31 December 2006

Resolved: steamless morning

Happy New Year's Eve and a Pippin New Year to everyone.

I find the notion of a New Year's Resolution a bit odd. Mainly because people decide on it in advance, and then plan to wait until the new year to do anything about it. In general, this is a recipe for failure. So I made an old-year-resolution a few days after Christmas, and already put it into action. My goal is to practice taiji, yoga, and chanting at least once each day. Even if only for five minutes each. I would like to make it to 108 continuous days. Why 108? Mainly because that's the number of beads on my Tibetan mala. I mean, I could look up mystic significances for it, but the mala is the primary reason. Anyway, I'm up to five days so far. Assuming I get a round of the taiji form in before I head to bed. Oh yes. I made a calendar check-sheet so I could make sure of the counting.

Oh, and just a note. Do NOT try to bake anything "normal" in the same oven with a custard while it's being steamed. My Christmas coffeecake was, well, soup. Cutting it into thin slices and putting it in the toaster oven helps, but it's still rather odd. So this time I baked the custard the night before. Though it's a bit different. For this one, you cook the rice, put it in the pan, then pour the custard batter over it and bake them together. *shrugs* No clue how it will taste. I'll find out tomorrow. And all I have to do tomorrow is make cornbread and Italian Cream Cake (which is an odd name, since there is no cream in it). It's one of the best gluten-free cake recipes I've ever used (from Bette Hagman's book of GF desserts).

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30 December 2006

Death of a Tyrant

Just in case anyone's been completely isolated from news today, Saddam Hussein was hanged this morning. I can only hope that this marks the closing of an era, but I'm not naive enough to assume that it will. It's interesting to me that a lot of people are debating whether this exectution was the "right" thing to do. I have no idea. But I do think it was a necessary thing to do. There are few cases where I can unequivocally support the death penalty. This is one of them. Why? Because there can be no doubt that Saddam was responsible for countless hideous acts, and I am firmly convinced that, for some acts, a person loses the right to live.

So you might find it odd to know that I do not support the death penalty as currently practiced in the United States. Why? Primarily, fair application. Given the same severity of crime, a black person is much more likely to receive the death penalty. This is unacceptable. I think that the only way to make the death penalty "fair" in that sense is to have a separate jury or group of judges who hear ONLY about the severity of the crimes and decide whether the crimes themselves warrant the death penalty. There are other problems besides fair application, though. Uppermost of those is the conviction and execution of innocents. No system is perfect, so there is no way to avoid that risk. Thus, in general, I oppose the death penalty. I make exception only for particularly heinous cases where the identity of the perpetrator is beyond any doubt.

One final thought. I said that Saddam's exectution was necessary, but made no claim that it was "right." It almost certainly was not. So how can it be necessary? Simple. It solved several problems. Saddam had committed so many crimes that to try every single one of them would take years. This involves court fees, as well as the price of room and board for one ex-dictator, and a thousand hells of media circuses. And all this happening in a less than stable country. His death solves all of that. I would liken it to Giles killing Ben at the end of Buffy's fifth season. It was certainly wrong. Ben wasn't exactly innocent at that point, but he was human. The "right" thing would have been to let him (and thereby Glory) live. It would also have been the stupid, impractical thing to do, as Ben/Glory would certainly have made problems later on. So the execution was necessary, even if "wrong."

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26 December 2006

Live Long and Prosper

You Are Incredibly Logical

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic
You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.
A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!


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25 December 2006

Christmas Cooking

Thai custard, check
Sticky rice, check (will be mixed ALL together just before serving)
Blueberry-Apple coffee-cake, still baking
chocolate chips for fudge, check
random kitchen acoutrements that Mom probably doesn't have, check
presents, check

When I get over to my mom's house, there will be a flurry of chopping and mixing and slicing, followed by a flurry of boiling and stir-frying and simmering. We're making Pad Thai (sometimes spelled Phat Thai) and a Thai curry. At the moment, I'm just waiting on the coffee cake. Anyway, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Pippin Solstice. :^D

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22 December 2006

Couldn't resist this one...

Via Pharyngula:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Lady Qalmlea the Possible of Goosnargh Leering
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

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Let it Snow!!!!!!!!

It snowed last night! Snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed! Prediction was 2-6 inches, depending on which weather report I was reading. Looks like we got four or five. It's still coming down sporadically, but I've got my steps, driveway and sidewalk shoveled off now. That was fun. And easier than usual. Two reasons for that: (1) I often wait to shovel until it's a foot deep; (2) this is lighter, fluffier snow than we usually get. Yay! Now it actually LOOKS like Christmas/Solstice/Cepholopodmas-time.

Also, I found out from an older neighbor who tends to shovel off people's walks for them (HA! I beat him to mine this time!) that my southern neighbor was, in fact, arrested. For drug dealing. This would explain why there always seemed to be too many cars in his driveway. He may get 20 years. If they were still having problems, this could be a relief to his wife. If they weren't, she's probably not having a very good Christmas.

However, his cat is lonely and hungry. So after shoveling things off, I stayed outside and played with Merlin for a while. His "real" name is Sam, but the summer I first wound up taking care of him, I didn't remember that. So I call him Merlin. Gorgeous, long-haired orange tabby. That summer, the neighbor and his wife were both in a near-fatal car-wreck. He lost a leg, and nearly lost the other one. She had some sort of major head trauma. I found this out maybe three weeks after it had happened. The cat had seemed lonely, and very thin, so I started feeding him. When they were gone for a week, I figured maybe they'd gone on vacation and the cat had gotten out of the house. Two weeks? Okay, extra-long vacation. At three weeks, I knew something was wrong, or that the cat had been abandoned, and found out from the same older neighbor what had happened. So Merlin's used to me. Sweet, friendly cat. Who doesn't seem to enjoy the snow as much as I do.

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21 December 2006

Pippin Solstice

The winter solstice was today at 5:22. The cycle has shifted from increasing yin to increasing yang, and shifts back at the summer solstice. The height of winter is where summer is born. The height of summer is where winter is born. Without winter, summer has no meaning. Without summer, winter would need no name. The two endlessly dance in their cycle, indifferent to the humans that celebrate or denigrate them.

Oh, and "Pippin Solstice" is my generic holiday greeting for anyone who is offended by "Happy Holidays." :^D After all, so many people are miserable, it's no wonder the word "happy" is offensive, and "holiday" comes from "holy day" and no one wants to imply that one day is more sacred than another. No one actually seems to know what "merry" means any more, so it might as well be replaced with "Pippin."

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20 December 2006

Department Store Oddities (+minor update)

Why enunciation is important:
Over the speakers came an announcement calling workers to "the math department," or at least that's what it sounded like. The announcement repeated, and this time sounded more like "meth". So far as I know, no department store has a math section, and none would announce one involving illegal drugs over the loud-speaker. Eventually I figured out they meant the "men's department."

My tired brain:
I saw a label on a box that I thought said "Satanland." A second glance revealed it was "Santaland".

Destructive Child:
A little girl in a cart (maybe 3 or 4 years old) kept pointing at items on the shelf. "Mommy? Can I bweak that?"
Mother (absently): "No."
"Can I thwow it on the floor?"

Label on a Showercurtain:
Dry Clean Only

Sign on a Billboard:
"Great Careers for Great People!" Am I the only one who immediately infers the corollaries, "Mediocre carers for mediocre people!" and "Lousy careers for lousy people!" ? I think of these every time I see that silly sign.

