Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2010

Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2010:

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101230

Last night I volunteered to cook the beef for our tacos. My wife was not looking, so I threw away the seasoning packet that came with the taco kit. Instead, I used the spices we had on hand, lots of Chile powder, cumin, salt, a little cocoa powder and fresh oregano leaves. As well, I cooked in the fresh garlic and onions.

Nobody complained, and I was able to avoid a load of nasty ingredients4, such as:
  • Yellow Corn Flour
  • Maltodextrin
  • Modified Corn Starch
  • Citric Acid
  • Autolyzed Yeast Extract
  • Caramel Color (sulfites)
We also always discard the cheese sauce. When I eat tacos, I just eat the meat filling with some rice, and I skip the corn taco. But my wife and daughter do eat the tacos normally. Hopefully from now on she will buy just the taco shells instead of wasting money on the kits.

Waist = 37.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.
  4. Ortega website.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dream: Meeting at the Park

I've organized an engineering meeting at a park. We're eating lunch together on a picnic table waiting for others to arrive. Nearby there's an underground pipe that opens in a ditch, and there's foul smoke coming from it. Sometimes the wind blows the smoke in our direction, so it stinks up the place. I decide that we should move to another table on another part of the grounds.

The grounds themselves are arranged like the Tower, but it's expansive like my elementary school's yards. The table we're at now would be in front of the entrance to the "Tower." We move around the right side of it.

A group of people from work show up. They're doing a fundraising challenge for United Way. Kasie asks me if I'd like to participate, since I usually get involved. But I tell her, with genuine regret, no this time because I have a meeting.

The spot for the meeting has been selected. But for some reason I'm now on the other side of the grounds. I just have to walk through the building and come out on the other side to get to the new picnic table location.

I enter the building. It's a country gift store, very cluttered with all sorts of knickknacks. There's also an adjoining restaurant and meeting room. The place has been reserved by another group as well as by us. I walk through a roped off section in order to get to the other side of the building and out to my meeting. There's some sort of black ball tied to a loop of yellow rope hanging off one of the pylons that serves to rope off the section. I take this object as I step over the rope. The object seems to be like a mace.

I take about a dozen steps further, but then I decide to return the ball back to where it was hanging. Having done that, I retrace my steps and now find myself holding a blue doll's dress with a blond wig attached. The hair on the wig is made from thick yellow yarn and has a hat attached. I don't want to keep carrying it, so I look for a clever place that can be adorned and hang the dress on the back of a white wooden chair.

Now I really need to get to my meeting, so I try to wind my way through the store. I come to another store, a "head" shop. I can see a way out the building, but there's a low concrete wall that defines an arcing path around to an aquarium. Now I'm starting to get frustrated. I follow that for a short distance to see if there's a way out of that maze. Beyond that is a bowling alley. Finally, I find an alley that leads up hill. I think it will take me to the area where the picnic table is situated. I struggle. It's not that steep, but I feel as if I'm tugging something heavy or pushing against a large weight. The ground is hard black asphalt.

I come to a young man sitting on the ground on the left in the alley with his legs in the alley. The low concrete wall is on my right. At first I feel trepidation. What if he's a criminal and tries to rob me or beat me up? But that's a fleeting thought, and I lumber by him. Just beyond, again on the left, there are huge red-orange trash bins with a man and a woman lying together next to them. As I approach, they get up and start walking ahead of me in the same direction that I'm going. As well, there are many people over-taking me from behind. I feel like a slow-poke on a highway where everyone's speeding.

Dream: Telephone Code Pamphlet

I'm reading a pamphlet with a blue cover that's meant to be read while using a telephone. In place of some words there are numbers. You're supposed to use the telephone keypad to translate the numbers into words, and then you fill in the blanks on the opposite page. One sentence is a title like, "Can You Live Happily Ever After?"

I'm reading this book with my daughter. Two of her friends will visit soon.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Make People Think You're Normal

Although I bought "How to Make People Think You're Normal" over one year ago, I didn't give it to my daughter until today. She thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I don't think she appreciated some of the ideas. For example, there's the chapter devoted to the author's perspective as a teacher and his veiled rants against the pressures to give out A grades to all his students.

OTOH, there's plenty of sophomoric humor, too.

Anyway, I hope you had a great day!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101222

The dog's tumor is growing too fast. It's infected and oozing blood. We decided to have it operated on again. But this time, a specialist will remove part of the jaw as well, to prevent it from growing back.

That activity, plus a hectic work day, means I sometimes eat half the lunch I normally do and fewer snacks.

I hope you enjoy all your holiday events!

Waist = 37.5"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stress Management -- Autogenics Training

"Autogenics training teaches you to create a feeling of warmth and heaviness throughout your body.... [As a result you can experience] a profound state of physical relaxation, bodily health, and mental peace."

Learn autogenics training for free at this website. It's simple to do. Treat yourself!

Dream: King of the Bees

I'm in the backyard with my daughter. We're waiting for a special event, like Solstice. Suddenly I notice an elephant walking around the yard. I exclaim to my daughter, "Look at the elephant..." As I say this, I notice that it has a very long neck, like that of a giraffe. I do a double-take and realize there's also a giraffe walking alongside the elephant. So I add "...and the giraffe walking around the yard!" There are also smaller animals, perhaps a dog and a cat, trotting with the larger ones.

Our neighbor's tool shed lies in the center of the open space formed by our yard and our neighbor's. My daughter and I decide to hide behind it, using it as a sort of blind so as not to scare the animals. But then the neighbor shows up. She's a tough woman of middle-age, with short light brown hair, perhaps of Irish decent, like our dog's breeder. It is her tool shed, and I'm worried that she'll be upset about us being so close.

Now the tool shed takes the form of an octagonal gazebo. The neighbor diverts my attention to the ceiling, where there are a bunch of bees swarming. We need to get out of there, so I make my get-away. But one bee has gone down my back. The woman pulls it out from my waistband as she runs behind me. I realize that she has an ulterior motive. She wants to inject me with bee venom in order to turn me into the King of the Bees. I pretend I don't know this, and I allow her to get the bee to sting me in the right upper arm. I try to notice any effects from the sting, like superpowers. But all I notice is that some large white letters used as signage on a fence have disappeared or turned red.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dream Challenge

Join Redhawk's Dream Challenge. On December 28, place a pen or pencil and paper by your bed so that you can write down any dreams you might have as soon as you wake up. Then send them to Redhawk.

Read more about it here. I think it will be interesting!

Dream: The PT Waiting Room

I'm at our next door neighbor's house. It's starting to snow. They left the back door open, and snow is coming in through the screen window. It occurs to me that it would be a good idea if we were to visit each other in the winter every day in order to save on heating costs.

I'm bicycling to my wife's physical therapy (PT) appointment. I'm late. I'm going north on OF road. I reach Main street and stop at the red light. I was supposed to turn left earlier, so I'll have to make a U-turn around the center divider. The light turns green and I go. I realize the road may be slick, so I purposely try to see if I can skid or spin the back wheel. I do manage just a bit.

Now I'm riding east on Main looking for OF road, but I can't seem to find it. As if from out of town, I notice how run down some parts are. I see litter and graffiti, and some buildings are boarded up. I attempt to turn off the road at a spot that's muddy, guessing that it's the right road, but I change my mind and get back on Main street.

I eventually reach a hotel at the end of the road. It's painted turquoise. I ride behind it to turn around. As I go back out I come to a flimsy gate. A few girls have just walked through it, and now it's swinging shut toward me. I manage to bump into it strong enough to push it open and go through. The girls apologize. Somehow, I finally make it to PT.

