Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ten Things I've Done That You Probably Haven't

Folks are posting their lists of ten unique things they've done. Mine has fewer famous people than John Scalzi's and not as many puppets as Mary Robinette Kowal's. She's met Muppets.
  1. Been bitten by a penguin (specifically, the penguin I'm staring at in my profile picture).
  2. Pet a wolf (who, unlike the penguin, did not bite me)
  3. Sprained my foot in a knitting accident (Note that says foot, not ankle)
  4. Shot a hole in someone's living room floor (With their permission) (Sort of)
  5. Bought a one-way airline ticket in cash and arrived at the airport without luggage.
  6. Surprised my family by showing up unexpectedly on Christmas morning. If you want adventure, I'd seriously recommend #5 before trying this.
  7. Almost got married without realizing it
  8. Hot wired a car
  9. Got TSA agents to hum the Indiana Jones theme
  10. Moved cross-country by mailing all of my worldly possessions parcel post (except for the file cabinet, which went by air cargo)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Love When New Misses the Obvious

From Seven Health Woes Brought On By Winter
High cholesterol

[Cholesterol] levels are highest in the winter and lowest in the summer, according to a 2004 study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

Out of 517 healthy people, 22 percent more people had high cholesterol (240 milligrams per deciliter of blood, or higher) in the winter months than in the summer months, according to the study.

The change in cholesterol levels could be attributed to people exercising less in the cold months, the study said, though more research is needed to find the exact reason why.

May I suggest starting that "more research" with an exploration into month-by-month eggnog consumption? Or the seasonally-adjusted frequency of parties with hot hors-d'oeuvres that can be described with the phrase "bacon-wrapped." I'd suggest a nutritional assay of fruitcake, but no one actually eats that.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Website

Yes, I have been neglecting you, my poor blog readers. There have been reasons (read: excuses), but most of them boil down to a limited number of hours in the day, most of which are already spent writing or otherwise staring at the laptop screen.

One of the other things I've been doing instead of blogging with you is setting up a new website for my business-y side. I'm billing it as my online home, but it's really more of an online office where people can find what I've written, and learn how to hire me if they need copy editing. There's a blog over there, too, but it's going to be more professional. This is still my kick back and watch the penguins go by blog.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The PengDar is Down!

I don't know how I missed this. The 100 word writing challenge last week was about Penguins! And, I the Penguin Queen, did not participate!

Read the entries of the writers with functional pengdar here. I expect votes to consider creativity, storytelling and penguinal correctness.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Clearly I Am Under-Paid

A screen grab from today:

Welcome Apex Minions!

Thanks for clicking over. This is my semi-personal blog, where I write about the odds and ends of life. I'm working on getting the professional website up, but as I wrote, if you wait until you're ready, you'll never do anything.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Someone Has To Do It

People, at least non-kosher people, like bacon. Ergo, we have people who grow bacon. Because people really like bacon - sometimes for eating, sometimes for taping to cats (Emp. Peng., please do not get ideas; it has been done) - we need to grow bacon efficiently, which means keeping bacon growers up to date on the latest pork-producing technology and developments.

Enter the Swine Extension Specialist. Yes, apparently that is a real job, which involves waking up in the morning and putting "Evaluate pork producers' acceptance of distance education media" on one's to-do list. It's not quite taping bacon to a cat, but if you can't convince pork producers to drop in on a video conference every now and then, you'll run out of bacon, though the cat supply presumably remains unaffected.

At this point, I am, of course, imagining these people at a cocktail party.
"So, what do you do?"
"I study ways to convince hog farmers to take correspondence courses"

I am also wondering how many people bought tickets to an event called the Indiana Pork Conference and were disappointed, and why "sow" isn't a more widely accepted unit of measurement, but that's another entry entirely. One I will not be writing.

Back to the Swine Extension Specialist. Buried in the methodology section of the aforelinked study is this little gem:
To give the producers more information about distance education, a handout was developed for them to take with them and read at their leisure. The handout gave the producers general information about distance education, media used in distance education, and contacts for more information about distance education. 
As much as I would not want to have a job description like "Study ways to overcome hog farmers' objections to chatrooms," I'm doubly glad my to-do list does not include "write hog farmer swag." I'm guessing that the intern or grad assistant got that appended to his or her list.

