Man... I love airports that have free wireless (just arrived at TPA; waiting for my coworkers to show up).

As an update: just spent the past two days helping Bird and Jen work on their kitchen--I didn't get photos in my camera; have to get them from Jen. They also took me to the very nice steakhouse and pizza place in Dover. It's just practice for my travel-the-country-with-a-truck-full-of-tools (and help fix friends' houses) plan for my retirement.

[Update: photo of kitchen renovation in progress courtesy of Jen]


Theater Review: Charlie Victor Romeo

During my first full day in Boston, I caught the final showing of the American Repertory Theater's production of Charlie Victor Romeo:

One of the most unique and riveting theatrical experiences to hit New York in seasons, CHARLIE VICTOR ROMEO (CVR) is a live performance documentary derived entirely from the "Black Box" transcripts of six major real-life airline emergencies. Allowing the audience into the tension-filled cockpits of actual flights in distress, CHARLIE VICTOR ROMEO is a fascinating portrait of the psychology of crisis and a testimony to the ability to live to the last second of life.

In case it's not obvious, Charlie Victor Romeo is phonetic alphabet for the letters CVR (cockpit voice recorder; as opposed to the FDR, or flight data recorder). As an aside, the phonetic alphabet is useful information to know--if you need to spell something over the phone or provide your flight confirmation number, it is very clear, and projects an all-business, 'don’t mess with me' attitude. Also, it sounds like you're calling in the coordinates for an air strike ;).

But back to the show. The production/staging was quite simple: a set of an open cockpit with four seats, instrument panel, and a cabin door, along with lighting and sound effects. The sound effects nailed it dead on and added immensely to the "immersion" of the play--e.g., the background engine noise, or that "deploy flaps" was followed by mechanical/hydraulic whirring, and the rush of wind that you hear during approach.

There were six scenes; each was introduced simply by a title slide stating date, flight number, location, aircraft type, and number of passengers. They included the Japan Airlines 747 that crashed into the side of a mountain (4 survivors out of 509 passengers), and the DC-10 that crashed at Sioux City after an engine failure disabled all three redundant hydraulic control systems; without flight controls, they had to use differential engine throttling to try to steer the plane (100 dead; 185 survivors).

I quickly got past the artifice of the stage, and "into the cockpit"; the performance was utterly gripping and chilling. It was eerie to be hearing the panicked last words of dead flight crews. The longer scenes grew and grew in intensity and fear; you would flinch at the blaring alarm horns and the repeating automatic "TOO LOW: TERRAIN" warnings. The crashes would end with impact and rending metal sounds, then a stage blackout—very effective.

Overall, I would thoroughly and strongly recommend the play. Although the run in Boston is over, it will be in DC, if anyone has plans to travel down there.

Oh yeah… back on a plane today. Nah… it didn't worry me; I think that I manage to make myself not worry about things I have no control over--mostly. Although it did make me that much more aware than usual that I am traveling at 30,000 feet at 600 mph in a pressurized aluminum tube.

A Six Year Old's Pickup Lines

A somewhat odd experience while I was out biking the other day. While I was cycling through a subdivision connecting the river bike paths, a six to eight year old boy pedaled up next to me. He said, "Hey, Mister, you have really big muscles on your feet."

This made me smile--I assumed he meant my calves. He then went on to say, "Do you work out?"

It was all I could do to keep from exploding in laughter, hearing little kid deliver a stereotypical gay porn movie pickup line. I think I replied, "Um... no... I just go biking a lot."

In case you were curious, these are the calves in question:

I guess you can see why BirdJen nicknamed me 'Meaty' after seeing me in shorts. I think they are in the shape they are just because they have to support and transport a heavy load (read: my butt and my gut).

Works every time...

