31 May 2007


Japanese Garden: as awesome as I remember it. Weird turn to get there.

Chinese Garden: interesting. Not as enjoyable as the Japanese garden, though all the architecture was quite beautiful. I just prefer the more rugged, wildness of the Japanese garden (Zen) to the ordered progression of the Chinese Garden (probably Confucian).

OMSI: randomly entertaining. Also, lots of good gifts for people found there.

Thai Mango: Not Mango Thai, not on McLoughlin, but quite tasty anyway.

For lunch, Mom had McDonald's and I had a random assortment of what I'd stuck in the cooler, plus a dinner salad from said McDonald's.

Tomorrow: Scappoose, then Newport.

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30 May 2007

Portland Meandering (with prior addenda)

Surviving their trek to deepest, darkest Portland (and points in between), our weary heroes return to basecamp to plot the next day's excursions. With many painful tales about the ribs of former room-mat-tes (with many painful tales about the ribs of former room-mat-tes, etc.).

Forgot to mention yesterday:

- Dropped off Fibonacci's birthday present when we passed through Twin Falls. Mom had plenty of time to eat due to my clever wrapping strategy. ;^) (She also offered to throttle me for him, for some strange reason)

- Nearly got lost in downtown Boise, due to not printing out directions back to the hotel. Mom had us heading away from the Capitol Building in the wrong direction...I was thinking we should go in a different wrong direction... finally I got us headed back towards the Capitol until I found the street we'd come in on (one-way, of course), found one going the opposite way, realized it wouldn't get us back because the one we'd been on had ended at Capitol Boulevard, went two over to another going the correct direction, and made it back to the hotel.

- Got upgraded to a suite at the Econolodge, with no extra charge. Why? Because Mom wanted a groundfloor room and either (a) all ground floor rooms are suites or (b) this was the only ground floor room open all five days. Anyway, the suite is awesome. If you took the living/dining room, kitchen, bathroom and closet from my apartment in Fort Collins, you'd have something close to the right size. There's a kitchenette separated from the beds by a wall, and the bed area is larger than most. Bathroom...fairly average, but there's an extra phone in there. We're not entirely sure why... Our only major complaint is that the wireless network is weak and dodgy, cutting in and out nearly randomly.

- Dessert at Corbett's Fish House was also excellent. Rum coconut torte, or some such name.

Powell's, Whole Foods Market, Portland Music Store, Sheet Music Service, Monkey King, Global Village. And a few random stops in between wandering. Lunch was at Whole Foods Market (salad bar, mainly). Dinner at Assagio's (warning: flash intensive). Surprisingly good. It's the sort of dish I would have turned my nose up at not long before discovering I was gluten intolerant. Honestly, I think the rice pasta made it better, espcecially since Mom ordered the same dish with the regular noodles and it disagreed with her. Dessert was a flourless chocolate torte that was also quite good.

Backing up a bit, Mom heard about a big music store in Portland that her pastor thought was called "Portland Music Company." We found one. They had no sacred choral music, which is what she was looking for, but directed us to "Sheet Music Service" on the other side of the river. Crossing Hawthorne Bridge, we conveniently saw a sign for McLoughlin (where our hotel is) which would later be useful. Anyway, I got bored at the music store and left Mom there while I went hunting for the import store I'd accidentally found last summer by going to the wrong Powell's (there are several smaller branch-outlets). I found another import store nearby. Monkey King has Chinese Imports. Global Village has fair-trade imports from nearly everywhere. Both are on the same block (3500's or 3600's) on Hawthorne. The only thing I bought for me there was a small buckwheat pillow. My neck has been missing my contour pillow the past few nights, and I'm hoping the buckwheat bolster will help.

Tomorrow: Japanese and Chinese Gardens! YAY!

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29 May 2007

The Story So Far...

Our heroes have braved the wild interstate and rush hour traffic to make it to their hotel in Portland Milwaukie, and braved poorly labeled roads and directions to make it to Corbett Fish House and secure a meal. Tomorrow: will they survive downtown parking?

So, anyway, we stayed in Boise last night and had dinner with my mom's cousin and her daughter (uh, my second cousin? I think) at an awesome Thai place in Boise. Siam Thai. Highly recommended. Before that, we wandered a bit in downtown Boise. Note to self: also print out direction back TO the hotel, especially in an area full of one-way streets. The first place we went was rather blah. Boise Book and Gift Company. Not much there. The second place was awesome. Eyes of the World Imports. I found another silk outfit. So I now have two good sets of dress-clothes. This one is in a rich purple with red undertones.

We got into Portland just as rush hour was starting tonight, just before 17:00 local time. It looked like it might take an hour to go the last ten miles, but finally we realized that we needed I205South, and the big lineup was for I205 North. After that, the traffic wasn't too horribly bad. For Portland. After finding the hotel, we went to find Corbett Fish House, because nearly all of its offerings are gluten-free. It's...rather out of the way. And 17th was not labelled 17th, but as Harrison. We missed it entirely on the first go-round, and finally saw the alternate name for Harrison on the way back to the hotel for the Portland-vicinity map. Very, very good food, though. Nice atmosphere, too. Awesome decorations, mostly. The tables all had maps under glass. Lots of maps on the walls, too. Lots of fish-themed-paraphernalia. The football stuff...didn't quite fit.

