Monday, December 22, 2008

Robin Photos - of Questionable Quality

I had spotted a red-breasted sapsucker on Saturday near Cowen Park; I went out yesterday with my camera on the slightest of chances that I might find him again. No sapsuckers, but robins were having great fun in someone's front yard. I tried to get some photos of them in action - nothing to write home about, but birds rarely care for one's reputation as a photographer.

There are two in flight in this photo - one flying right at me (lower right-hand corner of the photo):

Here's one taking a break from the fray:

A close-up from below (hey, I' really short - I can't help the weird angles I shoot from!):

Chirpy Holidays, kids!


The great thing about living near a university when it snows is that students have initiative to do something more than wander around taking photos. Intrepid igloo builders at Cowen Park:

A couple of hours later, some progress:

And a couple of hours yet later:

It exceeded my paltry height by a foot or more when I last saw it at dusk yesterday!

Too Many Snow Pictures!

We've had an incredible snowfall here in the Rain Belt; usually, we might get a little accumulation which dissipates within a day or two of making landfall. And I have to confess, I've been unable to stay indoors when the snow is actually coming down - I spent far too much time outdoors yesterday, wandering around in the snow, and taking photos like a madwoman. It's been decades since we've had such an impressive holiday season. So without further ado, let me post way too many photos of snow in Seattle.

The perfect house for a steampunk Xmas:

Snow globe:

A rock retaining wall for an ugly apartment complex becomes a vision of beauty in its winter coat:

Such fine, powdery snow found its way to the tiniest of places:

I loved these purple berries, with their snow hats on - don't worry, you're not seeing nearly as many berry photos as I took:

What could be look more like the holiday season than snow and ivy? Not much, folks. Here's something reminiscent of the Green Man, and on Solstice:

Snow collects in the coolest places - wrought iron gates, or within the frond of a fern:

Cowen Park - a gathering place for many happy folks anytime it snows up here:

Low-tech sled (an box, according to the sled team). The wee laddie inside the box wasn't the least bit disturbed by the extremely temporary nature of his sleigh - he was having fun, and I really wanted a ride in the snow, too:

Gratuitous coffee shot:

If you can't wander around in the snow with your sexy guy, you can at least have a killer cuppa java - and so I did! Thanks, Herkimer on the Ave!

We're supposed to get more snow tonight - and I can't wait! I've got all my winter gear ready!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holidays for the Unemployed

Greetings, dear readers (all three of you!) – I deeply and sincerely apologize for neglecting my readership for so long. I have been writing – but not for my blog. However, I’ve gotten several chapters of my whaling novel completed, so I’ve not been wasting my time.

I’ve also been applying for jobs – not a very interesting topic, even for someone who needs one. I will say that setting up a resume on the job site for the federal government was as painful as you would expect it to be, and very counterintuitive in many ways. But going into detail about that would be no different from reading one of my tirades about Microsoft. I’m sure there are people who have written extensively about it, and much more eloquently to boot.

I have also been making Christmas gifts for my nearest and dearest. I realize the homemade bit is a little cheesy, much like an episode of the Waltons, but when you're totally strapped for cash, you have to think creatively. Many of you know that I’m a knitter; but I’ve taken up a new hobby (at the behest of a fortune cookie, no less). I have to give most of the credit to Harmsworth’s Household Encyclopedia – A Practical Guide to all Home Crafts written by the Leading Experts of the day and containing upwards of 15,000 Illustrations, Volume 6 (Pages 4481-5408, STR-Z). This volume includes an article on do-it-yourself taxidermy, so I’ve been collecting road kill and making unique gifts for the important people in my life.

Now I did try trapping a few animals – mostly from zoos, mind you – but I have to admit, it was a great deal of work. The taxidermy part is toil enough; you have no idea how difficult it was to haul a polar bear up two flights of stairs to my apartment.

Anyhow, here are some photos of my work – you lucky readers can try to guess which critter will be on your doorstep come Christmas morning.

The perfect cat! No clawing the furniture, licking its privates in front Aunt Mildred, and if you’ve family members with allergies, little Fluffy can be put away in the closet and forgotten until spring cleaning. What more could you want? You say you’re not a cat person? Well, look no further:

Fido here will never need walking, never soil the rug, never keep the neighbors awake with his incessant barking. Place him in your front window periodically – his bright-eyed hyper-aware stare will frighten off any would-be burglars.