I'm sitting with my wife in the waiting room. I have my work bag with me, so to while away the time I sort through the bag to organize it. I come across my jock strap, which I will need to wear at karate later today. It closely resembles my CPAP mask. There is a pre-teen girl also in the waiting room. She gets embarrassed at seeing the jock strap. Nevertheless, I put it on over my clothes.

I now notice that we can see the room in which the therapy is given. I see a man on a floor that's covered with blue mats. He's propped on his side on his right elbow facing us, receiving therapy from a man close by. His head is much smaller compared to his shoulders. He almost looks like Tom Brady, with that dark, short hair. I recognize him as a patient from the Naturopathic Doctor's office. I mention to my wife that I see him go to Dr. Williams' office. Another patient that's also waiting hears me and comments loudly, "Dr. Williams? What do you see him for?" The rude man has a black eye. I don't answer. I just stare at him. He continues to talk to us.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday Cat Buddies

These two are so cute together. And there's even a shadow in the shot!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Solstice Lunar Eclipse

The upcoming Winter Solstice will have a lunar eclipse associated with it.

Find out more at this NASA web page.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101215

Still losing weight. It could be because I'm going to bed a bit earlier instead of staying up and using snacks to stay awake.

Waist = 37.5"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday Cat and Leaves

Our cat takes a break from watching the leaf shadows...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Guide to Safe RF

Our daughter must receive a cell phone for Christmas this year. Otherwise, disaster will befall the entire world, and perhaps several neighboring ones, as well.

I really don't like the idea of cell phones. Why?
  • Because we got along fine without them twenty years ago, and now we've been brainwashed into thinking they're a necessity.
  • Because a cell phone is yet another thing to carry around; like an umbrella, a pair of gloves and sunglasses, it's something to leave behind or lose.
  • Because it's something else that will become obsolete and require an upgrade.
  • Because the service is another drain on our family's fiances.
  • Because it needs recharging.
  • Because it emits powerful RF energy.
It's this last item that bothers me. No one really knows what the long-term effect is of being exposed to all the Radio Frequency (RF) energy that a cell phone emits. When I said this to my wife and daughter, my wife responded with, "I carried one in my pocket for work for years and nothing happened to me." Of course we both realized immediately how poor that argument was -- my wife's strange bouts with inflammation started not long after we got the second cell phone.

Anyway, if you're concerned about cell phone safety, here's an article that you can read. It's called Is Your Health on the Line?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Colors of My Rainbow

Your rainbow is shaded violet.


What is says about you: You are a creative person. You appreciate beauty and craftsmanship. You are patient and will keep trying to understand something until you've mastered it.

Find the colors of your rainbow at

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Feather Atlas

Have you ever come across an unusual feather on the ground and wondered what bird it came from? If so, you'll appreciate the Feather Atlas, a project of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101208

I ran my "Serotyping With Advanced Modifying Inventories" or SWAMI and found out that I'm 44% Explorer Genotype. So I have a new list of beneficial foods, neutrals and avoids. Although I've been eating a very similar diet already, because I already tested out as an Explorer and have been blending the diets, there are some foods (yogurt in particular) that I need to cut out.

I've been "sort of" following this new diet for a few days. What I mean is that I don't voluntarily order or prepare foods that have avoids in them. I even passed up free crème brûlée last night! But I'm not about to pass up my wife's meatballs just because she added some Parmesan cheese to them. (She did use spelt bread rather than regular wheat bread.)

Waist = 37.5"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday Wisteria on Trellis

The wisteria on this trellis is dormant for winter.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101201

Just going through a spell of reduced eating due to anxiety.

Waist = 37.75"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And Now Fibromyalagia

This November posting frenzy would not be complete without an update on my wife.

The medical weirdness started when she was pregnant with a severe rash that covered her entire body but not her face. She described it as intensely itchy. To me, it looked like an episode of Star Trek when one of the "Away Team" contracts an alien virus and morphs into another humanoid species. There was no clear definitive diagnosis on that -- just some sort of vague reference to "pregnancy rash" and that it only happens once. It reoccurred four months later, although not a severe.

The next episode happened in 2006. Both parotid glands swelled. Again the medical community was stumped. One doctor even suggested that it was a stone, forgetting (or ignoring) the fact that both sides of her face were affected. Antibiotics were prescribed and taken with no improvement. Then it was determined to be viral, so treatment involved alleviating the pain. Then when she complained of dry mouth, a doctor suspected Sjögren’s Syndrome and prescribed prednisone. The symptoms went away but came back. The test for Sjögren’s Syndrome was negative.

We're still dealing with the after effects of the next event, the attack of Transverse Myelitis. It started when she woke me up to tell me that she couldn't pee. She was released from hospital four weeks later barely able to walk and with severe pain.

Fed up with allopathic medicine, we consulted with a Naturopathic Doctor who made a diagnosis of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Although he couldn't treat her pain, he suggested a variety of supplements, two of which were NatureThroid, non-synthetic thyroid extract, and Isocort, a non-synthetic adrenal extract. The supplements had a terrific effect on her mood.

Still, we needed pain relief so we stuck with the neurologist at the hospital that she was initially treated in. Concerned about leg weakness, they mentioned spinal stenosis and MS.

Well, I'm getting angry and upset again. Suffice it to say, some more bumbling doctors made some more diagnoses. And the latest of these is fibromyalgia. This diagnosis was based on tenderness of all the pressure points and a negative test result for anything else. (Thank goodness that she never got a false positive for Lyme disease as I did. Otherwise, she'd get a two-week course of antibiotics and a pronouncement of being cured.)

I think her fibromyalgia is due to improperly managed pain. She was given too few quick-acting opioid pills and then left with no coverage at night. Thus she has been suffering from insufficient sleep for several months.

In his 2004 book, "Arthritis: Fight it with The Blood Type Diet Dr. Peter D'Adamo writes about people with type A blood, such as my wife,
One of the effects of high cortisol is a disruption of the sleep cycle, which, in turn, places extra stress on the body. Studies show that many people with arthritic conditions such as fibromyalgia experience a type of sleep disturbance called alpha delta sleep disorder. People with alpha delta sleep disorder experience a disruption in sleep patterns. They don't obtain enough deep sleep -- the phase in which muscles are repaired.

Anyway, even though this is yet another incurable disease that no one understands, maybe it will at least allow my wife to get better pain management.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Weigh-In 24 Month Graphical Summary

My Five Year Graphical Summary Can be Found Here:

Here's 24 months of data! I had stopped going to the gym in April 2009 and took up walking instead. I think the late summer rise might've been due to an ice cream fetish and not a lack of exercise.

In January of 2010, I read the GenoType diet and determined that I am an Explorer. I tried that diet for a while with disappointing results. That was before I realized that I was going overboard on the sweeteners that it allows.

My weight rises toward 165lbs going in to November 2010. But I have a self-imposed limit and a desire to stay below 165lb. So my typical hibernation gain was curtailed.

Weighing on my Mind

Anxiety returned suddenly.

The big event occurred on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. It was windy, and a large branch broke off the smallest of our pine trees. As it landed, it broke off a branch from a nearby maple tree, but it did not reach the house, and it just missed the little Star Magnolia that we planted when our daughter was about four years old. So there was little damage, and a neighbor cut up the trunk with his chain saw while I cleared the brush.

It's clear that the tree is in a weakened state and should be taken down. I called the electric company because the tree is only a few feet away from their lines. Their general policy is to remove trees that are damaged or weak if they are near power lines. So I was confident that they would get to work on this, and I was guardedly hopeful that they'd recognize that the other trees pose a similar threat. Unfortunately, the arborist that showed up said that they wouldn't bother with it as there are many trees all over our state that are 10 times worse. If it falls and takes out the power lines, they'll just come and put the lines back up.

