Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Day = Try New Thing

Jr.Gopher#1 got a pair of ice skates for Christmas. He was thrilled. Today we finally got a chance to try them out. His buddy from St. Albert's had to cancel our visit on the 26th due to the soggy snow trashing the ice surface on their back yard's mini-ice rink. Well, Longfellow Park wasn't exactly the Xcel Center, but it was at least (mostly) fairly flat. Someone must have gone over it with a Zamboni between the 26th & today.

He was at least passingly interested in the pick-up hockey going on. A family (mom, dad + 2 small boys his age) were playing 2 on 2; a couple grown men were playing around at the other end of the rink). I had to explain that it was like soccer: hit the puck through the net, and no, it's not a ball, it's a "puck". Since it doesn't cost anything for tickets, and no reservation is required, I think I'll take him to a Gopher Women's game. National Champions can't be too bad for a starter. And, as it's free, if he loses interest 10 min. into the 1st period, I'm not out anything.

This is, after all, the land of Pond Hockey. A traditional requirement for manhood. There are at least a dozen lakes here within the city limits of Minneapolis, and several dozen, if not 100, within the Twin Cities. Really. The city, however, puts ice rinks in the parks without lakes/ponds. Lay down liner, flood, wait; repeat if necessary. Several of them have hockey rinks installed for city league or school games. One in St. Paul apparently even has the ice surfaced every day.

Jr.Gopher#1 managed to actually become self-propelled for a dozen meters/yards or so. He was thrilled with himself. So was I. I've never tried to teach anyone to skate; I'm barely proficient myself. I once managed to skate backwards. And, as they say, once only counts in horseshoes & hand grenades.

Or is that "close"? I'd probably recall better if I hadn't just sucked down quite a bit of the lovely Irish water of life in celebration of the blessed new year... :-) Although, considering I can type without error at about 45-50 wpm, I figure the alcohol isn't that much of an impediment to my faculty. Probably my Irish genes.

We were @ St. Albert's this evening. The annual New Year's Eve gaming night was on; no, not the gaming that I used to do with the Gaming Guys on Friday nights in my basement... These people brought out the ancient artillery; every possible board game known to Milton Bradley and man kind. Occasionally people would wander past the tables of games looking at things that we, middle aged people, haven't seen since we were kids. Just sitting around, chatting & playing games. And, since it's a Catholic church, I don't think anyone minded the fellow drinking Summit, rather than the pink lemonade. The boys had fun; I was subjected to the proficient maternal Catholic Guilt Trip when the Other Elizabeth asked me to join in a set of some game. Unfortunately she asked just as we were leaving...

We wish you & yours a peaceful and boring New Year.
(Boredom is highly underrated: it's always better to be able to seek Excitement, rather than have it seeking you!)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Partial techno-fix

So, apparently Jeff @ In the Loop is going to see this because they, like others, have a little search-o-matic thing-y that finds blog posts where people mention their show. Hi, Jeff!

This, however, is a follow up to my earlier post, with the link to the story about the 3 Wise Men bringing gifts to the Jr.Gophers. So, here you go, Mom. Still looking for the other interview. God, doesn't that sound so impressive? I'd have thought STFU&GBTW, with his award-winning oh-so-public profession would be getting interviewed on the TV/radio/on-line. Of course, that would be for his personal abilities, not his odd personal opinions.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

95 bottles of beer on the wall ...

I survived.

Came home.

Slept for 6 hours.

please, god, never again ...

Monday, December 28, 2009

98 bottles of beer on the wall

oops - forgot to post this

Nope - didn't watch a movie so far, was surfing the internet looking for information on the type of EEG I'm getting done. Sigh ...

I read so often about the persistent fear or stigma of epilepsy. Perhaps ... well, no not 'perhaps', definitely ... I am insanely lucky. The vast majority of my friends are well educated. My family is well educated. I hardly ever have seizures. I'm pretty sure I could count them without needing more than my fingers & toes. I got the seizures under control on the first drug. I've never had my driver's license revoked (issues, yes, revoked no); hell, I have a license to drive. One of my first cousins has epilepsy. Last year, I had a (hem, "real") laboratory course for the first time in years, no decades. The great impact of epilepsy? I told my teachers, who simply said "oh, okay, let me know if you need anything". See above about educated acquaintances.

People say they fear to reveal they have epilepsy due to the response of ignorant proles. Even if divine/demonic possession isn't the common diagnosis any more.

I was reading these stories (the Epilepsy Foundation has a great website - give them money if you can't think of what to do with that excess in your 401k). How could I possibly compete with such tales of courage & perseverance against such obstacles?

When I was pregnant with Jr.Gopher#2, I heard about a program the Epilepsy Foundation has: since one cannot perform clinical trials on pregnant women, there's no way to do a prospective study of anticonvulsant drugs during pregnancy. They solicit women to submit their pregnancy related medical records to a study group. They can at least get data retrospectively. I had both sets of records forwarded to them. Especially since I was on different medications for the 2 boys. I figure I should do my part to contribute to the available knowledge.

But, how to eliminate society's residual ignorance?

I figure, since it has a relatively minor impact on my life, my battle standard is to refuse to refer to epilepsy by sissy euphemisms; to be completely open about having epilepsy (albeit not one of those people who gets in your face about it). I always check the box "handicapped" (or whatever it's called today) on demographic questionnaires. This has gotten me some really strange looks during job interviews.

I'm soooooooooooooooooooooooooo tired ...

Boogie Kids (96 bottles of beer on the wall)

JrGopher#2 loves to dance. Last night both of the boys were shakin' their booties.

We ran across a rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight: I started my hand moving in rhythm to the music - as one of the animated characters was. Jr.#2 promptly started doing the same thing. Not just mindlessly copying, like babys, but an enthusiastic joy. Jr.Gopher#1 was having much more fun mimicking the dog at about 0:24 min. Both boys were singing along as well.

Ah, yes, our camera is broken... otherwise I would have posted it to YouTube myself.

97 bottles of beer on the wall

It's 2:46 a.m. Only 3:14 to go before I need to leave the house.

99 bottles of beer on the wall

It's 12:06 a.m. Only 7 more hours to go. I am scheduled to have a sleep-deprived EEG this morning @ 7. I'm not allowed to sleep tonight. I've been so under the weather recently, that this is going to be a significant challenge. I'm going to write/start a review for Up, and then watch something amusing on video with the hope I can stay up. They were pretty adamant that no artificial means of alertness is allowed. Admittedly, given how icky I feel, the idea of drinking coffee is repellent right now. I might try to write the Annual Family Report.

Pursuing a 2nd opinion about some recent complications from my epilepsy, I figured I should take advantage of my proximity to the 2nd largest research hospital in the state - 2 buildings away from my lab. The referring doctor (3 floors up from my lab) said this fellow was the go-to person for seizures. Cool, eh?

I alwasy feel like I have to apologize for going to the doctor's and try to assure her/him that I'm really not a hypocondriac. This time - the first time I've ever sought a 2nd opinion - I felt compelled to tell him that I realize "I don't know" is sometimes the best answer anyone can offer. I guess I didn't want to come across as dissing my regular neurologist. (Whom, it turns out, was trained by him.)

I looked over his shoulder while he reviewed the MRI scans of my brain from this Summer. This is just the coolest. The regular stuff that I expected: cross sections of my brain. Then there was the 3-D images of the blood vessels in my head. Just the blood vessels. In 3D. Whether you attribute this to the Divine or the Random, by God it is utterly beautiful.