Anyway, I ordered a Tugboat Dinner, mainly because it came with four different things to try, all fried in rice flour: walleye - good; halibut - excellent; chili-catfish - okay; oysters - blech. Yes, I have now discovered that I do not like oysters. I'd never tried them before. How to describe them... If you've ever been on a dock, or around a pond that is starting to dry up, and smelled that rotten sea-smell, well, that's about how the oysters tasted. They looked like someone had sneezed into a skinlike membrane and sealed it up, then fried it. My meal came with two. I ate the smaller one, and somehow my description would not induce my mom to try the other. ;^)

The meals also came with very good french fries. My mom ordered perch, which was also quite good...after I put some salt on it. Corbett's does seem to go extra light on the salt, but at least that's easily fixed. We also shared a Calamari appetizer, and I was so taken with it that I had to run out to the car and grab the camera:

Aren't the little baby squid cute?!? And tasty.

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28 May 2007

Pre-Departure Picture

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27 May 2007


I'd been having free-floating anxiety, centered on the kittens, for a few days. Last night, I finally calmed it down by reasoning that I would put them outside, with Dovi, today, and see how it went. It started off okay. Then I went out to check on them about threeish. Even in the shaded area I'd set up for them, they were too hot. Dovi was panting. The kittens were trying to climb out of the box and blanket to get some relief. So...they're not staying outside. Instead, I'm going to block off the stairwell where they've been. It stays a fairly constant temperature there, and no direct sun.

Incidentally "free-floating-anxiety" is one of those terms that doesn't sound like much until you experience it. For me, it was a constant rush of adrenaline and consistent mild panic that occasionally flared into major panic. It was pretty obvious that leaving Dovi and the kittens was the source of the anxiety, but I have a tendency to overreact to things, so I was tending to think that my fear was irrational. The extent of the fear was certainly irrational, but it turns out that there was a valid reason for concern. *shrugs*

Distress is another innocuous sounding term that isn't when you see it close up. Poor kittens. When I brought them back inside, I pulled each of them out of the box to cool off for a bit, then put them back in. Before long, they were huddling together as normal. I was relieved. Dovi...seemed grateful. At least, she started purring up a storm. I apologized profusely and promised her they could stay inside. She didn't understand a word, but that's okay. I did. The hall is cleaned out for them, and to make it easier for Melissa when she checks on them, and I've got the board cut for the one doorway and the door pulled out of the garage for the other.

As for other preparations, I baked bread this morning. Variation of Bette Hagman's Featherlight Bread. I was going to make some banana muffins, both for me and to give to my dad, but the bananas had been sitting too long and were moldy. Still, I'm less concerned about food on this trip as compared to most prior ones. Gluten-free restaurants, here I come! :^D

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25 May 2007


The fence is almost complete. The major part WOULD be complete, except I needed about 5 more feet... So I had to buy another fifty foot roll of fence. The current plan is to temporarily block off the back yard from the alley completely, and put up some temporary chicken wire barriers at the driveway and next to the house. Why? Because I'm leaving for a week next week, and I don't want to leave Dovi and the kittens inside and unattended. I was debating what to do with them...then today Dovi made several rather nasty messes while I was gone. That decided me. They need to be outside. So I want the yard secure for them (no dogs; no other cats). Technically, cats could climb and/or jump over the barriers, but it won't be easy for them to get in. It also won't be easy for the kittens to get out of the yard. Right now, their eyes aren't even open, but they'll be starting to open just as I leave. That's when they'll be in full explore mode, and another reason to have them OUTside.

And, yes, I have someone coming to look after them. And I have a shelter for them. I plan to build a sheltered spot for Dovi's food as well, to further protect it from marauding pirates of the neighborhood.

Oh, and I forgot to mention in all the hubbub with the kittens that Fibonacci was in town on Friday. We test-ran his game again. Much improvement. The biggest problem before was the sheer number of things to sort through and do. Now that has been greatly simplified.

And, yes, I said I was leaving for a week. My mom is desperate to get out of town. She kept pestering me with slightly tamer versions of "You wanna go somewhere? I wanna go somewhere! Let's go somewhere!" Finally I asked her where she wanted to go, and she said Portland. She's heard me talk about Powell's, and apparently there's a big music store somewhere up there as well. And I've discovered that there is an actual, bona-fide, completely gluten free restaurant up there. It's called Grolla's. There are also several with gluten free menus. There's a fish place (Corbett's) that is nearly entirely gluten free. On the web-site, it says they're still looking for a decent bun to use for sandwiches.

We'll also be going to see Pam and Angus, and they might go with us down to Newport. Assuming the web-sites are accurate, the hotels all have wireless internet hookups. Assuming my laptop doesn't blow another memory module, I should therefore remain connected. Oh, and even if I have griped a lot about problems with this laptop, I would still recommend HP without hesitation. Why? Because nearly everything has been covered by the warranty. The only thing I had to pay for on the last snafu was the data transfer from the problematic hard-drive. All the hardware was covered. All of it. Anyway, I think I'm rambling aimlessly now, so au revoir.

UPDATE: I've got the supplementary fence attached to the existing one. All that remains is to temporarily attach it to the neighbor's fence and the back yard will be secure from the alley. It's already bugging me not to have a gate back there, though... After Portland, Qalmlea, 'kay? You've already got chickenwire to put up to keep the kittens from flying the coop. Is it a bad sign that I'm talking to myself? Is it a bad sign that I'm asking myself if it's a bad sign that I'm talking to myself? Is it a bad sign that I'm asking myself that I'm asking myself...

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24 May 2007


This one just amuses me. By some definitions, I suppose, the label even fits:

You scored as Spiritual Atheist,

Ah! Some of the coolest people in the world are Spiritual Atheists. Most of them
weren't brought up in an organized religion and have very little baggage. They
concentrate on making the world a better place and know that death is just
another part of life. What comes after, comes after.

