Thursday, 31 July 2008

You Know Gas Prices Are High When Texans...

...Start Driving Golf Carts!

HOUSTON -- In the garage where chiropractor Rick Peters once parked his Dodge pickup, two tiny electric cars now sit back-to-back next to his wife's small SUV.

For trips to work, to run errands or visit friends, Dr. Peters, 43 years old, and his wife, Kris, hop into the munchkin-size cars while their old gas guzzlers gather dust. Admittedly, it's cramped inside the miniautos, which move along city streets at just 25 miles per hour. But the Peterses are converts to their low-speed vehicles. "It makes so much sense for getting around. We go everywhere in it," says Mrs. Peters, 41.

It's a sure sign electric cars have a future when they're catching on in Texas. Others here, too, are abandoning the family car and driving to the office in what appear to be fancy little golf carts. Small battery-powered vehicles have been on the market for years but have mainly been used by workers driving around factories and university campuses.

The small cars are powered by batteries charged by plugging them into regular 110-volt house current. Though they do look like golf carts, they have heftier frames and more powerful engines. Now, with high gasoline prices driving booming sales, many are going to ordinary folks like the Peterses, who have fallen in love with gasoline-free transportation.

Orders at ZAP, a Santa Rosa, Calif., maker of small electric cars, have exploded to about 50 a day from just five six months ago. Shipments at Chrysler LLC's Global Electric Motorcars, or GEM, which made the Peterses' cars, have jumped 30% from last year's second quarter, with some of its 150 dealerships around the country tripling their sales.

Switching to tiny electric cars requires some big adjustments. With three children, the Peterses must use both their little cars when they take family outings. Every trip is an adventure into the land of the giants where they're dwarfed in traffic by SUVs and trucks. They've had to learn how far -- about 30 miles -- they can go on a single charge. The night they got their first car, they rousted a friend dressed in his pajamas for a test drive and he wound up having to help them push the car home.

The cars aren't for long-distance travel. On average, Andrew Kunev, also of Houston, can go about 25 miles on one charge in his Tic Tac-shaped three-wheeled electric car, which is technically a motorcycle and goes up to 40 mph. He sometimes plugs in his car at friends' homes for a refresher charge while he visits. To fit his 6-foot-2 frame into the tiny driver's compartment so that he can see properly out the windshield, Mr. Kunev has to recline in his seat.

It's a price he doesn't mind paying considering the gas savings -- more than $100 a month -- and the unexpected bonuses. "You wouldn't think it, but it's a chick-magnet," says the unmarried, 40-year-old chemical engineer, adding that women -- and pretty much everybody else, too -- approach him to talk about his unusual car.

Local Sensation
Owners now for two years, Elaine Triplett and her husband are pioneers in their small East Texas hometown of Palestine, where their tiny electric pickup is a local sensation and has inspired two other people they know to buy electric cars. At the request of her supermarket, she drove the gasoline-free vehicle into the store and parked it next to the produce section for Earth Day.

The Tripletts decided it made financial sense to buy the electric truck even when gasoline was costing them less than $2 a gallon. Their 9-foot-long truck is big enough for all their needs, including hauling lumber for a renovation project, and bringing home a 9-foot Christmas tree.

The Peterses have experienced their own neighborhood celebrity in the two months they've owned their GEM electric cars. On a recent trip to the doughnut shop, they met up with people snapping pictures with cellphones. "Everybody looks at you and waves," marveled 8-year-old Alex Peters. The family has been followed home by curious strangers. Other drivers have jumped out of their big cars at stoplights to run over and ask them about their vehicles.

Laws governing the roadworthiness of the little autos vary by state. In Texas, they're legal to drive only on streets with speed limits no higher than 35.

But some owners modify engines so the cars can travel much faster, and a few audacious drivers take them out on the highway. The Texas Department of Transportation recently got a call from a flabbergasted policeman who had stopped a "golf cart" on the freeway, says Kim Sue Lia Perkes, a spokeswoman for the agency. Starting Sept. 1, the department will no longer issue license plates for the tiny vehicles to dissuade drivers from using them like regular cars.

The Peterses' cars get about 30 miles from a full charge, which at about 15 cents per kilowatt hour, amounts to a 60-cent fill-up, or two cents a mile. Compare that with 20 cents a mile for a car that goes 20 miles on one $4 gallon of gasoline. Dr. Peters's chiropractic practice is just a few miles from his home, so he has no problem taking neighborhood streets to get there.

Enjoying the Breeze
Electric cars like the Peterses' can cost from about $7,000 to more than $18,000, depending on the model and accessories, though they paid about $10,000 altogether for the two cars, which they bought used off the Internet. Although the cars share many features with their bigger, gasoline-powered brethren, including blinkers and windshield wipers, they are decidedly more basic.

The Peterses' cars don't have air conditioning or even doors -- something that at first made Mrs. Peters particularly nervous when transporting the children. With the kids safely belted in, now she sees the extra breeze as an advantage in the Houston summer heat. The cars make for a bouncy ride along rough streets, and emit a whirring noise that seems to attract barking dogs.

Sharing the road with bigger cars requires extra caution and alertness, say owners. And drivers of normal-size cars sometimes get impatient with the slower, tinier vehicles. Dr. Peters recalls one driver who screamed an expletive-laced version of "get that thing off the road." Generally, though, faster drivers just pass him by. Then, Dr. Peters says, he usually catches up to them at the next light.

Feelin' Love


You make me feel like a sticky pistil...
leaning into a stamen
You make me feel like a mister sunshine himself
You make me feel like splendor in the grass...

While we're rollin'
Dance with me baby
You make me feel like the Amazon's runnin' thighs

You make me feel love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love
You make me feel love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love

You make me feel like a candy apple
All red and horny
You make me feel like I wanna be a dumb blonde
In a centerfold, the girl next door

And I would open the door and...
I'd be all wet
With my tits soaking through this tiny little t-shirt...
That I'm wearing

And you would open the door and tie...
Me up to the bed
Lover, but I don't know who I am
Am I Barry White? Am I Isis? Ohhh...

Lover, I'm laced with your unconscious
Oh baby babe babe baby
I will be your Desdemona ahhhhh...
Take your timeYou make me feel Ahaa

You make me feel WooWoo baby
You make me feel Ahaa mmm
You make me feel loved

How's Your Feng Shui?

I've tried Feng Shui but using math and a compass to decorate my house was too much...

The entrance to your home is:
A little inviting - you have a welcome mat or plant
Plain or somewhat messy
Very inviting and beautiful

Can you see your bedroom door from your bed?
You have a full view of your door
You have a partial view of your door

How cluttered is your house?
Very cluttered. You don't throw much away.
Somewhat cluttered. There's some stuff you could get rid of.
Not cluttered at all. You are a minimalist when it comes to stuff.

Your kitchen:
Is bare and bland.
Is full of stuff on the counters.
Is warm and clean - with a vase flowers or bowl of fruit.

How often do you rearrange your furniture?
Every year or so
Every few months
Hardly ever

How much natural sunlight do you let into your home?
A fair amount
Hardly any
A lot

How many plants do you have in your home?
One or two
You have at least one plant in almost every room

Your Feng Shui is Amazing
Your home is the perfect place to work, play, and unwind. Beautiful and streamlined - you understand the importance of design and flow. Your home is not weighted down by clutter, but it's not austere or sterile. You treat your home as well, and as a result, it treats you well!

Wow! I like that! I figured that the house plants question would get me big time. I can't have house plants. I'm highly allergic to pollen. I also have a black thumb. As for the kitchen counters, I keep them neat. Every day Luis makes a mess and every night before I go to bed I clean it up! So it is a constant battle, but I deal with it. And the clutter... if it were up to me, there'd be none, but we both do have too much stuff.

What's Your Money Personality?

Uh-oh... I'm in trouble now!

How would you describe your spending habits?
You buy as little as you need, and even sometimes put off important purchases.
You buy whatever you want now, and you figure you'll pay for it later.
You end up buying a lot of stuff you don't need. In fact, you have so many things, you forgot where you got them all.
You buy only what you need. You understand the difference between what you need and what you want.

How would you describe your saving habits?
Any savings you have are pure coincidence. You don't save as a matter of habit.
You don't really have much in savings to speak of. You do, however, have a lot of debt.
You have a lot of money in savings. Savings come first.
You save a percentage of your income every month.

If a friend asked you for a big loan (as much as you make in a month), would you loan out the money?
Yes, but you would just give them the money as a gift. No strings attached.
Probably not. Not unless it was a truly life or death emergency and you had lots of extra funds.
You would loan them whatever you have.
You would consider it, but only if it was written out in a contract.

If you bought a home, how would you do it?
Get a modest home, and pay mostly cash
Get whatever loan you could for the biggest home you could afford
You can't imagine ever being in the position to buy a home
Get a sensible loan for a house that you can afford

How would you describe the nuts and bolts of your finances?
You don't have many bills - and you always pay them on time
You pay the minimum on your bills, and take out a new credit card when you need more funds
You pay your bills on time, and you're paying down any debt that you have ahead of schedule
You pay whatever bills you can, but you've also racked up a lot of debt

This should be an interesting answer. My money habits are erratic...

