Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I'm listening to the musical commentary to Dr Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog

And came across the references to Ninja Ropes Extreme. I suck at it, but I'm a complete beginner. I got past about five screens in the fifth try. It's really a game for the iPhone, but you can play here, too.

This is so cool

The folks at National Geographic are offering an external hard drive for $199.99 that is partitioned, with about 60-70 GB containing the full 120-year run of their magazine and an extra 90-100 GB for your own files. Here's the blurb:
Explore 120 years of amazing discoveries, fascinating maps, and the world's best photography with The Complete National Geographic. This definitive collection of every issue of National Geographic magazine, digitally reproduced in stunning high resolution, brings you the world and all that is in it. Use the advanced interface to explore a topic, search for photographs, browse the globe, or wander on your own expedition.

Access all of the maps, photos, and magazine issues found on the DVD collection in one external hard drive. Browse and search the entire collection without needing to swap out DVDs. Lightweight and travel-friendly, the hard drive is just 3" x 5" and requires only a USB connection. We’ve left plenty of hard disk space to accommodate future upgrades. We’ve also allocated approximately 90GB of hard disk space for your own personal use.

Choose up to 25 characters for laser engraving on the back of the drive to create a truly one-of-a-kind gift for friends, family, or colleagues.

The Complete National Geographic on 160-GB Hard Drive cannot be shipped outside of the U.S. and Canada. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery.

Of course, if you'd rather have the DVDs and don't mind swapping them out, they're just $59.95, and cover the same years (1888-2008) as the hard drive, plus the same bonus disk of behind-the-scenes looks at National Geographic and photography tips. I'm not sure what provision is made for future issues; the hard drive has space for upgrades. BTW, Amazon has the DVDs for about $45! [Acutally, I liked that so much I went ahead and ordered it; I had a $35 gift card for Yule from some friends so that made it about $10. Thanks YKWIA and A! :)]

But I have to admit, the drive is cool. I just got an external hard drive, though, so I really don't need another. But I do love National Geographic and always have. This will be fun.

I can't sleep

I've tried for 3 1/2 hours but it looks like a rare case of insomnia. My whole system feels a little off and I'm a little nauseous. Not good.

Speaking of U2

I remember hearing this song on the radio during my divorce--although it had been out for four years--and at the time it really caught the conflict I had going on inside. I knew leaving was the best thing to do, but I was leaving the only relationship I'd ever had, one that had lasted 6 years, and that was hard, especially as I had given my self away, literally, and was trying to find my own personality and way again.

Thanks for helping me through the pain, guys.

Speaking of the divorce, there was one song and one scene in a movie that really gave me the epiphany I needed to leave, because I realised I was not in love and it never would be like this with that person:

I don't know why I'm thinking about it now--I left 18 years ago this month, but I guess it was an ending, and a beginning, much like the year's end and the new year. It was the best decision of my life, though, and my life is much richer for it.

Tomorrow I'm off from both jobs

My agenda:
  1. Pay my rent. (Since the bank will be closed on Friday and I get paid on Thursday.) [Well, I got my money order but will pay it when they're in the office and can give me a proper receipt.]
  2. Go over to a friend's and watch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on DVD (I haven't seen it yet.) [That I did, and enjoyed it thoroughly.]
  3. Come home before dark. [It was after dark, but not too late.]
  4. Do laundry. [That'll have to wait for Saturday.]
  5. Work on notes. [I crashed due to the insomnia the night before.]
  6. Watch the ball drop in New York on TV. [I woke up just in time to see the new year's sign light up after the ball got to the bottom.]
  7. Wish some friends Happy New Year. [That I managed to do, although I was freaking over not getting things done, so I think they were amused.]
  8. Sleep. [Yes, although not enough to fully catch up.]
On New Year's Day itself:
  1. Sleep in a bit. [Yes.]
  2. Work on notes. [Yes--that night, not during the day as I'd planned.]
  3. Clean up the kitchen and take out the trash. [Hah! That'll have to wait until Saturday evening.]
  4. Listen to U2's 'New Year's Day' on YouTube [and probably 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' just because I like classic U2]. [Indeed.]
  5. Go nowhere until work. (The buses don't run that day.) [True.]
  6. Work at double-time pay that evening. [Plus 1 1/2 extra hours.]
On Saturday:
  1. Work early.
  2. Do a quick straightening up and maybe wipe down the bathroom (there's a little soap scum on the sink under the dispenser).
  3. Clean out some of the duckweed in the aquarium and add some water.
  4. Relax since the notes will be finished.
  5. Go to bed early to get up for the game.
On Sunday:
  1. Prepare for game.
  2. Play game.
On Monday, things will return to normal and it's back to the hospital, but in a new (and hopefully more promising) year.

I doubt they'll need to in this case, but it would good to have the capability

Russia Plans to Save Earth From Rogue Asteroid; ‘No Nuclear Explosions,’ Space Chief Promises (Updated

This is a continuation of the Apophis saga. Hopefully NASA is correct and there is a slim chance the asteroid will hit the Earth, but if not, the Russians are prepared to work on a solution. Still, there's a lot of money and need for international cooperation involved.

A little scary

Apparently when I was working at the store today a restaurant down the road from us was robbed. He was able to get money from their safe and fled.

The same scenario at our place would be unlikely, as our safe is time-released, and generally there is no one in the evening who can even get into it--and that's our change safe, so there's mostly rolled change in it. Only a security company can get into the main safe. Our registers keep little money in them (which is why I get annoyed by people who think we are a bank when it says plainly on the counters that $50s and $100s are not kept in the register).

All of this, plus a policy of cooperation, should make me feel safer. But people desperate enough to pull a gun on a clerk are unpredictable. A few years ago a pregnant attendant was nearly killed on Christmas Eve and miraculously survived. And there was also the case of the young woman who on her very last shift at her job was shot in the back and killed as the clerks were being rounded up and put into the cooler.

The description given in this case was not particularly useful--white guy, black hoodie, jeans, and white gloves, with a silver handgun. I hope he's caught soon, and in the mean time that he stays far from us.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

San Francisco at the whim of sea lions

San Francisco’s sea lions leave in droves: Pier was home to 1,500 animals a month ago; now only 10 left

Yay, woman power!

7 women reach South Pole after 562-mile trek: The team from around the world skied six to 10 hours a day
Skiing six to 10 hours a day, the Commonwealth Women's Antarctic Expedition trekked an average of 15 miles a day, each hauling a 176-pound sled of provisions and shelter to reach the United States-operated Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station science base.

The expedition comprised women from Brunei, Cyprus, Ghana, India, New Zealand, Singapore and Britain.

Frostbite blackened the fingers of one of the original team of eight, Kim-Marie Spence, from Kingston, Jamaica, just three days into the journey which began Nov. 23, forcing her to leave the expedition.


I may be Pagan, but even I can recognise a Christmas miracle

Mother, baby revived after dying in labor: Doctors baffled by mom’s cardiac arrest, recovery after Christmas Eve birth

Exclusive: Formerly 'Dead' Mom, Baby 'Doing Good': Doctors Perform C-Section on 'Dead' Mother Who Recovers After Birth, Baby Revived

'Dead mother and son' alive after Christmas 'miracle'

Best wishes to the Hermanstorfers and their new son, Coltyn.

Now that's a great historical paper subject

How the Byzantines dealt with Werewolves
A new article explores how Byzantine doctors treated people those suffering from lycanthropy, a mental disorder where a patient believes he or she is, or has transformed into, a wolf and behaves like one. This disease is the basis for the legendary werewolves.

In "Lycanthropy in Byzantine times (AD 330–1453)," four scholars from the University of Athens examine the writings of six Byzantine physicians to see what they believed lycanthropy was and how it should be treated.
Apparently they were quite enlightened compared to those in the later mediaeval and early modern periods, where those suffering from lycanthropy were seen as cursed or heretics, and therefore put to death.

You know, I've never been a graceful individual

but between my weight and my hurting feet, I'm developing a penguin gait where I bobble right and left as I walk. It's even worse if I'm carrying something. This is not good.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I forgot to mention a truly creepy compliment the other day

The day after Christmas I was working on putting away our truck order at the store when my co-worker answered the phone. The woman identified herself as with our corporate security. They'd been monitoring our cameras for a couple of hours and wanted to compliment us on how diligently we had been working and how attentive we were to our customers. At one point she told him there was someone behind him and he should go ahead and wait on the person. It was nice in terms of what they said, and in theory I knew the DVR was monitored, but it was kind of creepy to have confirmation.