Want to show off your hunting prowess without trekking into the woods for days at a time, drinking beer with acquaintances you never wanted to get to know this well, fighting off the paranoia that this might be the Deliverance moment of your life…? Well, if you’re the lucky recipient of this nifty little kitty, you can impress all your friends, men and ladies, with your bravery at facing off against this monstrosity. Grrr!

This next fellah I acquired at a zoo – no, don’t ask how. But if you think the kitty will impress folks with your hunting skills, check out this baby:

Yeah, I had to kipe an old pair of my mother’s dentures; but I thought I did an excellent job of making him look as if he’s about to speak. My first thought was that he could be saying, “Please pass me a beer.” But you can always tell your buddies that he was saying, “Can’t we all just get along?” right before you blasted him with your bear gun.

Raccoons are plentiful – but tough. I acquired a few scars wrestling with this little devil, but I think he looks super cute:

I like to call him Bitey.

This beauty I got from the UW’s primate lab after he had an unfortunate accident involving a metal fork and an electrical outlet. (Note to the safety folks at MDC Technologies – you may want to extend your training to cover such unexpected encounters.) He was called Ronnie – his cage neighbor was named Bonzo, you see. I think I’ve captured the dignity we associate with primates – when they’re not flinging crap at you.

Finally, I created something whimsical – crows and cats are readily available in the city, sad to say:

This is very reminiscent of Victorian taxidermy, the conflation of two creatures into one fantastical being. Rather like grafting Dick Cheney’s head onto George Bush’s body, but I think we must all agree that my winged kitty is much more pleasing to the eye.

Merry Thanksgivoween, everyone!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Wasn't I One of Those Chosen for That Mission?

I'm sure that no one who reads my blog would consider me to be a McCain supporter, and indeed they would be correct in that assessment. It's not that I think Obama will be our Saviour, but McCain's got much bigger issues, even if it turns out Obama is as bad as Marion Barry (otherwise known as my favorite pie filling - I love being able to purchase a piece of the Mayor!). However, I don't wish to fill up bandwidth with lots of ponderous pontification on matters politick - I'm not nearly up to date on my readings to do it with any confidence, for one reason.

This does not prevent me from posting the more humorous offerings of this late political season - and believe me, there's plenty o' silliness to be had out there, passing itself off as discourse. For example, enjoy the following right-wing theory about the financial disaster being a left-wing conspiracy (no one mentions all the Republican supporters at the top of the corporate and banking chains who are still coming out of this with their several homes and apartments - yeah, they weren't diverted into taking out subprime loans)...sorry for the digression, here's the conspiracy theory as presented by the Right:
Why the crescendo of economic collapse right before the election? Why didn’t the media and congress act just as concerned some time ago or wait until sometime after the election to go into crisis mode? The timing of the current financial crisis seems too planned and calculating to be just a coincidence. Polls show that people’s number one concern right now is the economy and that for the most part, voters believe Democrats are somewhat more likely to help with the economy. Could it be that the liberal media and those in Congress, knowing that, is blaring the bad economic news from the rooftops in order to manipulate voters into voting for a Democrat? If so, it won’t be the first time.
Well, to answer that question, Barbara Ehrenreich presented the following on her blog:

October 21, 2008

Report from the Socialist International Conspiracy

Surely you have heard by now of the imminent socialist takeover of America, and if you find the prospect unlikely, ask yourself: How many socialists do you know who lost millions in the recent stock market crashes? Just as I thought—none—and that's not only because you don't know any socialists. The truth is that we, the Socialist International Conspiracy, not only saw this coming, we are the ones who made it happen.

The plan took shape during a particularly intense criticism/self-criticism session at our 2000 annual convention in a booth at an Akron IHOP. We realized that we'd been recruiting no more new members per year than the Green Bay Packers and that, despite all our efforts, more Americans have been taken aboard UFO's than have embraced the historic promise of socialism. So we decided to suspend our usual work of standing on street corners and hissing, "Hey, how'd you like to live in a workers' paradise?” Instead of building socialism, one worker at a time, we would focus on destroying capitalism, hedge fund by hedge fund.

First, we selected a cadre of crusty punks from the streets of Seattle, stripped off their Che t-shirts, suited them up in Armani's and wingtips, and introduced them to the concepts of derivatives and dental floss. Then we shipped them to Wall Street with firm instructions: Make as much money as you can, as fast as you can, and as soon as the money starts rolling in, send it out to make more money by whatever dodgy means you can find – subprime loans, credit default swaps, pyramid schemes – anything goes. And oh yes: Spend your own earnings in the most flamboyantly gross ways you can think of -- $10,000 martinis, fountains of champagne – so as to fan the flames of class resentment.

