Sunday, February 25, 2007

Singing My Praises

I've been going through a spell of doing nothing. Other than work (which I admit tends to be substantial since I'm teaching an overload and one of my classes is a time-intensive online class) I've been doing very little. Every evening when I get home, I'd just sit and watch TV for my two or three hours before bedtime. Even when I'd get up after eight or nine hours of sleep, I'd feel tired.

Then on the weekends, I'd take a couple of naps each day and watch TV (around my required shopping and dish-washing and meal-cooking.) I'd blame my laziness on my back. I'd try to take walks, but my lower back and left hip would ache and ping so that I'd finally give up and limp home. But it also seemed the more I lay around, the worse my back hurt.

Then toward the end of 2006, in trying to use up my medical account (I'd miscalculated what we would need, and we still had a couple of thousand dollars to use up) I went to the doctor for my back.

"Why didn't you say anything about your back before?" he asked. After all, I had been there a couple of times in the preceeding months for other complaints, and I had just told him I'd been having this problem with my back for about a year. I explained that my pain wasn't constant, and I always thought that I'd just pulled my back, that all I had to do was figure out what I'd done to reinjure it and avoid that activity. (Of course, lifting and carrying five-gallon buckets full of water didn't help.) But as time went on, it seemed like I could do nothing -- just take a step -- and reinjure it. And the pain lasted longer, shooting down my leg at times, and keeping me awake. I told him I thought my sciatica was pinched.

Well, you know how doctors are. They don't want to hear your diagnosis. They want to hear the symptoms and then tell you their diagnosis (which often is the exact same thing you thought!) "IF your sciatica is pinched, we can do something about that," he said, in a tone that implied, "You should have told me earlier." So he sent me to get an MRI on my lower spine and left hip. Getting that done took several weeks, and they told me it'd take awhile to get the results back to my doctor. So I waited for the call from my doctor for me to make an appointment and do whatever it is he can do. With no call forthcoming, I finally called the doctor's office.

"Oh, yes," said the receptionist. "Your results came back on that MRI, and they are normal. You don't need another appointment."

"What?!" I practically started crying. "Why am I in so much pain then?" After settling down a little bit, I thought I need to go to my chiropractor. In fact, I'd gone for this very problem before, but Larry Marrich was a bit hesitant to do much until I'd gotten X-rays to make sure I didn't have any badly ruptured disks. Perhaps the MRI would serve, I thought.

As it turned out, I still needed X-rays. Together with the MRI report and the X-rays, Dr. Marrich started working on me. He said there was a little bit of extruding disk, which could cause pressure on the sciatica nerve, but it wasn't more than an average woman my age could expect. (In other words, the pain was real, it just wasn't really obvious, and that's why it wasn't constant.) Three times a week, then two times a week, then once a week, he'd treat my lower back. Now we're down to once every two weeks.

Now get this. Last Tuesday, I found a couple of workout videos on TV that run from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m., my "free" or discretionary time. I worked out about 40 minutes EVERY morning, Tuesday to Friday. In the evenings, I haven't been watching TV. Instead, I've been cleaning, vacuuming, training Shiloh, sewing, ironing -- just whatever I feel like, but all good stuff.

And this weekend: not counting the hours I spent driving into town to drop off and pick up my husband's truck at the shop, I have patched the 1 ft. by 1 ft. hole under the sink in one bathroom, a similar hole in the other bathroom, washed two loads of clothes, trimmed my leggy plants (mostly geraniums) transplanting the cuttings, rearranged the outside "furniture" so that Shiloh can't climb up to the cat-window, dropped off some donations to a thrift store, done my shopping at two stores, changed out all the cat boxes, changed the sheets on my bed, cooked the meals for next week. Okay, that's about it. I'm still proud of myself. Those patches in the wall have needed to be done for more than a year. The cats have gotten to where they pull the cabinet doors open, and go into the wall to look for mice, which, of course, they bring back alive and put in the bathtub. And the mice have been coming into the house on their own and eating Shiloh's food (I've seen the evidence.)

