Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dream: Onion Pizza Slice

I'm hungry, so I decide to check out a nearby pizza place.  It's summer time and the folks at the pizza place are eating outside in a sunken patio.

In order to get into the shop, I need to go through the sunken patio, which is crowded with dinners.  Plus there are no stairs leading down to the patio, so I have to step on the wall and tables to climb down.  I say "excuse me" often as I jostle a few diners, and at one point I nearly step on a diner's hand.

I enter the shop and see that there are three individual slices of pizza available, all with onion topping.  I ask how much they are, and the Italian/Greek shopkeeper says, "Twelve-Three."  "Huh?"  I say.  I'm concerned because I have very little money to spend on food.  And twelve dollars is way too much for a single slice of pizza.  I'm willing to use a ten dollar bill, but I expect a lot of change back.

I ask again about the price.  I figure out that "Twelve-Three" means $1.23.  I point to a slice that was cut unevenly and therefore is the largest and ask for it.  The total cost turns out to be $3.13.  So I hand over the ten dollar bill, but then I say, "Hold on.  I have 13 cents," as I dig into my left front pants pocket.  There's so much change in the pocket that I can't pull it all out in one fistful because my hand won't come out of the pocket.

A diner comes up to me and offers me 13 cents.  He's one of the diners whom I inconvenienced earlier.  I thank him and say, "Oh that's okay, I have the money."  Nevertheless he drops the change into the blue "Take a penny; leave a penny" tray and says, "Take it if you need it" and walks away.

I'm sorting through the change in my hand looking for pennies and a dime.  Some pennies are silver-colored.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving on the Blood Type Diet

My wife and I hosted the Thanksgiving feast we enjoyed yesterday.  I filled my plate mostly with turkey and rutabaga, which are both "Superfoods" under my diet plan.  I boiled and then mashed the rutabaga myself and added sea salt and ghee, which are also superfoods.  Small amounts of homemade cranberry sauce (made with real cranberries and fresh grated ginger), onion salad and cucumber salad adorned my plate.  I had no room on the plate for mashed potatoes or stuffing, and I didn't bother with the gravy.

So even though I ate the entire heaping plateful of food, my stomach felt comfortably full, not painful or bloated.

But then dessert came along.  All the wheat in the desserts -- the cupcakes, the bourbon cake, the apple hand pie, and the pecan pie -- combined with the cream in my coffee and the ice cream to cause a painful distention of my gut.

My fattened belly fascinated others who swore it was flat before we started eating.  All I said was, "It's not fat; it's inflammation."

Yesterday I was thankful for food, family and friends.  Today I am thankful for the 30% off sale price on Deflect, a lectin-blocking supplement from North American Pharmacal.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks For These Stats

In the six-and-a-half years since this blog was started, it has gotten over twenty-thousand page views.  The top five most clicked-on posts have been:

Jan 19, 2010
455
Jan 9, 2009, 2 comments
289
Apr 20, 2010, 2 comments
192
Nov 22, 2008, 4 comments
124
Nov 15, 2010, 2 comments
122

Thank you for visiting, reading and commenting!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131127

I'm not at all concerned about gaining weight from a large Thanksgiving meal tomorrow. Usually when I load my plate with turkey and vegetables, and when I include only a heaping tablespoon of mashed potato and cranberry sauce, I'd lose a little weight. The things that I need to avoid are: gravy (because of the wheat, not the fat), stuffing, soda, all desserts.

Waist = 38.5"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Choosing a Career

When I was in high school I took a personality test that was designed to help me figure out what college to go to and what to major in.  The results suggested that I might enjoy going to a college in Oregon to study forestry.  I recall that I responded that I like the outdoors, hiking, trees and solitude, plus I was good in math and science.

But I did not follow the advice.  First, it sounded ludicrous.  Second, I didn't want to move from home.   Yet today, if I woke with a new life studying trees, I probably wouldn't mind.

Two of the books that I'm "currently reading" show up on the side bar of this blog.  They are really for my daughter, who is expected to graduate high school in about two and a half years.
  • "What Color Is Your Parachute? 2009: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers"
  • "Refuse to Choose!: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams"
They're more for job hunters and career changers -- folks who are burned out and need to try something different. "What Color Is Your Parachute?..." in particular contains a great deal of information about job hunting -- writing resumes and cover letters, networking, that sort of thing.  But I thought they would be helpful in choosing a first career.  The 8-pedalled rose chapter in "What Color Is Your Parachute?..." alone is worth the price of the book to those who need career guidance.

