Thursday, December 27, 2012


I have been sick off and on for the past week.  It's different every day.  It's really messing me up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

3689 Reaction 4

Thursday, December 18, 2012

"Obama is not a brown-skinned anti-war socialist
who gives away free health care. You're thinking of Jesus."


There's a lot of talk now about how we can prevent mass murders by doing a better job of identifying dangerously mentally ill people, getting them the help they need, and tracking them to ensure they don't have access to the means to do harm.

Oh, please.

My thoughts are going a dozen different directions on this.


I remember back in the '60s and '70s, before touchy-feely hippie attitudes spread into educated society, when it was ok for women to see a counselor, but absolutely taboo for any man, for any reason.  I heard guys say that to admit any problem was unmanly.  A real man handled his problems himself!  There was enormous resistance to any admission of weakness.  Not to mention that obviously anyone who visited a psychiatrist was automatically crazy, "and I'm not crazy".

It took a long time for that attitude to relax a little, and now parents will get their kids into counseling to help them to realize their full potential.  But if any government entity is going to start tracking those visits, poking around in diagnoses, making lists, tracking, that's going to stop immediately.  You don't want to find yourself or your children on some government list that could limit your choices for the rest of your life.  We've all heard the horror stories of social agencies gone overboard.  Do we really want to attract their attention?

So instead of people getting the help they need, I can see people choosing no help at all.


You don't always know when someone is a danger to themselves or others until something happens, and then it's too late.  It's not predictable.  So the tendency would be to err on the side of caution.  How do we avoid labeling someone as dangerous when actually they're not?


What is "sane"?  A working definition is "able to function in society".  Throw in a few words like "reasonable", "sound judgement", "free of mental illness" if you like.

It is my opinion that there is not one single person on the entire planet who has any life experience whatsoever who is completely sane.  Everybody has some hangups.  Everybody has some bent and broken parts.  No one is completely "reasonable", or always "exercises sound judgement".   We are all sightly nuts in one way or another.  We get away with it, though, because society itself is insane.  War, anyone?


I've never understood the legal concept of the insanity defense.  They figure that if you knew it was wrong, and especially if you planned it, then you weren't insane.  Frankly, that's crazy thinking.  Makes no sense.

I am of the opinion that anyone who purposely murders anyone else is insane.  By definition.  Period. There's something very wrong in their heads. How can you consider them sane?


Not all mass murders had a history of mental illness, by the way.

The Texas Towers sniper was, by all accounts, a nice solid guy who loved his wife and mother, whom he shot first, on his way to the tower. He'd had headaches for a while, and felt "wrong".  It turned out he had a brain tumor.  Nothing predictable there.

Almost every adolescent has at one time or another had some emotional crisis and contemplated suicide.  "I'll kill myself, and then they'll be sorry!"  Usually that's as far as it goes.  But sometimes, "Um, no, they won't even notice I'm gone."  Great idea - "I'll take others with me!  Then they sure WILL notice!  Everyone will notice.  They'll be sorry they picked on me/broke up with me/ignored me!"  Not a lot of predictable mental illness there, either.  Just normal teen angst gone overboard.

Nope.  Many perpetrators give no advance warning of the brewing storm.  So even if we pay more attention to cries for help, which itself is a good thing, we're deluding ourselves if we think it will fix this specific problem.  And that's insane.

3688 Reaction 3

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired."
-- Robert Frost --


So, gun control discussions are now on the front burner.  Again.  I suppose it might be a start to do something about those assault weapons (hey, Mr. Bush), but even that will be a battle.  Given that the opposition to restrictions HAS the assault weapons, it could be a bloody battle.  "Cold dead hands" and all that.

I don't see anything being done about handguns.  Just ain't gonna happen, folks.

The American culture celebrates --- something --- I don't know what to call it.  "Rugged individualism" sounds good, but that's not it.  That's just buzz words.  Same with "rights" and "freedom".  More pretty buzz words.

It's more like a xenophobic, running scared, defensive machismo, hiding behind the pretty "patriotic" buzz words.  If you take their guns away, you have castrated them.

Ain't gonna happen.

What scares me the most are the folks who want everyone to carry concealed weapons, all the time.  There are actually some schools (guess which state) where teachers are encourage to carry.  Ok, if people in the movie theater had guns, or if the classroom teachers had guns, maybe the carnage would have been less.


Think about this --- and think hard about it.  There are a few people who decide to commit mass murder.  They are rare.  One here, one there.  It would be nice to keep them unarmed, but we can't.  If you're in a theater, or a school, or a mall, there is probably way less than one chance in a couple million that there's a potential mass murderer there with you.

On the other hand, stupid people are everywhere.  Assholes are everywhere.  You can safely bet that the more stupid they are, the bigger an asshole, the more likely they are to be packing, if they're allowed to, and as soon as they are allowed to.  And as soon as you strap a gun on a guy (yeah, I'm biased against testosterone here) he's going to be looking for opportunities to use it.  It has been shown in study after study that a person carrying a concealed weapon becomes more vigilant, more paranoid, more nervous.  If you're in a theater, what's the chances that you're surrounded by armed idiots and assholes?  A hundred Zimmermans anxious for the chance to be a "hero"?  Just don't drop anything loud on the floor (or shake your Skittles).  "Oops...."  And no one will ever again be able to carry an umbrella.

The only solution is to change the culture.  Make gun ownership a low-class thing.  Sneer at guns.  Take the attitude that someone with a gun is less than a man.

That ain't gonna happen any time soon.
[P.S. Timothy McVeigh didn't need a gun.]

3687 Reaction 2

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Communicating badly
and then acting smug when you’re misunderstood
is not cleverness.


Another disjointed post, not thoroughly thought through.

Parents all over the US are now pounding at their local school boards, asking what protections against violent intruders are now in place, and insisting on more.

Parents at one school are pushing for a barbed-wire-topped fence around the campus with locked and monitored gates!

Do we really want to turn our schools into prisons?

Do they really not understand that incidents like last Friday's are exceedingly rare?  That children are many times more likely to die in a bus or automobile accident on the way to the school than at the school?

Do they intend to dig tunnels from the children's homes to the school so there won't be groups of children arriving and leaving?  Is recess forever cancelled?  Will there be those expandable tunnels from the bus door to the school door so no kids are exposed?  Will the buses be armor clad, bullet and bomb proof?

What about playgrounds? What about evening programs, plays, recitals?  What about parents driving onto the school property to drop off or pick up kids?  How do you know they are really all parents?  How do you know every parent is sane?

Perhaps we should take all children away from their parents as soon as they can walk, and raise and school them in secret underground bunkers.

3686 Reaction 1

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"If two men agree on everything, you may be sure that one of them
is doing the thinking."
-- Lyndon B. Johnson --


The next few posts will be a bit disjointed (ok, more disjointed than usual) because my thoughts aren't very organized.

