Sunday, December 31, 2006

It's the little things

Emp. Peng. and I just spent two hours trying to resurrect the wireless connection on my laptop. That would be approximately twelve zillion unfruitful attempts at configuring the network settings, and one that worked because I finally thought to properly capitalize the name of the network.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Recommended Penguin Reading

A "penguin guy" jumps floe.

While I bask in the attention penguins have gotten lately, I can sympathize with this guy. I've been a penguin person for just about as long as I can remember. Now that penguins are the "in" thing and it seems like you can't swing a Gentoo without hitting one, I feel compelled to point out that I was penguin before penguin was cool.

I'm not giving up, though. Penguins have been enjoying a surge in popularity lately, but it won't last forever. The penguin will always be with us, but already I have noticed a slow creep of monkeys into the ranks of popular animals. The penguin will level out and maybe decline a little, and then being a penguin person will be unique again. This is bad news for people who shop for penguin people.

Driving Ethics and Etiquette

I ran into (figuratively) an automobile quandary today. Legally, we are supposed to observe posted speed limits, and slower traffic is supposed to keep to the right on multi-lane roads. In the great big reality outside the driver's manual, people speed, so in practice, the slower traffic is often that traffic that is obeying the posted speed limit.

Such is the situation that led to my quandary. I was doing 55 mph in a 55 mph zone of a freeway with 2 lanes in each direction. As is my practice, I kept to the right lane. Then I approached an onramp packed with cars. I changed to the relatively unoccupied left lane to give the cars room to merge on, but kept doing 55, in no small part because I was approaching a favorite spot for the highway patrol to nab speeders and it's a big speeding ticket weekend. Cue a half dozen or so cars to come barreling up behind me in the left lane. However, the line of cars from the onramp is still getting up to highway speed, so there is maybe two car lengths between them. Clearly, it would be a mile or two before I had a shot at getting back into the right lane. I could just feel the road rage at their sudden inability to continue going 65-70 mph.

I merged back right as soon as I had an opening, but in the meantime, should one stand one's ground and obey the speed limit, or exceed posted speed limits so as not to have cars stacking up on one's flank?

Comments are open, folks.
Nimrod: switch left and right

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Little Things

TJ Maxx had a solitary jar of marionberry jam in their gourmet food section. I am now doing a marionberry-fueled happy dance.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ya learn something new every day

Today, I learned four things in quick succession:

1. When the spaetzle recipe calls for a colander with 3/16 inch holes, that is not just a suggestion.

2. Once you realize that a colander with 1/8 inch holes just won't work and you go with dropping blobs of spaetzle dough into the water, you can put a bit of margarine on the resulting dough tumors, sprinkle them with powdered sugar and a bit of cinnamon, and make a reasonable facsimile of the bastard offspring of pasta and funnel cake.

3. The bastard offspring of pasta and funnel cake isn't half bad.

4. You can thaw a frozen Papa Murphy's cheese pizza in a warm oven in just about the same amount of time it takes to dig out from under the failed spaetzle

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Non-Penguin Animal News

They're coming, and they might just be smarter than we give them credit for.

Armadillos are on the march. Word on the street is that armadillos have started invading southern Illinois. The word on the street is supported by increasing numbers of flat armadillos on the street.

Red squirrels are smarter than the average spruce
. The squirrels' sole source of nourishment (other than the contents of every supposedly squirrel-proof bird feeder ever made) is the seeds of the spruce tree. The trees try to dodge this by producing a bumper crop of seeds at random intervals. We now see that the squirrels, crafty rodents that they are, have figured out when the bumper crop of seeds are coming, even before the cones set, and produce a bumper crop of squirrels to match.

Here at the Rookery, we have our own non-human intelligence problem. Contrary to what some might expect, it is not our gadgets achieving sentience. We suspect Sonja, the penguin cat, may have figured out the doorknob principle. She gets "me time" in a closed room a couple of times a day, since she adamantly refuses to do her business if there is a chance of another cat approaching. A few times when I have been in there with her, I have seen her get up on her hind legs and try to bat at the doorknob when she is ready to rejoin the world. Twice now when I was not in with her, I have heard unusual noises from inside, consistent with the sounds one would expect from an eight-pound cat leaping up and trying to grab the lever-style doorknob. If she ever figures out targeting and how to pull, the humans of the house are up a creek and paddle-free.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Waddling Away

16:31 today, and made it through the full half hour.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's not a New Year's Resolution

We are about to slam headlong into the time of year to make New Year's resolutions. I don't particularly like those, since they are too dang easy to break. I prefer setting a few goals and pasting them next to the bathroom mirror where they smack me in the face a few times a day.

The latest addition to my Great Bathroom Wall List of Goals (replacing "have a clean dental checkup) is--drumroll please--I'm going to run a 12-minute mile.

Those of you who were not mocked mercilessly in gym class might not see that as a lofty goal. Then there will be those of you who have met me. Physical fitness is not my strong suit. Never has been. Perhaps one of the reasons I am attracted to the penguins is we are roughly the same shape, except that I have individual fingers, no tail feathers, and external knees.

My quest for the 12-minute mile started over the weekend with a baseline time of 17:40. I manged to make 16:20 today, but the endurance was just not there to finish out a 30-minute treadmill session.

I'll be posting my progress as it happens, between penguin news and everything. Stay tuned for that and my adventures with Tux. Yup, I'm writing to you from a Linux machine.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

At Least It's Not Miracle on 34th Street

Christmas Eve, TBS is airing a 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story. One full planetary rotation devoted to 12 back-to-back showings of the same freakin' movie.

That's not the worst of it. INHD, a Comcast channel, is programming 24 hours of a 7-minute loop of burning log in high-def. If you are in New York and don't have HD, you're in luck. There's a second channel showing the burning log.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Local news from K-WTF

I got this beauty of a local (to the sender, not to me) police blotter item in my email.
Oiling away sin -- 1800 block of Washington Way, Longview - Longview police checked out a report of a man pouring something on the road late Tuesday night. The man identified himself as a pastor and told police he was dumping olive oil on the ground to cleanse the area of sinful ways. He told them it is a proven way to stop criminal activity. Police advised him of his potential civil responsibility if someone should slip on the oil.

Don't let that one bounce around inside your head for too long, or your brain might explode.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Penguins on Comedy Central

The above clip is Lewis Black doing most of three minutes on penguins. For those of you unfamiliar with Lewis Black, it is about as grown-up as you can get without being bleeped or blurred on basic cable. I break into guffaws around 1:07.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Here's the Results

Left is the office before the facelift, with the blue wall that caused the Smurf snot. Right is after the wallpaper stripping and painting.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bert the Turtle Meets Aquaman

Top left there is the current logo of DC Comics, the company that brought us Superman. Bottom right is the new logo of the National Emergency Management Association, the professional organization for state-level emergency management and disaster preparedness directors. The EM logo was announced recently to replace the Civil Defense triangle logo from WWII. Here's to the hope that a similarity in graphic design concept does not indicate that our new emergency management plan includes using the Bat Signal. On second thought, the Bat Signal could not be any worse than expecting our desks to double as nuclear-fortified bunkers in a pinch.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rookery Facelift

Yesterday, I sneezed out something that looked like the result of a smurf not looking both ways before crossing the street. Emp. Peng. and I are in the middle of our first major redecorating project, and now we know that respiratory protection when sanding paint is probably a good idea. I will post the before and after pics in another day or so. The "before" picture should explain the need for an "after" picture. That room was a classic case of decorating that looks wonderfully whimsical until you have to live in it every day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jones Soda Finale

The Jones Soda Novelty Flavor Tour ended tonight with Antacid, and a fitting finale it was. Perhaps I am a little weird (I'll pause and let you all stop laughing and pick yourselves up), but I don't particularly mind the flavor of Pepto-Bismol. It ranks somewhere below marshmallow fluff on the scale of ideal ice cream topping flavors, but Pepto isn't too bad. Jones Soda managed to capture the flavor perfectly.

The flavor is not what made it a perfect capper to the adventure. I have not mentioned it up to now, but calling these sodas "carbonated" is a bit of a stretch. They have enough CO2 to tickle the esophagus, but I've had more fizz in the back of the fridge. Tonight, I think we found the missing carbonation. Emp. Peng. knocked back the first hearty swig, and--well, it bore a striking resemblance to the Diet Coke and Mentos videos making the rounds. In sum: soda geyser. Now, the sofa has pea and Pepto spray on it.

Just beak my brains out now

I'm just beating my head on a glacier here. Coca-Cola has launched their holiday advertising campaign--you know, the time of year they break out the cute animated polar bears swilling cola. This year, they have made a new addition: cute, cola-swilling penguins giving the polar bears their Cokes.

For the last time: Polar bears live exclusively in the northern hemisphere. Penguins live exclusively in the southern hemisphere. On a bad day, they might get within 8,000 miles of each other's habitat. Yeah, the arctic and the antarctic are both cold. The Australian outback and the Arabian peninsula are both deserts, and advertising idiots manage to avoid the urge to mix kangaroos and Bedouins.

Now that I have that out of my craw, I should say I am all in favor of penguin advertising. I'm just saying, ditch the polar bears. Penguins are cuter. Penguins are even more versatile than comely women in bikinis when it comes to advertising. I don't recall seeing any human babes in the Tamiflu ads.

