Wednesday, October 31, 2007

happy Halloween!

(the pumpkin on the right is lopsided because it is rotting).

One Halloween when I was a teen-ager, a group of us armed ourselves with Supersoaker water guns filled with jalapeno pepper juice. We piled into our friend's station wagon and drove around neighborhoods that were busy with trick-or-treating children. Our mission was to seek out and subdue the 13 year old bullies that were on their bikes, known most for riding around harassing and stealing candy from the younger kids. The look of surprise on their faces as we drove alongside them and blasted them was priceless. Kind of like that credit card commercial--

Super Soaker Aqua Shock HydroBlitz: $34

5 gallons of JalapeƱo pepper juice: $37.59

1/2 tank of gas: $7.00

facilitating justice on Halloween: priceless.

Monday, October 29, 2007

the benefits of smoking

who knew there were benefits from smoking? from wikipedia--

Health benefits of smoking

Some studies have discovered health benefits correlated with smoking. These studies observed a reduction in the occurrence of some diseases, but all such studies stressed that the benefits of smoking did not outweigh the risks.

Several types of "Smoker’s Paradoxes",[50] i.e. cases where smoking appears to have specific beneficial effects, have been observed; often the actual mechanism remains undetermined. For instance, recent studies suggest that smokers require less frequent repeated revascularization after percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).[50] Risk of ulcerative colitis has been frequently shown to be reduced by smokers on a dose-dependent basis; the effect is eliminated if the individual stops smoking.[51][52] Smoking appears to interfere with development of Kaposi's sarcoma,[53] breast cancer among women carrying the very high risk BRCA gene,[54] preeclampsia,[55] and atopic disorders such as allergic asthma.[56] A plausible mechanism of action in these cases may be the nicotine in tobacco smoke acting as an anti-inflammatory agent and interfering with the disease process.[57]

In mice, studies have shown nicotine can reduce the amount of DOI-induced head twitches (meant to model tics) related to Tourette's Syndrome.

A large body of evidence suggests that the risks of neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease might be twice as high for non-smokers than for smokers.[58] Many such papers regarding Alzheimer's disease[59] and Parkinson's Disease[60] have been published. A plausible explanation for these cases may be the effect of nicotine, a cholinergic stimulant, decreasing the levels of acetylcholine in the smoker's brain; Parkinson's disease occurs when the effect of dopamine is less than that of acetylcholine. Opponents counter by noting that consumption of pure nicotine may be as beneficial as smoking without the risk.

Other Alzheimer's studies, however, challenge these epidemiological studies on methodological grounds.[61] A prospective Rotterdam Study found that the incidence of Alzheimer's disease is more than double for smokers as compared to non-smokers[62] and the Honolulu Heart Program (a longitudinal cohort study) also found more than twice the risk for Alzheimer's disease among medium and heavy smokers as compared to non-smokers.[63]

Though the negative correlation between smoking and Parkinson's disease is recognized, the causality has not been established. The relationship may be artifact (observational) based on clusters of behavioral and personality differences in the pre-Parkinsonian population versus the smoking population.[64]

Considering the high rates of physical sickness and deaths[65] [66] among persons suffering from schizophrenia, one of smoking's short term benefits is its temporary effect to improve alertness and cognitive functioning in that disease.[67] It has been postulated that the mechanism of this effect is that schizophrenics have a disturbance of nicotinic receptor functioning.[68]

Sunday, October 28, 2007

today was a great day

another great fall day here, all the rain we've been getting made for the greenest grass I've ever seen. The air smelled fresh, and like fall leaves. Many people were out today taking advantage of the nice weather before the days of rain set in.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

glad I'm not a diplomat

It's a new era, different world, new kind of war...

CNN is running a story that tells of a shortage of employees at the U.S.Embassy in Iraq to the point that they are drafting diplomats who are working in the U.S., and making working in Iraq mandatory. Diplomats who refuse will be fired for "failing to uphold their oath to serve the United States and the Constitution." Can you believe that? I found similar articles covered by ABC News, the Baltimore Sun, and the BBC News, as well as several other global sources.

