31 January 2007

Dreams and NIghtmares

I think I had one of the classic nightmares last night. That or I met a demon (but since it went away when I woke up, I figure it was a nightmare ;^). It felt like I woke up, but I wasn't in my room. The details of my bed were right, and I was in a basement, but instead of the large escape window, it had one of the more typical 12 x 18 inch basement windows. There was a shelf or a filing cabinet close to the window with a toy black cat sitting on it. The black cat seemed sinister in the dream, though on waking it seemed rather comical. That's not the nightmare bit.

When I "woke up," I was aware of someone/thing in the room with me. I tried to call out, "Who are you?!" but I couldn't move my lips and no sound came out at all. I tried to call out several times. Then a dark, semi-transparent shape came towards me. I remember something shaped sort of like a torso, with arms, but I don't remember a head or any legs. A black semi-transparent cape spread around the torso, which was a semi-transparent brown. I was completely paralyzed and on my back. As the thing came closer, I felt enormous pressure on my chest. Painful pressure. I could still breathe, and finally managed to make a sound through the paralysis, a sort of "mmmmmnnnnnggg" since my mouth still wouldn't move. Making the sound woke me up. Once I verified that, yes, I could move again, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

I had another nightmare last night, and now the only thing I remember is that when I woke up from it, I was also on my back. I don't normally sleep on my back. I also don't normally have nightmares. I do have odd dreams, but unless I'm actually afraid during the dream, I don't consider it a nightmare. Based on this small sample size, I have concluded that I should avoid sleeping on my back in future. Still, I think it's kind of cool to actually be able to say I've had the classic "pressure on the chest" nightmare.

Inquire Further

29 January 2007

New Site

New blog under "Blogs." Semi-blog, really. Damn Interesting publishes, well, damn interesting articles. The topics vary, but mostly hit scientific and historical peculiarities.

Oh, and my obsessive compulsive side is showing... It bugs me to have two entries that start with the same letter of the alphabet when not all letters are represented, so, uh, I've been editing names... If the odd changes bother me more than the disorder did, I may change them back.

Inquire Further

27 January 2007


I forgot to mention the calligraphy/music demo from last night. Someone brought in a traditional Chinese instrument which I think was the Guzheng. Something very similar if not. Think, sideways harp, since it's plucked rather than bowed. I'd heard it on recordings before but never seen one. (Here is an mp3 music sample.)

Don's feeling better this week. He's still a bit weak, but he's actually seeming more himself than he has since around Christmas, so I'm rather relieved. He went through most of the warm-ups with us, albeit sitting on a stool rather than the ground, and went through the first third of the form before deciding he needed to sit awhile. Meanwhile, Melissa started feeling ill during class. Either a stomach bug or food poisoning. She sat out most of the time as well, and I wound up driving us back in her car. Here's hoping they both get feeling better soon.

I mentioned the Lion Dance to Don, and apparently the Buddhist monk is more specifically Buddha, taming the emotional, passionate nature as represented by the lion. *shrugs* Looked more like the Buddha was egging the lion on, but oh well. Don also said that it's sort of expected for Gung Fu students to learn the lion dance as part of their training.

Inquire Further

New Year Festivities

Last night, Melissa and I helped ring in the Chinese New Year. Apparently it doesn't start officially until 18 February, but the celebrations generally last for 15 days. I'm guessing that this particular celebration was constrained by the need to have it (a) on a weekend and (b) at a time when the ISU ballroom was available. But it was beautifully done.

The Chinese Club approached Melissa to see if she would be willing to demonstrate some taiji as part of the event. She asked me, and we both agreed that we didn't mind so long as we weren't up there alone. :^) But for that, we got to come in and watch the rest of the festivities for free. It's an event I'd always considered going to, but just never made it in years past. Apparently the way to get me there is to ask me to part of it. *shrugs*

Anyway, I got there just before the first rendition of the Lion Dance. That was cool. The head of the "lion" was so stylized that it wasn't obvious that it was a lion to me, but the neat thing was that its eyes could blink. The mouth opened and closed as well, but it was the eyes that surprised me. I presume it was done by Gung Fu (Kung Fu) that they brought up from Salt Lake, as it is a very...energetic dance. One person operated the head of the lion. The other person was the tail. There was a third person in the saffron yellow of a Buddhist monk (and wearing a large, bald head-mask), sort of taunting and egging the lion on.