Jones Soda Taste Adventure, Part Four

I wanted to title this one "I Drank Pea," but that would not be quite accurate. I sniffed Pea flavor, then passed the bottle off to Emp. Peng. He sniffed, said "what the hell," took a swig and proceeded to do a spit take over half of the living room. Now, a mist of carbonated pea over the sectional would be enough to convince most people to skip quaffing the offending beverage themselves, but I am not most people. In the interest of giving everyone a full report on the complete novelty soda lineup for 2006, I had to taste some myself. However, I am not (always) stupid. I poured a teaspoon into the dose cup provided with the sodas and stood over the bathroom sink. I think I managed to expose my entire tongue to the beverage before spitting it out and fumbling for the bottle of Listerine, lest any of my taste buds remember that experience.

Verdict: in the bottle, it resembles watered-down split pea baby food. It does not taste half as good as it looks.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Two more Happy Feet-related thoughts

First, I forgot to mention that I loved the look of the movie, particularly the integration of animated and live-action elements. Definitely came off better than animating the humans.

Second, if fish marketers could re-brand "Patagonian Toothfish" as the more menu-friendly "Chilean Sea Bass" why are we still eating "carp"?

Happy Feet

We finally went to see Happy Feet. For a movie about a half-fledged Emperor Penguin chick at odds with the monotheistic elders of the Emperor Nation because the chick can tapdance but can't carry a tune, who then meets up with a group of macho Adelie males to go on a quest to find why the fish are depleted, and who somehow manages not to fully fledge through what appears to be at least a full year, the movie gets a lot of things right about penguins. Granted, most of it would not be new to people who have seen March of the Penguins, but at least the filmmakers took into consideration that the general public is more penguin savvy since MOTP and would notice if they took too many liberties with the penguin facts. Sure, there is that whole "Penguin elementary school" bit, but that isn't too far removed from the creches that juveniles huddle in while both parents are at sea. As with MOTP, the movie makes a little more of the strength of the pair bond than is actually there. I'm still torn about the dramatic necessity of The Great Guin, too, but it was nice to see accurate depictions of five different penguin species.

I did have a few beefs with the movie, though:
  1. Mumble should have frozen to death at least four times before Elijah Wood took over the voice acting.
  2. There were a lot more adult penguins hanging about the colony at any given time than there should have been.
  3. Elephant seals tend to fight off other males encroaching on their harem area; rather than chatting up an errant penguin, the three or four male elephant seals would have been trying to rip each others' flanks off.
  4. Given the apparent age of the chicks in the scene, no one would risk a helicopter flight just for penguin observation at that time of year.
  5. Guidelines require two-engine helicopters to keep a minimum distance of just under a mile from wildlife concentrations, and fly at an altitude of at least 3,000 feet above any wildlife concentration. That helicopter was violating just about every protocol for not disturbing the wildlife.
  6. Most of the environmental problems encountered in the course of Mumble's quest have been subject to regulation by the Antarctic treaty since 1959. An addendum dealing with fishing was added in 1980, although the toothfish (aka Chilean Sea Bass) is still imperiled by overfishing. People eat those more than penguins do.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Jones Soda Dinner Roll flavor

It's worse than the turkey, and yes I can believe it's not butter.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sweet Potayto, potahto

Next stop on the Jones Soda Holiday 2006 tour is Sweet Potato. The verdict: better than Turkey & Gravy. We made it through the entire bottle. Reasonably adequate facsimile of a carbonated sweet potato, but needs more marshmallow and glucono delta lactone.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving--the rest is just gravy

As usual, I made the full spread for Thanksgiving, even though it is just the two of us. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Just to keep things interesting, this year, we topped the feast off with this.

Yup, we actually drank the Jones Soda Turkey and Gravy flavor. What's more, we can't even claim this was a gag gift and we just drank it on a lark; we bought it for ourselves fully intending to drink it. The turkey and gravy flavor is best described as starting off like a nondescript cream soda, and finishing up on a meaty note. Tastes more gravy than turkey. We got about a third of the way through the bottle before we gave up. Could be that we just don't learn but we'll be trying the remaining flavors in the 2006 Holiday Pack through the rest of the weekend. Stay tuned for reactions to dinner roll, sweet potato, pea and antacid.

Penguin video games

From Pengo for the Atari, which my sister used to enjoy losing just to see me get upset when the enemies stomped the penguin, to the current releases of Happy Feet and March of the Penguins for the current generation of consoles and handhelds, penguins have a long history in video games. Since I have been unsuccessful in securing a copy of March of the Penguins DS, I have had some time on my hands to speculate on penguin video games we would like to see.

GTA: Galapagos
An open-ended action-adventure game with Hot Squid unlockable content.

Construct a nest out of falling nesting material

Sims Rookery
Attract penguins to your rookery site and build it up to a thriving colony.

Like Halo, a first person shooter, but with an innovative down-the-tail perspective for accurate aiming

South Pole Position

Toboggan around the Antarctic research stations

The expansion pack for Nintendogs, but instead of a puppy, you start with an egg

The new version allows you to use beak and flippers to eliminate the blocks.

Krill Hunt

Shrimplike creatures replace the 8-bit waterfowl of the original Duck Hunt. Would come packaged with a beak shell for the light gun, to give a more realistic krill-hunting experience.


Think Frogger, only with more penguins and fewer semi trucks. Leopard seals replace the sewer-dwelling gators.

Find all of the killer whales in the grid without getting eaten

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

And one more...

Sunday, March of the Penguins for the Nintendo DS was released. I will likely be waiting to get it until Black Friday, when several stores are having sales of the game with plushy and book, for $19.99. Or I may go out in the morning and get it. Stay tuned, and in the morning, I will post other penguin video game opportunities.

Good Week for Penguin Entertainment

Happy Feet came out on top in the weekend box office receipts (still haven't seen it, but going to). National Geographic does a rundown on the facts and where Happy Feet takes some liberties with penguinal correctness. After I see the movie, expect my full rundown of penguin fact and fiction.

The book about a male-male penguin pair raising a chick at the Central Park Zoo, based on real-life events, caused another dust-up in a midwestern state.

A pair of penguins that survived the crash of their zoo transport truck last summer in eastern Texas have hatched a chick. As you may recall, the crash claimed four penguins, one from the accident and three roadkill.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


The power came back on at 12:41, after about an hour-long outage. The generator's normal weekly 10-minute cycle-through starts at 12:53 p.m. Thursday. Doggone generator is so reliable, it is going through with its weekly cycle regardless of the fact that a scant 12 minutes before, it had been on for an hour to cover for an actual power failure.

Duh Moment

It is a brilliantly sunny 60-degree autumn day with just a hint of a breeze—exactly the kind of day one expects not to lose electricity. So far, FirstEnergy is mum on the reasons I am running on generator power at the moment. I suspect a squirrel tried burying a winter food stash in a transformer. The other truly odd thing about this power outage is that I didn't notice for a good half hour that I was without power, and not because I didn't have anything turned on. It may be sunny, but I am a tech geek, and for very obvious reasons, solar caller ID has not caught on.

Why, you may rightly ask, did it take me upwards of half an hour to realize the power was gone? I may not always be terribly observant, but I would tend to notice something like all the gizmos in the house simultaneously turning themselves off, even if I didn't have any of the lights on. Thing was, I wasn't in the house; I was wandering the yard inspecting the new flower beds and walking off the aches from installing them yesterday.

Surely, you would think I would notice gadgets being off when I returned indoors. Not necessarily. The first big improvement we did to this house when we bought it was to install a whole-house generator. It automatically kicks on within a minute of sensing a power loss in the house, and provides enough backup electricity to power just about everything except the stove. By the time I went inside, everything that had been on when I left had powered back up, except for the computer that was in sleep mode anyway.

But generators are noisy, you say. Of course they are. Our Guardian produces a noise level comparable to a lawnmower, which is quiet, but far from silent. The neighbors claim not to notice it. Surely, I would, though, since it is right under my kitchen window. Thing is, the generator kicks on once a week for a few minutes to keep the motor in good shape for when it is needed. The power happened to go about an hour before the time the generator normally cycles through. Since this is the first week I had been home on Thursday since the time change, I assumed it was going through its normal weekly cycle. Wasn't until I realized it wasn't turning off that I suspected it was running for a reason.

UPDATE: As I typed this, the power came back. The electric company still doesn't say what the problem is, although their follow-up call to ensure that my power is back on does nicely inform me that the time is 12:41 p.m. so I can set my clocks. Ha. Most of my clocks set themselves.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Unhappy Feet.

I've gotten over the Happy Feet movie trailer that clearly shows Mumble the penguin swimming in his chick down. Understandable that someone could have failed to notify Warner Brothers that chick down is not waterproof and Mumble would freeze to death well before the middle of the production number. I've gotten over the clip showing the skuas talking to Mumble instead of doing what skuas would normally do to an isolated penguin chick. I understand that you can't have a PG movie with your cute and cuddly protagonist disemboweled.

But now...I just don't know. The supporting penguins are shilling for Roche Pharmaceutical's ad campaign for flu awareness over at In a way, that is about the most penguinally accurate cross-promotion ever. Adelie penguins, the prostitutes of the penguin world, are known for doing just about anything for nesting materials. I suppose I should not be surprised to find them pimping Tamiflu.

