30 June 2008

Unmixy Things



Kitty with sore paw.

Princess tried to catch a bumblebee who had very kindly dropped by to pollinate my raspberries. She leaped up, trapped it between her two front paws, and let go almost immediately. No yelp, but she did limp back toward the house fairly quickly, pausing to lick her right front paw now and again. As it didn't swell up and she is now walking just fine, I'm going to assume that she let go before it had a chance to give a full sting. Hopefully in future she'll remember that bees don't make very good toys. ^/^

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29 June 2008

Pennies from, er...

...definitely not heaven, anyway. I found them whilst digging dirt out for paving stones.

I strongly suspect that I'm responsible for the extreme pits in the most mangled one. I tried cleaning it up in CLR, and I'm guessing that the metals in the penny were so strongly bound to the stuff the CLR was eating that it just ate them all. The one in the best shape seems to have been coated in red paint, for no obvious reason. Presumably the paint protected it and kept it from accumulating as much junk. The other one I was more careful cleaning. It did get CLR treatment, but very briefly. Also 2% hydrogen peroxide (on all of them).

I have no idea how long they were buried. The legible dates are 1980 and 1983, so at most 25 years. I thought that the most deteriorated one said 1984 shortly after I pulled it out of the CLR, but it's now completely illegible past the '19', so it's quite possible I imagined it. It's also possible that the pennies were dropped at separate times, but as they were fairly close together in the digging, it seems likely that they were dropped at the same time.

By digging in the backyard, I've realized that the reason that artifacts get buried has less to do with more soil being blown in and more to do with the yearly freeze/melt cycle. There are probably places where loess is also important, but in my backyard, an item will simply sit on the earth while it's dry. Then the winter snows come. When the ground thaws, it is soft and wet, so items tend to sink. Heavier items seem to sink more than lighter items. Or maybe weight distributed over surface area is more important. *shrugs* At any rate, that paving stone I found in the same general area had sunk maybe 2-3 inches below the soil surface (roughly 5 years since I put it in). The pennies were about 4 inches down, which suggests a longer time period.

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28 June 2008

A Smattering of Succulents

I stopped at the rest area at Hell's Half Acre on the way back from IF today, specifically to see if the prickly pear were in bloom. They were. Lots and lots of good pictures, but I thought the grasshopper was rather cute in this one. Plenty of other bugs in other pics, but I have no clue what most of them are (beyond "beetle").

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Bug Hunt

in the elm

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26 June 2008

Something of a Belated Tribute

Most people have probably heard that George Carlin died just a few days ago. I haven't seen much of his stand-up, though I've run across rather poignant quotes from him. Mainly I remember him from the Bill & Ted movies and Dogma. But I ran across this post and thought the link worth sharing. A few excerpts:

In the first world war, that condition [PTSD] was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables, shell shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves.
Then of course, came the war in Viet Nam, which has only been over for about sixteen or seventeen years, and thanks to the lies and deceits surrounding that war, I guess it's no surprise that the very same condition was called post-traumatic stress disorder. Still eight syllables, but we've added a hyphen! And the pain is completely buried under jargon. Post-traumatic stress disorder.

~George Carlin

And from Juan Cole:
I have concluded that Carlin was right about that issue. Being traumatized by war is not a disorder. In fact, if you are not traumatized by the sight of body parts flying all around you as you are splattered with the blood of people you know, then you would have a disorder.

And from me: No sane person chooses war when there is any other reasonable option available.

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Sad but True

This is the Earth:

This is the Earth on petroleum-guzzlers:

Any Questions?

H/T to Matt. The second image was made by his brother. I just couldn't resist putting it in this format.

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25 June 2008

The Other Side of the Slate Mountain Trail, With Turn-Off

Yesterday I went up to Gibson Jack and took a turn-off at the Slate Mountain trail, then another turn-off at the Dry Creek Ridge trail. I didn't go all the way along the ridge, as it was starting to go downhill and I really didn't feel like doing too much climbing-back-up at that point, but it was quite a lovely hike, and there are some awesome views from the Ridge. Anyway, an estimate of my route (pinkish dots) is below. I'm not sure where, exactly, I turned around, but it did require some altitude gain. Below the fold are a few scenery shots.

This is the view not too long after turning off of the Gibson Jack trail onto the Slate Mountain trail. To get there, go up the motorized side (to the left; the one that crosses the stream immediately), and right around where the third switchback begins, there's a sign.

Here's the view at the turn-off for Dry Creek Ridge, looking toward the Slate Mountain side. The Dry Creek trail doesn't seem to get as much use, but it's still in pretty good shape. Incidentally, I was pretty tired on the way down, saw the turn-off back to Gibson Jack and didn't take it... Flax saved me from too much back tracking. I hadn't seen any flax on the way in, but I was seeing tons of it on my little detour. Suddenly it dawned on me that, hey, that turn-off I saw a ways back must be my turn-off to get back to Gibson Jack. I had gone less than 500 feet in the wrong direction, thankfully.