I did a little research, and a "Foreign Service Officer" or diplomat, begins a career entry level with no previous experience at $40,365. Masters Level starts at $45,000. Is that enough income to be drafted and put your life on the line? How much is a life worth? You think most people would say you can't put a price on risking your life, but people do it every day all the time. It seems that if you end up going to Iraq (volunteering to or otherwise) there's a 35% foreign post-differential pay and 35% danger pay in addition to your base compensation.

Friday, October 26, 2007

don't switch the blade on the guy in shades, oh-no

how funny were the 80's? I'm pretty sure I was in middle school when this song came out. What a funny and unique era in time. Corey Hart's somewhat brief wiki-ography can be found here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

food can make or break a luncheon

I attended a luncheon the other day and the food was horrible. The luncheon location was beautiful, it was in a banquet room at the World Forestry Center. Every window surrounding the octagon shaped room yielded views to a variety of trees in fall colors mixed with deep evergreens. The lighting was nice and the wait staff were really attentive, but I didn't eat much.

click on the picture and get a real close up view of the salad situation.

So lunch was basically this: Three piles of mayonnaise based salads on a plate. Nothing else, no salad, no was really strange. It was essentially a pile of egg salad, a pile of macaroni salad, and a pile of tuna salad. I started eating the tuna with my fork because it looked like the best bet on the plate, when I noticed a plate in the middle of the table with a pile of bread and butter packages stacked on it. What was that all about? Were we supposed to eat bread and butter with our tri-salads, or make our own varied sandwiches? What's with all the mayonnaise anyway? There was a pitcher of coffee on the table that wasn't too bad but I started thinking that tuna and coffee would give me really bad breath, and after the keynote speaker they'll be time to network. Nothing like breathing fishy coffee breath all over someone.

When we were served lunch, I looked over at a couple of my co-workers and saw they were grimacing back at me. One woman mouthed the words, "what is this?" to which I audibly replied, "This definitely isn't Simply Thyme." Simply Thyme is a great place our company used for catering a large function a couple of weeks ago. The polar opposite of what we were eating at the luncheon.

There also was a plate of gross looking cookies and brownies. The brownies looked artificial and had visible droplets of condensation on them. The cookies looked unappetizing also, they looked as if they had milk chocolate chips in them as opposed to the semi-sweet chocolate chip.

Very disappointing. Who thought that was a good idea?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I've been feeling extra cynical lately and came to the conclusion that there is an incredible lack of quality everywhere, all the time. The only consistent factor is that you can count on some aspect of quality of some good or service you receive to be shitty. Plan on something being late, or wrong, or over billed, broken parts shipped, poor customer service, wrong item, the list goes on infinitely.

We have this issue at work with a vendor who is not giving us what we need, bringing us things late, wrong, ripped, broken, and we've been mis-billed every way you can imagine. Charged $53 for shipping when the company is literally 10 blocks up the street. For $53 bucks I'll walk up there, pick the order up, bring it back and spend less time getting it there sooner. Of course we're going to change to another vendor, but trying to finalize the final order has turned into a complex nightmare. And I've called managers and general managers and so far nobody's calling me back!

This is only one example of many we experience throughout our lives. There are about a hundred tangents I can go over illustrating a complete lack of quality. I guess I'm experiencing whatever the opposite of quality is (inferiority?).

The only saving grace out of all of this are the infrequent pockets of people who take pride in what they do. Like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, you'll run into that great example of order, consistency, and courtesy. Of course somewhere along that example of quality's line there is a slacker screwing up the quality somewhere else, but that's okay.

In a similar quality-related story, the Space Shuttle Discovery launched again to deliver parts to the Space Station. As usual, there are concerns about the safety of the shuttle:

Minutes before the final countdown, launch crews discovered a 4-inch-long chunk of ice on a connector between Discovery and the external fuel tank.