After having me do totally mundane things: walk on my toes, on my heels, touch my nose, etc. and collecting a medical history, he pops out with a diagnosis which is more specific than just 'epilepsy'. Then he gets an oh-so-faint twitch of the lips reminiscent of a smile, and says "this is interesting". Just what one wants to hear.

1:20 a.m. god, I am soooooooooooooooooooo tired ...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

[review] Virgin Spring

why ... ?

One of Ingmar Bergman's pieces. It won the 1961 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. I guess that makes it a "classic". (A term I find annoying in the film context.) Mr.Gopher enjoyed listening to the euphonious language of his beloved 2nd home (which is not here). I - of course - read the subtitles. It is an omnipresent curiosity when watching foreign films, how well translated the subtitles are. One would think, given this production of the film is only a few years old, and the almost universal knowledge of English in Sweden, that one could rely absolutely on the translation. Well ... the title page states it is based upon a myth/ballad/song from the 14th Century. Or is that the 13th Century? Mr.Gopher told me the English & Swedish had the same number (13), but the counting wasn't the same. Sigh ... now, if only my befuddlement stopped there.

I am not one who bemoans the confusion of foreign films, wringing my hands in embarrassment, wanting to seem chic or cosmopolitan by opining on the "meaning" of the work. There is an introduction to the film by Ang Lee. He stated (for some reason, I thought this person was a woman?) that this was one of the most influential films he saw as a younger man. He went on to discuss the film's content in terms of the basic elements of human life. That the film delved into what makes us human. An interview with the two main actresses revealed similar views.

Set in 13th/14th Century Sweden, this is the explanatory myth of the creation of the Virgin Spring. (A well-spring, that is, not the season) A young spoiled girl (virgin) is sent to bring a bunch of candles to the distant church; a young serf pregnant girl (not-virgin) goes with her. Not-virgin is jealous and despises the virgin. For some utterly inexplicable reason, she abruptly claims to be afraid of the forest, and stays behind at a small hut. Running away from the owner's lecherous advances, she runs after the virgin. The (idiotically) naive virgin meets up with 3 really decrepit goat herders. They induce (seduce?) her to stop on her travels, and have lunch with them. She realizes the goats belong to her neighbors. They attack, rape, kill her and then steal her expensive clothing. All of which occurs within the sight of the not-virgin, who can't bring herself to either run away or defend the other girl. The villains stop for the night to seek shelter at - of course - the dead girl's family's home. Offering her dress as payment for the generosity, they are revealed, and killed by the enraged father.

After finding the daughter, the parents & the rest of the still-living cast mourn. The father swears to God that, to atone for something, he will raise a church on this very spot. Moving the virgin's corpse, a clear fresh spring flows forth from the ground. This is definitely the sort of tale one expects to explain the presence of some small spring in the middle of a church.

I was so hung up on the inexplicable behavior of the pregnant not-virgin, that it really interfered with the rest of the movie. Did she just refuse to go forward out of real fear? Out of sloth, to avoid working/traveling? Did she passively watch the violence because she hated the virgin & wanted to see her get 'taken down a notch'? After doing all of this, why did she return to the farmstead, and then fess up to the father, rather than lying about her indirect complicity? Why did the father just pat her on the head and send her off to help him prepare for battle (i.e., killing the villains)?

Yes, there were interpersonal conflicts: the mother (spoiling the daughter, their only remaining child) vs. the father (who argues she should be trained properly, yet seems to pointedly exclude the mother from his own relationship with the daughter). The staff vs. the not-virgin about her amoral pregnancy-generating behavior. The bizarre little boy (the 3rd goat herder), who is unclearly attached to the older two: is he their brother?

I found the choice of B&W to be particularly interesting for two reasons, one rather mundane and the other not. There is an appealing stark simplicity to shooting in B&W outdoors, which avoids any 'noir' overtones. Ansel Adams in motion pictures. Yet, due to the B/W, the characters' appearance seemed overly stereotypical. The father is visually the utter archetype of a viking hero; the nationalistic artists from the 30s would have loved him as the Aryan uber-mench. (picture #1 here, a strikingly young Max von Sydow). The daughter is a stereotype of what Americans see as the Young Swedish Girl. Yet the not-virgin and the villains were so much antitheses, that it seemed ridiculous. Dark, heavy features, shot in shadows, what I assumed was an overly heavy-handed effort for the director to say "These are the Bad People". Given what I've heard of Bergman, it is difficult to believe that such an obvious choice was accidental. Yet, if it wasn't, I don't understand what its purpose is.

In the SCA, there are genres of story telling. One of them is the kind which is told by Fighters about their exploits on the Field of Battle, where one is required to start the tale: "No shit, there we were ..." There is also the type of tale, which need not be personal, and often is a re-telling of an historical epic/saga/poem. Around the Dark Ages, these tales were rather morbid. These are referred to as "Every One Dies". Virgin Spring is not quite an 'everyone dies' tale, but it has the distinct feel of one. I expected the mother to throw herself into the river to drown herself in sorrow (Admittedly, as an excessively devout Catholic who's really into self-penance, she likely wouldn't have committed the unforgivable sin of suicide.), and then have the father build the church and die with the last stone being laid, while the tenants looked on in servile acceptance.

I would mention that I really enjoyed the appearance of the movie. It would definitely entice me to visit Sweden for that sort of views. The costuming, et al., was really good, and pretty accurate for the time/place. I then discovered it was nominated for Best Costuming (B&W).

So, yes, there's plenty to discuss in an artsy "ain't I cosmopolitan" way ... but I still didn't like the movie.

Gopher Rating:
See it if someone else is paying.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Your 15 minutes are up

I just got my 15 minutes of fame. If you want to call it that ...

Minnesota Public Radio contacted me twice last week. Once for In the Loop, a small, slightly odd-ball look at pop culture that's only available on-line. Second by the main News Room. Both of them interviewed me & then decided to use the interviews.

MPR's Christmas Stories
Story of when our house burned down 5 days before Christmas. Aired at 7:20 Christmas Eve morning. Needless to say, I didn't listen to it. Which is sad, because I thought the boys would get a kick out of Mom's voice coming out of the radio.
I was told they'd post the audio on-line. When they do, I'll add it. Here, however, is the text of what I wrote them. Note: the date is wrong, it should have been 1979. C'est la vie.

MPR's In the Loop
Holiday podcast. Skip to about 30:00 min. I'm the first person in the "Santa Alternatives" section. I explained how our Christmas presents are brought by the 3 Wise Men. Our kids believe in Santa, they just know that Santa brings other kids presents (their American cousins), or the Christkind (their German cousins).

technical glitch: the link I put here goes to the most recent podcast, not the specific one I want. Will try to fix. ... and ... I still can't find the link to the 1st interview. Oh, well, you'll just have to believe that it happened (a friend heard it on the radio - I didn't, & I'm curious to hear how they edited it.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cooking Tip: burns

When you're standing with oven mits on,
to protect your hands from the metal handles of the roasting pan ...
and you've been doing it for a couple minutes, because you're basting the ham (other piece of meat) ...
and you think "I need to handle something with dexterity",
and want to take the oven mit off,
but the other hand is still holding the roasting pan,

don't tuck it under your armpit while wearing a short sleeved shirt.

just don't.


What to do when you realize the pan with the acorn squash halves won't fit in the oven along with the ham ...? One, if one is over 35, likely looks at the microwave oven and thinks "appliance only valued for heating left-overs or defrosting frozen peas in 2.5 min."

