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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13 October 2006

Hearing and Breathing Stars

There was a symphony on Wednesday night. My Math015 students had a test, so I arranged for someone else to be there to distribute and collect it. The symphony was awesome. It was the annual pops concert, which translates to "stuff not usually considered classical" and usually includes more modern pieces. There were medleys from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, but the best part was the Star Wars medley. One of the violins had been sharping through the earlier pieces, and it did a bit in the Main Theme from Star Wars, but then it seemed to fix itself. It was very awesome to hear that music played live. We got the Throne Room, Han and Leia's Theme, May the Force be With You, the, uh, space trumpets (don't know the name of that piece; shows up just as the Death Star gets ready to fire and blows up, and several other places)... Missing was The Imperial March and Yoda's Theme. Ah well. The rest was pretty awesome anyway.

The last piece didn't really fit the pops theme. It was Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto in C Minor. Interesting tone piece. The first two movements were all twilight, like pale teals lingering in the shadows. Not very much color at all. All faded out. The last movement had a sort of explosion of color, with bright yellows and reds. I was starting to get tired of it before the third movement, but there it improved immensely. It felt like an experimental piece. Interesting result, just not something I enjoyed all that much.

And my mom has all but one of her windows in now. The missing one is, of course, the egress window for the basement. The guy who cuts for those is apparently backlogged into the next millenium. Or something like that. Anyway, the fumes from the REST of the windows are quite bad enough. She had at least 20 times as much of that sealant put on as I did, since she had ALL her windows done. I was over there for a while today, and had to leave. Ugh. She does have air purifiers running, but so far they aren't enough. Too much stench, not enough air purifiers. The smell makes me nauseous and feverish, besides messing with my head. At my house, the smell seems to be gone now except right beside the windows, so maybe by Tuesday, Mom's house will be breatheable again.

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11 October 2006


Remember I mentioned that my mom sprung for replacing two very old windows in my house? Well, they were put in Monday. Pretty easy job, from the looks of it. Cut the seals on the old ones, push them out (one had a good go at resisting), push the new ones in, put a few screws to hold them in place, then apply sealant around the cracks. Great, wonderful, they lood good and all. The sealant smells horrible. Take new paint smell, throw in something sharp and sour, multiply by a factor of ten or more, and that's it. On Monday, I was extremely tired and out of it and didn't realize why. I'm pretty sure the sealant smell was to blame.

In fact, I woke up tired on Tuesday, likely because of the smell permeating the basement, but I was gone most of the morning and started feeling much better. When I got back, the smell nearly bowled me over. That's when I decided to get out my old ionic air purifier. It's old enough that it produces quite a bit of ozone as a by-product, but I'll take ozone over that nasty, nauseating smell any day. At any rate, only a few hours after I turned it on, the majority of the smell was gone. There's still a bit of it lingering on, so I'll leave the purifier on for a few days more, but it is SOOO much better now.

One irony, though. When Consumer Reports rated air purifiers, they basically saturated the air with nasty stuff you wouldn't want to breathe, and checked to see how much the machines got rid of. They said not to bother with the purely ionic ones: they didn't do ANYthing. This result makes me suspect their test was too artificial. This thing is eating up the odor quite nicely. And, even though ozone isn't particularly good for you, ozone also helps to break down odors. I don't know the details, but Spencer's company deals in flood/fire restorations, and one of the tools they use to get out bad smells is an ozone machine. It produces more ozone than this little thing does, but you can't be in the house while it's being used. :^)

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09 October 2006

I Wanna Be a Part of It: New York, NY!

The package I referred to last week arrived in New York on Thursday. It's my first attempt to publish anything I've written. The submission guidelines say it may take up to 3 months to process a manuscript, so I figure 'round about the beginning of next year, I should be seeing my first rejection slip. :^) Yeah, I might luck out. Who knows. And the stamps I included on the SASE are pretty cool, so if nothing else I'll get to keep those if they return the manuscript. I wonder what happens to the SASE if they don't reject it...? *shrugs*

Also, this weekend, fun at flea markets.
There was a flea market advertised on signs all over town, and I decided to wander by on Saturday. Mostly it was a bunch of local antique stores with booths set up, but there was a book-seller from Twin Falls and some apparent independents. The book-seller also had some cool dish towels he'd brought back from Australia. Wrong material to be of any use as a dish towel, but the design was the perfect color to put in my yellow hallway. Also, I'm rather fond of Aboriginal art. :^D At some point, I may try to stretch it over a bit of cardboard and find a better way to hang it up. The pushpins work, but they're not the most attractive things in the world.