One other resource mentioned in "What Color Is Your Parachute?..." is the "Self-Directed Search," or SDS.  This is an online assessment tool that helps you figure out what your Holland Code is.  The SDS is not free; the test and report cost $9.95.

There's also a free test that you can take here: http://personality-testing.info/tests/RIASEC.php. In fact, I just took this test before I cleaned up the previous paragraph.  My results show that my Holland Code is IAS, meaning Thinking (I), Creating (A), Helper (S).  I got a little bar graph, too:


Knowing one's self is the first step in choosing a rewarding career.  I hope this information is helpful!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Foodbook

The newsfeed I receive from Facebook is so cluttered with pictures of food, I think of it now as Foodbook.

Enticing pictures of food -- cheerful, colorful and sweet-looking food.  Food porn for a horny addict.

I like my cousins, and I want to keep in touch with them.  So I long for a way to filter out images by subject matter.  Pictures of people: OK.  Pictures of food: NO.  Pictures of people eating food? Uh...

These are my cousins, who, I understand, have the same general set of genes as me, with the same predisposition to diabetes festering silently inside them, like me.  The only difference between us is that they haven't realized just how deadly the food is that they're raving about.  Or they don't care.

I dropped my first hint a few weeks ago.  I posted "I think Facebook is turning into the Food Network."  And I got two Likes from that.

I relish thinking of other rebellious counterattacks to food porn.

First, I thought I'd start posting pictures of other addictive substances, such as shot glasses and sultry bottles of Jack, warmly glowing lit cigarettes, maybe even lines of coke waiting to be snorted.  Of course I'd have to find the images on the Internet -- I don't drink, smoke or do drugs -- so it won't be authentic.

Then I thought it would be neat to upload pictures of my feces.  I'd proudly state, "I made this the morning after a big bowl of three-bean chili."  Or, "Tacos yesterday!  Check this one out!"  I really like this idea, actually.  I've never seen any images of poop on Facebook yet, so the idea stands out on the basis of originality.  I like the extreme anti-social nature a poop post would represent.  And it would convey the simple but important message, "As goes in, so goes out."  The problem, of course, is that folks would be so revolted that they'd probably shut it out of their heads before considering any message.

So that leaves directly responding to food porn posts:
  • "Love to eat that right before having my blood glucose tested."
  • "I bet I'd completely lose my night vision after eating that."
  • "That's the ticket to a wild blood sugar roller-coaster ride!"
Maybe I'll just start to de-friend the worst offenders and hope the others will fill in with the important goings ons of the family....


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dream: Hard to Stop

A woman visits my family.  She's either a relative or friend.  She's a school bus driver, but she has the day off.  She offers to drive us to an event, like a wedding reception.

We're on the bus.  I'm sitting in the front seat, right behind the driver's seat, which, in fact, is empty.  The woman who is driving is sitting several seats behind me.  And she is driving, somehow.

At first I'm watching the road ahead passively, as if watching TV.  But as the streets get more crowded and narrower and confusing, I start to get anxious.  I lean forward to grasp the steering wheel to ensure we get properly centered in the lane at a traffic light.

Then, after we get moving again, I see that we're approaching another intersection in which people are crossing.  Now I'm sitting in the driver's seat, and I press the brake pedal hard, but it barely slows the bus down.  I press harder and harder to stop for a family that's crossing street, including a baby with huge bald head.  The bus finally stops abruptly just couple of yards from the baby who falls from the fright of our approach.  I watch the baby carefully, overwhelmed with concern, hoping it's alright.

The baby gets up and walks some more, but now it's so close to the bus I can no longer see it.  I keep my foot pressing hard on the brake pedal.  I dare not allow the bus to move at all.

Meanwhile, a woman with reddish hair boards the bus.  She is a figure of authority, like the Commissioner of Buses.  She reaches over and removes the key from the ignition.  Now I'm really nervous.  I have a driver's license, but I don't have the special license needed to drive a bus.  I'm concerned for my future.  What if I get thrown in jail?

...

I'm in a small shop in a seedy neighborhood.  I'd like to buy a pack of gum that costs $1.10.  I have only $2, plus credit cards, so I hand over the two dollar bills and get the gum and a handful of change.

I'm in my car with the engine idling. I'm aware that an idling car is suspicious to police,  so I decide to drive around.  The streets are slick with rain, and it's nighttime.   I'm driving downhill gaining speed as I approach a T-intersection.  The light is red, but I can't stop.  Fortunately the street's are empty and I go through.  I try to make a left turn because a right turn would be sharper.  There's no way I can make the turn going this fast.  I'm concerned for my future.  I only half-heartedly turn the wheel not wanting to spin out.

