Saturday, January 31, 2004

Didn't Expect That When I Woke Up...

According to the thermometer, it was 7 degrees this morning when I left for work, via the dumpster to take my trash out. As I came down the stairs from my apartment, household waste in hand, I came face-to-squad car with not one, but two county sheriffs and a city police officer. One of the sheriffs, looking more bewildered than I am comfortable seeing my on-duty law enforcement personnel look, asked me if I had been the one who called them.

I am smarter than to backtalk anyone with a gun, not to mention I have immense respect for our police, but I almost wanted to ask him, "If I had called you, would I have come out to meet you carrying two bags of empty soda bottles, cat food cans, coffee grounds, and used tissues?"

Happy National Gorilla Suit Day!...

For a more thorough explanation of National Gorilla Suit Day, click here.

It cannot possibly be a coincidence that National Gorilla Suit Day is also the birthday of Franz Schubert, Norman Mailer, Carol Channing, Dick Gephardt, and Justin Timberlake (of 'N Sync and Brittany Spears fame). There's cosmic irony for you: Franz Schubert and Justin Timberlake with the same birthday. The universe does have a sense of humor, doesn't it?

Also on previous National Gorilla Suit Days:
-Guy Fawkes was executed for his role in Guy Fawkes Day
-Truman announced the hydrogen bomb
-General Robert E. Lee was named commander in chief of the confederate army
-The Germans announced unrestricted submarine warfare in WWI
-Americans finally got a satellite into orbit

Friday, January 30, 2004

For Further Reading...

Click here for the New York Times article that will explain a little more about the two sides in the Acronym War, without referring to the wholesale slaughter of cute little bunny rabbits. They do not name the SAFE Act, but that is the bill they are referring to.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

War of the Acronyms

Are you ready to rumble?

In this corner, weighing in at 95 letters without spaces, 10 letters abbreviated, is the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT).

In the other corner, weighing in at 25 letters, 4 letters abbreviated, is the Security and Freedom Ensured Act (SAFE).

The SAFE Act aims to modify some of the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. I have not read either law/bill through, but from what I hear tell, the SAFE Act will negate some of the controversial provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. Depending on whose side you listen to, the SAFE Act will either gut the governments ability to catch terrorists plotting to kill every American and drown sacks full of fluffy kittens and puppies afterward, or it will stop the government from putting a proctosigmoidiscope up the butts of every law-abiding citizen's library records to distract us while the tap our phone calls to Gramma.

For some reason, I don't believe either side.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Blurb You Won't See On the Back Of Norman Mailer's Books...

Also, I don't think my professor was expecting anyone to actually come out and say it in class:

"American Dream was the most colossal waste of 75 cents I've ever spent, and that includes when the vending machine ate my quarters."

The prof was speechless. He deserved it. Today, he got it into his head to call attendance using the full names as printed on the class roster, which in my case is my full name, though I never use my middle name in any context at all. The only time my middle name has ever came into play was when I was in really big trouble as a child, and that was long before I became a Harriett. As if announcing my middle name in front of 35 people I do not know wasn't enough, he decided to add his own editorial comment.

"Janet Lee Harriett. Whoa. Three first names."

Cool. Someone finally found a variation on the two first name comment that I've never heard before. "Actually, two last names." My Grammy's maiden name is Lee, as in Robert E.

He did not get the hint. "Well, it could be three first names."

"But it's not. It's two last names." I should know. It is my name, after all.

Back and forth like this for a while until he finally got the hint and moved on to the next unfortunate soul. I can't believe I am paying for this kind of treatment. I just keep telling myself I am not paying to like it, just to suffer through it long enough to get the degree. I only have to see this guy thirteen more times.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


So there I was playing Mah Jongg and listening to John Kerry give his victory speech in New Hampshire when I realized the crowd was chanting the
catchphrase Kerry was about to say next. This seems to show two things:

1. Kerry needs to write a new stump speech, or at least mix it up and give his speech in a different order once in a while. When your supporters are giving your speech for you, it seems to indicate that you have not said anything new lately.

2. I get the distinct impression he's not reaching anyone new. He has groupies who can sing along with every one of his songs, but this anticipatory chanting gives me the impression that these are the Deadheads that follow him around. I'd like to see how many new people are at his speeches.

Also, I'm not sure anyone has explained the concept of CNN to Kerry. I've inadvertently heard him give the same speech at least three times, and I'm not particularly paying attention to news coverage. Having "the stump speech" worked when a whistlestop tour actually occurred on a train, before coast-to-coast media coverage, when candidates had to bring the message to the people. Now, the 24-hour news networks follow candidates around like dogs follow a liver snap and broadcast any time they do anything interesting--and quite a bit of times when they aren't doing anything important. We've heard the stump speech when he gave it in Iowa. We need something new.

Primary Color...

I'm half listening to CNN fawning over the results of the New Hampshire primary. A comment Becca made on the phone last night points out a fundamental flaw in the primary system:

"You know, I heard that Washington's primary doesn't count, that it's all decided before the Washington primary."

