Sunday, May 31, 2009

Unburied Remains

The remains of the 35W bridge are still sitting on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Like some twisted remains of a giant picked clean by carrion eaters.

A few months ago, en route to my first attendance of the local chapter of the AIHA, I was thinking "... north on 35W, east to ... hey, oh my god, this is the new bridge!"

The bridge in the back-right (although it's not exactly obvious that it is a bridge - the horizontal line) is the Washington Street Bridge that spans the river between the East and West Bank campuses of Rodent U. My bus/bike crosses it every day, and the rusting wreckage seems so pathetically lost. Like the NTSB or DoT forgot it, the stuffed toy under the bed gathering dust bunnies.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

[review] State of Play

Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren together isn't a guarantee, but at least a sure bet that the movie will be good.

Faithful to its source material, maybe not. I'm assured that the BBC TV series is better. Though, with 6 hours, they no doubt could make a better plot development. And, no doubt, switching it from White Hall to Capitol Hill might involve some cultural modifications beyond calling someone Congressman vs. whatever it is the English call their MPs.

The plot seems to be the over-used Congressman Screwing Assistant Who Gets Murdered Is It A Cover Up And If So, Why? Well, yes it is. But not in quite the same way. Journalist McAffery (Crowe) is an old college buddy of Congressman Collins' (Affleck). Sex is questionable: Was McAffery sleeping with Collins' wife? Was Collins actually sleeping with his Assistant? Was she actually murdered? Did he do it?

This plays across the background of Collins' heading the Committee on Stuff Involving Defense Contractor Calumny (read: fraud). McAffery's boss is pushing for copy with the dwindling sales. As if no other paper in the country has the same problem. McAffery has pieces of the story and keeps hanging back to get the whole thing, rather than print it piecemeal for most effective sales. Will his editor (Mirren) pull the plug on his plans (read: career) to satisfy the Powers that Be? How will McAffery cope with the new cub reporter who's on the Blog Beat, rather than the street?

I found it satisfactorily suspenseful. Despite the fact we find out -in a pleasantly refreshing manner - whether there was congressional hanky-panky going on, it's not as though no one else is being just a bit unfaithful. Who in the world would want to be a politician's wife? The eventual revelation of just who was in whose pocket/pants was nicely twisted.

I wish I could say the hypothesis of the privitization of American "homeland security" is ludicrous. I wish.

definitely watch it on video.
I expect that I will subsequently recommend seeing the BBC show concurrently.



Detroit v. Pittsburgh

2 industrialized cities on their economic death beds competing for the Stanley Cup.

The last 2 teams to do back-2-back cups? Detroit & Pittsburgh

In 2007, the Stanley Cup made its first trip into a combat zone. During the trip to Kandahar, Afghanistan ... the Cup was put on display for Canadian and other NATO troops. It briefly came under missile attack on May 3.

Sure, so while looking at the list of champions, I noticed that Scotty Bowman, the former Red Wings coach, under whom they won the first Cup in 42 years, was a repeat coach, and repeat and repeat ... having coached the following teams to win the Stanley Cup:
Montreal: '73, '76, '77, '78, '79,
Pittsburgh: '92
Detroit: '97, '98, '02
Can you get tired of winning so often?

Game 1 - tonight

Friday, May 29, 2009

[review] Angels & Demons

While watching previews for this, The Author & I concluded the most likely character to be the secret member of the Illuminati secret organization was Ewan McGregor, simply because he looked more innocent than stuffy Stellan Skarsgård or the by The Book Armin Mueller-Stahl. The only person you know for sure it isn't is Tom Hanks and the decorative Swiss physicist chick (her function other than simply being the only female in the cast is beyond me). There are several candidates equally well presented - you can see them yourself.

Brown (the author of the source novel) either loathes the Roman Catholic Church with a passion or else sees it as a simplistic plot device to do a massive corporate-conspiracy story without beating Enron or Blackwater to death. (I'm assuming it's the latter.) Besides, there's a built-in audience of those who think the church is deceitful, since it's been around for 1600 years. Including many of its members.

Is Brown planning to write anything that doesn't paint the church as some obsessive secret organization? First it's some massive cover up about the Last Supper painting & Jesus' relationship with Mary #2 (Magdalene, not the BVM). What? No one else thought of that? Where's the originality? I was left wondering the same thing here. Some mysterious Illuminati is out to get the pope? Why not use the Masons? Or the Knights of Columbus?

We will simply leave out my opinions of the technical details due to being an intelligent scientist and firmly rooted in reality Catholic. Little vials of anti-matter in the basement which need a new battery before blowing St. Peter's sky high? Eveready AA or D-cells?

In the midst of the film, one of the Red Shirt security guards corrects Hanks, stating the Church isn't a corporation. Well, yes, in fact it is; the media relations choices in the film are absolutely identical to political and corporate responses to 'embarrassments'.

The choices for the non-Hanks character casting was well done. Mueller-Stahl & McGregor &
Skarsgård all appear to be extremely well suited for their rolls. Although I don't see why they couldn't have changed the script to make McGregor's character an orphaned Scot and just let him speak naturally. The collection of Swiss members of the Swiss guard are not, in fact, all Swiss. Or, if they are, someone ought have let them speak like the Swiss when speaking German to each other. (Some did, some didn't - if I could understand them, they weren't Swiss.)

