Friday, September 30, 2005

Yawn. Stretch. Sigh. Smile.

I was queen of the ampules this morning. Made a new batch of material and sealed those suckers up in under an hour! Victory in this arena, henceforth, shall be expected and no longer noteworthy, but I'll take one last bow for the time being.

*bow*

I'm in a good mood because a) it's Friday! and b) it occurred to me at lunch that I actually accomplished all the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the week. It's been a while since I haven't had one of those "eh, I'll get to it Monday" Fridays. (Wow, that sentence only barely makes sense...)

As for weekend plans, I haven't many (aside from reading, homework, reading, reading...), but tomorrow night is the season premiere of Saturday Night Live, about which I wouldn't be excited were it not for the fact that Steve Carell is hosting. That guy is funny, and I'm hoping his humor will be enough to counteract the tragic unfunnyness that has befallen SNL of late. I laughed like an insane person at The 40 Year Old Virgin, so it's possible!

Also looking forward to two days of letting the sun rise before I wake up. That'll be nice. Always is, after all. ;)

All right, better finish up the last few odds and ends around here before I jet on home. Good weekending, all. :)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Just call me the burninatrix

The week draws to a close, and I am grateful. Today wasn't all bad. I stumbled around this morning, trying to get the ampule sealer to obey me, but the damned thing doesn't respond too well to verbal cajoling...or threats. Eventually, however, victory was mine! I finally figured out how to get the ampules properly sealed before the material within them has time to react with the open air to form undesired precipitate.

Hehe, that reminds me of my most favorite Toothpaste for Dinner comic of all time.

Anyway, there will be more burnination adventures tomorrow, since I ran out of material before I filled my quota of ampules (d'oh! too bad I messed up so many earlier this week); I'll have to make a new batch in the morning and seal the last two ampules. It shouldn't take too long, since I've got a method now.

Goin' on home to Papa John's pizza. :) And homework. :( But that's ok. ;)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

And Now in the "That's F-ed Up" Department...

Datrick links to the web comic Perry Bible Fellowship on his blog, and then Adam also recommended it, so Tom and I checked it out over the weekend. It's one of those comics that leaves you shaking your head and saying "Man, that's messed up," even as you're chuckling (or in some cases, laughing uproariously). Very amusing. Examples below.








Slow Day and Santa Anas

Yesterday was very nearly interminable. For a little while, I feared the day would in fact never end. It's so strange, isn't it, how on occasion time will just seem to pass so slowly, no matter how busy you may or may not be? Blech. Fortnuately though, today seems to be a little better so far in that regard.

I sat in the car in the parking lot this morning, reluctant to get out because of the heavy winds buffeting my vehicle. Cold mornings I can handle, but I could do without freezing winds while I'm walking around in my shirtsleeves a little after 6am. It wasn't until I had braced myself and actually stepped out of the car that I remembered - oh yeah - we have those crazy warm Santa Ana winds here. It was downright tropical! It's been pleasant this morning, but I know that just means it'll be hot this afternoon. Oh well. Careful what you wish for, right?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Pretty morning clouds

Sometimes, driving to work just as dawn is breaking has its perks. This morning, for example, the clouds were exceptionally neat. On my way to work (westbound), they were mostly a smokey gray with shiny white caps at the top. Then once I got to work and was strolling across the parking lot (eastbound), they were gray at the top and glowing a bright pinkish red along the bottom. Changing direction yet again to walk toward my office (northbound), they were tri-colored - white at the top, gray to the left, and tinged with pink on the right side. It was really quite the beautiful morning skyscape.

Hey, unusual cloud color might not be the most exciting thing ever, but I've got to find something positive from the fact that I have to get up so damned early.

Mmm...pizza

Last night we went over to Max's for dinner. He and Demetri were making pizzas, and not just any pizzas...gourmet pizzas. The first one was in the oven when we arrived - Thai peanut with veggies. Whoa. It was really, really tasty. The peanut butter sauce was also very filling, because after two pieces each, we were all pretty full. Still, the boys continued with pizza number two. This one was pesto and Roquefort. There was a lot of Roquefort on the pizza, and I thought it'd be too overpowering for me, but I was pleasantly surprised. I would've had a second slice if I weren't stuffed to the gills.

After dinner Max dug out his sack-o-laundry quarters and we played poker. Normally I'm not too adept at poker, but by some miracle I ended up in second place. And it was fun. :)

Today was chore day (I think the bathroom is now the cleanest it's been since we moved in), and I was granted online access to my next class. Holy smokes; this one is a complete 180 from Crazyland. Two exams, a 15-page research paper, 500+ pages of reading, plus homework. This is how I expected grad school to be! Hopefully I won't be a quivering wreck by the end of the 4 weeks. I'm optimistic though; the subject matter looks extremely interesting and cool.