Spiritual Atheist


Scientific Atheist


Apathetic Atheist




Angry Atheist


Militant Atheist




What kind of atheist are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

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23 May 2007

New Arrivals

Dovienya just had her kittens. 5 of them so far. I think she might be done now, but I also thought that after the fourth. :^) I haven't been around a cat having kittens since I was fourteen or so. It's a bit nervewracking, wondering if there's going to be some big complication that requires veterinary intervention. Doesn't look like any of them are going to have the Siamese points like she does. Three black, two grey so far. The ones with points start out white (according to what I've read) and the points darken later. It's actually a variant of albinism, which is why they also have the blue eyes.

The first one seemed to be the most difficult for Dovi. She started whimpering and I had to pet her until she calmed down. Either the latter ones were easier or she got used to it.

I was worried about the second kitten for a while. She(?) came out backwards, and it took Dovi a while to get the placenta cleaned off of her face. For a while, that kitten just lay there panting, no interest in feeding at all. But she seems to be all right now. At least, both the grey kittens are feeding now.

So... I'm sort of a grandma now. *shrugs*

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20 May 2007


I've been working on a fence for my back yard. The two adjacent sides are already fenced, but the side facing the alley has been open since I bought the house. Not too long after moving in, my dad helped me pick out materials to make a fence back there, with the plan that we'd put it up in the summer. The summer came...and went. Another summer came...and went. And the stuff's been sitting in my garage nearly ever since. A lot of it got pulled out last fall when they were putting in my new garage door.

On Friday (I think) Thursday, I dug the first post hole using a standard shovel. The digging wasn't difficult, but it seemed like an awful waste to dig a two foot wide hole for a four-inch square post. I went looking for a post-hole digger, but before I bought one, my mom asked her friend Markie if she had one. She did. That works out nicely, since Markie and her family have been using my tablesaw. Which had been sitting forlornly unassembled in my garage...because I hadn't gotten around to buying a ratchet to get it put together. The trade-off was that Markie's husband would put it together in exchange for them getting to use it for a while.

Anyway, the post-hole digger is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much easier. Getting started is just a trifle harder, and each separate motion is slightly harder than just digging, but overall it saved me a lot of time and effort. I've got all the major posts in place now. I want to put a gate in one spot. Depending on its construction, I may need to put in a few more posts (both for the gate and to finish off the fence to it). The gate is so that it's still possible to make deliveries right to the back door of my house. This is very handy for stuff that goes in the basement, since it's then only a half-flight of stairs down. The gate will also be directly facing a parking area that I'm leaving/making. My current plan is to rototill through the area, cover it with black plastic for most of the summer, dig out any excess dirt, and then get a load or two of gravel. My mom got this horrified look on her face when I mentioned the gravel. I told her I'd see how much extra it would be to have them deliver it. If it's a lot more, I'll do it myself without telling her, since she'd feel obligated to help otherwise. *shrugs*

Back to the fence. Now I need to put in some intermediate posts. These can be hammered into the ground. I suspect I'll need to pick up a few more of them before I can finish. Then I have to figure out the best way of attaching the wire fence to the posts. For the metal intermediaries, I'll probably just use wire. I'm thinking that for the wood posts, I might try to find some hammerable staples.

There's one more place I'd like to put a fence: between my yard and my southern neighbor's driveway. They have a tendency to drive off of it onto my lawn, and park partially on my lawn, and that makes it ruddy hard to water and/or mow. If I could think of a legal way to puncture tires that drove off the driveway into my lawn, I would set it up. Vindictive? Me? Nah... But that first post off of the street is going to be sturdy steel and well-set in concrete. The fence doesn't need to be tall. 3-4 feet would be plenty. It just needs to be extremely sturdy and stable.

UPDATE: Methinks my post-digger wielding technique could use improvement. My left wrist is not happy at the moment. So long as I keep it in fair maiden's wrist (i.e. straight with my forearm), it's fine. Bend it more than a few degrees...and yowch. Random factoid: Fair maiden's wrist is one of the most obvious visual differences between the Cheng man Ching form and the older Yang long form. Supposedly Cheng man Ching went on a retreat in the mountains, where he met a mystic lady (often said to be one of the 8 Immortals) who taught him "Fair Maiden's Boxing." He had to change the name, because no one wanted to learn a "fair maiden" fighting style.

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17 May 2007

Bigfoot on Discovery

I just watched a surprisingly well-done program on "Bigfoot." Surprising in that it was not a bunch of wannabes parading around denouncing mainstream science, with a token five seconds from said mainstream science. Most of the program, in fact, focused on the problems with the evidence. By the by, the primary representative of the pro-bigfoot side is one Dr. Meldrum of Idaho State University.

Summary below the fold.

Two complaints here. The first is that they only presented footprints associated with the 1960's supposed video footage. These displayed "conflicting characteristics." Humanlike toes with an apelike break in the foot. This would have been a good place to simulate some flexible feet and see how they moved, see what kind of motion such a foot would require. Since they were mainly focusing on the video footage, they could then have compared it to the video. Instead, both sides just argued that such a foot supported its own viewpoint. Also, a comparison of footprints found at other sites would have been nice. Do all bigfoot prints have the same ape/human characteristics? What about known fakes? (Yes, it's possible that all of them are faked, but some are known for certain to be fake) *

Quite frankly, eyewitness accounts are not worth much, and the show said as much. People are usually startled and/or frightened during the encounter. It's usually dark. It is so, so easy to project characteristics in those circumstances. That could also account for the "consistency" between sightings. Find me someone who's never heard the bigfoot legend who has an encounter and I might be more impressed.

