Sunday, 28 June 2009

Saturday Six - Episode 272

Here are this week’s “Saturday Six” questions. Either answer the questions in a comment here, or put the answers in an entry on your journal…but either way, leave a link to your journal so that everyone else can visit! To be counted as “first to play,” you must be the first player to either answer the questions in a comment or to provide a complete link to the specific entry in your journal in which you answer the questions. A link to your journal in general cannot count.


1. If you know someone who is interested in you happens to be high maintenance, are you as likely to date them anyway? It really depends on many more factors than that. Did I really have an interest prior? How will that work with my own tendency to be high maintenance? Hmmm. An interesting conundrum!

2. Do you get more frustrated by your home being in a state of disarray or your workplace being in a state of disarray? Without a doubt my workplace. If my desk reaches an untenable point of mess, I will drop everything to weed through it all and reorganise myself, so as not to have to be distracted by the mess.

3. You decide to go to the grocery store where you don’t expect to run into anyone you know. How dressed up are you likely to get? Hardly at all. I hate dressing up to go anywhere! In this regard I'm not at all high maintenance.

4. Take the quiz: Are You High Maintenance? I'm driving through Montana (I'm not driving physically; David has a small laptop with Verizon's log-distance WiFi, so I can work on my blog whilst driving through the eastern/southern Montana.

I'll finish this later - but I know I'm high maintenance!

5. How important is it to you that the person you would date would be roughly “in your league” lookswise? Actually, it would be too limiting to have someone in my "league" - I'm hardly "pretty". So I am not looking at this as a factor.

6. Do you prefer spending more on a birthday gift for a close friend of having them spend more on a gift for you? No, I enjoy spending on them as much as I receive - I love receiving next gifts!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Montana - The Journey Out

25 June 2009
0850 EDT

Flight #CO (I've forgotten) from Newark, NJ to Phoenix, AZ

I have no idea what the local time is, since there is not a running monologue kept at 36,000 feet. No big deal – flying itself is joy enough. It started out well enough and took no time at all to sail through the seemingly permanent cloud cover that New Jersey has been mired in for ages. It was a welcome sight to see blue sky and the cloud layer under us. Sweet relief!

This is a mid-sized airplane, not a puddle jumper but not a jumbo jet by any means. The seats are just what you’d expect when not flying first class. I suddenly wish I’d been willing to pony up the $1,800 to fly first class… but that is patently absurd and in some ways, not worth it.

My riding companions are diverse. Originally there was a whiny young kid in front of me (always a heartwarming experience… kill, kill…), and the mother kept lying to the two- or three-year-old, who liked enunciate, “NO!” anytime a plane flew away. Why people go anywhere with a kid that age in tow, I don’t know. Now the whole family is playing musical plane seats, delightful. And there is that telltale ache in my lower midsection – my bladder reminding me that another three hours of this is out of the question.

I quite agree but am unwilling as yet to fight my way to the loo. I’ll do so soon enough.

Breakfast was rather palatable, surprisingly. I took a picture of it (of course – the joy of having a 16GB chip and over 4,700 images!); a small carton of corn flakes, 2% milk, A banana and a cranberry muffin. Perfect – just enough to make a meal and to get my medicine down.

Returning to my travel mates, I’ve no idea who is behind me… one or two kicks to my chair and that was it. Funny thing about this… not the people behind, but the one next to me – Dave mentioned to me yesterday that I watch the Mormons while I wait in Salt Lake City’s airport. And I had responded, “Don’t Mormons look just like us? How would I tell them apart?” He chuckled and said, “You can pretend that the ones you see are Mormons.”

Well, I guarantee you that the under 21-year-old next to me is just that – a Mormon. They don’t always dress differently, but some do and this is one. Long heavy black skirt, a pink and white striped long-sleeved shirt and a white tee-shirt collared looking thing underneath. Some sects if not all wear “sacred underwear” and now that I’ve seen it, the look is rather distinctive. And the hair… it is not the strange look of the really whacky secular Mormons, but it is the swept back on the top, clipped, then a ponytail below with mid-length silky hair. I’ve never seen a picture of a Mormon woman with close-cropped hair like mine, or worse, curly hair (which is what mine would be had I kept it long).

Where ever we are, it is flat, flat as a pancake. I’m always amused when people tell me that New Jersey is flat. It is by no means mountainous, but it is not flat, either. Nebraska is flat. Kansas is flat. New Jersey has contours. The ground here is not clear – it’s summer and so the haze is pervasive, but it is visible. Delightfully so! It’s been so miserably overcast in rainy in New Jersey that this is a beautiful thing.

Now we’ve run into turbulence… not major, but enough to make it a bit bumpy. It isn’t the stuff you read about with dips of ten feet that leaves one’s water hanging in midair without the vessel it was in. Proof of the clear air – turbulence only happens in clear skies, where up- and down-drafts occur. People never realize that poor weather is sometimes a smoother flight.

Turbulence has no effect on me, as flying is fun and I feel perfectly comfortable – other than the chair being designed by Torquemada. That is one thing that does make first class worthwhile. The one time we flew first class it certainly was comfortable.

This is the first trip I’ve taken where some night flying wasn’t involved. I love to at night – the clarity of sky, the millions of visible stars… and the last time I flew at night (coming home from Texas) there was a huge thunderstorm system below us and the play of lightning through the clouds was staggering, awesome – and completely unphotographable. (I’ll think of the correct verbiage eventually…)

My battery is doing well! It charged very quickly last night and I haven’t used it in a long time. I really should use it from time to time…

That interesting patchwork quilt is under us now, so we must be over the southern mid-states. The Captain had mentioned that to our left was Washington DC (that was maybe 15 minutes into the flight), and we’d be passing over Lexington, KY; Tennessee and Arkansas. I imagine that they all look the same to some degree from this height.

Uh-oh… Needing to go to the bathroom at this height is not like needing to go on the ground… ‘Scuse me!

0938 EDT

Good gods. I know on a scientific level the differences in biology between being sea level and almost 40,000 feet above the earth, but to feel is something altogether different! My twinge of “at some point you must use the facilities” turned into GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR in the blink of an eye, and I was bouncing up and down waiting for one of the loos to become vacant! When did that happen?

It’s been years since I’ve had to avail myself of the closet sized bathrooms (a misnomer, since there is no bath of any kind in there) found only on trains and airplanes. It is no longer quite the contortionist that can use these, as we are – in general – a fatter nation. But it is by no means roomy. I was sufficiently motivated, however, that is was a relief to go.

The toilet is a round, tiny metal affair that is not up to more than urine or a very “polite” defacation. It was a bit chilly, but so what when you need to go that badly. I only need to urinate, fortuitously – I’d hate to put that thing to the test for more – or to do that to the next user. I did not see an air freshener anywhere. The loo, by the way, was immaculate. No unpleasant odors, no mess, just tiny, as you'd expect. Oh, the toilet paper! I thought I might pass out - double ply and soft and wow! When's the last time that happened?

When I hit the button to “flush” (such as it was), there was nothing until I released the button, then this unbelievable WHOOSH! as it dumped from the plane entirely. I have to wonder about that… does it go into a holding cell until it hits a specific number of tonnage? Or does it dump out of a long tube to ensure not getting the offal all over the bottom of the plane? Does it break up enough in the atmosphere that no feces makes it to the ground like a meteorite? Yikes… what a lousy epitaph that would be… “whilst staring at the sky he was struck by shit”. Not what I’d want my headstone to read.

Wherever we are, the water table is low… the river snaking along the earth is mostly silt. Not good for the locals… I just got rid of a couple of old cups and the flight attendant is going to find out where we are. I know it’s a southern route and it is almost ten, so there is another two hours and a bit to go, so… maybe… Kansas or Arkansas. Let’s see… I don’t think we are over Oklahoma yet.

Anyway, I must have actually urinated a good solid 90 seconds. Think about it – how long does is actually take to evacuate your bladder? Maybe twenty seconds? Forty, if you’ve been really hitting the water or sugar-foods? Soda’ll do that, too. I don’t drink it, but I know my cousin used to have to go all the time when she did. Tea, a diuretic, has the same effect. Well, I went for three times that long. It felt so gratifying. I can’t explain it. It always feel good to empty one’s bladder, but that was remarkable – which is why I am remarking on it! I don’t make observations unless they really need to be made.

The battery is holding out nicely on the laptop but eventually I am going to have to stop. I want some juice left for the hop from Phoenix, Arizona to Salt Lake City. The time in between flights is not enough to recharge – it’s less than an hour. I may try to purchase a notepad when I’m in Phoenix… we’ll see. My first mission is to get to the right gate and see what time is like. I’m hoping it will be the same gate or one over – what are those odds?

The flight attendant forgot to find out where we were, so she asked if I wanted to know where we are now or where we were. I smiled and said both. She’s finding out. The dry river I’m curious about… and I can’t imagine we’ve gotten that far since my original query. It looks drier as a whole but we are heading to the American Southwest, which is mostly desert of some kind. It’s just not big-dunes desert.