It's amazing how much I can do at home -- especially when I have papers to grade!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Boone's Drink Choices

Lest anyone think my son, Boone, is a health nut because of his interest in various teas (as I described in an earlier blog) I've got to say this.

I went with Boone to Ta-Lin International Supermarket yesterday. I just followed him as he wandered through the aisles and picked up this and that. When we got into Boone's pickup, I had the groceries in my lap. Boone was already opening up one of the drinks he'd gotten. He was so excited about it because it required a strange method to open. You separate one part of the lid from another part, reverse it, and push down on the marble embedded in the bottom part of the lid, thus popping the marble into the bottle and opening it. The bottle was pinched a few inches down from the neck (it reminded me of those melted and stretched bottles that my grandma used to make.)

I laughed at him and asked the obvious question -- what's the flavor? He didn't know, didn't care. So I checked out the ingredients: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, and citric flavoring.

That got me to checking out the other drinks Boone had bought -- a nice variety of energy drinks (he was thinking ahead to that night when he would have to work through the night.) They all had sugar and caffeine along with pretty much the same combinations of chemicals and preservatives, and all were made in Thailand (but marketed in various countries). One of the drinks had "titanium somethingide" and then "no artificial colors." Boone said, "I certainly wouldn't want any artificial colors with my titanium somethingide."

The brand names and packaging made it clear these were for extreme energy. The word SHARK had teeth, the M150 drink (sounds like a bomb to me) was dressed in red and yellow, "Lacosade" a huge bottle shaped like an orange missle -- all growled with barely contained masculine power. . . and then there was a can of chrysanthemum drink. WHAT?

Seriously. Chrysanthemum drink. Not a soda. Not an energy drink. Not a tea. Just a drink made from chrysanthemums! That's my son for you. He likes to try new things!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Incriminating Evidence

Because Shiloh and Tanker tend to get into trouble (chewing everything in sight) when left alone in the house all day long, we have been leaving them outside. Last Monday, Presidents' Day, was a holiday for me, so I was the last person to leave the house. I had a chiropractor appointment in the late afternoon. Because it was going to be a light day of work, Shelli had taken Tanker with her. I knew Shiloh wasn't going to like being left outside alone, but I figured it would only be a couple of hours and I'd be home.

Well, it turned out that I was more like four hours getting back home. I called and called for Shiloh before going inside. Then as I walked inside, she greeted me from the living room!

Oh, my gosh, I thought. Someone had come back home and let Shiloh back in and left. But calling Boone and Shelli, I found that neither of them had been home. And certainly Mike, who has two jobs, hadn't gotten home yet.

How could she have gotten in? She could have made such a fuss with her barking, I thought, that our neighbors came over and let her in. Eh, not likely. One of Boone's friends had left his cell phone charger here the night before. Maybe he had come over and just picked up the charger and, in the process, let Shiloh in. That, too, not likely.

I'd left the "cat door" open for the cats to be able to go out and come in. But the cat door is in the kitchen window above the sink. The cats have to leap to a huge stump we have placed on a box to be able to reach the window. Maybe Shiloh got in that way. But I didn't think it was likely. She didn't climb a lot and was afraid to jump down from my chair seat!

Well, today, Shelli caught her in the act. Look at these pictures.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Conservative Rant on Liberal Rants

Is it the tie-dye t-shirts I like to wear? Is it the fact that I'm a bit unorthodox in my music choice? Is it my willingness to be tolerant of others? What makes people think I'm a liberal?

At least that's the conclusion I have arrived at. Perhaps because I am a teacher at a school of higher ed, all my colleagues that don't know any better assume I'm liberal. That MUST be why they don't give a second thought to speaking their mind. Sometimes it's praising a previous member of the Weathermen Underground for his part in the Vietnam protests, and saying how admirable he is for having done what he did (regardless of how out of line the WU behavior got). Sometimes it's spewing hatred for our present president (he who can do no right.) Sometimes it's bragging that "our" generation was the one that didn't respect the rules; that "we" protested.

