31 October, 2010

Insert Clever Post Title Here

Sorry.  My darling Aunty Flow finally showed up.  Wetware nonfunctional.  But I couldn't let Halloween end without posting Brian Switek's awesome cat-o-lantern:

Love it!  Of course, it's got stiff competition from Silver Fox's Jack-o-Breccia.  If you haven't seen Jack yet, you really must go say hi.  Bonus: considering what he's made of, the neighborhood hooligans might hurt themselves should they try to smash him.  My kind o' jack!

For those who've been waiting patiently all month, Accretionary Wedge #28's up at Matt's place.  It's all tricked out, too - nice Halloween touch, there.

Hopefully, in the next day or so, I can show you what I did with my Halloween before Aunty got nasty.  I'm pretty sure I've got permission to post the photos, but everyone was rushed and so I don't want to put anything definitive up until I'm sure I didn't shoot something that shouldn't have been shot.  We were testing the camera in low-light stage conditions, y'see.  Some of them came out brilliantly.  It'll make you want to go see the musical, only you can't, because it was the last show.  But there's more where that comes from, and I might even have sneak peeks, and those of you who don't live in Seattle will end up wishing you did.

Best thing about today: giving my intrepid companion his All Hallow's Read.  He's always doing superbly thoughtful things for me, rescuing me from computer ruin, chauffeuring me around whilst I car shop - it was nice to finally take him by surprise with a little something.  (Why Buildings Fall Down, in case you were wondering - All Hallow's Read's about giving a scary book, and, well, that's grownup scary and interesting.)  Five minutes in a bookstore, people.  That's all it takes to make someone happy - as long as you go in having a good idea what they might like.  Next Halloween, give your own intrepid companions the gift of a scary book they don't expect.

Next best thing about today: watching Jesus hand out communion wafers while saying, "Body of me."  Awesome!

And you, my darlings - what did you do to celebrate the best holiday of the year?

Give Someone a Good Scare

So, Neil Gaiman's started a new Halloween tradition I can definitely get behind: All Hallow's Read.  Give someone a scary book today.

Look, I know it's already Halloween.  That's no excuse.  The bookstores are open.  You've got five minutes.  Just do it.

Now to think up something scary to give.  Romance novel?  Something from the self-help section?  Glenn Beck's latest - ah, no, I want my friends to survive the fright, and preferably without projectile vomiting.  But maybe a little something by .... Richard Simmons.

Mwa-ha ha!

29 October, 2010

Adios, Jimmers

This has been a horrible month.  First Holly, now my parents' cat Jimmy.

Jimmy seemed everlasting.  He married into the family when my stepmother and father tied the knot.  I could always count on that enormous bundle of orange tabby sacked out on his favorite blankie on the sofa when I went home.  There was a time when he got so fat he seemed to be competing with Garfield, but then the new kitten came home and bits of Jimmy just melted away, like winding a clock back to the days when he was slim, trim, and always ready for a good chase sequence.

I think Spook added years to Jimmy's life.  Even though, later on, he went back to his former ways, and spent most of his time sacked out.  But then he'd wake up, decide he wanted his old dad, and get down on the floor to engage in some serious cute.

And if you yelled "Shrimpers, Jimmy!" from the kitchen, you could bet you'd have one attentive cat there in a split-second.  He loved his shrimpers. 

Goodbye, dear old Jimmy Durante.  Thanks for those 18 awesome years, buddy.

We'll miss ya, Jimmers.

28 October, 2010

Night Off

Ye hormones are kicking me arse, there's a cat wanting to cuddle, and I've decided I need to go to the doctor.  Dr. House, of course.  Got all of 5th season I haven't even unwrapped, haven't I?

In the meantime, don't forget to congratulate Callan on his big move!  Love the new digs!

Oh, Schist! And Other Stories

Yes, it's taken me this long to settle on an appropriate deskcrop for this month's Accretionary Wedge.  In point of fact, I haven't got any deskcrops.  I haven't got a desk.  If I did have a desk, I wouldn't be able to use it, as it would be covered in rocks, books, and the occasional knickknack. 

I have, however, got bookshelves, the bits of which that aren't filled with books and knickknacks are covered in rocks.  I have also got tables, which are mostly covered in rocks.  Breakfast bar?  I hope you like stone-cold stones for meals, because that's what's on the bar.  Little half-wall in the entry way?  Home to more rocks.  And every single rock in this house has some sort of meaning.  Each and every one tells stories.  And they were all hollering "Me! ME! MEEE!" when I attempted to choose just one.  Worse than puppies, they are.

Ultimately, it came down to rocks from home.  And I couldn't choose only one. 

Some of you may not know this about me, but I have an abiding fondness for schist.  I'm not sure why.  There's just something about its foliation that I adore.  It may have a lot to do with the fact that it's a) not volcanic, b) is metamorphic, and c) something I can identify with greater than 89% confidence despite all that.

It wasn't always like that.  In fact, the first piece of schist I collected, I figured was just an unusual bit of volcanic rock.  It's the dark one here in this photo:

It's been with me since the early 2000s, when I grabbed it from the formerly-vacant lot behind my old apartment.  Needed nice, dark, interesting rocks for a mini-Zen garden I was building, didn't I?  And there it stayed for years, nestled in white sand, and after I moved to Washington it lived in a Ziplock bag, awaiting a day when I had more space for Zen rock gardens.  Then I visited Arizona, picked up that lovely golden piece of mica schist that's sitting beside it, removed it from its bag to add to the Arizona collection, and went, "Wait a damned minute... Oh, schist!" 

I believe it may even be a bit of Brahma schist.  Not sure.  I mean, it was sitting about 3,000 feet above where it should've been, so I know it's a souvenir rock someone picked up and later discarded.  An anthro-erratic, if you will.  Could've come from anywhere.  But I love it anyway.

The mica schist beside it comes from the Mingus Mountains (no, people from Arizona don't usually refer to them as the Black Hills, at least, not where I came from).  And that other bit there is a very nice little grossular garnet I picked up at the same rock shop.

But I promised you more than schist, and here's a nice little bit you may enjoy from the same display:

That, my darlings, is a fragment of the nickel-iron meteorite that slammed into Northern Arizona about 50,000 years ago and left us with the enormous hole in the ground known as Barringer Meteor Crater.  They sell bits of it in the gift shop.  I was rather skeptical, so I grabbed a magnet with a bottle opener and a resin-encased scorpion and did a little field test.  Tink!  Yep, it's magnetic, all right.  So I bought the bits, and a tube of rock flour.  That white powder is pulverized Kaibab limestone.  The meteor hit so hard that it turned major bits of strata right over and turned some into dust so fine that the frontier ladies used it as talcum powder.