We got the shipping container project sent off and on its way on Friday afternoon. As promised, I christened the box on its way out. The truck hooked up to the trailer, started pulling out, and I cracked a bottle of booze on the tail end:

While leaving the liquor store, I was chortling to myself on the choice of beverage--hey, I wasn't planning on drinking the stuff. Y'know, I have to admit that this is the only time in my life that I have ever bought malt liquor (fo'ty or otherwise).

Speaking of malt liquor--I assume everyone's seen the Modern Drunkard's Taste Test page? They rate several fine options based on Flava, Street Cred, and Power.

No photo of the christening itself--but chief grad student took a little movie of it; I'll post a still if I can get one.


Photo and Travel Plans

Another goofy photo and details on my travel plans to Boston, Florida, and New York.

While working on the shipping container, I glanced over at the nearby soccer field, and the collection of geese on the field amused me. I was mentally providing dialogue of: "Ok, who's going to be shirts and who's gonna be skins today?" "Aw man... I hate being skins." Either that, or something with hypercompetitive goose soccer moms yelling at their goslings from the sidelines ("You call that a pass?!?! Run, run, run!! Where's that hustle?!?!")

The pond behind the site is kinda neat--a blue heron landed there yesterday; saw some type of diving (i.e., grab fish out of the water) raptor today.

Anyway, I have started to put together my travel plans for the next few weeks: I'm going to be in Boston soon! As in, likely, this upcoming weekend! I'm going to try to do the drive in one day, ending up in Hopkinton for the evening, on Saturday. Then, probably a few days up in NH with Bird and Jen, helping Bird hang some kitchen cabinets. This is followed by a business trip to Florida, for more than a week--we're setting up this shipping container that we've been working on.

Flight 656 H
Depart MANCHESTER NH(MHT) at 10:15AM
Arrive in TAMPA INTL(TPA) at 1:30PM

Flight 228 H
Depart TAMPA INTL(TPA) at 3:05PM
Arrive in MANCHESTER NH(MHT) at 6:00PM

Back to Boston in time for the big wedding. Woo hoo! Followed by at least a few days of hanging out in Boston, and then down to New York to see my folks, and hang out with P. and my high school friend Air Force Guy/NYC IP lawyer.


The Weather: A Complaint

I would like to lodge a complaint about the recent weather in Southern Ontario. Temperature around midnight on Monday:

Upper temperature is outdoor; lower is indoor. Oh sorry... in metric, that's:

And the weather forecast for Monday night is:

Tonight: Clearing this evening. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low plus 2 with risk of frost.

This is reasonable for, say, October or November. But it is late May. "Frost" and "late May" should only be connected when talking about liquid nitrogen containers and creamsicles. I have turned off the heat for the season, pulled down the storm windows, and have run fans to cool off my place. But I am currently eating breakfast with my space heater pointed at my butt.

The weather would not be so galling except for the fact that I am bike commuting to our shipping container site. It's definitely brisk--I've been trying to avoid car use on general principle, including a ride home that I got dumped on badly enough that I had to wring out my socks. Fortunately, it looks like it's warming up this week.

But returning to my idea of weather (and life) being a zero sum game: I wonder if this weather means we're paying for the mild winter, or if we're going to get our asses seriously kicked by late summer this year.


Another Container Photo

In response to Dan's comment and photo (cool!), I wanted to post this comment and photo, but Blogger doesn't let you include photos in comments.

Reminds me that I also have a fun shipping container photo from my Alaska trip last summer. I was wandering around the dockyards of Seward during a social event when I was feeling antisocial, and came across this structure:

Also, if you're into huge machinery, Seward has an unused coal terminal conveyor belt system that you can see from the docks, as described and photographed here. After all that expense, though, it goes unused, because the contract to sell coal to the South Koreans fell through, I believe.

A Brief Resurfacing

I've been busy for the past week, but a good kind of busy. My advisor's consulting company has come up with the idea of building test walls into the sides of 40 foot ISO shipping containers, so they can be used as portable test huts that can be shipped to a client's site.