I loved Palm Springs when I went with Luis in 1999. Loved it! I am meant to live in the desert at some point and make it a point to tell Luis to save his shekels as I plan to retire there. He’s never argued or made a comment that we won’t be retiring together so as long as we both live long enough, that is our final destination.

The rich, lush green of the northeastern states is fast disappearing. The ground is a pale green, some dun, and just little bits of dark green where there are likely coniferous trees. I will be in heaven in Helena – it’s all coniferous trees where Dave is. He’s something like 5,000 feet above sea level – how cool is that?! I’ve been as high as 8,000 feet and never had so much as a twinge of trouble from the altitude. I’m hoping – and quite confident – that we will exceed that height.

I don’t want to scale Mount Everest. I’ve read and heard about some of the deleterious effects from the trip and that is just sheer screaming stupidity to do that kind of harm to one’s body to scale a mountain. I don’t doubt that it is a gorgeous, unbelievable sight – but that is what photography is for!

I think I’ve been forgotten again…

There are tiny ice crystals forming at the bottom of my porthole. (This is NOT a window… for one thing, I can’t open it. Just as well, I know. I would have a tough time resisting it if it did open!)

We’ve just passed over a small airport – really looks neat from up here!

My battery is fast disappearing now. Time to shut down until I can recharge.

26 June 2009
0943 MDT

Someday I must find an official in Arizona to ask what is up with the ban on Daylight Saving Time. However, the gentleman in Seat 30B agreed that Daylight Saving Time is absurd and should be banned everywhere. Here is a fun little detail for you: Arizona is three hours behind except for the Native American Reservations - they follow the clock changes; Illionios does not do it full stop and half of Indiana does and half doesn't. Now that is a bit weird.

Back to my long old journey.

The topography fascinated me the entire trip out but on flight #2 (Delta Airlines Flight #1478 from Phoenix, AZ to Salt Lake City, UT) I got the shaft and had to take an aisle seat. I was 30C. Not happy at all. I got one picture at the end of the hour plus flight. And I missed entirely getting any images of the Great Salt Lake! It was a very strange body of water - sort of a white-ish blue on the one side and a dirty loden green on the other. Dave suggested algea for the green but I doubt that any algea can stand to grow in that much salt.

The run from the first flight to the second damn near killed me. I had to race my ass off from Terminal 4 to Terminal 3 by taking a bus and zipping through to what seemed like the furthest point from where the bus was parked. It was 93 degrees, which was staggeringly hot after cool cloudy New Jersey, but almost as humid - it was quite disgusting. It was cloudy and miserable there, too. Maybe the whole country has issues with the weather this year...

The airport there is totally different from Newark and other airports in that the Security checks where everywhere. I had to go through it all again, and did not make it through the first two times. I emptied my pockets and beeped. I took off my watch and beeped. I had the laptop out, the shoes off, but I beeped anyway. I finally made it though the third time. The guy was trying to not to laugh at all my little sarcastic comments. Good to know my sense of humour works on Homeland Security!

I got to the gate and was very relieved to see that boarding had not yet begun. I asked if I had time to make a pitstop and grab water. I did. I was hugely relieved not to have to use another airplane loo. And when I returned the line was there and boarding.

I was, like the first flight, waaaaaay back. I usually pick seats farther back to make for good pictures and because my timing is such that the good seats are taken in the front of the wing. When Luis and I went to Las Vegas two ye--

Oh! There was a chipmunk right under my hanging chair! Right here, just looking up at me as if to say, "What are you doing here?" When's the last time you saw a chipmunk do that? In New Jersey they are a more richly coloured group but completely standoffish. Not here! And last night there were deer - but I get ahead of myself...

--anyway, two years ago we flew out and I arranged my seat and it was about 20 rows behind Luis and Nick. Works for me - I sat next to a very nice woman and took millions of images.

It is so gorgeous out here. No mystery why people live out here. It's cool and remote and just beautiful!

Anyway, I read for a large portion of this flight and then at the last half-hour got into a conversation with the woman who had the coveted window seat. She is a college graduate who went for an interview in Salt Lake City. Hopefully she did well.

The Salt Lake City airport is awful. I hated the layout and the gates and it was a total MOB SCENE when I got in. I did find a pair of earrings and matching necklace in malachite, though, and totally loved it. And for $42 in sterling silver, I was very happy.

I was there for over two hours and completely confused about the fact that I'd gotten in around 1249 when my watch (adjusted for Arizona) read 1149. The flight was a straight shot north - how could the time have changed...? Remember what I told you about Arizona and Daylight Saving Time? Right. That.

I wandered around, browsed some shops, found a magnet for the Business Office from Utah, some postcards and then sat around reading when I realised I'd packet my power for the laptop in my stowed luggage - dammit. I had my battery down to the last bit and did not want to try to connect. It was a long boring time. I finally saw my flight boarding - Delta Flight #4574 Salt Lake City, UT to Helena, MT - and asked the guy there what I had to do to get a window seat. He gave me a new boarding pass with 4D as my seat - yay! As it happens, the flight was more than half empty, unlike the other two, which were loaded to the eyeballs.

It was a great flight! I loved it and I love flying - and more so on small planes - than usual. The plane took off, went through the clouds and leveled off at 24,000 feet. Blue skies and mountains, mostly. As we headed steadily north, the sky at first cleared but then became cloudy. As we approached Helena and began to ascend, the pilot came on and mentioned that the ride would get a little "bumpy". I grinned - turbulence doesn't bother me unless I am operating on an empty stomach - something I never do.

He wasn't kidding, but I guarantee you I was the only person on that flight smiling and laughing and enjoying the up and down roller coaster feeling of the air currents. It made my arms feel leaden at times but I still loved it. And when we were coming into Helena for our landing, not once but twice I saw lightning directly strike the mountain to our right and slightly behind us. I was oooo-ing, but I don't think anyone else saw them. The only thing that would have made me happier at that moment was if I could've gotten a shot of it!

The plane landed and we were off fairly quickly. I stepped outside... and it did not feel like 86 degrees - but it was very windy! That was a surprise. But the air was crisp, clear and so fresh - a welcome change from the airports and my brief excursion outside in Arizona.

Dave was just down the road and came to pick me up. I was quite exhausted but very happy to be here. We chatted the whole ride home and then got my things settled. We went out to the top of the mountain his house is on to see the view and his cam ( That, however, is a story for later.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

A.W.A.D. - No Theme for This Week's Words

with Anu Garg

Have you ever taken a vacation that's planned to every nanosecond? At 9:37 we visit the Garden of Standonburg and spend an hour and 18 minutes there, then we reach the Pamponi Museum at 11:09, and then .... Well, that's not a vacation, is it? Sometimes it's best to let yourself roam through what may come, with no plan, no schedule, no rules, no aim, and nothing to guide except a free mind and open heart.

This week's AWAD is prepared in just that spirit. A word tickles our fancy and leads us to some others that bring forth new sights. We skip some of them, move ahead or perhaps take a leisurely stroll through the dictionary. There's nothing common among the words selected -- at least as far as we know. There's no theme to constrain our word choices during the next five days. Or maybe that's the theme.

PRONUNCIATION: (el-uh-MOS-uh-ner-ee, el-ee-, -MOZ-)
MEANING:adjective: Relating to charity

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin eleemosynarius, from eleemosyna (alms), from Greek eleemosyne (pity, charity), from eleemon (pitiful), from eleos (pity).

USAGE: "The Guzmans started their non-profit organization, Path of Hope Foundation, 18 years ago. Their single goal: to care for the poor who live near their corner. The Thanksgiving dinner is one of their eleemosynary events."Lynn Seeden; Free Thanksgiving Dinner Feeds 1,400; Orange County Register (Santa Ana, California); Dec 4, 2003

MEANING: noun:

1. Censure or abusive language towards someone, especially when expressed by many
2. Disgrace resulting from public condemnation

ETYMOLOGY:From Latin obloquium (talking against, contradiction), from ob- (against) + loqui (to speak). Ultimately from the Indo-European root tolkw (to speak) that is also the source of somniloquy, loquacious, and allocution.

USAGE: "[Jimmy Carter] is a man who is prepared to risk the obloquy and criticism of die-hard neocons and nervous fellow senior Democrats to break the chains of Washington's foolish Middle East peace policy."Carter Mission; Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia); Apr 9, 2008

MEANING: verb tr.:
1. To ease the symptoms of a problem without fixing its cause
2. To make an offense appear less severe by excuses or apologies; extenuate

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin palliare (to cover), from pallium (cloak).