So many rocks in that case.  So many stories.  But I shall conclude with this one:

That, my darlings, is a lovely bit of bornite, which I first knew as peacock rock.  Fascinated me as a kid.  I couldn't care less if it was a copper ore back then - all I knew was, it's pretty.  And I'd lost my piece.  So one of my major objectives when I went home for a visit was finding a nice specimen.  Where else to go but Gold King Mine, where I'd got my first?  If you ever get a chance, go to Jerome and visit Gold King Mine.  It's a hoot, and they have lovely rocks and fossils in their shop.

Aside from the fond childhood memories, aside from teaching me more about the copper industry to fueled so much northern Arizona commerce, and aside from the fact it's pretty, this deskcrop also broke the barriers between me and my newest brother.  You see, my parents had acquired a lavender-point Siamese, whom I hadn't seen since he was a tiny kitten.  He didn't remember me.  He wanted nothing to do with me.  I was a Very Scary Intrusion into his settled universe.  He ran from me whenever I came in - until the day I returned from Gold King Mine with a nice set of rocks and fossils.  I'd laid them out on the carpet while I sorted, labeled, and stowed for the journey home.

He inspected the fossils, creeping ever closer, and found the bornite as tasty as I do:

We have been friends ever since.  So, my darlings, remember this: geology not only provides us with knowledge, awe, wonder, and amusement, it can also facilitate better relationships with the important felids in your life.  Trust me, bonding happens.  Especially when you're doing something fascinating, like trying to build a home for all those lovely samples:

Cats love deskcrops.  Spread the word!

27 October, 2010

Touring Evergreen Hospital

Evergreen Hospital

Last month, I got to visit Evergreen as a patient.  This month, I got to poke around the place for fun and education.  Thanks to Sherry in the marketing department, my intrepid companion and I got to attach ourselves to a tour group who were there for professional reasons, rather than mere curiosity. 

I didn't feel comfortable whipping out the camera like a raw tourist - I mean, we're talking about the ER, where people aren't exactly living the sort of memories they'll want to relive later - but let's see if I can get you inside anyway.  Picture yourselves in a comfortable waiting area with hardwood floors, nice chairs, and an artistic display of ceramic teapots.  Just don't picture yourselves there for long.  Evergreen built one of the prettiest waiting areas I've ever seen in a hospital, but people don't get to use it all that much.  They're whisked back to exam rooms too quickly.  While we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, we got to watch the average length of time people spent in the waiting room.  It seems to be around 2.2 seconds.

Should you have to go, you'll be met by helpful people who don't even let you have a full, frantic look around for where you should go before they're meeting you, asking what you need, and getting you into a small, glassed-in room where your temp's taken, an ID bracelet slapped on your wrist, and then zipped back to a room.  They say Sunday's their busiest day, so I may have to spend an afternoon in that waiting room just to see how much time that adds.  The way their system's set up, I doubt a crowd ever builds up in there.

So what's beyond Triage?  So glad you asked.  There are rooms designed to function well for all involved - patients, medical staff, and visitors.  Most rooms are semi-private - you don't get ogled by every passer-by, but you're within whimpering distance of helpful staff members.  You don't have to stare at a lot of scary medical equipment.  The bottles of gas (like oxygen) are tastefully concealed behind a painting at the head of the bed.  Extraneous medical equipment's kept to a minimum by carts: suture cart, pelvic exam cart, etc.  The proper cart's rolled in instead of having huge banks of equipment stuffed in cabinets.  All very tidy, and leaves plenty of room for folks.  Your medical staff gets one half of the room - the one with the counter space and monitor.  Your visitors get the other, where coats and things can be hung.  You get enthroned in the middle.

Things are laid out in a sort of triangle, with everything simple to get to, and the staff in the center where they can keep an eye on everybody as they work.  But if you're needing some serious solitude, there are special rooms for that, where all equipment is behind rollaway doors.  These are the rooms for the folks having a severe psychiatric episode, or the roaring drunk, where they can be watched carefully over monitors.  The windows of those rooms don't face out into the busy main areas, which strikes me as a good idea. It gives people there a sense of connection to the outside world - there is, after all, a window instead of blank walls - but doesn't give them views of things that might make them more excitable.  I've seen a fair few psychiatric setups, what with a mother who has bipolar disorder, and these are among the best.

We didn't, alas, get to see the trauma rooms this visit, but we got to go play in the decontamination showers.  They're in a room accessible from the outside.  Five you of can shower up at once before heading in to the hospital.  For some reason, the adjustable temp on the showers amused me.  I doubt I'll be worried about the shower being too cold if I'm ever in some unfortunate circumstance where I'm having to be decontaminated.  But at least now I know where I'll be if that day ever comes. 

I have to tell you, seeing the ER in its entirety eased a lot of nascent anxiety.  If a true emergency ever happens, the ER here is no longer an unknown quantity.  Should you get the opportunity, tour your own local hospital.  You'll find a lot of very good people working hard to ensure their communities stay healthy. 

Evergreen's doing an outstanding job of it.  So, you East Side residents - if you live near Kirkland and need excellent care, come on down!  You'll be in wonderful hands.

Although you might have to go back to appreciate the waiting room after your emergency's over.

26 October, 2010

What Fascinates You?

So it's another day wherein I have abandoned my normal routine for an afternoon out and a marathon session of Castle.  Look, we've got just over two seasons to catch up on, all right?  And I only get to see it Mondays. 

The weather outside was frightful, so we accomplished our long-postponed tour of Evergreen Hospital, which I shall be writing up tomorrow.  If your local hospital gives tours, take advantage, my darlings: it's impressive.  At least if your facility is as cool as Evergreen is. 

Then we came home, made obscene amounts of food, and plunked ourselves down for hours and hours of Castle, which plan my cat heartily approved.  I love this show.  I still love it, even though I was slightly afraid they'd hit a second-season slump.  There's no other show quite so good at taking lines that coulda shoulda woulda been cliched and making them not just relevant, but hilarious.  Warps expectations, turns tired tropes 45 degrees and has fun with them, nice sexual tension going - what's not to love, right?

But I'm still trying to figure out why I love it so much.  And the conclusion I've come to is that every regular character is eminently likable.  They're just fun to hang out with.  They're interesting, they're sympathetic, they surprise just enough to stay interesting and not enough to dismay.  It's a delicate balance that's very hard to strike.  And, bonus, even when the show could go there, it doesn't reach for the supernatural.  Seems like every fucking show has thrown in gratuitous supernatural shit since Lost.  Now, I do enjoy the supernatural shit - I'm a die-hard Buffy fan, for fuck's sake - but when it's thrown in willy-nilly, it just irritates me.

