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Archive for the ‘Useless Blither’ Category

Twice in a Blue Moon

Tonight, into tomorrow, is a Blue Moon – the 2nd full moon of the calendar month. (This is the calendar definition – there are others). Because it is January, because February only has 28 days, and because the lunar period is around about 29.5 days, February will skip a full moon entirely, and we’ll have a second Blue Moon in March. This same thing happened back in 1999 and will happen again next in 2037. Blue moons occur in any form multiple times a century.

This got me to wondering – a double Blue Moon must be possible on a leap year, though barely. Turns out it happened last in 1608, and will not happen again until 2792. 2200 will have a double Blue Moon, but century boundaries skip leap years.

The more you know.

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Frozen Moments

This last Saturday, Abby and I flew to Charlotte. Uncle Steve and Pop-Pop (who arrived the night before) drove down from Raleigh to pick us up and drive us to River’s Edge, a lovely Airbnb about 8 miles south of Brevard, NC and a couple miles from DuPont State Forest. The journey took a long time – with 3 hours in the car. I only supported one side of road pee stop, but there was maybe a little bit of whining. No more than an hour or two.

Saturday night, Abby and some combination of all of us waded down Little River (which ran through the backyard). Stephen grilled T-Bones, and heated up a huge tin of Mac and Cheese that he made. We ate out on the porch, as the temperatures were about 13 degrees cooler than in Charlotte. Soon, the weekly concert at the country store next door started. It was the America that people are trying to save. Wholesome. Wild. Country-rock, with some nice young men from this county and the next. Pleases, thank yous, all in long drawls. Some ice cream all around.

A tight game of spades, then bed.

On Sunday, Stephen and I got out early for a ~10 mile run on the South side of DuPont State Forest; gentle trails, forest access roads, long gradual hills. Then eggs from the gorgeous chicken coup down the dirt road, bacon, cheese. We finally made it out the door after 10 and went to DuPont to hike to Triple Falls and High Falls – over three miles of walking, which Abby handled well, alternately sprinting down the trail (whipping past dozens of amused but impressed fellow hikers) and dragging piteously. We went to the river a number of times.
She got bolder in her bouldering at each successive swimming hole, leaping barefoot from one rock to the next, daring the slime slicked rocks to crack her skull and pull her over the falls. But she was no worse for the wear. We got to feed the chickens, walk around the property, visit the huge field at the top of the hill (where many would try to watch the next day).

Another tight game of spades and bed.

Monday was the day of the eclipse, with totality coming around 2:38 PM.

We started slowly, with a late wake up and an easy breakfast. We visited the chickens a few times and got some gas. The older lady at the counter commented on what a handsome young man I was – something which only happens to me in the country. Steve went on a run while Abby and I slogged down the Little River to the rope swing by the Country Store. Pop-Pop chatted up one of the guys in the band, as they were prepping for their big eclipse party. We planned to stay at River’s Edge, our beautiful, homey spot. Our hosts had an extra pair of eclipse googles, bringing our stash to 4 ISO certified ones (and a bunch of rip-offs). There was a spirit about this place, the folks were friendly and kind, the house beautiful, the land amazing. Skies were clear, we ate some lunch, took baths and showers, packed the car, and waited…as the clouds built.

By 1:10 and the start of the partial eclipse, the clouds had just begun to lap up against the sun. We saw the wedge taken out of the top left of the sun. And this on the radar (us around the white dot, with the sun generally in the south):

A small storm on the ridgeline, typical of a warm summer day. That could linger for a while, especially the cloud cover. We watched it evolve for almost a half hour, then decided at 1:45 (less than an hour until totality) to roll the dice. We jumped in the car and ripped south, with Stephen slamming us into the corkscrew turns of Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area in South Carolina. 25 minutes or so later, we cleared the mountain and started seeing holes in the clouds. We picked a point a few miles south of Cleveland – close to our egress (to beat the traffic), but a bit below the cloud line.

Now, you can’t predict what an individual cloud will do. In hindsight, three more miles down the road might have been better. No matter. It was within 15 minutes of totality, Pop-Pop was getting antsy, the sun was a thin fingernail, and there was an abandoned gas station in a sunny hole. An extended family with welder’s glass was watching there – Abby dove right in and made friends. Clouds got closer, occasionally obscuring the view. It got dimmer, yellower, dimmer, the sun having lost its sting in the South Carolina summer afternoon. It was gone, almost gone, then the flash of the diamond ring (just a second), then totality. A gap in the clouds; you could see it. I only looked for a few seconds, primarily concerned that Abby see it. It was dark, dark enough for street lights, darker than a heavy thunderstorm dark (though the clouds weren’t right). It was about as dark as a half hour after sunset. Light enough to run on a road, but not in a trail. The clouds were vaguely illuminated in all directions. We saw Jupiter in a gap. It was…different. Amazing. Different. Your mind doesn’t exactly know what to do with it. It’s incongruous. 36 years of life told me that this doesn’t work, that something was awry. The sun, a dim glow outgassing from all sides of a black, black hole punched into its center. It wasn’t long, apparently under 90 seconds where we were, then a sliver, a diamond ring flash, this time shrouded by enough clouds to see without the glasses. Then the sun came back, brilliant, bright.

Totality
[Note: The camera adjusts for the light too much, not at all doing justice to the real lighting. I also just wanted the camera on for the time, I wasn’t paying much attention to it. I was generally overstimulated by the whole experience, as you can hear and now also read.]

They say that the difference between totality and almost totality is immense. It was. Almost totality was strange and characterized by an orangey yellow glow. Totality was from a different universe. Any sliver of the sun provides brilliant light, but during totality it was cool, it was eerie. It was awe inspiring.

Abby got some glow sticks from the family nearby. Pop-Pop chatted up some folks who had chased eclipses before. Folks who found the same abandoned gas station south of Cleveland. As we drove in, there were dozens of clusters of people, each waiting for the moon to blot out the sun. It was like being in Boston after the Red Sox won or in Chicago after the Cubs. Everyone was happy. Everyone was glad to see you. You were all part of something together.

The fingernail sun was lost hopelessly behind the clouds by 2:50. We had a potential traffic disaster in front of us and a flight to catch. We, as we had for the rest of the day, made good navigational decisions, riding the chest of the traffic and only losing 20 minutes from a normal drive to Charlotte. Abby fell asleep in the car and hardly whined at all, though Pop-Pop may have whined about her 30 minute long song about nothing. We got Chic Fil A. We said goodbye to Pop-Pop and Steve and Abby and I played in the airport for a while. She befriended a burly tough-guy father of young girls who was traveling alone and willing to entertain an energetic 4 year old. People were cheerful.

My big girl and I made it home shortly after 10. She said she wasn’t tired but slept until after 8. I was giddy, I just wanted to talk to someone who saw it, just to talk about anything. I don’t want to forget the feeling of it, the thrill of the chase, the camaraderie of a spectacular and unique experience. I shared it with my father, brother, and daughter. I might think of it on my deathbed, for all I know. It is of that caliber experience. We are already talking about doing it again in 2024, this time with everyone. Wow.

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You should subscribe to exactly what I listen to, and then we can talk about them all the time. Though I tend to not remember the specifics of what I hear for more than 5 minutes after I hear them.

