Sunday, March 30, 2008

Things that Go Bump in the Night

The last couple nights we've been hearing scary noises outside my house. My daughter was here the night before last, when there was some thumping against the back of the house. My back door has a window in it, so I peeked and didn't see anything.

Then it sounded like the garbage cans being bumped, and I thought of possums. Since I was already in my jammies, my daughter grabbed the broom to use as a defensive weapon and crept outside to investigate more closely. But there were no creatures in or near the garbage cans, and the coast looked clear, and we were no closer to solving the puzzle.

We heard the noises again last night, and since I was still dressed, I did the investigating. Nothing.

Then this morning, as I was lying in bed trying not to have to get up just that second, I heard a clattering against a different part of the back of the house. So I jumped out of bed and rushed to the back door window, just in time to see an overweight possum, with a tiny possum baby on her back, lumbering to the hole that the neighbor cats used to use to escape from my little dog Abby. The possum, baby and all, disappeared into the blackness of the hole.

Mystery solved.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Chelsea Says Hillary Better Pres Than Bill

Fox News reported yesterday on a reply Chelsea Clinton made to a question on the campaign trail.

As an only child, Chelsea Clinton never has to worry about her parents picking a favorite kid.

But the former “first daughter” had to make a choice Friday when she was asked whether her mother or father would make a better president — and she sided with mom.

“Well again, I don’t take anything for granted, but hopefully with Pennsylvania’s help she will be our next president, and yes, I do think she’ll be a better president,” Clinton said at a stop in Allentown, Pa.

Considering how lousy a president Bill Clinton was, that's not saying much. But it could make for a great new campaign slogan:

Vote Hillary. She's less crappy than Bill.

Nephew in San Diego II

I mentioned yesterday that my nephew was in town for just a couple days. In the afternoon I picked up him and a couple of his buddies, both of whom share the same first name as my nephew, so it made remembering their names really easy.

None of them had ever been to San Diego, so we started with the Cabrillo National Monument, located on Point Loma. The old lighthouse was only in service for 36 years, because it kept being obscured by fog (pictured here in fog), which made it useless. But that became a benefit for the tourist industry. Here it is in sunshine.

We started at the visitor center, where they have a sample section of a fresnel lens (described here).

The lighthouse itself is perched atop a high hill where the prevailing winds bend the trees to their will.

The view from the front door looks over San Diego Bay and downtown. The entrance to the Bay is to the left, along the breakwater. We saw a few Navy ships making their way into or out of the bay while we were there.

The tower is open to just beneath the lens, where a wide grate blocks access, but the openings are wide enough to allow a camera through. Here, the base under the lens catches the split spectrum of light.

The view out the tower windows.

The spiral staircase from the top of the tower.

And from the bottom.

After the lighthouse, we went to the Embarcadero, San Diego's waterfront. The guys were interested in touring the Russian submarine that makes up part of the San Diego Maritime Museum.

The sub had an interesting high voltage warning symbol.

In one section, two racks (sleeping berths) hung beside a high voltage sign, raising the question of who were the unlucky ones to have to sleep beside such danger.

As we passed through the submarine, my nephew and his buddies compared the aged equipment to modern American subs.

I appreciated seeing a teakettle in the galley. That box in front, though, looks like it might be some dreaded oatmeal. Yuck.

Docked in front of the submarine is the HMS Surprise, the actual ship that was used for filming the movie "Master and Commander."

It's a replica, built in the 1970s, and they've got a few items from the film, like the spare wheel below decks that was used for steering the ship while they made it look as though the wood wheel on deck (seen here) was doing the job.

The guys expressed relief that in today's Navy they don't have to deal with all the ropes...

... and all the rigging the way eighteenth century sailors did.

We had dinner at Anthony's Fish Grotto, a seafood restaurant that's been the mainstay for dining on the Embarcadero at least since I was a kid. The food was great, and then we had to get the guys back to base (with a stop at Starbucks--it's been weeks since they've been able to go there).

My nephew said he'd try to give me a bit more notice the next time they come to San Diego. That might give us time for seeing the Zoo or Sea World. We'll have to see.

I bid goodbye to the same name three times and watched as they showed their IDs at the gate and were allowed on base. Then I came back home, tired but happy with the time we were able to spend together.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Nephew in San Diego

I got a call last night from my nephew, the one my mom and I saw when we were in Maine last year. His Navy vessel is in San Diego for a couple days, and he should be able to get away sometime this afternoon to visit.

He's never been to the San Diego area before, so I'm trying to figure out where a twenty-something military nephew might want to visit. And he may have to bring a buddy with him. He said they're supposed to be on the buddy system whenever they leave base, but he doesn't know if that applies when they're leaving base with a family member, but I told him a buddy is fine with me.

I already told him that the Zoo is out. We won't have time to see much in just an afternoon. And Sea World is out for the same reason. So, Old Town? Cabrillo lighthouse? The Embarcadero? I don't know. We'll figure it out...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bumper Sticker of the Day

"I'LL BE PERFECT - Just as soon as I get this walking on water thing down."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mourning Dove

I went over to my neighbor's house, and they have a torchière lamp on their front porch. At first I could only see some feathers sticking out from the rim, as though a bird had died in it, but when I got closer, I saw a mourning dove looking back at me.

The normal reaction of wild birds when people get too close is to fly away, and I figured that's what the dove would do. But as I approached the lamp, she just watched me, even when I moved between her and the wall on my way to the front door.