The coolest thing they did, and the reason I kept watching, was to try and recreate the motion seen in the video footage using a human in a suit. And they succeeded, though the human had to exert a great deal of effort to move that way. Not conclusive, but very suggestive. Then they talked to a Hollywood special effects guy, who pronounced the video fake and poorly done to boot. He thought he could have done a much more convincing job. :^) Again, suggestive, but not conclusive.

First off, most scientists will not be convinced until they have some plain physical evidence. A body. Some bones. A hair sample that does not turn out to be buffalo. And I think that is the correct attitude, overall. I also admire Dr. Meldrum for continuing to pursue his inquiries despite overall negativity from his colleagues. He is doing honest research, though I think he could use a bit more skepticism in his approach. As for me? I consider Bigfoot's existence to be possible, but very very unlikely.

I do have to wonder, though. Supposing that all the footprints are faked... First up, "WHY???". Second up, "How much time and effort would that have taken? And how many different people were faking them?" As far as the footprint evidence is concerned, I'm not convinced that "all fake" is any simpler an explanation.

*I just found a page of Bigfoot footprints put together by Dr. Meldrum. I have to comment on this statement: "The dynamic signature of the footprints concurs with numerous eyewitness accounts noting the smoothness of the gait exhibited by the Sasquatch. For example, one witness stated, "...it seemed to glide or float as it moved." Absent is the vertical oscillation of the typical stiff-legged human gait. The compliant gait not only reduces peak ground reaction forces, but also avoids concentration of weight over the heel and ball, as well as increases the period of double support." The "stiff-legged human gait" is an artifact of our habit of making paved surfaces. Perfectly flat. If you routinely walk on rough or uneven ground, you'll find this method of walking is, well, idiotic. The taiji/stalker/ninja/who-knows-what-else walk is to keep the legs bent, and to get stable on one foot before picking up the other. You do not bob up and down this way. You might be said to "glide" if you're really good at it.

And while I'm adding things, here is a link discussing how not to disprove the existence of Bigfoot. (So, yes, this was an old show, but I'd never seen it.)

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16 May 2007

Peppers, Trees and Clippers

I recently planted three maple trees. One of them was my (belated) Easter present, and is a Canyon/Bigtooth Maple (acer grandidentatum). The other two are Japanese coral-bark maples. One of those looks okay. The other...probably isn't going to make it. *shrugs* It came from Wal-Mart. If it needs replacement, I'll go elsewhere. But that's old news. I've been quite, quite busy the last few days.

I've been gradually getting my garden planted. Yay! I have a garden again! I've got some corn, some sugarsnap peas, some herbs, some nasturtium, and a whole bunch of pepper plants. The pepper plants I bought, since the ones I tried to start aren't far enough along to produce much of anything before the end of summer. The rest gets to grow from seed. Now that 's my idea of magic. Stick a seed in the ground, keep it watered, and soon you have a huge plant producing food and more seeds. Awesome. Anyway, I planted two jalapeño, one green bell, six orange bell, four ivory bell, four Hungarian wax, six cherry, four hot cherry... and I think that's it, but I found three orange bell plants today. They still need to be planted. I'm hoping to find a few red bell plants as well. Oh, and I planted a tomato plant, for my mom. I don't like fresh tomatoes; she does.

I've still got some room in the area of weeds that I roto-tilled into submission with my dad's rototiller. So, as I said, I'm on the lookout for more pepper plants, and anything left I'll probably use up the rest of my corn and pea seeds on.

Today, though, I went to work on my elm tree. It was the only tree on this lot when I bought the place. I'm not overly fond of elms, as they produce copious amounts of oat-shaped seeds, but it does shade the back yard. It was planted too close to a clothes line post, and one end of the 'T' has been digging into it for several years. I started to cut off the offending piece a while back...and got distracted. But that meant that I had less left to saw through than I would have had I been starting from scratch. I got out the ol' hacksaw, found a semi-stable spot for the ladder, and went to work. With about a half-inch left at the bottom, the hacksaw blade broke, at least in part because the further I got, the more the pressure from the tree pushed on the cut-off bit. So I nodded to myself, and went inside to get the hammer and mallet. It took a while, but I eventually managed to get the stuck piece to come off by hitting it in the direction it was already being pushed. I think I annoyed some neighborhood dogs with the racket, too. :^) Since I had the ladder out, I went and got a different saw and tackled some large dead branches, too. Now I have to figure out what to do with them... If my dad were not incapacitated, I could offer them to him as firewood. As is, I don't want to encourage him to light fires while blind.

And lastly, I applied one-inch clippers to my hair. I had planned to wait until June, but it was getting long enough that I had started attacking my hair with a razor in the shower. At that point, it's only a matter of time before I inflict unconcealable damage, so I figured a pre-emptive strike was in order.

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15 May 2007

Random Blog Haiku

A while back, Howard Tayler (see blog at left and comic Schlock Mercenary) posted a haiku blog-meme that I keep meaning to play with. Here are some of the results for my blog (the last one is my favorite):

on me or mom star
trek personality quiz
sunrise as part of

life cycle for a
gottschalk's store i wonder
not destroy only

this the world itself
the pattern is neutral there
are dark forces at work

you madden little
country if that makes no sense
to me anyway

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14 May 2007


Based on this excerpt, I would tentatively say that this is a candidate I could support. Here is the full speech.

Already, he'd be a vast improvement over Bush. But so would a cockroach with its head cut off. And Obama is actually capable of stringing coherent ideas together. Vast, vast, VAST improvement.