This episode caused the acute flare up of anxiety. But it's been building due to other issues, such as:
  • My wife's under-treated chronic pain.
  • The pain doctor's insistence on charging two co-pays for each visit (never mind that he under treats the pain).
  • My daughter's inability to fall asleep at night and her tiredness during the day.
  • My daughter's apparent depression on the day after Thanksgiving after our family friend left for the airport.
  • The dog's tumor.
  • The rise in health insurance premiums and co-pay amounts.
  • Other rising costs and stagnant income.
  • Maintenance work needed on the cars.
The stress itself tires me out. Add to that the need to play Mr. Mom when my wife is out of commission. The result is a need to collapse into bed right after supper and stay in bed until just before the cats decide to test whether human tastes better than Tuna Fish.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday Winter Preparation

I was just about to roll the picnic table and umbrella into the garage when I noticed what an interesting shadow they cast. So I paused to take a shot. I hope you like it!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Social Security and Ponzi Scheme -- a Comparison

To the uninitiated, the United States' Social Security plan may seem like one massive Ponzi scheme. But that's a mistake for many reasons.

First, Ponzi schemes are clearly acts of fraud, while Social Security, which is run by the US government (which enacts federal laws and therefore cannot possibly do anything shady) is, by definition, legitimate.

Second, Ponzi schemes generally pay incredibly high rates of return in very short time periods. However, the returns from Social Security are modest, and they take decades to accrue and mature.

Third, in a Ponzi scheme, participants are given the option to pay into the system, and they may withdraw at any time and keep the profit. On the other hand, every working citizen of the USA is required to pay into the Social Security fund. If a citizen were to attempt to withdraw funds before a certain ripe old age, that investor will forfeit any return on his or her initial investment.

So dear readers, I hope you can see that the United States' Social Security plan differs markedly from a Ponzi scheme because it is legitimate, offers lower rate of return over a much longer term and is mandatory.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Economic Recovery is Futile

The reason a full recovery of the economy is futile is because the economy that we're trying to recover was fueled by irrational spending, which was financed by the deceptive lending practices that are now prohibited because they led to the financial meltdown.

I suppose we could simply forget what happened in 2008 and recreate it all over again.

Something to think about during your Black Friday shopping spree.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dream: Isolated Workplace

I'm driving a large truck on the road that my workplace is on. I need to turn around, so I'm backing into the access road to the town dump. I'm aware that there's another truck coming out of the dump, so I'm going very slowly.

I pull out onto the road, heading back toward work. There are a lot of flashing lights up ahead. And I start to see trucks on the right side of the road. They're all facing the road. A few of them are partly in the road, in fact, so I slow way down.

The truck that was behind me while I was backing in to the dump over takes me on the left, even though we're on a single lane road.

I marvel at all the activity. Then I get a zoomed out view of the entire area. I see the ground around my work building has been dug up, including the road. The soil is yellow and sandy -- totally lacking the dark color of rich loam.

I look closely at the road with dismay. How am I going to drive my car all the way to work?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101124

My weight is dropping with absolutely no effort on my part. Is it because of the Explorer superfoods, such as the carob powder I'm adding to the oat bran? Or maybe it's the homemade breakfast sausage made from ground lamb and ground turkey? It's strange. Generally I tend to gain weight as I spiral into Winter.

Waist = 37.75"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dream: First Responder Training

I'm in a parking lot at the mall. There is free training for volunteer emergency rescue being offered soon. The man who will lead the training is there. He is talking into a microphone, apparently to radio listeners. He announces the free training. But when he tells the location, he gives the official street name rather than simply saying that it's at the mall. Nobody really knows what the street is called.

I'm really interested in signing up to learn how first responders should react. It's a great opportunity, especially given that it's free. But I know that I simply do not have the time for this weekly training. Not only am I busy with too many activities, I need to drive my daughter to her activities, too. Nevertheless, I stay there for a while.

Finally, I leave. As I go, I notice a lot of boys dressed in black. They're wearing black knit caps, black sweatshirts and black jeans. I presume that these boys already took some junior training, and now they're showing up for more advanced training.


It's the next morning. I've overslept. It's already time for my daughter's bus to arrive to pick her up. I hope she got herself ready for school! I rush outside and see to my dismay that both she and her friend CK are running in the road alongside the bus. It's not that they missed the bus -- the bus never stopped for them. CK falls, sprawling face first onto the street. Before I rush to her, I decide to act like a first responder and make sure the street is safe. I stand facing the oncoming traffic and hold my hand up with authority to make them stop.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Donated Food for Thought

At this time of year, our company collects donations of non-perishable food items. When I see the bins full of cans of processed meat, bottles of salad dressing and boxes of cereal, crackers and noodles, two competing thoughts come to my mind:
  1. Admiration and pride for the many generous people I work with, especially for the woman who organizes the drive.
  2. Relief for having a fairly high-paying job, one that allows me to buy the high-quality foods I need to keep from slipping into metabolic syndrome, fatigue, arthritis, asthma, depression and dementia. When I see the boxes, I start to imagine a scenario in which I'm in need of food and yet unable to accept it.
I also wonder, if I were to donate a few boxes of gluten-free pasta or rice milk, would the agency that distributes the food know enough to direct my donation to someone on a gluten-free, casein-free diet?

Incidentally, if you can provide a donation, one of my favorite agencies to recommend is United Way, because they can direct your donation just about anywhere in the world, and you can specify what it can be used for.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday Gnarled Tree Stump

This gnarled tree stump almost looks like a dinosaur. I came across it during a hike many years ago when we were a much healthier family. We visited the trail again this summer, but wife had a lot of difficulty and even fell twice.

And here's an interestingly-shaped stone that I found nearby.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Evolution of the Stick Deodorant Package

The most cost-effective container for something is a cylinder whose height is twice the diameter of its base. You learn about this in first semester calculus class -- it's a classic "max/min" problem. Ask any engineer or engineering student. You can maximize the volume for a given surface, or minimize the surface of a given volume.

Indeed, for many years, the cans and bottles used to package products were designed to have roughly those dimensions in order to minimize packaging costs.

But at some point, marketing people took over the design of product packaging. They had results from research that showed how sales correlate with how a product looks on the shelf (and where it's placed, but that's another matter). They first changed labels (colors, fonts and images) to make the product more appealing.

Eventually packaging technology improved. Cans and bottles could be made cheaper and in a greater variety of shapes. Marketing folks realized they could make more money by putting less product in a package while keeping its appearance the same. Perhaps they sold it for 30% less than before, whereas they were selling 50% less product. Thus, products such as stick deodorant appear in shallow packages in which the base is a skinny oval instead of a circle. But they're just as tall and wide as before. They trick consumers into thinking that they're getting the same amount as before when in fact they're getting a lot less.

This practice annoys me for a four reasons:
  1. It's a waste of packaging material. The plastics that packages are made from come from oil. I want oil to be used for gasoline and home heating oil -- things I can actually use -- not something disposable that's designed to trick me.
  2. I resent being tricked. I'm not tricked by this, but I resent the attempt, nonetheless.
  3. It's a waste of product. Every time you get near the end of a stick of deodorant, you leave behind some inaccessible portion. This happens more frequently when the package has less inside it.
  4. The energy used to make the excess plastic is wasted.
  5. The damn things are unstable. Once you've used more than half of a stick deodorant, the container becomes perilously top-heavy. Merely opening the medicine cabinet door suddenly can generate enough suction to cause one of these partly-filled things to topple off the shelf and crash onto a pair of eyeglasses near the sink. Who needs that? Not me.

