Friday, December 30, 2005

Alaska Airlines

Since I'm on the topic of airlines (see below), I'll continue. Today I read this excellent post about a an Alaska Airlines flight that depressurized at thirty thousand feet. Before taking off, the plane was hit by a baggage cart, which apparently caused a weakness or small hole in the plane that became a large whole with the pressures of altitude.

This kind of accident could have happened to any airline, but it has cemented my refusal to fly Alaska Airlines or their subsidiary Horizon Air. I've been avoiding Alaska Airlines for a while due to their general incompetence in the customer service arena.

One interesting point is that the baggage driver who hit the plane was non-union. His position and 399 other baggage handling ones were eliminated earlier this year when baggage handling was outsourced. You could argue that a union driver would have been more secure in his job and might have been more likely to report the incident (it wasn't reported). It's a bit of a conundrum: how do you give people an incentive to report mistakes when they might be penalized for making the mistake?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

JetBlue amusement

I've flown JetBlue a bit lately. They have 36 channels of TV at each seat. Occasionally, this warning appears the TV:
Due to normal aircraft movement, programming is temporarily unavailable.
It inspires a New Yorker-style cartoon in my head: plane in a tailspin, engines on fire, tail sheared off, and that message on the tv screen.

Good-bye old design

Unfortunately, the cost is my old comments.

I haven't totally committed to the new design (which is taken in large part from Blogger Templates), but I won't have to lose my comments if I change it again. I love comments! Posted by Picasa

RKO Pictures Logo

Before I even started watching the 1933 version of King Kong, I was transfixed by this: Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sunday, December 18, 2005

i am sark?

i hate quizzes, but i'm such a sucker for alias stuff that i had to take this one.

You're quite remarkable, really.

none of the parallels seems particularly accurate, most especially the bed head part.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Guitar like a computer log

I dreamed that a guitar is a cumulative record of every note it has played. My radio alarm was playing some song. I missed part of the chorus and thought that one could play the guitar backwards to get there, like rolling back a computer to a previous configuration.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Egg Roll/Jelly Roll

Yesterday, my neighbor came over to borrow some cornstarch. He's a puppy-ish young guy, very endearing. He had borrowed a hammer before, so this wasn't entirely unprecedented. However I was happily surprised when he returned two warm egg rolls with the cornstarch. He needn't have protested about his inexperience making egg rolls. Usually I don't like egg rolls, but they were fantastic.

This morning I saw a video of a jelly roll (ok, jelly donut) in a freestyle rap competition. The pastry hed his own, but what I really loved was the name of the competition: Tourette's Without Regrets.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

My revenge

Today I walked Mac on our usual route through San Marino. One of the houses we walk by has a dog who runs to the fence (behind the house, the place is enormous) and lunges at Mac while growling and barking fiercely. Of course my little pacificist is thrilled by this and returns the favor. I keep walking and then pull Mac away once I'm past the corner.

I think Mac's behavior is obnoxious, and I don't like it. However, I don't feel like getting my arm pulled out of my socket trying to prevent it, and I think it's fairly reasonable behavior given the circumstances. I had a brainstorm the other day on a way to handle it. Today the dog ran up to us and started barking. This barking/menacing is something that would leave me piss-less if I wasn't separated from the dog by a big fence. Anyway, the dog had gotten about one and a half barks out when I squirted him with my water bottle. Complete silence followed from him, and from Mac when I squirted him next. Wonderful. Deeply satisfying. Thank you Carlos Hilson, Mac's former dog walker extraordinaire. I'll be curious to see what happens the next time we walk by. If the dog is smart, he'll take to barking a few feet back from the fence.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Body Language of "Huh?"

Roy Williams (Cowboys) just made an interception against Donovan McNabb (Eagles). They re-played the catch in slow motion, and for a very brief moment, Roy Williams looked how Mac looked after he caught a bird in his mouth one time. The look: surprised, wondering "What the heck do I do now?" In all fairness, Roy Williams regained his poise and looked around for blockers in less than half a second. Mac was surprised just as quickly, but stayed confused.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

like weeds

i think this is a palm tree of some kind. dolface? Posted by Picasa

dolface sez:
>>> i think it's a fan palm 20palm.jpg

google sez they're the only palm native to the western united states.<<<
when i moved to san francisco, i was amazed by all the plants growing outdoors that i had formerly only seen as houseplants. this weed/palm is a new mark in that for me.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"Place in sealed envelope."

