Friday, December 31, 2004

South Bend Report, Part 3

No Studebaker pilgrimage to South Bend, Indiana, would be complete without dinner at Tippecanoe Place, a steak house that now occupies Tippecanoe, aka chez Studebaker, a 4-story, 40-room mansion built for Clement Studebaker, who later slipped on the grand staircase and died. Any of the 20 fireplaces in the mansion is impressive, but the one in the foyer is surpassed only by the one in Citizen Kane that you could parallel park a Studebaker in. We dined in the library and managed, unlike Clem, to go down the staircase and live.

Nowadays, you can get credit cards with pretty much anything on them. One of ours is the Star Wars Galactic Rewards card (spend $5000 and we can get a pez dispenser), and that happened to be the one we used for dinner. Throughout the whole meal, our waitress gave the distinct impression of being on a triple-dose of Prozac. This woman was mellow in the extreme, right up until she took our bill. When she opened the folder with the card and bill, we heard our overly-mellow waitress shout, "Darth Vader! Cool!" all the way from the hallway. You can also get the card with Yoda.

South Bend Report, Part 2

I promised to tell you all about the chocolate spies. I should explain right now that the South Bend Chocolate Company makes chocolates. Not chocolate. Chocolates. They buy the raw materials, including bulk blocks of chocolate, and make them into all manner of bite-sized confections and fun-shaped bars. They have nothing to do with turning the cacao beans into what we know as chocolate, though the free tour explains how this is done.

We took the Inside Scoop tour of the South Bend Chocolate Company. If you ever get to South Bend, do the Inside Scoop tour, not the free tour (you want the free tour, click here and save driving to Indiana). With the Inside Scoop tour, you get a caramel cashew turtle roughly the size of your standard box turtle, you get to dip your own chocolate spoon, and you get to see the chocolate enrobing machine (cooler than it sounds). When you add in the 10% discount on the chocolates from the gift shop, we actually saved money by paying the $4 tour admission. Our tour group included two middle-aged men we decided were Chocolate Spies, sent by a rival chocolate company to check out SBCC's operations. They kept asking technical questions that were clearly beyond the scope of what the tour guide could be reasonably be expected to answer, like how often they remelt the chocolate to temper it, how they avoid chocolate bloom, and whether they use marble slabs or just steel to spread out the caramels and meltaway centers for slicing. You may think these would be legitimate questions, if a bit technical, to ask on a tour of a chocolate factory, but these guys were just acting sneaky. They had all but no interest in what they saw on the tour. All they wanted to know was what wasn't on the tour because they are trade secrets--things like exactly how the drum agitates to get the chocolate-covered peanuts evenly covered with chocolate.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

South Bend Report, Part 1

We spent today in South Bend, Indiana and no, we did not go to see Notre Dame. I saw something so much better than a university best known for something wholly unrelated to academics. Today, I saw a bear's natural habitat. The Studebaker Museum in South Bend has one of the two 1951 Studebaker Champions used in The Muppet Movie, subject of Fozzie Bear's memorable line "A bear in his natural habitat: a Studebaker," complete with the remnants of the whacked-out paint job courtesy of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. I'm pretty sure the one I saw today is the one from the second picture in that link. It was the one that was chopped up so that a little person could sit in the trunk and drive the car by way of a camera mounted in the bullet nose, and was used for the wide shots where you see the whole car actually driving with a poly-cotton bear at the wheel. This, incidentally, was one of the main reasons they used a '51 Champion.

Amazing, the power the Muppets have. Fozzie's Studebaker sits probably 30 feet from the Studebaker carriage that Abraham Lincoln took to Ford's Theater on the night he was shot, and I still thought Fozzie's Champion was the neatest thing there.

We also toured the South Bend Chocolate Company and I've now found another job I definitely do not want to have. You know how, in your box of chocolates, each different flavor of creamy filling has a different swirl on the top? Seems that, although some chocolate manufacturers provide you with a decoder ring for figuring out the difference between a raspberry creamy filling (yummy) and an orange creamy filling (ick) before you have to spit one out into your bare hand, the reason for the different swirls is not so you don't accidentally bite into something nasty (again, whose idea was it to put orange creamy filling into perfectly good chocolate?). The real reason they code the chocolates with the swirls is so they know what they're putting into the box when they pack them, given that they can't take a bite out of each one to know if they're packing buttercream-filled or chocolate-filled confections. Which is where my new Job I Do Not Want To Have comes in. The swirls do not get there on their own. Nope, there is a guy whose job, for eight hours a day, is to stand there and manually swirl each chocolate as it comes out of the chocolate-covering machine. He has a set of doohickies that look like bent paperclips and all he does is tap each candy as it rolls by to put the right swirl pattern on the top to match the flavor of creamy filling that went in. I saw it with my own eyes. The guy spends all day just tapping chocolates. And you thought they were just being nice to you with that map.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you all about the Chocolate Spies and Tippicanoe.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Sign of the Times

Baby Boomers must be aging. This year, Vioxx ousted naked women as the most common subject for junk email, at least according to AOL, who provides one of my three email addresses. Channeling spam is far easier than trying to avoid it entirely.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Quick Question

When did they start packing eggs in 8-packs? I was at the grocery store looking for my usual half dozen eggs, and lo and behold all they had was dozen, dozen and a half, and eight.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Foxy Lady

If you've never considered defecting from Microsoft Internet Explorer, you really ought to give it a thought. Believe it or not, there are alternatives. I myself have become a convert to Firefox, the web browser from Mozilla. Firefox is what Netscape became when Netscape decided to throw open the software codes for whoever wanted to take a look and do something more with it. You might think that since any malicious code-writer can look at the code and find its weaknesses, Firefox might be more prone to things like viruses and worms, but in reality it is just the opposite. With so many more eyes looking at the code, Firefox is more secure since more people are finding and fixing problems.

In addition to several technical advantages that make Firefox less buggy and more secure than Internet Explorer, Firefox has features that make web browsing easier for the run-of-the-mill web surfer. My favorite is Tabbed Browsing. In Internet Explorer, if you want more than one website open at a time--for instance, if you're comparison shopping or blogging about something on another website--you have to have each site open in a different window and toggle between them on your taskbar at the bottom of the screen. With Firefox's tabbed browsing, you can keep all the sites open in a single window, each with its own conveniently labeled tab. On paper, toggling between windows and toggling between tabs may not seem all that different, but believe me, the tabs are a lot easier to deal with.

The other great interface advantage Firefox has over Internet Explorer is there is a Google Search built right into the toolbar so you can Google something from anywhere on the web. I've only been using Firefox for a few weeks now, so I haven't found all of the great features yet. Did I mention that Firefox runs faster than Internet Explorer? Or that the popup blocker actually works? Or that when you switch over, it will import all of your bookmarks from Internet Explorer so you don't have to redo them manually?

Click here to learn more about Firefox or download the free Firefox software.
Yes, I said free.

Stupid Warning Labels

Went out and bought myself a DustBuster today. Included in the full page of warnings are cautions agains using it to pick up toxic substances, flammables, combustibles, or burning or smoking materials (and, one imagines, if you must pick up flammables or burning materials, don't pick them up at the same time). I've done some really dumb things with appliances in my day, one of which actually ignited the crumbs in the bottom of the toaster, but how dumb do you have to be to vacuum up something flammable with an electric appliance?

I have to walk you through my favorite warning, though. "Do not put any object into unit openings..." which seems sensible except that it comes with a crevice attachment and squeegee designed specifically to be placed in unit openings. The bullet point goes on to say "...keep openings free of dust, lint, hair, and anything that might reduce air flow." Hello! I just bought a freakin' Dust Buster. I think I might bust some dust, lint, or hair with at least one of the openings.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


Here's a New York Times Op-ed that perfectly captures our first experience with out Robosapien, which we are enjoying now that we got it out of the dang-nab-razzafrazza-sunofa box. In essence, we the end consumers are the ultimate losers as manufacturers try to strike a balance between having the products attractively displayed in their packages and keeping said products from being filched. More and more now, that balance appears to be achieved by having an industrial welder permanently attach the product to the box.

Take the Robosapien for instance. If you managed to avoid seeing one in the box (and please tell me how you did that), here's how it goes: they're in a plastic-fronted box the shape of Superman's crest, probably around 18 inches wide at the widest and about 18 inches tall. His remote is suspended behind him. Looks like it should be simple enough to remove. Ha. As soon as we broke through the invisible titanium-reinforced cellophane tape at the top to open the box, we found we were actually looking at a box inside a box. The bottom and sides, to which Robosapien is attached, are their own cardboard entity that, owing to the shape of the box, do not just slide out. Once we shredded the outer box and liberated the inner box and Robosapien, it turns out the toy is trussed up like a rump roast. Nine plastic-coated (scissorproof) wire ties hold it to the box, and one holds the remote in place. These wire ties are twisted into knots that I am certain are not in the Boy Scout manual, with the ends clipped close to the mass of twist coming out the back of the box, making it a task unto itself to even find where to start untying, let alone actually untie it. One of these tie-knot combos would have foiled any would-be shoplifter, but there were ten of them. As I was trying to untwist the ties, I was actually marveling, kid you not, that someone could program a machine to twist these ties up like this, yet so many of the world's problems remain unsolved. Just imagine where the world would be if our resources went somewhere useful.