And now it's time for bed, because the new work week is a scant few hours away. Ohhhh joy.

It's baaaaaaaaaaaack...

Tonight was the return of The West Wing (or, as Tom calls it, "political pornography for liberals"). I remember a time when the fall television season didn't really start until the November premiere of The X-Files, but times, they are a-changing. Or have a-changed. Whatever. At any rate, the hour went by way too quickly, and I'm excited to see what this season has in store. They'd better resolve the Josh & Donna thing, that's all I'm saying.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Well now, aren't we the social butterflies?

Last night was the "new grad student orientation" party at Caltech. Tom heard they'd be roasting a whole goat and really wanted to go check it out, so we went. Turned out to be a theme party (Heaven & Hell), and there were a surprising number of costumed people in attendance. Very amusing. It was also surprisingly social and party-like for a Caltech function; sure, there were the typical discussions of research and whatnot, but there was a drunk girl wandering around in her bra (surrounded of course by a crowd of drooling nerds) and some of the boys spat rum fireballs. So that was quite unusual.

And of course, there was indeed a dessicated-looking headless goat roasting on a spit. It was pretty creepy-looking with its little neck flesh dangling - it reminded me of "The Mummy" - but Tom said it was really tasty. All in all, a fun evening, and the latest I've stayed up in a goodly while.

Tonight we've been invited to a gathering at Max's. He and Demetri are going to make pizzas, so we'll be hanging out with the usual crowd there. Should be fun!

Testing, Testing...

Took the first exam of my graduate career this morning. It went all right; it was of course Professor Crazypants's class, so some of the questions were worded really strangely, but overall I felt pretty good about it. The cool thing about these online classes and online multiple-choice exams - instant grade notification! No agonizing for days about how well I did. I got 82% on the final, which means I'll end up with a high B in the class (probably a good thing, since I'm fairly certain it's a testament to my sanity that I didn't get a perfect grade in Crazy 101), and now I can put it out of my mind and move on to the next. Forensic Psychology, Psychiatry and Law starts on Monday...yippee kai-yay.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Coolness from the mountain


The Mt. Wilson Solar Towercam captured this shot of a rocket launch from Vandenberg AFB yesterday evening. No alterations were made to this image. Pretty cool, no?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Plane Autumn Days

So this was the big news around these parts yesterday afternoon. Just gonna make a few quick observations I thought were amusing. I heard about the whole debacle after the plane had been circling for a couple of hours, so I flipped on the local news coverage to see what was happening. The answer was...not a lot. Apparently that particular model of Airbus is incapable of dumping fuel, so they were forced to fly around at low altitude until they'd burned off enough fuel to land safely (i.e. without a high probability of bursting into a huge fireball upon touch-down). The local newscasters eventually ran out of things to talk about, said the plane would likely still be circling for another 30 or 40 minutes, and returned us viewers to our regularly-scheduled programming.

I was curious to see if national news had picked up the story yet, so I switched over to FOX...not a little because I thought they would probably have more amusing coverage than CNN. I was not disappointed.

They had interrupted Bill O'Slimeball to talk about it. Apparently the folks back in NY don't talk to their local affiliates much, because Laurie Dhue kept emphatically informing the viewers that the plane "was due to land at any moment!" For fifteen minutes she kept telling me they were on their final approach into LAX. Yeah...not so much there, Laurie. Eventually she talked to the local FOX guy who set her straight. O'Slimeball's show ended and Sean Halamity took over.

While talking to some expert or other, Hannity said, "[Expert], I keep hearing them talking about 'foaming the runway.' Now, I've never even heard of that. What are they talking about?" I'm sorry, are you just trying to make the home viewer feel smarter or are you really that dumb? Come on, man.

Now here's something I didn't know. Another thing Hannity kept saying was, "Now, they've got TVs on board and could very likely be watching this very broadcast right now! So, to the passengers, if you're watching, know that our prayers are with you." And I thought to myself, Idiot. Planes can't show live TV. It would interfere with the navigation equipment. They play pre-recorded news and other programming; everyone knows that. But this is apparently not the case. Some airlines (or maybe it's just Jet Blue, but I can't imagine so) actually have satellite dishes on top of the planes, with which the passengers can watch live programming, and it doesn't screw with the instruments. Go figure.

Anyway, everything of course resolved without incident, which is good. I know I wouldn't have wanted to be on that plane, no matter how many reassurances the pilot gave about the probability of a perfectly safe landing.

Moving on...the calendar on my desk tells me it's the first day of Autumn today. Felt more like it a couple of days ago when we had a pretty good thunderstorm (lasted all night and into the next day) than today, with the cloudless blue sky and warmer ambient temperature, but there you have it. My calendar also informs me that today is the 55th aniversary of the first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight made by jet aircraft. Nifty.