The Gung Fu group's own demo involved demonstrations of several of their forms. The best one, by far, was the saber form. Note that a Chinese "saber" looks rather like a scimitar. That's one guy I would not want to fight. The others... *shrugs* One guy did a form that seemed to be mostly about drawing in qi, and I could see that he had a good amount of it (Translate that to: 'I could see he had high level mastery' if it makes you happier, but qi is a very useful way of talking about Chinese martial arts). One guy did a double sword form, but all the way through it I just kept thinking "Relax your shoulders!" Not to mention that there were several places with massive openings where a pointy weapon would have gone right through him. I think they would have been effective if the opponent had the same weapons, but not against a finer weapon.

There were several dances as well, with dancers in traditional costumes. All quite beautiful. One group had a double-sided barrel shaped drum strapped at their waists. The older girls (12-16, maybe) were wonderfully in sync. The younger ones (6-10) were, well, not, and were looking around watching the older girls to get their cues. And this made it all the more enjoyable to watch. :^)

Melissa and I were toward the end of the program. Our demo wasn't nearly as "exciting" as the Gung Fu one, but I got the impression that it made the Chinese people very happy to see it. The thing is that, in China, there are people who do the form every morning in just about every public park, and maybe even on street corners. I think seeing it reminds them of home. I could, of course, be reading stuff in that wasn't there, but that's the impression I got. We were thanked several dozen times, often by the same person more than once.

At any rate, it was a lot of fun.

Inquire Further

26 January 2007

More Dreams

Not sure why I keep having dreams related to My Name is Earl, but there was another one last night. Randy (Earl's brother) had taken up a new hobby involving birds. I'm not entirely sure what this hobby was, but part of it involved showing the birds. For the occasion, Randy dressed in a bird costume, sort of. It looked like he'd just got some white stretchy fabric and glued a whole bunch of one inch cloth strips all over it, sort of like feathers. Earl suggested that this was not a good way to win the contest, but Randy insisted that he wanted to show his "real" self.

At least this time I have the excuse that the show was on last night, and it did involve Randy learning to reveal his real self. Albeit without a bird costume...

Inquire Further

25 January 2007


After watching last week's episode and the first few minutes of this week's, I've come to the conclusion that the thing that keeps me watching CSI is Grissom. The other characters and the crimes and the science are all interesting, but it's Grissom who makes the show for me. He wasn't in last week's episode. His character is on sabbatical, and his pseudo-replacement is just this side of intolerable. This week, I made it five minutes in before getting bored. There was a hint on the last episode with Grissom that he would be needed to resolve a seasonal plot-arc (which seemed to have been resolved in November, but I thought it was suspiciously pat at the time), so he'll at least be back at some point this season. If this is a prelude to eliminating the character altogether next season...well...they're going to lose a viewer. It may have just been an excuse to bring this annoying new guy in, though.

Which would cut my regular shows down to two: Mythbusters and My Name Is Earl.

Inquire Further


four lids together
upturned, not quite touching, they
have nothing to cap

sunglasses waiting
no nose upon which to sit
until teaching is done

empty pitcher sits
waiting for water and a
teabag in a cup

Inquire Further

24 January 2007

Fragile (complete)

14 January – Started reading Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman. I figure I’ll post reviews as I read the stories and just migrate this post’s post-date each time. That way they’ll all be in the same place. Eventually. :^D

15 January - A new day, a new color, as I continue my story by story review.

17 January - The process continues.

18 January - There's actually a short story in the introduction that's quite nicely done. About an emperor who wanted a map on a scale equal to the territory.

19 January - Pagewise, I seem to be more than halfway through now. Incidentally, the hardcover edition of this book is just beautifully made. The dust jacket is of translucent white paper, so that the designs on the cover proper show through: a butterfly, some snowflakes, and a human heart.

23 January - Bit of a break in this due to various crises over the weekend. Oh, and my mom's birthday, which I didn't mention yet. I made her Devil's Food Cake.

24 January - There's a chance I may finish the book tonight, though the last story is the longest: long enough to be classified as a novella. UPDATE: Finished now. Overall, I recommend the book to anyone who likes Gaiman, or even who likes British humor. No, I didn't like every story, but I liked most of them. And I love Gaiman's writing style.

1. “A Study in Emerald” – Gaiman says that his instructions on this one were to create a world where the creations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft could interact. He did it beautifully. It’s one of those stories that’s all the eerier for being almost familiar. It reminded me of some of M. Night Shyamalin’s movies in certain respects. Most especially in that it started something that I would very much like to see continued.

2. “The Fairy Reel” – An odd poem. Bittersweet fluff.

3. “October in the Chair” – A story about stories, sort of. It’s interesting, but I’m not sure what the elaborate set-up added to it. No, that’s not it. The set-up was also interesting. It might help if I knew what October was like in England. Then again, it might not. I suppose it’s Halloweenish. I think my verdict on this one is: “Interesting, but I feel like I’m missing something.”