I don't know how to say this without sounding cold, but I really don't understand the overreaction of some people to tragedy, selected tragedies.  After Friday's school shootings, a lot of people - not just in the US, all over the world - were crying and wailing and beating their chests.  They seemed to take it very personally, very internally, and I don't understand that.  Sympathy for the parents and families, ok.  Anger that so many little lives were cut short, ok.  Empathy for what those babies must have gone through, ok.  A desire to know WHY, so we can fix it, ok.  That I understand.  I feel that too. 

But I don't understand the excessive (in my mind) reaction of so many people.

Instead, it ticks me off a little that all that passion is reserved only for tragedies that happen to people who are just like them.  Did they react that way when almost 20,000 people were killed by the Japanese tsunami, and many more will die in the future from radiation?  Do they shed tears for the thousands of children in war/drought/famine torn parts of Africa dying of disease, hunger, thirst, or those who have had their hands or legs chopped off by machete-wielding rebels?  Or for the orphans in displaced-persons camps all over the world who freeze to death every winter?

No, because those people are not like them?  No, because some disasters are unlikely to happen to them, so they react only to those that might happen to them?  If that's the reason, then is their reaction sympathy for the victims, or is it actually fear for themselves?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

3685 Revived printer

Sunday, December 16, 2012

“The skunk does not get out of the way of any animal.  It moves along at its own speed, with its own mind.  It is self-assured and confident in itself.  Skunks are fearless, but they are also very peaceful.  They move slowly and calmly, and they only spray as a last resort.  Skunk teaches how to give respect, expect respect, and demand respect.”
 -- from Animal Speak --


Two years ago both my printer and scanner died, so I bought another, a combination copier, printer, and scanner.  I installed it and it worked fine for about a week, then it went weird.  I could use it offline as a copier just fine.  I could queue jobs up to the printer, and they would all print when I started or restarted the operating system, and only during startup.  Once the system was up and running the printer went offline, and the system couldn't find it.   So because it was always offline, I couldn't use the scanner function at all.

I figured I'd have to try reinstalling it, but I print so little that bouncing the system to print wasn't a huge problem, so I never got around to it.

Today I printed off a recipe, and was shocked when the printer started right up and printed it!  Immediately!  On the fly!

Windows had done that automatic update and restart thing this afternoon.  I guess something finally got fixed?  Does that mean that if I had ever tried to reinstall the printer it wouldn't have worked anyway?

I don't understand.

3684 Why stay?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Technically, alcohol is a solution.


There's a discussion going on in a Mensa forum.  A woman posted something about supporting a shelter for abused women and children.  A male Mensan (a member whom no one seems to have met in person) got all het up because there are no shelters for abused men.  He's angry that whenever you hear about spousal abuse, it's all about the women.  Nobody has sympathy for abused men.  He posted links to reports and statistics showing that it's not a minor problem, that men are fully a third of abused spouses and so on.  There have been a lot of heated words back and forth.

The problem I have with the whole topic is that the numbers published by the government are distorted.  I do not believe they are a true picture of the problem.  A lot of the numbers are drawn from bitter divorce filings.  I know for a fact'*' that accusations of abuse/violence in divorce filings can be completely and utterly false, and those claims inflate the numbers.  On the other hand, I do believe that spousal abuse, like rape, is grossly under reported. 

Anyway, this guy is extremely angry and defensive about the topic of abused men, and so very angry at women in general that I came right out and asked, "Were you abused?"  Turns out his wife in her divorce filings had accused HIM of violence, as a result of which he lost contact with his children and was not allowed anywhere near his house.  The charges were proven false (How?  How do you disprove something like that?  It's the old 'he says she says' thing.), but he still has no contact with the children and he's still suffering social ostracism from the accusations.

I backed out of the discussion because he started to get irrational and scary.  I had pointed out that inflation/deflation aside, the federal tables on spousal abuse listed the number of battered women in one column and battered men in another, but did not specify the gender of the batterers, like women on women or men on men, which is meaningful information.  He spat back that gay men are only 8% of the general population, therefore they are only 8% of the battered men and therefore insignificant.  That's so irrational a conclusion that I realized there was no point in pointing it out to him.  In fact, it might be dangerous to do so.

He got scary enough that I begin to believe his ex-wife's accusations.  He was losing it.  In writing.  You could practically see the foam spattering his keyboard.  I wouldn't want to be on the other side of a table from him.  I can believe that whether there was physical abuse or not, there was probably a LOT of emotional abuse.

(Now that I think about it, I think he's the same guy who heaped abuse on me a few months ago when I dared to suggest that people who snort at the idea of global warming because they had a bad winter might be more receptive if we called it climate change.  He was vicious.  Yeah, I'm 99.9% sure that was him.)

And I don't understand why he is so upset about there being no shelters for abused men.  Frankly, I think he just hates women.

Anyhooooo, that got me thinking about all those unreported spousal abuse cases.

Why do women stay with an abuser?  Many reasons, I guess, among which are
  • Lack of self-esteem.  It's all my fault.  I always screw things up.  If I were a better/smarter/prettier person he wouldn't get so angry/frustrated with me.  I don't deserve anything else.
  • Love.  I fell in love with a wonderful guy, and when he's not being so awful, when things are going well, I still see that guy in there.  I have to help him, take care of him, maybe my love will fix him somehow. If I leave he will get worse and fall into despair and hurt himself and I can't do that to him.
  • Lack of options.  I can't leave the children with him, but I have no education, no skills, I can't get a job that pays enough for daycare and to support us. I am trapped.
  • Fear.  If I leave he will track me down and kill me.  It's better to stay here and ice my bruises than to spend the rest of my life as a hunted animal, always afraid that one day he'll be at the door with a gun or around the corner with a jar of acid.  Asking for official protection will just make him madder, and no one can protect me anyway.  At least here I know what to expect.
These are the unreported ones, and they are legion.  I wonder if men who stay with an abuser stay for the same reasons.


'*' I know for a fact because a) I worked in a family law office for a while, and b) because it happened to me.  Maybe I'll write about that some time.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

3683 A is for...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Show me a man with both feet firmly on the ground,
and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants off.


People who have phobias often feel that their fears are reasonable, not irrational at all, especially if they don't interfere too much with life.

Like, I have two:  spiders (arachnophobia) and edges (*not* the same as fear of heights).  And they are absolutely reasonable!

Ever notice that if you see a spider walking past, and you think, "I should kill that spider", the damn thing will stop, turn, and look at you?  Spiders can read minds!

Edges are treacherous.  You can't convince me otherwise.  If you are standing at the edge of a roof, or cliff, or balcony, or if you've just stepped out of an elevator on the highest part of the Eiffel Tower and discover that the floor you're supposed to step out onto is an open grid (ok, I'm getting a little carried away here, let me get my breathing back under control), well, you never know if a strong wind is going to come up and blow you over, or if you might have a dizzy spell, or step on something slippery, or if someone might bump you, or if the guy who tightened those bolts was maybe drunk, or too many other things.  Edges are very dangerous.

Oh my yes.   Phobias are absolutely based on real dangers.  Not silly at all.  (I can control mine by breathing and being careful, but if I am surprised by an edge, I can panic and I stop breathing and freeze, I can't move.  I don't mind spiders in my house because they eat other more destructive bugs, but they'd better not come close to me, and being mind readers, they mostly don't.  I can climb a ladder and get onto my roof, but then I can't get off the roof unless the end of the ladder extends well above the roof, so I can climb down past the edge, not have to go over it.)

