31 January 2009

Big Machines

What caught my attention about Warrel Dane's cover of Lucretia, My Reflection was, first, the singer's growly voice and impassioned lyrics, and second, the fact that the opening lines reminded me of Billy Joel's No Man's Land.

(actual song starts at 0:39)

Both talk about being near big machines, and at the time I couldn't remember what No Man's Land was about. Though someone better at BS than me could probably make a profound statement about the similarities between empires and suburbs.

Anyway, it turned out to be a cover of a Sisters of Mercy song.

I've never been a big fan of Sisters of Mercy (a classic goth band), possibly because I once had to listen to one of their albums on repeat every week for several months. It was the mood music for our Vampire: the Masquerade tabletop until I finally complained about it. After that we tried other music until we finally settled on silence.

Maybe what I really need is metal versions of all of their songs. ;)

30 January 2009

State of my Chives

My chives are the only plants left in my lush, expansive garden. Here they are, not so lush anymore, and with flowerstalk stumps everywhere. Ironically I eat more baked potatoes during the winter than the summer when they're growing well.

The tomatoes died to the last cold snap. :( Now that I have some clue what I'm doing with them, though, I'm looking forward to the next growing season.

29 January 2009

A Simple Test

There is a very simple, straightforward test for paranormal abilities.

Two people, one who sends and one who receives. The sender thinks about something (e.g. a number, a color, a geometric shape), and the receiver reports what the sender is thinking. Repeat that a few dozen times. To make it all scientifically rigorous, you put them in separate rooms where they can't see each other. To make it even more rigorous, you require that they don't know each other, and possibly have never even met before the test.

That last requirement basically dooms the test to fail, at least with the way it would work to my personal understanding. But even without requiring that they don't know each other, the average person off the street still has no idea how to send or receive.

Most people broadcast their thoughts the way a light bulb gives off light. It goes out in all directions with no particular destination. It's stronger if there's any kind of emotional attachment to the thought, and weaker if the thought is neutral.

But to send a thought to a specific person, two things have to happen. First, you have to be able to find the other person. How close another mind is has nothing to do with physical geography, it has more to do with whether they're thinking about you (so it helps if they actually know you). How easy they are to identify depends on how well you know them - how well you can recognize their unique signatures. (Everyone has a unique signature.)

Also, sending a thought is more like beaming a laser. You want to focus it. Otherwise it takes a lot of energy and you get tired really really fast - and then you can't keep it up for the entire duration of the test.

Then there's receiving. Most people would think of it as sitting there passively, waiting for the outside thought to appear. However, a skilled receiver can also go over to the sender's mind and actively retrieve the thought (which is useful when the sender obviously has no idea how to send). This is easier if sender and receiver have compatible minds (are operating on the same wavelength, so to speak) - and, of course, if they are actually familiar with each other.

I once sat in on an informal run of this test at a college parapsychology club. The club leader sent, and everyone else wrote down what they thought he was thinking. We did numbers and colors, I believe. It took me all of the first round and part of the second to work out the mechanism involved (that is, the sender had no clue what he was doing and I had to go there) - so I scored low on the first one and high on the second. Statistically speaking, however, if your scientific experiment consists of aggregating everyone's scores in the room (which is what sensible scientists would do), your conclusion will be that it's not significantly different from random. Because most people don't know how to send or receive.

28 January 2009

On consumer surveys

    Dear Shopper,

    Once in a while we carefully select individuals in your community - those whom we feel represent the smartest, most value conscious shoppers. Then we use some of our research budget to find out exactly what these smart shoppers really want.

    If our hunch is right, you are such a person.


    When you speak your mind, better products get to market. The companies are happy. Consumers are happy. It's really that simple.



