Monday, May 31, 2004

Memorial Day

I don't think I am being cynical to believe that, if it were not for mounting casualties in Iraq, the original purpose of Memorial Day--commemorating those killed in combat--would not get the lip service it is getting in the news this year. Over at Slate, there is an impressive array of political cartoons on the subject of Memorial Day. CNN's front page at the moment runs the headlines "Somber Ceremonies for Memorial Day" and "Tasty BBQ Treats." My AOL welcome page, set to the news, is rotating between "New Meaning for Memorial Day" (which, reading the story, is the same as the old meaning for Memorial Day, applied to recent military losses) and "Secret to Barbecue Success." The ABC News webpage currently fronts "Bush Visits Tomb of the Unknowns" and "Holiday Eatin': Recipes from Good Morning America."

In the spirit of remembering the contributions of our military personnel today, I'd like recognize a few groups who do not necessarily fit into the traditional scope of Memorial Day:

Our soldiers killed fighting for causes that were not as noble as freedom, democracy, or defending the country. Thanking "those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom" is more palatable, but I'd also like to thank those who did their duty when the cause was lost, unjust, or a global game of "Chicken" to prove which world leader would not back down first.

The men who never wanted to go to war in the first place, but who, through the luck of the draw, found themselves turned into soldiers. Thanks to both you who came back and the ones who did not.

And one group in particular: those who went to war and came home without wanting recognition of the service and sacrifices they had made. They would generally be honored on Veteran's Day, but since they seem bent on eschewing the title of Veteran, that hardly seems appropriate. They raised families far away from the VFW halls, and if they have since passed, are buried alongside their families in civilian cemeteries, and only afterward does someone find a box of medals and commendations in the back of a closet. They've done heroic deeds and witnessed things no one should ever have to see, and ask in return only the chance to be able to live their lives like any other person.

My grandpa belongs to that last class of people. He served in the Navy, came home, married my grandma, worked several jobs to raise five children, and has been a model grandpa for 10 grandchildren and an ever-expanding brood of great-grandchildren [note: still none from our end]. To this day, I don't even know what rank he held; only that he was a cook on a ship in the Pacific, though I have an inkling that there was a bit more to it than that. We knew he had been in the Navy in the exact same way we knew he had been a school custodian and packed loaves of bread at a bakery. He never made it seem like his time in the service defined his identity any more than any of those other jobs, hence there never seemed like an appropriate time to say thanks. For that matter, it's hard to know if "thank you" is even an appropriate sentiment.

Sunday, May 30, 2004


According to this Time Magazine article, George W. Bush has one of Saddam Hussein's pistols mounted and displayed in the Oval Office study as a "souvenir."

A snowglobe from Mt. Rushmore is a souvenir. Decorative spoons from all 50 states are souvenirs. Little resin replicas of national monuments are souvenirs. Keychains, mugs, refrigerator magnets, and postcards are souvenirs. Your enemy's sidearm, displayed in your office, is a trophy.

Yes, I'm nitpicking semantics, but if we are ever to consider the fighting of a war to be the serious business that it is, we need to make a clear distinction between vacation mementos and things we take off our enemies on the battlefield. It's Memorial Day weekend; can't we at least pretend for a couple day to recognize the difference between war and a whitewater rafting trip?

Thought for the Day: What Generation Gap?

In the past two days, I have seen red-tinted chrome windshield wipers on a Ford Aerostar minivan and Kia with a set of those hubcaps that keep spinning after the car is stopped. It's been a couple weeks since I've seen the Camry with a foot-tall spoiler bolted to the trunk, but it is out there, too.

As I was suppressing nausea over the spinning hubcaps--whoever invented them obviously did not take into consideration that the person in the next lane may be prone to motion sickness--and plotted out a blog entry lamenting the complete lack of consideration these people have in just what car to which they are applying all the chrome and neon, Elie had the good sense to reminde me that our generation is the one who thought it was cool to stick a Rolls Royce hood ornament on a VW Bug. Same idiocity, different day. For a brief period about 10 years ago, I learned to drive on a Mercury Bobcat station wagon which had originally said "Mercury" across the hood, but after some strategic additions from a Chevy Nova and a game of Scrabble, became a tarted-up Pinto whose hood read "No Mercy." We got our car modifications from the junkyard; they buy theirs at Murray's Auto Supply.