Note to Purdue University: while I've never been to a pork producers' conference, I've been to writers' conferences and music teachers' conferences. I even managed to crash a urology conference once. As swag goes, a handout on distance education sucks. I got better swag from the urology conference, and the closest I get to being a urologist is having a urinary tract. Should you ever consider updating this study, you'll get better results with fridge magnets, mini buttons, pens or this.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Getting What I Paid For

In the course of fact-checking for work today, I discovered that my little slice of Ohio is the fourth-highest-paying city for doctors. This surprises me, because my experience with the doctors here has not led me to the conclusion that they earn that for their competence. I'd be more inclined to think that they accrue these higher-than-average salaries by starting to sneak up on patients with a prostate exam 16 years ahead of when the ACS recommends snapping the glove.

I tried the local, high-earning, doctors. That's why I now drive to Cleveland when I need a physician.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Troubleshooting Fish in a Barrel

Yesterday, Emp. Peng. procured the Rookery's sixth coffeemaker. Considering that there are only five mammals in the household and three of those are cats, this may be overkill, in the way that my jar of Skippy may contain peanuts. However, I justify the purchase because, for all of our coffeemaking technology, we did not have one with simple "Push the button, and a full pot of coffee comes out" functionality, and the kitchen is a good 15 feet from my office. Now that I'm working full time plus freelance and spec projects, bulk coffee brewing has become a matter of workflow efficiency. At my level of coffee consumption, the time for brewing each cup individually adds up.

So the Black & Decker Model DCM600W joined our house, and the coffeemakers started establishing beachheads in parts of the Rookery outside the kitchen. It's your basic $12 model with no user-serviceable parts and only one button, the one that brews the coffee, so I figured I could make a test pot before sitting down to see what the good folks at Black & Decker decided had to be included in a user manual. After the box, which blazed "Built to Last!" in huge bold letters beside the bullet point for "2-year limited warranty," I figured the manual had to be a hoot.

There comes a point when the user manual troubleshooting guide is just insulting. This one started out with:

Problem: Coffeemaker does not turn on
Possible Cause: Coffeemaker is not plugged in
Solution: Check to be sure appliance is plugged in to a working outlet and the on/off (I/O) is powered on.

That was not the insulting part. Two rows down:

Coffee is not brewing
Possible Cause: Water reservoir might be empty
Solution: Make sure water reservoir has sufficient water to brew desired cups of coffee.

That's a little insulting, but who hasn't been in the lack-of-caffeine fog and forgot to put water in? Usually, one would check the water tank, if only because the water tank is attached to the coffeemaker, making it easier to locate than the manual. The next row down takes the cake, though:

Coffeemaker brews clear water
Possible Cause: There may be no coffee grounds in removable filter basket
Solution: Add sufficient amount of coffee grounds to paper filter in removable filter basket.

That's just plain overcompensation. Like the guy driving the comically oversized SUV, the coffeemaker is full of bluster to disguise its teeny tiny ... feature list. Seriously, we had the intellectual capacity to purchase the coffeemaker. If we need to consult the troubleshooting guide to determine that, if coffee doesn't come out, we forgot to put coffee in, perhaps we shouldn't be using a coffeemaker without adult supervision or be allowed around the pointy scissors necessary to remove the zip tie from between the plug prongs.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Slice of Supermarket Life

I admit that I'm nosy. This tendency rears its ugly nasal passages in a big way as I'm standing in line at the supermarket. I pass time in line contemplating why people buy the things they are buying.

I'm not alone in this hobby. A Sam's Club checker once asked me outright when she was baffled at my order: 4.5 pounds of Kraft grated parmesan cheese and three pounds of prunes. In that case, the two were unconnected; prunes and parmesan are staple foodstuffs here at the rookery, and we happened to run out at the same time.

The order that lady behind me unloaded onto the conveyor belt today required no explanation:
  • Children's Tylenol with Fever Reducer
  • Pedialyte (2 bottles)
  • Fifth of vodka

Sunday, August 29, 2010

You Might Be a Copy Editor If...

I spent the weekend at Context 23, a wonderful weekend of speculative fiction writing and fandom, and a must-attend convention for any beginning genre writer. Today, after the convention closed, Emp. Peng. and I went to lunch with Stephen Zimmer. On the walk back to the convention hotel where we were parked, we passed a sign in a parking lot:
No Semi's
What followed will be on the blooper reel when my life flashes before my eyes. I stopped dead and shuddered. Emp. Peng., ever the dutiful husband, asked what was the matter. I couldn't bear to look at the sign. I could only point in the general direction. Words failed, but I managed to get out, "Apostrophe!"