The scenes inside the Vatican look nice, considering the majority of the budget must have gone toward creating it. For some obscure reason, they couldn't get permission to film there.

The basic plot line is interesting; it would have been more appealing if it was some Real Terorrist organization, rather than the Illuminati. Okay, so Arabic Muslims are old hat. How about one of the American fundamentalist Christian groups? Or some secret society that's a hold-over from the Schism (i.e., one of the Orthodox groups)?

If you want a midless, total suspend-disbelief movie with overwhelming music (nope, not Williams, but Zimmer) keeping you on the edge of your seat until the last moment ... this is your cup of tea.

The end is a bit too formulaic. The only foreshadowing/hint that isn't over-bearing is who the Villian is. A wonderfully pleasant change from Terminator 4.

watch it on video if someone else is paying

What are they smoking?

I finally overcame my cowardice about my grades for this Spring semester. I was doing so poorly in my ventilation course in particular. I was at the "all I care is that I pass enough to not need to take it again (in 2 years the next time it's offered)". My lab course was a toss-up. If my profs decided to grade me based upon the knowledge/skills that are (I think) patently obvious I have (regardless of 1 supremely horrible lab report), I was pretty sure I'd pass. Well, I got a B and A, respectively. Mind you, for some insane reason, grad school requires an average of a B, and no grades less than a B-.

I assume Dr. Pete skewed my grade based upon my final project (which was already 30 or 40% of the grade). Fair enough, I know other professors whose philosophy is that the grade should reflect whether the student actually gets it all at the end of the semester, regardless of how poorly they did on other parts. I've no idea what Dr. Pete & Dr. Matt were smoking when they decided to give me an A in lab, but I'm just okay with that. Maybe Matt was in the glow of the Red Wings' recent wins...

just got an email from Dr. Lisa to all of the industrial hygiene students: "don't forget your passport when you go to the conference in Toronto so you can get back into the U.S."


Thursday, May 28, 2009

[review] The Soloist

Went to see The Soloist a few days ago. Music & Drama: a pleasant combination. Downey & Foxx: another pleasant combination. Author & Ms.Gopher: friends always a pleasant combination. Altogether, a pleasant experience. The Author wrote - of course - a nice review of the movie here.

Up here in lovely (and as of today mosquito-free) Land of the North Star, the question of ethics and medical treatment are the topic d'jour. (Although perhaps the topic of ethics & Hollywood & Good Samaritan-ism ought to be, too.) Anyway - movies

How much right do We (a.k.a. Society) have to dictate someone else's well-being? If someone is not demanding anything of Us, should we be able to demand anything of them in return?

An L.A. Times writer inadvertently meets a mentally ill, yet extremely talented, homeless musician. I'm wondering how to describe this person. Does our description reveal our prejudices? Which is the noun used here? Musician, homeless, or schizophrenic? Does it matter? At one point in the film, we see 'sanity' merging with 'insanity' with sufficient stress and stellar acting from Downey.

I don't recall anymore what the specific script prompt was, but it included the Lord's Prayer. I sincerely wish I could watch that 2 minutes of it again. The musician & reporter were in Skid Row to give The Viewer a montage of the misery of living on the streets and being God Awfully Poor. The recitation of the prayer had gotten to "... give us this day our daily bread..." as the camera is panning down the alley past a soup kitchen line. "... for thine is the kingdom ..." looking down a seemingly endless homeless shelter. Driving home (no doubt quite intentionally) the point that these people are the God's Kingdom as much as the Rich sitting on their therapists' couches explaining their financially motivated neuroses.

Unlike my friend The Author, who is concurrently A Musician, I am an enthusiast rather than a skilled musician. I wouldn't have recognized the specific pieces of Beethoven's music (in fact, I wouldn't have even recognized it as Beethoven). Being stupendously ignorant of the specifics of music theory or classification (is he Baroque?Romantic?HeavyMetal?Other?), I'm not sure if the choices of music were really the best available from J.S.'s extensive repertoire. They are stylistically apt, at any rate.

I'm not sure if the central point of the movie is the issues of mental illness & coping with society's expectations thereto - or whether it is about the relationship between two different men - or perhaps nothing at all. Will the musician get treatment? (maybe yes, maybe no) Will the reporter get a story? (definitely, this is based upon a book) Will Society act on the burgeoning poverty in L.A. (who are you kidding?) Perhaps the one aspect the most appealing is the depiction of the musician's descent into mental illness. This one string of the story is the most interesting. At what point is it recognized as illness? How does this effect the family cohesion? This topic could perhaps get its own movie, solo.

The soloist is whom? The isolated homeless man? The divorced reporter? Or any one of us in society who are inevitably cut off from a whole lot of the rest of society?

Gopher's Rating:
Definitely see it on video

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Refashioning of Our World

In yesterday's post, I referred to a book written about something I was interested in when I was a child. This is from the author of that book, Infections and Inequalities as soon as I get a chance to finish it, I'll probably put a review here.

As heard on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, December 21, 2008.