Your Money Personality is Chaotic
When it comes to money, you don't know how much is really coming in or going out. And you don't know how much you need to live... and possibly how much you have right now. You spend recklessly on whatever strikes you at the moment. And as far as savings go, you don't have any. You're lucky if you make it to the next paycheck. You need to start keeping track of what you spend, what you save, and what you have. It may not be pretty, but it's better to know than not know!
Yup. Hit that nail right on the head!

Would You Make a Good 1930s Wife?

Check all that apply to you or that you agree with.
You would ask your husband's opinion before making a big decision or purchase.
X You tell risque or vulgar stories.
You would often remark on your husband's strength and masculinity.
You smoke, drink, gamble, or use drugs.
You keep snacks in the refrigerator that a man would like for late night eating.
X You walk around the house in your stocking feet.
X You are not crabby first thing in the morning. You wake up with a pleasant disposition.
You wear red nail polish.
You keep yourself dainty, feminine, and smelling nice.
X You use slang or profanity.
You are a good seamstress. You can sew your own clothes and clothes for the children.
You wear your pajamas while cooking.

You have some of the attributes of an ideal 1930's wife... but you probably didn't intend it to be that way. You don't buy into retro gender roles, though you do embrace your femininity at times. A 1930's man may find you passable, but you probably wouldn't want anything to do with him.
So right!

Saving Gas - Not Just For Tree-Huggers

Article (my comments follow):
"Greenies aren't the only ones looking to limit their car usage these days. High gas prices are fueling inflation for everyone across America. No matter if you drive a Prius or a Hummer, you can probably stand to save a few bucks on gas right now. Here is our collection of tips for getting the most out of each gallon...

Use the cruise, clean the car: Forecast Earth covers the classic tricks, such as using cruise control and maintaining your car. This is a great list to begin with.

Hypermile your way to better mpg: Pulse-and-glide driving is how those ultra-efficient hypermilers get great mileage, even without a hybrid car.

Carpool at least once a week: Ask around your office and see whose route meets up with yours. Parents can also arrange carpools for driving kids to school. Alternate who drives, and you'll automatically cut gas costs.

Drive slower: Driving just 10 miles slower can reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent. And no, you won't burn more gas because it takes a tiny bit longer to get to your destination.

Don't sit idle: When you let your car idle, you might as well light a dollar bill on fire and toss it out the window. It's been proven that stopping and restarting a car uses the same gas as leaving a car idling for 6 seconds with the air conditioner on. Today's fuel-injected cars don't need to warm up in cold weather either.

Reduce air drag: The Rocky Mountain Institute estimates you can save 15 to 30 gallons of gas per year if you take off a roof rack just half the time. Besides, you only need it for skis when there's actually snow on the ground.

Ditch the drive-thru: One test in Toronto found that you can get a fast-food breakfast faster and burn less gas in your car if you park and go into the restaurant. Considering how much idling cars do in drive-thru lanes, this isn't surprising.

Think big, and light: Some of EcoGeek's gas-saving tips are government-based (like intelligent traffic lights and minimum fuel economy; feel free to suggest these to your local and federal representatives!). But everyone can carry less junk in the trunk.

Gas prices may not drop dramatically any time soon. So perhaps you're thinking about a new car -- like a hybrid. They've lost the tree-hugger status and are pretty mainstream. Certainly, SUVs aren't selling very well these days. Need some car advice?

Rethinking the cost of hybrid cars: The Rocky Mountain Institute compares the Prius to the non-hybrid Accord and Civic and shows how the hybrid comes out ahead.
Comparing hybrid to hybrid: EcoGeek summarizes the latest findings.
Getting to know your Prius: A few handy resources for the new owner.
Finding the best green cars: Yahoo! Autos Green Center is fully loaded with specs on current models, from hybrid to ethanol to ultra-efficient gasoline.

If you have an older car with great mpg and you're wondering if your ride could be even more eco-friendly, check out EcoGeek's analysis of the greenest cars coming in 2010. Just don't fall for a ZAP car or that bunk about running cars with water."
I like some of this and apparently I'm already doing my part. I don't pick up the kids. I definitely don't idle in fast-food drive-through lanes. I have an excellent vehicle when it comes to mileage. I don't have any kind of extra drag, like the spoiler that sticks up a yard in the air (one of the stupider looks on modern cars) and no roof rack.
Pulse and glide driving sounds interesting. I do that when I can out of habit... although I can tell you that almost none of these tips work on the 14,000lb terror that is the ambulance. And I'm not going to that slower!
I hate the idea of driving 60mph instead of 70, and not only because I like the feeling of going fast, but because it is safer on the whole to drive around the same general speed of traffic. When you are the slowest vehicle on the road, you are more likely to be tailgated and cut off by the crazies. And this is New Jersey - home of the road-rage crazies!
My husband and I did all kinds of math around three or four years ago regarding the benefits versus cost of the greener vehicle, such as the Prius. I also watched Penn & Teller's episode of Bullshit! regarding the eco-friendly cars versus the more prevalent gas engines and they didn't endorse the hybrid vehicles. The weight of the vehicle offset some of the savings and the size is no good for anyone with a family. (That is a non-issue for me, but not for others.) Now, however, the math may work differently due to the fact that gas is more than twice the price it was then.
Starting the engine every time I am at a stop light is nuts. It may save, but it will add to the time I can move and until you have experienced New Jersey driving, you don't know what a detrement that is! Sounds like a cop-out, and maybe it is, but "patience" is not a common word here. I think my driving is already far and beyond most just because I don't ride my brakes, tailgate or play musical lanes.
We'll see.

Answer to

Tom SheepandGoats commented:

"Alright, let me weigh in here.

Ima Hogg, Texas philanthropist. Here was a person with a self-deprecating name who actually amounted to something. Is there a moral here? The more modest the name, the greater the person? (contrary to urban legend, there was no Ura Hogg….google the name).

Or what about a boy named Sue? His fists got hard, his wits got keen. It was that name that helped to make him strong.

Let Nosmo King (as first and middle names) alone…. it comes from the hospital sign…. maybe the last thing a woman in labor remembered seeing before she went under….. “No Smoking.”

Same with Oranjello and Lemojello, from the hospital menu. As for me, I’ll stick with good ol fashioned Bible names, like Shearjashub or Mahershalalhashbaz, the name’s of Isaiah’s kids."
OK, I get it. And I am well-read - I have read about Ima Hogg:
"After the birth of his only daughter, Jim Hogg wrote to his brother, "Our cup of joy is now overflowing! We have a daughter of as fine proportions and of as angelic mien as ever gracious nature favor a man with, and her name is Ima!" Even though it was unusual for the time, Ima Hogg had no middle name. Her first name was taken from her uncle Thomas Hogg's epic Civil War poem The Fate of Marvin, which featured two young women named Ima and Leila. According to Virginia Bernhard's biography of Ima Hogg, "there are some who believe that James Stephen Hogg … named his only daughter Ima Hogg to attract the attention of Texas voters" in a year when he was running in a close race for district attorney of the Seventh District in Texas, which he won. Alternatively, correspondence from Jim Hogg indicates he may not have been conscious of the combined effect of his daughter’s first and last names.

Ima Hogg later recounted that "my grandfather Stinson lived fifteen miles [24 km] from Mineola and news traveled slowly. When he learned of his granddaughter's name he came trotting to town as fast as he could to protest but it was too late. The christening had taken place, and Ima I was to remain." During her childhood, Hogg's elder brother William often came home from school with a bloody nose, the result of defending, as she later recalled, "my good name". Throughout her adult years, Hogg signed her name in a scrawl that left her first name illegible. Her personal stationery was usually printed "Miss Hogg" or "I. Hogg", and she often had her stationery order placed in her secretary's name to avoid questions. Hogg did not use a nickname until several months before her death, when she began calling herself "Imogene". Her last passport was issued to "Ima Imogene Hogg".

Contrary to popular belief, Ima did not have a sister named Ura. Texas legend insists that when Jim Hogg ran for re-election as Texas governor in 1892 he often travelled with Ima and a friend of hers and introduced them as his daughters Ima and Ura. Ima Hogg maintained throughout her life that this never happened. She was frequently forced to dispel the myth; hundreds of people wrote her letters inquiring whether her name was real and if she really had a sister named Ura. The Kansas City Star even invented another sister, Hoosa."
There is undoubtedly a moral to every story. But why deliberately or unwittingly set up your kid(s) for a particularly hard time? Look at the formerly named Tallulah Does the Hula. I'm positive that this would have gotten her off the hook for patricide/matricide. Granted that the legal system allows for name changes (I had the misfortune to own the surname "Trebilcox" and practically ran to pay the money and post the ads and change that sucker at the speed of light) and any kind of 'cide is a little extreme (not to mention unlawful), but some people probably come out of their childhood feeling just a little beaten up. I felt that way and my name was the least of my troubles.
Now Angelina Jolie-Pitt and the brood have added Knox Whatever and the sister (with fairly standard-issue French names) to the pile of weirdness that is celebrity nomenclature. What will become of us?!

