27 July 2007


Forgot to mention that there was a fox in the Barnes and Noble parking lot. As in the reddish, furry animal. Very cute. Also seemed very disoriented. First I just saw a blur of motion, and figured there was a dog wandering around. Then got a good look, and it was a fox. Just off of Fort Collins' busiest street. There used to be some fields across Mason (behind B&N), so maybe it wandered in from there.

And apparently Wyoming construction crews can't tell the difference between a lane being closed and a lane that ends. Hint: a lane that ends, well, ENDS. As in, it is no more, it ceases to be, it's crumbled and gone to be reground. A lane that's CLOSED is still there, just cordoned off by Bob the barrel-guy's incessant placement of orange barrier markers. Yes, dear old Bob. Able to be in many places at once, of many ages and appearances at once...able to place orange construction barrels at his whim, whether needed or not. Bob the Barrel Guy. Rivals with Carl the Cone Guy. Steve the Stick Guy got bored with construction and went into show business as Steve the Magic Prop Guy. If you've seen any of the Highlander tv show episodes where Duncan, minus car or coat and wearing fairly tight clothing, suddenly has a sword, you've seen Steve's work.

Inquire Further

26 July 2007

Back in ol' FC

Pretty uneventful trip, discounting the fact that neither Mom nor I slept well the night before and were both grateful for the opportunity to sleep whilst the other drove. Tons of construction, even before we got to Wyoming. We got into Fort Collins around 18:00, overate at Sri Thai (first time I've ever seen white, male servers in there; in the past, they've been female, with the occasional Thai male), then headed over to Barnes and Noble. I think I was too tired to care about finding anything. I was tempted by a Carlos Nakai CD, but not enough to actually buy it. I was going to stop at Wild Oats and see if they had any decent lunch meat, but I was too tired to find it, and then I turned one street too soon on the way back to the hotel and wound up backtracking. So...I'm not as awake as I feel.

My mom noticed I was a bit out of it, and as a test asked me to recite the alphabet backwards. I did so, with maybe three brief pauses. I wasn't sure what this was supposed to prove since I routinely read things backwards, sometimes without noticing what they say forwards. One day at ISU I had the word "Re-rolp-skeh" running through my head, and I had no clue where it had come from. Finally I mentally turned the sounds around and figured out that I must have walked by a Ford Explorer on the way down to my office. Anyway, I think I've reached the limits of my coherency for the night. Good night.

Inquire Further

25 July 2007

Zucchini Bread

Original Recipe, handed down from my Great Grandma Fern:
3 eggs
2 c grated zucchini
1 c oil
2 c sugar
2 t vanilla
1 t soda
1/4 t baking powder
3 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
3 c flour
3/4 c chopped nuts

Bake 325° for 1 hour, two loaves.

The biggest problem I've had at adapting this to be gluten-free is having the bread get done in the middle. So rather than deal with that, today I made zucchini muffins, which are much much easier to get done. They also travel better. I suspect that what I need to do for the bread is decrease the amount of dough in each pan, so maybe dividing it between three loaf pans would work. Anyway, here are my modifications and notes:
4 eggs (eggs help bind GF stuff together, so I almost always add an extra one)
2 c + grated zucchini (I had a bit left over after grating, so I just threw it in)
1 c oil
2 c sugar
2 t + vanilla (I've always used extra vanilla in this)
1 t soda \
1/2 t baking powder (GF flours tend to be heavier, so adding extra leavening is a good idea)
1 t egg replacer /
1 t xanthan gum (makes GF flour stick together)
4 heaping t cinnamon (see comment on vanilla)
1/4 t salt
3 c four-flour white bean mix (Bette Hagman's 4-flour bean mix, but with white bean in place of garfava)
3/4 c chopped walnuts (pecans also work well)

Divide among muffin cups (I filled two full muffin pans and had just enough left over for two ramekins). Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes. (The GF version seems to do better at a higher temperature)

Inquire Further

Colorado Preparations

Bataan's camp starts on Friday, so we're leaving for Colorado tomorrow. While I'm at camp, Mom's most likely visiting Ginger (college roommate who was out of state on our last Colorado jaunt), and then she says she's going to hole up in the mountains, somewhere. Not sure if that's true or not...

So far, I have procured both provisions for the cats and someone to provide said provisions, namely my Aunt Sandra. I've also been working on the door that leads to the stairwell where the kitties are staying. I had removed that door and put it in the garage, and then before the Portland trip I decided that I needed a way to confine Dovi and the kittens, so I put it back on...BUT I couldn't find the screws for the hinges, and the ones that wound up in the top hinge were a mite too narrow. Long story short: the door wasn't shutting right due to the top hinge being loose, and I'd rather not inflict that problem on my aunt. So far I have the holes filled so that I can redrill them. If the package is to be believed, I could drill them now, but I'd rather wait until evening to give the filler more time to set.

As for my own provisions, I know that I don't need much for camp. The people at Sunrise Ranch mostly cook good food. I am bringing some backups simply because their lunches tend to be hit or miss, especially regarding gluten-free options. So I've got a cheese, eggs, and nuts for protein, with apples, zucchini bread, and GF pretzels for starch. Zucchini muffins, more accurately. Made with zucchini from my garden. But I must have picked an odd variety. All the zucchini I've ever seen growing would get long first, and then start widening. This starts widening first, and then gets longer. Weird. Speaking of the garden, the yellow corn is tasseling out (for the non-gardener, that means that it's got ears of corn starting to form on the stalks, as well as pollen-tassels on top). The red corn isn't tasseling yet, but it was planted a week later, and it may just grow more slowly than the yellow corn.

