Evidently I need to listen to more current music.

When I was a young teenage thing, everybody listened to the radio.  That’s how us hip kidsters were appraised of modern trends.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to according to pop culture at that time either, so I missed out on quite a bit.  Even in my more educated 20s, I am occasionally embarrassed by not knowing particular songs or more often by not knowing the names of songs or singers or groups.  I didn’t own an iPod till someone gave me one last year, and I don’t really do much with iTunes or other music services of the online variety.  So I’m still out of the loop, though in a closer orbit around it.

My youngest sister gave evidence of this online today when we were chatting.  I will give you our conversation verbatim:

Shannon
guess who I saw in concert last night?
Stacey

who?

Shannon

Colbie Caillat

for FREE

she sings Bubbly

isn’t that cool?

Stacey

um, I don’t know who that is

so potentially, yes

but then again, maybe not?

How did I get myself into this fix yet again?  Should I start listening to the radio?  Or Pandora?  Or some other online radio station?  Or do something with Myspace Music?  Or just bother people for their favorite new stuff?  Please people, I’m in immediate need of education here!

The Peanut Butter Cure

If you are a klutz, it may mean you often get hiccoughs.  In my case, these usually occur at the same time as a fit of coughing and a need to sneeze, which is exactly how it sounds – completely miserable and more than a little ridiculous.  AS I stumbled around the office today, trying to get things accomplished in just such a state, one of my co-workers recommended a big spoonful of peanut butter, a trick he learned from his wife.  Evidently the sticky consistency of the peanut butter helps to re-regulate breathing and digestion.  I decided to try it, as holding my breath had failed as usual.  I only had chunky peanut butter, but about five spoonfuls later, I was fine.

Some questions naturally resulted.  What, exactly, is a hiccough?  What causes them?  Are there any really documented solutions, or are you just better off waiting until they stop?  They can become chronic, of course, but I’d never had something that bad happen to me.  Yet.  Did the peanut butter really help me then?  Or was it just another old wives’ tale meant to pacify the hiccougher with peanut butter’s goodness while they were in distress?

After a bit of research, I found that they can be caused by just about anything to do with breathing.  Some of the rarer, more interesting causes are: electrolyte imbalance, chemotherapy, or pressure to the phrenic nerve.  Home remedies include a variety of poses, breathing instructions, and substances, including some that just make you look silly.  How desperate are we to ‘Plug your ears with your thumbs, and use your pinkies to plug both nostrils and hold your breath until cessation of hiccups’?  Medically, when persistent and possibly dangerous, they are treated with drugs.  Lovely.  Aren’t we a grand society?  I think I’ll stick with the peanut butter – mmm, chunky.

USPS controversy and there/their debate.

Recently near Denver, a non-profit manager was accused of violating postal regulations when shipping materials from his organization, Pro-Players Association.  Pro Players is a group of former professional athletes and associated personalities (commentators, media members) who raise money for a variety of charities.  Though I didn’t see any particular charities mentioned that supported environmental causes, they were doing their part and saving by reusing a variety of boxes for shipping.  Unfortunately, Gary Adler, the man in charge, was using Priority and Express mail boxes for regular mail services, which the Post Office would not deliver.

Whether or not the USPS or Adler is ultimately to blame in this case – and probably both sides should take a little blame – the news reporter is definitely to blame.  To blame for this quote: “We took off the tape and we took off the old label that was on their originally,” said Adler describing a box he recently sent that was returned by the postal service.  Now that’s bordering on slanderous.  If someone quoted me as if I were a hick that didn’t know the difference between there and their, I would be highly upset.  Unless the reporter asked me to spell ‘there’ and I goofed.  Then I’d just feel embarrassed and dumb.
Adler says he’s not going to use the USPS for shipping anymore, but I would call this a perfect opportunity for more activism than a simple boycott.  The USPS already has its own recycling program and is committed to using recycled materials.  Why not make such services available to patrons as well?  If Adler was picking up these boxes from Post Office branches, and they weren’t being recycled already, that means consumers leaving the boxes after unwrapping their package.  A simple inclusion of a recycling container within the branch (ostensibly already on site ina  back part of the mail room) would mean the growth of the USPS commitment to the environment and a new service for patrons.  Who wouldn’t be pleased?