USAGE: "When success came it palliated his sense of loss for a while." Frank Carrigan; John Lennon: The Life; Brisbane Times (Australia); Jan 9, 2009

MEANING: verb tr., intr.: To counterbalance or to neutralize

ETYMOLOGY: From Old French contrevaloir, from Latin contra (against) + valere (to be strong). Ultimately, from the Indo-European root wal- (to be strong) that is also the source of valiant, avail, valor, and value.

"China is the unique case of a country arming a neighbour with nuclear weapons to countervail a rival." K. Subrahmanyam; Befriending the Dragon; The Times of India (New Delhi); Jul 5, 2004.

MEANING: verb tr.:
1. To severely criticize someone or something
2. To strip off the skin

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin excoriare (to strip or to skin), ex- (out) + corium (skin, hide). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sker- (to cut) that is also the source of words such as skirt, sharp, scrape, screw, shard, shears, carnage, curt, carnivorous, hardscrabble, and incarnadine.

USAGE: "Why is she [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of Philippines] being excoriated for trying to implement her campaign promise?" Efren L. Danao; Give Light, Not Heat, to Cha-cha Issue; The Manila Times (Philippines); Jun 17, 2009.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Yet Another Lame Scam...

I wrote back and asked this person if s/he thinks we are all this stupid...

"The Chambers of Richard Gilbert QC and Associates
2 Bedford Row
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)703 190 1802
Fax +44 (0)700 606 6349

Attorney at Law
Faegre & Benson LLP, UK.
Office Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00a.m. - 5:00p.m.
Evening Appointments Available On behalf of the Trustees and Executor of the estate of Late Engr. Jurge Krugger.

I once again try to notify you as my earlier letter was returned undelivered. I wish to notify you that late Engr. J?rge Kr?gger made you a beneficiary to his WILL. He left the sum of Thirty Million, One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($30,100.000.00) to you in the Codicil and last testament to his WILL.This may sound strange and unbelievable to you, but it is real and true. Being a widely traveled man, he must have been in contact with you in the past or simply you were nominated to him by one of his numerous friends abroad who wished you good. Engr. J?rge Kr?gger until his death was a member of the Helicopter Society and the Institute of Electronic & Electrical Engineers.

According to him this money is to support your humanitarian activities and to help the poor and the needy in our society. Please if I reach you as I am hopeful, endeavor to get back to me as soon as possible to enable me conclude my job. I hope to hear from you in no distant time.

Note: You are advise to contact me with my personal email address:

I await your prompt response.

Yours in Service,
Barr. Richard GIlbert QC.

Tel: +44 (0)703 190 1802
Fax +44 (0)700 606 6349
Attorney at Law Faegre & Benson LLP, UK
Visite nuestro Portal en Internet
This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program."

Absolutely amazing. Who ever wrote this clearly speaks English as a second language - most of the sentences have that higher learning in another country syntactical difference. And that is usually where they get tripped up - on the syntax.

Then there is that little gaff with the money... there is a big difference in the amount when using commas versus periods.

And finally, most e-mails purporting to come from the UK use Pounds Sterling to convey monetary amounts - that should have been an amount with £ in front of it.
It amazes me that anyone gets anything out of these any longer.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Article - Everything You Need to Know: June Solstice 2009

Early dawn. Late sunset. Long day. Short night. For us in the northern hemisphere, the June solstice marks the longest day of the year. It’s your signal to celebrate the first day of summer in this hemisphere. South of the equator, winter begins.

When is the solstice where I live?
The solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. But our clocks say different times.

This solstice takes place on Sunday, June 21, 2009 at 5:46 Universal Time. To find the time of the solstice in your location, you have to translate to your time zone. Here’s an example of how to do that. In the central United States, for those of us using Central Daylight Time, we subtract 5 hours from Universal Time. That how we get 0:46 (12:46 a.m.) Central Daylight Time as the time of the 2009 June solstice.

Want to know the time in your location? Check out EarthSky’s article How do I translate Universal Time into my time?. And just remember: you’re translating from 5:46 Universal Time, Sunday, June 21.

What is a solstice?

The earliest humans knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. They built monuments, such as Stonehenge, to follow the sun’s yearly progress. Today, we know that the solstice is an astronomical event, caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis, and its motion in orbit around the sun. Because Earth doesn’t orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23-and-a-half degrees, Earth’s northern and southern hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly.

At the June solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that the North Pole is leaning 23-and-a-half degrees toward the sun. As seen from Earth, the sun is directly overhead at noon 23-and-a-half degrees north of the equator, at an imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Cancer. This is as far north as the sun ever gets. All locations north of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours at the June solstice. Meanwhile, all locations south of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours.

Where should I look to see signs of the solstice in nature?
For all of Earth’s creatures, nothing is so fundamental as the length of daylight. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of all light and warmth on Earth.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you can notice the early dawns and late sunsets, and the high arc of the sun across the sky each day. You might see how high the sun appears in the sky at local noon. And be sure to look at your noontime shadow. Around the time of the solstice, it’s your shortest noontime shadow of the year.
If you’re a person who’s tuned in to the out-of-doors, you know the peaceful, comforting feeling that accompanies these signs and signals of the year’s longest day.

Why is the solstice a big deal?

Cultures universally have had markers, holidays and alignments . . . all related to the solstice. It has been universal among humans to treasure this time of warmth and light. For us in the modern world, the solstice is a time to recall the reverence and understanding that early people had for the sky. Some 5,000 years ago, people placed huge stones in a circle on a broad plain in what’s now England and aligned them with the June solstice sunrise.

We may never comprehend the full significance of Stonehenge. But we do know that knowledge of this sort wasn’t isolated to just one part of the world. Around the same time Stonehenge was being constructed in England, two great pyramids and then the Sphinx were built on Egyptian sands. If you stood at the Sphinx on June 21 and gazed toward the two pyramids, you’d see the sun set exactly between them.

How does it end up hotter later in the summer, if June has the longest day? People sometimes ask, “If June 21 is the longest day of the year, why is it that we usually receive the hottest weather not on that day, but in late July and August?” This effect is called “the lag of the seasons.” It’s the same reason it’s hotter in mid-afternoon than at noontime. Earth just takes awhile to warm up after a long winter. Right now, ice and snow still blanket the ground in some places. The sun has to melt the ice – and warm the oceans – and then we feel the most sweltering summer heat.

Ice and snow have been melting since spring began. Meltwater and rainwater have been percolating down through snow on tops of glaciers. But the runoff from glaciers isn’t as great now as it’ll be in another month, even though sunlight is striking the northern hemisphere most directly around now. So wait another month for the hottest weather. It’ll come when the days are already beginning to shorten again, as Earth continues moving in orbit around the sun, bringing us closer to another winter.

And so the cycle continues.

Article - Forget Stonehenge: 5 Questions to Put Science Back in Summer Solstice

Huge crowds are expected to gather at Stonehenge in England this weekend to celebrate an annual astronomical event – the summer solstice. Officially beginning 5:45 Universal Time on June 21, the 2009 summer solstice marks the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

Pagans and Wiccans gather at the solstice to honor the sun and to dedicate their service to the earth. But many solstice revelers use the extra hours of sunlight as an excuse to party. According to an article in The Guardian, the Wiltshire police are bringing horses, drug sniffing dogs and an unmanned drone to control the 30,000 people expected to descend upon the ancient ruins. The article goes on to say that “peace-loving” Druids are taking their celebrations elsewhere to avoid the unruly throngs.

I don’t blame them.

I can’t think of anything less spiritual than crowding shoulder-to-shoulder with a bunch of hippies and wannabe wizards who want to get drunk watching the sun come up. But there's plenty of science surrounding the solstice. So here are the answers to five commonly asked questions about the solstice to add a bit of science fun to your celebration.

When is the solstice? I mentioned earlier on that the solstice will occur at 5:45 Universal Time on June 21, 2009. Is UT the same as Greenwich Mean Time? Find out at this website from Have the kids, or your mathematically challenged spouse, try to figure out exactly when the solstice will occur where you live. Be warned: the start time may have passed by the time you figure it out, but it is worth trying. If you wonder when the solstice will occur next year or when it occurred last year, check the calendar of Equinoxes, Solstices, Perihelion, and Aphelion for 2000 to 2020 from the US Naval Observatory. The USNO also has an astronomical almanac online, scads of data I would not know what to do with, and a lovely little newsletter that you must read called “The Sky This Week,” that explains astronomy in layman’s terms. I don’t know who writes “The Sky This Week,” but the thing is absolute poetry and will make you fall in love with astronomy all over again.