Election Day

It's that time of the biennium again. I just returned from voting at my local Catholic school, which seems to consider mugging voters at the entrance as a major component of their duties as hosts of the polling place. Just once, I would love to exercise my right to vote without having to pass the strategically placed eighth grade class trip bake sale and the accompanying prepubes trying to shake me down for a donation.

Since I live in Ohio, it was a given that I would be voting on a Diebold touch screen machine. Even so, it appeared to register all my votes properly, including the ones that ran counter to Diebold corporate interests. The precinct had managed to have paper verification printers appended to them. The receipt printers were an obvious afterthought, sprouting like a malignant growth from the side of the sleek machines, and they were secured using one of those locks that can be picked with a ballpoint pen. Still, I'm calling that better than nothing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm Back

Owing to the recent irregularity of posting, you might not have noticed I was out of town last week. I went to my first professional conference, the World Fantasy Con (even though I am a sci-fi writer). Now, I have either a raging case of hay fever or Con Plague. My eyeballs feel like boiled eggs.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Landmark Day at Casa De Penguin

Today, I experienced another homeowner milestone: my first Jehovah's Witness. I wussed out on all of the snappy answers I had planned for this moment, although I think the bunnies kicked her butt on the way down the driveway.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

And We're Back to Non-Standard Standard Time

Did you remember to turn your clocks back? I would like to put an idea out there. Since, effective next year, the U.S. will be on Standard time for a paltry 4 1/2 months, let's stop pretending it is Standard. How about we just admit that DST is now Standard Time and re-name it accordingly. The former standard time can be re-named CLDOS, "Christmas Light Display Optimization Schedule." We can't get rid of CLDOS because we need the extra hour of evening darkness November to January to show off the holiday light displays that consume all the energy we saved over the summer by having the indoor lamps on for an hour less in the evening.

The Onion pokes fun at my favorite mischaracterization of DST in: Daylight Saving Time Yields Massive Daylight Surplus

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It Continues

12:01 a.m. - When filling the sink to do dishes, the sink sprayer nozzle pops off, and in picture-perfect comedic fashion, my sink gets me square in the xiphoid process with a jet of water. Dumbfounded, I take almost fifteen seconds to recover the presence of mind to turn the water off already.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

9.5 on the Weird Crap-o-Meter

Ever had one of those days that make you think you must have woken up in the wrong multiverse? Here's mine (times approximate)

6:05 a.m. - Wake up. Reasons for me regaining consciousness before dawn will become apparent, as will be the reason for closing the peng-cat in the spare room.

7:30 a.m. - Drop car off at Toyota service department for its 60,000 mile scheduled maintenance. This is one of the biggies, including some preventative maintenance on the electric part of the hybrid system, so I knew going in this was going to run me about $270.

7:59 a.m. - Drop Emp. Peng. off at work. Drive home, feeling a little better now that the sun is up with me.

10:00 a.m. - Call from service department. I need a new air filter and cabin filter (approx. $50). One of those will have to be ordered in, so the car won't be ready until tomorrow. Tomorrow, I don't have a way to pick up my car.

12:00 p.m. - Pick Emp. Peng. up to take him to lunch. Boss of Emp. Peng. presents me with a foot-tall ceramic penguin filled with biscotti, with no explanation. If you think the day does not get more off than a random biscotti-filled penguin, read on.

1:30 p.m. - Return from lunch. Wrestle Peng-cat into the kitty carrier to take her to the vet.

2:20 p.m. - The cat is fine and vaccinated. The vet suggests that we might try giving peng-cat antidepressants to help with her behavioral couch-wetting problem (note to visitors to chez penguin-the corner of the sectional is "her" spot).

2:45 p.m. - Call from the service department, explaining that my car has brake pads that are glued to another part of the car so that the car can stop. Or at least they should be glued on. I'm about three red lights away from needing to find a retaining wall if I want to stop. They can replace the part and gussy up the brakes like new ($168). Oh, and the brakes might be useful if either of the back tires blow out, which they are about ready to do ($62.50 apiece installed and rotated). I suggest I may need to discuss the additional 300 clams with Emp. Peng.

3:00 p.m. - Emp. Peng. suggests that what must be done must be done.

5:30 p.m. - Pick up Emp. Peng. Almost run over a gubernatorial candidate and a kitten on the way home. I stopped for the kitten.

8:00 p.m. - Winning bid on the used laptop I am selling on eBay is $5560. Cost of a new laptop, comparable model, is about $1,500. The biscotti penguin looks more and more normal.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Today's Befuddlement

Ragu, the Unilever subsidiary in charge of making pasta sauce, has a variety advertised as having "Extra tomato." How does one get "extra" tomato into a product that starts out being pretty much all tomato?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Friday, October 13, 2006

Say What?

The Central Intelligence Agency has TV ads out. I know, I couldn't believe it either. I actually watched the ad--something I rarely do with TiVo--because I thought there was no way the announcer had teased, "This program is brought to you by the CIA." Do they think that, notwithstanding the fuss about warrantless wiretapping, there are still people who don't know the CIA is there?

To be fair, it is a help wanted ad, which brings up another issue. Aren't they pretty much broadcasting to the bad guys "Hey, we're understaffed!"? On second thought, forget pretty much. That is exactly what they are doing. Now, I'll give them that the Science Channel demographic is people who would be good at CIA-type stuff. I think that is why ITT Technical Institute also advertises there.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What I learned fishing as a child

1. Fish don't live near bathrooms
2. If they do, the bathroom is guaranteed to not be sanitized for your protection
3. Sanitation is irrelevant when you are up to your wrists in nightcrawlers
4. Worms are icky
5. Salmon eggs are pretty
6. Life is not a cartoon; the trout come out of the water very much alive and kicking
7. Trout do not like to die
8. Just when you think the trout is dead, it has a surprise
9. Fish don't come fileted
10. They do, however, come with internal organs that must be removed
11. Eviscerating trout is called "cleaning" them
12. "Cleaning" is not at all clean
13. Trout do not like to be eviscerated, either
14. Nor do they come with handy zippers
15. If you don't know where the knife is inserted to eviscerate the trout, you don't want to

Friday, October 06, 2006

Update on the Home Repair Injury Pool

My apologies to whoever had "blinded by nail polish remover in the eyeball while trying to remove a glob of polyurethane foam sealant from her forehead, before realizing that she has non-acetone nail polish remover so it won't do any good" in the DIY Casualty Pool. You were so close. I can still see just as well as ever, which according to the DMV is not very well.

Today's Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Expanding foam sealant is the bastard child of superglue, marshmallow fluff and cheese in a can, so one should always wear a hat when applying it to the ceiling. I've been picking globs out of my hair since this morning's well-intentioned effort at sealing up the gaps around the hatch into the roof crawlspace. However, if someone is looking for a ultra-hold styling product, I can confidently recommend Great Stuff Gaps and Cracks.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lowering the Pry Bar

I should have known better. There is no such thing as a quick project with this house. Why did I think installing foam gaskets on the electrical outlets would be any different? Usually, installing foam gasket seals involves unscrewing the screw that holds the outlet cover in place, slipping the gasket behind the outlet cover, and replacing the screw. At least those are the instructions for people who, unlike me, have outlet covers that are not stuck to the wall with Laura Ashley flat interior latex from the former owner's redecorating. I realize that waiting for the paint to dry before one puts the outlet covers back on is about as exciting as, well, watching paint dry, but would it have killed them?

Friday, September 29, 2006

News I couldn't make up

Millions of anchovies beach themselves in Spain

So far, workers have cleaned up more than three tons of juvenile anchovies that inexplicably beached themselves in northern Spain. Now, all we need is eighty or ninety tons of romaine, a tanker truck of worcestershire sauce and a couple hundred thousand coddled eggs and we're well on our way to the world's largest caesar salad.

Wouldn't "Beached Anchovies" make a great name for a band?

Monday, September 25, 2006

We cannot do it captain! We don't have the power!

The first rocket fired from the USA's first commercial spaceport crashed after reaching 40,000 feet, well short of even suborbital altitude. Good thing this happened now. Next month, the same company is scheduled to launch a rocket whose payload will include James Doohan's ashes.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Life Imitates Something

During my morning perusal of the headlines, I found "Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Throwing Her Sons in San Francisco Bay." Seems a San Francisco woman stands accused of drowning her three sons by, well, throwing them in San Francisco Bay. According to the psychiatric evaluation, she believed God had commanded her to do this. Sound familiar? Five years ago, Andrea Yates made headlines for killing her five children because she thought she was saving them from eternal damnation. There is even a website that compiles the details of instances of mothers who kill their children (they log nine instances, involving 23 children) for reasons ranging from "God commanded it" to "so we could live together in Heaven." Do me a favor. Don't click that link. It is a real downer. I'm just providing it to prove that such things do happen, and that there is documented evidence that religious beliefs, however misguided they may be, led at least nine women to commit infanticide (fillicide, really, as not all of the victims were infants).

That's just something to keep in mind as election season gets into full swing and legislators who have not seen a video game since Q-Bert start writing laws restricting access to video games. One of the favorite arguments for this sort of legislation is that video games might lead people to imitate what they see in the games. Thus, access to video games must be tightly controlled, for the children's sake. Children could get ideas from violent video games.