That's all I've got for now. Happy first day of Fall, everyone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

These Peoples Tried Ta Fade Me!

Ever since I started working over at the far side of the plant, I've been entering through the security gate in the morning instead of going through the lobby. There's a guard shack, and the security guard inside will press a button to unlock the gate once you show him your badge. Or at least, that's the way it's supposed to work.

There's one guard who does not seem to understand this process. One morning I arrived to find the guard shack completely empty. I looked around a bit and finally saw him moseying across the parking lot. I have no idea what he was up to, but it seems he oughtn't leave his post, especially when he's the only one who can let people in to start their workday. Another morning I walked by the shack, holding my badge up, and he didn't even see me. Why? Because he was gaping slack-jawed at the solitaire game he was playing on the computer. I had to stand in front of the window for a few seconds, waving, before I was able to get his attention. Yesterday I stood in the (albeit light) rain waiting for him to quit gabbing to his buddy and buzz me in.

I don't blame the guy for being bored at his post (I certainly wouldn't want his job), but it seems to me the company probably should have hired someone a bit more suited to the task of guarding. Might have been a little better investment, I think.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Stuck in my head...

I do believe it's true
that there are roads left in both of our shoes,
but if the silence takes you then I hope it takes me, too.

So Brown Eyes I'll hold you near
'cause you're the only song I want to hear,
a melody softly soaring through my atmosphere.


-Death Cab for Cutie, "Soul Meets Body"

Monday, September 19, 2005

Soundtrack to Crazytown

I have only managed thus far to import three albums into my iTunes on the new laptop. I keep meaning to add more, but then it seems like such a big job that I put it off for another day. Anyway, I listen to these three albums, one after another, as background music for my profiling class's chat sessions, and they're about as different from one another as they could be.

Album 1: Movin' Melodies by ATB - German (I think) techno/trance artist. Repetitive but upbeat, not too distracting because it sort of blends into the background.

Album 2: Plans by Death Cab For Cutie - Loving this album. Brings me right down from the head-bobbing beats of ATB, puts me in more of a pensive mood, which probably ain't too bad for this class. Somewhat distracting though, beacause I want to sing along...

Album 3: Amelie Soundtrack - Ninety percent of this album is just so happy! Hippity little accordian, tweedley strings and woodwinds, tinkley piano and bells. I can't not smile listening to it...which makes for a strange contrast when my prof is lecturing about violent pedophiles, serial killers, and sex offenders. Right now, for example, he's talking about the role of evil in the world (how it is a "gift" to us), and I just can't really get into it. Then again, I think I'd have a hard time getting into this lecture with or without the Amelie influence.

"When you understand that evil is a grindstone that pulls you implacably along, pulverizing into dust all romantic delusions from you so as to refine you, then you will need no one or no thing to complete you. No fallacy can make a home in you. Ignorance is dead, not alive in your perceptions. You will have no need for this world's admiration and reassurance - when you defeat need, you have no use for anyone and therefore no one can use you - do you see evil's gift?"

I think I'm glad I'll be moving on to my next class in a week. ;)

Burninating the Ampules

Today I get to play with the ampule sealer thingamabob. Fire, molten glass, moving parts...should be fun. ;)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Still (horse) crazy after all these years

A few months back, Tom and I got on a "kids' books reading kick." We read through the Wrinkle in Time series and The Westing Game, enjoying the little trip down memory lane.

When I was a wee child (and a dorky pre-teen), I was all about the horse books. I didn't much care about plot, realism, quality of writing...nope, as long as there was a horse involved, I was perfectly content. Obviously, some books were better than others. In particular, I remember very much enjoying Walter Farley's Black Stallion and Island Stallion series. Having so recently indulged in a reading extravaganza of juvenile literature, I got the itch to revisit these old favorites as well.

This morning I ventured over to the public library to get myself a library card and fetch some Farley books. It's kind of an odd building, all low-ceilinged and crowded with shelves, with a twisting staircase in the center and floors that feel just a little unstable, like they're made out of corrugated aluminum and covered with carpet. The book selection's decent enough; doesn't hold a candle to OSU's library of course, but it's a damn sight better than, say, the Josephine County library.

All right. So I had to find the children's section, and then not be embarrassed to peruse it. I'm not sure if it's a pride issue (I swear I'm reading at way more than a 6th grade level) or a guilt issue (I shouldn't be stealing kids' books away from them) or what, but I will admit I felt a little self-conscious as I quickly scanned the stacks, looking for Farley. It's dumb. I had no reason to feel weird about wandering through the kids' section in my mid-twenties, not really. But I did, regardless.