And Now for an Update:
I think I have everything wrapped now, oddly enough. Two boxes still to tie up with ribbon, but otherwise it's all done. And I discovered tonight that plain string doesn't burn very well. It took several matches' worth of kindling before the wax under the string melted enough to sustain the fire. It was quite pretty when it all caught, though.

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19 December 2006

Boxes and Bows (and Crepe Paper)

All but one box is done now. That box is made, but I may put a few more items in it, so I haven't sealed it up yet. Here are the ones that are done:

This is a favorite. I used one sheet of my fanciest paper in the lid, and let the colors in it determine the rest of the colors.

Not quite as fancy a paper this time, but I still let it determine the rest of the colrs.

This one is twice as big as the others (made from 12-inch square scrapbooking paper). Ones this big I usually use cardstock in the base to provide a little extra strength. Bloody pain to fold, though. My fingernails usually aren't strong enough to crease it, so I've taken to using a television remote. :^D

This one is a different style box than the others. Tsuzura (wicker) box is the name in the book. It is not as sturdy, but it is closer to being cubical. This one is made from 9-inch paper that had been sitting around as a lid gathering dust. Lately I haven't been able to FIND 9-inch paper, but 6-inch paper would have resulted in a 2-inch box. Too small for the present inside. And, yes, this one isn't as neatly folded as the others. All the extra fold lines from the paper's former life made it quite messy.

Another one that used some of my second best paper as a starting point for color.

Another larger box, with scrapbooking paper forming the lid and cardstock for the base.

This wouldn't fit easily in a box, so I used an envelop fold instead. It works best for flat items, but this one doesn't bulge as much as the other I made tonight (not pictured :^D). Oh, and I "spraypainted" over the name, if you're wondering why the tag looks odd.

And this last one isn't a "box" per se, but it is a common technique of mine for oddly shaped items. Wrap in tissue paper. Tightly wrap crepe paper around it. Then tape and seal with ribbons. And, yes, I could do with a less visible tape. Oh well.

One thing that is totally new this year is the use of tie-on tags for all the actual boxes. The envelope really NEEDS a sticker tag to hold it closed, but I found nice, old-fashioned, tie-tags for the boxes. And now I need to put all the paper, ribbon, etc, away so that the living room is no longer a disaster area.

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18 December 2006

High Points

Just as proof that I'm feeling better, there was plenty of good stuff that happened this weekend. I had another solo taiji lesson. On the one hand, it's nice to hear that I'm improving. On the other hand, it sort of freaks me out when Don says I might be close to getting better than he is. At the form, anyway. I'm nowhere near his level in push hands.

Yesterday morning, I had to turn pages for my mom at church. I don't mind so much on the Christmas Cantata service. There's no time for a long sermon, so it's mostly just music. Also, none of the songs in the cantata annoyed me this year. They were all enjoyable to listen to (largely based on familiar Christmas carols).

Then yesterday afternoon, Fibonacci was in town and we test-ran his game again (with another of his Pocatello friends). It runs more smoothly than the other time I played, and the new creatures DO fit on the tiles much more easily. :^D We didn't have time to finish it, as the portal pieces wound up scattered clear across the board, and just as we had a shot to get the earth portal back where we could reach it...one of the monsters summoned it to a new tile. If we'd had time to go into level 3, there was a good chance we could have finished it. Three of the portal pieces were locked together. It was just earth that was giving us trouble.

And I'm now mostly done wrapping Christmas presents. I haven't had to make too many boxes this year. I've got at least two to do, and I made some that were already delivered over Thanksgiving Break, but mostly things have been too big. I will post pictures of those that DO get made (including the ones already delivered) eventually.

My Tibetan mala broke its string yesterday, so I restrung it this morning. I used a thicker string than the one it came on, which meant I had to widen some of the holes. The beads were wooden, so this was easily done with a nail. Also, coating the end of the string in melted wax helps.

As for the rest of today, my medically-challenged student is supposed to come in and take her final, so I need to get going. I'm hoping to make it to Lava Hot Springs this week. The stores I like there have a Pocatello outlet (Purple Moon), but the ones in Lava usually have better selection.

So let me emphasize: I'm FINE now. The ginger seems to be 90% worn off, and I will make sure to EAT something at every meal.

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New Depths

Just some advice if anyone else ingests a substance (like ginger) that tends to have negative affects on their mood. EAT. Do NOT skip a meal. On Saturday after taiji, I wandered a bit in IF and was too lazy to get food before driving back. By the time I got back, I didn't feel like eating much. So I didn't. My mood gradually worsened through the afternoon (though getting my Christmas tree up and decorated pushed it back up a smidgen), to the point that I still didn't want to eat come dinner time. I ate...something. Not very much. Then I went over to help Mom with her Christmas tree. I did eat a bit there, but it was too little too late.

Unlike the day before, the negativity was so strong that it took quite a while before I figured out that it was still likely due to ginger (and lack of food). What finally made me realize that it wasn't really MY emotion was when a fleeting suicidal feeling brushed through. THAT woke me up. Then I managed to separate out which feelings were mine and which were externally-induced. It wasn't easy, or pleasant. Scared the hell out of me. I went into a flurry of activity to try and drain it out a bit, and was finally exhausted enough to sleep around midnight.

The next day I still wasn't quite feeling like my usual self, but I muddled through. By noon, most of the negativity had worn off (food helped a lot). It hasn't made another appearance, but I also haven't had anything with even a tinge of ginger in it for a while. Oh, and this convinced me NOT to give ginger another go this summer. At the moment, my feelings on it are WORSE than my feelings about wheat, rye and barley products. They just poison my body, not my mind.

*sighs* I never understood it when Kim told me that almonds made her suicidally depressed. It was hard to imagine ANY food (or chemical) doing that. *goes to throw out everything in the house containing ginger*

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15 December 2006

School ender; Ginger downer; Neighbor cuffer

I've got all but one student's grades submitted now. That student really REALLY should have opted for a medical withdrawal. She's been unable to take the final twice due to doctor/hospital/etc visits. This is after missing more than a month of classes anyway, so her chances of passing are slim to none. Looks like we're trying again on Monday. We shall see how it goes.

In other news, apparently I need to stop using ginger altogether for a while. Again. It seems to result in severe depression in even small quantities at the moment. This sounds worse than it is, I suspect. Basically, there's pain and misery, but it doesn't feel like MY pain and misery. I can tell that it's "drug" induced. Which makes it relatively easy to counter by keeping busy. If it were true depression, I wouldn't WANT to do anything. Or so I hear. This seems to be a very VERY rare side effect of ginger (usually associated with high doses). I've also found instances where ginger has been used to TREAT depression. Anyway, last time it took two or three days to wear off completely. *mutters to herself*

Oh, it wasn't in tea this time. I generally spice fried meats with red pepper, cardamom, coriander and ginger. Looks like I'll cut back to just the first three until summer. Then I might give ginger another go. If it starts bothering me then, it's just going on my verboten list. Permanently.

One more random tidbit: I think my southern neighbor may have been arrested earlier this week. I have no idea what for. On Wednesday (I think) I came back to grab a few things at my house before running back up to my office at ISU. There were a lot of cars in the driveway south of my house (which isn't unusual). One woman gave me a very hard look as I went into my house, which struck me as unnecessary and odd. Then when I came back out, I saw my neighbor with his hands cuffed behind his back, talking a guy in uniform. A police car was parked in front of my northern neighbor's house, and a white car that was almost certainly an undercover police car (extra instrument above the driver's side mirror) was parked in front of the presumed arrestee's house. I left before I saw the conclusion, but my neighbor's truck has not been moved since that day, and it usually gets driven at least once a day.