That's when I saw the bits of dried grass and twigs under her feathers. She's nesting, sitting on some eggs that she. Will. Not. Leave. No matter what.

Oh, she moves. Sometimes I see her turned to the right, and sometimes she's turned to the left, but I haven't seen her leave her nest since I discovered her a few days ago. I'll keep watch and see if I can tell how many little chicks she hatches.

In the meantime, she's gotta be getting hungry...

Climate Facts

The Australian reported Saturday on the latest climate facts (emphasis is mine).

CATASTROPHIC predictions of global warming usually conjure with the notion of a tipping point, a point of no return.

Last Monday - on ABC Radio National, of all places - there was a tipping point of a different kind in the debate on climate change. It was a remarkable interview involving the co-host of Counterpoint, Michael Duffy and Jennifer Marohasy, a biologist and senior fellow of Melbourne-based think tank the Institute of Public Affairs. Anyone in public life who takes a position on the greenhouse gas hypothesis will ignore it at their peril.

Duffy asked Marohasy: "Is the Earth stillwarming?" (sic)

She replied: "No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you'd expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years."

Duffy: "Can you tell us about NASA's Aqua satellite, because I understand some of the data we're now getting is quite important in our understanding of how climate works?"

Marohasy: "That's right. The satellite was only launched in 2002 and it enabled the collection of data, not just on temperature but also on cloud formation and water vapour. What all the climate models suggest is that, when you've got warming from additional carbon dioxide, this will result in increased water vapour, so you're going to get a positive feedback. That's what the models have been indicating. What this great data from the NASA Aqua satellite ... (is) actually showing is just the opposite, that with a little bit of warming, weather processes are compensating, so they're actually limiting the greenhouse effect and you're getting a negative rather than a positive feedback."

Duffy: "The climate is actually, in one way anyway, more robust than was assumed in the climate models?"

Marohasy: "That's right ... These findings actually aren't being disputed by the meteorological community. They're having trouble digesting the findings, they're acknowledging the findings, they're acknowledging that the data from NASA's Aqua satellite is not how the models predict, and I think they're about to recognise that the models really do need to be overhauled and that when they are overhauled they will probably show greatly reduced future warming projected as a consequence of carbon dioxide."

Marohasy also said these findings of global cooling are NOT controversial but are acknowledged by the head of the IPCC.

The biggest problem I see from this interview is the risk that governments (especially ours) will act to reduce greenhouse gases in an economy-destroying manner before this news has a chance to get out into the public square. Too many people--starting with Al Gore--have their livelihoods too dependent on the global warming hysteria to let a few facts get in their way. We can expect the push for greenhouse reduction by the enviro-Nazis and their media mouthpieces to continue, so we'll need to do what we can to spread the truth about the climate.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

Then the angel spoke to the women. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn't here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples he has been raised from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember, I have told you."

Matthew 28:5 - 7

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Krauthammer Blasts Obama Speech

I love Charles Krauthammer. I love it when Brit Hume has him as one of the "Fox News All-Stars." I love reading his columns. He is thoughtful, deliberate, and right on target with what he says.

His column in yesterday's Washington Post tears apart Barack Obama's race speech, calling it, "A Brilliant Fraud."

The beauty of a speech is that you don't just give the answers, you provide your own questions. "Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes." So said Barack Obama, in his Philadelphia speech about his pastor, friend, mentor and spiritual adviser of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright.

An interesting, if belated, admission. But the more important question is: which"controversial" remarks?

Wright's assertion from the pulpit that the U.S. government invented HIV "as a means of genocide against people of color"? Wright's claim that America was morally responsible for Sept. 11 -- "chickens coming home to roost" -- because of, among other crimes, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? (Obama says he missed church that day. Had he never heard about it?) What about the charge that the U.S. government (of Franklin Roosevelt, mind you) knew about Pearl Harbor, but lied about it? Or that the government gives drugs to black people, presumably to enslave and imprison them?

Obama's 5,000-word speech, fawned over as a great meditation on race, is little more than an elegantly crafted, brilliantly sophistic justification of that scandalous dereliction [of not having left Wright's church].

His defense rests on two central propositions: (a) moral equivalence and (b) white guilt.

(a) Moral equivalence. Sure, says Obama, there's Wright, but at the other "end of the spectrum" there's Geraldine Ferraro, opponents of affirmative action and his own white grandmother, "who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe." But did she shout them in a crowded theater to incite, enrage and poison others?

"I can no more disown [Wright] than I can my white grandmother." What exactly was Grandma's offense? Jesse Jackson himself once admitted to the fear he feels from the footsteps of black men on the street. And Harry Truman was known to use epithets for blacks and Jews in private, yet is revered for desegregating the armed forces and recognizing the first Jewish state since Jesus's time. He never spread racial hatred. Nor did Grandma.

Yet Obama compares her to Wright. Does he not see the moral difference between the occasional private expression of the prejudices of one's time and the use of a public stage to spread racial lies and race hatred?

There's more. The problem with trying to get key excerpts from this is that it's so tightly written that each point flows into the next in such a way that it starts losing too much without the missing pieces. Read the whole thing.

Of course, the New York Times fawned over the speech, saying among other things, "It is hard to imagine how he could have handled it better." They obviously have a limited imagination over at the NY Times.

Those on the left loved the speech, many believing it to be the greatest speech on race ever. But was it really good enough to start renaming all the Martin Luther King Jr Boulevards to Barack Obama Boulevard? That's where my imagination starts to fail.