Top Tier: I listen to every episode of these podcasts, flushing other ones to make time as needed.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History: At the top of the list because when he drops a 5 hour episode, I stop listening to everything else until it’s done. Yes, he’s over the top. Yes, he focuses on gore and yes, he can get repetitive. Yes, it takes an hour for you to figure out what the topic is, then the next two hours feels like introduction, then you’re done. But it’s still high quality, well presented, good production value, always informative.
Revolutions: From the creator of my old favorite “History of Rome” podcast, Michael Duncan does a great job summarizing (with some impressive depth) events surrounding some of the world’s great revolutions. There was a time when this was the only podcast I listened to at 1.0x speed, just because I didn’t want to miss details.
Reply All: Always intriguing. Light, funny, well done.
Radiolab: Interesting, balanced, amusing.
Crimetown: Interesting stories, told well.
S-Town: A one time event; heart rending, a spiritual successor to season 1 of Serial.
The Fall of Rome Podcast: Patrick Wyman is a real historian, and this history goes into greater depth than the other two above. The production value is lower and he can be a little dry, but the content is heady as Wyman focuses on the forces behind the key historical figures and events.
Common Sense with Dan Carlin: Carlin’s libertarian political/society podcast, but aptly named. Lots of well thought out ideas. And anti-Trump.

Safe for Now: Listen to most, pleased to see new episodes.
The Bill Simmons Podcast: Light and easy, sometimes funny, often about the NBA, good for listening to while doing labor intensive tasks they may force you to miss a few minutes at a time.
Serial: Absence makes you forget. Season 1 was a force of nature. Season 2 wasn’t. Not sure if there will be a season 3.
PTI: Sometimes funny, informative for keeping up on the day-to-day of the sports’ world. Repetitve after 15 or so years, but still decent. Light listening.
This American Life: Thought provoking, but often depressing and highly slanted. Slanted toward things that I happen to agree with mostly, but you can’t really make believe that they select a full spectrum of stories to represent “this american life.”
Pod Save America: Funny, liberal political show. You listen to it and wonder how the Trump people can exist.
99% Invisible: Generally interesting. A little dry in presentation. Subject matter is tangentially related to stuff that I’m interested in. Listening to it at the behest of a friend.
Transforming Grace Podcast: I’ll be honest, I skip the ones not done by Glenn Parkinson, pastor at my old church. He’s just so excellent. But I am like 3 months behind always.
History Matters Podcast: Legit PhD historians talking about history, though perhaps overlaughing at things that aren’t particularly funny. Some interesting parallels, and occasionally you’ll hear a point that seems so ironclad that you have a hard time seeing why it can’t be policy.

The Cut Line: Things I’m going to delete now that I’m done with this list.
The Ringer NBA Show: I want to like the Ringer’s NBA show. I just don’t like that guy that much. Much preferred Zach Lowe. Maybe I’ll see if he’s still around.
With Friends Like These: Reportedly about some liberals getting the opinions of conservatives, then hashing out the differences and coming to some mutual understanding of their positions. But not really about this. And the liberals come off as preaching and condescending in the end. A good example of what people dislike about the left without also being funny, clever, or particularly informed (like Pod Save America).

TBD
The Liturgists Podcast: Recently subscribed after Gungor concert. Will see if I like it.

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The Second Law

Last Sunday, a lady at a ministry table at church gave Abby a red helium balloon. We attached a 7 foot long string to it, and Abby carried it around all afternoon, bouncing it off the ceiling like she was dribbling a basketball in zero gravity. She loved it.

But rubber balloons aren’t particularly good at keeping the inside in and the outside out. The helium slowly leeched out overnight. By morning, the balloon only had enough buoyancy to float a foot or two of the yarn. It hovered pitifully above the floor.

Abby was excited to see the balloon again when she woke up, but quickly became concerned. “Ut-oh…Up in the air! Up in the air” she encouraged, as she tried desperately to loft the balloon.

upintheair

Alas, entropy

 

You want your daughter to be happy, you want things to always be perfect for her. You hate seeing disappointment. It was such a wonderful balloon, so different than those things bound to the earth by the pull of gravity. But now it’s broken. And it’s not the only thing. Life will be filled with expectations that fall short, promises that are broken, opportunities that evaporate, and dreams that are shattered. As much as I’d like to run out to the store and buy another helium balloon, I know that the next one will deflate too. Best get used to it, little girl. In the meantime, I’ll pray that balloons are the most of your problems, because this world can be a whole lot worse than that.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about weight and buoyancy, but I decided that wasn’t depressing enough to write about.

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MH370

Update
They have backed away from the assertion that the course was changed prior to the last communication. It was an accident. I still like meteor.

I find it unlikely that all of the key “evidence” in the MH370 case is accurate. Synthesizing the disparate evidence into a coherent story is difficult.

Here’s an attempt:
Co-Pilot shows up to work drunk…or maybe he tries to invite another lady to the cockpit, as he has in the past. A consummate professional, the Pilot is enraged…tells him he’s going to report him, tells him he’s a waste, tells him he’ll never fly again. Co-pilot, who is engaged to a daughter of a pilot, goes blind with fear and rage, stabs pilot in the throat with a pen. Self-righteous prick, I’ll show you.

In the next few minutes he regroups. Now he’s facing a murder charge…uhh…well…can’t go to China…turns off the transponder, changes course, calmly says good night as he’s already thinking about what to do. Slowly realizes he’s screwed no matter what. Locks the door to the cockpit. Flies as high as the plane will go, what the hell, always wanted to do that. Turns left, turns right…now he’s just flying, randomly. Gets out over the Indian Ocean. Turns south. Says to himself, “I wonder what happens if I just let the autopilot fly this thing indefinitely?” Wonders if they’d ever find him; at least no one will ever know what I’ve done.

Crew and passengers can’t breach the door. No cell coverage in the middle of the Indian Ocean. He runs out of gas in the middle of nowhere, no shipping lanes, equidistant to the satellite for ping purposes, has fulfilled all radar constraints, has the co-pilot saying goodnight calmly after already changing course. He fulfills a bizarre, non-premeditated but skillfully executed death wish.

I have another one too, which involves a meteor. But it doesn’t fit the “already programmed the turn before saying goodnight” scenario, which basically eliminates natural causes. My top-4 least trusted pieces of information that have the most important impact on the theories of what happened:
1) The course change happened prior to the goodnight. This effectively eliminates mechanical failure and points toward premeditation. Yet, how do you explain both pilots going along with it without any communication between them? They were randomly paired. One of them has to have done it alone, and the co-pilot is the one that said good night after the supposed course change. This is key if true. I’m unconvinced.
2) Radar data showing the altitude. I once saw a radar signature going like 10,000 miles an hour. Radar’s flaky, especially at long ranges when the tracker has to make assumptions based on low SNR data with huge error bars…especially whatever the Malaysians are running. I wouldn’t put too much stock in that.
3) Ping data leading to those concentric arcs. I question the synchronicity of the satellite. They’re using it for location but that’s not what that satellite is for. Are you sure it sent out the request exactly when it said it did? Sure, GPS can, but is this satellite built with that in mind? If we can throw out #1, then we really want to throw out #3 too. I think that mechanical or natural causes is more likely psychologically (and from a “what the heck is the point” perspective), but complex maneuvers out over the Indian Ocean or subcontinent don’t really make sense if it’s mechanical. I would favor a “ghost ship” scenario – something terrible happened. Rapid decompression or fire…everyone died…plane flew on for hours in whatever direction it was pointed after a brief and ill-fated attempt at recovery.
4) The Co-Pilot is the one that said good night. If we find out the pilot had the simulator set to do weird things like the plane did, the the suspicion falls on the pilot. I have a hard time visualizing two unrelated people being complicit in this scheme; ergo, the pilot incapacitated the co-pilot and said goodnight calmly.

Anyway, I remain enthralled. My meteor theory remains my favorite, but it’s really out there.

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Sledgehammer

Once a year I go to Food Lion in Elkridge (or maybe Ellicott City…somewhere in the demilitarized zone between them perhaps), since it’s the only place around here that consistently carries Sabretts hot dogs. Today, I had to get some other staples as well. When the cashier scanned my milk, she asked me if I wanted a (plastic) bag for it. “Nah, I’ll carry it,” I said. “Saving trees,” she responded, thoughtfully. I looked at her for half a second before deciding that the production of plastic probably indirectly consumes trees, or at least forested land. She looked a little embarrassed. This is why God invented the disinterested “yeah”.