Anyway, eventually I located the cache o' horse books (The Black Stallion, Son of the Black Stallion, The Island Stallion, The Black Stallion Challenged, The Island Stallion Races, The Black Stallion's Blood Bay Colt, etc. etc. etc.), right next to a table where two little boys were working on their math homework, their mothers glancing at me suspiciously (or so I imagined). I resisted the urge to linger at the shelves, looking at all the books that had so captivated me as a youngster. I snatched The Black Stallion and The Island Stallion and made for the exit. Took a bit of doing, but I figured out the self-check-out machine and headed for home.

I had some homework to do this afternoon for my Profiling class (professor's still insane, by the way...just so you know), but I took a break to start reading The Black Stallion. And I was...disappointed. :(

I got about halfway through it and, sure, parts of the book were just like I remembered, but I'm bummed out that the writing is somewhat...lacking. There are big ol' holes in the plot, requiring much suspension of disbelief, which frankly I'm not all that capable of anymore. Sigh. Why can't authors writing for kids just do better? It's true, I read those books as a young'un with no discontent whatsoever, happily oblivious to glaring inaccuracies and unaccounted-for gaps in time, but there's no reason we shouldn't be able to hold children's authors to a higher standard. Many of them pull it off, penning stories that are just as accessible/acceptable to an older reader as to a younger one. But just as many write lazily, assuming their audience won't know any better.

Now, I'm all for flights of fancy and encouraging an active imagination in children. But there's something inherently offensive to me about writers feeling they don't have to try as hard because their readers are young. Damnit.

Anyway, probably better get back to studying arsonists, rapists, pedophiles and serial killers. Perhaps after another few hours of reading about such unpleasantness, an innocuous if improbable story of a boy and his wild stallion won't seem quite so bad.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I'm that guy (er...gal)

I remember those early months, right after I started working here. Whenever I had to go get material from some area or other of the plant, with no clue where exactly to go or whom to talk to, I asked Todd for help. I'd follow him around like the newbie I was, always impressed at how he seemed to know everyone, no matter where we were going. Walking through the halls we'd get waves from everyone.

"Hey Todd, how's it going?"
"Not bad, bubba, what's shaking?"
"Same old, man. Take care."

We'd get to our destination, he would introduce me to whomever, and then the next time I had to go to the same place, I'd go on my own, armed with another name/face, another contact. My arsenal of contacts slowly grew. Now, I know this isn't unusual in any way; this is how you network, how you get by in any work environment. I guess what surprised me was how suddenly it seemed that I'd gotten to know a whole lot of folks.

Now, a year and (almost) two months after starting my job, I walk around on my own, nodding/waving/addressing the many people I pass, and they know me by name. I've established myself here, and I have to admit, it feels pretty good. :)

Don't Wake Me; I Plan On Sleeping In

Ugh. I've slept like crap all week. Tom had a late group meeting last night, so I wasn't able to go pick him up until almost ten. Then we ended up talking about the Roberts confirmation hearing until after eleven. (Yeah, our one hour of the day to spend with each other, and we talk about Judge Roberts...we are such nerds.) ;) When I finally fell asleep, I had the sort of "busy dreams" that make you feel as though you've gotten no actual rest all night, so this morning I contrarily reset the alarm after it went off the first time. 5:20 you say? I think not! 6:00 it is!

Except I never managed to fall back asleep. So by 5:40 I grumpily got out of bed and got ready to go, leaving the apartment at my usual time of just-before-six. Grumble, grumble. I know plenty of people who have it much worse than me (averaging 4 or so hours per night), but damn if I'm going to be all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with my six-ish hours.

Switching gears...

No book review yesterday because I simply haven't been reading much at all in the past 2 weeks. I don't think I've managed more than 15 pages of anything (with the exception of lecture notes and whatnot). However, I'll try to come up with something more positive to post a little later. Maybe I'll be in a better place after I've had some tea... ;)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Plan B Debacle

Gonna preface this post by saying I got all fired up after listening to the Science Friday broadcast, got more fired up when I looked into this Dr. Hager guy, felt strongly enough about the subject to start a post about it, then felt silly about actually posting it because I know I'm well behind the bandwagon at this point. So yeah, here's what I had to say, even though it's more of an irrelevant rant at this point than actual news:

On last week's Talk of the Nation, Science Friday, the evening's topic was the FDA's move to indefinitely stall a decision on whether Plan B - the morning-after pill - should be sold over-the-counter. (You can listen to the broadcast here. Also, if you haven't heard much about this issue, here's a pretty good background article.) Anyway, Ira Flatow had 3 guests on, one of whom was Dr. David Hager (warning: long article from this past spring, but worth reading if you haven't already). In late 2002, Dr. Hager was appointed by the Bush Administration to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in the FDA. He's a medical doctor - a gynecologist, of all things - who "has established himself as a leading conservative Christian voice on women's health and sexuality." And it would be all well and good to have a voice of opposition on a committee to decide if Plan B should be available OTC, except that the whole situation has turned into a quagmire of political horseshit in which the democratic process is ignored and the minority opinion is the one being followed.