On the right, the reaction was more like Krauthammer's. Obama's was a flawed speech whose many words did little to answer the real questions that still need answering.

Wright's church preaches black liberation theology, and liberation theology plays itself out in the broader world through the promotion of socialism as the liberation vehicle. That Michelle Obama declared she was never proud of America before her husband ran for president is no surprise. The Obamas have been attending the church for twenty years, the church has been preaching against white America for I don't know how long, and Barack Obama supports socialist policies for our country. It all fits. No matter how much he protests, this is his church and he is at home there.

Obama Campaign Claims Clinton Has "Character Gap"

You think?

Here's the full story about Obama's campaign claims.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wear Your Whiteness

I haven't commented on Barack Obama's race speech. I started reading the full text and found the beginning to be the usual dribble that spills out of politicians' mouths--a bit of shine but no substance. And then I got to the part where he started talking about white folks and got my dander up.

But the [black] anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community.

Is there really a similar anger? Is there enough of it that in white churches the preachers scream about the injustice they endure for having to live in a world with blacks in it? I wouldn't know, because I attend a church with all the races.

Obama describes white anger this way:

Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation.

Maybe in Obama Land, those white resentments at life's setbacks build to the point that they become racial hatred on par with Rev. Wright's screaming damnation of America, but in the Not-Entirely White World I live in, I've never seen it. Most of the people around me who have lost their jobs got angry at the corporate executives who sold them down the river.

Just to be on the safe side of the race question, the lead blogger at Malott's Blog has renounced his membership in all white organizations. I'm not sure, though, if the entire staff at that blog has followed suit. Like him, I have switched from white bread to whole wheat, though I did that years ago. On our trip, my mom and I even ate multiracial bread (rye and pumpernickel swirl--yum!).

But there's no hiding the truth: I'm a pasty-white person. I have eight nationalities in my ancestry, every single one of which is European. Nobody's going to mistake me for anything else.

No wait. Someone once asked me if I'm Hispanic, but that would be a No, because Spain is not one of the eight nationalities.

Which brings up the question, "Why fight it?" The answer is that you don't.

Mary Katherine Ham today pointed to this blog post highlighting casual wear for the Typical White Person (and his dog). It's perfect. I'm even tempted to buy the women's T-shirt in turquoise.

But back to Obama's speech. I didn't read much farther than what I quoted above. And from what I've heard and read in the commentaries, I'm glad I stopped when I did. I don't like to dwell in annoyance any longer than I have to.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring is Aurora Season

For all you Northerners, NASA has good viewing news for you.

What are the signs of spring? They are as familiar as a blooming Daffodil, a songbird at dawn [SkyePuppy: Are they crazy? The mockingbird started singing at 2:09am last night and at 1:22am the night before.], a surprising shaft of warmth from the afternoon sun.

And, oh yes, don't forget the aurora borealis.

Spring is aurora season. For reasons not fully understood by scientists, the weeks around the vernal equinox are prone to Northern Lights. Canadians walking their dogs after dinner, Scandinavians popping out to the sauna, Alaskan Huskies on the Iditarod trail—all they have to do is look up and behold, green curtains of light dancing across the night sky. Spring has arrived!

This is a bit of a puzzle. Auroras are caused by solar activity, but the Sun doesn't know what season it is on Earth. Yet it seemed to know on March 1st when these lights erupted over Tromso, Norway:

"It was a very powerful outburst of Northern Lights," says photographer Bjorn Jorgensen. "The ground actually turned green!"

The NASA article goes into more detail on why we get the Northern Lights, including explaining that the magnetic ropes connecting the earth to the sun are favored in the spring.

So brave the cold at night for the next few weeks, and keep looking up.

Blog Recommendation

I was reading Michelle Malkin's blog, and she had an open thread for her registered commenters (I haven't managed to be on her blog during her registrations windows, so that doesn't include me). In between all the well-wishes for her safe travel was this comment from RaisedRight:

Since we have the open thread…I’m not sure why, but right now I feel the urge to introduce you all to an amazing blog.

I have never met the author, she is the wife of the singer for the Christian group Selah. They are pregnant with a child who is “incompatible with life” and she writes about her struggles, her faith, and her everyday life. I am moved by the strength of their faith and I hope some of you will take a look and pray for this amazing family. I have just been looking at the blog as of this week and I find myself incredibly inspired by this family.

So I took a look. The blog is called, "Bring the Rain: The story of Audrey Caroline." Audrey is the daughter they're still pregnant with, and just on the main page of the blog Angie (the mom) had me laughing at something one of her daughters said and crying over the heartbreak they have coming and at the beauty of her faith.

It is the trials of life that drive the roots of a believer's faith deep into the Living Water for the strength he or she needs. And our God is faithful.

I encourage you to take a look. (Jacob, if you go there, be nice.)

Gecko Science

Geckos (or is that geckoes?) are amazing creatures. They sell car insurance, and they climb walls and walk on ceilings. Because of these uncanny abilities, scientists have been studying them for quite some time.

The Telegraph (UK) reported January 23, 2008, on the development of "Spidey" gloves based on gecko toes.

Prototype "Spiderman gloves" that will enable window cleaners to scale walls, robots to scurry across ceilings and rock climbers to hang about could be ready within three years.