    Letter with a Consumer Survey where 90% of the Products Don't Apply To Me

I really only have one thing on my mind at the moment. Russer's roast beef was the most awesome pre-packaged deli-sliced roast beef EVER. It was the only one that didn't include sodium nitrite as an ingredient, and the taste was outstanding. It has disappeared from all of my local grocery stores. If the reason it's gone is because Russer has stopped making it, then the opinion on my mind is that they should BRING IT BACK.

I think that covers it.

Beyond that: I used to get paid in cold, hard cash to do these surveys. Now all that's on offer is coupons to products that I don't use, and auto-entries into sweepstakes. I much preferred the cash.

26 January 2009

Year of the Ox

I should say something about the Chinese New Year, especially since today begins the year of the Ox, which makes it my year.

But I don't have anything grandiose to say. Life is sailing along, one day after another just like it would be at any other time. I'm alive, I'm awake, and I'm hopeful that this year, my year, I'll accomplish lots of things. I want to finally clear out the old, which starts with the storeroom I've begun to excavate. I want to finally finish a novel (any novel, just one!). I want to say the things I need to say, do the things I was put here to do, and generally just keep on living as well as I've been living.

The winds of change are blowing through the nation as well as my life, and I hope to make the most of whatever's coming.

25 January 2009

Domestic Outlets

Apparently, the most fascinating part of my previous post was the wall outlet. It inspired a lengthy conversation about wall outlet differences in appearance between the U.S. and Croatia. So, for bakho's edification, a documentary. :)

Here are the three main types of outlets found standard in most USian houses and apartments. From left to right, these are TV cable jack, electric, and phone jack:

On the electric outlet, note that there are two slits and a round hole, where one slit is bigger than the other. Originally (back a few decades), outlets were just two equal-sized slits. Then one day, for safety reasons, they started making them with one larger than the other, so that plugs can only fit into them one-way. A while after that, the third hole was added, for even more safety. I think it's for "grounding" purposes.

Here are the different types of plugs that go into the electric outlets:

The green plug has two equal-sized prongs. The gray plug has the type where one prong is bigger than the other. The white plug has three prongs. All three of them are in use, depending on what's at the other end of the cord, so our wall outlets are designed to handle all three.

And here are the phoneline and TV cable plugs:

(Maybe our next longwinded conversation will cover the differences between dialtones and ringtones from country to country.)

And finally, just to round things out, our standard USian light switch:

UPDATE: Apparently, the most fascinating part of this post is the light switch. :p

24 January 2009

Domestic Excavations

I moved into my current apartment in 2002. Before that there was a period where I moved around a lot - including one year where I moved three times. After a while, there didn't seem much point in bothering to unpack, because soon I would just have to repack it all again.

It's now 2009. It's probably safe to unpack now. So I finally started going through my storeroom full of boxes that I've hauled from place to place since 1991. After removing all the empty boxes (I never break down boxes, it's annoying to have to retape them back up again later, see) and some other miscellaneous things, here's (most of) what I have left:

Over half of it appears to be school-related stuff (class notes and papers from high school, college, grad school). There are at least three boxes worth of stuff belonging to former SOs/housemates (but not all together, alas). The harp is a lever harp that doesn't hold its tune so well anymore due to neglect; it's from a friend who bought it with a broken base from an auction somewhere for $50, fixed the base but did not prettify the fix, eventually lost interest, and handed it down to me. The mound of papers next to the big black bin is what I'm currently sorting through; it seems to be half junk mail, and half daily-life detritus from circa 1996 (receipts, paycheck stubs, utility statements, etc.).

It's a little like opening a time capsule. I have other such paper piles in the other boxes, probably one for every move, as it was easiest just to dump together whatever I had at the time instead of figuring out what to keep and what to toss (which would happen at a hypothetical "later" that never came around until, well, now).

Yay unpacking. :)

23 January 2009

Now it's real

Seeing this picture is what brought home for me that President Obama is now really our president. Here he is, not speechifying or being in the spotlight of any ceremonies, but sitting behind a desk and doing his new job.