We're renting the trailer from the logistics company, so we modify the container at the farm we're working on. When we're done, a truck comes, hooks up, and hauls it away. I have suggested that we have a nautical-style christening ceremony when the container is shipped out--smashing a bottle of Molson Canadian on the prow, perhaps?

Our crew has been slamming away on it most of this week. It's a long weekend up here (Victoria Day), but we worked on Saturday, and we're back on the job tomorrow (Monday).

One fun part was attaching the wood frames to the steel structure. The slower method is to predrill a hole through the wood and steel, drill a countersink, and drive a self-tapping screw with an impact driver to connect them. But we also used a powder actuated tool (i.e., a nailgun that uses .22 blanks as a driving charge) to do it in one step--through the wood and the steel. Hearing and eye protection are a must; body armor is optional.

In case I haven't demonstrated that I'm enough of a geek, I find shipping containers really cool. For some explanation, see this Wired Magazine article "The 20-Ton Packet: Ocean shipping is the biggest real-time datastreaming network in the world." Also, the Wikipedia article on shipping containers has a cool quote about the disposability and alternate uses of shipping containers, due to the cheapness of manufacturing them in China (~$2500):

The abundance and relative cheapness during the last decade comes from the deficit in manufactured goods coming from North America in the last two decades. These manufactured goods come to North America from Asia and, to a lesser extent, Europe, in containers that often have to be shipped back empty ("deadhead"), at considerable expense. It is all too often cheaper to buy new containers in China and elsewhere in Asia, and to try to find new applications for the used containers that have reached their North American cargo destination.

Also, to me, there's something vaguely sinister about a shipping container sitting out on an isolated farm--it feels like it ought to be a black-helicopter-shadow-government outpost or a Mafia interrogation site:

Bobby, Bobby, Bobby, you stupid motherfuckin' sack of shit. Why did you EVER [CRACK] think it was FUCKIN' [CRACK] good idea to try to WHACK [CRACK] a MADE [CRACK] GUY [CRACK]?!

Hey, take it easy on him--you gotta leave enough left for Sal the Brick to talk to.

Yeah, well he don't need his kneecaps to talk.

[whispering] These are awful big cornfields out here Bobby. You're going in a fuckin' hole and disappearing... they ain't never gonna find what's left of you.

Okay, enough of the Goodfellas school of creative writing for now.


Sea Level Rise: The Webpage!

In a post in March, I talked about where to live, and wondered about the effect of sea level rise on various locations. Well, I was recently reading an issue of Environmental Building News, and they mentioned this web page that generates maps of flooding with various degrees of sea level rise (from 1 m to 6 m).

It's pretty cool. 2 m in the Boston area doesn't look that bad to me (mostly small portions already along the water), but at 3 m, big swaths of Cambridge and Somerville are underwater, as well as the whole Back Bay and Boston Logan.

As a warning, though, I couldn't get the web page to work with my usual browser (Opera). IE worked all right.


Still Can Keep Up

This post is being written in a hazy stupor after a self-inflicted night of debauchery at 2 AM. Okay, not quite debauchery--just an evening of excessive drinking with the guys. One of my labmates was having his stag night (translated from Canadian: bachelor party) tonight, a few months before his wedding, due to scheduling conflicts. The activities included a steak dinner, followed by a pub crawl of the local downtown area. My personal goal was to try to match the character of the drink to each bar. The nine of us hit:
  • [edit] Ali Baba (dinner here; steak house): pint of ale, a few glasses of beaujolais.
  • The Duke of Wellington (British pub, complete with the football match on the telly): pint of Guinness
  • The Vault (ultra-stylish bar with a thumping backbeat; the place seems perpetually empty): Manhattan-based drink (a "Brooklyn Bridge": whiskey, red vermouth, plus a dash of cherry brandy to smooth it out.)
  • The Silver Spur (horrible karaoke/Western bar): shot of Tequilla (I am heading back to the States to collect my guns if I hear another version of "You're as cold as ice/You're willing to sacrifice our love...")
  • Jane Bond (a funky bar with a relaxed hang-out atmosphere): a "Blue Velvet"--martini-type drink based off of Blue Curacao
  • The Heuther (the local hang-out-and-drink pitchers of beer place): several pints of the in-hour brewed beer

I'm just glad that I managed to keep up with the ~25 year olds that were there. In fact, they stopped drinking before I did. Heh. I guess living at Tep was good for something, right? Now I just have to hope that synthetic livers are coming soon...