These brave comrades did far better than we could have imagined, quickly adapting to lives of excess and greed punctuated only by squash games at the Century Club. But we could not have inflicted such massive damage to capitalism if we hadn't also planted skilled agents in high places within the government and various quasi-governmental agencies. When all this is over, Phil Gramm, for example—the former senator and McCain economics advisor -- will be getting a Hero of Socialism award for his courageous battle against financial regulation. That's the only name I can name at this moment, but I will tell you this: If you happened to have been in a playground in the suburbs of DC any time in the last few years, and noticed an impeccably dressed elderly man poking around under rocks, that was a certain Federal Reserve Chairman, looking for his weekly orders from the central committee.

Things were going swimmingly until about a week ago, when the capitalists suddenly staged a counter-coup. We had thought that the nationalization of the banks would bring capitalism to its knees, but instead, the capitalists were craftily using it to privatize the government. Goldman Sachs, former home of Henry Paulson, has taken the lead, planting its agents so thickly about the erstwhile public sector as to earn the nickname "Government Sachs." Among the former Goldman Sachs operatives now running the country, in addition to Paulson, are the president's chief of staff, the chairman of the New York Fed, the man appointed to take over A.I.G., and the 35-year-old boy wonder selected to oversee the bail-out program.

According to the New York Times, "Goldman supporters" insist there is no "conspiracy" and not a black helicopter in sight – just a bunch of public-spirited investment bankers sacrificing their normal 8-figure salaries for the good of the nation. But we socialists know a conspiracy when we see one, and some in our ranks are complaining bitterly that as capitalism began to collapse, the bankers seized the life raft that was intended to save the laid-off, the foreclosed-upon, and the exploited masses in general.

Ah well, we socialists still have the election to look forward to. After months of studying the candidates' economic plans, we have determined that one of them, and only one, can be relied on to complete the destruction of capitalism. With high hopes and great confidence, the Socialist International Conspiracy endorses John McCain!

Nice to see that the Socialists are out there doing something besides scaring young college folk, but I was one of those crusty punks on the streets of Seattle in 1999 - why didn't I get a call up?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Paul Krugman linked to a wonderful piece in the Onion about America's urgent need for the next investment bubble - a piece I highly recommend reading. The article included a lovely graph which I'm reproducing here for your edification:

© Copyright 2008, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.

Personally, I'm hoping for Postmodernism. It's (mostly) all about nothin', as it's supporters maintain. (I'm not convinced of that, but that's another discussion.) Jacques Derrida futures - ha!

At any rate, the Onion piece reminded me of this long-ago favorite from - a site I considered to offer the best social/political satire. This is the site that gave us "The Axis of Just As Evil" (for those who believed it was from a Pythoner or some other famous comedian, nope - it was Andrew Marlatt). From 2002, folks - some people definitely saw the real estate disaster coming. Enjoy!


Low Interest Rates Help Many Fulfill The American (Banker's) Dream

Minneapolis, Minn. ( — Showing no ill effects from a weak economy, housing numbers released by the National Association of Realtors today showed that a record 75 million Americans are now participating in the mass self-delusion that they, and not their banks, actually own their homes.

Bob and Debbie use their imaginations

"Home ownership is the fulfillment of the American (banking industry's) dream, and we are proud to announce that more Americans than ever have been able to (help lending institutions) achieve that dream," said NAR President Richard Schicter.

After putting 20 percent down on a $235,000 house yesterday morning, Minneapolis pediatric nurse Stephanie Doogan officially became the 75 millionth American to take part in the widely accepted fantasy.

"Ever since I was a little girl, I've wanted to (deceive myself into believing I could) be a homeowner," said Doogan, 35. "Well, look at me now! Me, little Stephanie Doogan, I actually have a place I can call 100 percent (minus 80 percent) my own!"

Across the country, other (people in denial concerning their status as) property owners expressed similar satisfaction.

"There's nothing like taking a walk around your (bank-owned) house, then going outside and kneeling down in your (bank-owned) lawn and grabbing a handful of (the bank's) dirt to make you realize how precious (their) land is," said 28-year-old Matt Jackson, who('s bank) bought a $210,000 home on New York's Long Island last year. "It makes me feel as though I really have something that no one can take away from me (unless I miss so much as one mortgage payment)."