Then on the way home I stopped at Meadowridge Liquors. Not only was I not shot, but no one else in the store was shot while I was there. The Yuengling was held together by plastic and a rubber band (no box), but I’ll take not getting shot.

Once I got done with my outdoor chores, I started listening to Radio Paradise. Peter Gabriel was singing a song where I thought he was saying “Shingles hurts” over and over again. He’s getting older; I was surprised that he had embraced it. I later decided he was saying something along the lines of “shake the hands”.

But I have heard that shingles does hurt. At least, that’s what pharmacists tell people when selling them $200 vaccines. I might have had shingles once, actually. I had a nondescript rash on my back that occasionally felt like someone was simulating jabs from searing hot pokers straight into my nervous system. It was only vaguely localized; it mostly just felt like someone was confusing my brain into thinking I was being tortured. Maybe it felt like a bee sting 2 minutes after the bee stings, once it starts to itch slightly, but before the itch is the primary mode of irritation.

Radio Paradise just started on Gary Jules, “Mad World”. I do love that song.

And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles, it’s a very, very
Mad world. Mad world.

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Zen of Zipper

The slider is the portion of the zipper that pulls together the two chains to zip two sides together. On your jacket, the slider “belongs” to one side. It may mate with the other side, but it doesn’t belong with it. But look at your pants. The slider is not a citizen of either chain. The zipper, as a whole, is simply the zipper.

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When you take a month or two off, the best way to get back into it is to copy and paste something that you wrote for another purpose, this time to the customer service department of United.

I’ve always been fascinated by the features below while flying, be they topographic or man-made. I even intentionally cram all 6 feet of myself into the window seat so that I can watch the ground for hours at a time. Most of the time I have no idea what I’m looking at. On Flight 753 from BWI to SFO on the morning of 6/24, however, I got all the information I could possibly want from a First Officer who provided non-stop commentary of the ground below on channel 9.

I very much appreciate the First Officer’s efforts (though, fascinated as I was, I did not listen to the entire narration, which was 5 hours long). I have always thought that this sort of interactivity was in the future of air travel – with basic internet connectivity and access to Google Maps and Wikipedia, anyone would give himself a running commentary of the ground below. I spent some time trying to figure out how to make a system such as that cost effective for you, and couldn’t really come up with any easy, unobtrusive way…so, for now, I appreciate the First Officer’s efforts.

There was a problem, however. The ATC chatter interrupted her feed constantly. The interruption itself wasn’t a big issue…but the fact that the volume of the ATC feed was many decibels louder than the FO’s made listening uncomfortable. I’d crank up the volume to hear her narration, only to be startled over and over by a blast of shorthand jibberish. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been known to listen to that too…but the disparate volumes was unfortunate. Perhaps the FO’s Cockpit Topics could be placed on a separate channel from the ATC chatter? There were many unused stations.

Anyway, thanks for all the useful info. I hope that you encourage more of your staff to follow her lead. I enjoyed knowing what I was looking at.

And if you ever want help brainstorming how to make a better system, drop me a line…or give me a pad of paper on my next flight and I’ll fill it up for you, gratis. I spend most of the flight thinking about that problem anyway.

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Your Thoughts Here

If this were the olden days, I would have posted on the two sets of thoughts that were percolating in my head over the last few days. First was how the Christmas story could work well as a Hollywood trailer, what with the oppressed mankind groaning for a savior from its cruel master and his iron grip, a child born to save the world, babies slaughtered as his family slips the net, the meteoric rise to power of a new king, his untimely and shocking death, and then the twist that shatters reality as we know it. It’s like Terminator or the Chronicles of Riddick or The Matrix or something. Second was how I’ve been listening to Bing Crosby’s old-time radio broadcasts from the 40s and 50s…and how different American seems from then. And how whenever Garrison Keillor talks, his poignant nostalgia makes me want to cry. His voice tells of his life dripping slowly, slowly away, never to return – and that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where the women are strong, the men are good-looking and the children are all above-average. I can’t stand it, really. You’re born, then you start marching inexorably toward death, realizing it somewhere along the way, then fixating on it eventually as you rewrite your past in your memories.

(By the way, listen to that News From Lake Wobegon podcast above. It’s at the right-ish time, it starts about 30 seconds in.)

I could talk about buying a new camera soon and probably a macro lens with it. I could tell of how Jen worked on Christmas, how we saw Mission Impossible 4 on Christmas Eve, and how Tom Cruise always runs with his hands straight like fan blades. I could talk about Michael’s manic Christmas light drive, where we lurched between parked cars and swung around cul de sacs at roughly highways speeds, all with mutant snowmen chasing us. There’s also physical therapy, where I’ll be in a half hour, or the kid from church who was admirably careful when crossing the street in front of my car, only to dart back without looking when he forgot something. (I missed him).

I could write a lot of those things. I’m not sure that I have time. I’m trying to do a lot of things, almost always, and when I’m not doing those things, I’m staring blankly into a future of doing more things. Even in comparative leisure, I wonder how I ever had time to think coherently. I guess that’s what I did when I ran, then I’d come back and write about it. Huh. Anyway, I’m still working out how I’ll have time for all this. Maybe we’ll hire a maid service. Publish.

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Fine, Links

Starting here and moving through to here, I haven’t laughed so hard in weeks. Speaking of the Facebook replies, I misread this one last night…

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Blank Slate

In a stroke of irony, I had a vague concept for a post, one that I was going to call Blank Slate. But then I couldn’t remember what it was. It’s gone, empty.

I don’t really feel like journaling – never have liked the cataloging of banal events. Stuff happens, good stuff, bad stuff, mostly indifferent stuff – don’t nobody care, and me, I don’t care to write whatever I might be able to dredge up. Adam and Bethany had a baby. That was cool. He was 2 oz short of 11 pounds. They delivered him lathroscopically. I swear that’s a word. There are enough people on Google that also think it’s a word to get some hits – but Google mostly assumes that I mean arthroscopically, and honestly, I might. In either case, I was kidding. It makes no sense to have a baby arthroscopically, or lathroscopically, should that technique exist. Though at one point the nurse came in while we were talking about my surgery, to be consummated in the same hospital next Wednesday. Bethany told her I was having a c-section. I was holding the baby at the time and told her we were putting him back in. It didn’t make a lot of sense, and nobody really laughed. I did inside, but even then, not that enthusiastically.

People keep telling me the surgery is going to be painful. Feet and hands, they warn. I hope it is. I haven’t had a good, dull, extended pain for a while. That’s why I’m having surgery, after all. I can do all kinds of normal things, but I can’t run like I want to run. A few miles into any race, even an easy one, you feel this sickening desperation, this revulsion, contempt of mind directed at your body. Rebellion of body against mind. Revolt of brain against soul. The rupture of millions of alveoli, the tang of blood in your throat. A numbness of the tongue, death of the outer shell of all muscles. And then you stop, but relief doesn’t come right away…it’s like your drowning, and you finally hit bottom and you’re struggling for the surface, then you burst through but you are gasping, gasping. You spend the whole time wondering why you do it. But then when you can’t, you go crazy and eventually someday someone does something stupid like take a hunk of tendon out of your foot and stick it in your calf – it doesn’t sound particularly reasonable, does it?

It’s a matter of identity. I’ve known people who have been willing to nearly kill themselves solely to maintain their identity, and, white collar though I might be, I’m no better.

