26 December 2009

A Visit :)

On Christmas Eve, I had dinner with NeuronDoc, her husband TheHusband, and their daughter ThePinkThing. They were passing through on their way to Florida. As was required by Jewish Christmas traditions, we went to a Chinese buffet. Here's me and NeuronDoc after the meal in the restaurant foyer:

(photo of me was improved upon with some help from Random Michelle. NeuronDoc has her own photo from the event, showing what I look like without being improved upon in any way. >.>)

The food turned out not to have as much variety of Chinese as I had hoped. Usually they do better than that. Otherwise, though, we had an excellent evening and didn't try to strangle each other at all. :)

22 December 2009

Arrrrrrr. -.-

It has been brought to my attention that spammers have recently found a way to post comment spam on Blogger blogs without it notifying me via email. How they're doing it, I have no idea. I just cleaned off a bunch of them from General Comments and Smileys, which they seem to like for some reason. If you see more anywhere, please tell me.

To cut down on this nonsense, I've turned on captchas (which I typically hate with a passion), and all comments on posts over 30 days old now go into moderation. Hopefully that'll help. And hopefully I'll be able to turn off the captchas again at some future date.

21 December 2009

Which came first? The sachima or the rice krispie treat?

A sachima is sort of like a rice krispie treat, except not with rice krispies, and not held together by marshmallows. Instead, they're sort of a flour-based poofy noodle, held together by melted sugar - though I'm quite certain I've had some made with honey. They also often include sesame seeds, raisins, nuts, and other stuff. The best ones are very moist and sticky, and freshly made in the bakeries of Taipei.

(I miss the bakeries in Taipei.)

These ones are freshly imported from Taipei to New York City, where John the Scientist bought them (thanks, John! :) ).

Aside from sachimas, I also grew up eating rice krispie treats that also didn't include rice krispies. My mother would make them with other breakfast cereals (captain crunch treats! corn pop treats!) and crispy noodles (like from La Choy; got served to the restaurant customers with the soups). Some of them were pretty good. Others, well, one could file them under "interesting." ;)

As for the title question: I have no idea. Wikipedia didn't say, and everyone else just copied from Wikipedia. T.T But I did find a blog of a western family living in Shanghai that I thought was pretty cool.

18 December 2009

Gas Prices

I bought gas a few days ago for $2.499 per gallon, which was down from the $2.569 it'd been for quite some time.

The time before that was back in mid-October, for $2.379 per gallon, which was right before it went up to $2.569 and stayed there.

There are certain advantages to not driving more than once or twice a week. :)

13 December 2009

Bloons! T.T

(or, alternate title: Where I've Been All Month)

Bloons Tower Defense 4 is the fourth in a series of tower defense games that I've been playing since the first one (Bloons Tower Defense, later followed by 2 and 3). In it, you pop balloons as they go around on a track, and try to get them all before they reach the other end. It's a cute game, and the bloon popping sound is a lot like for popping bubble wrap, which makes it very addictive. Here's some screenshots of the game in action:

So, basically, I wasted my entire first week of the month on this game. >.> Over the weekend, it occurred to me I could try to recoup some lost time by writing down everything I'd figured out in a series of strategy guides. Thus: Bloons Tower Defense 4 Strategy Guides for Map 1, Map 2, Map 3, and Map 4. :D They're long, detailed, and full of progress screenshots. I'll probably do one for Map 5 too, just as soon as I figure out how to beat it on level hard. Map 6, though, that looks terrifying.

While I was working on them, I clicked over to someone else's article about Bloons Tower Defense 2 - and noticed that it was terrible. Vague useless tips, some of which were completely wrong. o.O Clearly I'll have to write strategy guides for the other three games too, maybe when I've recovered from doing them for 4. I'm a bit sick of bloons at the moment. (Update: here's one for Bloons Tower Defense 1. :D )

Also while I was working on them, someone requested that I write a strategy guide for sudoku. So I did that too. :)

And that's been the first half of my month, which has gone entirely not the way I was originally planning... >.>

30 November 2009

Other End of Nanowrimo 2009

Final word count of 51415 for Nanowrimo 2009. :)

21 November 2009

Lawn Shrooms

At some point last spring, one of the trees disappeared. I don't even remember seeing a stump - it was just gone, with nothing but a patch of mulch where it once stood.

A few weeks ago, after heavy rains, the whole place started blooming in mushrooms. Lots and lots of them in big clumps. Here's one of the smaller clumps:

The biggest clump was about four times that size. No clue what kind they are, though they smell like portabellas. I guess the tree's symbiotic fungi are trying to find another tree.

Sidenote: my camera still takes macro shots because I remember what sequence of buttons to hit to get there, but I have no control over where it autofocuses. Thus the ..uhh, softening.. if you embiggen.

09 November 2009

Some thoughts about electric cars

The main thing that keeps me from considering an electric car as my next car: lack of feasibility for long distance road trips. They cannot presently go for up to 15 hours without stopping. I can see three possible ways to fix that:

a) Make a car battery that can last 15 hours without stopping. :p I assume this is unlikely, considering that laptop batteries only last for 2...

b) Make a car battery that can be charged back to full within 10-15 minutes. Most of the blurbs I've seen talk about 2-3 hours. I'm not going to pull into a battery station and sit there for 2-3 hours while it charges, when I can pull into a gas station and be gone again in 5-10 minutes.

c) Make it so that the car batteries are interchangeable and can be easily replaced. I pull into the battery station, remove my depleted battery, trade it for a fully charged battery, and get back on the road. This doesn't have to be free (I'd assume some sort of nominal charge if there's a station attendant that does this), but it also shouldn't mean actually purchasing a new battery at full price each time. It probably would require all the car manufacturers to agree on a standard battery design. Ideally, it should be simple enough that I can change it myself without being professionally certified in the procedure.

How about hybrid cars then? If the gas charges the battery, then the battery can last 15 hours, and then the only difference would be fewer stops for gas. I could do that.

05 November 2009

Story of my love life

Chapter One

Boy meets girl.
Boy wants to impress girl.
Boy does some sort of astounding feat.
Girl gushes over boy, impressed.
Hooray! :)

Chapter Two

Boy meets boy.
Boy wants to show up boy.
Boy does some sort of astounding feat.
Other boy? Does the same thing, only better!
Boy and boy probably go off to have a beer together.

Chapter Three

Boy meets me.
Boy wants to impress me.
Boy does some sort of astounding feat.
I? If I'm attracted, I want to impress him.
I do the same thing, only better!
Boy slinks off feeling like a loser, never to be seen again.

And thus: I stay away from love lives. :p

01 November 2009

Nanowrimo 2009

Like I've done every November since 2004, I'm writing 50,000+ words toward a novel in the next 30 days. By tradition, it's something from my Fortress Launne series, which originally had six books in it, but they've shifted around a lot in the intervening years and are still six books, but not the six I'd originally envisioned. :)

Anyway, it didn't take long before I got distracted by the Nanowrimo forums. One of their threads is pictures of writing areas. Well, here's mine:

Messy, huh? It's the normal state of my living room, alas. The computer was originally on the gray desk at the left, but it's too tall for my current chairs - a blue exercise ball and a one-seater couch. I had others, but freecycled them a few months ago. (The couch will be too when it's time to move.) My mouse is on a clipboard over the trashcan, which I move back and forth depending on which hand I feel like using to mouse at the time. The white keyboard is wireless, but the mouse isn't - hence the length of wire to make it reach the couch when I'm not on the ball. The black "keyboard" under the table is my Alphasmart Dana - it's actually a better keyboard than the Apple.

For those who want to follow along to my writing angst trials and tribulations, I have a writing blog freshly ported over from Hobgoblin.net, which is sadly defunct at the moment. I'll be posting a lot over there this month. :)

On a completely unrelated note: yes, that was taken by my broken camera. It still takes pictures just fine, so long as I don't want to change any of its settings or compose or something else that requires the screen to be working...

On another note: I'm looking forward to finding out what my European readers will decide to be intrigued by in this picture. ;)

15 October 2009

Freelance Science

Now that I have three whole articles up at Bright Hub, I thought I'd mention it here. :) Bright Hub is basically a collection of science and technology articles. The pay is potentially better than eHow (we'll see if that's true in a few months), and they have actual quality control in the form of editors who approve article ideas before they're written, and then approve the articles again before they're published. (eHow's idea of quality control is to delete stuff after they've been published, without telling anyone, and without sending back the stuff they've deleted. -.- Though they're slowly getting better about informing people.)

So far I'm enjoying writing for them. Compared to eHow, the possible topics I can write about are more in line with what I can actually write about, and the format is more flexible. I have lots of ideas for future articles, mostly about ecology and evolution and marine science, but I'm hoping to have a variety to show off as samples for more lucrative writing work later on.

Thanks to fellow UCFer Jeri for pointing me to the place. :)

24 September 2009

Some of my favorite German metal

Before I discovered Pandora, I listened to a lot of Internet radio broadcasting from other countries. I was mainly interested in music in languages other than English. My favorite was a metal/alternative station in Germany, which introduced me to all sorts of great songs and bands popular in Europe, but then they started broadcasting ads not just between songs, but in the middle of them. o.O After that, I moved to a Dutch station, but their music just wasn't the same and some of the announcers were annoying (yes, even in Dutch). I found Pandora and, although they didn't have very many of the songs from that German station, they also didn't have ads, and thus I was going to live happily ever after.