She's half right. Democratic leadership has said that the nomination will be tied up by March 10, when 71% of the delegates will be assigned. Problem is, that is before 14 states hold their primaries. Washington holds its primary on March 2, so, Becca, your primary vote still "counts," but the following states might as well save money and forget about even holding primaries, as the nomination will essentially be locked up weeks--sometimes months--before their polls even open:

North Carolina
West Virginia
South Dakota
New Jersey

The staggered primary calendar allows candidates to campaign all over the country. However, the fundamental flaw is that there are states that must go last. When nominating conventions actually nominated a candidate rather than functioning as a kick-ass victory party and kickoff to the general election campaign, this was not as much of a problem. But now that the convention is a formality, it disenfranchises some of the states.

Conversely, going first is not necessarily a big bonus. Those voters get a lot of attention, but if new information comes to light now, the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire have locked their votes.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Irony Alert...

Thank you, Becca, for pointing out the mind-blowing irony of me complaining about the cold weather on a site called freakin' Penguin Perspectives. And thank you to everyone who has pointed out to me the relative merits of powdered laundry detergent. Should the block of ice in my All Free And Clear jug ever defrost so I can use it up, I will replace it with powder.

On the subject of soap and Becca and shameless commerce, if anyone out there is looking for an interesting gift idea, Becca makes the best handcrafted soap you'll ever use. The soaps are double-milled goat milk, milked by hand from cruelty-free goats with no added hormones. She also has whole-milk goat milk lotion. I will be posting her shameless commerce website as soon as it is up. If you'd like to find out more, email her at

The Letters Are Out...

My letters to the Democratic candidates will go out in the morning's mail. I gave each of them a brief introduction to myself, explained that I understood their basic positions, and asked them each a question based on information on their positions published on their websites. With John Edwards, this was not an easy undertaking, as he has the most difficult website to navigate that I have seen in quite a while; however, we are not electing a web designer, so that is neither here nor there.

The questions were:
Of Kerry and Dean: both have detailed stances of protecting women from domestic violence. I asked if they would extend that rhetoric to cover the male victims of domestic violence as well.
Of Clark: I asked how his tax plan would affect families with no children, as his website's family tax plan benefit calculator, where you can see how his tax proposal benefits you, does not allow for an option of zero children. I pointed out that, as of 1995 Census records, 51% of all families do not include children under 18.
Of Edwards: I asked which of his proposed programs and changes he really believes he could implement, given that he would most likely be working with a legislature that does not have a decisive majority of his party.

The most important question I asked of all the candidates was for them to explain to me why I should vote for them, rather than simply voting against Bush.

Stay posted for results, if any.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Political Experimentation...

I'm not usually a Democrat, but I'm going to become one to vote in the Democratic primary, since I've already decided in November that I'm not voting for Bush and I'd like a hand in choosing for whom I will vote. I have decided to write to the four candidates I am seriously considering--Kerry, Dean, Clark, and Edwards, not in that order--to make an informed decision on my vote for March 2. I intend to make my letters form-letter-reply proof, or at least make them such that it will be very obvious if they send me a form letter reply. I'm tired of candidates sucking up hardest to people in Iowa and New Hampshire. Whoever gets my vote in the late-in-the-race Ohio primary is going to have to work for it. If they don't think it's worth working for, I don't think they're worth giving it to.

The thing is, I am very hard to suck up to as a voter. I'm not really part of any of the main voting blocs that candidates cater to:
-I am married with no children or intentions of ever having any, so all of their initiatives to help middle class families are lost on me.
-I'm middle class and think I'm doing quite well, so I don't need more "relief" from the government.
-I am not particularly religious and to the extent that no one is being harmed, I think the government should stay out of moral issues.
-I an 25 years old have made my peace with Social Security not being there for me when I retire (the last time I checked, the insolvency date was around my 64th birthday), and am making my own retirement plans accordingly. I know I have to pay into it to help people of my grandparents' generation, but I really don't care what they do with a program that will be bust by the time I'm eligible.
-I don't particularly mind paying taxes to support needed programs. I'd like to see them trim unnecessary programs, but necessary is in the eye of the beholder.
-I have no real connections to the major industries in my state. They won't get my support by locking their lips on the backsides of the manufacturing or mining industries. People rarely see office workers as a voting bloc.

I plan to explain all of this to each candidate, ask for clarification on particular issues in their platforms, then ask them the big question:
"I've already decided to vote against Bush. Why should I vote for you?"

I will post results and replies as they come in.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

The Wide World of Laundry...

My mother had me doing my own laundry from about the time I was tall enough to reach into the washer. In all that time, today was the first time I have ever turned anything pink, in spite of consistently integrating my laundry in ways that would make Strom Thurmond steam. If it had only been the sock whose elastic was shot, or the Fruit of the Looms, it would have been OK. No, I had to go all out and turn Elie's business-blue dress shirt partially business-purple. Not entirely purple, which also would have been workable. Just the back of the collar and right cuff.

Wouldn't you know, the one time I throw an item in without looking at the washing instruction is the one time they weren't kidding about "machine wash cold." The kicker: I still didn't get the spot out of the front of my jacket.

