Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Random Bag

I was going to get a few things done this weekend (finish the sprinklers, replace the casement window operator, clean my room, weed the flower bed, etc.) but…
- it was in the high nineties this weekend, which is conducive to nothing other than sleeping on the couch
- K-poo Weak Hands went to the city for the weekend to party, so I didn’t feel guilty that I was lazing around while she was working
- I have an entire box of books that I haven’t read
Needless to say, I got nothing done aside from reading three books and making lasagna.

As you can see, K-Poo started taking pictures as promised. So there. Now everyone can complain about the art.

Confirmed superpowers:
- Me: the ability to choose the slowest checkout line
- Jeff: music butt (his phone kept randomly playing songs while he was digging last weekend)
- Eric: photo butt (his phone takes pictures randomly, complete with shutter sounds, while in his back pocket)
I’m sure there are others.

Actual headline from the Daily Democrat, a source of continual laughs:

Kiwanis Club 'entertainment' books for sale

Irony, truth, or cluelessness?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Stuff Report

Here’s the scoop on a bunch of my material possessions. Overall, the week has been a bit mixed.

- Answering machine: Yes, it’s back! K-poo encouraged me to unpack another box and it was inside. This is the old answering machine with the analog tape that beeps after the greeting for as long as it takes to forward past all of the existing messages. On the reverse side of the tape is the message I got from a woman asking me to pay for a new dog since I’d run over her dog (and no, I didn’t hit her dog, it was running in the street in front of my house and somebody else ran it over – I merely did unsuccessful CPR on it and transported the body so she could pick it up and left her a message where she could find it). Anyhow, is it more annoying to have an answering machine with a potentially two minute long beep, or to have no way to leave messages? I’ll let you decide. It doesn’t really matter much since I tend not to listen to the messages anyhow.
- Pictures: K-poo is taking pictures so that I can improve the look of this blog. The reason she’s taking the pictures is 1) she’s the one who keeps complaining about the way it looks, 2) she owns a digital camera, and 3) my photography skills are on par with my carpentry skills. On the other hand, the pictures aren’t on the blog yet, so you know how this is going…
- iPod nano: I like the fact that it’s got 16 GB (which is 4x the size of the last one). I’m embarrassed to admit how long I thought the shuffle feature on the old iPod was broken because it always seemed to be playing the same songs when in fact it just wasn’t able to load all of my music. The color (red) is nice, and it’s also nice that my name and number are etched on the back since you can’t write on that finish with anything. Now if I get run over at night they’ll at least be able to leave a message on my cell phone about my demise, unless someone steals the ipod before I’m found. The new features… I don’t really need pictures of the album covers, and the shaking of the iPod to start the shuffle is just silly. Whatever. It’s still worth the money.
- iTunes: I had to upgrade iTunes for the new iPod, and version 8.0 just isn’t quite ready for prime time. Either the software or the store is broken, and it won’t let me download any more Battlestar Galactica episodes. If it’s not fixed soon, I’ll have to stop working out, since I’ve almost finished watching season one and I can’t work out without something to take my mind off the fact that working out sucks. This is a true crisis. Forget the whole Wall Street thing – this is important! In addition, I’ve had to restart iTunes a few times because it asks for a password and tells me that this computer isn’t licensed to play the video. Then when you enter the password, it informs you that this computer is already licensed. Then it asks for a password again. Apple’s usually better than this.
- Doorknob: K-poo successfully changed the knob on the door to her room. It’s round (instead of a lever) and has a lock. Guido has not yet figured out how to open it, but it’s early days yet…
- Bookshelves: K-poo and I assembled two five-shelf bookcases from Target last weekend. They were only $30 each and look pretty good. However, if you ever see something advertised as “needs no tools”, run away. There are about seventy little pieces of plastic holding everything together and it would have been a lot easier if they’d just used some screws. But they were still a good deal, and I need at least two more…
- My new cell phone: I don't like it. It's hard to use. It's pretty, though, and the battery lasts longer. I think I'll get a new battery for the old one and switch back. Yeah, the old one's a brick and everyone laughs when they see me raising the antenna, but I can dial the correct phone number with it.
- I just got a free box of books. The Pleasant Hill library is giving away thousands of books. Free! At some point it’s just overwhelming.

