Stop me, I’m having too much fun!


I keep fixing things around here, increasingly with the wonderful help of the Kid (who at 17 now has skillz in home repairs unmatched by his dad, which is a satisfying thing when you’re a teen).

The bad news is the increasing apparency of a 2b/f ratio, where 2 things break for every 1 thing fixed.  I replaced the garbage disposal, and one of the brackets for the shower towel rack broke, chipping the tub enamel as it fell.  I replaced a shower head, and the textured ceiling crap is coming off the bathroom ceiling (necessitating scraping it ALL off, then painting on sealant primer and ceiling white), and apparently I need to unclog the P-trap to the bathroom sink.  We replaced a light fixture in one bedroom, and I observe that the ants have found a new inlet around the kitchen sink/window, and a curtain tie breaks, spilling beads all over the floor.  We replaced a light fixture in another bedroom and two more garments get added to the mending pile.

And so it goes. Which is partly grousing and partly an explanation for why I’ve not finished several posts.

(Oh–there’s another bead…)

Hate crime spinning out of control

I spent many happy hours spinning around in circles as a child: on the front lawn with arms flung out, on the back yard swing, wheeling in circles on my bike at the end of the cul-de-sac, circling with one hand clinging to the post that held up the floor joist I-beam in the basement, and of course, on the small merry-go-round of the gradeschool playground. Spinning is fun!  (Especially so if you can do so for long periods without even getting vertigo.)

But none of our neighbors ever threatened to burn down our house because I was twirling around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around.  Not like this horrific man in Seattle, Mark Joe Levison, who apparently found the sight of a 13-year old boy, Anthony Engen, playing outside or (oh-my-gosh!) looking at his yard to be too antagonising.

The only redeeming features in such a news item is that the police took his threats seriously, as apparently the man has quite the record of charges for assault and felonies in two states.  Moreover, he has been charged with “malicious harassment”, which is Washington’s hate-crime law.

Yes, a news source is actually referring to such threats made against someone just because they are obviously autistic as a hate crime.  Sadly, I am noting this because it is not common.

(Where are we going, and what are we doing in this handbasket?!)

Anxiety: not knowing where things are going

cropped photograph of a highway bridge under construction, showing heavy I-beams looming beyond the column support

cropped photograph of a highway bridge under construction, showing bare I-beams looming beyond the column support


Are due to the Kid, who managed to hang in there through the finish of the scholastic year, despite various difficulties with the school setting. The cool part is that (after securing the Official Paperwork from the school), our high school junior then went on to take the GED test and passed with flying colors, thus earning the equivalent of a high school diploma.

While the rest of his former cohort is gearing up to start their senior year of high school, our son is finishing up a second college class, and is enrolled for the fall term as a full-time college freshman.

Even better, he says that this is the first time in years since the sight of stores filled with school supplies has not filled him with dread. Additionally, having a summer job doing construction labor has made him realise the value of further education, and even given him moments of, “I wish I were in class.” We’ve not seen this kind of scholastic enthusiasm in years.

Way to go, guy!  We’re proud of you.

a blonde 12-month old boy seated on a chair, reaching up and pecking at the keyboard to an early 1990's personal computer

a blond 12-month old boy seated on a chair, reaching up and pecking at the keyboard to an early 1990's personal computer

Meet the Zebras

A large, black and white striped butterfly nectaring no a purple coneflower

A large, black and white striped butterfly nectaring on a purple coneflower

In the field of medicine, there’s a saying that, “If you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” This means that although medical students will learn of a great many odd diseases, some of them are quite exotic (“zebras”), but that most patients’ complaints will resolve to common causes (“horses”).

Which of course does not mean that one won’t encounter “zebras”.  Once a very great while there will be someone with the rare genetic disorder or unusual psychological glitch.  Mayhap even someone with several rare genetic disorders and unusual psychological glitches!  This insect profile post is dedicated to all you readers out there who are “zebras”.  (Wave to the crowd folks; let them know that “rare” is not synonymous with “you’ll never meet them”.)

Like medical zebras, Zebra Swallowtails (Papilionidae: Eurytides marcellus) are rare amongst butterflies.  They are not endangered, but unlike Monarchs, Cabbage Whites or Painted Ladies, you don’t see these zebras very often.  This is a big butterfly, about 6-9 cm (2.5-3.5″) wide.  They live in the eastern half of North America, and can be found wafting around the borders between fields and woods or streams.  The reason such a large and striking butterfly lives in such obscurity is not for limitations in ecotone; it will live most anywhere but montane and alpine zones. It’s not even limited by breeding season; there are two broods in northern populations, and four broods in southern.

Rather, they are rare because the larvae are monophagous (a fancy word for “only eats one kind of thing” — a parent might lament, “My child is seemingly monophagous upon Goldfish crackers”).  Well, plenty of catepillars out there are picky.  But Zebra Swallowtail ‘pillars will only eat the leaves of pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) and other species of the genus.  Unlike the ubiquitous callery flowering pear trees or purple barberry shrubs, homeowners and parks managers do not go around planting pawpaws.  Unacommodated by the lack of host plants, the butterflies spend their lives beyond the outskirts of the developed world. Only butterfly enthusiasts and rare fruit fanciers who go around planting pawpaws Just Because, or residents of diversified country wilds will have much hope of seeing zebras.

It’s not that medical or butterfly zebras don’t exist, but that you have to know where to find them.  You also have to be willing to support their particular needs to have the opportunity to get to know them.  But either one of those conditions requires understanding that zebras even exist.  Yes, you might even (gasp!) have one in Your Back Yard!  It’s true.  And now that you have a better search image, I guarantee that you will be much more likely to meet them.

Now you have one, so do it!


A wooden disk printed: TUIT

Cartoon: “Efficiency”

This cartoon is composed of four pages,

each of which bears a caption at the bottom of the page.

What, weighting scores?

Andrea’s Buzzing About: “Efficiency” A female Geek and older female User are seated at a desk, where the Geek is giving the User some instruction in how to use a program. A male Techie stops by the door. Geek to User: "... so you need to set up a user file with the ID 'foo@farble'; save that before moving onto the next step. --Yes?" Techie to Geek: "Here is the report doc." Geek to Techie: "Did the update load?" Techie replies: "Good-for-go with 3.0; included in the backup." Geek replies: "Excellent, thank you." The Techie leaves without further ado. Geek continues to User: "Now, the next step is to set up the database; you can do this with weighted or unweighted scores, the former being used for --" User: "How rude!" Geek: "What, weighting scores?"

Read the rest of this entry »

Stories of Yesteryear (II)

I found these several-years-old tales while looking for something else — you know how that goes!  Meanwhile, I have a report, a PowerPoint, an assignment, a summary and remarks to complete in the next 48 hours, so once again there’s not much time for new stuff.  However, I have found the background material to answer someone’s ADHD question and will post that in a couple of days.

(Previous Stories of Yesteryear.)

It is Saturday evening and we are having a family movie night.  I have made buttered popcorn, and remembered to put the lid on the air popper this time!  My son has made a pitcher of lemonade, and daughter is busy digging through the piles of VHS and DVDs.  Our video cabinet has an almost surreal quality – like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia, it seems bigger on the inside than the outside, and more than once most of my  daughter has disappeared within its depths as she digs through the movies.

After much vociferous discussion we decide to watch a Star Trek show, the Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribblations”.  We have all see this episode several times, and are delivering the especially funny lines of dialog along with the actors, as well as making accessory comments along the way.

In the show, Odo and Worf are at the bar, trying to not to stand out, but being aliens, failing to do so.  “You know,” I remark during an action lull, “I always sympathized with Odo – he tries so hard to fit in, but never quite makes it.”

My son laughs, “Just like you, Mom.”

And I grin at him. Read the rest of this entry »

This post is for

Elizabeth McClung of the Screw Bronze! blog.

This beebalm flower struck me as being kinda goth-like in form, so I spiffed it up for you, because more is more.  Thinking of ye, gal, take care!

(a single red beebalm flower, accentuated with "gloom" highlighting)

(a single red beebalm flower, accentuated with "gloom" highlighting)

Effects of Testosterone Poisoning on Frontal Lobe Functioning

A photograph of the rear end of a pickup truck bumper, with fake rubber bull testicles hanging from the tow hitch.  Seriously.

Freedom for Thought

“The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.”
~H. L. Mencken

The 4th of July is Independence Day in the United States. I have a couple of reports to finish, so I don’t have time to write what would be an involved rant. So here are some of my favorite quotes, and a couple of graphics for you, regardless of where you live. (Graphics described for the print-impaired.)  We miss the recently deceased George Carlin; good humorists and satirists are always sorely missed!  For the young and/or those living abroad, Walter Cronkite was a news announcer of the thoughtful sort, before the era of ‘anchor desk personalities”.

Let’s just say that I am not impressed with knee-jerk patriotism (especially the drunken sort) that lacks critical thinking and the willingness to be informed.  I will say that within the realm of governance, freedom and safety are obverse and reverse of the same coin — when you have more of one, you have less of the other, and the current administration has sold an alarming amount of loss of freedom under the flag-waving of “safety, patriotism and national security”.

“The people who cast the votes decide nothing, the people who count the votes decide everything.”
~Josef Stalin

“The heights of popularity and patriotism are still the beaten road to power and tyranny.”
~David Hume

“If crime fighters fight crime, and fire fighters fight fire, then what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that to us, do they?”
~ George Carlin

“There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.”
~Walter Cronkite

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”
~Søren Kierkegaard

ditto: “Too often we…enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
~John F. Kennedy (former US president) Read the rest of this entry »

Diggout From Inder

That title was a typo, but I decided I liked the twist on “digging out from under”. So here I am, finally with computer issues sorted out and a HEAP of blogging buzzing around in me head, so without further ado, let’s start with:


Last week was National Pollinator Week. Yes, I missed it, but Bug Girl didn’t! Pollinators include not only honeybees, but also solitary bees, bumblebees, various species of wasps, flies, butterflies & moths, bats, and birds. Honeybees are not native to the Americas, but are vital to the production of other equally non-native crops, such as most tree fruits, bramble fruits, tree nuts, herbs, seeds for vegetables and herbs and flowers, the clover and alfalfa consumed by our non-native livestock, cotton, even wine grapes. As Bug Girl points out, the estimated value of all this pollen-transfer is in the billions (with a B) of dollars for the US alone — it is multiply times larger when you consider all the crop production in the rest of the world, such as tropical crops like neem, coffee, tea, and chocolate!

The reason why I have the nearly-empty jar of jam pictured is because pollinators are not only vitally important for anyone who likes to eat (or wear cotton et cetera), but also because Colony Collapse Disorder is creating great losses of honeybees. According to a recent release by the USDA, honeybees are responsible for the pollination of 130 major crops, at a value of $ 15 billion annually. Beekeepers lost 31% of their hives in 2006, and then 35% in 2007. Not only are food prices rising due to a number of other factors (drought, flooding, fuel costs), but also from the reduced production of produce due to honeybee losses. Do your part to protect pollinators by using any pesticides only when necessary, and following the directions carefully — for example, Sevin is toxic to honeybees, and if you see honeybees around, they are likely someone’s livestock. (You wouldn’t stop by a field and start shooting cattle, would you?) I made a large batch of fantastic blueberry conserve with lemon last year, but this year berry production has dropped, so the quarts of produce are just too dear (expensive). When this jar is empty, we have No. More. Left.


In other topics, the Carnival of the Elitist Bastards #2 has just been posted, and the ship returns to dock full of stories. Not familiar with this new carnival? Their description asks of you, Read the rest of this entry »

Darth Roasted

Mental Menus

(WARNING: This is one of those posts that starts off tangentially. Sometimes that’s the way communication works.)

If you peruse the books in the travel sections of stores and libraries, you can find pocket-size volumes of useful phrases in different languages. While pantomiming works well for some situations*, there are times when having the actual word is best for all concerned. (For example, being able to ask a shopkeeper, “Tampons?”)

* I believe it was travel writer Rick Steves who noted that one does not always need a phrase book — merely pointing at your injured foot and screaming does get the point across just fine.

Sure, there are plenty of little words of politeness that are great to memorise, please, thank-you, excuse me, and the rest. But these little bits do not a conversation make. And anyway, phrase books are always of limited use; anyone who has tried such can explain the inherent problems that result by being about to make statements or ask questions, but not being able to understand the answers, or know what you are to do with the other person’s reply.

And that’s where we sometimes end up when wandering through the awkward territory of small talk. As I have blogged on before (“Small and Medium-size Talk”), the big sorts of talk, those that are the exchange of real information on subjects of mutual interest are generally rather easy — it’s the medium-size talk that is the social dance of chit-chat which is fraught with difficulties.

But there are days when the very-small talk of passing through and exchanging greetings seems to be a strain. Read the rest of this entry »