Cut acorn squash in half
remove seeds
place squash half in a bowl.
Microwave on high (for an 800 W oven) for 3 min.
Wait 5 min.
Microwave on high for 3 min.
Add pinch of rosemary.
Add pat of butter.
Repeat for the other half.

Let it sit covered until dinner. Serve as a half to each adult, if it's going to be a larg(er) part of the meal.

Or, just divvy it up as desired. Can slice the half into slices, like a melon, and serve that way.
Or, scoop it out of the shell, try to remove some of the rosemary. Serve like mashed potatoes (made with a masher, not a food processor).

Cheers & Merry Christmas from the Minnesota branch of the Tobias Family.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Golden Kilometer

The title is actually The Golden Mile, but Russia uses metric. Martin Cruz Smith has a new Arkady Renko novel coming out in March. As with any serial author, I cross my fingers & hope that the pressure to create excellence survives the pressure to simply write another novel. The thorough enjoyment of these works is not increased with frequency. I'm #72 on the library's waiting list. Which means I'll be able to read it about 1-2 months after it comes out.

I wish I had some divine ability to have IM from the publishing gods about my favorite authors. Amazon used to do that, but doesn't anymore (or if they do, I'd appreciate a note about where the function went). I don't mind waiting a while to read something. (A statement predicated upon an assumption I'll have the time to devote to a longer, more enjoyable read which shouldn't be interrupted by data analysis or public health courses ...) However, if I do know - I can jump the line at the library.

For example, the Hennepin County Library only has 4 copies of The Incredibles (I'm #20); given that it's not even vaguely new, I'm surprised at the demand. I'm even more surprised that the library system serving the most populated county in the state has 4 copies of a popular kid's movie. All 4 of us having to stave off the 1,140,984 of the rest of them for it.
-- from 10/30

[review] Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Only Ian Fleming would write a story wherein the heroine is named Simply Scrumptious, with a car that can fly and float. 'Nuff said.

Krankenhaus Tobias

Saturday (10 days ago): I started feeling icky
Wednesday (last week): I lost my voice, thankfully after my big presentation
Wednesday evening: Jr.Gopher#1 started puking
Thursday morning: see above, Jr. Gopher & I spent the day in bed; watched Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.
Friday: I was still sick, after school Jr.Gopher came home & threw up again.
Saturday: I was still sick, spent the entire day - quite literally - in bed.
Sunday: I was still sick, spent most of the day in bed.
Sunday night: Mr.Gopher started throwing up.
Monday early a.m.: Jr.Gopher#2 started throwing up
Monday morning: Mr. & Jr.#2 still pukin'
Monday evening: I'm feeling better enough that I don't think a trip to the dr. is in order

A repeat executive decision from 3 years ago: No One Is Allowed to Get Sick for the Rest of the Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

hello, world

there will likely be several posts over the next couple of days. I keep starting them, and then get distracted by school. or cooking dinner. Or flossing my teeth....

I've been soooo sick - the low-grade-guilt-inducing kind of sick - for a week. I (almost) wish it was the flu - at least then I would know it would be gone in a couple more days. This is just weary.

At least there's only one paper left, and it's 1/2 done. then comes the awesome task of clearing out the living room to make room for the tree that's now in the yard.

more sooner or later ...

bumper sticker of the month



Evil, pure evil

People Are Stupid ... People are Trained to be Stupid ...

HSBC ad on
go to Moscow using your HSBC credit card ... check in to hotel with HSBC credit card ... go to room ... turn on tv ... everything is in Russian ... read book instead.

As a bibliophile, i'm all for reading rather than watching TV. But, seriously ... spend all the money to go to Russia, and then hide out in a Western-service hotel and totally insulate yourself from the fact you're in a foreign country. HSBC, btw, is totally friggin' evil.

Friday, December 18, 2009

mental floss * com

Cool t-shirts because I know you either a) already get it, or b) will go ask someone why it's funny. My favorite is the math shirt, perhaps for Mr.Gopher:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Doesn't work for me, either

I laughed until I cried and my sides hurt ...

Monday, December 14, 2009

food for thought

... i just can't get my kids to eat broccoli ...

Jr.Gopher#1 was about 2 when a woman expressed her amazement upon watching him devour some broccoli. I will admit, I kept some foods away from him (& Jr.Gopher#2): peanuts, honey, and a few things recommended by the baby food book I had. But, otherwise, once they were old enough to eat solid foods ... if it was on the table, they got it.

My philosophy was "don't tell them they may not like it". This was followed by food-management skills:

Jr. "I don't like chicken"
Me "Well, maybe you'll like it tomorrow"

At the age of 5.5, this is still my response.

Children have different tastes for food. At the age of 1-1/2, Jr.#2 was sitting on my lap at a Greek restaurant chowing down on capers, tomatoes, feta cheese, and olives. Red onions were apparently too much for him. When Jr.#1 was younger, I remember being @ El Azteco and watching, with my friends, in astonishment as he kept eating the not-mild salsa.

This past week, I was cooking and contemplated putting jalapeno peppers in the dish. We have a jar of 'mild' sliced jalapenos. Jr.Gopher#2 pops up to help me cook. Seeing the peppers, he then demands a piece of them.

Jr.#2 "I want some of them"
Me "Are you sure?"
Jr.#2 I want some of them.

despite the jar being labeled 'mild', I took one out and tasted it to check my spicy-meter. He of course got cranky that I was eating it and not giving him any. I took one out, took the seeds out of it, and handed him half.

Jr.#2 I want the whole one!
Me Taste this. If you like it, you can have more.

chomp chomp chomp

Jr.#2 I want more!

About 4 slices later, Jr.Gopher#1 shows up and - of course - demands some of whatever #2 is eating.

They chowed down on at least 5 or 6 slices each.

Last night we had fish fillets (the up-scale version of fish-sticks) and schnitzel. Due to technical problems, I needed to get rid of a couple of onions pronto, so I sauteed them to serve with the schnitzel. (btw: yum, yum) Jr.#2, the more adventuresome eater, wanted them. And then more of them.

Who needs broccoli?


Friday, December 11, 2009

Bumper Sticker of the Month

God, protect me
from your followers.

8' x 10' = 20' ??

St. Johns Abbey & University is just a bit north of here in Collegeville. The main chapel there is rather pretty. We stopped to see it on the way home from the Gopher Family Annual Independence Day Camp-Out. This is a video of them trying to get their 20 foot tree through the front door, which is 8 x 10 feet. Sideways? Of course. But, a 20' tree is going to have a diameter larger than the door. Hmmmmmm......

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Possibility of Winter Amusement

Well, our first real snow came last night. 7" at the airport. Supposed to be more today. Jr.Gopher#1 is already asking to go sledding. The boys pulled out the sleds this past weekend.

MPR's Bob Collins is creating yet another fun little sport: the Golden Snowball. The meteorologist who most closely predicts the actual snow fall wins. Wins what? Who knows. Bragging rights.

Just another way for Midwesterners to jaw about the weather, a favorite topic after one picks sides in the "F-'em, get out of town" or "God, Western Civilization will fall" in the battle of which national sports team is whining about the State paying for a new stadium while the State is trying to figure out how to cope with a $1.2 Billion deficit. I'll leave you to guess which side Mr.Gopher & I are on ...


Monday, December 7, 2009

A Day that Will Live in Infamy

... well, until we forget it ...

Below is the U.S.S. West Virginia, one of the few battleships that survived Pearl Harbor; well, 'survived' in the sense that it went back into service.