Post Number 1,000!

This is it! My 1,000th blog post!

Even more staggering, this is my 363rd post of 2008!

Obviously, some posts are better than others. There are weekly memes, weekly posts about the Word.A.Day e-mails I receive Monday through Friday, posts about my cousin's trek through the Pacific Coast Trail, a multitude of astronomy-related posts and of course numerous rants about people and their unbelievable behaviour. And my somewhat unconventional and irreverent look at different things.

And I'm completely sacreligious.

But one thing I have learned about the world from blogging is that no matter how many people don't see my take on things as I do, there are so, so many who do! When I make fun of celebrity names and disparage the nuts that are too rigid in a religious way, there are plenty out there who tell me that they agree.

I used to think I was the only person who felt this or that way about something, but now I always think that there is someone out there who will agree wholeheartedly.

But the people I admire the most are those who read my posts, shrug it off as Aislínge's just crazy, and then come back to read more, undaunted in their beliefs and letting me have mine! I want to be more like that - instead of being the kind of person I dislike - rigid and unrelenting that my way is the ONLY way!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Hiking The Pacific Trail Part IV

The honour of Post #999 goes to my cousin, Dawn!

"Hi family and friends!

Well, it's been 14 days since Bridgeport, CA. And I've hiked another 138 miles. Leaving Bridgeport, I passed a Marine Mountain Training camp on the drive up to Sonora Pass, and wondered how Kev was doing. I bet he spent some time training at this facility, actually. On my way down into Bridgeport, the guy who's in charge of the facility's training ops actually stopped and gave us a ride partway into town, and I got an interesting earful about what goes on at the camp. It made me want to join the Marines just so I could get a job as an instructor there!

At the Bridgeport post office, I got rid of my 2.5 lb bear canister plus 5 more lbs miscellaneous stuff by sending it ahead to Echo Lake in the bear canister. My pack now felt super light at 27 lbs (and that's with 4 days of food for the next leg of my journey). I'm making small steps toward this whole minimalist mentality, but I'm still worlds away from acheiving an under 20 lb pack like some of my fellow hikers have done. I'll have to start buying lighter gear in order to shave more weight out of my pack. And I'm considering it.

7/16- I got a late start the first day back on the trail, because I couldn't get a hitch until 11:30am -- so I actually ran the first five miles off and on, just for fun, and because I could. My pack was so light, I felt like skipping, really. After 24 miles, I camped by a sweet little lake, without a soul around. Just how I like it. There wasn't a hint of wind, so I could hear every little woods noise.
The moon was super-full, and shining on my campsite like a Hollywood premiere spotlight until 4am. Which was good, because I was finally sleeping with my food bag by my head, having given up the bear canister (I've finally gone over to the dark side, folks. What was it I said I'd never do? Yeah. Exactly.) With the full moon, I figured that at least I could SEE the bear coming. And why was THAT comforting? I don't know.

Anyway, I woke up at least 20 times in the first 3 hours to check on whatever tiny little noise I'd most likely just imagined. Sleeping with food by one's head is definitely NOT a recipe for a good night's sleep. After 3am, I finally just stopped caring and slept for the rest of the night.

7/17 -- The next day I paid for my previous day's sprint with a pulled muscle in my left leg, but I still did 23 miles. By the end of the day the pain was mostly gone. One of the things I love about this kind of hiking is that I've learned that I can overcome the idea of pain pretty easily by now. It's really liberating.

The hiking today was really unique. I walked through two gorgeous steep-walled canyons, full of lush wildflowers - some of which I'd never seen before. I also walked over a rocky, sandy stretch that had sand in all the colors of the rainbow, it seemed. Blue, green, purple, red, was fantastic. The trail looked striped. This kind of scenery is ample reward for the strenuousness of backcountry hiking.

It was still hard to get to sleep that night, worrying about food/bear situation, but I wasn't as nervous as last night. If the bears are out here, they seem to be ignoring me for now.

7/18 - At 5:50am, I set out to do another 30 mile day. That's a record for me. I'm not a morning person, and am certainly NOT into early morning excercising... but I needed to make it to Echo Lake (and a payphone) so I could call my mom and tell her to join me tomorrow instead of on Sunday. I managed to get 15 miles done by 1pm.

I pulled up to a major road crossing at Carson Pass to find a Visitor's information center with a shaded porch and a VERY amenable ranger/docent manning the desk. He was passing out chilled oranges to all the thruhikers who came by. I rolled it around on my sunburned face before I ate it, and it felt like heaven.

The docent wouldn't even let me fill up my own water bladder -- he insisted that he do it for me. This guy was full-service. There happened to be a payphone at the visitor's center, so I was able to call my mom and get our rendezvous all set up ahead of time.

With the pressure to do 30 miles by nightfall taken off, I hung out on the porch for another 20 minutes, chatting with some fellow thruhikers... just long enough for a trail angel named Chris Strohm to arrive. He's a PCT trail docent and enjoys hosting thruhikers. He overheard me talking on the payphone to the Echo Lake post office and offered to drive me into South Lake Tahoe and have me stay in his house for the night. Could you resist such a delicious offer? I couldn't. I mean, I'm not made of stone.

So the 30 mile day turned into a 15, which was fine for now. Skipping ahead was SO worth it, by the way. Chris' house was amazing -- he'd designed it himself, and it was made out of beautiful wood and natural stone, cathedral ceilings, all in a gorgeous mountain setting. Palatial, by the standards I'd gotten used to since the beginning of this trip! By the end of the evening, 3 fellow thruhikers had also been taken in by Chris for the evening, so we prepared a huge feast of fresh salad, fruit and tri-tip and ate until it was all gone --not hard to acheive when you've got 4 thruhikers sitting down to chow. Those boys can EAT.

I can't keep up with them, not that I would even want to try. Your average 25 year old male thruhiker probably burns 7,000 calories a day. They actually have trouble consuming enough calories to keep from losing too much weight, if you can believe it. Female hikers don't have that problem. Our metabolisms are just too efficient. Sigh. Hey, I mean it'd be kind of cool to be able to pack away 7 plates worth of food and not bat an eye (my 20 year hiking partner did just that when we were hiking the Appalachian Trail)... but then, I look at that kind of egregious display of gluttony from an outsider's perspective, and realize that it's kind of revolting to those uninitiated in the thruhiker lifestyle. And suddenly I don't really feel like I'm missing out, you know?

Besides, what may be disgusting to the rest of the world is simply a matter of necessity to these guys. Hard to believe, but true.

7/19- Mom and her entourage (our friends, the Herbert family, who kindly drove my mom the 4 hours up here from Oakland) arrived the next morning and we set out all our gear on Chris' lawn and weeded through what we needed to bring. Mom carried a 30 lb pack, and I carried 37 lbs out to Echo Lake. Ten extra pounds of gear felt really harsh after hiking with a 27 lb pack, so I welcomed the 8 mile a day pace we'd agreed upon. The Herberts dropped us off at Carson Pass, and we hiked 5 miles up the trail before the sun went down. Mom was taking pictures of every passing wildflower, and had her first official pee in the woods. She was tickled to have gotten away with brazenly mooning the countryside without having gotten caught.

So far, so good, I thought. Sleeping on the ground proved to be more or a challenge. I could hear her thrashing around and cursing at the ground for most of the night, and I was empathetic. She'd never slept on the ground before. Even with a foam air mattress, it's an adjustment. It took me a handful of days during my first long hike to learn to shift position without fully waking up, and I kept telling Mom that she'd get used to it eventually... but I could tell that she wasn't buying my story.

7/20 - The second day of hiking was more challenging. We had our first day of rain since I started this trip in June, and it didn't get above 60 degrees all day. Mom was about to pass out by the 7th mile, but we were only two miles from a major road and its tantilizing promise of civilization, motels and mattresses. I bribed her with a motel room in South Lake Tahoe -- a mattress to sleep on and a shower -- and guess what! She wasn't made of stone, either. She rallied and we managed to catch a ride into town and find a cute little motel to stay in, right by the Lake.

Everthing about that place was sweet. A breakfast place to the left, an Applebee's to the right, an upscale supermarket, a Starbucks and an outfitter in the strip mall across the street. An internet cafe only a block away. We were in hiker heaven, folks. Like many a seasoned hiker, mom zoned out to the motel widescreen TV after a dinner of ribs and salad. She was getting into the groove, it seemed.

What is it about the motel TV that's so magnetic? It's like you're compelled to watch it. It doesn't even have to be interesting. During one of my more desperate moments (the teeny little redneck trail town I found myself in didn't have digital cable), I've even settled for Spongebob Squarepants reruns... but it was still completely satisfying after 10 days of being out in the woods, cut off from this particular symbol of civilization.