I expect that the car will end up on the sidewalk and maybe even sideswipe a store front. By some miracle I make the turn.

I'm back inside that same seedy store that I bought the gum at.  I'd like to buy a pack of gum again.  But now I have no cash except for the change from the first time.  And it's silly to buy a $1.10 pack of gum with a credit card.  So I look around the store for something else to buy that would justify the use of  the credit card.  I see bottles of cologne and other senseless toiletries, some of which are locked inside a glass cabinet.

There's a black guy there that I go to technical school with.  He wants to go somewhere but he doesn't have a car.  So I decide to drive him.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dream: Meager Lunch in the Cafeteria

I'm sitting at a table in a cafeteria-style restaurant.  I have a plate of plain iceberg lettuce salad, another plate with a buttered roll that's been torn into bite-sized pieces, and a small cylinder-shaped bowl of something that looks like baked macaroni and cheese.  I'm not only unimpressed with this food, I'm also very disappointed.  My back is to the food line.

I turn to look over my left shoulder and see a portable chalk board on a wooden frame with wheels.  A young woman is announcing an eating contest.  She has already visited several tables and a few diners have finished.  Apparently the idea is to finish eating quickly.

I could be finished already with such meager food as this.  But I refuse to eat the stuff in the bowl.  Initially, I decided against eating the buttered roll.  But I know that the lettuce will not fill me up and sustain me, so I reluctantly eat some pieces of the roll.

The first diner to finish is an attractive young lady with dark brown, shoulder-length hair.  The announcer is interviewing her.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Right to Drive

The mantra of the typical instructor of a driver's education class is, "Driving is a privilege, not a right."

While that may be true, it's a mistake.  The US constitution guarantees our right to "bear arms."  Yet it has no say in the matter of personal transportation.

Frankly, the fault lies with the men who wrote the Unites States constitution, those anarchists / terrorists, who were more concerned about defending themselves against an all-powerful government than with commuting back and forth to work every work day.

Today a typical American has less of a need to use a gun than to drive a car.  In 2009, 209 million Americans had a driver's license1, while in 2010 only 32 percent of the 115 million households (36.8 million) harbored at least one firearm2,3.

We've been driving for over a century.  It's time that the constitution caught up with us.


1U.S. Car Fleet Shrank by Four Million in 2009 - After a Century of Growth, U.S. Fleet Entering Era of Decline, by Lester R. Brown, January 06, 2010

2How Many People Own Guns in America? And Is Gun Ownership Actually Declining?, by Madeleine Morgenstern, March 19, 2013

3Total Number of U.S. Households, Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Research Date: 10.27.2012

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dream: Break Up the Bullying

I'm walking around a high school.  I had said something that made a tall blonde girl sad, but she doesn't notice me in the hallway.

I go toward a more crowded area of the school.  A boy sees me and says they need my help.  I follow him a short way.  There are three other boys.  One says, "Help us stick this kid's head in the toilet," referring to the boy in the middle.   "No, break it up," I say.

We all walk a short distance further and come to a very crowded part of the hallway.  It's a line for the bathroom!  "It's a good thing I don't have to go.  I'd have to go in the woods!"  I say, difusing the situation.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131120

A sugary snack before bedtime helps me to gain weight. Avoiding the snack is a good way for me to lose weight. I can skip the snack if I go to bed early or have herbal tea instead.

Waist = 38.5"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Music Therapy -- Music For Living

When music is used to improve brain function in a clinical setting, it is called Music Therapy. Music Therapy is beneficial because it can improve memory, motor skills, social/interpersonal development, cognitive development, mood and self-awareness. It can even help ease muscle tension, lower blood pressure and boost immunity.

The type of music that's used depends on what effect is desired. For example, baroque classical music is very good for information retention, while loud or chaotic music can be disruptive. On the other hand, music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves that are in sync with the beat. The faster the beat the better the concentration.

I bought my first CD player along with a few classical music CDs back in the mid 1980s, specifically for the Calculus course I was taking part time.  It was easier for me to recall music than derivations, and somehow I was able to link them together.  When taking a test, I could replay the music in my head, and I could easily imagine myself back in my room studying.

Today I listen to music for different reasons.  I bring ear buds with me to the library just in case it gets noisy, in which case I fire up my "Operatic Metal" Pandora station.  Who would think that libraries would be noisy?  We were brought up to never talk in a library unless you needed to speak with a librarian, in which case you'd whisper.  But the librarians here seem to be hard of hearing, and so they speak louder than the typical DJ at a wedding reception.  And they occasionally talk to each other about anything, from the slow computers to the weather, in addition to speaking with patrons.