I was at a WVU-Navy game a few years (oh, god, quite a few years) ago w/ my fellow WVU-grad relatives. Now, normally, of course, any sailors in attendance would be rooting for the US Naval Academy (a.k.a. Annapolis). The current West Virginia, an Ohio Class nuclear submarine, was in port. Part of the crew was in attendance, and rooting for - yup - West Virginia U. I assume their CO perhaps gave ... well, not quite orders ... about loyalty in attendance.

No doubt the crew of the West Virginia in 1940 would be rather astonished to see her current incarnation:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

30 Second Bunny Theater

What's your favorite movie? Re-enacted in 30 seconds by Bunnies? Season 3 has 38 episodes. You'll just have to suck up watching the same f'in 0:15 intro to a 1:00 show. Every time.
(you need a Netflix subscription, $, though I'm sure you can find it elsewhere, too)

I particularly liked:
Die Hard
March of the Penguins
and Harry Potter, #1-5 (yes, all 5 movies in 30-ish seconds)

hee hee hee hee

Christmas Klingon

Come to Mpls. See a production of the original
Christmas Carol
in its original Klingon.

The speed limit is ...

35. 30. 40. 55.

Whatever it is, I get an announcement from the back seat as we drive, now that Jr.Gopher#1 has figured out which signs are the speed limits. This, then, is followed by, "why are you driving 40? The speed limit is 30." (He can read the speedometer over my shoulder.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Welcome to my world

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

Jr. Gopher #1 really likes this

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

... bored yet?

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.
Und als sie dann nach Hause kam,
da hatt´sie weiße Stiefel an.
ABC, die Katze lief im Schnee.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Biblical regulations

"We're also going to bring a transparency to the regulatory jungle that is unprecedented in the federal government," Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao told business owners in a speech on June 2002. "There are more words in the Federal Register describing OSHA regulations than there are words in the Bible. They're a lot less inspired to read and a lot harder to understand. This is not fair."

I try to console my outraged sense of morality and ethics with my mantra:

... one day, you will stand before God and have to explain what you did with your life ... and boy, you will be fucked ...

I also think this is a good touchstone for moral decisions in my own life.

(former) Sec. Chao's primary function as a lawyer was union-busting. Only a Republican toadying to the Christian-zealots would compare the Federal Register with the Bible. The former is the source of all federal regulations, including all of the OSHA & EPA "regulations", i.e. what you need to do to be in compliance with the law. And I'm willing to bet that Ms. Chao hasn't actually read either one, unless it was to figure out how to justify fucking the little guy with the contents.

Of course, pointing to the royally retarded (and I mean that in the scientific sense, as well as the social one) approach to labor laws under Bush II, saying "this is a new administration" rather much ignores the pathetic approach to labor law for the past 40 years. The Democrats aren't any better at this. And they are - in my opinion - sinking just as fast. They have the majority... just Fuck the Republicans and just get on with doing what it right! Just DO what you been whining about for the past 8 years. aaaaarrrrgggghhh.

Monday, November 23, 2009

more strange parenting events (95 bottles)

More things they never tell you about being a parent:

  • Walking through the den/TV room/toy zone in the dark at midnight, seeing a faint phosphorescent glow & you think, "I told the boys the remote goes on top of the TV, not on the floor!", only to realize it's your son's glow-in-the-dark stegosaurus his cousin won for him at a penny arcade in L.A.

  • You tactfully refrain from laughing with maniacal glee as your child steps on one of those itty-bitty one-dot Legos you've repeatedly stepped on & repeatedly told them a zillion times to pick up. You, of course, offer comfort anyway.

  • On the same note, you become aware that you can offer comfort without offering much in the way of sympathy. See above.

  • It is possible to go from 100 mph to full stop in 17.6 sec. -- if one is talking about the hyperactive berzerker speed of a two year old bouncing around his bedroom, off the bed, off the walls, off the shelving, off the dresser, off the drapery, off the floor ...

  • It is possible to want to leave your children to the wolves in Northern Minnesota while concurrently wishing they would just calm down enough to let you hug them.

  • One's temper with Idiot Drivers is much, much shorter when your child is in the car. While 2 blocks from home, with Jr.Gopher#1 in the car, some Idiot pulled out of the alley on 34th St. straight out in front of me. Thank God for ABS brakes and good tires. De ja vu: the exact same method was used for totaling my last VW 11 months ago.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Voodoo Writing

The [insert agency here] academic and research training efforts have been strengthened by increasing the synergy across existing programs to result in a cohesive center that is greater than the sum of its disciplinary components.

Wow - my writing class last year didn't teach us this style of "please give me money" grant application.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Class v. Status

I wrote quite a bit this summer for my socio-behavioral-whatever course. I've used the term 'socioeconomic status' several times, as well as other PC terms. I finally had a breakthrough finishing my last assignment, which was a brainstorming project to facilitate the development of an intervention to reduce childhood obesity (how's that sound for socio-behavioral b.s.?)

Obesity is a result of our culture's class system: we (the huddled masses yearning to breathe free) wanted to be like the rich. The rich who had an abundance of food in general, and who were able to eat lots of different kinds of food. The rich who didn't need to spend 14 hours per day doing back breaking labor in a factory or on a farm. When presented with the opportunity to be less active, we took it; when presented with abundant food, we took that too.

After writing 'residue of a class system' for the paper, I've subsequently been thinking much on class as a factor in public health. Yes, people will assure you that class is important. But I think too many people look at race rather than class. Focusing on "race" lets rich white Americans think we're doing something good for the poor blacks we've been oppressing over the centuries and therefore lets us lie to ourselves that we're not oppressing anyone anymore.

I think that this whole "race card" does get played waaaaay too often. It keeps the poor disenfranchised, because the poor aren't one color or one race. "Race card" is also a euphemism for "relations with African-Americans" and is racist in and of itself by excluding the rest of the races.

It's a pity Society doesn't look at socioeconomic class: it is far, far, faaar more quantifiable than some chromosomal chromatograph of one's skin color.

I've decided that I'm going to ditch the use of "status" in regards to most of my writing. Screw it. It isn't socioeconomic 'status' - it's a class. It is an acknowledgment that we live in a class system just as much as the poor schmos in India - we just don't have the decency or self-awareness to acknowledge it.

A Class System is one where you are simply born into your lot in life. You're working class or Upper Class or whatever, because you're parents are. Or possibly because you managed to eek your way into that class (usually by marriage or falling out of a higher one). Being in a "status" sounds so ... transitory ... Like the boarding gate status for your flight. As if it's going to change, and you'll like the change. The term "status symbol" has an inherent meaning of "status of being rich/wealthy". When I was in high school, Calvin Klein Jeans were the 'status symbol' d'jour. No one mentioned that ratty worn-out hand-me-downs were a status symbol too. Because it was a status we didn't want to have.

Being at the bottom of the socioeconomic cesspool of life isn't a "status" - it's a way of life. Which you will in a probability never escape. See ya soon!

We Will Rock You

Mr. Gopher & I have tickets to the U2 concert here in June.

As it's on campus, there's finally been an immediate financial incentive - other than the cheap bus pass - to being a student.

>> rev. apparently it sold out in 2 hours when it went on general ticket sales.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Where does your child play?

Go to University Ave. in St. Paul, just east of Fairview. I honestly don't recall the name of the specific street, it's the first one east of Fairview. On the north side of that intersection is a YMCA and a small school building. The school has 2 signs: Avalon School (sign says its a public 7-12 school) and Twin Cities German Immersion School (is a K-5 public charter school).

Stand on the sidewalk in front of the school. There's a fence.

Look at vast expanse of wood chips. This is my son's play ground. Is there any grass? No. The grass off to your right is the front yard of the business there.

