of sawdust I inhaled. Not quite how I envisioned my Sunday!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Oooh, Retro!

I totally forgot to post this, and I really should have!

The Adorable Husband wears Gargoyle sunglasses -- remember Terminator? -- and has for twenty years or so. He likes them, and hasn't found anything else that blocks enough light and that don't make him look like a deranged bug.

So he was up skiing with my nephew last month, and one of the lift operators thought they were pretty cool -- "Really neat, man -- totally retro!"

I don't think you can be considered fashionably "retro" if you have been wearing the style the whole time. I'm not sure what that is, exactly, but retro it ain't! The Adorable Husband disagrees, of course, and he's feeling quite fashionable and stylish.

Only 2166 Chickens

Senate hopeful Sue Lowden’s plan for Healthcare reform is to barter for medical procedures. It's eminently mockable, not because the barter system is a bad idea (it's honestly not), but because she simply doesn't seem to grasp that the same people who don't have money for health care, have little to barter, and continues to repeat it. People bartered chickens for medical care becuase they couldn't afford to pay. That is not a solution to healthcare - bartering won't "Bring down prices in a hurry", unless, perhaps, you're a car dealer, it is a desperate, last-ditch attempt to get care and it turns medical care into a 'maybe you'll get it, maybe you won't" proposition. That's not acceptable.
Sue Lowden (R), the leading Republican Senate candidate in Nevada, recently articulated her vision of how the American health-care system should work. At a local candidate forum, Lowden, a former state senator and chair of the Nevada Republican Party, encouraged Nevadans to "go ahead and barter with your doctor." It would, she insisted, "get get prices down in a hurry."

"I'm telling you that this works," the Republican candidate explained. "You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say, 'I'll paint your house.' I mean, that's the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I'm not backing down from that system."

I would point out that "Before we all started having health care", people died of simple things that we can now prevent, and people with easily treatable diseases got no treatment at all because they couldn't pay for it. It just wasn't an option. The reason why people paid with chickens was because they were broke. Not because it was some idyllic time when things were simpler. It was because it was a horrid time when there were more poor people and there was no social safety net.

But, I really posted this because the following website made me laugh. A lot.

Some enterprising person has put up the Sue Lowden Chicken for Checkups web page, which just make me laugh uproariously.

Double Standards

Apparently bra- and panty-clad women prancing around in Victoria Secret ads are ok becuase the women are thin and have a-cup breasts. But try airing an ad for plus-sized lingerie, and the networks balk. Lane Bryant has a new Cacique lingerie ad that the networks didn't like, and apparently didn't want to air. The only reason I can see? Because the women aren't thin.
It appears that ABC and Fox have made the decision to define beauty for you by denying our new, groundbreaking Cacique commercial from airing freely on their networks.

ABC refused to show the commercial during “Dancing with the Stars” without restricting our airtime to the final moments of the show. Fox demanded excessive re-edits and rebuffed it three times before relenting to air it during the final 10 minutes of “American Idol,” but only after we threatened to pull the ad buy.

These are the same networks that run Victoria Secret ads. What was their complaint? "Too much cleavage". Well, yeah, when you look at real women and not coat-hangers and they tend to have breasts. Real women look like this -- far more than look like the airbrushed version of beauty that the fashion mags would have us believe. Talk about a double standard.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cool Science Badges

Just popping in to link to Cool Science Merit Badges.

"I work with way too much radioactivity, and yet still no discernable superpowers yet” is my favorite!

Monday, April 05, 2010

I can't believe you said that....

I can't believe that they actually used the name. I can't. It's just too damn funny. I'm laughing so hard I nearly ruptured something. Yup. I'm twelve.

Duluth Trading Company Ballroom Jeans. Yup. Ball Room.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Unfamiliar Rules

I've been trying to help my sister with her wedding planning--getting the guest list put together, figuring out when things have to happen, that sort of thing. She's got most of it in hand, and when she was out visiting, we picked invitations and the associated bits and pieces that are included (rsvp, maps, ceremony/reception cards, etc). They are shipping now and she's getting ready to start the long evenings of addressing the things.

We, as a culture, just don't have big formal parties very often - weddings are about it for most people. There are all sorts of weird rules for things that we simply don't know (and if you don't pay attention you can miss them entirely). I didn't have placecards at my wedding, because I had absolutely no idea that I was supposed to, for example. Placecards? When was the last time you saw those? It all worked out, and in terms of faux pas it was a pretty minor one, but as I went through the books with Nin about what to do and when to do it and how to address things and the rest, it struck me that we really have to learn a whole new set of rules.

Take the RSVP card that's included in nearly every wedding invitation you've ever seen. It's actually a no-no in really formal circles, but everyone finally surrendered to the reality that no one writes personalized letters of regrets or acceptance anymore and has them delivered on little silver platters. We don't do it - and the etiquette for weddings finally realized that if the average person wanted to know how many people were coming to the wedding, providing them with an easy way to tell you is important. Now people are arguing whether the postcard version of the response card (instead of the little card and envelope) are acceptable, and whether providing a website or email address to response to is 'tacky'. This is all new to most people.

Which was hammered home when I started trolling a few of the wedding websites and forums looking for some general tips. Every single one has a dozen brides asking how to explicitly ask for cash as wedding gifts, or how to invite one person and not another, or how to make it clear that no children are invited to the wedding.