Colossal vs. Giant

I just found this article on new discoveries about colossal squid, and was astonished.  I’ve always been interested in the sort of things lurking in the depths of the ocean – the Kraken, which we now think is a giant squid, the sperm whale, mondo-big sea lilies – all that stuff.  Anyone who reads dragon books has to love the dragons of the deep.  But it was perhaps this love that led me slightly astray in the past – for some reason I’d thought that giant squid and sperm whales were natural enemies, slamming and ramming one into the other.  It turns out that it’s more likely for the sperm whales to eat squid of various types, and that we get quite a bit of our information on deep sea squid from their remains in the bellies of whales.

Back to the article – before today, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as colossal squid, as opposed to the giant variety.  From what little we know of the species, we think it is larger and denser than the giant squid, making it the largest invertebrate in the world.  Why had I never heard of it before now, then?  Perhaps it hasn’t been getting as much press because of the fewer documented cases of its existence.  The earliest reported finding of a full body was in 2003, though earlier parts (tentacles and beaks) had been found as early as 1925.  Despite this lack of complete specimens, the colossal is different enough to be granted its own singular genus.  I may not know much about Linnaeus (besides that he was a racist), but I gather that this means something is importantly different about this species. More information can be found at this comparative site, and at the Te Papa museum.

If colossals can have such a different morphology than the giants, and if we still do not know the full extent of these squid’s habits and habitats, it could again be a case of writing more than we know.  Who’s to say that colossals and sperm whales aren’t natural enemies?  Who’s to say that icebergs can’t travel south and then north again without flipping?  Who’s to say that the Vikings didn’t intermarry and merge with northern Native American tribes? (This is all in one of those possibly-real-life youth adventure books, but I’ve been unable to think of the title.  Sorry.)

Stacey, the not-so-delicate flower

What is it with me and blog titles that should be the names of children’s books, anyway?

Mike gave me a present yesterday night.  It arrived on our doorstep sometime during the evening without either of us noticing – he had to wake me up to give it to me.  It’s very pretty, a little unusual, and very, very delicate.  The spring ring clasp itself is about the size of a sesame seed.  Not easy to put on when you can’t really see what you’re doing.  I was afraid to wear it to bed last night, and a little timid about wearing it to work today, though I eventually overcame my fear.

I shared these fears openly with Mike, saying how I might catch the delicate chain on a fence and tear it free from my neck, thus losing his lovely gift.  His response was simple – “Don’t get it caught on a fence.”  For some people, that advice would be easy to follow, but not generally for me.  I am not a accident-prone as I was during adolescence, but I still have stupid things befall me.  I still end up stepping into puddles that are three times as deep as they seem.  I still break things.  I think I’ve dropped and broken three glasses thus far at work in 2008 – there are more that didn’t break.  I am, after all, not really a delicate flower.  I’m more of a hardy rose – trim me back for the winter, but don’t expect to need to take me inside.

How does this all fit in with the new image of the female, and my current exploration of more traditional female roles?  I can do mannish things like build my own house or fix the garbage disposal.  I’m also still a nerd – I like tech stuff and sci fi and I have allergies that make me blow my nose a lot, which is something of a pansy sort of thing.  So maybe that makes me a female-male-female.  I now pay someone to cut my hair and actually style it sometimes and have had my nails done and (GASP) my legs are actually not hairy, in preparation for warmer weather.  Mostly this means I’m spending more time and money on things I didn’t used to bother with.  But maybe these things are also turning me into someone a little more sensible, a little more pretty, and maybe even a little more delicate.

I feel the need to comment.

WordPress is constantly about the innovation-ness.  Every few weeks, there’s some new posting about what fun, cool new stuff they’re doing with our blogosphere.  This time, the new feature is called ‘possibly related posts’.  Possibly related, you say?  I wonder if that should be in small print, like a disclaimer.