I’ve decided to write in halting, jarring, ill-formed sentences from now on. I’m sorry if it bothers you. I don’t feel like making five point paragraphs. I like structure in my life, but don’t particularly feel like subjecting myself unnecessarily to grammar. Language is my tool; I am not a slave to it. I’ve been working on processes at work, with someone who constantly makes unilateral decisions but then presents it to me as though I’m allowed to disagree with them, only to swap me down when I do, which I always do. The process is her overlord – but process is a tool. It’s the age old problem of worshiping the creation. Missing the point. Words mean whatever the hell I want them to mean, and sentences bend and fold about my whimsical little finger. It’s not the other way around.

I miss it, whatever it is. I miss it apathetically, but miss it nonetheless.

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Care for a Drink?

One place where I go to work has no potable water in bathrooms or water fountains (which don’t exist at all; they don’t, after all, make water fountains to spout water that you cannot drink). Instead, we have a Poland Spring-like jug in the lab. Unfortunately, we haven’t had cups for weeks. A few clever individuals wrote their names on the last few plastic cups – so there’s an entire jug of water, but only 5 people can use it.

Today I added my name to one of the guy’s cups. Now instead of just saying Holtz, it says “Holtz + Furst”…the insinuation being that I now also drink out of his cup. I added a quarter of an ounce of water to the cup and left it there, as though I had just finished a fulfilling drink before returning the cup to its original location. I have been laughing either internally or externally since I thought of doing this a few days ago. It’s almost as irrationally hilarious as the three person prayer group scenario. I have no idea why these particular things make me giggle like an idiot, but I cannot help it.

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Deutschland

In the olden days, I’d go on vacation and I’d be leaving behind a motley collection of roommates to maintain security around the house. Plus, it wasn’t my house in the first place – whatever went wrong might be a pain in the ass, but not a major problem for me. All that to say, I used to blog about vacations before and while they were happening.

Anyway, we went to Germany on the 8th, and just returned home yesterday. It was pretty fantastic, what with the teutonic efficiency melded seamlessly with the overall quaintness of the place. Instead of running down what we did, I’m going to think of random things that are different in Germany versus here.

1) Mass transportation. They have 80 million people in the size of Montana (which has less than a million people, incidentally) and these people are spaced perfectly for mass transit. There are cities to serve as hubs, while everyone else is condensed in pockets every two miles across the countryside. In the US, we have the hubs (though they are generally much further apart), but then hundreds of miles in between. I thought about it a lot. It wouldn’t work here. I also thought about how I might generate my own country based around the most efficient mass transit concept. I didn’t come up with anything useful. Still, mass transit, a great system for Germany and for those visiting it.

2) Doors. In America, our interior doors are rectangular. They are in Germany too…but the…damnit, I can’t explain it. I’ve been trying to explain it all day. You know where the little latchy thing that’s connected to the knob mates to the door hardware on the frame? That side of the door is not flat. It’s two tiered. German doors (and Austrian, from my 3 days there) have a second tier which sort of interlocks with the door frame. It makes a more insulated connection between the door and the frame. It also whacks the frame when the wind blows. I like American doors – I don’t think the extra complexity is justified, particularly for interior doors.

3) Roads. We drove for a few days. The country roads were glorified driveways, but driveways that went for dozens of kilometers (a few less dozens of miles, for those who need English units) at a time and were meant to support bi-directional traffic each traveling at 60 mph on windy roads. I’m a reasonably aggressive driver – if not angry, at least fast. But in Germany, it was all I could do to avoid ramming oncoming traffic on these super narrow roads. It would have had a hard time speeding if I tried. Plus, everything was manual transmission – I’ve been jabbing at the floor of my Honda ever since we got back. The roads are certainly more charming, and even though I never made it on the autobahn, it was nice to have an 80 mph speed limit on a road that would undoubtedly be a 45 here.

4) Personal culpability. In the States, the entire mindset is built around the idea that your problems are always someone else’s fault, and that someone should be forced to pay restitution toward you somehow. It’s not like that in Germany. It is a rule based society – if you follow the rules, you’re right. If you don’t, you’re wrong. Here, if you’re a victim, you’re right, if not, you’re wrong. I liked the fact that if I walked against the cross-walk signal, a German would mow my ass down without blinking. Damn straight, it was my job to follow the rule. Driving was the same way, also bike riding. You need to take care of yourself, and not rely on the government to cuddle you with it’s oppressive mandates for safety. It’s ironic, because Germany has a much bigger set of civil services than the US…but still more personal freedom, since the man’s not forcing you to wear a helmet while riding a bike.

5) The Exit Man. In the US, Exit signs are marked with the unoriginal “EXIT” text. In Germany, they picture a cartoon man running like hell for the nearest door. In some signs, he’s being chased by a raging inferno. I wanted to find one where he was actually on fire and screaming in agony. I have to say, the Running Man definitely conveys a sense of urgency to me. I approve.

6) Roofing. In Germany, everyone’s house as reddish ceramicish roof tiles. They are built to last 200 years.

7) Longevity. We can’t build stuff in the US as nice as the Germany houses. Remember that they’ve had a 1000 years to iterate through lodging. We had to build everything from scratch a couple hundred years ago, and for most Americans, our ancestors only arrived here a hundred or so years ago, and with NOTHING. German property assets have been accruing for a millennium, with about 800 years of development being accomplished by the very cheap feudal labor system (who emigrated to America once they were supposedly free). It’s no wonder the quality of all houses is so much better – they’ve had a lot longer to develop. At least in the quaint little towns that weren’t decimated by Allied bombs 65 years ago.

8) Pillows. Everywhere I stayed, I got one pillow which essentially disintegrated beneath my head. My head has never been so poorly supported in its pampered life. It’s actually a toss up between my camp pillow and those hotel pillows.

9) Beds. The beds tended to be two twin beds shoved together. It was kind of nice, actually. Each bed had its own set of bedding and its own inertial frame, partially insulating you from the movements of your spouse. Jen has been officially spoiled by the space. I’m going to whack her several times in the middle of the night tonight, until she starts appreciating a standard queen sized bed again. That’s right, and you like it. That or I’ll sleep in the other bedroom.

10) Pork. There’s a lot of it. And pretzels. And don’t get me started on the beer.

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Think through this with me…I have subscribed to a specific service for the last 7ish years. A few months ago, I changed the credit card that I had on file with them, as my old card was cancelled. In entering the card, I got my name right…I got the expiration date right…but I swapped two numbers – switching the last four in the number from 6769 to 6967 (notionally). Yesterday, I come to learn that the vendor had used that card for my yearly fee and managed to charge someone else, apparently the person with the swapped numbers. That person complained that it was a fraudulent charge, and no one was happy.

So, riddle me this.

First, apparently the person’s card had the same expiration date as mine. That, people, is fishy. The cards were only a couple hundred apart – it’s a 16 digit number, mind you, a couple hundred is a very small portion of it. Do you mean to tell me that credit card companies issue credit card numbers sequentially?? So, if I were to take my card number and add two, I could use my same expiration date and start charging stuff?

No, you say, your name wouldn’t match. Well, it sure as heck didn’t match in this case! I had my name on the account, not Joe Blow’s from 6967. I called the credit card company to see how this was supposed to work. First, she said, she hopes that they don’t issue the numbers sequentially (more on that in a second). Fine, maybe it’s a coincidence, there are really only maybe 36 realistic expiration date options, certainly some will line up. Second, she said, the vendor is supposed to validate the name before making the charge. And then the credit card company is supposed to validate it on their end too. So…how exactly did that charge go through? It’s like boarding an airplane with someone else’s boarding pass!

Back to the number…I have input my credit card number wrong in the past, and the website has immediately informed me of my error. How did it know without spending 30 seconds trying to make the charge? I always assumed that credit cards are like license keys for software – they follow a specific codex, and meet certain criteria to be a valid number. It’s not as though humankind somehow fills up 10 quadrillion credit cards (though we try), no, there are additional constraints on the cards that make an instantaneous validity check possible. Like, for instance, maybe all cards starting with 5466 can be summed to 93…or something like that. If I put in a 7 instead of a 6 somewhere in there, it will sum to 94, and they won’t even have to verify my account. Anyway, I’m surprised that the number I accidentally entered was even valid (though it does pass my rudimentary check). Let alone that it shared my expiration date. And apparently my name.