7/21 - We spent this day resting Mom's feet and resupplying for our 8 day hike. We retired to Chris Strohm's house for one more night on a mattress before hitting the trail again.

7/22 and 7/23 - Mom and I spent a day and one night camping by Echo Lake, then headed back into the wilderness the next morning. The hiking was tough, but Mom did a great job.

We had our first swim of the trip at Aloha Lake which was warm, shoulder deep and startlingly green-blue. I think Mom finally caught a glimpse of why I love this hiking stuff. The only way to experience places like these is to walk to them. Toward the end of the day, we met Greyhound and Crispy Critter, two hikers who were doing a section hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail. Within 15 minutes of meeting Mom, they her the trail name "Baby Steps". What is it about me and trail names? I've never been given a trail name, and I've hiked over 3000 miles of trail. Mom's out here 3 days, and she's already got one. Where's the justice in that?!

So I'm officially taking suggestions. Let's hear 'em, folks. The most creative monniker wins.

7/24-26th -- Over the next 3 days, we hiked 27 miles. I could see that Mom was getting a little stronger each day, but sleeping on the ground was beginning to take its toll on her. By the fourth day, she'd had enough and bailed off the trail at Barker Pass where there was a trailhead with cars and a particularly friendly local sheriff who offered to drive her to the Truckee Greyhound station. I was sad to see her go, but I figured that it was probably for the best, since she wasn't truly enjoying herself at this point.

It turned out to be a good decision, because the next 10 miles were all steep switchbacks. I practically ran up the switchbacks, excited to be hiking at a fast pace again. I finished 19 miles, and camped on top of a beautiful windy ridge, alone in this huge hotel of a tent that my mom and I had been sharing.

7/27 - I woke up to the smell of fire. I nervously zipped open my tent flap and could barely see the outline of the mountain range that was only a mile away. Praying that the fire wasn't nearbly, I packed up and booked it for Soda Springs, my next trail town 15 miles away. I made it in by 4pm, and found out that Yosemite Valley had a wildfire raging over 1600 acres and that was where all the smoke was coming from. It was pretty thick around the whole Tahoe area and would only get worse if I chose to keep hiking north toward all the wildfires that were burning up by Burney Falls State Park, only 80 miles north of Soda Springs. There's a 100 mile section of trail up ahead that's been officially closed because it's still burning with wildfires. The state's not even fighting the fires in this section because the fires aren't threatening any residential area.

So much of the state is currently burning that California is choosing to focus its firefighting efforts in areas that are more populated. So the PCT is alight, and the hikers are being forced to take a bus around this section. Which makes sense to me. I hiked through an old burn section up in Oregon last year, and it was ugly, boring and filthy. I checked the weather forecast for the Quincy area (where the trail is closed due to the fires), and the forecast was "Smoky". I didn't even know that "Smoky" was a forecast option! Not rain, not sun, not 20% chance of showers... just "Smoky". I figured that didn't bode well for the next 80 miles of trail between me and Quincy since the Soda Springs area was pretty thick with smoke itself and it had at least rated a recognizable forecast of sun, sun and more sun all week long.

After some hemming and hawing and a little twinge of guilt, I decided today skip the dingy, smoky trail for the next 200 miles and skip north to the PCT trail town of Ashland, OR, where the annual Shakespeare Festival awaits. I've been looking forward to Ashland since I got on the trail. It's totally artsy-fartsy and granola-crunchy. My kind of people.

I just ordered a new shelter from this online website that makes 7 oz tarps out of Cuben fiber (a revolutionary ultra-light fiber that's apparently all the rage amongst the trail gear heads at the moment). I'm having it delivered to Ashland, so once it arrives, I'll be back on the PCT for good. I'm taking a bus up to Ashland tomorrow (Wednesday, 7/29) and I'll be there until my tarp arrives on Thursday.

So if anyone wants to call or email, I'll have access to both forms of communication until Friday morning. Not that I'll be bored with all there is to do in Ashland, but I'd love to chat with anyone who feels like checking in!

Love to you all,

Mens Room Mural

Men's Restroom Mural - Read before looking at picture!

Edge Designs is an all-women run company that designs interior office space. They had a recent opportunity to do an office project in NYC. The client allowed the women of this company a free hand in all design aspects. The client was a company that was also run by all women execs. The result, well, we all know that men never talk, never look at each other... and never laugh much in the restroom.... The men's room is a serious and quiet place. But now, with the addition of one mural on the wall... let's just say the men's restroom is a place of laughter and smiles.

TMI Tuesday: Language (A Tribute to George Carlin)

1. What is your language pet peeve. (example 'hot water heater', why would you heat hot water)

The unbelievable use of the word "like". It has, like, completely, like, permeated everyone's, like, the word "the". You see what I mean...

2. What is your favorite word? Both dirty and clean?

Puscillanimous. I love that word. Obsequious - that is a good one, too. How about ubiquitous? Another truly delightful word. I don't have a favourite "dirty" word - I don't consider words to be clean or dirty. How do you put dirt on a word?

3. What is the one word you cannot spell?

Hmmm. Oh, yes. I don't know if this counts, since it is French, however, it is in common use. Hor's Duvoures... no, hor's devours... no. I don't know. Even when I look it up I have trouble with it. That is unusual for me. I'm an excellent speller.

4. What is the one word you always pronounce wrong?

Another tough one. Oh, yes, I know. Archipelago. I consistently say it incorrectly.

5. If you could erase one popular catchphrase from the english language, what would it be?

There must be a million. I need to think about that. Maybe the use of the word "seriously" as a sentence.

Bonus (as in optional): The late, and very hot Michael Hutchence (INXS) once sang, "Words are weapons, sharper than knives". What is the most hurtful thing you have ever said to anyone? Was it deliberate or accidental? What was the most hurtful thing ever said to you? Do you think it was deliberate or accidental?

I don't like thinking about the most hurtful thing I've said to someone. But the funny thing is, I carried a lot of guilt around for saying something to Ray once when I was maybe 12 or 13 but he doesn't recall it. We'd argued about something and very coldly I had said, "You're not my father." This man has raised me and it was something said to be completely hurtful. But it mustn't have been too bad - when I confessed years later to being sorry about it, he never remembered it. And I rarely feel guilty about things, so I wasted a lot of bad feeling on something that was never an issue.

What was the most hurtful thing ever said to me...? Wow. Hmmmm. Why is it when I do these things my mind sometimes goes blank? I can't recall something that jumps right out. But people have said hurtful things, sometimes accidentally, sometimes purposefully.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Saturday Six: Episode #223

1. What’s the last card game you played, and with whom did you play?

Oh, gods, I have no idea. The last game would have been Cribbage but when? I don't know. A long time!

2. What’s the last board game you played, and with whom did you play?

Um... backgammon, with my father. We love playing backgammon.

3. What’s the last computer game you played, and with whom did you play?

I don't play computer games. Not even a little bit!

4. Take the quiz: Which chess piece are you?

Wow, this is not the best quiz for me. I don't play chess at all. I'm intelligent, but I can't focus long enough to pull that off! And I find it boring. The thinking time is ridiculously long.

5. Of the games you listed in the first three answers, did you win any of the matches?

Yes, I won both playing Cribbage and at least four of the several rounds of backgammon.

6. If you could only play one single game for the rest of your life, which game would you play and why would you choose it?

Well... I don't know. Maybe the 15-each Dominoes. I enjoy Dominoes as well! But six each side is not enough.

Have You Ever Had...

...Just one of those days?

I did, today. The devil got me. Two little heinous conversations in a 30-minute period and *POOF* the whole day is right down the tubes. I was there until 1645 - I got in at 0545. A LONG bloody day!

I figure this would be an optimal time to get this off my chest... a rant. A rant about those really stupid magnetic ribbons that too many people have on the bumper of their cars! I hate those things.

Call me an unfeeling wretch. I don't have a problem with supporting your favourite group or whatever. I support our troops that are overseas, for example. But 1. I have my strong doubts that a single penny goes toward that group and 2. what is the purpose for announcing every group you are into? And on your vehicle, no less - because other drivers need that kind of distraction.

Well, I have the perfect picture! I was not driving when I saw this, it was on someone's vehicle when we went to the Balloon Festival (so named for the many balloons I saw - none of them airbourne! Oops, did I say that?). I had to take the image of this!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Saturday 9: We Travel Well

1. What part of the world and country do you live in?

I live in what is considered the Northern Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere of the planet Earth. I live in the United States of America, the northwestern portion, in a state called New Jersey.

2. What is the furthest from home that you have been, and where is it?

I have been to Inverness, Scotland, very far north, in the Eastern part of the Northern Hemisphere.

3. What travel destination have you enjoyed the most?

All of them.

4. What travel destination have you enjoyed the least?

None of them.

5. Is there somewhere you’d like to visit but have not, and where is it?

Everywhere I haven't been. Mostly New Zealand.