Added Devon Knight, who recently thinks he purchased a condominium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor: "When I was renting an apartment, if the furnace went out, I had to get the landlord to fix it. But now, if the furnace goes out, I have to fix it!... hold on, I'm losing the illusion here... why is that good again?"

"Equity," said Jay Harrington, Knight's mortgage broker at First Union. "Just remember, you have equity. And next to the right of every single American (major corporation) to have a say in who gets elected, that's the most sacred thing you can (pretend you) have."

Copyright © 2001-2002, SatireWire.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I've been a pretty slacking blogger recently - apologies, dear readers (all three of you). Since I'm not posting as regularly anymore, I'm going to add a subscription bit to the right-hand column; you'll be able to enter your email address, hit subscribe, and get the most recent post in your inbox. Woo hoo.

I've still been enjoying the financial meltdown - enjoy might not be the best word choice. It's rather like watching Godzilla rampage through the world economy instead of Tokyo. And I'm pretty sure most people outside of Japan would rather Godzilla were rampaging Tokyo. Soon enough my mutual fund will be worth so little that I won't be able to by a newspaper with it, even a weekday edition. It was a gift, though, so it's rather like free money - all I can end up with is nothing, which is what I had before it was given.

I do have an extremely simplistic question about the market. It seems to me that if everyone quits selling, the stocks will quit going down. Right? I realize that there are occasions where that strategy doesn't pay off in the end, for example, if you had stock in WaMu or Lehman Bros (were they actually a publicly traded company?). I do understand that not tanking the stock market won't resolve the bigger issues of banks holding paper that's losing value at a depressing rate, or the credit freeze that bollixed up commercial paper, etc. But if you've already lost 30-50% of your worth in stocks, why does rushing to sell the rest of it off seem like a good idea? If any of you send me an explanation I can understand, I'll post it.

Then there's the fun of playing the unemployment game. Quel surprise, I screwed up my application and had to call the Unemployment Insurance (UI) office. The woman on the other end was exceedingly helpful, and we got everything straightened out. In fact, I was able to report that fact to a friend of mine just yesterday...but I spoke too soon. I checked my mail and found that their system did not like something, so I have to complete some paperwork and send it in. Feh.

Speaking of fun, the Presidential/Vice Presidential debates are over. I must say, Barack Obama seems to have gotten his act down, and I mean that in the performative sense of the word. One of my friends and occasional readers compared McCain's performance in the previous debate as remniscent of Grampa Simpson, an analysis with which I agreed. Last night, he still reminded me of ol' Abe Simpson, and I fully expected John McCain to say, "I'll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missouri," or some other such nonsense as we usually hear from Grampa. In fact, I had summarized the first three debates (Prez & VP) thusly:

See! Sarah Palin act like a Barbie Doll! Hear! Joe Biden try not to say something studip! Watch! John McCain wheeze his way around the stage, talking to all his friends! Enjoy! The immaculate hang of Barack Obama's silk suit!

I spent a couple of days with The Mater last week. The most exciting aspect of that was going to a book sale where, for $15, I brought home many more books than I should have been allowed to buy all year. Bad Viviana!

I spent Saturday evening in the company of a poet. Previous experiences with poets were less than inspiring, part of that due to the fact that they weren't very good poets, and thus were tedious companions. This poet, however, is exactly to my taste - no crappy love poems, no bad beat poet imitations, but his own voice and a love of words that I'm sure surpasses my own. So there was plenty of conversation, some reading of poetry...and single malt double wood 16 yr old Oban. Now, I have to admit, I'm just a wee bit fonder of the Lagavulin; it's the peat. I love the scent and taste of the peat smoke in such a smooth and delightful delivery system as the 16 yr old Lagavulin. However, were I stuck on a desert island for the rest of my life with 20 crates of 16 yr old double wood Oban, I wouldn't shed a tear for my lost Lagavulin. I've always enjoyed the 12 yr old Oban, but the 16 yr old was delightful, smooth as anything. So please let me recommend - Oban 16 yr old double matured (as it is officially named). Super tasty stuff.

And finally - wheels. I bought me some wheels. A Diamondback bicycle. She's a nice little bike; I had to get the shrimpy sized frame (14 or 15). And panniers, helmet, gloves, dayglo jacket. It's not the lightest frame in the world, and I think it will be a few weeks before I can safely lift her high enough to get her on a bus bike rack (don't want to destroy my back), but I'll have enormous biceps once I reach that point.