Unfortunately, I lacked convenient white paint, so the abhorrent apostrophe stands.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Baby Corn, Defeated

A couple of years ago, I discussed how baby corn invades all Mongolian barbecue. If you've never been to a Mongolian barbecue (which bears no discernible resemblance to actual mongolian food or barbecue), you owe it to yourself to try. The basic idea is that you fill a bowl with assorted meats and vegetables then the cooks grill it up on a large circular grill. If you get a good restaurant, the cooks make a show of the grilling process.

This show occasionally results in some bonus foods, as a piece or two from the neighboring bowls works its way into your meal. As I detailed two years ago, that bonus piece always seems to be baby corn. I've been with the only party in the restaurant, none of us put baby corn in our bowls, yet I still managed to find a piece of baby corn in my dinner.

All that changed Friday. As a belated birthday dinner, we went to a Mongolian grill that, since the last time we went, has inexplicably added cheese ravioli to the meat bar. I filled my bowl with a little bit of duck meat, snow peas, peppers, mushrooms, onion and pineapple, then topped it off with a tong full of adult kernel corn. For the first time in my life, I made it through a plate of Mongolian barbecue without finding stray baby corn. My hypothesis is that the adult corn scared off the baby corn.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Good for the Citizenship Goose

The latest craze in Political Wedge Issues is amending the 14th amendment's pesky loophole about not having to work any harder for U.S. citizenship than getting expelled from a birth canal in the right place (legally known as jus soli, or right of the soil). We should have seen this coming; when the economy tanks, people look for any reason they can glom on to for the protracted pain of being out of work involuntarily. Plus, more people have a lot more time on their hands to indulge in xenophobia.

This time, the xenophobia lands on the neonatal population. Apparently, in the world where the likes of Senator Lindsey Graham live, heavily pregnant women risk traversing the desert on the U.S.-Mexican border in August for the sole purpose of "dropping a baby" (which has now gone from an indication of bad grip to a euphemism for birth) who can, two decades hence, sponsor the parents for citizenship. I have never been pregnant, so I can't speak to how likely women in the third trimester are to go for a hike in the desert. If one believes Exodus, the Hebrews managed the feat en masse, but I suspect that it's not the sort of thing modern obstetricians recommend, due to the increased risk of stillbirth that would make the whole exercise rather pointless. Part of me wants to think that if there are that many Mexican women with that kind of physical fortitude and foresight, maybe having them here and passing that determination on to offspring wouldn't be all bad.

Perhaps the stupidest argument I've heard in favor of this proposal is that the 14th amendment doesn't actually need amended to suspend automatic birthright citizenship. According to the proponents of this strategy, since the 14th amendment starts off with "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside," but parents in the U.S. illegally aren't "subject to the jurisdiction," the kids aren't citizens. In a word, hogwash. Whose jurisdiction are these folks under, if not that of where they are located? The fact that the proponents of this refer to the parents as "illegal" ought to nullify that argument right off the bat. They're illegal under the laws and jurisdiction of the U.S.; were they not subject to U.S. laws, they would not be illegal. That exemption for people who aren't under the jurisdiction of the U.S. applies primarily to diplomats, who are, in fact, not subject to U.S. laws while on U.S. soil.

Moreover, I would be interested in finding out how many of the people who advocate the revocation of birthright citizenship would be able to prove their own citizenship to the standards they advocate. Estimates from the State Department in 2007 indicated that only 27% of Americans hold a passport, and the percentage is only that high because of new rules requiring a passport to go to Canada or the Bahamas. I'm among that 27%, and I also have a certified copy of my birth certificate indicating that I was born in the U.S., only a couple hundred miles up the highway from a popular border crossing, which I suppose is suspect. Of course, with a revocation of jus soli, a birth certificate isn't enough to prove citizenship, not that a certain segment of the population accepts birth certificates as definitive proof of citizenship even with jus soli in place.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Sentence Diagramming Also Pays

Lack of punctuation on a sign cost Spokane County $60 in parking fines when two men successfully argued that "No Public Parking Permit Required" could have a meaning entirely different from "No Public Parking; Permit Required." Granted, the men spent far more than $60 worth of time and effort standing up for the principle of eliminating run-on sentences in parking signs, but it's still a victory for Grammarzon Word Warriors everywhere, since the county intends to punctuate the sign in question.

Read the whole story