I believe in health care as a human right. I’ve worked as a doctor in many places, and I’ve seen where to be poor means to be bereft of rights. I saw early on, still just a medical student, the panicky dead-end faced by so many of the destitute sick: a young woman dying in childbirth; a child writhing in the spasms of a terrible disease for which a vaccine has existed—for more than a century; a friend whose guts were irreparably shredded by bacteria from impure water; an eight-year old caught in cross-fire. Li mouri bet—what a stupid death, goes one Haitian response.

Fighting such “stupid deaths” is never the work of one, or even of a small group. I’ve had the privilege of joining many others providing medical care to people who would otherwise not be able to get it. The number of those eager to serve is impressive, and so is the amount that can be accomplished. I believe that stupid deaths can be averted; we’ve done it again and again. But this hard and painful work has never yet been an urgent global priority.

The fight for health as a human right, a fight with real promise, has so far been plagued by failures. Failure because we are chronically short of resources. Failure because we are too often at the mercy of those with the power and money to decide the fates of hundreds of millions. Failure because ill health, as we have learned again and again, is more often than not a symptom of poverty and violence and inequality—and we do little to fight those when we provide just vaccines, or only treatment for one disease or another. Every premature death, and there are millions of these each year, should be considered a rebuke.

I know it’s not enough to attend only to the immediate needs of the patient in front of me. We must also call attention to the failures and inadequacy of our own best efforts. The goal of preventing human suffering must be linked to the task of bringing others, many others, into a movement for basic rights.

The most vulnerable—those whose rights are trampled, those rarely invited to summarize their convictions for a radio audience—still believe in human rights, in spite of—or perhaps because of—their own troubles. Seeing this in Haiti and elsewhere has moved me deeply and taught me a great deal.

I move uneasily between the obligation to intervene and the troubling knowledge that much of the work we do, praised as “humanitarian” or “charitable,” does not always lead us closer to our goal. That goal is nothing less than the refashioning of our world into one in which no one starves, drinks impure water, lives in fear of the powerful and violent, or dies ill and unattended.

Of course such a world is a utopia, and most of us know that we live in a dystopia. But all of us carry somewhere within us the belief that moving away from dystopia moves us towards something better and more humane. I still believe this.

Dr. Paul Farmer is a founding director of Partners In Health, an international organization providing health care to people living in poverty. He is also a professor in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

"The Refashioning of Our World," Copyright ©2008 by Dr. Paul Farmer. Part of the This I Believe Essay Collection found at, Copyright © 2006-2009, This I Believe, Inc. Reprinted with permission of This I Believe, Inc. -- yes, really, I asked for permission.

... and, of course, they want you to know...
This I Believe is an international project engaging people in writing, sharing, and discussing the core values that guide their daily lives, and is based on the popular 1950s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow. To read and hear other essays, and to submit your own, visit
There are some fantastic essays, both from the 50s and now. Submit your own essay ... I dare you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Do Overs

If you could do it over, would you?

While suggesting an author to interview for an MPR program, I noted: When I was 12, this is what I decided I wanted to do with my life.

... would I want a 'do over' for my life?

If I weren't married, I would have been in the middle of (or perhaps done with) my MPH. Except ... I would have enrolled in the infectious disease program. I had been looking at the other U of M and Johns Hopkins before moving here. Had that panned out, then yes I would have been back on the path I wanted 31 years ago, especially if I'd gone to Johns Hopkins.

It's odd how Life's path lead me back so close to my original goal. So close, and yet so far away.

I want to go back and try to avoid the all-too-many examples of "God, I was Young and Stupid", as well as the all-too-many examples of "God, I'm Not So Young, but I'm Still Stupid". No, I don't need to get a 2nd chance -I just want to have not done it in the first place.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How far for diapers?

Honey, I had to drive to Wisconsin to get diapers...

Well, we were looking across the St. Croix River at Wisconsin. Interstate Park straddles the river between Swede-land and Cheese-land. Uh... Minnesota and Wisconsin.

You think your state's potholes are big? Ha! This one is 15 feet across! And 20 feet deep!

These 'potholes' are the feature of the park. The other picture didn't turn out so well. These are truly stunning geologic formations.

It was basically a stunningly beautiful day. Blue clear skies, 75 degrees, balmy, and - Praise Be To God - no mosquitoes. The boys had a good time. Jr.Gopher #1 took this like a trooper. Jr.Gopher #2 got about 8/10 mile before he hit the point of crankiness and "up! up! up!"

Mr. Gopher, of course, could have left us all in the dust... This isn't quite on par with the Alps or northern Sweden.

The boys ...


Friday, May 22, 2009

[review] Terminator Salvation

Too Much of What Could Have Been

Terminator ... hmmm.... I really liked the first one. I liked the 2nd one too. #3? Well, I wouldn’t say “there should be only one” ... but two is a nice prime number. #4? Should have stopped at 2.

In toto: How in the name of all that’s holy has The Human Resistance managed to survive for a dozen years with such totally incompetent morons as members? To serve as a cogent example: two people are on the run from evil robots. We’ve discovered there are also people who Are Not Nice. The woman walks under the shelter, takes off her jacket, sticks her pistol in a conveniently placed slot, then suggests to the man that he gather something to burn in the rain while trying to hide from robots with IR/heat sensors. She, of course, gets her weapon taken. Now, not only are there people who Are Not Nice - they are apparently as stupid as Our Heros. Steal the gun & kill them without asking further questions, if the only thing you want is their stuff.