Stir Crazy...

It's been three weeks since I have seen grass. The thermometer hasn't registered above 30 degrees for 20 days now. Someone needs to invent a muffler, scarf or nose warmer that does not drive one's breath up over one's eyeglasses, where it frosts over. A layer of salt covers everything outdoors and up to four feet inside doors. I want a thaw so I can wash my car and remember what color it is without the salt and road grime. No matter how much almond oil I slather on, my skin is still painfully dry and chaffed from being subjected to thermal underwear. I thought the slushee laundry detergent (see my January 7 entry in the archives) was as frozen as it would get. I was wrong. It was frozen solid today. Solid.

Bring on the Groundhog. I'm ready for spring.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Sweater Update

I'm not sure what the deal is with the Wesley Clark argyle sweater auction, but the high bid is down to just over $5,000.

Presidential Visits...

President Bush's visit last Wednesday to "a community college near Toledo" caused a few, ahem, problems for some of the instructors at the school I work for, who also teach courses at Owens, the community college Bush visited. Karen says I need to ask one about her experience, but another told me how the security precautions wreaked havoc on classes being held on the second floor of the building in which the President gave his address to 300 invited guests. Anyone entering the building, whether one of the guests or a student who needed to go to class, had to go through a metal detector to get in. When I say "a metal detector," I mean A metal detector. One. Singular. Fewer than two available metal detectors to screen 300 invited guests for the speech and students who paid good money to attend classes. This in addition to having half of the parking on campus cordoned off for security purposes, exacerbating an already tight supply of available parking on campus.

Seems that every time the President goes somewhere to have a good backdrop for his speeches, his visit produces the exact opposite effect of whatever he is talking about. He went to an aircraft carrier to announce that the mission was accomplished and our troops were coming home, thus delaying the homecoming of the troops on that ship. He went to a factory to announce a strong economy, forcing the factory to shut down for an entire day and costing workers a day's wages. He went to a community college to announce a program to retrain workers in community colleges, and effectively prohibited people from going to classes they need to be retrained for new occupations.

This is probably not a problem exclusive to the Bush administration. I imagine security for any presidential visit, no matter who the president, causes the same local problems. Still, one can't help but notice the practical costs of having a nifty backdrop for speeches rather than the Oval Office.

A Word on the State of Health Care...

Having recently joined the ranks of the insured, health-wise, I am now searching for a primary care physician. I'm reasonably healthy, but a physician strikes me as one of those things one ought to arrange to have before one actually needs it, like a casket and snacks at the wake. My insurance has one of those Preferred Provider networks, and, in the absence of anyone who might give me much of a recommendation, I am largely basing my decision on the following criteria:
1. Doctor is on the list of network physicians provided by my health plan.
2. Doctor must be female. Nothing against men. That's just the way I am.
3. Doctor's office must be convenient.

I found what seemed to be the perfect office: two female family practitioners on the list of "currently accepting new patients" whose office I can literally see from my bedroom window, but who were not in the office next door that has the Lamborghini parked out front in the summer and the Hummer in the winter, which says something about that doctor's rates. This afternoon, I called up their office--after getting the answering service at 2 p.m. with a message that clearly states the office is open 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.--since sometimes those preferred provider lists are a bit outdated. I was completely unprepared for the conversation with the receptionist.

Me: "Are the doctors still accepting new patients? I'm needing to choose a new doctor."
Receptionist: "That depends on your insurance."
Me: "Medical Mutual of Ohio"
Receptionist: "Then, yes."

I never quite realized what a gamble my year-plus (this time) on the "don't get sick" health plan really was. Also, I am still looking for a primary care physician.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Away From Politics...

And on to the ultimate chick topic: shoe shopping. I have been trying to replace my black dress shoes. I have determined that women's shoe makers are no longer even pretending to make the enite shoe anymore. Everything is either toe-less or heel-less.

More SOTU...

Items in italics are lifted directly from the transcript of the State of the Union Address.

"Productivity is high. And jobs are on the rise. "
1,000 new jobs in a month, in an economy that requires several dozen times that number just to keep up with the growth of the workforce, still, technically qualifies as a "rise."

"For the sake of job growth, the tax cuts you passed should be permanent."
First of all, thanks for going on the ultimate record saying what opponents of these taxes suspected was the plan all along: give an expiration date to lower the apparent cost, then pressure congress into removing the expiration dates. Second, see previous excerpt.

"So tonight I propose a series of measures called Jobs for the 21st Century. This program will...invite math and science professionals from the private sector to teach part-time in our high schools."
I'll be convinced when he finds some "math and science professionals" willing to use their Ph.D.'s to get paid what a high school teacher gets paid.

"We will double federal funding for abstinence programs, so schools can teach this fact of life: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases."
I sure hope that education program is taught by one of the abovementioned science professionals, so kids have all the facts. I also hope the curriculum treats abstinence like it does every other method of contraception and STD prevention: make sure students know that it can fail, and there are consequences when it does. True that when used consistently and correctly, abstinence is more effective than safe sex, but--as happens out there in the real world--methods are not always applied consistently and correctly.