Walk into the play ground and look around. There's no gate in the fence to keep my kindergarten son in. There's no gate to keep you or any other member of society out. Why?

Look at the sign in front of the fence where you're standing. It reads: St. Paul Park & Recreation Board.

This was brought up at the German School's Board Meeting earlier this year. "The planning is complicated by the fact that the area in front of the school is owned by the City of St. Paul and forms part of a public park. Fencing and landscaping are both seen as high priorities, but both require permission from the city."

The school isn't allowed to do anything - not even landscaping - because the City of St Paul is ... well, I have no clue what they're doing.

The following was mentioned by Mr.Gopher: The park was donated to the city in 1906 (or so), with the caveat that it be a park. Nothing has been done with it in the intervening, um ... 103 years. Yeah, not '96, but '06. And so long ago, that one needs to ask which '06.

Now, go to St Paul's website. Click on the page to find one of their lovely Parks. You can't find this one. aaaaaahhh ... I guess the park is so important that someone lost it & they don't even know they have it ...

Go back to the fence & look east. There's grass in front of the first building, and then it turns into businesses' buildings and parking lots.

Look west. The YMCA has a fenced in yard (and apparently installed the playset without city permission - a great example of forgiveness being easier to get than permission). After that, the Griggs Building has its parking lot on the "City Park Land". The corner of Fairview & University has a bus stop. The "Park Information Sign" is there, but there's no park near it, just the Griggs' parking lot.

Someone in St. Paul went through the bother of paying for the nice, colorful sign with multicultural images. For a park that doesn't exist. But they can't allow the schools to put in grass? Even if the schools pay?

Insert lots of frustrated profanity.

Insert more.

Why won't the city just let the schools make the place nice for the children? It's not as if they could actually honestly claim "we're about to do something intelligent with the property".

Can you honestly imagine any public school letting total strangers into the school's playground? I could go sit on this school's playground and they'll have to let me because it's a "public park".

Now, mind you, I'm not paranoid about sex offenders or such. But I am really annoyed that the general public is allowed to wander around where these kids play and can interrupt them. I'm really, really annoyed that my kid is stuck trying to play soccer on wood chips. And, by far, I'm *most* annoyed that there's no complete fence to keep the balls and kids from running into University Avenue. That's not an annoyance factor - this is basic bodily safety.

waiting in line

... and waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting ...

The Hennepin County Library, which recently merged with the Minneapolis Public Library, serving the most populous count in the state of Minnesota (1,140,998 ~20% of the population), with two dozen branches, has 3 copies of the Lion King.
Go figure: They have 3 dozen Bob the Builder videos (at least 5 of which are at the Ridgedale branch).

We are currently #71 of 134 waiting for one of those 3 discs.

Appeal to Consequences

A logical fallacy based upon desired consequences rather than reality. An example given is for Mr.Gopher:

Pi is probably a rational number: being rational would make it more elegant.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Sometimes I enjoy reading a movie review, even if I'm not inspired to go see the film. On this instance, though, both appeal. See note at bottom about German political policy.

Pirate Radio: hopefully I'll get to see it around Thanksgiving, although The Author & I have a date to see The Road, which I'd do before this.

from the movie review:
The [English] government vows to sink the pirates and finally forces through the required legislation. This is highly unpopular. Just imagine an American administration turning off your rock and forcing you to listen only to NPR. Wow, I'm sorry I wrote that. There are probably fringers who think Obama is plotting to do just that.

I would be tempted to drop MPR a little not, although I'm sure they've already seen it.

Radio Caroline, upon which the movie is loosely based, is still broadcasting through iTunes. Right now they have a 1966 playback-year.

now, about the German politics:

There was a quiz on Der Spiegel to help you figure out which political party platform most closely matches your own. Since they have 100 parties - well, actually on a dozen or so - this is far more complicated than here, where the choice is usually 50:50 shot in the dark. After answering the questions as honestly as I think, for a personal platform, not necessarily what I would encourage the whole country to do, and considering an occasionally misunderstanding of the question in the context of how Germany works,... the result was the closest party was the Pirate Party. The focal point of which is civil rights, esp. regarding what we consider the 1st amendment's points on publication and access to information.

Friday, November 13, 2009

more out of date jokes

Mr.Gopher pointed me toward a similar style of East German jokes from Radio Eriwan.
here loosely translated by myself:

Could the catastrophe at Chernobyl have been avoided?
Sure, if the Swedes hadn't blabbed about it.

What is Chaos?
Questions about the State Economy will not be tolerated!

Can you clarify the difference between Democracy and the People's Democracy?
Sure. It's like the difference between a jacket and a straitjacket.

Of course, there are a couple I don't understand, or that just wouldn't be as funny in English, because the play on words only works in German. e.g. another joke about Chernobyl mushrooms & toilets. I don't get it. Maybe it's better that way.
Can you drive 120 km/hr [70 mph] in a Russian car on Russian streets?
Sure. Once.

Can we spread Socialism to Canada?
Sure, but then who would produce all our wheat?

Can we spread Socialism to Switzerland?
Sure, but it would be a shame do that to such a nice country.

Rules of the Reels

A list of Movie Rules from Roger Ebert's Movie Glossary. This is - assuredly - not the whole list, which is gigantic. I don't really care if these are funny to you. They were to me. There were quite a few more amusing ones.

Anti-Anti-Auto Theft Device
Any actor can start any car by pulling any two wires from under the dash and touching them together to make them spark. This not only starts the car but it also defeats the steering columns locking mechanism.

Breathing Corpse Syndrome
No one in the movies or on television has ever looked convincingly dead, a condition much harder to fake than an orgasm.

California Sunrise
As viewed from North America, the sun rises from the Atlantic at an angle up and to the right, and sets into the Pacific at a corresponding angle down and to the right. Lazy California directors fake an East Coast sunrise by filming a California sunset and running it backward, though this causes the sun to rise up and to the left.

Clean air duct principle
Whenever the protagonist attempts to sneak through a secure building ("Die Hard," "The Simpsons"), the air ducts are always clean and dust free, never coated with dust bunnies or causing so much as a sneeze.

Dead for Sure, No Doubt About It
In a movie, the absolute proof of the death of a character is when blood drips slowly from the corner of the mouth. This is in too many movies to document. An interesting variation was the dripping of liquid metal from the evil mutant's mouth in "X-Men 2." As a physician, I can tell you that blood coming from the mouth after a fight is either, 1) a sign of a communication of the esophagus with a major blood vessel, which would be fatal, or 2) a cut

Hot Tub Rules
If a hot tub is seen in a movie, people will take their clothes off and get in it. If the women have large breasts, it's a T&A movie. If the women have small breasts, it's a drama or a foreign film. If the women keep their underwear on, it's a coming-of-age movie. If it's a slasher movie or a thriller, there will be an electrical appliance located nearby.

Mutations for the Entire Family
A movie mutant action hero will only mutate in ways that won't interfere with a PG-13 film rating. Example: Spider-Man shoots web out of his wrists. Real spiders shoot web out of their butts.

Generic Drinker Syndrome
Characters in movies always order "beer." As a bartender, I have observed that no one ever just orders "beer." They always call their beer. Movie characters frequently take a small sip and then leave without finishing their drinks, or paying for them (occasionally one character will throw some uncounted bills on the table). In real life, people suddenly called away from the bar take time to upend their glass and greedily suck down whatever is left.

Watch Your Step Rule
Suicides always choose the ledge with the pigeon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Saved by Technology

From IrelandOn-Line

Facebook alibi clears teenager accused of robbery
(that would be Nov.12 on this side of the Pond)

A New York teenager accused of robbery has been cleared of all charges after providing a Facebook alibi.