The "no children" thing is a serious hot-button issue with a lot of people. Some view a wedding as a huge family event at which everyone should be there and all kids should be included. To them, not inviting their children is insulting and rude. Others view a wedding as a formal adult celebration and do not want to have a dozen children running around. Sometimes it's a financial issue, sometimes it's a preference - want kids, or don't want them at the reception, either option is ok. You're not rude for not inviting them, if that's what you want. If you want kids, great. I'm not judging one way or the other.

Nin is definitely inviting kids to the wedding. She and her fiance are in their thirties, all their friends have kids - it is what they want. So for her, the issue is moot.

But there are a ton of couples out there who are struggling with the problem of not wanting to invite kids to their wedding - they aren't set up for it, they can't afford it, they simply want an adults-only affair. But this is apparently very hard to communicate to today's wedding guests. Every single forum is filled with questions on how to explain to guests who return a response card + 3, or communicate through family members how excited their kids are to come to the wedding, and when told that they aren't going to be able to bring them, announce that they aren't going to attend, either.

The thing is, there really is a rule about this -- it's just that we're so unfamiliar with the etiquette of formal invitations that no one knows what it is anymore. It's simple: only the people NAMED on the invitation are invitied. Makes perfect logical sense, but there are a lot of people out there that think an invitation to Mr. and Mrs. John Smith automatically includes their three children and the dog. I think we all intuitively know this, but given the conversations I've been reading online, a lot of people don't want to accept it. It should be enough that the invitation is written out to the two adults, to inform them that they should plan for a babysitter, but that's not always the case. Every bride was bemoaning the fact that they had to call people on their list to clarify that no, Junior is not invited and we simply cannot accomodate him. Sorry.

I wonder if you asked people randomly whether they would assume their "and family" was invited to a party, if the invitation was addressed to "Mr and Mrs...". We simply aren't aware of what the subtle wording is supposed to mean anymore. Our society isn't geared to that uber-formal sort of lifestyle, so the whole wedding etiquette thing is a monstrously huge list of do's and don'ts that are confusing. No wonder the bridal industry makes a mint on etiquette books and wedding planners. Oy!

As I said, it's not an issue for Nin's wedding - they want, and are inviting, kids. Ok, so how does that work? Technically, you're not supposed to write "and family" on the invitation, if you're being formal (and let's be honest, this is faux-formal nowadays, since we simply don't do it very often) you write all the names on the inner envelope - that's how you know that little Susie and Jimmy are invited. There are entire books out there with examples of how to address wedding invitations. What about "and guest"? Nin's fiance pointed out that he always got invitations addressed to him "and guest" and taht was perfectly fine. We pointed out to him that if the person is in a long-term relationship (as most of their friends are) then you are obligated to find out what the 'and guest's' name is and write that on the invitation (and in fact, they should receive their own). He was confused about this (well, so were we sometimes..everyone is.)

But we get to dress up, drink champagne, and pretend we know exactly how this high-society thing works. And I'm sure we'll mess up something, somewhere. It will still be fun!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Semantics, again

The christian militia group (calling themselves "Hutaree") was recently in the news -- its members were arrested for plotting to kill law enforcement personnel. I haven't really followed much of the story, except to wonder - why is this not being called what it is: terrorism. Is it because the group is white? Christian? American? What they were planning is the very definition of terorrism, and yet that word has yet to be applied to them by the media. I guess American's don't like the idea that there are native terrorists. Weapons of mass destruction? WTF?
According to the indictment, “The general concept of operations provided that the Hutaree would commit some violent act to draw the attention of law enforcement or government officials and which would prompt a response by law enforcement. Possible such acts which were discussed included killing a member of law enforcement after a traffic stop, killing a member of law enforcement and his or her family at home, ambushing a member of law enforcement in rural communities, luring a member of law enforcement with a false 911 emergency call and then killing him or her, and killing a member of law enforcement and then attacking the funeral procession with weapons of mass destruction.

After the attack, Hutaree members would retreat to one of several “rally points” to wage war against the government and be prepared to defend with “trip-wired and command detonated anti-personnel improvised explosive devices, ambushes, and prepared fighting positions,” the indictment says. That action, Hutaree believed, would serve as a catalyst for a more widespread uprising against the government, the indictment says.
Terrorists. C'mon, let's see it being reporting properly: these people are a dangerous cult, planning a terrorist attack.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Small but still there

Even though I ate cheese and drank wine and avoided the treadmill for ten days (including having my sister and entourage at the house, wining and dining), when I finally ordered my bridesmaid dress for her wedding, it was a size smaller than I was wearing before.

And I feel better. That's the whole point, of course, but there is a slim chance (a slim one, but one there, nonetheless) that I might be able to wear a sleeveless dress in August and not be all freaked out about it.

And I've graduated to walking uphill on the treadmill, since walking without any incline doesn't get my heart rate up high enough anymore. Hah!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Eek. Long Absence

Back after a long hiatus -- travel for work, spring break vacation with my sister, her son, and fiance, and now...tons of snow.

Seriously - a foot and a half, at least, since 5pm yesterday. Everything pretty much shut down - including I25 from Denver to Colorado Springs, and most of I70 west of the city. Schools closed, and all the foofaraw that accompany a "spring storm"

Tomorrow (thursday) is supposed to be in the fifties again. Gotta love spring!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Weather woes

I arrived in Vegas this morning (spending the week on-site at my client) and it was *SNOWING*.


In Vegas. I supposed it is March, and weather is still wintery...but I was totally not expecting snow. And, I've been told it will be in the seventies later this week.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

It's not all bad

I just wanted to report that the Ongoing Treadmill Adventure seems to be working.

My butt is smaller. Not by much, but definitely measureably smaller. Hah!