How would you like to be the person who watches store video all day?

A remarkable mind

Kim Peek, Inspiration for ‘Rain Man,’ Dies at 58
Mr. Peek was not autistic — not all savants are autistic and not all autistics are savants — but he was born with severe brain abnormalities that impaired his physical coordination and made ordinary reasoning difficult. He could not dress himself or brush his teeth without help. He found metaphoric language incomprehensible and conceptualization baffling.

But with an astonishing skill that allowed him to read facing pages of a book at once — one with each eye — he read as many as 12,000 volumes. Even more remarkable, he could remember what he had read.

Indeed, Mr. Peek, who died Dec. 19 at home in Salt Lake City, had perhaps the world’s most capacious memory for facts. He was 58. The cause was a heart attack, said his father, Fran Peek.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Kind of cool

Minute organs in the ear can alter brain blood flow

They're not just for balance. Maybe we'll eventually figure out what the tonsils and appendix are for, too. :) (Well, among others, they seem to attract infection...)

Hello--is this really a surprise?

Disinfectants 'train' superbugs to resist antibiotics

It makes sense that antibiotic use could make bacteria resistant to antibiotics they've been exposed to, and that all our antibacterial agents in soaps and disinfectant could do the same for those agents as well, right? But then there's this, something I intuitively thought was the case but didn't have the science to back it up--until now:
Scientists in Galway found that by adding increasing amounts of disinfectant to cultures of pseudomonas aeruginosa in the lab, the bacteria learnt to resist not only the disinfectant but also ciprofloxacin - a commonly-prescribed antibiotic - even without being exposed to it.

The researchers report the bacteria had adapted to pump out anti-microbial agents - be they a disinfectant or an antibiotic - from their cells.

The adapted bacteria also had a mutation in their DNA that allowed them to resist ciprofloxacin-type antibiotics specifically.
I must say, though, I find the mechanism fascinating.

Ohhh... :(

125 pilot whales die in New Zealand; 43 saved

At least conservation workers and vacationers were able to coax dozens back out to sea. I'm sure it was quite emotional on the parts of those who made the effort. There were two separate incidents; the one with the survivors was caught fairly early, the other one was discovered too late to do much for the whales there except euthanise those which were still barely alive.

Hey, if it works...more power to them

Tribes buy back America — acres at a time: Purchases to help protect culture, way of life by preserving sacred areas
Native American tribes tired of waiting for the U.S. government to honor centuries-old treaties are buying back land where their ancestors lived and putting it in federal trust.

Native Americans say the purchases will help protect their culture and way of life by preserving burial grounds and areas where sacred rituals are held. They also provide land for farming, timber and other efforts to make the tribes self-sustaining.

Tribes put more than 840,000 acres — or roughly the equivalent of the state of Rhode Island — into trust from 1998 to 2007, according to information The Associated Press obtained from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Freedom of Information Act.

Local governments aren't happy because they still have to provide services to the land, such as sewer and water, but lands in federal trust are exempt from local taxes. But you know what? Considering their tax base comes from land that is often theirs because of plague, deceit, or force, I can't feel sorry for them. The indigenous peoples of the United States got the shaft when it came to treaties. It's nice to see them acquiring land to use for their own good.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I put one of my presents to good use this morning

I got a 10-piece set of Farberware cookware for Christmas from my mother and grandmother. It has two skillets, two saucepans, a dutch oven, stainless steel with glass lids for everything except the small skillet, and a cookie sheet. Much better than the 1.5 quart saucepan I had to cook with. :) For so long I didn't have a working stove (I lived in an apartment where the landlord brought in ones that caught on fire and another apartment had one that put out a lot of carbon monoxide when I cooked). I got into the habit of just microwaving almost everything. I had one enameled pan the size of a dutch oven for years that had been given to me by someone (it had been in his family for quite some time) and it finally gave out last year when a hole formed. Nothing like a peeing pot to ruin your day. So the rare times I've made macaroni and cheese or similar things, I've had to use a tiny saucepan, which works, barely.

No more. I made some scrambled eggs for breakfast and was quite happy. But the best thing of all is with these, I can actually cook. I'm not a great one, but I have lots of cookbooks and can follow a recipe. So I'm excited.

I never really wrote about my visit home. It was kind of mixed. My stepfather was stressed over getting the house ready for Christmas the next day, so he left and went to his mom's while we ate fish and chips. My mom visited awhile and then he came to pick her up and they went home to clean. I visited with my grandmother for about four hours before they came to pick me up, which wasn't bad, but I would have liked to have spent some more time with my mother as well. I see her just a few times a year and she usually has to go to work or something like that. They could have cleaned after I left; I'd have even left earlier if it would have helped. So that was a little disappointing. I was only able to drop off gifts at the end, so I didn't get to see them opened. My mother did receive the cameo with mother and child that I'd ordered online and had worn it that day, quite pleased with it. I think I chose well. I'd given John a gift certificate to Best Buy and my mom a calendar just in case she didn't receive her gift, so she'd have something to unwrap. My grandmother was the sticky one. What do you give an 85-year-old woman who doesn't go out shopping a lot (hence gift cards are out) who has just about everything under the sun? I wound up giving her a gift set with cheese and mustard with a marble cheese cutter. I hope she likes it, but I wasn't particularly satisfied with that one. I thought about getting her a gift certificate to the grocery, since her medicines are costly, but that seemed a little too impersonal.

I don't know if my grandmother has really changed that much from Thanksgiving of if I were seeing her on an off day. Perhaps the knowledge of the cancer is colouring my impressions, but she seemed shrunken into herself and not feeling particularly well. But we had a nice visit, and she showed me exactly how to make creamed peas, one of my favourites. I knew in theory, but hadn't actually been shown. She did try to cook me a hamburger and I had to nix that (it's been 18 years since I've had beef, but she still feel obligated to offer me meat). But the peas were quite nice. Anyway, that was Christmas at the family's. Christmas is such a stressed time in the year, I'm surprised anyone can maintain the spirit. But I was laid back and just tried to go with the flow, and I had a pretty nice day.

Yesterday I overslept and so came in late to work (but they were pretty slow, so that was okay with my shift leader; she was just worried about me when she called). We were relatively steady. People expressed sympathy for us working on Christmas and were apologetic that they were taking advantage of it. Beer, milk, cigarettes, and batteries were the main purchases. We don't carry eggs or the like, so we sent them to Walgreens, the only other place I know of that was open, for those. Some people balked at the price of batteries or fruit. Well, the batteries were probably cheaper at Walgreens, but they don't carry fruit. I really don't understand how people can be surprised at convenient store prices when they obviously were the ones that didn't plan ahead when the other stores were open. And because we're right in front of Krogers, and people couldn't get anyone there to answer, they called us to see if they were open. No, they weren't, not even for a little while. Are you sure? I used to work for Kroger's. It's the only day of the year they shut down all day. Trust me, there's not a car in the lot. I dealt with a lot of incredulity that there weren't more places open on Christmas for their convenience. The only other place I saw open was the Chinese restaurant up the way from us, one of the only reasons in the past I've been able to eat on Christmas. As my Jewish friend puts it, Jews tend to eat Chinese on Christmas because they're the only restaurants open. :)

It was hard to remember to wish people a happy holiday (I'd had mine with my family the day before, after all, and 'Merry Christmas' doesn't come tripping easily off my tongue, although I will tell someone that if they tell me first, as they're obviously Christian in doing so. I wished others a good night or 'Happy Holdiday'.) But part of me wanted to say, don't feel bad, it's not my holiday, I'd rather the ones with little ones were home on Christmas, and I get double time. :) Needless to say, I didn't go there.

I was going to spend some time with a friend, so I left work an hour early (we were told we could if it were alright with the other person), but she wasn't feeling up to visiting after all, although she came and took me home and we talked for about an hour in the car. I think I helped her feel a little better, and I gave her a gift card from the store that she could use for gas or food, since she's had a difficult time since losing her job in May. She's been dealing with an illness, unemployment, and the loss of a four-year relationship for months now, and people keep telling her she needs to go on anti-depressants and just move on. People don't get it sometimes. People mourn in their own time, and although drugs might help (they've certainly helped me over the years), they don't solve every problem.