It's a nice thing to see. :)

(The picture is of him signing an order to close Guantanamo. I stole it from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. I'm pleased about that, too. (The Guantanamo closing, not the theft.))

22 January 2009

A simple, ordinary exchange

There is a T intersection on my way to work, with a stop sign for the people coming out of the stem of the T. 90% of people on the main road turn right, into the stem. Therefore, people turning left out of the stem tend to assume that everyone coming down the road will be turning right; some of them are so sure of this that they don't bother to stop at their stop sign.

I go straight. I have no stop sign. In addition to slowing down and checking for cars as I approach (and occasionally wishing that there was a signal for "going straight"), I also routinely ping the minds of the other drivers.

This tells me several things:
a) their approximate emotional state;
b) their intentions for the intersection - which basically boil down to "stop and wait" or "go";
c) their receptiveness to outside messages.

Some of them will go through no matter who else is on the road, and they broadcast that at high volume (read: they're assholes). Some of them are completely oblivious to everything around them because they're driving on autopilot, and therefore won't notice any outside messages from the ether any more than they'll notice anything else, and they'll also go through no matter who else is on the road.

Most of them are fairly calm and alert, however. I go over to their minds and suggest that they wait. Once I've passed, I thank them for waiting, both as a message and with a puff of "feeling of goodwill" (assuming that I'm in a reasonably good mood myself, at least).

People at work (that is, part of the 10% of people who go straight) talk about how common it is to have accidents at that intersection. I've not had any problems.

20 January 2009

Real Americans

I spent my evening hanging out in the back of a seafood market.

It's run by friends who used to employ me at their Chinese takeout. They speak Fujian Chinese with each other, Spanish with their current employees, and a mix of English and Mandarin with me. All of their customers speak Black.

On Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, the night before Inauguration of our first black president, there was nowhere else I would've rather been.

18 January 2009

A Flowering Tree

This tree is outside a business complex between my apartment and my chiropractor's office. I walked there last week because the car was in the shop getting an oil change. The chiropractor told me not to do that again, and had the receptionist drive me back to the shop. Apparently, walking can be hazardous to my health.

Anyway, so I saw some trees that were flowering. As usual, I have no idea what these are. Someone among the UCF probably does, though. :)

16 January 2009

There's a cat outside...

It wants to know if I can play with it.

Or it wants to eat me. I'm not quite sure. It stares at me while I'm sitting around at the computer, then goes into stalking mode. A friend says that means it wants to move in. Which I'd be fine with, but the complex management wouldn't. :(

15 January 2009

Thought of the Day

Actions have consequences.

The exact nature of the consequences might depend on what the motivations and intentions were behind the actions, if the source of the consequences happens to care.

One should not expect the source of the consequences to care.

14 January 2009

A Blurt: I Suxxorz

You know how sometimes you have a great idea for a blog post, but for some reason or other, don't actually write it for a few days - and then by the time you do get around to it, the great idea has magically morphed into a really dumb idea?

Yeah. That's why I haven't yet done the post I was originally going to do last Saturday, before the one that's there turned out to need to get out of my system first. I'm trying to convince myself that it's at least a good idea.

I suxxorz. T.T

13 January 2009

Fusion Cuisine? or Melting Pot?

Across the street from me is a restaurant called the Cajun Cafe and Grille. The menu is:

  • chicken wings
  • sesame chicken
  • blackened chicken
  • bourbon chicken
  • teriyaki chicken
  • teriyaki shrimp

  • choice of white rice, plain fried rice, shrimp fried rice
  • choice of one veggie (cabbage and carrots, fried potatoes, mac-n-cheese, corn, green beans, lo mein)

    They also sell egg rolls.

    The place is run by a group of Hispanics, and the menu bears a striking resemblance to what the Hispanic demographic usually orders from the Chinese takeout. It does not have any resemblance whatsoever to Cajun food.

