Sunday, January 8, 2012

This blog is not dead!

It's just restin'

Sunday, June 20, 2010

15 Book meme

List 15 books you’ve read that will always stick with you. The first 15 you can think of in 15 minutes. I saw this meme last year on Billy the Atheist. Since it took me well over 6 months, I don't think I followed the instructions very well...

The Tolkien Trilogy - I liked The Hobbit, so I went on to read the trilogy when I was nine. I’ve since read the trilogy about 4 more times. So far.


The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins – it blew my mind when I read it in about 1986.

The Ancestor’s Tale, Richard Dawkins - How we are all related to every other living thing on the planet. It was fascinating.

The Fire Cat, Esther Averill – I read it over and over to kids I babysat, and then to my son.

Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss – I read it to my son so often that at one time, I could recite almost the entire book from memory.

Black Beauty, Anna Sewell – Anna Sewell was a Victorian era animal welfare activist who, with this book, single-handedly managed to get "check-reining" abolished. Check-reining kept a horse's head fashionably, but painfully, and sometimes cripplingly high. Anna did not live to see this occur.

Watchers, Lightning, Midnight - For a while, every Dean Koontz book I could get my hands on. I had to stop reading them, though. I couldn’t take it anymore. His writing is so descriptive, it felt too real.

The Robot Series, and Foundation Series, Isaac Asimov - That R. Daneel Olivaw sure got around.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Treasury, Arthur Conan Doyle

The Dragonriders of Pern Series, Ann McCaffrey – I’m pretty sure Avatar poached the “telepathic link to your dragon” idea from this series.

The Hornblower series, C.S. Forester - Only the best Naval series ever written...

The Hunt for Red October – started me off on two tangents. One – reading every Tom Clancy book I could get my hands on, and two – finding every book I could on submarines.

Into Thin Air, John Krakauer - I had to read this for a class in business school, and I found it gripping.

The Last Herald-Mage series - Telepathic "horses" and magic. Need I say more?

The Incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford - One of the best animal stories ever written. It even says so on the cover!

James and the Giant Peach. Roald Dahl is just very odd. Apparently C.S. Forester encouraged him to start writing...

Lad: A Dog, Albert Payson Terhune - The reason I got a collie as soon as I moved out on my own, as I explained in this post.

The Railway Children, Edith Nesbit - Just a wonderful story.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas - I could include The Three Musketeers and The Man in the Iron Mask here.

Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O'Dell - Inspired by a true story of a woman stranded alone from 1835 to 1853 on San Nicolas Island off the coast of Southern California. I read it over and over.

Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransom – A tale of children, sailboats and adventure on the high seas. Well, the Lake District, anyway. BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WONT DROWN.

Traveller, Richard Adams – The Civil War told from the point of view of General Lee's horse. You didn't think I would only have one horse book on the list, did you?

The Golden Treasury of Poetry – my favorite – The Tale of Custard the Dragon.

Belinda lived in a little white house
With a little black kitten and a little grey mouse
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon
And a realio trulio little pet dragon.

A Lion Called Christian – after reading Born Free, Living Free, and Forever Free, I combed the library for other books about lions and found A Lion Called Christian. It’s an amazing story about two guys who lived above a trendy furniture shop in London back in the '60s who saw a lion cub at Harrods and bought him on the spur of the moment (yes, you could buy absolutely anything there, at least back then). The lion lived in their shop, and eventually got so large, they didn’t know what to do with him. One day, amazingly enough, the two actors who played Joy and George Adamson from the film Born Free, Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, walked in (the book said it was coincidental, but I’m sure someone told them, “Hey, you should go to this furniture shop! They have a lion there!). The two guys ended up taking Christian to George Adamson in Africa and introducing a 4th generation captive-born lion to the wild. This is what happened when they went back to Africa a year later:

I only just recently found that video and am in floods of tears every time I watch it…

I think that's a few more than 15 books... I looked at my bookshelf. I could have listed 50 more.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Scenes from Truckee

Not much of a post. Just a series of photos from the Truckee area.