I'd still be at Pandora if it weren't for their new 40-hr per month cap. I run out of that after the first two weeks. T.T I'll happily give them money to let me listen to more (only $0.99 per month for unlimited) just as soon as they accept PayPal, but in the meantime, now I'm on Youtube.

It's nowhere near ideal. I have to go back every five minutes to hit "replay" and find new songs all by myself instead of having it all stream past me. However, I've been looking up songs I used to like. Some of it is finally making it onto Youtube. Such as:

And, as I wander, I find more good stuff that I hadn't heard before. For example, my new favorite:

5. Marz by Megaherz and Ohne Dich by Eisbrecher have the same singer. Megaherz is so named because they wanted to make "metal with heart." These two songs succeed well, I think. Both are actually love songs in disguise, though angsty rather than sappy. Yay emo metal. :D

Then, for something completely different, there's also Gottmensch by Schock:

and Vollmond by In Extremo:

and Walpurgisnacht by Schandmaul:

which isn't technically metal, but it comes to mind whenever my friends in Europe talk about Walpurgis Night, which is a major holiday over there.

And finally, because I can't very well post about German metal without mentioning Rammstein:

Dalai Lama is one of the few songs that doesn't have extremely disturbing lyrics. Rammstein is totally awesome so long as you don't go looking for translations to anything. o.O

21 September 2009

My favorite comic strip

I discovered Foxtrot by Bill Amend while I was in grad school. I now own all eleven of the treasury collections. Here's one of my all-time favorites, which came out while Star Wars was also out:

(copied out of Assorted Foxtrot, click to embiggen)

I laughed and laughed at that one, then tacked it to my office wall so I could laugh some more. I still laugh at it. Nothing like three punchlines in one. :)

Sadly, the daily strip is no more (though there are still weekly Sundays). Which is probably just as well - better to end while things are still funny, than to start recycling the same jokes over and over for decades. Here's my favorite strip from the very last treasury, which came out in May:

(copied out of Wrapped-Up Foxtrot, click to embiggen)

More of these are available for browsing at GoComics.

17 September 2009


Cop: "Do you know why I'm stopping you?"

Me (what I actually said): "Umm ... ahh ... urk."

Me (what I should have said, now that I've had several days to think it up): "Yeah, because it's a smalltown speed trap, and I'm a non-local who didn't realize that the speed limit would suddenly drop from 45 to 20 for two blocks in the middle of a highway. And because I didn't do the obvious, logically safe thing of slamming on my brakes in the middle of a highway, I shall now be forced to give you lots of money. It might possibly cause some financial ruin, but hey, you just want my money and I'm a non-local so who cares."

Cop (after handing me the ticket): "Now, try to slow down."

Me (what I actually said, just before I went back to driving exactly the way I was driving before (because the 20 mph zone was over)): "Yeah, sure."

Me (what I wanted to say): "Up yours."


10 September 2009

Health Care Thoughts

Rep. John Barrow
Sen. Saxby Chambliss
Sen. Johnny Isakson

Please support President Obama's plan for health reform in 2009. We need to bring stability and security to those who currently have insurance, affordable coverage to those who don't, and rein in the cost of health care.

We are not the first generation to tackle the cause of health reform, but we must be the last.

We need this. It's an excellent, well-thought-out plan. Please don't destroy it.


I signed the above shortly after the speech. Most of it is pre-written but there's room for individual comments on the form. It automatically pulls up your particular representatives when you fill in your street and zip code. I think people who live in red states especially should sign it.

On the whole, I like the proposed plan. It won't be as nice as what other countries have - but it accounts for all the ideas and concerns from all sides, it's realistic and therefore has a chance of actually passing, and it's an important first step in the right direction. Here's a flowchart that summarizes it pretty well (click for larger version):

My favorite part (from the speech) was:
Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime.

These are exactly the sorts of things I worry about most. Back when I had health care, I wondered what would happen if I passed my lifetime cap - would I just be expected to drop dead at that point? (Apparently the answer is yes.) And now that I don't have health care, the pre-existing condition clause is a bit worrying, if I were to develop something before finding a job where I had health care again. (And, I might add, until the speech I hadn't known that people got denied health care for pre-existing conditions they didn't even know they had. o.O)

Part I liked least:
... individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance - just as most states require you to carry auto insurance.

I understand the reasoning behind it. But the exemption bar had better be high. Better would be to just put all the people below the exemption bar on a public option for free, though that raises some questions on how it would affect the whole self-sufficiency thing.

In general, I think the speech has brought the health care reform conversation back on topic and moved it forward another step. Hopefully good things will happen from here.

08 September 2009

Through the eyes of small children

Yes, Kenza. I really am a boy on the inside. Thank you for noticing. You have no idea how much it pleases me that you can see what all the grownups cannot.

I think that the next time a six year old asks me that, if it happens again, I'm not going to evade with an answer about wanting to talk to her mother about it first. I'm just going to say yes.

03 September 2009

My Past Two Months As Described By Twitter Posts (abridged)

Assuming anyone is even still looking, posting here has been rather light and fluffy for a while, possibly even verging on nonexistent. >.>

I've been busy. I got official notice of being laid off in late June (with warning hints back in April), my last day was Monday, and in between I've been wrapping up work at work, job hunting at home, trying to put together a demo website of my leet skillz, and taking care of an enormous number of details involved in preparing for a move (because, if I actually found a job, I'd need to move to it). I still haven't gotten to the packing part of the proceedings yet, but I'm down to only five boxes left in my storage room. Once those are sorted, packing will commence. I'm also shedding all sorts of unused-but-still-useful items to Goodwill and Freecycle, and trying to eat everything in the pantry.

Instead of writing longwinded posts here, I've been putting short updates over on Twitter instead. For those not on Twitter, here's an abridged version:

    booting up my vintage 1996 Powermac G3, so I can get my CV off it. It was written in Wordperfect 3.5 ...
    3:41 PM Jun 20th from twhirl
    ... and right after it's done, I find that I'd helpfully converted to Word back then just so I wouldn't have to do that. T.T
    3:44 PM Jun 20th from twhirl
    I have no idea how to explain what I did for work for the last six years. >.>
    7:12 PM Jun 20th from twhirl
    Perk of being a grownup: I didn't feel like eating the rest of my fish and veggies, so I left it on the table and got ice cream instead.
    7:57 PM Jun 20th from twhirl

    Plowing and sowing.
    2:37 AM Jun 21st from twhirl
    @thc1972 I find it kind of relaxing. Rearranging trees even more so. ;)
    2:43 AM Jun 21st from twhirl in reply to thc1972

    Had a great coding day with PHP. Probably the last I'll be fiddling with that particular database though, ever.
    11:42 PM Jun 22nd from twhirl

    Ahh, the mid-90s. When credit card numbers were printed on every receipt in full, thereby causing me to keep them all forever.
    2:50 PM Jun 24th from twhirl

    This week's task: writeups for "How to do Kayar's job"
    5:37 PM Jun 25th from web

    It's hailing. o.O
    4:18 PM Jun 26th from web

    Threw out a bunch of coupons that expired back in 2001.
    9:29 PM Jun 27th from twhirl
    Also, found the rejection letters from my previous job hunt. They said "your resume was very impressive but we had someone better."
    9:30 PM Jun 27th from twhirl

    I don't even remember what my SAT score was. T.T
    3:36 AM Jun 29th from twhirl
    I can now claim to know someone who's been defenestrated.
    3:14 PM Jun 29th from web

    Insomnia until 8am. Skipped yoga at 11 in favor of sleep. Tired now.
    12:57 PM Jun 30th from twhirl
    I can see the window. :)
    5:12 PM Jun 30th from web

    Off to drive across half the country.
    10:19 AM Jul 1st from web

    Kentucky sucked. T.T
    2:14 PM Jul 2nd from web
    @jerisisco visiting my mother to pick up some clothes I left here last December.
    2:27 PM Jul 2nd from web in reply to jerisisco

    Stuffed to the gills on lobster, fish, duck, beef, and some sort of dark green veggie. And bubble tea.
    9:40 PM Jul 3rd from web

    Just found the absolutely most perfect job. *drool* http://honolulu.craigslist....
    2:18 PM Jul 4th from web
    Mother insisted I sort through everybody else's old papers while I was here. As if I'm being punished for carting mine off WITH me. T.T
    6:16 PM Jul 4th from web

    Dear Kentucky: the only thing I'm interested in doing in your state is peeing.
    8:56 AM Jul 5th from web
    ... and on that note, I'm off for another day-long drive.
    8:56 AM Jul 5th from web
    @Stonekettle Mammoth Cave would be great if it weren't for the cesspool of inbred racist assholes surrounding it.
    10:54 PM Jul 5th from twhirl in reply to Stonekettle
    @jerisisco Definitely a roadtrip person. I have grand "someday" plans to do a month tour of the entire US.
    10:55 PM Jul 5th from twhirl in reply to jerisisco
    Back in Savannah now. No semi wrecks this time.
    10:58 PM Jul 5th from twhirl