The only generation gap is the way each chooses to manifest the genetic imperative to do things that we will look back on in 10 or 15 years and cringe. We may wonder how our parents could have bought into Disco, but we were the ones doing the Macarena at our senior proms.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Hello, Mr. Chip!

Glad to see everyone enjoys the comments feature. Unfortunately, it seems that unless you have a Blogger account, you are compelled to post comments anonymously, but you all seem to be working around that. Thanks for complying with my request for overall grammatical correctness. I did not mean that I will split hairs over split infinitives, dangling participles, or even sentence fragments; rather, I hope to discourage people from posting in the code that seems to have arisen from cell phone text messaging. The chimps who surf my blog on their breaks from writing Hamlet have an excuse. The rest of us are reasonably literate human beings.

And now for something completely different...
Sonja got her microchip implanted today when she went for her checkup and feline leukemia shot. The chip is about the size of a grain of rice and emits a signal that can be read by a scanner at shelters or vets if the pet gets lost. The signal contains an ID number that can be traced through a database back to the pet's owners. We chip our cats because, being that they are indoor cats, they do not wear collars. However, we like to have some kind of ID in case they should get out. The chip is a perfect solution. The vet implants it between the cat's shoulders with a hypodermic needle the size of a whale harpoon, which the vet assured me is no more painful than the vaccinations, and it is in for life. According to the literature and registration pamphlet, the pet microchips "protect virtually any pet you love...dogs, cats, horses, birds, reptiles, exotics, even fish!"

You read that right. Fish. Two thoughts come to mind simultaneously on that:
1. That would have cut 98 minutes off the running time for Finding Nemo.
2. How do you lose a pet fish? Guppynapping? [comment courtesy of Elie]

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

New Function

I've added the capability for you to leave comments here(translation: I finally found out that updates to Blogger allow for comments). I welcome any thoughts you care to leave about what I've written, even if you don't agree. I only ask that you please be polite, reasonably on-topic and grammatically correct whether you agree with me or not. Grammatical errors make my teeth hurt, and if the comments get uncivil, I can and will disable the function.

New Motto: "Yup, That's Michigan There"

After a long dry spell in my state quarter scavenger hunt, I've added Michigan. To see the best that the state could do with the artistic resources of more than 10 million people, click here. For those who don't want to click, the back side of the quarter is a topographical map of Michigan with the outlines of the five Great Lakes and the words "Great Lakes State" blazoned across Canada. Elie observed that it bears a striking resemblance to a dog leaving a pile on the lawn. Given what I learned about the Toledo sewage system and Lake Erie during my stint as a reporter, he's more correct than he thinks.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Canning Spam

Spammers are getting very clever at avoiding email filters with intentional misspellings and advertising products like and Vicod[n. I've landed on a strategy--aside from having four separate email addresses for various functions--that spammers have not yet thought to protect against. On the email for this site (which, owing to the address being posted right over there, tends to attract a lot of spam), I have set my email filters to route to the Spam folder any email with the word "You" in the subject line. It's amazing how effective this has been. I'd say at least 75% of the spam messages are automatically shunted out of my inbox now to where I can skim it once a week for non-spam messages then mass-delete. Try it.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Lofty Goals

I watched President Bush's address tonight from the U.S. Army College. Nice set of goals. No real plan for achieving these goals, but it is a nice set of goals nonetheless. Maybe someday we can get started on some of them here.

For starters:

"The ministry of education, for example, is out of the propaganda business and is now concerned with educating Iraqi children."

"And when they patrol the streets of Baghdad or engage radical militias, they will be fighting for their own country."

"Successful units need to know they are fighting for the future of their own country, not for any occupying power."

"Our coalition has already helped Iraqis to rebuild schools and refurbish hospitals and health clinics, repair bridges, upgrade the electrical grid and modernize the communication system."

"...form an independent election commission that will oversee an orderly accurate national election."

"A representative government that protects basic rights, elected by Iraqis, is the best defense against the return of tyranny. And that election is coming."