So that's now got me curious.  What does it for you, my darlings?  What hooks you on a show?  What keeps you hooked?  And what should I become obsessed with next (aside from House, which is already in my collection)?

25 October, 2010

You Might Wanna Patch Up Firefox

Interesting security vulnerability we've got here.  Before you hook up to an open wi-fi network again, you might wanna take countermeasures.

Tip o' the shot glass to Silver Fox for the alert!

Is There No End to Inanity?

By now, the more perceptive of you may have realized I haven't been writing about pollyticks lately.  That's not because I've lost interest, it's because I've been awash in a target-rich environment.  After so many hours of exposure to ever-increasing stupidity, day after day, my poor brain crawled out a convenient ear canal and ran away.  I've been luring it back by feeding it lots and lots of science, not to mention a heaping helping of Connie Willis.

We'll have a nice roundup of political dumbfuckery later this week.  For now, suffice it to say that if a politician in this country has got an R after his/her name and is currently electable, he/she is probably batshit fucking insane, so deplorably stupid that no words have been coined which properly describe the horror, and the fact he/she has any chance at all of getting elected solves the mystery of why great civilizations fail.  Forget all those theories of environmental catastrophe, barbarian invasions and so forth: it was probably the because they let their politicians become as horrifically idiotic as ours.

You'd think this current election cycle would have sated my appetite for stupidity.  Alas, no.  It's just caused me to crave a little variety.  IDiots are always good for a laugh, and watching ol' Billy Dumbski nearly get expelled for not toeing the good Baptist line gave me the giggles.  Still, I wanted more.  So I went though PZ's blogroll looking for new sources of entertainment, and came across a site called DC's Improbable Science.

Parents: if you have ever thought of sending your kiddies to a Waldorf school, unthink that thought now.

In an article entitled "The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. Part 1," we learn that these schools are repositories of quackery of the first order.  We're talking people who think the moon's phase is important to crops, kiddies aren't completely incarnated yet, and pigeonhole them based on "The Four Temperaments."  Yes, just like the Four Humors, only in this case, even dumber.

Oh, and if you think your kiddies shall at least be taught to read, think again.  That, you see, would hinder their spiritual development.

As far as history class, well, you know, "'The narrative thread for Ancient civilisations often begins with the fall of Atlantis’."

You may remember the fear of being held back a grade because you were flunking reading, math, or science.  Well, kids in Waldorf schools have a whole other set of concerns:
To quote from The Age:
“One parent, who did not wish to be named, said she moved her son out of the school after a Steiner teacher recommended he repeat prep "because his soul had not been reincarnated yet".
"I just don’t believe it is educationally sound," she said.”
Ya think?

I marvel, my darlings, positively marvel, at the sheer volume of utter bullshit human beings seem capable of swallowing whole.  I guarantee you: down a cocktail of magic mushrooms and LSD, write down the insanity that ensues, blend it with the contents of the newage and religion sections of your local bookstore, pick bits of it at random, and serve it up after having translated it from English to Swahili to Japanese and back to English using Babelfish, and you'd still find people who would wholeheartedly believe every incomprehensible word of the resulting mess.

People are weird.

24 October, 2010

A Little Something of Photographic Interest

For our own George W., who knows how to rig up inexpensive solutions to photographic needs, with outstanding results.  This is probably something he's already invented, but hey - why not?

My darlings, may I present you: "The poor man's macro kit." Complete with before-and-after shots!

So, go interest yourselves in some extension tubes, avoid the hideously expensive specialty lenses for macro shots, and don't forget to save your old Pringles cans in the name of photography!

Tomes 2010: The "I Hate Connie Willis" Edition

Not because she's a bad author, but because she's precisely the opposite.  So we'll start with her, although I only just finished her book.

All Clear

Longtime readers may remember my howls of outrage when I stayed up all night to finish Blackout only to realize it's the first bloody half of a single book, the other half of which I'd have to wait six months for.  Now, hopefully, you understand why I abandoned all y'all for a night so that I'd have some chance to sleep a few hours before work.  Wasn't going to wait any longer, damn it.

Like WWII and the Blitz, this is a chaotic, nerve-wracking, horrifying, sometimes ludicrously funny and occasionally sublime experience.  I have only two things against it: 1) I had to wait six months for it after being left on the mother of all cliffhangers and 2) was that added bit of cheese at the end strictly necessary?  Okay, I have a third thing against it: I ended up reading until 7 in the ay-em two bloody days in a row because there was never a good stopping point, yet the book's too big to finish in one sitting in the middle of the work week.  Argh.

Anyway, if you want to see time travel done right, you owe yourself some Connie Willis.  And don't worry, my dear atheists and skeptics: when she coulda gone there, she didn't.  You'll see what I mean when you read it.

I anticipate with dread the next Connie Willis tome.  I'm getting too old for this all-nighter shit.  But I know I won't be able to sleep until I've read every word.

That book has the honor of being the only fiction I've read in months.  Now on to the science!

The Practical Geologist

We shall start with this one, as I want it out of the way.  I'll say just this about it: I'm glad I waited to buy it until I found it used.  And I'm glad I read it in between calls at work instead of during my prime reading time at home.  It's not that it was bad, it just felt rushed, incomplete, and too thin to really accomplish much.  As an introduction to field geology for those who might kinda sorta be thinking about it, this book probably would do fine.  But there have got to be better books out there for people who really want to get into the meat and the marrow of this stuff.

And that is all I shall say about it.

Invitation to Oceanography

Yes, I am the kind of person who reads textbooks for fun.  I found this Third Edition at Half-Price Books, and since I always have this vaguely guilty sense that I should really know more about oceanography, picked it up.  The worst problem with it is that it's too floppy and big to read comfortably in bed.  Aside from that, it's easy to read.  Everything's clearly and logically laid out, the info boxes actually contain informative bits, and once I got done with it I felt rather less stupid when it comes to how the oceans work. There's even a bit in there that has to do with Seattle and will come in useful as I'm writing up Seattle's geology, so that's a delight.

Right, we've had water, now let's have some ice.  Lots and lots of ice.  Got on a glacial kick, didn't I?  And it all started with

Living Ice

This one was a good one to begin with.  It's a small book, but packed with delicious information and lots of educational photos.  Biggest problem being, this is a reprint, and some genius at the publisher decided they didn't need no stinkin' color plates this time round.  Grr.  Even without those, this is an excellent guide to how glaciers do their thing, eminently readable.

It might leave you feeling a little cold however.  A-ha-ha.

Frozen Earth

I've been meaning to read this one for years.  Anyone with even a passing interest in ice ages should pick this up.  It tells the story of the past, present and future of ice ages, from how we figured out there had been some to what they were like, possible causes, effects, and what we've got to look forward to.  You'll find out how works of fine art can double as climate detectives, run in to our old friend Louis Agassiz, beat about the brush with Bretz, and engage in all sorts of other antics.