As they say on the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie commercials, but wait, there's more. Six of the knotted-up wire ties were devoted to affixing Robosapien's feet to the bottom of the box. Not only would three per foot be overkill for any sort of legitimate packaging need, they were threaded through channels in the feet that are designed specifically for that purpose, though not designed wide enough for us the legitimate purchaser to thread the wires, crimped from being knotted up, back through and out.

In spite of all that, we are having fun with our Robosapien. I will issue a warning to anyone who is the new owner of one, though. Ours shipped in the "on" position, so it powered on the minute I put the fourth battery in--while it was still prone on my lap. I nearly needed dry shorts.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Santa Claus is Comin' To Town

And once again, NORAD is tracking him, marking the 50th Santa Tracking Season for the North American Air Defense. Click here for the official NORAD Santa Tracking Map, and links. You can also download videos of Santa's previous stops from that site. The video for the Himalayas, where NORAD has Santa as I write this, includes a very clever plug for kids to eat their vegetables. Those guys are sneaky. They also slip some geography lessons in there.

Kids can also call Santa's hotline toll-free 1-877-HI-NORAD, or 719-474-2111 if you are in the Colorado local area. For anyone wondering, the hotlines are all staffed by volunteers.

Why, you may ask, do the people who are in charge of aerospace defense in the US and Canada track Santa Claus every Christmas Eve? Seems it was the result of a 50-year-old typo. In 1955, a store in Colorado Springs, Colorado (right near Cheyenne Mountain, home of NORAD and fictional home of the Stargate Command) printed a phone number for kids to call Santa, except they misprinted the phone number and inadvertently directed the kiddies to call the operations hotline for Commander in Chief of the Continental Air Defense, the predecessor of NORAD. Rather than dash Christmas for the kids, the Colonel got in the game and "found" radar information that tracked Santa. The full story from NORAD can be found here.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Bad Penguin News

Apparently a mystery illness, possibly related to diptheria, is threatening the Yellow-Eyed Penguins, who are already having problems enough on their own. The yellow-eyed penguins are the most endangered penguin species, with worldwide population estimated at 5,000 birds. This illness has taken nearly 80% of this year's hatchlings. Never heard of a yellow-eyed penguin? Here are some photos, with a link to yellow-eyed penguin info.

I'm not making this up

Volunteer firefighters in Helsinki, Finland inadvertently set fire to their sauna. It gets better. The volunteer firefighters, after setting fire to their sauna, could not extinguish the fire.

So, attention everyone in Finland: make sure your extinguishers and fire sprinkler systems are in working order.

Here's the Reuters article.

Reindeer Watch

In the next couple weeks, the International Space Station will be visible over most of the US in the wee hours of the morning. It will look like a fast-moving star low on the horizon--or possibly a souped-up, glowing sleigh with reindeer. To check out times and sky coordinates for your location, click here and find a city near you on the list. There is also an applet for those who aren't near a city on the list but know their latitude, longitude, and elevation. Sighting windows range from less than a minute up to 3 minutes in my neck of the woods, so you'll want to know when and where you're looking.

Usually, I don't say bad things about NASA since I like space flight, but I'll make an exception today. Here is the heading on the list of station sightings for Toledo:


Good gravy, people! How did we get a man on the moon if NASA itself doesn't notice that there is no January 32? Even if there were, it would be a Tuesday this coming January.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Etiquette Question

I understand that waiting in line at the bank is inevitable. I once had to wait in line at the bank when the only two people there were me and the teller. As a rule, the bank I go to has one teller at the drive-through window, one or two at the counter, and five or six other tellers milling about, for all I know doing legitimate bank teller things. So the question comes, when I get to the front of the line at the bank, where is the appropriate place to look?

I don't want to stare at the tellers because by the time I get to the front of the line, try as I might I can't wipe that "So do you want to take my deposit or what?" look off my face. On the other hand, there is only so long I can feign interest in signs advertising CD interest rates and home equity lines of credit, and I worry that if the security cameras see me staring at my deposit slip for that long, they'll think I'm spell checking the holdup note.

Any ideas?

Santa, Pack Extra Thermal Underwear

I just checked the weather forecast. Saturday is supposed to be low of 0 and high of 7. Fahrenheit. May not be a white Christmas, but it looks to be freakin' cold.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Making Lemonade

August J. Pollak is right. This is a brilliant idea. Planned Parenthood seems to have two constants: a shortage of funding and a surplus of protesters. Ten Planned Parenthood clinics have found an elegant solution to both problems at the same time. They've turned the daily pickets of their clinics into a sort of charity walkathon. Supporters pledge anywhere between 25 cents and $1 per picketer, and are billed monthly based on the number of picketers who show up to march outside the clinic. The mere act of protesting Planned Parenthood raises more money for Planned Parenthood, and well-meaning protesters who bring their kids to protest with them double the donation or more, as the children are counted, too. So far, the program at the Planned Parenthood of Central Texas has raised $18,000 for that clinic's patient assistance program, which helps provide care for patients who cannot pay the full cost of the care they receive.

Planned Parenthood has a bit of a reputation for being the target of protesters, presumably because of some of the services they offer. I myself have been a patient of Planned Parenthood for four years and have never in my life had either a sexually transmitted infection or an unwanted pregnancy (or a wanted one for that matter). Just by reading the newspapers, one might not notice that they also offer comprehensive women's health care, even for women who are not insured or who cannot afford health care. I've been in and out of health insurance these past few years, and the Planned Parenthood of Northwest Ohio clinic has always given me consistent, professional health care, and frankly they keep better tabs on my overall health than my alleged primary care physician. The PA at Planned Parenthood was the one who caught my borderline hypertension and helped me get it under control before it became problematic, and they show more interest in monitoring my meds (not just the Depo they provide) than my primary care physician does.

Their office is in a medical complex along with the kidney dialysis center and a few private physicians' practices, so I've never encountered protesters. I can't imagine having to run a gauntlet of protesters four time a year just so I can get birth control and a Pap Smear. A pelvic exam is annoying enough without people accusing you of being a morally depraved slut. Some of us going into the Planned Parenthood clinics are just responsible married women who realize we have no business having children at this point in our lives.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Person of the Year

So George W. Bush is Time Magazine's Person of the Year. I agree. However, let's be clear: Person of the Year is not an honor accorded to the best person, merely a naming of the most important person, news-wise. Time named Bush Person of the Year, not Employee of the Month.

Previous persons of the year have included Josef Stalin (1939 and 1942), Nikita Kruschev (1957), Adolph Hitler (1938), Ayatollah Khomeni (1979), and Kenneth Starr (1998). In nine years, Time did not even narrow it down more to more than a broad group: the American Fighting Man/Our Troops (1950, 2003), Hungarian Freedom Fighter (1956), U.S. Scientists (1960), Twenty-five and Under (1966), The Middle Americans (1969), American Women (1975), The Peacemakers (1993), and The Whistleblowers (2002).

Hey, twice they named inanimate objects: The computer (1982) and Endangered Earth (1988).

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Truffle Trouble

If you spend $52,000 on a fungus, wouldn't you make sure the darned thing didn't rot? A London restaurant bought the most expensive truffle ever, then it went bad in a safe.

Reuters reports here. The said a requiem over the fungus before they buried it.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Here's a number you don't hear much about...

Total US military casualties in Iraq (dead and wounded): 11,148

The more tired we all become of hearing these statistics, the more important it becomes to keep current on them, for if we tune out the cost of war, we won't notice the point where the benefits outweigh those costs.

I was a little surprised to find out that 45.4% of US fatalities are from "blue states," and 52.7% are from "red states." The other 1.9% are from US territories or protectorates, which don't get to be classified as red or blue.

All the numbers come from this website,. which crunches the numbers from the Department of Defense and presents them in nicely readable charts and graphs.

Cat Time

Our kitten Chakaal has taken begging for cat treats to a whole new level. The other cats will sit on my stomach and meow or look expectantly and wait for me to give them some. Chakaal seems to be taking a more proactive approach. Last night, she hopped onto the headboard where we keep a pouch of kitty treats, made a beeline for the treats, grabbed the pouch, and started trying to claw and chew her way in.

Before this latest stunt, she had figured out that, though I may have a treat or two in my hand for her, the real action is in the bag. I would pick one out for her, and she would ignore that one and try to stick her face in the bag to get at the big stash. If this cat gets much smarter, we're all in trouble. Thankfully, the humans of the house still have a reach advantage and opposable thumbs

Spell Check

Forget No Child Left Behind. Let's start with No White House Powerpoint Programmer Left Behind. For the past two days, Bush has been holding a conference at the White House to highlight his economic agenda. Usually, Bush's photo-ops have him surrounded by some sort of slogan, and this one was no different. OK, maybe a little different, since they managed to spell "Mission Accomplished" correctly. Yesterday, George W. Bush did a panel discussion standing behind a television monitor blazing, "Financial Challanges for Today and Tomorrow."

I can't find a photo of it to link to. The official White House website seems to have cropped the offending monitor out of the photo. Here's the link to the Reuters article.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Star Wars

We've spent $80 Billion dollars on this antiballistic missile defense shield, a weapons system that tests so far show that if an enemy calls ahead to tell us the exact time and trajectory of the missile launch, schedules an attack for perfect weather, and lights up the projectile like a Christmas tree, has a 5 in 9 chance of hitting the target. This latest test seems to have shown that we've backslid technologically and can't get the daggum missile out of the daggum silo.