    I've successfully horrified a Frenchman by describing Wonder Bread. I think my day is complete. :)
    5:35 PM Jul 6th from web

    Applied HI last night. Was down about not finding a third place to app. Got email from WI today about an interview. Feeling better now. :)
    1:41 PM Jul 7th from web

    Did a "hot" yoga class during a southern summer. Mmm... sweat. Think I'll go back to only doing those in winter now.
    12:08 AM Jul 9th from twhirl
    Sore all over. Yay yoga. :)
    1:53 PM Jul 9th from web

    waiting around for a phone interview to start. T -24 minutes...
    2:06 PM Jul 10th from twhirl
    @CarolElaine the tofurkey seems to have been well accepted. Interview went well. :)
    3:47 PM Jul 10th from web in reply to CarolElaine
    @jerisisco Yes, that was for WI. Haven't heard back from HI. Thinking to put in the app to SC this weekend.
    6:35 PM Jul 10th from web in reply to jerisisco

    Found former housemate's birth certificate. Hope he didn't need that in the past ten years... >.>
    10:26 PM Jul 11th from twhirl

    Went to normal location of yoga class. Found a kirtan concert there instead. Been a while since I've attended a live concert. :)
    12:30 AM Jul 13th from twhirl
    Eating coffee yogurt. Mmm.
    4:08 PM Jul 13th from web

    First tutorial for the boss on "how to do my job": completed. Part II on Thursday.
    5:30 PM Jul 14th from web

    My brain is total and utter mush today.
    7:00 PM Jul 15th from twhirl
    Why does seaweed salad have to be so expensive?
    7:56 PM Jul 15th from twhirl

    Trying to describe who I am in terms of what I do for work is kind of really depressing.
    1:51 AM Jul 16th from twhirl
    Today's agenda: "How to do My Job Part Deux" ... boss said he was coming back with a notepad shortly. ;)
    3:12 PM Jul 16th from web
    @random_michelle Nothing new from WI, but I'm not expecting anything until next week.
    5:29 PM Jul 16th from web in reply to random_michelle
    Also, incidentally: my official last day will be Aug 31.
    5:49 PM Jul 16th from web

    WI said no.
    3:37 PM Jul 17th from web
    This just in: my sister's company is about to do layoffs too. Yay 100% immediate family unemployment. T.T
    8:48 PM Jul 17th from web

    Have: one beet (I think that's what it is). Need: recipes. ;)
    5:44 PM Jul 18th from twhirl
    Something tells me I'm not allowed to play with the neighbor kid anymore.
    7:22 PM Jul 18th from twhirl

    Ahh, the smell of roofing tar in the morning.
    2:50 PM Jul 20th from web
    Realized last night I need to start packing. No clue where I'm going yet, but I'm almost certainly going somewhere.
    7:29 PM Jul 20th from web
    I've gone from symphonic metal to sappy love songs. Hmm.
    9:10 PM Jul 20th from web

    I think the word "fen" is cringingly pretentious.
    10:40 PM Jul 21st from web

    Today I learned that TVs can't be recycled because they contain lead.
    5:35 PM Jul 22nd from twhirl

    The more I browse job ads, the less I think I'm qualified to do anything.
    2:02 AM Jul 23rd from twhirl
    The roofers have reached the part that's right over my office. Yay whams and swaying and the smell of tar.
    2:30 PM Jul 23rd from web
    Anyone know a good (hopefully) free) place to host a SQL database with PHP?
    6:48 PM Jul 23rd from web

    Tinkering with my very first MySQL database on nearlyfreespeech. Now to find out how it differs from PostgreSQL...
    2:38 AM Jul 24th from twhirl
    I think my middle mouse button is dying. :(
    2:05 PM Jul 24th from web

    Threw out a bunch of utility statements circa 1997-2001. Relived the whole AT&T vs. MCI battle in the process.
    10:48 PM Jul 25th from twhirl

    Having a much lazier weekend than I really have time for...
    1:55 PM Jul 26th from twhirl
    Tomatoes finally repotted.
    5:38 PM Jul 26th from twhirl
    Having some writer's block on an app letter. T.T
    11:22 PM Jul 26th from twhirl

    Quite a storm moving in over here.
    5:44 PM Jul 27th from web
    power outage imminent...
    6:04 PM Jul 27th from web
    Yay being plugged into the emergency generator. I can keep working in the dark. :)
    6:09 PM Jul 27th from web
    Home early. Other people decided it'd be too dangerous for me to drive after dark, and insisted.
    8:07 PM Jul 27th from twhirl
    Making lots of confetti.
    8:56 PM Jul 27th from twhirl

    I have an 8:45am meeting. It's 4am now. I'm not even slightly sleepy.
    2:56 AM Jul 29th from twhirl
    Now it's 6am. Maybe I should just stay up until after the meeting.
    5:02 AM Jul 29th from twhirl
    Us non-morning people need to unite and rebel already. -.-
    7:38 AM Jul 29th from web
    Looks like all my non-laid-off coworkers are going to face furoughs.
    8:31 AM Jul 29th from web
    Err, furloughs. I think my brain wants to shut down now. >.>
    8:34 AM Jul 29th from web
    Slept, yoga'ed, got drenched in the afternoon thunderstorm. I think I'm awake now. :)
    5:32 PM Jul 29th from twhirl
    found my college rejection letters. Woo. I've been rejected a lot in my life. >.>
    9:24 PM Jul 29th from twhirl

    It occurs to me, after I've dumped all my confetti into the trash, that I could probably have recycled it.
    1:47 AM Jul 30th from twhirl
    Pound pound pound. Yep. The roofers are right over my head again today.
    2:11 PM Jul 30th from web

    Today's thunderstorm is arriving. Will we lose power again? Dun dun DUN!
    4:46 PM Jul 31st from web
    Sorting lots of work papers. Which is a really huge change from all the home papers. Gigantic. Really.
    10:53 PM Jul 31st from web
    Moral of the story: don't be a packrat. >.>
    11:05 PM Jul 31st from web
    Making pseudo-borscht. Very pseudo. ;)

    3:01 PM Aug 1st from twhirl
    Would it be so bad to just sit around on unemployment for the next year?
    11:21 PM Aug 1st from twhirl

    Oh look. Rain. Again.
    2:36 AM Aug 2nd from twhirl
    Found a job ad for MD that I might stand a chance on.
    5:16 AM Aug 2nd from twhirl
    Why must pistachios be so addictive?
    2:54 PM Aug 2nd from twhirl
    Yoga class schedule changed for the month and tonight's was strenuous. I probably won't be able to move tomorrow...
    8:41 PM Aug 2nd from twhirl

    Goodwill Trip #2: completed. Yay progress. :) In other news, I have 2281 steps already today when normally I have less than 2000 total.
    2:25 PM Aug 3rd from web
    Lots of little positive things make life seem good, even while I'm heading for certain dooooom.
    5:29 PM Aug 3rd from web

    Made a triple batch of lentil chili. Phase I of "eat everything in the pantry" nearing completion.
    2:31 AM Aug 4th from twhirl
    Kind of really hoping that rose-colored poo is normal after having eaten beet soup. o.O
    6:23 PM Aug 4th from web
    Surprising amount of memories contained in my work-related papers. It's been a fun-filled 8 years.
    7:32 PM Aug 4th from web

    Today's featured thunderstorm moving in. Just as I was thinking to do laundry. T.T
    2:13 PM Aug 5th from twhirl
    First freecycle post submitted. Yay new adventures in getting rid of my stuff!
    6:21 PM Aug 5th from twhirl

    working on moving out of my office. This is kind of depressing...
    4:00 PM Aug 6th from web
    This is the time to remember, for it will not last forever.
    7:14 PM Aug 6th from web

    Found last night: appeal letter to some high school discipline. Tried to argue 1st Amendment right to be rude to my teachers. o.O
    2:07 PM Aug 7th from web