This book did a good job showing the investigative nature of science, and showing the sheer power of ice sheets.  I enjoyed it muchly.

Glacial Geology

Told you I read textbooks for fun.

This one was a tough slog.  For some reason, I have a hard time envisioning how glaciers work, and this isn't your pop-sci explain-everything-in-dumbed-down-terms sort of book.  It is what it is: a serious motherfucking tome, chock full o' technical terms, math, illustrations, diagrams, and references to papers.  It doesn't coddle you.  And although I rather felt as if a large glacier had spent the last week grinding its way over my brain afterward, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Bonus: it's written by Brits, and nobody Americanized the spelling.  Wouldn't have complained about a better copy editor, though - apparently, it was proofed by a person who failed English 101.  But the typos don't detract from the book, and give a former English major something to feel intelligent about just after being hit head-on with actual math, so that's a little bit of all right, then.

And, after that book, I finally can look at glacial landforms and start to really see how and why they are the way they are.  Now that I've been through this trio of books, glaciers aren't the cold ciphers they were before.  Hell, I can even talk to you about the difference between cold-based and warm-based glaciers, and what sorts of landforms they each produce.  That's no small thing, considering the most I knew about glaciers till now was that they're a) big, b) icy, and c) dig and dump a hell of a lot of rock.

With that, we're at 46 and counting for the year, and that's not counting the number of books I haven't read all the way through yet, of which there are a lot.

Consider yourselves warned.

We Loved You, Holly

Our own George W. and his wonderful Mrs. DoF lost their beautiful, brave baby girl today.  They gave her one more summer and a fall, one last squirrel chase, before the time came.  They gave her a lovely life.  Dearest Holly, you surely chose the right humans to own. 

We got to know her through the photos her daddy posted.  Who can forget that adorable little face, intent on a glass of milk?

From George's Cats Album
We surely never will.  Hasta, Holly.  Oceans of love to you and your family.

23 October, 2010

Flu Shot Fears? Read This

Damn you, Connie Willis!  You made me abandon my readers to finish your damned book.  Stayed up until 7 in the ay-em to finish it, didn't I?  Now I'm dead on me feet.  I'm too old for this shit!

Makes me wish I'd got my flu shot a few weeks ago, because it takes two weeks to become effective, and right now people at my workplace are passing around all manner of horrible illnesses.  And here I am, exhausted, underfed, and vulnerable!  Not to mention, after having been up until well past bedtime, in no condition to go out and get one just now.  But I shall be doing it soon as I recover, and with this post from Mark Crislip, I won't be worried a bit.  Those who fear the flu shot should read this post, and take comfort.  Here are your risks, laid out in easy-to-understand comparisons:
The influenza vaccine is safe. Serious side effects are extremely rare and the risks from influenza are much greater. The vaccine is far safer than driving (30,000 deaths a year), taking a bath (450), or standing under a coconut tree (130). 
How can you be afraid of something that's less risky than a day at a tropical beach?

For those still worried about potential side effects, Mark cites studies that show just how minimal those side effects really are.  For someone like me who's never thrilled with the idea of someone poking needles into me, it's a wonderful reassurance that the whole enterprise won't be as bad as all that - and your risks of side effects go down if you get one every year.  Nice, eh?

All right, so you've already got your shot, or you have no fear of the thing at all - so why read the post?  Well, for one, gives you something to point frightened folks back to when they tell you they're refusing to get their shot because of x, y and z.  If you need to persuade a loved one to protect themselves, it's handy to have around.  It also explores why it's important for health care workers to get vaccinated, and why mandatory vaccinations wouldn't be a bad idea at all. 

And then there's moments like this:
The Cochrane review, as always with influenza, gets it wrong. While noting that “pooled data from three C-RCTs showed reduced all-cause mortality in individuals >/= 60.”, they go on to say “The key interest is preventing laboratory-proven influenza in individuals >/= 60, pneumonia and deaths from pneumonia, and we cannot draw such conclusions.” No, it is not the key interest. Most deaths from influenza are secondary deaths from exacerbation of underlying medical problems. All-cause mortality is an important endpoint, especially if you are the one dying. [emphasis added]
Here, here!

So, within the next week, I'll happily be getting my jab.  Just so long as Connie Willis doesn't ambush me with another book, that is....

21 October, 2010

So Much for Substance

I got the other half of Connie Willis's two-part book today.  I'm about to go devour it, much like egg-eating snakes devour their dinner.  Alas, my darlings, this means you should expect no posts of substance from me for at least 24 hours.

Instead, you're being subjected to a grab-bag of kitteh stuff.  Why?  Because I can, and because it's funny.  And at times heartwarming, such as this rescue reported by Jerry Coyne.  Moral: do not let your toddlers get their hands on kittens small enough to flush.  And Aussie firemen are awesome.

Lockwood found two items aptly demonstrating a writer's life with a cat:

Lotsa other funny stuff there both having and not having to do with cats, so if you haven't read his Sunday Funnies yet, what the hell are you waiting for?

Callan Bentley demonstrates that cats have no appreciation for the artist's workspace, either:

Well, actually, they appreciate it quite a lot, I suppose.  Just not in the way we might wish.

Bora tweeted a helpful guide to petting a cat.  Here's a taste:

Click for the rest.  Even if you're not a feline aficionado, you may still require these skills someday.  Think of the rich, cat crazy relative you may need to placate, who knows you're not allergic.

There.  Something fun for ye.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to WWII London.  Laters!

20 October, 2010

Wherein I Do Some Geology All By My Lonesome

Well, actually, my intrepid companion was there, but he paid more attention to the planes.

We've been to St. Edwards State Park before.  It's one of my regular haunts - I try to get there at least once a summer.  Convenient, y'see, and some of the best pebble-hunting grounds around.  There's a place at the end of the Grotto trail where you come on a nice sandy bit o' beach, with riprap trapping nice pools of water with pebbles in.  It's a fantastic place to linger on a summer afternoon.  Little cold for fall, though, which is too bad, because there's nothing like rolling ye olde pants up to the knee and plunging into the pools in search of pretty pebbles.  Last year, I even found some bits of glorious gray schist washed up, which is rare around Lake Washington.  This time, I found a few calico pebbles and a foliated chunk of something-or-other that I might, someday, be able to identify for certain, lingering close enough to the water's edge to prevent foot-freeze.

Here's a view of mah pebbly beach with foamy waves:

But the pebbles weren't half as exciting as being able to recognize geologic formations all by myself.

Too Bad I'm Happy Right Now

Because, as it turns out, a good fit of depression might be exactly what I need in order to get back to productive writing.  At last: scientific proof that very fucked-up people really are more creative people.