We have BAD dogs

Came home this evening, having been gone about two hours, and discover my driver's license, and all my credit cards, CHEWED UP on the floor.

They were on the kitchen counter. Berit (and we know it's her, we've caught her a few times) is counter surfing and apparently these looked good.

It's easy enough to get replacement cards, of course...but now I will have to stand in line at the DMV for how long? Last time I had to do anything there, it took three hours.

Bad, bad, BAD dogs.

Friday, February 26, 2010

How? Huh?

My MIL sent me a link to this picture from the NYT. How, exactly, were the track marks in the snow made? Every time I think I figure it out, the fact that there aren't two wheeled cars trips me up. A trailer? Unicyclists? Just an axle? Photoshop?


What's real?

Half the time when I'm watching a movie, I can no longer reliably tell what is real and what is computer generated -- but I never realized how ubiquitous the green/blue screen is on television. (although why I should be surprised by this is beyond me, with lower budgets it makes perfect sense that they build backgrounds and such via computer.

But this is still pretty cool.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

At it again

The religious whackoloons are at it again in Utah. They have proposed legislation that would make miscarriage a criminal offense.
Utah is posed to become the first state in the U.S. to criminalize miscarriage and punish women for having or seeking an illegal abortion. Utah's "Criminal Miscarriage" law:

* expands the definition of illegal abortion to include miscarriages
* removes immunity protections for women who have or seek illegal abortions
* assumes women are "guilty of criminal homicide of an unborn child" if a pregnancy ends after "intentional, knowing, or reckless" behavior.

But even among states that punish illegal abortions, this "Criminal Miscarriage" law is unique. It doesn't punish individuals who perform illegal procedures; it punishes women.
It has a very minimal chance of passing, since it's vague enough that it would be impossible to actually enforce. Is riding a bike ocnsidered reckless? How about hiking? How about swimming? How about a job that exposes them to second hand smoke? Drinking coffee? Having sex? What other "controls" do they plan to put on women to ensure they fulfill their role as walking uterus?

They didn't think this one through, from a applicability perspective, but they sure as hell thought it through from a position of punishing women and forced pregnancy. These people hate women, there is no other possible way to interpret this. It is too grotesque for words.

And they are obivously ignorant of the fact that miscarriage is very, very common -- up to 40% of all conceptions miscarry (many of those fertlized eggs that never implant), and of the roughly 4 1/2 million pregnancies every year, half a million end in miscarriage, and another thirty thousand or so in stillbirth or infant death. These statistics include all women, not just those the Utah legislature seem to want to target -- the women who are "reckless" and intentionally do things that can cause a miscarriage. Not just the ones who "deserve" to go to jail because they got pregnant. Becuase, as we all know, a woman is just a container for a fetus, once she gets pregnant. Idiots.

Women may have to PROVE that the miscarriage they had was not 'criminal'. Think about that. Think about the woman you know who had a miscarriage (we all know a few)...dealing with the loss of a pregnancy which they most likely wanted and hoped for...and to be criminally investigated and forced to prove they didn't do anything "wrong". I'm so angry I'm having a hard time typing that.

The legislators in Utah really want their own particular version of morality to be enforced. Their version of morality is hateful and wrong and evil. Regardless of what side of the abortion issue you are on, this is beyond the pale.

Even better, they are now going to classify anything that causes a miscarriage as "illegal abortion", and, if you read the text of the bill, it eliminates any option for elective abortion. It is not only a ban on legal abortion except in very narrow circumstances, it criminalizes everything else. O

This law: - defines legal abortion as a procedure "carried out by a physician or through a substance used under the direction of a physician." Anything else that terminates a pregnancy is now defined as illegal abortion - including miscarriages.
This is the 21st century? Could have fooled me.

More at DailyKos

The full text of the bill is here.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Strange thing I learned today (I so love the interwebs! I really do!)

The word "sibling" is not a naturally evolved English word but instead a modern revival of a lost Old English word generally meaning kins-person or relative rather than specifically referring to brothers and sisters.

This popped up from another blogger, who picked it out of a footnote from a book published in 1942:
Sibling is a coined word use by scientists for both brothers and sisters. The English language lacks such a word.
I find this astonishing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Geeky Cooking

I was browsing around for recipes and came across 'Cooking for Engineers', -- simple recipes, fully explained, and definitely written with the engineer in mind.

I am totally enamored of the big charts at the bottom of each recipe, though. They appeal to my geeky sense of process.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Berit, Again

Well, we did follow-up bloodwork on the pink beastie, and her platelet count is so low that our vet advised us to not let her outside without supervision. This happened before Christmas (and for all we know, it has been a constant problem that we only managed to fix for the time she was on steroids. At any rate, she's back on steroids because her platelet count is 5,000. It's supposed to be somewhere between 140-170,000. Not good.

She seems to be fine, which is weird. At a count this low, she is at risk for spontaneous bleeding, which could be very dangerous. So, no romping outside with the blue beastie, and we're trying to keep her quiet and give the meds a chance to work. She rebounded really quickly last time, but we obviously didn't find the cause of the problem. It's an immuno-suppressive issue, at any rate, but all the tests came back as negative, so we don't know what is causing this. It's possible that a year of allergy shots messed up her immune system. Fun, en?

Not quite getting it

This just made me laugh (and then cringe a bit). Methinks they don't really understand medicare or socialism at all. Tea-party FAIL.