I'm generally opposed to government interference and excessive legislation. But if a government can tax the gasoline I buy so that I can drive to work and be productive, it should also tax the oil that's used for making plastic. They probably do tax it, but apparently it's not enough. The tax should be so painful that packaging companies will need to revert back to sensibly-shaped cans and bottles. I would even welcome a government specification on the dimensions of cans and bottles. Anything not meeting the specification would be illegal if sold in the USA.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Things I Say to the Cat

This is tangentially inspired by Sh*t My Dad Says....
  • Stop torturing it and eat it already!
  • How can you be hungry? You just ate an hour ago!
  • That's a carpet, not an ass-wipe.
  • Yes, I know the dog's feet smell amazing. Now leave him alone.
  • Where's the mouse toy? I can't believe you let it escape under the refrigerator.
  • That's my lap, not a pin cushion.
  • What, I should feed you again just because you threw up?
  • Oh kitty! I have a nice, tasty moth for you to eat!
  • That's a toilet bowl, not a water dish.
  • Isn't it nice how you let me go out in the cold rain to make money so I can buy your cat food and litter and then watch you sleep all day?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

SDP: Free Multi-Platform Cataloging Software

I think I need to check out the Java program Data Crow for cataloging data (such as photos). I have several years of digital photos arranged in directories named for the month in which they were taken. But if I'm looking for a picture and can't remember when I took it, I need to look in each directory to find it. A database that supports tags should help a lot.

I wish I had something like this set up when I was looking for the photo of my dog's epulis.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101117

I'm back to eating oat bran for breakfast, at least a few days per week. I've run out of breakfast sausage, and I'm too busy to make more, and I don't feel like buying any of those pre-cooked frozen varieties. Even the ones that purport to be "All Natural" contain dextrose or some other undesirable ingredients.

Waist = 38.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Creativity Boot Camp

I like to visit the sites of folks who comment on my posts. One site I visited today featured a badge for Creativity Boot Camp. Anything to do with Creativity turns my head. So naturally I checked it out.

Creativity Boot Camp is two-week course on creativity set in a blog on Blogspot. It was conceived by artist Madeline Bea. The course is still up, and you can go through it, reading one post each day until you graduate.

Check it out!

boot camp

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Dog's Epulis

Our dog had surgery to remove an epulis from his lower jaw back in 2009. But then it grew back. Here's a picture of the growth as it looked a few weeks after surgery.

It got a bit bigger. Then, with all his chewing, the dog loosened it. And one day I just pulled it off, and it never came back. Unfortunately, the growth that he has now is quite different.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday Country House

I took this last year while touring the grounds of the Hillstead Museum....

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Computer Games for Children

Occasionally my friends ask me to recommend computer games for children. They know I'm serious about online privacy and security, so they're curious to know what sites I let my daughter play on. Here's what I tell them:

Webkinz. This is a great site in many ways. First, the site requires no personal information. Second, the chat features are extremely restricted by phrase & word filters. Children cannot enter any words that do not meet the criteria, and that includes personal names. You need to buy one stuffed animal once a year in order to obtain a code to gain access. You get a room and an online pet that you can care for as well as many games. You earn Kinzcash by playing games, then you can buy clothes for your pet and furniture for your room. The games are generally free of violence. There is no advertising and no product placement except for the stuffed animals themselves. The stores that sell Webkinz also carry other Webkinz merchandise, such as clothes. My daughter started on this site when she was about seven years old, yet she still signs on to play at age 12.

Bella Sara. A great site for children who are horse lovers. It used to be that to gain access to the site you had to buy trading cards that come with codes you enter into the site. But now you can join for free, but the codes are required to unlock additional features of the site. You need to supply an e-mail address when you sign up. Once you do, you adopt a magical horse that you care for. There is no chat and no third party advertising. Activities are free of violence.

Poptropica. This site can be played entirely free. You do not need to buy a pet to gain access. You can sign up without an e-mail address or any other personal information. However, you can get a premium account that will enable your child to get more stuff for his online character. The site offers several "islands" that have themes. Play involves solving the problem that's associated with the island. Problem solving is sometimes educational in nature. For example, you might have to put paintings that have been mixed up into their proper locations (Impressionist, Cubist, Expressionist, etc.), or engage in trading to earn money for a large enough boat to defeat a pirate. However, solutions to all of the islands are available on Youtube. When you get defeated at certain parts of an island, you are simply returned to an earlier point without losing any inventory. You earn credits every time you solve an island, and you can buy things for your character with the credits. Each island has a chat room in which chat is scripted. There are promotional ads for movies and books that actually take you to other websites.

Miniclip This free site has hundreds of games in many genres to choose from, including games that involve violence in which you shoot at aliens (Obama Alien Defense) or punch and kick opponents (Karate King, Street Fight). The site asks for an e-mail address when you sign up. Advertising takes place in the margins of the browser. Chat is very limited with scripted phrases. You can create an avatar (called a YoMe). There is a player's forum message board, but the link is easy to overlook.

Do you know of any other fun online gaming sites? Let me know!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dog Wisdom

My dog and I communicate even if we don't exchange words.

This morning, he wanted to go outside a second time before I left for work. Sometimes he needs to poop twice in a short period of time. I'd rather spend a little time to indulge him when he asks politely, rather than have him uncomfortable all day or respond to a soiled floor.

Yes, I did write "when he asks politely." That's what he does. He gets up suddenly from his repose and walks up to me and gives me the Humble but Pleading Look, "I'm sorry, it makes me sad, but I need to go outside, please." Sometimes he will bring his plushie squeekie toy.

"Do you want to go Outside, Buddy? Outside? Okay." So we went outside, again.

I know what you're thinking, "That's not a conversation," and "All dogs do that, big deal." But the real conversation didn't start until after we got outside, and I wanted to go back in so I could leave for work.

After pooping, he again rolled around on the grass, rubbing his back and snout into the frost-tainted grass. This cool weather is his favorite time of year. So I wasn't too surprised when he said, "Give me a belly rub."

I nearly walked past him. But then I thought to myself, "Why not?" He's nine years old. We should enjoy each other while he's still healthy. "Besides," I said to myself, "I can get a good look at his tumor." He had a benign tumor removed from a broken tooth last month, a fibrous carcinoma of the tooth. But it needs to be looked at in case it grows back. I can get a good look at it when he's lying on his back.

So after about a minute of belly rubbing and saying "Silly dog," I stopped. "Okay, let's take a look at that tooth." It was definitely back. I could see it clearly from this angle -- a red, chickpea of gum tissue seeping out around the sliver of the upper tooth that remained.

"Oh Buddy, we have to do something about that. The doctor said he would remove the tooth this time. Or we could do radiation. Which one do you want?"

In reply, he said, "I'll show you what I need," and he ran over to the brush pile to fetch a stick. But he all he could find on the ground was a skinny little twig. I walked over. He watched expectantly while I broke off a 16" length of oak branch that was about as thick as a hotdog.

This time I didn't taunt him with it, offering it and then pulling it away just before he grabs it. No, I simply handed it to him. His cure. He took it, walked a short distance and lay down to chew it.

I watched, expecting to see blood ooze onto the splintered wood, but surprisingly there was none. I grew cold as I stood over him watching. Leaves blew around us and fell from trees while he crushed the stick with his jaws. But I let him have his chew. Either it would cure the problem, or at least he'd enjoy himself.

After he chewed a few inches off the end, I roused ourselves, and I hurried inside. He followed reluctantly and came inside about a minute later.

Maybe he knows what he needs to help his mouth. White oak bark can help with inflamed gums. Perhaps he'd do better with a birch branch, whose bark contains Betulin, which is effective against tumors. Or maybe willow would be a good choice. Willow bark contains salicylates, which can act like aspirin. Native Americans used willow bark to relieve toothaches and other pain. I suspect he somehow knows this. He used to always chew sticks. But ever since his tooth broke, I've kept the sticks away from him.