Well, I found these little videos by accident the other day.  I don't know for sure who made them, but Disney has selected them as "Disney Shorts".  They are about a little fellow named Figaro Pho who has phobias, and what can happen, or what he imagines can happen.  There's one for each letter of the alphabet (except for some reason there's no "R", and Disney skipped the "fear of poo" one).

You can watch them all right here, or go to the link after the video and watch them at your leisure. (Toward the end, there are some duplicates, and the "poo" one is tacked on at the end.)


I love Figaro's house!


Math is treacherous, too.

In the post on menopause, I had said I stopped taking HRT when the medical community got all het up about it up to doubling the incidence of certain cancers.  Well, the link for the report that explained what it really means explains the numbers (and now makes me wish I had stayed on HRT).

Doubling isn't necessarily as bad as it sounds.

Let's say the incidence of cancer A is 30%, or that 30 in 100 people can expect to get it if they live long enough.  Doubling the incidence, doubling your chances to get it, means that you now have 60 chances in 100.  Yikes!

Let's say the incidence of cancer B is .001%, or 1 in 100,000. Doubling the incidence of cancer B means that now 2 people in 100,000 can expect to get it.  Um, weighed against the benefits, that's a chance I'm willing to take.

It turns out that the cancers that might be increased by HRT are of the very rare variety.

My doctors were freaking about the word "double", without, apparently, asking "doubling from what to what?"

Friday, December 14, 2012

3682 What?!

The Newtown school shooting.  On TV, all stations.  I turned the TV on at 11:00am and they were saying one teacher had been shot in the foot.  It is now 1:50, 2 hours of continuous coverage, and the count of dead is up to 27, mostly children!  It keeps going up.  Adult male shooter.  Elementary school.

What?!  How?!  Why?!

I don't understand.  I really really really don't.


Update 3:30 pm:

Please newsfolks, let's not make this guy famous.  We don't need to know his name.  We don't need to see his picture.  You don't need to turn him into some kind of antihero.  If you need to fill time, let's concentrate on the victims.

Thank you.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

3681 Meteors tonight!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sunshine is the best disinfectant.


I've discovered another thing I miss at the city house - meteors!  Too much ambient light.  At the country house there's very little light.  We'd seen some incredible meteor showers just looking out the living room windows.

There's a good meteor shower tonight and tomorrow night.  Best time is after midnight, but you should be able to see some any time after dark, anywhere in the world.

Except, of course, where city lights bleach the sky.  Like here.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

3680 Menopause and me

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The cost of living hasn't affected its popularity.


After circling each other for years, Jay and I started dating when I was 47ish.  I was "perimenopausal", meaning I was just starting the process.  I thought it would be a gradual thing, ya know?  And I wasn't having any of the common symptoms, like hot flashes (I think I may have had two mild ones - or maybe the thermostat was just too high), or sleep disturbances like night sweats, insomnia or intense dreams. No dryness or loss of libido, nothing.


I quite literally found myself terrorizing Jay.  "Found myself" because it was like I was outside myself watching me chewing him to bits, and I can't even say it was over minor things, it was over nothing!  He had been legally separated and was involved in a very nasty divorce, and needed my support, and here I was dragging him across the coals.  It was like I had split into two people.  Outside I was a harridan.  Inside, I'd see and hear myself, and I'd be screaming at myself, "Stop it!  Stop!  He doesn't deserve this!  He's the sweetest guy, and he's trying so hard!  Stop it!", but outside I'd keep on snapping at him.  I couldn't control it.  It just got worse and worse.

At some point I went to my doctor for some other thing, and he asked how the menopause was going, and I said that was ok, but there was something else going on, and I told him about how I felt like some very nasty person was taking me over and I couldn't control her and I was hurting the people I loved.  Many years before, I had been diagnosed with a "poorly integrated personality", but after years of psychotherapy I thought I was doing well.  I was worried that I was now having some kind of psychotic break or something.

He handed me five tiny pills, said to take one a day, and stop in his office on the fifth day and let him know how I was doing.  He wouldn't tell me what the pills were, just smiled and said, "Try them.  Trust me for five days."

It was wonderful!  The effect was immediate.  The nasty person went away the very first day.  I assumed it was some kind of "happy pill", like Prozac or something, I certainly felt calm and happy, and the doctor knew me well enough to know that I would have resisted if I knew it was Prozac or something.  I like being me.

On the fifth day I went to his office and told him it was pure magic.

It was hormone replacement (HRT/EPT), the smallest dose. Yea!  I was still me!

I was on HRT for the next ten or twelve years, until research was saying it caused various cancers, or something, and then I quit.  I wish I had stayed on it.  Current research shows a much lower risk than previously assumed, and it helps with bones and vaginal issues.  My last bone scan says I'm starting to thin,  and I like sex too much for vaginal issues!  I wonder if there's a doctor in the world who would let me start up again.

When I stopped the HRT, I expected menopausal symptoms.  Nope.  Nothing.

So, I'm not a good one to ask about menopause.  I am a good one to ask about HRT.

3679 12/12/12

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My weight is perfect for my height -- which varies.


I had to keep the heat high downstairs in the house because the slab is so cold.  My feet and lower legs freeze.  I don't want to wear fur-lined boots all the time in the house!  I have a small fan set high up on the cabinets to circulate the air back down to foot-level, but it doesn't help much.  I spend a lot of time at the laptop on the desk in the kitchen, so I thought about buying a space heater to tuck under the desk - but they can be noisy. 

Last week I found a rubber pad you can put on the floor, and it keeps your feet warm.  It's 20" x 14", and with an optional plug has a high and low setting.  So far it's working fine. 

Yesterday Jasper discovered it.  Now my poor feet have to fight for space on it.


Someone was wondering about jokes and stuff that kids today might not understand.  Like we still "dial" a phone number, but when's the last time you saw a phone with a dial?  And we use a crank motion to ask someone to open a car window, but when's the last time you cranked a car window?

Sunday I was watching "Sunday Morning" and thinking about how the show has changed from the Kuralt days, when they'd go to small towns and report on special people or interesting things in the town.  Not any more.  I guess young folks today won't get the old joke, "My home town is so small Charles Kuralt has been there twice."


Whenever you're diagnosed with certain diseases, the doctors ask a set lifestyle questions particular to current research on that disease.  (If this is an effort to gather data that may point to a cause, I do hope the answers are accumulated somewhere.)  When Jay was diagnosed with brain cancer, every doctor we met asked about heavy cell phone use.  (Jay had never used a cell phone.)  No one asked how much time he spent in front of a CRT, and I thought that might be significant.  I mentioned it a few times, but it was waved away.

When someone is diagnosed with schizophrenia or other bi-polar conditions, does anyone ask if the person had lived with a cat?  Or if the mother had a cat during pregnancy? Or if the person had been diagnosed with any other parasitic infections?  Do they look for parasites?