So what else do I have to do... laundry (started), packing, cleaning up the kittens' stairwell, and moving the blockade into the laundry room to give them a bit more room since they won't be able to roam outside while I'm gone. Right now I'm waiting for the last two zucchini muffins to finish baking, then I'll declare one of them lunch. Right after the tea's done brewing.

Inquire Further

24 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

A very good read. The best one-word description for the book is tense. There aren't very many restful interludes between nightmarish ordeals. A few, but they don't seem to last very long. If I try to summarize beyond that, I'll just wind up spoiling things for anyone who hasn't read it yet. So maybe I'll sketch a few vignettes instead.

Harry - Losing things can highlight those which matter most.

Ron - Overly sensitive in certain respects

Hermione - Does not make a very good Beatrix

Voldemort - Overconfident, arrogant, evil... (is this really news?)

Snape - His first name is at least doubly, if not triply or quadruply, appropriate.

Dobby and Kreacher - Do unto others...

Inquire Further

23 July 2007

A Short

Watched Deja Vu. Stop. Good movie. Stop. Reading Harry Potter. Stop. More later.

Inquire Further

22 July 2007

My Saturday

I made it to taiji class. It was not an overly intense day, and my knee was up to everything we did. I had one minor twinge when I shifted the weight to the left foot without the weight being centered in the foot. Then when Mark and I were pushing hands, my calf muscle (gastrocnemus? something like that) got tired and shaky. I suspect the pressure from the knee brace had something to do with that, but I called it quits about ten minutes early because of it. It's been complaining a mite since then, but so far not too bad. Even better, it's not complaining this morning. Definitely healing.

Then, due to random changes of plan which wound up to be fortuitous, I went to dinner with Spencer and my mom at Chang's. The original plan was a movie at seven, but due to commuter issues (you know who you are ;^), I went out to dinner at six. This was fortuitous because Spencer got an emergency flood call towards the end of dinner, and I wouldn't have seen him at all if the schedule had stayed fixed at seven. And with the schedule up in the air, it seemed easier to watch something at my house rather than a theater once the commuter did get there.

We watched Brotherhood of the Wolf. Very odd movie. Enjoyable, but odd. The primary plot is about a huge beast terrorizing a small French village, and efforts to capture/stop/kill this beast. The French king sends a Naturalist (who is also an expert fighter) and his Iroquois sidekick (shaman, healer and fighter) in to "investigate." Most anything else I could say would spoil something in the plot... There are lots of twists and turns. Some I saw coming; others surprised me. One minor...not so much complaint as puzzlement; I suspect it's a cultural difference between European and American films. There were some semi-graphic scenes set in a brothel. They were nothing like the scenes would have been in an American film. There was an incidental feel, like, "See, this is what happens in a brothel," and then some...art shots, I suppose you'd call them. I wouldn't quite call it "tasteful," but it's certainly more tasteful than an American version of the same scene would have been. *shrugs*

Incidentally, the crickets are quite loud at one a.m.

And... in other news, the kittens have discovered the elm tree. This is good in a way, as they've also figured some ways out of the yard, and the elm tree distracts them from those. I've blocked up the ones I've found, but what I can't do is prevent them from climbing up, say, a fence post and climbing down the other side. One minor concern with the elm tree is that they'll get up far enough that they can't get down. Luckily, the lowest branching is low enough for me to reach, and so far the kittens have been able to get back down to there, at least.

Inquire Further

20 July 2007

Weird AND True: Why Pickup-Trucks are Useful

It probably says something about my mom that whenever she forwards me a supposedly true story, I head on over to Snopes.com to check it out. This one, however, turns out to be True. Incidentally, I once thought that I overloaded my Echo (the trunk was nearly full of cinderblocks, plus a few 60 lb bags of sand), but it was no where near this bad. I did drive extra slow on the way home, however.

Home Depot customer
My Friends, I give you " THE DUMBEST GUY ON EARTH!"

This picture is real - not doctored in any way - and was taken by a Transportation Supervisor for a company that delivers building materials for 84 Lumber. When he saw it in the parking lot of IHOP, he went to buy a camera to take pictures.

The car is still running, as can be witnessed by the exhaust.

The driver finally came back after the police were called, and was found crouched behind the rear of the car, attempting to cut the twine around the load! Luckily, the police stopped him and had the load removed .

The materials were loaded at Home Depot. Their store manager said they made the customer sign a waiver.

While the plywood and 2X4's are fairly obvious, what you can't see is the back seat, which contains ( are you ready for this?) 10 bags of concrete @ 80 lbs. each.

They estimated the load weight at 3000 lbs. Both back tires exploded, the wheels bent and the rear shocks were driven through the floorboard.

Inquire Further

19 July 2007


I seem to have acquired a mild cold, likely the same one my mom has. If it's not gone tomorrow morning, I plan to get violent. Beware! Flee the terror of my irrationality, foul microscopic organisms! You shall not survive!

Additionally, it looks like there is no reasonable way for me to simply place the kittens with a store. Petco only places animals that come to it through a humane society, which would require giving up all control over them and allowing them to be euthanized should they not be placed. My response to that consists of two four-letter words. The second one is "that." You figure out the first. As for McKee's, they do not make sure the kittens are vaccinated before people adopt them, and only charge $15. So... I guess I'll get them vaccinated myself, post some ads around, and charge enough to cover the vaccinations. *sighs*

I find it incredibly annoying that there are all these places that want to help people adopt pets, but none that have any reasonable procedure for helping you provide said pets to adopt. Likely this is due to the pet overpopulation, but still. Okay, they're trying to shut out "pet farms," that I can understand, but how does not accepting pets not from pet farms help?