    As I understand it, new arrivals from Latin America don't do so well with most American food. Too much cheese and such. New arrivals from Asia have the same problem, and so somehow, Americanized Chinese food is what they end up eating.

    And what they end up serving too, apparently, if they run non-Americanized Mexican restaurants. It's good food, and they give a generous amount of it. But I still wish there were a place selling real Cajun food.
  • 12 January 2009

    My Art Collection

    My friend Robert is an artist. He posts what he does, artwise, on his blog on a regularly basis, and eventually I succumbed to temptation and bought some. Here's what I've amassed so far.

    ACEO Forest Blessing
    This one, called Forest Blessing, I like for the way the sun rays filter through the trees. I love that when I'm seeing it in real life.

    Island Tree LE print
    Island Tree came as a free bonus when I bought Forest Blessing. I had a choice of three, and I liked this one best for the loneliness of the tree and the blue of the sea.

    I don't actually have Seven per se. This was part of a deck of cards project, where 54 artists were assigned a number and a suit (or joker), and asked to draw something. (Some of them were better about staying on theme than others.) Robert got seven of spades, and drew seven marbles. I bought two of the decks and gave one to my brother for Christmas. He liked it, thought it was a really cool idea.

    I also have Peregrine Falcon, which came as a free bonus with one of the card decks.

    And finally:
    Bird of Paradise
    Bird of Paradise is on its way in the mail. I love the colors on it, and he says he put it in a good matching frame. I'm looking forward to seeing it. It's also featured on his new website about oil pastels. He's hoping someday to be rich and famous with his art, so if that happens, I'll be rich too. :)

    10 January 2009

    A word to the skeptics

    There are at least a couple regular visitors who are interested in hearing me talk more about my thoughts and experiences with non-physical reality (the paranormal, as it's often called). I'd like to do that here too, but before I do, I need to address the skeptics.

    Up until very recently, the definition of "skeptic" had always been "annoying pest on the sidelines who can't see what we can see, and who insists that we can't either. The ones that say 'Just because you feel it doesn't mean it's there.' Just ignore them and get on with things." The notorious leader of the skeptics is James Randi. His name comes up from time to time, and then he's dismissed, and the real conversation moves on.

    Then I became friends with some people who proudly call themselves skeptics and see James Randi as some kind of hero. I happen to like these friends, as people, very much. This has created a bit of cognitive dissonance that is taking a while to settle.

    I don't doubt that Randi has done some good work, debunking frauds of the paranormal world. Yes, indeed there are frauds calling themselves psychic - just as there are frauds calling themselves lawyers, physicists, and military personnel. But this doesn't mean that all psychics are frauds, anymore than the existence of Wagner means that all lawyers and physicists are frauds.

    This is my blog. This is the place where I present to the world my view of it. Non-physical reality is part of my worldview, and I want to present it. Some of it probably won't sit well with the skeptics at all, though I hope people will try to keep an open mind. If not, well, I'll still be making other posts on a variety of topics, so skipping these ones with "agree to disagree" is fine too. What I don't want is arguments that basically boil down to "my opinion and interpretation of your experience is somehow more valid than your firsthand view of it." Whatever you might want to say along those lines, you can rest assured that I've heard it already, and have zero interest in hearing it again.

    Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there - especially when there are, in fact, other people who can.

    09 January 2009

    State Of My Tomatoes

    My tomato plants are tenacious. I figured they'd be dead by now, but they're still hanging in there. One of them even has a bunch of new flowers.

    The fruits get bigger and ripen more after extra-cold nights (whenever it dips below freezing), but otherwise just sit there being pale green and not doing anything. Here's a picture of the third fruit that has managed to ripen.

    It's also the biggest. Maybe these are supposed to be cherry tomatoes. Or maybe I should fertilize them. But they seem to do better if I don't bother to water them, too. I wonder if they'll survive February...