I can feel better about my neuroses now.  Woot!

But whilst I'm still happy, I'm going to finish that last book on glaciers I've got, read the long-awaited second half of Connie Willis's two-part book, peruse great geology blogs, tour a hospital, watch a fuck of a lot of Castle (we've got season two, y'know!), write up some geology, play with the kitteh, and enjoy my wonderful new car.  Come the first of November, if the gray, rainy days haven't done the job, I'll hold some onions up to my eyes and fake it 'till I make it.

19 October, 2010

A Fine Fall Day

And why not take advantage of it?  Okay, so it wasn't all that fine, but it wasn't peeing down rain and/or freezing cold, and there appeared to be a cloud break in the offing, so ye olde intrepid companion and I ventured down to St. Edward State Park for a (possible) last adventure before the rains come.

I found some geology there, which I shall tell you about very soon.  For now, we continue the fine old tradition of posting the outtakes whilst I'm still too tired to think.

My first experience with epiphytes was at St. Edward.  Before then, I'd known in an abstract sort of way that shit could grow on other shit, but this was the first time I'd seen actual plants growing merrily on actual branches.  And the thickness of this forest - overwhelming.  When the seaplanes aren't zipping overhead, there's barely any sound, and what does reach you is muffled by all the biology.

This is not something people from Arizona are used to.

18 October, 2010

They Weren't Kidding About the Goat

A few months ago, we saw this sign while hiking up on Hurricane Ridge.  And yes, it was funny at the time.  "Goat Warning" is a combination of words you just don't expect. 

Not funny now (h/t).

Rest in peace, Robert Boardman.  We here at the cantina extend our sympathies to your family.

Do Ya Think I'm Bluffing, Punk? Well, Do Ya?

Yup.  We finally made it to the actual geology of Discovery Park.  Be amazed.  Be very amazed.

I don't remember seeing South Bluff the first time I esplored, way back in 2000.  I'd abandoned my best friend to the vicissitudes of the big city, because he'd decided after our stint at Ravenna Park that he'd had enough of nature, thankseversomuch, and desired the wilds of a two-story Barnes and Noble.  I handed him the keys to the rental car, hopped a bus, and headed off to do me research.  I'd set an important scene at Discovery Park, y'see, and spent my time there busily trying to find locations that matched what I needed.  I did make it down to the beach, but all I remember from that excursion was the lighthouse, the washed-up jellyfish, and the baby seal - my first! - that posed so prettily for me.  I didn't make it much further than the point - had to get back up the hill and catch the bus back to the hotel.

So the first time I saw this:

- was May 2007, after I'd moved up here for good and all. 

Geologists in the audience may begin salivating... now. 

I spent quite a bit of time with that bluff that sunny afternoon, long enough for the sunlight reflecting from both water and cliff to burn me a nice bright red.  I remember patting it, delighted with its patterns, the stolid solidness of it.  I'd seen the signs up top saying it was unstable, but it was hard to believe them at the time.  Sure, people could (and unfortunately did) carve all sorts of nonsense into it, but then, they did the same thing to the lithified dunes around Page, so it didn't occur to me I wasn't looking at rock so much as a coulda-been-rock-someday.  I'm not used to what amounts to mud forming a vertical cliff, y'see.  First bluff I'd ever seen in my life. 

Click to embiggen that photo.  Take a closer look at it.  Note the trees around its shoulders.  See how they lean every-which-way?  See how young they are?  This is our first hint that the "unstable bluff" signs weren't lying.  Those trees occasionally get to take the ride of their young lives as the slopes below them go merrily slip-sliding into the sea.  Then they add to the driftwood population in Puget Sound.

Hard to believe you're looking at a glacial landform, innit?  Allow me to show you it:

Okay, part of it.  And this isn't really the glacial bit.  I can 'splain.  Or at least sum up.

17 October, 2010

Find the Alt Med That's Right for You!

I came across this last night whilst reading the comments on Orac's masterful takedown of laser Reiki, and it's too damned funny not to share.  Click for a larger image, and find that special alt med that suits you best!

16 October, 2010

Best Friday Dose of Woo Ever - or Should That Be Worst?

Orac occasionally reposts some of his classic Insolence, which is a good thing - especially when he reposts something so mind-meltingly five-alarm Woo that I wonder where it's been all my life.  This bit of classic Insolence alternatively made me laugh, cry and howl.  I ended up starting silently at my computer screen in numb disbelief.

A taste:
Regular readers of this blog are probably aware of my general opinion about Reiki and other "energy healing" modalities. In short, they're woo, pure and simple. Consequently, one might reasonably ask why I've never featured the woo that is Reiki in Your Friday Dose of Woo. There's a simple reason for that.

Basic Reiki is boring.

Really, I mean it. In and of itself, it just doesn't reach the level of sheer ecstatic nuttiness that I like to feature every week. Oh, sure, there's lots of handwaving about "channeling the universal energy" through the healer to augment the life force of the person being healed. Certainly there's lots of serious woo about being able to heal people at a distance or through laying on of hands. (And you thought Jesus was main guy known for this.) But, in its basic form, Reiki lacks something to put it truly over the top. I wasn't sure what it was, but I found out.

It's missing laser beams. No, really. We're talking about Laser Reiki, which provides this promise:
If you loved the movie The Matrix, then you will love healing your life and changing your reality with Laser Reiki.
Now we're talking! Personally, I did like The Matrix. I even liked The Matrix Reloaded. The Matrix Revolutions kind of sucked, though. Is Laser Reiki like The Matrix, or is it like The Matrix Revolutions? You be the judge!

It gets better (worse?) from there.  The shit some people come up with to 'splain why their chosen Woo is ever-so-scientific is truly remarkable.

Quantum physicists in the audience, be warned: your heads might explode.  This cantina is not responsible for traumatic brain injury, damage to furniture, walls, or electronics, or cleaning costs for removing bits of brain matter and skull shards from any nearby surfaces, up to and including carpet, chair, pets and loved ones.

Photos to Delight and Entertain You

Just because it's Saturday, and we could all use something light and cheerful.

Neil Gaiman has finally been spotted on ROFLRAZZI:

And Brian Switek found the cutest baby Apatosaurus in the entire universe:

Hee. It looks like it's trying to say its first word!

And, in wonderful news, our own Suzanne was on teevee with this gorgeous photo:

How many people can say they got their pitchoor on teevee for their birfdai?  Woot!

15 October, 2010

Some Things of Especial Note

Whilst you're waiting for me to get my arse in gear on the whole Discovery Park geo thing, here's some lively links to keep you busy.

Callan Bentley's moving!  He'll be joining the new American Geophysical Union's new blog consortium by the end of the month, so watch his space for directions to the new digs.  Congratulations, Callan!

