Thursday, November 29, 2007

Message in a Bottle

I have been having intermittent stabbing pains in my left knee. By using heat, a brace, and lots of Advil, I have managed to move it over into a constant agonizing pain in my right knee. I don't want to complain, or maybe I mean I don't want to merely complain, but aside from, "Ouch" what can you say?
So, I'm going to go eat dinner (with an Advil garnish where Karen normally puts parsley and the julienned carrots) and toss this out: if anyone finds this post, do you have any ideas of interesting things to see or do in Anchorage, in January? The forecast calls for 5 hours and 38 minutes of daylight, and they usually come pretty close.
Of course, there's scenery; that's practically unavoidable, and the Bear Tooth, but then what?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

At First I Thought I'd Have a Stinky Post Today, Now I'm Pretty Sure

I thought I'd be stuck commenting on another triumph of style over substance today. Someone wrote "Don't Trash Alaska" on pieces of copier paper and stuck it up near the elementary school. And now they're blowing down the street.
I wasn't very impressed with that observation though. It seemed just a little too obvious. Then I had what I thought was a clever idea for a one-liner, but I forgot it by the time I finished my route.
I thought I might tell you how ironic it was that Paul Harvey was suggesting shooting hijackers in my last post since he once stole an airplane himself, but I couldn't find any reference to that, so I'm not sure it's even true, although this is the internet, so I'm not sure that matters anyway. In researching the stolen plane story, though I came across this Paul Harvey quote:
"I can't look down on the commercial sponsors of these broadcasts," he explained to CBS interviewer and fellow Chicago broadcaster Bob Sirott in 1988. "Too often they have very, very important messages to put across. Without advertising in this country, my goodness, we'd still be in this country what Russia mostly still is: a nation of bearded bicyclists with b.o."

It's like I have a twin.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Modest Proposal

Back in the 80's our mayor declared Anchorage a city of lights. He encouraged everyone to put up clear strings of lights, and many did. Flying over Anchorage at that time was breath-taking. Then the Anchorage Daily News began running maps of the most beautiful Christmas displays and for awhile that was nice too. We even had a tradition in our family of going out on Christmas Eve and looking at the displays. Mostly they were bright, but serene, shining into our long dark nights.
But, as my mom used to say, nothing succeeds like excess. Now the displays have become ever more garish and unattractive. Manger scenes have given way to inflated snow globes with Santa and his penguin. The quiet white lights have been replaced with flashing snow flakes and displays that have all the subtlety of a sign over a bar flashing, "Cold Beer" or "Girls"
Many cities have instituted bans on selling spray paint to teens in order to cut down on graffiti which makes urban life so jarring and unpleasant. It may be time to rethink our liberal policies on Christmas displays.
During an earlier spate of Muslim hijackings, Paul Harvey suggested that hijackings would drop to zero if they issued a gun to everyone on the plane. A well -armed populace is a polite populace. In Anchorage, they actually do issue spray paint to anyone who will promise to use it to cover graffiti. What if they gave out strings of lights to people who would promise to use them responsibly to cover their neighbor's ghastly exhibits.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Fair Warning

Karen says we're going to have a Christmas letter this year, and that I'm going to write it. Since Christmas letters are essentially just highlight reels, and I've already chronicled our life ad nauseum in this blog, I'm guessing our Christmas letter is going to turn out to be a "best of" clip show from this blog. Based on that, I'm guessing it will be short.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different; Good News From Afghanistan

Sarah Chayes was an NPR reporter who stayed behind when the Taliban fell. She formed the Arghand Cooperative with Afghan farmers and others. They are selling soaps made from ingredients from Afghanistan. The idea is to give people a way to make money (and soap) that doesn't involve killing Americans. There are several retailers around Boston and around the country.
Granted, it's a small project that only affects a few people, but, and here we revert to our normal blog style of complaining and smug self righteousness, small changes add up. At work recently, someone was complaining about high gas prices and saying the government should do something. I said that I only bought gas once a month or so because I ride a bike, and that we all could do things to use energy more wisely. Yeah, that's individuals, he said...And here I see I've also abandoned quotation marks. I think because I'm getting pretty bored with this post and I just want to get to the part where I tie in the noble Afghans with the American bike rider.
"No one snowflake," I quoted, "feels responsible for the avalanche."