When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, does anyone ask about the person's reactions to various viral infections?  Do they have a history of warts, for example? It is (finally!) acknowledged that certain viruses are involved in breast cancer, but so far the test results are far from conclusive.  I think maybe the researchers forget that it's not just the virus, but the body's reaction to the virus that matters.

The verdict is still out on hidradenitis suppererativa, in fact, the Mayo Clinic writeup still refers to it as a form of acne, which is no longer considered valid. Some researchers say they find staph, some say there is no infectious agent, that it appears to be an autoimmune disorder (mine has been cultured, and they found only white blood cells - in my opinion the difference is in whether the contents of the 'bump' is cultured before or after it opens.  I believe the staph is secondary).  Does anyone ask (I was not asked) whether or not the sufferer'd had a bad case of boils or carbuncles at sometime in the past?  In about 1957, a severe case of contagious boils swept through my family.  My father had them on the back of his neck.  I had one on my breast and one in an underarm.  I remember my little sister having a bandage tied under her chin and around the top of her head - she had them all along her jawline.  The other kids had them hither and yon.  I wonder if that had "sensitized" my immune system, which now overreacts to the least thing irritating the skin glands (like the elastic around my panty legs).

The questions asked seem to be driven by existing theories, and only the theories with general agreement.  "Left field" questions aren't asked - but I understand why.  The left field is awfully big.

I believe that we all have had cancerous cells crop up here and there many times in our lives, but that the body detects it at the one-cell stage and kills it.  It's only when for some reason it goes undetected that it gets out of control.  Back when Jay's tumor was no more than a bright pinhole on the MRI, the doctors mentioned that there was an old lesion in that area of the brain, a spot of scar tissue or something.  They didn't go into detail, but later I wondered if the lesion "hid" the bad cell from the blood's detection.

When Jay was about three years old he fell off a ping-pong table onto a cement floor, and was unconcsious for a period of time.  I wonder if that's the source of the lesion.


Ever notice that there are some people who always look exactly the same in photographs?  Same tilt of the head, same angle, same smile, same foot and leg placement, always?  It's like they practiced for hours in front of a mirror until they found the perfect pose, and then practiced for hours to make sure they can "hit the mark" on a split second's notice.

I don't like those people. 

Saturday, December 08, 2012

3678 Paths

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A flashlight is a case for holding dead batteries.


Back in 2006, I met a few guys through online dating sites, one of whom I called B00ker, because he owned a bookstore somewhere in the Berkshires.  He was handsome, intelligent, charming, all the good stuff, but he had some kind of problem with his legs, so I ended up turning him down and then beating myself up for it.  The post(s) about him and my angst are here.

I didn't know then what was up with his legs.  Judging from what little I saw of his feet and ankles, and based on a series of random links I followed yesterday, I think now it was probably lymphedema.

There is therapy to reduce the swelling, but it's a lifelong thing.  If you stop the massage and the wrapping, it'll just come back.  If not treated, the swelling just gets bigger and bigger, and you can die from it, usually from infection.

So now, if that is what it was, and if I had known that then, would I have tried a relationship with him?  Maybe.  I don't know.  I might have stuck around long enough to get him into therapy to the point where he saw some improvement and was encouraged to keep with it, and by then I'd have a better idea.

But, I'm pretty certain he didn't have health insurance, so it would have been moot anyway.

Since I've read up on lymphedema I've been thinking about him.  Wondering how he's doing.  If he got treatment, he's probably doing just fine.  If not, he's probably dead.


This is the season most people think of charity.  This video is not about throwing money.  This is about thinking about what is needed.  It made me smile.


Friday, December 07, 2012

3677 Rambles

Friday, December 7, 2012

There’s a difference between free speech and hate speech.
--  Joy Behar  --


From Fred Reed, at
"Among non-scientists there is a vague notion that a beneficent evolution moves us ineluctably toward ever higher intelligence and understanding, though in fact evolutionary theory does not say this—evolution has no direction and science promises only an eventual dull entropic boredom—but the onward-and-upward popular belief appears to satisfy the need for an overarching explanation of everything."
You know, he's right.  Evolution promises nothing.  I doubt that mankind in general is any smarter now than, say, 200 years ago.  @00 (that's a capitalized "200") years isn't much in evolutionary terms, but I do believe that on average we are already demonstrably more stupid.  We know more "stuff", but we are in general, overall,  less logical, less understanding, less interested in understanding, and less capable than we used to be.  It's like thinking is evolving out of us.  Like we don't need it any more.

(Keep in mind that incorrect conclusions are not necessarily due to faulty reasoning.  Often it's due to faulty assumptions.  So if great-great-grandfather had some nutty notions, it may have had less to do with his intellectual abilities than with the "facts" he started out with.  Contrast that with today, when people are perfectly willing to start with "facts" that they already know, or should know, are false, and it doesn't seem to bother them in the least.)

Ever see "Idiocracy"?  That's one way evolution could go, and I see no evidence that it's not.


This is fascinating!

"Ringing all 10 down in peal at Rochester Cathedral"


The first time I watched this I didn't have the title, so it wasn't until about the 3:40 mark that I noticed that the bells were no longer going to the balance point (straight up) and suddenly realized what they were doing.  The title confirmed it.  Cool.


I recently read that the viral "Gangnam style" dance video and its clones had surpassed all records for views on YouTube, probably because people were playing it over and over to learn the moves. (If you want to see what it's about, this is a better illustration of the dance:

Of course my immediate reaction was an annoyed "Why?"  It's pretty stupid, and apparently the moves fit only with that particular music, so why would anyone want to work so hard to learn it?

Thinking about it a bit changed my opinion.

I grew up in the era of waltz, fox trot, 2-step, jitterbug, swing, twist, frug (my favorite, and ignore Wikipedia's opinion that Bob Fosse's Rich Man's Frug is "a perfect example" -it's not.  In fact, I didn't even recognize it as the frug), and the group dances like the Madison and the stroll.  I never really danced much anyway, because I'm so short and so couples dancing was awkward, and separately I kept getting smashed into on the dance floor.   Along about the 1980s (my 30s into 40's), I was running with a much younger group, and was shocked to find that "dancing" had somehow devolved into simply jumping up and down in place.  I was further shocked when, in the '90s, dancing became nothing more than simulated sex on the dance floor.  Just rubbing body parts together.

At that point I stopped paying attention.

So if young folks are interested in something that moves to the beat, has actual "steps", and doesn't involve rubbing against relative strangers, well, maybe I should cheer.


The Nugget loves to dance.  She has danced, bouncing on her bottom and swaying her upper body whenever she heard music, even before she was able to stand.  Now she tucks a tiny African drum under her left arm and plays with her right while she dances and sings along with the music.

"Dancing" right now involves swinging her bottom left to right while she sways and takes big steps side to side or in a circle with her legs far apart.  She's just now learning about jumping, so now she throws in a little hop here and there.

What's cutest about it is that she doesn't dance for approval or attention.  She forgets you're there.  She's completely focused on the music.


