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 BBTurkeyCo@aol.com. 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 Amazon.com. 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 www.teslaspigeons.blogspot.com. 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.