    08 January 2009


    Where I grew up in Indiana, we had spring, summer, fall, and winter. The schedule was something like:

    Spring - mid to late April
    Summer - May to September
    Autumn - October
    Winter - November to early April

    Spring was the brief period where daytime temperature was in the 60s and low 70s (Fahrenheit). It tended to last two or three weeks.

    Then summer came in all its high heat, high humidity glory. It was usually 85-90, but the humidity made it feel much higher than that. There always seemed to be a midsummer drought, where all the grass turned brown.

    Autumn tended to be longer than spring, but not by a whole lot. Maybe 6 weeks or so. The trees turned gold, the winds were warm, and the sky was a spectacular shade of deep blue.

    Then, if we were unlucky, we would have snow just before Halloween. Trick or treating was always a chilly event. It sometimes warmed up for part of November, before there was snow again in December, lasting until the end of March or so. It didn't get as cold as more northerly parts, but because of that same high humidity, it always felt colder. Minnesotans sometimes commented about that.

    Then March would end, the ground would be muddy and brown, and we were back to spring.

    Here in Savannah, we sort of have the same seasons. But winter is more of a token appearance, and the schedule is completely different.

    Spring - late February to early April
    Summer - April to mid-November
    Autumn - late November to December
    Winter - January and February

    At least, that's how it would be defined from an Indiana perspective. Except that about half of "summer" would probably have to be called "supersummer" because the temperatures are a lot higher - 95-100 is the norm. Humidity is pretty high too. If it's a normal summer, there's a 20-minute rainfall every afternoon. Sometimes those only happen on weekends, depending on air pollution or somesuch (I'm not real clear on the details). Either way, though, one can confidently say things like "oh it'll stop raining by 4:20pm" to one's visitors, and have it be exactly so. (In Indiana, when it rains, it rains for days at a time.)

    The daily highs tend to drop a bit around September, which causes all the locals to call it the beginning of autumn. But they're still in the 80s range. So, by my definition, it's still summer.

    Meanwhile, winter is a bit of a misnomer. Sometimes in January and February, the nightly lows will dip below freezing for multiple nights in a row. Shocking, I know. At least to outdoor plants.

    This year we had a "cold" snap at the beginning of December, but ever since then it's been sunny and low 70s. Maybe Nature's schedule has shifted around on me again.

    06 January 2009

    Soups (and some other things)

    Behold! I have recipes. :) Mostly soup, some semisoup, one at the end that's not a soup at all.

    vegetable beef barley soup

    chicken noodle soup

    spinach tofu soup

    lentil chili

    spiffed up ramen noodles

    spiffed up canned tomato soup

    canned clam chowder as a pasta sauce


    These are all on eHow, where I've been writing how-to articles since last July. I have 29 total articles so far (on lots of things, not just soups) and have made about $30 on them. Not the most lucrative, but better than I would've expected. ;)

    (update: eHow and I had shall we say a falling-out back in May 2011, and now the links point to places on this blog and another one.)

    05 January 2009

    Gift from Afar

    The first thing I saw upon my return home from Indiana was a small, cylindrical package wedged precariously into my mailbox. I pulled it out. It moaned at me. o.O

    The brown paper wrapper was plastered with Swedish stamps. There was barely room on it for anything else - the sender's address was crammed into a corner, as was a tiny note that said "package contains NOISE." Yes, yes it did - and the thing continued to moan as I pried apart an enormous quantity of tape, both outside the package and all over the green tissue inside, until I got to the yellow plastic bag and finally to the culprit itself.

    It's a souvenir from Sweden. The pictures are of moose in pine valleys, with "Sweden" in three languages running around the bottom. And it moos. ;) Thanks, Galenthias and Rebelcat!

    (There was going to be video of it mooing, but Blogger video upload isn't cooperating. If it's not finished uploading after 19 hours, I assume it was really just showing me the progress icon for fun...)

    04 January 2009

    Roses in January

    These are blooming outside the apartment complex manager's office.