Tell me, did y'all think I'd bought meself a car? Huh? Huh? I'm unemployed. I can't afford a car. Honestly, I'm not sure I can afford anything more expensive than a pair of discount running shoes, but I bought a bicycle anyway.

My social calendar is a little full the next four days - damn, how'd I get so popular? Anyhoo, I'll update y'all early next week.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


For those who like their information in graph form for quick and easy comprehension, here's an analysis of the current bailout plan:

Blogging in the Lap of Luxury

Bwa-ha-ha-ha! While you peasants toil away, I'm luxuriating under my furs, snug and warm.

The astute reader may recognize the cloak-cum-throw from my Lucrezia Borgia halloween costume. Faux fur, but still warm and snug.

I've not been blogging so much lately - a lull in my external life has left me little of interest to blog about. My internal life is even less interesting to document than the external, so be glad of the relative silence.

The horrific soap opera that is the world economy has been keeping me entertained. Many cliched comparisons come to mind - train wreck, horror film, the Titanic, the Hindenburg - you get the idea, my friend*. The sinking/burning & crashing of the US economy was something I've been expecting (although, except for some canned beets, I can't claim to be prepared). I would love to say that I knew this was coming, sooner or later, because I have such a keen grasp on economics. If I said that, I'd be the worst sort of liar - a stupid one, because it would take almost no time to disprove such a claim. However, I read. I read authors whose analyses prove correct most, if not all, of the time.

Ted Rall is one of my favorites; I always enjoyed his writings, but when I read his "Generalissimo El Busho" (yes, that's the title of the book), I was astounded at the accuracy of his predictions of the first four years of life under Bush. Mike Whitney (not the cricket player) is one who has been commenting on the financial madness for a couple of years at least, and his articles often have pretty good explanations of how the system works and why something might be a bad idea. Paul Krugman, of course, has been firing shots across the bow of the Bush Administration for years; I recommend not only his op-ed pieces in the NYT, but also his blog, on which he provides nifty pdfs with extra information about economics and finance.

Noam Chomsky is of course the hardcore of current economic and political critique. His books from the 1980s and 1990s were dense, but again he is one whose observations and predictions on economics and politics have proven quite accurate; once you grasp them, it's not difficult to understand where things are going and why. I remember reading in one of his books over a decade ago the observation that the US was headed to a Brazilian model of society - a few superrich, and the rest of us living in ditches and fighting bears for the right to eat grubs. Paul Krugman recently showed how this has come to pass. If you ask me, that's some good predicting on Mr Chomsky's part.

So there, kids - if you want to understand how the world works, you can start with these fellows.

I spent the weekend attending writers workshops up in Edmonds. An exciting commute, to be sure. I enjoyed being downtown on Saturday for the big storm; at lunchtime I found a bench on a bluff that overlooked the ferry dock, and enjoyed the view more than I did my sandwich. I've said this to many people now, so please forgive me if you've heard this from me already, but it's depressing how many people are planning on writing bad thrillers. I heard more than one bad thriller plot over the weekend. Baaaaaad thriller plots. And mind you, my expectations of genre fiction are not all that high. It reminded me of working in LA, where everyone is working on a script. You hush out there - my script is nothing like theirs, it will be good! At least I don't talk about it, okay? Anyway, because of the workshops, I'm reading "Bleak House" now, rather than putting it off for six months like I originally planned. It's a thick book, and makes me wonder if it was the inspiration for the phrase, 'the dickens' - I'd hate to have to search through this massive tome looking for a word, phrase, character, event. Where in the Dickens is that passage where Ester meets her mother? Who in the Dickens is Lady Dedlock?

I must fix some sort of breakfast now - I've been up awhile, and I'm very hungry. Your homework assignment is to submit to me your bad thriller plots - I'll try to make something entertaining of them. 50 words or less, kids.

*I caught that phrase from John McCain, who sneezed it out 21 times, from the first count I could find; it's highly contagious. I hope to hear everyone addressing each other by that phrase at least once in each conversation, all parties saying it at some time or another. Just imagine how much livelier cocktail conversations could become!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Oh No!

My friend Redburp sent me an email with the following headline:
Las Vegas Jury Convicts O.J. Simpson
and then asked the following question:

who will find Nicole's killer now????????????