Why do we have solstices? We have a solstice because of our “wonky” planet Earth, proclaims the The British broadcasters have an excellent page explaining in simple terms why we have seasons, when they occur, and where the sun and the Earth are positioned during all of this. The solstices occur due to the tilt of the earth on its axis –that imaginary line that runs through the center of the globe. At the summer solstice, June 21, the earth is tilted 23 degrees toward the sun and the northern hemisphere receives the most sunlight. At the winter solstice, December 21, the planet is tilted 23 degrees away from the sun and the southern hemisphere basks in the sun’s glory. Right now, my friends in Australia are bundling up for a chilly winter, while I am pulling out the shorts and tank-tops

Why isn’t it hottest at the summer solstice? If the summer solstice is the longest day, you would think that it also would be the hottest day. It isn’t and, as explains, it has to do with a phenomenon called the “lag of seasons.” Just as adding hot water to a cold bath does not instantaneously heat it up, the sun needs a little time to warm up the earth. Some snow and ice must melt before the planet can really get toasty. Check the thermometer in late July and August, and note that, even though the days are getting shorter then, the temperatures will be going up.

What does the earth look like from space at this very moment? John Walker, a programmer and blogger, has developed some visual software that allows you to view the Earth, both the day and night regions, at this very moment from the perspective of the moon or the sun. You also can set the longitude, latitude and altitude as well as view the Earth as if from an orbiting satellite or hovering 7 km above one of a couple hundred cities on earth. It’s not like Google Earth, but I still like this viewer. Pretend you are inside the International Space Station looking down on the planet below and watch the sun rise from there.

Does the sun “rest” for three days during the solstice? Astronomers and mystics have been asking this question since ancient times. If you observe the sun near the solstices, it certainly appears to set in the same spot every day. This article by Asger Mollerup describes the use of sundials and specifically the gnomon (the part that stands up) to track the sun during a solstice, as well as during other astronomical events. Mollerup has posted some fascinating photos that show the summer sun setting on the horizon and appearing to rest in the exact location for three days straight. He also has photos and descriptions of astroarchaelogical sites throughout Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia); just in case you thought the Mayans and the Druids had the market cornered on sun worship.

Satruday 9: Never Say Never Again

Saturday 9: Never Say Never Again
1. Do you like James Bond films? If yes, what’s your favorite? I'm not really much of a James Bond fan. Some of the movies are okay. The last one in the theatres was the most expensive nap I ever took. It was boring, it was long, but I saw the opening credits and the closing credits and slept through the rest of it. Now, if you want to discuss animated movies...

2. Are you daring enough to go snorkeling in the water fountain at the mall? Not unless I suddenly have a size 8 body...

3. Do you sometimes hate everything and everyone around you? No. I get a little down sometimes, but not like that. What would be the point?

4. Do you secretly or openly believe the world revolves around you? I'd like to think that from time to time, but no, I know better. So I am unperturbably happy for the most part, because it is always better to be grounded and really, if the world revolved around you, it would suck.

5. Would you rather buy a moped or a Harley Davidson? Is there really a choice here? Moped? Seriously, who wants to be castrated by driving a thing like that? Harleys, now, that's a whole different kettle of fish!

6. Do you water ski or ice ski? I don't do any kind of skiing. I think legs are best when unbroken!

7. Tell us about the last time that you tailgated. What, really? I back off the moment I realise I'm too close. I have being tailgated and wonder where the local constabulary is when someone does it to me. I don't tailgate, I don't play "musical lanes" and I don't use my cell phone while driving. Ever. I do speed, but not crazy amounts.

8. What was the last concert that you attended? I went to see Pink Martini on Tuesday with a good friend of mine, Greg. It was wonderful! They are great. And they are releasing two new CDs - one in October 2009 (my favourite month, too) and one in April 2010. YAHOO!

9. What’s the most exotic food that you’ve ate? Okay, that would be "eaten", not "ate". Seriously, people disappoint me all the time with their lack of mastery over their one and (likely) only language.

What was the question? Oh, yes... Um... well... Shit, I hardly eat normal foods, and you want to know the most exotic thing I have eaten? Maybe hummus. Hardly exotic, I know, but I won't touch weird foods.

Sunday Seven: Episode #200

Here is this week’s “Sunday Seven” question. Either answer in a comment here, or put the answers in an entry on your blog (with a link here), and then comment here with a link back to your blog so that everyone else can visit! Enjoy!

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: Name up to seven weekly memes on other people’s blogs or websites that you’re most likely to play, whether you play mine or not.

1. Curious as a Cat (Monday)
2. TMI Tuesday
3. Wednesday Weirdness
4. 3x Thursday
5. Four for Friday
6. Saturday 9 and Saturday Six
7. Sunday Seven

Yes, I know, that's eight, but hey, Saturdays have more than one. I love memes!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

A.W.A.D. - Words From Old Medical Terms

with Anu Garg

Ancient medical practitioners believed that a healthy body had a balance of four essential fluids, also known as humors (from Latin humere: to be wet, which also gave us the word humid). Those humors were blood, yellow bile (aka choler), black bile, and phlegm. Each humor was associated with a season and an element (air, water, fire, and earth). An imbalance of humors was thought to cause a change in temperament or worse.

Thankfully, we have come a long way from that theory about the human body. We no longer use that method to diagnose people's conditions, though the terms live on in the language by being used as metaphors.
MEANING: adjective:
Easily irritated or angered; hot-tempered

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin cholericus, from Greek cholerikos, from chole (bile). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghel- (to shine) that is also the source of words such as yellow, gold, glimmer, gloaming, glimpse, glass, arsenic, and cholera.
USAGE: "In every choleric outburst from Sir Alan, every lifted eyebrow and pursed lip from his lieutenants, the subtext is clear."Libby Purves; The Apprentice; The Daily Telegraph (London, UK); Jun 6, 2009

MEANING: adjective:
1. Having a sluggish temperament; apathetic
2. Calm or composed

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin phlegmaticus, from Greek phlegmatikos, from phlegm (inflammation, the humor phlegm supposedly as a result of heat), from phlegein (to burn).

USAGE: "So why are Israelis almost hysterical about the Iranian threat, while South Koreans are phlegmatic about the North Korean threat?"Gwynne Dyer; Koreans, Israelis and Nukes; The Korea Times (Seoul); May 26, 2009

MEANING: adjective:
1. Cheerfully optimistic or confident
2. Having a healthy reddish color
3. Blood-red

ETYMOLOGY: From Old French sanguin, from Latin sanguineus (bloody), from sanguis (blood).

USAGE: "As usual, Phillips is sanguine: Michael is totally focused now, and the insurance wasn't a problem, it was just expensive."Robert Sandall; Will Michael Jackson Survive His Concert Marathon? The Sunday Times (London, UK); May 31, 2009
MEANING: adjective:
1. Gloomy; wistful
2. Saddening
3. Of or related to melancholia

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin melancholia, from Greek melancholia (the condition of having an excess of black bile), from melan- (black) + chole (bile), ultimately from the Indo-European root ghel- (to shine) that is also the source of words such as yellow, gold, glimmer, gloaming, glimpse, glass, arsenic, and cholera.

USAGE: "Zach Galifianakis: The only kind of music I do know how to play is melancholic, sad stuff because nothing happy is coming out of my body musically."Kate Ward; Zach Galifianakis; Entertainment Weekly (New York); Jun 4, 2009
MEANING: adjective:
1. Extremely unpleasant
2. Ill-natured; irritable
3. Relating to bile

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin bilis (bile)

USAGE: "The Sharia introduction in some states of the federation has been a victim of these groups of elites' unbridled intimidatory and bilious antics."Abubakar Gimba; The Season of Unreason; Daily Trust (Abuja, Nigeria); Sep 18, 2002

How'd I End Up in Seattle?!

Somehow I clicked my heels three times and ended up in Seattle. I have never wanted to live in Seattle. I would go for a day, maybe two, but that is all I think I could take. And yet, without leaving the greater New Jersey environs, I've been transported to that part of the United States.

I think we have had three sunny days in all of June. I get that it is 21 June (in 3 hours) but we have seen much sun.

It rained on Monday. It was okay on Tuesday, but overcast. Wednesday sprinkled. Thursday POURED, so did today. Friday was sunny and beautiful and I missed it almost completely being in my office from 1000 to 1945. Groan...

This morning I awoke around 0330 and looked up the time of the Moonrise - 0200. Okay. It was clear out on Friday and I had heard it might be clear in the early morning. I went outside and wore a sweater and cargo pants. I can't remember the last time I wore sweater in June. It was cool and rather damp. But there, hanging in the eastern sky like a golden sickle, was the crescent Moon, in its last day of visibility before reaching the new phase. And Venus was bright in the sky, almost even with the Moon, shining like a beacon. It was so bright I thought it was an airplane, until I realised it was completely stationary. Quite amazing.

I missed the conjunction of Mars, Venus and the crescent Moon yesterday, but I'd have had no way to see it. Not unless I develop a way to see through the thick cloud cover that seems to be prevelent these days.

April was quite wet. That is not unusual, April is the closest we get to a "rainy season". It is not unusual to have rained out outings and events in the first month of the season.

May was unreal. We had a ton of rain and I forget if we had 5" of excess rain; it was something outrageous like that. I figured okay, well, what's a little extra rain? We always seem to need rain in Parsippany.