The Truckee River is the only outlet to Lake Tahoe. Although Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States, the dam at the lake outlet can raise the lake elevation six feet. This may not sound like a lot, but as the lake has a surface area of 191 square miles, this adds up to quite a bit of water. Here is a view from the dam looking toward the lake:

And of the dam itself:The Truckee River a little further downstream. A little later on in the season, this tranquil scene is completely obliterated by bank-to-bank large blue rafts:Here are the rafts piled up and waiting to go: Whitewater is somewhat of a misnomer in the section of the Truckee that they go down.

Squaw Valley:
Right now it's a big wet meadow.

Spot the mergansers:
When he noticed me taking the photos, the male merganser swam and hid behind the log. Typical.

The Donner Pass Bridge:
Sometimes called Rainbow Bridge. Even though it's grey.

Not very good camoflage. Unless they're really Porsches:

As I rode by, I noticed these guys had two bags full of wooden stakes. They must be really worried about vampires!

It was really WINDY!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Guest post from Brother Phil. Sort of.

Hmm. It's been so long since I posted, my brother, Phil, is apparently getting sick and tired of waiting and is now sending me blog post material. But then, he also sent it to Click and Clack, so I guess I'm not that special. This is his contribution (unedited by me)(I take no responsibility for this post)(except for the fact that I'm posting it)(well, it is my blog, so I suppose I have to take some responsibility)(but no credit):

Brother Phil’s Fake Movie Names

Guy movie titles make sense and involve violent action. Chick flick titles either make no sense or involve chocolate. Sometimes both.
Find the chick flick:

Metal Death
Kill the Undead
Deader Than That
Even More Dead
Mostly Dead
How Much More Dead Can You Get?
Chase Until You Kill
The Ultimate Death Machine
Car Killer Chase Sport
Steal, Cheat, Lie, Kill
Robot Sport
Ultimate Blood Sport
Spy on the Dead
Confessions of a Mafia Spy
Spy Killer
Dead Metal Action Hero
Action Killer
Killer Hero
Hero Killer
Action Hero
Cooking the Flying Rose Society
Dead Hero
Metal Hero
Ultimate Car Chase
Two Drunk Idiots Steal Cars
Gun Killer
Gun Sport
Gun Hero
Gun Metal
Metal Gun Sport
Spring Break of Death
Beach of Death
Death Robot
Electric Death Monkey

Spot the guy flick:
A Lady and a Ruffian
The Chocolate Way
You Walk Into Gabardine
She's Pregnant
With Honesty
Monday, My Mother
A Credenza With Legs
Extreme Violence
Contrary Flowers
The Sisters of The Chocolate Icing
I Met My Mother
Cause and Chocolate
A Confluence of Blouses
The Wardrobe
Fried Chocolate
A Chance Encounter of Chocolate Flowers
Socks in a Dresser Drawer
Vanilla Isn't Plain
Like Hanna, For Instance
Hats, Blue and Red
Earnest Chocolate In Summer
Rain In Love
The Chartreuse Wardrobe Society of Flying Slingbacks
The Guy Falls For The Broken Wing (A Box of Chocolates)

Movies that flopped because they tried too hard to appeal to both women and men:
Chocolate Metal
The Chocolate Chase
The Zombie Sister Society
Red Zombie Blue Zombie
Action Chocolate Zombie Racer
Quarts of Blood, Gallons of Chocolate
Killer Hero's Baby
My Zombie, My Love
Chasing, Cheating, Chocolate
A Credenza With Legs, A Dresser Full Of Heads and a Closet Full Of Zombie Torsos
The Ultimate Death Machine of the Flying Electric Monkey Sister Society
A Stroll in the Park OF DEATH
She's Having a Zombie Baby
A Mother's Heart, A Sister's Legs, A Daughter's Head and Miscellaneous Parts Make A Zombie
Robots Have Chocolate Blood
The Red Shoe of Death
A Death Monkey Diary
Zombie Wedding
Action Killer Wedding Hero
An Hour to Wed, A Day to Die
Guns in a Dresser
Cheese
The Wedding Singer Killer
Perfect Heart, Rotting Soul
The Smell of Death in Springtime

Adult movies make plays on words. Children's movies appeal to a sense of family, involve animals or have the word "adventure" in the title.