    Laundry done. Arranging for random strangers to take bunches of my stuff. Dishes next.
    5:08 PM Aug 8th from twhirl
    Newly-developing phobia: ending up in a workplace where I have to wear real clothes. o.O
    9:30 PM Aug 8th from twhirl
    @pie_r_round as opposed to shorts and tshirts and baggy sweatpants >.>
    9:32 PM Aug 8th from twhirl in reply to pie_r_round
    @jerisisco I don't even know *how* to dress like a manager. Me and matching = epic fail.
    9:39 PM Aug 8th from twhirl in reply to jerisisco
    @pie_r_round sounds like my sister. She's been horrified for decades. ;)
    9:48 PM Aug 8th from twhirl in reply to pie_r_round
    @jerisisco I could take those directions and guarantee you an outfit that will horrify you. >.>
    9:49 PM Aug 8th from twhirl in reply to jerisisco
    @jerisisco I think my goal is to find a job where I can continue to not dress. ;)
    10:11 PM Aug 8th from twhirl in reply to jerisisco
    @jerisisco yeah, I have one. Just the one. Purchased in 1999 I believe. >.>
    10:15 PM Aug 8th from twhirl in reply to jerisisco
    @jerisisco I've also worn it to weddings a couple times. Yes, with the same attendees both times.
    10:16 PM Aug 8th from twhirl in reply to jerisisco
    @jerisisco And that was arguably better than some of the other things I've worn to weddings.
    10:17 PM Aug 8th from twhirl in reply to jerisisco
    @jerisisco have I mentioned that my sister is perpetually horrified? ;)
    10:19 PM Aug 8th from twhirl in reply to jerisisco
    I've only recently figured out that women *like* shopping. o.O Apparently it's like playing dressup dolls, except with real people.
    10:25 PM Aug 8th from twhirl

    am I supposed to do something special with expired drugs? or can I just toss them in the regular trash?
    1:16 PM Aug 9th from twhirl
    anyone have any ideas on how to get rid of old checkbooks? (i.e. wrong addresses, no longer have account, etc.)
    3:16 PM Aug 9th from twhirl
    Why did I used to think carbon copies of checks was a good idea? T.T
    3:41 PM Aug 9th from twhirl
    Woo. I have carbon copies of checks I wrote in high school. All of them, from the looks of it.
    4:57 PM Aug 9th from twhirl

    waiting for the fishtank claimants to show up
    12:55 PM Aug 10th from twhirl
    Woot. Fishtank people came on schedule! That's 5 out of 6 show-on-times.
    1:05 PM Aug 10th from twhirl
    The bowl I'm using for my evening chili has a hairline crack, and now I'm losing my soup. T.T
    8:14 PM Aug 10th from web
    It's Mental Fog Day. Today's work takes more mental acuity than I can presently muster, so I went home early.
    10:57 PM Aug 10th from twhirl

    Discovered chocolate soymilk. Yum. :)
    1:56 PM Aug 11th from web
    @CarolElaine It's Silk. :) The yoga place had a freebie "try it!" stash, so I did, then two more times, then figured I better buy. ;)
    3:01 PM Aug 11th from web in reply to CarolElaine

    Can still play with neighbor kid - but only when her dad isn't looking.
    5:36 PM Aug 12th from twhirl
    Heh, asked the local pharmacy what to do with expired drugs and they said "trash." :p
    7:50 PM Aug 12th from twhirl
    @Kate_Baker I found some excedrin once that was so old it had needlelike crystals shooting out of each pill.
    8:04 PM Aug 12th from twhirl in reply to Kate_Baker
    @aravain apparently he has issues. Mom, however, seems to like me just fine.
    8:11 PM Aug 12th from twhirl in reply to aravain
    Made a gigantic batch of beef barley soup. This'll alternate with last week's chili. Next week: maybe something without beef. >.>
    10:39 PM Aug 12th from twhirl

    Found another job to apply for - but it only lasts 4 months. On the other hand, I'd be able to call myself a whale biologist.
    2:39 AM Aug 13th from twhirl
    Yep, everybody else here is getting furloughs with their 8% budget reductions. Sucks to be them.
    2:39 PM Aug 13th from web
    Lots of impressive lightning going on out there.
    4:46 PM Aug 13th from web

    Joe Blow's hypothetical leg lump seems to be disappearing. Hooray!
    3:02 AM Aug 14th from twhirl
    Passed a truck with a "Proud American" flag sticker. Is it bad I immediately translated that as "racist bastard" ?
    1:28 PM Aug 14th from twhirl

    Found the rude email that caused me to write an infraction appeal letter invoking 1st amendment rights. I was ... rude. o.O
    1:49 AM Aug 16th from twhirl
    Also, oddest thing found so far: hair. In an unlabelled envelope. Not mine. No idea whose it is. O.o
    1:50 AM Aug 16th from twhirl
    Found and emptied two more boxes of old paperwork. More coupons that expired in 2000. Also, my stash of early versions of my thesis.
    9:09 PM Aug 16th from twhirl
    Found lots of detritus from 1986 visit to Taiwan. Ticket stubs, maps, etc. Guess now I know where we went. ;)
    12:51 PM Aug 16th from twhirl

    Workday part one: an hour training session on how to use our new timesheet system that will only apply to me for one month.
    1:33 PM Aug 17th from web
    Next up: sorting 8 years of old work emails.
    1:33 PM Aug 17th from web
    Got some "exit interview" questions in advance. I'm gonna write a manifesto!
    4:20 PM Aug 17th from web

    back from ashtanga yoga. Different. Amazingly I kept up pretty well.
    7:15 PM Aug 18th from twhirl

    Just applied to a job in Oregon. Maybe this one will actually send some sort of response?
    3:35 AM Aug 19th from twhirl
    @thc1972 this one is with a fisheries commission. It doesn't *look* exactly governmental, so maybe they'll be more friendly?
    3:39 AM Aug 19th from twhirl in reply to thc1972

    My inflatable globe doesn't want to deflate.
    6:04 PM Aug 20th from web

    If it's shorter than it's wide then you turn it on its side, now it's longer than it's wide and it's a phallus.
    1:12 AM Aug 21st from twhirl
    chocolate soymilk > vanilla soymilk
    7:16 PM Aug 21st from twhirl

    Hopefully going to crank out my manifesto this weekend.
    3:33 PM Aug 22nd from web
    manifesto two thirds done. got past the cranky ranty part. trying to move on to the positive conclusion...
    9:40 PM Aug 22nd from web

    final length: 15 paragraphs. Now to sit on it until next week...
    12:30 AM Aug 23rd from web
    Found the stack of notebooks I went looking for back in Feb when I started sorting boxes the first time.
    2:38 PM Aug 23rd from web

    I have lots and lots of blank cards.
    4:56 PM Aug 24th from twhirl
    I can now do wheel pose. :)
    9:31 PM Aug 24th from twhirl

    On Mar. 6, 1999, I bought gas for $0.869. Ahh, the good old days.
    1:21 AM Aug 25th from twhirl

    Added 3 paragraphs to the manifesto about how bad the IT dept sucks. Because their response to my latest help request was "we don't care."
    12:04 AM Aug 26th from twhirl
    Sore all over. Wheel pose has introduced me to a whole new set of muscles I didn't know I had...
    3:45 PM Aug 26th from twhirl
    once again trying to come up with a cover letter that will probably be ignored
    10:55 PM Aug 26th from twhirl

    App to a job in Long Beach CA is away. Will someone actually reply to it? Tune in next time for another exciting installment of my job h ...
    2:35 AM Aug 27th from twhirl
    ... of my job hunt. Stupid 140-char limit. :p
    2:37 AM Aug 27th from twhirl
    Found box of pottery made by siblings and I as kids - still wrapped from a 1991 move. Why do *I* have this? T.T
    3:19 PM Aug 27th from web

    RT @NKnauth Required reading if you wish to discuss US healthcare reform: http://bit.ly/JoAxC
    2:27 PM Aug 28th from web
    Figuring out table partitions on my next to last day. May have bitten off more than I can chew...
    9:41 PM Aug 28th from web

    No, you can't fit a full-size concert grand harp into a VW Rabbit. >.<
    1:01 AM Aug 29th from twhirl
    Found even more early drafts of my masters thesis. Also the extended intro I spent weeks writing that my advisor told me to toss entirely.
    6:21 PM Aug 29th from twhirl
    app to become a whale biologist is away.
    11:03 PM Aug 29th from twhirl

    Kinda wish people would quit talking about all the awesome food they're eating. I've only eaten out once this month and it was Arby's. T.T
    3:02 PM Aug 30th from twhirl

    Last day. Trying to get a postgresql sequence to increment right. Stupid inheritances. :p
    3:31 PM Aug 31st from web
    Err, belay that last. It's because I'm actually a total idiot. *slinks off*
    3:42 PM Aug 31st from web
    Officially terminated now, with all paperwork and everything. Now, back to work on this database....
    6:42 PM Aug 31st from web
    @jerisisco I ended up with 159 emails I wanted to keep from the work system, when all was said and done and deleted. ;)
    6:43 PM Aug 31st from web in reply to jerisisco
    @jerisisco the 159 were what remained after I deleted thousands. ;) Luckily I don't get much email though.
    6:47 PM Aug 31st from web in reply to jerisisco
    Me: how do I forward email? IT: "we don't let you, and we only do it for faculty." Me: ...
    7:03 PM Aug 31st from web
    I think my favorite mental phrase, "You gotta be kidding my fuckin' ass" applies.
    7:08 PM Aug 31st from web
    About to write my goodbye email to the whole place.
    7:31 PM Aug 31st from web

    Unemployment applied for. Time in the agency: 2 hrs. Time until I hear whether they'll give me money: 1 month. The waiting begins!
    2:48 PM Sep 1st from twhirl
    Discovered at ashtanga yoga tonight that I can do a decent headstand if I'm next to the wall.
    6:55 PM Sep 1st from twhirl
    ah, and I got rejected by the Santa Cruz job.
    6:57 PM Sep 1st from twhirl

    Got a flyer saying that people on food stamps can also sign up for govt-funded phone. I think that's an awesome idea.
    about 13 hours ago from twhirl

Today I did almost nothing of note. Tomorrow I dive back into the chaos. If there's another lull somewhere, maybe I'll post again this month...