Anyway, I think we showed the groom a very good time that will require a morning of recovery, at the very least. A very interesting dynamic going on between the groom and the married matron of honor, but that's a story for another time.

As for me: a liter of water, two prophylactic Advils, and time for bed. G'night.


A Prediction (Automotive Trends)

I was listening to an NPR call-in show about the current spike in gasoline prices, and one caller pointed out the bind of the lower-middle class Americans. They are typically stuck with beater cars/pickup trucks with horrible mileage, and they are spending a greater proportion of their income on gasoline, so therefore they are getting hit disproportionately harder. It got me thinking: with gasoline prices getting worse, the market for small, fuel efficient, and—most importantly--inexpensive cars is going to open up in a big way.

I have talked about the falling sales of SUVs in my earlier rant about US automakers; it was also pointed out in the New York Times article "U.S. Makers Facing Glut of S.U.V.'s as Gas Rises" (May 3, 2006): Americans shied away from large sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks in April as gas prices approached $3 a gallon. With a battery of new S.U.V.'s waiting in the wings, domestic automakers are now facing the very situation they had hoped to avoid.

The latest surge in gas prices poses a long-term problem for the domestic auto companies, which had been hoping that gas prices would moderate and make S.U.V. sales easier. Now, analysts warn it may be harder to get consumers to buy a gas-thirsty vehicle when the oil market remains so volatile.

If I had a "Quote-a-Day Emperor Palpatine Calendar" (on sale at your local Imperial Bookstore), it would be saying: "You have paid the price for your lack of vision." [insert lightning bolts from fingertips here].

The Japanese manufacturers seem to be ahead of the curve once again: not just with hybrids, but also compacts that still have a decent level of styling, fit, and finish (as opposed to "this is the bottom of our line, and we are treating it as such")—e.g., the Honda Fit and Toyota VarisYaris.

But more importantly, I don't know how much my readers have been following stories of the Chinese producing automobiles for sale overseas (Europe, and soon the U.S.)—it is something that I have tracked. Remember: these are the guys who can undercut the Koreans on price at a comparable quality level. Basically, they will be able to manufacture cars at the WalMart price point.

Detroit sees this on the horizon: whether or not they can do anything about it is another question (NYT "See the U.S.A. in Your New Car From China, Starting in '07", January 10, 2006):

It does not matter that Geely, the Chinese carmaker getting a lot of attention at the auto show here, has yet to sell a single car in the United States. It is the possibility it could that has Detroit talking.

"I think it's the beginning, the very beginning, of Chinese international participation in the U.S.," said Robert A. Lutz, General Motors' vice chairman and product development chief. "A few years down the road, sure, it'd be foolish not to see it as a threat."

Geely (pronounced JEE-lee) does not have a model that meets United States safety and environmental regulations, but the company said it was working on a small four-door sedan that it could sell here for less than $10,000.

Under the best of circumstances, it would be more than two years before a Geely is sold in the United States. The company plans to sell a model first in Puerto Rico, where it has signed a contract with one dealer, in the spring of 2008. Geely hopes to move into the United States later that year.

But Geely will probably not be the first Chinese automaker to take on the American market. A rival, Chery Automotive, has already announced plans to begin shipping cars to the United States in 2007.

My prediction is that if the price of gas continues to rise, the market for small, fuel-efficient, inexpensive cars will be something that the Chinese will be able to capitalize on, to the detriment of the Big Three.

