Monday, July 31, 2006

Burger King's evil new sandwich

This morning's junk e-mail brought a press release denouncing Burger King's new offering, the BK Stacker.

Here's what Burger King says of the burger:

"Get meat and cheese your way with BK STACKERS. Choose from double, triple or quadruple layers of beef and cheese - topped with bacon and sauce. It's the flame-broiled meat lover's burger and it's here to stay - no veggies allowed."

And (predicatably, but still funnily) here's the best part of what Jeff Novick, director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa, has to say:

"Fast food like this is great if you're in a hurry - to die!"

Friday, July 28, 2006

In search of a sport for which steroids won't help

OK, baseball, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, swimming, sledding, skiing, track and field, bicycling, rugby, lacrosse, soccer, boxing, skating, rowing, fencing, gymnastics, weightlifting (duh), wrestling, volleyball - all these are out. Even table tennis and badminton are probably on the list of steroids-could-help-you sports, if you are one of the serious, non-back yard types.

And I can't say I think golf, darts, curling, shuffleboard, bowling, shooting, sailing, polo, riding and other such games and pastimes really count as sports, even if your conditioning is superb (and maybe steroids would help you after all). I guess the latter sorts fall in with racing cars, which certainly requires mind-boggling conditioning but isn't really a "sport" either, at least in the Platonic sense I have in mind.

So what's that leave?

Archery? No, alas, even bows and arrows have their troubles: Mark Hainline was busted (for refusing a test) in 2005. Jai alai? I don't think so.

I must be missing something good.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

They're misappropriating my favorite words!

While speaking over with a colleague, I found myself saying "misrepresentation" instead of "lie" in a situation that most assuredly merited the latter, more black-and-white term. Yegods, thought I.

So I started mulling over other casualties, and I found some good words that don't really belong on the no-say list: graveyard, undertaker, rapist (I shit you not, my former employer - because Granite State laws call it aggravated felonious sexual assault, not rape - wouldn't call a rapist by that term in news stories.): The list goes on and on.

Some words fall out of favor for good reasons (colored, Oriental - offensive but also aspecific). Others, however, are pooh-poohed by people who don't want to be called prison guards (correctional officers), trash collectors (sanitation engineers), strippers (exotic dancers) or whatnot.

Maybe I'm too sentimental, but I think we all lose something when good words, and more to the point, good, descriptive words, fall out of common usage.

Of course, I can already hear the tinny screech of a certain Seattle-area editor: "It's a living language! Supercede is a perfectly acceptable spelling!" and all that nonsense.

To that, I say, "Bovine solid waste, you vitamin C-deficient canine!"

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

young and full of beans

Who knows why people say the young are full of beans? The mad bomber reminds me of that peculiar expression every so often, when she dashes headlong through the house in the crazed full tilt of a puppy. Like her elder, mutt bro, she usually follows up the bombing run with a kerflomp onto the cool "wood" floor. Pretty cute :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Mysterious East

The Far East rightly gets a lot of credit for being interesting. It also gets saddled with a lot of hocus-pocus nonsense from people who invest the region with mystical and supernatural powers.

Let me give you three for-instances from an otherwise Seriously Smart Guy, Geoffrey Miller:

For-Instance 1: In comments that forecast the future of evolutionary psychology lying to the East, Miller says (quoted from Human Nature Review in a forwarded e-mail), among other things, "We realize that the U.S. is morphing into a fascist-fundamentalist plutocracy that will never seriously support Darwinian research."

I can see that. But he also says that "Asians" have:

"sophisticated views of sex: in contrast to sex-negative European monotheism, many Asian cultures are more sex-positive, more urbane, and more sophisticated (consider the Kama Sutra, Tantric Buddhism, Hindu temple carvings, Thai sex tourism, geisha culture, etc.)"

Oh? OK, Mr. Anecdote, if they're so positive and sophisticated, why did the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors (fittingly enough, carried out by Pfizer) find that people in the West - mostly - find their sex lives more satisfying than people in the East?

For-Instance 2: Miller assumes aggressive growth for India and China and forecasts both will surpass the gross domestic products of the United States and Europe by 2050, a prediction he uses to state that China will become the world's most prosperous country.

Maybe Miller thinks GDP is a better measure of a country's prosperity than per-capita, or median, or mean (for Christ's sake), income, but I do not.