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A compendium

I have something else to add to the list of things that make me physically ill: too much incense-burning. I figured this one out last week. I was feeling lousy up until I went outside. Suddenly I felt just fine. This went on for a day or so, and got better as I started keeping more of the windows open. I finally connected the nausea to the incense. It wasn't bothering me when I was burning it once a week or less, but I'd burned it several days in a row at that point. What I don't know is if it's all incense, or just that particular variety (a lemongrass blend put out by Purple Moon). Don burned some incense in taiji class on Saturday, and that didn't seem to bother me, but the air wasn't saturated with it, either.

Anyway, incense joins the list of:

benadryl (ok for external application; taken internally, it messes up my breathing)
chamomile (in tea; not so much ill as...out of it)
ginger (at least when I get enough in my system)
gluten ('nuff said)
incense (burned often enough to saturate the air)
soy (esp. soybean oil)
tea (green, black or white, more than a single serving)
zinc ricinoleate (very itchy rash)

I accidentally ordered a dish with ginger in it last week, with no major ill effects thankfully. I wasn't certain there was ginger in it...until I found a little shred of it. I'd already eaten some at this point, so I figured I might as well finish it. I did have some minor fatigue the next day, but I can't be certain there was a connection. I suspect it has to build up in my system to produce the majorly bad effects I got last fall, or else it has worse effects when I'm already depressed.

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13 May 2007

Shaun of the Dead (+ads)

Uh... This may be the most bizarre movie I've ever seen. It's blackly amusing, but not really my style. It's described as a "rom zom": a romantic comedy full of zombies. It's what I consider a trainwreck movie. Once you start watching it, it's hard to stop. In a dark enough mood, I might find it hilarious. At the moment, it's more "Eh?" I suspect it would be much more entertaining at, say, three a.m.

Not relevant to the movie, but a few ads caught my eye. The Shrek 3 preview even got me to unmute the tv. The little I saw/heard suggests that it will be extremely entertaining. I'm not sure if it's a major or minor plot element, but somehow or other Donkey and Puss-in-Boots wind up switching bodies. There was a rather amusing snippet of the donkey with his back curled up, hissing and spitting like a cat.

The other ad was just...weird. A couple sitting on a couch, both hands busy on video game controllers, presumably competing. A hand comes up from the male's—uh, stomach? crotch? It was hard to tell—and picks up a hot dog lying between them, brings it to the male's mouth, and sets it down again. Then a hand comes up from the female's...midsection...and tries to do the same thing, only the male's extra hand attacks it with a hammer. Perhaps if I had unmuted it, this would make some kind of sense. As is, it's actually more disturbing than the movie.

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12 May 2007

Random Exclamation

I just watched Dovienya eat a June Bug! :^D

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Minor plumbing job yesterday. The "chain" on the flap of the downstairs toilet had torn. Unlike every other toilet chain I've seen, this one was actually part of the flap itself, so the flap also had to be replaced. I bought the full assembly kit, in case there was more that needed fixing, but it was just the flap and chain. I can't complain too much, since the full kit was $6 and the kit with just the flap and chain was $3.

Also, I'm typing this from my laptop for the first time in several months. Sometime last fall, after HP had replaced the motherboard and some memory modules, it started acting up again. I was too depressed to deal with it, so it went into its carry case and got stuck in a corner for a good long while. About a month ago, I dug it out and turned it on again. It was mostly working. The only problem was that when it would go into sleep mode, it wouldn't come out again. I had to manually turn it off and back on again. Annoying, but workable. Then... uh, first, some advice. If you're hunting for a remote under a couch cushion, make sure that there's not a laptop cart behind you. I managed to knock the cart over, and the laptop went flying. Apparently I had a literal hard-drive crash, where the reader crashes into the hard disc. By some miracle, my warranty covered this, and while they were replacing the laptop hard drive, the other problem came to light, so the laptop got sent out to HP again. They replaced a bunch of stuff (including a damaged outer casing from where, ahem, it had impacted), and now it seems to be working. *knocks on simulated woodgrain* They did manage to save my pictures, but I'm going to have to go through and relocate everything manually so that I can find it easily.

Oh, there was one other item I had to deal with. When I went to get my snow tires changed off, I found out that my summer tires were starting to crack. The only one still okay was the one I had to replace after the blowout (last fall? summer?). They should have replaced BOTH of the front tires at that time, but I had a moronic tire guy who didn't even suggest it. So I now have three brand new tires and one almost new tire. Hmmm... My tires were about 5 years old... Not sure what they were rated for, though.

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Since I mentioned Jungian archetypes in the last post, I figured I'd look for quizzes about them. Oh, and read up on them a bit, but that wasn't as much fun. Strangely, most of these quizzes seem to have little or no connection to Jung... I am an absurd hero, a wise old sage, and a ninja.

You scored as Absurd Hero. Life is absurd, but that is no reason to become
a depressive emo. You are a regular Camus style Sisyphus, finding happiness
through pointless and repetitive labour and laughing at the general insanity of
the world. Unlike the vast majority of abstract philosophical archetypes you
actually like people.

Absurd Hero


Ellsworth Toohey


The Prince




The Fountainhead


Sadean Libertine


The Underground Man


The Last Man


Philosopher King


What philosophical archetype are you?
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You scored as Wise Old Sage. Wise and eccentric, you may
not participate in the actual quest, but you delicately assist
the hero, never revealing what he wants but giving him the
means to uncover what he needs on his own and thereby
strengthening him. You are the ideal teacher and close to

Wise Old Sage




Love Interest






What Fictional Archetype Are You?
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You scored as Ninja. You're a Ninja, and that
means you're a badass. You like to strike under
the cover of darkness, using stealthy methods to
achieve your goals. Watch those alarms.