4. "Hidden Chamber" - A beautifully eerie poem. Take an idea from Stephen King. Muffle it under several layers of cheesecloth and strain it through an elegance filter. Stir gently.

5. "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire" - This one had me laughing out loud. If you've seen the Monty Python sketch where the literary family is disgusted by their turncoat son who works in a coal mine, the flavor is similar. Essentially, holding a candle up to gothic life and burning the toast in the process.

6. "The Flints of Memory Lane" - All the more interesting for not being story-shaped. (In the intro, Gaiman says that it's a true story, too)

7. "Closing Time" - An interesting ghost story that may or may not have some truth to it, and may or may not be a ghost story. Though the more of these I read, the more I notice Gaiman's penchant for putting stories within stories. Three of the seven thusfar have done so in a very obvious manner. I'm not complaining, exactly, but I am wondering a bit...

8. "Going Wodwo" - Beautiful poem. And what is a wodwo? Apparently it's an archaic form of "woodwose." Incidentally, there's another poem with almost the same title: Wodwo.

9. "Bitter Grounds" - Eerie zombie tale. Finding your place in this world when you have no place. Or maybe going no where and winding up somewhere. It's one of those stories that is interesting and worth reading, but that I find difficult to actually like.

10. "Other People" - Short and...not sweet. 'Round and 'round and back where we began......

11. "Keepsakes and Treasures" - Yikes. I can't think of much else meaningful to say about this one. The POV-character is possibly the most repulsive character I've ever encountered. The story isn't directly about him, but I'm not sure the other characters are any better. Put it this way...I felt mildly sick and a bit dirty after reading it. Well-written, yes. Enjoyable, no.

12. "Good Boys Deserve Favor" - Eh. Maudlin story about a boy and a bass. The instrument, not the fish.

13. "The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch" - Interesting variation on the wandering wish-fulfillers theme.

14. "Strange Little Girls" - 12 vignettes, connected to the Tori Amos CD of the same name (or so it says in the introduction; I don't listen to Tori Amos). Some interesting, some odd, some blah.

15. "Harlequin Valentine" - I like this Valentine story. Though I'm not quite sure why she decided to eat the heart.

16. "Locks" - The tarnish age puts on bedtime stories, and locks.

17. "The Problem of Susan" - A strange sort of anti-tribute to Narnia. Gaiman says that Susan's ultimate fate in the series "disturbed" him, so he decided to write something that was disturbing in a different way.

18. "Instructions" -Nicely whimsical poem, ostensibly instructions for behavior in a fairy tale. Though I have to wonder...what if it's the older princess who's untrustworthy in your particular tale...?

19. "How Do You Think It Feels?" - Hmm. I can relate to some of the emotions in this one, but not to the ending. It's not...satisfying. It would be like Pink Floyd's the Wall, if the Wall never came down and kept trying to rebuild itself. *shrugs* And the numbness never lasts. Never. However much you may think you want it to.

20. "My Life" - Reminds me of Weird Al's Jerry Springer tribute. :^) This bit from the intro caught my attention: "An old friend of mine had just started writing for the Weekly World News, and I'd had much fun making up stories for her to use." You mean, they really are made up? ;^)

21. "Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot" - Vampire vignettes tied into the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck. Interesting musings.

22. "Feeders and Eaters" - In essence, a story about how the British see cats. Not all of them actually in feline form, though. This one is very nicely done. I can see how some seemingly extraneous material is actually quite, quite relevant. And ironic. My only objection is that I don't see cats the way Gaiman does (Terry Pratchett has a similar attitude towards them).

23. "Diseasemaker's Croup" - A disease where people cannot stop making up and talking about imaginary diseases. It's barely coherent in places, nicely implying that the writer himself is a sufferer. Oh, and Gaiman comments that he used a program called "Babble" to produce some of the idiosyncracies.

24. "In the End" - In the Beginning, in reverse.

25. "Goliath" - Gaiman's version of The Matrix, more or less. But more interesting than the movie.

26. "Pages from a Journal Found in a Shoebox Left in a Greyhound Bus Somewhere Between Tulsa, Oklahoma and Louisville, Kentucky" - Whew. The title's almost longer than the story! I like this one. It's a poignant vignette, about searching and hope. Apparently it also ties to a Tori Amos CD that I've never heard of. :^)

27. "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" - Somewhere between amusing and disturbing. A party full of apparent females, who turn out to be from...elsewhere, playing tourist on Earth. I like the portrayal of their culture, as overtly alien but almost familiar.

28. "The Day the Saucers Came" - Amusing little poem. Imagine every end-of-the-world scenario from every disaster movie and myth ever made all happening at once...and being too busy to notice.