Rodney Bradford spent 12 days in prison after being arrested on suspicion of holding up two people close to his home in Brooklyn.

But the 19-year-old was eventually released after it was found that an update on the social networking site placed him at his father’s flat across town in Harlem.

The message placed one minute before the robbery occurred on October 17 asked “WHERE MY IHOP?”, a reference to the popular US pancake house.

It was intended for his pregnant girlfriend, whom he had hoped would cook up a plate of the breakfast snack.

Instead, it provided proof that Mr Bradford was nowhere near the robbery when it took place. Experts confirmed it was typed from the keyboard of his father’s computer.

It backed-up witness statements claiming that the teenager was at his dad’s house at the time of the incident.

But the discovery of the online alibi did not save him from a short stint at Rikers Island, New York’s jail facility.

Speaking to the New York Post, Mr Bradford said: “They had me on Rikers island for 12 days. It was really miserable.”

He added: “It it wasn’t for Facebook I’d still be on Rikers Island.”

Freedom of Speech?

okay, so this is a bit dated, but it's still awfully funny

Q: Is it true that there is freedom of speech in the Soviet Union the same as there is in the USA?

A: In principle, yes. In the USA, you can stand in front of the White House in Washington, DC, and yell, "Down with Reagan!", and you will not be punished. Just the same, you can stand in the Red Square in Moscow and yell, "Down with Reagan!", and you will not be punished.

I looked for my standard file of jokes or just funny things, and found a dozen Russia/USSR jokes. I have no idea where they came from. I do wonder where my older, much longer list went...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Halloween pictures, finally

Creepy benefits of leaving jack-o-lantern out for a few days at the mercy of biological decomposition and the neighborhood squirrels. Need to consider this for a plan next year. The gaping maw is due to the invasion of squirrels eating all of the teeth. Sorry, don't have before / after pictures (see note below about missing camera).

JrGopher1 didn't want his picture taken with his head visible. Wall-E was a better visual success than a wear-able success. Cardboard U-Haul moving box + schedule 40 PVC piping + twine & cardboard & medical tape. Nope, didn't have duct tape - eee!

Jr.Gopher2 wanted to be EVE as soon as he heard #1 wanted to be Wall-E. They really like the movie. This is a Target size 3 diaper box, and the handles from one of those pretty gift bags. The gun was borrowed from a friend.

Our camera is broken, so there's a delay between photos & sharing (acutally, more like delay between Halloween & borrowing a camera for pictures yesterday).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vaccinate my cat?

Maybe I should ask for Raven to get vaccinated against swine flu? Or just keep her out of school?

Who is it for?

While I'm not sure I want to see The Antichrist this month, when it's at the Lagoon, I am assuredly not offended by the picture used to advertize the film. Unlike 7 people in England, who are concerned children might see the ad.

The ASA is apparently like our MPAA, giving the film an 18 rating (NC-17). I found their criteria/comments regarding the ad interesting:

was "unlikely to cause sexual excitement"
in ... The Times and The Independent, which the ASA felt children were unlikely to see.
"If children did see the ad, it was not considered particularly explicit.
"unlikely to be seen as irresponsible or cause serious or widespread offence"
"cinema at its most extreme"

Intriguing that whether or not a child see it impacts where it's offensive.

Then, there was von Trier's comment:
The Danish director defended his work at Cannes, saying: "I don't think I owe anyone an explanation. I made it for myself."

Well, unless he's a lot richer than I'd guess, this is a bit disingenuous. He made it for his investors, not himself.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Toasted pumpkin seeds

From the Gopher Kitchen:

  1. Remove seeds from pumpkin.
  2. Wash & remove pumpkin bits/fibers.
  3. Rinse.
  4. Spread on towel to dry. (do not use paper towels-you'll get paper bits)
  5. When mostly dry, spread on cookie sheet & let dry all the way. This might be a day or so, depending on how dry/warm your kitchen is.
  6. Put a splash of oil on a cookie sheet. Swish the seeds around in it. Now, this is just a little bit of oil. We're not deep-frying it, just toasting.
  7. Put in over @ 200-250F.
  8. About every 10 min., use spatula & toss seeds to toast evenly.
  9. Remove from oven after about 30 min., or to taste.
  10. Let cool.
  11. Store in air-tight container.

These are really yummy straight out of the oven, warm. Jr.Gopher#2, the total omnivore, likes them too.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lego safety

Of course, you go looking for one thing on YouTube, you find zillions. This is totally awesome:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Who's who

In English - an explanation of who's who in the new Germany government.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hey You! Election Day is Tuesday!!!

While not as immediately apparent in its importance as, say, last November, you


Election Day here in Minneapolis is critical for two big reasons:
  • The City Council is trying an end-run to consolidate power by eliminating the Park & Rec Board. Vote NO.
  • The City Citizens will be able to use the Ranked-Choice (or Instant Run Off) Voting for the first time.
This method of voting requires a hand-count.

The fact there are no electronic machines involved means the election results won't be in until December. However, unlike the last election to-do here, this won't involve million-dollar law suits.


Here are video explanations of it from MPR. It's brilliant. Voting with Post-Its. Really good visualization.

If only one person gets to win: the Mayor

If more than one person can win: City Council


If you're confused about how to vote, post your question here & I'll answer it. As long as it is before 10 p.m. Monday night. My civic duty doesn't superceede getting a good night sleep on this topic.

back to the grindstone

I can tell I'm spending more time doing school work (a.k.a. industrial hygiene), when I see something and think "that would be cool to share" - it's IH / safety / public health.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some order, please!

Every one of you has certainly heard of the Periodic Table of the Elements. Or the Periodic Table. Or the Periodic Chart. Period. You have, no doubt, seen the "modern" or "standard" version:

Then there are different methods to present the same information. These still demonstrate the periodicity of the atomic structure & therefore chemical properties, in different visual patterns. There were a couple others, but they wouldn't copy as easily as this:

Then again, there are some periodic tables which are apparently designed to refute information (while the top is amusing, the bottom part is the highlight):

Tickets, please

I can see the appeal of spending a few dollars having the Metro Cops spend a shift riding around checking tickets on the Light Rail. Price of a ticket for no ticket? $180. Figuring it costs $60/hour for 2 cops, if they manage to issue 1 ticket / 3 hours, they'll break even financially. And put the fear of god into riders to drive home the point that they do check. I think I had my pass/ID checked three times in the last academic year. Now? Twice in one week - which actually translates to once yesterday and once this evening. And the visit yesterday ...? Was 2 metro cops and 2 TSA. TSA? Well, I suppose the Light Rail does go through the airport. I haven't seen anyone get nailed without a ticket yet, though. I have heard, however, that they have a Zero tolerance policy about it.

The Powers of Peat

I want to make a psalter. I started ruminating on this quite a few years ago B.C. (Before Children.) I had been doing medieval calligraphy for quite a few years and wanted to branch out into a medieval, yet more personal, effort. Psalters - a collection of the psalms - were one of the few types of books which were common in the Middle Ages. Yes, this would be if you were wealthy to start off with. There are some doozies out there. The stupendously wealthy would have them custom made, in lieu of a Mazeratti to show off wealth. One of the most spectacular examples is from Jean Duc de Berry. I used to have a copy of excerpts. It is the most impressive example of late medieval illumination I've ever seen. The calligraphy I posted a few days ago was based upon this.