To wit, the Atlantic Monthly article Countdown to a Meltdown (full text available online!—strongly recommended) had an interesting anecdote in their possible future timeline of the United States economy that resonates strongly here:

Toyota's acquisition of General Motors and Ford, in 2012, had a similar inevitability. Over the previous decade the two U.S. companies had lost money on every car they sold. Such profit as they made was on SUVs, trucks, and Hummer-style big rigs. In 2008, just before the oil shock, GM seemed to have struck gold with the Strykette—an adaptation of the Army's Stryker vehicle, so famous from Iraq and Pakistan, whose marketing campaign attracted professional women. Then the SUV market simply disappeared. With gasoline at $6 a gallon, the prime interest rate at 15 percent, and the stock and housing markets in the toilet, no one wanted what American car makers could sell. The weak dollar, and their weak stock prices, made the companies a bargain for Toyota.


Raaar!! Baby Eat Batman's Head!!

After hanging out around Toronto for a few days with JMD and the four Ms. L's, including young Miss Delaney, I have decided that although I'm still mostly terrified of babies, the exposure conditioning has reduced my fear levels a bit.

In the past, I have explained my fear with an analogy: when somebody asks me, "Do you want to hold the baby?" my immediate and visceral reaction is about the same as if a concert violinist were to ask me, "Hey, I just got this Guarneri del Gesù--do you want to hold it?" (Response: "Gwwaaaagghaaaaaah! Um. No thank you.") Well, a qualification on that--if I can be useful by holding onto a baby while mom deals with stuff, I'm glad to be helpful. But the joy-and-pleasure centers of my brain do not fire off madly at the prospect of holding a baby.

One reason my fears were reduced is that Delaney is a wonderfully well-behaved young lady--no squalling fits, no projectile vomiting, and spitup and drooling were well within reasonable limits for her age group (insert comment about Tep alumni here).

When first meeting her, I found it a bit disturbing that she kept staring at me with this intense but puzzled look for minutes on end. My best guess was that the baby brain was being thrown by my facial hair: "How odd... it's in the right spot for a face, and it makes sounds like a face, but, it just somehow looks different...."

As entertaining as my sense of humor might be for my friends, most of it doesn't really play for the under-two crowd. I can do a couple minutes of knee bouncing, flying around, and rhythmic clapping plus singing show tunes ("I got rhythm. I got music..."). But pretty soon, I'm at the stage of "I got nothin'"--usually followed up by "Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen! We're here every Thursday--please enjoy your formula, and have a lovely evening! And nowww, back to your mom!"

While holding her, Delaney had a fascination with my Brass Rat--maybe because it's just like dad's ring. Then again, it could just be the normal baby reaction of, "Shiny! How does it taste? [chew] [drool]" (she had the same reaction to my wristwatch). But I also let her know: "...and if you're really unfortunate, you can end up going to MIT and getting one too!"

Oh, and despite the fact that I could deal with brief baby exposure, I still feel strongly that parenting is not a gig I'd ever be looking for. Heh: the lack of a uterus and matching hormones: reason #722 why I prefer being a guy. Yes, I know that the picture is cute and that my mom's subconscious grandmother sensors are probably twitching from 400 miles away. But count me out of this propagation of the human race thing, thanks.

Make Way for Ducklings!

Part of JMD's visit to K-W was spent bird watching (she's the birdwatcher, not me). We saw this family of ducklings around town; the next day, we went to the nature preserve and trails alongside the banks of the local river. Saw a bunch of red wing blackbirds, a possible Baltimore Oriole (the bird, not the team), a whack of LBJs (little brown jobs), and some type of raptor soaring at altitude in the distance.

A fun day. JMD got a bit sunburned. I was well protected by my rice pickin' genes.


A Vacation Without Leaving Home

I have spent the past five days on a mini-vacation, with five visitors from out of town--it was nice to break out of the routine and take a few days off, now that the semester is over. I got to spend some time being a tour guide for them around Toronto, and hanging out in some of my favorite spots around KW.