I'd certainly rather live in Bermuda than Sierra Leone, for example, even though Bermuda checks in at No. 167 on the CIA World Factbook's GDP list and Sierra Leone stands at No. 159. Hell, Afghanistan, North Korea and Russia all have Bermuda beat, and its per-capita GDP is the highest on Earth!

The latter measure is misleading, too. Would you prefer the United Arab Emirates or Japan? Well, UAE soars above Japan, so by Miller's reckoning, it must have an edge.

For-Instance 3: Miller says China will soon be the world's most "progressive" country. He doesn't back that up, except to say that "China is an officially atheistic state; most other
advanced Asian countries are fairly secular, with very low rates of creationist monotheism. ... Daoism and Buddhism embrace perpetual change as the cosmic norm."

If by "progressive" Miller means to say "amenable to evolutionary science" then maybe. But I take progressive as having implications that reach far beyond the realm of the privileged. China may be headed toward Miller's vision of a "prosperous and progressive" future, but for whom?

Miller's predictions above and at the recent Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference could sound reasonable at first blush, but I fear this otherwise worthy member of the resistance has given up far too early on the rest of us.

Monday, July 24, 2006

need your hog washed?

Just ask AAA, whose flack is linking "record-high" gas prices with "news" that AAA wants to get out about travelers going online (specifically to AAA resources) to make plans that among other things conserve fuel.

Give me a break. Those "records" aren't adjusted for inflation, and a quarter-century has passed since gas was $3.07 a gallon in 1981 (somewhere in the United States, as reported by the ever-reliable Internet yaps).

As I have said, many times now, the extended spell of high gas prices seems to me a good thing, maybe even a very good thing, although my wallet isn't so happy from time to time.

Coming next summer to a city (kinda) nearby

IKEA plans to announce Tuesday it will build a new store in Portland, near the international airport. That won't bring IKEA closer to here than it already is (there's one down the road from Sea-Tac), but it will put the store in striking distance of family.

The company's PR people note the store will be accessible by light rail (two stations) and employ 350 people. Of course, from a more selfish perspective, it will also put my impulsive and indulgent mother just a short drive from the place :)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

off the streets and out of trouble

that's what my mother always says about projects that keep you busy. I've undertaken a little carpentry escapade (maybe a fiasco, but not yet): to build a three-tiered plants stand.

After about a million hours of poorly drawn sketches, I put together a draft scenario by stacking up CD cases, then semi-poorly drew some more sketches, then made a 3-D paper model, then not-poorly-at-all drew some more sketches, with measurements, then went to the store, then toiled for a while. Although there's not much to see yet, the project is coming along.

Whether or not I post a picture would be, I suppose, connected with how well all this works out. :)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fantastic! Easy Street, here I come

I always like to get e-mail, but who knew I'd hear from the guy whose letter I've pasted below?

Two reasons why this letter's better than the run-of-the-mill crap from the "descendants" of - ironically - Sani Abacha:

Ol' Michel is pretty cheap. You can't have ANY money unless I help you and the best you can do is a quarter-mill in dough and chunks o' gold?

That last part, gold, makes me think Michel's been watching too much CNN in the morning (the only place I know of that you can run afoul of the Monex slobs) MICHEL NGUESSAN
Dear One,
It is my pleasure to introduce myself to your good self. My name is Michel Nguessan I am an orphan, My late father was the Managing
Director in a minning company in accra ghana,before he later join the cocoa export company here in Abidjan,Cote d'Ivoire until his
untimely death on the 2nd of June 2005 He was poisioned by his business associates while my mother died of cardiac arrest. Soon as my father died, I later found out that he deposited a consignment in a security company here in Abidjan before he died and it is only me that have the knowledge of this. He also made me the next of kin when he deposited the consignment in the security company . This is the reason why I am contacting you. I am an orphan. . I just finished my high school and I would like to go into business with this heritage. I am contacting you so that you can become my business partner by helping me to retrive this consignment . After the successful retrivement of the consignment, I will then move together with you to your country, where we shall invest the money in a lucrative business . The sum in question is four million, five hundred thousand USdollar(US$4,500,000). and also he deposited (500KG of raw GOLD ASSAY) which
he got when he was working in accra minning company in ghana as executive cheif officer,to be sincere the gold its self was kept in the security company here in abidjan and all the clerification document is with me right now, I also hope to continue my education in your country from this amount as soon as the money and myself gets to your country. Immediately upon the successful retrivement of this consighnment I will then relocate to your country,
I will compensate you with 5% of the total sum that would be retrived for your kind assistance. You will also serve as a guardian of the joint investment we are going to operate together. Please reply me with this my private email .com

incremental progress

I think some newbies are running the show at the pool: The past few days have been inconsistent, at best, when it comes to the start time.