There are extant examples dating back to the 7th Century (in Ireland) from across Europe. The earlier stuff - Merovingian, Carolingian & early Irish - are really appealing to me. Convenient, since they are light on the illumination. A companion skill I never developed much beyond a rudimentary level. I worked with several skilled illuminators, so I didn't see any point in pursuing something I didn't really care for.

A couple years ago, a bulldozer operator in the middle of Ireland discovered a psalter while excavating peat in a bog. It is estimated to be from ~750 AD, apparently based upon the one visible page. As the director of the National Museum in Ireland stated, it is utterly astonishing that this thing managed to survive 1000 years or more. I can't wait to see what it looks like. The museum has a page about it here.

It's intriguing the limitations they have for conservation & restoration:
can't freeze it, or it will destroy the parchment;
can't use bio-cides or it will ruin the paints or inks;
don't want too much oxygen or it will actually start decomposing ...

The problem is that, having sat in a peat bog for 1000 years, the book is rather ... well .. rather wet. How to dry it out without destroying it? There will likely be quite a few dissertations addressing the many facets of this.

This link goes to a page, at the bottom of which is a .pdf file providing a summary of the conservation project. As both a scientist and an avid interest in the specific type of object, I was utterly enchanted. p. 9 has a before / after photograph of one of the first pages they've treated. Holy cow!

This is just soooooooooo coooooolll

DWI the Minnesota Way

DWI for what?

Duluth, Minn. (AP) — A northern Minnesota man has pleaded guilty to driving his motorized lounge chair while drunk.

A criminal complaint says 62-year-old Dennis LeRoy Anderson told police he left the Keyboard Lounge in Proctor on his customized La-Z-Boy after drinking eight or nine beers.

Prosecutors say Anderson's blood alcohol content was 0.29, more than three times the legal limit, when he crashed the lounge chair into a parked vehicle in August 2008.

Proctor Deputy Police Chief Troy Foucault says the chair was powered by a converted lawnmower and was equipped with a stereo and cup holders.

Did this thing get snow tires? What about the windchill up there in Duluth in January - does he have some sort of heater? And perhaps even more strangely ... is he in violation of the Clean Air Act for operating a vehicle which doesn't have a catalytic converter on it?

at the same time the Duluth News Tribune reports:
Number of deaths on Minnesota roads lowest in decades. I guess that's only because they're looking on the roads, and not the bar parking lots for moving violations.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

running hot? or cold?

Warm September segues into Cold October: aiming for record-breaking? Not me.

October temperatures are also way below average. After a very warm September (+5.5 degrees) we are running 8.4 degrees below average for October. So in a month, we've gone from the 11th warmest September or record to what may be one of the top 10 coldest Octobers on record.

Though I am very thankful for the above-average precipitation this month. It's been too dry for too long here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Impure Thinking leads to Treason

Interesting view of the "democratic process" regarding climate change / global warming policies. The author questions whether scientists can claim a moral high ground. Questioning global warming policy is, in some quarters, 'treason to the Earth' and her associated advocates. Pleasantly, a change from physical sciences to economics. A topic more scientists should be familiar with (beyond grant proposals).

"Less well-known pundits make similar points, suggesting that people with “incorrect” views on global warming should face Nuremburg-style trials or be tried for crimes against humanity. There is clearly a trend. The climate threat is so great – and democracies are doing so little about it – that people conclude that maybe democracy is part of the problem, and that perhaps people ought not to be allowed to express heterodox opinions on such an important topic.

... argue that if the science of climate change concludes that CO2 emissions are harmful, it follows that we should stop those harmful emissions ... since science tells us that speeding cars kill many people, we should cut speed limits to almost nothing."


This is just the best ...

Now, this is the kind of story which just warms the cockles of one's heart.

UnitedHealth Group, the nation's biggest health insurer [next door in Minnetonka], found itself in a touchy sideshow to the great health care debate Wednesday after a Colorado family came forward with a poignant story about how their 2-year-old daughter had been denied coverage.

Such decisions are not uncommon among insurers, but the case of Aislin Bates came with a twist -- she's healthy.

Now, if only we could shame the Health Insurance industry into doing something else, like universal coverage.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

80 gallons of Legos

Really, this didn't start out being procrastination. I'm working on a class project that lead me to check popular media for some information. Of course, one thing led to another to another ... and this was the end of the procrastination trail of tears.

Mistranslations from German:

Schwanz ... or Schwanz ... ?

Visitors to a tourist attraction in Berlin have been making off with an unusual memento—the 30 cm long penis of a Lego giraffe.

The Lego phallus belongs to a six metre tall model that has stood outside the entrance to the Legoland Discovery Centre on Potsdamer Platz since 2007.

“It’s a popular souvenir,” a spokeswoman for the centre said Tuesday. “It’s been stolen four times now …”

The article (in its entirety) in Columbia Journalism Review covers several other mis-translations.
BTW: Schwanz is a tail. It's also a popular slang for penis.

Although, apparently in both translations, it was still €3,000.

$4,500 for 30-cm of Legos? That's only about 1-ft. Even if one assumes it was relatively round (the tail, not the reproductive appendage), how could it possibly be that much? The Lego store @ Mall of America sells Legos by the bucket; it's only $14 for a quart of Lego. Somehow, I don't see Legoland using a 80 gallons (305 L) of Legos to build a 1 foot (30 cm) tail.

The post concluded with: Relying on someone a few desks down in the newsroom, or on your memory from that year you went to Oktoberfest, is a sure-fire way to end up lost in translation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

71% chance

We had the nicest Summer I can remember in my entire adult life. Really.

I'm not entirely sure what constitutes a "mild Winter" here in the Northern Midwest. We're supposed to get one, I guess. And, based upon Sunday's visit to an orchard, the woolly bear caterpillars support NOAA's predictions. (A fact I pointed out as one was crawling up Jr.Gopher#2's arm, to the great distress of Jr.Gopher#1.)

The 10-day straight run of temperatures below 0°F ( -18°C) last January reinforced my need for long johns to survive waiting for the bus/train. It actually got to -25°F ( -32°C) one night; it was up to -22 at 7 a.m. Mind you, that's here in urban-warmed Minneapolis. Up in Ely & Embarrass, it was -36°F ( -38°C) with a wind-chill of -52°F ( -47°C).
The metric units are for Mr.Gopher & Dr.Nuke. Sorry, Joachim, I figure everyone ought to have goofy names, and The Nuclear Physicist takes too much time to type. If you'd rather something else, let me know.

Ug. I'm okay if the temps get to 0°F; they don't really need to go further to convince me it's Winter here.

Now, for those of you who get annoyed when older people - say, your parents or grandparents - say "it was colder in my day" ... well, it isn't really global warming. The method used to calculate windchill changed. Rather than measure wind speed at 10 feet above ground, they now calculate it at 5 feet. Less wind = less windchill.

At 0-10 mph, the old & new are about the same. By the time you get up to 100 mph, they're back to be the same again. So, if it's calm, or if you're in the middle of an F-5 tornado, you can tell Grandma that it's really the same as the last century.

bragging rights

This is one of the nicer pieces I did. Not as nice as I'd want, but I certainly wasn't embarrassed to present it to the SCA group. This is from the Great Book of the Middle Kingdom. It is a collection of all of the "official" ceremonies and the associated texts for each. These particular pages are the opening of the Crown Tournament. And, while not credited, I did the calligraphy on the opening page for the following section.

The calligraphy & capital letters are mine. The illumination is Pharamond's. In the course of my efforts, I did quite a bit of collaboration with him: me with a pen & him with a paint brush.