I do know that said neighbor has been in prison before, but I have no clue for what. He used to come over to chat quite a bit (which we later found out was because he had a crush on my then-roommate, who was NOT happy about it; I mean, the guy's married and twice her age). Since she moved up to Oregon, I haven't had any major problems with him. From a distance, he seems a fairly nice guy. Loud, mildly abrasive, but overall nice. *shrugs* I seem to have inherited his cat once again, though. The cat doesn't seem to get anything to eat when this guy is gone (I don't know if his wife won't feed him, or if the cat won't take food from her).

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14 December 2006


Where there's cold, there can be snow, instead of this insipid rain. Where there's snow the world turns white and quiet and slippery. Me want snow!!!!! Ahem.

305 AM MST THU DEC 14 2006

305 AM MST THU DEC 14 2006





Snow snow snow snow snow! Cold cold cold cold cold! (Yes, I've had chocolate. And yerba mate. Why do you ask?)

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11 December 2006

Right now I'm eating a clementine

Sorry, but I couldn't think of a useful title. Anyway, life update: tonight I give two finals. Tomorrow I give one (that one isn't completely written yet, and my jump drive seems to have died on me, so I'll go in this afternoon to finish it). Also, my mom's furnace has been on the fritz lately. First sign of trouble came a few weeks back, when she tried to turn it up and got an error message. She has a digital thermostat, if that wasn't already obvious. Repairman came, didn't find anything wrong, said to call if it did weird things again. Last night, her heat wouldn't turn on. At all. She has some electric heaters that she brought upstairs (though I did offer my couch if it got TOO cold), and this morning she called the repairman again. There was a bad...something-or-other...condensor? I think that's what she said. It wasn't easy to find; apparently there was a bit of water dripping somewhere way back behind the furnace. But the guy was changing it out when I called, so she should have working heat again soon.

Also, I started browsing through summer pictures today, and decided to post some. Most are from Massacre Rocks. The landscape in my dream didn't quite match, though. The soil and rocks were redder.

Aren't these moths cute? They were from my last Gibson Jack trip.

This one is from Massacre Rocks. The bee is on a willow (showy willow, I think is the common name, because of the flowers). If it's the willow I think it is, it smells like burning human flesh if you set it on fire.

If the rocks were redder, the water higher, and the vegetation deader, this would look a lot like the landscape in my dream. Another difference: I was surrounded by sheer rock walls at the water's edge, so my position was narrower even if the water was much wider.

This is probably a view from one of the docks at Massacre Rocks. The water I was trying to cross in my dream was much, much vaster. Note that this is a view UP the Snake River, not across it.

Last one. Just for comparison, this is from Arches National Park. The color of the rocks is much closer to that of my dreams than any of the Massacre Rock pictures.

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10 December 2006

Evil Quiz

How evil are you?

{Note: it would have been very easy to up my evilness score, as mostly the "evil" answers were rather obvious. This is the result I get by answering honestly. Sad, isn't it?}

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Impassable River

Dream snippet from last night.

I was hiking around Massacre Rocks (though the trail I was on actually looks a lot like one at Cherry Springs; the high, dry one). There were a whole bunch of grade school kids there as well on a field trip, led by Mrs. Adams (my junior high speech and drama teacher). I ignored the kids and followed the trail I was on, trying to remember how to get back across the Snake River. I knew that I'd followed this trail before and there was a way back. But the trail dead ended at the water's edge. Deep water. I couldn't see even a hint of the bottom.

About two hundred feet away (or more) I could faintly see the rock bridges I "remembered" but they were almost buried under water as well. I saw a rock five feet from my perch at the edge of the water: a large boulder sticking out of a sheer cliff face, its top under several inches of water. I decided to try and make for that rock. I began testing the ground, looking for a good jump-off point. For some reason, I began scraping my foot along one segment of edge, scraping the surface dirt off. Under it was bare red rock, possibly carved with a pink symbol that I did not look at.

I gave up trying to get to the submerged boulder and decided I would just swim for the bridges. Then I noticed the net. A large plastic net that looked like an oversized version of the ones sometimes put on pickups in place of a tailgate (and which, according to the Mythbusters, atually increase gas mileage). It stretched the whole way across the surface of the water at a narrow point of the canyon. I couldn't tell if it went clear under the surface or not, but I didn't want to swim all the way out to it and get stuck. I turned around and wondered if the school bus and driver would be willing to drive me back to my car instead (which must have been on the other side of the river). I woke up before I got to find out.

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03 December 2006

The Rest of the Week

I've been busy giving and grading tests, and helping my mom with various projects. One item of note. Last Saturday, I found a book called Chakra Mantras which has been quite enjoyable. The odd thing is that it's written by a psychologist, so he ties all the Hindu myths into things like the ego/mind. He's also not using traditional language for the myths, so they feel more modern. The chants are fun, though. Whether they do exactly what they're "supposed" to or not...*shrugs* I feel energized after a long chanting session. I do think it's important that the words not be everyday, English words. That just gets the conscious mind involved. Chanting essentially nonsense syllables lets the mind relax (once the syllables are remembered, anyway ;^).

Yesterday I had a solo taiji lesson. It was both good and unpleasant. Unpleasant because there's no one else for Don to focus on, so I don't get a break. Good for the same reason. In push hands, Don corrected some habits of mine that I hadn't realized were problematic. He seemed to be looking forward to seeing me push with Mark again. We'll see if his lessons carry over well enough to make a big difference. :^) We wound up quitting a bit early. We were both losing focus, and Don managed to hurt his wrist (i.e. he'd lost fair maiden's wrist on a push and wound up aggravating his arthritis). He apologized profusely, but I think I got three times as much as I would have in a regular class, so I can't complain.

I spent most of the rest of yesterday cleaning and rearranging. I didn't get Christmas decoration up because Mom needed me to babysit her house again (which turned out to be a wash, as (a) they didn't need to do anything INside the house and (b) they never showed up. But I've got that bookshelf moved, and I've even made a start at organizing the books I've got. Some of them were already organized. Some had been sitting in random stacks. I think I've got all the random stacks from downstairs at least on shelves, though not necessarily organized. There are a few more stacks up here.

Then there was evening... Mom stopped by on the way back from helping to decorate the church choir Christmas tree. She looked half-dead, and said she hadn't slept well. Still, she asked if I wanted to eat at Chang's with her (lately a Saturday tradition), and we agreed I'd pick her up when she called again. She called. I drove over. I don't know if it was stomach "flu" or food poisoning, but she was not doing well. She said she'd felt okay when calling me, but then... So no Chang's. I stopped off at Fred Meyer and got her some 7-Up, which she thought she could keep down. I also helped get her bed made. Moving around much made the symptoms recur. She was also sensible enough to call an alternate organist/pianist for the service today (on occasion, she's too stubborn to do this even when she CLEARLY needs the relief; so she was feeling pretty rotten). My last errand was to drop off the music some place where the alternate could find it. So hopefully Mom's feeling better today, and being able to sleep in should help.

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28 November 2006

Mental State

It could be from inadequate sleep, or decongestant, but for some reason I'm staring at a square orange piece of paper with a paperclip attached at the top, about three quarters of an inch from the right side, and thinking it's the most profound piece of artwork I've ever seen. But when I turn it over (so that the paperclip is now at the left), it is no longer profound. In fact, it's downright disturbing.

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27 November 2006

The Smell of Burning Concrete in the Afternoon...

