Monday, December 31, 2007

My kind of town

So we never actually saw the ground until the wheels touched it. I
think I prefer those types of landings. I get a little wonky when the
ground is coming up quickly. Anyway, we let the woman who shared the
misery of her trip thus far and the drama of the continued flight
delays which only added to her, ahem, joy with the five rows around
her go ahead of us when deplaning. It was a small gesture which
probably was not the difference between her making her connection or
not but 'tis the season and I hope she made it. We also met a
gentleman from the Buffalo Bills' practice squad. Mr. Copeland Bryan
was gracious while I was a babbling idiot. I wish him well in his
football career. We then found a beverage spigot and are now huddled
at the gate with our fellow travelers. So far the departure time has
been delayed by 43 minutes. I've never been in a de-iced plane before.
Wish me luck.

Not moving

While sitting at the gate, a gent taped up a sign that informed
travelers that a new state law requires airlines to make accomodations
for food in and food out if the plane is stuck on the tarmac for three
hours or more. It seems now to have been prescient because we are now
sitting on the runway without our main engine running. We can't fly
into Chicago due to traffic at their end so we get to sit here for 40
more minutes. The folks in front of me have partially unpacked their
puppy (how do you tell an animal to yawn and pop their eardrums?) and
the woman behind me is sharing her misery with whoever answered their
phone at the other end as well as rows 15-20.

Hmm, I wonder if FrenchieFoo got out of Chi-town ok ...

Stay tuned. I'm not going anywhere for a while.

Sent from my iPhone

And so it begins

This (below) is what we like to see: pavement! No worries for the
first flight and I hope the runway in Chicago is just as clear. We had
a good time but I'm ready to be in my own bed, fighting the grrllzz
for space.

Mother Nature comes through at last

Finally, a bit of fluffy white hit the ground. Of course, I hope there
is none of this on the runway in a few hours but I'll enjoy it in the

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Last day of world's best cuisine

Tomorrow we head back to the great northwet and leave this snowy
wonderland behind. Apparently Mother Nature forgot we were coming and
failed to order up the snow. Absolutely no frozen water to be seen. Oh

The trip has been a culinary delight. It began with a fish fry that
cannot be beat anywhere else in the continental U.S. If the beer-
battered fish isn't hanging over the edges of the platter-sized plate,
take your $8.95 elsewhere. I've lived in two regions of the country
that are not here and have reputations and industries based on seafood
and they cannot hold a candle to the fish dinners found in this Rust
Belt city. That meal alone made wrestling with TSA worthwhile.

I'm drooling again so perhaps it would be best to set the electronics
aside now.

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

From the tarmac

Made it all the way to my spawning grounds and can't get off the plane
because there are no worker bees here to meet the plane. The pilot
just executed a "circle around the parking lot one more time." Still
no drones around and parts of the terminal are dark. This is bizarre.

Sent from my iPhone

A Xmas Xocktail in the nation's Capitol

11:02 am

I still have questions about this interfaith service. It's Christmas
day. Are the christians peeved about the interfaithness of the
service? Is such a service held everyday? If the service is being held
because today is Christmas, why bother with the interfaithness?

Sent from my iPhone

Airport chaplain??

Wow. The disembodied voice just announced the airport chaplain will
hold an 11 am interfaith service in the meditation room of the main
terminal. See previous post re: my not knowing the new air travel
script and kick up my confusion factor by an additional 1/2. I'm
picturing Father Mulkahey from M.A.S.H. Now I'm also picturing
Corporal Klinger. So far it is a surreal holiday.

Sent from my iPhone

At the aeroport

We are at the airport 3 hours before departure. We have plenty of
time. There is no security line worth commenting on. So why is my
stomach in knots? What is it about being in an airport that makes me
crazy? I've decided today's unease is because I do not know the new
airport script well enough to be comfortable. The check in kiosks keep
changing style and arrangement. I've never before printed out my
boarding passes the night before. I didn't know how to check in and
get my bag checked. And then the very friendly United employee tapped
through the video screens too quickly for me to see the gate info. I
was adrift and, in my head, I identified myself as one of those newbie
travelers who piss off the more practiced folks. And all this happened
before my iPhone set off the metal detector.

Sent from my iPhone

Moments of Holiday Joy

We exited the $4 hotel room to the sounds of Dad yelling at child to
stop doing whatever it was it was doing a moment before. We hold back
so we can avoid getting in the elevator with the not-so-happy family.
However since the shafts are right next to each other, we overheard
the ringing of the fire alarm bell, the rapid cessation of same and
the immediate bawling of child. It was not yet 9 am.