I'd been a little worried because at 18 months Nugget still was making no attempt to talk, beyond "mama" and "dada" and "ammah" (me), and even those words were rare.  I hoped that it was because her mother had taught her sign language as an infant, so she felt no need to talk.  It was obvious that she understood a lot of what was said to her, though, even rather complex statements, even with future tense.  (Her mother had been speaking in grammatically correct three to four word sentences at 10 months, so that's what I was comparing to.)

This past month has been much more satisfying.  It started with "Baaaaall!"  She had to identify every ball for us.  Even round buttons - "baaaaall!"  Oranges - "Baaaaall!"  As far as I know that's the only new word she says spontaneously, but she does repeat words to herself when we say them.  "Do you want a cookie?  Cookie?"  Fierce nod, "Cooooogie!"  Cats, however, are still "Eeeeow!" no matter what we call them.

Oh, almost forgot.  "No!" has appeared.  Spontaneously.  Sharp, clear, and distressingly often.


I was just about to file this when, from my left, where the TV was nattering to itself, I heard a woman say something about 300 people in the room and "...not no one didn't see nothing".

My toes literally curled.  I don't know what that means!  Logically it means some one saw something.  I think.  If the Nugget ever says anything like that, so help me I will spank her!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

3676 Stuff and things

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people.


I'm sick.  I felt rocky Sunday, nothing specific, just that "uh oh" feeling in my throat.  Monday afternoon I got the hot dry spots in my throat.  Then the cough started, a short dry bark, almost constant.  The thermometer said I didn't have a fever, but I couldn't get warm, either.  Monday night I got almost no sleep because of the coughing.  Instead, I had strange mental visions of waves washing over rocks.  Tuesday, yesterday, the fever and headache and body aches started.  Every bone, muscle, and joint aches.  Even my little finger aches.  Still no congestion, but coughing hard.  My stomach hurts from the coughing.  Aspirin does help the headache, but leaves me lightheaded.

Obviously it's a virus.  I've been gargling with Listerine to prevent a secondary bacterial infection in my torn-up throat.  If I can avoid that, this should go away soonish....

It's messing with my head.  Yesterday I drove to the garage where Fred the van has been for the past 2.5 months to pay and pick up the keys (long story short - the manufacturer kept sending the wrong part, mainly because of confusion over the fact that Fred had been modified for wheelchair use, so some of his parts are not the standard issue).  I've been there many times, but yesterday I kept getting lost.  I had difficulty figuring out where I was in relation to the shop, and at least twice I couldn't figure out where I was AT ALL!  And when I did figure out where I was, I had no idea how I ended up there.  Streets I was familiar with were completely unfamiliar.  Also, on three occasions I had to pull out into traffic, and I couldn't judge the speed or distance of oncoming cars.  That was scary.

I think maybe I shouldn't drive until at least the headache/lightheadedness  goes away.  Daughter is going to pick up some cough medicine for me this afternoon on her way to fetch Nugget from nursery school.


There are a bunch of sayings about taking the road less traveled, the path least trodden.  From the height of my great age and experience, I can tell you that's bullpoopy (except when it comes to inventions).  You should take the well-marked well-used trail.  Can't tell you how many times I've come to a (literal) Y in the trail, and I took the wild-looking one, only to be asked later, "Did you see the ....?" - some wonderful view, or falls, or whatever.  And of course I didn't. 

There's usually a reason one of two paths is better-traveled than the other.


Definition of cognitive disconnect, not necessarily irony.


Observation: Older computer games couldn't be won.  They just got harder and faster until you died.  Just like real life.


Not to get into a discussion on gun control, but whatever one's position I think we can all agree that unstable, scary people shouldn't have guns.   But how do we identify those people?

I realize this won't work in real life! but it's worth thinking about.  Suppose before someone could buy a gun, 20 people who know him (not 20 he chooses, 20 randomly selected from friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, etc.) are asked, "Do you find the thought of him with a gun frightening?"  If some proportion say yes, say maybe 1/3, then he doesn't get a gun.

I'm comfortable with that.  People who know him, know him best (as long as he isn't a psychopath - those folks can be charming).


I have "exploding head syndrome".  It's real.  

The Wikipedia article says it's more common over 50, but I've had it most of my life.  The article seems to imply that it happens most often when you're falling asleep. It happens to me randomly maybe once every year or two or so, and it's never when I'm falling asleep.  It's usually when I'm up and at work or home, anywhere, doing anything.  People have brushed it off as a cherry bomb outside, or a backfire, or a hunter in the woods - but there's a BIG difference in sound and feeling between sounds from outside your head and sounds inside your head.  It's very obvious that it was inside my head.  Absolutely 100%.  I can actually feel the bang, but there are no words to describe that feeling.  It's sort of like a pop of invisible lightning in my head.

When it happens, I don't get the fear that Wikipedia describes.  I just pause for a moment and run a mental test pattern in my mind to make sure it wasn't a stroke, and that's it.

You know what really gets me?  Sometimes I'd be mid-sentence and suddenly stop, and the person I was talking with will see me staring off into space for a few seconds (running the mental checklist for stroke), ask why, I'll tell them I heard a loud bang inside my head, and

they proceed to tell me it wasn't in my head, that it must have been outside, even though 
they themselves heard nothing!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

3675 Hibernating and noise

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Experience is the thing you have left when everything else is gone.


I'm turning into a hermit.

I go nowhere and do nothing.  I see Daughter and the Nugget almost every day, and say hello to neighbors on either side, and I go to stores, post office, and bank as necessary. There are occasional visits with The Man.  Other than that, nothing.

Every day is like the day before.  Nothing gets done, and I'm surprised at how fast the weeks and months are passing.

I joined a bunch of Meetup groups, but nothing they plan interests me.  I get the monthly local Mensa group's newsletter and calendar, but find nothing interesting.  None of it seems worth the effort of getting there, wherever "there" is.  I have not found the people interesting.  In fact, I find them annoying.  I'm not going to fight traffic just to be annoyed.

I don't think I'm depressed, because the Nugget and I have fun, and I enjoy my reading.  I enjoy the changing scenery and the beasties that visit my yard.  There are no negative feelings or thoughts.

My legs seem to get tired a lot.  I can still walk decent distances without difficulty - it's the getting started that just doesn't happen.   My legs say, "Nah, let's just sit here."

Or maybe it's the cold.  My bones are cold.  I hate winter.  I long for warm breezes.


It's noisier at the city house than at the country house.  Leaf blowers, traffic,sirens, parties, firecrackers, kids, dogs, airplanes, all that.  Even the birds and squirrels are noisier.

It's so quiet at the country house that I can hear the trains passing five miles away, beyond two ridges and tucked into the river valley.  The house is on the helicopter path between Albany and NYC, and they tend to fly very low and shake the glasses in the cupboards, but that's maybe twice or thrice a month unless something's going on.  Bird sound is mostly crows and raptors calling, and somehow that's a pleasant sound.  The little birds sing, but not so loudly, and they prefer the woods and farm fields to yards around houses.  Tree frogs and katydids, crickets and whippoorwills.  Turkeys.  Chipmunks singing.  No sound is constant.  They all have their times, their seasons.  Those sounds are so much more relaxing than constant sirens, leaf blowers, traffic, and loud music.

The noise here is tiring.  It's aging me.  Wearing me down.

This morning being Sunday, I realized there's a sound at the country house that I miss at the city house.

Church bells.

Aren't there any churches with bells around here?

At the country house I used to drive into Rhinebeck occasionally to hear the noon carillon at the Episcopal church in town.  Beautiful.  I doubt that there's anything like that around here.

I don't have a bucket list, but if I did, I'd put visiting famous carillons on it - real bells - and I'd love to hear changes rung from an old country church somewhere in the British Isles, 6 to 10 bells so I can follow the pattern.

This is 10 bells at Cambridge -


This is 12 bells at Liverpool -


This is a guy learning to ring, "It's harder than it looks".  It also explains how the bells are rung from a balanced "upside down" position. That makes it possible to control the timing.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

3674 TMI

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Two can live as cheaply as one, for half as long.


 A few years ago I bought a $90 item at a Staples in Ulster, NY.  I asked if I could write a check, and the cashier said yes, with a photo id.  I handed her my driver's license and a check.

My checking accounts were at a credit union.  I had several thousand in the account I wrote the check on.  I had free transfer coverage on that account - if I ever wrote a check for more than was in the account, they would transfer the required amount from my savings account.  If there wasn't enough in the savings, then they would go to the other accounts in my name.  If that failed, I had a backup signature loan instantly available for up to five thousand.  So it was impossible for me to write a check for less than $5,000 and have it bounce.  Impossible.

The Staples cashier took my check, fed it into her cash register, and it was rejected.  "We can't take a check from you."

I asked why not, and, in front of other people in line, she said, loudly, rather nastily, and I quote,

"You must have bounced too many checks."

I freaked.  I informed her I had never bounced a check!  I asked for a manager, and informed the folks behind me that they may as well go to another register, "...because this might take a while."

The manager explained that they have a check verification system, and I'm not in their system, so they can't take the check.  I asked him to please educate the cashier.  I did not appreciate being embarrassed like that. 

He gave me some forms to fill out and mail to some service so I could get into their system.  I paid cash for my item and left.

At home that evening I looked at the forms.  The several pages of forms.

I have check cards for lots of places, and none of them ever required much more than my driver's license number, address, and phone number.  This form looked more like a mortgage application.  In addition to the the usual, it wanted my social security number, birth date, information on ALL my bank accounts (whether I intended to write checks on them or not) including location, account number and balance, all my investment accounts, balance and number, employment information, appraised value of my house, age and make of my vehicles and the VINs, whether I or my spouse had ever declared bankruptcy, and on and on.

Um, ok, all that would be handy if I really ripped you off and you want to sue me to recover your money, but hey, that's a pain to pull together and there's no way I'm going to give you all of that anyway.

BUT, this is the part that really worried me:  They also wanted to know what pets I had, by type of beasty and name, my mother's maiden name, where I was born, my children's names and ages, my education level, graduation dates, and what schools I went to.  They wanted my freakin' passport number!

WHAT?!  You have GOT to be kidding!

Needless to say, I tore it up and never got myself into Staples' system.  I also never again bought anything beyond paper clips from that store.  The Office Max was just down the road.

I don't know what the heck that was about.  I hesitated to use the name "Staples" because I don't know if this was unique to this particular store, I don't know if they're still using that system, I don't know if this was a "special" form reserved for discouraging people they don't want as customers anyway, I don't know if maybe the forms were going to go directly to the manager's cousin who had a side business selling identities. 

All I know is that the form was handed to me in a Staples store in Ulster, NY. 

And it was scary.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

3673 I can't seem to get anything done.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Anyone who says they’re good at communicating
but “people are bad at listening”
is confused about how communication works.


I need to go to the Social Security office.  I have some questions, and options I might be able to exercise, but I can't get any information online because I haven't worked in ten years (actually more, but 10 is their cutoff).  Duh?

I am currently drawing benefits on Jay's SS account as his widow.  I'm wondering if my own SS account might pay me more.  And can I draw on Ex#2's account instead?  I know I can if he's dead, but what if he's not dead, just looks that way?  (Ex#1 is dead, but we weren't married long enough for me to qualify.) And if either of those, mine or Ex#2's, will pay more, how do I switch, and how do we make sure Medicare switches, too?

Anyway, the online site said I have to go to the local office if I want details about my account(s).  No appointment necessary.

So on Monday I went to the SS office in Iselin.  I got there about 2:45, met a maintenance guy in the lobby who told me that there was no point in going upstairs, because the SS office closed at 3.  Open 9 to 3.   (Hmmmm.  Good hours, good pay, good benefits - I think I made the wrong choice all those years ago.  Well, maybe they have 2 hours of paperwork after 3.)

So yesterday I tried again.  I got there about mid-morning.  Got off the elevator and found people sitting on the floor in the hall.  Bad sign.  I went to the doors at the end of the hall and found a waiting room about the size of my house footprint, and that room was packed solid.  There was a machine where you put in your info and I guess it issues you a number.  There was a security guy standing a few feet away, so I asked him if it was possible to make an appointment, and he said I should call the 800 number to make an appointment, and he gave me a card with the number on it.  "The card is all in Spanish, but the number is the same."  I said, "Yeah, in numbers we all speak Arabic."  He blinked twice, then laughed.

All those people in the waiting room, by the way, were Hispanic.

I'd been to a Social Security office only twice before, both times the office nearest to the country house, and back then there were only one or two people before me in line.  When I mentioned that to Daughter, and that the people at Iselin all seemed to be Hispanic, she rolled her eyes and said, "Welcome to New Jersey."

So, two half-days wasted.  Sigh.

I have a lot of things I have to do this week, and none of it is getting done.  A lot of it is online stuff, bills to pay, letters to write and get printed, and something has been screwy with my laptop - seems to involve java scripts and/or the Adobe flash player that don't complete and don't clean up after themselves.   My browser gets slower and slower and slower then finally hangs.  I have to run CCleaner to get rid of a lot of orphan files and unconnected stuff in the registry (CCleaner is terrific, and it's free!), then it's briefly fine, and then it slows down again.  I've been freaking out over it.  I've been reIPLing and starting over like every three hours.

What's REALLY weird is that it seems to happen only during "working" hours.  After 6 pm the browser seems to straighten up and fly right.  I did check, I timed it, and it's not my internet connection slowing down, and it's unlikely to be a virus - I've got protection on here like you wouldn't believe.  The protection itself slows things down, but I'm willing to accept that.

I've also noticed that it seems to have some kind of cycle.  It'll be fine for a few weeks, then I'll have a week or two of pain, then it's fine again.  I suspect it may be that I have auto-updating for the operating system and all the other stuff, so components go in and out of phase compatibility-wise.

But mostly, I don't understand.


I just had a thought.  Maybe today there were only three people ahead of me at the Social Security office - maybe all those other people were just family members and friends who came along for moral support.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

3671 Inability to think? Brain dead?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

“Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” 
--  Golda Meir --


Golda makes a common mistake in the quote above.  Not all Mid-eastern folks are Arabs, like the Persians of Iran, for example, and most are insulted if you call them Arabs when they're not.  It's a history/blood/tribal thing, like a Scotsman being annoyed if you call him an Welshman, or if you call either of them an Englishman.