So I've got the kittens for a while longer, probably until we get back from Colorado. Taiji camp starts next Friday. And I need someone to take care of them while I'm gone...

Inquire Further

18 July 2007


Kittens: Rascally and Rambunctious. As soon as my mom tells me which one(s) she wants, it'll be time to put the others up for adoption. McKee's requires owners to get vaccinations themselves and only charges $15 for the kittens. I don't think that's enough; I want owners to be willing to pay a bit more up front so that I know they're serious about taking care of the kitties. I keep meaning to stop at Petco and find out their policies... haven't made it yet.

Knee: Much better. The swelling's down a lot, which isn't completely a good thing. The meniscus acts as a cushion between the femur above and the fibia(?) and tibia below. The swelling was providing a bit of extra cushion, keeping more of the weight off of the meniscus. It's been a bit more...twingey since the swelling's gone down. Though I can now tell that the part that's injured is on the inner part of the leg, near the skin. That's a good thing: the center of the meniscus doesn't get as much blood flow, and tends not to heal very well (if at all). The outside has a decent blood supply and thus heals more rapidly.

Klothing: Yeah, I know. I had to reach for the 'K'. But it's been a while since I've seen any clothing that I liked, and I'm rather badly in need of sleeveless shirts and stretchable shorts at the moment. Not quite as badly now. I found two tank-tops, a pair of shorts and a pair of capris at Fred Meyer. The tank tops were on clearance, and everything else was 30% off.

Inquire Further

16 July 2007

Coyote Waits

This is the first time I've read any of Tony Hillerman's novels. Most of the time I find mystery very dry, boring even. This I liked. It contains a lot of information about local Native cultures in the New Mexico area, and it reads like Hillerman has really done his research. There's a brief excerpt from his autobiography at the back of the book...where he talks about deciding what aspect of the culture he wants to focus on first, and then builds (or stumbles over) a plot to go around it.

As for Coyote Waits, it focuses on Navajo witchcraft tales and locales associated with witchcraft. It starts with a cop on a routine patrol who winds up getting shot and then burned to death in his car. It ends with possible evidence that Butch Cassidy was not killed in Bolivia. *grins* And, yes, there's a connection. Two investigators pick up different parts of the trail, eventually uniting to put them all together. Minor complaint there: the summaries whenever the two met were a bit off-putting, since an astute reader would already know all that. They could have been shortened to: "They compared notes," with subsequent bouncing ideas off of each other. I think I'm just picky, though.

One other complaint: The Chalk Outline Myth. The bits about jurisdiction on the reservation seemed accurate enough (to me). Apparently a homicide must be officially handled by the FBI, though local cops can look-on and assist. It's just that the chalk outline thing makes me wonder about the other police-procedural details... Since that one is likely part of Hillerman's cultural research, it's probably okay. Also, I had to check when the book came out (1990), because there were several places where I wondered "Why doesn't he have a cell phone?" Admittedly, it could then run out of power or be in a no service area... ;^)

Overall, if you like mysteries and have some interest in Native American cultures, I'd recommend this.

Not relevant to the review, but this book was my grandma's. She'd run out of things to read while she was in the hospital, so Mom had me go try to find her something she'd like. Mostly she read romances, and I wasn't about to try picking out any of those for her, but she also liked some of my mom's mystery books. I picked Hillerman because I had some vague interest in him, and because I knew that I would not accidentally duplicate anything she or Mom already had. And they've been stuck in a tv cabinet since we sorted through Grandma's books, and I finally picked this one up and started reading it a few days ago.

Inquire Further

14 July 2007

All Hail!

All Hail the Mighty Pooflinger!!

For figuring out how to do the Peekaboo scripts minus references to the now-nonexistent site!

Inquire Further

Behold the Mighty Plumber!

Lllth. Plumbing is one of the most frustrating things I've done around my house. But it's nice when it's done. I finally replaced the kitchen faucet. While I was at it, I put in a water filter. The faucet was easy, much easier than the bathroom, largely because there's a lot more room to get under the kitchen sink. Then came the water filter. There were two major problems, one of which would have been a problem regardless. First, the cold water connection had stripped threads on the inner part. Second, the adaptor to connect the tubing from the filter to said cold water connection was an insane leak-fest.

Thus began the quest. Finding a replacement cold water connector hose was easy. At Lowe's I got a metal compression-connector. It was the wrong size. The 1/2" cold water connection for some reason wouldn't thread onto the 5/8" compression-connector. So I went to Fred Meyer, since it was closer. No luck. Then Home Depot. There I found some plastic connectors much resembling one that had come with the filter to attach the tubing to the faucet itself. I wasn't exactly sure what size I needed, so I bought two, hoping to avoid going back. The first one worked. The big question is why couldn't the water filter have come with a simple, leak-free connector, hmmm?

So the plumbing's done. Before I put everything back under the sink, I really ought to put some sealant around the edges and the drains, though. As for the old faucet, it was a dying relic. The threads where one might attach an aerator to smooth water flow were stripped, so water sort of sprayed out of it everywhere, especially if you turned it up very high. This also resulted in water running back down the spigot, making it look like the faucet itself leaked. Gone now. And its replacement switches from smooth-flow to spray, and has a sprayer hose built into it. I'm sure there's some fancy name for such a faucet, but I have no clue what it might be.

Inquire Further

13 July 2007

The Knights Who Say...Ni!