I would just like to note that these legislators seem to be just peachy-keen with psychotic mothers having access to the Book of Genesis, in which God orders a parent to kill his child. Talk about getting ideas from the media.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Penguin News

African penguins get their own suburban development cookie-cutter houses on an island near Cape Town. The artificial igloo burrows are intended to make up for humans stripping off the layer of the island where the penguins formerly dug their own designer burrows. In other places, trash bins cut in half and fastened to the ground serve as artificial nest sites.

Even better than a "Man Bites Dog" story

From the AP, out of Beijing, "Man Bites Panda."

Seems a drunk man decided the pandas at the Beijing zoo were all cute and cuddly, and just had to hug one. The panda took exception to be startled awake from its nap and bit the drunk guy on the leg. The drunk guy took exception to being bitten by a panda and bit the panda back. The panda then went for the other leg, and, as the AP report so succinctly put it, "A tussle ensued."

The drunk guy required stitches--and he should consider himself lucky that is all he needs, since the panda's diet consists of a plant that is also used as a substitute for concrete rebar. Preliminary reports indicate the panda is OK.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Console Wars

I'm going to go out on a limb and make a prediction: Nintendo is going to win the Battle for the Living Room. While Sony and Microsoft are busy tacking on high-definition DVD players and processing power up the wazoo, Nintendo has found a way to give consumers what is really important: a way to check the weather. Pretty pictures might do something on movie night, whenever the consumers get the high-def TV sets and the studios put out movies worth watching, but people will check the weather and headlines every morning.

Bye, Bye, Xena

2003 UB 313, whose consignment to dwarf planet status was overshadowed by the fracas over Pluto, now has an official name. UB 313, provisionally known as Xena since it was in the running to be the tenth planet (or planet Roman numeral X) before astronomers decided to lock down the solar system at Neptune, was christened (136199) Eris, or just Eris for short. Eris' moon--known as Gabrielle while its parent planet was known as Xena, since S/2005 UB 313 1 is a bit of a mouthful--is now (136199) Eris I. (136199) Eris 1 is still a bit wordy, so you can just call the moon Dysnomia.

Eris is the Greek goddess of strife, and legend has it that a snub of Eris started the Trojan War. Dysnomia was the Greek goddess of lawlessness Eris' daughter. Wikipedia posits that the name might be an offhand reference to Xena: Warrior Princess, who was played by Lucy Lawless. Considering all the fracas over planethood for Eris and Pluto, the names might be nod to astronomers' sense of humor.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What's next? Pop-Tart loofahs?

This infernal itching is driving me nuts. So nuts that I just took someone's recommendation to bathe in a watered-down version of my breakfast. Lucky for me, that's oatmeal and milk. Hash browns would clog the drain.

Walking Calamity

I feel like my old Pontiac. For a while, I owned an '84 Firebird that started off life with me by having the brakes completely fail en route to the title inspection. It had a minimum number of things that had to be malfunctioning at any given time, and I think my body is starting to have the same issue. Now that the damages from falling out of a car have resolved themselves into a large black-and-blue mark, I have developed a raging case of hives over both forearms.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Welcome to Fall

Among my more normal phobias is heights. For as long as I can remember, I have tried to keep my feet close to terra firma. I very nearly refused to move to a third floor apartment because I couldn't go up the wooden stairwell. As far as I am concerned, if I was meant to lay eyes on something, it would be within 9 feet of the ground. We own a 21 foot extension ladder, and I refuse to use more than the bottom three rungs. Thus, when the time came to pick the rest of the pears today, I sent Elie up the ladder.

So what did I do after refusing to go four feet off the ground? Slipped off the door frame of a car while trying to wax the middle of the roof, of course. Judging by the laceration, scrape, and contusion on my back from trying to catch myself on the passenger door with my ribs, I fell about six inches. Much more of this, and I'll be belly-crawling my way through life.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hedgehog News--Not penguins, but still cute

McDonalds has redesigned its McFlurry containers. Apparently the old ones were hedgehog death traps. Hedgehogs have a sweet tooth, and the opening to the lid was just big enough to let a hedgehog's head in, but not out. Effective Friday, McFlurry lid openings will be hedgehog-proof. Of course, with a 12-ounce M&M McFlurry weighing in at 620 calories, 20 grams of fat, 1 gram trans fat and 19% of the RDA for cholesterol (based on a 2000 calorie diet), the lid might not be the only thing about this product that is killing off hedgehogs.

An interesting side note: according to Wikipedia, hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. Still, they go for the McFlurry residue, which is definitely a dairy product. So much for Sonic the Hedgehog's "Got Milk?" ad.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Downtown Mansfield hosted the annual car show today. I have never seen so many Chevy Novas in one place. Most of the cars were modified from the original, usually something small like defiling an '82 Delorean with an in-dash CD player with removable faceplate. One mod really stuck out, though: someone installed a ram scoop on a Pinto.

I'm going to repeat that, because there is no way you thought you read that right the first time. Someone installed a ram scoop on a Pinto. A person actually went through the trouble of reconfiguring an engine and refabricating a new hood to add 10-20 horsepower to a car with a tendency to burst into flames in collisions. Henceforth, "souped up Pinto" is my standard measurement of complete wacked-ness.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine --Just Nine, Make that Eight

Human beings have known about planets since shortly after they could stop running away from predators long enough to watch the night sky and realize that some of the specks of light moved with respect to the other specks of light. A few dozen millennia later, Copernicus theorized that the planets, including Earth, revolved around the sun. So, in the grand scope of history, taking another 463 years to decide exactly what a planet is doesn't seem like too long.

Yes, only five millennia after the Sumerians noticed Mercury, astronomers have agreed on what exactly makes a planet. As of today, a planet is something that: (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

For those of you paying close attention, item C eliminates Pluto, which is in an orbit teeming with Kuiper Belt Objects. Pluto, Charon, Xena, and the other round orbiting chunks in the Kuiper Belt will be officially classified as Dwarf Planets. Now, schoolchildren will have only eight planets to memorize--seven if, like my elementary school, their schools leave out Uranus until middle school to avoid the juvenile jokes about rectums.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

David H. Mills, January 9, 1926-August 22, 2006

This morning, for the first time in eight decades, the sun rose on a world without David Mills, yet the sun stubbornly insists on rising anyway. Fourteen hours now since his death, and so far, the world has not shown any signs of coming to a grinding halt. I can only surmise that is because the world has not yet had a chance to realize what it is missing--specifically, my grandpa, a man who loved his family in ways that adjectives cannot capture.

His lingering decline finally reached its inevitable conclusion with him at home with his wife of 58 years and five weeks at his side. That is a bit of mercy that provides the only bit of comfort one can expect today.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

And now for this important message

To the guy in seat 16D on United Airlines flight 419 into PDX last Sunday: your airplane seat is not a BarcaLounger.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Airport Insecurity

The one thing that could get me on an airplane while the TSA is in full freak-out mode has happened, so tomorrow afternoon I will be braving airport security. This liquid ban is about the silliest thing I have heard of in a long time. I suspect it will quietly go away sooner rather than later. There is only so long business travelers--the bulk of airlines' customers--will accept having their makeup and toothpaste wind up in Poughkeepsie when they are in Atlanta. The airlines had such a great track record of keeping track of checked baggage when there were some people not checking bags. I am also reasonably certain that an electronics ban will never catch on here. People can't wait until the plane gets to the gate to turn on their cell phones. No chance they'll accept checking the phones in the bags.

I should return in about a week. Stay tuned for my review of airport freak-out.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Penguins Made into Roadkill in Texas

Twenty-one penguins survived an accident in which their zoo transport overturned on a highway in Texas. One penguin died in the accident, and three others were run down by passing motorists. The exotic fish on the transport also had a bad day, but the octopus was uninjured.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Today's Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Before you dissect a supposedly burned-out 350 watt power supply unit, make sure: a) it is actually burned out, and b) you really don't need it.

On the bright side, I managed to get it reassembled with no parts left over. It remains to be seen whether it works or not.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Before you plan that romantic vacation into Earth orbit, here is an article with a few things to consider. There might be some problems that need worked out with orbital second honeymoons, aside from the obvious issues stemming from Newton's Third Law of Motion.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Penguin News

About 135 penguins missed the left turn at Albuquerque and wound up in Rio de Janeiro instead of Antarctica. I would suspect they were just looking for a good party--let's face it, the Antarctic night life can't hold a candle to Rio--except that being so far out of their normal habitat tends to take a toll on the birds. The Brazilian Navy and Air Force will take the 50 or so penguins who survived the ordeal back out to sea where the ocean currents will put them back on course for their native habitats.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

From the "I couldn't make it up if I tried" file:

Today was my annual medical checkup. Just as the doctor was breaking out the stirrups and the speculum, the muzak started playing "Back in the Saddle Again."

I about died laughing.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

This is Unreal

You know how, when you are approaching an accident on the freeway, you tell yourself that you aren't going to rubberneck. Checking out the carnage is for the less civilized folks. You're better than that. You're just going to keep on driving, eyes on your own lane, and not try to figure out who hit what and how much their insurance premiums are going to go up because of it. Then, when you finally get up to the scene of the accident, you can't help taking just a little peek, and the foot eases off the accelerator just a little and you find yourself thinking, "So that's what happens when a Geo Metro and a Hummer collide."