Last night I worked on notes and I'm going to finish up this morning. I won't have time to go to Walgreens and back as the bus runs every hour and I have to be at work at 2 (even though I went to bed at 10:30 last night, my body refused to wake up until 10 this morning). So I'm going to go do that now, and get my prescriptions on Monday, I guess.

Friday, December 25, 2009

If only there could really be peace on Earth...

Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon (warning to the squeamish; there are very graphic images included of death and injury, which is part of the point...the EMI folks won't let you embed the video, but I found it very moving, and a good reminder for why we should work for peace. So in the stress of the holidays, as you're surrounded by loved ones and trying to put batteries into radio-controlled cars, remember those both far away and near for which this is an ordinary day of fear, of horror, of hunger, or isolation, and find a way to be part of the solution to the ills of the world.

Of course, there's also this (now) Christmas classic, which has done exactly that over the last 25 (25!) years:

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Very Time Lord Christmas

I have been celebrating Christmas Eve (such as I can, being a non-Christian) by watching some things I had on DVR from SciFi (or at least that's what it was until it changed it's name abominably) and BBCAmerica:

The Catherine Tate Christmas Special (in addition to being an excellent comedienne with a full range of believable characters, Catherine Tate also played Donna Noble on 'Doctor Who')

The 'Christmas Invasion' episode of 'Doctor Who' with David Tennant as the newly-regenerated 10th Doctor (looking better in pyjamas than in Christopher Eccleston's leather jacket, I must say, although that's perhaps because I'm used to his suit and coat)

I've also set the DVR for 'Doctor Who: the End of Time' (both parts, the first airing Saturday here in America, the second on January 2nd), and a new show called 'Demons', about the last of the Van Helsings. (If I have to explain that to you, then you've never read Bram Stoker or paid attention to the right kind of movies and television shows, now have you?) It looked mildly interesting and is premiering after the second instalment of the Doctor. It premiered last year in Britain and lasted for six episodes.

Gods, I should't read such stories that make me blubber

but Danny Stanton, only 4, really *lived* and that's something to take in when you're 42 and still trying to figure it out.

Little boy's big legacy teaches others how to live: Danny Stanton, 4, died of a seizure 14 days before Christmas
The disarming smile of a 4-year-old boy with a buzz cut brightens an otherwise drab newspaper page, where whole lives are summed up in three inches of tiny newsprint.

Danny Stanton's death notice first makes you wonder how he died. But the eight haunting, final words make you want to know how he lived: "Please go and enjoy your life. Danny did."

Danny had a seizure disorder, always having them at night as he slept, a scary thing for any parent to deal with. But it was his personality that defined Danny, and not his illness. And for someone who was only on the planet four short years, he was a gifted young child who touched many people's lives and left them mourning but celebrating how he lived his life.

For Josh, my late lamented Call of Cthulhu character, killed by a shoggoth near the South Pole to save humanity

'Shoggoths Away' by The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets
While on a flight one day I passed over the polar city
And curious zipped down to see what I could glean
Behold the nightmare pit that splashed with piping shapeless monsters
I packed them in the bay of my B-17

Shoggoths away
That's what I say
Shoggoths away
Hey, hey

Nobody wants my mindless iridescent protoplasms
They said to fly them out and drop them in the sea
I tried to sell them on their mimicking adaptive powers
"Why don't you get your oily tendrils offa me?"

Shoggoths away
Today's the day
Shoggoths away
Hey, hey

Yes they can form and unform countless limbs and sensing organs
Like a stomach turned inside out and salient
I picture countless plastic beasties falling from the sky and
Dropping like sacks of wet cement

Yes, this is a real song and a real band, named for a line in one of the first HP Lovecraft stories I ever read, 'The Tomb', and which does Lovecraftian-inspired music. The band is from British Columbia and has several albums available from Amazon, where you can preview their music, including the one above. Go to their official site for more.

A little late, but absolutely hilarious

Thank you, David Rothman, who tweeted this:

How the Grinch Stole Chanukah
by Mike Toomey (Dr Demento's Basement Tapes)

I'd never heard of Grooveshark. Here's another I found thanks to David (because he shared the Irish Rovers doing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer):

Finnegan's Wake by the Irish Rovers

The favourite song of theirs of mine will always be The Unicorn (I loved it as a child), but the Irish part of me can't help but laugh at good old Finnegan's Wake. :)

A very geeky Christmas exercise

that is fun nonetheless:

Web platform: Twitter controlled Christmas tree (from the people at Dangerous Prototypes [don't you love that name?])

Live video of the tree:
Webcam chat at Ustream

From the website, how to do it:
To choose the color of our tree, just send a color to @tweet_tree on Twitter.

@tweet_tree red, green, purple, green, p, g, r, b

@tweet_tree understands red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Send one color, or combination of colors to morph through. Separate multiple colors with a comma. Only the first letter of the color matters, r,o,y,g,b, & p, are acceptable color commands.

@tweet_tree red, *ff0000, green, *00ff00, blue, *0000ff

You can also blend custom colors using 24bit hexadecimal color codes. Here’s a color picking tool to help you choose values. Send the value as *rrggbb, where rr=red, gg=green, and bb=blue. We used the * designator because the more common # is already used for Twitter hash tags.

More on our tool-wielding cousins

Chimps use cleavers and anvils as tools to chop food

But different tribes of chimps process food differently, some using tools, or different tools, and some not at all, indicating that tool use is culturally learnt. :) Nifty, eh?

Ho, ho, munch?

YKWIA, do not go to this link: Spiders Decorate Webs with Ornaments. Not surprising, there are pictures of what some might term our eight-legged friends and you would term abominations. :)

Scientists have discovered that orb spiders will weave in bits of brightly-coloured or shimmering materials to draw prey into the web. They also use the petals, leaves, etc. as a means to hide better in the web.

There's another story on spiders, linked as a video on the page: 'The longer a male Australian redback spider woos the female, the better chance she won't eat him the first time they mate.'

I like that. It sounds like it could equally apply to men and women. Of course, I like spiders. I even seem to attract them, which is unfortunate, as I am surrounded by arachnophobes. :)

The presents are wrapped, I'm dressed and ready and it's almost time to go to Danville

I'm even wearing both makeup AND pantyhose to be festive. :)

I tried to get a couple of refills for medications, but I need to bring in a hard copy for the Janumet (the other prescription had a refill, but the prescription had expired), and I don't necessarily want anyone to have to wait for the prescription to be filled, really, so I'll take it along just in case but if all else fails I'll get it filled Saturday, when I can get back out on the bus again (or depending on how late I get back today, I might be able to go then). We'll see. I've got a day and a half of medication left for that.

Okay, I may be Pagan

but I can't resist this version of 'Silent Night' in Irish by Enya:

And for humour, there's always Graham, with whom I have some things in common, apparently:

It's not every day you see a flaming straw goat

Swedish Christmas straw goat burnt
A giant straw goat - the traditional Scandinavian yuletide symbol - erected each Christmas in a Swedish town has been burned to the ground yet again.

The 13-metre (43-ft) high billy goat has been torched 24 times since it was first erected in Gavle in 1966.

The goat was set alight in the early hours of Wednesday morning in the city north of Stockholm.

City spokeswoman Anna Ostman said the incident, which is being treated as serious vandalism, was "sad".

"We had really hoped that he would survive Christmas and New Year's," she said.
The goat has survived the Christmas season just 10 times since 1966. I think the town should embrace the tradition--it has shades of a pagan sacrifice à la the Wicker Man. (And before you say, but it's Christmas, and Christian, let me just remind you that Yuletide greenery, Christmas trees, and Jolly Old Elves have nothing to do with Christianity, but are pagan remnants, as is the date of Christmas and the tradition of giving gifts. Without paganism, there would be no Christmas, or at least any Christmas fun.)

A long life lived after a mission to save people thwarted by politics

In 1947, with scars from the Holocaust still raw and haunting, thousands of Jewish refugees attempted to reach Palestine to start a new life, despite British immigration rules that limited the number of Jews who could legally enter the area. The captain of one of the ships that made that trip has died in Israel.

Captain of famed Exodus refugee ship dies: 86-year-old remembered for heroic mission to save Holocaust survivors
The Exodus 1947 ship left France in July 1947 carrying more than 4,500 people — most of them Holocaust survivors and other displaced Jews — in a secret effort to reach Palestine. At the time, Britain controlled Palestine and was limiting the immigration of Jews.