More accurately, the Afternoons that say Knee. Okay, it still doesn't quite work. Up until today, my knee had been steadily improving. So what happened yesterday? Well, I decided to work on the bear-sway. It's a taiji exercise that involves shifting your weight from one foot to the other, coordinated with a waist turn. I did this for two minutes in a left-foot-forward bowstance, two minutes in a right-foot-forward bowstance, and two minutes in a horse-stance. Mainly, I wanted to work on that tight left hip. It also seems to have overworked the muscles and/or tendons around the knee, however. They felt fine when I was done, but they've been extra stiff and sore today. So I may or may not go to taiji tomorrow. That was only 6 minutes of intense work, and little else extra. A three-hour class...? Uh, we usually spend an hour on the form, then an hour in push-hands. A LOT of push-hands involves using the bear sway turn from bow stance. An hour of that... I don't think so. Unless I wake up and it's magically feeling lots better, I'm out.

Oh, and regarding the Inquire Further links... the web-site where I got the code seems to have disappeared, and part of the code references said web-site. Iamb of Pooflinger's Anonymous says a fix exists, though, so I'll try to have it fixed soon. Until then, just click on titles if you need to expand.

AM Update: Well, I'm in the middle of the usual internal argument about class. Basically it's: "Rest! You're injured! You wanna make it worse?!?" vs. "C'mon. You can always sit out if it starts hurting." However, I think the "Rest" side is winning, especially after finding this article that describes the kind of knee injury I have.

The meniscus is a small, horse-shoe shaped fibrous piece of cartilage that acts as a cushion in the knee joint between the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia). Theses two menisci can be injured during weight bearng exercise if the knee rotates. A partial or total tear of a meniscus commonly occurs when a person quickly twists or rotates the upper leg while the foot stays still (for example, during football or soccur 'cuts'). With a small tear, the meniscus stays connected to the front and back of the knee; if the tear is large, the meniscus may be only connected by a thread of cartilage. The seriousness of a tear depends on its location and extent.

A person may even be able to continue with activity. Severe pain may result if a fragment of the meniscus catches between the femur and tibia. Swelling is fairly common if after the injury or may occur several hours later. The knee may also click, lock, or feel weak. Symptoms of meniscal injury may disappear on their own with time, but generally they require treatment in order to heal fully.

Minor tears can be treated with conservative treatmetn including stretching and strengthening exercises to build quadriceps and hamstring strength and flexibility.

(spelling mistakes theirs) One small difference, I was not turning quickly when I injured myself. I was, in fact, turning slowly, as befits taiji push hands. I actually had time to feel the upper body try to turn at the hip, get stuck, and then the rotation transferred down the leg to the knee. I'm going to assume that it's a minor tear, because I've been able to put weight on that leg and go about my usual taiji routine without much difficulty. Note: Thursday's bear sway is not part of my usual routine. I also don't have any of the locking and clicking described for meniscus injuries. And I can now straighten the leg without pain. Yesterday it was actually bending the knee that made it hurt the most.

So... I think I'll let it rest this morning, but I'm optimistic. I've already got good quadricep strength, and good hamstring flexibility. Not sure about hamstring strength...but it seems that just being able to straighten the leg is a good sign. For now, I'll just add in a few extra stretches and strengthening exercises. And in about a week I'll try the bear sway again, as that's the type of motion I need to be able to do properly to keep from re-injuring it.

Oooh, Pictures here!

Inquire Further


This will by my 713th post, made on my birthday, July 13. Of course, since I usually write the date European style, this loses much of its significance. ;^) Another oddity: this is the 91st day of my second 108 days, and 7*13=91. It's also the 199th day of the two sets of 108 days, but I haven't found any way to make that appear numerically significant as of yet. Anyway, to celebrate, Mom and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie. Review below the fold (which seems to be working again, but just in case, you can click on the title to read the whole thing).

UPDATE: Found another irrelevant coincidence. Harrison Ford shares my birthday. *sighs* This would be much more satisfying if he'd been in the movie. ;^)

Awesomely done. Much much MUCH better than Goblet of Fire. Goblet of Fire felt cartoonishly silly. Order of the Phoenix does not. In fact, it is very very dark. The closest to bright it gets is in the pink, frilly things favored by the on-screen Professor Umbrage. The actress who plays Umbrage hits the despicable notes admirably, even if her appearance isn't quite what I'd pictured. Pretty much, I wanted to throttle her the moment she showed up on screen, which is about how I felt about her in the book. Luna Lovegood was well-cast, though we didn't learn quite as much about her in the movie as we did in the book.

I'm sure they left out a bunch of stuff, as the book was long, but the movie did not feel like it was missing anything (well, Quidditch was missing). I did notice one difference as for how the Dark Arts group got found out, but the difference actually works out very nicely (and nastily). It's been a while, but my memories of the book call this a spot-on adaptation. The effects from the first use of Umbrage's punishment quill were impressive, though a tiny extension, showing Harry continuing to write and write and write, would have been useful to show how bad it was. If that was filmed, it was probably cut to shorten the movie.

But the dream/nightmare sequences were absolutely splendid, er, splendidly awful. The way they were interwoven with Harry's waking life, and the way that Voldemort's image kept showing up in odd places... Beautiful. They captured Harry's sense of losing himself, and that's hard to do on film.

This last bit is a (whited-out) spoiler if you haven't read the book, but I don't know if it's a complaint or not. It just struck me as odd. I knew that Sirius was going to die, so I was waiting for it, and it seemed...anticlimactic. Maybe because I knew it was coming; I'm not sure. I'm the type who generally feels real grief when an on-screen character dies, so my lack of reaction surprised me. Again, this could just be because I knew it was coming. *shrugs*

Inquire Further


President George W. Bush has struck an aggressive new tone in his clash with Congress over Iraq, telling lawmakers they had no business trying to manage the war, portraying the conflict as a showdown with Al Qaeda and warning that any move toward withdrawal now would risk "mass killings on a horrific scale." Source.