As promised, here is the family tree showing the relationship of my visitors. All are women, and four out of five can be addressed as Ms. L. Three are sisters-in-law.

The ones with heavy borders are the ones that came up (Marilyn, Jennifer, Rebecca, JMD, and Delaney). The dotted line between U5 and Rebecca means they are about to get married--in exactly a month, in fact! Woo hoo!

We did a variety of activities around Toronto, including wandering around the park near the base of the CN Tower, dining and shopping in Chinatown, visiting the Royal Ontario Museum, and checking out the Distillery District.

The Distillery District is the complex of buildings that used to be the Gooderham and Worts Distillery; it was converted into a combination of retail spaces, artist galleries, and condos. It is a pedestrian-only space; very nice to wander around in. A good example of adaptive reuse of some really gorgeous old buildings--but I felt a little bit of guilt that I have talked about before. A lot of the stores there seemed just a bit too targeted to people with too much money--the art galleries, the upscale kitchen stores. Still, it was worth hanging out there for sure. Incredibly picturesque--some folks were shooting their wedding pictures there that day.

One entertaining aside was that they offer Segway rentals and tours of the distillery. The idea of a Segway Gang (with matching leather jackets and spiked helmets) is something I must put in practice someday.

However, I didn't get the photo that I really wanted--I planned to get in front of the rolling Segway group, and get a shot of me running towards the camera (away from the Segways) with a look of fleeing panic on my face.

Caption Contest!

Hey kids! Time to play "caption the goofy photo Bats took of himself had JMD take of him!"

Besides the obvious 'take me to your leader.'

My Luca Brasi Impression

The next few posts are going to be about hanging out with the folks who are up visiting Toronto--list is at the bottom of this post. Jen is up for a conference, and she brought her daughter Delaney with her. Grandma Marilyn is around to look after Delaney while at the conference. Rebecca came up just for a quick weekend trip, and JMD is visiting me in town for the next few days. Four out of the five of these people can be addressed as 'Ms. L____.' Agh! Yes, I'll draw a diagram.

Anyway, the group of us wandered around Toronto, and we ended up at the fountain between the CN Tower and the Rogers Center (the sculpture is Susan Schelle's Salmon Run (1991). Since the fountain was dry at the time, I just had to do my bit of performance art:

Incidentally if you don't get the reference, you haven't been watching enough Godfather movies

[Tessio brings in Luca Brasi's bulletproof vest, delivered with a fish inside]
Sonny: What the hell is this?
Tessio: It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.

James Caan, Abe Vigoda. Oh yeeaaaaaah.


Google Calendar

Following the prompting of some friends, I have set up a Google Calendar for myself, and have pressed some of my colleagues to do the same. So far, I have been very impressed and happy with the technology and interface design. I have long thought that this really needs to be (and should be) a solved problem: I looked through my email archives, and saw that I was asking my company's IT guy back in February of 2003:

One simple item would be a web-accessible calendar, to coordinate all of our respective schedules. Ideally, people should be able to log in (password, whatever), add items to their schedule, and see what other schedules are. It is my understanding that some versions of MS Project can do this. The ability to plot out availability of personnel with Gant Charts (or similar) would be ideal.

It looks like it will be a big help to the distributed office that I used to work for, if they can manage the technology (seems obvious to me, but...) This will hopefully be a case of Google dominating the field with good technology.

So if you want to add me to your calendar, my address is my Tep nickname (the four letter version) followed by the cosmic number [at] gmail [dot] com. My understanding is that you need to have a gmail account, with a calendar set up, to view or share calendars.