But I think the dog knows best.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gluten-Free High Protein Snack Bars

Snacks bars are great to have on hand in case you get hungry between meals. I like to bring one to work with me every day in case I get overwhelmed with cravings. When I went to Washington D.C. for seven days, I brought about two dozen to eat in the car and to supplement the meals provided by my wife's vegetarian cousin.

Although there are hundreds of brands and flavors, it's actually hard to pick one that has the right balance of texture and flavor, that does not contain wheat and a lot of soy or peanut butter, and that has a low Glycemic Index.

I used to eat Luna Bars and Clif Energy Bars until I realized that my body could not tolerate the soy, the main source of protein in these bars.1 They would actually fuel my sugar cravings and hunger rather than quell them, and they would cause bloating and gas.

Eventually, I came across four brands that I like a lot. They are listed here in no particular order:
Please carefully read the ingredients on these bars. I found them to be agreeable both in taste and in their effect on my body, even though some bars contain soy and/or dairy. I cannot guarantee that you will like them or tolerate them.

1 Clif makes a line of soy-free Low Glycemic bars called Clif C. I haven't tried them yet, but they look promising, even though they're not high in protein. You can find out more here.
2 As an associate of North American Pharmacal, I receive a small cash award for each click-through-purchase of any NAP product.
3 I like to order the Garden of Life, FücoProtein bars online from iHerb. As I wrote before, first time customers can receive $5 off by using this coupon code at checkout time: DOJ209. If you do, I will receive a small cash award as a result of your purchase.
4 These Tanka products were added to the list on 2013-05-20.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaBloPoMo Redux

When I finished National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and National Blog Writing Month (NaBloWriMo)1 last year, I vowed that I'd never participate again. It was grueling to find the time to post among all the other aspects of life I was dealing with. I would often stay up late and eat chocolate and ice cream to power me through the late night efforts to post.

So naturally I felt no apprehension or anticipation on October 31, although maybe that was because I was too busy eating enough left-over chocolate to make a life-size solid Easter chocolate bunny.

But a funny thing happened when I woke up on November 1. My thoughts were brimming with ideas for three blog posts, and I had a resounding urge to participate in NaBloPoMo. So here I am!

1 The site that hosted National Blog Writing Month is not in service at this time.

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101110

Some anxiety has been robbing me of my appetite, so my weight is down.

I think I'm due to post a two-year graph soon.

Waist = 38.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dream: "They Pay Us"

I'm walking around an indoor carnival or amusement park. I need to go to the bathroom, so I enter an enclosed area that's made for preschoolers. I know there's a bathroom in that area. I find out that the area will close at four o'clock, which is the current time. I keep walking toward the bathroom hoping that it won't really close. But when I get to the bathroom door, I hear the announcer call out that the area is closing. He sounds serious, so I abandon my plan because I don't want to get locked in the area while I'm inside the bathroom.

I'm outside the area, but still in the amusement park building. I'm sitting in a wheelchair and an acquaintance is pushing me around sometimes. Actually, he's being mischievous by pushing me hard down the ramps. He seems to enjoy it, and I'm not perturbed, so I don't bother to ask him to stop. I can find the brakes even though I have to feel for them on this unfamiliar device. We go through the outskirts of the water park section, and there's water on the floor in some areas.

I'm in a minivan next to a river. I'm sitting in the back right passenger seat. A wheelchair-bound boy is next to me on the left. Within the next few days I will be performing some powerful therapy on him to rid him of his handicap. He says, "I feel the walls are getting thin" while he looks out the window at the river. "Yes," I tell him. "One wall is in front of you. That's your future. The other wall is back here," I say, indicating the base of his spine. "The Energy of the Universe will flow through this wall and into you."

A girl and the mom are in front, the mom on the right, in front of me. The girl is on the left, in front of the boy. "Mom, what happens if we lose him?" she asks, referring to her brother. The mom says simply, flatly, "They pay us."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dream: Planning Vacation with the Artist

I'm at the terminal looking at the screens. I see that there are only two tickets left for the trip that my wife and I are planning to take with her artist friend. Yet I don't want to buy them.

I'm in a movie theater with three friends. We're attending a film about the upcoming art exhibit, which will feature the work of my wife's friend. In fact, the plane tickets that I was supposed to buy are for the trip to attend that exhibit. And the friends are planning to go, too. I wonder if they've already bought their plane tickets. Uneasy, I watch the film.

The artist's work involves dead human bodies on platforms. The platforms are covered in dark but colorful overlapping squares, roughly 1 foot by 1 foot. The bodies are wrapped in a cloth that matches. I know this because I've seen her work before in a photo of an earlier exhibit that featured one such body. In the film I'm seeing now, there are three bodies on three platforms. One of the bodies sits up suddenly.

It occurs to me that she has only the one body from her previous exhibit. The two extra bodies are going to come from my friends -- the artist is going to kill two of them to use them in the exhibit!

But my unease over the plane tickets weighs even more heavily on my mind. I forget about my friends' deaths and worry about the tickets.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday Tree Line at the Airport

Autumn is in full swing here in the Northern Hemisphere. Our maple trees already are bare. Now the oaks have taken up the chorus of color with their muted tones of rust and burgundy.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dream: The Church of Runes

I'm sitting in a church pew during a service. My wife and daughter are sitting a few pews behind me. The time has come for communion. I decide to ask my wife and daughter if they intend to go up to receive communion.

I get up and walk back to where I think they are, but they're not there. I walk further back, but I don't see them. Eventually I find them and say something to them. A little girl responds to tell me that they're not there. There is also a woman with black hair sitting next to the girl.

I walk to the exit, go through the door and walk through the hallway. Then I find a door that leads outside.

I'm on the side walkway of the church. I notice a sign that proclaims it to be The Church of Runes. I look down and notice small foot stones that have runes carved into them. The stones are not located in the walkway, but they are in the plant beds parallel to the walkway. The stones are greyish, bluish green. They are about eight inches in diameter. The surfaces are smooth but gently uneven.

I've taken my shoes and socks off, and I realize that these stones are meant to be read or felt with the feet. So I lift one foot and use it to feel the stones while standing on the walkway.

I go back inside, using a different door. I enter a different part of the church or perhaps another church altogether. The gathering of people is more social in nature. It could also be a support group. A woman with dark hair sits in front of me. It's the same woman I saw while I thought I was talking to my wife. She introduces herself and says that she's interested in a diet to improve her health. I tell her about the Blood Type diet and describe how the lectins in certain foods causes blood to coagulate.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Conversations With Daughter

"Dad, do you think cats would make good drivers?"

"You're asking if they would be good at driving a car? No, I don't think so."

"Why not?"

"It's their brains. They don't have the right kind of brain. They react too much to any little motion. They'd get overwhelmed."

"What if they had a human brain?"

"Whose brain?"



Thursday, November 4, 2010

Task Triplet for Appointments

I always brush my teeth and floss right before going to the dentist.

That's one task.

I always wash my hair before getting my hair cut.

That's a second task.

I wash my car before driving it to the mechanic for service.

And that rounds out the triplet! Three appointments; three tasks.

It's that new car I mentioned earlier, which I bought from the mechanic. I don't want him to think I'm not taking care of it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101103

Halloween is behind me, not without some Halloween candy getting inside me! At times like these, I like to hope that all that sugar helps boost my metabolism. I did refrain on Monday and Tuesday, though. The Chinese melamine problem of two years ago that included tainted chocolate helped dampen my enthusiasm for the stuff.