Which Gruffian Archetype Are You?
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11 May 2007

Good and Evil

Philosophers talk about the "Problem of Evil." I'd never heard of it back in my teens when I decided Christianity made no sense to me. And I consider that name to be misleading. The problem is not evil (or perception of evil, more accurately). The problem is with a Single, Absolutely Good God.

I'm not sure when I first started thinking about this, but I do know what ultimately crystallized my thoughts: The Wheel of Time. In it, there is an absolutely good Creator and an absolutely evil Dark One. Because of this, the world itself (the Pattern) is neutral. There are good people and bad people, good events and bad events, etc. This makes perfect sense. Any formulation with an absolutely good god that lacks an equally powerful evil god (or some equivalent) is completely incompatible with reality as we know it.

Here was my formulation of the problem. A perfectly good god can only create a perfectly good world. The world is not perfectly good. Ergo, a perfectly good god did not create it. Of course, the usual suspects will scream, "It was the Fall! The Fall! The Fall!" But that makes no sense either. A perfectly good god creates a human being. The human being, then, is perfectly good, and therefore incapable of evil. Here the screams will be of "Free Will!" But in order for there to be free will, the choice must already exist. So this god had to create that choice, or the choice had to exist independently of god. In other words, either god created evil or evil existed independently of god from some other source. If god created evil, god is not perfectly good. If evil exists independently of god, then god is not the supreme creator. QED.

It was at this point that I reluctantly decided I was an atheist. I no longer consider myself an atheist. I think that all the gods that people have ever believed in are equally real, and a reflection of something deeper underlying reality. Emphasis on all the gods. Good, evil, ridiculous, boring, insane... All of them. I don't know enough about Carl Jung's theory of Universal Archetypes to know if I agree with all of it, but the bare-bones idea would fit how I view the gods. And as Granny Weatherwax says (paraphrased), "Just 'cause they exist is no reason to go around believin' in them."

Incidentally, another book that influenced my thinking was Harlan Ellison's Deathbird Stories. Beautiful, but disturbing, collection. If nothing else, read "The Deathbird."

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10 May 2007


Below the fold are some highlights from a post at Pharyngula discussing the conflict between science and religions. Everyone should read the whole thing, as well as the comments.

"What religion does is steal human accomplishment and bestows it on a fickle imaginary being. Modern medicine is not a product of religion, it's the highly refined outcome of years of empirical science, yet people still babble about miracles and prayers."

Agreed. With one caveat. In my experience, people who ask for prayers are not asking for divine intervention. They might be hoping for it, but not asking for it. More generally, they're asking for comfort and sympathy. I wound up at my mom's church a few times while my grandma was sick, and Mom would always put in a prayer request for her. It was comforting to know that others were thinking of her, however briefly. It was also disconcerting to find it comforting.

"One antiquated hodge-podge of a book becomes the arbiter of truth, with the added benefit that its clutter and inconsistency and diversity of authorship means you can justify anything with the right random quote."
Yes. Anything. It all goes back to "assume a contradiction and anything follows." Idiotically, people will fight wars over interpretation of some of this nonsense, rather than actually thinking.

"Religion provides a get-out-of-jail-free card for the consequences of our actions. That irrationality percolates through our brains, and influences more than just what we do in church on Sunday—it makes us susceptible to snake-oil of all kinds."
Most religions foster an attitude of blind acceptance. If someone says it, it must be true! Oh, unless they're not our kind of people: then it must be false. So all you have to do to convince someone that you're right is convince him that you're one of his own kind. Politicians are good at this, and its converse.

"The first time I heard this argument I could hardly believe it: religion never changes, while science changes all the time, therefore religion is better."
Uh, yeah. Sure religion never changes. Uh-huh. And I have this lovely bridge to sell you... For over a thousand years, the sun was believed to go around the earth. The Bible clearly said so. Now except for a few loony holdouts, no one thinks the sun goes around the earth, and they scream "metaphor!" to protect their precious book. Back in the 1800's, the Bible was used to justify slavery. Now they try to explain away the positive/neutral references to slavery, and hope that no one notices that the Bible never says anything negative about it. And don't get me started on the role of women in the Bible. "Do not speak in church." "A woman should never teach a man."

I can feel an attack of four-letter words coming on, so I'll stop there.

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09 May 2007

Stir Fry Chicken

Since I discovered it as an undergraduate, this has been one of my favorite meals. It required no real modification when I found out I was gluten-intolerant, as I've never cared for soy sauce. If you happen to like soy sauce, there's a gluten-free variety that Fred Meyer sometimes carries. Since it's primary purpose is to add saltiness, you can also substitute Thai fish sauce.

You need chicken, vegetables, sesame oil, any other oil, red pepper, and any sweetish spices. I originally made this using ginger, but I've since switched over to cardamom and coriander. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Salt if desired. Heat 1-2 Tablespoons of oil in a wok, with a few dollops of sesame oil and the spices. Then stir fry the chicken until done. Purists will say to place the chicken aside while cooking the vegetables, but I generally just throw the vegetables in with the chicken. They should also be cut into bite size pieces. I usually add in a dollop of extra sesame oil and maybe some more red pepper when I add the vegetables. Stir-fry to taste. I like them to have some crunch left; my mom complains that they're too raw then. Serve over (or under) steamed rice.