That is what happened to me with "Who Wants to Be a Superhero." I don't watch reality TV. I might have caught half an episode of the first Survivor before I decided this is beyond lowbrow entertainment and my life is too short for that. I got two thirds of the way through the episode of The Apprentice where they were doing an ad campaign for the Star Wars video game and DVD before the interpersonal politics became so bad that not even Star Wars could keep me watching. The whole premise of Who Wants to Be a Superhero was utterly offensive to me as a fangirl (see previous rant on the subject, below). Stan Lee was selling out fanboys and fangirls everywhere to reinforce the stereotypes of us as immature and out of touch with, of all the irony, reality. Part of me wanted to reach through the television, grab him by the mustache and the aviator glasses and yell, "You've been to Comic Con. You've seen us. You know we aren't like that! Why are you doing this to us?"

I TiVoed the first episode of WWTBASuperhero anyway. Might as well see what I'm railing against. You know what? As much as I hate to admit it, the show isn't half bad. If you can get past the superhero campiness, the first episode was an oddly compelling hour of television. At least in the first hour, it wasn't the typical reality show bit of strategic alliances and backstabbing. The challenge of the week wasn't "who can be subjected to the most disgusting thing without losing their lunch." The show, at this early date at least, seems focused less on being a superhero than on being a decent human being--a rare thing in reality TV, from what I hear.

The challenge set up for the first episode was ostensibly who could pull the "Superman in a phone booth" the fastest (for a program done by the former head of Marvel, all the superhero references seem to be to DC comics characters). Contestants were supposed to change from their streetclothes into their superhero costumes without being seen, then run to a designated finish line. But Stan Lee pulled something that anyone who has ever picked up more than two issues of a comic book could have seen straight through (thus giving us, the audience, a nice reveal as to who are real fanboys and fangirls, and who are in it to be Reality TV Stars). An 9-ish-year-old actress was positioned just shy of the designated finish line, crying that she was lost and couldn't find her mommy. We'll overlook the fact that she was not at all convincing. The unstated but transparent goal of the exercise was to see who would consider helping a lost child more important than winning a contest for a TV show. Some of them did, and those that weren't were called on the carpet (or illuminated cubes, rather--I gotta get me some of those) to explain their inaction. That turned into more groveling than actual explanation, but still, it was nice to see win-at-any-cost be detrimental to one's success rather than essential. I'm eager to see if that ethic continues through the rest of the show. Yes, I will be TiVoing the next episode.

This is a show where you have to just accept a lot of things that some people might find a little odd (e.g. a woman wearing crullers as a belt). My version of reality is heavy on the comics and sci-fi, so I can just run with guys in tights. If you are the type of person who could see a person in a full-body Yoda costume walking down the street in June and your only thought is "he's too tall for Yoda," you'll have a leg up watching the show. Everyone else, set your TiVo, revel in the campiness, realize these people are not normal human beings, and get ready to have your faith in the general decency of humanity (if not, necessarily, the decency of humanity's wardrobe) renewed.

I'll check back as the show progresses.

Dang Homophones!

Seems a misunderstanding about homophones (those words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently, as you will recall from between snickers in your grade-school English classes) got Apple in a bit of hot water among the online tech community. An article in The Chicago Tribune about iPods breaking included the following paragraph:
An Apple spokeswoman, Natalie Kerris, said iPods have a failure rate of less than 5 percent, which she said is "fairly low" compared with other consumer electronics. "The vast majority of our customers are extremely happy with their iPods," she said, adding that an iPod is designed to last four years.

After the bruhaha began, Ms. Kerris pointed out that what she had in fact said was an iPod is designed to last "for years." What a difference a U makes.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On the Menu

Tonight's dinner is chicken fried rice, or as I prefer to call it, "use up all the odds and ends in the crisper before the vegetables revolt and declare the refrigerator The Sovereign State of Whirlpoolvania."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I think we've officially stretched the definition of "reality" to the point of meaninglessness when this is classified as a "reality show."

For the benefit of those who won't click the link, the new show is called "Who Wants to Be a Superhero." From the website:

Each contestant begins with an original idea for a superhero, a self-made costume, and their best superhero mojo. From thousands of hopefuls, Stan Lee chooses 11 lucky finalists who move together into a secret lair. There they will begin their transformations — and their competition for the opportunity to become real-life superheroes. Over the course of the series, they will test their mettle, try to overcome their limitations, and do what it takes to prove that they truly are super.

The finalists will leave their former lives behind and become their brainchild heroes, all under Stan Lee's watchful eye. Each week, our aspiring heroes will be challenged with competitions designed to test their true natures. No one will be asked to perform feats of impossible strength; our superheroes will be tested for courage, integrity, self-sacrifice, compassion, and resourcefulness — all traits that every true superhero must possess.

In the end, only one aspiring superhero will have the inner strength and nobility to open the gates to comic-book immortality. The winner of this six-week competition will walk away with their character immortalized in a new comic book developed with Stan Lee. And that's not all — the winning character will also appear in an original SCI FI Channel movie!

As someone who has gone out in public, not on Halloween, dressed as a character from a comic book, I would like to say that actual fanboys and fangirls have a much better grasp on the concept of reality than this.

Mystery plant

Out weeding the flower beds recently, I stumbled upon a mystery plant in the middle of my hostas. I've been pulling up all kinds of odd weeds that I can't identify, so another mystery plant, in and of itself, is not that unusual. What is unusual is that this one bears an uncanny resemblance to something in the cucumber/pumpkin/melon family: broad-leafed vines complete with light orange blossoms. Odd thing is, I have not planted anything in the cucumber/pumpkin/melon family there or anywhere on my property. I'm granting it a reprieve from being weeded just so I can see what comes out at the end.

Monday, July 24, 2006


A doormat seen in a mail-order catalog I received today:

"Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit. Look who's here."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

For the "Duh" File

Headline from the Associated Press:  Farmers use bull semen to inseminate cows

No kidding.  Maybe the AP expected farmers to use tofu?

Monday, July 17, 2006


The tree service came out today to fix our little tree problem, outlined earlier, and while they had the chainsaws fired up, they took out two other trees that threatened to cause problems in the future. Two maples, an ash and an apple tree are now nothing more than a small pile of firewood and a second Volkswagen-sized pile of mulch. Four trees look like a whole lot more tree when they are vertical and not put through a wood chipper.

And, since the crew did such a great job, I'll put in a shameless plug for Dolce's Tree Service.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Marmota Watch '06

We now have woodchucks, plural. Woodrow and a friend/girlfriend/offspring were out snacking in the grass yesterday. I suspected additional marmota when I saw fresh dirt at the opening of the woodchuck den, as if Woodrow was remodeling the place. Now we know for sure. They're still not chucking any wood though, and it would be nice if they would, since I still have to have half a maple tree next to my deck. We're on the tree service's schedule.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Saga of Pilling a Cat, Part VII: Final Pill

With all the fuss Chakaal put up getting to the vet at the start of our little adventure, I fully expected her to give me better source material by the end of her course of meds. Tonight was her final pill, and other than her attempted run for the border when we tried to reposition her on the bathroom rug, it was entirely uneventful.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Saga of Pilling a Cat, Part VI: Fifth Pill

After last night's fiasco, Chakaal calmed down a bit. We caught her unaware, and managed to get the pill down her throat on the first try. She tried to puke it up, but failed.

Saga of Pilling a Cat, Part V: Fourth Pill

I knew this had been too easy. For three days, she just sat down and took her pills. It's Day Four, and she's figured us out. As soon as she heard the unmistakable sounds of the humans preparing to turn in for the night, she started to nonchalantly saunter toward the relative protection of under the stairwell. She might have succeeded right there, except that her sauntering path took her through the kitchen, where one of the humans was doing the dishes. Her escape stymied, she resorted to refusing to swallow. Three times, we tried, with feline positions ranging from cradled in arms to pinned to floor. We would have tried a fourth time, but the third attempt reduced the pill to powder. We're pretty sure some managed to get into the cat. As for the rest, the hallway carpet is going to have nice, healthy intestines.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Saga of Pilling a Cat, Part IV: Third Pill

Since Chakaal wised up to the carrier trick so fast, I doubted we could get past the second pill before she caught on. We got a reprieve of at least one day. We descended on her in the bathroom, same time and place as before, and though she did not particularly like being confined and forced to swallow a pill, she did not try to make a break for it. We are now halfway through her course of meds, and still managing with minimal fuss. It is most certainly a two-person job, though.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Saga of Pilling a Cat, Part III: Second Day, Second Pill

Friday night, and it was time to work the second pill down her. Did I mention that, even split, these are about the size of a Tic Tac? For a cat, that's huge.

We decided on a slightly more friendly approach than Thursday night's throw-your-body-on-the-cat method of restraint. We caught her in her usual evening haunt of the bathroom rug, and I picked her up. We were so surprised at getting the pill down her on the first try that we followed her around for several minutes to make absolutely sure she wasn't just waiting to spit it out. We've had a cat do that before. Months after we finally had to put him down, we were still finding little pills he had managed to spit out after we thought for sure he had swallowed.