There has been popular interest in how to mimic his extraordinary wall climbing ability since 1962, when the web-slinging hero with superhuman strength was born in the pages of Marvel Comics.

A Californian team reports today that has got the hang of gecko adhesion and solved the mystery of how the lizards manage to stick without getting stuck, marking a boon for real life Peter Parkers.

While conventional adhesive tape sticks when pressed on a surface, the new gecko-inspired adhesive only adheres when it slides.

Pretty cool. But there's more!

The Telegraph reported on St. Patrick's Day that the gecko's tail is important too.

The gecko's feet have already helped spawn a new generation of dry glues for "Spiderman gloves."

Now the tail of the climbing lizard is providing engineers with the inspiration for more agile robots and may aid in the design of unmanned gliding vehicles or even help astronauts move in space.

In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the biologists report that geckos rely on their tails to keep from falling off vertical surfaces and, if they do fall, to right themselves in midair and adopt a "Superman" posture, like a skydiver gliding to a safe landing.

According to seniorauthor Prof Robert Full, previous experiments focused on their unique toes as the key to running up a wall and hanging onto ceilings: Prof Full discovered six years ago that, while claws help geckos climb rough surfaces, millions of microscopic toe hairs make it possible for them to climb smooth ones, a finding that has inspired Gecko glue.

But that was not enough. Only when engineers were motivated by these findings to create gecko-like robots, such as Boston Dynamics Inc.'s RiSE (Robot in Scansorial Environment), theUniversity of Pennsylvania's DynaClimber and Stanford University robots Spinybot and Stickybot did they discover that a tail might be necessary to prevent the robot from pitching backward and falling when it slips on a vertical surface.

"They have an active tail that functions like a fifth leg to keep them from tipping backward," says Prof Full. "This is an undiscovered function for tails that tells us a lot about how active tails could affect the performance of vertebrates."

With the help of high-speed video, the researchers discovered that when a gecko loses traction with one leg, it taps its tail on the surface to keep its balance until the toes can grab hold again.

The team also notes that the lizards nearly always made a four-point landing after using their tails to reorient in mid-air. Using high-speed video to record geckos falling upside down from a fake leaf, they found that the geckos rotated their tails so that their bodies counter-rotated to face downward, then spread their legs and toes to parachute.

The lizards, after turning face down, often used their tails to manoeuver in mid-air like a skydiver toward a targeted drop zone. In wind tunnel tests, geckos could actually hover in the air stream and, using their tails, steer toward a solid perch.

The scientists called the gecko's spread-eagle falling pose the "Superman posture." More comic book heroes for the gecko.

I'm not quite sure how the scientists expect astronauts to grow a tail to use in space to keep them from falling. And how do you fall in zero-gravity anyway? That's a mystery they haven't explained to me yet.

All the same, what scientists have learned about these little lizards is astounding. And geckos eat bugs too. What perfect creatures!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Daft Punk Home-Made Video

My daughter found this. Here are the lyrics:

Work it harder
Make it better
Do it faster
Makes us stronger
More than ever
Hour after
Our work is
Never over

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cell Phone Driving Excuse in Court

Almost as soon as I posted about the new California laws banning driving while cell phoning, Ananova reported (undated) on a court case in Germany.

A German lorry driver escaped a rap for driving while using a mobile phone - after claiming he was using it as an ear warmer.

A court in Hamm accepted Walter Klein's claims that he had been using the phone which was warm after being recharged to warm his ears.

It means he had not broken the law which says drivers can only make phone calls with a hands free set.

Klein, 43, told the court: "I had an earache and it was being made worse because the cab had not heated up yet - it takes a while on a big rig.

"So I grabbed the phone that had been on charge and put it to my ear, and that was when I was stopped by police."

The court accepted his claim after he produced an itemised telephone bill proving he had not been using the phone at the time he was stopped.

Good thing Klein didn't have two cell phones he held to both ears while he was driving...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dolphin Rescues Whales

Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday on a whale rescue.

A dolphin guided two stranded whales to safety after human attempts to keep the animals off a New Zealand beach failed, a conservation official said Wednesday.

"I've never heard of anything like this before, it was amazing," Conservation Department officer Malcolm Smith said.

Smith had been working for over an hour and a half to save the two pygmy sperm whales which had repeatedly become stranded despite his attempts to push them back out to sea.

A bottlenose dolphin, named Moko by locals, appeared and guided the whales to safety after apparently communicating with them, Smith said.

The whales, a three-metre (10-foot) female and her 1.5 metre male calf, were apparently confused by a sandbar just off the beach and could not find their way back to open water.

"I was starting to get cold and wet and they were becoming tired. I was reaching the stage where I was thinking it's about time to give up here, I've done as much as I can."

In that situation, whales are often humanely killed to end their suffering.

Smith said Moko arrived on the scene and he could hear the whales and the dolphin making noises, apparently to one another.

"The whales made contact with the dolphin and she basically escorted them about 200 metres (yards) parallel with the beach to the edge of the sandbar.

"Then she did a right-angle turn through quite a narrow channel and escorted them out to sea.

"There's been no sign of the whales since Monday, they haven't restranded."

This is really cool. Nobody knew dolphins could speak Pygmy Sperm Whale. Of course, if they watched Finding Nemo, they'd have seen that Dory spoke Whale, so we know it's possible.