Waist = 38.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Terms

gubernatorial race: An election in which the individuals that are running for office are both goobers.

goober: A chocolate-covered nut.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Conversations With Wife

Wife, as if just seeing me for the first time in months: "Do you know that you have two square indentations in your forehead?"

Me: "Yes, they're from my CPAP mask. It's where the mask makes contact with my face. I guess it displaces the fat that's on my face. Hey, maybe you could put it on your ass!"

Fortunately, we were in a restaurant at the time, so repercussions did not materialize.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday Cat on Pumpkin

An old photo becomes a Halloween treat for you!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Getting Paid to Make a Halloween Costume

Every year, my workplace has a Halloween Costume contest. I never dress up, although sometimes I'll halfheartedly wear a clown face or a pirate head wrap with a fake earring. Then after the contest, I get inspired and start planning for next year.

It was the same this year, too. I was shaving this morning, and I had done nothing to prepare. As usual I started getting all kinds of amazing ideas for costumes. This time was a little different, though. I felt strong motivation to do something.

So the last-minute idea I settled on was to wear a homemade Albert Einstein mask, which would go along with my naturally unruly gray (or white) hair. All I had to do was find a suitable picture of Einstein's face, scale it to life size, perhaps crop off any background imagery, print it out, pop eye-holes into the paper, and tape it on my head. I would borrow a lab coat from work and tape a homemade name tag to it to complete the likeness. "I can do this!" I thought to myself.

So before I left for work, I started step one, which was to find a suitable picture. Unfortunately, there were no high resolution pictures of Einstein in which he faces the camera straight on. Also I came across unsettling and disrespectful caricatures of him. That made me depressed, so I abandoned the plan.

But then I had an even better plan -- I would dress as the president of my company. It was a brilliant idea, I thought.

All during my commute, I imagined the plan. And when I got to my desk, I got started right away.

First, I searched the network for pictures of the boss. I found a great picture of him that was taken with his family during a company picnic. I had to crop it and enlarge it greatly, and then rotate the face about 7 degrees. I did all this in The GIMP, an amazing multi-platform, Photoshop-like freeware program that I use to fix up some of my photographs.

Finally done, I printed out his perpetually grinning face, cut the eye-holes out and cut away the excess blank parts around the chin. I affixed the tape to the mask right at eye level. Then I borrowed the boss's lab coat, and taped the mask to the sides of my eyeglasses.

The time came for the contest, so I worked my way to the cafeteria. I had to go slow -- the mask was hard to see through because I made the eye-holes fairly small (about 1/4 inch).

I entered the cafeteria. I cannot describe the effect I had on everyone who turned to look at me!

Jaws dropped in amazement!

Eyes widened with surprise!

Huge smiles formed!

And then the boss walked in. Even he enjoyed the gag. He stood next to me so that we could be photographed together.

The judging commenced. We were vying for one of three prizes, Funniest, Most Scary, and Most Original. The others who dressed up looked great, so I hardly expected to win. After all, most of them put a lot of planning and effort into their costumes. Or they went out and bought an outfit.

Funniest was awarded to SL, whose costume was over-the-top, as usual. He was dressed as a Reno NV sheriff in silk, a la Reno 911.

Most Scary was awarded to JM, aka Moon Man, who wore an astronaut outfit and a plastic ass.

Then I started to worry that I might actually win. Worry? Yes, because most of the other folks aren't paid as well as me. They need the money. They invested a lot more in their costumes and deserved the prize more.

The emcee was looking at the person whom I thought had the most original outfit, but then he called my name. Actually I felt really bad and even considered giving the $100 gift certificate to the other person.

But the amazing thing is that I couldn't detect any hard feelings. And a few folks said that they were glad I won. They talked about how I even had the same mannerisms as the boss. That was mind boggling.

I had completed my costume within 30 minutes after arriving at work, and that includes waiting for the slow computer to log on, searching for the photograph, printing out the image and fetching the lab coat. I even paused to fetch someone a set of three balls that I use for juggling. I didn't have to buy anything -- all the supplies that I used were from work. And I even got paid to work on the costume.

It doesn't get any better than that.

I've wanted to show up as the boss for a few Halloweens. I have the hair for it, but I always imagined that I'd have to grow the beard (or make one).

I'm still glowing with amazement that I won. Wow!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Neurology Now Magazine

Neurology Now Magazine is a bi-monthly magazine from the American Academy of Neurology that's "distributed free to individuals with neurologic disorders, their families, and caregivers through their neurologists' offices. [Some patients] are also eligible to request free home delivery." Of course, you can read it online, too.

The AAN website offers lots of resources for patients who are dealing with everything from Absence of the Septum Pellucidum to Zellweger Syndrome.

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101028

I forgot to measure my waist this morning. So I just repeated last week's measurement.

Waist = 38.5"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday Earth

Sort of cheating this week I suppose, but in this evening shot, everything is under the shadow of Earth.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Toward a Dreamlike Reality

Lately I'm striving for a dreamlike reality. That probably makes you think I'm trying to avoid reality by spacing out into a daydream. But just the opposite is true.

About twenty-five years ago I became very interested in dreaming. My diary morphed into a dream journal as I recorded dream after dream, first thing in the morning. I would even read about dreaming1. And when I discovered lucid dreaming, I started to have lucid dreams.

If you've never had a lucid dream, let me describe it for you this way. An ordinary dream might be like watching a movie on a small laptop computer with the sound turned very low. Your body is somewhat numb from too much inactivity. A lucid dream is like experiencing a movie in a theater with surround sound that you can feel, and seats that move so that it actually feels like you're flying. You become aware that you're dreaming, and then every aspect of the dream becomes extremely vivid. In some cases, you can actually change the dream, control it.

My recent love affair with the books of Lynn Andrews2 brought back fond memories of my old lucid dream experiences3. I'm longing to have those lucid dreams again. But then it occurred to me that it would be nearly as nice to experience lucid reality. Normally I spend my entire day just functioning, without paying any attention to my activity. So now I'm trying to pretend that I'm in a dream.

Just before you become lucid in a dream, you question reality. Sometimes an incongruous situation might make you think, "Wait, why am I playing basketball with a pineapple that has an animated talking clown face carved into its side? Is this a dream?" And then it becomes apparent.

Right now I appear to be typing a blog post about lucid dreaming and lucid living. That seems reasonable, I guess. I have my headphones on -- I'm listening to a Pandora station ("I Caught Myself," by Paramore). But I'm inspecting my room when I pause to gather my thoughts, acutely aware of my surroundings, looking for something that doesn't belong. Would it be possible to pierce the facade of this reality and reveal the true existence behind it?

I know now that certain foods promote brain fog -- mostly wheat. But even large, hi-carb gluten-free meals can sedate me. Would fasting help me to become lucid in this reality?

The crisp autumn conditions we have now in Northeast USA are perfect for this exercise -- each colorful leaf vies for attention against a perfect blue sky. An exercise in mindfulness. Or is Autumn just the sort of incongruity one needs to prove that we're in a dream?

1 Especially "Creative Dreaming," by Patricia Garfield and "Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming," by Stephen Laberge.

2 Namely The Woman of Wyrrd: The Arousal of the Inner Fire and Shakkai: Women of the Sacred Garden

3 I do wonder why Lynn is not able to become lucid in her dreams of past and future lives. Maybe she doesn't dream about her situations; maybe she inhabits her past or future selves.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101020

Still under 165lb. The extra waist size is due to inflammation from the bowl of ice cream I had last night.

Waist = 38.5"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday Slats

Just some effects from our louver closet doors.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101013

Trying to stay under 165lbs...

Waist = 38.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday Pets

I haven't photographed the pets in a while. Here's the dog and one of our cats basking. These mortal enemies have one thing in common -- a love of the Sun.