Place the printed risk assessment and the completed medical questionnaire into a sealed envelope.
The questionnaire is for people who work with animals. To me this sounds like I'm supposed to take a sealed envelope and put something else in it.

I always have this kind of problem with directions. It's a miracle I don't bomb standardized tests.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sunday, October 30, 2005


i love science art.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Birthday party

Saturday night, I went to the drive in movie with friends. LW brought poppers, the kind that explode with confetti and banners when opened. We caught one on camera. After a picnic spread, complete with candles and tasty baked goods, we wrapped ourselves in sleeping bagas and sat back on beach chairs to watch Wallace and Gromit, followed by The Corpse Bride. A wonderful birthday celebration. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Intimidation attempt

today i was headed toward the main exit to my apartment building when i saw a man outside speaking angrily toward a woman in the complex who had poked her head out of a nearby area. he was asking for the manager, asking her to let him in. i reached the exit and as i opened the gate he put his hand on it and said "thank you." the rest of this conversation is paraphrased, because i got pretty upset. i kept my hand on the gate, blocking his entrance, and said, "i am not letting you in. who are you?" he said he was evicting someone and couldn't reach the manager. he started to walk into me, i think he was trying to intimidate me into getting out of the way. i put my hand out in front of me and he walked into it. he said, "are you touching me?" this really made me mad. i reached for my cell phone. he said, "what, are you going to call the police?" i nodded. another guy came out of the complex. as he came by me, i told him this guy was scaring me and asked him to stick around, which he did. i called the police, and described the aggressive guy, who left the entrance. he went to his car, got something out of it and walked around the corner of the complex.

i was really shaken up when i was talking with the police. i didn't understand the question of "paramedics or police?" at first, and i think i gave them the wrong address. eventually i gave them a description of the guy, his car and license plate number. i heard the aggressive guy shouting in the background, and eventually he came out from inside the complex. he sneered at me and said, "thanks for your help." he drove off, and i told the dispatcher what was going on and what direction he was headed.

eventually the police came, probably seven minutes after i first called (probably five minutes after i gave them the address clearly). they were very professional and good. they told me that another unit had pulled the guy over and confirmed that he was a process server. once they confirmed that he hadn't assaulted me, they let him go. i'm glad he at least bore some responsibility for his actions. i'm going to try to track down the owner of the apartment that he was serving and ask them to switch process serving companies.

Monday, October 24, 2005

In the beginning, there was a mold

...and Jello, and sweetened condensed milk to make it opaque. The cherry pie was for filling. Posted by Picasa

The filling

 Posted by Picasa


 Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Monday, October 17, 2005

Aspen Grove

AR, the woofs, and I went to a place in the San Bernardino National Forest unimaginately named "Aspen Grove" for the fall color and the crisp air. It was awesome. Click for more pictures. Posted by Picasa

A day in the life

This is my bench near the end of a busy day. Note the scorch mark on the paper behind the burner, created when i knocked the burner over. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 30, 2005

santa ana winds

just when you think you've paid your dues to the heat of summer, the santa ana winds arrive, blowing hot air. it doesn't cool down at night. it doesn't cool down at all. day after day, the forecasts predict the temperature will drop tomorrow.

i hate southern california.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

pig races

Monday, September 26, 2005


i went to see the movie serenity tonight, free as part of a press screening opened to bloggers to seduce them/us into talking about the movie. it worked.

the crowd was something to behold: punkish geeks, sci-fi geeks, martial arts geeks, geeks so geeked out it wasn't even good anymore. geeks prone to inane outbursts during the movie (e.g. dialog on screen: "he can broadcast to 31 worlds simultaneously", guy sitting next to us [apparently sincere]: "wow"). geeks behind us talking (before the show, thankfully) about how great the old sci-fi book-signings were, and how you used to be able to pick up mementos inexpensively.

In the ship's hold.

but the movie itself was wonderful. the design was fantastic: rain's outfit in the escape from the hospital was plausible as something one might wear in a futuristic hospital and also a flattering outfit for action. the design of the spaceship was also lovely. the pre-credit opening, probably a three minute sequence, was a master story-telling event. the dialog was well-written (mostly) and used an interesting dialect, primarily modern vernacular, but including some grammar structure evoking lower-class 19th century england. the story moved along well, the characters were well defined, and the plot was engrossing. the villan was awful and sympathetic. the movie was a tour-de-force.

go see this movie. it's worth seeing on the big screen.

they wanted me to say nice things about this movie. it's no problem saying nice things about something wonderful.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Serenity, the preview

As part of my Buffy obsession, I’ve become interested in the movie Serenity, which was directed by… well, read the synopsis:
Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.
I’ve registered for the advanced screening for bloggers and media, the organizers of which asked me to include the above and this link to more info. I have to get there 45 minutes early, which I’m not nuts about, but the price is right.