This is What I've Been Trying to Tell You

No, this is what I've been trying to tell you.

This Post is Sort of a Lie, I Had a Great Time Riding to Work.

Do you remember what my "new favorite thing" was last winter? Of course not, and I don't mean to put you on the spot. It was riding on the ice at Westchester Lagoon. Riding to work today should have been fun because a chinook wind has turned all of Anchorage into a giant ice rink, but it was as if the giants were curling, using cars for stones.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Heard Two Things Recently

I was watching TV (big surprise) and a priest on a police procedural told a man, "God's inside all of us," That's what liberal Hollywood thinks, but is so the opposite of Christianity. Hey, if Christians believed we're all one big happy family, can't we all get along, people'd love us. No you're a wretched sinner, get over yourself, loser. That may not be exactly what Calvin said, in the Institutes of the Christian Religion. but, hey, haven't you ever heard of paraphrasing?
That's one thing I was holding back in case I needed a post. Here's another little thing that happened a few weeks ago; I was coming out of the restroom at Kinko's and an employee was going in. I said, "Hey, you're out of soap in there," he said, "Yeah, I noticed that this morning,"

Monday, November 19, 2007

Giving Thanks for the Kleenex Holiday Collection

When Leah was away at school, and all alone, a church group came by with a Thanksgiving dinner for her. Knowing that their recipients were likely to be sad, they included a box of Kleenex. This year we're not having anyone over, and no one's having us over, and, we have to buy our own Kleenex.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Virtual Infestation

Just like they say that you can't have one mouse, apparently you can't have just one cockroach story either. There was a story about cockroaches in today's Anchorage Daily News. Note, that's "Your Good Morning Newspaper," not "Your Appetizing at Breakfast Newspaper".
This invites the question, just how filthy are American laboratories that they always seem to have rats and cockroaches around to experiment on? Today's article explored nature vs nurture, well sort of; cockroaches are social, I'm not sure how nurturing they are. The scientists wanted to know if they could use peer pressure to get cockroaches to do things like hang out in well lighted areas that they normally wouldn't do. It turns out that using tiny robots dressed as cockroaches (or at least smelling like cockroaches) they could influence them. About 40% of the time, though, the robots themselves succumbed to cockroach peer pressure. That's unsettling, but it does explain why our Roomba scuttles under the couch when we turn on the lights.
If I can just mention one other cockroach fact, the researchers in the first article said that not only could cockroaches live without heads, their heads could live without bodies. They said that normally cockroaches have good memories, but that without their bodies they couldn't learn anything. I don't know how they could tell, but it does make sense. If nothing else, they might be a little distracted. I mean, you don't see many people in the ICU learning Latin declensions, do you?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Consider the Ant, or If the Ant's Busy, Consider the Cockroach

I went back to work today after 4 days off. I got much less accomplished than I expected. I did manage to clear out some of our Netflix backlog, and read a Scientific American. They report that Vitamin D not only makes for strong bones, but prevents cancer and brightens moods. Also they investigated the lifestyles of cockroaches that have had their heads cut off. Researchers (at the Mengele institute, no doubt) report that as long as some predator doesn't eat them, they'll just stay quiet and sit around.
It's like I've got a twin.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Vroom, Vroom

I've been embarrassed to tell you that after our light dusting of snow in October, which melted, we have been snow free until this weekend. Yesterday we set a record for snowfall on the 11th of November, but it was a sad little 5 inch record, although we did set a much more impressive record for the number of car accidents in a day. I believe that road maintenance should not be a faith based initiative; we shouldn't just hope that snow melts.

Yesterday I downloaded a Harley logo and altered it to look like this for the Hardly Davidsons. It's not anything much, and it may be illegal. Because it's pretty lo-res, if we did use it, it would have to be pretty small which is probably a good idea; we wouldn't want to offend another team like the Heck's Angels.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Before I Finished This Post I Remembered That It's Veteran's Day