As opposed to staying in Iraq, which will guarantee that mass killings continue on a horrific scale. Almost a year ago, a study placed the death toll at 650,000 Iraqis. As usual, conservatives reacted by denying the validity of the study, without actually explaining what part of the methodology was incorrect.

Some links that discussed the study intelligently (with links to others for those who are interested):
Good Math, Bad Math
The Questionable Authority

In a nutshell: that figure was probably an overestimate, but not by a huge amount. And we've had, oh, almost 10 months of continuous war and bloodshed since then. Yup. We don't want to pull out now and risk mass killing when we can stay and guarantee mass killing!

Inquire Further

12 July 2007


The BBC has an interesting article about getting a robot to walk more like a human. But in at least one respect, they're still doing it the hard way. As Don likes to say, "Most people walk by falling forward and hoping that their other foot will catch them." This is not an efficient way to walk, for several reasons. First, a description from the article: "The robot's momentum causes the robot to rise on its standing leg and a motor moves the swinging leg into position"

Rise on its standing leg. Why? Why rise? For humans, the answer is "so that I don't have to activate and work the quad." In essence, we waste energy that could be used to propel us forward by standing up to avoid using the quads. And this method only works even remotely well on flat terrain. Try it on a rocky slope, and you're just asking for trouble. What's the alternative? Bend the legs! Activate those quads! Sink into the standing leg! This allows you to set the other foot down unweighted. Then if there is a change in terrain, or an obstacle, you can sense it and adjust, and even move the foot again if necessary. It also avoids crashing the weight onto that foot and leg (and knee).

Try walking down a hill sometime with your usual gait. After a while, it starts to hurt. Then try keeping the legs bent and placing the foot unweighted. At first it will slow you down, but it will not jar your leg with every step. This would be a better model for a robot, I think. Leave the bend in the weighted leg the same, move the other leg forward, start placing it on the ground. Sensors in the foot can determine when the unweighted foot has hit the ground, and start to transfer the weight. Sensors can also note any instabilities during the weight shift and adjust as needed (even to picking up the foot again and setting it down in a more stable location).

Because I walk this way out of habit, walking has been helping my knee rather than hurting it. It especially likes going up and down the hills around my dad's house. If I were falling forward onto my front foot, no chance. I'd probably be screaming in pain before I made it one block. Admittedly, it will take time to adjust to walking this way; if nothing else, most people's quadriceps aren't up to it. But the benefits are huge! You're less likely to slip on ice or on gravel; you're less likely to damage your knees; you're less likely to trip over unseen/unnoticed obstacles.

On another note, I read a rather bizarre book some years back. I believe the title was "Everything You Know is Wrong." It posited that humans are the result of cross-breeding apes with aliens, and adopted a lot of the usual creationist canards about why we couldn't have just evolved on this planet without interference. I didn't know much about the "debate" at that point, but one single passage told me that the guy hadn't done much research on walking. He was talking about the preserved primate footprints in volcanic ash (Olduvai? Can't remember now), and how they showed a "bizarre bent-legged gait." Now, if he'd done even a little bit of cross-cultural research, he would have found the taiji walk, the ninja walk, the native-American stalking walk, and probably others that I haven't heard of, which keep the legs bent.

Inquire Further

10 July 2007

The Danger of Grass

Grass seeds, more specifically. I was getting the kittens back inside, and had two black and two grey. One black one was missing. I had a good idea where it was, as I'd had to pull some out from under the raspberry bushes before. He was laying down, not moving, and when I grabbed him I saw why. There were three sort of barbs sticking out of his left eye. I pulled on them, and they were attached to a single seed, from a wild grass that's been showing up in my yard. His eye was pretty swollen, and he acted like it was sore. I called the vet, and wound up at Alta animal hospital after Alpine gave me a whiny run-around. The seed scratched Jacques' cornea, so they gave me some antibiotic cream to put in his eye twice a day. He won't like it, but if it keeps it from getting infected, I'll be happy. He's been pretty sleepy ever since; I think the car ride and the vet wore him out.

And my knee is doing well. Still a bit swollen and sore, but it seems to like the walks with Buster. No twinges today when he tugged either, though either he didn't tug as often or I was planted solidly enough that I didn't even notice. I have used the injury as an excuse to change up the walks a little. I walked up a new road on my parents' hill, giving Buster an opportunity to gawk at a back-hoe. He doesn't bark much, but he does stop and stare. The only time I've heard him bark is when I get there to give him his walk. He doesn't bark at other dogs or people, though he does get very excited. He's the friendliest dog my dad's ever had. Socks was friendly to people, but wanted to show other dogs that he was boss. Keep in mind that he might have been 18 inches tall, and sometimes the other dogs were German Shepherd size or bigger. Scamp didn't like much of anyone except me and Dad, mostly Dad. It's rather nice to deal with a dog who likes everyone, dogs and people alike.

Inquire Further

09 July 2007

Reading, Breaking and Entering

More 'tearing' than breaking, actually. It's always interesting when you lock yourself out of your own house and need to find a way in. My options? (1) Find some place with a phone and call my mom, who also has a key. (2) Walk over to my mom's house and get a key (problematic if she's not home). (3) Find an alternate means of entry.