Anyhow, that’s the state of the stuff.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lessons Learned from the Weekend

This weekend we almost put in sprinklers in the back yard. Everything is in except for the actual sprinklers, due to a slight problem with the risers (ie, they were the wrong size). The lawn looks like it was attacked by a gopher with some serious OCD.

In any case, a few things were learned on Sunday.

- Never leave the four year old child alone on the computer. The lure of the icons exploding in a puff of dust as they are dragged off the dock means that you will have no applications to choose from at the end of the day.
- If x is the difficulty of the home improvement project, and y is the number of beers consumed, z = x + (y * 2) is the number of trips to Home Depot that will be required in order to finish the project.
- If z is the number of trips to Home Depot that will be required, z-1 is the number that will occur before dark and the end of work for the day, once again leaving the job 98% finished.
- Make sure you know which side of the closed valve you are on before you start cutting the existing PVC.
- The four year old child hollering “Itsy bitsy spider” while holding the cat toy will entertain one of the cats for quite some time. However, there is a good chance that at least one of the other cats will pee on the guest bed within 24 hours. This is possibly related.
- Purple primer will eventually wash or wear off, but it’s still probably not a good thing to use around the naked four year old.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fifteen Years

Things I have accomplished in the last decade and a half (in no particular order):
- Bought a house, which promptly employed its tractor beam to encourage all of the large branches from the cedar tree to punch through the roof.
- Acquired six cats, a dog, and three birds. (The accomplishment is that I didn’t acquire more than that.)
- Spent all my money and energy to become a doctor.
- Decided maybe I didn’t want to be a doctor after all.
- Moved to Louisiana.
- Escaped from Louisiana.
- Got my driver’s license and bought a car.
- Dented the car a whole bunch.

Things Mike and Paige have accomplished in the last decade and a half:
- Got married and stayed that way.
- Raised three pretty impressive kids.

Those freaking overachievers…

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Diet of Epic Fail

It has occurred to me about once per day for the last year or so that I could stand to lose some weight. It’s not critical – if I measure my height without slouching, and measure my weight while I stand naked on the old analog scale and lean to the side, my body mass index is still within the “overweight” category. However, I’ve got a whole lot of German hillbilly peasant genes working against me here, and the prognosis isn’t great.

Anyhow, despite the daily reminder, I still haven’t lost much weight. Here’s a sample day. See if you can spot the problem.

5:45 am – Alarm clock goes off. Hit snooze a few times while the cats run back and forth over my head.
6:00 am – Get out of bed. Stumble to the kitchen, feed the cats, medicate and feed the dog.
6:10-7:00 am – Work out on the exercise bike while watching a video. (Yay, look at me go!)
7:00 am -- Eat a bagel or cereal. Take a shower and get ready for work, drive to work.
11:30 am – I’m starving. It’s time to go to lunch.
Lunch -- Eat the only vegetarian option on the menu at whatever restaurant we end up at. Eat too much because I’m so hungry, but that’s okay, right, since I worked out this morning.
1:30 pm – Pass by Robert’s stash of pretzels, oreos, and pistachio nuts. Look, I’m being good!
2:00 pm – Stop at Robert’s stash of pretzels, oreos, and pistachio nuts. It’s okay, though, since I worked out this morning.
2:30 pm – Hey, I worked out this morning, a few more pretzels won’t hurt.
3:00 pm – Damn you, Robert!
3:30 pm – Might need to work out again tonight to burn off the oreos.
4:00 pm – Isn’t it time to go home yet? I feel a little sick.
6:30 pm – Waddle out to the car and drive home.
8:00 pm – Dinner time. Oops, I ate half a pizza. That’s okay, though. I’ll just set my alarm for 5:45 tomorrow and work out in the morning…

Obviously it's all Robert's fault.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Exposing Myself

Before I start, I’d just like to point out that I do take rabies very seriously. I’m a little cavalier about some zoonotic diseases (i.e., diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans) because the diseases just aren’t that serious, they’re hard to transmit, or they’re fairly easy to get rid of if you do get them. Chlamydophila psittaci (psittacosis) is a good example. Last Fall we probably had about three raptors that were shedding Chlamydophila come in every week. The approved protocol for handling suspect birds involves isolation gowns, gloves, and a mask, but sometimes we wouldn’t suspect Chlamydophila until the bloodwork came back, and we didn’t gown up for every wild bird that came in. I know I’ve been exposed to it many times, and I’ve never gotten ill. If you do get ill (cyclic fevers are the most common symptom), doxycycline will cure you.