Sent from my iPhone

The $4 Hotel Room

Merry Xmas from a $4 hotel room in the Emerald City. As the sun comes
up this fine morning, I can hear the melodic sounds of huge jets
launching and heading towards other places--including cities with
snow. The T and I will be joining the throngs of travelers, once we
drag ourselves out of this huge king size bed that engulfs almost
every inch of floor space in the room. We decided to spend the night
here in EC rather than wake up before Santa finished his run to hit
the roads. There was also the possibility that we would be denied the,
uh, right to pay $130 to leave the Blue Laser in the airport parking
lot. Oy! That's a lot of change. So our vacation began last night with
an eve feast at Denny's (seasoned fries!--a new holiday tradition). I
chose this particular hotel for two very important reasons: it was
first to pop up on the google list and it offered a room and park
package for only four-bucks more than the parking garage. So here's to
the holiday. More later.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A tax on punctuation?!?

In the words of that master songsmith, Tom Lehrer: "It's always seemed to me, after all, that Christmas, with its spirit of giving, offers us all a wonderful opportunity each year to reflect on what we all most sincerely and deeply believe in - I refer, of course, to money."

There may be too many commas in that quote but money is what came to mind while doing some shopping. The purchased items in question are feminine hygiene products versus birth control, popcorn, and juice.

Let's start with the last one, since I know you're curious as all get out about the first one. I'll let the suspense build. The other morning at the local bagel shop, I was considering adding a juice to my regular order of coffee and a bagel. The price for juices was "Market price." Say wha?!? This is juice, not lobster or a bottle of fermented grapes. What is going on? It strikes me as a scam rather than a savvy pricing technique. If the month's receipts look like they're going to be a little light, just charge more for juice. Milk was listed the same way. I know milk and gasoline are both used as measures of inflation and that both have increased at somewhat similar rates over time and that people react more to changes in gas prices—mainly because of the bright neon signs advertising said price on every corner—than they do to milk prices but charging market prices for milk seems so smarmy. Is the milk market so volatile that the price must be kept blank? Are cows in revolt?

Speaking of cows, perhaps I've backed into the reason for market price milk: ethanol, a derivative of corn—which leads us to the next sticker shock story. The price of popping corn has tripled in the past month. The ultimate comfort food cost me $1 per pound the other day. My previous restocking cost only $.35 per pound. This is not the truffle version of popping corn, folks. It is plain old generic yellow, non-organic, throw-me-in-oil-and-shake-the-pot seed. Can the same forces be at work here as they are with the milk? Me thinks so. Everybody is jumping on the ethanol bandwagon and corn is the new farmer's gold. Those of us who don't want our bones snapping when we're 80 or just want a healthy snack are going to pay through the nose 'til the dinosaur juice is truly gone and we all have solar powered amphibious vehicles to tool around on over the surface of the hot drowned planet.

And now to the one you've been waiting for: the cost of feminine protection versus that of birth control. Ready for arithmetic? btw: all prices came from goggle searches and a local medicine cabinet. Tampons cost $0.11 to $0.15 each. Let's say the heroine of our story, Ms. Regular, always has her friend in town for seven days and six of these days require tampons. In one 24-hour window, Ms. Regular goes through six to eight tampons for a grand total of 36 to 48 tampons during the Fun Week. Let's not forget what I like to call the goalie but is better known as the panty liner. These cost $0.14 to $0.16 each. Using six to eight per day, the grand total is 42 to 56 over the course of the week.

Don't worry, I'll do the math for you. Using the lowest prices and the fewest totals, the cheaper end of the scale is $9.84 per cycle, without tax. At the other end of the scale, the grand total is $16.16 per cycle. This is an annual expense of $118 to $194.
Meanwhile, over in this corner, we have The Pill which costs $.11 per day ($3 per month, $36 annually), including the placebo week. If refilled earlier to skip the placebo, the cost jumps to a whole $.14 per day, or $51 per year. Now I ask you, since a prescription for the pill is so inexpensive, and it is now considered acceptable and safe to just stay hormonized and skip the whole cycle anyhow, why isn't the whole female world taking the pill!?! You can't tell me chicks haven't been already been getting the refill sooner and skipping the placebo week before it got pharmaceutically trendy.

Count me in for $150 per year in my pocket rather than in my ... oh never mind. I'm shocked. I'm also waiting for the backlash from the economist whackos who similarly argued against high-mileage vehicles: if everyone drove one, the state would have less fuel tax to spend on bridges and what-not. Well, I for one would much rather deny the state the period tax and spend the money on popcorn, thankyouverymuch.