The British navy seized the vessel off Palestine's shores, and after a battle on board that left three people dead, turned the ship and its passengers back to Europe, where the refugees were forced to disembark in Germany.

The ship's ordeal was widely reported worldwide, garnering sympathy for the refugees, especially because they were taken to Germany, where the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews during World War II originated.
Captain of Jewish immigrant ship the Exodus dies

From Wikipedia:
Documents released from the British archives show that after much soul-searching, the British concluded that the only place they could send the Jews was to the British-controlled zone of post-war Germany, where the Jews could be placed in camps and screened for extremists; decision to land the Jews in Germany had been made because it was the only suitable territory under British control that could handle so many people at short notice. The British diplomats and military officers knew perfectly well that sending Jews back to Germany and putting them in camps so soon after the Holocaust would set off a fire-storm of protest.
Yitzhak "Ike" Ahronovitch tried to save thousands of refugees from the Holocaust and his efforts brought sympathy for the founding of Israel as a homeland for Jews. His daughter described the attempt as a defining influence in his life. Despite the fact that the mission was illegal, it was certainly moral and an attempt to better the lives of so many who had suffered. It was the right thing to do, and Ahronovitch showed himself up to the task with his efforts on behalf of the refugees.

A potentially interesting read, especially given my interest in genocide studies

The World's Bloodiest History - Massacres, Genocide, and the Scars They Left on Civilization by Joseph Cummins

(The link to the review at the World History Blog wasn't working when I posted, so I'm hoping they get the kinks out of things soon. In the meantime, there's always Amazon.) I'm hoping the Lexington Public Library either has or will get this. It includes incidents from ancient, mediaeval, and modern history.

What a wonderful programme

War vets, shelter dogs heal together in program: Soldiers with PTSD find comfort, inspiration in needy pooches

With the war(s) and the oeconomy being what it is, there's been an increase in both veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and homeless animals. Pairing the two seems to help each in remarkable ways.


US military tracks Santa's Christmas Eve journey
This year children will have a range of hi-tech options when it comes to following the progress of Santa on Christmas Eve.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) has been tracking Santa for over 50 years.

Children can follow his progress via its website or on Twitter, Facebook or via Google Maps or Google Earth.

It is becoming the hi-tech equivalent of reading The Night Before Christmas to excited children on Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Slaying of drug war hero's family shocks Mexico
Assailants on Tuesday gunned down the mother, aunt and siblings of a marine killed in a raid that took out one of Mexico's most powerful cartel leaders — sending a chilling message to troops battling the drug war: You go after us, we wipe out your families.
Although the marines do not have identification on their uniforms and are generally not identified in the media, the government had been very open in this case, showing the body of the drug lord and releasing the name of the only marine killed. Unfortunately, the drug cartel's goons used that information to send a message to the government and its troops that their families are not safe if they participate in raids.

This is so senseless. I know there is crime here, and drugs, and the like, but at least I have some hope that my government will protect me or at least track someone down for the crime. We had an era of the War on Drugs here in the States; in Mexico it truly is a war, and a bitter one at that. My thoughts are with the marine's two small children, who have had so much of their family wiped out in the violence and who themselves are targets of the cartel and need protection.

Good morning!

I got up at a ridiculous hour (7 am, which was great considering I went to bed after 2 am) so that I could get some things accomplished this morning, including taking a prescription to the pharmacy. So far I've showered, dressed, listened to a bit of BBCAmerica's international news, and set the DVR for both a Catherine Tate Christmas special and the first part of 'Doctor Who: End of Time', since I'll be working when they come on.

I have been a little too tired to blog lately, sorry

Last night a friend cooked dinner for his husband and myself, which was really nice (I cooked for him on Chanukah, he cooked for me on the solstice, my holiday, so that worked out rather well). He is a wonderful cook. We visited for quite some time and I helped him with a few things, and I didn't get home until somewhere around 1 am.

Sunday I had only had about three hours of sleep because I'd been keyed up by upgrading to Windows 7 (my computer has half the memory needed for optimal performance and a graphics card that doesn't actually translate the Aero translucent windows effects, plus since I was going from XP straight to 7 I had to do a clean install, transferring my files and settings to an external hard drive and then letting it erase all the information on the internal one. So you can see I was a little concerned. But it all worked out, and things are going pretty well. I would like to upgrade my memory to 1 GB (I'm at 512 MB now) and upgrade my graphics card, too, but that is for another day. Actually, my stepfather might have some lying around; he builds computers for people, and usually has the latest thing in his own, so he's got a room full of parts. :) Anyway, I played the game, I had fun, but we played till almost 10:30 pm and I was wiped out afterwards.

So far it's been a pretty good week, though. I'm taking Thursday, Christmas Eve, off from the hospital so I can go visit my family (it was either that or New Year's Eve, and Christmas Eve there's a lot less traffic). I'm working 9 am to 4 pm on Christmas itself at the store, which is fine. It'll probably be really slow except for people looking for batteries. :) It usually is, anyway. Then I'm working Saturday night because the truck is delayed until then due to the holiday.

It looks like my mom's present might make it before Christmas after all. I've been tracking it and it's travelled from New York to Lexington, so it just needs to make the trip 45 minutes away to Stanford. Yay.

I paid bills tonight--cable, cell phone, and electric. Two of them were double bills, and I'll pay the rest tomorrow after I get paid. I got my pay statement today from the store (and other people got cheques, but they are dated for tomorrow, so theoretically they can't cash them until then). My direct deposit should go in tonight sometime, and I already know what it will be, so that's nice. That'll leave me about $100 to get through till New Year's, when I get paid at both places and pay my rent. It's nice to not be down to the wire, though. Granted, I need to be saving and paying down debt, but I really wanted to do a little more during the holidays than in past years because I'm in a better position to do so. I'll work on the other starting in January.

I've looked for work pants online and at several stores without success (who knew it would be this hard?) but Brenda, who's a seamstress/costumer, suggested that I look for the pants in the men's section, since I'm pretty much up and down in terms of my waist and hips. She said to try the bigger sizes in a relaxed fit. Those sorts of pants are common for men and cheaper, too. That's the plan, although I'm not sure when I'll have the opportunity to go looking next. Maybe Saturday morning or Monday afternoon? The buses don't run on Friday at all, and nothing's open but places like us and Walgreens. :)

We ordered Chinese tonight at work and I got Bean Curd (Tofu) Szechuan style and a couple of veggie egg rolls. Here is my fortune: 'Pick a path with heart.' The learn Chinese thing on the back is for potato, which is apparently 'ma ling shu'.

I've been putting a few things back on the computer such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, Flash Player, and some of my Real Arcade games. Two of my favourites have been retired, so there's no re-downloading for Real Arcade's new system--Get Medieval and Moon Tycoon. The ones I transferred won't open on their own, so I have apparently lost them, which is unfortunate. The others translated over, though. I might be able to find the retired ones online as stand-alone games somewhere, I don't know.

Okay, I've been starring news items to share, but I'll leave that for later. They found the Auschwitz sign, for example, cut into three pieces. It just made me cringe, but at least they recovered it.

I'll try to write more tomorrow and certainly Thursday night, when I'm off. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


We are now Windows 7 Ultimate +. Now--the question is, can I get my data back off my external drive to access my documents and settings?
Putting Win 7 on an XP machine w/ 512 RAM and no Aveo capability yet. Am I crazy? Maybe. We'll see.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My grandmother has renal cancer

My mother just called me to let me know. She's had a cyst on her kidney causing bleeding for awhile now, and they just about had to beg the doctor to send her for testing. She has more tests at the end of the month to determine if it is in the muscle. They'll no doubt take her kidney later on and treat her from there.

So that's another reason to get home for Christmas and see everyone. I just got home from shopping and I've got a little something for everyone but A, but I can get his on Monday. I also found a belt (it was $30!) that reverses between black and brown, but no luck on the work pants. I think I'll have to shop online. I found a pair of dress shoes with a heel to keep my podiatrist happy but I can still walk on them; that way I have something to wear to job interviews other than my boy's boots. :)

I saw someone I used to be friends with at the library, and another friend and his wife out at Lane Bryant. He had that 'trapped male' look you find with guys in a women's clothing shop. :)

I really haven't eaten much all day (I had a peanut butter sandwich this morning and a couple of pretzels for lunch). So I'm waiting for dinner to be delivered and get something more filling inside me.