29. "Sunbird" - Beautifully whimsical story. Written differently, it might have been a sad tale, but managed not to be. The setting is a club whose goal is to taste everything, no matter how rare, and record the experience. Rarest of the rare? The Sunbird.

30. "Inventing Aladdin" - Poem/story about inventing stories to stay alive, a la Scheherezade. I think the reason I don't like it as well as others is that it was put in poem form but didn't feel like a poem. It felt like a story, broken up randomly so that it looked like a poem. *shrugs*

31. "Monarch of the Glen" - This is the novella. Quick read, though. It features the same unpleasant character as "Keepsakes and Treasures" but, thankfully, not as the POV character. That's reserved for Shadow, who was the main character of American Gods. Very nicely done. Of course, there is the minor issue raised at the end of the novella: Was this actually a good thing that Shadow did? Then again, what else could he have done?

Inquire Further

Sehr Interessant...

Every so often, I have one of those days (weeks?) that reminds me why "May your life be interesting" is considered one of the more potent curses. For the moment, however, it seems to have settled down. My alarm did not go off this morning. My first clue that something was wrong was seeing actual light coming in through a window. I knew it was far past when I usually get up, and immediately checked the clock. It was 8:00. My first class on Wednesdays starts at 8:00. So I threw clothes on, stuffed things in my backpack, and drove like mad for campus. (No, I didn't speed; too much ice on the windshield to risk it) I parked in the 20 minute parking at the credit union and raced across the street and up the stairs. A student called and asked me if we were having class while I was doing so, and I hurriedly explained. We started somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes late, but we covered the main things from 4.1 plus a few extras since I didn't have any notes with me. I guess it's a good thing that I've taught stats so many times. I borrowed a student's book to find a data set to use, but otherwise everything was off the top of my head.

And then I actually remembered to go move my car when class got out. It was in the 20 minute parking for roughly 50 minutes, apparently not long enough to get two drivebys by a parking ticketer. Then I lucked into a parking space on 9th, by getting there just as a pickup was pulling out. That I count as a minor miracle, given the parking situation close the physical sciences building. Anyway, almost time for the next class. I wonder what lies in store there... (ANSWER: Me being out of it enough to make ridiculous arithmetic errors...which may have helped keep the students awake)

Inquire Further

23 January 2007

A robot?

I remember a snippet of dream from last night. I was participating in an episode of My Name is Earl. There was a new robot character. I was programming in weird responses for the robot to say at "the wedding." Not sure which characters were getting married, but the robot was going to make the day a whole lot more...memorable. Too bad I don't remember any of the responses I was programming in.

Inquire Further

22 January 2007

The soup of filth suffused the tincture of the basement

I can't say that I like the smell of bleach any better than the smell of raw sewage. On the other hand, bleach will kill off the germs from the raw sewage, so in that sense it's preferable. If you haven't figured it out yet, my sewer line backed up. Into the basement. If I'd realized that's what was happening on Friday night, I could have saved myself from the mess getting any worse. But, no, at the time I thought the downstairs toilet was leaking. So I turned off its water supply and figured I'd call someone on Monday. Then Sunday night I ran a load of laundry. Big big BIG mess. Yup. I called someone on Monday, all right. Roto Rooter. Right after I got done teaching.

It took them a while to get anything done. First they tried running their wire thing through an access port on the roof, but it couldn't make the corner at the bottom that takes the line out to the alley. Then they spent about ten minutes trying to come up with an alternative, since my house wasn't built with any convenient sewer line accesses. Finally they decided to try pulling up the downstairs toilet and running the snake through there. It worked. So my drains are now working, and I just ran a load of towels (extra heavy on the bleach, since they'd been sitting on the floor to soak up the water) without flooding anything.

One minor oddity: if not for the mess on Friday night, I might not have seen the e-mail from Mark about Don until after attempting to go to taiji class. It had gotten shunted into junkmail, and I didn't check that on Friday. I don't normally check mail on Saturday morning, but I was planning to e-mail my mom and see if she'd call a plumber for me while I was at class. Then Mark's e-mail sort of shoved that entire thought out of my head.

Teaching? Well, we finished Chapter 3 (graphs) in Stats, played with the graphing calculator in Algebra, and factored trinomials of the form Ax^2+Bx+C in pre-algebra. And I didn't eat much until evening, whereupon the Thai iced tea from Chang's actually made me sleepier rather than more alert.

Oh yes. I needed something to halfway pay attention to whilst grading this semester, so I bought Season 1 of Xena. I had seen some episodes from later seasons... The weirdest thing is that the ones I've seen so far remind me of early episodes of Stargate, SG1. I haven't checked to see if any of the same people were involved.