Also on the agenda: funding for drug testing in schools, essentially requiring students to pee in a cup in order to take standardized tests. The only difference is the peeing in a cup has a budget; the educational imperatives do not.

From Last Night's State of the Union Address...

The following two excerpts from Bush's State of the Union Address come about 2 pages apart in the transcript of the speech, which runs about 11 pages. The bold type is added for emphasis.

"....the Patriot Act, which allows federal law enforcement to better share information, to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells, and to seize their assets. For years, we have used similar provisions to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers. If these methods are good for hunting criminals, they are even more important for hunting terrorists."

"I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime, a problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments. After the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, some of the guilty were indicted, tried, convicted, and sent to prison. But the matter was not settled. The terrorists were still training and plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. "

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


I watched the Iowa caucuses last night and two things struck me about media coverage:

1. Despite the process being about as interesting as watching cheese mold, the CNN reporters acted as though this were the second coming of the Beatles. One actually said, "We're watching history being made!" No, at that point we were watching people in Dubuque count to 47. Before that, we were watching an older lady tell a living room full of Iowans that they had to do the political business before they could have a glass of wine (remember: politics first, intoxicating substances second). That caucus had some yummy-looking brownies, though, which would have been more honest reporting than what we were getting.

2. Larry King is media's lead pirhana, but they're all following the pack. He decides what answer he wants his interviewee to give and won't let go until they say it. I noticed this first during his interview with Heidi Fleiss a year or so ago. He wanted her to come out and say she's had lesbian encounters in prison; she kept giving him variations on "none of your damned business," but he just wouldn't get the hint and move on to a more substantive topic. Last night, as he interviewed Howard Dean, he must have decided that Dean needed to be disappointed by a third-place finish in the caucuses. Dean was trying to tell Larry King that his campaign made a respectable enough showing to move on to the next race, and there are 49 states left. Larry King would not be content with that answer. He kept hammering until Dean said something to the effect of "Sure, we wish we'd come in first"--of course, Kucinich probably wished he came in first, too--and King and the others jumped all over it as proof that Dean was disappointed with his placing third, despite what Dean had repeated for five minutes before that. When Dean congratulated the first and second place finishers, he "all but conceded the race."

I have determined that, from now on, I am not listening to media analysis or looking at polls. Anything that affects my opinion on any of the candidates must come from primary sources.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Sweater Watch...

Wesley Clark's argyle sweater is now up to $14,000.

Following suit (sweater?), a broke Information Technology professional in Minnesota is trying to auction a striped, apparently cable-knit sweater for $6,000. Click here to see. As of this writing, he hasn't gotten any bids.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner...

President Bush is going to suck up to community college students Wednesday at Owens Community College, located at I-75 and Exit 198 in Toledo, Ohio. Karen says that means the free speech zone should be located right about across from our office, a half mile off I-75 and Exit 193 in Perrysburg, Ohio.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Sweater Meat...

Wesley Clark's argyle sweater--probably the most thoroughly-reported-on aspect of the Clark '04 campaign--is now at $2,275 (plus $7 S&H) on eBay. According to the auction description, the sweater was donated to a group in New Hampshire that help veterans, and proceeds from the auction will go to helping homeless veterans get on their feet again. There are certainly far worse ways to spend 2 grand, considering what our people in uniform have done for us on a daily basis for the past 200-odd years.

Click here for the eBay auction

I'm glad to see that Clark is taking advantage of idiotic press coverage--who gives a rodent's rear end about what a candidate wears as long as he's not making stump speeches in a Speedo--to raise some money for people who really need it. He could just as easily auctioned it off for his own presidential campaign, but he's not. He's letting people who need the money take advantage of it. However, I do hope he purchased a replacement sweater for his brother-in-law, since Clark admitted to having borrowed the argyle sweater off his bro-in-law's back on account of snot-freezing temperatures in New Hampshire.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Atkins Gets Even Easier...

I'm really liking how the low-carb lifestyle is catching on. Not only does my local Sam's (like Costco for my West-coast readers) carry low-carb ice cream, now my favorite pizza place will offer reduced-carb pizza starting in February.

Recommended Reading...

I just finished The Da Vinci Code and I must absolutely recommend it to anyone who thinks that there is more than one way of looking at things, or that there is more out there than what we know. It is not all conspiracy theories, paranoid conjecture and unfounded assertions. Much of the controversial ideas put forth through the novel are simply alternative ways of looking at familiar stories.

Granted, he does bog down the story in inane details, as if to say, "Hey, look at all the research I did!" Some of these details are interesting asides, some are completely irrelevant, as if he had to include the information so that a certain trip could be written off as a business expense. Still, the plot is compelling. I finished the 380-odd pages in just over a day.

Fair warning: the book is guaranteed to offend anyone who thinks that their understanding of religious stories is the only way it could possibly be. To enjoy the book, you have to be ready to believe that the church is influenced by the politics of humanity, and that religion was not always and forever the way it is now.

Am I The Only One Thinking About This?

Watching the last Democratic Debate the other night (OK, so timeliness is not a virtue here at PP--I have TiVo so I don't have to watch these things when everyone else does), I think I have come up with an elegant solution to these runaway jury awards. At one point, the candidates got to talking about excessive mental anguish awards that are given out by juries. Then, it hit me. Why hasn't anyone considered putting the mental anguish awards in some sort of trust fund that the person can access to pay for expenses relating to getting over mental anguish? Professional therapy, donations to a place of worship if the person decided to get help through a clergyperson, and expenses a psychological professional certifies is necessary for mental well-being could all be paid out of the award money. I wouldn't think it would be horribly restrictive to require a person to be receiving counseling in order to access money that was awarded specifically because of damage to his or her mental state, and to require them to use that money to improve said mental state rather than cruise to the Bahamas every winter.

After all, we live by the mantra that money cannot buy happiness.


I have been informed there was some confusion about my January 15 post. Here's the deal:

Andrew Fastow used to work for Enron, and has just pleaded guilty to some charges in connection with his cooking of Enron's books. His wife, Leah Fastow, also worked for Enron and had a smaller role in the accounting fraud, for which she has also pled guilty. Part of the plea deal is that both will serve time in prison, and there will be some hefty fines. However, the couple is trying to get assurances from their respective judges that they will not be serving their sentences at the same time, because they have two young sons. They may have the leverage to pull this off because Mr. Fastow may be able to rat out his higher-ups, specifically Ken Lay.

Jon Stewart made the best joke I have yet heard on that subject: the Fastows are trying to avoid concurrent prison terms on account of their children "...because someone has to teach them right from wrong."

My concern is that Mr. and Mrs. Fastow are receiving special treatment for three reasons:
1. They have kids
2. They have lots of money (much of it because of their illicit activities) to hire good lawyers
3. They have the goods on people that the judiciary wants even more than themselves

While I'd hate to see children suffer on account of their parents' stupidity, I'd also not want to see the parents get special treatment on account of having decided to have children. That sets a precedent disadvantaging those who have made the decision not to have children. Children should not be a "get out of jail free" card. This is a hard call: deciding between the welfare of children (inasmuch as, other than committing fraud, I have not heard anything that would characterize the Fastows as unfit parents), and the ideal that everyone (parent and nonparent alike) is equal under the law.

I have a feeling ideals will lose this round. Ideals don't have cute faces and piano recitals that they need to be driven to.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Baby, It's Cold Outside...

In all the talk about how cold it is outside, no one seems to be mentioning the positive aspects of our little cold snap. Sure, I had to break out the long underwear and mylar mitten liners to take the trash out this morning, but the sub-freezing temps have made grocery shopping a whole lot more convenient. Since it's a whopping 16 degrees outside, my Toyota Prius is actually colder than my refrigerator. I can do the marketing, pop a couple roasts and the low-carb ice cream (try it--better than regular ice cream!) in the trunk, and run my other errands without going home first to put the groceries away. This is the kind of convenience you just cannot get in July.

Incidentally, if you've notice posts are a bit shorter than usual, I am nursing a minor injury to my left middle finger that has made typing a bit uncomfortable lately. I'm getting better, though, so the detailed blogging will recommence shortly.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Next Time, Think Of That Before You Commit Fraud...

It's nice to see a couple concerned about rotating schedules to assure that one of them can be home with the children at all times; however, the consistency of parental child care is a consequence that a couple should consider before committing accounting fraud and facing lengthy prison sentences. Also, I hope the courts are this accommodating to parents who, unlike the Fastows, cannot write a check for a $30 million fine.

Total Recall...

Turns out that the flat tire I alluded to previously had actually been recalled over a year ago. I am definitely not getting all of my memos.

This does not explain the exploding chili dog sauce that coated a good part of my kitchen last night, though.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Universal Rule #4...

If you ask yourself if this day could get worse, the answer is always "Yes." There are no exceptions. The proof of this involves a flat tire, sleet, a lost X-Acto knife blade, that doughnutty pretend tire that they charitably call a "spare," and exploding chili dog sauce. Long story. Boring story. But the truth is out there.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

OK, You Have to See This...

Click here for a crash course in Kosher eating, presented entirely in Legos.

While you're there, check out the rest of the Lego renderings of Biblical texts.

Trust Your Gut or You'll Flash Co-Workers...

I knew I should have worn slacks to work today.

In case you didn't already know, I earn my keep as part of the administrative support staff at a massage therapy school. The worst part, of course, is being forced to get massages whenever clients fail to show up for the student clinics. Oh, the horror! However, today was not one of those days. Today, the morning students had a massage test that included identifying various massage techniques. This is not something that can be done using a diagram; it requires live demonstration, and, consequently, a live body.