Good job, Moko!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Driving With Cell Phones

My daughter brought home a three-page document from the California Highway Patrol called, "Wireless Telephone Laws FAQ." One of the ladies at her work is married to a cop, so she brought some copies to work. Here are some of the frequently asked questions:

Q. When do the new wireless telephone laws take effect?
A. The new laws take effect July 1, 2008

Q. What is the difference between the two laws?
A. The first prohibots all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle. (Vehicle Code (VC) §23123). Motorists 18 and over may use a hands-free device. Drivers under the age of 18 may NOT use a wireless telephone or hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle (VC §23124).

Q. Are passengers affected by this law?
A. No. This law only applies to the person driving the motor vehicle.

Q. Do these laws apply to out-of-state drivers whose home states do not have such laws?
A. Yes.

There you have it. If you drive in California after the end of June, beware of talking on your cell phone. For the over 18 crowd, there's more:

Q. Does the new "hands-free" law prohibit you from dialing a wireless telephone while driving or just talking on it?
A. The new law does not prohibit dialing, but drivers are strongly urged not to dial while driving.

Q. Does the new "hands-free" law allow drivers 18 and over to text page while driving?
A. The law does not specifically prohibit that, but an officer can pull over and issue a citation to a driver of any age if, in the officer's opinion, the driver was distracted and not operating the vehicle safely. Text paging while driving is unsafe at any speed and is strongly discouraged.

Too bad I'm no good at texting. I could do a lot of communicating while I drive after July comes along.

Dutch Legalize Gay Sex in Public Park

The Telegraph (UK) reported yesterday on new public park regulations in Amsterdam.

Paul van Grieken, an Alderman in the Oud-Zuid district of the city, has startled many Amsterdammers, despite their famously liberal attitudes, with plans to allow public sex as part of this summer's new rules of conduct for the country's best-known park.

"Why should we try to impose something that is actually impossible to impose, which also causes little bother for others and for a certain group actually means much pleasure?", he said.

Stumbling upon people having sex in public "causes little bother"? Does it bother little kids?

I understand the Dutch tend to pride themselves on their generosity of spirit in not judging other people's behavior, but this is too much. Just the legalization will increase the number of people coming to the park for sex. And that will cause more and more "bother" for the other park visitors.

But the topping on this appalling cake is the activity the aldermen decided to outlaw.

The new park rules have the blessing of the Dutch police, who have urged all Dutch parks to follow Amsterdam's lead.

But Amsterdam's dog owners are less impressed. The new park code of conduct will set out stiff fines for dogs that are allowed to run around the Vondelpark off the leash.

"Research showed that many people find this disturbing," said Mr van Grieken.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

No Voters in Florida Election

The AP reported today on a Florida election.

Every vote counts. But what happens when there are no votes at all? That's the situation city officials in Tamarac are facing. No voters showed up Wednesday night to cast a ballot in an annexation referendum for an unincorporated Broward County community.

There are 68 registered voters in the 200-person Prospect Bend neighborhood. Tamarac officials have proposed annexing the neighborhood.

Details were mailed to registered voters. If just one voter had shown up, that one vote would have decided the neighborhood's fate. (emphasis added)

It's easy to believe that our one little vote doesn't really count, especially in major elections like this year's presidential election. I'll be voting for John McCain in November, but it probably won't be enough to overcome all the Democratic votes in California.

One little vote could be making a difference at the Democratic convention, though. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who lost one of her superdelegates with the resignation of Eliot Spitzer.

So the next time they hold an election, be sure to cast your vote. You may be the one making the decision for all your neighbors. And without your vote, there may not be a decision at all.

New Five-Dollar Bill Today

The AP reported today on the release of the new color five-dollar bill.

Abraham Lincoln is getting a little color in his cheeks. New $5 bills bearing the gaunt visage of the nation's 16th president—but with some touches of color added—are making their way to banks and cash registers near you.

The bill goes into circulation Thursday. That's when the Federal Reserve, the supplier of the nation's cash, starts shipping the bills to banks, which send them to businesses and eventually into the hands of people in this country and beyond.

Fittingly, the new bill will be spent for the first time on Thursday at the gift shop of President Lincoln's Cottage located on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in northwest Washington.

It's the latest in a series of redesigned notes aimed at foiling phony-money makers, who over the years have grown increasingly sophisticated.

Lincoln, the nation's 16th president, is still on the front and the Lincoln Memorial remains on the back.

The makeover of the $5 bill is similar to changes to $10, $20 and $50 bills.

Next up for a new look: the $100 bill.

I especially like the purple "5" on the back, because purple is one of my favorite colors. And they've offset Lincoln's face from the center, so he won't be at risk of getting his face folded in half all the time. That can be so degrading.

It looks like all that's left after the hundred is good old George Washington, but I'm not sure they're going to bother with him. Is it worth the effort to secure a $1 bill? Probably not. But then it wouldn't be kind to leave Washington as the old, colorless model when everyone else gets the beautiful makeover. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to getting some of these $5 bills soon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

$1K Fine for Pink Poodle

The Denver Post reported yesterday on the latest from the city of Boulder, Colorado.

Joy Douglas, owner of Zing Hair Salon at 1100 Spruce St., has received a $1,000 ticket from an animal-control officer for coloring her white poodle, Cici, pink by using organic beet juice.

"We do it to promote awareness of breast cancer," said Douglas, 30, who has owned the large hair salon for three years. "Cici is a conversation piece. Customers come in and ask why the dog is pink. So we tell them about breast-cancer awareness, about the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and then we ask for a donation."