Let me back up a minute. For the record, Plan B (or other emergency contraceptives like it) is already available over the counter in 41 countries and 7 states within the US. There is no question that the drug is safe to sell OTC; the FDA's advisory committee (Hager included) voted unanimously that this is the case. The question has remained whether or not it should be sold without a prescription. The most common arguments against OTC availability are 1) that it's already available via prescription, so there's no need; 2) that young girls will be able to get it more easily, thus encouraging them to engage in risky behavior without fear of the consequences; and 3) that if women don't have to see their doctor to get a prescription for it, they will quit going in for pap smears. There is also the question of whether or not it technically causes an abortion, which as we all know is a touchy subject in this country.

Okay. Let's review what this drug is. It is an emergency contraceptive. It is a high dose of the hormone progesterone that, if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, will prevent ovulation from occurring or, if ovulation has already occurred, will prevent implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterine wall. It should not be confused with RU-486; if a fertilized egg has already implanted, Plan B will not cause an abortion. It is no more an abortifacient than your typical birth control pill. It's just that the dose of progesterone is higher, so it doesn't take a week to get into your system and take effect. Sure, if you believe that life begins when sperm and egg join, and that preventing a fertilized egg from implanting is equivalent to ejecting one that's already latched on and ready to grow, fine, but the purpose of this drug is primarily to prevent ovulation (and thus fertilization) from occurring in the first place. It is only if the patient is prevented from taking the drug in a timely manner that you start wandering into "is it abortion or not?" territory.

Timing is absolutely critical. Emergency contraceptive. That's like emergency snake bite repair kit or emergency evacuation route. Only used in an emergency, when time is of the essence. Condom breaks, woman gets raped, something like that - precisely the instance in which a woman should be able to go to the drugstore on the weekend and buy what she needs, instead of having to wait for a doctor's appointment, doctor's approval, pharmacist's approval, etc. The more hoops a person has to jump through to get this product, the worse its chances of effectiveness are, so no, I don't think that just because it's available via prescription (provided your doctor will even prescribe it...Dr. Hager won't, and he's the one advancing the argument that women can get it from their doctors!), there isn't a need for it to be available over-the-counter.

As for whether its availability will encourage risky behavior among teens, I've got news for you (Dr. Hager): teenagers need no encouragement to engage in risky behavior. They are going to behave however they're going to behave. The same argument is made about the availability of condoms when, statistically, teens are no more likely to have sex if supplied with condoms and told how to use them than they are if just provided with abstinence-only education. Except the abstinence-only kids will have unsafe sex and end up diseased or pregnant or at the abortion clinic. So weighing the options, I think we're much better off with a combination of education and availability of contraceptives than just trying to tell kids no.

For the final argument - women will quit getting pap smears if they can just buy Plan B without a prescription - all I've got to say is that if a woman is actually dumb enough to ignore the need for regular cervical cancer screenings, maybe it's a good thing she has access to emergency contraceptives so she doesn't bring any more children into the world, much less unwanted ones! Any reasonable woman is going to give a damn about her health, and OTC availability of Plan B won't stop her from getting checked up when she should.

So ultimately, the reason I'm so incensed about this whole situation is that, despite the fact that scientists and doctors have come to the logical conclusion that selling Plan B over the counter would be a good idea, one fanatic and a few of his cronies have enough political clout to trump science and logic. Hager stated at one point in the SF broadcast that he "was asked" to write a minority opinion paper, as a civilian, encouraging the FDA to keep Plan B as a prescription-only drug. The FDA's decision to ignore the recommendation of its committee is based in no small part on this paper. Ira Flatow asked him who told him to write the paper, and Hager declined to comment. Ira replied that Hager was on a public committee, and the public has a right to know who is directing him to write a recommendation that's completely counter to the committee's decision, and Hager still refused. So yeah, I got mad about that. That's not the way things are supposed to work. Never mind the fact that the self-righteous Hager is a complete slimeball (read that long article I linked at the top of this post...you'll see). And yet, what can anybody do? Susan Wood, head of women's health at the FDA, resigned in protest, but what good does that actually do? And since the resignation of a high-level FDA employee doesn't have much of an effect, what can I even hope to do to change the situation? Whoooole lotta nothin'.

And that is what makes me the most angry.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Quick gripe about the PA

In the lab where I worked before, our speakers were busted, so we could never hear the PA system. It was annoying not to be able to hear pages (and on more than one occasion, one or more of us got in trouble for not leaving the building when the fire alarm went off because we couldn't hear it!), but it was nice to not be subjected to commercial radio all day long. If I had to run something over to another part of the plant, I would happily groove to whatever was playing on the oldies station, but once I got back to my lab, I'd be back in my little iPod world.