June has come and now it has nearly gone and most of it has been either drizzly, raining steadily or pouring with a vengeance. Thursday was a wash. Today wasn't much better although I know it did not stop today's event. It just made it a soggy one. I am imaging footprints permanently mired in some of the greens...

Tomorrow doesn't look promising. The current forecast shows rain through Tuesday. Good gods. And my crew on Thursday kept saying how we need this rain.

I disagree. I need sunlight. I need blue skies. I need to lay in my hammock. My hammock needs to be rung out. It is rope and probably weighs about 50 pounds now.

I'm flying about 2,000 miles to get away from this weather. It's a desparate move, but I need my fix of sunshine!

Saturday Six: Episode #271

Here are this week’s “Saturday Six” questions. Either answer the questions in a comment here, or put the answers in an entry on your blog… but either way, leave a link to your site so that everyone else can visit! If you repost the questions on your site, you must link back to this site as the source.

1. You’re invited to a get-together with friends, and you’re asked to bring a tasty treat: what are you most likely to bring? I would bring hummus. Absolutely delicious!

2. Considering your answer to the previous question, are you more likely to buy something already prepared, or prepare something from scratch on your own? Oh, I can barely boil water. I certainly wouldn't want to kill anyone with my "cooking". I don't cook. I don't even make frozen meals, for the most part. I can muddle through a PB&J sandwich!

3. Where is the last place you met a close friend for coffee or a meal? Um... well... Hmmm. It's been a while. Wow, that's pretty sad.
4. Take the quiz: What Mexican Food Are You?

If you were to have a taco, what kind of taco would you like?
Ground beef
Bean and cheese
Shredded beef

What do you like about Mexican food?
It's fun food
Every kind tastes good
The spice
It's true comfort food
It's satisfying
The simple flavors

In your opinion, no Mexican meal is complete unless it has:
Fresh salsa
A twist of lime
Refried beans
Lots of chips to go around

In your opinion, every Mexican restaurant needs:
Authentic flavors
Cave divers
Some interesting new dishes
Big portions
A traditional menu
A mariachi band

What flavor margarita appeals to you most?
Mango margarita
Peach margarita
Strawberry margarita
Pineapple margarita
Regular old margaritas
Watermelon margarita

You Are Chips and Salsa
You are energetic and a real go getter. You can even be aggressive at times. You love taking risks and taking the rewards. You are a true daredevil. You can be a bit greedy in life, and you go after what you want. You are courageous and edgy. You will do what others are afraid of.

5. How many local restaurants have some special sentimental significance for you because of time you’ve spent there with family or friends? None, for the most part. Restaurants are special because of the food!
6. If you had a local restaurant that you liked, but that was a hangout for you and a close friend, and that friend moved away, would you find it hard to go back how hard would it be for you to continue going to that restaurant? Not even a little bit. I'm very prosaic about these things. I haven't had a restaurant that's been a hangout for me since I was a teenager and we hung out at the King George Diner in Wayne.

If you have a Reader’s Choice question you’d like to see asked (and answered), send me an email! I’d love to be able to include it in a future edition of the Saturday Six. [Go to for submitting suggestions.]

Monday, 15 June 2009

When Did I Get This Fat?!

What would make me say that?


If you are wondering who that is, it's me. How do I know? Well, that wretched painting made it onto the local Wayne HS channel in 1985 or 1986, because it somehow ended up there after an art show and no one knew whose it was. (I find that a bit hard to believe, as I am distinctive looking - not in a model or famous person type way, but just easily recognisable throughout the ages). This was when I was working on it in Mrs Hughes' art class. And how else do I know?

It's been a while, but I do remember life with just one chin. And normal, even (dare I think it) perky boobs. (We are dating ourselves now!) And the hair... I paid less attention to it then than now, hard to believe. I'm as indifferent as ever to fashion. I never made much of an attempt to care about it anyway.

Funny to see me that age. I looked happy there, and happiness in high school was fleeting, to grabbed at whenever possible. It's painful to recall those days, when I was unhappy more often than not. Now I'm happy most if not all the time. This is clearly a better way to be. So while I do lament over the past body, there are two things to be said:

1. I'd rather be fat and happy

2. No one did this to me but me! Stop whinging!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Saturday Six: Episode #270

Here are this week’s “Saturday Six” questions. Either answer the questions in a comment here, or put the answers in an entry on your blog…but either way, leave a link to your site so that everyone else can visit! If you repost the questions on your site, you must link back to this site as the source.

1. What is the dominant color in your bathroom? Have you coordinated rugs, towels and the shower curtain to match this color? The main bath, which is mine, is mostly blue; the ensuite bathroom, which is Luis', is brown. Both are very circa 1960s. His shower has a glass door; mine, a mild, nondescript greenish white curtain that matches any bathroom.

2. What part of the bathroom needs the most attention from a cleaning crew? None, the cleaning crew comes every other Monday.

3. How many rolls of unused toilet paper are waiting in the closet? Uh... um... how embarrassing. I buy 'em in bulk at Costco, so many - many, many, many - in mine. Just the four to six that fit in easy reach are in Luis' bathroom, as it is a much smaller room.

4. Check out the linen closet: which do you have fewest of: bath towels, hand towels or wash cloths? Hand towels. I find them a waste.
5. Take the quiz: What Bathroom Product Are You?
How clean is your bathroom? Be honest!
It's very dirty
It's sparkling clean
It's been cleaned recently
It's a little messy, but it's sanitary
It's clean enough for guests

What scent shampoo are you the most likely to use?

If you had to paint your bathroom a new color, it would be:
You'd paint stripes

What flavor toothpaste appeals to you most?
Vanilla mint
Baking soda

What do you like best in your bathroom?
The toilet
The bath
The mirror
The shower
The sink

You Are Shampoo
You are refreshing and cheerful. You don't hold on to a lot of baggage in life. You are a true optimist. For you, every day is a fresh start.

You are confident and bold. You are proud of who you are, simple as that. You are passionate about life and its possibilities. You don't hold back.

I had no idea that shampoo was passionate about life. My shampoo just lathers and cleans my hair...

6. Of the products in your medicine cabinet, which brand have you used the longest? Good gods... I've no idea. I-- wait. I know. In the shower and my bathroom closet, Pantene hair products; shampoo and conditioner. Oh, but that is not my medicine cabinet. Hmmm. I'll have to go look. Sheesh. Hold on...

Q-tip cottom swabs. I buy those in huge things, too.

Sunday Seven: Episode #199

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: Name the first seven red things you see in your home.

Either answer the question in a comment or answer it in your journal and include the link in a comment. (To be considered “first to play,” a link must be to the specific entry in which you answered the question.) You may include this link in the URL space when leaving your comment, or in the comment itself. As long as it’s there in one spot or the other.

1. The big body pillow for my back
2. The fireplace (drk cherry wood)
3. The tops of the Smurf houses on the mantle
4. The black and red checked throw on the couch
5. The glass bric-a-brac on the table, a very recent gift from my sister-in-law (I love it)
6. My glass light-catcher on the window
7. The red cat toy that came with Siobhan, sitting atop the globe

Clothes Make the Man

I am often bamboozled by people, clothing choices and the obsessive need to have the latest, greatest... or even the need to be dressed up. I am a jeans and sweater person, or (even worse), a cargo pants and tight but too casual shirt person.

This has been a bone of contention in every company I worked for that had any kind of dress code at all. Imagine what I've been experiencing the last three and half years.

I've become used to my husband. As much as Luis will not bend his will for my insane requests (put dirty dishes in the kitchen, put dirty laundry in the bedroom, please don't leave the cereal box open - note that none of the requests are quite what they should be - put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, put the dirty clothes in the hamper, put the sealed cereal box away in the pantry), he does acquiesce to my greater knowledge of what colours work with one another. This is a miracle and a boon. It's bad enough that he is the equivalent of a 14-year-old (immature but old enough to notice hot women) but to have to walk around with a clown would be asking more than I can give.

One of my coworkers comes in impeccably dressed on or offseason, looking natty every day. The wardrobe is amazing. The colour coordination is more so. The dark teal outfit is my favourite and as ideal a colour as it is for me, it is perfection on this person.

And then there is the infamous purple and YELLOW sweater. This is a special form of torture that only a man could pull off. No woman in her worst moment of colour coordination could manage this. The colour purple actually is not the issue, it's the YELLOW. Are you wondering why the lighter hue is represented in caps? Wait for it... It's really, really YELLOW, a lurid, pulsating, brighter than the sun colour that makes your eyeballs ache. For a tent or hang gliding apparatus, this is the perfect colour combo - any jet in a 50 mile radius will see you. In an article of clothing, it is... horrifying.

I get in at 0600 (maybe 0630 in the winter - the pervasive and long-lasting darkness makes it less incentivising to awake early) and by the time the sweater bounces in, it is well past nine (if only because we don't run into one another earlier), and as awake as I am, this is an eye-opener. [Read: an eyesore.] Granted, he pulls it off better than anyone else can, but why pull it off - or on - at all?!