Douglas didn't want to guess how many thousands of dollars the dog has raised for breast-cancer awareness nor the value of all the $65 haircuts she's given away free to cancer survivors.

But not everyone who sees Cici is happy, and some customers called the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, whose commissioned officers enforce the city's animal ordinances. One ordinance prohibits the coloring or dyeing of animals, a law that went into effect about five years ago to discourage families from dyeing rabbits and chicks for Easter.

"We've received a number of complaints about the dog," said Lisa Pedersen, director of the humane society. "We've been out to talk with Joy several times. Finally, we gave her a ticket to let the courts decide the issue."

There have got to be better things for the animal control people to be doing than fining people for making their poodles pink. They should be fining the people who reported the poodle--a busybody fine, and it should be $2,000. That would be fair.

"This is a misrepresentation of what animal control is supposed to be," said Douglas, who drives a pink scooter, a pink car and now is looking for a lawyer to represent her and her pink dog. "This doesn't hurt Cici at all. We color her about once a week to keep it bright. She's fine."

Pedersen agreed that the dog appears to be well-cared for, except that she's pink.

Fun Times with the Doctor

I went to the doctor this morning. There's nothing wrong, except I needed a refill on my thyroid prescription.

Back in December, I got my thyroid levels rechecked at the lab, and they were fine at the prescription level I was on, so I figured I'd be able to get refills. The problem was that my regular doctor left the practice to go somewhere too far for me to go, and the doctor handling the refills while they tried to find a replacement doctor only gave me one refill.

So Monday, after I went back to the pharmacy and they faxed my doctor's office for refill approval, I went to the doctor's office to beg for multiple refills. The woman at the window told me that they've finally replaced my doctor, and I'll need to see him before they'll authorize a bunch of refills. I argued that the lab work was just done, and can't they look at my records without my having to come in?

She said no, I needed to see the doctor first. And I asked why nobody had told me that. And she said they should have sent out a note the last time to the pharmacy asking them to tell me I need to see the doctor before I can have any more refills. And I told her that's not the pharmacy's job. That's the doctor's office's job to tell their patients when they need to come in.

So I made the appointment, which I had hoped to avoid, because my medical insurance has about a billion dollar deductible to keep the premiums low, and that appointment was for this morning.

My new doctor seems like a nice guy. He looked in the chart and commented that I have some sort of medical term (I didn't recognize the name from my Medical Terminology class) that means I'm susceptible to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD--I recognized this term), and did I ever smoke?

No, I never smoked beyond that first attempt at inhaling when I was in college in the Drama department and everyone else smoked, and there was this nervous energy that permeated the department and even got to me. But that one blast of smoke hurt my throat, so I never did it again. And I wasn't married to a smoker. And my parents never smoked. And besides, my doctor never said anything to me about a lung problem. Ever.

Except, when I had as my doctor the one before the one who just left, I had a persistent case of bronchitis that took over a month and a half to clear up, but that was back around 1990, and my lungs have been fine ever since.

So my new doctor started looking through all my records, trying to find the lung diagnosis. My file is pretty fat with office visits and lab results (beautiful numbers last time on all the cholesterol & triglyceride tests). At the very end of the paperwork, right before the back of the manila folder, he found it: a pulmonary evaluation. For Mr. James Mac-something that didn't print right. Last time I looked, I wasn't a "Mister."

My doctor folded the mis-filed page over so it would stick out of my file, crossed out the note about my lung condition, and asked if I planned another physical soon. I told him I was looking for a job and wanted to wait until I got one so I'd have better medical coverage. So he told me he'd let me have 6 refills, and I needed to have a physical by the time they ran out, job or no job. That works for me.

Going to the doctor is a lot more fun when you're well than when you're sick. Actually, doing anything is a lot more fun when you're well than when you're sick.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

1 in 4 Teens Have STD

The AP reported today on a study that revealed 1 in 4 US teens are infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

At least one in four teenage American girls has a sexually transmitted disease, suggests a first-of-its-kind federal study that startled some adolescent-health experts.

Some doctors said the numbers might be a reflection of both abstinence-only sex education and teens' own sense of invulnerabilty. Because some sexually transmitted infections can cause infertility and cancer, U.S. health officials called for better screening, vaccination and prevention.

Among those who admitted having sex, the rate was even more disturbing — 40 percent had an STD.

"This is pretty shocking," said Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center's Children's Hospital in New York.

"To talk about abstinence is not a bad thing," but teen girls — and boys too — need to be informed about how to protect themselves if they do have sex, Alderman said.

I find it interesting that the assumption by "some doctors" is that abstinence education is the most likely cause of the high rate of STDs. It's like blaming the person yelling, "Run!" for the tidal wave that's crashing on shore.

When we look back on the 1950s and1960s, a time when shame was heaped on girls who went all the way--especially on the ones who got knocked up--there were relatively few girls who were sexually active. And even fewer still became diseased.

But the Sexual Revolution changed all that. Shame was thrown into the trash alongside saving oneself for marriage. Now "hooking up" and "friends with benefits" are becoming popular in high school and even middle school. Emotion-free sex is the order of the day for students who recognize they aren't old enough to get serious with anyone.

Naturally, though, the shameless sexual culture isn't the reason for the spread of sexual diseases. No, the medical establishment says that STDs are probably spread by the people telling students to wait. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Flying Cars Coming Soon

There's a new kind of car coming, the Personal Air and Land Vehicle (PAL-V). They expect it to be here by 2011. SlipperyBrick reported on this back in October.