6. Do you prefer traveling to see historic places or to hit the beach and relax?

Historic places, by and far.

7. What popular vacation destination have you never considered because you think you’d not like it?

Mmmmm. I don't know. Maybe Atlantic City.

8. Where did you travel to most recently?

Last trip was to Houston, Texas, in the mid-south of the United States.

9. Do you like day trip “mini-vacations”?

I do.

The Vast Hole that is Our System of Jurisprudence

If the jurispredunce system was good, would we still have criminals?

Realistically, the answer is yes. It is the nature of human beings to push the boundaries. To see how far one can go. Or, sometimes, just basic survival demands it.

People will say that we've too many laws, too many rules. It comes up in the workplace, on the squad, in everyday life. But once society gets too big (more than two people), rules need to be established. It begins as little things: don't drive too fast, call in to the office if you can't make it in. But then there is someone who bends the rules or finds a loophole or a way around the rules.

Then you rewrite the rules to work.

And then you have people demanding to know why we don't do this or do that, and you are explaining that the verbiage works this way or that. Sometimes I just want to say, "Suck it up and deal with it." Instead, when people tell me they want to leave I hear myself saying, "You need to do what is best for yourself." Which is true, but much more delicate than I'd like.

But then there is always someone saying, "I'm gonna sue."

The first thing I think is, "Do you really want to fall into the vast hole that is our system of jurisprudence? Think carefully about this." I would not advise people to not see a lawyer; I'd never say that. In fact, when it comes to documents, I encourage people to get legal advice once they utter that. I have that much confidence - and I know how the system works. But forget work - I don't hear it there more than anywhere else.

Possible any place!

People love to threaten to bring a lawsuit against another. Unless you have definitive proof (like a botched medical job that is clearly documented as fixable and it is just screwed up), don't do it. This kind of undertaking takes an inordinate amount of time and effort and may net you nothing. It also may get you a positive verdict but the money won't ever be seen. The unfortunate thing is so many people look at lawsuits as their ticket to instant money.

There is no such thing. Or, at the very least, it is very, very rare. And the hell that you'll go through most likely won't make it worth it. But I still hear it all the time.

Hot Air Balloons and the Lowest Common Denominator

Fairs are fun; big outdoor events are entertaining. However, there are somethings that can be renovated; or just offset by introducing more options... and then there are the attendees!
This was my second time attending the Readington, New Jersey Ballooning Festival. I loved it the first time, minus the 100°F weather, and it was entertaining once again two years following. I'm not surehowever, that I was entertained by the same things this year that I was in 2006.

We got to Jerry and Kelly's around 1230, waited for Jay and Kate to make it, and left around 1415 to head down. It was an hour trip, maybe slightly less. We went to the huge field (that's right, folks, New Jersey does have huge fields. Shocking, I know), clearly desegregating the trucks from the cars (I had a chuckle over it), and parked. We walked to the entrance and presented out tickets, went in and began walking about the fair. This fair is almost perfect with one teeny exception... it is on the tarmac for the airfield. This is erroneous to call it an airfield. At any rate, the macadam soaked in the heat of the sun to the point where I could feel it through the thick plastic soles of my sandals (they are about an inch thick - I do not wear flipflops). Other than that, however, the setting is quite pleasant. While the sun was strong, it was not nearly as offensive as in 2006.
What was offensive that while there is only a tiny percentage of us that do not enjoy completely disgusting but (from what others tell me) delicious "food", that bit of the crowd - all three of us - should be catered to by someone. The list of foods served there, you ask?

hot dogs
french fries

Sounds pretty standard, right?

cheese steaks
fried dough (is that the same thing?)
gyros (pronounced yee-roze)
falafals (spelling?)
calzones (NOT what you are thinking - trust me)
corn dogs
popcorn (slathered in caramel)

I don't doubt that there are some "foods" I left out (I can't recall all of them no matter how gross they all were). Ice cream, Italian ices, and soda, Snapple and water abounded as well. But most - all - of what was offered was fried or greasy or both. Take the calzones. I know how calzones are made; these were fried and then baked. I have never known calzones to be fried.

Do you really want me to go on?

Absolutely, you do. What's wrong with serving foods of this nature? People enjoy them and clearly it is just this one time, what is the harm?

I can't remember the last time I felt thin in a crowd. I'm 5'4" and I weight 180lbs. This doesn't make me svelte. And it seems in the current time that I will not be creeping (or plummeting) down to my right weight. I estimate that this is somewhere around 135lbs, factoring age and general body structure. Why are you estimating, you ask. Well, I'm 40 now and the last time I was my right weight, I was 19 years old. I don't remember the weight I was at that time.
It isn't right that I am about 50lbs over my right weight. I had gotten down to 172lbs; it lasted a little while, but I've gained twenty of it back and don't see it heading down again in the foreseeable future. But here are some other statistics: heart rate - 80; blood pressure - 110/72, LDL - 110, HDL - 29, triglycerides - 90 (I think, I'll have to look at my bloodwork again), total cholesterol count - 139.
Like those numbers? Me, too.

I love bready things and I crave sugar. I find it challenging to stay away from crackers and gold fish (not the swimming ones). But I don't touch fried foods. I don't even know if I like them, I am not willing to take that chance. I don't care for hot dogs or hamburgers. I do like soft ice cream, but I can't tell you the last time I had it (it wasn't within 2008, I can tell you that). I avoided the popcorn (I do love caramel) but keeping my sugar down and not becoming diabetic is still high on the things I'd like to avoid list.
This brings us to the attendees.
There were pleanty of skinny little things wandering about that fair. I even saw one or two that I found myself feeling envy - wouldn't it be nice to look like her? There were two mother of small babies or children that even looked good (yes, two - I counted). And then... there was everyone else.

I've seen enough chubby babies to know that some of them are just rollypolly and they'll thin out and lose all that - the true definition of baby fat. So most babies I discounted as heading down the right road (although there were just enough to wonder if some aren't being overfed or fed the wrong things. However, babies are not known for their ability to burn off their intake once they are over the age of four months or so and then once they begin walking, then they make tracks all over. They begin to even out as they become more and more mobile. Matthew shows that - the moment he began crawling and subsequently walking, he immediately began to grow up but not out.
Everything over two was fair game, however, and as someone who doesn't pull my punches and since this is my forum to express what ever it is that may be preying on my mind, I am not about to tell you that I was thinking kind things. Like Bill Engvall, I wasn't thinking, "Oooooh, I bet she just has a thyroid thing!" There were plenty of enormously fat people, from two or three years old right on up... to about 50 - maybe 60. I suspect enormously overweight people don't make it too far past that age range as their bodies - specifically their hearts - cannot take the extra load.

I get that adults make their beds and then are forced to lie in them; but how do you let your four-year-old turn into a diet case? Don't tell me that you as the parent can't control it. My parents did not keep me from any cookies or crackers but they definitely restricted how many and how often I ate "junk foods" in the course of the day. They also would not allow me to turn into a television junkie and I was not only encouraged to play outside, but preferred to be outside. How was I disciplined? By being sent to my room.

Kids now have too many things at their disposal brought about by the entertainment industry that do not encourage them to be out-of-doors or even moving, with the exception of overdevelopment of manual desterity (i.e. computer and vidoe games and texting, the latest evil to make people even stupider (if this is possible) than they already are). But where are the parents? It isn't a matter of that kids shouldn't have these things. It is that they need to have limits set. for every half-hour of indoor time (however it is spent), there should be 90 minutes of outdoor time. And, no, not outdoor time spent with the GameBoy or Nintendo thing.

The adults were not merely big or Rubenesque, like me; they were anywhere from 225lbs to 500lbs. There were enough people of staggering proportions to make me wonder about the basic intelligence level tying into the weight range of people. Let's be honest, these events cater a lot more to the base population, which is dumber than one might wish to think. Or, as I like to call it, the lowest common denominator.

Before you call me a snob, make no mistake: I have made it very, painfully clear that I AM a snob. You'll only be preaching to the chior.

I saw one specimen with ankles thicker than my upper arms. Have you seen my upper arms? They are disgusting. They are also not entirely my fault. Thanks to the wonderful world of genetics, I have my grandmother's flabby, flappy arms. I have even (momentarily) considered surgery to correct that - believe me, the moment has passed. I find it objectional to do that. Unless you don't have any chin at all. That is truly a terrible thing and totally visible. When I wear clothes with sleeves this is not so evident. Well, off the topic now...

Back to the topic, my upper arms are huge and flabby and gross. And someone else's ankles, something that rarely gets fat, no matter how huge the owner. Don't bring edema into this, it is not the same as fat.

Well. I'm finally running out of steam. But you get what I'm saying.
I have ranted on about this more than enough. The festival itself was a lot of fun, despite the main viewing form - in 2006 we saw different shows and events prior to the main one (the hot air balloon launch), This year's event for me was dominated by people-watching. We did one thing that had nothing to do with 1. walking around, looking at booths and eating and 2. the evening balloon launch. Luis and I went for a helicopter ride. I recommend doing it, it was a lot of fun; I don't recommend doing it there. They said it was a seven minute trip, but we were in the air for all of five minutes, 24 seconds. For $40 I want the full seven minutes.