An unexpected change of plans today when my mom found out that they were going to put in her basement egress window today. I am here to make sure they don't do anything they're not supposed to (though they're the ones with the saw for cutting concrete, so how, exactly, would I stop them? ;^). On the plus side, I probably got more grading done over here than I would have at home. Which leaves one more class to get graded by tomorrow, hopefully. Then two tests to have ready on Wednesday and one for Thursday.

Looks like they have all the cutting done now, so they just need to get the window itself in.

And I've gotten enough of my cleaning done that I hope to be able to put up Christmas decorations on Wednesday. For that to happen, I have to move the old tv stand down to my room (where it will be used as a desk), which means I have to get a bookcase into the soon-to-be library downstairs. For now, I'm just getting shelves in there and putting books on them. Hopefully during break I'll get everything organized and alphabetized. Hopefully. Now to see what deviltry the window people be up to...

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26 November 2006

Coin, cooooiiiinnnnnn...

(Title inspired by an old Scooby Doo episode, for anyone staring at it in puzzlement. Then again, when do my titles ever make much sense? Puzzle away.)

Whilst cleaning, I uncovered my State Quarters map, and discovered it had been neglected since some time in 2004. Luckily, I'd just been stashing my coins in an old Nestle's cocoa container, and had all the missing 2004 and 2005 quarters, as well as two of the 2006. So, the map is now up to date. At the same time, I sorted through the rest of the coins and came up with three rolls of pennies, two rolls of dimes, and a roll of nickels. And, yes, I probably had nearly three rolls of quarters, but I keep those in M&M's Mini's tubes until I'm ready to cash them in (usually some time in the summer) as "mad money". Hmmm... M&M Mad Mini Money? Oh well. And now I'm trying to work in a sentence about keeping the quarters in their tubes in order by date, but it's not working out.

And ginger is still not good for the coinage of my brain. At least, I think that was the problem ingredient. Small quantities hadn't been bothering me, so I figured I was okay to drink some tea with ginger in it. Uh, no. Bad. I think I'd sooner stick my hand in a meat grinder than do that again. At least once the hand was amputated the pain would stop.

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The Other Wind

The fifthsixth* Earthsea book more than makes up for the shortcomings in the fourth. Le Guin is back to the sparse prose style that I loved so much in the first three books, and freely skips from character to character. Oh, and the story's good, too. ;^D It concerns the division between human and dragon, and between life and death. In the dry lands where no wind blows, the winds of change are rising.

And the winds of cleaning are blowing through my house at the moment. As usual, this means I've been rearranging furniture and giving stuff away.

*Oops. For some reason I thought this was the fifth book, but Tales from Earthsea is. Tales is a collection of shorter stories set in Earthsea, at least one of which impinges on Other Wind. So it's not a major loss that I got the order mixed up.

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25 November 2006

A Quantity of Quizzes

:^D Apparently I'm a blue-hearted, geeky Jean-Grey. Though I'm mildly surprised I didn't have a higher goth percentage on the first one.

You scored as Geek.















Are you punk, ghetto, gothic, preppy, etc.
created with QuizFarm.com<

You scored as Blue. Your heart is blue. You are a very calm and relaxed person. You are very caring and like helping others. You're grateful for what you have in life, even if it's not perfect. People love you for who you are, don\'t ever change that- it's what makes you the great person that you are.



















~What colour is your heart?~
created with QuizFarm.com

You scored as Jean Grey. Jean Grey is likely the most powerful X-Man. She loves Cyclops very much but she has a soft spot for Wolverine. She's psychic so she can sense how others are feeling and tries to help them. She also has to control her amazing powers or the malevolent Phoenix entity could take control of her and wreak havok. Powers: Telekinetic, Telepathic

Jean Grey








Emma Frost














Most Comprehensive X-Men Personality Quiz 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com

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24 November 2006


I have mixed feelings about this, the fourth Earthsea book. So far as I can tell, the only reason for choosing Tenar as the POV character was to make a point about feminism and equality. The story itself would have been better served with at least some snippets from Therru/Tehanu's POV (besides the "sudden revelation" at the very end). To be honest, I think telling the whole story from Tenar's POV weakened it. The story itself was quite fascinating, and on its own would have made the same point about equality, etc., without feeling...forced.

I also have a minor continuity complaint. At the end of Farthest Shore, Ged expressed RELIEF at what he had lost. It would have taken two paragraphs to segue from that to a sudden realization of what that loss actually meant, but those two paragraphs weren't there. Again, I think this was simply to force everything to be from Tenar's POV. Which serves the point LeGuin was trying to make, but not the story. And when the author's point overtakes the story, the result is not what it could have been. Still worth reading, but now I feel like crafting a more integrated version. *sighs*

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23 November 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Baking's all done, and the other day I happened to listen to my Laura Powers CD's. This song seemed appropriate to the holiday. It would be nice, though, if Laura Powers' melodies were as enjoyable as her lyrics. There are some good ones, but most of the others sound alike.

The winter was long, the frost was severe
No game had been brought down in this famine year
The ground is still frozen
The fields still lay bare
New growth in the woods
Was stunted and spare.

So they gathered together,
Together they prayed
A meal would be brought forth
On this holy day
Invoking her name to deliver them soon
The goddess of the hunter moon

They built a great fire reaching up to the sky
And watched the full moon
Take command of the night
Into the clearing came a buck and a boar
As if offering themselves in silent accord

The people rejoiced at the bountiful feast
In awe of the great power of the unseen
They gave thanks and praised her
For seeing them through
The goddess of the hunter moon

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22 November 2006

Pie Crust Promises?

Whoa. I have never ever had that little trouble with a gluten free pie crust before. I mean, at least one of them usually breaks badly enough that I have to patch it. There were absobloodylutely no problems this time. I made one or two minor modifications, so for the benefit of any fellow celiacs who wander here, I'll post the original recipe with the modifications.

I use Bette Hagman's Vinegar Pastry from the revised edition of The Gluten-Free Gourmet, but I double the recipe. Original:

2 c white rice flour ~~~~~~~~ 1.5 c tapioca flour ~~~~~ 1.5 c cornstarch
2 rounded t xanthan gum ~~~ 1.5 t salt ~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2 T sugar
1.5 c shortening ~~~~~~~~~~ 2 eggs ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2 T vinegar
4-6 T icewater

For the most part I left the dry ingredients alone, but I did use 1 c brown rice flour in place of half of the white rice flour and I decreased the salt slightly. Instead of shortening, I used 1.25 c butter (softened by 30 seconds in the microwave), with 0.25 c olive oil on standby. I didn't use all the olive oil, but I find that adding a bit of oil makes the crust much MUCH easier to handle. I probably used about 1 T of it. I also increased the eggs to 3. One other change: the recipe says to leave the dough in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it. I've always found that it comes out horribly dry, so this time I didn't put it in the fridge at all. No clue which change had the most effect, but I was quite quite pleased. I'm curious to see how the leftover crust handles when I make it into pie crust cookies. :^D

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Okay, who's the wise guy?

Just an FYI for anyone else who makes pumpkin pies from scratch. Avoid the supposed "pie pumpkins." Mom and I found two of them in town, which wouldn't quite have been enough for three pies (they're very small). The larger pumpkin that I got in Twin Falls cooked up cleanly, and after a short time in the blender took on the consistency of apple sauce. The pie pumpkin didn't cook cleanly, was extremely stringy, and was still not entirely smoothed out after half an hour in the blender.