My new office has a perfectly functional speaker. Until today, I had no phone in here, so it was fairly crucial that I be able to hear if people were paging me. And I like oldies well enough, so I enjoyed myself for the first few days.

The honeymoon period, however, is now over.

I am sick of hearing the same 15 songs every day. I am sick of the stupid deejay banter, the annoying-as-hell commercials, not to mention the 50,000 pages that interrupt the music all day long. To make matters worse, my speaker will only turn so low before turning off completely, and it's not very low!

This morning, I decided I'd had enough and it was time to bust out the iPod and thus attempt to drown out the radio while still (hopefully) being able to hear if I was being summoned by someone. Alas, I have neglected to charge the pod in a while, so the batteries lasted all of 35 seconds before crapping out on me. D'oh! Here's hoping I make it through the day without descending into a commercial-radio-induced homicidal rage...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Transporter 2 and Beavers

Went to see Transporter 2 this evening. Boy howdy, was that entertaining. I enjoyed The Transporter (One) as well. Some of the fight scenes were completely ridiculous ("No way did he just pull that off!"), and at other times I was laughing uproariously ("Haha! That's right, bitches. He's gonna school you good!"). They're short flicks, the Transporter movies (the first one was 92 minutes, and this one was 88), but they're action-packed the whole way through. Jason Statham is like a British Jackie Chan, only less wacky and high-strung. It's almost as if he's bored when he has to beat up a pack of ne'er-do-wells. Anyway, go see Transporter 2 if you're into pointless action movies. It is certainly entertaining.

Now switching to the wide world of sports, OSU had their first televised game of the season (well, technically it's still pre-season, but whatever) today. They were playing Boise State, who had a horrible game against Georgia Tech last weekend. At first, it looked pretty bad for the Beavers. Boise St. made two touchdowns in the first quarter and appeared to make them without a whole lot of effort. The score was 14-zip when we left for the movies. By the fourth quarter (we were at The Road House for dinner, and the game was on), the Beavers were still down by 7 (27-20), and I thought that while the comeback was impressive, they were not going to win this one. However, I checked the score when we got home, and OSU finished ahead of the Broncos 30-27. Not exactly a landslide victory, but a win's a win. Go Beavs! By the by, OSU's new additions to Reser Stadium are incredible. I'd been watching the building progress on the webcam, but seeing the finished product on TV was a different thing entirely..."Oh, so that's where my tuition dollars were going. I get it now." It was pretty funny though to hear the announcers exclaiming that "it was the largest crowd in attendance in the stadium's history!" Hardly a thing to brag about, as since the addition of about 30% more seating, the stadium's "history" has consisted of two whole games. Hehe...silly announcers.

I had a big ol' political rant to post about the FDA and the whole Plan B debacle, but I don't think I'll get to it tonight. Probably tomorrow. I just can't muster up the rage right now to finish writing it, and I think I'd like to go to bed happy anyway, rather than all angstified about the state of drug regulation in this country. Uh oh...getting angry again...stopping now before it gets worse. 'Night, all.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Absolute Insanity

Listen to This American Life on NPR this week, or stream the program online next week. Crazy, crazy stuff about the Katrina aftermath.

Freaking nice day outside

It's been cloudy and gray all day long, hovering right about 65 degrees. I've even been chilly in my short sleeves, walking between buildings! (Yes, I know that says more about my wimpiness than about how cool it actually is, but whatever.) It's supposed to stay mild and partly cloudy over the weekend and into next week, which is excellent as far as I'm concerned. :)

Switchin' it up with some horse blogging


This is Tess. She's 48 hours old in this picture.

Leggy baby taking her first gallop outside.

Here's my childhood pony, Kakki. She's almost 40 years old!

She's a fine old gal, the Kakki pony.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Criminal Profiling with Professor Crazypants

I am, if you can believe it, halfway done with the first class of my Master's degree. This one-class-per-month format is pretty wild. I'm not sure if it's made more or less challenging by the fact that my professor for this particular class is nuttier than squirrel poo in an almond factory. Entertaining, yes, and I'm even learning a little, but the man is guano-crazy. This, coupled with the fact that the format of the class is like a chat room, wherein he lectures by typing at us instead of actually speaking, allows for some great and memorable quotes. Observe:
"[Sex] is the instrument that makes sacred the human existence for all of us through the reverie of carnality for which many of us live in horrible doubt, blame and guilt unnecessarily for our youthful indulgences."
Now, sure, we're talking about serial killers and the like in this class, so it's not so surprising that some of what he talks about is going to have to do with warped perceptions of reality. Still, it wouldn't be too difficult to grasp the idea that criminals have a poor sense of self, even without the following flowery metaphor:
"The criminal's ego needs continual puffing. His ego is flaccid like a flaccid male genital bobbing in a bathtub of unrequited hate."
Bobbing in a bathtub of unrequited hate. Damn, that's good.