I’m not certain, but I think this is the same woman who, within the first 2 minutes of the movie, is running out of a helicopter into battle with her past-the-shoulder long hair flying around in the copter’s wash. My hair is that long, and damned if I’d be so stupid as to get into a fire fight with it loose. At the end of all the stupidity, I think I ought to have been in charge of military operations, and not Michael Ironside. It's not the fact that there's military stupidity - it's the sheer volume of it.

Why are there never any ugly women in SciFi movies? There are always ugly men.

I’m willing to suspend disbelief regarding things like the Unending Source of gasoline, trained jet fighter pilots, or bullets. No, I’m not sarcastic here - I really will ignore it. There are two different types of SciFi: Blade Runner (and Terminator #1) versus Star Trek. Earth more or less like today with robots or other mechanical gizmos which - while not available today - don’t stretch the imagination tooooo far; these are critical components to the plot. Then there’s the other half of the genre of technology which is - as far as I’m concerned - completely implausible, but serves as a decorative backdrop to action/drama. I can enjoy either kind. But this movie pushes the limits of how frequently I need to suspend disbelief.

There are a couple of cutesy lines from the previous movies. Fine. But these are inserted so obviously artificially that they detratct from the flow of dialogue. No, I haven’t seen the TV show, so I don’t know if that contributes/detracts from this movie.

This is really an action movie with no other redeeming value. That's ok - but then it shouldn’t claim to be anything else. Another review sums up my opinion as well. Now, contrary to the reviewer at the Strib, Terminator #1 and #2 are not deep forays into the Human Condition, questioning the Nature of Humanity. #1 was an action movie around Arnie; #2 was a better action movie with a better story line, but still not deep psychological analysis. However, this movie is not nearly as bad as he makes it sound - it just fails his yardstick of Deep Thought.

Finding the kid you know is your father ... I understand this is a cool point. But seriously ... has John Connor not bothered to do this before? Suddenly he needs to find Dad?

if you have not seen the theater trailer for the movie - DO NOT DO IT! Resist temptation. It will completely and totally destroy the first half of the movie’s attempt at suspense. The major point of the trailer is exactly the major suspense element in the movie. It could have been so good. Is he a terminator? Is one of them? Who is? In all honesty, this really spoiled the movie for me far more than stupid military tactics. This could have been such a good plot device. But, apparently they were all out of Real Plot Devices when they got past the FX budget items.

The director and writers don't have any smash hits that would entice me to see the film due to their names. McG directed Charlie's Angels 1 & 2 and We Are Marshal. The former totally and completely blew chow. The latter was better, but still a formulaic underdog story which couldn't even manage to get school logos right.

Gopher Rating: I suppose you might want to watch it on DVD if you're really into the mythos or if you really need action brain candy without any serious romance/love interest because your wife left you and Anna Karenena is the only alternative.

This isn’t qiute “go floss your teeth” ... but other than the FX or if you're a Christian Bale fan, the only redeeming value in the movie is Sam Worthington - not that he's sexy or anything, but he's the best actor in the movie.


I've been on vacation this week. I managed seen 5 movies in the past 9 days. One - Terminator #4 - was simply because my neurologist's office is across the street from one of the multiplexes. And I had 3 hours before needing to pick up Jr. Gopher #2.

So, sooner or later, I'll have reviews for:
State of Play
Terminator #4
The Soloist
Star Trek
Angels & Demons

Thursday, May 21, 2009

[rev] Duplicity

Okay, so Clive Owen might get me to see it - but Tom Wilkinson & Paul Giamatti make the movie. One little flash of foreshadowing caught my eye, and managed to keep dragging my attention back to it throughout the film - with the culmination revolving around the one point I expected. It was still glorious to see how the story arrived at the conclusion.

Two spies (MI5 & CIA) meet, screw & then screw each other (well, actually, he just gets screwed). A chance meet up later finds them back in bed & pondering the price of the luxury around them. A $40,000,000 price ticket seems feasible with their skill sets.

They go to work for bitter rival corporations to steal/sell secrets. ... Wilkinson & Giamatti being the corporate owners. These two actors are beautiful in their parts. Roberts & Owen are pleasant. It is a mildly amusing film with a good story line. Who is going to get caught by which company?

The juxtaposition between the two spies' stories and their current roles was nicely played out. Especially since the Owen/Roberts relationship is the reverse gender roles as one might have expected 40 years ago.

There isn't anything truly amazing to analyze or observe. It's a nice movie which doesn't require tons of brain power.

Definitely see it on video.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


# 2 and ferret and new ball cap (Thanks Tante Wendy - he's wearing it to bed tonight). He popped on the cap & very abruptly looked very American.

#2 with new ballcap. Yes, in my T-shirt. The 'jamas are in the wash somewhere.


Me & #2

Monday, May 18, 2009

[def.] Terrorism

We should be careful about what we label terrorism. Bombs, planes, and wanton death are too easy to label. The suicide bombers in downtown Tel Aviv; the roadside IEDs in Iraq; September 11th*.
*It annoys me when people call it 9-11, as if it's some secret code, some short-hand notation. It is of sufficiently grave importance, that we ought to take the time to speak the whole thing. No one refers to Pearl Harbor (quite seriously a much graver attack on our nation) as 12/7. Roosevelt didn't say "12/7 is a day that will go down in infamy".