Let's test them first

Tom Tancredo (yes, I'm embarrassed to be from his state) wants to bring back literacy tests for voting. You know, the "literacy tests" that were used to bar certain people from voting. Rachel Maddow had the only possible response:
"But I want you to know first, that this is what it was like. You would head down to the courthouse to register to vote, if you dared. In order to register, you‘d face an exam. It was sometimes called a literacy test, but it wasn‘t testing to determine necessarily if you could read or write. If you were black, the test was designed purely to afford a legalistic veneer of justification for denying you your constitutional right to vote.

The questions weren‘t about ABCs. They were—they were questions like this one, from Alabama‘s literacy test in 1965. If a person charged with treason denies his guilt, how many persons must testify against him before he can be convicted? Do you consider yourself qualified to vote in this country? Can you answer that question?

You want to hear it again? If a person is charged with treason—if a person charged with treason denies his guilt, how many persons must testify against him before he can be convicted?

Or how about this one from the same test: In what year did the Congress gain the right to prohibit the migration of persons to the states? Do you know the answer to that one?

Again, these are from Alabama‘s literacy test in 1965. It was applied selectively, of course, to black voters, to keep them from registering.

If you lived in Georgia in 1958, you would have faced questions like this one: Who is the solicitor general of the state judicial circuit in which you live and who is the judge of such circuit? If such circuit has more than one judge, name them all.

How did you do on that one? Or how about this one: What does the Constitution of Georgia provide regarding the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus?

If you wanted to vote in Georgia in 1958, those are the questions you would have to answer. But, of course, not everyone would face those questions. The board of registrars had the sole authority to determine who got asked which literacy test questions and whose answers to those questions rendered them ineligible to vote.

The idea was that black voters weren‘t being denied the right to vote based on race. That would be illegal. No, those voters just couldn‘t pass this literacy test.

This isn‘t the plot of some Kagzo (ph) Klansman gothic short story. This isn‘t a theoretical for first-year law students. This isn‘t some State Department report on some tin pot dictatorship halfway around the world that we can‘t pronounce.

This is American history. This is really, really recent American history—as in this lifetime for a lot of people American history.

And the opening night speech at the national tea party convention this weekend proposed bringing the literacy test for voting back. And that proposal got a warm round of applause
I suggest that the FIRST people to have to pass a "literacy test" should be the ones calling for it. Since they seem to be misinformed bigoted cranks absolutely unaware of history (or uncaring of it), it should be easy for them, right? Right?

I couldn't answer those questions. Could you?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Love Languages

I've often read about love-languages on my SIL's blog, about the way that people express love and feel loved. I've never read the book, but a recent conversation with my sister about communication and expectations of marriage prompted me to google it and I found an online quick quiz to figure out what "type" you are -- do you value quality time or gifts or supportive words or acts of service as an expression of love? Would you rather get a gift, or have your spouse do laundry and pick up groceries on the way home? Would you rather be told how much you are appreciated, or hugged and snuggled?

I realized that I value quality time and acts of service as being meaningful to me -- filling my car with gas or stopping on the way home to pick up a loaf of bread make me feel loved and secure and appreciated. Bringing me flowers is nice, but I'd rather have the Adorable Husband come home an hour early. It would be difficult if we didn't realize what the other expected or wanted -- and it's definitely got to be difficult trying to figure out what those things are.

I may have to actually pick up the book. Hmph.

Antique Cars

Watch the flickr slideshow carefully...absolutely fabulous!

Not only a great photographer, but.. oh, just watch!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I need a cape!

I have discovered that I have a Superpower. Oh, nothing as exciting as leaping tall buildings or running faster than speeding bullets or invisibility or anything, oh, no.

Nope. My superpower is discovering (or causing, the jury's out on that one) weird and unpredictable problems in computer code, that no one else has seen before.

Every day for the last week, I've found something strange and inexplicable in the application that I'm building. Weird characters show up, things work and then they don't, data disappears at random...you name it, I've been dredging it up in my code.

Hmph. I'd rather be able to burst into flame or hurl lightning bolts.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

It took this long?

Everyone has heard the rather bizarre claim that 'vaccines cause autism', which has fostered an almost rabid anti-vaccine movement. It was based on a single study, which has been debunked thoroughly over the last few years as being invalid. Despite the claims of the anti-vac crowd, there is absolutely no, none, zero, zip, nada connection between autism and vaccines.

Well, the Lancet has finally completed disavowed the study and come out a report that the author of the study, Andrew Wakefield, falsified the data and manipulated medical records to make his study give specific results. The study is completely, utterly, wrong. The methodology and data aren't even valid. Wakefield is accused of unethical behavior, on top of it all.

Of course, the damage has already been done. People continue to believe the thoroughly disproven results. The study was flawed from the beginning, but it apparently said something that made True Believers out of a lot of people -- someone to blame, something to point at as a cause for autism. I can only imagine that for parents with children who are autistic, it was something to cling to. But for the thousands of people who refuse to vaccinate their kids? Hey, idiots -- herd immunity only works when 95% of the population is vaccinated...and this ridiculous campaign has dropped that to less than 80% in some areas. Measles is back the US because of this. It's likely the resurgence of Whooping Cough is probably related.

I'm just surprised that it took this long to come out formally against the paper, and sad that for most people, it probably won't make any difference.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Life Lesson Learned

Do not, whilst walking merrily along on the treadmill listening to your ipod, lean down to fix your shoe.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm a boomerang

While I feel better that I'm not the only one with this problem, it is quite obvious that I cannot walk in a straight line. I list to the left, and if I don't pay attention, I'm sure I'd walk in an enormous circle and end up back where I started (a risk if you're walking in the desert, for example).