Rabies, on the other hand, is a virus that is uniformly fatal if not treated. Worse yet, if you wait until the symptoms appear, it’s fatal despite treatment. There is exactly one reported case of a person recovering from a rabies infection after symptoms appeared. That’s it.
All students entering vet school are required to be vaccinated against rabies, and at least two of my classmates ended up having severe enough reactions to the vaccine that they were hospitalized. This happens every year and the school still requires the vaccine because the disease is so serious.

However, (and this is the important part) rabies requires direct contact for transmission, generally from saliva in a bite wound.

The following is a good example of how it just doesn’t pay to be helpful.

The exotics ward received a call from the main reception area that there was a dead bat on the walkway coming into the hospital. First off, the receptionists knew it was dead, so I’m not exactly sure why they were calling us instead of, say, doing whatever they did for dead squirrels and birds and the like. In any case, they called us, so one of the technicians put on latex gloves, went outside, carefully picked up the stiff-as-a-board Mexican Hoary Bat, placed it in a bag, and then came back inside and placed it on the counter in the treatment area. During this entire time I was in the office, which is about twenty feet away.

Rabies is relatively common in bats in this area, so even though we didn’t have any evidence that suggested that any person or animal had handled the bat, I decided that the responsible thing to do was to send the bat off for rabies testing. There are probably over a hundred dogs that walk on that walkway every day, and I was worried that someone would call later to let us know that their dog had been playing with a dead bat that day.

So… I filled out a pathology report to have the bat tested, and because the reports require a doctor’s signature, I signed it. Now my name was associated with it. On the report I was fairly specific: “Bat found dead on walkway to VMTH. No known exposure to humans or animals. Please rule out rabies.”

For those of you that haven’t been paying attention, I never came closer than twenty feet to this bat. I certainly was never bitten by it.

Two days later it started.

The administrative assistant in the pathology department called me to tell me that the bat had come back positive for rabies. I told her what I’d written on the form – there definitely wasn’t any exposure to anyone after it was found, but I couldn’t promise that something hadn’t gotten to it earlier.

Silly me, I thought that was the end of it.

The next day the county health officer called. I again explained the circumstances. No exposure, blah blah blah. I added that I’d never even seen the bat. After repeating this a few times the health officer seemed satisfied. Now, I thought, I’ve really heard the last of it.

Ten minutes later somebody from employee health services called so that I could set up an appointment to have my rabies titers checked. I reminded her that I’d had my titers checked at employee health services not six months before, and besides, I hadn’t been exposed. The health services employee said that there was some irregularity with the way the testing company had handled that batch of samples. She got a little snippy when I asked if they were calling all of the other people who’d had titers checked at that time. Then I spent a few minutes trying to get her to admit that there was no point in rechecking my titers since I hadn’t been exposed. Finally, she said “I’ll just write on the form that you declined to have your titers checked” and hung up.

I got three more calls over the next two days.

As far as I know, no member of the public every called to report an earlier exposure, and the county didn’t publicize the finding of a rabies positive bat near the hospital.

The next time I see a dead bat, I’m throwing it in the garbage.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sure to Proceed?

Let me just say that I’m sympathetic to those struggling with a language not their own. I still cringe when I remember an essay I wrote in a German language class that inspired a ten minute lecture from the teacher on the proper use of the word “erregend” which apparently means not just “exciting” as my pocket dictionary would have it, but “sexually exciting”. I can remember about five words of German at this point, but that’s one of them. And it’s not even that useful of a word. You could get by with sign language in a pinch.

(The odd thing is that I just looked up “exciting” on an online translator just to make sure I was spelling everything correctly, and it lists “erregend” as the first choice. So… either my German instructor was full of it, or there are going to be lots of sexually excited people out there.)