Since my mom generally doesn't get up until 10 or 11 when she's not working, and this was around 8 am, neither (1) nor (2) appealed, and (2) had the additional problem of my complaining knee (and leaving the kittens unattended). That left (3). Since it's summer, there were some windows open, but the screens are a problem. So far as I can tell, they're made to come out only from the inside. But the one at the back of the house was already torn and coming out of its frame, so I finished the job, pushed the window open the rest of the way, and climbed in. My knee didn't much like that, either, but it worked. So now I have a screen to replace/repair. Ah well.

Meanwhile, I finished reading Greenmantle, one of Charles de Lint's earlier books that I picked up at Powell's. Having an injured knee is a great way to find more time to read. :^) Greenmantle is definitely a good read, though. And nearly got my quotes to the 500 mark. Okay, nine more to go, but it's still close.

The book interweaves two tales, that are really the same tale in different guises. One is the tale of a former mob-enforcer, laying low, forced to confront his past. The other is the tale of Mystery, both hunter and hunted, and neither. Both wild and tame, trapped and free. It's also a tale of making a stand and confronting your demons, both inner and outer. The two tales weave beautifully together.

There were one or two somewhat heavy-handed philosophizing discussions, but mostly they felt true to character and the story. Just...slightly overdone, I guess. One thing that de Lint just gets is the necessity of Mystery, of wilderness, of freedom. Too many Christian churches think they have god trapped, in their books and rites and ceremonies. Whenever god tries to escape, they nail him back onto their cross, and into their book, and scold him for trying to get away. Pathetic, really. Admittedly, some scientists have the same attitude, with their microscopes and vials, but they are always aware that they don't know everything, that their vision of reality could change at any moment. The good ones are, at any rate.

Inquire Further

07 July 2007


I managed to hurt my knee today. Not sure how well the details will translate for non-taiji players. I was practicing push-hands with Mark, in bow stance with the right foot forward. I began to withdraw my weight to the back (left) foot, while turning my waist to neutralize an attack. Something in my left knee went CRACK! I'm pretty sure that I know what happened: my left hip joint was too stiff and to make up for the lack, my knee turned in a way that it wasn't meant to turn. Too bad it's not a pivot joint, like the elbow. Anyway, I swapped my stance for a left-foot forward one, so that my left leg never had to take all the weight, and continued on for a bit without any real problems.

The interesting thing is that correct taiji moves do not bother that knee. So long as it stays aligned and the foot and leg are relaxed, there's no real problem. Any tension or misalignment and it hurts. So on the bright side, I'm going to have lots of time to practice my taiji skills outside of taiji while it heals. I'll have a better idea how bad it is tomorrow morning. For now, I'm keeping it elevated and using ice packs (well, bags of frozen corn; close enough).

The knees are the most vulnerable joint, and the most common place where improper taiji practice can do some damage. I think a few things worked against me today. First up, I'd been trying to stretch out that left hip joint, but the stretch puts some pressure on the knees and might have made them more vulnerable. Second up, carrying in the AC yesterday might have aggravated them a bit. Third, Don had us working on sinking today, which likely put a bit more strain on them. So then when my hip was tight, the knee was just off-kilter enough to keep turning.

UPDATE: Still bothering me this morning. I wrapped an elastic bandage around it for support, and that helped a lot, so then I went out and bought an actual knee brace. My hope is that the brace will keep me from re-twisting it long enough for it to heal. And I shortened Buster's walk today. Usually we go about 2.5 miles. Today we might have gone half a mile. The knee didn't bother me on that half-mile, but it was starting to tire out. I was also very glad I had the brace on, as Buster still occasionally does a massive tug. There was a faint twinge a few times from this, but no major pain. I expect that without the brace, it would have been bad, in the Ghostbuster's sense of the term. But with less ectoplasm.

Inquire Further

06 July 2007

Ohhhhh, oh, ohhhh! The Heat!

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. And once more, UGH!

I put in my window AC today. It really needed to be in two days ago, but I had plants in front of the window where it goes and had to rearrange things to make another spot for them. Now done, though I think I'm going to have to move the recliner. Having my back to a door really REALLY bugs me. Which reminds me: I get to dissect this recliner in a few weeks. Mom's getting a new one to replace, uh, another new one. She insists that the older new one is too short for her. *shrugs* But it's in much better shape than this one, so I figure I'll take the old new one and dissect the old old one. I'm hoping to use the hinges in the footrest to make a laptop platform that I can raise and lower from a coffee-table-like structure, but I have a feeling that the angles are wrong. I need the platform to stay at the same angle throughout the move, but the footrest starts at 90 degrees to the floor and winds up roughly parallel. Maybe there's a way to make it work. We'll see.

Anyway, I got the AC in somewhere around 16:30 this afternoon. It's set at 72 degrees, and has been running constantly ever since (about 3 hours). I've figured out part of why my house gets so hot, though. It was originally about half the size that it is now, and was built onto. The original roof is peaked, with slopes facing the south and north. The newer roof is also peaked, but orthogonally to the original. No clue why; wouldn't it have been easier to build the thing to match? Anyway, that east-facing slope gets hit by the sun all morning long, so that by afternoon the air in the attic is horrendously hot, heating up the front part of the house. The back part stays much cooler. So... I need an attic fan. I could probably install one myself if I could find one that fits into the existing "vent," or that is smaller than said vent. If it's any larger, I do not want to put it in myself. I would rather leave putting holes in my house to the experts. Or enlarging holes, if you prefer. And the one that were readily available in town all looked too large. *sighs*

Inquire Further

Online Gluten-free Resources

Since I know there's at least one fellow celiac who reads me occasionally, I thought I'd post some of the better online GF stores here. When I find others, I'll update.