Yesterday the lap swim began three or four minutes late. This seems to have been no big deal to anybody but me, because everybody else has a workout that doesn't use the whole 60 minutes, but I haven't the luxury of standing around. When the lifeguard says, "go," I go.

So I pushed a little in the warmup but still only had 45 minutes left for a 2,000 and a cooldown. I don't know if the limited time frame was the reason, but I finished with a bit of room to spare, a first for me at that distance. I think I could have squeezed in another 200, but I think I'll save that for next week, because I'm still leery of invoking the wrath of my left arm. I find I only aggravate whatever the injury is at the end of a workout, probably because I don't stay as loose and smooth when I'm tired.

Whatever. I'm still pretty sure I'll be able to get to 3,000 meters per workout by Sept. 6, which is close enough to my goal of two miles for government work.

All of this beats running, anyway. Especially when you look at the projected 100- to 105-degree highs for the weekend...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

observations on dominance

Katy the sizeable youngster edges little old Max out of the way pretty often, whether it is for pats or drinks of water. He's figured out ways to work around her (I think he would say that he has "chosen" to do things differently), but she is definitely playing the part of top dog around here.

Similarly, I've found myself swimming in a new lane, edged out by a youngster. Varsity (keep 'em straight, there's only three: Gary, Monkey and now Varsity) started swimming in "my" lane a couple of weeks ago - which I don't really mind - so now I use a portion of the fast lane.

Irony aside, it is interesting to see the difference in how I perceive the swimmers around me. Mostly, I think I need more than one thing to think about at a time, so I watch to see what others are doing. I find it useful to keep track of Gary, who appears to swim at a consistent rate and is therefore a good clock. He laps me several times each workout, but I can tell by when he does how fast or slow I am going, which is a big help near the end of my workouts, which typically end at the same time as the lap swim hour expires.

I can't see the real clock unless I pause, which I am loathe to do, so hurray for Gary. Varsity uses almost the whole hour, but I haven't got her measured yet, so I'm not sure if she'd make a good clock, too.

Neither would make a good wristwatch, of that I am sure...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

ugh, too warm to make the rest!

well, that about says it. So, leftovers and other odds & ends is what we had instead of samosas, etc. This is probably a good thing, as I was more in the mood for fruit bowls (which is what we ate today) than for deep-fried snackies.

The squash remains on the counter, looking sullen.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Well, the local (grown in the front yard) onions worked out just fine. Kheema, chana masala, moong dal and hummus (with tortilla chips, for that Mexicindian flavor) down, and naan, samosas and squash to go...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Weaving is the property of few these days

And weaving has company:

While sharking around at a local thrift shop, I found a very old book, "Selections from the Poems of Ovid." My book is longer than the unavailable listing at Amazon because it has a 91-page vocabulary section (so you, too, can translate a Saint Ex book title to "volatus nox").

The book is small but wonderfully heavy, and wears its 120-odd years of living well. Old books rock.

As does old-school education. The book is "intended as an introduction to the reading of Latin poetry," which presupposes a level of knowledge that I am sorry is no longer widespread.

I can appreciate the view of people opposed to teaching only the old, white and dead, but I can't say the same about those opposed to teaching anything old, white and dead.

Having had an education inflicted on me at South Salem High School, then a nationally recognized school of excellence, I can say with authority that there is more than enough time to teach the new and old, white and non-white, alive and dead - even if that meant double the workload - without pushing students much beyong a reasonable amount of work.

To put it mildly.

on the menu

The addition of our now-not-so-little bear cub reminds me that the old days of cooking for the week on the weekend should be the new days, too. I've been in a make-food-on-demand rut since the necessity of bulk of cooking on Saturday and Sunday lifted (aka when we got the hell out of the Granite State).