I keep hoping that if I make enough comments and "I'm blinded" guestures, the hint will be taken and the purple and YELLOW sweater will come off the rotation. So far, no luck.

Of course, I am amused. Horizontally striped shirts are really in vogue where I work. If this was the 1950s, an age that did not embrace the mantra "be yourself" and applied that to obesity, maybe this would look okay. Welcome to the 2000s - we are almost all overweight and perfectly okay with it (well, not really, but we all have kind of gotten on board with the idea that, well, this is me). If you want to be fat or remain overwieght that is your deal. But don't wear clothing that underscores this or makes it so much more obvious that you are lugging a few extra pounds.

Last night there were some male specimens running around with belly shirts on... and whoa Nelly, the bellies that stuck out from under. Good lord, do I ever need to see that? NO. The answer is a loud, resounding NO. I suspect that as with all bad things, the image will be seared into my aching brain for some time... or until something more horrifying comes along to erase it.
This brings us to the more fashionable and knowledgeable dressers. I have a friend at work who loves shoes and bags. She and I make fun of each other all the time. She knows designers and what they make; I know none of that. I am all about comfort; she is all about the look. It's really quite funny. But she always looks good. She wears a couple of colours that I wouldn't, but where I look rumpled and frumpy and clearly uncomfortable wearing slacks and definitely dresses, she is completely at ease dressed up and ready to go out to a fancy dinner.
She also hasn't shown up in anything that has made me do a double-take and think, "Yikes!" That's a plus. I remember Sex and the City and some of the outfits worn by Carrie... Goodness, where was that full-length mirror? Of course, my coworker is flabbergasted that I don't own a full-length mirror and worse, I'm not slightly tempted to get one.
Life is different when you are a size 16 to 18, honey. A full-length mirror is psychological warfare. So is clothes shopping, something I once loved and now loathe. And when fit people give me pointers on how to dress... forget it! Spend a day in my size XL shirts and 18W pants and then you can give advice. Until then, I don't want to hear it.

Thank you, Luis, for letting me have a hand in your clothing shopping!

Now I'm Primary Crew

Six minutes ago I became the primary crew for the Sunday shift. Rats...

I got to take two calls last night as back up for the whole of Parsippany (Car 65 gets from the start of the Wetdown to 1300 the following day off). We had a run to Greystone (which I've been to all of six times, five of them in the last five or six months) and a run to a wedding reception at the Hilton (when's the last time you had cocktail hour at 2300? Unreal...). Two trips to Motown - and oh, hey! A drunk being wrestled to the ground right in front of us in front of Motown when we wanted to leave! (That was the highlight of all of this.)

After that, nothing happened. I mean, seriously, nothing happened. Most of the time I listen to 65 getting between three and five calls each night I'm on. Nothing... I would say I was grateful. We got home just after midnight, I think. And the pager made not a single sound, not even static, until 0730 this morning.

But now I'm no longer on back up and Sundays can be nutty. We shall see. It is 14 June and I've logged five runs. I don't think I can beat my May numbers... they're not in yet, but I know I've at least 16 or 17, which for me is a boatload of calls.

Holy cow... I see nothing but blue sky now! Time to go outside!

Wetdown Madness!

Last night we had the Wetdown for Car 65 (Parsippany's Volunteer First Aid Squad) and Car 69 (Parsippany's Rescue and Recovery Squad). Here are some of the highlights.

The truck in the foreground is 65's new ambulance. The monster behind it is 69's new toy.

More fun and games among firefighters. It's all in great fun - but this is by and far the most boisterous I've ever seen it get. I've been to at least a half-dozen of these things, including our two. Heaps of fun!
The new Heavy Rescue rig. This one has all the trappings except a winch, but you can attach a rolling winch to it!
Me and Nan standing with their new baby.
More soakings for the different firemen.
One of the Roxbury Trucks getting in on the action...
The fire departments want to dump water on anything, so shortly after soaking the new trucks, they'll happily soak each other. It gets a lot more out of hand than this.
Hello, Nick. Here's from Car 65... but you likely guessed that...
This was before the infighting began.
This is still pretty tame. This is how these events get their names.

Marching to a Different Drummer

I'm reading Erma Bombeck's Forever, Erma, which is a book compiled from various articles whe wrote. How many of you under 40 know who Erma Bombeck is? Show of hands? All of you. Yes, I know. Every day that I scoff and laugh at aging and say that I refuse to let it get me down, there is another example of why some cultures have ritual suicide at a specific age...

Anyway, in it is one article entitled Marching to a Different Drummer, dated November 3, 1979. She talks about her one son, who didn't fit into any of those typical descriptions of kids.

That's me.

I'm the baby who used the stuff in my diapers to draw on the walls. I'm the kid who threw a rabbit skin (very soft and fluffy) out the car window and yelled, "Furs flew away!" I'm the kid who played in the dirt, hated girlie clothes (as you can see, little has changed that way), and traipsed around the house in my mother's work clothes... a sequined bikini (she was a go-go dancer. What, aren't all thirty-something mothers go-go dancers?), wanted to be an astronomer and one time packed my suitcase because I was "going to Hawaii to see the volcanoes". I'm the kid who ate sugar straight out of packets.

Parents asked mine not to let me come over. Teachers clucked their tongues and shook their heads. Guidance counselors everywhere predicted dire outcomes with no chance of success. My grandmother was sure I'd never see adulthood because I ate no vegetables and hardly any "real" food and was skinny as a rail. Even religion didn't want me - a friend took me with her to Sunday School and I asked so many questions, the teacher told her parents not to have me return. My parents smiled and encourage me all the while worrying that I wasn't going to college. I was that kid destined to work in a MacDonalds, serving Happy Meals to the completely hapless.

What happened to me?

My parents don't worry anymore. My grandmother missed that bullseye by miles, as my current panoramic figure testifies. My friends love me and all describe me as a "pisser". People find me funny and entertaining. My squadmates shake their heads when we are chatting in the squadhouse but tell me I'm good with patients. My husband has lived me for 19 plus years (enough said!).

I love my job. I'm an EMT and save lives. I get up in the morning smiling and ready to live a new day and I go to bed the same way. I see joy and beauty in every day just by watching the sun rise and the Moon set. I'm told I have a wonderful smile (that would be my ability to hypnotize and confound people - ever seen my teeth?), genuine and friendly. I have my husband of almost 20 years who loves me and I him. I'm not wealthy, but we live very, very well. I always write that my goal is to be happy. I am very happy!

And I have never, ever, to this day, worked in a MacDonalds.

Saturday 9 Meme: Uninvited

1. Do you mind people to show up uninvited? Yes, I do mind, terribly. I have a schedule and I have a 44-year-old child that turns the house upside down as fast as three kids between 2 and 6 years old. And people wonder why I don't want children. I have one!

2. Last person you talked to on the phone? Dave DeGil in Montana. He called me to ask for Cinnabuns when I stop in Utah's Salt Lake City's airport to catch the last leg of my flight. Eleven days and counting!

3. Last person on your missed call list? No idea. It must be someone at work... as in a call received at work. My job is such that I am not a phone chatterer.

4. Who calls you the most? Mmmmm... no one - not at home, anyway. I am not one for phone conversations. Oh, my! Sunlight! I must go outside!

5. What is your favorite song about breaking up? Okay, I'm back. Sunlight is fast and fleeting these days. I don't have a favourite song about breaking up. Who thinks that way?

6. If someone sent you an unexpected gift, what would you like it to be? A tune-up and repair for any problems in my car so it lasts another 8 years.

7. Your classic rock station plays the top songs of all time. What is number one? I think A Stairway to Heaven is still the number one song. I'm good with that.

8. Do you live for today or tomorrow? I live right in the moment. I look forward to things and think fondly on memories but I'm all too aware of how fast these moments pass and how many people live in the wrong time frame.

9. What movie villain scared you as a kid? I dunno... Freddy Kruger?

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Back onto The PCT Trail (A Diary of My Cousin)

Hi everybody! Some of you were wondering what happened to me last year when the trail reports stopped suddenly. Of course, everything was ultimately fine, but after hiking another 100 miles or so and coming to within 180 miles of my finish point, I started to have a physical problem and felt it was the better part of wisdom to exit the trail for the season. Good timing, because the next week it dumped the first load of snow for the season in Northern California! So here I am, back on the trail this spring, hoping to make it from the Mexican border to Kennedy Meadows (my starting point last year). That's 709 miles. Up in Northern California, I still have the last 180 miles left to hike, then I'll have finished the whole Pacific Crest Trail.

I'm still deciding how I'm going to celebrate. Oh, and there WILL be celebrating. Much celebrating.