Bob's Red Mill: You can find all the most common gluten-free flours here, plus xanthan gum, baking powder, etc, as well as raw and roasted buckwheat. Also, you can buy some items in bulk, 25 lb bags. The first time I ordered from them, it took about a month (likely because they were waiting for my credit card to clear); after that, it's always been right round a week.

Gluten-Free Mall: Baking supplies as well as pre-made items. Last time I checked, they carried Enjoy Life chocolate chips, which are guaranteed gluten AND soy-free. It's also nice, once in a while, to order some of their cookies or crackers. As I recall, orders generally take 1-2 weeks.

Gifts of Nature: This is the newest one (for me, anyway). They carry Montina flour, which I would really, really like to have again. The flavor is awesome. It is a bit dry, but there are ways to compensate. I haven't ordered from them yet, so I'll report back if I do.

Inquire Further

04 July 2007

Batman Begins

Overall Reaction: Wow.

My only real gripe is that some of the dialogue (mostly Bruce's parents in the flashback sequences) was of the "Who talks that way?" variety. Some of Rachel's dialogue had that feel, too, but the actress managed to make it work. *shrugs* Other dialogue was absolutely brilliant. One favorite sequence:

Bruce Wayne: Too expensive for the Army?
Lucius Fox: I don't think they tried to market it to the billionaire, spelunking, BASE-jumping crowd.
Bruce Wayne: Look, Mr. Fox.
Lucius Fox: Yes, sir?
Bruce Wayne: If you're uncomfortable...
Lucius Fox: Mister Wayne, if you don't want to tell me exactly what you're doing, when I'm asked, I don't have to lie. But don't think of me as an idiot.
Bruce Wayne: Fair enough.
(taken from imdb; any inaccuracies are theirs)

In a lot of places, the movie did not need dialogue. Just the right level and tone of music, perfect camera angle...and that's it. There wasn't really any of the classic hero/villain speechifying. And the scene where Bruce's parents were killed was all the more poignant for being quiet, almost eerily quiet. A lot of scenes were like that. Body language and cinematography convey the main part of the message, with just a touch of music thrown in, just the right amount.

Of course, it was also quite refreshing to have a well-thought-out, well-written plot in a comic-book movie. Especially since there are clues planted throughout, right from the beginning, as to what's going to happen. Once in a while they were bit too blatant (how many times did they have to mention the microwave-vaporizer?), but at least the pieces were all in play before the endgame. And there was no vocalized speech putting it all together for us; the writer actually assumed the audience would be intelligent enough to put the pieces together. Well, almost. One brief explanation was given by Lucius Fox, possibly necessary but not well-integrated. It was a bit too ad-hoc, like someone said, "Hey, wait? What if someone doesn't figure it out?"

It's also hard to maintain a sense of realism in a comic-book movie. Tim Burton's first Batman movie managed it. The second (Returns)...pushed a bit beyond the edge of realism. Same with the third (Forever). Then there was Batman and Robin. Uh, I think the old '70's tv show had more realism than that. Batman Begins manages it beautifully. Okay, the villains' plan was just a bit over the top, but the technology, at least, was believable. I don't know enough about microwaves to say if the final bit would have really worked... Maybe the Mythbusters will build a supermicrowave and find out.

Final thought: very, very good actors in this movie. Christian Bale is excellent as Batman. Liam Neeson makes an awesome villain. And this is the most normal role I've ever seen Gary Oldman in; usually he's the out-of-control-psycho-nutcase, yet he does well as future-Commissioner Gordon. Plenty of others, too many to list. And it looks like most of them are coming back for the sequel, plus Heath Ledger as the Joker. :^)

Inquire Further

Too Late to be Known as George the First...

I hadn't planned on posting anything else specifically related to Independence Day...until I read today's AKOTAS.

If you want to doublecheck, there's Wikipedia's article on our Declaration of Independence, or the National Archives' Online Declaration.

Now, sing along!

Oh the world will sing of a U.S. King
A thousand years from now
And not because he passed some laws
Or had that lofty brow
While soldiers die around the world
To no good end at all
We'll all have to slave away
Under Georgie's evil thrall

Incredible as he is inept
Whenever the history books are kept
They'll call him the puppet king of the U.S.
A pox on the puppet king of the U.S.!

He sits alone on a giant throne
Pretendin' he's the king
A little tyke who's rather like
A puppet on a string
And he throws an angry tantrum
if he cannot have his way
And he calls for Rove and he sucks thumb
And he doesn't want to play.

Too late to be known as George the First
He's sure to be known as George the worst
A pox on that puppet king of the U.S!

He taxes the poor but not the rich
And he robs us of our rights
His prisoners keep slippin' down
To where there is no light.
Ah! But while there is a wary man
keeping George in check,
We'll find a way to make him pay
And fix what ol' Georgie wrecked.

Original Lyrics

Inquire Further

Hoist the Colours for the Fourth

Fourth of July again, and we're still fighting a bloody, useless war. When did the USA become the evil empire, I wonder... Or maybe it's impossible to be an empire without being evil. Either way, Hoist the Colours captures my feelings more accurately than any of the jaunty, cheery patriot songs that I once loved. If I had a Jolly Roger, I'd fly it today. Note to those who haven't seen the movie: this song occurs right at the beginning, and while it is suggestive of spoilerism, it doesn't achieve it unless you already know what's going to happen.

Yo, ho, haul together,
hoist the Colours high.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars,
never shall we die.

The king and his men
stole the queen from her bed
and bound her in her Bones.
The seas be ours
and by the powers
where we will we’ll roam.