The vegetables I use vary by season and ambition, but sugarsnap or snow peas work well, as do carrots, mushrooms, zuchinni, celery, bell peppers, yellow onions, etc. When I'm lazy, I'll use a frozen mix of vegetables. That's also the only time I put green beans into it, since otherwise they take too long to cook. With fresh vegetables, you definitely have to watch out for vegetables that take longer to cook; those should be added first. That's a definite advantage of the frozen mixes, but the taste is always better with fresh.

An alternative is to cook the chicken separately and serve the stir-fried vegetables as a side dish. I've done both depending on mood and ambition. Oh, the original recipe put the soy sauce in with the oils. As I said, I've never cared much for soy sauce, so I don't regret not being able to use it.

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08 May 2007

Thoughtful Post

Over at Positive Liberty, there's a very interesting post discussing the relationship between atheism and morality: Atheism, Morality, Objectivism. It's well-written and definitely worth reading. I hadn't realized that objectivism denies any transcendental reality. I do take issue with one statement:

"The Eastern idea of the material world as a mere illusion is a lamentable untruth." Just as there are strong and weak versions of atheism, there are strong and weak versions of "the world is all illusion." I take this to refer to the fact that all things are temporary, finite. They have a beginning and an end. Mountains last longer than most things, but even they will be worn down or sucked under a continent eventually. This is a simple fact.

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07 May 2007

Fire bad. Tree pretty.

Tests graded. Brain tired.

I just finished grading my second set of finals. Then there's the mass grading session tomorrow. Ugh. But the end in sight is! And I like yoda talking (typing?) am. Me go bed now 'fore it gets worse.

All the major grading is done. I have one outstanding ADA test, and two students who missed their finals. If I don't hear from them by Tuesday, they get a zero on the final. Other than the holdovers, I've got one class's grades left to enter. That's Math025. I can't enter grades until I know how the students who got moved into Cathi's section at midterms did. Anyway, I have a headache now (Damn you Madden! {read Little Country if that makes no sense}).

And the mass grading went more smoothly than usual. Tracy's method of divvying things up seems to be less...painful than other coordinators we've had. We worked in groups of three, each grading the same set of problems with a gradekey that we all agreed on beforehand. This meant that most things were decided before we started and that we had consultants if we came across anything too weird. The most amusing bit of weirdness was a student who'd scrawled "Next time follow the Study Guild!!!!!!!!!!" across the top of one of our pages. We presume he/she meant "Study Guide" and was complaining that the test was not identical to the practice test. Boo-bloody-hoo. Oh, and you wouldn't believe the formulas that people thought were for area/circumference of a circle. Yikes.

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06 May 2007

The Little Country

I just finished reading The Little Country by Charles de Lint. I should say re-reading, except either I never finished it or I had no memory of events in it past a certain point. I suspect it's one where I got interrupted while reading and somehow never got back to it. Until now.

This one is much darker than any other of de Lint's novels that I have read. It borders on being horror without ever quite crossing that barrier. It dances on the edge instead. A book published in an edition of one is entrusted to an old friend, with the injunction that he should never, ever, tell anyone else about the book. But when his granddaughter finds the book, or the book calls her to find it, odd things start to happen. First is the music that people only hear when the book is openned. But the book calls darker forces to it, and it isn't long before the Order of the Grey Dove is hunting for it.

This is a beautifully written book. Two books, really. There are two intertwining stories that finally meet at the very end. In both cases, there are dark forces at work, trying to get to the powerful talisman, and yet there is light shining into that darkness. Sometimes it doesn't get very far, but sometimes it dissolves the darkness entirely. There's a great deal of yin-yang imagery here, where at one extreme end of the spectrum you can always find a hint of its opposite.

I especially liked the music/magic synchronicity that runs throughout. I was particularly struck by a similarity to taiji. If you resist your opponent's force, you give him something to push against, and often push yourself over. If you can accept your opponent's force, then you can control it. This is one of the most counterintuitive things about taiji as a martial art. The instinct is to push back, to use force against force. In that case, the stronger player always wins. But if you can yield and neutralize, you can move someone three or four times your size...by doing nothing. A flick of the wrist. A turn of the waist. A tiny impulse forward. But from the outside, it looks like nothing. It looks like magic. Qi. On rare occasions, I get that feeling while pushing hands. The real beauty of it, is that it happens of itself. You cannot make it happen. You cannot force it to happen. You cannot plan for it to happen. It just...happens. Your body moves of itself, following, yielding, neutralizing, responding, and then your opponent goes back. And you've done nothing.

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05 May 2007


Two summers ago I first found out my parents were having problems. My first hint was walking into the middle of a one-sided argument. I used to walk along the canal near my parent's house. It was a good, straight walk, and sometimes there would be ducks on the canal. I stopped inside my parent's house to fill a water bottle. A lot of the events there are a blur, but I distinctly remember my dad telling my mom, "You want all the f***ing money." Bear in mind that I'd never heard my dad use that kind of language, ever. I sort of froze up, filled my water bottle on auto pilot, drove down the hill to the canal still on auto-pilot, and started walking.

When I got to the canal, I climbed out onto a platform with a large, locked wheel on it, presumably for shutting off and turning on some water source to the canal. I just sat there, not thinking, for a long time. I can't remember if I actually walked further down the canal that day or not. I think I did. I think I walked down to where it passes the Post Office before coming back. When I got back to my car, it dawned on me that I'd left my mom alone with a madman. Very quietly, I checked to make sure that I still had my little pocket knife with me. Tiny blade, but very sharp. Dreading what I might find, I drove back up to my parent's house...to find that my mom's car was gone. I was relieved that I did not need to go back inside. I was more relieved that I didn't have to find out if I was actually capable of using that little knife as a weapon.