Gorgeous view not very far down the Dry Creek Ridge trail at all. On the one hand, the haze made it difficult to make out details; on the other, I love the way the back-most mountain just shades into blue. The haze may be from the California fires. There's a weather service statement warning that some of it may be in the area.

Lastly, a feather that I saw when I stopped for a picnic at a convenient rock. Oh, and my hand. And some junipers and mountains in the background. Not too long after I sat down to my picnic, a white-tail deer came bounding out of the juniper. I went to see if I could get a better look, and either a second deer bounded out or the first one had chosen different cover and bounded clear out. Either way, they/it were gone too quickly for me to get my camera out.

Now at some point I suppose I should take the Slate Mountain side of the trail...

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24 June 2008


I think I've finally figure out why my asthma's been so bad this summer. I had been assuming it was due to the kittens and their dander. That might be contributing, too, but it's not the primary problem. It was getting bad enough that I looked for asthma specialists in Pocatello, and found one who had a double specialty: asthma and heartburn. At the time this struck me as odd.

Then I started paying attention to other sensations that I had assumed were unconnected. In the fall, I started having frequent cold-twisting sensations in my chest (there aren't good words to describe them). Not pain, and not in the heart. At first, they seemed to be associated with the onset of a cold, but then they started showing up at other times. In the past few weeks, I've also had mild pain in the same area. This, strangely enough, is referred to as "heartburn." No burning, and not actually at the heart.

A bit of research turned up a link between acid-reflux (which causes heartburn) and asthma. The acid getting into the esophagus can also get into the breathing apparatus, with suffocating results. The mechanism at fault is a muscle that is supposed to keep the acid from getting out of the stomach. It gets week or too relaxed or something, and so acid can escape upward. This is particularly problematical when in a prone position, and worse if in an inverted position.

So I have a projection for the course of events. The Advil I was taking for my knee last summer may have compromised that muscle flap (the LES, I think), and my insane fall schedule had me often eating dinner very near to bedtime. That ups acid production just before going to a prone position. That doesn't explain why it would suddenly get worse in the summer, but I started increasing the amount of yoga in my daily practice, and many of those are inverted or prone postures. Incidentally, about 15 minutes after taking a generic-equivalent-to-Pepcid, my breathing started to calm down. The trick will be getting things to calm down without becoming dependent on the medication, as taking it for too long can result in an acid-rebound-effect.

Here is where I got information from a recent study on acid reflux. There was no consistent correlation with the various foods that most of the literature insists you should avoid. The only things that consistently helped across the board were (1) not laying down too soon after eating, and (2) Sleeping with the head of the bed elevated. Incidentally, I just put 5-inch risers under the head of my bed, and that seems ridiculously slanted. The article recommends 6-8 inches, which would have me and my mattress sliding clean off, methinks.

I did notice that the orange juice I had today made my throat sore, so I'm thinking citrus drinks are out until the esophagus can heal a bit. I'll just keep an eye out for what foods irritate my symptoms and avoid them rather than follow someone else's list. Tea, for instance, seems to improve my breathing, but is on most of the lists as "to avoid." Anyway, I'm rapidly losing coherency, so that's all for tonight.

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23 June 2008

Casino Royale

As in the newest edition to the James Bond canon, not the parody movie which somehow got away with using the name "James Bond." That one was fairly entertaining, if rather corny.

The newer Casino Royale, though, is extremely well done, if a bit problematical for the established canon. See, it's an origin story. Bond's only just been promoted to "double 0" status. However, it's set in the modern era with cell phones and computers and implantable microchips, etc. Once I got over the whole "Er, did the earlier films with older Bonds regress technologically?" thing, I quite enjoyed it. (There are no major spoilers ahead, but possibly a few hints at things)

I will note that there were two places where the movie could potentially have ended, but I'm just as glad that it didn't. Most of the plot loose ends did get tied up by the end. There were a few places where I just wanted to applaud the villain(s). Seriously awesome badness. I mean, tying a girl to a railroad track just doesn't compare (if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about; if not, you'll figure it out when the scene comes up). Also, there was no "lock the hero in a room and wait for a complicated device to kill him" shtick. There was a locked room, but the villain kinda needed him alive at that point. `/^

*pauses* I just noticed a bit of a plot hole... which renders that entire scene unnecessary. Ah well. It still beats the locked-room-death-device, even if torture is not an intelligent way to gather information. I can think of much better ways to get the needed "password," assuming it was genuinely needed. Probably not as spectacular on screen, however. `/^

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22 June 2008

Observer Created Reality

There's a good article up on Science Blogs about quantum mechanics. It is written for the lay-reader, which makes it rather long, but most people should be able to follow it. I wish there had been a few more technical details. In a nutshell, if quantum mechanics is correct either locality (localization of phenomena; "distant events do not affect one [an]other") or realism (properties exist before they are measured) must be incorrect. Someone finally came up with a test for realism, and the results were many orders of magnitude off from what a theory preserving realism would predict.