Our dog had to have a toe removed because of a cancer growth.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20101006

Again, Wednesday seems to have arrived too quickly. Whenever it seems to me that time is moving quickly, I wonder if I'm fully conscious. I even wonder if I'm having seizures. You'd think there would be some online screening test for this, but I didn't find anything. Most of what I found online pertain to learning about seizure disorder after getting diagnosed with one and with managing it.

Waist = 38.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dave Barry on Dogs

The last thing you want is a smart dog. ... You want a dog that considers you brilliant because of all the amazing things you can do, such as open a door; a dog that worships you as a treat-dispensing god; a dog that, when you have an intestinal flu and reek like a Hong Kong dumpster because you have not showered or changed pajamas or brushed your teeth in four days, and you are crouched in the bathroom spewing random fluids and semi-solids from every orifice you possess, your dog is right there next to you, wagging its tail and licking you and just generally doing everything it can to communicate the message: "Wow! You have never smelled more interesting!"
From I'll Mature When I'm Dead : Dave Barry's Amazing Tales of Adulthood.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Shadow Shot Sunday "New" Car

I had a request for a picture of the new car I had written about on someone else's blog. Well, here it is, along with its shadow. Sorry about the glare.

If you look closely, the plate reads, "F = M A". Obviously, I tinkered with the license plate marker a bit. That equation is a fundamental law of physics: Force equals Mass times Acceleration. I like the bit about acceleration. Anyway, I'm pretty sure you can't get an equal sign from the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

SDP: Try Out Sweet Home 3D

Sweet Home 3D is an interior design Java application for quickly choosing and placing furniture on a house 2D plan drawn by the end-user, with a 3D preview.
And it's free. The screenshots look impressive. It looks like a handy application for layouts of home furnishings. Right now, I use my employer-supplied AutoCAD just to get a bird's eye view of the floor plan.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dermatillomania and Dermatophagia

I have a history of minor skin picking and biting.

When I was a young boy, I would go to bed at night and then grind the knuckle of my left index finger into something hard, such as part of my lovey, the corner of the pillowcase, or a button, zipper or seam of my pajama. The knuckle quickly developed a blister, which I chewed off during the day. Then, when that formed a scab, I'd pick and bite the scab. I kept that up for years, and it got nasty-looking, so I was always embarrassed by it and tried to hide it.

I'm having a flare-up of this again. It's the same knuckle, the same urge. But now that I know that it's part of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I'm no longer embarrassed by it. In fact, I'm almost proud of it. When my wife and daughter ask about it, I just say, "That's just noives (nerves)."

As I type this and then pause to collect my thoughts, my knuckle finds its way to the seam of my jeans, at the inside of the knee, to grind some more. I put an adhesive bandage on it this morning to prevent myself from picking at it and biting it. It's really tempting to do that now, because there's a nice thick scab there just waiting to be picked.

I thought I had outgrown this behavior after growing up. But three years ago, when my mother went into the hospital for the last time, I started it up again. After she died, I stopped bothering with it, and it quickly healed.

This current bout started at the end of August, when my father-in-law went into the hospital, also for the last time. He passed away a couple of weeks ago.

So is this behavior somehow related to death?

Do you have a similar compulsion? If so, what seems to trigger it for you?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20100929

Wow, is it Wednesday, again, already? I guess so!

Waist = 38.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Telegraph, The Typewriter and the Answering Machine

Obsolescence. The more quickly new gadgets become available, the more quickly older ones fall by the wayside.

Phone booths, and public telephones in general, are rare, if they still exist at all. Most people today carry a cellphone1 or, more likely, a smartphone. They have no need of a wired telephone. And since these public telephones are expensive to maintain (and somewhat prone to vandalism) they are being removed.

As GPS devices become ubiquitous, folks have less need of road signs that identify street names. So you can expect to see less of them, too. No, they won't be removed the way pay phones are. But they'll fail to be replaced. They will disappear first along the old, smaller roads that only local drivers are likely to drive on, and that have been subjected to construction. It's probably the current norm in Massachusetts to leave out street signs -- at least that's how it seemed while I attempted to drive to the Great East Festival in May2. In fact it was this trip that compelled me to buy a GPS3 -- something I swore I'd never do.

When we discovered that our answering machine was broken recently, I came up with my latest prediction for obsolescence -- the hanky. No, just kidding. I mean the answering machine, of course. Those same folks who sport cellphones are deciding to eliminate their land line phone service. And the fewer folks that have a land line, the fewer that need a telephone and answering machine. But of the two, the answering machine is more dispensable because you can subscribe to your telephone provider's answering service, which you need a telephone to use.

The answering machine that broke was one I bought in 1992. Back then I chose a model that used ordinary audio cassette tapes. That was because someone in the store pointed out that the cassette tape feature would be handy in the event someone were to dictate directions over the phone. I'd be able to just set the answering machine to record the directions, and then take the tape with me in the car and play it back on the car stereo as I drove. Considering how it was the cassette tape mechanism that broke, and that I never played back recordings in the car, perhaps it wasn't the best advice. On the other hand, I still have the first message that my wife left for me just before our very first date.

You can still find answering machines, of course, but the selection isn't what it was 18 years ago. There seem to be few standalone units, and my brief search didn't turn up any that recorded onto tape (not that I wanted one like that). But if you're hoping to be able to find an answering machine in twenty years, well, let's just say you should buy a few extra units now and stash them away.

Then again, answering machines, street signs and even the odd pay phone might always be with us. After all, decades ago many people predicted that computers would bring about the demise of paper. But as we know, we are still drowning in the stuff, especially around election time.

1 Everyone except me, that is.
2 It might've only seemed that way because I put off buying new eyeglasses and couldn't see the signs.
3 Also, we were planning to drive to Washington DC, and I wasn't going to force my wife to pretend to read a map. It actually was helpful, or at least better than having no clue about which direction to take. And in DC, you definitely don't want to wind up on certain roads appearing to be lost.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dave Barry on Cats

There are no Seeing Eye cats, of course, because the sole function of cats, in the Great Chain of Life, is to cause harm to human beings. The instant a cat figured out that the blind person would follow it whether it went, it would lead this person directly into whirling unshielded manufacturing equipment.

From Dave Barry's Homes and Other Black Holes.

Dream: Dinosaur Head at the Dinner Theatre

I'm with my wife and daughter in a large plain room. We're seated at a table at one end of the room along with others at other tables. All the tables are up against the walls. Our table is the only one against this wall, and a window is set into the wall above us. The window opens into another room, a projector room. The floor appears to be bare concrete. We're here for entertainment, and the show is about to start.

An emcee strolls about the center of the room. He gestures toward our table and says, "Those folks are in for a real treat," insinuating that a lot of scary action will take place near our table. The theme of the show has something to do with sea monsters. My expectation is that the floor will become sea water, and we'll be able to see creatures coming up out of the water.

A large object thuds onto our table as if it came out of the window. It appears to be the head of a dinosaur, a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It's about the size of a pony's head, richly textured, and a sickly reddish-pink hue. It looks so real, too, since the skin seems torn where the head was severed from the body. From my vantage point, I can see a whitish, plastic, ribbed tube positioned from the floor to the underside of the table. It's right underneath the head, so I infer that the head will be electronically controlled and become animated through wires that pass through the tube. I suppose that it will be one of the "creatures" that rise up from the water.

At this point my wife and daughter show their nervousness by moving to another table against an adjacent wall. But I decide to stay at the table. Isn't this what we came to experience?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Revenge Against the Evil Eyeglass Scammers

I've had to wear eyeglasses since I was eleven years old. Back then I was afraid of the kind of teasing I'd get. As an adult, I finally have the self confidence and composure to not worry myself about such silly nonsense. Besides, who's going to laugh at my eyeglasses when they have my pot belly and gray hair to ridicule?