The other pie pumpkin was too green even to cut. I tried. It took me ten minutes to get it cut open so I could see inside. It didn't LOOK green inside, but I figured it probably wouldn't soften up very well in the oven if it was starting out twelve times as hard as the other. After seeing how badly the other one did, I'm just as glad I threw out the green one. At any rate, I've concluded that the label "pie" pumpkin is just intended to annoy and confuse people, and is probably a ploy by the canned pumpkin industry to discourage people from making pies from scratch.

Anyway, I've got dry ingredients all mixed up for both pie crusts and bread. Pies will be made tonight; bread in the morning. Hmmm... I wonder if we're making fudge tomorrow? I suppose I ought to find out. I'm making dinner rolls and cinnamon-pull-apart rolls. It seems like there's usually something else I make...and I have no idea what it might be. I suppose I ought to stop rambling now.

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21 November 2006

A Quiz with Actual Questions

Not very accurate, though. :^D

Yes, the mystic says you are actually in

Yes, that would be Boulder, Colorado to be exact.

Though in the Quiz's defense, Boulder isn't THAT far from Fort Collins, Colorado, where I went to school. So apparently the inner product of Fort Collins and Pocatello is...Boulder. Freaky, dude. Freaky.

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Trading Books for Pumpkins

Long about last summer, Fibonacci sent some books back to Idaho with me. The plan was that one of his family who commutes between Twin Falls and Pocatello would pick them up. Never happened. So today I took them down myself (dropping off a few other things as well), and spent a lovely day catching up. There's also a nice Thai place in Twin Falls, but they make their Thai iced tea waaaaay too sweet. At least if it's not sweet enough (like at Chang's in Pocatello) I can ADD sweetener. Ah well. The food was good.

And Aunt Bee told me about a natural foods store, so I stopped off before heading back to Pocatello. They didn't have too much that I needed, though they do carry Enjoy Life chocolate chips (gluten, soy and dairy free). However they did have pumpkins. I have never understood why stores get rid of all their pumpkins so that there are none left by Thanksgiving. That's just when I need one to make pies with! And, yes, I could get one around Halloween, but I'm usually not thinking about it then. At any rate, I now have a full size pumpkin, plus the itty bitty ones that were all Mom and I could find in town.

Oh yes. It was windy on the way back. Which I rather enjoy in daylight, but it freaks me out at night. Especially when I'm surrounded by lots of traffic.

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20 November 2006

The Farthest Shore

And now I've finished the third Tale in the Earthsea Cycle. All I can say is...WOW. Short synopsis: The Words are Failing, all over Earthsea. The Gate between Life and Death has been breached and there will be no difference henceforth. Unless someone can close the Gate. Beautifully written. The best of the three so far.

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19 November 2006


So...I'm going to die in a duel with Cleopatra. Okay, who's got a working time machine?

Your arch-nemesis is:

Because they left their gum on your bed post
The winner will be...
You will kill each other in a duel
Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com

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17 November 2006

New Deviltry (aka Curses, Finished Again!)

The Tombs of Atuan was a quicker read. I haven't decided if it was because I related more to the lead character or because I was already in the proper mode to appreciate Le Guin's prose. And, yes, The Walrus & the Carpenter did have a copy of the third book, The Farthest Shore, but, unfortunately, it was badly water damaged, so I didn't get it. Still, it's amazing what potent ideas Le Guin can pack into such a short novel. There may be a Barnes and Noble visit in my future yet!

Anyway, I am apparently to play chauffeur tonight to me mam as we lay siege to the vile dungeon of Wal-Mart. Amusing bits from the transcript:

Mom: What's the plan for tonight?
Me: There's a plan?

After I figure out she wants me to drive her to Wal-Mart:
Me: Okay. I'll be right over.
Mom: No, you don't need to hurry.
Me: Oh. So what time should I get there?
Mom: Whenever is fine.
Me: What if I get there at midnight?
Mom: That's too late.
Me: Right. So when should I get there?
Mom: Before seven.

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Items Found A-Seekin' the Hawk

A collection of interesting quotations.

A selection of contemplative poems.

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16 November 2006


A Wizard of Earthsea is only the second book I've read by Ursula K. Le Guin. The first was Left Hand of Darkness, some ten years past now. I think I liked Wizard better, though I would have to go back and reread now to be sure. Firstly, the writing style is beautiful. Wonderful. The text is pared down to its bare essence with nothing extra at all. In some cases, I would have liked more details, but they would be for curiosity's sake and not because the story required them. Also there are hints that more may be revealed in the later volumes of the series.

One thing that Wizard is not, is typical fantasy. Yes, there is magic. There are wizards. There are dragons. Yet the story is much more internal. It is a battle in the psyche rather than in the world itself, though the world is affected. The ending at first seemed unsatisfying, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it couldn't have ended any other way. I had even come to expect such an ending (though I did expect more, er, "fireworks" than there were).

At its heart, Wizard tells the tale of Ged, called Sparrowhawk, who is gifted with extraordinary magical talents from a young age, but is also cursed with inordinate pride. The pride is his undoing, and sets the course for the rest of the book. It sets loose a shadow in the world, a shadow which only Ged can stop, yet Ged seems powerless over it. In Le Guin's system of magic, to know a thing's True Name is to have control over it. Therein lies the key and the riddle.

Highly recommended, and now I'm half-tempted to go break into Waldenbooks to get the next book. Though I'd have to leave money for the damages as well as for the book, so I might as well wait until tomorrow.

ADDENDUM: Waldenbooks only has Tombs of Atuan in a rather unfortunate trade paperback version. Since I go up to IF tomorrow anyway, I'd rather try to find a more attractive version. The cover has pictures from the Sci-Fi channel's much-despised version and the text is in a horrible font. Combine that with the extra price for trade paperback size and I refuse to buy it. So I'll try Barnes and Noble.

RE-ADDENDUM: Braved the L-Space of the Walrus and the Carpenter to find it. Sure, chain bookstores also generate L-Space, but it's tame. This was the truly wild, whirling variety. Books were alphabetized backwards! ;^D

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15 November 2006


So, um, I think I'm tired. Yeah. Tired. I said "Goodbye, Contacts!" after taking them out, and I've been talking to all the furniture and announcing that I'm not drunk, since, after all, I don't drink. However, I think I'm doing a good approximation of it. Though I think the food helped some. So I'm actually typing in coherent sentences. More or less. For a given value of coherent. Anyway, uh, Merry Wednesday to all and to all a Good Night! Or have a Pippin Wednesday if you prefer. I care not. If you want to have Frodo Wednesday, you'll have to see if Kim and Spence will let you borrow their dachsund. Frodo. That's the dachsund's name. And Sam is Pam's sister, so don't go getting any ideas. Ummm... I think the coherency level is plummetting. Like a dachsund without a parachute. (No that's not a threat Kim; it's me rambling). Right. So, me go sleep now. After watching launch of bowling balls on Mythbuster's.

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13 November 2006

Magnets, Sheets and Tires

Friday night, my mom was bored and sick of practicing piano and organ, so I let her drag me out to the mall. We wandered into Dillard's, which is pretty rare. Neither of us much likes the store. However, I lucked into some very VERY nice sheets for an amazing price. I've been looking for some different sheets for a while, but whenever I found any, either they were too expensive or I didn't quite like the color. There were some gorgeous turquoise sheets, 500 thread count, and I reluctantly looked at the price. I couldn't believe it. So I picked up another package and looked at its price. The same. I looked at several more packages of that color, and all the queen size ones were $25 (marked down from an original price of $99). Out of curiosity, I looked at the price of the same brand in a different color. None of the other colors was marked down. I found this odd, as the deep, rich turquoise was clearly the prettiest available color. Now, I was already amazed at the price, and at the register they took off another 50%, so I wound up paying $12.50 (+ tax) for a set of hundred dollar sheets.