Saturday, May 22, 2004

More from the Penguin Front

I adopted a penguin today. Well, technically, Sonja is a 4-year-old cat, but she looks like a fluffy, 7-pound penguin. I get the sense from the four hours she's been home with us that she'd be perfectly happy curled up in your lap being pet all day. Chessie doesn't quite know what to do with the interloper yet, but I think they'll get along once Chessie gets used to having another cat in her house. They both have fluffy fur and a penchant for finding the smallest space curl up in.

She was named Mattie at the Humane Society, but she doesn't look at all like a Mattie, except for some minor fur issues. We settled on Sonja, after Heathcliff's girlfriend, when none of our other names seemed quite appropriate for a lap cat: Xizor (the empire's #3 guy, under Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader), Vader, Dante (a nod to both the Inferno and Team Knight Rider), and Bastet (a minor baddy in Stargate SG-1). I'm noticing a theme.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Now, That's a Word Picture

I decided a while back that I had said everything I have to say on the subject of same-sex marriage, and would drop it as a blog topic. The debate over same-sex marriage is not to change anyone's mind, for we've all pretty much decided where we will entrench ourselves, but to see whose point of view gets the more unimpeachable legal status first and becomes the de facto point of view for the nation.

Even so, Penguin Perspectives feels the need to link to Dahlia Lithwick's latest article in Slate, which begins:

Since few opponents of homosexual unions are brave enough to admit that gay weddings just freak them out, they hide behind the claim that it's an inexorable slide from legalizing gay marriage to having sex with penguins outside JC Penney's.

Read the article if you want. Dahlia Lithwick is always good for a well-reasoned argument, even if she doesn't change your mind.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Under Construction

My bro-in-law Jay confirms that it is in fact an OSHA regulation to have the cement mixer parked in reverse and beeping at top volume when pouring cement outside my bedroom window at 7 a.m. Apparently sarcastic comments occasionally land on a kernel of truth.

I've lived in this apartment building for three summers now. The first summer, the state decided to add a lane to the main road 100 yards down, requiring the driving of pylons for the bridge over the drainage gully (ever been roused from a sound slumber by a bass drum for two months straight?). Last summer, developers tore up the field across the street and threw up an office, with the unintended consequence of taking away the complex's de facto dog outhouse. This summer, the developers are attaching a second office to the first. Judging by the layout of the office plot, this summer's project is number two of three, so at least I know what next summer holds.

Sure, by waking up at 7:30 a.m., I do waste an hour or so of precious daylight during the summer construction season, and I'm glad these guys have work. But as they say, no one ever looks at it from the early worm's perspective.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Random Daily Thoughts

One year and counting
Star Wars Episode III comes out in exactly a year. We're hoping to make it to the midnight showing. Unless today is your first day here, you already knew I am a Star Wars geek.

Silent Protest
Click here to read Slate advocating a silent protest against the phrase "Make No Mistake." I intend to join the uprising and make a mistake today. I'm not sure I can outdo the University of Toledo's registrar, who told me yesterday that they had not mailed out my transcript because--get this--they ran out of paper. I don't know which is worse: that someone did not think to order an extra ream or two of watermarked transcript paper for the end-of-the-year transcript rush, or that they admitted it. Sometimes I wish people would have the decency to lie to me when they do something that stupid.

Happy Volcano Day
Get some red food coloring, paper mache, baking soda, and vinegar, and celebrate the 24th anniversary of Mount St. Helens blowing her top and much of one side. Alternatively, rent Fantasia 2000 and pay close attention to the crater at the end of "The Firebird." Craters and Firebirds remind me of my old Pontiac, but that's a story for another day.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Time Travel, courtesy of Peter David

In H.G. Wells' novel The Time Machine, Wells makes a big fuss over the fact that the time machine travels through time but not space.

Yesterday at the comic book convention, Peter David pointed out the fundamental flaw with that premise, and it is not with the physics. There are a few theories that could permit time travel, and at least one of them backs up the travel-through-time-but-not-space scenario. The problem is that space doesn't give a rodent's rear end about our quaint little system of latitude and longitude. As time passes, the Earth revolves around the sun (and, I might add, the entire solar system revolves around the center of the galaxy, which is itself hurtling through the universe). If the Time Traveler moved through time but not space, the odds of him reappearing anywhere near the surface of any planet at all are at best astronomical, and good luck timing the trip so he'd reappear on the 25-30% of Earth's surface that isn't water. The odds get even worse yet if our time traveller would want to avoid reappearing in the carpool lane during rush hour.