Discuss. Let me know what you come up with.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

In lieu of work

Damn you, Kulturfluff, for meme-ing me!! Since this isn't the first time you've done this to me, can we call it a re-meme? Is this rememenation? In the voice of Gov. Ahnold: I'm a memenator. Your blogs, give them to me. When any of those, uh, words show up in the OED, give me a call.

Considering that blogging is looking better than anything else I've got on my plate this weekend, I'll participate in the spirit in which this was meant. Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog. Done. See above.
2. Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself. Done. See below.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs. Not possible. See further below.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. Still not possible. See below.

7 random or weird things about myself.
This may be possible but it is not easy, due to the fluid definition of the words "normal" and "weird." One blogger's norm is another's not-so-norm. But I will give it a try. I have no idea if I'll be able to reach the requested 7 and I've been thinking about this since I got notice of the memeification.

  1. I am a scaredy-cat. Since I saw the Hush episode of Buffy TVS, I cannot even listen to the episode soundtrack. Totally freaks me out. When the music starts, all I see are large-headed floating men in robes (hmm, perhaps I'm having flashbacks to my horrific Catholic upbringing; more pondering required). I cannot watch horror movies in the dark. I have to watch them very early on a Saturday morning when there is plenty of daylight ahead so I can begin the process of forgetting the movie before dusk ever falls. When I am tired, my fear of the dark manifests itself as a hesitancy to go into a dark part of the house because I know I will feel goo on the wall where the light switch should be and/or the ghoulie will grab me right before the lights come on or I will find the corpses of the watch-cats in puddles of blood and vittles. None of these events has happened ... yet.

  2. One of my cats is named Square Root of Nine, or Three, for short. When she's behaving, she's known as Positive Three. When she's not behaving or she's thinking outside the box, she's called Negative Three. Her tabby markings give her a nice 9 on her side. She was named before she was adopted from the pound so the marking is a coincidence. It was obvious that more than two cats were going to live with me and coming up with names was an ordeal so I thought streamlining the process much like the Borg did would be a good move. When 7 of 9 came to my lips, it immediately morphed into Square Root of Nine due to my math background. This naming process lasted for one cat only. Chaos came into the house soon after Three and Barque Simpson came after that. The pet naming book given by a friend in an attempt to prevent psychological damage to my pets due to their odd names apparently had no effect on the outcomes.

  3. I hate juniper bushes because they smell like fresh cat urine. Do none of you people who have made this ugly shrub a mainstay in your landscaping realize this? I can pick 'em out at 20 paces. Before I see them, I can smell them and will often cross the street. It's horrid.

  4. I can ride a unicycle. I learned when I was 12 and, like a bicycle, you never forget. It is quite the workout for anyone looking to get shapely thighs in thirty days. Keep in mind that you can't coast.

  5. I am obsessed about keeping my finger nails cut so short they look like I bite them. I have worn out nail clippers. Think about that for a sec. When is the last time you had to replace one for being dull rather than for being lost? I don't like seeing the part of my nail that does not have any skin under it. The color change is odd and must be removed immediately. I'm not comfortable when I can feel the edge. Just talking about this has gotten the clipper out of my computer desk drawer (which is not to be confused with the clipper in the desk drawer right behind me or the one in the dresser drawer or the one in the bedside table or the one on my keychain) and some nail honing will commence as I think about #6.

  6. I once used an episode of My Three Sons to cure a physical ailment. I had just adopted Mao, the senior cat in the household, and it was obvious I had a cat allergy, complete with sneezing and watery eyes. She was the first cat to own me and I had no idea I might even be allergic. I let her live with me because she would have been sent to the pound otherwise and adult cats are not often adopted. So to prevent euthanasia, I brought her home and the sneezing began. Anyway, do you remember the Sons episode when the youngest son—was his name Bobby? (weren't all youngest tv sons Bobby or Beaver?)—developed an allergy to his mongrel dog Tiger? One suggestion given on the show was for the boy to bury his face in the side of the dog and breathe deep. The theory, according to this incarnation of Marcus Welby, was that the huge influx of particles causing the allergy would overwhelm the immune system and not kill the victim but somehow snap the system out reacting that way. In short: poof! the allergy would be no more. Well, I grabbed Mao, breathed deep while my nose was buried in her pelt and went through an entire box of tissues mopping up snot and tears—and then never sneezed again. It's crazy but it's true. YMMV. There are now four cats in the house and we all get along just fine.