Shady dealing number two is simpler. We accrue vacation time at work. I have a maximum total accrual of 240 hours, after which point I lose them. Since I wasn’t allowed to take vacation near the holidays this year, the same week that I went on my vacation, I hit the cap. Actually, I should have been 241, though I was stopped early because I pegged it. But then, the same week, I dropped 20 hours of vacation in my time card.

The nice thing for them to do would be to subtract the 20 first, then I’d be a far cry from overflowing the bucket and they could accrue the full amount. The piddly thing would be to add and truncate, then subtract. Guess what they did? It’s like the banks that process the debits to an account and fine for bounced checks, even though the widow’s social security check arrived the same business day as the checks hit the account. Just the little things.

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Guilt

I used to take a certain amount of pride in the piles of blog posts that I created. Six days as week for years at a time I’d spout random garbage about something or another. At the moment, I just feel guilty. Moment Moment Moment. I don’t like typing that word. It requires that my hands dance in an awkward manner across the keyboard. It’s not so much an outlier, it just felt funny. Moment. Maybe it’s hitting the n after those two m’s in rapid succession. I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s not exactly that I don’t write anymore. Believe it or not, I write somewhat creatively at work several times a week, and in the sort of format that yields occasionally dozens of pages of blither. It has been scratching the itch. I don’t need to type here, because I do there. And I live there, so it’s only fitting that I do everything there. This Friday, for instance, which is tomorrow, I think, I’ll be working 10 AM to 3 PM…then again midnight to 7 AM. That’s fun.

Speaking of fun – it’s my website, I can change topics however I want, and use dashes to do it – I’ll be on vacation soon. We’re going to Washington, near Tacoma, then going to Eugene, OR to watch Stephen run (he’s in 13:22 shape, I kid you not), then going to the coast for a day (assuming we can borrow someone’s car), then back to Tacoma, then to Des Moines for a wedding. This will be my third time in 4 years that I will have gone to Des Moines. I will have spent something like 8 days of my life (maybe 9!) in Des Moines, IO. It’s unbelievable. And you know, I kind of like it there. Good place if you’re interested in severe weather. Bad place if being too far from an ocean (on the east, preferably, as that’s where ocean’s belong) makes you feel like you’re in a house with no windows.

Later in the year, we’ll be visiting Stephen in Germany, then taking a week to tour around on our own. It’ll be 11 total days. I’ve been to Canada twice – once we hiked in from Glacier NP, the other time we drove to Algonquin PP. Never been anywhere else. I do have an umlauts above the U on my name placard at work. Other than that, I’m not really prepared to interact in a foreign country.

The garden looks good. Zinnia, rudbeckhia, and clematis are owning the side of the house. I guess everything is is fairly lackluster. You know, the dahlia looks decent too. And the rock gardenish part is pretty awesome, as far as I’m concerned. But other than that, lackluster. We have a huge quantity of bugs, which I am attempting to manage organically with neem oil extract and some bacillis stuff. Bugs think my attempts are quaint.

Trite. If you tell someone they, or the things they do, are trite, I’m pretty sure you’re a jerk. I’m not sure if it’s possible to use that word without sounding like a tool. Really, if you want to use that word (accurately, with proper flavoring), then you have a underlying desire to feel superior to the piddling masses with their quaint bug organic bug sprays.

Let this be a lesson to you.

I don’t have a word of the week (and/or month/year) this week, but I have been moderately obsessed with the term “first-order” to describe a swag at something. That can be the word of the week.

Thanks, and good night.

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The Association

It’s NBA playoffs time again. I’m pumped. Sure, March Madness is great – it’s like the WNBA with less fundamentals and more 25 year old white Mormons, but for my money, I want to see the best of the best. The criticism of the NBA is that they lope around through too much of the regular season. This is only partly true (and partly racially motivated), but whatever the case, once playoffs come around, that ends. And, since they last for like three months, it’s like a whole new season. This year’s playoffs look to be particularly FAN-tastic, especially once you get into the second round, as both conferences are loaded through 4-5 teams this year.

Anyway, last time I did this, I made a listing of teams in the Association, and categorized them by my personal opinion of them. I don’t actively root for many teams in sports. I’ve developed a soft spot for the long suffering Orioles since I’ve live in Maryland. I’ve rooted for the Saints since the early 90s, through their long suffering period. The Wizards are local, and I kind of root for them, even though I don’t particularly like their players. That’s about it. I sit down for a game, watch half of it, and decide who I want to win around then. Still, I do have general opinions, and they change over time, as evidenced in the delta from the last time I did this. Here it is for this season:

    Teams I Actively Dislike

Celtics: I’m tired of them and I think KG is a dirtbag. Rondo frustrates me, because he looks like he should be the best player on the floor, but then isn’t.

Knicks: I had a positive opinion of them before the Carmelo trade. I actively dislike Carmelo though, and now hope they continue to stink.

Hawks: They had their chance, now I hope they disappear.

Heat: I hope they lose to the Celtics, even though I don’t like the Celtics. They tried to take a shortcut, and I don’t like shortcuts in athletics.

    Teams I Think Should Be Contracted

Raptors: What NBA player wants to play in Canada?

Bucks: I kind of like the Bucks – used to root for them during the Glenn Robinson years. I still think their players should be spread around the league.

Bobcats: They actually should be contracted.

Suns: Poor Steve Nash.

Kings: Poor Sacramento.

Hornets: They actually might be contracted.

Timberwolves: Worst GM in sports. Poor Kevin Love.

Jazz: How many millionaire superstars do you know what want to play in Salt Lake City?

    Teams I Am Ambivalent About

76ers: Eh. Doug Collins never wins in the playoffs.

Pistons: Go away, TMac.

Pacers: I did like the Reggie Miller 30 for 30.

Magic: I’m one of the only remaining people that like Glibert Arenas. I want success for Gil – I think he’s a funny dude, I enjoy his writing and he thinks about things from amusing angles. Not that he’s not a bonehead, because he is, but I still hope he makes a comeback.

Warriors: I’m told they have an awesome arena. They play fast and loose. They’re never a threat of becoming good.

Clippers: Where LeBron should have gone. Blake Griffin makes me happy, not because of the dunks, but because of the energy. Hope his knees stay together.

Lakers: Just about tired of them.

Rockets: Eh.

Grizzlies: I’d contract them, but they’ve actually gotten pretty fiesty. I wish they had Rudy Gay for the playoffs – I like him. This year, no shot.

Spurs: I’m kind of tired of them too, but shoot, they’ve got to be almost ready to stop being good.

Trail Blazers: Imagine if Greg Oden could stay together? Imagine if Brandon Roy’s knees weren’t awful? Imagine if they drafted Kevin Durant? They’ll never win now, but will always be competitive.

    Teams I Hope Succeed

Nyets: Consider me positively ambivalent. I hope their billionaire Russian owner makes the relevant in Brooklyn before Putin throws him in jail on a trumped up embezzlement charge.

Bulls: I love Derrick Rose – love his attitude and his game. I also hate the Heat, and these guys are the anti-Heat. I want them to win it all.

Cavaliers: They should also be contracted, but the whole LeBron thing makes me angry (not that he left- it’s a business – but how he left).

Wizards: Johny Wall looks like he might fall asleep at any moment, but don’t let him fool you – he’s super quick. The rest of them are lackluster, and they should probably be contracted, but they’re local and I don’t want to drive to Philly for my one game a year.