The pretty campus

Thursday, September 22, 2005

diphenhydramine: fun, while you're still breathing

i was watching the tv show "house" tonight, about a vicodin-popping, misanthropic doctor played by hugh laurie. in this episode he has hay fever, and treats it by taking 1000 milligrams of benadryl at the beginning of the show and snorting benadryl further along in the show.

watching that, i thought the writers were idiots. didn't they know that over-the-counter benadryl is only 25 milligrams? taking 40 pills would suck, and i would imagine it's a lethal dose. it turns out that it is a lethal dose for some people, but people are willing to take a lot of pills for a high.

it appears that people regularly take more than 600 milligrams (more than 24 pills) of diphenhydramine (the active ingredient of benadryl) recreationally, with the side effects that sometimes take them to the hospital. it also appears that people are willing to take scores of pills to get high.

the scientific literature doesn't say much. if rats and humans are equally sensitive to diphenhydramine, then 50% of a group of 180 pound humans who took 41 grams (41,000 milligrams, or 820 pills) of diphenhydramine would die. if human sensitivity is more like mice, it would take 2,870 milligrams (58 pills) to have the same effect. erowid notes that "a lower dose will still kill a smaller proportion of the subjects."” there looks like there is some more definitive literature on humans here, but it requires working backward to dosage levels from blood plasma levels, which i didn't take the time to estimate.

the bottom line: i was wrong in thinking that the writers were far outside the realm of reality, but taking that much benadryl is risky.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

With cocaine, fat is bad

Kate Moss let fly with a tirade of foul-mouthed abuse yesterday when confronted about her snorting fat lines of cocaine.
-from the Daily Mirror

Snorting thin lines of cocaine is ok?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Television and crumbs

There’s a new peer-reviewed scientific journal called Cough. What a world.

It’s raining here for the first time since spring. It’s lovely, with a wet metallic tang in the air.

Dominic Purcell at the Blade Trinity Premiere

I’ve been using Windows Media Center as a DVR. I watched Twins, because it has Sara Gilbert in it (she was on Roseanne; Sara’s out as a lesbian and recently had a baby with her partner). It’s not great, but I may watch it again. I’ve been watching Prison Break, which is good suspense with Dominic Purcell (above) and Stacy Keach. I’ve been watching a lot of Buffy, which I blame on my youngest sister who reintroduced me to it on summer vacation. I loved the movie, but I never got into the TV show, even when friends were crazy about it. Until now. I’ve been recording trashy action movies and loving them, e.g. Tomorrow Never Dies, Armageddon. Something I haven’t watched yet but I’m excited to see again is The Heroic Trio, a Hong Kong action movie with three superheroines played by Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung and Michelle Yeoh. I watched Bones, which looks like a keeper, about a female forensic (yawn, of course) anthropologist and her sincere but square FBI handler played by David Boneanaz, aka Angel.

Get off my beach and out of my wallet. Or not.

Photo by Jim Powers in the Inky Mirror
Dennis Kozlowski's house off the Squam Road in 2002.

Former Tyco CEO L. Dennis Kozlowsk was sentenced Monday on grand larceny, securities fraud and other charges. He got eight to 25 years in prison, and was ordered to pay a total of $167 million in restitution and fines.

This is of personal interest to me because part of his crime was impropertly taking Tyco money to buy
what used to be my family’s beach on Nantucket. He has what the SEC complaint calls “a palatial estate” on the property (pictured above), which had only a decrepit one-room shack without water or electricity when we sold it. According to the complaint, he improperly used loans from Tyco to purchase the property and then improperly forgave himself the loans. Kozlowski also directed millions of dollars of charitable contributions in his own name using Tyco funds. Recipients mentioned in the complaint included the Nantucket Historical Association and my undergraduate alma mater. In the Nantucket Inquirer Mirror, Michael Sullivan, who was the director of development at Nantucket Cottage Hospital during the years Kozlowski donated millions to the facility, said “His [Kozlowski’s] personal generosity is scattered across the island and we should never forget that.” It doesn’t sound like it was exactly personal generosity.

I’m not sure if he bought the property directly when it was sold by my family, but my current homeownership is possible because of that transaction. I don’t doubt that someone else would have bought the place if he hadn’t, but it still makes me queasy. I guess I feel better that he has to pay a lot of money back, but I'll wait until that particular event has happened before I put too much stock in it.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

I'm a sucker for my dog.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Hollywood forever (cemetary) movie night. I don't know who these people are.