The next day, Mom and I went to a craft show at the greenhouse. They do this every year around Christmas. I found an awesome magnet board. See, I have two sets of magnetic poetry, and my fridge is already rather full of magnets. I'd been planning to make a magnet board anyway, but I knew that for the price, this one was a heckuva lot better than anything I could make. It's got three 2-foot-square metal panels, surrounded by a wood frame, so it looks like a small door. With that in mind, I decided to mount it on the door to my computer office at home. I wasn't entirely sure it would work, as it's a hollow core door. However, the hardware store conveniently had some anchors labelled "best for panelling and hollow-core doors." So I attached a one-by-two using the anchors, attached some metal bits to the magnet board, set the board on the one-by-two, and anchored in the metal pieces to keep it from falling over. That was enjoyable. It also avoided putting any major holes in the magnet board.

Then this morning I decided it might actually be time to get my snow tires put on. Either I waited long enough that everyone else had already done theirs or I lucked out, as I got in and out of Les Schwab in about thirty minutes. That's a record. I'd actually hoped it would take longer, as I was trying to get a set of homework graded while I was waiting. :^D It's almost done now, and I suppose I ought to get back to it.

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12 November 2006


Another Neil Gaiman book. It's one of his books aimed at younger readers. Enjoyable, but I do prefer his books that are directed toward a more adult audience. It's fairly creepy. Part of the plot will be familiar. Young bored girl discovers an alternate world where everything seems to be better, at first. The most obvious oddity is that all the apparent humans in the alternate world have buttons sewn on for eyes. Unsurprisingly, the alternate world isn't really better, in fact it's much much worse, and the rest of the book deals with Coraline's attempts to escape/confront it. Well done, just... eh, something missing, I guess. Still, because it's Gaiman, there are some very amusing exchanges:

"We...we could be friends, you know," said Coraline.

"We could be rare specimens of an exotic breed of African dancing elephants," said the cat. "But we're not. At least," it added cattily, after darting a brief look at Coraline, "I'm not."

Coraline has called the police to report that her real parents are missing:
"I think my other mother has them both in her clutches. She may want to keep them and sew their eyes with black buttons, or she may simply have them to lure me back into reach of her fingers. I'm not sure."

At any rate, it's worth reading once. I think I'll pass it on to friends of mine with kids now. :^D

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10 November 2006

Random Friday Quiz

Well, not completely random. I found it on Pharyngula. However, it was fairly straight-forward, and, hey, Idaho IS in the West. Not being a linguist, I can't vouch for its overall accuracy. :^D

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The West

Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you're a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

The Midland


North Central

The Inland North


The South

The Northeast

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

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08 November 2006

Monk: It's what's for Dinner!

Well, technically, lunch. And that's monkfish. A while back, I visited a locally run butcher shop, hunting for sausage that I could eat. They had some. Yesterday I went back to resupply, and they had "monkfish" listed on their fresh fish board. I asked what it tasted like. The cashier and a customer both agreed that it was somewhat like lobster, and said that the fish was sometimes called "Poor Man's Lobster." So I got two filets of it (they were HUGE filets) and cooked it up for lunch today. The butcher shop even gave me a recipe for it: saute in 3 oz. butter with a tablespoon of lemon juice. So I sauteed it in 3 oz. olive oil with two tablespoons lemon juice and two tablespoons of honey, with some red pepper, cardamom and coriander. Then I threw in some frozen green beans and carrots and let them get softened up before serving it over brown rice. Anyway, it's quite tasty. The flavor is reminiscent of lobster, but the texture is much, much better. Softer. Or maybe I've just never had very good lobster. ;^D It's also a quite filling fish. So I'm probably going to get four meals out of those two filets (and the veggies and rice).

Random facts: brown rice is a good source of zinc; so are most seafoods. And here is a nutritional breakdown for monkfish, and here is the same for brown rice. Brown rice definitely has more than monkfish. And that reminds me...need to take multivitamins while there's enough food in my stomach. 'sall for now.

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07 November 2006


Woke up to the strains of little mouse feet at about 4:00 am. I thought I had that hole plugged. *sighs* I didn't really get back to sleep after that. If I'd realized I had a fever, some Advil might have taken care of that. When my alarm finally went off and I figured out I had a fever, I did take some Advil. I felt much better as soon as it kicked in. Better still after helping with the taiji class this afternoon. I managed to avoid doing any real work whilst teaching my classes. Math025 I've just been reviewing briefly at the beginning of class and then giving the students problems to work in, solo or group. Math257, I talked through some tiling/tesselation vocabulary and theorems, demonstrated some of them on the ELMO, then let them try to make Escher patterns.

Since I'm finally hungry again, I figure that this cold or whatever it is that's giving me the fever is on its way out. I wasn't hungry most of yesterday. Correction: Every kind of food I thought of sounded horrible yesterday. Today I've been semi-starved as a result. Oh, and I may have figured out why green tea started making me nauseous a while back. Goes back to the whole metallothionein thing, but via a very circuitous route. Short version: some of the minerals in green tea may interfere with zinc absorption (tied to metallothionein). The ones I've seen a connection for are gallium and fluoride. So I've probably been low in zinc for quite a while, and the excess copper from the copper tea kettle made it worse. However, I think my copper levels have normalized now, and I'm back on my multivitamin, so maybe when my zinc levels get back to normal, I'll be able to enjoy green tea again. At the moment, I can only drink it if it's very VERY weak, and even then not a full cup.

Oh, and don't suggest pure zinc supplements. I can't handle straight zinc. I found that out long before I'd even HEARD of gluten intolerance or metallothionein.

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04 November 2006


For no particular reason, I went hunting for images of Esmerelda Weatherwax, and came across some interesting sites in the process. For those who don't know her, Granny Weatherwax is the most powerful witch in the Discworld. She's too proud to be anything but good, especially since her sister went off and became the evil one. One of my favorite quotes from her is "Let's do some good!" Picture an older woman with a very nasty smile on her face saying this as if pronouncing mankind's doom. *grins*

However, the most interesting site compares her to a Mazatec chota chine. There's a fascinating discussion about how "chota chine" ought to be translated. The usual translation is "wise one". But looking at the root Mazatec words suggests that there is a meaning of "mastery" and "completeness." It reminds me of some stuff I've seen in Taoist tracts. Sometimes the Taoist masters are called "Immortals" (and there is argument over whether this was literal, physical immortality or something more figurative; in Chinese legend, at least, physical immortality is implied). However, the Immortals are often referred to as "Real People." As in, they are the only ones who are truly complete, truly real. Everyone else lives a half-life at best, never seeing the "really real world."

And this also fits with Terry Pratchett's descriptions of witchcraft through Granny Weatherwax. Witches have "first sight and second thoughts." "First sight" means they see what's really there. Ask any police officer who's ever taken witness statements and he/she/it'll tell you that first sight is a rare gift. Plenty of people see things that aren't there. Plenty of people miss things that are. Second thoughts means thinking about your own thoughts. Most people are so caught up in just the thinking of their thoughts that they don't even notice them, let alone think about them. They don't think about why they think the things they do.

One of the most important skills to learn for taiji is often called "listening." It has very little to do with sound. It might be more accurate to call it "awareness" yet it's an awareness that feels like listening. Listening to your opponent's energy and movement. Feeling where the vulnerable spots are and when they are no longer vulnerable. Seeing where the opponent really is and what he's really doing rather than being so caught up in your own attack that you don't notice you've already been neutralized. So there are two levels of awareness. First, awareness of what your own body is doing; possibly I could describe it as second non-thoughts, since it's more sliding under thoughts than thinking about them. Second, awareness of what your opponent is actually doing: first "sight".