Spot the adult movies:
Captain Rabbit's Secret Adventures
Robbie the Robot Rabbit
The Adventures of Abe, the Talking Donkie
Swiss Family Rabbitson
Debbie Does Donkies
Adventures in Rabbits
Nick Danger's Great Escape Adventure
Adventure Animal Family
Love Animal Style
Big Bear and the Bunny Rangers
A Bunny Family Christmas
A Playboy Bunny Christmas
Spy Family Adventure

Note from Laurie: Donkie is apparently not misspelled. If you don't know what it is, you'll have to look it up on Urban Dictionary yourself.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Conservatism

I was never very interested in politics until...well, really until Bush Jr. got into office. I always figured that things sort of evened themselves out over time. Also, I wasn't a US citizen, so I couldn't really do anything about it anyway. I got my US citizenship in 2000 - just in time to vote in that election. Lotta good that did. I've slowly gotten more and more active - enough that I actually went in and volunteered to work on Charlie Brown's campaign for Congress against that lying, carpetbagging, scumbag Tom McClintock (did I just say that out loud?) because I felt so strongly about it (McClintock won - barely).

My son seems to have grown up with a highly developed sense of fairness. Being raised by me and two dads, he's been a gay rights activist from a fairly young age. He also refused to join a fraternity because they required a declaration that there might be some sort of higher being, and he felt that that discriminated against me (I think the "frat" part of that would probably have excluded me, anyway).

He's taking a Problems in American Politics class this semester. I keep getting calls immediately after he gets out of class that go something like this:

Me: Hi William. How much money do you need?

William: CONSERVATIVES ARE SO %@#$ing STUPID!

Me: Uh...yes, but...

William: ALL THEY %@#%ing WANT IS TO MAKE THE RICH RICHER AND THE POOR POORER!!!

Me: Um...Yeah, I think that's pretty much a given. Some of them don't feel....

William: My professor is trying to give a balanced viewpoint and let us draw our own conclusions.

Me: And your conclusion is...

William: Conservatives are MORONS!!

Me: *hysterical laughter*

William: We're learning about the healthcare debate this week. Oh, and I need to use PhotoShop for a class. Could I please have $60 dollars for 2 gigs of RAM so I can run it on my computer?

Me: *sigh* Try asking your dads first.

I was telling my mother about this conversation, and she completely agreed with William. I got almost the same response from her, without quite so many vulgarities. At least I didn't end up sending her money.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Exactly how long can I hold a grudge?

I wouldn't say I was mechanically inclined overall, but I do enjoy DIY projects. For instance, I decided to extend the patio with paving stones several years ago, and did most of it myself while Bill looked on (slightly bewilderedly, I think - especially when I started digging an enormous hole in his backyard). I love putting things together from kits. This may have started when my brother and I got build-it-yourself crystal radio sets for Christmas one year. Only one station came in clearly, but I would lie awake at night listening to Houston Aeros Hockey (Go Gordie Howe! (Oh, wait. Does that date it?)), and the CBS Radio Mystery Theater with E. G. Marshall (Until next time,....Pleasant....dreams?). I wasn't allowed to have my light on to read (which I would have done all night if allowed), but I could listen to my radio without my parents knowing.

I also like messing around with cars. I once replaced the brakes and brake rotors on my Saturn (with minor help from my brother) and then spent the next eight years mildly surprised that the wheels hadn't fallen off yet.

Soon after he got his driver's license, my son got a 1988 Jeep Wrangler and he and I spent hours tinkering with the engine, trying to keep it running, during which time I think we taught each other some new swear words and spent way more money on parts than I could really afford. We actually managed to replace the head gasket on it at one point. After a few months, we gave up and got him a Honda Civic instead.

Just before William was born, David and I started having trouble with our Dodge Colt. It turned out to be a fusible link, and all we needed to do was twist the wires back together to keep it working for another couple of weeks, until it would burn through again (probably not the safest thing to do). When William was about a month old, it finally got so short the wires barely reached, so I went to Kragen Auto Parts, parked the car, unclipped the fusible link, carried it in, and told the guy I wanted a new one (I'm sure I said please, actually. I used to be extremely polite). He had absolutely no idea what it was.