On the list for this weekend's cooking extravaganza:
  • Baked tomatoes stuffed with kheema and fried onions (with locally raised lamb and Walla Walla Sweets grown in our yard)
  • Samosas filled with sookhe aloo
  • Improvised naan (We don't have a tandoor for the naan, man)
  • Chana dal, and maybe dals built on black-eyed peas, split peas and/or yellow peas (I can't remember what all we have on hand)
  • Hummus (if there're any chickpeas left over. I love chana dal.)
  • Spaghetti skwash of some sort (if it was an acorn squash, I'd just stuff it with kheema and bake it. Maybe I'll pick one up - at the same time as I buy more storage containers!)
We'll see how many of these things come to pass. I'm also thinking of a chutney or two, if only because I (gasp!) oftentimes overlook making my own.

It is hard to beat quality time in the kitchen with the (quick, call 20/20!) culinarily inclined butterfly lady and the inevitable eight paws and two snouts.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Decongestant Times, Vol. 4

Yeah, yeah, I know: Volume isn't the same as Issue, but I called it Vol. 3 last time, so here's Vol. 4.

I don't mind buying Claritin-D, but I'm not sold on long-term daily use. For the most part, I have only used it on days I swim, and I also make a point of thoroughly rinsing out my snoot and its related ductwork after each workout. Last night, at the butterfly lady's suggestion, I did another rinse 'round bedtime.

I did not take a pill because I want to see if I can get by with fewer doses than swims each week. The rinse helped: I didn't wake up 18 times to blow my nose (just the usual reasons - to take the puppy out and for no apparent reason a few other times) or rise in the morning with severe stuffiness. That said, it's been a sneezy, runny-nose morning, so the experiment continues...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A good project with a mildly depressing note

Since early May, I have sold books to benefit the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the United Way of Walla Walla County.

The project is made possible by my employer, a daily newspaper based in the city. The company had until early May a rather substantial collection of books, which it made available for sale at a steep discount to employees.

In 2005, that technique raked in about $12. Plus, the books were a nuisance because they took up space. I volunteered to sell the books online on the condition that 50 percent of the proceeds go to DFGF (the default charity for the paper is United Way).

I believe the net benefit to be split between the charities now stands at about $350. Not as much as I thought when I hauled all the books home, but not too shabby. Besides, now all those books have homes.

But on a somewhat sad note, the titles include "Daddy, You're My Hero" and "Mommy, You're My Hero," both of which are written and illustrated for small children whose parents are about to deploy, presumably to war.

They're not the greatest books, but they are touching in their own way. The former sold early on, the latter yesterday.

Irksome noise

I don't really care if you want to play music in your car, or in your home, or in your ears, whether you're on the street or in the pool.

And I know that in some public areas, classical music is piped in to keep out the hooligans. Very clever.

That said, I can't abide by business owners who put ghetto blasters outside their shop, or worse yet have installed outdoor speakers, and play music loud enough to hear as you pass by.

Inside, fine. Outside, I will never buy anything from you, ever.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Aside from the pesky left-arm trouble, pool and loom times have sailed along nicely of late. On Saturday, I took advantage of the longer lap-swim session to add 200 meters to my regular distance.

What my "regular" distance is changes from day to day, but typically I have been able to go 2,400 meters (500 warmup, 1,800, 100 cooldown) or 2,600 meters (500, 2,000, 100) each day.

I could of course go much farther, but there's only an hour and I'm not particularly speedy. So I jacked up the middle of the workout to 2,200 meters, which put my time in the pool at about 65 minutes. My goal remains to get the middle to 2,600 meters so I can swim two miles in an hour, but that seems like a long, long way off.

Well, I guess that's how a good goal works.

At the loom, I've been tooling along through a couple of warps worth of contract work before returning to my sometimes-on-hold own work.

In a fit of pique, I reconfigured the basement, which in the fullness of time I plan to use as the weaving area. Weaving is exercise, so the cooler temperatures would be a benefit, and there is plenty of light - mostly because of the egress window.

Besides, the pup likes to be rambunctious, and the hard edges of the loom, bobbin-winding station and creel aren't too friendly. As it happens, the butterfly lady has the only shiner to show from the loom, and impressive multicolored job.