And when I try to -- in a diplomatic way -- say not all of us felt that way or feel that way, people look at me like some kind of grotesque insect pinned under their magnifying glass.

There are very few strong liberals that I can have a decent conversation with. One of them is my previous office mate, Donna Swanson. Another is Cecilia Pacheco. Both can ask me questions that strive to understand why I think the way I think. And they can accept that I might have a different set of priorities (that is, after all, the defining difference. No one WANTS war; no one WANTS women to get abortions; no one WANTS the poor to sink more deeply into poverty; no one WANTS the government to raise taxes. It's all a matter of what's more important than what, or maybe what seems to have a greater urgency.) Both of these friends of mine are considerate of diverging thought and don't publicly rant.

On the other hand, there are people who, as soon as they mention something political, I pack up my lunch and move to my office where I can eat in peace.

Last night, at the Star Trek party, I was in a situation that I couldn't exactly move away from. And besides, it wasn't a long-lived rant. But I was uncomfortable during it. The friend of ours who had been in the Weathermen Underground was retiring and had had an "anti-roast" retirement party. Two other friends, these two very active members of CNM's Star Trek group had put together a video for his party and they wanted to show it at the Star Trek party. It was well-made, very nice. I enjoyed it. But the retiring man's claim to fame set one woman -- (dare I call her an aging hippy?) -- to bragging about how she'd gone to Washington, DC as a teen and saw this man giving a speech. Then she began talking about how the National Guard came . . ., and about that point I just tuned her out as a liberal ranting. (Wouldn't it be a shame if she was really saying something worthwhile? But I've been bitten too many times by liberal rants. So I don't listen.)

My daughter even text-messaged her conservative friend who had wanted to come to the Star Trek party that if it made him feel better, he was missing some liberal rants! And I doubt that this woman had any idea not everyone at the party feels the same way she does. On the other hand, maybe she knows and doesn't care. How "tolerant" is that? Isn't tolerance a liberal catch-phrase?

Fortunately, we returned to watching The Next Generation.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

On "An Inconvenient Truth"

I think the thing that peeves me the most about Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, is that Al Gore is making political currency off of it. Without that, he would have faded away like many previous vice presidents. And the issue of climactic change should really be a scientific issue, not a political one.

It's like when I'm trying to train Shiloh, who has ADD, and Tanker comes up and tries to get noticed. Tanker's being around muddies the waters of Shiloh's training. When global warming became a political stand, it muddied the waters of the true issue.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Traveling the Path of Life

Most of my travel dreams I'm in a car, on a train, on a bicycle or motorcycle, or even sometimes in an airplane. But last night, believe it or not we -- I, my husband, and our daughter, who along the way gave birth to a baby boy -- walked thousands of miles. I even was singing in my mind, "I will walk five thousand miles. . ." as we marched along in the sun, rain, dark, etc.

At some point, someone wanted to take our daughter's baby away from her, saying she wasn't fit to be his mom because she was walking. But when they tested the baby, he was so healthy and intelligent and happy, they couldn't rightfully take him away.

So then we were staying in someone else's house without their knowing. And they were due back soon, so we were worried that they'd get mad at us. So we had to get ready and leave quickly. There we were back on the road.

This morning, I shoveled snow for almost an hour. My shoulders and back muscles are sore, which reminds me of how I felt in my dream -- tired and sore, but somehow triumphant.

I wonder why I dreamed I was walking? Has my life slowed down?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

More about Global Warming

Chaos theory (at least how I understand it) shows how scientific facts have been established based on limited (ie. inaccurate) research. One of the scientific "facts" that is blown away by chaos theory is the idea that something small causes small results (that's why scientists feel it's okay to deal with significant figures). It takes something large to cause large results. Chaos theory demonstrates that something small CAN cause a large result (it's called the "butterfly effect" -- the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in Indonesia can cause a hurricane in the Caribbean).