Inquire Further

21 January 2007

Homework Amusements

Question: "A study finds that students who listen to classical music tend to have higher grades than those who don't. Suggest two lurking/confounding variables researchers should look at before concluding that classical music causes higher grades."

One student's answer: "C.M. is so Boring it makes you want to study"

My, my, my. "Ride of the Valkyries"? Boring? The answer is a bit of a stretch, but at least he made an effort to tie the two together. So he got the full 2 points for that. :^D The biggest problem is that most students don't seem to understand that their answer has to connect to both music and grades.

*sighs* First homework set graded... 9 more to go, plus four tests and a final. Hmmm... It's probably a bad sign that I'm already trying to count down, isn't it... Interestingly, the grades on this first HW are clustered around 8.9 - 9.1 out of 10. With a strong left skew.

Inquire Further

Random Title of No Significance

Yesterday I came close to having to restart on my 108 day goal, but I managed to get some taiji and yoga in at the last minute before bedtime. I think I was in a mild state of shock most of the morning, over the news about Don. So I found stuff to do where I didn't have to think. Depressed? No, not really. I mean, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is ecstatic and 10 is suicidal, I was probably at a 6. Just...upset. But I'm back on track today, Day 26. (Incidentally, tomorrow I'll be one-quarter of the way through, and on January 31 I'll be at the one-third mark.)

And I have a new favorite snack. Glutino crackers with almond butter on them. Delicious. Why not peanut butter? Largely because peanuts are very closely related to soy, and sometimes give me similar reactions. So I try to stick with other nut-butters. Almond butter is my favorite, and, next to peanut butter, the easiest to find. Sunflower-seed-butter is weird, and a rather disturbing color. It's okay in very VERY small quantities. I've seen cashew butter as well, but I don't remember ever trying it.

And I can now drink green tea again! It was slowly getting better, and then I switched from Cal-Mag to Cal-Mag-Zinc. ZOOM! Within a week, I was able to drink green tea in normal quantities without any problem. So, yeah, it was a zinc deficiency to blame. I think I'd been deficient for quite a while, but it slowly started getting worse, and then the copper-bottom teakettle pushed it over the edge this fall. As for cause? Well, first off I'm gluten-intolerant, and that seems to be connected to trouble absorbing Zinc. Second, I think this house has copper pipes. This summer when I replace the kitchen faucet (no, I didn't get that done yet), I think I'll put in a water filter similar to my mom's. For the moment, I let the faucet run a while to clear out the water that's been sitting in the pipes, and that seems to help some.

And now, "I'm off to shovel the walkways! The wonderful walkways of snow! We see they are a shov'lable walk, if ever a walk there was!"

Inquire Further

20 January 2007

Snowing Again

snowflake on my lips,
melting; each ice crystal tin-
-gles until it is gone

Inquire Further

Stand, Lay Down, and Deliver

New refrigerator delivered. Old refrigerator removed.

However, I won't plug in the new one until tomorrow afternoon, as it was on its back for a short part of the moving process. It's probably overkill, but I'd rather be too cautious than not cautious enough. So, 24 hours of uprightness it is. The fridge stuff that couldn't go in the freezer is currently sitting by my very drafty back door. The most perishable items are in a cooler with some ice packs, but, honestly, being by the back door just might be enough. And, yes, I'd like to get that fixed. However, whoever put it in cut out bits of a door frame too large to fit in the concrete cutout. I have no clue if it's possible to put in the same size door there and do it right without cutting into the foundation of the house.

Oh, one of my stats students helped out with the move. I guess he must be with Wesley House. I told him I wasn't sure it was a good idea for my students to know where I lived. :^D

Inquire Further

No tai chi today

Pulmonary embolism. Devoid of meaning, the words are almost pretty. I already knew "pulmonary" meant "having to do with the lungs." Embolism seems to be something to do with blood clots. My teacher, Don Schurman, is currently in the hospital due to Pulmonary Embolism. *sighs* He's been getting weaker, these past two years. The gods alone know how much longer he'll last, but it seems like each crisis is just a little bit worse. From the looks of things, his condition is usually treatable with anti-clotting medications, with occasional surgical intervention.

I really, really hate feeling helpless. It's like flashing back to last year at this time. You know what else I hate? February. And it's coming up. All 28 bloody days of it.

Inquire Further

19 January 2007


Tomorrow, supposedly, the crew will be found with the strength and the pickup and the time to move two refrigerators to and fro. Tonight, the online channel guide says that a new episode of Monk will air, and yet I have read the description before. In thirty seconds, the timer will sound, indicating the ricecake pizza is done.