Tonight's lecture included a rant about Romeo and Juliet. He was trying to make a point about the pathological "love" of serial killers for their victims, but his choice of analogy could not have been worse, in my opinion.

Professor Crazypants: We all know that Juliet was madly in love with her Romeo, correct?

Class: (varying responses in the affirmative)

PC: All right, your responses demonstrate your programming to love what you don't understand which in time will destroy your relationship that you believed loved you but didn't because you do not possess your own identity - if you had your own authority, you would have known that Juliet hated Romeo and hated to love him.

Me (in my head): Buh?!

PC: Juliet didn't love Romeo - at least not love but hate to love - she resented him because his unhealthy need for her was an addiction. The same type of addiction the addict has for his dope. The serial killer is a sort of dope addict who must get his fix from his pusher (victim) which will requite him for awhile until his next episode and return to his pusher for another hit (another victim). Back to Romeo and Juliet. Romeo pursued Juliet (his pusher) who satisfied his unhealthy need for the dope (lust's narcotic) that creates the delirium that causes the fraudulent belief that his addiction has made, see?

Um.....

PC: The pusher (Juliet) loves to hate the addict (Romeo) that she supplies with the transient pleasure that conceals the pain the addicted ignores - and it is this weakness in Romeo that Juliet hates. Her hatred was morphed into a visceral emotion out of resentment which is a pre-emotion that made a home in her when she recognized that Romeo's plaintiff squeals for her was his addiction for the pleasure her narcotic gave him. Like Juliet, no woman, none that I know, anyway, or man, for that matter, could ever allow themselves to be set up to fall by the self-professor of fraudulent love that addiction has made derelict, see?

You really are insane, aren't you?

PC: Had Romeo not squandered his potential that pain would have disclosed, was trying to tell him, the respect inherent to the character of a true man would have known that Juliet, and his selfishness ameliorated would have created a fertile ground where real love could be cultivated between them.

Okay, you're not even speaking in complete sentences...

Eventually he did return to some semblance of understandable lecturing, once he moved away from his horrendous analogy and returned to talking about the pathologies of serial killers. Thus far it's been pretty hit-or-miss with this guy, though most of the time he does manage to get his points across, however convoluted his path toward those points may be. I'll keep you updated on any additional craziness that may ensue in the second half of the course.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Book Review: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Two weeks late, but here we go...
What if God was one of us - just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home? --Joan Osborne

What if, when the first people started immigrating to America, they brought their gods with them, literally? What if, because they believed/paid homage/sacrificed/etc. to the otherworldly beings of their homeland, those beings actually traveled over land and sea to take up residence in the New World with their believers? That's pretty much the basic idea behind Gaiman's novel.

We meet our protagonist, known to us only as Shadow, just as he's about to get out of prison after a 3-year stint. He's made some mistakes, but he's not a bad guy. He's got a wife and new job waiting for him at home, and he's about to put his life back together when the proverbial rug is pulled out from under him, sending him tumbling into a world he never knew existed. Suddenly he's in the middle of a war between the old gods (who are losing their power as their believers have died out, leaving them forgotten and abandoned by the rest of humankind) and the new gods of commerce, technology, and entertainment.

The novel is almost as much a mythology lesson as an entertaining narrative, and a long one at that (over 600 pages). There are several little side stories along the way, offering explanations of how the various gods were brought to their new - and eventually unsuitable - home. It's a fun read, though, with a couple of twists at the end; you think you've got it figured out, and then Gaiman tosses something else at you in a "Haha! Not so fast!" sort of way. The overall conclusion wasn't completely satisfying to me, but I think the book was so long that it would be hard to wrap it all up in a better way. In sum, an amusing read, and one I'll recommend. A-/B+

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

N'awlins, et al

Datrick has written a rather good post about the situation left in Katrina's wake. Good pondering material.

Sweet Cron


There is a produce farm right on Redwood Highway, just outside the Oregon town of Kerby, that I drive past every time I go to Caitlin's. As you might expect, around harvest time they put up large signs along the road advertising their various foods, and my most favorite sign of them all is the "Sweet Cron" sign.

Now, there are actually two "Sweet Cron" signs, and they're both on the southbound side of the highway. The signs on the northbound side are in fact spelled correctly, which isn't nearly as much fun.

You may ask, "What kind of an idiot misspells the word 'corn' on not one but two large, roadside signs?" I'll tell you. I don't know.

There is of course the rumor that they misspelled the signs on purpose just to get curious people to stop and ask about them. "Hey, what's up with your signs?" "Oh those? My kid painted 'em. Say, you want to buy some vegetables?" I'm not sure how good a business tactic it really is though, since I'm far more inclined to chuckle amusedly and keep on driving than to actually stop.