Guess who got to be the body, since only the accountant wanted my attention at that moment. Unlike getting a full body massage, "being the body" is done fully dressed. The instructor is supposed to demonstrate over your clothes. Unfortunately, question #1 on the test required the students to be able to tell exactly where the instructor was working on my lower leg--something a little difficult to discern under a flowy black ankle-length skirt. For all anyone could tell through my wardrobe du jour, she could have been massaging the table. So up went the skirt, not to an immodest level, but high enough to reveal to the room rule my third of dressing for work: if the skirt isn't above the knee, neither are the pantyhose. Usually, I am sitting with my knees under a desk all day and I can get away with an 8-inch overlap of skirt and hose.

Worse yet, I think at some point while I lay prone on the massage table, a few people down at the foot of the massage table got an eyeful after the instructor determined my feet were too close together for her to demonstrate one of the techniques. My only consolation is that I think the students were too busy actually taking the test to notice. I could be wrong. After all, I was staring at the floor at the time.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Correction from January 5 Entry

It has come to my attention that a cow weighs between 900 and 1,500 pounds depending on gender, not 400 pounds as originally blogged on Jan. 5. However, it is still a mammal whose females give birth to live young and thus should not be confused with a chicken.

Thanks for the bovine info, Becca.

Let's Review...

We invaded and overthrew the government of a country that we suspected of, among other things, enriching uranium. Granted, said country's alleged attempt to purchase the raw materials for the uranium enrichment projects has been largely discredited; however, at the time of invasion it was given as one of the justifications.

Meanwhile, here at home, an Ohio nuclear power plant has been shut down for going on about 2 years now because of some serious maintenance issues--specifically, that no one noticed acid eating a hole through the reactor cap until it had almost corroded completely through. Another Ohio company (which, if I am reading my electric bill correctly, has purchased the company that owns the abovementioned reactor) recently blacked out much of the eastern United States and Canada for several hours.

Now, someone has decided to combine the best elements of each of those news events and start enriching uranium in Ohio.

I couldn't make this one up if I wanted to. Click here to read the AP article.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Moral Quandary...

I haven't decided what to think about the plan to send people to the Moon and Mars. On the one hand, as a hard core sci-fi junkie, not only do I feel obligated to support space exploration, I am all but required to agree with Ray Bradbury, who wrote an excellent piece in this month's Playboy (yes, I read it for the articles) supporting the idea of going back to the Moon and Mars because mere survival of our species is not enough. On the other hand, I look at how much this Moon/Mars thing is going to cost us, add 40% because it is a government project, and think, "Did I miss the memo where we solved hunger, poverty, and disease here on Earth? If we're planning to light a fire under that much money and blast it into space, we must have straightened everything out at home." Also, Sen. John Glenn--the one politician who, in my opinion, knows a thing or two about space exploration--is of the opinion that this is not the way to go about a return to space exploration.

The hard truth is that if we are going to try to further scientific understanding and the general state of the human species, some people are going to be left behind. As nice as it would be if we could live in a Star Trek universe where we've gotten beyond all the petty things that set humanity back several centuries, and have become enlightened, I can't see how that is going to happen in our lifetimes, and launching ourselves into space isn't going to make it happen.


I'm taking an informal reader census. If you are reading this, please drop an email to

You don't have to say anything in the body of the email if you don't want to, and I will not share your email address with anyone. I'm just curious to find out how many of you out there read my penguinal musings. And if anyone know the etiquette of punctuating sentences that end with email addresses or websites, I'd like to know that, too. I've never been clear on how one makes clear that the final . or ? is not part of the address.

By the way, thank you all for reading my blog--I know there are at least five of you out there. Of the millions or so blogs on the internet, I'm glad to see that you find mine worthwhile. I certainly try to make it worth your web-surfing time to come here every day.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

New Year's Resolutions...

For what seems like the 900th year in a row--except for the year I resolved not to make New Year's resolutions, which came the same year that for Lent, I gave up giving up things for Lent--I have decided that this is the year I am going to really do something to improve my health. In the interest of full disclosure, this is not a new goal. I am one of those annoying people who has lost 20 pounds in 7 months by cutting out carbs. My goal of 25 pounds down by next January--to get me just inside the "healthy" weight range for a person of my height, is simply a continuation of the same.

My pantry bookshelf is an archaeological treasure trove of times I've tried this before: cookbooks for low-fat, vegetarian, Weight Watchers--and Ben And Jerry's for the times when the others became intolerable. I have the Atkins cookbook, too, and it has the same problem all the others do: recipes. Many are OK, and my Steak Au Poivre turned out really well last night, though it seemed a bit like unbreaded chicken fried steak since I used cube steak and ground pepper rather than sirloin shell steaks and cracked peppercorns. That notwithstanding, the sample menus on these diets seem to be made for Julia Child, ignoring the fact that some of us do not cook for a living and can't find daikon, endive, soft-shell crabs, canned black soybeans or Stilton at our local supermarkets, and even if we could afford breast of duck, the only duck breasts in town have already flown south with the rest of the duck.