The headless walk-man

Sunday, September 04, 2005

A little piece of Katrina heartbreak

from the New Orleans Katrina Recovery Back to Work website:
Textron Employees go to this site for information General questions – Call Human Resource in Wilmington at 1-800-313-3703. Help us locate and track our employees – Please email us,, or call us at 978-657-1063 and let us know your status. Send your full name, badge number, how to best contact you if possible and your situation (loss of home, injuries, etc.)

Paychecks – Employees will be paid until further notice. Electronic/direct deposit checks will be made automatically. We are working out the logistics for getting live/paper checks to employees. Please let us know if you would like us to mail it to a temporary location for you. Call 1-800-313-3703.

Returning to work – At this time, no TM&L employee should attempt to travel to the facilities, until they are deemed safe.

If anyone knows the status of Ann Quick Davis, Brad Anderson, etc...


Cherryl Ball

Frisco, TX

Friday, September 02, 2005

Is Bush to Blame for New Orleans Flooding?

FactCheck.Org covers this question nicely. Basically, they say that money for protecting New Orleans from hurricanes has been significantly reduced by the Bush administration. The Army Corps ("which is under the President's command and has its own reputation to defend") says the hurricane was too strong, implying that it was so strong that the levy would have been breeched even if the funds hadn't been decreased.

"At a fundamental level, America's current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government." - from Paul Krugman: A can't-do government, NYTimes

i am outraged

this morning i donated 5% of my monthly income to the red cross. whatever failings they may have, i've become convinced that they are the best recipient for immediate aid in a situation like this. on the other hand, here is something i find appalling:

'FEMA is directing Katrina donations to none other than the Rev. Pat Robertson. FEMA has released to the media and on its website a list of suggested charities to help the storm's hundreds of thousands of victims. The Red Cross is first on the list. The Rev. Pat Robertson's "Operation Blessing" is next on the list.' From Boing Boing and Bill Scannell
here's my protest, albeit not very eloquent, to
Hello -

Please remove Operation Blessing from your list of "Organizations Accepting Donations and Volunteers." As I am sure you would not list the charitable arm of Hamas, it is unacceptable to list an organization whose chairman is Pat Robertson, a fringe political figure, one who advocates the assassination of the head of a sovereign nation, among other things.

Thank you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

more new computer trivia

the first google result for "new computer" is apple's iMac G5.

when card-playing programs have tells

This is a cool note about how a user noticed something funny about an online poker game. This observation led him to be able to determine something about the "dealer's" cards. Similarly, in science, new insights more often result from a "that's strange" moment than an out-of-the-blue "aha" moment.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

From Quidnet to Sconset

I took these pictures on my walk. Click the picture above for the rest of the pictures.

New tech, new events

dolface pointed me to the “blogger for word” plug-in, which i’m using for this entry. i’m also trying out the new google desktop, and google talk, so it’s a big day around here.

and i’m getting a new computer! i’m very excited about that. i should have it in early september. it’s a dell inspiron 6000, Pentium M 760 processor, 1 GB RAM (due to funding constraints, it makes more sense to spend money on the processor and pay for RAM upgrades if needed) and a 100GB 5400RPM hard drive. i’m surprised and pleased that my current laptop has made it three years. that’s due in no small part to my dad’s incomparable foresight in getting me the three year complete care coverage, and in getting a computer with enough performance that it’s still adequately fast three years later.

other upcoming events: i’m looking into doing some local sailing here. i’m making plans to go to the society for neuroscience conference in DC in november. this weekend is gradiators (link to 2004 event), which i’m participating in for the first time. the biology department annual retreat is in october in redondo beach.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The most American of activities...

...besides dissent, of course, must be the demolition derby. My first one was this past Sunday, on Nantucket. Is it ironic to have a demolition derby on Nantucket? Perhaps, but none of the contestants or fans seemed detached. I had a blast.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

LA Gay Rodeo

last night i volunteered at contestant registration at the LA Gay Rodeo. i was excited about the people watching prospects, and they didn't disappoint. however, the most fun was hanging out with the three guys who were assigned to the same table as me. clearly we had a glut of volunteers, since it doesn't really take 4 people to hang out gift bags, but it was a good number for chatting. we all talked about who we thought was cute, where we were from, why we liked rodeo, stuff like that. click the above picture for a few more.