How do I know this? Walking on the treadmill is way harder than it looks! You're not supposed to hang on, and I find myself edging towards the left side of the belt if I'm not very careful.

I can see a rather spectacular crash in my future -- I'll be like those funny commercials of people shooting off the back end of the treadmill into the wall, I just know it.

Friday, January 29, 2010


I am very glad that I have not only a handy husband, but a brawny one!

With the Christmas money from my Dad this year, we (well, really, I) decided to get a treadmill. I need to get off my butt and move, and walking has always worked for me -- but getting outside and walking around here can be dependent on the weather and I don't need any possible reasons to avoid walking, which I will glom into at the slightest provocation (yea, I know, rain, snow, cold are pretty normal around here and I'm not a delicate little wilting flower, but as an excuse, "It's freakin' cold out there' certainly works for me!). So - indoor treadmill. I know people who have them and they like them.

I found a really nice treadmill, which the Adorable Husband picked up from the store today. And then he man-handled the 300lb, 7' tall box down the stairs into the basement to be put together.

And now he's heading off to the chiropractor to fix his back. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ensuring Stupidity

Another knee-jerk idiotic response to a "concerned parent" -- read: moronic idiot -- from a school district. This time, removing dictionaries from the schools because they (gasp!) define terms of a sexual nature.
Perhaps it's not that surprising that a mother in Menifee, California, asked the Menifee Union School District to ban all copies of the 10th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary after her child stumbled across the term "oral sex." What is surprising, indeed horrifying, is that district officials immediately complied with her request, and pulled all dictionaries off classroom shelves throughout the Southern California school district, which serves 9,000 kids, kindergarten through eighth grade.
They removed a dictionary.

Read that again: a DICTIONARY because a single parent had her delicate widdle sensibilities ruffled and demanded that everyone bow down to her carefully sterilized little world view. What a complete fucking mess.

Oh! The horror! That a school child might read a factual definition of a term in a dictionary. 'Cause we all know how damaging that could be. Might expose them to ideas . This goes beyond prudish or sensitive to ridiculous and awe-inspiringly stupid. That the school board actually responded to this twit of a woman by removing the dictionary and seriously considering a school-district-wide ban is absolutely mind-boggling to me.

I suppose it's a way to ensure that the next generation is even more stupid, closed-minded, and rigid than the current one.

Wait until she realizes that there's a whole, real, physical world out there that might possibly expose her and her child to...words! And actions! that she might not "approve" of! What then? Demand that the rest of the world be sanitized and bowdlerized? What about other words -- like breast and fornicate and homosexual and concupiscense and bondage and ..well, you get the idea. Let's eliminate all the words in the dictionary that might offend someone! I'm sure there are LOTS of words in that dictionary that this woman finds offensive and disagrees with. Oh, what her child might learn from reading the textbook definition of polygamy or gay or any of the millions of other words in our language for ideas and concepts she doesn't like. I'm sure there are thousands of ideas out there someone disagree with, not even just the sex ones! The possibilities are endless! We could have a dictionary with just a few pages of "approved" words!

Wait! What about enclopedias! They have articles about things she disapproves of! Better ban all those National Geographics before Jr gets a good look at a pair of naked breasts. Better ban the Bible, too, it's got some pretty racy passages. Oh, my god! The internet! They might have access to such things online! Ban it! Shut it down! The list is never-ending! (please imagine the previous few sentences read with breathless, wide-eyed fanaticism and enough sarcasm to drown a fish, ok?)

How pathetic that she can't even face answering a question from her child about what oral sex is, if the kid comes across it in the dictionary. How frightening that she truly thinks that it might be titillating or prurient. What is she going to do? Never let her kids leave the house or participate in life? I wouldn't want my hypothetical kids to be reading The Kinsey Report or Joy of Sex, but that's far different than not wanting them to read a dictionary that contained words related to human sexuality. That' takes prudishness to a whole new level I hadn't even imagined before.

A single person simply does not have the right to enforce censorship --and no waffling here, this is censorship of the highest order --of books. Exempt your own child from their education by refusing to allow them to read things you don't like, that cover subjects you are not comfortable with or disagree with, but that's where your control ends. I'll still mock you, of course, but that's your choice for your own kid. Learning about, reading about, thinking about subjects that are outside your comfort zone are important. Difficult, perhaps, but important to developing a critical, thinking, capable mind. Hiding from these topics and themes doesn't make them go away, despite people's best efforts.

But did you notice that this story (which is only the latest in a long line) only really worries about some knowledge? They're trying to carefully filter knowledge through their own lens. How telling is it that you never hear of anyone protesting a book or demanding censorship of a dictionary because they contained entries like genocide, torture, rape, famine, war, or hatred?

So her kid read the definition of oral sex (which, btw, is "oral stimulation of the genitals") and she just didn't want to have to address it with her kid like a responsible adult and explain it terms a kid would understand. No, she'd rather hamstring the education of an entire district's worth of school children because she could complain and the school-board pandered to her ridiculous demand. I think she's an idiot, but I blame the school district for actually responding to this with anything but derisive laughter and downright rejection. They're actually whining about having to 'read the dictionary' to discover if there are any other words that might be questionable. Common sense is apparently not in supply. 'What about the chiiiillll-ddrrruuun' here has run to ridiculous lengths.

Shame on the Menifee Schoool District! Knowledge and reason are the root of ethical society, not censorship.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Solution to a non-problem

I just saw a commercial for a Lysol hands-free liquid soap dispenser with the tagline, "never touch a germy soap pump again".