Pilling A Cat, Part II: First Pill

Thursday night, after Chakaal had calmed from her little adventure getting to the vet, we started her course of medication. The vet had conveniently pre-split the pills so we just had to give Chakaal half a pill once a day.

Just. Ha. Nonetheless, we are all in favor of trying the easy way first, and I still had half a can of moist cat food left from the afternoon's adventure. We portioned it out among the three cats, since we can't give moist food to one without giving it to all, and strategically hid the split pill inside the dish we gave to Chakaal. As semi-expected, Chakaal cleaned her plate and left the pill sitting next to it. For the fourth time in a day, I found myself holding her down against her will. Emp. Peng., being more adept at these things, takes point in the cat medicating process and deals with getting the pill into the mouth and down the throat. I provide moral support and bodily restraint. Half of the pill got in, and we declared that good enough for the first try.

Saga of Pilling the Cat, Part I: Getting to the Vet

One of the cats had to go to the vet this week, after we noticed some concerning matter in the litterbox. We narrowed down the culprit to Chakaal after noticing she was showing other signs of intestinal distress or possibly worms. Too bad for us that Chakaal is the most clever of the three cats.

None of our cats like going to the vet, and will run and hide when they see the kitty carrier. Standard operating procedure is to start gradually closing off potential hiding places, starting with under the bed, since that is, by virtue of being the most inaccessible to humans, their preferred hiding place. Before they know it, they are corralled into a room with nowhere to hide. Then we break out the carrier.

Apparently, at less than two years old, Chakaal has caught on to this plan. When I shut the drawers on the bed pedestal, she gave a big "we'll see about that" to the humans and proceeded to open the drawer herself and crawl behind it. No problem. I've lured cats out from under the bed before. I pulled the drawer out and got the pouch of kitty treats. The cats always flock to kitty treats. Soon, I had a second cat at my heels meowing for the treats, and one under the bed who was having none of it. Even when I put the treat morsel under there with her and sat back, she just pawed at it.

Plan B: catnip. Chakaal is a certified nip fiend. I plucked a sprig from the stand outside--they like it fresh--and waved it at her tantalizingly from just outside the drawer opening. Nothing. Even brushing her fur with the nip had no effect. Clearly, she had figured out that the more I wanted her out from under the bed, the less she would want to be out from under the bed.

On to Plan C: the food. Chakaal reliably comes from anywhere in the house when she hears the sound of the scoop in the kitty kibble. I have never made so much noise putting out dry cat food in my life. No dice. She had, however, taken advantage of my brief absence to get the sprig of catnip further in and was contentedly chewing.

After a quick call to the vet to tell them we were running late, it was on to Plan D: Friskies. They get moist food as a treat now and again, and all three know the distinctive clink of the cat dishes coming out of the cupboard. It is the most effective dinner bell one can imagine. In a split, I had two cats clamoring for the moist food. Unfortunately, these were the two that can't stand being in the same room without fighting, and not the one I wanted. After separating the other two out and giving them each a token bit, I took a dish into the bedroom to pull the old "move it a fraction of an inch away between bites trick." That worked right up until the dish got to the edge of the drawer, then Chakaal took a tactical retreat. On the second attempt, I actually managed to lure her completely out from the drawer, grab her, and get her into the bathroom. The wiley one managed to escape when she spotted and took advantage of the one flaw in my plan, namely that I had to open the bathroom door to go get the carrier. Back to square one.

There is no Plan E. With the other two cats, there isn't even a need for a Plan B, much less C-D. Chakaal had figured out what was coming, and she was not going to fall for the moist food gambit twice. Having exhausted all forms of lure and bribery, we were down to forcible removal. Fortunately for me, even if the cat outwits me, I still have the advantage in reach and overall mass. Given another half hour and removal of drawer rails so she has nothing to wedge her body between, that is enough to drag a cat bodily out, over loud objections.

We were almost an hour late for her appointment, and the extra wait for the appointment slot of a pet being even more obstinate did not convince her that things would go a lot easier if she just came out willingly and on time. $35 of poop analysis later, it turns out she has some mild intestinal inflammation, probably caused by eating something that is not officially sanctioned as edible for cats. It is nothing to worry about, but the vet prescribed a six-day course of oral medication to be certain it clears up.

Anyone who has ever given a cat a pill will recognize going through at least fourteen parts of these step-by-step instructions for giving a cat a pill. This is why we eventually moved to giving Felix his medication by transdermal gel.

Stay tuned for Part II, in which we actually start giving Chakaal a pill.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Recommended Reading

The Ten Commandments of cell phones.
I would like to add #11: 
If thine call is dropped, thou shalt wait until thou is in an area with better reception 
to resume thine call, or thine call shall surely be dropped again, and there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the recipient.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

At Least The Cats Aren't Completely Useless

Stumbling toward the coffeemaker this morning, I passed something in the hallway that bore a striking resemblance to a cat toy, although I didn't remember giving them one with that particular configuration. Leaning closer--holyfreakin' mother of pearl! One or more of the cats had found a new toy, all right. However, the toys I get for them don't normally have paws and a tail. Lucky for us, after they got and killed the mouse, they skipped the offering of the prey to the owners and just left it where it lay. Now, having swept it up and chucked it outside as a warning to other mice, I just have to hope it was a loner.

You are cordially invited my new blog, Household Hacks, where our motto is "better living through tinkering." Household Hacks is full of hints, tips, and easy projects for the domestic sphere.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Return of the Penguin

After a whirlwind trip visiting family, in which I saw five airports in as many days, I am back and can confidently report the secret to good airline service in economy class: combine a small aircraft with a flight attendant who doesn't want to be on it.

Our last leg of the trip was out of Chicago's O'Hare airport, on a regional jet only slightly larger than a turboprop. Between an aircraft shortage and a lightning storm, flights were running about two hours late and the airline was scraping bottom to cobble together flight crews who could still legally work. By the time we got the aircraft loaded, it was apparent that there are few things worse than the wrath of a flight attendant forced to take the 1:30 a.m. flight to Columbus, Ohio. Fortunately, that wrath was directed at the airline, not the passengers, and took the form of clearing out the galley of "snacks available for purchase."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Photo Finish

And here is how it broke. Impressive, no?

More Photos

This is that tree now.

Photos, as Promised

This is the "before" shot. Pay attention to the tallest tree to the left of the house.

Three Bits of Good News

1. The emergency backup generator works.

2. We have enough extension cord to plug the garage door opener into the kitchen.

3. The tree missed the house.

Photos forthcoming.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Monday, June 19, 2006

Today's Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Do not combine Fiery Habanero flavored Doritos and Super Colon Cleanse. Don't ask why. Just don't do it. And if you do decide to disregard this and combine the two, don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, June 16, 2006

You've Got Fan Mail!

Thanks for all the lovely comments to my previous post. Keep 'em coming! It's nice to know I have readers at all. Readers who are so impassioned by my writing to take the time to post such lengthy, well-reasoned rebuttals are more than I could have hoped for when I started this blog. Youreanidiot brings up some very valid points in response to my drivel that only really had one tiny micro-point--that a guy trying to explain an esoteric point of fruit fly physiology brought in what was to me a completely superfluous analogy. Being called out for going on and on about a guy being too verbose is an irony worthy of Penguin Perspectives.

Sports Talk

Now, I understand that sports objects like a football field and olympic-sized swimming pool have become de facto units of measurement, although in the latter case, I don't understand why. How many of us immediately visualize how big an Olympic-sized swimming pool is? At any rate, the use of sports analogies for measurements has officially gotten way out of control. Here is a paragraph from an actual article about a recently-published biology study of fruit flies:
"To put that into perspective, if humans made sperm that long and you took a six-foot man and stood him on the goal line of a football field, his sperm would stretch out to the 40-yard line," said Adam Bjork, a Ph.D. student at Syracuse University in New York.
That is a long way to go to say "120 feet." While we're at it, someone tell that Ph.D. student that only 15% of American men are six feet tall or taller, and most non-American males have a very different idea of what constitutes a football field.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Emperor's New Sculpture

One of the few things I learned in pursuit of my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree was never to trust any Art or Literature, particularly when they start with a capital letter. Talented people can make beautiful things. This is one of my current favorites. When people try to be Artistic, particularly when they are being Artistic in lieu of being Talented, large volumes of crap almost always follows. The situation then snowballs as people, not wanting to seem crass, start spouting nonsense about how visionary the Artist is.

Case in point: the Royal Academy in Britain recently put on display the pedestal support for a statue, in the mistaken belief that it was a work of art. The actual sculpture that the pedestal was supposed to support was judged not worthy of inclusion in the exhibit.

Laying Odds

I am taking bets in the Battle of the Invasive Weeds '06. In one corner, we have thistles (no, I don't know what kind--they bear a vague resemblance to rhubarb and get to be 5 feet tall or more if left alone). Attempting to occupy the same corner by the barn, we have spearmint. Both are plants that, given a third of a chance, will take over everything. Now, going leaf-to-leaf, which one will come out on top?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Double Whoop-de-do!