But as an adult I am afraid of the folks who sell eyeglasses. I feel their sole purpose is to profit heavily from my minor handicap. I don't know why I feel this way, unless it's the fact that they do not publish the price of any of their eyeglasses in their advertisements.

Why is it that I can figure out, in the comfort of my own home, how much I will spend on a bunch of bananas, but I have no idea what my next pair of glasses will cost? Whereas every week, three local supermarkets pay for circulars that show the prices for many items, the only kinds of advertisements I see for eyeglasses are those that promise savings of $100 or "Buy one and get a second pair for 50% off." These eyeglass advertisements are accompanied by large paragraphs of fine print that explain that the offer does not apply to certain brands, or children's glasses, or it excludes the cost of the lenses.

Naturally, after you go through the trouble of showing up in the store and selecting frames that look somewhat stylish, you find out that, A, the coupon does not apply, and, B, that the pair you picked out cost "only" $300, and C, that the special lightweight progressive lenses bring the total price up to $600.1 This actually happened to me the last time I bought both frames and lenses from a local Lens Maker store. But luckily, although they did not accept my health insurance, they did offer 50% off to policyholders such as myself. I was still not happy, because I'm a cheapskate who believes that some wire and glass should not cost $300.

It was nearly as frightening and upsetting as when I bought my wife's engagement ring.

So when I got my latest prescription, I was relieved when the doctor said that my eyes changed only one step. Unfortunately he said that last year, too, and I put off getting new glasses back then. I can't read street signs (even when I can find them), so this time I resolved to get at least new lenses for my old frames.

But even getting just replacement lenses is expensive when they're scratch-resistant carbonate progressive lenses. So when I heard on the Clark Howard show that you can get a pair of prescription glasses online for only $8.00, I was very interested. He was talking about Zenni Optical.

Now I know that the local eyeglass provider is a professional that not only sells you glasses, but measures your eyes, adjusts the frames for proper fit, and, above all, tells you most sincerely how marvelous you look in them. I knew I could do without the flattery, and I was pretty sure that I could adjust a pair of mail-order wire-framed glasses myself. It was the measuring part that made me nervous.

You can't just look in the mirror and measure the distance between your own pupils. That's because you have to look at one pupil first to align the ruler to it. Then you have to look at the other pupil to read off the measurement. But in the process of looking at the other pupil, you've moved your eyes, and the ruler is no longer aligned to the first pupil. I could ask my wife to measure my pupils, but she gets physically ill from any activity that involves numbers. She could probably drive on an interstate if the exits were marked with letters or named after edible items: "Exit Bacon Cheeseburger, Right Lane, 1 mile."

So the need to have a pupil measurement was a deal breaker. Reluctant to give in, I carried the prescription around for a few more blurry weeks. I wondered if the Lens Maker store wrote my pupil measurement down in my records, and I could get a copy of it? But actually, they didn't do a good job of it because my two lenses were not aligned to my eyes -- I could see somewhat clearly through only one lens at a time. Maybe I could get my daughter to measure my pupils? No, although she's fine with numbers, I don't think she'd align the ruler properly.

But then I had a brilliant idea! I decided to use my existing pair of glasses as a measuring fixture! I cut a small Post It note in half, and placed the corner of one half on the right lens of my glasses while I was wearing them. I placed it such that the corner pointed to a distant object that I focused on. Then I did the same with the second half of the Post It. After making sure that both corners pointed to the distant object while I gazed at that object, I removed the glasses and measured the distance between the two corners. It was 60mm. Bingo! I was ready to order.

I called up the website and used the guide to help me find frames. I decided to get bifocals instead of progressive lenses -- they're cheaper, and they offer clear viewing over a wider lateral angle than progressive lenses (a fallback in case I screwed up the measurement). Not all frames are compatible with bifocals (or progressive lenses), so that limited my choices a bit. Also, I wanted wire frames so I could bend them easily. I wanted full rims, which are more durable than the rimless lenses that use a flimsy fishing line to hold the lenses. And I wanted them to look fairly good.

Thus I chose frames that cost about $27. With the lenses and two additional clip-on-like sunglass accessories, plus a spare pair of glasses fitted with single-vision lenses, my absolute total was just $72, which, at the local Lens Maker store would've entitled me to not even a single lens.

The order arrived three weeks after I placed it. I was a bit nervous, especially since I did not receive a confirmation e-mail, and the website promised typical delivery of two weeks. In fact, the order arrived on the day I decided to contact them. Nevertheless, I am happy with the bifocals. To adjust them I bent the ear piece to fit more closely behind my ear. And that was it!

If you're as tired as I am of getting ripped off by your local provider of eyeglasses, I would recommend that you buy your next pair online. But I offer some caveats. First, stick with wire frames that you can bend if you need to. Second, be prepared with a set of jeweler's screwdrivers and know how to use them. You will eventually need to snug a screw that holds the arm in place or even the lens in the rim, although I haven't had to do this yet. Three, don't depend on them if you need eyeglasses right away.

1 Or, in New York city, "six hundred friggin bucks."

Shadow Shot Sunday Plant

This is from a tall plant in a small atrium...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In 20100922

Last week I hit the upper limit of my weight range. So now I'm trying harder to resist the temptation of high-carb foods. It helps that after a traditional Polish supper of kielbasa and pierogi, I felt so fatigued that I needed to go to bed at 7:30pm. So when I feel myself reaching for something unhealthy, I remind myself of the severe effect it can have. And I reach for a tall glass of cold water or tea, instead.

And I'm pretty sure that my craving for high carbs is related to the dwindling amount of sunlight we're experiencing in the Northern Hemisphere. I wonder if I can give myself light therapy?

Waist = 38.25"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I came across two great texts on forgiveness last week. They impressed me so much that I want to share them with you. Besides, folks are already making plans for Thanksgiving, even here in the USA where it will take place on Thursday, November 25. So now's a good time to go about forgiving people so that we can get on with what's important -- food and drink. Haha, no, of course, I mean, friends and family. So without further dodo:

The Potato Story...
One day, our teacher asked us to bring to school some bitter potatoes and a bag of plastic. He told us to put in the bag a potato for every single person for which we have hard feelings and write the name on it. And we had to carry the bag with us everywhere we'd go for a week. Some of the potatoes were really heavy and, of course, some started to deteriorate. The weight of the bag proved to me how big was the burden that I used to carry with me everyday in my heart because of all the hard feelings and rancor. I was being cautious not to forget the bag and so I started to neglect things that were more important for me.

This exercise made me think about the price we pay just because we can't forgive something that already has happened and that we couldn't change.

Many times we think that forgiveness is a gift for the other, without really realizing that we are the first who benefit from it. We all wear potatoes that turn rotten in our sentimental "bag". The incapability to forgive is like a venom that we take everyday, drop by drop, and in the end it poisons us. Forgiveness liberates us from the burden that bitters our soul and makes our body sick.

To forgive doesn't mean that you agree with what happened or that you approve it. To forgive doesn't mean that what happened isn't important anymore or that you give right to the one who's hurt you. It simply means to let go all of those negative thoughts that only cause pain and anger. Ghandi said: Forgiveness is the quality of the brave ones. Only he who is strong enough to forgive an insult knows to love.

Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey, they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face.

The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand, “Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”

They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone, “Today my best friend saved my life.”

The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone. Why?”

The friend replied, “When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand, where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then, an entire life to forget them.

Learn to write your hurts in the sand and to carve your benefits in stone.

Let go of any grudges and reconnect with those who are important to you or those to whom you are important. Make plans to be with them this holiday season.