Yo, ho, haul together,
hoist the Colours high.
Heave ho, thieves and beggars,
never shall we die.

Some men have died
and some are alive
and others sail on the sea
– with the keys to the cage…
and the Devil to pay
we lay to Fiddler’s Green!

The bell has been raised
from its watery grave…
Do you hear its sepulchral tone?
We are a call to all,
pay head the squall
and turn your sail toward home!

Yo, ho, haul together,
hoist the Colours high…
Heave ho, thieves and beggars,
never shall we die.

For more (and to view or listen to most of the song from the movie), go here. It's not the full song, but it's the most complete version I could find. Of course, since the movie hasn't even been released onto DVD yet, it's a bit odd that that much is available. And, no, the full song does not appear on the soundtrack CD, much to my disappointment. Just the first verse and the chorus.

And whilst seeking appropriate piratey emblems for this post, I came across this analysis of the series: A Pirate's Life for Me. Much more in depth than mine. :^) Am I obsessing a bit over the Pirates movies lately? Probably. But it's only to make sure I stay slightly insane rather than diving into the holiday depths again. Been there; done that; insane is much more better! Just ask my newly proclaimed arch-nemesis. ;^) *puts a pillow on her head and calls it lego carnage*

And, amazingly, it seems I now have plans for the Fourth. I'm making pizza (real pizza; not ricecake), and Mom and I are going to watch Batman Begins.

Inquire Further

02 July 2007

Daily Dose of Science

Three good articles on ScienceBlogs:

Synesthesia: More common than previously thought. I am synesthetic, but my crossover is mostly between sound and color. Taste and color, too, I guess. I don't see colors in printed words/letters, but when I think them in my head, there is a color that goes with each sound and each word. Same with numbers. Examples? 1 is yellowish, almost white. 2 is green. Three is yellow. Four is orange. Five is brown. Six is bluish. Seven is red. Eight is dark blue (though going by the sound it really ought to be a deep red). Nine is yellow. And for the first time, I notice that the sounds of each number are the same color for me as the number itself. Except for eight. Somehow eight is dark blue, while ate is red with a tinge of yellow. Not sure why.

Another interesting bit of trivia: the curse words that I prefer are mostly goldish red in their sound. Damn (red). Hell (goldish). Bloody (red tinged with green). Blast (red, with lighter streaks, rather like a blast). Bastard (deeper red). For the purposes of discussion, I'll list the ones I don't like and their colors [mildly edited because they even look ugly to me]. A** (red, but a really deep, dark shiny red, like a poisoned apple). Sh*t (brown, but ship, oddly, is blue). F*ck (an incredibly ugly poisonous green). I will say that, by and large, vowel sounds dominate in determining a word's color. There are some exceptions where the consonants override things, but most of the time it's the vowels.

Next up, Sleep Deprivation. Conclusion? Chronic lack of sleep is bad.

And despite what the poor Christians with the persecution complex might think, Discrimination against Atheists is sadly quite common. Unless they follow "don't ask; don't tell," of course, since no one should have the right to openly disagree with the majority religion. Oh, wait. First amendment. Damn.

Inquire Further


I got my mom to watch Dead Man's Chest Saturday night (Look! I used the word dead again! And again!), so that At World's End would make sense to her, and we went to see that Sunday afternoon. And now I've gone all philosophical, as Gibbs might say. Not sure yet where my thoughts may take me, but there may be spoilers [Edit: spoilers for DMC, but not for AWE]. We shall see. All hands below deck!

The most obvious theme from the movies is freedom. Jack even told us in Curse of the Black Pearl that that's what a ship really is. Freedom. To go where you want, when you want, because you want to. But there's always a price to be paid for that freedom, whether it be a price on your head or something more mystical.

Another common theme is the conflict between (I)obeying the law (or Code) vs. (II) doing what's right vs. (III) doing what needs to be done. In an ideal world, of course, these three would always coincide. In our world, and in the world of Pirates of the Caribbean, they rarely do. In Curse of the Black Pearl, the conflict is primarily between (I) and (II). It's summed up nicely in this exchange:
Norrington: "One good deed is not enough to make up for a lifetime of wickedness."
Sparrow: "Though it seems enough to condemn him."
If not for his good deed, they never would have caught Sparrow to hang him. Going strictly by the law, Sparrow should be hung. Going by what is right, he must be set free. The Kraken is coming. It's a long ways to shore. If the Kraken takes long enough to take down the Pearl, they can escape. If not, they all die...unless... Unless they leave behind the other "item" that the Kraken is after: Jack Sparrow. Jack won't stay willingly, but handcuffing him to the ship ensures that everyone else will make it safely ashore. It's still wrong, but it's what needs to be done.

There are those who would call such a decision evil, and insist that by doing nothing, even if everyone dies, that their own hands are clean. I would disagree. Doing nothing is itself a choice, with its own consequences. Unless you knew for certain how long it would take the Kraken to devour the Pearl (and how long it would take to row to shore), you would be risking every life aboard. That choice has the potential for a greater good, but also for a much greater evil. Trapping Jack is the middle path between the extremes.

Another theme becomes most obvious in At World's End. It's been a common American movie theme since movies have been made, I think, and the idea goes even further back. The "evil corporation/government" vs. the "independent privateers." Nottingham vs. Robin Hood is the earliest example that comes to mind. It's been a while since I've seen a fresh take on that particular mythos. It seems...suggestive that it should come up now. There's a dance, you see. The privateers will deal and double-deal and triple-deal with anyone, so long as the corporation gets the short end of the stick when all's said and done.

Inquire Further