I've made several leaps in the past year in push-hands skill, or so my partners and teacher tell me. They say my root has improved; i.e. it's very difficult to push me over using brute force. They say my following ability has improved. They say I catch more of the openings that are there, and am more often successful at taking advantage of them. Don even says that he's finally got a student who can give him an actual challenge at push hands, though he still pushes me out twenty-nine times for every one time I get him. But a major key to that change is simply awareness. I can now feel my own vulnerabilities, and correct them. Some of the time, at least.

Anyway, I've wandered a bit, but my main point is that being really in this world involves being aware of it. Accepting it for what it is. Acknowledging what it is not. Seeing what's really there. Being aware of your own thoughts about it. I figure that taiji is one path towards that goal, and that I've inched my way a bit closer. I sometimes think you have to walk the knife's edge, as Granny Weatherwax does, if you become truly aware. "Good and bad is trickey. I ain't too certain about where people stand. P'raps what matters is which way you face."

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03 November 2006

New Allergies, New Shows

Not that there's any real connection behind the two, except that both were events of yesterday. Actually, I got my first hint about the allergy on Wednesday, when my underarms began burning and peeling. First suspect was of course the deodorant, so after my shower I didn't put any of it on. By Thursday morning, I'd almost forgotten about it...until I DID put the deodorant on. Less than five minutes later, burning again. So, I hit the web for research. The culprit was "zinc ricinoleate". I'd link to an article about allergies to it, but it seems to require a subscription (and ISU must have one, since I was able to access it from my office). At any rate, it's extracted from castor beans. And I can be certain that ingredient was the problem, because there's a deodorant identical to it, except that it doesn't have zinc ricinoleate in it, and I didn't react to it this morning.

This sentence made me laugh, "The toxin ricin can be obtained from castor beans, but it is a protein. Ricinoleic acid is a fat, so there is no relation between the two materials." That's right up there with saying "Wheat starch is a starch. Gluten is a protein. There's no relation between the two." Maybe not, but it's nearly impossible to get wheat starch that does not contain gluten (there is supposedly a European or British wheat starch that has managed it; no American brand is considered gluten-free). Likewise, I suspect, for zinc ricinoleate and ricin. Incidentally, ricin is quite, quite deadly. It was even featured on an episode of CSI.

Which takes me to the new show I watched last night. New to me, at any rate. My Name is Earl is a very, very, very odd show. If it were done badly, it would be horrid. But it's done quite well. Random taste of it. Earl has gone to a convent to apologize to a nun for faking the voice of God to her, and there's a little orphan girl there helping the nun make a cake. She looks at Earl. "I lived in a storm drain for two months." She says it in a deadly serious tone of voice that actually works for a kid. Earl blinks and says, "Well, I had to live in my car for three months." The kid just looks back at him. "Did a pack of stray dogs ever force you to move?" Earl backs off. "Let's not turn this into a contest, okay?" It's...bizarre, but entertaining. At least, if you like quirky humor.

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01 November 2006

Click for More Six Word Stories

Some of Robert Jordan's fans contributed a whole lot more in the comments on his news log. Some good. Some not. Some...slightly over six words. :^D

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31 October 2006

Happy Halloween

Go, see the dire figures of demons in torment. The caption suggests there are humans in the shape, but humans generally have fewer horns. ;^D Looks to me like we've got a squid and two semi-human demons living in that nebula. *cues eerie music*

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30 October 2006


It's not exactly news to me that I'm not interested in doing research, whether it be in math, physics, or some other field. I read about the process, nod to myself, and have no inclination to go through any of it myself. Grants? Papers? Conferences? I just don't see the point. I mean, it's great that others do, but I can't muscle up any enthusiasm for them whatsoever.

So then I start researching the publishing process. There are definite similarities. Instead of grant proposals, there are query letters. Instead of papers, there are stories and novels, etc. And there are still conferences. But when I look at the publication process, I get interested and excited, and start thinking things like "That's not too bad. I could manage that." I suppose one major difference is that you don't need grant money to get started. In theory, all you need is a pen and a piece of paper (though personally I prefer my laptop). But, still, the idea of getting my writing published fascinates me. The idea of getting funding for research, presenting research, redoing research, bores me to tears.

I suspect this is why I've never made any actual effort at getting my doctorate. I still take classes now and then, but the classes interest me more as chances to solve strange and abstract puzzles. I'm not all that interested in pushing the envelope to puzzles that haven't been solved yet. It's not something I'd want to put a lot of effort into. Yet I'll spend an entire day just thinking out plot elements and character development, and not consider it work. So...conclusion? I'm a writer who'll never make it as a scientific researcher. Kudos to those who enjoy that, just keep it away from MY desk. ;^D

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28 October 2006

Anansi Boys

I guess I've been in a reading mood lately, since I just finished another new paperback. I really enjoyed American Gods, and Anansi Boys is at least as good, if not better. The name Anansi comes from a West African god, about whom there are many many stories. I have no idea how much the stories in Gaiman's version resemble the originals, but they have the right flavor. As for the book itself, it's about the two sons of Anansi. I suppose you could call it a "coming of age"/"reuniting family" story. But it's also a story about stories. ;^D And how Tiger wants the stories back from Anansi. And how Tiger should never ally himself with Weasel. And how the Bird Woman keeps her promises. Oh, and how old gods never really die. Highly recommended.

One minor caveat: I found the beginning a bit slow, and hard to get into. But after the first fifty pages or so, it was difficult to put down.

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27 October 2006

Time to Try Again

*sighs* Got my manuscript back today, with a rejection form letter. Well, there's one. In the next week I need to decide whether to submit someplace else or try to get an agent to submit for me (and, hence, start submitting query letters to agents). There aren't that many publishers who will even look at unsolicited manuscripts, unfortunately. So...happy? No. Not surprised either. It seems to be pretty rare to make it on your first go. Ah well. The stamps are pretty. Now to find something to impale the rejection letter on...

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I noticed I had headers beginning with 'A', 'B', and 'C' that were not in order, so I fixed that. Then the 'L' seemed out of place, so I changed it to a 'D' and put it in order as well. One comic changeover. Aikida is not going to continue on the storyline that I was enjoying (author cites inability to get things drawn to his satisfaction). I'll check in now and then to see what he does wind up doing, but if it goes back to a gag format like it was prior to the recent efforts, I'm out. I don't care for the author's sense of humor (if you can call it that) on those. So I replaced it with a rather odd, time-jumping comic about King Arthur

In other news, I gave a test to my Math257 class yesterday. I focused only on the most basic stuff we'd done, and thought it might have been far, far too easy. The students disagreed. Several walked out with the frazzled "Where am I? What just happened?" look that I remember from some of my physics classes. We'll see how bad the damage is when I get them graded. On the bright side, while there were three people still there at 14:15 (end of class), they were all working on the false logic bonus on the last page. :^D At the very least, it wasn't too long. Let's see... one question where they had to find an angle on a diagram; one about the angles on a regular polygon; one on networks (drawing and traversibility); one unit conversion; one find the area of a weird, flat shape; one Pythagorean; one similarity problem; one match the pictures to the descriptions. The longest calculation was on the unit conversions (feet per second into miles per hour). The most tedious was probably the area one, since you have to break the shape up into triangles and rectangles, then add up all the separate areas. I'll find out what the "hardest" one was when I grade it.