The right music helps me tolerate my drive to work.  The many red traffic lights bother me, so the music can help temper my mood.  But I must make sure the music isn't too emotional or intellectual otherwise I'll be lost in a daydream.  And when I daydream, I don't see what's in front of me!

Silence is best for writing, though.  I need to hear my internal dialog.  When I write, I actually speak in my head and then transcribe what I hear.  That can be tricky with music going on in the background.

How does music fit in with your life?

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Measure of Time

We measure large expanses of time with milestones.  You might have the time Before Graduation and the time After Graduation.  If you're married, you'll have Before Marriage and After Marriage.  Some of us refer to the time When My Parents Were Alive.  A few might recall events Before the Accident or Illness.

This gives us an experiential basis for remembering events.  It's how our species must've remembered events before inventing a device to divide time into various (and arbitrary) periodic intervals.

I've started to use milestones for shorter intervals of time, too.  I buy cat food approximately once per month (for dry food) or once every three weeks (for canned wet food).  So I might wonder how old a package of cheese is based on how many cans of unopened cat food are left in the cabinet.  I perform other activities monthly, such as paying bills.  But bill paying lacks the total change of setting that buying the cat food has, so it's of little use as a frame of reference.

Weekends are great milestones.  They represent a time when I do not go to work.  But they tend to blur together, so there are only two meaningful weekend intervals for me: Before Last Weekend and Since Last Weekend.

I've grown fond of an elegant (and free) Android app called Bodhi Timer, which was designed as a timer for meditation.  The idea is that you set it so that it chimes nicely at the end of your meditation.  But it also has a "restartable mode" enabling it to chime at intervals, too.  I like to use the timer to keep track of time during my morning routine.  I'll set it to chime at intervals of ten, fifteen or even twenty minutes.  Shorter times are good for those mornings when I'm especially distracted.  When I hear the chime, I reassess what I'm doing.  If I'm getting ready for work, that's good.  If I standing still listening to a radio program, well....

And another app that I keep running constantly is called Chime Time, which chimes like a grandfather clock hourly and once every half hour, too.  I seem to respond much better to auditory prompts than to visual ones, so this method of marking time suits me.  Chime Time is also free, but you can purchase alternate clock sounds as add-ons.

What are some milestones that you use to measure time?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Not Too Young For AARP

I turned 50 this year.  Amid the few birthdays cards that I still get at my age was an "invitation" to join AARP1.

In case you're very young or not from the USA, essentially AARP is the group you join when you reach retirement age, which, nowadays, is when you're too old to work.  Of course, there's very little mention of the words "old" and "elderly," or even "retired" on the AARP About page.  The reason for not mentioning the words "old," "elderly" and "retired" is simple.  They don't want people to wait until they're old and/or retired to join.  Baby boomers are dying off, so in order to increase membership, AARP frankly needs to seek younger members.

Also, they don't want people to freak out when they receive their first invitation to join AARP, as I did.

"Join AARP?!  I'm not Old!" I exclaimed out loud to my wife.

"You're eligible to join when you reach 50," my wife patiently explained to me.

"Grumble," I grumbled.

She's three years younger than me, so I can't wait until she gets her invitation, so I can gleefully say the same thing back to her.

My wife has been borrowing back issues of the AARP Magazine from the library.  I'm perplexed about why she would find the publication interesting, unless it's to see who's on the cover.  Of course, you don't need to borrow the entire magazine to see who's on the cover.  You can just walk by the magazine rack and glance at it.  But then once you see who's on the cover, you might want to read about why they're on the cover.  Recent issues that graced our coffee table featured such hotties as Gloria Estefan, Sharon Stone, and my all-time favorite-to-die-for Valerie Bertinelli.

Those women aren't necessarily hotties today, but they certainly were hotties way back when I divided the world population into "Women Who Are Hot" and "Everyone Else."  So to see them on a magazine for old folks is shocking, which is probably why they're on the cover.  I expect any day to see Miley Cyrus featured very soon.


1 The acronym once stood for "American Association of Retired Persons," but they don't seem to refer to it any more.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Children With Empty Minds

A few years ago there was a blogger who called herself Azalea Faye, who just gave birth to a girl.  She was one of about 10 million mommy bloggers.