One quote from the end of the article:

Late last year Brukner and Kofler showed that it does not matter how many particles are around, or how large an object is, quantum mechanics always holds true. The reason we see our world as we do is because of what we use to observe it. The human body is a just barely adequate measuring device. Quantum mechanics does not always wash itself out, but to observe its effects for larger and larger objects we would need more and more accurate measurement devices. We just do not have the sensitivity to observe the quantum effects around us. In essence we do create the classical world we perceive, and as Brukner said, "There could be other classical worlds completely different from ours."

Read the whole thing

One thing that I'm not following. If the way we observe things as human beings determines how we see them (a blue couch is always blue is the example in the article), and quantum effects remain but we just can't see them, why is the couch always blue? Fine, our eyes "collapse the wave function" in some predictable manner, but, lacking realism, there doesn't seem to be any reason why they would always collapse it to the same value. Yet we observe couches that, most of the time, have the same color from moment to moment and day to day and year to year (minus fading, etc.) and we are surprised by exceptions. As the article is written for the layman, it may just be that some crucial aspect got left out, or it may be that no one's quite sure yet.

Ah, I found a few more details here, from someone advocating a "Transactional Interpretation" of Quantum mechanics. If you've got a Powerpoint viewer, there's a nice presentation of it here, or there's a much shorter discussion on Wikipedia. The interpretation argues for energy waves travelling both backwards and forwards in time. It seems to utilize non-locality, and argue that results are determined atemporally by "handshakes" between all entities involved in a quantum mechanical system. It's one that I hadn't encountered before.

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When the Lava Fields Bloom

Tons of pictures below the fold, and I even left out a few! I didn't get a picture of the hot-rock-penstemon, and I'm not posting pics of the blue penstemon or the cinquefoil, mainly because the ones I had weren't very good. But plenty of others below the fold. Some of them I already knew from prior trips, some were identified by Brina, the ranger who guided the morning hike, and some I found in a little 94-cent booklet of flowers that grow in Craters, found in the visitor's center.

The ranger called this one "blue-eyed mary". Interestingly, it's not in the little pamphlet. But it is in my Falcon Guide to Great Basin Wildflowers(FGGBW)*. Apparently it's in the snapdragon family, but the usual third lower lobe (with the blue petals) gets folded in and hidden.
*I somehow wound up with two of these... Anyone in need of one?

Desert Parsley, according to both the ranger and the pamphlet. The leaves are edible, and Native Americans ate them as "salad greens." As with any member of the parsley family, do not eat it unless you are absobloodylutely certain of what it is. They're easier to distinguish in bloom, but never get careless.

I'm not sure about this one, but I'm pretty certain it's in the mustard family and most likely a rock cress. The closest match I've found is the elegant rock cress, which has a similar plant structure and is described as having a "pink-purple" color (FGGBW). The picture is much pinker than this one. *shrugs*

Sulphur buckwheat, according to the ranger. I'm not sure that the flowers have opened all the way yet on these... It doesn't look like it in the picture, and the ones pictured here seem to be a bit fuller.

Dwarf buckwheat, according to both the ranger and the pamphlet. Wow. According to Idaho Mountain Wildflowers, there are about a dozen varieties referred to as "dwarf buckwheat". Assuming that the park's pamphlet is accurate (and that only one variety by that name grows in the park), this one should be Eriogonum ovalifolium.

Scorpionweed, aka Silverleaf Phacelia (pamphlet and ranger). Apparently the shape of the leaves were thought to resemble the profile of a scorpion's stinger. I'd say that's a bit of a stretch.

Ferns in the desert! I have almost no info on ferns, so I'm not going to try to identify them. There seem to be places where enough moisture collects for them to grow, especially in and around the caves. This one, though, was practically out in the open. It is wedged into a crevice, so presumably there's enough water in the crevice to keep it alive.

I think this one is a Syringa, Idaho's state flower. I know the ranger mentioned Syringa, and the couple who were on the tour with me commented that it was more of a shrub than a flower. ^/^

Two for the space of one! The reddish one, of course, is Indian paintbrush. The smaller one is some sort of aster or fleabane. If it's the one in the pamphlet, it's Fernleaf Fleabane aka Erigeron compositus.

And here we have the dwarf monkeyflower, carpeting a section of the lava. There were many such carpets throughout the park.

This one I only saw at Devil's Orchard, but it is in the pamphlet as Cryptantha, or Cryptantha torreyana. It's in the borage family, which explains the resemblance to stickseed.