How about Bernie Madov? He personally destroyed thousands of people's futures. Should I believe no one has committed suicide as a consequence of this? How is this not terrorism?

AIG, Lehman Bros., CitiCorp, and all the other usurous evil evil evil SOBs ... am I supposed to believe that isn't terrorism? They have without any doubt whatsoever destroyed America's power in the world waaaaaaay more than Al Quaida. Hell, the world at large poured out sympathy for us on September 12th. No one is going to give a good goddamn rat's ass that our economy is tanking after we let the pestilential plague of leeches loose on our citizens. Fellow citizens, we did that to ourselves.

Despite the self-inflicted nature of the economic disaster ... we created the environment that fermented the situation. But Madov and the CEOs of MegaBankCorp are the terrorists which have attacked and destroyed our country's security. Mexicans crossing the border? Who the f* cares, compared to Mr.Gopher's 401k being decimated?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Birthday #5

The day started dry & progressively became the sunny blue sky day predicted. No one mentioned the temperature might not reach over 60. Jr.Gopher#1's friends came & partied. I've never been in such close proximity to so many extremely loud children. All totally focused on what they want to do, pretty much to the total exclusion of all other things (read: adults). In attendance were: Freddy from up the street (who goes to day care w/ Jr.Gopher#2), Will from St. Albert's, Frau Cinda (honest, he invited her explicitly), and the Kinderstube Crew: Olivia, Elsa, Lisa, Alec, Mäxle, & Ty.

Oy, the birthday presents! He got more loot than at Christmas! Jr.Gopher #1 being helped by Olivia)

The birthday cake was a hair-pulling experience. See comments on further post w/ recipe.
Cake for his actual birthday, created with no stress:

Cake for party. Observe failure to achieve aesthetic nirvana. Tasted pretty good, though!

Grandma MaryBeth supplied us with a piñata. My techno whiz spouse, Mr. Gopher, managed to design something to keep the phocine piñata aloft. One end of the rope could be secured to fence; one end thrown over the rather high limb of the tree hanging over our yard would serve as the hanger. But, how to get the rope over the branch? (which is about 20' up) He tied the rope in a rather complex web around the 8" ball we purchased last night. A couple tries, and voila! The ball carried the rope over. We left the ball hanging - about 4' off the ground, to wait for the party later to be replaced with the piñata.

Our two boys spent at least 30 min. doing nothing but beating the ball with the stick. What fun!! No kidding, it was the life of the party. At least 2 other parents stared at the kids having so much fun simply bashing a ball around, and said "we ought to do that" as a regular installation for playing.

The kids show up for the party. Michael is just over the top happy. We hang up the piñata, and after ascertaining that only one of them had ever done this before, I offered the child-friendly directions:

Shhhh .... [shake the piñata] ... hear that? ... [lots of little heads nodding] ... those are goodies ... [lots of little heads nodding enthusiastically] ... do you know how to get the goodies out? [wave stick] You take the stick and bash it until it breaks!

I've got some pretty good footage of the piñata bashing.

Alec, bashing the dolphin, is Jr.Gopher's current best friend.

The kids spent almost all of the 2 hours playing outdoors either bashing the piñata, bashing the ball, or playing in the huge sand box in the backyard.

The pinata continued to be useful after its preliminary destruction. (Will from St.Albert's):

Later in the evening, the boys were watching a movie, and Jr.Gopher#1 abruptly bursts into tears. It's his favorite movie?! He's crying like his heart's broken. He was so sad because his friends all had to go home, and they weren't here any more.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Distance is Love

There is something distant about grading homework. I've been on both sides of the deal - one can dissociate from the student, and just look at her work. From the student's side, one turns in homework, waits (sometimes an awful damn long time), and then gets it back with a grade. There is no participation in the process beyond giving the prof. the work. This is even more pronounced with big classes, where you might even reasonably expect the professor doesn't even know who you are.

For my industrial ventilation course: It's not as though it's a large 300 person intro to chemistry course. There are 8 people in it. This is the 4th course I've had with Pete, and he's my research advisor. No hiding, here.

rewind 30 hours ....

My project was due at 5 p.m. I had 80% of it done and had to stop because I needed a software program to select a piece of machinery for the design. Oh, I needed sleep, too. I had everything set up, so that I could go to the lab, run the program, let it pick my machine, and then I could take the numbers and finish the calculations. Right? Because - of course - the damn software won't run on my Mac, and I can't figure out how to get VM ware to let it run on my Mac, either.

I go to the lab armed with the administrator's password for the one computer which has the program. Error. repeat. error. turn computer off. turn computer on. error.

Go to other computer in lab. Program installed. Great! Error. Repeat. Error. don't bother to reboot. Go on line. Find company. Try to download program directly from them onto the computer. After all, I have the password right? Somehow, the website thinks I down loaded it, but the computer spat in my face and tells me it wasn't actually downloaded.

Call Pete (Dr. Pete, not to be confused with my spouse Dr. Peter). Pete's not in his office. Go to the Sphere, keep writing the paper that goes with this project.

Pete's still not in his office. Keep writing paper. Keep staring at 15.51" w.g. in utter conviction that this is actually a bad number to have.