In one post1 she railed against Disney, vowing that she'd never let her daughter be exposed to the gaggle of Disney princesses.  The gist of it was that she wanted her daughter's mind to be empty rather than filled with ridiculous fairy tales.  I was intrigued by this idea.  My daughter was already five years old or so, and I wondered what she'd be like if her mind were empty.  And I was glad it wasn't.

Classic Disney movies such as "Cinderella" and "Snow White" expose children to many advanced themes such as jealousy and unfairness, providing a foundation for understanding moral issues.  They teach children patience and honesty.  The settings inspire wonder in the child, and the issues tend to be black and white, which make the stories better suited for a child's developmental level.

Unfortunately, that post, and the blog it was featured on, is no longer available.  But I wonder how that girl is faring.  By now she must've entered elementary school, and she's probably hearing about Disney princesses from her friends.  Or is she having trouble making friends, because she has less in common with the typical girl than her peers?

What do you think about Disney princesses?  What should you fill a child's mind with?


1 "Disney and My Opinion" whose URL once was http://azaleafaye.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/disney-and-my-opinion/

Friday, November 15, 2013

Exercises For Your Brain

As an engineer, I rely on my brain just as much as Aretha Franklin relies on her voice.  So it behooves me to not only keep my brain in good shape, but also to improve it if I can.

That's why I signed up for Lumosity.  The games on Lumosity are actually exercises designed to stimulate and improve one's brain.  To paraphrase from their website, the games on Lumosity "improve key abilities such as working memory, visual attention, and executive function in people of different ages and from different backgrounds."

Here are screenshots of my "Brain Performance Index" and "Training History"...



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131114

Gosh I ate too much last night!

I was at a social gathering. It was at a classier joint where they serve you craft beer in very clean glasses instead of in bottles or grimy plastic mugs. As soon as I saw a waitress with a tray full of them, I asked for one for myself. And when it was empty, I smiled and nodded imploringly when she asked if I'd like another.

Then there were appetizers: chicken wings, mostly, but I tried the mussels and nachos, too. I was surprised when they let us order sandwiches. I knew I had enough, but I figured I would order a salad of mixed greens to balance myself out. And then coffee, but no dessert.

After I got home, I ripped into a bag of dark chocolate morsels while I applied software updates to the family laptop. Then I sent two e-mails that I promised to a fellow reveler.

Waist = 39.0"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Free Online Meditation Series

Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Deepak Chopra have again collaborated on another free, 21-day meditation series, which they call "Desire and Destiny."

The series started on Monday, November 11, but I think they make each daily meditation available a full five days after it first appears.

Here are two blurbs from the website:
In our interactive online program we invite you to meditate and journal with us each day to embrace your dreams and desires, expand your understanding of divine purpose, and experience the peace, joy and abundance of living your destiny.
The Chopra Center 21-Day Meditation Challenge® is made available by the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra. It is open to the worldwide public and is free to all who register.
You can access the meditation series here: http://chopracentermeditation.com/.  You'll be able to register and login with either Facebook or Google+, or you can create your own user name and password.  Please note that this link may be valid for the meditation series only during the 21-day promotional period.

BTW, I tried meditating on Day 1.  I awoke early in the morning, and I started it at about 5am.  But then the cat whom I call "Pee-meister" meowed at my closed bedroom door, wanting to use his private litterbox.  Luckily there's a pause button on the meditation page, so I clicked it in and then got up to let him in.  Then I resumed the meditation.  But not for long.  Pee-meister wanted to leave the room right after he was done1.  Either that, or he was hungry.  Anyway, it was obvious I'd have no peace that morning until the cats and dog were fed, by which time the daughter would need breakfast and a lunch packed for school.

I hope your meditation experience is better than mine!

Peace


1 Well, sure, who'd want to stick around after stinking up the room like he did!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cat Cravings

I was preparing my usual low-fuss breakfast this morning -- almond butter on spelt toast, which I then top with blueberries.  After the toast popped up, I placed it on the kitchen table on a plate.  Then I turned to prepare some tea.

Soon I heard "lap lap lap lap lap..."  I turned to look at the noise.  The cat was licking my toast.

I'll repeat that.  The Cat.  Was Licking.  My Toast.

My toast!  Not My Bacon, or My Breakfast Sausage, or my Egg-Crust-Pizza.  He was licking my toast, with his cat saliva tongue, which had just licked his own fur and whatever was clinging to it.

"No, please stop," I said gently.  Gently, because I know about food addiction.  I know he's not thinking, "Let's piss the human off by licking his toast."  He's thinking, "I really, really, Really, REALLY need to lick that."  (Perhaps the moist warmth exuded by the toast reminded him of a freshly decapitated mouse carcass.)