Inquire Further

17 January 2007

Unfragile Things

Like refrigerators. We got Mom's old stove moved out on Monday, but the supplied pickup had to leave AND didn't have room for a fridge, standing up or lying down. So perhaps tomorrow. Or never. From my (limited) research, it seems that for short journeys, it is safe but not recommended to lay a refrigerator on its side. Then it should be allowed to stand upright for 24-48 hours before being plugged in, to allow the freon to drain back into the proper coils. Hopefully we can move it upright, but I have no idea at this point.

Also. Crackers. Okay, so they're semi-fragile, but do you have ANY idea how long it's been since I had a decent cracker? There are gluten-free ones available, but until two days ago, I'd never found one with the right texture. Glutino makes one. Fred Meyer now carries it. The flavor is not identical to what I remember of wheat-based crackers, but it is good nonetheless. Somewhere between a Ritz and a Saltine.

Not sure whether to count Merlin as fragile or not. I think that my neighbor was gone for the past several days, because "her" cat was needier than usual. I let him in on several occasions, and he mostly seemed to want company. Though the bit of pork chop he got last night seemed to make him extra EXTRA happy. :^) But today I've heard a motor in the driveway, and haven't seen Merlin around, so I think she's back. Which is both good and bad. I like having a cat around, but my allergies don't.

Last bit of news... I reread Going Postal this week. On the reread, it's not as dark as I remember, though there is still more overt darkness than in earlier Discworld books.

Inquire Further

14 January 2007


  • the antihistamine in eyedrops makes me drowsy, just like every other antihistamine I've ever used, even though there is no warning of such a possibility on the box. Apparently, the kind of antihistamine is the one LEAST likely to cause drowsiness, but it still made me pretty out of it. However, at the time I used it, I was already out of it due to messed up eyes, so that was all right.
  • lack of refrigerator currently due to lack of pick up for hauling it. Some refrigerators cannot be moved in any position but upright, and apparently they do not label which are which, so we need a pickup that does not have a shell on it. Convincing my dad to take the shell off of his in this weather...would be like trying to get a kid's tongue unstuck from a flagpole.
  • but I did get the freezer mostly emptied, by throwing away a bit of old stuff and taking the rest to the downstairs freezer. I'm not planning to empty the refrigerator until I know for certain when the swap is going to occur.
  • I got to play rescuer to my mom this morning, by rushing to the store to get her some of the same eyedrops she'd gotten for me. Hers may not be a simple allergy, however, as they got worse even before the drop should have worn off.
  • (ADDENDUM) Mom went to one of the urgent care clinics this afternoon, and received a bevy of antibiotics. They think her eye problem is conjunctivitis, so she strongly suggested that if my eye trouble came back, I should go get it checked out. However, mine cleared up after a few applications of the antihistamine drop, so I'm still thinking "allergy."
  • Merlin doesn't mind the cold much. I've been letting him in on occasion so that he can warm up, but he never wants to stay for long. This morning, I got the distinct impression he wanted me to come outside to play. He certainly didn't want to come in. :^)

Inquire Further

12 January 2007

First Week Done

Thus ends the first week of the '07 Spring semester. Next week will be shorter, due to Martin Luther King Day. I'm still not used to not having an evening class. I will probably keep repeating the prior sentence at semi-regular intervals for a while.

In Stats, I'm trying not to get ahead of the other sections this time, but I just don't see the point of spending loads of time in Chapter 2. Yes, there are important ideas there, but they are ones that most of the students have likely encountered before. Perhaps not in as much detail, nor with the same emphasis, but still, at this point they should have an idea what an experiment is. The most important concepts are the ideas of randomization and "replication" (i.e. larger sample size = more accurate). The types of errors and ways of avoiding/minimizing them are also important, but how much time can you spend on what really boils down to vocab? *sighs* So today I gave them an in-class assignment after reviewing highlights. There are some critical thinking issues brought up in chapter 2, and my test question on that order usually floors half the class, so they got a preview today. I heard some good discussions going, so I was quite pleased.

For anyone wondering, I usually put a question on the order of "A and B tend to occur together. Suggest two explanations other than 'A causes B'". The first one is a freebie: B causes A. The second explanation usually requires use of some lurking/confounding variable. I'm lenient, so long as what they mention plausibly explains the connections. Half the time, I get students spouting random syllogisms from the book that, while true, have nothing to do with the question.