This time I walked upstairs to Pete's office. Thank god, he's there. I ask him what I should do, in the absence of the technical specs for this machine I need. I suggested that I could simply include the directions for picking the machine, then make one up, and continue. (my thought was that this should be the important points - I know how to pick the instrument, and then I know what to do with it once I have it).

Pete groans - this is of course merely the latest in an on-going saga wiht this software program and me. He says "well, why don't we just pick it now?" He has the program on his office computer.

He turns back to the computer. There is just something horrifying about the idea of standing behind your prof, looking over his shoulder, and giving him directions which prevents you from hiding the fact that you're an idiot.

After about 2 minutes, I simply cannot stop laughing. In utter mortification and embarrassment. Pete looks back over his shoulder and up at me, asking what's wrong. I answered

"It's one thing to turn in your homework and have your prof realize what an idiot you are. It's a completely different story to have to stand next to him and see him realize what an idiot you are."

Turned in project. We'll see how much of an idiot I am in a few weeks.

Friday, May 15, 2009

5 min.

There appears to be hope for my GPA this semester. While I - as many/most of my classmates - have succumbed to the philosophy of "I don't give a damn what my GPA is, as long as I pass" ... I would still like to get better than the minimum.

My last project is due in 17 hours. I finally accomplished in about 36 hours of work (if not more) what in all likelihood should have taken about 6 or 7. It's a handicap starting off with no clue about what the hell you're doing.

Tomorrow night I will sleep like the dead.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Healthy Gopher's Food Rules

If you need a chemistry degree to decypher the ingredients list, you shouldn't eat it.

If a chemist doesn't know what it is without consulting an MSDS, you definitely shouldn't eat it.

If you're told "You'll get used to the taste" ... you shouldn't.

When in doubt about it's biological origin, don't eat it.

If it won't decompose - don't eat it.
corollary: if bacteria/fungi won't eat it, you shouldn't either

If the only nutrient on the label is sugar and you don't think it's candy ... you shouldn't eat it.

Given the choice between:

butter & margarine - pick butter.
100% fat is 100% fat. Might as well get the good tasting natural stuff. Ever heard of organic margarine?

sugar & anything else that is supposed to 'sweeten' food - pick sugar.
Sugar = sugar cane, molasses, & honey. Sugar does not equal corn products.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009

[review] Star Trek

Too much of not enough

Okay, so let's get straight to the point. Time travel annoys the hell out of me in science fiction.

There's the traditional version in Butterfly Effect (title? a short story about dinosaur hunting & a squashed butterfly). Microscopic changes in the past produce macroscopic changes back in the present. This often assumes there is only 1 present.

There's the modified version in Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, where changes to the past might or might not be the cause of the present. Usually the inexorable pull of history theory - that you can't really change the past.

Then there's Star Trek, the new movie. WTF happened? I'm not even sure if I get it. And, the fact that this all revolves around Spock just pisses me off more. Why can't someone else in the universe have the brain power or amazing insight necessary at the critical time?

This version of time travel precludes originality. It's the science fiction equivalent of No Free Will. The predestination version of time in a loop. You'll invent some gizmo; someone from the future tells you about it, giving you the missing piece of information you needed to finish the project. Is it really yours? Is it hers? It might be an interesting philosophical discussion to have over great scotch. It totally blows as a plot device.

Sure, the movie needs to appeal (heavily) to the Trekkies. So, I expected a smattering of in-jokes or blatant jokes. "Dammit, I'm a doctor, not a physicist." The Kobyashi Maru exercise. Kirk as a ladies' man. However, there were simply too many of them; at some point I wondered if this was supposed to be a comedy or farce. There were points where I scratched my head desperately trying to recall information about characters whose names I recognized, but nothing else (e.g. Capt. Pike). I'm sure if I was an adherent of the Trek Faith, I probably would have noticed much earlier the divergence between TV and this movie.

The story - if I understood it - goes back to Kirk's entry to Starfleet & pushes the reset button on the Star Trek mythos. How in god's name does this mesh with the last 43 years of Trek creation?

I really, really wonder how the Star Trek Loyal took this? Does this make DS9, Voyager, TNG all into some alternate reality now?

The FX were pretty good. The space battle scenes were lightyears ahead of the last scenes I saw of Voyager. The major purpose of the movie was the (re)introduction of the crew of the Enterprise. These parts are interesting - how some of them met; seeing events which will provide deep driving character purpose in later years.

Top kudos go to the writers for Scotty and Spock. Given the complete overhaul of reality as the Federation knows it - the re-invention of Spock was really nice, in giving him more of a 3 dimensional personality regarding the struggles with his human nature. Scotty was just wonderful - an improved version of the original. Karl Urban is equally good as McCoy as a Russian mob hit man. I admit the casting director was amazing for just about all of the characters.

Major boos go to the writers for any reference at all to time travel. It's just so "I can't think of anything for this week's show, let's create havoc and then pretend it didn't happen".

I was highly amused at the costumes. Totally right out of the original show, especially the women's dresses. Pandering to sexism or simply trying to present the universe as it was when the show started?


see it on DVD if you're a trekkie
see it on DVD if someone else is paying, if you're not a trekkie

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Latino award titles

Who came up with these award names?