I also got some fish food and a couple of aquarium plants that were in this gel and so they didn't need to be actually immersed in water. You just wash off the gel if it's going in an aquarium or keep the gel on if it's in a terrarium. Nifty!

In all, I went to Meijer's, Target, Barnes & Noble, PetSmart, Marshall's, Gordman's, Best Buy, and Half-Price Books. Mind you, these are not next together like in a mall. I had to traverse crowded parking lots full of people definitely not in the holiday spirit as a pedestrian over probably a square mile. Whew! Billy and Julia would have probably taken me home, but I was still on the hunt for those work pants. I halfway wish I'd had, but I did get two presents after that, so I guess it wasn't too bad going back to get the bus, etc., and I didn't have to wait for a half-hour or anything to catch the Richmond Road bus out like I thought I would, so it all worked out.

I came home to find a couple of friends had sent me an Amazon gift card, yay! I called them to thank them and acted surprised (one of them told me to; I'd helped him navigate Amazon's site to order them). :) It was actually a surprise in that they came very speedily.

Okay, there's stuff to do, and those plants should go on into the aquarium. Have a good night.

Got a late start today and have much to do

I'm waiting for a bus at the library because they apparently only run every hour for Richmond Road on Saturdays (I forgot my bus schedules, or I'd know that...)

I fell asleep in the comfy chair till 2 am last night, blogged a little, and then went back to sleep. I've been trying to get going since 7 am, but without success. I worked on the computer awhile because I was trying to finish up notes, but it had some issues and needed some updates, so I'm going to have to finish this afternoon.

I know what I'm getting John, Brenda, and Margaret. That just leaves my grandmother to come up with a gift for. I have no idea what to get a 85-year-old woman with just about every knicknack one might need. I guess I could get her a gift certificate to Kroger, but that seems rather impersonal.

I don't know. I'll have to check things out. I also need to find pants for work now that our new shirts have arrived. They have to be belted and black (well, they can be khaki, but I don't really like khaki and they are prone to stains). This is apparently hard to find in my size, where most pants are elastic, but we'll see what I can find. And of course, I need a belt as well.

I've got my mom's present already but it won't be there until after Christmas, so I may get her something small to unwrap until then. That's the plan, anyway. I hope to be out there only 2-3 hours since the movie isn't playing. Wish me luck.


Today I trek to Hamburg Pavilion for much shopping and I thought I might catch The Lovely Bones at the theatre there, but it isn't playing, neither at Hamburg nor any other theatre in Lexington. :( I guess I'll have to wait until it comes to On Demand, which will at least give me a chance to read the book, which I own, but I haven't read.

What will you be doing on April 13, 2029?

Well, assuming I'm alive (I'll just have turned 62, my mother's current age), I'll probably be monitoring the shave that the asteroid Apophis is due to make near our planet. Once thought to be fairly likely to hit the planet, it is now thought to have a 1 in 250,000 chance, much less, but still not (pardon the pun) astronomical. It is thought that it will pass as close as 18,300 miles above the Earth's surface, and this Wired.com story includes a video from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Tracy's people) that animates what they think will happen:

It should be a wild ride in terms of world news updates that day.

Apophis is named for the monster of chaos and darkness in Aegyptian mythology that attacked Ra, the Sun, in His trip through the Underworld at night. It was seen as a snake or crocodile, and was sometimes known as the Serpent of the Nile. Apophis is the Greek term for the creature; the Aegyptian name has been reconstructed as Apep. Apophis was everything that opposed Ma'at, that which was orderly and good. In Aegyptian religion, like Judaism, chaos was seen as the ultimate evil and the bringing of order part of the very act of creation. How fitting that an asteroid of this name would be seen as Earth's opposer.


Four needles successfully extracted from boy--2-year-old's heart punctured by one of 42 needles; stepfather arrested

Needles removed from Brazilian 'black magic' child

The father was apparently directed by his mistress to kill the child slowly via magical ritual so that they could stay together. The needles were blessed by a woman who practises the Afro-Brazilian Candomble (think something like Voudoun--Voodoo), although this was not a ritual native to Candomble but appears to be something the mistress came up with on her own. The practitioner did not know what use was to be made by the needles, and although briefly arrested, was let go by authorities without being charged.) The child, 2, has needles in several organs and there are still many needles inside him that need to be removed.


Viewpoint: Why the Auschwitz sign is irreplaceable by Rabbi Andrew Baker.
There can be no copies or reproductions; visitors must see only what was real. In that way they will be bear witness to the very objects and structures which in turn remain the mute eyewitness to what happened there.

Perhaps that is what makes the theft of this sign so shocking and essentially irreplaceable. Auschwitz is surely the very antithesis of a cathedral - not a spiritual temple evoking heaven but a hellish factory of death.

Yet, in this opposite universe those scrolled letters were its altarpiece, and its theft a desecration.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I am so terribly tired, I nearly fell asleep walking home

Which is bad when you're crossing two major roads in a rain/snow mix at night. My feet really hurt, too, both ankles and soles. I'm going to prop them up for a little while in the comfy chair and see if that helps.

Tonight our truck was 40 boxes. Of that, I took care of all but eight because they were cigarettes or needed to be dated, etc. As a result, I just feel drained.

Okay, I'm going to the recliner for a bit. I'll try to blog later, something more intelligent or at least coherent.


Someone has stolen the 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign from the gateway to Auschwitz. This is a tangible piece of history and hopefully it will be returned quickly to the site.

Definitely something for the DVR...

A trailer for 'Doctor Who: End of Time, Part One', coming up December 25th in Britain and on the 26th (9pm EST) here in America on BBC America (the main channel I wanted when adding the Digital Standard plan to my cable subscription the other day, although things like National Geographic, Science Channel, WE, LOGO, Investigation Discovery, and BIO are great, too...). The second part will be shown January 1st and 2nd, respectively:

'Doctor Who: End of Time' is the last story starring David Tennant as the 10th Doctor, and will transition the series to the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith.

Thanks to David Rothman for sharing the trailer from his news feeds.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nice quote

from the Quote-of-the-Day gadget on the left from Plutarch--'The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.'

I just spent 3 1/2 hours waiting for T-mobile's service to be restored

so that I can go out to eat with a friend. Both of us have T-mobile, and she only has a cell phone, so when there was an outage in the Southeastern United States, we were affected. I had just decided to start working on notes and giving up when I got a text from T-mobile regarding my upcoming bill. I called Angelica, we're going to go out, but I've spent quite a bit of time hungry and basically not doing anything productive because I could have her show up at any moment.


Still, here's to a nice time once we get going.

PS It was a nice visit. We went to IHOP where the food was good but the waitress was surreal, the type that isn't engaging and yet pops up during your conversation shouting, 'Is everything all right?' from right behind you, so afterwards we went back to my apartment and finished our talk, visiting until almost 1 am.

Sorry about being incommunicado

Monday I spent most of the day in bed with a serious fibromyalgia flare up. The temperature had risen 30 degrees suddenly and the weather was cloudy, and I ached all over terribly and felt awful. I'm not complaining, though; I've had it for years and it only hits me at times like that--sudden temperature changes. I've missed work only about four times in nearly 13 years due to it; a lot of people are completely disabled by it. As long as I remain fairly active, the pain remains chronic but low-key. Tuesday I managed to get in to work despite a plunge in temperature; once my body had adjusted, the change was easier to deal with.

Yesterday I brought home my holiday present to myself, an external hard drive purchased so that I can move from Windows XP to Windows 7 (you can apparently not just upgrade, but have to do a clean install, unlike going from Vista to Windows 7). It was on backorder for several days and only arrived then. I've got things backed up but I'm going to wait until Saturday to attempt the procedure because by then I'll have the notes from the game transcribed and more time to deal with any issues as they arise. Also, I was pretty tired from doing a 12-hour day including truck. We got new uniforms; they're bright blue and black, but clingy, so I haven't decided how I like the change. Definitely I'm glad to pitch the maroon, though.

Tonight I came home from work and went straight to finding a present for my mother for the holiday. I knew what I wanted. It won't make it there in time for Christmas, but it should come a couple days after. It really was perfect though, and it was 73% off from the original price, something I couldn't guarantee would remain in effect if I'd wanted to get it for Mother's Day, etc. I think she'll really enjoy it. I did ship it directly to her. I got it through Amazon (I also found pants that might work for the gas station there, but I'm holding off on them until the Great Shopping Trip of 2009 this Saturday, when I'll troll through Hamburg's various shops the whole day.