The core of this new feature is a new way to link content.  I’m not sure how the content of a post is analyzed (possibly through keywords, tags, or other markers?), but it is in some way analyzed and compared with other pages, first of your blog and then throughout WordPress.  At the end of each post, there are now three or four additional links to blog posts that have something to do with the topic of your post.  This can be a way for new readers to discover your blog, or for you to share content on your own blog more effectively, especially if you write about the same sorts of topics frequently.  I’m all for that.

Unfortunately, the “possibly” related content is sometimes just that – only slightly or very minorly related.  Especially if you ramble in your postings – which I do – the end results may not be quite what you’ve hoped for.  Take my recent post titled “The Art of Craft“.  It deals with the way people in a variety of industries don’t get to express their true skills and abilities and even artistic talent due to various restrictions and limitations on said profession.  This was, for some reason, linked to another post of my own, “It’s a Ballooooon.”  What is the connection between the two?  Both mention teachers – the first, as a profession, and the second, my world history teacher specifically.  Other than that, I can’t find any really connection between them.  Anybody else want to give it a go?  I’m sure there’s something more there…I’m sure of it.

The Art of Craft

One of the reasons I got out of the architecture field after my undergraduate studies (other than the realization that I would never be the type of grade-A professional my perfectionism wanted me to be) was my experience as an intern at an architectural firm.  It was not a bad experience.  The work I did gave me a very true picture of the profession as a whole.  I enjoyed my co-workers and spent a good deal of time that summer with the other interns at my firm.  But it made me realize that the true joys of my schooling would be even fewer and further between once I got out into the ‘real world’.  Hampered by dealing with a variety of contractors and businessmen and even other architects wanting to do things their way, and hedged in by building codes and various zoning laws, I would never be able to reach over to a client and come up with a solution thi their problem that merely suited us both.  I would never be able to express the extreme edge of problem-solving that comes from a truly artful and delicate solution – something that works in addition to being beautiful, or is beautiful for the way it works so effectively.

Is this not true in every profession?  Are we not all weighted down by some nameless, faceless redundancy that seems to make all our effort for the greater good, or even the focused, honest use of our skills, in vain?  Doctors and nurses deal with the insurance industry, teachers deal with various administrations and school boards, and even librarians must deal with the furor of local politics.  The complexity and density of modern life requires that we have certain structures in order to interact with each other.  These bureaucracies are often handicaps when immediate action is needed, but I think we would ultimately fair little better without them.  If so, how can we do the best for our world?  Pushing forward, one mired step at a time?  Individually or in small groups bucking the various systems in place?  What is progress, and how do we move forward from here?  I would like to think I could do a little more than give money to a good cause.  I would like to think that by doing what I loved, by taking my skills and using them, by making the world a little more beautiful and therefore perhaps a bit better, that I am accomplishing something with lasting meaning.  But I don’t have the scope to understand my own actions on a daily basis, let alone the true worth of one human life.

The Predator-Prey relationship.

The history of conservation and preservation in America, especially of animal species, has been a constant teeter-totter.  First there was the competition for game resources and the hunting off of predators like wolves and coyotes.  Then there was the destruction of habitat for those game animals as well, occasionally marked by the wholesale slaughter of the animals themselves, as with the bison herds.  Of course, we realized our mistake here, and tried to ameliorate it by protecting deer and elk from hunting on certain public lands.  Then they overpopulated and started starving themselves to death, without any natural predators.  Finally, the use of chemicals in farming and industry, which had unintended consequences on a variety of species, such as the bald eagle.  Now that we’ve banned DDT, everything is hunky-dory and they’re coming back.  In each of these cases, we ‘learned our lesson’.  We are now preserving threatened predators – wolves have been reintroduced to Yellowstone, and more mountain lions added to the existing population to sustain it.  But finding the delicate balance between managing a population of animals, preserving something of the wilds for future generations and our own enjoyment, and complying with the needs of man and economics.