    Yep. In January. Where it's been sunny and 70 degrees for the past few weeks. ;)

    03 January 2009

    Now that I've lost my entire audience...

    One of my resolutions this year is to get back to writing blog posts at least 5 times per week, like I was doing back in 2007. Previously, my posts tended toward cryptic or encyclopedic, and while I don't get quite as excruciatingly detailed as some others (*cough* Eric, John *cough*), I do try to make sure I have all my facts straight before publishing. In the past year as I've picked up other pursuits and had less time for everything, that has meant fewer overall posts.

    So this year, I'm going to try out Nathan's Blurt MethodTM of blogging and see how that works out for me. I've already started; that Buffy Musical post qualifies. ;)

    02 January 2009

    How I came to join the Uniformed Counter-Intelligence Force

    There I was in the Serengeti, negotiating with the local poachers to get me six dozen geriatric giraffes, when a man in an old beatup jeep came roaring down the hill at me in a cloud of dust. The mustache was the first thing I saw, after I stopped coughing.

    "Nathan!" I exclaimed. "What the hell are you doing here?"

    "I could ask the same of you," he replied. "I expected to find you in Georgia."

    "They were having an incident with the Russians. It didn't seem safe."

    He looked at me with disgust. "Not that Georgia."

    I snickered, then glanced at the huddle of poachers at the other end of the mudhole. Their discussion sounded like it was heating up. I shrugged and looked back at Nathan. "I'm buying giraffes. What does it look like I'm doing? It'll expand my kangaroo carcassing business."

    He looked at me askance. "Your what? Aren't you supposed to be a marine biologist?"

    "I dabble in other pursuits here and there," I said vaguely. "You should know that better than most."

    "Right," he said skeptically. "So you're canvassing kangaroos?"

    "Carcassing," I said. "My client, a bit of an eccentric you might say, wants me to plant them along popular American highways. Says he was tired of seeing nothing but deer, possums, and people's pets there. Wants bigger and better roadkill. Wants to expand his diet." I shrugged. "It's too bad that so far nobody will sell me any elephants."

    "You know," he said thoughtfully, stroking his mustache, "that can possibly be arranged."

    "Really?" I raised an eyebrow. "You know people who can obtain whole elephants?"

    He nodded. "And I can arrange it, of course. But only under one condition."

    I waited for him to go on, not saying anything.

    "I want you back in the UCF."

    I thought it over. Go back to the insanity of chasing cranks all over the Internet, in exchange for geriatric elephants.

    "This time there will be pay," he added. "From the government."

    I thought it over some more. Geriatric elephants and taxpayer dollars funneled to my less than thought-through moneymaking schemes. It could work.

    "And there will be a secret handshake. And a toaster."

    That sealed it. "Deal," I said. "When do we start?"

    And away we went for Round Two of Debunking Walter L. Wagner (who is currently under indictment for Attempted Theft In The First Degree and Identity Theft In The First Degree regarding a botanical garden in Hawaii). It all started when JTankers came back with his stick to poke at us some more (thanks Anne and Jeri for compiling lists to make all those links easy to find.)

    Dun Dun DUN! :)


    This is what my mother needs to sing about my brother.

    It's from the Buffy Musical - a hit for Buffy fans, possibly makes no sense to non-fans since it's a non-self-enclosed part of a larger story arc. Yes, I really am nerd enough to listen to that as an actual musical from time to time, and occasionally watch the extended version that I have on tape. The very first time they aired it, for a total of 1:20 rather than the usual :45 (or whatever it is), it had a ballet sequence with Dawn that got completely cut in all later airings. As did a couple of Spike's verses. I'm glad I have a copy.

    (None of which was the original point of the post, but I wasn't planning to explain further, so I guess this post is just going to look like a non-sequitur of itself.)

    ((I probably shouldn't write blog posts immediately after 11-hour road trips.))

    Hrm. Upon further research, it seems that they've also since replaced Tara's original singing. I'm not sure how I feel about that.