Tonight I got a request for another PaperbackSwap book, so I've just printed the wrapper for it and am going to take it in, bubble envelope and all, and mail it from work tomorrow (they let us pay the postage for personal items and get a metered sticker; if I used stamps I'd have to mail it from the post office, I think, or at least some of them that are over a certain weight). I've got two coming to me, and one is a bit overdue, no doubt due to holiday shipping.

I got my bonus today at the gas station. Gross it was almost as much as what I netted for my regular pay. This next week will have fewer hours on it because I'm off Saturday for my hunting, um, shopping.

The thing with the double charge worked out okay. The store worked from their end, the bank worked from theirs, and I wound up with $0.74 in my account, then got paid the next morning, so it worked out well. My pay from the hospital should have hit the account already, too, tonight, so I've got a healthy balance, even with the purchase of my mom's gift.

The other day I went over to a friend's house and made him potato and cheese (separate, not together) latkes for Chanukah. They were great, we ate, and were stuffed. Although there was a rocky moment at one point, it was a great evening. We spent a lot of time visiting and watched five episodes of the 'Sarah Jane Adventures' that he'd gotten on DVD. I would love to have a picture of the chanukiyah alight, but my camera doesn't distinguish between the flames, but puts it all into one bright ball.

Well, that's enough for now. Time to go back to bed. I have to go to the pharmacy tomorrow on the way to work. Then I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow afternoon. I'm hoping afterwards to go out with a couple of girl friends to eat and visit; I haven't seen one since the summer, as both our cars were down. Hers is fixed now, thankfully. I don't get a chance to have girl time very often; my closest friends are men.

Good night.

Monday, December 14, 2009


On Thursday I went Chanukah shopping, and I went among other things to a gaming store where I know most of the people pretty well (the wife of the owner waited on me and she had gamed with me for years). I did two charges that day, one for a little over $30 (picking up something for a friend where he'll reimburse me) and one nearly $70 (for presents and a second book he wanted). When I went to pay that charge, the machine apparently timed out and she had to run it again.

Unfortunately, the machine didn't really time out, and when I checked my online bank account last night, there were two charges for $67.62 there in the pending column. I called the bank first thing this morning (as did every other panicked account holder, apparently, as I was on hold for awhile) and was told that the merchant can call and give some information to them and they can take the hold off. If that doesn't happen, then it will have to post and then we can dispute it. I have another debit going out sometime today or tomorrow that would overdraft my account if that money isn't made available. (Yes, I'm balancing my chequebook well, but having an additional spurious charge throws everything off). At least the double charge shouldn't post till midnight.

So I have to call the store today and have them call my bank, and hope that they will and can explain what the bank needs. Fortunately I know the people who run it, but still....

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Chanukah!

Tonight marks the beginning of Chanukah, a minor Jewish holiday that celebrates the consecration of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after it was violated by the forces of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the King of Syria, during the 2nd century of the Common Era. It can be summed up by a statement I read in Reader's Digest by Anna Powell, in her 'Eight Gentile Reminders': 'They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat.'

The Chanukiah in this post (or 9-branch Chanukah menorah) is a limited edition Lenox china that is absolutely beautiful (although very fragile, so perhaps not to be around little ones). I found it at the J Levine website for $199, if you're interested.

I spent Thursday running errands and Chanukah shopping, since I have a close friend who is Jewish. On Monday I'm going to cook him both potato and cheese latkes (if you haven't had the cheese ones, they're wonderful. Who knew fried cottage/farmer's cheese would be great?)

Anyway, chag sameach!


Spacewalking Astronauts Seen With a Backyard Telescope

They're not the clearest of images, but they do capture spacewalking astronauts with a home 10-inch aperture telescope. Pretty amazing, seeing humans in space from the earth from your backyard, hmmm?

So it's nearly 6 am and I'm up early

because I just am not sleeping well. I'm pretty sure it's because I haven't any distilled water for my CPAP humidifier and I'm getting very dry in the wee hours. I was in bed tossing fitfully and decided just to get up. Note to self: pick up water on the way home tonight. After all, I work next to a Kroger, even though it will mean walking home later.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A funny story

overheard at work the other day. A friend of the speaker went into the ladies' room and there was a little boy in there. He looked at her and said: 'I know this is the girl's room and I know that I'm a boy, but my mommy's here and she's pooping.' This was followed by a very annoyed, 'Tyrreelll' from one of the stalls. :)

Just thought I'd share. Good night.

Still have some damp things

from the night before last when I walked home in the rain, among other things my bus pass, which lost its embossing, which I hope no one notices, because technically I'm not sure if it's valid anymore and I have 10 days left remaining. I was soaked to the skin and my clothes are still a bit damp. Fortunately my coat dried first.

Last night I got a ride home. A co-worker doesn't have gas at home at the moment so her heat is out. I let her borrow an electric space heater I have and sent her home with some dried beans. So in the last 24 hours I've had two people in my home, which is unusual. She really liked the artwork I have, the bulk of a friend's stuff from his studio art days in college. He's really quite talented. One triptych really bugs my mom because there is a picture of a God with a penis roughly a foot long (it's a very big painting, so it's within proportion). I think it makes her nervous. The Goddess is also naked, but I don't think that scandalises her as much. I hate to think what my grandmother would say if she came up. I don't even notice it anymore or think about it for that matter.

I'm back!

What a busy day. I had a cable appointment to fix the Internet this morning from 8 am-11 am so I had to be up early. The cable guy showed up a little before 9. He was very tall, perhaps 6'8", and my apartment isn't really made for tall guys, with it's lights on a strand hanging where I go under it but he had to duck. I apologised, but he said his home wasn't set up for height either. :) Anyway, he got it working, doing something outside at the box to make it compensate in terms of signal.

I had taken off from work since theoretically he could have been here till noon. I actually could have made it to the bus stop in time; in fact I did go out but went to the library to take some books back and waved to the bus driver once he started back up. I think he saw me and waited for me until I went up the hill to the library.

I didn't find anything I particularly wanted to read, but I think I may check out their Jim Butcher collection and see if I can get the Dresden Files stories I haven't read yet. On the 17th they're going to have a self-checkout station, which I find intriguing. It's always nice to talk to a real person, but I like self-checkouts, too, (or in the case of Lexington Clinic, check-ins) because they're often faster and you can avoid lines.

After that I caught the bus to Walgreens to pick up a prescription I'd ordered this morning. I was going to eat at Fazoli's, but they weren't open yet. I walked down to Great Harvest Bread and bought a loaf of cranberry white bread and got a slice of walnut bread with some cinnamon butter. Then I walked down to the new Family Dollar, which rather disappointed me. I was amused that there were some thin but otherwise nice blouses for my size in the Bugle Boy brand, which styles itself an all-American company but the shirts plainly stated they were made in places like Botswana and Bangladesh. Hmpf. I went out the the bus stop and waited for the bus. Did I mention that the low today was supposed to be 19 and the high about 35, with a strong wind making it seem worse?

So I was bundled up, but it was really cold, and I did something unwise but fortunately worked out okay. An older black man drove up and asked if I wanted a ride, and I accepted. (Yes, my mother did teach me not to get into cars with strange men, and I probably shouldn't have. It was a lapse in judgment, but he took me down to the transit station in warmth. He had Gospel music on and asked me if I went to church. I said no, and when he pressed the subject I explained (all true) that I used to go to church (mind you, it was a Unitarian-Universalist Church, which he'd probably not recognise as a real church), but with my car down I can't get there and the bus doesn't run out there. Granted, I haven't been to church in years (my ex and his partner go to the UU church, too, so I've avoided it). But it satisfied him. Which is good, just in case he was a serial killer who kill people who say they're Pagan, something I definitely avoided. Anyway, I think he was just trying to do a kindness, and I really appreciate it, even if he was a strange man in a car.