This says more than that the weather cannot be predicted. One of the favorite arguments of conservatives against the idea that mankind has caused this global warming is "man is so puny; it's a bit arrogant to think we can affect the weather so drastically. We can't cause global warming; we can't stop it. We can't cause an ice age to happen. And we can't stop an ice age from happening." Well, the butterfly effect implies that it doesn't matter how puny man is; one tiny change in the mix can make all the difference. (My fart could have just made the difference!)

So I'll admit it may be us -- mankind -- causing the climate change. I have my most serious of doubts, though, that we are going to be able to identify for sure what has caused things the way they're going or how to "fix" things.

For that matter, who says they need fixing? Here's how man is arrogant. We seem to think things are best the way they are right now (or the way they were when our parents were growing up). We try to keep things from changing. We run around trying to save this or that species from extinction. And if we're successful? It's only through the extinction of species that other species dominate. We're creating an unbalanced eco-system because of our partial understanding of life and our need to keep things as they ARE.

Change is natural. God set it up that way. (In Jurassic Park, the chaostician didn't explain chaos theory very well, but he had a quote I think is classic: "Nature will have its way.") He's right. Nature will have its way.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I'm entering a phase about ready to write. I even decided to turn off the TV. It's just getting in my way. And sure enough, for the last two days, when I got home I didn't turn on the TV. I did stuff as I felt, got some stuff done, and even took a nap once. I didn't get much writing done, but I'm opening the way for my muse. And today -- well, a big snowstorm hit last night. We've gotten a foot so far. And it's been snowing all day in Albuquerque, so the first time that I can remember, CNM has closed.

One of the things that makes me think I'm getting to my writing phase is my dreams. Two nights ago I dreamed all night. (At least it felt like that.) At one point, I woke up thinking, Wow, this could be a kid's story. I could sell it. I had it there, all laid out. I thought about writing it down, but I was too comfortable and absolutely sure that I would remember it. So I fell back asleep.

Then I dreamed this dream about my dad (who's dead now, but was alive in the dream). I dreamed that we were traveling along together -- were we on a motorcycle? Going to some destination for me. But at some point, we took a different route. I gathered that Dad wanted to make this side trip for some reason and was sure we'd be on our way soon.

We got to a point where the road was blocked. We were on one side (of a gulch?) and could see where we wanted to be -- over there, on the other side of the gulch -- but there was no road to cross over. So we turned back to our original road, and I thought we were on our way again. But instead, we took a longabout route to get where Dad wanted to go. As it turns out, he wanted to go because it was a family gathering. His mother's funeral (?) and he wanted to honor her. So we hung around with all the people we didn't know and did what we were supposed to. It was outdoors in a piney woods, on a very steep hill. When everything had been done, Dad came and found us and we started on our trip again. Other people were leaving, too, so there was quite a bit of traffic.

The road was icy and slippery, and at some point, we ended up BELOW the road encased in the ice, and we were struggling to get out (stretching out the ice) when I woke up. What stuck with me about this dream was the feeling that my dad wanted to honor his mother.

Early in the morning, I remembered that I had dreamed another dream, a child's story, but I couldn't remember it. All day, I couldn't remember it. Then late in the evening, something snapped, and I remembered it, or at least something about it.

I remember thinking to myself that there was no option, I was just going to have to tell Mom. Up until this point, we (my friends, three other girls, who lived next door and I) were supposedly going swimming at the city swimming pool, but instead, we were really going to a pond. A magical pond that on one edge (and down deep into the water) had a kind of fancy building -- a castle? And we had to hold our breath to try to see everything under the water. There were fish -- colorful, magical fish, like some kind of fancy seahorse-mermaids. We hadn't explored everything we wanted to, and somehow we discovered that the city was going to fill in the pond and put something else there. We didn't know how to stop the city, but I figured my mother could do it. She'd be disappointed that we had lied to her, but she would help.

I told my friends as we spent the night in a tent equally distant from our three houses. It was like a little cul-de-sac in our own little neighborhood (although there were houses not ours -- boys lived in those) -- then I wondered if the boys would be interested in helping us.

That was my dream.

For some interpretation -- I have found that bodies of water (and how I get into them) have to do with my spirituality. The traveling, of course, is going along the path of life. There's something significant about the steep hill (and in other dreams, bleachers) but I haven't figured that out, yet.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Junk Science revisited

One of my major complaints with "An Inconvenient Truth" is the title. I know (or rather, assume) that the film is an attempt to encourage people to be more responsible stewards of the resources God has given us (an attitude I completely agree with). I truly try not to be wasteful.

I buy many food items and household supplies in bulk, trying to get less packaging. I buy #10 cans of tomatoes and freeze them once I've opened the can. I buy huge plastic containers of mustard and transfer it, yellow, muddy mess, to smaller containers which I then freeze until we need them. Same for ketchup. This is just a few examples.

EVERYTHING that I trash is sorted into one of five bins: aluminum, plastics/tin, glass, and paper -- all for recycling -- and whatever's left is trash. Anything compostable I take to our compost pile. (And I use that compost for gardening.) Anything else that's edible is eaten by our dogs. My kids periodically try to get by without sorting, and often I end up doing the sorting for them.

We mend our clothes and wear them until they are completely worn out. (Once my husband tried putting flattened aluminum cans in the soles of his shoes so he wouldn't have to buy another pair, but I think that's going too far.) When something breaks, we repair it if possible. I just had to get a second microwave after our first one that had lasted us 20 years gave up the ghost. Same with our vacuum cleaner. By the end, it had a different plug attached to the cord, which wouldn't retract, was duct taped on the bottom and much of the hose. Most of our stuff is too worn out to go to a thrift store. But when I need something, that's the first place I go. I've gone through several coffee makers, having bought them used at thrift stores. Blankets, clothes, dishes, books. They're all good. And again, it's recycling.

My goal with my little Chevy Metro (made the last year Chevy made Metros in the US -- 2000) is to make it last 200,000 miles. This is with a "throw-away" Susuki engine that's usually lucky to last 100,000 miles. One reason I like it is -- even as old as it is -- I still get 45 mpg. Try doing that even with a hybrid! I think only a motorcycle could break that.

Even so, to save gas, I combine errands for my trips into town. If I'm going into town anyway, I find several other things I need to do in town and do them, as well. I will sometimes walk from Sams the city block to Wal-Mart (if I have little enough to get that I can carry it all) just to save gas.

Now the pinnacle of my (our) conservation is how we reuse and recycle our water. We flush our toilets with 3-gallon buckets of water saved from washing clothes or washing dishes. I wash the next load of clothes in the rinse water from the last load of clothes. The water is cold (because I'm putting it into the washing machine by hand, gallon-jug by gallon-jug) so we save energy on heating. We take showers that use 2-3 gallons of water, no more, by turning the water off when soaping up.

None of this is merely "inconvenient." It's damn hard work. I think if our well hadn't run out of water, I probably wouldn't have been conserving the water so carefully, but I'm proud to do so now.

My question is how put-out is Al Gore making himself to be a good steward of the land? I seriously doubt he's putting himself to any inconvenience. (Now here's I'm going to reveal one of my biases . . .) People who are rich often don't know what it's like to sacrifice. To them, sacrificing is doing without a chef or making do with a 15-room house or eating New York steaks instead of filet mignons. (On no! I don't have any Grey Poupon! I might have to eat yellow mustard!) Okay. Okay. I admit, this is a stereotype and as such is likely to be wrong. But, seriously, I don't think it is in Al Gore's case.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

My Dream

Just a sprinkling of rain this morning. Not the snow we expected.

I've got to get a handle on this blog thing. When I write on here, I try to write well (which is counterproductive to creativity.) And when I go back and read my blogs, I edit them to try to improve them (that one on global warming and chaos theory is a mess. I didn't make my point clear at all.) And then I get discouraged because who's going to read this? No one is. This is making writing work and for no good reason, and I don't need more of that.