There are, of course, theories of time travel that require travel through space. These have their own problems, principally that they are one-way trips and you run a very real risk of being torn apart by gravitational forces and sucked atom-by-atom into a black hole. Still, since there is a spacecraft, presumably with life support, involved, the odds are a lot better than the time-but-not-space-travel machines, HOV lane or no.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

More Con Report

I tried the Princess Leia Cinnamon Bun hairdo at the comic book convention today, and found out two very important things:
1. Murphy's Law of the Cinnabon-do: the buns will not turn out symmetrical.
2. When you have your hair done in the most infamous Princess Leia 'do, while dressed completely normally otherwise, people notice and remember you.

Lesson #2 brings me to the Panels, and more specifically, to talking to panelists later in the day. These conventions have a steady schedule of discussions with the invited guests--mostly artists, writers, and actors. One of the panels today was a chat with Jim Shooter. In the course of recounting his rise to the position of Marvel Comics Editor in Chief--a job he held when he was my age--he commented that he sold everything he ever wrote, starting with comic book stories to DC Comics when he was 13. That sort of cavalier statement is incredibly depressing for someone whose current publication highlight is news stories about raw sewage issues published in a second-rate weekly entertainment newspaper in a backwater city in Ohio. I asked him, in as many words, "What is the secret, then, of not writing crap?" Presumably, if the man has sold everything he ever wrote since junior high school, he knows something I don't.

He didn't have a secret formula for selling every word he ever wrote, but he did have some motivational advice that, for once, did not sound trite. When I caught up with Mr. Shooter after the panel to thank him for what he said, he had an even more helpful suggestion for an aspiring writer. Making an impression, even if it is as the chick wearing Leia buns with a Wonder Woman shirt, can have its advantages.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Con Report

Considering that my weekend entertainment, the Motor City Comic Con, bills itself as "Michigan's Largest Pop Culture Event," I find it odd that I saw nary a Klingon, Starfleet officer, Jedi, or Stormtrooper today. Usually at these conventions one finds at least one of those four. For those of you who have never attended a con, they are more than just gatherings of people whose social lives revolve around dressing up as fictional characters. Cons are an art show, book sale, flea market, and celebrity autograph party all in one.

The highlight of my day was meeting Tony Amendola, a recurring guest star of Stargate SG-1, which is my absolute favorite TV show. Mr. Amendola is a very nice person, as are most of the people at cons. We had a rather nice conversation about Mondays and how Sci-Fi Channel's four-hour block of Stargate SG-1 on Monday nights makes Monday tolerable. I managed to suppress the squeals of joy until after we had left the convention hall, though I think a few people in the parking lot wondered what was wrong with me. Finally, after four years of attending cons, I managed to have a conversation with one of the invited actors without sounding like a complete idiot. I still have brain cells that are trying to forget what I said to Adam West.

More Con reporting tomorrow.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Scary News

Click Here for a scientific explanation of why my college grades went up after I started playing Tetris.

Researchers at Duke University have found out that lemurs are not so stupid, after all. When they have video games that provide a treat at the end, they "show startling intelligence." The lemurs will learn sequences, strategy, and have even figured out that they can get the sugar pellet if they finish a game that another lemur started. Shrewd thinking, no?

Let's recap:
1. Madagasacarian primates are developing strategic thinking.
2. They're using video games to do this.
3. Researchers are helping these lemurs.

Maybe the lobsters aren't the biggest problem.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Off My Soapbox...

I promise I'm off the soapbox, at least for a few days.

I've been enjoying some TiVoed episodes of MythBusters, a show run periodically on Discovery Channel. Two special effects pros test those urban legends and conspiracy theories that make the rounds. Their method: they re-enact the stories, trying their darnedest to get the results in the legend. Only very rarely do they succeed. In the last few episodes I've caught, they've graphically proven:

Nothing in your house, when poured into the toilet, will explode with enough force to eject the occupant of the seat when a lit cigarette is dropped in the bowl. If a half can of black powder or gasoline wouldn't do it, your household cleaners won't.

A cell phone will not ignite a gas-air mixture, even under optimal conditions. Static electricity generated from getting in and out of your seat will, so ground yourself on the car body before you go for the nozzle.

A bullet that would melt inside a human body would not make it out of the gun.