Good question, Redburp, good question.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

When I Read Things Like This, I Understand Why I'm Single

(From today's Washington Post)
White married women are particularly likely to see Palin as in touch, as three-quarters said she understands their concerns. At the same time, a majority of such women do not think Palin has enough experience to be a good president. (White married women support the GOP ticket by a 20-point margin.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Stay Away From My Ferrari!

If you live in an urban area, one of the indices of a declining economy is the increase in 'street people' (I put the phrase in quotes as people living/hanging on the streets may or may not be homeless). There is also often a decrease in the mental health of said group, particularly if they are homeless. Living in the U District, I have had ample opportunity to observe these folks over the years. I noticed this during the dotcom crash and shortly after 9/11.

In recent months a younger man with dreadlocks has been hanging out near a shortcut I use to access The Ave. We've been saying "hello" and nodding and such since April. His mood and state of mind have been quite consistent until the last week, when he apparently developed a serious case of paranoia. Serious enough that, when I walked past him today, he yelled at me to stay away from his Ferrari, a request to which I acquiesced easily. I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a Ferrari (although maybe that's where he sleeps), but what the heck. I said, "Sure, no problem." And he began to yell again, "You just stay away from it!"

"Understood!" I said as I was trying to make my escape.

"If you don't stay away from it, I'll have my military kick your ass, the military from my country. It will come here and kick your ass!"

"Yeah, no problem, you got it," I said with my most cooperative voice, hurrying to get away from him and vowing to never use my shortcut again.

And no, I did not call the police. They don't exactly patrol the U District religiously (in spite of what they might say), so even if they came and hauled the guy off, I'm sure he'd return. I don't care to risk calling and having him deduce that I was behind it (which would probably happen if the cops showed up on a call five minutes after he'd yelled at me). I have a friend who owns a nearby business who may do the dirty deed, but for now, I'm going to forgo my shortcut. And needless to say, if I see any Ferraris in the neighborhood, I will indeed steer clear of them, ten foot pole and the works.

In other news, the job offers are pouring in - if you consider being asked to be a test subject for a vaccination a job offer. Am I willing to risk my long-term health for short-term gain? You bet. If I get accepted, I'll get a minimum of $300. Since I bet none of my readers love me enough to give me $300 to keep me from being a human guinea pig, I'll risk turning into a 50 foot tall woman, or giant rabbit or reptilian creature of some sort.

To keep my readers apprised of each other's activities, I'm pleased to report that Goat Hostage's cunning plan to respond to the Prion News with vegetarian recipes was thwarted by the Cadbury chocolate recall. Yep, poison chocolate will take the fun out of a good taunt, rendering it very much a Pyrrhic victory. (For the full account, check the comments for "Not Enough Prion News In Your Life?".)

In final news, I understand that there have been payroll issues at MegaDyneCorp Technologies, the result being some folks receiving their compensation in the form of bushels of kohlrabi. Watch out, though - a kohlrabi much bigger than 5 cm in diameter can be woody. Hopefully the PeopleSuck software issues can be resolved and y'all will go back to being paid in wooden nickels.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not Enough Prion News in Your Life?

I've got some exciting Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy news stories to relate, thanks to Annie's Annals. I enjoyed checking out Annie's BSE update, and look forward to future ones. And no, it's not possible to know too much about TSEs - really, it's not.

In early August, The Guardian newspaper from the UK printed an article about a second wave of vCJD outbreaks due to BSE. I could rewrite what they say, but instead I'll just quote the good parts:

But scientists warn that the worst may not yet be over. 'We must not forget that almost every person in the UK was exposed to the agent that causes variant CJD,' said Professor John Collinge, head of the MRC's prion unit in London. 'It went through the entire food chain, not just in burgers but in cakes containing gelatins made from meat products. Even cosmetics contained beef-derived chemicals then.'

In fact, the extent to which people were brought into contact with a deadly human pathogen was unprecedented. Hence the insistence that while some relaxation of BSE monitoring was now acceptable, there should be no reduction in efforts to understand CJD. Certainly it is far too early to assume that Britain - the country most affected by BSE and vCJD - is in the clear, say researchers. They believe a second wave of cases will probably occur, based on studies of a closely related disease, kuru, which affected tribes in New Guinea.

Researchers have found that a key gene shapes the body's defences against kuru and this exists in two forms: version-m and version-v. These gene versions produce different responses to kuru. Individuals who have two m-versions (one from each parent) are the first to succumb to kuru, while those with one or two v-genes have a delayed onset.