Gently, also, because he's a big cat -- 22 pounds -- and a formidable opponent.  I lose my balance whenever he rubs against my legs.  One time, hissing and spitting, he took a swipe at the dog's nose and missed.  He raked my kneecap instead.  I'm sure he shape-shifted briefly into a bobcat, too.

So I fended him off while I spread on the almond butter.  I guessed that the almond butter would mask whatever was attracting him to the toast.  Sure enough, he lost interest and strode away.


Wheat gluten is added to some cat food in order to provide taurine, an essential amino acid.  Could our cat food be deficient in taurine?  I always buy food that has added taurine and no wheat gluten, But maybe the pet food manufacturer is cutting back on the formula.


Do your pets occasionally show unusual preferences for human food?  What are they?


Monday, November 11, 2013

Dream: Spider Web Scarf

I'm sitting at a table in a diner with my family, and the art teacher is sitting directly across from me.  She is talking to me.  I'm distracted by spider webs and other nature debris that's stuck to my left forearm.  I pull it off while trying to listen to the art teacher.  But she notices and says, "Don't you like that?  That's Nature!"  So I try to be discrete about removing it from my arm.  Finally we get up.  Now that I'm standing I grab a large string of it and pull it from around my neck as if removing a scarf.  I look for a place to hang it.  Eventually I just hang it off the edge of the table.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dream: Big Dog, Small Car

I'm driving west a on country road near my work place.  A very small black car cuts in front of me from a side street from the right.  The car is an open, one-seater, no bigger than a go-cart.  I recognize the driver as JG, whom I worked with at my first job at least 25 years ago.  But most noticeable is that there is a big black dog in the compartment behind the driver.

We come to a stop at the end of the road behind a line of other cars that are waiting to enter the intersection.  The dog lies down, but only its body fits in the compartment, so it rests its head on the driver's bald head.  I call out to him, "Hey JG, are you alright under there?"  The dog stands up and turns around, and JG turns his head halfway and responds, "I'm okay.  And you?"

I notice that his response doesn't include surprise at having met by chance after so long.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Invasive Plants

As a weekend gardener, I've long lamented how the most prized plants are those that are most difficult to grow and maintain.   And weeds, which grow prolifically, are considered a blight on the landscape.  I've wondered why this is so.  Perhaps there's a Great Conspiracy -- a conglomerate of companies that specialize in fertilizer, weed killer, pest control, fungicide and plant sourcing have joined forces to brainwash people into thinking that the easiest growing plants need to be eradicated to ensure brisk business.

It reminds me of the fashion industry.  Get people to despise their wide ties and bell bottom jeans in favor of straight-leg jeans and narrow ties.  After sales start to dwindle and people have gotten rid of their old clothes, reverse the trend and get everyone to buy the formerly despised products and ditch their newly out-of-favor clothes.  The only difference is that no one can thoroughly get rid of weeds -- they continue to spread or sow themselves year after year.


Recently I assessed the flora on our property and concluded that weeds are not our best-growing plants.  Did I celebrate?  No, because our best-growing plants now are actually "Invasive Plants."  These are plants that government agencies are actively trying to eradicate. There are laws in place to prohibit the spread of this class of plant.  No, I won't get fined or jailed for having the plants on our property.  But it is illegal to traffic and transport such plants.

The term "invasive" is applied to a non-native plant when it out-competes many other native plants and has no natural growth inhibitors.  Some plants actaully release a chemical that prohibits other plants from growing nearby.  You can find a really good description and explanation of the issue on the United States National Arboretum Invasive Plants page, so I won't try to repeat it here.


I believe there is a silver lining to this problem.  Scientists are starting to realize that some plants are actually edible and nutritious.  We might even discover new medicines from these plants.  Once we realize just how inexpensive it is to add invasive plants into our diets, the problem may dissolve and lead to the growth of new industry that specializes in harvesting wild-growing plants. And perhaps we can end world hunger, too.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Raised To Be Suspicious


"Who would want to send a bomb to you? Why?" 

I started to answer in a comment to Reactions to a Mystery Gift.  Then I realized I was about to write another blog post.

The premise is that a package arrives for you unexpectedly.  What do you do?  Well, I already described what I'd do in that post that I linked to, above.  But why?

Ted Kaczynski, aka The Unabomber, targeted public technology figures.  When he was actively mailing bombs to people, I was an engineer at a high-tech company, and I sometimes made public appearances.  I felt that I fit the description well enough to be targeted.