Pressure conditions under which silicone implants might explode would have killed you long before your implants ruptured.

A firecracker in a trombone will not propel a mute with sufficient force to knock the conductor down. Elie pointed out that their demo on this was slightly flawed, as they used a cup mute when most orchestral works use straight mutes.

Walking in the rain really does keep you drier than running.

If you have Discovery Channel, it's a show worth checking out. I await the rerun of the episode in which they answer the musical question, "Is your goldfish bored, or just stupid?"

Monday, May 10, 2004

Party Line

Click Here
Or Here

How long can the press keep up the wafer-to-wafer coverage of every time John Kerry takes communion? They've already passed the point at which anyone, aside from the Catholic officials who created this flap, cares. Their insistence on keeping the issue at the forefront of the secular media, with the argument that Kerry should be denied communion because some of his beliefs are not ones held by the Catholic church, seems to be just about as bad as anything Kerry did to be denied communion. Fortunately, according to this article at CBS, denying communion based on pro-choice stances would be against official doctrine.

I've been exposed to several sets of religious beliefs in my time, and one of the few things that they have in common is that the fulfillment of religious duties was something between a person and God. Taking sacraments, performing mitzvahs, or whatever one chooses to call it, is not a stage show, and is above all else not meant to show everyone else in the room how righteous one is. And, should a church official find one spiritually lacking, a news conference that does not include the person in question may not be the most appropriate venue to discuss the topic.

Anyway, I'm glad Kerry does not march lockstep with the positions of the Catholic church. I'm part of a generation that feels no loyalty to groups, parties, or affiliations, and I do not find this to be a character flaw. I mistrust anyone who takes a prepackaged set of beliefs--political or religious--and adheres to every last one of them without question. It's one thing to realize that a group's platform is right after introspection and research, and more power to you if that group is one you were born into. It's quite another to adhere to a prepackaged set of beliefs out of the convenience of not having to actually consider and develop one's own positions on a variety of issues. It's been my experience that any time any group has a platform that consists of a wide range of issues, at least one of those positions is going to be completely whacked. Those off-base planks do not invalidate the rest of the platform, but if every organization required every member to believe every last thing that organization stood for, only the pathologically lazy would affiliate themselves with anything at all.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

There, But For the Grace of God...

An article in Salon today asks, of the situation in the Abu Ghraib prison, "How Could Women Do That?"

Since it's the 21st century, can we just finally admit that women are not, as a group, any more or less civilized than men? That second X chromosome does not contain the polite gene. Ovaries do not inoculate against boorish behavior. For goodness sake, Comedy Central has an entire show devoted to "Girls Behaving Badly." The question we should be asking is not how women could do that, but how could anyone do that?

I have a very optimistic view of humanity on the whole. I believe that people will do what they believe is right. This is a belief borne out of denial; the idea that people would do something even if they knew it was not right has implications for society far beyond anything I am willing to consider. Dr. Stanley Milgram proved, using experiments later deemed unethical, that people will do pretty much whatever someone in a position of authority tells them to do, even if empirical observations indicate that doing so harms someone else. Of course, I will deny empirical evidence, too. I know about Dr. Milgram's results, and I've heard and seen some of the horrible things people do to one another. I know that the world is not necessarily a safe place, yet I continue to believe in the innate goodness of all humanity--not just women--because to stop believing that, I would have to admit that the only reason for my continued happy-go-lucky existence is that no one has decided to tell someone else to end it. If I had to admit that, I would never leave my house again.

Saturday, May 08, 2004


My first solicitation from the Alumni Association arrived in my mailbox yesterday, which was my nominal graduation day, though the school will not confer my degree for another couple weeks yet, as they wait for my final grades to come in. It stands to reason that, for the letter to have arrived Friday, it was probably mailed around Wednesday, before I even finished my classes. This begs the question, "Should the Alumni Association be hitting me up for cash before I become an alumna?"

Name That Context

"Easy access allows someone other than the consumer to buy it and then slip it to a woman without her knowledge or consent."

Believe it or not, the "it" in question is not a new date-rape drug, though the statement sounds eerily similar to an email I periodically get reminding me that, when I am at a bar or a party (two places I never go), I should only accept drinks opened in front of me, and always keep one hand covering the glass so no one can slip me a mickey and have their way with me while I'm drugged and will have no memory of the incident afterward.