While I was looking around to see if I could find one myself, William suddenly spat up - all over the floor. Fairly embarrassed, I bent down and started to wipe it up with William's blanket, and the guy suddenly loomed over me and said, "Does your husband know you're messing around with the car?"

Excuse me??? Today, I would probably tell him exactly what I thought of him, but at the time, I was only 24, and still had a lot of trouble talking to strangers (even after working with the general public for years). I couldn't think of anything to say to that. I didn't want to tell him that I knew WAY more about cars than my husband, because that would have been insulting to David. I mumbled something, finished wiping the floor, stood up, and carried William out. And refused to go back to Kragen Auto - any Kragen Auto - for about 16 years. I plugged the fusible link back into the engine and drove down the street to Grand Auto where they actually knew what it was and were able to help me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pet peeves

This is a completely gratuitous post on: Things that irritate me or How to piss me off.

  • Fundamentalist religionuts and any pseudoscientific garbage, but those are just a given.

  • Mispronunciations. Especially people who mispronounce nuclear as nuke-yoo-lar (our favorite former commander-in-chief, for instance), realtor REE-lit-or (I've know actual realtors who can't pronounce this word) and mispronunciation mis-pro-noun-see-ay-shun. Bill is completely unable to pronounce labyrinth and pronounces it lab-er-nith, but that's just cute.*

  • People who say irregardless. The word is either regardless or irrespective, people! Pick one, but don't combine them. From my 1974 edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary, irregardless is defined as a substandard or humorous redundancy for REGARDLESS.

  • Snowboarders, with the exception of Kia, with whom I've never skied, and my son. He irritates me for other reasons. Snowboarders don't seem to have the brain capacity to understand that most skiers go back and forth across the slope, not straight down, and seem to be constantly surprised when skiers turn and go the other way right into their path such that they scream by at 50 mph barely missing and frightening the skier (me, anyway) half to death. In addition, skis make a pleasant shush, shushing sound - snowboards literally roar as they go by. I'm constantly swearing at snowboarders and calling them fracking moron idiots under my breath. Redundant, I know, but it makes me feel better. Ok, I don't always say fracking. Frelling? Smegging? (30 points if you can name all three Sci Fi shows - without a search engine). One ran into me earlier this year on a completely wide open slope with just the two of us on it, and then was bent out of shape when I yelled, "moron" at him (more out of fear and surprise than malice. Ok, maybe there was a little malice).

  • Led vs. Lead.

    Lead (lěd) - a heavy, comparatively soft, malleable, bluish-gray metal, sometimes found in its natural state but usually combined as a sulfide, esp. in galena. Symbol: Pb; atomic weight: 207.19; atomic number: 82; specific gravity: 11.34 at 20°C.

    Lead (lēd) - to go before or with to show the way; conduct or escort

    Led (lěd) - the past tense of lead.

    LED - light emitting diode

  • Fracking big SUVs, perhaps just when they're driven by idiots. UPDATE: Andrew reminded me that it's a general rule that fracking big SUVs are always driven by idiots.

  • People who say Safety Deposit Box. It is SAFE Deposit Box, people! We just watched an episode of Fringe where ALL the characters said safety deposit box over and over and over. I, of course, had to yell, "SAFE! The word is SAFE!" every time. Yeah, okay. I was probably more annoying than they were. Probably. Same thing happened recently with an episode of Alias.

  • Bigotry of any sort against anybody for any reason. Except snowboarders. Bigotry against snowboarders is fine.

  • Cruelty to animals. Humans included.

  • Having the television on just as noise in the background. I'm constantly coming into the living room and turning it off because NO ONE IS WATCHING IT! Unless I'm watching something in particular, I don't like it on at all. I have happily gone without TV for years at a time (I did use it to watch movies occasionally).

When I asked Bill to list things that irritate me, he said, "People who make slight grammatical errors and misproNOUNciations" (I already had that on the list). "And people who don't change lanes soon enough for you." No, Bill. That's just YOU.