Talk about solving a non-existent problem...um, even if the soap pump does harbor germs (and I'm sure it does, you're touching it with your pre-washed hands)...you're going to wash your hands after touching it. Anyone who is "concerned" about germs on their soap dispenser is spending way too much time fostering paranoid and ridiculous phobias.
Hands may come into contact with millions of germs every day. Hand washing is one of the most important steps to help stay healthy. But have you ever thought about those germs ending up on your soap pump?

Fact: Your soap pump can harbor a lot of bacteria.

Introducing the LYSOL® No-Touch Hand Soap System, it automatically senses your hands and dispenses just the right amount of soap that kills 99.9% of bacteria.

For use in the kitchen or bathroom, the antibacterial hand soap is enriched with moisturizing ingredients and comes in three great scents!

Never touch a germy soap pump again.
I don't like the explosion of anti-bacterial soaps and surfaces and wipes and sprays. They are unnecessary, and resistant bacteria are a real problem. Sure, wipe down your kitchen with it after cutting up raw chicken, but otherwise? Seriously - plain soap and water does the job just fine. This near-phobic approach to germs is ridiculous and dangerous. If you believe the advertising, you need to spray everything with bleach, shouldn't touch any surface, and need to disinfect every single object in your whole life, all the time.

But this product seems designed specifically to enable the believers in the idea that their houses and lives and bodies must be sterile. I can even see a non-touch soap dispenser; they get all goopy and gross after awhile, so just waving your hand under the sensor eliminates the mess, but do to it to avoid germs? Really? That's like suggesting you wipe down the handles to the faucet before washing your hands with a Chlorox wipe or something. Why?

And of course, minutes after washing your hands, they are once again covered in germs. Or the towel you wipe your hands on has billions of them. Even a paper towel. It's a bizarre illusion of 'clean', if you ask me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Leaping Gazelles

The time for the fastest man (a 26yo) in this year's "Skyrise Chicago" stair-climb at the Willis Tower was thirteen minutes and nine seconds to get to the top of a 110-story building. (see the rest of the results here). That's 2, 109 steps.

The fastest woman (age 40, who has claimed the title for the past eight years) clocked in at 15:08, and the fastest kids (both age 10) were at 22:26 and 22:51, respectively. Last year, a firefighter did it in full gear.

They must have been taking the stairs two or three at a time and leaping, gazelle-like, from landing to landing, is all I can figure.

Just to put it in perspective, this is from a poster on one of the forums I frequent:
"To give you a point of comparison, the first time my firm did a post-9/11 fire drill, where folks wanted to actually go all the way to ground level to prove to themselves they could, even the people who bolted way ahead of everybody else took twenty minutes to go only sixty floors, and they were going DOWN!"

World Statistics

An absolutely fascinating look at world population statistics--life expectancy, income, family size, population, the works, by Hans Rossling. I bet you haven't seen things displayed like this before!

Best Stats You've Ever Seen

Spiritually transformed guns of Jesus

Despite specific rules banning proselytizing in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, a manufacturer of gun sights for the military inscribes the sights with references to bible verses. Really. Bible verses, etched into the rifle sights. Promising that god is with them. On guns. I boggle.

That's just...well, it seems so ridiculously inappropriate that it's almost funny. Inscribing verses of the bible -- ostensibly to support and bolster the soldier and let them know that Jesus supports them -- on a weapon used to kill people is just wrong. Talk about reinforcing the idea of a god-driven crusade, eh?
Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.

One of the citations on the gun sights, 2COR4:6, is an apparent reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 of the New Testament, which reads: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." [...]

Trijicon confirmed to ABCNews.com that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military.
Wow. The company -- which is very upfront about their Christian beliefs, has crossed a line, in my opinion. I'm not against this because of the idea that it could inflame religious animosity in a muslim country, I'm against this because it is a serious violation of church and state, with the military tacitly expressing a preference and strong support of a specific religious belief system. In an era when evangelical Christians have inappropriately used positions of power in the military to proselytize and actively attack non-christians, this is just another transgression, I guess. But it is a serious one.

I'm against this because it is a gross application of a religious idea used to support war. It implies that god supports and encourages "our side" of the war, by "blessing" the weapons. That's just..distasteful. It is pushing christianity and their particular version of god, quite literally at the point of a gun.

Would I be so upset if they were inscribing bible verses on body armor or helmets? Not really, I guess. It'd still find it inappropriate, but it wouldn't be actively offensive. It's the idea that anyone would invoke their god as a blessing on a weapon that is pretty weird to me. We should be long past the age of religious crusades -- but I forget, for many people, the war against terrorists is a religious crusade. They have used it to demonize muslims and "others" and are arrogantly and smugly sure that their god is on their side. That's a frightening thought, if you ask me.
Weinstein, an attorney and former Air Force officer, said many members of his group who currently serve in the military have complained about the markings on the sights. He also claims they've told him that commanders have referred to weapons with the sights as "spiritually transformed firearm[s] of Jesus Christ."
I sincerely hope that they lose their very, very lucrative military contract.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

English Mangled

I've been working on a new client, building an application in Oracle's Application Express -- a web-based toolset. The details don't matter really, but I had to register a minor boggle at some of the verbiage used in the app. Mangled language is everywhere!

The application has a default 'you can't log in now' sort of message that appears if you try to log in and the system in unavailable. The default is
"This applications is currently unavailable at this time."
Huh? The message was obviously designed by the Department for Redundancy Department.

C'mon people, either "This application is currently unavailable" or "This application is unavailable at this time" -- using both is a bit awkward.

And this is a worldwide, major corporate release. Where have all the editors gone? Did this actually sound right to someone?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Why not actually DO something?