Miles hiked so far: 120
Days hiked: 10

On May 11, my sister-in-law Kim and I made our way to Campo, CA. San Diego trail angels drove us to the actual Mexican border, where took the requisite goofy pictures in front of the PCT southern terminus monument, and then set off into the desert.

The "desert" wasn't exactly how I'd pictured it to be. Lots of low hills covered with scrubby brush and lots of flowering silver sword plants. Plenty of wildflowers, too, which was a welcomed sight in such a dry place. Our first day was relatively cool, as it had been raining on our way to the trail. I think that was just God teasing us, though, because it hasn't rained since, and it's been in the 90s during the days.

What can I say about the desert so far? It's dag-blasted dry. And hot like I've never experienced before. I can drink and drink and still feel dry. Luckily, I've had zero foot problems, but the intense heat has been giving me hives on my legs and arms. Didn't know you could get hives from the heat, but I guess I'm just one of those lucky few. It might also have something to do with the fact that I'm pregnant. Yes, finally! I'm in my 16th week, and I'm due in early October. The timing couldn't be better for me to get this section of the trail finished. I was feeling pretty barfy up until the week before I had to leave for the trail, and was wondering if I'd even be able to hike... but then all that business just kind of disappeared, and hasn't come back, thankfully.

The hiking actually makes me feel better, when I'm feeling a little ick. And for those of you who are tempted to worry about me, don't. My midwife gave me the thumbs up for the hike, with the caveat that I make sure I stay well-hydrated. So I'm off on my last trail adventure for a while. I'll be scratching this kind of activity off my list until my child is old enough to carry a pack, I think!

I'm still trying to decide whether I'm actually enjoying the hiking or not. It's so completely different from what I experienced last year in the northern parts, it's really not fair to compare the two terrains. I'll just have to find what's good about the desert and focus on that. For example, the cactus and lots of the plants are blooming right now.

The desert smells good. I don't have to worry about animals trying to steal my food (nice!). I haven't met a scorpion or a rattlesnake yet. In fact, there's not much wildlife around except for the occasional songbird or ground squirrel, lizards and toads. The lizards and toads are really different looking -- they all have horny spikes on their bodies. Like nothing I'm used to, being from the East. I've made it through a few trail towns -- Lake Morena, Mt. Laguna, Julian, Warner Springs, and now Idyllwild (where I'm resting for a few days).

The towns are definitely one-horse affairs, but they all had a place to buy food and a place to rest -- which was all I ultimately need. I hiked 21 miles out of Warner Springs, heading to a trail angel's house at the end of the day that was only a 1/4 mile off the PCT on a dirt road. I learned the hard way that 21 miles is still too far for me to hike as yet. I also learned that bringing along extra water isn't an option for me -- it should be considered a necessity. Basically, I'd been too cocky. So I stumbled into Mike the trail angel's house, dehydrated and rashy, and he took one look at me and sent me to his room for the night. I think he slept on a cot in the living room. He is a perfect example of someone giving the shirt off his back. I'm so grateful to this kind man! If I hadn't felt so sick, I wouldn't have let him do that -- but the truth is, I really needed what he was offering.

There were probably 20 other hikers already there at his little desert shanty, bar-b-Q ing and drinking, but I was barely able to manage a cold shower and to fall into this kind man's nice soft bed. I kept waking up all night to eat and drink, and by the morning I was feeling much better.

Mike was leaving to go back to work the next morning, so he dropped me off in the next town north -- Idyllwild. I'm waiting here for my mother-in-law, Laurie Graves, who's driving out to visit me for an overnight. She's very active in the Girl Scouts, and we're going to stay at Camp Scherman Saturday night. I'll get to see where she hikes and camps -- should be fun! And she'll get to see my growing belly.

Luckily, the weather is supposed to be cooling down for the next few days at least, so my the hiking won't be as hot. I'm learning that it's better to hike early in the morning (like 6-11am) and after 5pm. I may have to make this my routine if I want to avoid getting more hives. During the heat of the day, I'll just find a shady spot (yes, they do exist) and blow up my air mattress and read and relax. With the desert breeze, it's actually a pretty nice way to spend the middle of the day! I hope everyone's well, and I'd love to hear from everyone while I'm out here. Keep the emails coming!

Love, Dawn

P.S. - My trail angel friend Mel Pfeffer gave me the trail name "Baby Bump". It's got a ring to it :)

An Email Meme (Someone E-mailed it to Me)

Where is your cell phone? It is sitting ignored in my bag.

Your significant other? He is laying ignored in bed...

Your hair? Dark brown with a lot of dark red/burgundy

Your mother? Bedridden. Or did you mean hair colour? It would be completely white but she has it dyed.

Your father? Bald, like my husband, who is laying in bed ignored...

Your favorite thing? My iPod, what else? Maybe my camera... it is a toss-up...

Your dream last night? You know, I did have a weird one. I was dreaming about our Major Medical changes, but also about driving the ambulance and I was turning around via a jug handle on Route 80 and my right knee kept banging against something that was sharp and cutting up the skin. I awoke to find the cat sticking her claws under the blanking and clawing up my right knee!

Your favorite drink? Room temperature water with cran-each flavour in it.

Your dream/goal? To be happy... which I am!

What room are you in? I'm in the living room, listening to Spock vs. Q on my iPod.

Your favorite hobby? Blogging/Facebook

Your fear? Having to give up my jobs because of the MD

Where do you want to be in 6 years? Right here, just a bit wiser and a life member of the squad. I'd also like to be svelte...

Where were you last night? Car 65/69 Wetdown - lots of fun!

Something that you aren't? Subtle

Muffins? Only banana walnut and not very often at all

Wish list item? Ummmm... It is about two miles long.

Last thing you did? I went outside to stand in the sunshine and see the tiny bits of blue sky between clouds. There has been tons of rain and clouds.

What are you wearing? My squad shirt (one of many) and EMT pants...

TV? I'm not watching it, if that is what you meant. It is a 61" RCA HDTV. Luis is into size...

Your pets? Siobhan is here in the livingroom.

Friends? Can you be more specific? One best friend, two work friends and many coworkers, 328 friends on Facebook (how? No idea!), and some old, old friends. Some squad friends. I get on well with most people.

Your life? Magickal

Your mood? Happy, satisfied

Missing someone? Not at the moment

Drinking? Water with Cran-peach flavour

Smoking? Never. I'm a militant anti-smoker

Your car? Sexy... it's a two-door silver Acura CL Type S

Something you're not wearing? Earrings, my watch, socks...

Your favorite store? Hmmmm. No idea. I'm not shopping at the moment.

Your favorite color? Deep burgundy

When is the last time you cried? When we saw the movie Up, about two weeks ago. The time before that was after the fatality on Route 80, near Montville on the Parsippany border.

Who will resend this? No idea.

Where do you go to over and over? Well, the Club. The Squad house. Am I supposed to think of something else?

Five people who email me regularly? Um, let's see... Facebook, A Word A Day, the US Geological Survey, junk e-mailers and at work, it's some HR Consulting company

Favorite place to eat? Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. We were there last Saturday.

Favorite place I'd like to be at right now? Montana!

Four people I think will respond I think Greg (amidst complaining how he has no time), Mary, Daniela and I'm not sure who else...

Humour - Dear Deaf Wife

A man feared his wife wasn't hearing as well as she used to and he thought she might need a hearing aid. Not quite sure how to approach her, he called the family doctor to discuss the problem. The Doctor told him there is a simple informal test the husband could perform to give the doctor a better idea about her hearing loss.

Here's what you do," said the Doctor, "stand about 40 feet away from her, and in normal conversational speaking tone see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response.."

That evening, the wife is in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he was in the den. He says to himself, "I'm about 40 feet away, let's see what happens." Then in a normal tone he asks, 'Honey, what's for dinner?"
No response.

So the husband moves closer to the kitchen, about 30 feet from his wife and repeats, "Honey, what's for dinner?"
Still no response.

Next he moves into the dining room where he is about 20 feet from his wife and asks, "Honey, what's for dinner?"

Again he gets no response.

So, he walks up to the kitchen door, about 10 feet away. "Honey, what's for dinner?" Again there is no response.So he walks right up behind her. "Honey, what's for dinner?"

(I just love this)

"Ralph, for the FIFTH time, 'CHICKEN'!"

A.W.A.D. - No End to Eponyms

with Anu Garg

Self-improvement author Dale Carnegie once said, "A person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language."

No wonder we put it to use any chance we get: from naming a business (Wal-Mart) to naming a child (Ron Jr.). For the same reason, we insist that a hospital auditorium or a park bench carry our name in return for our money.

We name inventions, diseases, countries, products, plants, mountains, planets, and more after people's names. We even coin words after them. Such words are called eponyms, from epi- (upon) + -onym (name).This week's AWAD examines five words named after people.

PRONUNCIATION: (choor-ee-guh-RESK)
MEANING: adjective: Baroque; lavish; over-the-top. Also, churrigueresco

ETYMOLOGY: After José Benito Churriguera (1650-1725), Spanish architect and sculptor, whose family was known for extravagant architectural decorations.