One day I actually did receive an unsolicited package that had no recognizable return address.  So I walked up to a coworker with said package, handed it to him and asked him to open it.  It was mostly in fun.  He was a friend with a good sense of humor, and I think he appreciated how I stuck my fingers in my ears in case there was a loud popping sound.  I also said something to the effect that he was more expendable than me.  Whatever.

Well, the package of course did not blow up.  What was inside?  Promotional materials for a new website, TechRepublic, perhaps.

The criminal was caught more than 17 years ago, yet my first impulse upon receiving an unexpected package is to be suspicious.  When I wonder why, I realize that I was raised this way.  The bomb threats simply revived my train of thought on suspicion.

I was raised in New York.  Nothing's for free, especially in New York.  Free samples are used to entice you to buy a product, get you addicted, get you framed.  If someone walks up to you and hands you a can of spray paint, don't be surprised if, thirty seconds later, a cop shows up and puts cuffs on you for writing graffiti.

Street wise people know not to accept anything for free.  You don't pick up money on the sidewalk.  You don't go into a store that promises "Free Ice Cream."  You don't talk to the man offering the free lollipop.

Whoever said "The best things in life are free" did not live in New York.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Wisteria Pod

Our first wisteria vine was already well established when we bought our home nearly 20 years ago.  It never flowered until two years ago when we got one cluster of flowers.

This summer we saw a few flower clusters.

Today, unexpectedly, I saw what appeared to be a pod.  So I looked it up.  Sure enough, the wisteria produces seeds in a pod, which explodes to disperse the seed.  Considering the way it spreads, you'd think it wouldn't bother with seeds.

Anyway, here's a picture of our pod:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday Weigh-In 20131106

Everything I eat seems to be upsetting my stomach. I have no appetite, so I eat only to keep up strength.

Waist = 38.5"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

No News is Bad News

I've given up on traditional news media as a source of news.  Sirens can be sounding on our town, but we rarely know why, even after scouring newspapers the following day.

It occurred to me that towns should create streams of their emergency band radio chatter so that citizens can listen to what's going on, without having to buy a scanner.

Then it occurred to me that this was already being done.  And that's when my Internet search led me to RadioReference.  And I was overjoyed to find a stream of my town's police and EMS radio traffic on that website.

One night soon after, a police car was driving slowly down our street.  The officer inside was using a hand held search light to inspect the neighborhood.  I was outside with our dog, and another dog was barking nearby.  I assumed that a bear or some wild animal was spotted.

I ran back inside and connected to my town's stream.  I soon found out that they were searching for two armed robbers.  I hurriedly closed and locked all our doors.  It would've been nice if we were officially notified, but we were not.

I didn't get the full story until I read it in the newspaper the next day.  Two men armed with handguns entered a home about a half mile from ours.  They tied up the occupants and robbed the home.  I'm not sure why the newspaper didn't use the term "home invasion" -- perhaps because such things aren't supposed to happen here.

RadioReference is now hosted on Broadcastify.  Check it out -- it could save your life one day.  Gotta go -- a fire code is airing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Panic of the Parent of the Soon-To-Be Fledgling

What do you call the shock that new parents experience when they realize their son or daughter will be moving away to college in less than three years?  Perhaps the term could be "Panic of the Parent of the Soon-To-Be Fledgling."  Hmmm, that's unwieldy.

Whatever it's called, that's what I got.  It's like you're hiking briskly on an easy trail, and then you look back and notice zombies lumbering along behind you, in relentless pursuit.  You suddenly turn a corner and see a steep, daunting, rocky ascent.  The weather turns cold, and dark storm clouds devour the sun.  And you suddenly realize that you didn't pack rain gear or a hearty snack.

This particular type of panic, of some fearful thing that looms in the future, is ideal for getting my heart racing -- much better than a jolt of "red-eye" coffee.  I can rouse myself out of bed with it in the morning to kick-start the day.

The panic started suddenly over the weekend while we attended our very first college fair with our grade ten daughter.  We joked with her to tell the representatives of far off colleges that the primary reason she's interested in their school is because she wants to move as far away as possible from her parents.

Usually panic arises when one is unprepared.  That's true in this case, too.  We haven't prepared our daughter to be self-sufficient.  We have about two-and-a-half years to encourage our daughter to:
  • Shop for her own groceries, supplies and toiletries.
  • Manage her own bank account and finances.
  • Do her own laundry.
  • Remind her about appointments.
  • Eat and drink and take supplements on a fixed schedule.
  • Get herself ready for the day.
On top of that, I'm the one she turns to for night-before-the-big-scary-test help sessions in math and science.