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25 October 2006

These Stories are Six Words Long!

(Mostly) :^) Via Neil Gaiman's blog, a link to a Wired article featuring short SHORT stories from many authors. Some favorites:

Kirby had never eaten toes before.
- Kevin Smith

Epitaph: He shouldn't have fed it.
- Brian Herbert

Nevertheless, he tried a third time.
- James P. Blaylock

Mind of its own. Damn lawnmower.
- David Brin

He read his obituary with confusion.
- Steven Meretzky

AM Thoughts: Hmmm... you could almost string these right together into an intriguingly disturbing thirty word story. ;^D

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24 October 2006

Dream as wish fulfillment?

Anyone else remember the Star Trek episode where Picard was trapped on the holodeck and didn't know it? Part of the giveaway was that he had a mild cut (hand or forehead? Maybe both) and it kept coming back, no matter how many times he went to sick-bay and had Dr. Crusher seal it up.

Well, the only thing I remember about this dream was that I really needed a decongestant. I remembered taking one, and it was too soon to take another, but the one I'd taken was having no effect. When I woke up, I had a mildly sore throat and did need a decongestant. So I figure the one I took in the dream was like the holo-wound-sealer: not effective in real life.

No real connection, but I popped Moulin Rouge into the DVD player whilst grading papers yesterday. It is as well done as I remember. If you haven't seen it, it's a musical, but most of the songs are either new versions of old ones (applied in an entirely unexpected way) or combinations from many many older songs (and, amazingly, they all work well together). It contains the most disturbing rendition of Like a Virgin that I ever hope to see. The weird thing is that, even though the story is entirely different, there is a similar flavor to Big Fish. Maybe it's the way the whole thing feels like a huge anti-fairy tale.

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22 October 2006

Fish Stories

I don't know why, but there is almost never anything decent scheduled on Saturday evening television. Possibly it's because they don't expect anyone to be home. At any rate, that seemed like a good reason to pop in my DVD of Big Fish, probably purchased at the same time as House of Flying Daggers. I wasn't sure what to expect. It had sounded like something I would enjoy. And it was. Every minute of it. It's...comedic, and dramatic, and dark and bright, and, really, doesn't categorize well at all. At its heart is a father who tells seemingly unbelievable stories about his life, and a son who just wants to know the truth. One of the things that I really like is that there is no clear line drawn between fact and fable. The stories are presented as is. Excellently, and entertainingly, done.

By a strange coincidence, I picked up a book of "false logic puzzles." In other words, logic puzzles where people may or may not be telling the truth. You have some information (the guilty party told exactly one truth; at least one statement is false) but you still have to work through and figure out which statements are true and which are false. One of the simplest versions comes from the movie Labyrinth: Sarah comes to two door with odd-looking characters on them. She's allowed to ask one of them one question, and knows that one of them tells the truth and the other always lies (but not which). One door leads to the castle and the other two certain death. She asks the one on the left whether the one on the right would tell her that the door on the left led to the castle. He says "Yes." And this told her NOT to choose the door on the left. Why? Because if Lefty is telling the truth, then Righty is not, and so the door on the right goes to the castle. If Lefty is lying, then Righty would tell her "No" and be telling the truth, so the door on the right still goes to the castle. Anyway, the book is a lot of fun to work through. And gives me material for bonus questions on tests! ;^)

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20 October 2006

A Song in the Dark

The latest Vampire Files novel came out in paperback at the beginning of October, and I finally picked it up last Saturday. Unlike some other vampire series I may have mentioned on this blog, this one keeps getting better and better. P. N. Elrod's style was good to start, and is now awesome. One change it a mite predictable: she realized that her vampire's hypnosis ability was a bit too powerful, and, naturally, it has now come down with a severe limitation. But still, awesome storyline, awesome characterization.

Basically, the vampire files are hardboiled detective stories that happen to have a vampire protagonist. It is possible to read any of them standalone, but you'll miss out on a lot of backstory that way. Anyway, in the 9th book, ol' Jack Fleming got caught up in a gang war, and messed him (and his head) up real bad. He's still got the shakes from it, and in the 10th he's still in charge until the local mob-leader recovers. And, hey, guess what? The New York mafiosos want to know what in the blazes that little snafu was all about and send down one of their own. Meanwhile, someone's going around killing the hired help, slashing Jack's tires, and generally making unlife even more miserable for him. Not that he needs the help. He's doing a pretty good job beating himself up when others don't. I will make one semi-spoiler comment: in a first-person narrative, if there are still fifty or so pages left, you're reasonably certain the narrator is going to survive. ;^D

Oddly, I can sort of relate to how Jack feels in this book. It's similar to the way I started feeling last February. Unfortunately, I didn't have an Escott to bludgeon me back to my senses. *shrugs* Thankfully, my case was much less extreme than Jack's. :^) And I'm quite glad it didn't involve someone trying to skin me alive. Though at times I think that might have been preferable...eh, probably not.

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18 October 2006

Shiver Me Copper Timbers

On Sunday, I helped my mom (and dad) unload the pieces for a garden shed that will be put up on Thursday. I wound up (mostly) being the one in the pickup bed, moving stuff out to where Mom and Dad could reach it, likely because I'm the only one who doesn't mind climbing up and down from there. That was enjoyable. Then since Dad's pickup was there anyway, he decided he wanted to pick up the remnants of Mom's pear tree. She'd had it cut down the week before. I'm honestly not sure why. Partially it was because it had gotten too tall to actually get to the pears, but that seems an odd reason to just get rid of it.

Anyway, once the pickup was empty of shed pieces, we all began carrying the chopped up tree to it. Not as enjoyable as unloading the shed, but still sort of fun. Until I got done, and lay down in the grass, waiting, and noticed that my arms were starting to itch. Worse, they were starting to break out in little red spots. As far as I know, I'm not allergic to pear trees, but I looked around and suddenly had a good idea what had happened. My mom confirmed it. The people who cut up the tree had trimmed the pine bushes in front first. I'm allergic to those bushes. We found that out the year Grandma had me help pull up a vine that was growing around the one in back (likely Virginia Creeper). So I was a bit annoyed. Luckily we were done then and I could go home and spray some Benadryl onto the hives. They went clear up and down the inside of my forearms, a bit on the outside, and a few on the back of my right hand. I've still got remnants of the hives, but today they just look like little scratches.

Entirely unrelated, I've been having some odd symptoms lately. Bad taste in the mouth. Nausea. Mild stomach pain. After much hunting and many false leads, I finally found that they matched the symptoms of mild copper overdose. More telling, the protein associated with regulating copper absorption (as well as other metals) is also implicated in gluten intolerance. It's called metallothionein. The protein has also been connected to schizophrenia and ADHD (header: Schizophrenia). Incidentally, I suspect that my dad is one of the 4% of schizophrenics who would be cured if he went gluten-free. He'll never do it, unfortunately.

The nice thing about figuring this out is that I know exactly where the extra copper has been coming from: a copper-bottom teapot that I got this summer. I didn't use it too much in the summer, so it makes perfect sense that the symptoms would begin showing up as it got colder outside and I started drinking more tea. So I now have a brand new teapot. I got a nice, pricey steel one this time, that whistles when the water boils. What I found indicated that the symptoms should dissipate once the extra copper was removed, and they do seem to be fading. Too early to be certain, but I'm pretty sure I've hit the right solution.

Let's see... non-health-related news? Well, I actually got midterm grades submitted on time. I usually don't. I usually just give students their grades in class at some point during the appropriate week. Every class but one had a test last week, too. *mutters to herself*

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