Here we are seven years into the new millennium and there isn’t a flying automobile in sight. Wasn’t the future supposed to look a lot more cool by now? If a European company is correct with their prediction we may have the means to turn your vehicle into a flying craft and in only four short years.

The design sketch is for the PAL-V, or Personal Air and Land Vehicle. Designed by Dutch-based inventor John Bakker the vehicle uses a Dynamic Vehicle Control system so that when it’s rolling on the ground using its three wheels it won’t go flipping off the road and when it’s flying in the air the gyroscope keeps the unit level.

You should be able to get an altitude of 1,500 meters and the vehicle can run on either gas or biodiesel. A prototype unit is being assembled at present and PAL-V Europe has plans to have the flying cars on sale to the public in 2011. That wait may be a good thing since it’s estimated that each PAL-V One will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $141,000. Does it come in iridescent pearl?

Pretty slick. But I'm not sure all of us are ready to hit prime time with a flying car. Heck, some people can't even manage to walk and text at the same time.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Lusting after Luxury

I don't wear a lot of jewelry. I have a few staple earrings: gold, silver, mother-of-pearl, cobalt-blue, and a pair of black-and-yellow fish-shaped earrings I wear with my yellow top. That's about all I need.

As far as the rest of it, well, I have my Isaiah 54 ring and some necklaces I take out for special occasions.

When I go past jewelry stores, I like to look at the colored gemstones because they're beautiful, but I never think about buying them for myself. What would be the point?

Then not too long ago I went past a jewelry store that had this in the window:

It's a citrine, 10 kt, teardrop shape, starburst cut. Exquisite.

I want one. Or, rather, I want one just like it in some other color. Yellow doesn't go with anything I own. Maybe an amethyst or a blue topaz. Same size, same cut, same mounting.

I asked about it at the jewelry store, and they wanted me to buy it right then. When I explained that I'm unemployed, the man suggested layaway. I politely but firmly declined.

Just the same, I took its picture and got the jewelry store's business card for that someday when I'll be ready to spend a bundle of extra cash on a fabulous piece of abject luxury.


I'm not destructive when I get angry. One time, when my marriage was on the rocks but wasn't over yet, my husband and I were outside and he said something unkind to me, and I was livid. I stormed into the house, grabbed an accent pillow and flung it at the wall as hard as I could.

My husband followed me into the house, so he saw the pillow-flinging incident, and he chastised me for my violence. Silly man. Throwing a throw pillow is as violent as I ever got.

Another time, after the divorce, my kids and I were in the kitchen, and they were yelling at each other and wouldn't listen to me telling them to stop. I was getting mad and wanted to make a loud noise to get their attention. So I grabbed the plastic "unbreakable" jar of Skippy peanut butter and threw it on the floor.

The hard plastic lid broke apart, sending blue shards around the kitchen. And the jar itself broke, leaving a huge glob of peanut butter on the floor and peanut butter splatters all over the cabinets. There was a moment of shocked silence from all of us and then we laughed. What a mess. My kids still bring up the incident every now and then.

As I was going through the divorce, I learned that I'm capable of feeling very great rage. You'd have to divorce me to provoke it, so everyone is safe for now. But even at its worst, my rage only threatened the destruction of my cheap telephone (which amazingly remained intact through all my conversations with my ex over custody and child support).

So I don't really identify with the women who intentionally destroy their husband's things. In the beginning of Hope Floats, after her "makeover" on national TV where she learns her husband is having an affair with her best friend, Sandra Bullock calmly talks on the phone with her mother while she shreds the sheets. I watch that scene, and I know there are women like that, but I just don't connect.

Today I got an email with pictures of what one woman did upon learning of her husband's affair. This woman leaves Sandra Bullock's character in the dust. Actually, I suspect these may be from multiple women.

His car:

Her communication method about the coming divorce:

On the home front:

The email also has pictures of what the wife spray-painted on the Other Woman's car and house, and the banner she had flown behind an airplane over a sporting event, but those pictures have bad words in them so they're not shown here.

I understand her anger, but I can't relate to her actions. Still, there is a sort of poetic justice here...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Urban Ninja II

More from the Urban Ninja. A story of love and loss and revenge...

Friday, March 07, 2008

Urban Ninja

My daughter showed this to me. She knows somebody who knows the Urban Ninja.

Don't try this at home.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Battlefield Band

I think I've gone to Celtic heaven.

The Battlefield Band concert was tonight, and the place was packed. Only one of the band members, Alan Reid, one of the founders, was the same as the ones I saw back in 1983. The youngest there tonight, Alasdair White the fiddler, was born that year.

Before the concert started, I bought their newest CD to avoid the rush. They autographed it after the show.

Here's a sample audio clip from the CD. It's the song "Dookin' for Beetroot." Here's a sample audio clip of "Lord Haddo's Favourite," the sad, sweet song from their "There's a Buzz" CD that I bought back in 1983. If you go to their website and click on the "discography" link at the top, it will show all the CDs they've made, and there's a sample audio clip available for each one.

Back to the concert.

They opened with an instrumental number, and true to Battlefield Band form, the song started small, with the fiddle and guitar. Then the bagpipes joined in, then the keyboards, and they played at a toe-tapping pace and ended with a flourish.