This week I read two articles about blogging or three if you count the most true one which was actually a T-shirt at that said "More People Have Read This T-shirt Than Your Blog" now allows you to upload your own photos and turn them into posters, although I don't think they're real posters, but rather just little desktoppy things. Still it's kind of fun. Now that having fun has been completely outsourced to EA and the internet, I uploaded a picture of myself to Burger King a few months ago and they simpsonized it. Then I uploaded that picture to and they posterized it. Here it is.
This sort of illustrates the tension between the two other articles I read. One said to update daily to keep the blog interesting, and the other one thought you should keep it interesting by only updating when you have something interesting to report. You can decide for yourself which course this (yawn) blog is taking.
Speaking of other things that aren't that interesting, what is up with evangelical leaders endorsing candidates? I get so irritated when people presume to trade on their faith to tell me how to vote. Here's a quote taken out of context and then redacted,
Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other... but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes... Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue... as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether"

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

High Wind Warning: Blowhard Blowing

I went for short ride after work today, hoping that Hurricane Bill might blow over before I got home, and it almost worked, he was still bloviating when I got here, but he's winding down now just sort of sputtering , "Rosie, bad."
I'm thinking false choice, false choice; just because Rosie O'Donnell is awful doesn't mean Bill O'Reilly
isn't a jerk.
Which brings up the fact that we've been watching a lot of TV lately. I was watching when Ellen had her complete dog meltdown. Sarah hadn't even heard about it, which I thought was kind of surprising given that even with all the other political and war news competing for our attention the Ellen story had been so big that it briefly drove Britney off the radar.
Part of my ride involved stopping at Costco. I noticed that along with all of their traditional decorations for celebrating the birth of Jesus; snowmen, reindeer, igloos; this year they also have penguins. Penguins, for Christmas? No wonder the Arabs hate us.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Never Again. And Again.

The other day, I meant to take a break from feeling sorry for myself, or at least from blogging about it. Though it's a hard habit to break, I'm going to try for at least this one post.
On Friday night, Karen and I went to hear Adrian Hong from Liberty in North Korea. He gave a woefully under-attended speech at the Anchorage Museum.
The entire nation of North Korea has become a post modern Auschwitz, an absurdist concentration camp. As always, though, others are complicit as well. Because North Korea's neighbors, particularly China, forcefully repatriate refugees in violation of human rights treaties that they have signed, fleeing North Korea often leads either to returning to a death sentence or being sold as slaves in Central Asia.
Now, I know that you never wrote to your congressperson about electronic tax returns (that's okay, I didn't either) but here's a link to a template of a letter that you can send to the Chinese embassy in Washington. The work of Amnesty International shows that attention from the outside world can have a real effect.
Whoa, whoa, come back here. You were about to leave without printing that letter weren't you? You send the letter, and I promise my next post will be just as snarky and self-indulgent as ever.

Monday, November 05, 2007

"Everything Empties Into White"

Do you remember in one of the Harry Potter books there was a scene in the room of requirement where it had been used over the centuries as storage for all the worthless things in the castle? Things that were too ugly, or too useless, to ever even have existed in the first place? Things that were bought for craft projects for babies that are now in school, or to cover couches that we haven't owned in years? Okay, fine, I lost the thread of that metaphor somewhere in there, although if you need thread, we have miles of it in our paradoxically named back bedroom (paradoxically named because it's the only bedroom in the front of the house).
The theory in biology that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny that I was taught in school (by Darwin) has now been discredited, and it apparently has nothing to do with this post, but man, I understand why when my mother left this house for Seattle she wanted nothing but chrome and white, empty space.
Oh, bad news for someone; a particularly hideous object is "for our little girl."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

" Sure, a hundred-person choir gives you a choice of voices, but they're all singing the same song"~Ted Turner

There was a shooting yesterday in College Village, the neighborhood where I deliver mail. On the news that night, they said it was College Gate, a neighborhood about two miles east of there. One of the reasons it's so easy to distrust big media is that whenever you know something about a story they always have the details wrong. For example, when I was in a story a few years ago in the Anchorage Daily News, I looked like a pathetic geek.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

So Much For Japanese-Like Modesty

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a psychiatric anxiety disorder most commonly characterized by a subject's obsessive, distressing, intrusive thoughts and related compulsions (tasks or "rituals") which attempt to neutralize the obsessions.

So after performing this "task or 'ritual'" masquerading as a game at seemingly forever and scoring 49, I posted a very discreet link to a screenshot of my high score. It seemed like a modest seeming way to solicit wild compliments on my, you know, vocabulary or whatever. I'm assuming no one noticed the link, because alternative theories for the lack of response make me kind of sad. Anyway, I'm abandoning any pretense of modesty now that I've reached the sartori-like state of 50.