That quotation is, I kid you not, cut-and-pasted from the Concerned Women For America's website--specifically, the page titled "Talking Points on the Morning-After Pill." By way of evidence for this potential danger, they cite, without sources, two anecdotes of physicians administering abortifacents to their pregnant girlfriends in some very creative manners. Who knew you could administer RU-486 pills vaginally without the woman noticing?

The dosage instructions for the Morning After Pill are to take one of the tablets within 72 hours, and a second tablet 12 hours later, for the medication to be effective. I'd be very interested to hear a plausible scenario where someone could manage that without the woman catching on.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Name Game

Back in February, I posted the top 10 baby names for boys, as determined by through a survey of websites where expectant parents post their favorite names. Now, the Social Security Administration has released the top 10 baby names that parents, in fact, gave their infants last year.

Let's see how good the internet is at predicting actual trends:

Top Boy Baby Name of 2003:
Social Security: Jacob
Internet: Aidan (SSA rank: 39)

Social Security: Michael
Internet: Jaden (SSA rank: 83)

Social security: Joshua
Internet: Caden (SSA rank: 114)

Social Security: Matthew
Internet: Ethan (SSA rank: 7)

Social Security: Andrew
Internet: Caleb (SSA rank 34)

Social Security: Joseph
Internet: Dylan (SSA rank: 19)

Social Security: Ethan
Internet: Jacob (SSA rank: 1)

Social Security: Daniel
Internet: Jordan (SSA rank: 38)

Social Security: Christopher
Internet: Logan (SSA rank: 29)

Social Security: Anthony
Internet: Hayden (SSA rank: 85)

That adds up to being off by an average of about 39 in the rankings. Only one name on the internet list, Jacob, actually turned out to be more popular in practice than the internet survey indicated. So much for reliably predicting this trend online.

My own name, which has never, to my knowledge been among the top 10 (only in my last semester of 18 years of school did I share a class with another Janet), seems to be declining even further. It has gone from 238th most popular in 1991 to 508th most popular now. My new niece Emilia's name comes in at 506th, a steady increase from 935th place in 1991. To see how the popularity of your name has changed over the last 13 years, click here for the Social Security Administration's baby name website. There, you can put in any name and, as long as it is in the top 1000 names, you can see how its popularity has waxed or waned.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Well, This Certainly Sucks Like a Hoover

Got my Jury Duty summons today.

I have long held the belief that, if I were put in the situation, I would opt out of the trial by jury. If my butt is on the line, I want my fate decided by someone whose job it is to know the law and apply it equally and fairly. I do not want to put my fate in the hands of 12 people who couldn't find a way out of jury duty. Yes, I know it is my civic duty to lose two days' pay on top of paying for parking so that I can have lawyers try to use more psychology than law to try to win me over to their sides, and if necessary I will fulfill that obligation. The jury duty system here does not seem particularly onerous; it is only for 2 days, provided I don't get seated on a trial that will take a while. Nonetheless, I find something inherently wrong when a jury of your peers is composed entirely of people who can be replaced at work for a couple of days, and when the most complex cases are decided by the people who have no responsibilities that would preclude them from being sequestered for months on end.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


I just printed out my last final, including an answer to the question the professor said would be on the final but was not: "What would be the biggest problem if we had cars that could travel at the speed of light?" He said it would be that you couldn't pick up comely hitchhikers. He did not appreciate the answer I gave in class, that gas bills would be horrendous, provided we could come up with a way to violate the laws of physics and accelerate something with mass to light speed, so I included a bonus answer on my final: a half-page explanation of why, at the speed of light, you would never be able to tune your car radio.

I hand the final in exactly 8 hours from now. Then we're going out to Coldstone Creamery to celebrate the end of 7 years of college (or 5 years if you don't count the two I took off in the middle after we moved to Ohio). Civilization has now advanced to the point that we have battery-operated dental floss (the link only discusses the manual version, but my grocery store sells a one that takes AAs) and a flavor of ice cream that tastes exactly like uncooked yellow cake batter. Does life get better than this?

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Lesson Learned the Hard Way...

It's all fun and games until someone gets hit with a flying DVD.