I propose all diet books and "Lose a Dress Size By Friday" articles in women's magazines should be required by the FDA to include two sets of menus: the scrumptious sounding ones and the ones you'll really be able to make. For instance, they could keep in the sample menu (straight from the Atkins book):
Breakfast: Southwestern omelet with tomato, avocado and ham
Lunch: Caesar salad with grilled chicken
Dinner: Steak au Poivre, roasted asparagus, mixed green salad with vinaigrette, and gelatin dessert made with sucralose
Snack: Celery stuffed with herb cream cheese

However, in addition, they would have to include the following menu as an example of how you will eat when you are too tired to cook:
Breakfast: Plain scrambled eggs with seasoned salt
Lunch: Tuna salad (can of tuna, mayo, touch of mustard, blob of dill pickle relish)
Midafternoon Snack: String Cheese
Dinner: Whatever cut of beef is on sale, cooked on the George Foreman Grill with some Mrs. Dash and a side salad of torn iceberg lettuce with basic Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.
Dessert: sugar-free Jell-O.

In all fairness, and without being too annoying about the virtues of low-carb eating, the low-carb recipes are a lot easier to prepare than most diet foods, and I find it a lot easier to modify them for my cooking habits and grocery budget while sticking within the guidelines of the program. I use Atkins as an example because that's the way I'm eating now, not because it is in any way the worst violator of the theoretical/possible diet gulf. For instance, the sample menu in my Weight Watcher's cookbook contains the following daily menu:
Breakfast: 1/4 c. egg substitute, scrambled with 1 tbsp. grated cheddar and 1/4 c. chopped tomato; 1 piece high-fiber toast; 1 slice bacon; 1/2 c. pink grapefruit juice
Lunch: Pastrami sandwich with 2 slices lean turkey pastrami, lettuce, tomato, and mustard on 2 slices reduced-calorie rye bread; 12 tortilla chips with 1/4 c. salsa; 1 peach
Dinner: 1 glass red wine; 1 c. baked ziti; 2 long breadsticks; 1 c. Caesar salad; 1 slice angel food cake with 1/2 c. sliced strawberries, drizzled with chocolate syrup and 2 tbsp. whipped cream

Try modifying that for a busy schedule, short grocery budget, or finite number of measuring cups.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Diversionary Tactics...

If you're looking for some way to waste a bit of time, click here. I score 26, using my full name. My maiden name scores 30.

Thanks to Maggie for pointing it out.

Even Further Adventures In Homeland Security...

One more amusing adventure with homeland security happened while we were in DC last weekend, but in the interest of not attracting the attentions of the people who have at their disposal the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, I'm not going to post the details of Capitol building security on the internet.

Didn't they try really hard to name that law the USA PATRIOT Act? Honestly, if you're intercepting terrorism, the ensuing obstruction is pretty much implied, and if the tools are required, they are probably not inappropriate.

Refreshing Change of Political Pace...

At least we know that Dennis Kucinich isn't one of those politicians who thinks that it is enough to "surround yourself" with intelligent people rather than being intelligent yourself. If he were, surely one of those people would have mentioned that a radio-only debate isn't the most effective forum for visual aids.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Killer Pointsettia, RIP

Karen threw away the Killer Pointsettia, which lost most of its leaves over the New Year's break and was looking rather pathetic--quite possibly because it spent two weeks in the dark with no water. Even homicidal holiday plants are mortal. None of the predicted catastrophes came to pass; however the copier did need to be rewired Tuesday.

Thus ends the saga of the Killer Pointsettia of 2003.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

All Together Now: "How Cold Was It?"...

I'm a bit lazy when it comes to hauling heavy things up to my third floor apartment, which is why I keep my laundry detergent in the back seat of my car. No sense carrying the warehouse-club-size jug of detergent up and down stairs, since I have no use for it outside the laundromat. Except on laundry day, I generally forget about it.

Well, today was laundry day. Like much of the country, we are in the midst of a bit of a cold spell out here--today we've warmed up to 14 degrees. Still, lack of clean socks can be a great motivator, so I hauled my laundry and bundled-up self to the laundromat down the road, where I discovered that my liquid laundry detergent is now roughly the consistency of an All Free And Clear-flavored Slurpee.

The End of the World is At Hand...

It turns out that Houston, Texas is not the only place where there is a Starbucks across the street from a Starbucks. If that reference eludes you, obtain a copy of Lewis Black's "The End of the Universe" comedy CD.

If the conjunction of Starbucks' is the harbinger of the end of the universe as we know it, the world is ending at Monroe and Talmadge in Toledo, Ohio. I have just discovered that is the epicenter of not two, but three Starbucks across from Starbucks. I've know about the one inside the Barnes and Noble for about as long as I've lived here. For a while, that was the only place in the greater Toledo metro area where one could get a decent mocha. Then they opened a full storefront--complete with whole bean coffee, hallelujah!--which, while not technically across the street from the B&N location, was just around the corner, and both bordered the same mall. Even so, it was good. And there was morning and evening, the fourth day. Today, I stumbled the apex of the Bermuda Starbucks Triangle: a kiosk inside the Marshall Field's at the mall flanked by the other two Starbucks. I think I just heard the fourth horseman of the apocalypse calling.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Word to the Wise...