But it was cool and as many times as I've flown in planes (two-seater Cessnas on up) I've never been in a helicopter.

After that we did more walking around and eating and looking in booths. I did very little eating, but I definitely liked looking in the booths, especially those with candles. I made two purchases. I bought one necklace, handmade, and one candle and one bundle of incense. Not a lot of purchases, but some. Luis hated it, but he will have to live with that.

We did finally wander out to the truck and get our chairs, and then we sat in the truck with it running for a little while to cool down. We went back around 1840 to set up and watch the balloon launch.

The wind was up, so the launch, while still pretty cool, was no where near the caliber of 2006. The number of balloons was severely reduced and not as spectacular - some did not even get off of the ground. But it was still cool and we did get a lot of pictures - well, I got a lot of pictures. But it was neat. And I am sure we'll go again next year.

Food For Thought: Allegiance/Patriotism vs. Criticism

Earlier this week I sent a message to inform someone of a new hire. The new hire, coming from another country, wrote his dates "backwards", just as a heads up, so that when the person came to get the badge, this person would know that dates given might be incorrect for the system. Such as a birthday written as 03-05-19XX is really 3 May 19XX. I threw in the side comment that really we are the ones doing the dates backwards... what dating system is month-day-year?

On my computer, I list all my dates as YYYY-MM-DD. That is the most sensible way of doing it. However, on paper, I write out my dates: 27 July 2008, because I hate MM-DD-YYYY. But if I write the date this coming Friday as 01/08/2008, everyone in this country will read it as January 8, 2008.

I am not sorry for feeling this way.

The recipient of the e-mail saw me a couple of days and harangued me on knocking this great country.

At first I was totally confused and had no clue what the problem was - two mintes after I've done something I have forgotten what it is and now you want me to recall one of a gazillion inconsequential e-mails communicating some tiny detail and then not explain the issue but just have a nice tidy mini-rant... This does not work this way - unless you don't want me to understand just what the frustration here really is.

The explanation became more clear after I asked a couple of questions, like, 'what the hell are you talking about?!' But the whole crux of this was who am I to criticise this country? We argued it in our biting sarcastic ways for a few minutes (and I know the bystander to this was chuckling the whole time) and finally I retorted, 'I vote here, and I am a citizen of this country and therefore I have the unmitigated right to complain or criticise!'

I support the Armed Forces. I used to be against them, years ago, when I was in my late teens and early 20s - I prefer the pacifistic approach to anything. But it is obvious that the human race is violent and we need our people who want to fight to protect the country; whatever their personal reasons for fighting, you can't blame them for going to other countries or areas that are inhospitable and fighting whoever needs to be fought to preserve my freedom - the freedom to bad-mouth the president or (rightly) point out that our dating system is faulty! But I will never hold anything against those fighting so that I may live.

I do all the basic tenets of living - paying taxes, (I actually really do pay my taxes just as they are), I do vote (which maybe I shouldn't do, being incredibly politically stupid but I feel strongly about 1. doing my civic duty and 2. voicing my opinion, however misguided it may be), and I'm a good citizen. I hate doing jury duty, but I do it when required. So why is it not okay for me to complain about the present incumbent if he is not doing the job to my satisfaction? I had a say in his being "hired", I said nay. He got in anyway, but I haven't given up my right to bemoan that or not agree with his policies.

Unless I'm mistaken, the person who gave me the hassel went overseas and fought for my right to speak my mind. This person went to keep the First Amendment in place and if that means I can speak in support of or not in support of the President, well, what's the problem?

Don't mess with my rights!

There was a time when I wanted to live overseas. This was many years ago, before I traveled and had penfriends all over the world. I'm very happy with the United States and the rights that I have and the ability to make my own life as I see fit. To believe and practice what I like, provided I do not do anything unlawful (well, okay. I do speed a little bit...); life here is good. It isn't perfect by any means, though, and if one just blindly follows another because he's the President, then how do you change things? People say that all the time - "how can I change that? I'm just one person." Yes, you are, but one becomes two, then a few, then some, then many - and changes do happen when there are many.

I am staggered how many follow others on blind faith. I find that disturbing.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Rerun: The World is My Ashtray?

I'm down to the last ten posts before I reach my 1,000th blog entry. That is amazing!

I've been doing this since August 2005, and like anything else, it began slowly... a post here, a rant there, days of inactivity... now, I log in to Blogger first thing when I get home. There is always something to say, something to copy, whatever.

Fishing through my older posts to find the 2006 trip to the Hot Air Balloon Festival, where we are going today, I found one of my other early August 2006 posts, entitled The World is My... Ashtray? Reading it was funny - nothing has changed. Two years later I am still fuming about the same thing!

"How did this happen?

After a particularly trying day at work, dealing with some knotty issues, I find that the commute home was fraught with little examples of all kinds of annoying, stupid and of course, outright dangerous behaviours that were staggering in their stupidity! Not that this is unusual... nay, it appears to be normal, thoughtless behaviour perpetrated by so many people who are wholly unaware of the terrible habits and behaviours they possess.

Poor driving is the hallmark of the American roadways. There was a time, not too long ago, when you could blame it on NYC drivers or DC drivers, who definitely are imbued with that "kill or be killed" mentality when driving anywhere. The deeply ingrained sets of driving skills required in Manhattan, Washington DC, or any metropolitan area are unlike any others and while it is what works inside those cities, it is not so good to apply those same techniques to the rest of the world - even northern New Jersey is not as much a "running the guantlet" kind of thing as driving inside of Manhattan!

But when you throw the millions of technological toys into the mix, and the sudden thinking that smokers' should all have clean cars (not possible), we have suddenly lost our ability to be just annoyances along the road of life.

Cell Phones
At what point in time did it occur to someone that having the utter distraction that only a cell phone can provide be an acceptable risk when driving? Talk about not thinking that one through. A device that allows one to yak away about their vacuous day while actually operating a 1500lb vehicle should have at least jumped up as a possible red flag as not being safe. Someone did finally figure this out and the outcome was making cell phones while driving is only allowed if a hands-free kit is involved. Ths does not fix in any way the utter distraction issue that really makes drivers do a plethora of stupid things behind the wheel, but I suspect the government thought it was a start.
After some time (and the rather obvious fact that everyone across the board ignores this edict), the cell phone offence was just a secondary offence and the perp had to be pulled over for a primary offense... such as speeding. If the officer who pulled the offending party wished, he could issue various types of secondary tickets, such as for tinted windows, cell phone usage, no safety belt on, obstruction of view (something hanging from the rear-view mirror), etc. At this point, driving with one cell phone on is in the works as becoming a primary offense. I'll be thrilled when it is...

Baby on Board stickers/hanging signs
OK, honestly. Do you really, honestly, deep down inside think for even a floating, fleeing moment that anyone sees that stupid yellow sign in a car's or truck's window indicating the possible presence of a small child inside and suddenly turns into the Mary Poppins of drivers? Hmmm? No? Yes, I don't buy that for a second, either. And quite frankly, if you are nice enough to suddenly cease tailgating parents, then why aren't you person enough to stop tailgating altogether? Or is that sort of poor driving perfectly acceptable somewhere else? I tend to doubt it...

And that brings us to...

Expectorant and tossing cigarette butts out the window
And this is socially acceptable how?

Today, driving home on Whippany Road, the white service vehicle in the right lane, just a head of me, suddenly opened its window. Instead of seeing a hand or the side of the driver's head appear, I saw the drivers head jerk back suddenly out of sight and then a huge wad of expectorant come flying out to arch suddenly and fall with resounding SPLAT on the street in front of me. OH, YE GODS, WHO WAS RAISED TO THINK THAT THIS IS ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR?! I was sickened and disgusted by it. Here is a person who needs to be pulled over for being criminally disgusting and unsanitary!

Shortly after that, I must have ended up behind every possible smoker with a vehicle in the area... in concert, they all finished their cigarette butt and happily sent it sailing out of the open driver's side window to festoon the streets with more unwanted disgusting used up cigarettes. I do recall that all cars had ashtrays and recepticles to hold the ash cast-offs and left over unsmokable parts. That now seems to be passé, out of vogue, so instead the world is every smoker's ashtray.

Your honor, I object!"

Friday, 25 July 2008

Using *77 (Cell Phone)

I knew about the red light on cars, but not the *77.

It was about 1:00 p.m. In the afternoon, and Lauren was driving to visit a friend. An UNMARKED police car pulled up behind her and put his lights on. Lauren's parents have always told her never to pull over for an unmarked car on the side of the road, but rather to wait until they get to a gas station, etc. Lauren had actually listened to her parents advice, and promptly called *77 on her cell phone to tell the police dispatcher that she would not pull over right away.