Christian congregations all over the world will be praying to cure Trig Palin of Down's Syndrome on April 18, 2010. When he is healed of this incurable genetic disease, people all over the world will have to acknowledge the Majesty of God.
Science has no way to undo this condition, which is the result of an extra chromosome; but God can. When Trig Palin is found to be miraculously healed, everyone but the most hardened atheist will have to acknowledge God’s Majesty!
Oooo-kay. What a monumental waste of time -- but, okay, let's look at this. If the combined power of the faithful can actually "heal" him, can you imagine what good that these people could do? Pray for a cure for cancer. Pray for the healing of the sick in the world. Pray for world peace. All those things that they apparently haven't been able to manage before. But this, this effort is worthwhile? I wish them well. That would be a boon to mankind, it really would.

But I do have to ask -- if it works, and we must all then acknowledge that their god is great and merciful....if it DOESN'T work, will they finally admit that it's a worthless enterprise and that their god simply doesn't have the juice to do anything at all (if he even exists)?

I doubt it. They'll just have some "reason" why it didn't work. Negative vibes from the non-believers, or sunspots, or the intervention of the devil or something. People didn't really have true faith. They always have an excuse.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nerdy Rant

Can I just register my absolute and utter hatred of CaSE sENsitiVe computer coding languages?

Hate hate hate them.

Wasted two hours trying to debug a problem that ended up being related to a difference in case in a single variable. Retval vs revtal. TWO HOURS.

Gah. Not only do I feel like an idiot, am I quite sure that anyone who designed such a language requirement is evil.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Dated Language

Question 9 on the census, which asks for a person's race, lists as one of the options: "Black, African Am., or Negro." [from csbnews]
This has raised a few hackles, and I have to admit that I am also a bit surprised at the use of such an archaic and thoroughly fraught term as "negro" as an option on the census in 2010. I don't think that's been in current use since when, the 70s? It's not a word that I would use, nor have I heard it except in movies about the Civil Rights movement -- how could it possibly be considered a common-enough descriptor now?

I don't think it's patently offensive, I guess, not like some of the other terms that have been used to describe someone who isn't pasty-white-northern-european, but it smacks of a patronizing, denigrating "you, boy" sort of label. The word has been rejected, I believe, and no one seems to be wanting to resurrect it as a sort of "self-owned" reference to one's own group, like the n-word has been adopted by some groups, or faggot has been reclaimed as a label of pride by some gays.

Since I don't belong to either of those groups, the words are not acceptable.

The Census Bureau has defended the choice of words (Black, African Am., Negro appear as the label for a single checkbox) by saying that "some older people" might still identify with the term". Really? I'd like to meet them. Do they still accept the label "colored"? I doubt it. The Census Bureau added it back in this year, after it was a write-in option from some people during the last census. While I believe that to be entirely true, I have to wonder at the motive for doing so. Do people not like the other terms? Do they imply some other affiliation that some people don't like?

But then again, I have a hard time getting behind the xxx-American terminology. African-American, Asian-American, or any of the combinations, which seem to be a rather thinly veiled attempt to put a politically correct, socially acceptable label on something that is really a color-based or phyiscal-attribute-based determiner. You aren't calling someone African-American because the emigrated from Africa, you are using the term to describe someone by skin color. It is just 'black' with a polite, social dress on. You don't hear Polish-American as a descriptor for North St. Paul white people, because no one feels the need to differentiate by actual ethnicity, and the Polish people and Scandinavians and such in the city are all white. xxx-American isn't a way to describe where you're from, it's a side-step to actually describing your skin color or physical features without actually doing so.

People should be called by whatever label they want--if there really is a subset of people who prefer the terminology Negro, then so be it. People want to be called Caucasian instead of White, or Hispanic or Latino instead of Mexican. So what? It's a ridiculous attempt at labeling anyway. The bizarre thing is that the 'race' being asked for is an mix of terms that use both skin color and ethnic origin to define it - things that are fundamentally unrelated. Describing someone's skin color doesn't say a thing about their actual origin, it just lets bureaucrats lump us into different buckets rather arbitrarily.

I'm mostly Polish, and a little bit English and a teensy bit German, I think. I'm sure there's another 57 Varieties muddled in there somewhere. On a census form, I'm White. It's just one way of grouping people. Perhaps I should be labelled 'northern european', to distinguish from the Scandinavians or ethnic Caucasians from Russia, or paler-skinned peoples of the Mediterranean It's a fruitless effort, especially now, as we are becoming more and more homogenized. I'm not white, anyway, I'm sort of pale-bluish.

But, the inclusion of the term Negro on the census strikes me as odd. Language changes, and we discard or re-define words that have taken on meanings that are unsubtle and unacceptable, just like we add descriptors that people adopt. The issue is that words that are common and acceptable to one set of people (even within a group) may be offensive or rejected by others.

Shelly Lowe, a U.S. Census Bureau spokesperson, agrees that the use of "Negro" is antiquated, and says that the bureau was surprised to learn there still are people who prefer to be called by the term.

Lowe also noted that all of the census questions are "tested ad nauseam," enough so that using the "Negro" term "outweighed the potential negatives."
Was it a huge error to include the term? I think it's rather insensitive, and seems terribly out of touch with the modern world, but I also am willing to take at face value that some people do prefer the term and that its inclusion was not meant to imply anything other than an alternate label. Everything is going to offend someone. I'll be curious if it remains on the census again in 10 years.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Facebook Fail

We all should know that you don't post anything on Facebook that is going to rise up to haunt you later when you are looking for a job (no nude pictures, no drug use, that sort of thing).