  7. My most fervent fantasy is for humans to evolve a, uh, feature that would control the ever-increasing population of the species. Since we can't seem to exercise any control on our own, I'm hoping mother nature steps in and does it for us. Sure, I'll take the telekinesis gene development while Gaia is tinkering with our DNA but something to slow down our viral growth would be nice. I'm not talking Children of Men extremism where the entire species goes inexplicably sterile at once but applying the reproductive brakes could go a long way to solving a lot of society's ills. And don't even give me the economic doomsday argument against this fantasy of mine. First give me an example of a economic theory that doesn't involve constant insane growth then we'll talk.
Tags of seven people whose blogs I read. Well, I don't read seven other blogs (should this lack of blog reading have been included as a weird thing on the list above?) I read Kfluff's constantly and Amelia's occasionally. That's about it. All my other internet stops are gadget sites or design sites or game sites or comic sites. Nothing too insightful or interactive. So I'm going to change this rule a bit and encourage Frenchie to start a blog. The same goes for DrStudentAffairs/StudentLife (you know who you are) and Rainbow Hemp. Jump in, folks, and add to the conversation.

I would love to hear from other folks who are reading this and let me know how you landed here. The clustermap you see somewhere in the left margin shows hits from the middle of America and across the pond in England and Europe and Australia and others. How did you manage to find this blog among all the blogs on all the computers on all the planets with sentient life? Leave a comment and introduce yourself.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Soggy Rube Goldberg

Another life lesson was learned this past week. I'm not exactly sure what the lesson is yet but it involves a garage, gutters, and rain barrels.

The T and I live in a house totally dwarfed by its detached garage. The garage is by far the largest structure in the neighborhood.

Yes, that is three stories of garage you see there. When explaining to folks, friend or stranger, where we live, at some point their faces light up and they exclaim, "Oh, the Taj
Garage!" or "The Garage Mahal!" and they know exactly where our house is based on the gravitational pull of this structure. The building has its own fan club. I've taken to calling it the Monolith, ala 2001: A Space Odyssey. And, no, I'm not calling it the monolith just so I can work this cartoon into my post, although I'm happy to do so.

Recently, because we had manual laborers staying with us on their vacation, we decided to get some gutters up on the Monolith. I took this idea one step further and installed some rain barrels to save the water for my summertime ritual of growing my own compost material. This is where the, ahem, plan went awry.

Here's the math portion of the post, sung to the tune of woodchucks chucking wood: how much water could a garage accumulate if a garage could accumulate water? To rephrase the question in our own words so as to help us set up the equation: how much water hits the roof of the Monolith rather than the ground and how many barrels do we need to contain this water? The dimensions of the roof are 30 acres x 30 acres ... no, wait, I'm exaggerating. It's only 30 x 30 feet. So how much water hits this 900 square foot expanse during a drizzle? Well, a 1 inch rainfall results in 129,600 cubic inches of water. For those of you getting thirsty just reading about water, grab a big glass because that's 561 gallons of water! In only one inch of rain!! Do you recall I live in the pacific northwest and not in the atlantic southeast? I'm not praying for rain. I'm cursing the gods for the squish my lawn has 6 months of the year.

But back to our exercise. How many barrels do we need to contain the water? To be as precise as most of my students are when working their exercises: a truckload—and let's go with the big truck. We were feeling all happy with ourselves when we took advantage of the last two days of sunshine to get the gutters up and the barrels in position. We were whacking ourselves on the foreheads when, after a one day drizzle, the barrels were full and the overflow was once again threatening to float the Monolith down the block. We got two more barrels and didn't exactly think through how we were going to connect them to the first pair and so applied some Rube Goldberg logic and went to bed, thinking we'd have some time to trouble-shoot before the barrels were full.

Are we dolts?!? The next morning, thanks to some thick rain, aka: snow, this second set of barrels was full and the overflow was splashing down between us and our cars. Now we have to wade through Lake Overflow to get to the back alley. So let's once again divert the water until we can come up with something. Here's the current solution:

Barrel #1 in the foreground is full and the drainpipe now runs directly to Barrel #2 which is also full. Yes, that is an electrical circuit box you see on the side of the Monolith. Let's not think about Water + Electricity right now. Anyway, the clear tubing runs from the overflow spigot to the extra piece of drainpipe propped up on the barrel which diverts the water off to the property line and allows us to get to the alley and our cars without strapping on life preservers first. Please don't trip over the gutter pipe on your way out of the yard.

I hope the neighbors are enjoying the entertainment we provide.