*NOTE: Bill says he's not cute, he's ruggedly handsome.

(Note to self - figure out why there are no bullet points. Barry, help???)
UPDATE: Ok, now I have the funky flowers, but I guess they're better than nothing

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wild what chase?

As I've mentioned in a previous post, since they retired, my parents have become licensed wild animal rehabilitators. What this means for the rest of us (that would be me and my brother), is that we can only visit at certain times of the year - when there are no baby animals. Otherwise, my mother is too busy feeding babies and doctoring injured adults to even speak coherently. She wears herself to the bone, and my father is just as busy going out on calls to pick up injured adults or more baby animals and taking many of them to one of several (wonderful) vets in the area that will administer to wild animals for free. My parents still end up spending A LOT of their own money on medical supplies, housing and food.

Other implications: They always need food for the carnivores. My father actually drives to a nearby state to pick up dead rats from a research facility. Once I was with my father and we passed a recently dead squirrel. My father slammed on the brakes, reached under the seat, pulled out a plastic bag, and handed it to me. I didn't even have to ask. I just jumped out, ran back and picked up the squirrel (first making sure it was really dead and not just stunned-I didn't really want to be bitten by an angry squirrel), got back in the car, and we sped off. At least my parents draw the line at dead skunks. I think.

A few years ago, my father picked me up at the airport, and we were dragging my luggage into the house. My mother met us at the door, gave me a hug (we only hug now that we live in different states and don't see each other more than about once a year - we're still British, you know), and said to my father, "We got a bird call while you were gone. You've got to go and pick up a Turkey Vulture." My father looked at me and raised his eyebrows. I said, "Sure, I'll go! Sounds like fun!" My father threw a large dog crate and a couple of big nets into the back of his Chevy S10.

I've had some experience with vultures before, actually. I volunteered for a short while at the Raptor Center at UC Davis, and the Turkey Vultures were everyone's favorites. They are highly intelligent, and when we went in to feed or clean out their cages (talk about stinky), some of them were tame enough that they'd come over and untie our shoelaces. They may be lumped into the raptor (birds of prey) designation due to superficial resemblances, but there is genetic evidence that vultures aren't really raptors, but are far more closely related to storks. This also makes sense if you look at their feet. They don't have the grasping talons of hawks and owls, and so can't pick up their dinner and carry it away, or even catch it in the first place.

This particular fairly young vulture had been hiding out in a culvert near a harvested corn field during the day. In the afternoon, he would cross the road and go up to this family's porch where they were leaving out hot dogs and steak for him. He then spent the nights on their porch, fairly safe from predators. After a few days, they finally realized that he couldn't or wouldn't fly for some reason and wasn't going to go away, so they got in touch with my mother. My parents do not recommend feeding your friendly neighborhood vulture hot dogs, by the way. They're about as good for the vulture as they are for humans. However, hot dogs can fill in in a pinch if you don't happen to regularly collect roadkill like SOME people.

My father and I arrived, and the woman told us that he was probably across the road in the culvert where he had been spending his days, so we grabbed our nets and marched over. As soon as he saw us, the vulture took off running, with me and my father in hot pursuit. At the time, my father was still playing soccer regularly (he played until he was 66 or 67 and his knees finally gave out on him), so he was in pretty good shape. This vulture obviously couldn't fly for some reason, but he sure could run, especially when he used his wings to give him a boost. The recently harvested corn field was mucky and uneven, and the vulture just ran circles around us. At one point my father almost had him, but tripped and fell (actually injuring his knee). I would try to cut the vulture off, but he just veered off in another direction and stayed well ahead of me.

Finally, he got tired of running and decided to make a beeline for the house across the road, where there was more cover, and he had been safe on the porch. He was far ahead of both of us, and I was freaking out in case he got hit by a car as he crossed the relatively busy county road. He ran up to the road stopped and looked both ways and ran across. Yes. I couldn't believe my eyes. I yelled to my father, "Did he really just look both ways?" My father saw it, too. This Turkey Vulture was smarter than most 10 year old humans. In his many trips across the road, he had obviously had a close call or two and learned from them.