So I'm thinking I need to take it like my journal of yore. When I used to just get up and write whatever was on my mind (hee, knowing no one is gonna read it anyway). The only problem with that is I get up at 3:30, make coffee, feed the cats, feed Shiloh, get dressed, and then I have ten minutes before waking Mike up. (Hmm, ten minutes might be just enough.)

One important thing is that I need to NOT be online at 4:30, which is when Direct TV satellite downloads its programming. Maybe I could get Boone to change it to 3:00.

I slept late this morning, had one-two hours more sleep than I really needed. When that happens, I'm dreaming like crazy. Last night's dream:

I stroll through the grounds of a Buddhist-like monastery, just checking things out, learning about stuff. I see a grassy square mound in the ground before me, and several people are gathered on top of the mound. They are going through some kind of trial. I knew the woman who was on trial. So I go up to try to testify on her behalf. As I start to go up, I hesitate. I am not *Buddhist. I worship God who became human in the form of His Son and sacrificed himself for our salvation. Am I betraying God at all by going up onto this *Buddhist mound? I checked with a little prayer and got nothing, so went on up.

The person judging the trial was the prince of this land. He resented my intrusion. I prayed constantly for the right words, and it became a debate between religions. Strangely enough, I knew I could fight the woman's guards and get her free. I could and did visualize the flying side kick and spinning back axe kick I could do to each of them. But they were women, too, and I felt it would be wrong. So I talked about God. What I said did not persuade anyone, I knew, and the woman was condemned.

Feeling defeated, I went on my way. Then I was in another country, this one very physical. In fact, I was in a huge, gymnasium with multiple arenas for various sports, each arena with its attendant locker rooms and showers. They were getting ready for a big football game. The XXX's against the Bears (which was my team.) I sat down in the bleachers to watch the pageantry a moment. A man sat down beside me (the stadium was crowded and that was the only free seat) but his legs were long and he had to use my space. I might have protested, but he looked big and dangerous. Then the people around me started talking about what happened in the neighboring country. I looked around and recognized the royalty of this country. They were talking about the death of the prince I had just left. I knew that eventually, they would ask me, the only stranger there, if I had done it. So I left. (Oh, I figured out from what they were saying that soon after I had left the Buddhist mound, a flash of lightening struck the mound, killing all the people on it.)

At this point, my dream became a bit jumbled. Maybe I woke up or half woke up. I remember starting down some outside stairs of the huge gym, and some guards coming up to get me. I fight, but there are law officers below me on the stairs and law officers above me on the stairs.

Since I had been wandering from country to country, and apparently I had magical powers and was protected by God, the royalty of this country condemned me to ride in a train from country to country all my life, with no company but the driver (who would be busy).

So I was on the train watching it eat up the rail-miles. Then we came to my country. The driver had to stop the train so he could sleep. I slipped my bonds, told the sleeping driver I'd be back, and went home. There I saw my sisters and told them my adventures, and then my boyfriend, who wanted me to stay, but I said I couldn't. I had an obligation to fulfill. So my sisters, their arms laden with gifts, and my boyfriend, his arms wrapped around me, went back to the train with me. The driver had woken up and was looking very worried for having lost me. He would have quickly been put to death for it.

"I told you I'd be back," I said. Then my sisters and I said tearful good-byes. My boyfriend wrapped me in an intense hug that for a moment said, I won't let you go, but then he said, "I love you," and let me go.

As we pulled out from the station, my friends and family ran ahead to the place I loved best, where the river passed under the tracks, hit a big rock and cascaded over it. From there, they waved good-bye to me.

At this point, there were many passengers in the train with me. And it seemed to my friends I was not condemned at all, but having a merry time. I can't explain this. I thought perhaps the extra passengers were taking advantage of the train for some transportation, but also they were -- if not heads of state -- at least seconds in command, the very people I was to talk to.