(Ye gods - will we all be assimilated into networks?!)

Our own George W. has a fascinating post up on the powers of 10.  My mind, it is blown!

Marcelo Gleiser explains why science matters.  If you missed it the first few times it made the rounds, don't dare miss it now.

Carl Zimmer explores where e-Book publishing might take us.  Those who believe writing and reading are dead, take heart!

And (dum-DUM-dum!) Readers Beware!  Which says everything that needs to be said to arrogant asscrunches who think bloggers are unwashed, untrustworthy little pissants sullying the fine reputation of journalism.

Special Day

It r a speshul dai for Suzanne!

Happi happi birfdai!

We wuv u, Suzanne! 

13 October, 2010

As For Being Shrill, Strident, Etc.

Once again, the "tone" argument's making the rounds (does it ever cease?  It circles like a dog attempting to capture its own fugitive tail).  Ophelia Benson's already pointed out a few of the more annoying examples.  And she led me to this delightful bit by Jason Rosenhouse, which comes just in time, because a dear (and horribly neglected) friend of mine posted rather more sensibly on the issue (hi, Paul!).  I'd meant to come up with something thoughtful and considered that would explain my position, but find I don't have to.  All one has to do is read Jason's post and imagine me standing there jumping up and down going, "Me, too!"

I'd quote from it, but I can't find a single bit I want to excerpt because I want to excerpt it all.  But if you've ever wondered what we shrill, strident, unabashed defenders of evolution, atheism, and all things rational are thinking, this is pretty much it in a nutshell.

And remember, my dearest Paul, that we're not trying to convert the unconvertable.  Nothing we do will reach the men and women who spend their days swearing Jesus rode a dinosaur.  Politeness won't do it, any more than a good sharp smack will.  Think of the old psychologists-changing-a-lightbulb joke: the only way anything works is if they want to change.

No, we're rallying the troops and aiming at the fence-sitters.  And as one of those who got knocked off the fence and had some good sense jolted in to me by those horrible shrill Gnu Atheists, as a person who disavowed woo for science because PZ, Orac et al didn't have any trouble calling a spade a silly little shite, I can testify that being contentious sometimes does more than raise morale for the choir.  Sometimes, it awakens passion, wonder, and courage in people who might've sat it out.

It takes all kinds.  Changing the world isn't a simple task!

(For those who haven't had the pleasure, I can wholeheartedly recommend Paul's lovely Cafe Philos blog.  After a long day in the trenches, it's nice to sit with a cup of coffee and just enjoy some thought-provoking serenity.)

Adventurous Outtakes

I shall not bore you with the sordid details of my life, but just say: it's chaos here.  So no geology just yet.  I'll have something up by Saturday, after carving out some research time.

In the meantime, let us have some outtakes from Monday's outing.  My intrepid companion and I had plans.  Oh, yes.  I'd pick him up, and we'd have some lunch, and then watch a fuck of a lot of Castle.  But the weather didn't cooperate.  No, instead of peeing down rain, or being cloudy and cold, it decided to be all sunny and sweet.  We ended up attempting a visit to Dash Point State Park.

It was closed.

So we drove up the shoreline, and ended up at Discovery Park instead.  Been meaning to get there since getting the new camera, after all, and when you want a spot o' hiking and a bit o' beach with perhaps a lighthouse and a view of the Olympics, there's no better place to go:

West Point Lighthouse and the Olympic Mountains, Discovery Park
Okay, yes, I know, there are clouds, and I said it was sunny.  It was sunny.  I mean, there were whole patches of sky that looked suspiciously blue, and there were frequent glimpses of the evil yellow hurty thing, and some of my pictures show actual sunlight.  Evidence below the fold.

12 October, 2010

Dumbfuckery du Jour

I know, I know, there's plenty of Con dumbfuckery to bash.  But let's face facts: we already know they're a bunch of remarkable dumbfucks who shouldn't be trusted with pointy scissors, much less public office.  And besides, Mary Landrieu's probably headed for their ranks just as soon as she forgets that the Teabagging masses don't elect former Dems.  She's already getting her practice at pulling remarkably fucktarded Con stunts:
Last month, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) announced that she would be blocking “the nomination of Office of Management and Budget [OMB] director Jack Lew until the Obama administration lifts its deepwater drilling moratorium,” singlehandedly hobbling the OMB. 

Today, the Obama administration announced that it will be ending its deepwater drilling moratorium. “The policy position that we are articulating today is that we are open for business,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters at a news conference. Yet Landrieu said in a statement today that she still refuses to lift her hold on Lew’s nomination, and will continue to “evaluate if today’s lifting of the moratorium is actually putting people back to work” and “whether or not drilling activity in both shallow and deep water is resuming” over the next month before making a decision...
Even your average hostage taker is more reasonable than these shit-for-brains wanna-be Cons.

So, my dear Louisiana voters, if you elect to send Landrieu into an early retirement, you have my blessing.  It's just too bad she won't end up on unemployment with no prospect of a job, her benefits set to expire because shit-for-brains supposed Senators can't see their way clear to extending them, living in a box on an oil-slicked beach, watching as the oil companies collect their subsidies, fuck over our environment, and laugh all the way to the bank.  Seeing her kicked out of office shall have to suffice.

New Geology Coming Soon

Just got done putting over 200 miles on the car and a few miles on the legs.  After I've had a good sleep, I shall tell thee all about it.  In the meantime, here's a photo from today's outing:

And, while we're at it, and because the cat doesn't believe it's bedtime yet, here's a sneak peek at what I've got planned for ye:

There.  Now aren't you glad I abandoned you with a very silly pre-loaded post instead of staying home today?  ;-)


Over at Glacial Till, Ryan has a post up sparkling with excitement - his first trip up Mt. Hood, y'see.  Read it if you haven't.  His enthusiasm's contagious, and we can all use some of that.

Sparked some memories, that, and a few realizations.  This threw me a bit:
Nor was I prepared for the decreased amount of oxygen available at 6000 ft above sea level. However, I survived the altitude sickness with nothing worse than a slight head ache. Not bad for my first time at that altitude outside of an airplane.
We're surrounded by mountains that soar into the 14,000 ft range round here, so it's easy to forget we actually live closer to sea level.  Where I live in the Seattle metro area, for instance, doesn't get much above 300 ft.  But I'm surrounded by hills, so it feels higher.

I grew up at high altitude.  The lowest elevation I saw in my young years was 4,000 ft, and I didn't live below 1200 until I moved from Arizona.  I still have trouble remembering I don't need to follow the high altitude directions when cooking.  My mind will always be somewhere up there.

And when I think of high altitude, one memory comes to mind.