The Setting Us Back Award for Negative Stereotyping in a Movie

The 'Worst Fauxtino of the Year' Award for Worst Portrayal of a Latino

The 'No Espeak Espanish' Award for Poor Spanish Speaking Skills in a Movie

The 'I'd Rather Be Watching the Weather Channel' Award for Worst TV Show

Award for Ickiest Onscreen Chemistry in a Movie

Saturday, May 9, 2009


NPR's Talk of the Nation broadcast recently Living with the Uncertainty of Epilepsy. A classmate of mine called me in the middle of the afternoon to tell me it was on. It's a great discussion.

More people die every year from epilepsy than breast cancer., according to the guest speaker. Hmmm... According to the American Cancer Society, 40,930 people are expected to die from breast cancer this year. How many people die from epilepsy? Well, drowning because you have a seizure is likely to be reported on the death certificate, since the person drowned, regardless of the cause. There is a small number of people who do die directly from seizures. It is quite certainly not over 40k. Who among the listeners questions that statement, if they have a loved one with epilepsy?

Well, I did, simply becuase I wanted to know how many people do die. I've seen the figure 812/yr, but it was from a semi-reliable source (which means it might be right). It wasn't from MMWR or some other über-reliable source.

There isn't even a single definition of what constitutes epilepsy. It's usually like Stewart & pornography: I won't try to define it, "but I know it when I see it."(1)

Take one guess about who gets more money? Dispersal of money for medical research is a boutique solution. It's like pets: the cute animals get picked first. The obsession with modern feminism has made breast cancer chic. Women with it look just like women without it. Unless she's going through chemo, it isn't going to be noticeable. Breast cancer shows up later in life; she's likely live most of her life without it. Epilepsy shows up with little children and often lasts the rest of your life. Breasts are more attractive than brains.

A description of the drug I take: The exact way lamotrigine works is unknown. You tell me whether people have anti-cancer drugs that are used without understanding how they work?

In the past two years I've had more problems with managing my epilepsy. ("more" being a pretty relative term, compared to others' "1 per day" or "4 or 5 per day".) I switched medications. I've had wierdo events that I'm not even sure if they're seizures, I'm assuming they are simply because I have epilepsy. But my neurologist opines that one simply doesn't remain aware during seizures, therefore this couldn't be a seizure. I had a seizure when I was 8 months pregnant with Jr.Gopher#2. The idea of going swimming with Mr.Gopher in lake Michigan was nice ... but so far away from the rest of the world with relatively trecherous water ...? No. One of the editors at the Lansing State Journal had a daughter who drowned at the age of 25, from a seizure. I was at her funeral. While I cry at funerals anyway, this seemed to be the end of such a full life. I was 37 or so at the time.

Yet I am left with a large minority who have well-controlled seizures for whom the only major inconvenience is remembering to take my medicine twice each day. Well, actually pacifying the Minnesota DMV is really annoying, but only an annual intrusion. I'm horrified at the stories of the majority of people with epilepsy, especially parents/kids coping with the idiots inhabiting our society. I told my classmates I have epilepsy, and their response was either "oh?" or "are you doing okay with school?" I didn't have anyone run away from me. I'm sure their response would have been the same if it was one of my kids. Jr.Gopher has epilepsy? Sure, we can get together on Sunday for the kids to play together. As opposed to people who get freaked out about it.

If you have the chance to convince some millionare to spend her money on something worthwhile, try the Epilepsy Foundation.

(1) Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Josie's salad

chick peas
black beans
cherry tomatoes
chunks of red onions
chunks of red pepper
olive oil
lemon juice
salt to taste

it's a pretty colorful dish. Serve cold.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Nepal coffee

We went to The Himalaya for dinner last weekend to celebrate Anniversary 6.1 After seeing Coraline [review to be forthcoming after Finals], we opted for adventure dining. The food was apparently from the Nepalese kitchen. Sort of a mix between China and India, unsurprisingly.

On the appetizer list: dumplings, either steamed or pan-fried. These can be delicious from a good Chinese restaurant. Here, the filling options were: chicken, vegetarian, beef, and yak.

Yak tastes pretty good. A stronger flavor than most beef, but with a more distinct flavor than buffalo. Goat curry was tender and tasty. Too many rib bones, but I like it. The yak meat was better, as far as just the meat goes.

I ordered coffee. More adventure, I didn't ask what "Nepalese Coffee" was.

Strong black coffee, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves & evaporated milk

I experimented with the coffee:
For a small pot (4 8-oz. cups) - I recommend starting with the following ratio & adjust to taste. The cinnamon is the primary flavor, with enough of the others to be sure you notice. They're pretty strong flavors, so don't use them in equal proportions (unless you really really really really like cloves).

large 1/2 t cinnamon
short 1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cardamom
short 1/8 t cloves

I'm sure you could use cream, rather than evaporated milk - the goal being creamy without diluting the coffee. (note: this is evaporated, not condensed milk!)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

2 drive or 2 drive twice?

DUI twice in one day

MCMINNVILLE, Ore. - Police said a man was stopped and cited with driving under the influence of intoxicants charges twice in one day. In both instances, police say, the 52-year-old man was driving the same pickup and stopped near the same state liquor store.

Police said they first stopped the man at 11:05 a.m. Friday after he ran a red light. He was released into the custody of his grandmother and his vehicle was impounded.