There are a few other pieces of mine I wish I had high-quality photographs of, rather than the photocopies sitting in my portfolio.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Calligraphic attraction

There is an International Exhibition of Calligraphy in Moscow. Barring the mediocre English on their website (by both the exhibit and contributors), it looks like there is actually something in Moscow I would like to see.There are a couple of pieces in their collection which are stunningly breathtaking. A couple contributors are German. Their brief essay (2-3 paragraphs) were in a spectrum of opinions as well as English competency. At least one of which I wish I could have read in German, because it didn't make a lot of sense in English.

Two of the pieces I particularly liked:

Truth, texts from Demokrit, Aristoteles, Leibniz, Feuerbach, Goethe, Schiller, Lichtenberg, La Mettrie, Hebel, Berger, by Joachim Propfe
If you look carefully at some of the dark & light shadowing is actually text.

Psalm 25:7, Remember not the sins of my youth, by Avraham-Hersh Borshevsky
this is one which took my breath away.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Great American Novel

Cinda contemplated what constitutes great American literature. Not being a professional writer, or a devout classicist, my literary consumption has been mostly popular stuff. Anne Perry, Robert Ludlum, Lois McMaster Bujold, Patrick O'Brian. I have read a couple of her recommendations, especially To Kill a Mockingbird.

No two people being the same, of course I paused to consider what I would recommend, if offering American literature to a foreigner. Something which paints a picture of life in America. How we, as Americans see our self-identity as Americans. Murder mysteries are all well and good, but does one paint a picture of America that is uniquely American? Love stories are popular, but does one demonstrate our idea of romance? Do we even have a monopoly on one flavor of love?

L.A. Confidential is an amazing picture of Los Angeles in 1952. All the glories of Hollywood, police and political corruption, the image that American was trying to give itself after the end of the war. The language used is uniquely American and uniquely 1950s. People don't speak like that any more. Removing the rose colored glasses of the Leave It to Beaver Era.

The Autobiography of Malcom X is a rather interesting picture of a very interesting man. The American dream of going from a nobody in poverty to being important; embracing freedom of religion and then embracing religion in freedom; and, of course, getting killed for bucking the system. A picture of the civil rights movement more likely to make whites uncomfortable than King's.

Atlas Shrugged yields the quintessential self-perception of American Capitalism. This is, of course, not how we practice that economic theory - but it is how Americans idealize it.** The Marlboro Man of Business - this is why Republicans idealize capitalism with utterly no governmental regulation - they think they're Hank Rearden or they're monumentally ignorant and think they're Jimmy Taggart. I read this while in high school & loved it without realizing it was an economic philosophy treatise. [Even at 15 I realized the personal relationship choices of the heroine really left something to be desired.]

Laura Ingall-Wilder's stories surrounding Little House on the Prairie paint a little idylic image of American Imperialist Expansionism in the 19th Century. Being almost-contemporary and written from personal experience, it might be rose-colored, but at least provides a very personal image of how White Euro-Americans look at the westward expansion into the prairies. Leave-It-To-Beaver of the 19th Century. This should be required hand-in-hand with:

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee is non-fiction, so it doesn't qualify as a novel; however, there aren't too many novels written from the point of view of the Indians. This is simply offered as a tool to better appreicate how Wilder's novels reflect the American view at the time which, for the most part, continues today.

** since writing this, the government has totally fucked us, and, boy, I mean fucked us ... and we've screamed for more more more more our socialist economic love-fest. Or that could be our communist love-fest, depending on how in love you are with government buy-outs. What fucktards are running our government? Oh, that's right, the same assholes who are benefiting from all this dumb-ass money distribution (upwards re-distribution, that is) ... but don't let me sound too bitter.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I can't vote her out ...

Local nut job apparently represents the conservative Catholic vote in Minnesota. Why can't people just go back to ignoring the ignorant? Stupid behavior and blatant false statements shouldn't be rewarded by the front page of the New York Times.

The state waits with baited breath to see whether sanity can prevail in the 6th District.

... but he's the only serious candidate here in the 5th District. Expecting a Republican to win here is like expecting palm trees to grow up in Bimidji.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

[review] Food, Inc.

If you have never slaughtered your own food, you should be required to see this.

"bigger, faster, fatter, cheaper" : a farmer's description about how MegaCorp demands your food be produced. I would put a name in, but I don't recall which one it was. There are, after all, only 5 or 6 companies in the entire United States of America which produced your dinner last night.

Yes, there are some disturbing scenes in the movie. Was it the outdoor one-at-a-time chicken slaughtering? No, it was the mechanized efforts to get sick and lame cattle into the chute for slaughter.

And, yes, as with any documentary film, there is the issue of:
>> selective editing of film
>> getting highly articulate people who really don't represent the norm to talk favorably about your point of view

As Mr. Gopher observed, it provided a refreshingly unusual view of the "good guys" not being angels. The Nice Farmer was still filmed slaughtering his chickens and beef. It's not like the director only showed the Bad Corporate Farmers being gross. And, it was a very sympathetic view of the poor guys stuck in the middle. They've got a farm, they need to use it, but they really can't do it without bankrupting their soul as well as their pocket book.

Farm for MegaCorp? It makes you a feudal serf. It's no different than 100 years ago living in a Company Town. Want seed? Buy from MegaCorp. Want to be paid? Do it Our Way.

One of the most pleasant few minutes of the movie was the section about Stoneyfield. The organic yogurt people. That would be the big corporate organic people. The CEO was interviewed about Wal-Mart becoming their new client. The other organic people despise him for 'selling out'. He thinks it's wonderful that The Enemy wants to sell organic. Why do they? As the Wal-Mart manager said, "because our customers want it".

The film crew accompanied some Wal-Mart sales-employees to a small family dairy farm in New England. The wife of the couple shakes hands and laughs as she says, "You know, I've never actually been in a Wal-Mart. We won't buy your stuff, we sort of boycot it." You know the WalMart guys must hear this a lot, because they managed to keep a straight face.

Yup ... pretty damn depressing. While underscoring the mantra: It's not inherently bad, it's the way they go about it that is evil. Well, keeping animals in feed lots was pretty much condemned outright.

Mr. Gopher & I went to see this after having dinner at Zeno's. No, neither Greek philosophy nor Greek food. Sort of the haute couture, "Look, ma, I'm spending a lot of money on dinner!" Well, in this case the $30 dinner for 2 which included a bottle of wine and movie tickets for 2 was a pretty good deal. We realized we don't normally consume a whole bottle of wine as we floated around the corner to the theater. Pleasantly it's near one of my favorite theaters (the Lagoon).

Gopher Recommendation:
2 - Definitely go see it on the big screen (at matinee prices). Like good special effects, it is more powerful on the big screen.

and ...
The $30 Cheap Date Night Special @ Zeno's is worthwhile. Yes, that's what it's called.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

and they wonder?

okay, so I wrote this at the end of July as I was planning my trip back to Lansing

MSP - ORD - DTW: . . . Northwest Airlines: there & back = $219

MSP - LAN: . . . Northwest Airlines: there & back = $475

MSP - LAN: . . . VW Passat: there & back = $120

StPl - Lansing: . . . Amtrak train: there & back = $192

And they think they'll convince me to fly? And then have to rent a car & pay for gas anyway? And they wonder why they're losing money? I might do it if I thought there was a snowball's chance in Hell of

a) getting a comfy seat without someone's elbows in my ribs
b) getting anything to eat
c) arriving on time

just getting (a) and (c) would be great.

Amtrak would get me (a) and (b) and (c) ... but it would also take an entire day to get there plus an entire day to get back.