Unless, of course, Golda really did specifically mean Arabs.  (The title of this post does not refer to Golda.)


Squiggy the Squirrel was back this morning, none the worst for his battles.


Garbage is collected here twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays.  The time of day is random, anywhere from 8 am to 6 pm.

I put out one small kitchen can sized bag, often only half full, so I don't have to store anything between pickups even if I miss one.  Daughter's family makes a lot more garbage, as is expected with more home cooking and many daily diaper changes.  She often has a full regular garbage can, but sometimes puts it out only once a week.

I flat-out don't understand what's going on in the house directly across the street. 

Every pickup their two or three large cans are overflowing.  There's two adults and two early-teen kids (whom I often don't see for days at a time, so I suspect there may be some kind of shared custody arrangement).  How on earth do they make that much garbage!?  I know they don't recycle, but still....

Daughter's cans are bungee'd to the side of their house, with bungees holding the lids down.  The folks across the street have their cans alongside the side fence, with no lids!  I have often seen, late at night, the tails of racoons, opossums, or skunks waving out of the top of the cans.  When the cans are full to overflowing, the scavangers pull the stuff off the top to examine, or just tip the cans over.

What bugs the hell out of me is that the people don't seem to care, and they don't learn.  They'll go out and gather up the garbage on their property, but they ignore what has blown or been strewn out onto the street.

I'm getting very tired of collecting their paper towels, cigarette packs, potato chip bags, paper cups, and every other type of debris from my curb and lawn.

Today it has reached a crisis.  I'm very annoyed and I don't know whether I should say something or not.  Nobody else in the neighborhood has said anything, so there must be a reason for their reticence.  I'm not sure I want to find out why.

Thursday was Thanksgiving.  They must have had 15 people in the house.  Thursday was garbage day, but of course it was skipped for the holiday.  Friday morning, they put three large grossly overflowing cans plus a big black garbage bag out at the curb - OUTSIDE their fence, of course.  There was no pickup.  When I went to bed, all that stuff was still at the curb, and I thought "Raccoons will feast tonight."

Sure enough, this morning one can had been tipped, several bags torn open, and garbage and trash was strewn in the street.  Later in the morning the woman was out there picking up trash from the part of their lawn outside the fence and stuffing it back into bags.  As usual, she did not pick up what had blown into the street.

Now here's what blows my mind:  there is no hope of a pickup until Monday, but she left the overflowing cans and the black bag sitting there!  So they'll be there tonight and Sunday night.  Does she think racoons take the weekend off?  What the hell is she thinking? IS she thinking?  How can anyone repeatedly clean up trash, and NOT figure out how to avoid it? Is she incapable of learning?

Photo taken through my living room window a few minutes ago, through a screen, and severely cropped:

I don't understand.

3670 HOTW - Sugar Ray Leonard

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Teach a child to be polite and courteous in the home and, when he grows up,
he'll never be able to merge his car onto a freeway.


We haven't had a Honey of the Week in a very long time.  Boxer Macho Comacho's shooting and death have been in the news for a few days, and that brought to mind the only boxer whose career I had followed.

Sugar Ray Leonard.
Isn't that just the cutest face you've ever seen?  I had a terrible crush on him in the '80s.  I suspect this photo is from his Olympic days, in his late teens.  He looks about 10 years old.

In his early thirties he had surgery for a detached retina, and so he decided to retire from the ring.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  Then, the next year, he un-retired.  I yelled "No, no, don't mess up that pretty face!"  I really was upset about it.
I needn't have worried.  He was GOOD!  That pretty face rarely got touched.

He's now in his mid-50s, and he has aged well.  He's still pretty. 
He published his autobiography last year, in which he reveals for the first time that he had been sexually abused by an Olympic trainer, and the effect that keeping that secret had on his life.  The NY Times article on the book is here:

Now that he has told his story, he is involved in child abuse prevention activities.  This is a video of his speech at the October 29, 2012 child sexual abuse conference at Penn State:   Skip to 5:19 to skip the intro and see how pretty he is.


Friday, November 23, 2012

3669 Frustration

Friday, November 23, 2012

They told me I was gullible... and I believed them.


I watched "Blazing Saddles" on TV last night.  Man, they bowdlerized the "Hell" out of it.  Also the "ass", the "rape", the "Mormon", and the "nigger" out of it.  Practically every tenth word, and every one of those words was necessary.  It wasn't the same at all.  Rape?  Duh?  The line was something like, "I rape and pillage and murder for fun", and it became "I .... and pillage and murder for fun".  Since when is rape a worse word than murder?

Oh, well.

I was disappointed because I didn't see one particular scene I remembered that I loved.  A bad guy pulls a gun on the hero, a few inches from his chest, and the hero calmly sticks his finger in the barrel.  The look of disbelief on the bad guy's face is priceless.  "Oh, $#!T ! Now what?!"

So I did some research today, and it turns out that scene is from a different movie.  Walter Brennan pulled a gun on James Garner in "Support Your Local Sheriff", and Garner sticks his finger in it.


My research led me to some forums in which people were arguing vociferously a) whether or not you could stick a finger in the barrel of anything smaller than a shotgun, and b) whether the buildup of compressed air thus created would really cause the gun to explode.

I was frustrated because they were so passionate about such a moot point.  It doesn't matter whether it would or not.  It only matters whether the shooter is absolutely *positive* it will not.

If a guy is pointing a gun at your chest from a foot away, you don't know for sure whether he's going to pull the trigger or not.  You lose nothing by sticking your finger in the barrel, either way.  He, on the literal other hand, now has a chance, a possibility, of losing his shootin' hand if he pulls the trigger. There's an element of surprise, and that can make all the difference.

So I wanted to ask those guys who insisted the gun would not explode - if you were going to shoot some guy, and he did that unexpectedly, would you pull the trigger without hesitation?

I am proud of myself for stomping my frustration and resisting the impulse to jump into the discussion.  I doubt they'd get my point anyway.

3668 Daily blessings

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired
signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,
those who are cold and not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat
of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." 
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower --


I guess I've been pretty clear that I'm not big on holidays, partly because they are commercially perverted and exploited, but also because we as a society seem to have forgotten the true purpose and reason for those holidays.  Kinda like Sundays.  I get very annoyed by people who are all pious and holy on Sunday morning, and then forget it all for the next six and a half days, 'til it's time to be publicly pious and holy again.  I think the sentiments of Sunday, Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, and all that should be an every day thing.  Like, ONE day for being grateful for our bounty?  ONE day to get together with family?  Bull poopy.  We should be grateful every day.  Stop complaining on every other day of the year about what you don't have or want but can't get.  Every time you go to the grocery store, give thanks for what the earth gives us.