First, I finally got rid of the rest of the dead vines growing around the garage door. That had been on my to-do list since we bought the house more than a year ago. At first, the problem was that, having lived in apartments our entire adult lives, we did not own a ladder. Once that was remedied, we ran into problem #2: I won't get up on the ladder. "Heights" is on my short list of absolute fears (below clawed crustaceans, for those of you keeping track--I would climb a ladder to get away from a Dungeness crab). However, today, I managed to talk myself up onto the fourth rung of the ladder and take the loppers to the vines until I could yank them down and chop them into little pieces for composting. Getting eyeball to eyeball with one's gutters without holding on to anything might not count as an accomplishment to most people, but most people would also comfortably go out onto the balcony of their third floor apartment and don't have anxiety attacks on the Sky Ride at Cedar Point. I am not most people.

The second Whoop-de-do is that I spotted three emerging tomatoes on the plants today. This, after a bout of blossom drop that made me think I might have nursed these from seeds for nothing. With luck, these are just the first three of many.

Monday, June 12, 2006


How is it that cats that are normally comatose all afternoon suddenly get a driving urge to run around after I put a fresh coat of polyurethane on the parquet? It is supposed to dry for 6-12 hours with no one stepping on it, so I erected barriers around all access points. Something about the smell of Orange Glo seems to bring out their inner mountain goat.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Porpoising through the News

Yogurt is evolving. Fortunately, it looks like smoothies are a long way from developing intelligence.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I am Geek

Here's my latest geek project. I am currently on Row #114, of 1556. This one is for Emp. Peng., then I will make one of the Season 15 scarves for myself. Matching ones would be silly.

After I am done with that, I plan to start on a sundial that reads binary.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Legislating the Three Laws

Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics, as outlined in I, Robot, are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Japan is codifying law 1(a). Nothing yet about allowing a human being to come to harm through inaction, but new guidelines being developed by the industry ministry seek to assure that robots will not injure human beings. For the most part, the guidelines seek to minimize robot-human collisions and make the robots less likely to inflict injuries if such a collision occurs. In a blow to sci-fi thriller plots everywhere, the guidelines also call for an emergency shutoff button in case the robot goes rogue.

Here's to hoping the Three Laws work out better for Japan than they did in the book. While often referred to as a novel, I, Robot is in fact a collection of short stories, most involving what happens when robots follow the Three Laws a little too well. What we say we want robots to do and what we actually want from them are not always similar. My personal favorite story from the collection, "Reason," has a robot demonstrating impeccable logic culminating in the conclusion that the humans on the space station where she was assembled have no legally-admissible proof that an Earth full of humans even exists for her to do no harm to.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

War Zone

The rookery has turned into a war zone. The primary invasion force landed last night. Emp. Peng. summoned me to the kitchen to identify a strange bug on the countertop. I don't know what the quarter-inch long, skinny, shiny black oblong things are, but the one on the countertop had a cloud of friends swarming around the light fixture. People toss around the phrase "cloud of insects," but these actually dimmed the room. Deploying the bug zapper and the vacuum got most of them. Today, I mounted a perimeter defense. The window most likely to be their main entry point has been shrink-wrapped, and shrink-wrap adhesive has been supplemented with clear packing tape. The tops of the windows with the air conditioners got the same treatment. The a/c units themselves have had borders sealed with duct tape. The look is something I like to call "Early Department of Homeland Security." Well, Early DHS and Star Wars. We put the giant prequel posters up yesterday in the entryway, above the front door. Where the former owners had a large, oak-framed clock, we now have a life-sized, lightsaber-wielding Yoda with the message "Size Matters Not--Except on an IMAX Screen." The first thing people will see upon entering the house is a subtly reflective Darth Maul above "At last, we will have revenge."

Friday, May 26, 2006


I can never seem to find a wallet I like, so when I noticed mine starting to come apart at the seams, I cringed at the notion of going billfold shopping. The wallets made for ladies are almost always froofy and sized to fit in a handbag rather than a back pocket. The wallets made for men are usually too large for the pockets on ladies' jeans. None ever have nearly enough card pockets.

Once again, duct tape saves the day. 3M Canada has instructions for making a wallet completely out of duct tape. Took me about an hour to make one with a roll of black duct tape we had around, and having gotten the techniques down, about another hour to create a perfect custom billfold by modifying the instructions. That is still less time than driving down to the department store and hunting down a wallet that is merely adequate. Cheaper, too. Between the two, I used about 70 cents worth of tape, including some clear packing tape for an ID holder.

One final step I would recommend that 3M does not include is to deoderize and de-sticky the finished product. Duct tape does have a bit of an adhesive residue and a duct-tapey smell. You need a plastic baggie and the box of baking soda from your refrigerator. Spoon about a tablespoon of baking soda into the bill compartment, then place the wallet in the baggie with another couple tablespoons of baking soda. Shake it around a little and let it sit in the closed baggie for a half hour or so. Then remove the wallet and brush off the excess baking soda with a paintbrush. The powder sticks to any exposed adhesive and dramatically cuts down the odor.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Penguin News

The penguins that were evacuated from New Orleans last year are back home again. Their home, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, reopens Friday.

Full article

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Fun at the Convention

The second most amusing thing I did today at the convention was walking up to Brent Spiner and commending his performance of Bob Wheeler on Nightcourt. The most amusing thing was going to the panel discussion on the 40th anniversary of the Batman TV show, with several cast members from the show. The panel moderator asked everyone on the panel to say a few introductory words before the Q&A session. One of the male villians and Yvonne Craig both said something sentimental about the show and meeting the fans. Then it was Julie Newmar's turn. Without a word, she stood up from her seat, sat on the edge of the table, and in slow motion, swung her legs over the table. May I have gams half that good some day.

Mongolian Hordes of Baby Corn

For some reason, whenever we go to a Mongolian restaurant, I end up eating baby corn. I don't particularly like baby corn, but that is the price one pays for good Mongolian grill. For those unfamiliar with Mongolian grill, which probably resembles the authentic cusine of Mongolia about as much as my cats resemble a rabid puma, you fill a bowl from a salad bar of raw meats and vegetables and concoct a sauce, then a fleet of cooks stir-fry your selection on a circular grill about 6 feet in diameter, alongside a dozen or so other meals. This setup, while making for a great show and some great stir fry, means that tidbits sometimes migrate into your dinner from neighboring piles. For me, that tidbit always seems to be baby corn. Without fail, at least one bit of baby corn always winds up in my dinner when we go for Mongolian.

When we stopped at Blue Pacific Grill tonight on the way home from the comic con, we thought we might finally have baby corn-free stir fry. We arrived right as the restaurant opened at 5 p.m. We were the only people in the place who were not on the payroll. We were first in line at the ingredient bar and avoided baby corn like it was carrying Ebola. Our two dinners were the only thing on the grill. Somehow, we wound up with more baby corn than ever in our dinners. I can only conclude that the baby corn sprouts directly from the grill surface under my pineapple-sweet pepper-seafood teriyaki.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Busted, or Maybe Just Cracked

Day 2 of the Motor City Comic Con, and we were anxious to see the results of yesterday's bust of the video pirates, which you can read more about here. As I got my wristband for the day, I glanced over at toward where one of the most egregious offenders had set up yesterday.

They were still there. Some of the stacks had been replaced by a spread of autographed 8x10 celebrity photos, but there was still quite a selection of bootleg television shows. He even had the "special 7-disc set" of the New Series Doctor Who (ninth Doctor)--a pirated version of the official BBC release of the season, complete with a large notice that the design of the pirated video case is trademarked (new definition of Chutzpah: trademarking your pirated videos). Across the convention center, the video pirates were still selling most of their wares. The only conspicuous absence was the pirated big studio feature films. According to one vendor caught in the raid, eleven of them were rounded up, taken in, and never arrested. They had their inventory confiscated, but were released without further punishment. Most were back in business today, minus the feature films. Apparently, the MPAA doesn't care about the television shows, including pirated Wuzzles.

Friday, May 19, 2006


First, let me say that I was not arrested.

We're at the Motor City Comic Con this weekend, and within the first two hours we were there, we found ourselves in the middle of a police bust targeting the movie pirates who also frequent these conventions. Most of their wares are either out-of-production "cult" TV shows or human nature documentaries, but there is also a heavy showing of current or recent movie releases, usually bearing a disclaimer, "This film is presumed to be in the public domain." Now, having been hauled out in handcuffs, the vendors get to explain how someone who knows enough about copyright law to understand public domain can assume a movie still playing in theaters is a public domain work. The one vendor selling legitimately public domain works was sweating bullets during the raid.

Oh, and I also saw another rare sight at the con today: a centerfold model eating a chunk of fudge. On the one hand, it is an amusing sight; on the other hand, she eats fudge and still looks like that. Life is not fair.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What Did You Do This Morning?

I dug a pond--before breakfast.

It's a small pond. Pondlet, really. My morning routine is usually something along the lines of: get dressed, make a cup of coffee that I drink while reading my email and the headlines, then go out and check over the plants in the yard. We put in a lot of fruit this year and rearranged some of the landscaping, so I like to check how everything is doing. The flora inspection was going swimmingly until I got to Marionberry #3. It was under water. The newest cane, about two inches tall now, was barely keeping its tip above the surface. Not good.