Mavericks: This is a chronically poorly constructed team. Jason Kidd is a corpse. I like Dirk, and feel badly for him. Overrated teams make me sad, I wish they had won that Miami series a few years ago, then I’d be free to be ambivalent about them.

Nuggets: Amazing what trading a guy like Melo can do for my opinion of a team. I even like George Karl now. Them v OKC is going to be a fun series, methinks.

Thunder: Sleeper to win it all. Sleeper to get upset in the first round.

    Regarding the playoffs

I’ll go chaulk in the East – the big four (Bulls, Heat, Magic, and Celtics) are too much better than the other teams, though the Knicks might be frisky in the Boston series.

In the west, I think the Spurs are going to have a worse time with the Griz than people think. Lakers will roll, Portland/Dallas is a toss up (I’ll root for the MAvs, but they also might lose in 5) and I think OKC will win, but I could be wrong.

In the conference semis, Bulls over Magic…then…Shoot, not sure, I’ll go with the Heat because I want them to lose to Chicago in the finals.

I’ll take a young OKC over an old Spurs in the western conference semis, and a veteran Lakers over a plain old old Mavs. OKC gave the Lakers fits last year, and picked up some size in Perkins and Nazr Mohammed…ahhh, why not, OKC to the finals.

Bulls over OKC in an entertaining finals.

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Today, I received an email on an distribution list with several thousand others. The email said “test” in the subject line, and nothing in the body of the email.

I turned to my cubemate and predicted the following would occur:
1) Smart ass emails about the test, replied all.
2) Assertive emails requesting an end to the test.
3) Someone annoyed with reply all.
4) Someone wondering why they’re on this distribution list.
5) Someone pointing out the irony in replying all to tell people not to reply all.

So far, 30 minutes in, we’ve had a dozen emails. Items 1-4 have already been satisfied, with several people in each category. I’m sure that a #5 is going to happen soon, it’s too hard for someone with moderate intelligence to resist pointing that out.

Someone asked what the test was for a couple of emails back. I want to reply to everything “It’s an IQ test and we all fail.” It could have been a test of the BCC field, or a test of the permissions for mass emailing, but instead it’s another one of these tests of how we still lack basic computer savvy.

For what it’s worth, the distribution list is for a software development tool – you’d think these people would know better.

About 6 years ago, something like this happened and several hundred emails came out before it was squelched. Now, I’m guessing we’ll stay in the dozens. People are generally smarter now. Most understand the concept of a reply all.

Addendum
We got into the many dozens with 10ish coming in every minute before the IT people squelched it and killed the distribution lists. Good times. It was an out of control wildfire.

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Gobbledygook

Occasionally, and by that I mean twice in our lives as of today, Jen and I go to Panera on Saturday mornings. I get a respectable, though not transcendent, bagel and read the Economist whilst Jen studies for the Naplex, which is a particularly virulent strain of herpes. I drink more than one cup of coffee, my only coffee in any given two week span. It makes me jittery and tired, but also makes me want to clean the house spasmodically. Today, I’m writing on the blog for the first time in 10 days.

There are two seasoned ladies to my left. One of them is saying 90-95% of the words, including nearly all audible ones. She is clearly pontificating – on everything. Her friend is occasionally affirming her, though whenever she says more than a sentence in a row, the dominant friend interrupts her. They’re talking about all kinds of nebulous things, acupuncture in particular. I don’t like nebulous things. They bother me, they don’t MEAN anything, and I think people embrace them because they don’t force them to invest in anything concrete. Their world chances from moment to moment as moods shift and “culture” changes; it’s freeing, not being tied to any particular meaning or ethos. But it irks me. They don’t realize that they are missing meaning. They never need to push in their chips or decide anything.

The lady knew more than the entire acupuncture faculty. She’s very impressive.

Anyway, I don’t have a particular point for this post. It’s hard for me not to listen to everyone else’s conversations, particularly when there’s a slow motion train wreck going on next to me. One time Jen and I went out to a nice restaurant, The Elkridge Furnace Inn, and in the middle of our conversation, a nearby table started ordering wine. They were ordering wine. It was a $600 bottle of wine, and they were buying more than just that. One of the members at the table was dominant, forceful, almost bullying in his nonchalant, flippant spending of money. His tablemates, high school friends or something, were trying to seem as though it was no big deal for them to order two bottles of expensive wine. It was mesmerizing to me – I watched the waiter to see how he’d react (stoically – do you get a 15% tip on $600 wine?), I was watching the people at the table, to see how people can be pressured into ridiculous things by someone with a certain magnitude force of character.

Meanwhile, Jen was talking to me. I wasn’t listening, I had no idea she was talking to me. After 30 seconds, she said, “Eric. Eric. ERIC!” She was grabbing my hand, but I was lost in someone else’s strange world. We weren’t married yet – this is where she learned that I am fixated with what is going on around me. I might not notice that my kitchen has a ceiling fan, but I can’t help but pay attention to every conversation within earshot, piecing together fragments into portraits of those having them.

Aliens v. God. That’s what the acupuncturist is pontificating on how. A lot of questions, but no attempts at any answers. I’ll be lucky not to jump into that conversation. Half the time, I’m the dominant train wreck too, and we are very territorial.

Territorial, consecutive, restaurant. Three words I consistently cannot spell. Half the time, I can’t even get consecutive close enough for microsoft to help me spell it. I keep trying to put a q in it.

Anyway, I can’t take this much longer. I’m jittery and want to buy grass seed. You plant something, it grows. It’s alive, it exists, it’s concrete.

The dominant lady just asked if Nietzsche and Kierkegaard were from between WWI and WWII or after WWII. The timid one finally spoke up – nope, late 1800s. It’s a date. You can’t pull dates out of your ass. They are fixed in history, you can’t gobbledygook your way out of dates, try as you may.

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Insensitive

About a year ago, I was watching my friend’s 3-4 year old kids play Mario Brothers 3. They were marginal at best, but they at least understood the concepts. They were particularly excited when they got a warp to another level.

“I got a wop! I got a wop!” one shouted, as Mario faded from view.

I told him that was a little insensitive.

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My box of crackers has a label on the top that says “Open this end. To reclose, tuck in tab.”

I would estimate that the intersection between those who can’t figure that out on their own, but can read, is pretty small.

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Man About Town

I just did another one of those “work for many straight days in Connecticut” trips. These days, I’m not particularly interested in informing the world wide web of my presences and absences. Furthermore, I didn’t have any real non-work related thoughts/contact, hence the lack of posts.

I can tell you that my father accidentally used Crisco on his bagel instead of cream cheese.

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A) On Friday I wore a tie. I occasionally wear ties on Fridays. By occasionally, I probably mean “twice, two months ago”, but there was precedent. I also had a meeting that might possibly have been tie worthy – I really didn’t know the protocol. But that’s not why I wore a tie. Long, boring, but logical; stick with me.

Every morning I pick an undershirt (black, gray, blue, green, white), then a button down long sleeve, then some slacks, then a belt, and lastly shoes. I went with a green undershirt Friday morning. Unfortunately, green doesn’t match with anything. I tried the green button down too, but it was a different green. Never mix greens, except in salad. I had a brown belt, because it was more in line with what I was doing than black would have been. Well, unfortunately, I didn’t have any ties (which would have covered up the undershirt) that went with green shirts and brown belts. They all were related to black. So, says I, at 5:30 AM, mind you, I’ll give up on the green undershirt and switch to a black shirt. But with a black t-shirt, you definitely need a black belt. Once I had switched to the black belt, I realized I could wear the black tie with impunity. That’s how I went to work with a tie.

B) Miners are getting stuck an awful lot these days. They’re all the rage. A few months ago, it was bullies. This month: mining accidents.