At any rate, over the years I have grown very fond of the Sweet Cron signs, whatever their mysterious origin may be, and though I've tried unsuccessfully to snap a good picture of them in the past, I finally got one on this last trip northward. May you all gain as much joy from the cron as I have. :)

Road Trippin' fer Hitchin'

Tom's sister got married this past Saturday, so last Thursday we hopped in our rented Chevy Aveo and trekked northward to the Southern Oregon town of our youth...Grants Pass. Normally we'd be wont to fly there, but when I checked ticket prices a few months back, they were so outrageously expensive that we bit the bullet and drove. Renting the car for a week and filling the tank 5 times - even with gas prices what they are - only set us back about the cost of ONE plane ticket. Yick.

We made pretty good time on the way up - eleven hours, door to door. Still, eleven hours in a car is a long time, and so much of California is so...bleh. For being such a populous state, there sure is a lot of empty space along the I-5, and not very pretty empty space at that. Fortunately, we had some good music and comedy CDs to keep us entertained. Death Cab for Cutie's new album, Plans, is really quite good, and we were frequently doubled over listening to the Reduced Shakespeare Company (performing "The Bible: Abridged"), Lewis Black and Dane Cook. The Aveo chugged its way over the Grapevine and the Siskiyous, and by sundown we were breathing clean mountain air and basking in the beautiful green hillsides of GP.

It is so. Much. Nicer. Up there than it is in L.A.

Friday morning I took a short trip to Caitlin's for a visit. Usually when I go there I hang out alllllll day long, but we were on such a tight schedule for the weekend that I could only spare a few hours. Still, we managed to get a lot done in those three hours. I got to meet the brand new filly (48 hours old!) and help put her outside for the first time. I helped artificially inseminate a mare. I led the stallion in from the field to the barn and didn't get killed. I even got to ride; it was a short ride, but long enough to make my out-of-shape legs and butt sore the next day! I got to visit Kakki, who looks younger every time I see her, even though she must be nearly 40 by now. And I had a very good time hanging out with Caitlin, getting caught up on all the latest in horsey-land.

Friday afternoon/evening we went to a barbeque and visited with some of Tom's friends from high school. We were far away even from the sparse lights of Grants Pass proper, so we got to see the gorgeous night sky in all its glory. I swear it, there are no skies like Southern Oregon skies. The clear blue of the day or the star-filled black blanket of the night...it doesn't matter; it's unlike anything you can see down here. The last night we were there I saw a huge meteor streaking amid the stars, making a long arc all the way down to the horizon. So beautiful.

Saturday I had a baby shower to attend in the afternoon (It just happened to be scheduled for when I'd be in town! How convenient!), and then the wedding was in the evening. The ceremony was simple and nice, and it was great to meet some of Tom's extended family, particularly since he's already been subjected to almost all of mine. ;) Mom drove down to see me, so I got to visit with her a little bit at the wedding and then for a few hours the next evening as well. When all was said and done (and cleaned up), we were all pretty whooped Saturday night, but happy.

Sunday we rested, and then we braved Super WalMart to get prints made of some of the pictures I took the night before. WalMart is terrifying enough, but Super WalMart is in a league of its own. Double the real estate, double the hill people! Sure, it's hard to beat the low, low prices, but is it really worth the damage done to one's sanity to save a few pennies? I exaggerate, but I'm glad that I don't have too many opportunities to shop there. The prints did come out very nice, though. Yay for my kick-ass digital camera!

Sunday evening I met up with my mom at Sara's house. We sat around, ate Papa Murphy's take-n-bake pizza and delicious twisty bread sticks, listened to excellent music, and played with Sara's cool new camera phone. It was such a good visit, and it was as I was leaving there that I saw the amazingly big meteor. :)

Yesterday we slept until we woke up (quarter to eight...amazing how you can "sleep in" and still get up so early when you're used to getting up at oh-dark-thirty for work), packed our bags, bid our adieus, and braced ourselves for the return trip. I figured traffic would be bad on Labor Day, and it wasn't quite as quick a trip as the way up, but it also wasn't as hideous as I expected. There was an incident at a gas station that had me in quite a snit (I hate people...hate them so much), and I got cut off a few times by jackasses waiting until the last minute to change lanes (hate them), but Tom calmed me down, and the rest of the trip was pretty much without excitement. When we flung ourselves, road-weary and disheveled, through the door of our apartment, the cats were happy to see us, and in spite of how much we dislike L.A., it was pretty good to be home.

More Up-Catching...

Just got back from our trip to GP for Tom's sister's wedding. It was a nice three days sandwiched between two hideously long drives, and I'm quite worn out (and long overdue for a shower). Anyhow, for now I just wanted to say we made it back alive, and I'll elaborate after I've had some sleep.