It has rained here for just about a week straight. Tomorrow, we're 1/5 of the way toward Noah's Ark. The soil has had just about all it can take, and for some reason, the bit under that marionberry, on one of the highest spots in the yard, was first to give up trying to drain. The rain is coming faster than the soil can find places to put it. Thus, the pondlet and accompanying canal: temporary quarters for excess water until the rain stops. If the rain stops.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Huff and Puff and Burn The House Down

A painting project has turned into a complete remodel for a homeowner who, after taking a smoke break, tried to extinguish his cigarette in a bowl of what he thought was water. In fact, the bowl contained paint thinner, which is somewhat less effective at extinguishing burning materials. On the other hand, it is very effective at turning a house into a smoldering pile of cinders.

Read the AP story.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Yet another reason to be glad you are not a guppy

Sexual harassment among guppies is so bad that female guppies prefer swimming with predators to swimming with male guppies, according to a study by a team of researchers from the University of Leeds. Seems male guppies resort to guppy rape when their mating displays are spurned. Swimming with predators, while risky to the females, provides a measure of protection against the advances of the males. After all, the predators only want a snack.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Eat those words with mayo on the side

The PlayStation 3 will cost $600 if you want most of the features that Sony has been bragging that their new system has. That's just the system, before you plunk down any clams on any games to play on it. In justifying the price, the CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, Kaz Hirai, said, "What we're presenting to consumers is future-proofed. It's not going to fall by the wayside."

Note that a good chunk of what makes the PS3 console so expensive is the Blu-Ray player Sony is including. For those who aren't so techy, the Blu-Ray is a new DVD format. Not the new DVD format. A new DVD format. Blu-Ray and HD DVD are slugging it out, VHS/Betamax style, for supremacy in the high definition video disc format. Sony did so well with Betamax, so we'll see how "future-proofed" the Blu-Ray is when the format wars settle down.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


The sign on the trailer read "Llama on Board." Not only was there an acute lack of llama on board, but the owners of the llama transport were hauling lumber. If we are to respect the "Llama on Board" signs, the least they can do is have a llama on board.

Friday, May 05, 2006

In the News

Grandma drops baby off at wrong address. That's one way to get out of babysitting duties, I suppose, but the next family get-together is going to be a bit awkward.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Out of curiosity, I picked up a bottle of Berry Cream Dr Pepper today, and I think I can say with confidence that Cadbury-Schweppes has finally found the maximum number of flavors one can stuff into a soda. What flavor, exactly, Dr Pepper is supposed to be is a trade secret, but by most accounts, it is supposed to have 23 components. Add cream and berry to that, and gustatory sensory overload kicks in.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Gassy Commentary

With gas prices stuck at more than $3 a gallon (I can hear my international readers laughing, "Welcome to MY world!"), the Associated Press put out a variation on the annual Memorial Day high gas prices article, Congress Struggles to Act on Gas Prices. Two bits caught my attention:

Menendez [Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.] proposed a 60-day suspension of the 18.4-cent federal tax on gasoline and 24-cent-a-gallon diesel tax. Revenue lost to the government, as much as $6 billion, would be made up by removing some oil-company tax breaks, he said

Gas hits $3 a gallon, and that's when they consider having the oil companies pay the taxes on gas. I hope there is a dang good explanation why this wasn't considered sooner.

Presumably, oil companies also could pass an additional tax burden onto consumers.

Well, no crap. Do these Senators actually think for one minute that increasing the taxes the oil companies pay is going to help the situation? I barely made it through the required one semester of high school economics and I can tell you that there is no way they'll let higher taxes eat into their record profits. Squeezing more money out of the oil companies may make people feel good, until the oil companies squeeze that and more out of us.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Puzzle Time

This puzzle has a deceptively simple premise: you just have to figure out the logic of how a roll of five 6-sided dice are scored. I know the answer, but I can't tell.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fact Check

A video circulating around the internet supposedly shows someone spraypainting graffiti on a VC-25A. The VC-25As are two tricked out Boeing 747s that provide transportation for the president, and are only properly called "Air Force One" when the president is on board one of them (for that matter, any Air Force craft carrying the President is designated Air Force One). In reality, the makers of the video rented a Boeing 747, painted one side to match the exterior markings of the official presidential transports, and staged the whole thing.

From the Associated Press article

"We're looking at it, too," said Lt. Col. Bruce Alexander, a spokesman for the Air Mobility Command's 89th Airlift Wing, which operates Air Force One. "It looks very real."

Alexander later confirmed that no such spray-painting had occurred.

How much "later" do you need to call up the 24-hour security detail that you can bet your sweet bippy is on both planes and have someone take a walk 'round to check for unauthorized markings?

And if "it looks very real," shouldn't we be concerned that a guy with a backpack can run up to the official Presidential air transport and stand right next to the plane unmolested for several seconds while discharging the contents of an aerosol can?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

News of the Duh

Clinical Web Site May Be Target of Porn Seekers

Seems the operators of a website including a searchable archive of dermatology images have noticed a disproportionate number of inquiries to their database are for genitals, leading them to think that maybe some people who are not clinical dermatologists are using their site for purposes other than clinical dermatology.

Next thing you know, they will be questioning whether the well-worn issues of National Geographic really indicate that their children are curious about the Serengetti.

This is exactly why filtering the internet will never work. Certain segments of society will always want to see nether regions, and they will take it any way they can get it. If all the erotical is sequestered or extracted, people turn to the material intended to be asexual. Frankly, I am more comfortable around people who are turned on by images that are designed to be sexy than those who use clinical dermatology as porn. I am much more confident that the former group knows when a situation is not sexual, even if it may involve some exposed epidermis.

Penguin Suit

We have been invited to a black tie affair at the end of June. Thanks to Emp. Peng.'s former occupation, we happen to already own all parts of a black tie ensemble except for the black tie. The cheesy clip-on that came with the tuxedo doesn't count. It was serviceable when the audience saw his front side for thirty-seven seconds, but now people might have a reasonable opportunity to look at his neck. Which brings us to why we were in Brooks Brothers today, where normally, they would have someone who not only sells bow ties, but can teach you how to tie them. That guy had today off, so we were referred to "some really easy instructions on the web site."

"Easy" my hindquarters. "It's just like tying shoelaces," they said. Double ha. They say that to me not realizing that I still have to put granny knots in the loopy ends of my shoestrings to keep them tied. The photos are not helpful. I would like to have a nice, long chat with the fellow who decided that male formalwear would not be complete without a bit of origami nestled under the adam's apple, and I hope he is having some fun chats with whoever invented pantyhose as they wallow in the circle of hell devoted to the people who have made sure that going to relatives' big blowout weddings is absolutely as uncomfortable as possible.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Now, We Have Proof

In Wisconsin, a man rediscovered a fruitcake he had been given 44 years ago. The cake was in the same condition he had received it in in 1962. And some people still insist on classifying fruitcake as a food.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Around the Rookery

My apologies that the daily Beakful of Knowledge has not been regular of late. I've been working my flippers off in the yard since the thaw. I have added sour cherry, plum and peach trees and blackberry, raspberry, and marionberry vines. In addition, I potted out three tomato, four pepper, and a strawberry plant into containers for a deck garden, dug out a stand of daffodils and moved a pink rhododendron from a raised bed to where the daffodils had been. I still have to plant the blueberry and the grape. And that's just what I have added. I subtracted a dogwood and a maple sapling that apparently died of rodent gnawing, and still have to remove two ugly bushes of indeterminate types, a dead juniper shrub, and a line of hostas.

Yes, the rookery is looking nice; the blog suffers. The head penguin is sore but getting buff arms and back from all the digging. I also have a newfound respect for anyone who manages to bury a body.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Beakful of Bits

Tomorrow marks the 141st anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's assasination. The carriage that Lincoln rode in to the play that night was a Studebaker and is now on display in a sealed, climate-controlled case at the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana. At the time of his assassination, the only money Lincoln had on his person was a $5 Confederate note.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mars Has Happy Face

The European Space Agency has posted pictures of a crater on Mars which resembles a smiley : ) . Personally, I think it looks a lot more like Pac Man. Judge for yourself here.

Beakful of Marine Animal Knowledge

Sea bass are born female. In the wild, they switch sexes around 2 to 5 years of age. In captivity, they turn male much more quickly, presenting a problem to fish farmers wanting to raise sea bass. It is difficult to get baby sea bass when you can't get them to stay female long enough to breed.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Truth in Advertising?

This man really is running for the U.S. Congress in my district. This is not a joke; a man named Charles W. Weasel is actually on the official candidate list for the May 2 primaries. To top it all off, he's a lawyer. Really. I would not make up something so trite.

If I were him, I would have considered changing my name before law school, but definitely before running for public office. Common sense would dictate that you do not under any circumstances want the last thing people read on your campaign website, or hear on your campaign commercials, to be "Paid for by Weasel for Congress."


Ice cubes from automatic icemakers are crescent-shaped because that is the shape that doesn't get stuck in the tray.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday Beakful of Wildlife Knowledge

Since the manta ray's eyes are on the top of its body and its mouth is on the underside, it never sees itself eat.

Bonus flat fish tidbit: Flounder come into the world with an eye one each side of their head and swim upright. As they mature, one eye moves over to the other side of the head and they start swimming on their side.

Extra Bonus: Most Flounder are lefties. Their eyes migrate to the left side of their body and they swim left-side up.