But the worst part is we haven't put any money into a college savings account.  I've put any extra money into the 401(k) plan that my employer manages.  We also didn't count on my wife becoming partly disabled, so not only does my wife not earn money, we spend money on her multiple doctors and medication.

Well, that's the good thing about panic -- it gives you the energy to prepare.  And if my wife and I are clever about it, we'll have our daughter soon doing the laundry.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dream: Recent Snippets

I've experienced a flurry of dreams recently, too many to write detailed accounts of.  So here are two snippets:

I glance out the window that overlooks the backyard.  I see two moose and a black bear capering about.
-------------------------------- 

My wife and I are in line at the grocery store with a cart full of items.  The cashier doesn't ring up the purchase.  Instead, she motions for us to walk through and pay at the exit.  I reach the exit, but I don't see any way to pay.  My wife and I leave and walk to our car, which is parked behind the building, right next to the loading dock.  The spot next to our car is vacant and a car is attempting to pull in to the spot.  But I have the passenger side door open, preventing the driver from parking.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Minefield in the Cafeteria

My workplace is a minefield of diet booby traps.

Each month, the company brings in a large birthday cake to celebrate that month's birthdays.  The cake arrives at the cafeteria in time for the 10am break.  I can resist it at that time.  But if there's still some left at 4pm, it's difficult to ignore.

The cake isn't as bad as the various surprise treats that sometimes appear.  When I know the cake is there, I can prepare myself to resist it or avoid the cafeteria altogether if necessary.  But an unexpected box of donuts, French pastry or home made fudge all bypass the more evolved portion of my brain, stimulating the reptilian brain into reflex action.  My hand darts out like the sticky tongue of a frog1, and before I know it there's a morsel in my hand.

Coffee is like that, too.  Coffee causes fluctuations in my blood sugar, and it increases stomach acid, so I need to avoid it.  But it's in the cafeteria, too, just eying me in the sultry way of a temptress who knows the secrets of pleasure.  Even when I go to the cafeteria to get hot water for tea, I'll change my mind and take coffee instead if it's strong and freshly made.

An increasing number of employees are playing the hospitality game.  They display dishes of candies in their offices or on a central table in their departments.  The sales people are the worst -- they're so darned people-oriented.  Which is why I like to stay in the engineering department.  Food doesn't move,  or make a cool noise, or feature flashing lights, so it doesn't adorn our department.

Actually I tried maintaining a candy dish.  The hard candies were so unpopular, they started to undergo desication, so I had to discard them.  But the chocolate is both popular and tempting.  Unless my coworkers beat me to it, I'll finish it off myself after a few days.  It got to be expensive after several weeks, especially since I buy the higher-end stuff -- individually wrapped pieces from Dove or Hershey Bliss.  Even Hershey Kisses would be too low-end for my dish.

Yesterday was the day after Halloween, so I expected candy to be everywhere.  But I was disappointed surprised to find very little candy.  What little there was was the incredibly cheap stuff, like the obligatory mints you might find in a bowl on the way out from low-end diner, except sour and wrapped in faded paper.  They come with a small axe and a sign that says, "Break open in case of low blood sugar."

Is there a point to this post?  Yes.  It is, in fact, a rant against a society that fails to recognize food addiction.  You won't find cigarettes, alcohol or opium in the work place.  They're not even advertised in newspapers.  Why?  Because they're addictive.  But nobody considers food and beverages to be addictive, so those of us who struggle with food addiction have no respite.


1 Yes, I know that frogs are not reptiles, thank you.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaBloPoMo 2013

November is National Blog Posting Month.  Once again, I'll be participating.  I'm registered as number 83 on the Blogher Blogroll, sandwiched between The Pitter Patter Diaries and  BOTTLESOUP.  All I have to do is post at least one blog entry each day during November.  And you can still join me if you register before November 5.

Not sure what I'll be writing about, but I never had trouble coming up with something before.  All the essay assignments I received when I was a boy paid off.  You know the ones I'm referring to -- the "punishment essays."  "Why I Should Not Chew Gum in Class" and "Laughing During the Pledge of Alliance is Disrespectful" are two that I recall specifically, but I'm sure there were at least a half dozen more, probably involving a few disgusting bodily functions, running, and bothering people.

Well, anyway, I hope you can join me in this fun writing assignment.  If not, perhaps you'll enjoy more reading than ever before.


NaBloPoMo November 2013