She proceeded to tell the dispatcher that there was an unmarked police car with a flashing red light on his rooftop behind her. The dispatcher checked to see if there were police cars where she was and there weren't, and he told her to keep driving, remain calm and that he had back up already on the way.

Ten minutes later 4 cop cars surrounded her and the unmarked car behind her. One policeman went to her side and the others surrounded the car behind. They pulled the guy from the car and tackled him to the ground. The man was a convicted rapist and wanted for other crimes.

I never knew about the*77 Cell Phone Feature, but especially for a woman alone in a car, you should not pull over for an unmarked car. Apparently police have to respect your right to keep going to a safe & quiet place. You obviously need to make some signals that you acknowledge them (i.e. Put on your hazard lights) or call *77 like Lauren did.

Too bad the cell phone companies don't generally give you this little bit of wonderful information. *Speaking to a service representative at **Bell** Mobility confirmed that *77 was a direct link to State trooper info. So, now it's your turn to let your friends know about *77. Send this to every woman (and person) you know; it may save a life. This applies to ALL states.

A.W.A.D. - Meta-words

"So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with," wrote philosopher John Locke (1632-1704).

While there's truth in Locke's assertion, it's possible to overcome the difficulty to some extent. We construct small unambiguous building blocks, define them as precisely as we can, and then put them to work for bigger purposes (though in some languages, such as German, we often get carried away).

Fortunately, the English language abounds in words. And there are plenty of terms to describe these words themselves. This week we'll look at some of these meta-words or words about words and language.

PRONUNCIATION: (gram-uh-TOL-uh-tree)
MEANING: noun: The worship of words: regard for the letter while ignoring the spirit of something.

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek gramma (letter) + -latry (worship).

MEANING: noun: The misuse of words.

ETYMOLOGY: Here's a catchall word for all those mixed metaphors, malapropisms, and bushisms. It derives via Latin from Greek katakhresthai (to misuse).

MEANING:noun: A slip of the tongue (or pen) that reveals the unconscious mind.

ETYMOLOGY: Parapraxis is a fancy word for the Freudian slip. It's derived from Greek para- (beside, beyond) + praxis (act).

lingua franca
MEANING:noun: A language that is widely used by speakers of different languages to communicate with one another.

ETYMOLOGY: From Italian lingua franca (language of the Franks). The original lingua franca was Italian mixed with Spanish, French, Greek, Arabic, and Turkish, spoken on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the Middle Ages. The name refers to the Arabic custom of calling all Western Europeans "Franks". Today English serves as the lingua franca of the world.

PRONUNCIATION: (or-THO-uh-pee, OR-tho-ep-ee)
MEANING: noun: 1. Study of the pronunciation of words
2. Customary pronunciation of a language

Our resident orthoepist is Stuti Garg whose voice you hear in the pronunciation of the daily words.

ETYMOLOGY: Via Latin from Greek ortho- (correct) + epos (word), ultimately from the Indo-European root wekw- (to speak) that also gave us voice, vowel, vouch, vocation, evoke, revoke, advocate, and epic.

Baby On Board - Who Cares?

This doesn't make you unique... and it certainly won't make the other drivers better and more cautious - sorry, just cautious - than if you did not have a baby on board. Seriously, what is up with that?

I suspect strongly that this is a form a bragging.

I hate to disappoint anyone with my normally cynical attitude about the procreational process. And I am not saying that your kids aren't special and that they aren't great. But bragging that you had a kid? Again, not something unique. More people have them than don't and I'm sorry, but anyone can do this - for the most part. In fact, I'm surprised at how many people just, oops, get pregnant and then decide, why not, I guess I'll have it.

What kind of attitude is THAT about a huge, life-altering decision that you have to live with for the rest of your life?! I can't believe that. What a stupid thing that is. It is one thing to plan for this but I have found throughout my life that most kids are not planned, they are mistakes.

That is a helluva mistake.

Green Bullshit

I still enjoy - thoroughly - Penn & Teller's Bullshit!. This week? The green movement!

Al Gore has been promoting the whole save the earth thing, and on the surface, it looks very good, doesn't it? Of course, his big mansion uses far more kilowatt hours than the average American. He travels all over the country, using a ton of (now) very expensive fossil fuels. And he buys his own "carbon credits".

Wondering what "carbon credits" are? So was I, although my eyeballs fell out of my head when I found out what a scam this is! You don't want to give up your SUV but feeling a little guilty about using it? Buy carbon credits! The money will go to wind power farms, solar paneling, etc. Go on line and put in your mileage and this Web site will calculate - somehow - your carbon production. Not that carbon is a bad thing (what do you think we are?). And of all the carbon being produced, we make under 3% of it. Volcanoes and forest fires are the biggest producers of carbon... hmmm. I think we are not the problem.

This is amazing. Carbon credits is the most see-through scam I have ever heard of - maybe as bad as buying whatcha call its from the Catholic church. Not pardons... um... I can't think of it. Ah, yes, indulgences. That's it. For some money, you could buy your way out of any sin. The more egregious the offense, the more money you pay. Martin Luther came along in the 1500s saw this and thought this seemed like a scam. (Wow, you mean the Catholic church used to scam people? Noooooo...)

It was a scam. This is just 21st century guilt. We know that if we suddenly beg for forgiveness for our sins, no matter how heinous, we will be forgiven, so that is no longer a huge cause for concern. But everyone feels guilty about green issues now, so this is the new indulgence.

In the 1970s, we were moving into an iceage (which actually was the case - the 70s was a mini-ice age), and now we have global warming. I don't buy it. I do believe that we are a wasteful species and there are things we can fix, but the weather is a cyclical thing and droughts and floods and heavy hurricane and light hurricane years happen. So do tornados. And all sorts of other things. Isn't that something?

Warming periods happen. So do cooling periods. This is a sensitive ecosystem and there are plenty of other factors that can disturb it.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

2001: Boredom in Space

I can't call this an Odysse unless it is an odysse in boredom.

This is an abyssmally boring movie. It's endless and long and has no music. It is what SpaceBalls had to be making fun, since it is just endless footage. BORING!

The 20 Most Bizarre Celebrity Baby Names

Ah, my favourite! Check this out...

"Apparently, some celebrities just don't get enough attention, so they name their kids something really dumb to stand out. Here are some of the weirdest.

#20. Kal-El

Child Of: Nicolas Cage
Fun Fact No. 1: Nic Cage likes comics. Fun Fact No. 2: Nic changed his last name from Coppola to Cage in honor of Marvel character Luke Cage. Fun Fact No. 3: He named his kid Kal-El after Superman. Fun Fact No. 4: Why didn't he name his kid Luke?

#19. Pilot Inspektor

Child Of: Jason Lee
Jason Lee is a pretty funny dude. Maybe, you've seen a Kevin Smith movie or the first season of My Name Is Earl. Maybe, sometimes he should stop trying to be so funny, like when he named his kid "Pilot."
Why "Pilot?" Because he heard a song by the band Grandaddy (called "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot"). If the man had just waited for eight more tracks on the same album he could have named him E. Knievel Interlude which is equally ridiculous, but in a far more awesome way.

#18. Fifi Trixibelle

Child Of: Bob Geldof and Paula Yates
The Irish singer and songwriter Geldof named his daughter Fifi after his aunt, and his wife was fascinated with the lifestyles of southern belles, hence the last part. But Trixi?
God knows where that came from. Maybe, they just decided to throw in as many dog names as they could.

#17. Apple

Child Of: Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris "You Know How I Know You're Gay? You Like Coldplay" Martin
At first, we assumed the naming process went a little bit like that time Newton invented gravity. You know, he was eating an apple or something. We never paid attention in History. Anyway, Gwyneth explained the name on an episode of Oprah back in August of 2004. Her exact words were:
"Right, well, um, basically it was because when we were first pregnant, her daddy said, if it's, basically one day he just said if it's a girl I think her name should be Apple. And I just, it sounded so sweet, and it conjures such a lovely picture for me, you know apples are so sweet and they're wholesome, and it's biblical and it's just, they're so, and I just thought it sounded so lovely and ..."
Obviously, Gwyneth has no clue why she named her kid Apple, either.

#16. Coco

Child Of: Courteney Cox and David Arquette
According to Wikipedia, the most trusted source on the Internet, they were originally going to name the baby Courteney Cox Arquette, but this went against David's Jewish traditions, so they named it Coco after a nickname Courteney used to have. Courteney decided this was a good name after she decided she didn't want her daughter to ever get a spot on the Supreme Court.

#15. Kyd

Child Of: David Duchovny and Tea Leoni
We enjoy a whimsical play on words as much as the next website, and the Duchovnys apparently shared a hearty chuckle at the thought of being able to shout, "Hey, kid!" and secretly know it was spelled with a "Y." If you go that direction, why not take it all the way and go with "Phatboi" or "Rhettard?" Both will stay funnier a lot longer than "Kyd."