Last, a larkspur. The ranger on the morning tour seemed to have larkspur mixed up with blue penstemon, but, as she freely admitted, she's a geologist not a biologist. ^/^ Assuming that it's the larkspur in the pamphlet, it should be Anderson Larkspur aka Delphinium andersonii. I've seen a lot of larkspur this year. I don't know if it's because I got out earlier or if the weird spring we had encouraged it to grow more prolifically than usual.

Anyway, those were most of the flowers I saw at the park. And I saw on the way back from IF yesterday that the prickly pears at Hell's Half Acre are now blooming, so maybe the ones at Craters will soon follow suit.

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21 June 2008

Dreaming of Electric Police Cars (and Stealing Them)

Weird dream this morning. It was Saturday. I went to meet up with Melissa to go to taiji, only she'd decided to have a philosophy club meeting...in a room that looked very much like my old bedroom at my dad's house (only many times larger)...that was apparently now part of the university. At about 7:48 am I decided that I'd rather go to taiji and bid her and the club fare well. I went out to find Jean Luc (my car).

There was a huge parking garage (and a random descent into lucid dream territory, but all I got out of it was a better pair of shoes). I couldn't see Jean Luc anywhere, so I tried hitting the "panic" button on the remote (which is supposed to make it honk up a storm until the button is pushed again). No honking. I did hear a sort of buzzing/whirring, and followed the noise to an odd looking police vehicle.

I knew it was a police vehicle because it had the light bar on top, but it was shaped vaguely like a dune buggy. I hit the button on my key-remote again. The lights flashed and the thing buzzed again, so I shrugged and decided I might as well take the thing. I got in, and found what was apparently the throttle...at the bottom right of the single seat. It was a small plastic lever, say one inch by a quarter of an inch. Pulling up on it made the car go forward, but I couldn't get it above about 20 mph. Some guys came along and tried to help, but they couldn't figure it out either.

At that point, I woke up.

PM ADDENDUM: At some point, and I'm not sure if it was part of the dream or after I woke up, I decided that the car wouldn't go because it was an electric one in need of a recharge. Hence, the title.

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20 June 2008


This is a Worldle montage of the last post. Interesting little toy to play with. (H/T: C.Orthodoxy via Exploring Our Matrix)

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19 June 2008

Mistletoe: The Water-sucking Vampire of the Desert

The dominant (and in many places only) tree at Craters of the Moon is the limber pine. No, not lumber: limber. Its smaller branches are extremely, even ridiculously, flexible. You can bend them just about any which way without hurting the tree, and even tie them in a knot. This is a tree that usually grows near the tree line in alpine environments, not in lava-encased deserts. According to the guide on the morning hike, the seeds were deposited in the area by glaciation during one of the ice ages, and found loess in which they could germinate. Almost all of the soil in Craters of the Moon gets blown in as loess. The rocks haven't deteriorated enough yet to produce soil locally.

However, the limber pines have a parasite: the dwarf mistletoe. It doesn't look like much to start with, but it is rather hard on the trees. What happens is that it sends chemical messages into the host tree, telling it to send more nutrients down towards where the mistletoe is growing. In turn, this causes the tree to sprout massive amounts of small branches around the mistletoe. The collection of branches is known as witch's broom, as it tends to resemble the rough bristly shape of a classic witch's broom. Additionally, the mistletoe draws water, sucrose and other nutrients out of its host. This can sometimes kill the tree, but I saw at least one tree where the infected part had died while the rest of the tree was still viable.

Early in the park's history, the powers-that-be decided that witch's broom should be eradicated. To that end, they cut down or poisoned thousands of infected trees, many of whose carcasses are still standing. Here it suggests that the purpose was "to 'control' a dwarf mistletoe outbreak," but the signs in Devil's Orchard imply that it was more of an aesthetic decision. They didn't think the trees were as pretty with the mistletoe on them. Nowadays, there seems to be more of a live-and-let-live attitude, and an acknowledgement that the mistletoe is a part of the ecosystem, too.

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17 June 2008

Craters of the Moon

Wow. Any place with enough dirt to support plants is blooming up a storm! From the sounds of things, this is one of the most spectacular blooms in nearly ten years. I'm too exhausted to post too much about it, but I would highly recommend going on one of the guided 9:00 am tours. I got a lot of good info there. Not so much in the 1:00 pm tour, as a lot of it was repeat, and there were more people in the group. Smaller groups are better for these things. Also, the first ranger had her master's in geology, so she was able to add more info to a lot of things. Anyway, two pictures below the fold.

These are monkey flowers. Purple dwarf monkey flower and, er, dwarf suk-something monkey flower. The purplish one is about the size of most snapdragon blooms, roughly the size of the tip of my index finger. The yellow one is almost impossible to see unless you kneel down in the lava. There were areas just carpeted with the purple ones. Possibly the yellow ones, too, but harder to tell if so.