And it’s not just the language that’s a problem when you move to a new country. Everything you take for granted is different. When I moved to Germany for a year, I quickly (i.e., in the first day) learned that the ability to read 18th century poetry wasn’t a big help when I got to the grocery store. I’d been there at least six months before I realized why people were giving me such odd looks when I washed my clothes. You see, when I went down the detergent aisle (in that painful first week) I bought a box of detergent that seemed to be what I wanted. It had a picture of white gauzy curtains blowing in the wind with a green field and blue sky framed by the window. To me, white gauzy curtains blowing in the wind meant clean clothes. To the Germans (and to me as well when I had a better grasp of vocabulary and was bored enough to read the box), white gauzy curtains blowing in the wind meant – curtain detergent. I had no idea there was such a thing. But it cleaned my clothes just fine, dammit.

So, yeah, I’ve felt like an idiot before. But of course that’s not going to stop me from making fun of other people.

Way back in the dawn of time (during the .com boom), we had a multitude of foreign programmers. Some had lived in the US for quite a few years, and others were more recent imports. Occasionally the user interface would have little oddities like the “Sure to proceed?” button that we kept in the product just because it was so funny. Sometimes the comments looked like they might be in English if you could just rearrange the sentence a bit. And then there were the file names…

There was a team of programmers working on implementing the new digital signal coverage predictions. It just so happened that nobody on that team spoke English as a first language. The new and improved part of the digital protocol was in the handoffs, and there might by no handoff, one-way handoff, two-way handoff, etc.

Nobody (except for rvan) likes to type, so of course everything was shortened. Thus, there were files about “no_ho”, “1way_ho”, “2way_ho” and the like. Although I’d like to pretend I’ve matured, we’re still making 2way_ho jokes ten years later. I’m not even going to mention how the cumulative usage filename got shortened...

Whatever. There’s probably some person in Germany who’s still telling stories about the American idiot who washed her clothes with curtain detergent.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Indigestible -- a review of spam

Every once in a while I check through the weekly spam digest to make sure that it’s not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Here’s the latest batch. All spelling errors are the fault of the sender:

49 messages were filtered into your spam mailbox this week:

Category: Subjects that make you think that this might be a real message

Subject: What time is okay for you
Score: 3/10 (It might have worked…)

From: "Bank Of America Customer Update Department"
Subject: Bank of America Java Update Includes Security Fixes - Security Fix.
Score: 1/10 (Nice try…)

Category: Off the wall

Subject: Paris Hilton Hates Nicole Richie
Score: 1/10 (because I hate Paris Hilton)

Subject: The first aid is always ready
Score: 2/10 (and the lemonade is still in the bottle.)

Subject: We have hijacked your baby
Score: 1/10 (because you can have my baby, I don’t want it.)

Subject: Britney Spears Loses Kids For Being Fat At VMA's
Score: 5/10 (or maybe it was because she was obviously stoned…)

Category: Single entendre

Subject: Turning a small knob into a huge wand!
Score: 7/10, but 2 points deducted since I received seven messages with this subject in one week.

Subject: Make your man pole hard and strong
Score: 6/10 (but if I ever write soft porn, I’m using this one!)

Category: Odd spelling to avoid spam filters

Subject: if he's hard to shop for, you wont go wrong with viiiiaaaaagggrrrraaa
Score: 2/10 (Bonus point for Tony the tiger imitation, or maybe that’s just in my head…)

Subject: Huge holiday discounts for PE_enlargement and ED_treatment!
Score: 1/10 (on the theory that you shouldn’t have to wiki the abbreviations in an advertisement)

Category: English is not my first language

Subject: the comments I get about my nights with women are amazing, people think im wizard!
Score: 2/10 (…at least there’s a comma.)

Subject: ladies say size doesnot matter, but we know, it does!
Score: 2/10 (What, are you Data from Star Trek? It’s “doesn’t”)

Subject: Have an unforgetful night of pleasure with your girlfriend!
Score: 6/10 (because this ad is just unforgetful!)

Subject: Goodiest offer
Score: 7/10, special award for most egregious example

Special Dual Category: (1) English is not my first language, and (2) What?

Subject: Tired of been pissed off in bed by your gf that you cannot_satisfy_her for that promotion will help you
Score: 9/10 (I think this is my favorite one.)

Category: Unsolicited advice

Subject: Dont look fat and stupid this summer.
Score: 1/10 (Too late, summer’s over.)

Category: Object Oriented Programming 101

Subject: Don't be fooled by ladies, size has matter!
Score: 1/10 (Size inherits from matter, that’s an “is-a” not a “has-a” relationship…)