The flight went ahead after safety officials decided the piece of ice was too small to pose a hazard, even if it came off during launch and hit the craft.

The whole story can be found here.

After much thought, I feel like I'm observing that there's not a lot of quality around. If there is I'm just focusing on the negatives. I remember thinking about this in depth the last time I traveled on vacation. The lack of quality started in the airport with the e-ticket check in and ended somewhere on the plane between the seat-back tray tables and the recycled pillows and blanket.

Anyway I hope everything goes well for those astronauts. What a dangerous profession, it's a real throw of the dice. I checked with NASA and yes, they are hiring astronaut candidates. The job announcement mentions a salary range for an astronaut from 59,493 to 130,257 a year. Is that salary worth flying into space on the gamble that you may or may not re-enter the earth's atmosphere intact?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Brockman Lights 02: Wild Mammals

my latest collection:

Brockman Lights 02: Wild Mammals

Sunday, October 21, 2007

rainy on Saturday

It was pretty rainy yesterday. We saw police cruisers and fire truckes up the street and went for a walk to investigate. It turned out to be a house fire that didn't cause too much visible damage.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

autistic teen found alive in woods

Over the past few days I've been following the story of the 18 year old autistic young man who wandered away from his family on a hike in West Virginia. He is non-verbal and functions at a 3 or 4 year old level.

The teen, who has the mental capacity of a 3- or 4-year-old, opened his eyes and rolled over to meet his rescuers when Reneau's son, Jeremy Reneau, called out his name.

"He was very quiet, he was nonverbal," said Jeremy Reneau, 25, the first to spot Allen. "But you could tell by his body language he was hungry."

Rescuers fed him candy bars and peanut butter sandwiches and tried to walk him out of the wooded Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, part of the Monongahela National Forest.

When he became too tired, they carried him out on a litter, Reneau said.

you can read the view the whole article here:

Monday, October 15, 2007

recent adventures with the Red Cross

I donated blood on a couple of Mondays ago; there was a blood drive at my work and I got in on the blood action. It was no problem, I've donated blood in the past and I usually appreciate the raisins, crackers and juice they provide. I was really brave; I watched as they inserted the 16 gauge needle into my art. It was kind of freaky and interesting watching my blood spirt into the tubes attached and fill the translucent bags on the other end. I should have photographed the event, but alas I missed my window of opportunity. I guess I had a good strong flow because it only seemed like I was in the chair for 10 minutes.

So on Tuesday I notice that I missed a call on my cell phone and instead of checking the message, I just called the last number back. A switchboard operator answered and said, "Hello, Red Cross, how may I direct your call?" I hung up. I started to wonder about why the Red Cross would call. Was there something wrong with my blood? Did they detect pregnancy? Did I have a disease?? My mind raced through a number of irrational possibilities while I dialed to check my voice mail to see if the message shed any light on the situation. When I finally accessed the message, it was from a volunteer calling to thank me for donating blood.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

a beautiful autumn tree

All the trees are beginning to change color and a fall feel is definitely in the air. A lot of pumpkin things going on -- pumpkin bread, carving pumpkins, and Halloween.Why does spell check insist on capatilizing Halloween? I just scanned through wikipedia, and it seems that spell check and the general public capitalizes Halloween for the sake of capitilizing it.

I made an awesome pumpkin bread the other day, I added some pumpkin butter to the recipe and it was so delicious and dense. I ate a piece and it sat heavy like a lump in my chest until I could wash it down with some hot coffee.

Below is another picture of the yard sale mascot. This cat wouldn't stand still for a picture so the best I could do was his front with his head turned. I think he had ADHD. He wasn't skittish; his behavior could better be described as easily distracted.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

yard sale today!

My friend had a garage sale today, and I came by and brought a car load of things I wanted to get rid of. A third friend also brought her stuff by to sell, so we had a mega sidewalk sale.

Quite a few people came by, and it was a beautiful day. It had been cooler and rainy recently, but today we entered a high pressure system and it was sunny and about 70 degrees.