Just to give you an idea how extensive the bloom is, see that yellow patch that seems to be at the base of the hill at the back there? Those are buckwheat, probably dwarf buckwheat going by the color. Gorgeous plant. I'll have to see if any of my close-ups turned out when I'm less exhausted.

At any rate, if you're in the area, this is a very good time to head up there.

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16 June 2008

Excursion Prep

I'm planning on going to Craters of the Moon tomorrow, so I baked some bread to take along. Despite a few muck-ups, it turned out wonderfully. It's essentially the same thing I made here, but I used almond meal in place of hazelnut meal, and forgot about adding the milk. Now, if only Montina flour were easier to find. It adds such an awesome flavor to bread. *sighs*

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Muppets, etc.

Which Muppet are You?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as The Great Gonzo

You might be far out there, but you sure know how to have fun! People love you for the wacky things you do! Whoopeee!

Rowlf the Dog


The Great Gonzo


Robin the Frog


Kermit the Frog


The Swedish Chef


Miss Piggy


Sam the Eagle


Fozzie Bear


Rizzo the Rat


Statler and Waldorf










Well, if I had to choose a muppet, it would be Gonzo, so I can't complain about the results here. ^/^ Incidentally, for a disturbing muppet video, go visit Matt. Without the bleeps, it's safe for work. With them... er... Iffy.

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14 June 2008

Happy Flag Day

On the day the wall came down
They threw the locks onto the ground
And with glasses high we raised a cry for freedom had arrived

On the day the wall came down
The Ship of Fools had finally run aground
Promises lit up in the night like paper doves in flight
Now life devalues day by day
As friends and neighbours turn away
And there´s a Change that, even with regret, cannot be undone

Now frontiers shift like desert sands
While nations wash their bloodied hands
Of loyalty, of history, in shades of grey

~Pink Floyd (Great Day For Freedom)

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Obama Would Uphold Constitution

...unlike the administration of the past 8 years. More specifically, Obama agreed with the Supreme Court decision to reinstate Habeas Corpus. McCain disagreed. So if you'd like your fundamental, constitutional rights preserved, vote Obama. (Via Juan Cole.

Ever notice that "judicial activism" is code for "judges don't do what I think they should have*"? In this case, McCain calls upholding the Constitution judicial activism. Right, so ripping the Constitution to shreds and lying to start wars... what would you call that, Mr. McCain? He'd probably say it's "Just good business." Blech.

*Two cases. California judges ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, despite a majority vote to forbid it. This was "judicial activism". Oregon judges ruled against assisted-suicide, despite a majority vote to allow it. No cries of "judicial activism." Any questions?

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13 June 2008

On Trusting and Post Offices

American presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt strongly disapproved of the idea of evoking God within the context of a "cheap" political motto. In a letter to William Boldly on November 11, 1907, President Roosevelt wrote: "My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege... it seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins, just as it would be to cheapen it by use on postage stamps, or in advertisements."

from Wikipedia

Last night I got one of those typical "outraged" e-mail forwards, about someone being required to take down a sign reading "In God We Trust." In this case, it was at several post offices. That much of the story is true. What is not true is that there was any sort of religious issue involved. If the posters had been of Celine Dion, a waterfall, a half-naked man, or anything else, they would still have been in violation of a very simple postal regulation that prohibits the "depositing or posting of handbills, flyers, pamphlets, signs, posters, placards, or other literature (except official postal and other governmental notices and announcements) in interior public areas on postal premises." (from Snopes).

When I pointed this out to my mom, she actually suggested that a specific exemption for that phrase (In God We Trust) be made. Now, if I wanted a specific exemption for the phrase, "There is no God but Allah and Muhammed is his prophet," or for "Buddha gained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree" or anything similar, she'd have a fit. But for her particular religious leanings, an exemption is supposed to be okay. This example illustrates quite nicely that the use of such phrases is little more than institutionalized bigotry against dissenters. I even got the typical persecution complex reaction, that banning the phrase is somehow prohibiting free exercise of religion. Er, no. Especially not in this case where it is not the phrase that is banned, but non-official posters of any sort. Allowing that phrase as a specific exception is a violation, however.

It's probably worth pointing out that, for legal purposes, "In God We Trust" on coinage is not considered religious but patriotic. In other words, the "God" being referred to bears no connection to any deity of any extant religion beyond generic patriotism. To my mind, that makes it idolatry to any of the Abrahamic traditions. This makes it particularly ironic that it is usually people from Christian traditions who oppose the removal of the phrase.