C) You might recall that I have strong opinions on how to spell letters, particularly in how it relates to an antecedent article, a/an. An interesting question came up in the meeting that I didn’t really need a tie for on Friday. We were reviewing a document that involved the phase “an Rx scan”. Here, Rx stands for “receive”. If you’re a knowledgeable reader (and trust me, leisurely readers don’t read documents like this), then you insert receive for Rx as you read that line. So what should the article be? I stuck with my guns on “an Rx”, because you write documents, as opposed to transcribing them from speech. But it’s an interesting quandary. The guy I was arguing with interjected that we’re not an a pharmacy here, and “Rx” by itself is meaningless. Maybe I’ll try to dig up AE and see what she thinks. Bess?

d) From the NBA’s fan page on Facebook: WOW! Blake Griffin continue to impress with his impressive aerial attacks on the rim!

I agree. Impressive things are typically impressive.

e) Last Thanksgiving morning, my mother asked me to move the turkey from the fridge to the counter. My father and I were leaving at 5 AM to see Steve’s race in CT, and she couldn’t lift it at the angle she’d need to in order to extract it from the fridge. It was a huge bird, after all. Anyway, I picked it up, but tilted it as I was moving it, dumping raw turkey juice all over myself, the floor, and the side of the counter top. It’s probably the most disgusting thing that’s ever happened to me at 4:45 in the morning. I’ll have a similar opportunity in a few days.

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Alive, Most Likely

I’ve worked a lot the last couple of weeks. Weekends and the like. I think I’ve had two days completely off since 10/16. Still, it’s not actually that bad, and at the moment I’m somewhat bored again. They get you all wound up, then you can’t adjust well to normal effort days. Eh. That explains some of the lack of posting. I think being married sucks profound thoughts out of your head. If I were to do be an author, there’s no way I’d be married. Not enough angst. Days just sort of pass. And you don’t write in your blog.

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URT

Jen said something strange this morning. She claimed that if I were to put on a clean pair of underwear (boxers mainly) before bed, then I’d need to put on a new pair in the morning after my shower. Now, I no longer officially support wearing the same pair of underwear for more than 24 hours (though I accidentally had some boxer briefs stay on for the night shift last night), but 8 hours for a pair of underwear is pretty extreme to my masculine sensibilities. Interestingly, according to her, it would be OK to change them every morning, even though it would include the same 24 hours worth of stresses as changing them every night. In her defense (since she’s adamant about reading this before I post it, so as to ensure that I don’t elucidate her personal underwear replacement theories), she does have a consistent rule: always switch underwear after a shower. I think if my underwear were all up in my business instead of hanging loosely, I might be more inclined to agree. As it is, since I’m a good environmentalist, I don’t want to waste water*.

*Even if water is infinite (as claimed in comments somewhere recently), they still make me pay for it. Communists.

Thoughts?

By the way, Jack Bauer gets tortured 4 times every 24 hours while chasing gunmen, snapping spines, and probably sometimes being submerged in tanks of urine. Think he changes his underwear? Not when the fate of the free world is on the line.

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10-

I get less than 10 hits a day now. I guess when you don’t post anything, people get tired reading the stuff that was boring when first written.

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Here’s the Sports Guy on Michael Vick. It’s a good example of looking at an issue a little deeper than most people like to. There is more than one side to most arguments.

Addendum
I wonder if they could do an overlay of the popularity of fast food on top of the CDC obesity data. Yowser.

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Brown Paper Bag

I just saw a guy working a road crew ambling back to his work from the liquor store with a 40 in a brown paper bag. It probably doesn’t take a whole lot of concentration to flip that sign around…but still.

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Thwack

Overheard in the cube farm this afternoon…

Managerish Guy, regarding pending delivery: “Let’s hammer this puppy.”

Incredulous employee: “Hammer a…puppy?”

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Doorframes

A week ago, there was a minor earthquake in the suburbs of DC. I didn’t notice, as I live next to an airport, a train tracks, a highway and a trucking depot. My house routinely shakes. Still, everyone made such a big deal out of it, it subconsciously began to register in my brain.

Last night, I fell asleep around midnight, to be roused by a consistent, throbbing shake about 20 minutes later. Confused, I decided that my wife needed to share in this twice in a lifetime sort of experience. “Stephen!” I exclaimed, attempting to rouse her from sleep.

Pause.

Groggily…

“Did you just call me Steve?”

I broke into giddy laughter then immediately went back to sleep.

In my defense, we did just spend three nights together in a tent, much of it listening for strange noises.

I would later inform her that it was probably best case scenario for yelling out someone’s name (other than hers) in my sleep.

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Those Filthy Brits

Earlier today, I received an email from a supposedly frantic relative (or maybe “frantic supposed relative”) stating the following:

Hey!
I’m writing this with tears in my eyes,We came down here to London,England for a short vacation and We was mugged at gun point last night at the park of the hotel where we lodged all cash,credit cards and cell were stolen off us.

We’ve been to the US embassy and the Police here but they’re not helping issues at all,Our flight leaves in less than 24hrs from now and we are having problems settling the hotel bills.

The hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the hotel bills now we freaked out.

We need your help.

Regards.

Not to spoil the punchline, but someone has control of her email account and is fielding responses. It’s probably not a great idea to bug these people, but if I did, here’s what I’d ask them:

What do you mean by “won’t let us leave”? As in, he has you locked in a closet somewhere?

What sort of hotel doesn’t take your credit card number when you check in?

Why do you all the suddenly capitalize after commas?

When you say “down here to London,England”, where were you coming from? Iceland?

I do appreciate the use of a colloquial English phrase. And NOW WE FREAKED OUT!!!

Does NO ONE speak English in Nigeria, China or wherever this came from?

Someone is out there who will help poor, lost relatives, stuck on the mean streets of London,England. Hopefully it’s not anyone on that particular email list.

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Jen and I spent the weekend in the Poconos, taking naps, reading books, and talking to elderly gentlemen about glass. At one point, we went to the local grocery store, an IGA. As we were getting ready to checkout, I witnessed the tail end of a transaction between the two cashiers. One had purchased a diet pepsi through her neighbor’s register.

Cashier 1, let’s call her Ashley (holding a nickle): Here’s your dime.
Cashier 2, Sue, ignores her.
Ashley (still holding nickle): Hey, take your dime.
Sue ignores her.
Ashley (patiently holding nickle): Take your dime…err…nickle…

Me (to Ashley): I think I’m going to count my change.

Ashley looks at me somewhat confused, “Umm, that’s fine,” she assures me, automatically. Jen, having not witnessed the exchange, is of no help. Once again, no one got my joke. I thought it was funny at least.

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This time I have an excuse…an 80 hour work week, including right now at 3:30 AM sort of excuse. I’m walking around the lab with neither shoes nor socks, because it’s 82.6 degrees in here and no one else else around. I’ve got three more hours, then I’m driving home to Goshen. I’m going to do laundry, eat breakfast, wish mum a happy mother’s day, take a nap, then drive back. I think things will get a bit more regular by Monday. This stops Wednesday, most likely, but days sort of blend together, so it’s more useful to count in terms of hours. Or measurements, columns, sub apertures. Not really days.

I made it so that the test dings at me when it finishes. So on to more of that.

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14 millifarads

As part of Jen’s training to do blood sugar readings and whatnot, she needed to learn the quantity of blood needed to satisfy the meter. It was one of the things she was being tested on today. The number? 0.6 micro liters.

We were practicing last night. I asked her how much blood I needed. She dutifully told me 0.6 micro liters.

Now let me ask you something. How much blood is that? The best I could come up with was one three-millionths of a two liter bottle of Pepsi. It’s an utterly meaningless number. She said it was akin to the head of a needle. “So like, the size of a deer tick?” Nope, she didn’t like that. “So then the size of a dot you make with a pen?” Nope, more than that. “Dot from a sharpee?” Sure, that much. “What the hell kind of needles are you using?” She’s sowing whale hides to teepees or something.