If they were to look at the train in the months preceeding and afterwards, they would see me sitting alone, my hair growing long and curly and twining like vines about the window frame while the driver worked at the front of the train.

War was brewing. A world war. As we crossed over into the next country, I saw groups of people on all sides of the train protesting (some of them protesting my treatment), and soldiers hewing them down. And overhead, I saw an airplane drawing a banner across the sky that said, "Beat the Bears." (Was the war to be in actuality a football game? I doubted it. Perhaps the game would set off the war.)

Then we were stopped or sidelined for a bit. It looked like the end of the line to me. The driver wasn't there. I climb off the train, and since there wasn't a landing, I had to climb down between the tracks, down the trestle, where the driver was being held prisoner and tortured. (I knew) the executioner of this country carried out his duty with an unholy zeal. He was going to kill me too, if he could manage it. He actually held the power of the country; the king and queen of this country were just a front for him.

That's about all I remember of the dream. But now, how can I use it? My character for my angels story could have the same sort of drive that she can say good-bye to a loving boyfriend and family. Would she confront the heads of state? I had thought her power would be against the certain evil that leaked into the world; but perhaps the evil which seeks power begins to reside within the heads of state. A thought.

Thursday, February 8, 2007


My puppy Shiloh is so funny. I've been training her to "sit." Now she'll just run up to me and sit and look at me expectantly. So I've had to go to great lengths to make sure and give her the command when I want to, and not when she's already sitting.

When Tanker is chewing on something, Shiloh will drape herself over his head and try to take away whatever he's chewing on from above! And Tanker just goes right on chewing with Shiloh on top of his head, kind of like a Shiloh-hat. I'll try to get a picture of it.

Now that she's gotten really leggy, she's figured out she can put her front legs up on tables and get things. Yesterday, she stripped two plants down to the soil. That wasn't so funny.

When she runs, her ears flop. She's all puppy. She's almost four months old, so will be all puppy for awhile.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Junk Science

The other day my office mate, who teaches chemistry and biology, decided she was going to show her copy of An Inconvenient Truth to her class. I was surprised and fell into a somewhat offensive position. I told her I thought the film was based on "junk science."

"How can you say that?" she exclaimed with fervor. "I know the science, and this is what it says." (Or something like that.)

Thinking about it later, I realized that I was way out of line calling it "junk science." I'd just heard someone apply that phrase to the theory that global warming has been caused by man, and the phrase pretty much expressed my attitude.

There are several things going on with this little problem I have with the film. For now, let me deal with the "junk" science aspect.

A meteorologist once used a computer to create a limited environment for weather, programming into it only eight variables. Then he let it run. He figured that eventually, with only eight variables, there would be replicable patterns. In other words, if our weather had only eight variables, then eventually, with enough data, we'd be able to predict the weather.

At some point (and I don't remember why) the meteorologist stopped the program and restarted it midway back, putting in all the numbers for the variables at that point in time. When it ran this time, within days, the "weather" was varying wildly from the first time. Completely different.

"What happened?" the meteorologist wondered. It should have run exactly the way it did the first time. He went back and checked and realized that rather than input the exact numbers (to the ten-thousandths place), he put in only the "significant" numbers. Basically, he left off .00021. This tiniest of fractions created -- within days -- extremely wild variations.

Thus was born the theory of chaos.

Before computers, there was no way scientists could deal with dividing the tiniest of fractions that their calculations spit out or the exact numbers when counting the number of atoms in a compound, for example. So they developed a system to decide how much rounding off can be done and went with rounded off numbers.

It was a satisfactory system. After all, when you are in the ballpark as far as results go, you CAN replicate the results. It also became a tradition.

It's only when you crunch the numbers to the nth degree, that provable theories get blown away. The idea that little changes make little differences in the results doesn't apply any more. If you were to use the entire number in your data, you get entirely different results from what someone else got. In other words, nothing has ever been PROVED, because nothing can be replicated exactly. In spite of that fact, scientists still insist on using significant figures in their research.