Anyway, my mom's appliances were delivered today. My new refrigerator is sitting forlornly in her garage. Which is a relief, as I need to clear a path for it to get into my kitchen. I survived a visit to my dad's house with no recurrence of the eye allergy, but I was careful to wash my hands frequently and not get my face too close to either of the pets. That reminds me... I discovered a way to get Buster to calm down, though I can't say I'd recommend it in general. Last visit, I discovered that waving my leg over his head gets him rather excited. So I repeated the "experiment". At one point, he grabbed onto my leg when it was on the low point of the swing...and either let go or fell off at the high point, landing on his back in his food dish. No lasting injuries, thankfully, but he was a bit shaken up, and a bit nervous of me for the rest of the visit. It was both amusing and worrying. More amusing now that I know he wasn't hurt. No clue if he's learned his lesson, though. :^)

Inquire Further

10 January 2007

School's In

Back to teaching this week. It's just as well I got my syllabi mostly revamped early last week; later on, I was feeling the effects of a mild cold. It's the mild nuisance variety rather than the batten-down-the-hatches type, but I don't think I would have gotten anything done later in the week. Items of interest from the school front? Not too much, unless having the old edtion of the 143 book when all the students had the new one counts. :^) Which mean that I had to go find a copy of the new edtion (last copy the office had, as it turned out) and change the previously chosen homework problems. One mild schedule change, since the new book has one extra section in Chapter 3. Nothing new, really; just stuff that had been combined before is now separated. I like teaching 143. It's nice to have students who don't need to be reminded about EVery step. Though I wish they still introduced functions in 108. It used to be part of the material there; now it's brand new to most of the 143 students.

I thought I'd have more trouble adjusting to having a regimented schedule again, but I haven't. So far. For the first time ever, I do NOT have an evening class. Which is sort of nice, but it throws off my sense of timing. I mean, I'm completely DONE by 14:00 every afternoon, as far as needing to be on campus. It's...weird. Anyway, I hear the Mythbuster's intro starting, so I must away. To the living room. About 10 feet away. Heigh-ho Molybdenum!

PM (Post-Mythbusters) Addendum: I had an allergic reaction to something at my dad's house this afternoon. An allergic reaction in my eyes. The only time I've had anything similar was the time I got grapefruit seed extract in one. The results this time were similar, but not quite as painful. Unfortunately, this affected both eyes. So, how to describe the sensation... Imagine someone is pumping fluid into your eyeballs, making them expand until they don't feel like they quite fit. Some of the fluid leaks out into the surrounding tissue, waterlogging it. Your eyelids won't quite open all the way. In the mirror, you look like a drunk makeup artist tried to turn you into a bloated oriental.

The swelling is mostly gone now, thanks to an allergy eyedrop that my mom was kind enough to pick up for me. Ugh. I do not like red eyes and pain. But watching the Mythbusters recreate the Hindenberg explosion definitely improved my mood. :^)

Inquire Further

07 January 2007


No refrigerator today. At least two of the delivery trucks coming from Denver didn't make it. Things have been rescheduled for Friday. I did get syllabi for tomorrow printed out, and student-names entered into spreadsheets.

I've been reading a book on yogic breathing, and it got me thinking. Every so often, I'll come across a "proof" that there is no soul based on the results of brain injuries, but this only proves that functioning hardware is necessary, not that it is sufficient. It's like saying that since a damaged hard-disc no longer stores files properly, there's no such thing as electricity. A functioning hard-disc is necessary to store files, but it is not sufficient: without electricity, it's useless.

I can imagine a way to test sufficiency, but it is currently beyond our technology. You would either need to construct or re-animate a system of the brain, supply it with the same physical energy it would get from the heart and the rest of the brain, and see if it functioned properly. This would require an input/output interface of some kind. I have no idea if this will ever be feasible, but it's an interesting idea.

Honestly, though, people with strong feelings on either side would have convenient outs. If it didn't function, the argument would be that they hadn't managed to build/animate it properly. If it did, the argument would be that it was only one system; it didn't prove anything about the entire brain, and the conscious mind in particular. Ah well.

Inquire Further

05 January 2007

Mirror, Mirror

One of the things I missed from having my meditation room downstairs was the large mirror. So I finally moved it upstairs. This was mildly complicated, as it was built into a sort of bench thing. I found it at a garage sale right after I bought my house, and the guy said that he got it when Wal-Mart was redoing its shoe department. It was an old bench/mirror combo from them. However, I didn't want the bench upstairs: just the mirror.