However, in the process, we also learned that a properly chucked DVD will fly fairly well, though it veers slightly to the left. That is how I found myself staring down the leading edge of an airborne DVD. On the bright side, we found out that the cat goes for anything shiny and flying, and the impact didn't leave a mark.

The alternate lesson comes courtesy of Elie: "I guess this is why they don't play frisbee indoors."

One Down, One To Go...

Finished my Algebra final two hours ago. Now I'm on to finishing the take-home literature final. So far, it's a load of BS, but since I'm supposed to be regurgitate class discussion, that would be just about right.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Bumper Sticker Typos

Driving home today, I saw a van with a bumper sticker that read "Cod Bless America." I stared at it for a full minute as we sat at a stoplight at the offramp. I may misread many things, but I'm pretty sure this one really said "Cod." Are we the chosen people of fish and chips now?

Shot Glass Half Empty?

From an Associated Press article headlined "Study: Ohio Teen Health Habits Improve," reporting the findings of a survey of high school students:

"90 percent said they didn't drink and drive in the month before the survey."

Certainly sounds like good news when put that way. The Ohio Health Department did the study and released the results, and incidentally also sponsors the "Healthy Ohioans Program" (no conflict of interest there), so it's no wonder that they did not choose to report the results in another, equally accurate way:

"In a single month alone, 1 in 10 Ohio teens admit not only to drinking while underage, but also to driving while intoxicated."

NOTE: You may have noticed that I no longer link to the AP stories on which I comment. The AP website has changed how it is laid out, making it a pain in the rump roast to find the articles on a universally-accessible site, as opposed to AOL news, where I read most of them. Be assured that I am not making up the articles.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Blue Car Effect

The Blue Car Effect is that phenomenon by which you don't notice how many blue cars are on the road until you buy a blue car yourself. Mr. Grooism attributes the Blue Car Effect to me, even though I don't quite remember when I would have mentioned it in a context with Larry.

We here at Penguin Perspectives are experiencing the Blue Car Effect--oddly enough, with a blue car, even. Until yesterday, we thought that pretty much nobody in Toledo, Ohio drove Volvos. After all, Toledo is home to the Jeep Liberty and you can't spit in a parking lot without hitting at least 3 Jeep Grand Cherokees. However, since we purchased our blue Volvo yesterday, Volvos are everywhere. There were two, not counting ours, in the Circuit City parking lot when we went in search of a GPS mounting bracket to replace the original one, still attached to the Mustang.

I am going to try to keep up the daily posting in the next few days, but I may get sporadic again before the end of the week, for reasons I will reveal after I have all the details. If I do, check out the links at the right. Not everyone there posts daily (and the shameless commerce page is static), but they all have good things to say.

Saturday, May 01, 2004


We've become yuppies. We just traded in Elie's silver Mustang GT for a dark blue 2001 Volvo with beige leather interior and plastic burlwood trim. It also has the latest in cupholder technology: when you press on a panel in the center console, the panel pops up and deploys two beverage-securing arms.

Reference Check

At the moment, I am between interviews on the newest hit TV show, "Who Wants to be Chessie's Pet Sitter?" OK, so we aren't actually taping this for network TV distribution, but we should be. It won't be long until picking a person to feed our cat while we're on vacation will be the only place reality TV hasn't gone.

I've spaced the interviews far enough apart that one potential pet sitter won't run into another one. This has left me with about an hour to contemplate the fist potential sitter's references. The odd thing about references and recommendations (which are, functionally, the same thing) is that pretty much anyone can get two or three people to say, if asked, that the recommendee is a responsible person and provides excellent whatever you're looking for. One simply does not ask people to be references if there is a chance they might say that one smokes crack and hasn't done an honest day's work in one's entire life. At work, prospective students' two required recommendations almost universally say "Outstanding" on all criteria and "would highly recommend." We might as well just print them with all that filled in.

UPDATE: I have fixed some errors in grammar that seem to have eluded my attention, as well as the stupid sounding parts.

I, Robot

The robots are coming.

An assistant professor at, appropriately enough, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has developed robotic highway construction cones that can move themselves, either by remote control or on a timer. Self-motivated traffic cones: somehow, the idea disturbs me.

Thank you all for hanging in here with me in spite of the irregular blogging. Daily, thoughtful posts should replace these sporadic ones very soon.