I was planning to make the move later in the year, when the loom returns from its annual vacation in southwestern Missouri. But I feel amibitious, so I might do the switch when I finish the warp I'm working on now.

Maybe the butterfly lady will veto the plan, but then I'll just wait until she's away for a few hours or asleep and do it sneaky like. :)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sacred markers

These snazzy lightning bolts are made from paper, usually heavy, clothlike stock.

You'll find them hanging from ropes at shrines, or as the wikipedia article linked above suggests, in a stand-alone fashion.

Although my father and I capitulated and just unfolded one when we were trying to puzzle them out, they turn out to be simple - and intuitive - to make.

I sharked around for a diagram, but maybe it is more fun to figure it out on your own!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

My favorite psalm

My list of favored psalms is quite short, so choosing a favorite isn't the toughest call. But I'm quite fond of Psalm 23, so here - for lack of an original thought of my own - it is:

1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

I suppose that it would by typical to appreciate most the imagery of green pastures and still waters (especially in a desert religion's book), but I am (usually) most taken with 23:5. I suspect that whatever it is about me that likes that verse is the same part that likes this bit of "32 Flavors," by Ani DiFranco:

"God help you if you are a phoenix and you dare to rise up from the ash. A thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy while you are simply flying past."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The rockets' glare

wasn't really all that bright this year. The barrage went on for a while, but didn't seem to be as fierce as in the past. Maybe that's because of the Fourth being a school night, so to speak. Or maybe it was just a function of which part of the neighborhood I live in, or inattention on my part...

Piggy didn't seem to enjoy the show. On his nightly walk, we passed several groups firing off artillery shells, and he watched some of the fireworks, then lowered his head and trucked on down the sidewalk. I think he was trying to act casual. When we made the turn to head home, he sped up more than usual. But he wasn't particularly clingy at home (maybe that's because I was vacuuming, another activity he has a dim view of).

Monday, July 03, 2006

In case you were curious

So, people make a lot of yap about cold, wet snoots on their pooches. I know that when I wake up in the middle of the night (which because I rarely sleep well is all the time) I sometimes check Piggy's snout and find it dry and warm. Why? Because he hasn't yet had a chance to do this:

lucky strike - not the cigarette, either.

I dropped by Joe Purdy's site tonight, hoping he might head this way on tour. No dice, so I decided to take another listen to his unavailable music (I only own eight songs from "Joe Purdy" and "Sessions from Motor Ave." - songs that were free to download at his site before it was redesigned).

After a little surfing, I realized those two older albums are finally for sale at iTunes, so I snapped up the remainder of each...

I don't know why he's not better known. If you are reading this post, go here, click on Music and take a free spin through his music.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


Toast is hard to beat. At the very least, it is warm and crispy and a perfect place for jelly to lay...

Being an enthusiastic toast consumer but also highly cognizant of bread's highly caloric nature, I've re-become a big fan of English muffins. I think I started gobbling them up again after moving to the city, so that's only the past year and change... anyway, a muffin (both halves) has the same number of calories as a typical slice of bread, so you could have two pieces of bread or four muffin halves. Yeah, I know, that's silly math but it works for me.

English muffins also seem to be heat resistant. My toaster has nine settings (unlike my fan, which is also a liar), and regular toast is a 5. English muffins are a 9, and that's only if you want your muffin just lightly browned.

Fewer calories and harder to toast. Just like that other delicious snack: tinfoil.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

hurray for modern living

Something you will encounter if you hang around in Japan is modern architecture, a nice counterargument to the nonsensical rot that people who wish the old times would live forever try to push on everyone.

My usual practice with weirdos is to accept them on their own terms, but for me cultural preservationists fall into the same category as creationists: unfixable.

Why? Well, think about it for .02 seconds. Remember the good ol' days, when mom and dad looked after you and life was wholesome? Yeah, well, that was the same time that black people couldn't drink from the same fountain, so forgive me for calling bullshit on people who think the past is better. Oddly, "people" includes Hagakure, who thought everything gets crappier as time goes by.

Of course, he also wrote this:

If you cut a face lengthwise, urinate on it, and trample on it with straw sandals, it is said that the skin will come off. This was heard by the priest Gyojaku when he was in Kyoto. It is information to be treasured.

Yegods. Maybe he shouldn't be the authority figure.

Anyway, if you think the good old days really were better, talk to me about polio.