A while later, authorities released the pickup to another party on condition the man not drive it. But he did. A tow company employee saw Reeves take the wheel and called police.

Police spotted the pickup and followed it back to the state liquor store, where he was cited again.

The second time around, the man was booked in jail on $6,250 bail.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

[review] Indian Runner

Directorial debut from Sean Penn, this small, independent film is based upon - it states in the credits - a song from Bruce Springsteen. Movies are based upon books (The Road), plays (South Pacific), short stories (Minority Report), epic saga poems (Beowulf), and even in these days, video games (Wanted). But songs? I'm sure there are more and I just didn't notice them. The song is Highway Patrolman, off his Nebraska album. The movie stars Viggo Mortensen & David Morse (if you're old enough, you saw him on St. Elsewhere). Though with Charles Bronson & Dennis Hopper on the supporting cast, you'd think it couldn't be toooo horrible. Sure, I picked it up because Mortensen was it in - this was in the pre-LotR days - and I'd just seen him in American Yakuza (which I'd picked upon because I'd just seen him in G.I.Jane). So, basically, I saw this several years after it was made.

It's a simple, though not simplistic, story. Two brothers divided by experiences struggle at the division between them as adult men. One left to fight in Vietnam, the other stayed home & became the hometown sheriff. One is rather a hard-drinking drifter who enjoys the feminine delights of Saturday nights; the other settled down and married his sweetheart (his own, not his brother's). Best friends at the end of childhood, the two men struggle to be friends as grown independent men.

There comes a point where both can almost see over the fence into the other's yard (figuratively speaking, of course). One man we see and rather immediately identify with his concepts of 'love and family'. With the other, we recognize his struggle to figure out love beyond good sex. Yet while we watch his struggle, we also accept with bland equanimity the other's existing relations without really questioning what sort of struggle he had to get them. Or even if he had a struggle at all. Can I hold as a mentor or hold as an example someone who never had to struggle with my own nightmares? How far does sympathy take you, without congruent knowledge?

I struggled to imagine what kind of song would have painted this picture for Penn, who both wrote and directed it. Since I had a very clear image of the story from the movie long before I heard to song, I'm not sure if my opinion is unbiased - but I found the song's imagery to be close to the film

It doesn't look high-budget, despite the cast ("high" being a relative term). I wonder if it was one of those "Hey, I'm making a movie, I'd like you to be in it, but can't pay much", where the "yes" answer is out of friendship or at least a professional respect.

4 - Definitely see it on video.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

[def.] hegemony

... a diverse culture can be ruled or dominated by one class in part through common sense, that everyday practices and shared beliefs provide the foundation for complex systems of domination.

I like the phrase "complex systems of domination". I look at the news and wonder at the insanity of the population who think "freedom" is something real.

Friday, May 1, 2009

holy cow ...

It's always nice to know one's professional opinion is valued. Sure, the annual "you didn't totally screw up" review from you boss is the ticket to the "oh, well, you can't have one" bonus.

10 Ten best things about swine flu: #1 is from yours truly.

I'm suddenly struck by the fear that someone is going to write MPR and say "what a total screw up, why did you listen to her?" Although one would also hope that they asked someone else before quoting me..... Somehow the idea of telling my employer/employees this pales in comparison to the biggest radio station in the state quoting me.

[review] The Bank Job

okay, so this isn't a new movie. I'm so totally panic-attacking life, I don't even want to think about movies. It will just make me more depressed. Unless you want to do my Ventilation Final Project Cost Accounting Estimates. That will be more than a movie length of time. Really, it's interesting!

"Based on a True Story". Well, I am willing to believe more of the story is true than just scandalous photos of Princess Margaret. And I'm perfectly willing to believe the English government behaves rather insanely when it comes to "protecting the image" of the royal family. God, do they actually think they have a sterling image? You'd think no one could ever imagine them doing anything stupid. Broad Street must be running on cold fusion, if it isn't the rich and famously stupid. Anyway ...

This was the cat's meow. Gripping on the edge of your seat suspense by the end of the movie. Who's going to live? Because by then we realize maybe they aren't all going to. Will his wife ditch him? Did he really do that in the middle of a bank heist? Wow. Will they manage to pull this off? How badly are they really being screwed? How much of this is true?

The background bad guy is some Black Panther-esque Caribbean fellow who's got compromising photos of someone in the royal family, and is using them as blackmail to keep the English gov't off himself. (The events leading to the photos are the only sex you see in the movie, designed to grab your attention at the opening credits.) The undercover agent sent to infiltrate his group plays the epitome of the late-60s "I'm Going to Show My Support to the Oppressed to Annoy my Bourgeois White Parents" white women who flung themselves into bed with Latino Communists or Black Panthers. She deserved recognition for her acting.

The basic plot: a bunch of small-time crooks are lured into a major bank job in London c. 1970. This isn't really all that original. Even Statham in a bank job isn't original. What is enjoyable is simply how it's presented. The crime boss in the back, with his fingers throughout the plot; the fact that one of the crooks was a small-time porn star; the leader's (Jason Statham) wife actually knows he was a crook...

The major suspense mechanism during the bank job appears anachronistic. In today's world of global positioning cell phones, trying to find a pair of hand-held walkie talkies seems de classe: and yet, is likely far less traceable than a cell phone. Definitely fun.

3 - Buy your own on video.