I took the Versailles Road bus out to Garden Springs to the Rusty Scabbard and got a couple of gift certificates (one for Chanukah, one for a belated game master's day--which is in March, I believe). I also picked up a book for a friend. Then I trudged over to what's left of Turfland Mall, having to go all they way around the building because the concourse is closed and there are no stores in the back anymore. I went to Staples and looked around. I picked up some bubble envelopes for future PaperbackSwap mailings. I also looked at the external hard drives. I have one on order from Office Max, but it's been on backorder for 10 days. I called to see if it had shipped, and after a very long wait on hold, I found out that it hadn't, and they couldn't give me a time frame for an exact date to expect it. The other day when I called they said it could be as long as 21 business days. I was going to cancel the order, but the lady checked on some conflicting information and they tracked down that it was no longer on backorder and would be shipping out today, which sounded rather convenient given the fact that I was about to cancel, but hey, as long as I get it within the next few days, I'm happy. It was a better deal than I would have gotten at Staples; the one I bought was a 500GB external drive for $79. The one I was looking at in the store was portable but $129. I have a project requiring that I back up the computer completely and I'd like to spend as little as possible.

Before the call of doom my friend called and asked me to pick up another book from the Scabbard. He thought I was at work and was trying to reach me before I went out. So after I was finished with the other business I trudged back over to the gaming store and got his book. Then I caught the bus, fortunately one going into the transit centre. I took another bus out and stopped by Subway to get some food for both of us and then to Kroger to pick up a few things. By now I had a nice bit of stuff in my library book bag, and bought yet another canvas bag from the grocery store for the food. I went to catch the bus on to my friend's, but there was a pretty bad accident at the intersection with police, a fire truck, and an ambulance, so I had to walk back a little to meet the bus, which was packed.

I finally arrived at my friend's house about 3:40. Now mind you, I'd been out in the weather since 9:30 and was really glad to be able to sit down (my feet and legs were really bothering me) and visit for awhile. I did a few things on the computer and a little bit around the house, but we talked for awhile and we watched a really great Doctor Who episode (David Tennant version) called 'Blink', which was very, very creepy.

About 10:30 I took a cab home. When I brought out a debit card, the driver literally cringed away from it and offered to give me a $1.50 discount and no tip if I had $8 in cash, which I did. I never had that problem before.

Whew. Oh, and this morning I also found out (once I got the phone back, which piggybacks onto the cable) that I had an appointment with my family doctor on Monday, which I totally missed because I haven't been taking my planner around with me lately (it's pretty bulky; next year's has all the same features but is much more streamlined) and I didn't think to get my messages remotely. So I rescheduled for next week.

Anyway, that I was my day. It's back to work tomorrow at both jobs. I've asked for Saturday the 19th off so I can do holiday shopping. I had to do the Chanukah present now because it starts tomorrow night. Monday I'm going to make latkes (both potato and cheese) for him. I also found the perfect 'two-tradition' card for a Jewish-Christian blended home. :)

Hope your day was nice. Tomorrow Santa (and more importantly, at least for me, Santa's horses) are coming to the hospital, and we get to wear jeans. Yay! Of course, I can't wear jeans at the gas station, so I'll have to bring a pair of pants to change into.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I hopefully get the Internet connexion fixed. A tech is coming between 8 am and 11 am. The signal is apparently on the edge of what's readable. Then I'm going Chanukah shopping. :) But with any luck I'll be blogging again as per normal, although I have over 1,000 items in Google Reader to sift through as well. Ack!

I'm at the library near the bus stop

Since I was moving so slow this morning due to a lot of foot pain going up my legs, I missed the bus and I'm waiting for the next. It's very windy outside; we're supposed to get gusts up to 55 mph. But that's far better than the deluge last night that soaked me to the skin on my way home from work last night. I was miserable. And it's a good thing that although most things aren't dry yet, my coat is, because even though it's about 50 degrees now, it'll be very frigid tonight. So I'm bundled up anyway, with a hood/scarf for my head and a good sweater under the coat.
Still no Internet. I'm tweeting at: http://www.twitter.com/eilir though. Check out the gadget on the left and down to read them.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009

My Internet connexion is dropping again

Maybe it's a weekend thing. Hopefully it will resolve again. For now, it's up.

Today is jeans day at the hospital

and I have some khaki ones given to me by Teressa the other day, so I decided to try them on. They fit, but they're not loose, although like most jeans they'll do so during the day. I'm wondering if they'd pass muster for work tonight; we're not supposed to wear jeans but these really don't look like they are. We have to wear khaki or black pants. Still, I'm bringing an extra pair of pants just to be sure.

Yesterday I went back to Gabriel Brothers and got a top (which I'm wearing today), a skirt, a hat (which some people have complimented but my friend says makes me look like a bag lady; but I can't wear stretchy toboggans--I need something like fleece or wool that has a brim or I look absolutely silly, because the things won't stay on my head), and gloves. The skirt is absolutely beautiful, and very much my style: a broomstick style with purple satin and velvet swatches sewn together. It was $10. Everything was $20. It's so nice to be able to actually shop for clothes once in awhile, even if I get them on the cheap. Now if I can just find some black pants for work; I really hate wearing khaki--there's too much chance of staining, especially when dumping coffee.

That's nice to see

Jews back Muslims on minaret ban
Citing religious discrimination, a diverse coalition of Jewish organizations is objecting to Switzerland's ban of minarets on local mosques.

A model of a minaret, burning candles and a banner that reads "This is not my Switzerland" are seen on the Bundesplatz square in front of the governments building in Bern, Switzerland, to protest the acceptance of a minaret ban initiative on Sunday.

Swiss voters this week approved by a strong majority a referendum outlawing the construction of minarets. The measure, pushed by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), was supported by 57 percent of the population.

However, Jewish organizations, realizing that a crackdown on Islam could have repercussions for Jews as well, have come to the defense of Muslim worshipers, arguing that the Swiss's move was unjustifiable.

The French ambassador very rightly points out that in terms of concerns against radical Islam, the best way to deal with it is to moderate it, and such measures do nothing but aggravate the situation, although France has its own issues with its ban of the birka. The Swiss government, citing religious freedom concerns, did not support the vote. A party in Italy is considering bringing a similar vote there.

One of the scariest quotes came from Hegumen Filaret (Bulekov), a Moscow Patriarchate representative at the Council of Europe:
The issue of minarets is not an issue of religious freedom, but it is an issue of political presence of people of a certain faith and ethnic background in a country. Taking into account a rapid rate of Islamization, visible signs of Muslims' presence would have, in particular, a political tint.
So I guess the idea is to erase the visible signs of Islamic presence. How would they feel about taking away churches and synagogues while they're at it?

I am very concerned with the growth of nationalism in both Europe and here. Right-wing politics tend to be very clear about those seen as foreign as being an undesirable presence and somehow dangerous. This sentiment obviously worked in Switzerland. Look at the British National Party, or some of the fringe parties in America as well, some bordering or downright embracing a neo-Nazi-like agenda. Likewise, I am concerned about the fringe groups within Islam that amount to the same sort of mentality, but tend to be more violent, at least for now. It all seems ripe for isolationalism (I give you: Isolationism among Americans is at highest level in 40 years), fascism, even genocide, if taken to an extreme. Anyone remember what happened last century, say in the 20s and 30s? Or that there were plenty of supporters of nationalism and fascism (in part fueled by the immigration of Jews and Eastern Europeans in the first couple of decades of the 20th century) here in the US before we went to war?

That, coupled with the erosion of rights I see in the US and beyond, makes me more than a little worried at what direction the world (and history) are taking today.

That's one scary individual on the loose

Shake-up eyed after inmate in wheelchair escapes on foot

The prisoner had supposedly suffered paralysis from a stroke and was being transferred to another facility so he could be treated. Guards failed to pat him down before shackling him, and he apparently pulled a gun and fled on foot after taking one guard's uniform and both guards' guns, no small feat for a man supposedly shackled.

His record?
Comeaux's criminal record dates back more than three decades. In 1979, he received three 10-year sentences for rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child and burglary of a building with the intent to commit theft, all in Harris County.

He was released on mandatory supervision in 1983, but he was returned to prison in 1984 after being convicted of indecency with a child and sentenced to 20 years.

In June 1991, he was released on mandatory supervision but returned as a violator four months later. Paroled in December 1993, he was returned as a parole violator a year later. In February 1996, he was again paroled but was returned to prison in June 1998 with a life sentence for aggravated sexual assault.