I haven't walked on the canal since.

My second hint that there was a problem was finding out that my dad had started sleeping in the guest room in the basement. Rarely used as a guest room, it had always been his own space in the house. Tonight, I found out the reason for his move, if paranoid delusions count as a reason. I've known for a while that he thinks my mom is part of some plot to destroy him (along with his mother, sisters, brothers, and probably everyone else he's ever met). Apparently he actually told my mom that this morning, and explained that she'd been trying to destroy him while he was sleeping. Or that she had destroyed him. Something like that.

And so now I have to wonder, not for the first time, what are the criteria for getting someone committed? With his eyesight as bad as it is, he's already something of a danger to himself. He can't take care of himself, since he can't see well enough to drive. He relies on me or Mom to get his groceries, pay his bills, etc. And if he keeps this up, eventually Mom's going to give up on him, and I can't say as I blame her.

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Lying with Statistics

Mostly, I try to ignore commercials. Most of what they advertise is poisonous to me anyway. I happened to have the tv unmuted for this gem: "(Beer X) has fewer calories ounce per ounce than white wine!" Uh, okay, that's probably true, but a serving of white wine is also smaller than a serving of most beers. The first source that I found indicates that, for the same amount of alcohol, a serving of beer is 12 ounces and 150 calories. A serving of wine is 5 ounces and 100 calories. This probably varies somewhat by brand, and I don't have a listing for 'lite' beer, but I doubt it's anything less than 100 calories. So unless you were planning to drink the same amount of wine as of beer, there's no advantage to switching over.

(For the record, I don't drink. If anyone with more direct knowledge wishes to correct anything here, feel free.)

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04 May 2007

No More Lectures

And nothing to do this weekend, work-wise. Why? Because I actually got the one final that I had to write written yesterday, finished editing it today, and then printed it out. I even gave the Math Office its obligatory copy. That's for Stats. My other classes have a common final, which I don't have to write. I do have to come to the mass-143 grading session on Tuesday. :^p The idea behind it is that every 143 final will be graded the same way. Some people grade easier, some harder. The outcome is the most sadistic way to spend a morning I've ever encountered. Yes, I only have to grade one or two problems, but I have to grade 600 of the bloody things. Ah well.

I still don't know why I've been so dehydrated lately. I've been drinking about twice as much water as usual, and still feeling thirsty. It's getting to be a nuisance, but not as big a nuisance as feeling rotten from not drinking that much water. *sighs*

Hmmm... looks like potassium deficiency can cause extreme thirst, and that dehydration can mess with potassium levels. A one-two, perhaps?

ADDED THOUGHTS: I'd been craving salt for a while before this, and that can sometimes indicate potassium deficiency. I tried using some potassium-replacement-salt stuff tonight. One taste convinced me to go sparingly with it, but a touch here and there will help things out without (hopefully) overdoing them. It could very well be the placebo effect, but I do feel better at the moment than I have for the last few days.

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02 May 2007


I've been out of it all day. At first I thought it was because Cats got out late, and I was late getting to bed, and that was probably part of it. After a nap didn't take care of it, and I was feeling overheated as well, I finally figured out I was dehydrated. I didn't actually feel thirsty until after I'd had a liter or two of water. After the water, I actually felt mostly awake. And started wondering why the "Intelligent Designer" couldn't have built in a monitoring system. Blue light comes on, you need water. Green light, salad. Etc. Unless this "Designer" is like a government committee, and couldn't do that for the very simple reason that it would make sense.

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01 May 2007


I just got back from seeing Cats, as in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on some of T.S. Eliot's poems. It was...interesting. Enjoyable, yes, but more of a spectacle than a play, really. The music mostly served as backdrop for the dancing, with one major exception. Memory. Probably the most famous song to come out of Cats. It was also the thread that tied the various segments together so that there was some attempt at a plot. I'm probably making it sound worse than it was, as I am quite tired at the moment.

T.S. Eliot's poems were only tied together in that they were about cats. So with the musical. It gives the whole thing a very fragmented, disconnected feel, deliberately accentuated with occasional distractions that send the cats all running (gunshots, police sirens and lights, etc.). It was nicely done, just...not quite my cup of tea, I guess. Still, it's worth seeing if you get the chance. And now I have a real cat to tend to before sleeping.

ADDENDUM: I wore my silver strappy shoes to Cats last night. Think something like a sandal sole, but instead of an actual shoe, the top is a series of criss-crossing silver elastic cords. Anyway, when my mom picked me up, she said, "Oh, you're actually wearing pretty shoes." She sounded shocked. :^D

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Dead Week

Every class had a test on Friday, and every class got their tests back in the next class period. So I have nothing to grade until Monday. By some stroke of luck, all of my classes have their finals on Monday. I'll actually only have three classes left to grade, since the late-first-half Math025 class is done now. I always try to schedule things so that I can just review during dead week. If there's something important I've skipped over, I'll add that in, but otherwise just review. I think I do that because that's the way the majority of my undergraduate classes were, and I rather liked it.

So...5 lectures left to give. I think I can manage that. I'm a lot less burnt out this semester than I have been in previous semesters. I think that has a lot to do with my 108-day regimen(s). (For anyone wondering, it's day 18 of the second 108 days today). Getting three rounds of the form in is tougher than I expected, but I've managed. I've also discovered that I can do the sword form with a knife. This means that I (barely) have enough room to do that form inside, if I don't get it done before dark. The weighting is different, but so long as the knife is double-edged, the moves make just as much sense for a knife as for a sword. Though with a sword, your opponent can be further away, of course.

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