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06 October 2006

Sand, Daggers and Bowls

I ordered a CD through Amazon a while back, with a book that is taking longer to ship than expected, so they sent the CD first. It's called Seven Metals: Singing Bowls of Tibet. It's not one I'd recommend for recreational listening, but it works very well for meditation. The quality of the recording is amazing. You can hear AND feel the reverberations from the bowls. And while there are additional instruments, none of them detract from the sounds of the bowls. A lot of times recordings like this are mixed in with modern and synth instruments, with a driving beat in the background, which ruins them imo. This one is very nicely done.

Also this week, I finally watched my DVD of House of Flying Daggers. I got it a few weeks back during one of Fred Meyer's DVD sales. It is also very nicely done. Many of the same people involved with Hero were involved in this one, so it has the same overall flavor. Which means there are lots of plot twists and you're never quite sure who's on which side. It also means that the ending is less than happy, though in a weird way it isn't. Awesome fight scenes, lots of color. Highly recommended. Though I have to quibble a bit. In one scene, a character takes a direct hit to the heart from the hilt of a sword or dagger...and continues fighting. Sorry, but that was almost certainly fatal, blade or no.

I guess that leaves the sand. I finally had a chance to work some more on my pathway from the back door to the garage. All the brick are in place, but I haven't finished filling in the gaps with sand. Then I've got some decorative rock to put in places where bricks wouldn't fit. But it is that much closer to being done. :^)

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02 October 2006

Shelves and Stew and Stamps, oh my!

Going in reverse order, a random fact: A stack of 360 8.5 x 11 inch papers will not fit in a 10 x 13 inch envelope. However, such a stack will fit in a 12.5 x 18 inch bubblewrap envelope. Also, postage on such a stack is rather steep.

I've got stew, er, stewing on the stove. I call it "Cheating Stew" as I did not chop any vegetables for it. I found two frozen packages of chopped bell peppers and onions and used them instead. I shall see how it tastes in an hour or so. (UPDATE: Better than I expected. Not quite as good as with fresh veggies, but still quite tasty.)

And I got the rest of my shelves up. So here are the pictures with all but one of my Peña dragons on them, a Peña gargoyle, and a bottle that probably came from a dollar store. Oh, and entirely unconnected, my mom's old lava lamp! :^D

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01 October 2006

Pre-October (mostly)

Hmmm... not much has happened this week. I graded my first set of Math257 tests (Geometry and Stats for Elementary Teachers). I was reasonably pleased. For one thing, the tests were about the right length. I'm never sure about that in a class I've never taught before. I was afraid they were too short, but two people hung on until the very end, and most people took about an hour (class is 75 minutes). No one bombed it, either, which is a first for me as a teacher. Of course, this is also the first math class I've taught that had Calculus as a prereq. This stuff is largely easier than Calculus.

In Math025, we had a graphing lab on Friday. Only one of my students showed up (but that section has only 5 or 6 students total). Several of the other instructor's did. My class had just finished the graphing chapter, so I figured that I could just hand out the worksheet and let them work on it, and be around to answer questions. Turns out the other class had only GOTTEN TO the graphing chapter the day before. So I gave a brief synopsis of all the topics, at ten minute intervals, to give them time to work before giving them anything else new.

On Saturday, I got to give everyone a report from the Ben Lo workshop, since I was the only one who made it down there. And I THINK Don thought I'd jumped a level in push hands. Or at least I may be on the verge of jumping a level. I was getting away from some of his attacks that used to catch me all the time. Mark was still pushing me out with some oldies, though. So I still have work to do.

And today, I finally put up some of my shelves. There will be two others opposite the window, but I only got one up before running out of wall-anchors for the screws.

Here is the east wall, with my candle-ledge, which is as close as I'm ever likely to have to a fireplace in this house. The scroll came from a Japanese paper shop in Estes Park that, alas, seems to be defunct now. The plaque was on sale at Fred Meyer. There are matching ones with different characters, but Fred Meyer is currently out of all but Serenity. *shrugs*

Last, a picture of the door. I realized that, while it's impossible to get a decent shot of it from the hallway, I CAN get it from inside the room. You can also see the beaded curtain I put up to divide the hallway from the kitchen. The large, right-side-up symbol on the door is an "om", from the Sanskrit alphabet. The rest are up-side-down Chinese characters.

Incidentally, any comments about red/white boundaries needing touchups will be ignored. Yes, they do. No, it's not going to happen right now.

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