Alan did much of the talking, and the beauty of it was the lovely Scottish brogue from all of them but guitarist Sean O'Donnell, who happens to be Irish. Their humor was low-key, and Alan made Alasdair the butt of some gentle ribbing. He said that Alasdair is from the Outer Hebrides, and then explained that Scotland has thousands of islands, most of them uninhabited. But Alasdair was fortunate enough to have been born on one of the inhabited islands.

At a certain point in the concert, I realized that watching Alasdair was like watching Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), from the Lord of the Rings, playing the fiddle. He has the same look and build.

Alan and Sean did all the singing, I suppose because Mike Katz had pipes and whistles in his mouth most of the time, and Alasdair had his chin on the fiddle. The two singers did a fine job, giving us traditional ballads and some of Alan's original songs. They sang of emigration and true love. And bad weather.

And they played. Alan had invited the audience to clap and stomp our feet and even get up and dance if the need arose. One man on the other side got up and danced by himself during most of the instrumental songs. During one particularly rousing number, a lady on our side of the room joined the man, and they swung in circles arm-in-arm. Here's a sample audio clip of a song that will make a dancing person want to get up and move. It's "Chuir i Gluin Air a Bhodach (She Put A Knee In The Old Man)" from their Time & Tide CD.

One of the songs they played started slow and built speed, the way Jewish folk music tends to do. Alan said afterwards that they weren't sure what to call that style of music. He said he'd suggested "Celtic Schmeltic," but the band rejected that name. They're open to any good suggestions...

We (my son and I--and the rest of the audience) had a great time. The instrumentals put a smile on our faces, the singing was a joy, and the conversations the band had with us from the stage was the topping on the cake. And we got an encore.

Check their website for their concert schedule, and if they're going to be in your area, by all means be sure to go.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Late last week I called my former officemate to see how everybody is doing. She told me that the group (which I left last April) is being disbanded, and they're all trying to find other jobs within the company. So I decided that having lunch with them would be better sooner than later. Lunch was today.

It's a strange thing coming back to visit only to find that things have changed so much. There was a reorganization back in April that put our group under the leadership of a department in the middle of the country. That department is doing its best to take over all the work that our group has done for years, and they've almost succeeded.

For me, the news is déjà vu all over again. At the job I had before this last one, we went through the Giant Sucking Sound of our work going to mid-America. Our mainframe IT department in California went from about 60 people to just a handful, even though we were convinced we were the better programmers and system designers than the folks Back East.

It's discouraging, as I face a job market that's shrinking around me. I need work so I can keep a roof over my head and go to school at night, but there are fewer and fewer options. I've got a few leads, though, and that's good.

Lunch itself was great, and so was seeing everyone again. After lunch, I made the rounds to catch up with other folks in the building, and I learned that more people followed my trip with my mom than I imagined. A couple times the conversation turned to chocolate, so I pointed them to my post on Lubec, Maine, and Monica's Chocolates website. I've decided that once I get a job, I'm going to order a box of the assorted truffles. And keep them for myself (one per day until they're gone).

But that's for later. First I need to get a job...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Monkey Attack in Spokane

KLXY News reported Saturday on a monkey rampage in Spokane, Washington.

There was no monkeying around on the South Hill on Friday, after Spokane animal control officers responded to an unusual call for help. A macaque monkey, native to Africa and Asia, escaped its owner's home, biting three neighbors.

"That is something you don't see in Spokane," says Scott Battaglia on a home video of the monkey.

"It was freaky. He had red eyes," said eight-year-old Aaron Trujillo.

Aaron was walking his dog with his best friend, Grey, when he spotted the monkey.

"And I was like, what in the heck is a monkey doing here?" Aaron exclaimed.

The pair started to run really, really fast .

"And we were like, running really fast down the sidewalk," Aaron explained, "and and we were like, ahhhh! It was like, so freaky."

"I thought it was a joke," said Dorothy Trujillo, Aaron's mother, "making it up because they have some imagination."

So she had to see for herself.

"And I, uh, got a little bit closer, took pictures and it looked like it was going to go back in the house," says Dorothy, "but then it turned around and charged me."

It ended up biting her on the leg.

"It really hurt," she said. "It just kind of grabbed me and wouldn't let go and it looked pretty bad."

The monkey bit two other people before animal control personnel arrived and caught it with a net. It is illegal to own primates in the state of Washington, so the owner won't be getting the monkey back after the quarantine period.

I lived in Spokane for three years and never had monkey trouble. The neighborhood has gone ape since I left.


I stayed up pretty late last night.

My daughter was here, working on a paper for one of her classes. She had to write about the Middle East policy of the Progressive Party, when the party website didn't say much beyond that the two-nation, one-state system status quo was bad. And since my daughter is young, she doesn't follow current events or foreign policy, so she didn't know what the issues are in the Middle East.

While I was trying to give her some insight on different aspects of the whole Israeli-Palestinian situation, we had a movie playing. We watched The Ultimate Gift.

It was in the theaters in 2006, and I bought it when it came out on DVD last summer. It's a wonderful story of an old man (James Garner) using a video will to teach his spoiled rich grandson (Drew Fuller) what's really important in life. He gives his grandson "gifts," and through the giving of them, his grandson grows up into a good man. These are the gifts, as they are listed in the end credits:

  • Work
  • Money
  • Friends
  • Learning
  • Problems
  • Family
  • Laughter
  • Dreams
  • Giving
  • Gratitude
  • A Day
  • Love

I recommend the movie. And I recommend these gifts.