Perhaps it sounds like I'm picking on the scientists. Like I'm being a jerk for complaining about paying a whole cent when my loan payment is really a percentage of a cent. (Or like when tax is .057%, and on an item that costs $2.00, I end up paying 12 cents instead of 11.4 cents. Whatever happened to the remaining .6 cent?)

Look, I don't care how people round off when it doesn't matter. But I do care when political policy is developed based on science which is based on rounded off numbers.

Chaos theory (and yes, it's a theory, not proof of anything) does present a good argument to support the idea that you just cannot predict the weather, and that the cause of climate change cannot be determined. And there are many high level scientists who disagree with the views presented in An Inconvenient Truth. I even heard about one meteorologist who served as a resource for the Weather Channel, but he was "black-listed" by the Weather Channel because he disagreed with the party line (ie. the accepted view). The Weather Channel is showing a very unscientific attitude. Isn't that a little like the Galileo being shunned because he thought something different from all the other researchers?

Okay so, Susan, I apologize for calling it junk science. It is, after all, science as we know it. And that was inflammatory language. Especially since I hadn't even seen the film! I'm sorry. I'm sure you have found some very good points the film makes, or you wouldn't like it. I'll just watch my mouth in the future. I really would like to sit down and discuss the topic with you some time (when I'm not being reactive.)

Sunday, February 4, 2007

So What de Crap?

My son drinks tea.

This is not to put him down, but I'm surprised. In some ways, he's a typical nineteen year old boy -- prefers to sleep late, spends lots of time playing video games, listening to loud music, and IMing on his computer -- often all at the same time. When he goes to Halo Two games, he slams down energy drink after energy drink. (I think his favorite is Rockstar.) He doesn't drink coffee, but he does drink colas. So he's far from being a nut for healthy drinking.

But he's really into tea. He'll go to Ta-lin Supermarket and come back with six or eight boxes of tea. His last trip, he bought several Yogi brand teas -- peppermint, stress relief, vitality -- a redbush chai, a Korean green tea, and his favorite Thai Tea. He even bought soy milk to make the hot chai taste right.

I'm not sure where he got this taste for tea. My husband and I drink coffee, my husband and daughter drink sodas, and only my son drinks tea. Maybe it's the time he spent with some Buddhist monks. He wasn't taking his studies seriously, so I pulled him out of school. I had no idea what to do with him. The monks said, "Bring him to the temple, and we'll teach him Thai. And we'll teach him respect for his parents." That day, they gave him his first phrase to learn in Thai -- a greeting. I can't write it in English (their letters are different) but I remembered it sounded like "So what de crap?"

He spent perhaps a week with them. I'm proud of my son for his willingness to try new things. He's even tried "cooking" (okay, you don't cook) sushi. But this tea thing -- sigh. So what the crap?

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Tanker Slobber

When I have some kind of goo on my pants, just above my right knee, I know it's Tanker slobber. You see, my daughter adopted a Pit-Bull-like dog from the pound and named him Tanker. He is missing part of his face -- mostly the upper lip on his left side.

When he drinks water, it squirts out the left side of his face, up to two feet away. So he has a constant slobber thing going on. Because that side of his face and chest is always wet, when he eats dog food, bits of it stick to his neck in a gooey, crusty mess. Shelli, my daughter, has taken to keeping a little towel with her to wipe him before he nuzzles her. I, on the other hand, don't think about it until I notice all the slobber goo on my pants knee. And then it's too late.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

A New Habit

I have nothing profound to write, but I gotta write something. I've gotten out of the habit. Oh, sure, I write. I write my lectures up for my online class. I write proposals. All school stuff. So here's to beginning a good habit. I've found that when I am in the habit of writing every day, I become more observant.

Like the snow. It's not the snow that intrigues me. It's the wind speaking with the snow's voice. But my powers of expression are blunted, dulled by the headache that kept me home today. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.