Crucially, scientists have now found a similar picture among vCJD patients. Every victim to date has possessed two m-versions, a point stressed by Professor Chris Higgins, chair of the government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC).

Hopefully current and future governments in the UK will continue to support research into the mechanisms behind BSE and vCJD - research that has proven useful not only for these two diseases, but also for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Not to be outdone, the US is still in the previous century in terms of dealing with the potential of BSE to get into the population:
  • The USDA is proposing not letting downer cows into the food chain - wow! How radical is that?
  • The Bush Administration doesn't want beef companies to test 100% of their cattle, and went to court to stop them - of course that doesn't make any sense, unless they're afraid of what might happen if all cattle farmers started testing all their cows.... (I may have mentioned this one before, but it's stupid enough to mention twice.)
  • This article is less interesting to me for the BSE connexion than it is for the image of women bidding on vials of Danish sperm...the struggle to choose between the 30 different lewd comments running through my just ended with a decision not to post a one of them. Dear reader, you will have to come up with your own naughty comments. Feel free to send them to me.
Of course, when one is perusing articles, one notices links in the sidebar that pique one's curiosity. I noticed two in the process of reading up on my favorite disease. The first was Thermy (TM) Thermometer, a character developed by the FSIS division of the USDA. He tells you what temperatures your meat should be cooked to for it to be safe. Mind you, he neglects to tell you that prions pretty much cannot be destroyed by cooking (unless you like your roasts heated to about 800 degrees Fahrenheit). Thermy also mentions that the temperatures given are in degrees Fahrenheit, which means I'll have to throw out my Kelvin meat thermometer.

The second turned out to be a huge disappointment - I thought the headline read "Dad chases nude boy from daughter's room with pie". I mean, that's a great headline, right? Was I let down when I found out it was a pipe, not a pie, that was used to threaten the nekkid laddie. The one thing I found interesting was that this had been going on for a year before Pops caught them in the act. So kiddies, let this be a lesson to you - be ever vigilant. Don't become complacent regarding parental stupidity!

And finally, one of the most wrong things to cross my path in recent weeks, a photo sent to me by one of the chair-moisteners at MDC. The photo was sent in regard to not taking candy from strangers; however, when I look at where the handle is placed on this man's gumball machine outfit, I'm thinking candy ain't what I'm going to get for my nickel.


I suppose one could use the Z-machine at Sandia National Laboratories to cook one's roast or steak to a temperature that would destroy all prions (2 billion kelvin), although I bet it would be a little tough to chew.

Well Said, Blue Llama!

Blue Llama is one of my semi-regular readers and commentators, and left an excellent response to my "God's Away On Business" column, which I think worthy of sharing:

The song is an apt tune for our MDC. I hear a lot of "D*mn that last CEO" downstairs. People are reminiscing about the happy times of yesteryear and lamenting the instabilities of the future.

Well nothing is sacred at MDC. We knew that!

Yep - there's always free cheese in the corporate mousetrap - woo hoo!

Also, let me know if I should reset my Blogger settings to have the comments show up automatically, instead of youse guys having to click on them. It's not as if I get hundreds of comments, but I do get them, and some of them are enlightening.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

God's Away on Business

Having been laid off, I am immune to the ups and downs of workplace rumour mills - but I still like to hear them. Perhaps I enjoy hearing them even more now - I know longer have to worry how they will impact me. So in the last day or so I heard some big rumours about MegaDyneCorp Technologies which brought to mind this little ditty from the (sometimes) wonderful Tom Waits - but I have to confess, many big corporation rumours I've heard over the years bring this song to mind, and not just ones about MDC.

I'd sell your heart to the junkman baby
For a buck, for a buck
If you're looking for someone
To pull you out of that ditch
You're out of luck, you're out of luck
The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
There's a leak, there's a leak,
In the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers
God's away, God's away,
God's away on Business. Business.
God's away, God's away,
God's away on Business. Business.

Digging up the dead with
A shovel and a pick
It's a job, it's a job
Bloody moon rising with
A plague and a flood
Join the mob, join the mob
It's all over, it's all over, it's all over
There's a leak, there's a leak,
In the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers
God's away, God's away, God's away
On Business. Business.
God's away, God's away,
On Business. Business.

Goddamn there's always such
A big temptation
To be good, To be good
There's always free cheddar in
A mousetrap, baby
It's a deal, it's a deal
God's away, God's away, God's away
On Business. Business.
God's away, God's away, God's away
On Business. Business.