USAGE: "I had what I considered to be a reasonable plan for finding out what was going on in McAllen, Texas. I would call on the heads of its hospitals, in their swanky, decorator-designed, churrigueresco offices, and I'd ask them." Atul Gawande; The Cost Conundrum; The New Yorker; Jun 1, 2009

"With Chihuly, who works with an army of technicians, everything depends on visual excess. He is the most baroque of modern artists -- or more accurately, his art belongs to the tradition of the Churrigueresque." Richard Dorment; The Mind-blowing Gift of a Master; The Daily Telegraph (London, UK); Feb 20, 2009

Mata Hari
MEANING: noun: A seductive woman who works as a spy

ETYMOLOGY: After exotic dancer Mata Hari, a stage name of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (1876-1917). She was a Dutch woman, who took a Malay name, allegedly spied for the Germans, and was executed by the French. Her stage name Mata Hari means sun, literally "eye of the day", from Malay mata (eye) + hari (day, dawn).

USAGE: "Roxana Saberi, in the space of a few months, has gone from freelance journalist arrested for carrying an illicit bottle of wine, to American Mata Hari spying against Iran for the CIA and now a free woman allowed to return home." Richard Beeston; Ayatollah Ali Khameini's Hidden Hand in Roxana Saberi Case; The Times (London, UK); May 12, 2009

PRONUNCIATION: (RAK-muh-niz-uhm)
MEANING: noun: The exploitation and intimidation of tenants by landlords

ETYMOLOGY: After Peter Rachman (1919-1962), a landlord in London who became notorious for unethical practices including driving out tenants to maximize revenue from his rental properties. Another fellow who got his name in the dictionary for harassing tenants is Charles Boycott (1832-1897), a British land agent in Ireland, whose mistreatment of tenants resulted in his getting ostracized, i.e. he was boycotted.

USAGE: "It is a story of pure Rachmanism. She had been threatened, had her rent cheque refused, her electricity cut off, and seen her absent neighbours' flats cleared of all their possessions, while rubbish was dumped outside her door."Peter Beaumont; Drowned City Cuts Its Poor Adrift; The Observer (London, UK); Dec 11, 2005

NOTES: The term Rachmanism is a Britishism, though unscrupulous landlords are found everywhere. The above usage example is from the UK, but even if not mentioned, it'd be easy to tell: in just one sentence it manages to include four examples that illustrate the spelling and vocabulary differences between British English and American English:cheque/check, neighbour/neighbor, flat/apartment, and rubbish/trash.

PRONUNCIATION: (maw-suh-LEE-uhm, -zuh-)
MEANING: A large tomb, usually an ornate stone building

ETYMOLOGY: After Mausolus, a Persian governor in 4th century BCE. His monumental tomb was considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, after which any grand tomb is now called a mausoleum.Also see columbarium.

USAGE: "Wu is leading a delegation to attend the 80th anniversary of the burial of Sun Yat-sen at a mausoleum in Nanjing."Flora Wang and Mo Yan-chih; Chen Chu Praised For Saying President; Taipei Times (Taiwan); May 23, 2009

PRONUNCIATION: (mar-ti-NET, MAR-ti-net)
MEANING: noun: A strict disciplinarian

ETYMOLOGY: After Jean Martinet, an army officer during the reign of Louis XIV in France. He was a tough drill master known for his strict adherence to rules and discipline. He was killed by friendly fire during the siege of Duisburg in 1672.

USAGE: "Many people believe the agency acts like a martinet. They say the agency is hard-headed and hard-hearted. They say it is dictatorial and unyielding."APA Motives Commendable; Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, New York); May 11, 2009

Friday, 12 June 2009

A.W.A.D. - Multiple Meaning Words

with Anu Garg

"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass might as well have been talking about this week's words. While the word "set" has the largest number of meanings -- the Oxford English Dictionary has 26 pages devoted to this little three-letter word -- each of this week's hard-working words has many unrelated meanings that are interesting.

Come to think of it, Alice's one word mean can mean more than one mean word. With this week's words in AWAD Humpty Dumpty is going to have to pay a lot. Let's get our money's worth.

MEANING: noun:
1. The space between the extended forefinger and thumb
2. A flourish or curl at the end of a handwritten word. Also known as curlicue
3. A discourse, especially its summarizing part

ETYMOLOGY: Of uncertain origin, probably from Scots pirlie (curly)

USAGE: "Won Li's attentions moved to the weblike purlicue between my thumb and forefinger." Suzann Ledbetter; A Lady Never Trifles with Thieves; Pocket; 2003

MEANING: noun:
1. Something that limits or hinders
2. A fishing net having three layers
3. An instrument for drawing ellipses
4. A shackle used in training a horse to amble
5. An instrument for gauging and aligning parts of a machine
6. A hook for hanging a pot or a kettle over a fire

verb tr.:
To restrain; to hinder

ETYMOLOGY: From Old French tramail, from Latin tremaculum, from tres (three) + macula (mesh). Ultimately from the Indo-European root trei- (three) that's also the source of such words as three, testify (to be the third person: to bear witness), and triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13)

USAGE: "John Singleton, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. spokesman, said [the ban on cigarette sales at Boston drugstores and on college campuses] does trammel on businesses' right to sell what they want to sell." Stephen Smith; Hub Seeks More Bans on Tobacco; The Boston Globe; Sep 4, 2008

"'Lost in Showbiz asks what constitutes a crisis?' Jonathan Blake continues, free of the trammels of punctuation." Marina Hyde; Our High Priest of Showbiz Offers Up Some Vehicle Specs; The Guardian (London, UK); Apr 27, 2009

MEANING: noun:
1. A cricket or grasshopper
2. A small or young eel
3. A lively or lighthearted person

ETYMOLOGY: The word is often used in the phrase "merry as a grig". The word is of uncertain origin, though various theories have been suggested, such as a corruption of "merry as a cricket" or "merry as a Greek", as in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida: "Then she's a merry Greek indeed."

USAGE: "When all is reversed and we shall be like the insane, to whom the antics of the sane seem the crazy twistings of a grig." EB White; Removal; 1938
"I walked into my local branch of Boots the Chemists as merry as a grig, with a twinkle in my eye and an annoying whistle on my lips." The Weasel; Independent (London, UK); Jun 8, 1996

MEANING: noun:
1. One that growls
2. A container (as a pail or pitcher) brought by a customer to fetch beer
3. A small iceberg
4. A four-wheeled cab.5. An electromagnetic device for testing short-circuited coils

ETYMOLOGY: From growl, from Middle English groule, grollen (to rumble), probably of imitative origin

USAGE: "When Euro-metal comes to mind it can often rouse visions of hairy, horn-helmeted growlers howling about faraway lands and legendary times." Fawnda Mithrush; Primordial: Thoroughly Modern Metal; Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada); May 7, 2009

"The two-story building will feature a to-go bar on the first floor for beer aficionados to buy and fill growlers." Rachael Fisher; Brewing Company on the Move; The Anchorage Daily News (Alaska); May 1, 2009

"We sailed the 30-mile stretch of the Atlantic Sound, otherwise known as Iceberg Alley. The smaller, granite-hard growlers are to be avoided just as deftly as the enormous floating glacial islands."Neill Johnston; Cool Cruise Among Ice and Penguins; Birmingham Post (UK); May 15, 2009

"So this growler will get into Audi R8 territory for about a third of the Audi's $130,000 starting price tag." Jeremy Cato; New Challenger Even Better; The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada); Feb 19, 2008

MEANING: noun:
1. A pole with a hook on the end, used to land large fish
2. A metal spur for a gamecock
3. A hoax or fraud
4. Gimmick or trick
5. Harsh treatment or criticism
6. A place of entertainment, especially with a disreputable reputation
7. A house, apartment, shop, or other building
8. A social error; a faux pas

verb tr.:
1. (to stand or take the gaff) To receive severe criticism; to endure hardship
2. To cheat
3. To gamble

noun 1-4: From gaffe (boat hook), ultimately from the Indo-European root kap- (to grasp) that is also the root of captive, capsule, chassis, cable, occupy, and deceive

5-7: Of unknown origin

8: A variant of gaffe

verb 1-3: Of uncertain origin

USAGE: "I had murdered a couple of nice halibut, impaling them with the gaff and then happily beating their brains out all over the deck of a friend's boat." Richard Chiappone; The Killing Season; Anchorage Press (Alaska); May 13, 2009

"Derek Dingle, a famous closeup man, adjusted the Cigarette Through Quarter trick by palming and replacing one gaffed quarter with another." Adam Gopnik; The Real Work; New Yorker; Mar 17, 2008

"'They don't want to take the gaff when something goes wrong,' said Bud Long." A Dismal Record; The Fresno Bee (California); Aug 9, 1992