Take this recent tussle between preservationists and ranchers near Yellowstone.  On the one side, you have people sorry for the madcap (and, from all written accounts, visually disturbing) slaughter of the bison herds, and on the other you have cattle farmers trying to preserve their livelihood.  But it’s not only a case of man vs. beast.  It’s also a case of how much.  How much land should the bison be given?  They have no natural predators, and they are big animals that it takes a fair amount of pasture to feed.  Are 500 bison enough to preserve, and how much land to they realistically need?  As naturally wandering animals, they are not easily contained in one area, even an area as big as Yellowstone.  Does that mean we should go ahead and kill them off to preserve the grazing land and health of cattle?  Does it mean that we should designate ever-widening areas of preserve? Does it mean the bison should be allowed to roam free – even across private property and at the expense of others?

There are no answers to these questions, no real solutions.  As best we can manage an unsteady balance.  Bravo to the Parks Service for doing so thus far.

Arson in the Sierra Madres?

I briefly mentioned the wildfire blaze going on in California this morning, of note for trapping a wedding party.  Yes, the peacefully slumbering couple were awakened to calls for evacuation – they eventually had to be helicoptered out of their mountain celebration area, along with around 48 guests.  But then again, maybe they were only faking.  maybe the bride is a secret pyro, and she set the thing herself.  Authorities say the blaze was manmade.  That includes the possibility of arson.  While pure carelessness could also be to blame, and I do subscribe to the people are dumb theorem, I prefer to see a maniacal cackling bride on the mountainside, lighting things up.  Ahh.  Drink in the warmth with me!

While it’s also possible that some natural cause (lighting, spontaneous combustion, human or otherwise) will eventually be found to have started the fire, details of the article lay ultimate blame firmly at our feet.  Recently the area has been known for a lack of fires, probably due to human containment and a reduction of natural causes.  Brush and other dead plant materials have built up.  In a dry region like this one, the natural process for eliminating that buildup is fire, rather than the speedy decomposition of more humid areas.  While even a preventative-measure burnoff can be dangerous, wouldn’t it be safer to do some kind of brush clearing or other control in the area?  I know it’s remote, and that the mountains are a big place.  Still, it seems like something should be done to keep our meddling from ultimately causing damage.  But maybe that’s just me.  Conservation, ho!

Garlic and Onion Macadamia Nuts

There are a variety of pointless foods that exist in the world.  Other than the example above, however, I can’t think of any offhand.  When i saw them on the ‘available-please take’ counter in our break room, I thought there must be some kind of mistake.  Macadamia nuts are expensive.  But then, they could’ve been a gift given to someone in the office who was allergic.  Or maybe to someone who really doesn’t like nuts, or possibly garlic.  Maybe they were given to Secret Vampire Man, and he had to toss them away instantly in revulsion.  Who knows?  All I know is that the idea of macadamia nuts seasoned with onion and garlic seemed entirely overpowering and a little ridiculous.  So I decided to try one.

It was good – very tasty.  I give it a 4.5 on taste.  On overall value, I’d have to give it a 1.5 or 2 however – who needs seasoning when you have such a tasty nut to start with?  I mean, you might invest in 25 different flavors of peanut butter, but the peanut is a staple crop, rather than a delicacy.  Why waste the effort?  You aren’t going to generate much return anyway, though I guess demand for macadamias might be down, as people turn to more subsistence foods, like rice.  But really, wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to season cardboardy corn poof with the same stuff?  Of course, due to the food shortage, corn poof might not be available, especially as corn can be used as a biofuel.  I will substitute generic food poof instead.  So, why not give generic food poof the essence of onion and garlic, and sell that for a ridiculous price, but at less cost to you?

The answer may lie in fads.  Generic food poof is exactly that, no matter how it’s flavored – generic.  Somehow, people seem to want to buy more of stuff that has been manufactured to be crappier than it once was.  Look at the incredible worldwide love of chees fod (aka cheese food).  Evidently we all want crap, especially when it has that shiny ‘new’ sticker on it.

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