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.

13 May 2009

Some more pretty flowers

It turns out that the white flowers I posted last year also come in a couple shades of pink.

These are blooming by the door next to my office. The bushes that made last year's white flowers are currently demolished - someone trimmed them way, way down, and now they're only a couple feet tall.

12 May 2009

Things learned from a week of wearing a pedometer

A pedometer is a device that counts the number of steps walked, and also estimates distance covered (based on stride length) and calories burned in the process (based on body weight). I acquired one recently to find out how much walking I do in my daily life. It's an Omron HJ-112, and I have no idea how it works, except I keep imagining that it contains artificial semicircular canals. That's probably not it, but it manages to be pretty accurate as long as I either clip it to some part of my clothing that doesn't move much (the top of my pants works well) or keep it in a snug pocket. Too much swinging around in a loose pocket confuses it mightily, as does walking funny.

The recommended walk count is 10,000 steps per day. I get nowhere close to that. On a workday it tends to be somewhere between 2000 and 2500, and on weekends it's much less - but that's partly because I forget to wear it while I'm bumbling around at home. Could I actually manage 10k steps in a single day? Hmm. I'd probably have to leave the computer and go outside. o.O

09 May 2009

Initial Thoughts on Star Trek: The Reboot

I went in with no particular expectations. I'd not gone out of my way to read any descriptions of the movie, so I didn't know a whole lot other than that it existed and was going to have an all-new TOS cast.

1. They weren't kidding when they said "reboot." It was not hyperbole. o.O

On the pro side, people who have never seen any Star Trek before will probably enjoy this movie quite a lot - especially the next generation down. It's a good pilot-type story for introducing new characters and setting. The rebooted characters have just enough development on them to get things started, and now that they have license to pretty much ignore everything that happened after Enterprise, they can basically go anywhere they want with it.

On the con side (the retcon side?), I kind of liked what was there before....

2. People who have read a lot of Star Trek TOS Pocketbook novels may be at a disadvantage for enjoying the movie, especially if they read and liked Enterprise: The First Adventure, Final Frontier (the book by Diane Carey, not the movie), and Kobayashi Maru. The story the movie tells bears no relation to what the books say. On the other hand, the books are technically non-canon, so it's not exactly an arguable point. (Except possibly to argue against reading media tie-in novels, ever - but then you'd miss out on a lot of great stories.)

On the other hand, those who haven't read any of the novels may not like the discrepancies and total departures from previous canon either, so maybe I'm not saying anything useful here.

3. Apparently they decided to aim for comedy. Unfortunately, the villain was kind of cardboard as a result, and there were some plot holes big enough to drive a starship through. Also, the impact that should've been there for *mumble mumble* (!) and *mumble mumble mumble* (T.T) was decidedly nerfed.

That's all I should probably say about it at the moment. I might do a more detailed post later, when more people have seen the movie and I can stop worrying about spoilers. My reaction overall: mixed.

On another note, I was the only one who dressed up for the occasion (finally got an excuse to wear my Spock shirt!), and everybody looked at me funny. This town has no clue how to do geek properly. T.T

08 May 2009

Hey look! Bakho's on TV!

Bakho, for those who don't follow this blog regularly, is a good friend of mine from Croatia, a psychology student in Zagreb, and one of my favorite RPoLians. He's the guy with the megaphone that appears at 5:12 and 6:41.

What's he doing? Why has there been a countrywide uprising going on in Croatia for the past three weeks? Because he and his fellow students (and many of their fellow citizens) believe that all have the right to free public higher education. Presently, about half of them have to pay for theirs - which they believe is wrong. So they've staged barricades of the colleges of several cities, not preventing anyone from entering or leaving the buildings but disallowing all lectures by being loud and disruptive.

It doesn't sound like the sort of thing that should work. It sounds completely unrealistic, in fact, especially when one wonders where governmental funding is supposed to come from. Well, taxes of course - and as the students' argument goes, there's a lot of wasteful spending going on that could (and should) be cut - like expensive public works in whole other countries and new sports stadiums.

But it seems to be working anyway. The government hoped that they'd get bored and go away. Three weeks later, however, they're still there - and someone leaderlike is probably going to have to Do Something.

As for me, well, I hope bakho remembers to eat regularly and get some sleep once in a while. And that he passes all the exams he's not been studying for, when it's all over. (And that he gets back to running his RPoL game. >.> ) Meanwhile: Vive La Révolution. :)