I'm pretty much indifferent to the phrase myself, but for those who are bothered by it, the way to remove it from currency is not to insist that it's unconstitutional. That should be a secondary argument if used at all. The way to get rid of it is to make it abundantly clear what, exactly, the phrase stands for. It is part "Civil Religion", not Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Wicca or Hinduism, etc. There's often a "wink and nod" attitude, that, of course, it refers to the Christian god and no other, but that is not how the courts read it, nor is that how it is actually used in mainstream politics. It is "God" in the same way that the Roman Emperor was considered a "god" and little more.

Back to the e-mail, the "solution" suggested was to write "In God We Trust" on every envelope mailed through the post office. The roguish part of me would prefer to pick random deities to substitute. "In Vishnu We Trust" has a nice ring to it. The more serious part of me would prefer to write something more useful, like "Separation of Church and State" or "Remember the Establishment Clause" or "This Envelope Intentionally Left Blank." Either way, my mom really should know better than to send me forwards like this by now.

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12 June 2008

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull(s)

No, that's not quite the official title, but it's easier to say. And I quite enjoyed it (which will probably horrify Matt). ^/^

I went in expecting it to be mediocre, based on the reviews. It was better than mediocre. Not awesomely great, but an enjoyable romp. A few minor spoilers below the fold.

If you've seen the first or third movies, you know the basic plot (I can't remember the second well enough to compare). There is a powerful semi-mystical artifact. Bad people want it. Good people (including our intrepid hero) are trying to stop them from getting it. The bad people in this movie are Russians, as the writers realized that WWII couldn't last forever. However, they act just like the Nazis in the other two films, just with Russian accents and the occasional Russian word. Cate Blanchett is quite fun as the head Russian.

The artifact, as you probably can guess from the title, is a crystal skull. For the record, I'm not a bit fan of skull imagery, so I was quite pleased that these skulls didn't look particularly human. There's a reason for that, probably tied up with why a lot of people didn't like the movie. I'm not sure why aliens are any less plausible than power-of-god-in-a-box or an immortality-chalice myself. *shrugs* Oh, wait, you mean cultural myths are more culturally acceptable than fringe-lunatic-myths? Sorry, but...why?

Yeah, the plot is kind of ludicrous, but no more so than any of the other Indiana Jones movies. But I definitely liked the character sub-plots, though the passing-of-the-torch gig was a bit heavy-handed. On the other hand, I did not see an incredibly obvious plot twist coming, and I kicked myself for not seeing it. Incidentally, you know that, any time one character alone takes time to grab up all the treasure that he can, particularly gold ones, he's pretty much a goner.

One part bugged me (no pun intended, and for a different reason than it bugged Matt). Okay, the one guy who can lead them to the Forbidden City Secret Temple is in the car containing the "good guys". The Russians are in another car, attempting to drive the other car off the road into a bottomless ravine. DOES NOT COMPUTE. They still need the guide. They didn't even bother to have a half-hearted "Ve need zem alife!" In fact, it was the head honchess herself driving the vehicle attempting to shove them off the road! Maybe she knew it was just a movie and so she knew she wouldn't be able to push them off the road ...? She was supposed to be psychic, after all. *mutters*

Anyway, if you go in expecting a light-hearted romp, you'll probably enjoy it. If you go in expecting a masterpiece, you'll wind up hating it.

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I just played around with the satellite maps on Google Maps, and confirmed that I was, indeed, on Ice Cave Road yesterday. Seems that it only becomes Crystal Ice Cave Road after it splits (near the A on the map). The little red bit at the bottom right is where you turn off to get to Wapi Park. The road continues on further, but I didn't feel like highlighting it for the whole way. Basically, it hugs the lava formation down at the bottom, then continues off to the bottom left. So... I'm thinking that if I don't turn off there the next time I have an excuse to take the pickup to American Falls, I might find the Crystal Ice Cave itself. My dad keeps going on about it "not being open any more" but unless they really built up a whole bunch of infrastructure, er, it's a cave. There may not be guides or whatnot, but the cave will still be there. On a semi-worrying note, Dad mentioned that he heard about someone being bitten by a rattlesnake in the cave while it was "open" as a tourist attraction.

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11 June 2008

Weird Sign

This is an actual sign that's been up in Pocatello for a couple of weeks. I have no clue what it's trying to say. When I happened to be stopped at a traffic light near it, I managed to sneak in a picture of the sign, then I tweaked it a bit in PrintMaster until I had a look that I liked.

Btw, anyone with any idea what the sign really means, please let me know in the comments. *scratches head*

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Found it this time! Though I was actually trying to find the Crystal Ice Cave... These are the directions I got for Crystal Ice Cave Road off of Google maps, with a few modifications:

27.9 mi – about 1 hour 12 mins
1.Head west on Idaho St toward N Oregon Trail
0.3 mi
2.Turn left at ID-39
6.0 mi
3.Turn left toward N Pleasant Valley Rd
0.4 mi
4.Turn left at N Pleasant Valley Rd
8.5 mi
5.Turn right at Quigley Rd
1.0 mi
6.Turn left at Roth Rd
0.2 +? mi
7.Turn right at Schultz Rd
2.1 mi
8.Turn left at Homestead Rd
2.0 mi
9.Turn right at Winters Rd
0.8 mi
10.Slight left at Ice Cave Rd
6.4 mi
11.Continue on Crystal Ice Cave Rd
0.2 mi

I tried the turn at Schultz Road, and did find Homestead Road, but the only right turn available at the indicated mileage was likely a private road between two fields, and there was no where to go left. So I doubled back, and, on a hunch, went further down Roth Road instead. There I came to Winters Road, which did yield a branch going off to the left. No label, but I'm reasonably certain that it's Crystal Ice Cave Road.

I didn't find the cave itself. If it was anywhere near me, there was no sign indicating this. But by making turns that kept me pointed toward the lava flow, I did make it to Wapi Park. Incidentally, do not attempt to go to Wapi Park in a regular car. Repeat: do not attempt to go to Wapi Park in a regular car ... unless you fancy having the bottom ripped out of it and would like to have multiple holes in any exposed tanks. Why am I emphasizing this? Because I am exactly the type of person to read such a warning and think, "Eh, can't be all that bad." It can. I wouldn't have made it there in my car. I had taken the pickup down to American Falls to pick up a chair (and work on the sink, but it turned out we didn't have enough parts) and decided to go exploring.

From the place where Crystal Ice Cave Road divides from Winters Road, it's roughly 11 miles to Wapi Park. You'll pass a bulletin board mentioning that you're entering part of Craters of the Moon. It's either 7 or 8 miles from there. There's a turn off to the left just past some large rock outcroppings, and it's roughly 5 miles from that turn off. There's another place where the road divides, near a large red rectangular..., er, thing. Bear left there, and it's about 3.5 miles. There's an unhelpful sign pointing back the way you came, claiming Larido Cave is 2 miles that way (no sign marking it if so) and that Highway 39 is 26 miles to your right. Go left, and it's about 2 miles to Wapi Park. You'll come to a hideously nasty bit of exposed lava bed in the road that would utterly decimate most cars. From there, it's roughly 1.5 miles. When you start seeing trees near the road, you're almost there.

Unfortunately, it was very windy and cold today, so I didn't get to explore much. When I've had time to process and upload and eat, I'll probably post a few pictures, but I wanted to get the directions down before I forgot them. Oh, once you get onto Crystal Ice Cave Road, don't expect to go very fast. On the good bits, you might make 20 mph, but there aren't very many good bits.

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New Bit of Furniture

I suspect that the style is no longer being made, as I've been unable to locate a picture on the web, but it's described as either a "Morocco sideboard" or a "Morocco three-drawer console table." What's particularly Moroccan about it, I don't know, but it fits nicely by my front window and gives me a place to put some boxes and my shredder, as well as a nice platform for some plants:

On the left are my palm trees, procured from Wal-Mart when they were about 6 inches high. They were just leaves then, no trunk visible at all. In the middle is a dragon I got for a song, 5 or 10 bucks at an antique store*. I could swear that I saw a similar style dragon on the mantle in an episode of the Addams' Family... On the right is my ficus, which was sent by a business to my grandma's funeral.

*I got the impression that the lady who ran the store didn't care for it and was pleased to be rid of it. There's no accounting for taste... `/^

Before, I had three pieces of furniture in the same spot, storing less, though there was room on top for a few more plants. The space feels much more open now, and the usable space underneath is quite nice.

As for the window treatment, those are curtains I got on clearance somewhere (either Linens'n'Things or Bed, Bath and Beyond). They started out as white with purple striping. I threw them into the washer with seven packs of Rit Dye (either three wine and four purple or vice versa) to get that color. The blinds came from Pier 1, probably on clearance as well.

Incidentally, this was Pouncer's idea of helping me put the console together. For reference, the table is upside down, and he's sitting in the space that now holds the drawers.

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10 June 2008

Drive-By Mowing

I had someone knock on my door and ask if she could mow the lawn as she was desperate for gas money. As I hate mowing the lawn and it was in need of it, I said "Sure." She didn't do the greatest job, but neither did I on my last go of it. I gave her $15 for it, which is more than it was worth, but, eh... She also took an old storage unit off my hands. I wasn't really sure what I was going to do with the thing. It was in good shape, but had been more or less useless to me for the past few years. She asked about it, and I decided someone who had a use for it might as well have it.

This was a woman who had at least two kids with her, helping and/or hanging out. It's sort of weird to think of high gas prices driving people to that kind of extreme. I mean, my dad used to get offers from 10-15 year olds to mow the lawn, and that wasn't too surprising. From someone with kids in tow it's a bit weird.

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09 June 2008


As the old trope goes, there are no new ideas. My position on swearing/cusswords has been neatly summed up over at Evolving Thoughts:

It's not like I haven't used foul language myself - at one point in my life every second word was foul, but eventually I came to realise that in so doing I was merely debasing those swear words to nothing, so that when I really needed to swear, I had nothing left.

I never went through a period of heavy swearing, but that's largely because I realized early on that if those words became commonplace, I'd need to come up with something even worse when an event that actually merited swearing came along. I also used to amuse myself by going through movies rated R for swearing and noting the places where the swearing was absolutely appropriate to the situation. The only one I remember now is from The Crow. When he realizes that something has happened so that he can now be hurt, he says, "Ah, f***". The rest of the swearing was superfluous. Admittedly, the violence would still have merited an R-rating.

I don't find superfluous swearing offensive so much as pointless ... and annoying in large quantities. Besides, people get much more worried when you use big, complicated words and phrases to express your annoyance. `/^

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08 June 2008

American Life

When this album first came out, I was still watching VH1 on occasion, so I was aware that the original video had been censored.* Well, I just ran across the original, and thought I'd share. A lot of Madonna's stuff I don't care for, but she has written some very thought-provoking songs (disclaimer: I know she writes most of her own songs, but didn't check if she wrote this one). Anyway, I've embedded the YouTube copy of the original video below the fold. As Greg Laden notes in the comments at his blog, it is vital to both watch the video and listen to the words to get the full dystopian effect. Very nicely done.

*The one that I saw was a single cut of Madonna in the outfit you see at the very beginning, emoting as she sang the song. Actually, the words are powerful enough that even that sent a strong message.

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06 June 2008

Not Quite Dead...

...it's just that this past week, I've been either busy, exhausted, starving, or some combination of the three. On the busy front:

- Got the desk from my mom's office out of the pickup (with some help from Fibonacci) and got it into my office. Then I discovered a rather nasty, musty smell emanating from it and have spent much effort attempting to remove said odor. It's a metal desk, so at least I don't have to worry about rotten wood, but there are inner surfaces that I can't get to to clean. Oh, and between the mustiness and the bleach, I've come down with a sore throat and a few other symptoms, which seem to be going away now that I have a decent air purifier in with the thing.

- Moved a rather large roll of carpet into my mom's office, with help from Fibonacci and everyone at the office. That was interesting. My dad thought the thing might have weighed 500 pounds or more. It was 10 or 12 feet long and probably 3 feet thick. Lifting it was out of the question. Mostly it was a shoving match.

- Tea with Matt, when I should have been cleaning to make room for the musty desk. Incidentally, this post came out of a bit of our discussion. Good illustration of how massively fast exponential growth really is.

- Philosophy club. I started on a post about Aristotle based on last week's meeting, and gave up due to need for food and sleep. Not sure I'll get back to it at this point, but next week we're on stoicism and Epictetus. Anyone in the Pocatello area is welcome to join us Wednesdays at 5:30 pm at Mocha Madness (Corner of 5th and Halliday, though the map makes it look like it's in the middle of the block).

- Putting up a fence/gate. I'll probably post pictures at some point. Last spring, I put up a temporary chicken wire fence between my driveway and the back yard. It was intended to be temporary, so it's not a huge surprise that it was a bit, er, the worse for wear. I replaced it with some metal fence sections from Lowe's. I couldn't afford to do a very large fence with them, but for that section they worked nicely, and they look much better than the chickenwire did.

- Tiny bit of hiking/exploring yesterday. I was hoping to find Crystal Summit Road. I think I did, but it was closed (and labeled 006). So I wandered further south along Bannock County Highway. Once it goes out of Caribou National Forest, it seems to be farms as far as the eye can see. I turned around at Wright Lane (yes, that was really the name) and headed back and stopped at Beaver-something-trailhead. It doesn't seem to get much use by humans. There was no clear trail from the parking lot. I wandered up a semi-clear patch and eventually found an obvious trail. I suspect that it's primarily used by cattle, though. The only places with clear trails were in among the trees. In clearings, the trail tended to die off. Also, there were quite a lot of cattle up there grazing. Incidentally, one of the signs of overgrazing is hillsides covered in mule's ears (a kind of sunflower with leaves that look vaguely like donkey ears), as the cattle don't care for them. One of the signs of mismanaged land is cattle still grazing on such hillsides. I did find something that might have been an old beaver dam along the little creek, which probably explains the name of the place.

- Then I headed back down and explored a dirt road off of the highway that I'd never gone down before. It seems to follow Mink Creek. There were a few potential places to hike as well as some nice vista spots to get a good view of the creek. It was also bloody narrow, the kind of road where when two cars meet, one pretty much has to pull off the road. But still an enjoyable (and pretty) drive for all that.

- Okay, exhausted and starved again. So I'm done writing for the moment.

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