A General Request

If you are a reviewer for a conference paper, and you are using MS Word's built-in commenting feature, please let your authors know that this is how you are submitting comments. Why, you might ask? Well, the document that you sent out in Word 2003 looking like this:

Appears on the screen of an author using Word 2000 like this:

Edits (as opposed to comments) appear on that Word 2000 screen, so it definitely appears that the reviewer did some editing. Resulting reaction: "Huh. I wonder what they meant by highlighting all that stuff in yellow? Oh well, I guess I'll just fix those grammar problems and call it a day." Given that some of the reviews consisted of half a dozen bullet points, it wasn't all that unreasonable of a reaction.

And it's really unfortunate when the author finds about this fact from his coauthor, after thinking he had completed the review process. On the afternoon before the deadline. And out of the three reviews submitted, this one was the most in-depth and detailed by a wide margin.

I'm not sure that my coworker has heard me yell "Awww, motherFUCKer!" in our business conversations before. In fact, I strongly doubt it.

Thus, the author just put in an unexpected 8/9.5 hours on the paper... starting at 3:30 PM.... on a Friday night... and needing to be at the airport tomorrow morning at 11.

Yes, I could have displayed these comments in my current version of Word, simply by going into Tools -> Options -> Formatting Marks -> Hidden Text. Oh, how obvious!--I guess us technically clueless guys just have to muddle through.

Well, I think it's in the can now. And I have visitors coming to town! Jen, Delaney, Marilyn, Rebecca, and Jean--three generations of an extended family. Their relations are a complex and tangled web--I will probably provide a diagram to explain.


Wedding RSVP

I just RSVP'd to a wedding I was invited to--the couple was a bit worried about how long it would take to get my invitation up to Canada, so I thought I would confirm that it had arrived. This got me thinking of creative formats for this email...

Date: Wed, 03 May 2006 11:52:47 -0400
To: -----@----.com
From: Batman
Subject: Your Batazon.com Invitation has Arrived

Greetings from Batazon.com.

We thought you'd like to know that we received your wedding invitation, and that an RSVP is enclosed.

You can track the status of this wedding online at


There you can:
* See who else is coming
* And who is just breathing hard
* Check out wedding events
* Find maps
* Plan a land war in Asia
* And do much more

The following wedding is RSVPed by Batazon.com:
Qty Item Invited Attending Subtotal
1 XXXX and XXXXXXX's Wedding 1 1 1

Please do not reply to this message unless you're really bored at work.

Thank you for inviting us.

Amusing Snapshot

Saw this on the way to lunch and took a picture.

In case you can't read the sign, it says:

- STOP -

The reflection is me scratching my head while looking at it.

Hey, I thought it was kinda funny.


Spring is very nice, except that for me, it's allergy season (specifically tree pollen). It just kicked in about two days ago; I took an OTC antihistimine pill yesterday, and it completely kicked my ass--I wanted to just lie down on the couch in our office for the afternoon. However, it did relieve my symptoms and keep me from having to burn through tissues all day. I bought some OTC Claritin; it seems to be doing the job so far.

As a kid, my allergies used to be much worse; I'm glad that nowadays, it's a week of sneezing, and then it is over with. But it is a week of hostility towards pollinating trees--as one of my friends put it to them, "Get your friggin' sperm out of my nose!" Hrm.... "arboreal bukkake" is an disturbing yet apt image that came to mind.

I did some research to determine if I can blame my allergies on the crap-ass genetic material I inherited from my dad (on top of the height, weight, eyesight, tendency towards depression, and cholesterol genes). He had miserable allergies--bad enough that he needed seasonal injections, and made my mom deal with mowing the lawn. It appears that there is evidence for a genetic basis, according to Wikipedia.

But a more interesting point was in the following paragraph of that article: research shows that intestinal parasites secrete immunosuppressants to defend themselves; as a result, the immune system has evolved with the "gain set higher", so that the combination results in a "correct" immune response. By this logic, taking away the parasites results in an over-reacting immune system. (Don't worry, Alethia, I'd rather have allergies than hookworm, in case that wasn't obvious.)

Man... when I have an income again, donating to Wikipedia will be a priority.