Meanwhile they asked her today, she said 0.6 micro liters, they smiled and nodded and gave her a great grade. As long as we decide before hand that we’ll communicate in esoteric terms with no real world meaning, I guess it’s easy enough to pass the assessments.

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I can’t make heads or tails of the end of the conversation I just overheard in the bathroom.

Large Man in Large Person Stall (summoning): Hey Dave.
Dave (presumably): What?
Large Man in Large Person Stall: Hear the latest?

And then Dave (presumably) walked out. He didn’t ask what the latest was and the LMiLPS never followed up by disclosing the latest. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

Furthermore, we just lost our email servers for the last 4 hours. It came back up a few minutes ago. I just got an email explaining that the email services were down. Yeah, I noticed.

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I’m not about to go data mining to find all the details here…but remember the time when Matt claimed that he, Dowdell and Seamus had accidentally met up with a Swedish princess, leading to an almost believable, uneventful evening of Matt, Dowdell and Seamus related hijinks? There are a bunch of posts around the turn of 2003, here’s a representative one. Well, apparently, she’s single.

On Friday, I informed Matt of the latest developments in flying cars and today he learned Princess Madeleine is available. Not a bad week for stoking delusional fantasies.

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On Why I Don’t Post

I haven’t been writing much, as noted recently by Bess. Why is this?

1) I am busy. Jen studies all the time, and I do a lot of jobs around the house, mostly of my choosing. I probably spend 10 hours a week working on the garden or in the hydroponics lab. I do a lot of cleaning, some of it half-assed, but it takes time. I’ve been running more, and that takes time. And I still have a full-time (+) job.

2) Even if I’m not explicitly busy, I make myself busy because I can’t stand not working when Jen is working. I don’t like being comparatively lazy.

3) I don’t choose my bedtime. We tend to go to bed at a mutually agreeable time, but that precludes spending 20 minutes writing something inane. It’s bound to pass, but these days, I only see my wife when we go to bed, so I’m perfectly fine with altering my schedule to accommodate whatever bedtime works best.

4) I’m too busy at work to post from there. Moreover, too many people come to my desk to chat. More than just not posting from there, I’m too busy to have the thoughts that I used to jot down and write about when I got home. Speaking of which, I can’t just come home and spend 45 minutes writing about something I thought up at work – dinner feeds more than just me.

5) I have somewhat less angst, particular angst that is healthy for me to share publicly. All the sudden I don’t have free reproduction rights on all of my life experiences – things that used to not be private now are, because I am not the only person who has a stake in them.

6) I almost always wrote when I was by myself, and now I’m never by myself. Jen’s computer is 6 feet from here. I have a hard time focusing on writing when I’m with someone, even if she’s scouring primary literature for information on things like cisplatin. Then, when I ask her how to spell cisplat, my favorite drug, she rolls her chair over and I feel like I shouldn’t be writing about this sort of thing at all.

You see, I’m torn now. I have lost a lot of flexibility, which is strange because I’m such a rigid person, you would think I wouldn’t care about losing flexibility. I don’t really care these days that I don’t write, though it’s disconcerting that I lack amusing and original thoughts. I also feel guilty about not providing input to the web people. Then again, I don’t really harbor a secret longing for beautiful, dark and volatile stalkers anymore. See, even if I did, back in the day I could write about it…and now I can’t.

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Elegant Prose

CBS just did a fluff tribute to longtime sportscaster Dick Enberg, along the way extolling his understated elegance and commitment to finely crafted prose. I spent the piece wondering, “wait, did he die? Did I know that?” As it turns out, no, he is still alive, but retiring. He ended the piece by reflecting on how 50 years worth of athletes provided the fodder – he just reported on it. He said, “we just deliver the baby and they’re the ones who write the script.”

Hmmm.

Last sentence after a 50 year sportscasting career…and you mix a metaphor. Maybe, “we just promote the play, they’re the ones who write the script.” Or, “We just deliver the baby, they’re the ones who copulate in the bathroom stall during the prom.” Personally, I’d stay away from either. We give you the news, they make it. We tell the story, they live it. We are merely witnesses to their dastardly deeds. Something like that. While he probably wouldn’t have scripted it ending that way, we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; he didn’t stick out in either direction per my recollection, which makes him an effective announcer. That’s how a good announcer does it. He lets the athletes write the scripts, he just delivers them babies with a subtle whisper for all the world to see.

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There have been many times that I’ve thought about writing something in the last few days. I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time. It’s sort of like dreams. You wake up at three in the morning with a clear recollection of the dream and you say to yourself (if you’re me at least), man, that was a weird dream, I’m going to write about that later, and then you forget all details when you wake up a few hours later. It’s not enough to think about thinking about it, you have to make a conscious effort to drive the recollection into your conscious mind, to inspect it, mush it around, chew on it, digest it, poop it out. Sometimes you have to follow the metaphor to completion, I’m sorry.

Anyway, I remembered the dream about Jen trying to bribe a grader for an exam with $42 in an envelope. It was a $2 bill and a $40 bill, which doesn’t actually exist. That’s the good thing about sleeping with someone, you can mumble your dreams to them while they try to ignore you. Sometimes you just need an audience at 4 in the morning. Your dreams are important enough to wake someone else up for, and you should do it if you get the chance.

Something that wasn’t a dream was what I saw while driving to meet Jen’s aunt and uncle for dinner.

I’m barely coherent right now, by the way. I’ve done nothing but work all day, well, I guess I went to church and went on a hard run, but the moral of the story is that I’m delirious. My eyes are blurring. I want to shut everything down and go to bed, but I have a head of steam and if I do that I’ll lose it, obviously. I might clean the bathroom after I finish this. It’s just that I know it’ll be full of hair again in 3 days; it’s a little discouraging. Say what you will about Justin’s localized sloppiness, he didn’t leave his hair everywhere.

Anyway, the missus and I were driving north on 95 when we hit some traffic – which is normal for rush hour, even Saturday evening rush, which does exist around here. On the left hand shoulder we pass a cop car, two civilian cars and about 10 high schoolers looking hip in their shaggy hair and little accessory tote bags (while stranded on the side of the highway!). Immediately after them and stretching for the next 400 meters were many dozens of mangled, torn, disfigured stuffed animals. They had clearly hit the pavement at highway speeds, being dashed to bits as they pinwheeled snout over feet for an extended distance. Eyes were missing, appendages dismembered, button tails bobbed into the ditch in the median. It was the most macabre, morbid and absurd scene I’ve seen in a while. I wanted a picture of it. I have one, in my brain, and I’ll try to describe it to you if you ever want a full description. I can tell you that every stuffed animal was different. It had a lot of character for a mangled mess.

Let’s see. We’re going to WA in less than a week. My plants are thriving so far, but I’m a little worried about the Dahlia – they seem to be getting a bit to big for their britches. Thunbergia, Black Eyed Susan vine, are also in need of some new digs. I have a lot of garden related work between now and when we leave, including planting the second set of seeds, planting the forget-me-nots outside, planting the hummingbird mix seeds in a planter outside and planting some Dahlia tubers. I’m having a hard time negotiating the fact that I’m growing Dahlia from seeds right now while I have Dahlia that look completely different and grow from tubers in another place. Hmpf. Is Dahlia such a cool name that we need to name two different flowers with it?

I need a friggin nap. I need to go back to work so I can relax a little. Sheesh.

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Flying

There’s a fundamental flaw in this article on the luge death in Vancouver. It assumes, a priori, that the death was not the athlete’s fault. I don’t think that’s a safe assumption. Doesn’t mean it’s not tragic.

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Waste of Spaces

There are several vehicles in our parking lot that have yet to be dug out from the blizzard. If you can survive for over a week without your car, why do you have it? Kick me in the head if I ever decide that I’d like to own and pay insurance on a car that I have no use for.

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