11 October, 2010

Cleaning and Creativity

Cleaning day is a very dangerous day.

After taking Silmë for a walk (okay, drive), during which I picked up business cards from my favorite dealer and got reassured I'd made an excellent car-buying choice, I decided it's time to excavate the house.  And yes, I do mean excavate.  Part of this enterprise involved vacuuming.  My vacuum cleaner didn't survive the experience.  I've known for a while the ol' motor wasn't what it used to be, and today, it told me to fuck off while it died.  Well, at least it did that after I'd finished the carpets.  It's been a good and loyal vacuum for a good many years, and it was just its time.

Then I had to iron my curtains, because when I washed them, they got all wonky.  One looked much longer than the other.  This wasn't right.

So I've been off the intertoobz for a good proportion of the day, and right now all I want to do is put my bed back together and stay in it for a few days.  But there's an interesting post I felt it necessary to highlight: "How to Trick Yourself Creative."  It seems people actually study this stuff, and here are some conclusions:

However, in terms of the science, here's what I can offer:
  • Longer periods of preparation beget longer periods of incubation;
  • When solving linguistic problems (making sense of a given set of information) engaging in tasks with a low cognitive demand is most effective in generating insight during incubation;
    High congitive demand tasks during incubation are not facilitative;
  • When solving creative problems, it seems engaging in a wide information search (during incubation) is most effective; and
  • When a problem has a limited set of solutions, information search may not be facilitative; Incubation most benefits 'divergent thinking'*, followed by linguistic tasks, followed by visual tasks (like mental rotations)
So I do not want to hear a single fucking snarky comment the next time I am blocked and doing things like building Japanese villages out of toothpicks instead of writing.  That falls under the "tasks with a low cognitive demand" category, m'kay?  And if anybody gives me shit over those endless rambles through Google and reference books, I shall hit them over the head with a rolled-up copy of the above post.  Fair warning.

I'm turning the floor over to you, my darlings.  What do you do when your creativity needs a good boost?

10 October, 2010

Faux News Megafail

Read.  Marvel.  Weep.

Just how desperate to find a story--and a controversy--do you have to be to believe this is real:
Anchors at the Fox News national morning news show "Fox and Friends" reported Tuesday that the city of Los Angeles had ordered 10,000 jetpacks for its police and fire departments. The price tag: a whopping $100,000 per unit.
Yes, jet packs. Thousands of them. Maybe that should have set off warning bells. Well, actually it did, but this being Fox News, well... (italics mine):
For those doing the math at home, the cash-strapped city of Los Angeles, which is regularly sending its police detectives home because it can't pay all their overtime, allegedly shelled out a billion dollars on space-age transportation that it has never used in an emergency situation, much less tested.

"We certainly haven't bought any jetpacks," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. "We haven't bought [squad] cars for two years."

As Gawker.com was the first to note, the "Fox and Friends" report appeared to contain material taken right out of a story from the Weekly World News tabloid, which bills itself as "The World's Only Reliable New Source."
Look.  I know the tabloids were right that one time when they broke the story of John Edwards's love child.  But that was the Enquirer, which is attempting some respectability (perhaps trying to fill a sucking void of respectability left in journalism when Faux News started broadcasting), whereas the Weekly World News is the same as it ever was - a rag full of made-up shit that only complete fucking morons believe is true. Shit, I'll bet you cash money you could present it to a classroom full of special needs kids and a good majority of 'em would know it's complete bullshit. 

The problem is this: Faux News fucktards likely don't watch Mythbusters because they believe it's a librul conspiracy, and we know they think science is a bunch of left-wing hooey (except the science they agree with, of course), so they probably aren't aware that we aren't yet living la vida Jetsons.  They're easy marks for anyone who wants to sell them a guvmint waste line.  And, apparently, any rag that claims Hillary Clinton's adopted an alien baby rates high on their truthiness scale.

There's something that the folks who do the ratings need to keep in mind, here: yes, Faux News has high ratings.  That's because a handful of very insanely stupid viewers believe every word they say, and because a large number of people tune in because they can't believe what the fucktards just said and keep watching to see what shit-for-brains dumbfuckery gets spouted next.

It's really too bad Faux News is televised, not printed on pulp.  But I suppose it's just a bit too stupid to be called tabloid journalism.  At least the tabloids understand they're reporting made-up shit.  The same, alas, is not true for the gullible goobs at Faux.

PZ's So Right

And I know that every woman who reads this will agree.  Here's PZ reading an email from an idiot (PZ's response in red):
if "there is no sign of a loving, personal god, but only billions of years of pitiless winnowing without any direction other than short-term survival and reproduction", then who decides the rules and regulations of man [Woman. Definitely woman.].
Aw, yeah!

Real Home Remedies

Amazingly enough, there are a few that work, and a whole book dedicated to them that doesn't promise miracles, doesn't proffer total bullshit, and doesn't keep you from seeing the doctor until it's too fucking late:
I received a prepublication proof of The Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies: What to Do for the Most Common Health Problems. It is due to be released on October 26 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com. Since “quackademic” medicine is infiltrating our best institutions and organizations, I wasn’t sure I could trust even the prestigious Mayo Clinic. I was expecting some questionable recommendations for complementary & alternative medicine (CAM) treatments, but I found nothing in the book that I could seriously object to.

Nowhere does it mention acupuncture, chiropractic, energy medicine, or homeopathy. It gives good, clear guidance about when a health problem should not be treated with home remedies. Its recommendations about diet and exercise are solid. It doesn’t recommend anything that can’t be supported by published studies and common sense. When it recommends herbal remedies and diet supplements, it is cautious about what it claims. 

ZOMG.  I didn't think that was possible.  Might have to actually buy this one, because having a handy tome on reliable home remedies that will tell me when it's time to put down the home remedy and pick up the phone would be ideal.  Also nice to have such things vetted so I'm not wasting money on total bullshit, or hours online trying to sort the useful bits from the bullshit.

Figured I'd pass the knowledge along in case you lot were yearning for such an item.

09 October, 2010

Quote o' the Day

Just because I always enjoy bashing Chris Mooney.  I consider it something of a spectator sport with occasional audience participation.  See his hysteria summed up rather wonderfully:
Really – Mooney seems to have this very easily-triggered terror that a critical comment from one person about one other person will cause some terrible, general, societal harm. But is the structure really that fragile? Are cascades that easy to set off? PZ calls Collins a clown and, whammo, children flee biology class, and Congress passes laws making fuel economy a felony, and the glaciers melt and everybody dies.

What people like Chris Mooney don't realize is that you can't change the world without shaking people up.  His freaking out at the slightest non-accommodating remark is just pathetic.