15 August 2009

A Portrait

Some artwork I did back in 4th grade, when I drew a lot and was also fascinated by the Plains Indians:

Sitting Bull, drawn in 1984 from an 1885 photo

I forgot about it for a good long while, until I stumbled across a photo on the Internet:

Sitting Bull in 1885 by D.F. Barry

The feather gives it away, I think. :)

Then, while sorting through lots and lots of old personal papers this past year, I came across my drawing again. In retrospect, looking at this and other drawings, I'm really not as good of an artist as I thought I was, and as everyone said I was. But I'm not too bad, either. Maybe I'll start drawing again someday.

28 July 2009

Tomatoes, about five weeks later

My tomatoes are doing well. Here they are, happily in their final pots:

And here are some future tomatoes (hopefully):

I haven't decided where they're going when I move, but they probably won't be able to come with me. But that's okay, I have more seeds for later. :)

17 July 2009

We Can Haz Health Care Now?

A hypothetical scenario: Joe Blow is informed that he is being laid off. Shortly after, he discovers an unusual lump in his leg. What happens next?

Well, if Joe Blow lived in any first world country other than the U.S., he would go to a doctor, get it diagnosed, undergo any necessary medical treatment, and otherwise get it taken care of. Then he would find a new job and go back to being a happy, productive taxpayer. The End.

In the U.S.?

Being laid off means that health insurance is about to end. Sure, health plans can be extended through something called "Cobra" - but in practice that means adding a sizeable new bill during a time of zero income, which is not a financially sound thing to do.

Being diagnosed with something serious while without health insurance means that all health care costs must come out of pocket. This is even less sound financially during a period of zero income. Especially if Joe Blow only has enough savings to afford being laid off OR have a medical issue, but not both at the same time.

Being diagnosed with something serious before acquiring new health insurance means that "pre-existing condition" clauses might kick in, thereby causing the new health insurance to cost more.

Thus, financially speaking, Joe Blow should delay going to the doctor until after he has acquired a new job with new health insurance. Then he can discover he has now-incurable terminal cancer, and die.

Because the other choice would be to go to the doctor "now," discover he has cancer, undergo treatment, and enter financial ruin. Then he'll become homeless, possibly no longer be able to afford the rest of treatment, and die.

Ahh, the U.S. of A. Very nice first world country - if you're rich. Third world country if you're not. Alas for Joe Blow.

(Note: the above is all entirely hypothetical, of course. Entirely.)

14 July 2009

News from the Sprouts Farm

At first I was going to make crop circles and other patterns, such as:

It turns out, though, that other people are much better than I am for coming up with patterns to make (*cough* Anne *cough*), so now I'm going the route of Nerd King instead. Here's my first Farm Town Sudoku:

I got the pattern by playing a round of Jigsawdoku, then writing down the numbers at the end. I then assigned nine different crops to the numbers (carrots, peas, tomatoes, rice, wheat, watermelon, potatoes, strawberries, cabbage) and planted accordingly. Voila. :D

In other news, it's high time I did a sequel to my pylon bunny. That one became my trademark on Battlenet and in RPoL's chat. Amongst the UCF, however, I now have: o.O In online chat situations this is a commonly used ascii facial expression, but most UCFers hadn't seen it before I came along, and it became associated with me. Just like the bunny did. Meanwhile, Farm Town seems to have become the official UCF pasttime (even if half the membership have not yet been sucked in). Thus:


07 July 2009

The World Is My Oyster

On the one hand, I'm going to miss this place. I enjoyed being able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, so long as 40 hours worth of work got done each week. I enjoyed the scenery to, from, and during work, the relaxed pace and lack of stress. I enjoyed everything about living here, as it gave me the time I needed to rest, regather, and redefine who I am. It's been a good eight years.

But on the other hand, it's time to move on. It has been time to move on for almost a year, in fact. What once was solace has slowly become limitations and fetters. What once didn't matter now does. I can't keep pets, I can't grow gardens, I can't do a lot of things involving money that I don't have, and I'm increasingly disgruntled with the way I'm treated at my workplace. It's no longer enough just to survive. I'm rested, and now I want to live.

And so, after I got over the initial shock of being canned due to a lack of grant funds, now that I am no longer bound by honor to finish the work I've started here, what I most feel is freedom.

03 July 2009

Slice of Life (mine)

A scene in a crummy little town in Kentucky, next to a semi wreck that has closed both sides of the interstate and forced everybody to go 15 miles on a dinky little state road...

I walk into the gas station.

The lady behind the counter finishes helping the customer in front of me, then starts sorting change.

I stand there and wait patiently for her to finish.

Eventually she runs out of stuff to fiddle with. Without looking at me, in a carefully guarded tone of voice that says "I'm being as polite as possible under such trying circumstances," she says "yes?"

I get as far as "how do I--" before she interrupts and tells me how to find the detour.

Halfway through, a man walks into the store and says something like "did you mean the red light out that way?" (Obviously he was looking for the same directions.)

The lady behind the counter drops talking to me entirely as she shifts her full attention to the other guy. The directions get clarified. I stand there and listen in. The man nods and leaves.

I say "thanks." The lady completely ignores me.

I follow the man through the door. He tries to close it on me. Then he goes back to his truck without looking back.

I usually don't bother getting offended by stuff like this, because it happens so often that it's 'normal'. But in the spirit of describing what I see that other people don't, I thought I'd share.

30 June 2009

Clan [Wolf] Reunion

Clan [Wolf] was an awesome bunch of Starcraft and Diablo 2 players that I knew back at the beginning of the century. We're having a reunion. I'm collecting snarky comments. Take it away, guys. ;)

But I don't know how to leave you

And so the knight in shining armor, who spent the last six years never having time to be with the princess that he worked so hard trying to keep, failed. And the shared dream came to an end, even though it was never like that at all.

I don't know what I can say or do to make it better. I'm sorry too. And I still love you anyway.

I wish you could come with me.

24 June 2009

Tomato Sprouts

Last year's tomatoes were from a neighbor who had too many, all in one tiny pot. He ended up giving me about 30 of them that I planted in three big pots. They survived up until February or so, but only made a few small tomatoes, most of which stayed green.

This year I bought a packet of seeds, rehydrated some peat pellets I had lying around, and sprouted six of them myself. Here they are, after a couple weeks in a cheap plastic incubator (clear dome cover not pictured):

I potted them last weekend. So far they're still strictly indoor plants until they get big enough to survive being dug up by roving area mammals. Then they'll get moved to my big pots from last year. I might try to find some high shelving to put them on, and let the vines grow downward instead of staking them upward. I've heard that works better.

I also have an unused 3-foot sill planter thing. I'm thinking to try putting strawberries in them. But that might have to wait until next year.

22 June 2009

Why no, it ISN'T supposed to be normal for this to happen

To the lovely young (white) couple standing in line ahead of me, who recognized and began a lengthy, enthusiastic conversation with the lovely young (white) couple standing in line behind me:

The polite thing to do would've been to offer to let me move ahead of you in line, instead of talking through me like I don't exist.

The totally dismissible Asian person standing directly in the middle of your happy little group

p.s. The whole, shake hands around me thing, that was a bit over the top, even for normal non-acknowledgement of my existence.


21 June 2009

Happy Father's Day

I said profound stuff about my father last year. This year, in the face of sudden major life upheavals (more on that in a future post when I can say something organized), this is all I have to offer:

Edy's uses corn syrup as an ingredient in their ice cream! o.O Never again will I stray from my stand-by of all-natural Breyer's.

(Which is an ironic profundity (or profound irony) in itself, about finding something you like and sticking with it from then on.)

Now, back to my bowl of butter pecan...

13 June 2009

A Week in the Life of a Desk Jockey Oceanography Tech



These images show an estimate of chlorophyll levels off the coast of the southeastern U.S., on a log scale from 0.1 to 10, at a resolution of 1 km per pixel. Yellow is high, blue is low. About half of my job description involves making and sorting satellite images like these. I have several thousand of them, dating as far back as late 1997, showing all sorts of things about the ocean just off the coast (another example: sea-surface temperature (SST)). (And just to be clear, these images aren't coming off of military spy satellites or anything impressive like that, they're not classified, most of the data is freely available off the Internet. Nobody dangerous cares about this kind of scientific data. :) )

Then one day my boss said: "Can you get an estimate of cloud cover?"

And I thought: cloud cover. All I have to do is count up all the pixels representing the clouds, divide by the total number of pixels, and voila - percent cloud cover! Should be simple!


1. Grabbing the pixels to be counted

The first thing I did was to draw a line around the area I wanted to count. In this case, I figured he wanted basically the entire South Atlantic Bight (from Cape Canaveral to Cape Hatteras (aside: the name is a bit misleading, since the area isn't actually in the southern Atlantic Ocean, it just happens to be south of the Mid-Atlantic Bight (Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod). Ahh, Northeastern USian centrism.)) - from the shoreline to the edge of the continental shelf.

Getting the offshore side was easy enough, since I had a dotted yellow contour line for 500m depth already, and I could just follow that. Land, however, was a bit trickier, since I wasn't about to try following the shoreline pixel-by-pixel by hand. And inconveniently, the (usually large) negative number representing clouds is the same as the negative number representing land, which means there's no way to separate the two.

