Friday, December 31, 2004

South Bend Report, Part 3

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

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

South Bend Report, Part 2

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

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

Thursday, December 30, 2004

South Bend Report, Part 1

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Sign of the Times

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

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Quick Question

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

Monday, December 27, 2004

Foxy Lady

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

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

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

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

Stupid Warning Labels

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

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

Sunday, December 26, 2004


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

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

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

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

Friday, December 24, 2004

Santa Claus is Comin' To Town

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

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

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

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Bad Penguin News

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

I'm not making this up

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

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

Here's the Reuters article.

Reindeer Watch

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

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


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

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Etiquette Question

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

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

Any ideas?

Santa, Pack Extra Thermal Underwear

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Making Lemonade

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

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

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

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Person of the Year

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

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

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

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Truffle Trouble

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

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

Friday, December 17, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

Cat Time

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

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

Spell Check

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

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

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Star Wars

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

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Pop Science Quiz

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

Monday, December 13, 2004

New Year's Eve, Live with Regis?

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

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Grooism of the Day?

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

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

Friday, December 10, 2004

Danger, Will Robinson!

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

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Mercifully, No Gold Star

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Tree Time

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

Monday, December 06, 2004

Ain't Technology Grand?

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

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

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Pointsettia Planning

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

Spell Check

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

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

Just your funny moment of the day.

Friday, December 03, 2004

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

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

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

Bit o' This 'n' That

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

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

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

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