08 October, 2010

I Miss My Spider

A few weeks ago, a spider came to live on my porch.  It built large and beautiful webs, taking advantage of the porch rail and rafters.  When it rained, the web collected raindrops and became something enchanting:

When it stopped raining, the silvery web against the dark green trees shone as if hundreds of diamonds had flown into it and gotten stuck:

(Arachnophobes: do not go below the fold.)

Food for Thought, Food for Disgust

First, the food for thought - a long but interesting post regarding the utility (or not) of religion in society.  Geez, that sounded stodgy.  Let's try "Celebrity Death Match between Philip Kitcher and Daniel Dennett!!1!11!"

There.  Now, doesn't that sound intriguing?

And here's the food for disgust:
In a Rage Reduction therapy session, a child is restrained by a therapist – usually a licensed psychologist or social worker – plus one or more assistants. The therapist “activates” a child by yelling, belittling, threatening, relentlessly tickling, bouncing the child’s head, covering his mouth, and painfully knuckling the child’s rib cage and sternum. Such sessions typically go on for two or more hours, until the child is exhausted from struggling and becomes, as one psychologist observed, “a whimpering little puddle.” Children, even teenagers, are then swaddled and given a baby bottle by their adopted mother for “bonding time.”

Can you believe this stupid fucking shit is still done to children?  If you want to get your own rage on, read that whole post.

And a special bonus: if you want to twist any noses today, why not ask a Teabagger why they hate puppies?

07 October, 2010

Stuff Comes from Somewhere

Back before I distracted by the shiny new car and purchasing of same, our own George W. had a post up that really forced some thinking.  And it's all because he was up at 4 in the morning thinking about bolts:
Where’s the nickel (which plates the bolt) mined? What’s the state of mine-safety technology? Do mining companies pay lobbyists to keep the laws lax? Or more likely, does the manufacturer just buy the nickel salts for plating from some third-world country where the government doesn’t protect the workers or the rivers or the children who live along them? Is that why the bolts are so cheap? What’s the external cost of the carbon output from manufacturing the bolt? Maybe that’s the reason I saved the bolt that was left over from a project of years ago.  Or maybe I’m just really cheap.
Read the whole post.  It'll make you think about bolts, politics, change and resources all in one go, which is damned impressive for a short post brought on by insomnia.  This is why I love George's blog so: when I leave there, it's not with the same eyes as when I arrived.

06 October, 2010

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Boy, that didn't take long.  Two minutes of scanning headlines, and I come across this remarkable distopian example of the kind of lives we'd lead if Cons could have their way:

As ThinkProgress has noted, there are currently two competing visions of governance in the United States. One, the conservative vision, believes in the on-your-own society, and informs a policy agenda that primarily serves the well off and privileged sectors of the country. The other vision, the progressive one, believes in an American Dream that works for all people, regardless of their racial, religious, or economic background.

The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee. In this rural section of Tennessee, Gene Cranick’s home caught on fire. As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county’s firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county’s fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground.
RIP three dogs and a cat that burned to death because firefighters wouldn't take the $75 Mr. Cranick offered them and do their fucking jobs.  I have no idea how these fucktards can live with themselves.   I have no idea what kind of fucktards thought a subscription service rather than a simple tax would be a brilliant idea. 

You know, I seem to recall discussing this just last month:
Quite soon, we'll start hearing about how emergency services would do much better if they were privatized, as the free market is almost godlike in its ability to solve our every problem.  City and state governments, they'll say, should contract with private entities for the provision of fire and police services.  Why, that would be almost as good as cutting programs meant to help icky poor people out of the budget!  Someone should explain the history of private firefighting to them and ask if they're pining for a return to those halcyon days of private enterprise.
And here I come to find out that you don't have to travel all the way back to nineteenth century America - why, you can just head down to rural Tennessee to see good ol' private emergency services in action! Wait, I mean, inaction.

As for those who, like Glenn Beck, argue that the Cranicks could've avoided all this by simply paying up, let me just mention that a) putting out fires before they spread to neighboring, fully-subscribed properties isn't a bad idea, b) watching as helpless animals and a family's home burn to the ground is a sociopathic thing to do and c) people don't always make farsighted decisions, which is why some decisions shouldn't be left to them.  I'm sure if we dug into your life, Glenn, we'd find some pretty piss-poor contingency planning lurking around somewhere.  And who's gonna scream loudest if someone doesn't come rescue you?  You, that's who.  Conservatives always pull that shit.  They'll all sneer and "personal responsibility" and free market until it's their property in flames, and then it's one long, sustained tantrum because the government they starved to death didn't save them.

There are basic things a civilization needs in order to be a civilization.  A tax base that provides essential services like fire, emergency and police to every member of a community is one.  And if, because Cons hate taxes so much they'd rather pay a fee instead of a tax, a community ends up with a primitive-fucking fire department based on a subscription service, the least bit of human fucking decency should dictate that at the very least, when the homeowner's proffering payment on the spot, you put out his fucking fire.  Or put out the fucking fire and bill him the fucking $75.  Whatever.  Just fight the fucking fire.

This, my darlings, is what happens when the shortsighted voting public elects the sociopaths.  Not pretty, is it?

Think carefully on that before you head to the polls this November.

In Which I Name My Car

Yeah, so, I'd planned to return to the regular weekday political blogging, maybe put a little something up on science, get back into the flow.  But it took me over an hour to get to work today.  Had to drive the car around looking for an emergency kit for it, right?  And then there was the obligatory drive down Forbes Creek.

After work, it took me two hours to get back home, going by way of Monroe and Gold Bar, whilst Sean and I listened to Epica and yakked about The Ghosts of Cars Past, zombie apocalypses, and other such subjects.

And I could've caught up on some political reading between calls at work, but I spent most of my time today browsing steering wheel covers on Amazon and hitting up teh Google for Elvish sites.

You see, I'd decided last night, as I lay abed, that this car needed a name that reflected my Lord of the Rings obsession.  I'd been thinking of her as Silver - not simply because of the color, but because of a line in a Kamelot song: "Shine on silver / From the sky into the night / Gaia shivers / And I need your leading light."  So, what the hell?  Why not the Elvish word for "silver"?

Because it's celeb, that's why.   So what if it's pronounced "kay-leb" - it still looks like something out of a star stalker magazine.  Poor Professor Tolkien.  He couldn't have foreseen that indignity to his beautiful language.

Wordlist after wordlist finally led me to the right name: Silmë (seel-may).  Oh, you may laugh.  Go right ahead.  But here's why: it means "starlight," and is also the poetic word for "silver" in the Quenya (ancient Elvish) tongue.  It satisfies my desire for a name meaning "silver" in one of Tolkien's languages.  So there we are.  Silmë. 

That's her name. 

Now if only they made LOTR steering wheel covers...