On the other hand, the most recent versions of seadas like to guess wildly at what sea surface temperature might be under the clouds. This is officially called "interpolation" - but what actually happens is a mess of processing artifacts that look like oddly shaped cold spots in strange places. (There's a few in my above SST example, lower right of the image; I picked that particular image at the time for its lack of the artifacts, though.) Most of the time it's annoying, as we like nice, solid black clouds that look like obvious clouds, like in the second chlorophyll image up top. But for land vs. cloud separation purposes, having clouds pretending to be strangely cold patches of the sea worked in my favor.

I picked a reasonably clear SST image, overlapped my line onto land, let seadas fill the whole thing in, and ended up with a blotch of 141,290 coordinate points like so:

(as plotted on a bathymetry image)

Then I fed it to Matlab and told it to strip out all points representing land:

fid = fopen('polishedblotch.dat','w');
for i = 1:length(sst)
if sst(i) ~= -163.835
fprintf(fid, '%6.3f ',blotchtemplate(i, 1));
fprintf(fid, '%6.3f ',blotchtemplate(i, 2));
fprintf(fid, '%6.3f\n',blotchtemplate(i, 3));

... which gave me:

(blue = before, green = after)

2. Grabbing the actual data

Now that I had a blotch with all the coordinates I wanted to count, it was time to get some actual data. So I wrote some IDL:

cnt = N_ELEMENTS(fnames)

for ctr = 0, cnt-1 do begin & $
load, fnames(ctr), ftype = 'MAPPED', prod_name = ['Mapped - chlor_a', 'Mapped - chla'] & $
out_track, iband=1, ifile = 'polishedblotch.dat', ofile = STRMID(fnames(ctr), 75, 8) + 'blotch_chl.txt', /no_connect & $
clear_up & $

It takes in files with names like A2009130184500L2_map.hdf, and puts out files with names like A2009130blotch_chl.txt. Notice that I'm going for chlorophyll here instead of SST. This is because chlorophyll has real clouds. Also, out of all the possible things I could use, chlorophyll is one of the most basic measures, how it's measured and processed by seadas has changed the least in the past decade, and therefore it's the most consistent and extensive collection I have. (Also note: out_track is a seadas-specific function, not a general IDL function.)

Unfortunately, it turns out that IDL doesn't like looping through anything more than 32,000 times. And my blotch of coordinates contains 125,557 points (that's 125,557 square kilometers in the SAB). I saw suggestions to use "for ctr = 0L" instead of "for ctr = 0", and "fnames[ctr]" instead of "fnames(ctr)", but in the end, I used Matlab to break up the file into four parts:

blotch1 = polishedblotch(1:32000,:);
blotch2 = polishedblotch(32001:64000,:);
blotch3 = polishedblotch(64001:96000,:);
blotch4 = polishedblotch(96001:end,:);

fid2 = fopen('polishedblotch4.dat','w');
for i=1:length(blotch4)
fprintf(fid2, '%6.3f ',blotch4(i,1));
fprintf(fid2, '%6.3f ',blotch4(i,2));
fprintf(fid2, '%6.3f\n',blotch4(i,3));

and added some more lines to the IDL script:

out_track, iband=1, ifile = 'polishedblotch2.dat', ofile = STRMID(fnames(ctr), 75, 8) + 'blotch_chl.txt', /no_connect, /append & $
out_track, iband=1, ifile = 'polishedblotch3.dat', ofile = STRMID(fnames(ctr), 75, 8) + 'blotch_chl.txt', /no_connect, /append & $
out_track, iband=1, ifile = 'polishedblotch4.dat', ofile = STRMID(fnames(ctr), 75, 8) + 'blotch_chl.txt', /no_connect, /append & $

... which amounted to the same thing.

3. Putting the data into the database

Now I had a bunch of coordinate points, and I had used it to extract some data. It was time to put all this into my PostgreSQL database!

Why would I want to do that, you ask? Why not just open it in Matlab again and do some simple division? Well, that would work great if all I had to do was a few images, this was the only time I'd have to do it, and then I'd never hear about this particular task again. However, if I'll eventually end up having to do several thousand of them spread throughout the decade, the excessive paperwork would eventually kill me.

It had also occurred to me that, as long as I'm extracting all this data to calculate percent cloud cover, why not save it somewhere easily accessible where I can use the data as actual data, too?

So I made a couple new tables. Blotchcoords would hold all the coordinate points, and then blotchdata would refer to it (plus several other tables I already had) and contain the actual data. And I wrote some PHP to get it all in. Most of it was to turn seadas's bizarre output format into something that the database could understand. First, to fill blotchcoords:

$counter = 0;
$success = 0;
while($datablock = fgets($file_handle)){
if (substr($datablock, 7, 5) == '( 1)') {
$lat = substr($datablock, 32, 6);
$lon = substr($datablock, 42, 7);
$value = substr($datablock, -21, 8);
$query = "insert into blotchcoords (coords_id, latitude, longitude, depth) values (nextval('blotchcoords_coords_id_seq'), $lat, $lon, $value)";
if (pg_query($dbconn, $query)) {$success++;}
} #endif
} #endwhile
echo "$counter lines processed, $success lines entered, for $file.\n\n";

It turns out that 125,557 database inserts takes a few hours. While I was waiting, I wrote the additions to put the actual data in; it's basically the same, except that the script first has to find the right reference in the coordinate table before doing the database insert.

$findcoord = "select coords_id from blotchcoords where latitude = $lat and longitude = $lon";
$out1=pg_query($dbconn, $findcoord);
$coords = pg_fetch_object($out1,0);
$query = "insert into blotchdata (blotch_id, value, date_id, prod_id, sat_id, coords_id) values (nextval('blotchdata_blotch_id_seq'), $value, $date->date_id, $prod, $sat, $coords->coords_id)";

It turns out that 125,557 reference lookups in addition to database inserts takes 12 hours. o.O I've since written up a shortcut; instead of looking up the references, now it just assumes that the coordinates are in the same order as the data, and counts up accordingly. Which is generally bad practice - never assume anything, ever - but in my case the coordinates data all went in in one go without stopping, so I'm pretty safe.

4. Calculate percent cloud cover

And finally, I could do the actual calculation! Here it is in SQL:

select ((select count(*)::numeric from blotchdata where value = -1 and date_id = 2314)/(select count(*)::numeric from blotchdata where date_id = 2314))*100 AS percentcloudcover;

(In the case of chlorophyll, clouds are -1.)

It turns out that for May 9, 2009 (top left), cloud cover was 5%, and for May 10, 2009 (top right) it was 35%.



In the end, I've managed to use bits of every coding language I know at some point during the past week - and was comfy moving back and forth between them. And knew how to do the whole thing without asking for help from anyone (except for a bit at the end there to tweak the SQL). For someone who has no formal training in any of this stuff, and who was completely clueless six years ago, I think I'm doing pretty good. :)

06 June 2009

Mies Del Dolor

Blind Guardian is a Swedish German metal band that gets regularly recommended to me, based on what else I like (Rammstein, Megaherz/Eisbrecher, Nightwish, symphonic metal in general). Most of their songs make no impression on me whatsoever - it's pleasant enough background music in my Pandora seed rotation, but doesn't draw my attention enough to find out what it is or who's playing it.

Except for Mies Del Dolor. It's in Spanish, unlike most of their songs which are in English, and it sounds nothing like most songs in Spanish I'm exposed to. This is more like a ballad.

So far as I know, there isn't a readily available English translation of the lyrics. I have no idea what they're singing. Which is not unlike the current state of my thoughts on romance in general, which might be part of why I like it so much. :)

UPDATE: Figures. There's a version of this in English, under a different name!

I think I still like it better in Spanish though.

05 June 2009

Contradiction of the Day

I think I'm only capable of unconditional love if I'm not in a romantic relationship.

Individual people are cool. I enjoy following their lives, especially if theirs are vastly different from mine - if they've seen or done things I haven't, or were born into perspectives not like mine and not within the USian dominant cultures. I enjoy finding out what they think, why they think that way, how they got there. I can admire their strengths, find beauty in their weaknesses, and love their diversity of humanity. I like people who are being who they are.

By the same token, one of the biggest things I look for in others is an ability to see and understand and like me for who I am, as I am, for my own sake and not for who I am in relation to them. People who can recognize the subtle signs to stop talking about themselves and start listening, because I have something important to say. Those are the people who end up becoming my closest friends.

But when it comes to seeing someone as a potential lifelong mate, it's not just about them anymore - it becomes much more about how they relate to me. Do I personally like them, what they think, and how they think? Do I find them physically attractive? What do I think of their pursuits in life? Do I find their interests or any aspects of their personalities annoying? Can they continue to be who they are, or would they have to change in ways that would make them less happy but would please me more, and how can I ask them for changes like that? Can I somehow avoid becoming ridiculously jealous over extremely stupid things, and wanting to control how they think, as past experiences have shown I do?

On the whole, I think I'm waiting to find someone who is already exactly who I want them to be.

Note: the immediate cause of these thoughts is not the only source of them.

31 May 2009

Domino's Breadbowls: A Review

The new Domino's pasta primavera breadbowl has a description of: "Offers fresh spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions mixed with penne pasta and baked to perfection with creamy Alfredo sauce. $7.99"

On the whole, I prefer Pizza Hut's pizza over Domino's, at least when we're talking about pizza places within walking distance of my home, but thought I'd give the breadbowls a try. I wasn't expecting much with the actual bread, since that would be the same as what they use for their pizza crusts, but figured the pasta might be good. So I ordered one.