We chased him around the farmyard, and eventually managed to trap him up against a fence. My father grabbed him, and turned around and handed him to me so he could talk to the woman. I put my arm around this very large bird, pinning his wings, while my father told me, "Keep his head up! Keep his head up or he'll vomit on you!" Thanks Dad. NOW YOU TELL ME. I quickly grabbed the vulture's neck and lifted as he tried to lean down to retch - mouth open, tongue out. I carefully kept his body pinned against mine and gently, but firmly held his head up, while he panted at me and looked in my eye - promising to vomit if I allowed him the slightest opportunity. Great. He was also more than a little smelly.

We eventually stuffed him into the dog crate and drove home. This was a while ago, and my parents get so many animals each year that they don't remember what happened to this particular vulture. He was possibly released. If not, all their unreleasable vultures have ended up in either zoos or nature centers.

This is Dexter, one of their more recent Turkey Vultures. Aptly named, but I'm pretty sure my parents don't watch the (really good, but more than somewhat gory) Showtime series. My father said he got the name because his left wing is injured.

It is illegal for most people to do what my parents do. My mother has federal and state licenses and is fairly strictly regulated. If you do find a sick, injured, or baby wild animal, call your state Department of Fish and Game/ Department of Natural Resources. You could also try a veterinarian or web search to find the number for a local wildlife rehabber.

Why was I reminded of this particular xkcd.com? Oh, right. I was listening to The Carpenters today in the car...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

PZ Myers!

Well, I actually cut band rehearsal on Thursday night. This is almost unheard of for me. The only times I've ever missed rehearsal, I was either ill or in England. I did have what I consider a really good reason, though. PZ Myers was speaking just down the road at Sierra College!!!

Author of the blog Pharyngula, PZ Myers is one of the top science bloggers AND one of the top two atheist bloggers (the other being the much "friendlier" Hemant Mehta). The Sierra College stop wrapped up a whirlwind eight day speaking tour of mostly Northern California for him that included UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and Stanford. I'm not sure how Sierra College managed to rate a stop, but I'd like to thank the Freethinkers of Sierra College for hosting.

His blog may be strident and snarky, particularly about religious insanity, but in person he really is very soft-spoken and polite. He gave a very interesting talk about creationist's sometimes seemingly deliberate misunderstanding of evolution and the differences in the ways creationists (including intelligent design advocates) and scientists get their points across to the general public.

During the question and answer period after the talk, a creationist in the audience actually identified himself and asked questions. I felt kind of sorry for him. His hands and voice were shaking. It must have been awful feeling as though he were the only theist (he wasn't, actually) completely surrounded by a sea of atheists. Oh, wait. I know exactly how that feels, as I'm sure did all of the other atheists in the audience.

Part of the exchange between PZ and the creationist went something like this:
Theist: Blah, blah, blah, ontological argument, blah, blah (Ok, so now maybe I'm being a little snarky. Oops)
PZ: [reasoned and rational explanation of the ontological argument and why it is based on circular, fallacious arguments]
Theist: No it's not!
PZ: [reasoned and rational explanation...need actual evidence]
Theist: No it doesn't!

PZ is well known for going out for drinks after he gives a talk, and Thursday was no exception. About 30 people met afterwards at a local brew pub (including the theist, surprisingly!), and guess who somehow managed to snag a seat right next to PZ! I'm not quite sure how that happened... Unfortunately, all I had was my phone, which doesn't take the best photos.


Thanks to Brett for taking the picture!

I got the opportunity to tell PZ that, when I first started an "atheist" blog, as I said in this post, my mother was very concerned that religious nutcases would shoot me or burn crosses in our front yard. I told her that there were other far more prominent atheists out there (meaning PZ, among others. Especially PZ) and I would be way down on the list. He's of the opinion that you just can't live your life in fear, and the vast majority of theists of any religion are decent people. It's only a very small percentage of the most radical theists who are actually dangerous.

The famous Crocoduck tie. There were two made, and the other belongs to Richard Dawkins (there are now knock-offs you can find on the internet). I really wish I'd remembered my camera...



PZ was recently interviewed by reddit.com, so you can see how soft-spoken he really is: