Friday, March 30, 2007


It's a paw, dammit.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What's the deal with pollen counts?

According to our local newspaper, a pollen count over 120 particles per cubic meter is "extremely high". We've had three days this week with pollen counts over 5000. This is an order of magnitude greater than "extremely high" on the scale. There is no way to distinguish any difference between a pollen count of 500 or 1000 or 5000 without resorting to ridiculous nomenclature. Very extremely high? Stupendously amazingly high? Really, really astronomically tremendously very high?

What we need is a non-linear scale for pollen counts. Sort of a pollen count Richter scale, if you like. Because otherwise, every spring day that does not include rain will end up being rated "extremely high" for pollen, and that doesn't tell us anything that a glance at our car wouldn't give away.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More Blue Law Blues

The bill that would allow local jurisdictions in Georgia to vote on whether to allow retail sales of alcohol on Sundays is dead, through legislative inaction. Those 'blue laws' I was bitching about back in January are here to stay. I knew it! In spite of widespread public support, a small minority of religious conservatives has managed (once again) to impose their will on the majority. The future of the bill was uncertain, even if voted on. The governor, who is a teetotaler, had darkly hinted of a veto in the unlikely event the law passed both legislative houses.

It wasn't as if this was a bill that stipulated alcohol *must* be sold on Sundays. It would have allowed local communities to decide for themselves. All those Christians in rural Georgia that were so outraged needn't have worried - no doubt the Sunday sales option would be voted down in their areas. (Or WOULD it? Maybe they were afraid to put it to popular vote?) At any rate, it is a moot point for now. Maybe forever in this backward state.

It's damned inconvenient and arbitrary if you ask me. I'm not an evil, bad person. I'm a regular citizen who works hard and is busy during the week, and I want to enjoy my downtime on the weekends without unreasonable restrictions. This would include buying a six pack or a bottle of wine on Sunday. The blue laws skirt awfully close to government officially sanctioning religion. But since we are stuck with it, I think I'll buy myself a case of three buck Chuck and keep it in the basement for all those times I forget (or it isn't convenient) to plan ahead. But I shouldn't have to.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

In Memory of Bookstores

By 'bookstores', I mean real, independent, locally owned bookstores that had their own distinct personality. NOT huge national chain homogenous bookstores that are all basically exactly alike. I do shop at these now, mostly because they are the only ones around so it is B&N or Borders, or nothing at all. And yes, I have certainly bought (and sold) my share of books from online retailers. But for browsing pleasure, there is (or was) nothing like the old kind of bookstore. Three in particular stand out in my mind.

I discovered Atlanta's Oxford Books while I was an undergrad at Georgia Tech. The original location, up the road from Tech in the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center, was always a fun place to visit. Large in the way bookstores seldom were before the Big Box Bookstores showed up and skewed everyone's expectations, it even served coffee and pastries. This was before those items became ubiquitous in bookstores, so it was somewhat of a novelty. Cramped aisles crammed full of every kind of book you can imagine, it was a browser's paradise. It got even better when they relocated to an old car dealership in Buckhead. Miles and miles of books, magazines, cards, posters, music... you name it. They had a better selection of sheet music than most music stores. Huge non-fiction section in tons of categories, loads of fiction, plenty of room for browsing and hanging out, lots of windows, and an open, spacious layout - ahhhh. Best 'new books' bookstore EVER. Unfortunately for all Atlantans, it did not weather the coming of the B&N and Borders megastores well, and went belly up. It is a shame. Those bland megabooksellers don't hold a candle to the Oxford experience, in atmosphere or selection.

Oxford Books had a sister store for used books: Oxford Too. It was located in an old house around the corner from the original Oxford shop. Oxford Too had an excellent selection of used books, and also sold discounted new books (remainders and such). I can still remember the library smell and the creaky hardwood floors. They had a great collection of used science fiction. I spent many happy hours at Oxford Too, browsing and reading. I still have some of the used paperbacks I purchased there.

Years later when I lived in Massachusetts, a friend introduced me to Avenue Victor Hugo on Newbury Street in Boston. What a great place! It was in an old brownstone, and the bookshelves were all crowded into it. Navigating that store was a challenge! The shelves lined every wall floor to ceiling and formed an intricate maze in the rooms. Stepstools and ladders were necessary items, and just added to the clutter. There was an upstairs section that was even more convoluted and cramped, and they had a fantastic selection of rare books. This shop had a lot of quirky character, and even hosted a resident cat. It was always fun to shop there, and you never knew what kind of gems you'd find. AVH closed the Newbury Street store forever in 2004, but survives today as an internet bookseller. Not the same, though. Not at all.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Random Aches Are A Pain.

While I'm not exactly an old person yet, it would be accurate to say that I am also no longer young (at least, not physically). And there is nothing like a completely random ache or pain to remind me of that.

Yesterday, for no particular reason I can think of, I got the backache from hell. It hurt to walk. When I did, it consisted of shuffling around with minimal hip movement wherever possible (which resulted in a very odd gait), bent over at a twenty degree angle, continuously rubbing at the small of my back in a vain attempt to soothe the fire. Sexy, no? It feels like somebody drove a horizontal line of rusty nails in between my sacrum and my L5 vertebra. It was slightly better this morning, but is getting worse by the hour. I can't wait to lift the heavy equipment to the treatment bench this afternoon when I do the monthly tests on the accelerator. That's gonna be swell!

Wouldn't it be great to have a day where nothing at all hurt? I'm sure it happens all the time when you are a kid, but you have no idea that you should savor that feeling and appreciate it. You probably never noticed. I never did.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


My picks for the Final Four were 100% wrong. My bracket is dead on arrival. I guess Colbert was right... nerds suck at sports.

If you come in dead last, you get your $5 back. It'll be just my luck to come in next-to-last.

UPDATE: Yup, I knew it! There is one person with a score worse than mine, and he has zero possible points he can earn. So I managed to suck just enough to lose miserably, but not quite enough to gain any benefit from it. Oh well. At least "Cranky Pants" will not have to be in the basement three years in a row (although his wife is still doing way better than he is in the pool, thus insuring his continued crankiness).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Not just TV, it's HDTV.

WOW! Huge difference.

We got the Big Damn TV two months ago, but just now got HDTV. Holy crap!! Watching 'Galapagos' on the National Geographic Channel right now, and it is just gorgeous. Also caught some NCAA action (not all that good for my bracket, thankyouverymuch, but so crisp and clean), and a movie on HBO. All eye-poppin' good.

We're not early adopters. We wait until the cost is reasonable. But if you are on the fence about it - we say DO IT! Now is a good time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring: geeky facts, cleaning, and crossing stuff off my list

It's official -- as of 8:07pm EDT, 3/20/07 (or 00:07 UTC, 3/21/07 if you want to get technical) the vernal equinox has arrived! Now here is where I would usually post a bunch of science geek links about the event. Oh what the hell. Here they are: Why are the day and night not exactly equal on the first day of spring? Because the sun is not a point source! That whole "standing an egg on its end on the vernal equinox" thing is bad astronomy, i.e. just a myth. If you are dying to know the exact moment spring arrives, here are the dates of the vernal equinox every year from 1452 to 2547. That ought to cover ya.

I'm feeling the need for sunshine and spring cleaning. Not exactly looking forward to the cleaning part of it, but we ordered a new vacuum cleaner and when that puppy arrives, I will be vacuuming every surface in the house. Cats beware!! There are dust bunnies bigger than a rottweiler floating around under things and in corners and it is high time we get rid of them. Our vintage 1965 vacuum needs the bearings re-packed, and nobody seems to want to do it even if we pay them good money, so the house has not had a decent vacuuming in months (just a quick going over with our little stick vac right before company comes).

And for some other fresh news, I'm happy to report that I am writing this post using my newly-repaired notebook computer. You know, the one that has been broken for approximately two years, that I never used because it was such a pain in the ass to get it to boot up. That one. I finally sent it in, and now that it has a new motherboard, it is as good as it ever was. Getting this sucker fixed was number one on my big damn list of shameful procrastination, so I am happy that it is now a "to enjoy" item rather than a "to do" item. I guess that one of these months I'll have to move on down the list and get a new cell phone with a local number.

Monday, March 19, 2007

In The News: 'Bad Idea' Edition

Generally, it's a bad idea to:

1. Open a "Hooters" restaurant in the middle east. They have a cow about women driving and showing any skin that doesn't have eyelashes attached. What are they going to do about women waiting tables in orange silk short-shorts? And are they still going to offer the ham and cheese or pulled pork BBQ sandwiches?

2. Use your cell phone to send someone a photo of your naked breasts popping out of your unbuttoned police uniform, complete with clearly visible name badge. Like that's NOT going to end up on the internet. Riiiiggghht.

3. Stash a dead passenger in first class.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

At least I'm not a 'junkie bug' or a 'love monkey'

I 'borrowed' this from kat, who stole it from trinamick, who lifted it from Wordnerd.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Leading the pack!

I'm currently in first place in the office pool, with 15 out of 16 possible points. The closest runners up are at 13 points.

Beginner's luck? Perhaps. Or maybe that "Logistic Regression/Markov Chain" model basketball ranking system really works. My prediction? Today's games won't be kind to my bracket, since six of my picks are underdogs, and one of those six is a ridiculous pick.

Here is another guy whose bracket is taking a beating:

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Et tu, fermicat?

Yes, I'm afraid so.

This year I have fully succumbed to March Madness.

I've entered my crazy ass predictions for the NCAA tourney in our office pool. What the hell... why not? Well, one potential "why not?" is that my sports wagers are usually a total disaster, which is why I don't often make them. Someone once spotted me 50 points on a football game. Sounds like a bet you can't lose, except when your team gets clobbered 51-0. This year I've decided not to let a little thing like bad sports karma get in the way of having some fun. Besides, the guy who finished dead last for the past two years in a row will feel so much better about himself if I end up in the cellar instead of him.

My picks are part wishful thinking (Georgia Tech is in my Elite Eight), part voodoo (I've got Long Beach upsetting Tennessee, along with a couple of 10th seeds beating 7th seeds, and Florida NOT going to the Final Four), and part number cruching (thanks to the "Logistic Regression/Markov Chain" model basketball ranking system developed by some Georgia Tech ISYE profs). I'm hoping the geek stuff gives me an edge!

Got any predictions of your own? Leave 'em in the comments. Don't feel that you have to limit your awesome prognosticative abilities to basketball, either. Feel free to foretell any sort of bizarre occurrence that floats your boat.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Not Gone With The Wind. Just Gone.

They say you can't go home again, but sometimes you REALLY can't go home again. I spent a sleepless night looking at various satellite pics of places I used to live. I had heard from my stepmom that our old house had been demolished and the land flattened, but it didn't hit home until I saw the aerial views, before and after.


It is all gone.

My family hasn't lived there for more than a decade, but somehow you imagine it doesn't change all that much when land changes hands. But it can.

My Dad moved in there when I was 7 or 8, after my parents divorced and he married my stepmother. In the nearly twenty years that followed, I grew to love that land as I grew to love my new family. It happened slowly. I never realized that I attached to land until I owned my own, in Massachusetts. But to this day, what I miss most about my time in Massachusetts are my friends who are still there, and my land that I no longer own. I had four acres of woods with a modest house. I didn't do much to the house, but I put a lot of myself into that land. I knew every tree, every rock, every hill. Planted all kinds of things, cut trails through my woods, set up several nice seating areas within the woods and buried not a few beloved pets there. Even the layout was similar to my childhood experience. My four acres were arranged in a long, narrow rectangle, with a house near the front and wilderness in the back.

The photo above shows the property before the destruction, looking much the same as when we lived there. The two houses you see to the right of center were ours, and we had 16 acres in a long narrow parcel bordered roughly by the horizontal lines of trees you can see (the ballfield wasn't there when I lived there, and that land was our neighbor's pasture; I was riding over there the day I had my worst fall - my horse was cantering and stepped in a hole; I fell off and he fell on top of me - owww; but nothing broken for either of us, just a lot of big purple bruises). My Dad and stepmother lived in the lower house and her mother used to live in the upper one. Later, after Grandma died, my sister lived in Grandma's house. Much later, when I was in grad school, I lived there too. There were always canned vegetables and pickles in the cellar at Grandma's house (that's what we always called it, even after she was gone). And a little cement walkway between the back doors connected the two homes. When I lived next door during grad school, I showed up at mealtimes quite frequently, hungry for some home cooking.

I've lived in both houses, but it is the utter and complete destruction of the land that breaks my heart. The back part of the land was pasture and we had horses. There was a creek back there, a few copses of trees, a ramshackle old stable and barn, and lots of trails. Those trails were still there when I looked at the photo on high magnification. The exact same ones I knew as a kid. I knew them all so well. I rode back there, and played there on foot. Daffodils grew wild near the back of the pasture. There was a garden behind the house and some peach trees. The garden had everything. We kids even got to plant some stuff of our own. Even the horses had some space - we grew sugar cane as a treat for them. As kids, my brother and I would play in the compost pile (all leaves, no kitchen debris, so not gross) to stir it up. A huge southern magnolia in the back yard was so much fun to climb. Rode bikes and horses all over, and a go-kart too, and lets not forget all those trips with the riding lawnmower. It would have been perfect for a mountain bike, but we had never heard of such a thing back then. There was the "new barn" that my Dad built. It was fancy. Had a garage door and everything! Housed his tractor and a lifetime's worth of garden tools. Grandma's red maple tree was a blaze of color in the fall. Every year we had live Christmas trees with the root balls, and Dad would plant them afterward. We lost a few to the hot Georgia summers, but the ones that lasted ended up majestically large. There were crabapple trees in the front yard and sometimes we would see deer eating from them. Our cats found it a great hunting ground. You get to know a place after so many years of playing, riding, horsing around, raking, grass-cutting, weeding, daydreaming, and relaxing in and around it. In my mind it still exists, as good as it ever was (and probably better).

The next picture shows what has become of the houses and the land. Razed to dust, leaving no trace of what it once was. And not just our old place, but the neighbors' also. All of it... just gone. The houses were up on a hill. Even the hill and rocks and trees are gone. Not a blade of grass left. Nothing. It is totally flat red clay now. I suppose they will build a subdivision or an apartment complex. Whatever they put in won't have even one percent of the character of the land that was destroyed in the name of progress.

It makes me sad that everything that was built and nurtured there has vanished from the earth. The houses. The trees that were planted by people I love. The irises. The daffodils. The Japanese maple. The big crepe myrtle. The glorious southern magnolia. The ancient peach trees that still bore fruit. The trails that our horses wore into the ground. The barn that Dad built, and the garden. The graves of our pets. All for nothing. All gone.

It makes me think of that James Taylor song, Copperline. It's a good song, and fits this situation well. Last verse:

I tried to go back, as if I could
All spec house and plywood
Tore up and tore up good
Down on copperline
It doesn't come as a surprise to me
It doesn't touch my memory
Man I'm lifting up and rising free
Down on over copperline

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Did you miss it?

If you missed the total eclipse of the moon last weekend, there is a lovely picture of it over at Astronomy Picture Of The Day.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

One Week

Not too long ago, I had to give up alcohol for a week. It was a bummer because I enjoy drinking wine, but I was taking a prescription medication that didn't interact well with booze, and wished to avoid the scary interaction side effects. Yep. Like headaches, nausea, and "psychotic episodes". The hell? The first two didn't seem *that* bad, but I'm positive I don't need any psychotic episodes. So I sucked it up, and spent a week settling for alternatives. I didn't like it, but I did it.

This experience made me think. One week isn't such a long time. Maybe one week is the perfect trial run for making some changes in your life. Permanent changes are difficult to stick with, but you can grit your teeth and do just about anything for a week. I can think of a lot of small "one week challenges" that I could try on for size. Maybe some of the things will turn out to be not so bad. And some might seem intolerable. But I think maybe I will try one new thing per week and see how it sits with me. I might even stick with a few of them... but teetotaling will not be among them!

The 'challenge' could be to do something new, or to stop a bad habit. This week, I've been trying to go for a walk for about half an hour every day. So far I'm three for three. Anyone have any bright ideas for what to try? Leave 'em in the comments! Be kind...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

American Idol Still Sucks

At the end of the first new House episode in weeks, I find out that due to American Fucking Idol there are no new House episodes until March 27. Sigh. That show just sucks the life out of everything around it.

Return of Naked Sunday

Remember my post about a Dutch gym's upcoming 'Naked Sunday'? Well, last Sunday they really did it. Warning - Link contains a photo showing sweaty naked guys working out on machines, so potentially NSFW (or small children, or people with ass crack phobias).

I'm sure it will not surprise you to learn that there were no women participating in this little event. It may have had something to do with the small army of reporters who showed up wielding cameras, microphones, and TV crews. "It's spectacular!" cried one enthusiastic participant. Another says "it just feels better ... with your clothes off."

They went so far as to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony for this thing! With town council participation. I find that terribly amusing.

Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. Some people have quit their gym membership in disgust. Apparently I am not the only one who would not want to use equipment that has hosted someone else's sweaty bare ass, towel or seat cover notwithstanding. I'm not sure which is worse -- the sanitation issue, or having to see jiggly naked flesh everywhere you look. Oh, the horror!

In spite of the minor setback of a few cancellations, the gym plans to go boldly forward with more Naked Sundays, and predicts a bigger crowd next week after all the publicity. Maybe the naked exercisers will finally outnumber the journalists. Or some chicks will show up.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Eclipse Watch

Don't forget there is a total lunar eclipse this evening. The moon will spend 74 minutes completely within the earth's shadow, and will appear reddish. It should be a great show. You don't even have to stay up late.

Here in Atlanta the moon will rise at 18:32 EST, just after mid-totality. The moon remains in totality until 18:58 EST. The eclipse ends at 21:25 EST. To find out when events will occur in your local timezone, click on this handy link.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Ball of Moxy

Friday CatBlogging: Cat Nap Edition

Here is Moxy, happily dreaming of her nefarious plans for world domination. Doesn't she look sweet?

Here are two other cats I spend a little time with every day: Bucky Katt and Mooch. I must have my daily dose of Mutts and Get Fuzzy.