Half an hour later, I'm not at all impressed.

It did have mushrooms, spinach and onions in it - but the latter two were barely cooked. That was okay for the spinach, not so much for the onions. There wasn't very much spinach or onions in the thing, maybe about five little pieces of each. There were no tomatoes at all. There was, however, a whole lot of bacon (and, oddly, a piece of green olive). At first I was okay with that, since I'd pondered getting them to add sausage, but decided against spending extra money until I found out how good the rest of it was. However, there was so much of it that (combined with the oversalted cheese sauce) the whole thing was way too salty.

As for the bread. As I said, I wasn't expecting very much. However, I was expecting it to be all the way cooked. This one is distinctly doughy on the inside, and as far as I can tell it never did rise up to surround the pasta with tasty oven-baked goodness like the box says it would. That, added in with the near-raw onions and barely steamed spinach, makes me think they need to work out their cooking method for these things a bit more.

Then there's portion size. It's ridiculously small for the price I paid. For $7.99 at a sitdown Italian restaurant serving real pasta, I'd get two to three times as much food. This breadbowl had maybe five total bites of pasta in it, total.

So, in conclusion: $7.99 (plus tax) down the drain and I'm still hungry, and now must drink lots of water. And I guess I'll stick the empty breadbowl in my toaster oven and see if I can get it all the way cooked.

Dare I try one of their new oven-baked sandwiches? The bread looks like it's something different from their pizza crust bread, at least. Maybe some other time...

28 May 2009

Metaphysical musings

Vitalism is the belief that all living things contain a spirit. Animism is the belief that all things, living or otherwise, do.* A friend recently asked me, which am I? And how do I reconcile that with being an evolutionary biologist?

My answer: Biology is about the physical forms of life, and evolution is about how they got to be the way they are. For that matter, all of the hard sciences are about the physical world. Animism and vitalism are about spirits, which are not physical. What does the one have to do with the other? To me, not a whole lot. Physical form probably influences how a spirit perceives and interacts with the world, but in the end body and soul are separate things.

So what do I think about spirits in general? Well, all living things certainly have them. Not sure about non-living things. There are also spirits that aren't attached to physical forms. Some of them survived their deaths in the physical world; others, I have no idea whether they came from a somewhere or if their there is where they've always been. But the physical plane is not the only one.

I'm not sure whether my friend was satisfied with that answer or not.

*Apparently it's more longwinded than that, with whole philosophical schools of thought behind those concepts, with which I'm completely unfamiliar, so I'll just go with how it was defined to me, as above by said friend.

26 May 2009

Sprouts: Behind the Name

Once upon a time in Facebook Land, there was an Ultimate Hitman game - where you go around to different places around the world, assassinating people. A friend wanted me to sign up so that he would have an extra cell member, and therefore be able to take on bigger and better missions. To get in, I had to pick a home country and a name. Since I wasn't planning to play, I searched the list for the most loserlike country I could find - which I eventually decided was Belgium. It's certainly not the first country that comes to mind when one thinks of mercenary assassins. Then came name. Obviously, it should have something to do with Belgium. Well, Belgium's capital is Brussels ... and thusly did I become Spooky Sprouts.

Then, a while later, there came another game, Mafia Wars - which I did plan to play. Well, I had a hitman name already, so obviously that should also be my mafia name. And thus Don Sprouts was born. Unfortunately, Mafia Land is a cruel, cruel world, and poor Sprouts got pounded into a pulp a lot. Something about the name that just says "please beat me" I suppose. So when Vampire Wars came along shortly thereafter, it only made sense to name my vampire Undead Sprouts. Don Sprouts dies, Undead Sprouts rises.

By that point it was a trend. In Pirates of the Caribbean I was Captain Sprouts (with pet parrot Lady Carrots!), and in Dragon Wars I was an elf named Sprout. And when Farm Town caught everyone's eye, there finally was a place where the name made sense. Yay Farmer Sprouts, who "retired" from all those wars and bought a farm. :)

Now I've embarked on a whole new career of making crop circles with my virtual crops. Here's the first one I made:

It's supposed to be a swirl, not a swastika, but an 8x8 grid turns out to be a bit small. Eventually I'll have more land, and will make larger, more complicated patterns. Maybe I'll post them here from time to time. ;)

24 May 2009

Why I'm not smart enough to be a restauranteur

Food stamps can only be used to buy ingredients and raw food, not cooked food, and therefore can't be used in restaurants.

Some people with food stamps may not be able to cook food - e.g. broken stove, no stove, lack of electricity or gas to stove.

Seafood markets are primarily sellers of raw food. They therefore take food stamps.

Many seafood markets in the U.S. southeast will also prepare and cook food upon request. Officially this is a side service.

Some friends of mine (formerly the owners of a Chinese takeout) own and run a seafood market. It's located in a poor part of town. They will fry, steam, or boil nearly everything they sell (for a small fee).

The end result:

There is no actual difference between their seafood market and their Chinese takeout from an order-taking/food-passing perspective, except that nobody ever writes any of the orders down. T.T

There is a big difference at the cash register. Because food stamps can't be used for cooked food, the cooking fee must be charged separately as cash - which can get really complicated with the whole not writing anything down thing. But only to me, because everyone else there can do it in their heads. TT.TT

22 May 2009

Trying, trying once again

When it comes to questions of nature versus nurture on the topic of gender differences, transpeople have a perspective that cispeople do not have. We may not be able to articulate what those differences are in a way that doesn't cause cispeople to immediately jump to conclusions about stereotyping, but for us the topic is not an intellectual exercise or a set of abstract theories about the workings of society and culture. We see the differences firsthand, as a part of everyday life.

15 May 2009

Again With The Chives

My chives haven't changed much since January. Here they are, looking a bit greener as they get ready for another summer. I'm not doing a whole lot - just watering occasionally. I could really use some good summer recipes that call for chives...

Meanwhile, I started a compost bin. It consists of a $5 plastic tub from Kmart, into which I've dumped a bunch of veggie scraps, the remains of last year's basil, and some of last year's tomato soil. Also, some leaves and debris from a 3-foot planter that was occupied by a bunch of tree saplings until just before I thought about taking a picture, whereupon they somehow disappeared. o.O Anyway, we'll see how this new adventure goes. If all that happens is I get into the habit of separating veggie scraps out from the rest of my kitchen garbage, that's already a step up from what I was doing before.

14 May 2009

Summary of the Crank That We Debunked

So... Walter L. Wagner, most recently known for filing suit in Hawaii to shut down the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland (video summary by The Daily Show), who is currently under indictment for Attempted Theft In The First Degree and Identity Theft In The First Degree from World Botanical Gardens, Inc. in Umauma, Hawaii, has led a fascinating, litigation-rich life. His past decade, especially, seems to have been packed solid with at least half a dozen completely separate legal battles in at least four states - from suing of colliders to accumulating restraining orders to alleged embezzlement and fraud. Here's a timeline of his life as we know it, pieced together from public and (mostly) online sources.

1968: graduated from Salinas High School, Salinas, California
(self-reported at classmates.com)

1970: graduated from Hartnell College (a community college with its main campus in South Salinas), California
(self-reported at classmates.com)

1970: began attending UC-Berkeley
(from a 2003 interview in the East Bay Express, Emeryville, CA)

1970s: was involved in the No Nukes movement, and worked for antinuclear activist Helen Caldicott. Eventually he disagreed with her approach and left the movement.
(from a 2003 interview in the East Bay Express, Emeryville, CA)

1972: graduated from UC-Berkeley with a Biology BA
(self-reported at classmates.com, 2008 legal affidavit for the lawsuit against the LHC, a 29 Jul 1982 letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine)

1973: was hired by Dr. P. Buford Price, physics professor at UC-Berkeley, as a scanner. Job description of a particle physics scanner: "A scanner is carefully instructed in what to look for through an optical microscope as he systematically moves the field of view, like a lawn mower. He records all tracks that fit the professor's or graduate student's criteria. When all events that fit the criteria are analyzed (and this may take a year or longer), the scientists write a paper, usually using mathematical techniques that are beyond the capability of the scanner. At the end of the paper the scanner(s) are thanked."
(date is from the 2008 legal affidavit for the lawsuit against the LHC)

July 1975: left the Price lab to start law school at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento
(date self-reported from a comment on John the Scientist's blog; name of school from 26 Sep 1977 People Magazine article, Wagner v. Flippo 2005)

1975-1978: Price et al (1975) published a paper about the possible detection of a magnetic monopole, with Wagner as one of five people listed in the acknowledgements for "assistance." A 25 Aug 1975 Time Magazine article highlights Julie Teague as well as Walter Wagner as the technical assistants that first spotted the particle track. Alvarez (1975) disputed Price et al (1975) a month later with a conference presentation, and Price et al (1978) retracted their claim; Wagner had no role in these parts of the science.
(P. B. Price; E. K. Shirk; W. Z. Osborne; L. S. Pinsky (1975). "Evidence for Detection of a Moving Magnetic Monopole". Physical Review Letters 35 (8): 487-490. American Physical Society.
Alvarez, L.W. (1975) "Analysis of a reported magnetic monopole."
Price, P. B.; Shirk, E. K.; Osborne, W. Z.; and Pinsky L. S. (1978). "Further measurements and reassessment of the magnetic-monopole candidate Phys. Rev. D 18, 1382-1421.)