But how many people just don't quite get that they shouldn't post about their job? Well, other than glowing paens to how much you love working for Company X.

This is, as far as I can tell, real. Definitely not the smartest tool in the shed, eh?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Snow snow snow

Bah. Yes, it's beautiful;but the Adorable Husband had to snowblow again and we hadn't even gotten rid of the last snowstorm. Weird - we've had snow on the ground for weeks at a time this year.

It started coming down in lovely, fluffy flakes this afternoon, but it's cold out there right now, and supposed to be colder. I was looking forward to some warmer days, to be honest. I can only hope that it clears up enough that the drive up to Keystone isn't a seven hour trek.

Yes, skiing again! We just got back from a week skiing in Copper Mountain with the Christmas Horde (which was a lot of fun!) and this weekend is my work ski trip. I'm not sure that the Husband is going to try snowboarding again, for a bit (his chiropractor suggested that he had a bit of whiplash from his earlier efforts) and he's still walking a bit stiffly. Me? I'm intended to hit the spa and laze about. Lovely!

I really don't get the whole 'skiing' thing. I try - I mean, I live in Colorado, I should be embracing the outdoorsy-ness of the place, and reveling in the fact that outdoor pursuits are everwhere. Hiking I can understand, but skiing? I've taken lessons, I am just not Sporty, I guess. There are moment when I like the quiet gliding through the new powder...but then there's the falling and the screaming and the crashing and it's not so fun anymore. The mountains are beautiful, I'll just enjoy them from the veranda with a nice hot beverage, thank you very much!

Monday, January 04, 2010

In a Tizzy

My youngest sister is getting married! Whoopee! Her fiance proposed on Christmas Eve, and she has been dazzled by the sparkly ring every since.

And, of course, working herself into a tizzy to plan a wedding for late this summer. So many things to do, so many decisions...and she's a bit single-minded about things once she starts. Tenacious, might be the better word.

They've set a date, found a reception spot, and she's already looking for a dress. In a week. I told you she was single-minded. I didn't realize that some of the lead times were as large as they were -- I always was under the impression that you could do everything in six months or so. Nope. Well, not int he current bridal industry, it seems. Most venues are booked a year in advance, and dresses take up to 6 months to deliver and alter. Wow. I must have blocked all that out from my own wedding planning, oh-so-many-years ago.

She has, quite reasonably, decided that she will not buy a dress that costs more than a month of her salary. Of course, she loves the dress. Her fiance apparently made the off-hand comment that, "you know, we could be a little less formal and you could wear something else....oh, wait, no. Forget I said that.". Smart Man.

I'm so excited for her! He's a great guy and she's deliriously happy. I've heard her laugh more in the months she's been with him than in the previous few years, to be honest. Yeah!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Circle of Death

Sometime while we were gone, the Adorable Husband's xBox gave up the ghost. They are apparently susceptible to overheating (the cause of most of the failures that were reported in the last few years, and the primary cause of the Red Circle of Death displaying on the front of the thing.)

Hmph. Our poor housesitter thought they'd done something to kill it, but it was just a coincidence of timing.

So I googled for help to fix it. Microsoft is no help ("send it in! We'll fix it! You'll get it back in four weeks and oh, by the way that'll be $$$"), and there are some pretty iffy sorts of suggestions on the web -- including wrapping it in a towel to induce overheating to re-flux the solder on the board.

It's apparently a design flaw. The clips holding the motherboard in place slightly flex the board, causing all sorts of problems, including cracking the connections and not having a clean seat on the heatsink. It's possible ot take the whole thing apart and reseat the heatsink, which usually works, but I was told today that doing so might actually make the xBox Online thingy think that you've hacked your machine and it will suspend your membership. Wha?

So we're stuck between trying to fix it, somehow (since it's waaay out of warranty) and just surrendering and buying a new one. Nice racket, eh?

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Crowning Music of Awesome

I spent a bunch of time while everyone else was skiing, lounging about in my jammies surfng the web and reading books. One of the websites I happened upon was one of the biggest time-sucks I've found in a while: tvtropes.org -- an examination of the common motifs and cliches in the media -- which eventually pointed me to the common TV trope of "Crowning Music of Awesome", that moment, in the movie score, where the music is so fabulous, so perfect, that it actually makes the scene. Music that is epic, hair-raising, and just...perfect.

Which sent me on another search for the actual music listed -- where I discovered Two Steps from Hell, a duo that composes music specifically for movie trailers. Yeah, kind of a strange specialization, I suppose, but half the time the trailer music (which usually has nothing to do with the actual movie score) is absolutely fantastic.

I think I've listened to 'Protectors of the Earth' about a dozen times. It is, according to the site:
quite possibly the most unspeakably epic piece of music ever created.
I agree. Unfortunately, you cannot buy any of their current albums; they sell only to movie studios, so you can find some on YouTube, etc. They are planning on a public release of two new albums in 2010, though. I'm waiting!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Back in 2010

You may have noticed that I disappeared for the entire month of December -- lots of stuff going on: new client, family coming for the holidays, all that sort of stuff.

But, we're all fine here at Chez Phouka -- ten days with the Adorable Husbands family (ALL of them!) at the house and up skiing were a blast, and we're back to enjoying the usual quiet of our house. Mostly we're napping. The prep and setup and execution of the Christmas Horde Invasion took up most of our time. Bit higher stress level than normal, but it was a lovely visit.

So! Back from the break! I have plenty of opinions to share! I promise!