Though he had been in prison ever since, his criminal record didn't end. In July 1999, he used his wheelchair to pin his wife against a wall during a contact visit and stabbed her 17 times with a homemade knife, Moriarty said. He also stabbed another prison visitor who tried to intervene; both victims survived.
So he's a sexual predator of children who's got the guards' guns and is on the loose, plus he's sneaky enough to hoodwink the prison system in pretending to be paralysed and in obtaining a gun whilst in prison. I so hope they catch him soon. Being Texas, I presume they will. They tend to take crime very seriously there.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

This is wonderful

A 1953 animated short of Edgar Allan Poe's 'Tell-Tale Heart' as narrated by James Mason:


One of my co-workers sent me an e-mail

with a list of proverbs attributed to Larry the Cable Guy. Here are my favourites:

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.

He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

Support bacteria. They're the only culture most people have.

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.

Light travels faster than sound. That's why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

Life isn't like a box of chocolates. It's more like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today, might burn your butt tomorrow.

Click here for the complete list.

Thank the Gods my library school comprehensive exam was *not* like this!

Thanks to Steven for sharing!

I am up at an ungodly hour (before dawn)

so I can catch a bus to work to attend a birthday breakfast where our administrator makes us omelets and the directors serve the rest of the food. Mind you, my birthday is in April. But they do it twice a year and apparently mine falls in this cycle. Since I'll have time after eating before I have to be at work (I start at 10 am), I'm going to go over to Walgreens, which is nearby, and possibly Family Dollar if they're open early enough, and see if I can find some gloves. It's supposed to snow today, at least flurries, anyway, and I don't have a matched set and those I had I'm not happy with anyway. I have a nice pink and purple scarf that was knitted a few years ago by Brenda for me. My coat is sky blue. So I'm going to wear both so I can coordinate the glove colour with them.

Okay, I'm going to catch up on some news. Have a nice day.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

When information technology people go bad

Search for aliens costs school employee his job: Man used computer program that bogged down system; will cost $1M to fix

Now SETI@home is not that difficult to remove from one computer (I've run it on and off on mine)...but Brad Niesluchowski, who was an Arizona school system's information technology director, put it on 5,000 computers for nearly 10 years. While that speaks of dedication to the cause of finding alien intelligence, it also bogged down computers in the system and will cost a great deal to remove it from all of the computers. SETI@home specifically states (as I recall) that you should only put it on computers that you have a complete right to.

In many ways far worse, although somewhat more limited in scope but much darker in intent, one of the University of Kentucky's systems integration analysts for information technology, Robert N. McAllister, was charged with possession of child pornography. Officers found more than 500 images and videos of partially naked children and children involved in sexual acts on his laptop and have seized a computer owned by UK.

UK employee pleads not guilty to child porn charges

Which reminds me of this piece:

The dark side of the internet

"The darkweb"; "the deep web"; beneath "the surface web" – the metaphors alone make the internet feel suddenly more unfathomable and mysterious. Other terms circulate among those in the know: "darknet", "invisible web", "dark address space", "murky address space", "dirty address space". Not all these phrases mean the same thing. While a "darknet" is an online network such as Freenet that is concealed from non-users, with all the potential for transgressive behaviour that implies, much of "the deep web", spooky as it sounds, consists of unremarkable consumer and research data that is beyond the reach of search engines. "Dark address space" often refers to internet addresses that, for purely technical reasons, have simply stopped working.

And yet, in a sense, they are all part of the same picture: beyond the confines of most people's online lives, there is a vast other internet out there, used by millions but largely ignored by the media and properly understood by only a few computer scientists. How was it created? What exactly happens in it? And does it represent the future of life online or the past?
The article discusses Freenet, a software programme that allows the user to explore the web without being detected. It's been used by paedophiles, criminals, terrorists, and other nefarious types in addition to law-abiding citizens wanting anonymity. Of course, a lot of that type of material appears on the normal Internet as well, but the deep web is estimated to be much larger and largely unsearchable by standard search engines. The article's worth a look at.

Unlikely libraries

In a decommissioned British phone booth (here's another) [Thanks to birdie at LISNews!]

In a basement laundry in New York [Thanks to Bibliofuture at LISNews!]

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I read the White House blog

and today they shared some statistics regarding AIDS, it being World AIDS day. The scariest one to me was that (in the US at least), according to the CDC, '21% of HIV-positive people don’t know that they are infected'.

That's one in five people who are unaware that they are potentially passing it on. One in five people who could be getting life-extending drugs early on.

Some people know they should be tested, but are afraid to do so. Some people have no clue that they should be. But it's not a bad idea for anyone. I've been through two HIV tests in my life (not counting the numerous ones when I give blood--you should never give blood just to get tested). The tests are often anonymous. They're safe. They're handled much better than in the early days of AIDS. (One person I know went to get one and a lady shouted across the room asking where she should send him for his AIDS test). Counseling is available, especially from the public health department. When I had my last one I knew that I was latex allergic, and they sent me home with latex-free condoms.

If you are sexually active (even if you think you're in a monogamous relationship), you should get tested. [I knew someone who got herpes from her husband, and he tried to blame her, even though she'd been a virgin at marriage and had never had an affair]. If you've ever done intravenous drug use, get tested. If you've ever gone to a prostitute, get tested. If you've ever been given a blood transfusion, especially before the 1990s, get tested. If you've had a needle stick at work, get tested. If you meet any criteria of risk, get tested. And do practise safer sex. Condoms should be a fact of life unless you're completely abstinent or trying to have a baby, in my book. There are alternatives to latex for those allergic. There are dental dams for oral sex. The public health department can recommend whatever you need.

Take care of yourself. Take care of those you love. And maybe, just maybe, we can beat HIV/AIDS.

I managed to capture and bring home a filter pump today

for the fish tank, since the last one (and a few fish) went belly-up.  The new one is a biofilter with the cascading water that has been taken in and filtered through foam, charcoal, and biofilter material, all of which is easily replaced.  It's superior to the biowheel one I had.  It took a little while to figure out (at one point I thought I was missing the leveling lever, but it was still in the box, thankfully. Everything's working fine.  While I was at it I cleaned out a lot of the duckweed and java moss--so you can really see the fish--and also scrubbed some of the algae off the glass.  I also added some water treated with priming stuff to take out the harmful chemicals so now the tank is completely full. I'm concerned because the nitrites are high (nitrates, my fish survive; nitrites can be deadly).  The chlorine's okay, but I went ahead and treated the tank as a whole to help with the nitrites and added a bacterial solution that helps with both nitrites and nitrates.  I think it's from not having a filter going for nearly a week, so the filter should help, especially as it gets established.  In the meantime, the fish do not appear to be in distress, and are quite active.

Here are some near a patch of java moss, for example:

These are swimming by the gargoyle:

(Sorry, it's hard to get really great pictures with a phone camera and moving water and fish.) Wish me luck with getting things balanced. I've got several large platies, but some tiny ones as well, so somebody's having babies. :)

Scavenger hunt!

Today in my mailbox was a key. Strange. The fob had little tiny print, the type I have trouble with when using my contacts, but I soldiered on. There was also a US Postal Service note saying they'd left a parcel. Presumably this had something to do with the key, as there was no package in front of my door. The key fob said that it would fit into the lock, which would then capture the key, leaving the box unlocked. There was a great big '1' on the other side.

Okay. So somewhere there must be a USPS box where the key fit. But I didn't know where it was. I thought I'd seen one somewhere around. I decided it must either be near the leasing office or near the entrance to the complex. I thought there was a blue mail box near the entrance at the kerb; maybe it would be near that.  I decided to check there first, since it wasn't out of the way much in my walk to the leasing office. Turns out there is no outgoing mail box at all, and I've obviously hallucinated one in the past. There was--on the side I almost never go by--a grey box near the office containing four compartments with the familiar eagle logo on it. One was labelled '1'.

I inserted the key, which was indeed captured, but unlocked the box. Some helpful soul had even drawn arrows to indicate the direction to unlock it. Inside was what I expected, a package from a Paperback Swap member with a book inside. I have two on order; this one was 100 Hair-Raising Little Horror Stories, edited by Al Sarrantonio and Martin Greenberg. It was a withdrawn junior high school library book, and in nice shape. Stories include those by Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft, Manley Wade Wellman, Rudyard Kipling, Stephen Crane, Fritz Leiber, Ramsey Campbell, Ambrose Bierce, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain (and here it's his birthday), Saki, and a host of others I don't recognise as well. I'm quite pleased. This should keep me in stead for quite some time, along with my Lovecraft collection, for having the wits scared out of me. I love classic horror, things like 'The Tell-Tale Heart', 'The Monkey's Paw', and 'The Dunwich Horror'.