Never drink a martini in a room with a revolving floor.

Further Adventures In Homeland Security...

I got very adept at undressing during my trip. Security precautions now mean that every time you want to go into a building at the capitol, you have to submit to an airport-style security check. They're more like what airport checks used to be like before you had to wear sweats and bunny slippers on the plane to avoid setting off the metal detectors. Underwire brassieres do not set the metal detectors off, but I did make the mistake of leaving a nickel in my pocket at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. That held me up for bit while I got wanded down. All cameras, jackets, and the contents of your pockets have to be X-rayed or visually inspected before you enter any building. Unfortunately, I decided to wear my camera pouch on my belt to leave hands free, so every time I went inside, I had to undo and partially take off my belt to get the camera off for the screeners.

Waiting in line for our tour of the Capitol building, toward the end of our last day of sightseeing, I had a revelation: they just want the camera. Why have I been stripping at the Smithsonian for the last two days? As my father once said, if there was an easy way and a hard way to do something, I would find a third even more difficult way.

A word on cell phone etiquette...

If a military staff sergeant tells you to remain silent, the order applies to your cell phone as well.

We visited Arlington National cemetery while we were in DC and caught the hourly changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The ceremony starts with the military officer in charge of the guard detail announcing to the onlookers that, in keeping with the solemn nature of what you are about to see, remain silent and standing for the proceedings. Somewhere in the middle of the 10-minute ceremony, a man's cell phone went off.

He answered it.

If there is a more inappropriate time and place to answer your cell phone, I have not yet found it. Nonetheless, I did not see as many people yapping on cell phones anywhere else in the city as there were shouting conversations in the middle of Arlington, where all you can see in three directions are little white stones marking people we, as a country, have sent off to die in the name of freedom. The fourth direction is a commanding view of the city with more cemetery in the foreground.

Did I miss the cell phone feature that offers users an exemption from common decency and respect?

Mad Cows...

According to my sister in Washington, current home of Mad Cow, either the grocery stores are completely, utterly out of eggs or they are pulling eggs off the shelf along with milk, butter, and anything bovine. Penguin Perspectives feels compelled to offer the guide to the differences between a cow, capable of mad cow infection, and a chicken, which is only slightly cranky at being roasted, for those grocers having a hard time with the concept.

Cow: 400 pound mammal, gives birth to live young
Chicken: 10 pound bird, lays eggs

Cow: No wings, four legs, hooves, lips
Chicken: Two wings, two legs, claws, beak

Cow: Rump Roast
Chicken: Drumsticks

Cow: Teats, toward rear end of animal, produce milk
Chicken: No teats anywhere on animal. Breast meat, but no milk.

Cow: Red meat
Chicken: White meat, dark meat, both unsuitable for making corned beef

Cow: one of many animals capable of producing the elements of cheese
Chicken: not one of many animals capable of producing any elements of cheese.

Any Questions?

Adventures In Homeland Security...

We gate-crashed The Pentagon as our first act in the DC metro area. That Pentagon. The five-sided building in Virginia with a bunch of humorless military personnel. It was an honest mistake, really. Streets around the Pentagon are not very clearly marked, and by the time we realized that we should have turned right instead of left to get to Army Navy Drive and the hotel, we were all but in the Pentagon employee parking lot. It was nearly midnight and no one noticed. We managed to get out through a car-sized gap in the jersey barrier--which, in our defense, was marked "Exit."

Mr. Grooism...

Those of you who do not read Mr. Grooism should. You have no excuse. There is a link right over on your right there. If you can't click there, click here. That being said, I do not recall ever having used the phrase "The blue car principle." It seems like something I would say, and I think the principle (that you notice everyone driving blue cars once you buy one) is sound. Nonetheless, I do not recall ever actually using the phrase around the Groop, which would be the only place Larry would have heard me use it.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

A Joke?...

More about my trip later, but I am compelled to point out, since Brittany Spears seems confused: a chicken in your briefcase is a joke. A whoopie cushion in the sofa is a joke. A duck walks into a pharmacy, asks for some chapstick and says "put it on my bill" is a joke. Anything that starts with "a priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar" is a joke. Getting married is not a joke.

Sheer Desperation...

The first bloggable moment happened about an hour from the Ohio/Pennsylvania border at a service plaza (the family-friendly term for truck stop on the Ohio Turnpike). As we waited for our venti peppermint mochas, an exasperated man stepped up to the Starbucks counter. "I just want...a cup...of coffee."

I'm Back...

My trip to Washington, D.C. went well (for those of you who didn't already know that's where I was), and I had several bloggable moments I will post in the next day or two.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Words to Avoid...

Every January, Lake Superior State University compiles a list of the most annoying, overused, and misused words of the previous year. Unlike most lists, I agree with much of this one, even the entries I would not have thought of.

Click here for the full list.

A Note on Spam...

Let me leave you with a thought about the content of my inbox. For the past two weeks, I have received an inordinate amount of spam for Valium. Must be the holidays.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! I'll be away from my blog for a couple days, but check back toward the end of the weekend for updates.