#14. Sage Moonblood

Son Of: Sylvester Stallone
OK, we might let this one fly considering Moonblood is Sage's middle name. Plus, this is Sly Stallone, here. Let us take this opportunity to link to that John Rambo trailer yet again. What we're saying is the name probably had to have the word "blood" in it somewhere, and the kid's lucky he didn't wind up with Scream Stabblood.

#13. Destry

Child Of: Steven Spielberg
Whenever we put this name into Google to find out why anyone would name their baby this, it just brought up the word "Destroy," which actually makes us feel a bit better about it.
Some old-school GI Joe fans have implied that Destry is merely the feminine version of Destro. We'll have to research that, but if true, it comes off here and goes right on the Most Awesome Baby Names list.

#12. Maddox

Adopted child Of: Angelina Jolie (and Brad Pitt)
Without any research, it's fairly obvious that Jolie named their adopted son after the Internet celebrity Maddox, probably after dismissing Gabe, Tycho and Lowtax.

#11. Memphis Eve

Child Of: Bono
A pretentious baby name coming from a smug, pretentious man like Bono shouldn't be much of a surprise. The man does call himself Bono, after all. This is also the same person that bought a first-class plane ticket to transport his favorite hat to a concert location.
But really, "Memphis Eve?" Does that even make sense? "One more day until Memphis, kids!"

#10. The Ocean

Child Of: Forest Whitaker
The last King of Scotland actually did explain why he named his son Ocean. His words:
"I want those names to be their destiny, for my daughter to be honest and my son to be expansive. I try to be like a forest, revitalizing and constantly growing."
That's very inspirational, and we do hope his daughter is inspired by the ocean to become expansive, rather than becoming huge, salty and smelling of fish.

#9. Child Of: Michael Jackson
You can really chart Michael Jackson's journey into Crazytown with the naming of his children. When his first kid was produced somehow in 1997, he gave him the pretentious but not-quite-insane name Prince Michael Jackson. In 2002, another boy comes along and Michael, completely out of name ideas, calls him Prince Michael II. You'd expect his nickname to be "The Revenge," but instead Michael started calling him "Blanket."
It's such a great example of how a completely innocent word, given the right set of circumstances, can be nightmarishly disturbing.

#8. Rocket Rodriguez

Child Of: Robert Rodriguez
But you might say, "Cracked, Rocket is such an awesome name!" OK, but you've got to try to imagine this kid having a life outside of porn industry. After all, imagine you're about to be put under on the operating table, and the nurse leans over and tells you your heart surgery is going to be performed by Rocket Rodriguez. OK, that would actually be pretty awesome. But seriously, imagine if the kid ever wanted to run for President ... wait, no, still awesome. OK, we may have to reconsider this one.
Interesting Tidbit: Rocket has four younger siblings: Racer, Rebel, Rogue and Rhiannon. Yeah, Rob has a thing for alliteration.

#7. Blue Angel

Child Of:The Edge (From U2)
Not one, but two children of U2 band members making the list! Coincidence? We think not!
It's telling that Edge could so easily have just left it at "Angel" and given the kid a perfectly normal name. Nope, he's The Edge and dammit, it's important the kid have a weird name that's difficult to explain, and reminds people of those stunt fighter pilots.

#6. Audio Science

Child Of: Actress Shannyn Sossamon
It's true that Shannyn Sossamon just barely qualifies as a celebrity, but she forces her way onto this list with this exceptionally bizarre name.
We learn with this entry that the only thing sadder than a pretentious baby name is a failed attempt at a pretentious baby name that ends up sounding like the name of a class at a local community college.

#5 & 4. Moon Unit and Diva Thin Muffin

Children Of: Frank Zappa
We've piled all of Frank Zappa's ridiculous kid names into one entry, rather than let him dominate half the list (He named his other kids Dweezil and Ahmet).
He was a funny guy, rest his soul, but as with Jason Lee earlier it's really not cool to saddle your kid with a goofy name just so you can chuckle when you see the birth certificate.

#3. Moxie Crimefighter

Child Of: Penn Jillette
Apparently, Jillette's wife had no middle name, and their theory was that you never use the middle name anyway so why not have some fun with it. This does not explain the "Moxie" part.

#2. Tu Morrow

Child Of: Rob Morrow (from the TV show Numb3rs)
Now, we've just about reached the lowest of the low. Below the wacky joke names, and the pretentious hippie names, we have the pun names. Tu Morrow.
We've heard tales of these people; the ones named "Mary Christmas" and "Candy Barr" and "Ruby Cox." It's not only the worst kind of name, it's the worst kind of humor. "Tu Morrow?" That's not one of those things that starts out funny and then wears out its welcome with time; that stops being funny before you say it. It doesn't get any worse than this.

#1. Jermajesty

Child Of: Jermaine Jackson
We stand corrected."

Judge Rules Girl's Name Won't Do

Not that long ago, I came across an article about a court in Italy that ruled against parents who wanted to name their child "Friday". The court, in a strange display of religious fervence, rules that Friday was unlawful to name a child because in the Catholic religion, it is a day of bad luck, among other things. I felt that this was a little Nazi-ish on the side of the government and if you are adamant about strange names, this is not the party to go after. There are far worse names given to kids than this - and often by famous people. Clearly they get to psychologically damage their kids while the common person doesn't have that option.

This was posted on 12/18/2007 entitled "The Italian Government Has Gone Too Far".

This is a whole different animal... check this out:

"WELLINGTON, New Zealand - A family court judge in New Zealand has had enough with parents giving their children bizarre names here, and did something about it.

Just ask Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. He had her renamed. Judge Rob Murfitt made the 9-year-old girl a ward of the court so that her name could be changed, he said in a ruling made public Thursday. The girl was involved in a custody battle, he said. The new name was not made public to protect the girl's privacy.

"The court is profoundly concerned about the very poor judgment which this child's parents have shown in choosing this name," he wrote. "It makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap, unnecessarily."

The girl had been so embarrassed at the name that she had never told her closest friends what it was. She told people to call her "K" instead, the girl's lawyer, Colleen MacLeod, told the court.
In his ruling, Murfitt cited a list of the unfortunate names. Registration officials blocked some names, including Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit, he said. But others were allowed, including Number 16 Bus Shelter "and tragically, Violence," he said.

New Zealand law does not allow names that would cause offense to a reasonable person, among other conditions, said Brian Clarke, the registrar general of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Clarke said officials usually talked to parents who proposed unusual names to convince them about the potential for embarrassment."
I'm more than okay with a judge doing this, especially since the child was terribly embarrassed about her own name.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

OK, I Like This! II

A new look, sort of. I'd had this look when I first signed up for Blogger. But hey, most of you probably didn't know that. So, as far you know, this is a new look!

What a day this has been! I woke up and wondered if I'd missed the thunderstorms. It took about fifteen minutes to hear the answer - maybe I had missed one, but there was a new one rumbling its way in and was maybe fifteen miles away. It wasn't moving along fast, though, much like the one that is ambling its way in now... when I got out of the shower, it was still giving the occasional rumble, and a weak flash of lightning. I needn't have worried - it began to pick up intensity as I was preparing to leave. On the drive in there was no rain, but the bolt lightning was AMAZING! The rumbling was very loud, and the lightning detection system was having fits. It was going off a lot. Not that I saw a soul out there. And it was quite humid out there, as well.

It was raining when I got to work and had to use the umbrella to get in. (Now it is rumbling a lot, steadily, but I've not seen a single flash of lightning. That is always weird, all that noise - it is low-level but it will start booming soon enough! - but no light show.)

I'm enjoying the storms, but this will not be good in the end. We've a big (really big) event tomorrow and short of a miracle it is not looking too good. I'd hate to see it pour tomorrow but my right knee actually ached this afternoon, and I haven't had a weatherwise ache in a long, long time. Not that this is an immediately telling thing, but usually it is not too inaccurate. Also, the weather stations are all showing the same thing.

Uh-oh - Hurricane Dolly is making landfall in Texas. I'm not worried about Pat and Craig, but they are in Houston, and who knows where this hurricane will go? She'll lose strength as she moves inland, but even so, compared to Oklahoma, they are not far from the ocean. No more than we are, but this far north, we are hardly in much danger of seeing hurricanes and tropical storms.

This storm is picking up some volume, but it is not raining and there has not been any lightning. But the thunder is pervasive... and quite constant. The sky is medium dark, no special colour, and there is not a breath of wind - not even a zephyr... That is more ominous. The lack of colour and the fact that it isn't black outside makes one think that this won't be much but the total lack of moving air is... disconcerting. It is just ongoing rumbling.

Let's see what the radar shows...

Whoa, Nelly! This is all sound but I'm right that the lack of moving air means something bad! The radar shows an almost solid line of red slowly marching this way! It is stretched along the Sussex county line, up into New York and down into Allentown, PA. This is not moving at the speed of light but it is a juggernaut and can't get out of its own way. Yikes!

Well, we shall see what happens!