$20 Billion more and we could have just paid off Dr. Evil.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Pop Science Quiz

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab has this 10-question quiz to see how well you know your science from your science fiction. I got 9 out of 10. Dang Streptococcus mitis. Who knew?

Monday, December 13, 2004

New Year's Eve, Live with Regis?

Word from the Associated Press is that Regis Philbin will be hosting ABC's New Year's Eve coverage from Times Square, which for longer than I have been alive has been Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, except that Dick Clark had a mild stroke last week.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Grooism of the Day?

I'm getting ready to move in a couple months, which necessitates the hiring of a replacement for me at work. Yesterday, on my day off, they brought in some applicants to test their computer skills, and one of the tests was apparently making mailing labels in MS Word using data in an MS Access database. The database they chose to use for this was the one I created to track the information for every student the school has ever had, which I use for things like address labels, as well as compiling cumulative graduation and placement rates, licensure rates by instructor, enrollment reporting for at least three agencies with three sets of rules for enrollment reporting, and, well, you get the picture. Apparently no one thought to have these applicants work on a copy of my database. No, to see if anyone was exaggerating and did not have the computer skills advertised on their resume, they let them loose on the only existing copy of a database that has taken me all told several months of work to compile and enter.

As with most good Grooisms, you can probably guess where this is going. I left Thursday with 200+ entries. I came to work this morning to find 84.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Danger, Will Robinson!

Researchers at the State University of New York at Stonybrook have a new study coming out showing that guys who want to father children someday may want to reconsider that laptop computer, or at least the use of it on the lap. Click here to read the details, which I must warn you involve the phrases "scrotal hyperthermia" and "sperm perameters."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Mercifully, No Gold Star

Army Specialist Matthew T. Drake is the sole survivor of a roadside bomb attack in Iraq. Though he survived the attack, it left him severely wounded. I'm not privy to the details of his medical condition, but I understand he is in the shape you might expect from someone described as "the only one who got out alive." He's recovering at an Army hospital stateside now, but the recovery is expected to be long. Very long.

His mother is a student at the massage therapy school where I work, and she's gone to be at her son's bedside, along with Matthew's father, as he recovers from his wounds. Her classmates are raising money to help out with the expenses that are not covered by the Army. On January 15, they'll be giving massages for donations to the Matthew T. Drake Fund. If you're not local to get the massage, they'll still take your donations, and I personally guarantee that every cent is going to the fund to pay for Matthew and his family's expenses during his recovery. If you want to chip a few dollars in, drop me a line and I'll put you in touch with the students organizing the fund-raising.

For those who are a little confused by the title, Gold Star Mothers are women who have lost a child in combat.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Every so often, I plug articles over on, even though it is a paid subscription site. You can get a one-day pass by watching a short ad. Today, the ad is for Absolut vodka.

If ever there was an article worth sitting through an advertisement for, today's headline from the News and Politics section is it. Click here to read it.

Sgt. Frank "Greg" Ford is a 30-year veteran of the military (Coast Guard, Army, and Navy). He was stationed in Samarra, Iraq with the California National Guard 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion last June when he approached his commanding officer with a request for a formal investigation of five incidents of torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees he had witnessed. According to him and what the article classifies as a "credible witness," he was strapped to a gurney and medevac'd to Germany after a psyciatrist was intimidated into diagnosing him with combat fatigue, and without the proper orders to remove him from the theater. All subsequent psychiatric evaluations have found him perfectly healthy, and he has since been honorably discharged and retired.

As of now, this rests on the word of the man and one witness. There is no guarantee this is true, but if it is even a tiny bit true and unit commanders are actively trying to cover up mistreatment of prisoners, well, that is just a scary proposition.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Tree Time

Click here for your guide to which conifer you want to chop down and mount in your living room.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Ain't Technology Grand?

Live within 10-50 miles of a military base? Can't open your garage door? It might not be a coincidence. Seems that something along the lines of 90% of remote-control garage door openers operate on a frequency -390 megahertz- owned by the U.S. military, but until recently not used by them very often. Note I said "until recently." Now, the military is changing 125 military bases over to radio systems on the 390 mHz frequency. If you're wondering by now why your garage door opener uses a military band, small devices like that are legally permitted to because they not likely to cause interference and jam the military radio signals. However, the feeling is not mutual. Military radio signals are hefty enough to jam garage door openers in the vicinity.

Here's the deal: for around $60, you can replace the parts so your garage door opener operates on a different frequency. For around $120, a technician can do the same thing. For $150-$250, you can replace your entire garage door opener (check the frequency on the new one first!). Or, for free, you can do what I did for years growing up and hop out of the car, unlock the garage door, and heave the door open yourself. The minute or so it takes to do that, you can save by skipping a couple reps on your biceps curls.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Pointsettia Planning

It's that time of year again. I need to start planning where to put this year's Killer Pointsettia. To recap, in previous years, the pointsettia my office receives from Healthy Living News has killed the potted ivy and the copier. We should be getting this year's KP this week or next. I'm open to suggestions as to which piece of office equipment gets axed this year.

Spell Check

Last night, I was on the phone with my sister (Ann O.), and she was telling me about their big plans with the kids for this weekend, which are supposed to be a surpise, so key words were being spelled out. The children are in first grade and kindergarten and nine months old, so that trick still works for the time being. The conversation went something like:

HER: Then we are going to take the T-R-A-I-N to get a Christmas tree and have some-- [long pause]
HER: Is that right?
ME: I mean C-O-C-O-A. Wait a minute! Why am I spelling things? I'm on the phone. They can't hear me.

Just your funny moment of the day.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Hey, Blitzen! We Don't Serve Your Kind Here

If Santa Claus is coming to town in Raleigh, he had better find an alternate mode of sleigh propulsion. Reindeer cannot cross state lines into North Carolina this holiday season. Other states with reindeer travel restrictions this season include Tennessee, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Mississippi and Minnesota.

The restrictions on reindeer transport are a means to limit the spread of Mad Reindeer Disease (technically called chronic wasting disease). Here's the full article.

Bit o' This 'n' That

I know, I know. I said I was only neglecting you all for November, and here it is December 3 and I'm still not back to daily posting. There's no excuse for that. So here's the scoop on a few random odds and ends:

Not Rosie Jetson Yet
We purchased a robotic vacuum over Thanksgiving weekend. Anyone who has either lived with me or entered anywhere I am responsible for cleaning will understand why. On or near Tuesday, we will be getting a replacement for our robotic vacuum, since this one tends to vacuum for about 2 feet, then starts flashing its "check brush" light and motoring around randomly without vacuuming for another couple minutes before it just up and quits. I told the customer service phone rep that if I were a robot whose sole purpose was to clean up the humans' messes, I'd be tempermental, too. He put it down to a faulty sensor.

Talking Points
We're preparing for a move at the end of February, from northwest Ohio to somewhere I am told is more central-Ohio-ish. So far, I have given notice to my employer and landlord, and the responses from my boss, coworkers, and property manager have all been, and I quote, "You can't move!" I understand my boss and coworkers, because apparently I am either efficient or have so thoroughly converted the files to my oddball system that no one else can find things. The property manager at my apartment complex, on the other hand, now faces a vacant two bedroom apartment on the third floor of a building with no elevator in a complex that, by her own admission, already has no shortage of vacant two bedroom apartments. Sorry, lady. We're not sticking around just so you don't have to find someone else to rent to.

Forget Chewing Gum, I'm Still at Walk
I'm learning how to play Halo. Until now, my video gaming has been pretty much restricted to the million variations of Tetris, the Worms series, and Duck Hunt (death to all 8-bit waterfowl!). What do all these games have in common? You don't have to walk. Worms World Blast lets you wiggle the invertebrates over a 2-D world to gain a better position for hurling the sheep at the enemy worms, but that is pretty much a left-or-right issue. Halo, on the other hand, involves actual 3D movement of a character while you are trying to shoot the enemy aliens. They're pretty safe for now. I can barely figure out how to walk. If I manage to actually shoot an alien or get where I need to go, that's pure coincidence.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Insert Handel Music Here

Six hours, 23 minutes left until the midnight cutoff date. Word count:


Permit me to woo-hoo at this point.

I still want to work in a little bit more, part as a cushion, and part because there is still one part that needs some more said. But I made it to 50,000 in a month.

Quicky update

Seven hours until midnight and current word count is 49, 294. I have the cats' automated cat toy going so they won't bother me, and except for a run out for pizza in about a half hour, I'll be glued to the keyboard until I get those other 706 words out. I still have four spots with dicey transitions and two plot points to hammer home, so I should have at least enough to say.

See you again on the other side of 50,000.

Monday, November 29, 2004

NaNoWriMo Update

Current word count: 47,048. One day left, and just under 3,000 words to go. I think I can make it.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

What I Did This Weekend...

We went to the Mid-Ohio Con this weekend. Later in the week, after I figure out how to post photos to this site, I will put up the photo someone took the first morning. Stick around. It's worth the wait.

NaNoWriMo Update: 43,057.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Do As I Say...

Social movements really need to check out the credentials of their high-profile advocates. Whatever you may think of the push to strengthen marriage by legally defining it as a union of a man and a woman, I'm not sure this guy should really be considered the go-to guy on strengthening marriage.

He spearheaded the successful effort to put a no-same-sex-marriage amendment into the Ohio state constitution. Granted, he sure does know a lot about marriage between a man and a woman. He's had three of them so far.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

NaNoWriMo Update

Word Count: 37,340


Happy Thanksgiving. I think I finally got the perfect sweet potato/mini marshmallow ratio: five medium-small sweet potatoes and a bag and a half of mini marshmallows. Unfortunately, I neglected to consider pan size and the fact that mini marshmallows expand when heated. Now the inside of my oven is coated with globs of melted mini marshmallows that seem to have instantly fused to the oven surface. I was meaning to run a clean cycle anyway.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

NaNoWriMo Update

Word Count: 30,042. Under 20,000 words left. It's all downhill from here. 20,000 words is only about 3,000 words a day from now until the end of the month. I'm planning on binging on the holiday weekend, and who knows? I might end up ahead of schedule. Here's to hoping.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Turkey Tech Support

For all of your poultry-roasting tech support needs, call 1-800-BUTTERBALL or email The Turkey Line is staffed 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Central Time tomorrow and Wednesday, and if you find yourself in a turkey jam (not to be confused with cranberry sauce) on Turkey Day Proper, your salvation will be answering the phones from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time. Hours through December 25 can be found here. Before you call with any of the following questions check out Turkey FAQs here:

How much turkey should I buy?
Should I buy a fresh or frozen turkey?
What's the best way to thaw a turkey?
How do I safely handle turkey?
What's the proper way to stuff a turkey?
What's the best way to roast a turkey?
What do I need to do to a turkey just before roasting it?
Where does the meat thermometer go?
How do I know when the turkey is done?
How do I store leftover turkey properly?

My answers to those questions are, in order: as much as you need, as long as it's a dead turkey, very carefully, shove a tasty breadlike substance down its neck and up its rear, in the oven, make sure you removed the giblet pack, in the turkey, when the smoke detector goes off, and in your stomach. Butterball provides much more helpful answers, including a Turkey Calculator for that first question.

The FAQ page also has a link to an instructional video on how to thaw a turkey, for those who find their life in not complete without streaming a video of a woman putting a turkey in a refrigerator.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

NaNoWriMo Update

Word count: 23,635. Two thirds of the way through the month, and I'm almost at the halfway mark. That does make 13,000 in half the time it took for the first 10,000. If that level of exponential growth continues, I may yet make it.

The excerpt I originally posted to Tesla's Pigeons as the opening is now on Page 8.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Follow the Money...

Yesterday, CNN had a story in their morning entertainment news briefs about some recent acquisitions by the Smithsonian. Well, actually the segment was all about how the Smithsonian has acquired the "puffy shirt" from an episode of Seinfeld. In the last 10 seconds of the story, they offhandedly remarked that the Smithsonian has also been given Kermit the Frog.

If I recall, my immediate reaction to that story was to yell to Elie, who was combing his hair in the bathroom, "The Smithsonian got Kermit, and CNN leads off with Seinfeld's puffy shirt?!?!"

I'm biased given that I never really liked Seinfeld (and I have seen enough episodes to make an informed judgement), whereas I can't fathom anyone not liking the Muppets. Still, when you weigh a prop from one episode of a popular sitcom that ran for nine seasons against the flagship Muppet, who has been a cultural icon since 1955 (or 1969, depending on whether you date him from his first appearance or first appearance where is definitely a frog), I don't think there's really much of a question of which is the most broadly important to American culture. Seinfeld may have had a big audience as a sitcom on NBC in the 90's and a popular following in syndication, but Kermit's appeal runs the gamut from Sesame Street all the way to the very adult humor of The Muppet Show. It's Kermit--do I really need to say anything more?

Dig a little deeper, though, and I found something that makes one think that the relative importance of Kermit and the puffy shirt might not have had much to do with CNN's choice of which Smithsonian acquisition to feature in that segment. From what I can tell judging by the list of affiliate websites of The New Official Homepage of the Muppets (thanks ME for a well timed link to that), Muppet publicity, if not the Muppets themselves, is now controlled by Disney, which is part of the ABC media conglomerate, which is not CNN's parent company. CNN's parent company is AOLTimeWarner, which recently signed a deal with Columbia TriStar (part of Sony) to help promote the forthcoming DVD release of Seinfeld Seasons 1-3. Things start to make sense now.

I'm not naive enough to think that corporate ties don't influence the information we get through various sources, but it is still disheartening to see it happen so blatantly. And to Kermit.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Ethics in the light of DeLay

New rules for the House Republicans. Now, a felony indictment is no reason to lose your leadership position. Used to be that if a Republican in a leadership position--say committee chair or, I don't know, House Majority Leader--got indicted, whether it be state or federal charges, they automatically lost their leadership post. They didn't necessarily lose their job, but the leadership position was definitely out if there was even a legally files suspicion of wrongdoing.

Now, with the new rules, a committee will have 30 legislative days to review an indictment and decide if they should recommend the indictee should step aside. Because, hey, maybe a federal indictment doesn't necessarily mean you aren't fit to lead.

So, why the sudden change of heart and/or ethical standards? Three of DeLays "political associates" have been indicted so far in connection with some alleged campaign finance irregularities. While he himself has not been indicted, he helped create the Political Action Committee involved in the questionable activity. He's also been "rebuked" by the ethics committee for appearing to link donations with legislation, and for improper use of federal aviation authorities to intervene in a state matter. But apparently that is all the product of an overzealous Democrat prosecutor who is out to make a name for himself by taking down the House Majority Leader, and he must be insulated from those sorts of partisan attacks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Corrected a typo in the previous entry. Usually my legions of fearless readers will point out my errors--well enough you should, too, given what I do. However, I just noticed that I had written "...insert in the turnkey..." Just another reason why not to trust spellcheckers.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Turkey Countdown

Nine days til turkey day. Time to start cleaning out the fridge to make room for the defrosting bird. I'm cheating this year and only making a turkey breast roast, not the whole bird. I am still making the full spread with stuffing, homemade mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes with the marshmallows on top.

And for those of you who don't like the adventure of scooping steaming stuffing out of your poultry's body cavities, here's your answer: the stuffing cage. It's a metal cage shaped like the inside of a turkey. Simply fill with stuffing, insert up the turkey like a giant breadcrumb suppository, and remove when bird is done. The only flaw I can find: it appears to be one-size-fits-all. I'm not 100% certain, but I'd think that a 24-pound bird might have a larger body cavity than a 10-pounder.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Grooism, Part 2

Thanks for all the suggestions to use acetone nail polish remover to get superglue off skin. Apparently my particular brand of stupid is not uncommon, as the instructions for removing superglue from human flesh are printed right on the tube.

However, this wouldn't be Penguin Perspectives if there weren't a final irony to cap off this whole adventure. I do have nail polish remover, in a bottle under my bathroom sink clearly labelled "Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover."

Friday, November 12, 2004

NaNoWriMo Update

Word count: 11,006, and I've got the ending worked out. I'll be posting another excerpt this weekend.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Grooism of the Day

Since Mr. Grooism is on hiatus, it falls to me to recount the Grooism of the Day. For those of you just joining us here, a Grooism is defined as "an act so stupid your remaining brain cells attempt suicide out of the sheer embarrassment of being associated with neurons that would let you do that." Paradoxically, it also triggers a biological need to tell people what you've done.

I got a run in my pantyhose at work this morning. I had neither nail polish nor hairspray (for the non-pantyhose-wearers in the audience, nail polish and hairspray are the most common ways to stop a pantyhose run from spreading). However, I did have superglue in the office supply closet, which some part of my brain obviously thought would work pretty much like nail polish for fixing the run. No part of my brain considered that liquid superglue is much runnier than nail polish and wouldn't just stick to the nylons. So, even though the superglue ran right through, I thought was still doing OK by engaging both hands to hold the pantyhose away from the pool of superglue on my leg. Then the phone rang.

If you thought that the stupidest part of this was going to be that I superglued my pantyhose to my leg, you are a rank amateur in the realm of Grooisms. For, you see, once you superglue your undergarments to your body, your first instinct is to try to undo what you have done--by pulling. I found out the hard way that the weak link in the chain of pantyhose-superglue-human skin is human skin. When one yanks at that particular combination, one does not so much remove the pantyhose from the skin as remove the first three layers of skin from the leg, leaving it attached to the pantyhose to chafe at the raw area of flesh for the rest of the workday. On top of all that, I still have a half-dollar sized blob of dried superglue on my leg, and it itches.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

NaNoWriMo Update

Total word count: 7,617. I'm still determined to make it.


I've posted another excerpt over at my NaNoWriMo blog. Also, I'm trying to decide between about three ways it can end. You can read the options and put your two cents in over at Tesla's Pigeons.

Current word count: 6,767.

Monday, November 08, 2004

That Darn Swiss Army

As if the toothpick, bottle opener, scissors, corkscrew, nail file, and blade weren't useful enough, now you can get a Swiss Army Knife with a USB port (dang things are universal, aren't they?). Specifically, it has either a 64 MB or 128MB flash drive. They've thought of everything, haven't they?

For What It's Worth

A cartogram is a map in which geography distorted to show relative density of something, most often population. They're fun. Not only do they look like you're looking at a funhouse mirror, but they can also be a lot more helpful than standard geographic maps in some instances. For instance:

Click here to see a standard-geography map of the most recent election then click here to see a cartogram of the electoral map, in which state size is weighted for population.

In addition to the above cartograms, Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman of the University of Michigan worked out a cartogram for county-by-county results and a county-by-county cartogram using shades of purple to indicate percentages of voters per candidate (counties that a candidate won by a larger margin are more blue or red). That last one should be the most interesting. As you can plainly see by going back to this shaded map of counties, there are some really blue counties in the "red states" and some decidedly red counties in the "blue states," but much of the country is more purple than anything.

Turns out that, like so many things about America, it's not as simple as "blue on the edges, red in the middle." Not everyone in (insert state that was for the guy you were against) is a moron for voting for (insert name of guy running against the guy you voted for).

-with thanks to Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman for taking the time to make the cartograms linked to. To read their entire discussion of these cartograms, click here.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The People Have Spoken

I'm declaring an official end to the licking of political wounds here. I'm not asking for "the healing" or some form of associated tripe. I'm just asking to get on with it. As tired as I had become of the pre-election nastiness after several months, I'm tired of this post-election sniveling even more after only four days. Fact is, the guy I wanted more than the other guy wasn't as popular. Our weird little political system boils down to a popularity contest (we can hope that popularity is based on ideas and policy, but there's no requirement that it is), and the person I wasn't pulling for was more popular. Whatever anyone thinks of how he got in the first time, a majority wants to keep him. There may have been some irregularities in the voting, but the Republicans did not beam down 51% of the electorate from Pluto. I may not understand why, but people out there like Bush. Most of them aren't stupid (yes, there are idiots on both sides); they have different priorities than I do and different ways of coming to a decision. Again, there are no regulations how a voter comes to his or her decision. However it happens, it happened, and that's the way it is.

Here's an interesting commentary in Salon (requires paid subscription or 15 seconds of your time to watch an ad) discussing why Kerry supporters were so surprised Bush won. We all get the impression that our guy is going to win because we travel in circles of people who believe like we do. Since we don't have contact people with differing opinions in our daily lives, and tend to stick to reading material that reinforces our views rather than challenging them, we get the impression that everyone must agree with us, which is not the case (on either side--a 3 million vote margin in a country with an overall population of 294 million is enough to give Bush a majority of the vote, but hardly adds up to universal support).

A side note: both sides got nasty these past few months. Larry, I agree that a 12-year-old punching a cardboard Kerry and expressing homicidal urges toward a sitting senator does not reflect well on the character of Bush supporters. On the other hand, in the past couple weeks, I saw at least five defaced Bush-Cheney signs. Nary a defaced Kerry-Edwards sign to be found. Presuming that the defacement was from actual Kerry-Edwards supporters and not the brainchild of someone wanting to portray Kerry-Edwards supporters as childish vandals, that doesn't exactly speak well of them, either.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

So You Want to Move to Canada

I don't plan on fleeing Northward myself. Politics aside, I've got too much going here. However, if you're curious to see if Canada would even take you, here's a sample entrance exam. You have to get 67 to pass. I scored 74. Six years of French helped.

Friday, November 05, 2004


Part of the FAO Schwartz catalog description of the Segway: "Not available for shipment to Texas." Any chance it has anything to do with this picture?

UPSide Down Logic

Maybe I'm being picky. First, we had a few packages disappear off our doorstep, so our UPS driver stopped leaving our packages at the door and started delivering them to the leasing office. Problem was, he/she forgot to leave us a notice that we had a package delivered. Now, he/she has resumed doorstep delivery. As a precaution against the package thefts that started this whole thing, whoever is delivering our packages started leaving them under our doormat. That does hide the small flat packages. However, yesterday, I came home to find my doormat draped neatly over a big honkin' box from The delivery person seems to have confused a worn pink carpet sample for the Cloak of Invisibility.

In Penguin-Based News

At the grocery store today, I happened to notice a new product: Little Penguin wines, named for the Little Blue penguin native to Australia (coincidentally, where the wines are native to). The fairy penguin wines come in chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and shiraz.

The website also contains some penguin amusements you can see by clicking here. The Penguin Party Pics do not, as far as I can tell, contain any pictures of actual penguins. However, I did find the Top 4 Penguin Party Games list and Penguin Personals to be worth at least a chuckle. And you can download a screen saver of penguins stomping grapes over here.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Mark Your Calendars

In March, 2005, the US Postal Service will roll out its commemorative Muppet stamps. Gracing our bills will be Kermit, Fozzy. Sam The Eagle, Miss Piggy, Statler and Waldorf, The Swedish Chef (for personal reasons, my favorite), Animal, Beaker (my second favorite) and Honeydew, Rolf, and Gonzo and Camilla. Get a look at them here.

Elie and Arnold, scroll down in that article until you get to the stamps listed for release in "Late summer or early fall." I think you'll find something there that will interest you.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

NaNoWriMo Update, Day 3

Total word count: 2,003. Only 47,997 to go. Click here for the full update and an excerpt from today's output.

My Reaction

I've been searching for a word all day and I think I finally found it. I'm stunned. Cattle-on-the-way-to-the-Big-Mac-factory stunned. I've been wrong in elections before, but never this wrong. As one of the instructors at work today pondered, "Am I really that far out of mainstream?"

I just don't get it. How could this happen? Really, if any of you out there can explain why an actual honest-to-God majority of people decided to vote for George W. Bush, I'm ready to listen. He's the President of my country and I accept him as such, but I would really appreciate some help understanding what about that man and his policies makes 51% of the electorate want him to be in charge.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Report from the Ohio Electoral Front

My vote went off without a hitch. At 3:30 p.m., there wasn't even a line worth mentioning, though they were two poll workers short. My polling place did not have any challengers there--though I have heard other polling places in my area did--so I didn't get hassled about the typo on my registration. I had my cheat sheet with me so I made absolutely sure I voted for the intended person in every race. The whole thing could not have gone smoother.

My polling place uses the optical scan ballots (fill in the oval with a #2 pencil), which of all the types are probably the least error-prone. However, I must say, could they maybe redesign the big ol' box that sucks up the ballots for scanning? That thing looks way too much like a paper shredder. The poll workers assure me it isn't.

Here Goes Nothing...

Today is the day. I have my list of whom and what I plan to vote for, and I'll be stopping by my polling place after work this afternoon to cast the official vote. I'm a bit nervous, though. The courts have been going back and forth over whether Republican challengers can be inside polling places to challenge the validity of voter registrations in Ohio. This morning, I see they're back to "yes." I'm a little concerned that this afternoon I'm going to have to face one of them down to argue for my ballot because some clerk entered my voter registration as "Jane Harriett." Those of you who type this web address frequently (or, alternately, gave birth to me and/or had some part in the naming process) will note that my name is not Jane. Close, but not quite. I thought the rolls had been corrected last time the error was caught at the polling place, so I stupidly neglected to re-register to correct the little problem. They've never given me trouble at my polling place over it before, as the polling place is staffed by kind retired women who understand clerical errors. We'll see if living in a swing state and having voted in the Democratic primary changes that. I hope not.

Monday, November 01, 2004

NaNoWriMo Day 1

The official word count for the day is 1,115. Check Tesla's Pigeons for details.

Happy November

It's midnight here, and National Novel Writing Month has officially begun. Entries here will probably be shorter for the next month while I work toward the NaNoWriMo goal of a 50,000 word novel by 11:59 p.m. November 30. Exerpts of my novel-in-progress will be posted at I'll be posting a running tab of my word count here periodically so you all can get on me to finish. 50,000 words in a month works out to 1667 words a day.

I'll try to keep up at least short postings here throughout the month, too, so you all don't feel too neglected.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Since You've Been Nice

About a month ago, Elie said I would tell you about his record collection someday if you were really nice. Well, of course you are all always very nice, so here goes.

His record collection is heavy. Very heavy. I don't know how many records he owns, but if anyone can estimate how many LPs you can make from eight metric tons of vinyl, you're probably close. That doesn't count the 45's or the 78's. Actually, the 78's are the heavy suckers, being as how they're glass and all, but there are fewer of them. Mercifully, the record collection at least includes two record players, one of which even works. I would probably have objected to carting that many records across four time zones if he didn't occasionally play them.

I've moved the entire collection four times. Last move, we got smart and hired people to do all the heavy lifting. It's no more expensive than putting my spine back together.

Actually, it's a very impressive collection. I'm not aquainted with the full catalog, but it does include a lot of vintage classical and jazz. Also one of my favorite recordings ever set to vinyl, Switched on Bach. Aaah, the glory days of the Moog synthesizer...


Watching Saturday Night Live, I must say they're being a little tacky tonight with all the gags about Ashlee Simpson getting caught lip synching last week. Certainly, no one would imagine that SNL would let the big entertainment controversy of the week pass without a mention, but they're going a little overboard, considering it happened on their show. Does anyone here think she was lip synching without SNL's knowledge? Kind of tacky to poke that much fun at her for something they were at the very least complicit in.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

For the Procrastinators

If you're still stuck for a Halloween costume, here are some last-minute costumes from LucasArts. If you really want to scare the kiddies, you can print out the Admiral Akbar mask and answer the door as a squid person. Trust me. It will work. It took me several years to get over the time, I must have been about 4, when my dad came home from work wearing a Yoda mask and I opened the door to find a 6-foot-tall green thing instead of my father. That sort of thing leaves a mark.

And on a completely unrelated note, don't forget to turn your clocks back tonight unless you live in one of those sane places that doesn't observe Daylight Saving Time. That gives you another hour to brace yourself for the kiddies.

Duck Hunt

Let all 8-bit animated ducks beware: you're going down. I may be 17 years late, but I've discovered Nintendo's Duck Hunt, which those of you who were playing video games in 1987 may remember as the game that came with the original Nintendo Entertainment System. It's a simple, yet cathartic, concept. You have a light gun that you aim at the TV. Ducks fly up. You shoot. Ducks die.

It only took three levels worth of ducks before I started wondering how the gun knew I hit the duck. Fortunately, this is the age of the internet and a website called Straight Dope explains how you shoot the ducks with the light gun. The secret: the gun doesn't shoot at the TV. The TV shoots at the gun. Sneaky, no?

Friday, October 29, 2004

Think Before You Vote...No, Really THINK

The American Psychological Society just published a paper on "the effects of mortality salience on evaluations of political candidates as a function of leadership style." In plain English, they measured how being reminded of one's death changed whether a person would choose the charismatic, task-oriented, or relationship-oriented candidate. The charismatic leader emphasized the group identity and the importance of an overarching vision. The task-oriented leader set high but achievable goals and had detailed, workable plans for achieving those goals. The relationship-oriented leader emphasized the need for the leaders and the people to work together to achieve the common good, and showed respect, trust and confidence in the followers.

Are you ready for what they found? With a neutral introduction before being asked to pick a candidate, the voters split 4% for Charisma, 45% for Relationship. However, when subjects were given the introduction that reminded him that they were going to die at any moment, Mr Charisma picked up 29%, Mr. Relationship lost 23%. There was no significant change in the approval rating for The Guy With A Plan.

In short, if all a candidate has going for him/her is charisma, constantly keeping the electorate fearing for their lives is sound strategy. This is part of something called, I kid you not, Terror Management Theory. When scared for their lives, people have psychological distress that causes them to gravitate toward leaders who "emphasize the greatness of the nation and a heroic victory over evil." Their words, not mine. What makes this ironic? Research into charismatic leaders in 1987-88, well before Bush's "faith-based" presidency, showed that charismatic leaders tend to have a disconnect with reality that generates some of the psychological distress that makes the charismatic leaders so appealing. Yup. Once we're in fear for our lives, the only way to head off the popularity of a charismatic leader is to step back and try to make a rational, informed decision based on the relevant issues. As the researchers note, though, "in scary times, when MS [mortality salience, or thinking about your own death] is often high, or when national self-worth is particularly shaky, rationally driven decisions may be unlikely."

You may well ask why charisma is a bad thing. It doesn't have to be. Charisma is largely the ability to get people to follow you with blind adoration. If your intentions are good, that's OK. If you plan on taking over the world or doing something ethically questionable, charisma may be a bad thing.

Click here for the entire paper (pdf file).
Or here for the news release.

A Brief History of the Written Word

Just in time for NaNoWriMo, it comes out: New research shows that Johannes Gutenberg may not have used moveable type in the Gutenberg Bible after all. Others dismiss the new research as a crock of crap (ok, their word was "stunt"). I wonder how much longer into this age of desktop publishing people are going to care who invented moveable type. Now that we have Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, who among us gives a rodent's rear end who invented the catapult?

Actually, it's sort of odd that we celebrate moveable type as the great leap forward. Ever since the invention of moveable type, we've been trying to reverse that invention, slowly moving back up to setting entire pages again. Not discounting the influence of cheaper printed material on the general literacy level of humanity--probably second only to the invention of the written word, so called because it was all hand written for a few centuries--but let's take a look at the evolution of printing for a moment. If I missed or mixed up anything, I'm sure my printer forbearers would be happy to set the record straight (that's your cue, Dad and Gran'dad).

It started out with an entire page carved on one block, which was hard work and not entirely efficient. Then moveable type split the blocks into individual letters that could be set and reused. It did not take humanity long to figure out that letters are tiny things and setting type by hand is hard work, as is un-setting the type. Try cutting a magazine page into individual letters and sorting the letters without mixing up 8-point Times with 9-point Palatino sometime. You'll get the idea. Mix up the sorting, and your next project looks like a ransom note.

The first step in moving back up to full-page typesetting was linecasting, where something akin to moveable type was used to create blocks of full lines of type; these were usually melted and the metal reused after the print run to make new lines. Then we got rid of the metal (and aren't you glad you can print something in your home without a foundry?) and moved on to photomechanical and cathode ray tube methods of creating, once again, blocks of entire pages for the press.

Now, with desktop publishing, we have broken through the pre-Gutenberg barrier of only being able to set a page at a time. With Quark or Pagemaker or even MS Word, you can set an entire book fairly easily, and if you're setting an e-book, you aren't even constrained by having to make page breaks for the presses.

So there you have it. A 550-year effort to get back to what we were doing before, only without the chisel.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

More Constitutional Loopholes

And I thought the Electoral College was a disconcerting election loophole in the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Electoral College only paves the way for the will of the majority to be subverted in the democratic process. Here, Slate explains a far more frightening loophole in our Constitution that makes it theoretically possible for George W. Bush to, on his own and entirely legally, assure his second term. Sure, things have to line up just right for it to happen, but the scary thing is that there aren't that many things to line up for it to happen:

1. Chief Justice Rehnquist becomes permanently incapacitated by the condition which currently has him recouperating in the hospital.
2. President Bush uses his Constitutionally-granted authority to make recess appointments to name a replacement to the bench while the legislature is in recess. Per the Constitution, whomever Bush appoints stays in at least until the Senate reconvenes in January.
3. In Florida II, contentious elections get thrown toward the Supreme Court again.
4. The Supreme Court, now with one Justice who is there on the sole authority of one of the candidates, takes the case up.
5. The Court, except for the new Justice, splits 4-4 on the decision, and the newly appointed Justice, having been chosen by Bush, is the tiebreaker for Bush.

Believe it or not, the weak links in this chain of events are steps 1 and 4: whether Rehnquist recovers from his thyroid cancer surgery and the Court decides to get involved again. Another Slate article here explains why the Supreme Court, with or without Rehnquist, will probably be reluctant to decide another election.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Poll Cat

If you're one of those people who lets polls influence your opinions, here is a must-read article on Slate discussing how different polls get released showing every possible electoral outcome simultaneously. Somehow, we understand and accept that depending on who you listen to and how they ask the questions, Kerry wins, Bush wins, or they're tied, but we're baffled by quantum physics which says pretty much the same thing, only about subatomic particles instead of political candidates.

And while we're talking about completely irrelevant election news, can we all agree to please stop this whole red state/blue state nonsense. No state has "gone" to anyone yet. WE HAVEN'T COUNTED THE VOTES YET. Except for early voting states, no one has even voted yet. At this point, it is possible (though not probable), that a plurality of voters in Kansas could decide to go Democrat. Wouldn't that just throw everyone off?

Help a Student With Her School Project

My friend Claire's high school is emphasizing to its students the importance of voting, and one of the projects to that end is a contest to see which class can get the most people to promise to vote Tuesday. It doesn't matter who you're voting for, or whether you're voting absentee or at a polling place. The important thing is that you will vote.

So here's the plea: if you are a registered voter in the U.S., declare your intention to vote now by leaving a comment to this post, including your name. If you're squeamish about leaving your name on the Internet, email me at and I'll forward your name on to her. She needs names ASAP, so declare your intentions early.

As a followup, get your butt off the sofa Tuesday and vote. If you're voting absentee, you may keep your butt on the sofa for the voting process and remove it to mail the ballot.

Monday, October 25, 2004

OK, That's Weird

It's probably not polite, but when I'm in the checkout line at the supermarket, I check out what the person ahead of me is buying. Tonight, I was behind a woman buying three pints of isopropyl alcohol and a pack of Oscar Mayer bologna. Nothing else. Next time I'm bored or have writer's block, I am going to make a point of figuring out what situation would drive a person to leave her home to buy a quart and a half of rubbing alcohol and a pound of processed meat.

If it isn't apparent, I'm burnt out on politics. Back to the original mission of pointing out the random oddities of life.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Flu Shot, Part 2

I can't believe I actually crossed international borders for medical care. Yes, this morning we awoke early, dug out our passports and drove the hour and a half to Canada, where certain places are willing to share Canada's expected flu shot surplus before an official deal is brokered between our governments. This is not "reimporting" (I believe the technical term is "smuggling") cheaper drugs from Canada. We plunked down $50 American apiece for something that usually costs $20 stateside, and I'm just guessing it is not that much more expensive to Canadians. When someone has a supply of something scarce, they get to set the price and the consumer just has to decide if they think the cost is worth what they're getting. For us, it was. Fifty clams plus time, gas, and tolls is still much less than the $300 our local pharmacy wanted to charge for FluMist (giving them a tidy 1812% markup) and less than we'd lose being out of work with the flu.

I'm just glad that, whatever the price, Canadians are willing to share, whatever the price. I'm thinking they may not be so accommodating next year.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Household Hints From Martial Arts

Click here for AkuAku, the art of ninja t-shirt folding. The instructions look complicated until you do it once or twice. It's pretty much pinch-pinch-cross-pinch-uncross-drop. I suggest bringing a t-shirt next to your computer to get the hang of it. It creates such a neatly folded t-shirt that I re-folded every t-shirt in the house last night at midnight.

Flu Sh*t

I find it interesting that for the past I don't know how many years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been trying to persuade everyone to get annual flu shots. They remind people that 36,000 people die of the flu every year, and that widespread flu vaccinations would cut down on that number. And I quote from last year's guidelines:

Epidemics of influenza typically occur during the winter months and have been responsible for an average of approximately 36,000 deaths/year in the United States during 1990-1999. Influenza viruses also can cause pandemics, during which rates of illness and death from influenza-related complications can increase dramatically worldwide. Influenza viruses cause disease among all age groups.
In the United States, the primary option for reducing the effect of influenza is immunoprophylaxis with inactivated (i.e., killed virus) vaccine (see Recommendations for Using Inactivated Influenza Vaccine). Vaccinating persons at high risk for complications each year before seasonal increases in influenza virus circulation is the most effective means of reducing the effect of influenza.
Read the entirety of last year's CDC flu guidelines here.

By contrast, you can click here to see one of the flu shot promo posters for this year. The headline: "Vaccination is Not the Only Way to Prevent the Flu." It goes on to suggest we not have close contact with sick people, stay home if we're sick, wash our hands, not touch our faces, get plenty of sleep, eat well, reduce stress, and drink plenty of water.

I'm young and reasonably healthy, hence not one of the high risk groups who are getting vaccinated this year, but I'm really not in to getting potentially fatal preventable diseases. With modern medicine, I'm also not planning to rely on the drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest method. I'll update tomorrow with the solution we're trying.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Password Protect

Found this interesting list of common passwords (read: passwords you should never use) over at Yahoo. I would have never expected "beowulf," "polynomial," or "bicameral" to be common passwords. I'm not surprised at how many of the Seven Words You Can't Say On Television are on the list.

Now, I sympathize with the plight of network administrators wanting to protect accounts, data, etc. and fighting an uphill battle with us silly users who put the practical concern of being able to access the stuff over maintaining hack-proof security. Nonetheless, what do these people expect of us? Not exaggerating, I use 10 separate passwords just to do my job. Did I mention this is not a full time job? To make it more interesting, I have to change some of the passwords every 120 days or so and can't recycle passwords for 12 changes, making for about a dozen and a half passwords a year. Ideally, these should be 8 characters long, alphanumeric, and not words found in a dictionary. If network administrators really had their way, I would not use the same password for more than one application.

Remembering a solid password isn't so hard. Even remembering 10 solid passwords, usernames, and which application goes with which username and password is doable. What gets lost is the fact that the passwords and usernames are just security access. We actually have jobs to do on top of remembering passwords! Brain cells are a finite commodity, and we need to have some left over to remember why we were typing in the password in the first place.

Live Writing

I've set up a separate blog where you can read my entire NaNoWriMo novel as I write it. I'll get a link to it over in the right sidebar soon. Updates on progress and excerpts will still be posted here. The actual writing won't start until November 1, but for now, you can click here to find an explanation of my working title.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

What I'm Doing Next Month

November is National Novel Writing Month. It sounds like one of those phony holidays, like National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day, but NatNoWriMo is more of a challenge. The premise: write an entire 50,000-word novel between 12 a.m. November 1 and 11:59 p.m. November 30.

I'm going to do it.

I just signed up. I fully intend to finish all 50,000 words, too. By my count, that comes out to 1667 words per day. I'll be posting my progress here throughout November so you all can get on my butt if I'm slipping behind. If things go really well and you all are interested, I'll even post a few excerpts.

The story is still bouncing around my head in its nascent stages, so it's hard to explain. As things get worked out a little more, I'll post a plotline. At the moment, all I can say is that it has something to do with brain drain, commercial space flight, social stratification, terriforming, and interplanetary colonization. Trust me, it should be a lot more exciting when I get characters. No, I don't have a title yet.

I'll be maintaining some semblance of my regular blog commentary for November, but it will probably be a bit shorter as more of my writing time goes to my novel. In the interim, please keep on me to get it done.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

From the Mailbag

In answer to some reader questions:

Yes, Larry, you can still buy Water Joe here. Caffeinated water runs $18.99 for a 24-pack. For a beverage to make your adrenal glands cry for mercy, consider using it to brew a cup of Shock brand hyper-caffeinated coffee (we get it at our local mall coffee shop). If you survive, we'll try it ourselves.

Becca, the cafe au lait soap sounds like a winner. I'll even volunteer to test-drive it.

Moving Day

August J. Pollak writes here about his horror story of moving five hours to a new apartment with a new job (Language Warning). Anyone who has tried to move using nothing more than a rental truck and the labor of friends will sympathize.

We're lucky enough that, in 3000 miles worth of moves, we've never run into a hailstorm. We've also never locked ourselves out of a U-Haul with a dead battery. However, we did have a U-Haul blew up outside Des Moines, Iowa, a half hour after every U-Haul employee in the greater Des Moines area called it a night. The move went downhill from there. The tow truck managed to decapitate my good 3-way floor lamp.

Next move, we're renting both the truck and the people to do the heavy lifting. Before you say anything, yes we are taking reasonable precautions to assure that all of our stuff makes it to the destination.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Weird Stuff On The Net

When I say I am a caffeine addict, I mean that if I miss my morning cup of coffee, by 5 p.m. I feel like I have a meat cleaver in my skull and by 6 p.m. I'll have my head in a toilet. That said, even I think caffeinated soap is a little excessive.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Home Networking in Two Easy Steps

I'll gloss over how we came to look at components for a home network today and skip right to the instructions on the wireless internet router that promised we could network our computers in two easy steps. I was doubtful, since it takes us at least three easy step to turn on our television set.

Step One of the two easy steps: "Follow the instructions for creating your home network." Well, damn. Steps don't get much simpler than that.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Undecided Voters

In a revealing typo, this post was nearly titled "Undecoded Voters."

Today's Doonesbury comic asks the question on many a mind at this late date in the election cycle: how can there still be undecided voters? In the Presidential race, I'm in total agreement. People may not be enamored of either man, but, given that we've been listening to this campaign for nigh on six months, they should have had the time to settle on who they think would do the least damage for four years until we can try this again. Strangely, I think that's what I said four years ago about this time.

The local elections are another matter entirely. As Zonker put it in the punchline, "Who's running again?" I just spent a half hour online trying to track down what else would be on the ballot. I finally managed to click my way into the Ohio Board of Elections website, where I could print out a list of the issues and candidates on the statewide ballots next month. So I still have no real information to use to make a decision, but at least I have a vague idea of what I'm deciding about. I miss my first couple elections in Oregon. There, the office that puts on the election mailed out a booklet to every voter that had the sample ballot printed, the text of every ballot measure, biographies of all the candidates, and arguments pro and con from anyone who forked over $500 to buy half a page. That was the last place I lived where the people putting on the elections thought that they should not only hand out and collect the ballots, but make sure voters were educated about the issues. Here in Ohio, I called the Board of Elections for the last mid-term elections to ask how I could get a voter's guide. Their answer (I kid you not): "The newspaper publishes something the Sunday before the election." We plopped down a clam and a half for that Sunday paper. The comics page was more educational. Their supposed voter's guide is a joke.

One final word. I'm voting for the county coroner? Those are the guys who pick up dead people, aren't they? When did that become an elected office? Shouldn't that be a job that is filled on the basis of medical knowledge rather than party affiliation?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Bit o' this and that

Just when I start running Google ads, Slate runs an article about how the political campaigns could take advantage of them.

Google ads work on targeted keywords. Ads that Google places here are (supposedly) related to the content of the site. For instance, I've been writing a lot about the upcoming election, and lo and behold, one of the ads over there is for The Washington Post's election coverage (your ads may vary). The ad guys over at the Post think that if you're getting your election news from me, maybe you'd like to check theirs out.

Speaking of the WP, I've been meaning to plug If you don't like registering for websites just to read their content, this is the site for you. All you do is go to, type in the URL of the site you want to visit, and they show a valid username and password that some nice person somewhere in cyberspace has decided to share. It's great for people worried about their Internet privacy. I use it because it cuts down on the number of usernames and passwords I have to remember, particularly for websites I don't read regularly.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Attitude is Everything

For the past three years, I've been rather uncomfortable with all the flag waving. We all know when this started: when, as they say, we were all Americans. Somewhere along the lines, our flag got hijacked. "Patriot" became an acronym for Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (catchier than HR 3162, isn't it?). The flag has become a rallying banner for the War on Terror. It's on the lapels of our pandering politicians and draping the caskets of our dead. It's presented, neatly folded, to widows who are far too young. The one place it isn't lately is anywhere happy. I've come to miss the Fourth of July parades I went to as a child, when the F-15 flyovers were ceremonial, and we stood as the flag passed, in respect to the country and the principles of hope on which the country stood. That was back when I could look at the flag and think of America, not just the government.

Tonight, I saw something that brought those old feelings back. In three years, I'd almost forgotten what it was like to see someone waving the flag for a reason other than supporting the current administration/policies/military actions. Then I watched the first half of "Black Sky," the Discovery Channel documentary of Scaled Composite's flights that won them the Ansari X-Prize. As Space Ship One was towed back to the hangar after the winning flight, pilot Brian Binnie stood on top of the spaceship waving the American flag. In a change from what I've seen out of a lot of people lately, he was waving that flag because an American group had accomplished something to the benefit of all mankind that had nothing to do with "making the world safer." Here's the irony: the fundamental accomplishment of winning the Ansari X-Prize was breaking governments' monopoly on space travel.

Penguin Perspectives, Now With Ads

If you look several inches to the right, you may notice I'm trying something new. In an effort to turn this little blog into a possible source of income, thus hastening my journey into the realm of Full Time Professional Writer, I'm taking on ads. Apparently I get a lira or two per ad-click. If you see something you like over there, go ahead and click to support your local blogger.

The ads are supposed to be content-sensitive. Let's hope Google's ad engine has developed a sense of sarcasm since the good old days when Blogger had the banner ads at the top of my page here. Long time readers may recall that I got ads for Ambien after writing about how silly it was that an insomnia medication warned that it may cause drowsiness.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Fact Check

The fact-checkers on tonight's debate so far seem to be missing this one. The question was, (paraphrasing): "how did we end up with a shortage of flu vaccine?"

Bush's response (cut-and-pasted from CNN's debate transcript, emphasis added):
Bob, we relied upon a company out of England to provide about half of the flu vaccines for the United States citizen, and it turned out that the vaccine they were producing was contaminated. And so we took the right action and didn't allow contaminated medicine into our country.

Fact: The lab that produced the now-impounded vaccine is in Liverpool, England. The company is out of Emeryville, California. See their full list of locations here.

Third Debate

A few good jabs in early, then the entire debate kind of turned to mush. Then again, maybe the mush was my brain rejecting all of the lines I've heard before, and all of the crap questions. "What have you learned from the strong women in your life?"! I'm sure that is just what the electorate wants to know.

I've found these debates very educational, but I am glad they are finally over. Kerry is making promises he can't keep. Bush is running like he hasn't already had four years to start doing some of this, and is dodging inconvenient questions about that first term. No one is saying anything new, or answering the important questions on the minds of voters.

The election is in just under two weeks. Please make some time to go out and vote for whichever guy you think can best lead the United States for the next four years. I'll blog lightly on November 2. That way, you can take some of the time you usually spend reading this and go out and cast a ballot.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Human achievement

I don't put too much stock in online polls, given how easy they are to fix. Nonetheless, this one over at CNN gives you something to ponder: What was the most significant invention/breakthrough of the past 50 years?

The choices given are: artificial heart, ATM, barcode, compact discs, the computer mouse, cloning, fiber optics, the Human Genome Project, jumbo jets, lasers, mobile phones, MRI scanners, nanotechnology, nuclear power, personal computer, Prozac, satellites, silicon chips, soft contact lenses, test tube baby, the pill, Voyager, the Walkman, the world wide web, or "other."

In my mind, a few can be eliminated right off the bat because they piggyback on something else on the list. Compact discs and barcodes are dependent on laser technology, which would fundamentally make lasers the most significant breakthrough. The computer mouse and World Wide Web aren't anything without the personal computer, which in turn was only possible because of the silicon chip.

A few others can be eliminated as lifestyle enhancements, that while making life a bit cushier, don't really change the world. The ATM, soft contact lens, and Walkman are nice and all, but I don't really think the world would be a fundamentally different place if we had to get the cash from the bank, wear glasses, and jog without the tunes. With respect to families who cannot conceive biological children the old-fashioned way, I'd classify test-tube babies as a lifestyle enhancement, too, inasmuch as the main benefit of IVF is that infertile couples who can afford to sink $9000 per attempt (with an average of 3 attempts) now have the technology pass on their own genetic material.

Nanotechnology, cloning, and the Human Genome project may yet prove to be incredibly significant, but as of yet, they are in their infancy. Same can be said of Voyager--on the off chance that E.T. stumbles across the interstellar probe, figures out what it says, and manages to contact us, it could prove to be a turning point in planetary history, but we've got nothing so far. The artificial heart, Prozac, and MRI scanning have benefits for small(ish) segments who need that particular medical intervention, but worldwide, their effect is not that great.

So, when all is said and done, of the things on the list, I'm voting for the satellite because of the broad range of uses it has been put to for the benefit of all of humanity. Satellites allow scientists to study what is going on with the planet--ozone levels, polar ice sheets, desertification, and the like--so we can change our behavior before our world becomes uninhabitable. Weather satellites help me know how to dress in the morning. Remember a few weeks ago, all that hurricane forecasting that allowed Florida to evacuate, potentially saving lives? That was satellite imaging. GPS for military uses, civilian in-car navigation, and locating lost hikers is all satellite based, as are some non-GPS-based military systems. Satellites are how we have global communication, even from the remotest desert and mountains with satellite phones. We know instantaneously what is going on in our world (wars, elections, all that good stuff) because of satellite news feeds. And here's a little tidbit I bet you didn't know: any of you who put yourself through college on student loans and as a result have a better job and higher standard of living have satellites to thank, and one satellite in particular. The original student loan program was a direct response to the launch of Sputnik. The government wanted to be competitive in the Cold War, so they started fronting the money for higher education in math and science.

Rounding out my top 7 would be silicon chips (because it made the personal computer possible), lasers, the World Wide Web, the pill, and nanotechnology. If I remember, I'll tell you all later about how the pill made my list only because it was the first baby step.

It appears I am in a decided minority. Satellites got only 3% of the vote. The big winners are (in order): silicon chips, the World Wide Web, and personal computers. Frighteningly enough. 44 people actually voted that the apex of human achievement in the last 50 years was the Walkman.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Endorsement Wars

In the interest of fairness, I should point out that the Lowell (Mass.) Sun endorsed George W. Bush. I'd go into the logic of their position, but they don't have free archives on their website and I'm not dedicated enough to pay $2.95 to view it.

Iconoclast, the Sequel

Thanks to ME for pointing out this editorial regarding the reaction to the Lone Star Iconoclast's endorsement of Kerry. In short, some advertisers pulled their ads (normal), some subscribers cancelled their subscriptions (reasonable), some readers wrote in well-thought-out letters to the editor respectfully disagreeing with the editorial (expected), and some Texans threatened to run any business that continued to advertise in the Iconoclast out of town and/or physically harm the editors.

A sampling of some of the more cro-magnon responses from readers. I had to put my own editorial comments in a couple of them, in [brackets] and italics. Everything else is cut-and-pasted.

I am embarrassed and sad that someone who names his paper after the great
State of Texas (LONE STAR) could have the audacity to take a public position
against our President [PP: Publicly oppose the incumbent--what a an irrational idea in a free election]. President Bush and the first Lady represent everything real TEXANS and CHRISTIANS stand for today. I cannot understand how anyone in your community could ever buy an ad or one of your papers again. Please think about what John Kerry represents as compared to President Bush and hopefully you will make the decision to honor your home by supporting OUR PRESIDENT [PP: did this person make it to the end of the original editorial where they state, and I quote, "That’s why The Iconoclast urges Texans not to rate the candidate by his hometown..."?]


You must be a room mate of Bill Burket at the local insane asylum. My God people, this is your President, your neighbor [PP: see comment above quoting the original editorial]. Are you trying to have your 15 minutes of fame at President Bush's expense? Good bye, find another way to make a living, I'm sure the good folks in Crawford will run you out of town

In the Old West days they hung people for being traitors. Quite frankly, I
feel that way about the liberal press, both in the newspapers and on TV [PP: does that sound like a death threat to anyone else here?]. It sounds like you’ve gotten on the “Flip/Flop” bandwagon and I sincerely hope that ALL Texans will ban your newspaper. Anyone that would speak of a sitting President of the United States as you have and all the rest of the liberal press have should be banned [PP: again, offering a dissenting opinion in the run-up to free elections--how dare they!].

I think Bush is a very find Christian man. I believe he does what he thinks
is right, and what else can he do. I’m sure he has feelings just as everyone
else does. I’m sure you hurt his feelings by endorsing Kerry. [PP: hurt his feelings?! What are we running here? An election or a day care center?]

Perhaps you think the war in Iraq was unnecessary? Perhaps you don't like
having a President living in your little town? [PP: I'd comment, but I'm tired of repeating myself--people read what you're writing about first!]. Perhaps you are certifiably nuts? I don't know what your deal is, but I think your actions are shameful. As editor of the iconoclast, you have a responsibility to print the news and keep your opinions to yourself - not make news! [PP: Actually, that's why newspapers have the opinion pages to which you are writing]. To endorse John Kerry - a man who turned against the people fighting in Vietnam and caused the POWS of Vietnam to suffer humiliation and torture - against a man like George Bush is unthinkable. I don't know who made you God and primary decision make of your paper [PP: I don't know about the God part, but whoever hired him as editor of the paper made him the primary decision maker--it's his job], but this decision needs to be re-thought and you need to be fired!

Gentlemen: Helloooooooooo! Hellooooooooooooooooooooo! Is it very hot out there? You fellows must have been exposed to too much sun! Or could it have been the Tequila? Mama mia! What a choice..., I'm sure someone's drunk out there! Take a long walk in the shade....!

Your newspaper is a joke. No one cares what your editorial board thinks or writes. You liberal dumbasses are a disgrace to Texas.

If you think I am just picking out the worst, bear in mind I may be cherry-picking from the worst of the lot, but I left out the letter questioning the editor's genitalia.