Extracting it from the bench proved easier than expected. There were plastic covers that I assumed covered screws. They did. The mirror was just sitting on the bench with a frame screwed around it (and a sturdy backboard behind it). It's rather heavy, at approximately 28" x 54" x 3/8". I tried putting it up lengthwise with just two supports, both screwed into studs. The ominous creaking suggested this put too much pressure on the glass, so I hurriedly pulled the mirror out again and put a third support in between. No ominous creaks this time. At a guess, the mirror weighs at least 20 pounds. Might be closer to 30. Anyway, after putting the mirror into the bottom slots, it occurred to me that it was going to be difficult to get the top supports in, since until at least one was in, I had to keep one hand on the mirror to keep it from tipping over. But I managed. So I now have a mirror to check postures in both yoga and taiji. :^)

A connected tidbit: I cannot find my old studfinder. So last night I went over to Fred Meyer to get a new one. Got it home. Put in the battery. It was a wallfinder, not a studfinder. When it was within a quarter inch or so of the wall, it beeped. Continuously. Until I pulled it away from the wall again. So this morning I took it back and got a refund. I might have just exchanged it, except that this was the last one they'd had. So I got a different brand from Home Depot, and it works fine. It's mildly temperamental on textured walls, but it works.

Not connected, unless icy roads count as mirrors, but earlier this week I decided to drive up to the Gibson Jack trailhead. I was curious whether (a) the road was open; (b) the road was drivable; (c) the trail was hikeable. The answers were "yes", "sort of" and "with metal cleats." Past the second cattleguard, the road was pure ice. Uphill. I wasn't sure Jean Luc was going to make it all the way up; I heard one tire spinning most of the way. I've got studded tires, but not chains or a 4WD, and both would have been useful. The trail looked about the same as the road. If it were mostly flat, I'd call it doable. Since it's mostly slopes, I wouldn't recommend it without, as I said, metal cleats. So I probably won't try going up there again until things start to really thaw out.

ADDENDUM: One more newsworthy item, connected to mirrors only if well-polished. I have a new refrigerator coming. My mom's refrigerator was running backwards (refrigerator was freezing things; freezer wasn't) so she decided to replace it. She's also been wanting a storage freezer for her basement, and a ceramic top stove. Well, putting three or more appliances on her Sears card got her a 20% discount, and I found a refrigerator I liked. The one I have came with the house. No major problems, but I've always wanted one with a bottom-freezer. There was one that was a decent price before the discount, and an awesome price after. The one minor hitch is that, for it all to get the 20% discount, it has to be delivered to a single address. So everything is being delivered to my mom's house tomorrow. We weren't sure that just me and Dad could shift the new one into my house (assuming he'd be willing to help), but that problem solved itself. The Wesley House (Methodist group) on ISU's campus was in need of a new stove and refrigerator. So they're getting Mom's old stove and my old refrigerator, and in return, they'll help bring in my new one. Sunday afternoon is the plan. Aaaaand I'll need to clear out the living room before then. Christmas stuff is down, just not put away yet.

Inquire Further

02 January 2007


I've been playing around with the template. I've at least got the graphics back the way I had them. Colors are different. Lay-out is slightly different. I tagged the 100 most recent posts before getting bored with it, but I'll likely be bored enough to finish that later. Anyway, if you have strong feelings about any of it, feel free to leave a comment. Or if you have tepid feelings. Or, any sort of feelings, really. In fact, if you're feeling that I'm rambling on about feelings too freely, feel free to share your feelings about my unfeeling fiddling. So...ummmm...I'll stop now, before this degenerates any further.

Inquire Further

Another year, another semester

I went in today to get my transcripts syllabi up-to-date for Spring, and to make sure my classes hadn't gotten switched around. That's more of an issue in the fall, usually, but I figured I ought to check. But, nope. Same schedule as before. The nice thing is that I'm done by 14:00 every day of the week. T/Th I'll be helping with taiji after that, though. I don't like starting that early in the morning (8:00 MWF and 9:00 TTh). Not because I don't get up that early, but because I prefer to practice yoga and taiji then. Ah well. I'll work them in somehow.

In other news, my mom gave me a Fred Meyer gift card (because she's afraid to pick out movies or music for me), so I got Monk, Season 2, and watched the last episode this morning. It's a nicely done series that has just the right mix of seriousness and humor. I'd only seen one of the Season 2 episodes before (Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico) so everything else was new. My only complaint is that the season was only 16 episodes long. *sighs*

Other gifts? A beautiful basket from Fibonacci and family (currently on the bench in my meditation room, keeping it more organized than it was before); two sweaters from my dad (actually, money from my dad, used to purchase said sweaters); a native american flute; a jig-saw; a blue, glass kitty-cat (who seems quite at home amidst my dragons); mixed nuts; and a puzzle. The puzzle won't be put together for a while. I'm thinking of turning my former downstairs meditation room into a sort of den. At the very least, there's room for a card table in there. So when that room's usable, the puzzle might get put together.

The only other news item is that I finally upgraded to the new version of Blogger. So maybe when I get bored I'll go back and tag all my posts.

Inquire Further