I had told The Man that I don't enjoy giving or receiving gifts on those days when they are expected (and in some cases demanded).  I prefer it to be a more natural spontaneous "I saw this and thought of you" type thing.  I never ever want a "gift" that someone felt they had to give me because the calendar said so.  He seemed very relieved by that.

A cynic could interpret that as that I want every day to be Valentine's Day.  Well, uh, yeah.

Hercules has yesterday and today off work.  Daughter didn't cook yesterday.  They decided to relax and enjoy life instead.  I think she had intended to do the turkey bit because she had invited me to dinner, but I turned her down.  She knows I don't like holiday fuss, but what I didn't tell her was that a) I dislike turkey, and b) I had a 2-hour shift washing pots at a Sandy shelter.

So anyway, she's cooking today and will bring me some leftovers.


So far I have still seen only two squirrels since the hurricane.  Normally one sees six or eight in the trees, and you can hear many more scolding cats and each other all day.

Sqiuggy came by yesterday morning for his peanuts.  I can put out only one at a time because he takes one at a time and disappears to bury it (I guess), so if the blue jay is around the jay steals the rest.  Yesterday I had thrown a peanut onto the driveway, and squirrel #2 ran up to investigate.

Squiggy had a fit!

He chased #2 in circles on the driveway, up onto the porch, around behind me so close their flailing tails brushed my ankles, through the railing and around the side of the house.

This morning #2 is digging around in George's front yard, carefully keeping his back to me.

I haven't seen Squiggy since the chase.  I guess he won the argument, but I wonder if there was a price.

3667 Bits

Friday, November23, 2012

Not everyone who flies first class is first class.





If you need to take something to a Christmas buffet, this is pretty and edible.   Take two, one for each end.  (I have seen this done with a candle taper instead of a carrot, and you light the candle, but I wondered how safe that might be if it gets unbalanced.  Like if Joe eats all the pineapple first.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

3666 Squiggy Squirrel

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"The sad truth is that excellence makes people nervous."
--  Shana Alexander  --


That first squirrel to reappear after the hurricane?  I've been feeding him peanuts in the shell, early mornings.  I don't know if he's hungry, friendly, brave, or stupid, but he'll now come within two feet of me and sit up and beg. I don't know if I want him to actually touch me, like sit on my knee or something. If I ever run out of peanuts, that could get very annoying.

I've named him Squiggy, like Laverne and Shirley's Squiggy.

It fits.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

3665 Civics triage

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

All I ask is a chance to prove that money can't make me happy.


Post #3663 was the civics test. I was impressed with everyone's scores. We're all above average. I sorta expected that, actually.  But I wonder - those questions that you answered correctly, did you actually know the answer?  Or did you figure it out?

Too often when people take multiple choice tests, they read the question, realize that they don't know the answer, and then they just pick a random answer without thinking further about it.  Actually, the question usually has clues you can use to immediately eliminate one or more of the choices, and then weigh the remaining possibilities.

A good example is the question about the main issue in the 1858 Douglas/Lincoln debates.  I didn't have the faintest idea.  (If this were an essay question, I'd have to go for humor and hope the instructor was easy.)  The choices offered included whether free African Americans were citizens, the morality of slavery, whether slavery would be allowed in new territories, or whether states have a right to leave the union.

Ok.  My approach:  The use of the phrase "African Americans" is odd.  If it were a topic of the time, it would have been "freed slaves".  This looks like it was just pulled out of the air to round out the choices.  Eliminate it.  The "morality" question is philosophical, and unlikely to be meaty enough for a debate, let alone the main issue.  Eliminate it.  The right to secession wasn't even an issue until long after the election.  Eliminate it.  That leaves "territories", which was a big deal at the time, and a safe issue.  And the correct answer.

Another was the question about what is "expressly prohibited" by The Bill of Rights.  Offerings were prayer in public school; discrimination based on race, sex, or religion; the ownership of guns by private individuals; establishing an official religion for the United States; and the president's vetoing a line item in a spending bill.

Now, there are lots of things prohibited in the Bill of Rights, including the quartering of soldiers in private homes, unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, and so on.  So this looks like an elimination exercise, complicated by the fact that there are lots more prohibitions in subsequent amendments (the Bill of Rights refers only to the original ten, but most people don't draw a line between the tenth and the subsequent, so it's hard to limit it).

Well, we can eliminate sexual discrimination right off - it was another 150 years before women got the vote and then another 50 years after that before women were considered real people.  Anyone with half a brain knows about the gun thing.  So there's two down.  Prayer in schools was a Supreme Court decision after I graduated from high school, based on the first amendment, but not specifically addressed in the first amendment - and it's a battle still being fought, therefore it's not "expressly forbidden".  That leaves the official religion thing and the line-item veto.  If there is anything about the line-item veto, it would be in the body of the Constitution where the functions and responsibilities of the branches are defined, not in the Bill of Rights, so we are left with official religion as the likeliest answer, which is the correct answer. 

You can do that kind of triage with almost all of the questions.

Are there any you'd like me to examine?


I missed two questions:  the one about Roosevelt and the Supreme Court, and the Puritan one.  I didn't know the President could appoint additional justices until he got the votes he wanted.  I eliminated that as a possibility because it seems like if they really could, a lot of Presidents would have done that by now (um, abortion?).  But I didn't like any of the other choices, either, so I blew that one off.

The Puritan one, well, I'd like to argue that one with the writers of the test.  Stressed the sinfulness of all humanity?  Baloney!  My grandmother's church was one of the last Puritan churches.  They imported their ministers from Wales.  I was christened Puritan.  Yes, there was a belief in original sin, but they also stressed that it was possible to live without sin by rejecting temptation.  That dour caricature is a baloney stereotype, even for the colonial Puritans.

I scored 31 of 33, 93.94%.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

3664 This is a title?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"He who lives without folly isn't so wise as he thinks."
-- Francois de La Rochefoucauld --


I saw the second squirrel today, and some seagulls/terns, and also our resident hawk.  We're getting back to normal.


Believe it or not, I've never tasted a Twinkie. I've always been more of a Tastykakes gal.


There are a lot of places around here where you can drop off donations of clothing, food, and necessities for people who have lost everything to the hurricane.  They don't check your status when you go there to get stuff, and there are some people who lost nothing who are going to the centers and "shopping" for freebees.  Daughter says some people she knows are actually bragging about the cool stuff they picked up.

These people are despicable.

It reminded me of ExMIL#2.  She ran a program at her church, a collection drive and distributing stuff to needy families.  She was so very virtuous that she saw nothing wrong with going through the donations and pulling out things she liked to give to friends and family.  She had a heap of clothing in her kitchen one time when we visited, and she invited me to go through it and take anything I liked.  I was horrified.

A friend who had volunteered at a Salvation Army store told me that the workers there go through new donations as soon as they arrive and pick out the best stuff, either for themselves or to sell on eBay.  At least there, they are expected to pay for the items.  They just skim off the best first.  And of course, they set the price.


Lots of people have taken the civics test I linked in the previous post.  Thank you for participating!  I'm not surprised that you've done so much better than average.  I'll give y'all another day, in case someone has not yet taken it but wants to (and no fair reading the comments before you take it), then I'll revisit the topic.