1975: met Gail Morton, started following her around, sending her lots of gifts, making lots of phone calls, and other signs of affection - all unwanted by Ms. Morton
fall 1976: Morton won a court injunction (restraining order) against him
fall 1976-fall 1977: convicted of 17 counts of contempt
Sep 1977: sentencing occurred
1976-1977: Wagner dropped out of McGeorge to repeat his first year at Lincoln Law School in Sacramento.
(from a 26 Sep 1977 People Magazine article, name of law school self-reported at classmates.com. Additional reference: "The Ardent Suitor" by Jerrold K. Footlick, Newsweek, 4 Jul 1977, p.59)

1978: self-reported graduation date from three different law schools: McGeorge, Lincoln, and University of Northern California Lorenzo Patiño School of Law.
(self-reported at classmates.com)

Note: He is highly unlikely to have completed a law degree by 1978 if he repeated first year in 1976 or later, as People Magazine reports. What probably happened was that his actual degree came from Lorenzo Patiño sometime after it opened in 1983. Lorenzo Patiño is an unaccredited law school. Also, there is no evidence that he ever passed a bar exam in California or Hawaii.

1978: California Code Of Civil Procedure Section 527.6, titled: "Injunctions to prevent harassment; Possession of firearm by person subject to protective order" enacted as a result of Wagner's actions toward Morton from 1975-1977.
(references: Diamond View Limited v. Herz (1986) 180 Cal. App. 3d 612, 225 Cal. Rptr. 651; 2003 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 6054)

1979: hired as the head radiation safety officer at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center
(from a 2003 interview in the East Bay Express, Emeryville, CA)

1981: 1977 injunction against approaching or contacting Gail Morton was dissolved by mutual release after a civil suit arising from an "injurious newspaper article." This dissolution was affirmed on 14 Jul 2004 by Judge Maldonado of the Monterey County Appellate Division of the Superior Court of California (see below for more details).
(Wagner v. Flippo 2005 - No. C 05-02863 JSW)

29 Jul 1982: Had a letter to the editor published in the New England Journal of Medicine about the dangers of radioactive tobacco.

1984: left the radiation safety officer job at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center
(from a 2003 interview in the East Bay Express, Emeryville, CA)

1984-2003: briefly taught earth science at Oakland's Arroyo Junior High. Presumably was a teacher at all of the other schools self-reported at classmates.com where he clearly wasn't a student. Presumably aced his much-beloved CBEST (a standardized test for grade school teachers) during this time as well. Also, founded the Monterey Bay Perpetual Endowment Foundation for Wellness.

4 Jul 1995: opening of the World Botanical Gardens, a botanical garden in Umauma, Hawaii. Apparently it was incorporated in Nevada.
(some history included here)

12 Jun 1996: apparently there is also a Utah chapter to the World Botanical Gardens, called World Botanical Garden Institute.
(Deseret News Publishing Co.)

1999: Radiation Man is born. The quest to eliminate uraniam-glazed tiles began in a Baja Cantina restaurant in Monterey, CA.
(from a 2003 interview in the East Bay Express, Emeryville, CA)

Jul 1999: had a letter to the editor published in Scientific American about black holes being created at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Letter was refuted by Dr. Wilczek of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

May 1999 - May 2000: filed lawsuits in San Francisco and New York versus the U.S. Dept. of Energy, then the Brookhaven Science Association, to shut down the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
(14 Jun 2000 article at msnbc.com)

10 Nov 2001: Was arrested near the San Francisco airport after repeated attempts to contact Gail Morton against her wishes. He was carrying several knives and a list of Morton's coworkers at the time.
(Wagner v. Flippo 2005 - No. C 05-02863 JSW)

20 Nov 2001: Prosecution began against him for violating the 1977 injunction.

2001: A new 3-year injunction was issued.
(California Public Court Record H028942)

2003: Appealed arguing that the 1977 injunction had been voided. Appeal denied.

2003: Radiation Man is going door to door in California, warning about the dangers of uranium-glazed tiles.
(article at msnbc.com, 2003 interview in the East Bay Express, Emeryville, CA)

30 May 2003: appeal denied in Hawaii regarding something about the Wagners' minor unmarried daughter and a hospital
(Hawaii Supreme Court 25653 (PDF))

May 2004: stopped being involved in the day-to-day affairs of running the World Botanical Gardens in Umauma, Hawaii
(from 29 Feb 2008 article in the Honolulu Advertiser)

14 Jul 2004: Judge Maldonado of the Monterey County Appellate Division of the Superior Court of California agrees that the 1977 injunction had been voided in 1981, and that the 2001 lawsuit should've been charged under California stalker statutes, not violation of the 1977 injunction. (Wagner v. Flippo 2005 - No. C 05-02863 JSW)

Jul-Sep 2004: alleged to have transmitted personal information with intent to steal property from World Botanical Gardens, Inc.
(from 29 Feb 2008 article in the Honolulu Advertiser)

10 Sep 2004: alleged to have stolen $20k worth of property from World Botanical Gardens, Inc.
(from 29 Feb 2008 article in the Honolulu Advertiser)

24 Jan 2005: another new injunction against approaching or contacting Gail Morton is granted (as the 2001 injunction had expired).
(California Public Court Record H028942)

7 Jun 2005: filed appeal to reconsider an appeal of the 24 Jan 2005 injunction.
(California Public Court Record H028942)

Sep 2005: last known evidence of the existence of the Monterey Bay Perpetual Endowment Foundation for Wellness.

Sep 2005: Fraud/Misrepresentation case begins about the World Botanical Gardens in Nevada.
(Fraud/Misrepresentation Case CV05-02079, Washoe County, Nevada)

8 Nov 2005: Wagner files suit against the prosecutors from 2001, claiming wrongful prosecution for not having violated the 1977 injunction. The case is dismissed.
(Wagner v. Flippo 2005 - No. C 05-02863 JSW)

1 Dec 2005: Motion to reconsider Wagner v. Flippo is denied.
(more Wagner v. Flippo 2005)

3 Jan 2006: The Wagners file a motion to quash a subpoena of their bank account records. Presumably the subpoena is part of the legal battle with World Botanical Gardens, Inc.
(Hawaii No. 27745)

30 Jan 2006: The 3 Jan 2006 motion (attempt to quash a subpoena of their bank account records) is denied.
(Hawaii No. 27745)

7 Feb 2007: After a lengthy battle with World Botanical Gardens Inc. in Nevada, for engaging in fraud, freezing the garden's bank account, closing their website, and otherwise interfering in their business affairs, he's sentenced to 90 days in jail and several thousand dollars in fines.
(Fraud/Misrepresentation Case CV05-02079, Washoe County, Nevada)

May 2007: Forced to sell his share of the property holdings of the World Botanical Gardens in Nevada at public auction. Deemed vexatious litigants in Nevada.
(Fraud/Misrepresentation Case CV05-02079, Washoe County, Nevada)

10 May 2007: Gail Morton succeeds in having Wagner deemed a vexatious litigant in California.
(California Public Court Record H028942)

13 Jul 2007: The 30 Jan 2006 denial is affirmed. The Wagners' bank account records are successfully subpoenaed.
(Hawaii No. 27745)

7 Nov 2007: 24 Jan 2005 injunction against approaching or contacting Gail Morton stands, designation of Wagner as a "vexatious litigant" does not.
(California Public Court Record H028942)

14 Nov 2007: A $351,520 lien is put on World Botanical Gardens, Inc. property in Utah.
(#68419-2008, state of Utah)

17 Jan 2008: first recorded Wikipedia edit made on the name Oldnoah.

29 Feb 2008: indictment by a grand jury on counts of identity theft and attempted theft relating to an alleged attempt to obtain $340,000 from the botanical garden in Hawaii.
(29 Feb 2008 article at the Honolulu Advertiser, 14 Mar 2008 article at Hawaii Tribune-Herald, 28 Mar 2008 article at The Register (UK news website))

21 Mar 2008: files Sancho vs. DOE against the LHC in a federal district court in Hawaii.
(Sancho v. U.S. Department of Energy et al, case 1:2008cv00136)

26 Sep 2008: Sancho vs. DOE ends when Hawaiian Federal Judge Helen Gillmor officially declares that the American judicial system has no jurisdiction over the LHC.

Mar 2009: Ordered (along with two others) to pay $2.6 million to World Botanical Gardens, Inc. for theft, misrepresenting himself as a director after he'd been dismissed, and selling fake shares. The criminal indictments for Attempted Theft In The First Degree and Identity Theft In The First Degree are still pending.
(03 Mar 2009 BigIslandVideoNews.com, 08 Mar 2009 BigIslandVideoNews.com)

Present: directing the World Botanical Institute division of the Open Mind Foundation, where he claims to have a PhD.

This timeline is a perpetual work-in-progress, though we've stopped actively digging for the most part (at the moment anyhow - Wagner and his minions have a tendency to keep coming back and motivating us to dig more). I didn't do most of the research that went into it - I just organized what other people found. This has truly been a group effort of the UCF.