I narrow my eyes like a coin slot baby,
Let her ring, let her ring
God's away, God's away,
God's away on Business.

With any luck, I won't be singing this song about the fine folks at the unemployment office ;-)

Sorry, I just can't help it!

I try not to do too much political/economic/philosophical ranting here. The first reason is that I don't want to be going off like some half-assed moron, so if I were to start blogging on the p/e/p end of things, I'd need to spend much more time reading on these topics than I currently do. (That may change, of course, but not in the near future.) The second is that my readership, whilst not unenlightened, are not the hardened p/e/p junkies I've been known to be. So I don't want to bore y'all with every p/e/p observation I come across that has merit.

Having said that, I have to share a little quote with you, gentle reader, from a recent Ted Rall article on Sarah Palin. Ted Rall is many things to me - political cartoonist extraordinaire, brave traveller and lover of Central Asia, a man with an incredible grasp of history, a man who wrote the most accurate predictions regarding the actions of the Bush Administration of any pundit out there. I mean, these essays are scary accurate. So when Mr Rall writes something like the following, it gives me a stomachache of fear, dread - the kind I would get before a PPE Zone meeting. The kind that has me running for the plastic forks (Mubbs knows, don't you?).

Asked about rumors the Alaska governor was being considered as McCain's running mate, she told CNBC: "As for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day? I'm used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that question."

"Working real hard"? Doesn't the University of Idaho require its graduates to learn English? Does she know that she isn't running for VP of Alaska? Or that the VP presides over the Senate*? With the nation facing enormous economic, political and military challenges, do we need another numbnut in the White House?
Ted points out that intelligence and open-mindedness are the traits that seem to produce the best presidents. It seems that neither one of these is Sarah's strong suit and, in fact, I'd like to suggest that she's really and truly just another Dan Quayle, except her stupidity doesn't express itself in nearly as amusing forms as Dan's did. She's compared herself to a pit bull (not my words, don't get all hivey just because I'm quoting her), but I know I've seen smarter pit bulls than Sarah Palin.

*According to Al Gore, the Vice President's role is not only to preside over the Senate, but "... protect the space-time continuum. Read the Constitution."
-- from Futurama, Anthology of Interest 1

Monday, September 22, 2008

If Only It Were "Thus Sprach Zarathustra"!

It should be no surprise to readers that my only complaint about this is the piece of music they selected (article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer).

LANCASTER, Calif. -- Residents of northern Los Angeles County are not grooving to this music.

Lancaster city officials said this week that they're paving over a quarter-mile strip of asphalt grooved to play the William Tell Overture when auto tires speed over it.

The road was completed this month as part of an ad campaign for Honda. It's engineered to play the overture - also known as the theme to "The Lone Ranger" - at perfect pitch for motorists driving Honda Civics at 55 mph.

But neighbors aren't amused. One says the road music sounds like a high-pitched drone. Another says it keeps him and his wife up at night.

Lancaster officials plan to pave over the grooves Tuesday.


Information from: (Los Angeles) Daily News,

Will This Show up on the MegaDyneCorp Cafeteria Menu As Well?

Mad Cow Disease at Next Clarkson University Science Cafe Wednesday
Clarkson University News (press release) - Potsdam,New York,USA

Certainly the title in the link doesn't really mean that some cafe at Clarkson University will be serving up Mad Cow Disease on Wednesday...right? Right? Maybe they are serving up one of my nightmare foods, the Oz omelette which features brains, hearts and kidneys. The only thing that would make lunch better is Vegetable Medley Jell-o salad - made with lime Jell-o, of course.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Latest Slang Finding

Thanks to the Comics Curmudgeon, this Geoduck grad is going to add 'bivalve' to her vocab to indicate calm, cool, mellow, chillin', etc.:

"Clam down" is going to be my new all-purpose reaction to people who sound like crazy men. If they are actually crazy, it'll freak the hell out of them. "CLAM DOWN, MAN! CLAM DOWN! OYSTER! CLAM CLAM! BIVALVE!"

From The Evergreen State College

The Geoduck Fight Song

words and music by Malcolm Stilson, 1971

Go, Geoducks go,
Through the mud and the sand,
let's go.
Siphon high, squirt it out,
swivel all about,
let it all hang out.

Go, Geoducks go,
Stretch your necks when the tide
is low
Siphon high, squirt it out,
swivel all about,
let it all hang out.