At one point I met a homeless woman who escaped a domestic violence situation, and drove from El Paso to Portland with all of her possessions packed into an 85 LeBaron with thick plastic covering the areas where the passenger side windows were. I gave her a stereo with 4 speakers and a skirt for $1.00. I also gave her a glass cross; I'm not religious but made one as a test project. I got the impression there might have been demand for this after I received a few requests. I tried to make a prototype, and decided that the process was too time consuming to consider for production. I didn't know what to do with the cross, so I just hung it on the wall.

After I met this woman, I felt that she the person I had to give it to because she kept telling me how blessed she was. She started off thanking me excitedly because of the deal on the stereo, but went on to explain that along the way recovered things she had to leave, has a storage space and has been filling it with free household furnishings. She's been coordinating assistance since she came here and is about to get her own apartment. I gave her the cross and told her it was a housewarming gift.

We also had a yard sale mascot, this little black cat. He seemed like a juvenile and was the friendliest cat I'd ever met. Nobody knew where he came from, he just appeared this morning and spent the day with us and all of the yard salers. He was all over the many boxes of things stacked around, on tables, in clothing piles, and climbed all the trees around the yard sale.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Google Street View

So have you looked at Google's latest gadget and addition to the map feature, Google Street View? It's pretty neat and scary, all rolled into one. My friend and I were looking at our houses, and the clarity is scary. You can kind of see my couch through the window of my apartment. If you haven't already, you should check it out. Many cities are mapped out: Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Denver, Las Vegas, and about 10 more cities and nearby areas.

It really does seem like big brother though every time I think about the clarity and details in the view of my apartment. Some street views have cars or people in the frames, so now I'm thinking "what day did they take these pictures, and where was I?"

One frame has a homeless man and his shopping cart in it. I wonder how many views in how many cities have a similar view?

I found this picture by accident; I was trying to recall the name of a thrift store on this corner for a friend, and while looking at this picture she pointed the guy and his cart out to me.

Another funny thing we watched last night was giraffe fighting. I can't believe I haven't watched this before now.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

it all happens so quickly

here we are again, early almost mid October and there's clearly a seasonal change occurring. It's been a little damper and cooler, and we cranked the heater on earlier this week to dry out our clothes and hopefully combat the mold starting to grow again in the corner of the ceiling in my room. I like fall but I have to say that I like every season--they all have a distinct vibe and feeling, and seasonal foods are great too. It seems like just yesterday I was eating nectarines and cherries. I clearly remember where I bought the last bag of cherries; it was from a roadside stand, somewhere on rural hwy 26 between Portland and the coast. The guy was packing up and it was a instant impulse to pull over at see if I could get some cherries, and he sold me a quart for $6 bucks. They were delicious.

I was shopping earlier at Trader Joe's and bought pumpkin bread mix and some fresh pumpkin butter. I don't regret seasons changing; instead it reminds me that time marches on and I'm getting older. I don't feel old but I do feel that I have some experience in life that I can look back on. When I was in my 20's many of my experiences were new beyond the controlled environment of my teenage years, and going forward from present I have a variety of things to compare current events to. It's interesting and often I think about where I'm living, where I lived, people I've known and current relationships, the history of things, observing change, all sorts of things. It's amazing how complex humans are.

I also have a theory that as we spend more time on the planet in our bodies, our perception of the speed of the earth's rotation is faster and the amount of speed in which time and events pass is faster with each passing moment. Like a gradual fast forward. I consider this theory because I clearly remember being in my 9th grade algebra class and time just really taking it's time, the 56 minute class lasted a minimum of an eternity. There were times when I was younger when I couldn't believe how long Sunday mass was. Or going to catechism on Tuesdays after school. Shopping with my mom. Now the days, weeks and months whiz by. If I blink too often I miss something. I find I never have time for all the things I want to do. And it just seems to get faster. It's not too bad now, but I'm sure it will sneak up on me and I'll be 67 before I know it.