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Neko

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The year in review 


This year was... a BLUR, lol. Here are the main points that I can still remember:

My little angel girl, the tiny squirrel that had been the light of my life for a year because I could hand-feed and pet her, paid me a special visit that I now think was meant as a good-bye, and then went away, never to return. :-(

Although we'd never seen a possum in all the years we've lived here, one started visiting us, eating the buffet we put out for him right outside our sliding glass door so we could watch him up close... and then another came... and another... and another. :-)

We got digital cable, and a whole new world of channels opened up; I've seen a zillion science and fashion programs, and enjoy always having 30 movies to choose from.

The greatest non-scifi series ever made, "Queer as Folk," ended... badly.

After 20 loooong years, Stephen King finished his "Dark Tower" series... brilliantly.

I had an underwear-related early midlife crisis; my panties and socks are so nice now that I almost want to hang them up on the wall. ;-)

I got a smokin' new laptop.

We've endured more plagues of vermin than the entire Bible describes.

I saved a bird. :-)

Because 2 of my bill payments vanished into the postal ether, I switched to online banking, thus saving a great deal of time, but adding alot of aggravation as I discovered that Bank of America is capable of even more kinds of weirdness and stupidity than I'd previously thought.

I got a 2nd pair of shoes... but haven't worn them yet.

I took over the management of my husband's Blockbuster online account; with ME keeping track of everything, it's amazing how many more DVD's we get, since he can no longer take weeks, or even MONTHS, to get them watched and returned... and with me choosing and prioritizing the DVD's in the queue, we're getting GOOD stuff now (my husband doesn't always agree, but since he's too lazy to make any effort anymore, he's out of luck).

My husband and I were both featured in major publications (I REALLY wish I could tell you about it, but I can't without compromising my anonymity).

The wildly overdue clearing out of my husband's junk, and the organization of our home, have begun.

I met alot of terrific bloggers; be sure to click their links in my list and see for yourself.

I made significant progress with my tech knowledge, eBay acquisitions of collectibles, and, by far the most importantly, my spiritual understanding.

I blogged alot. Every day. Every single day.

Mostly, though, I just lived life at a dead run for 365 days; I wonder how anyone could ever be bored, when there's so much to do, say, think and learn.

I hope you'll have a safe and enjoyable New Year's Eve; I'll raise my glass of eggnog to all of you at midnight.


Friday, December 30, 2005

Today's bits and pieces 


I had a lovely surprise today; a marathon on the Discovery Channel of "Going Tribal," the show where British hottie Bruce Parry lives with various tribal peoples and adopts their ways, including things like eating live grubs, taking dangerous hallucinogenic drugs, allowing them to pierce and scar him, and, my personal favorite, walking around naked with them... which means showing his splendid tattooed butt. They DID show a bare-butt episode, so my evening was complete. ;-)

There's a Swiss company called Pat Says Now that's raised the humble computer mouse to an art form; if you look here

http://www.pat-says-now.com/english/privatkunden.php?from=/english/vision.php

you'll see mice that are chili peppers, cats, hearts, brains, dogs, and women's torsos, mice with skulls, cow spots, ducks and fish floating in liquid, and even Swarovski crystals... most of them aren't very ergonomic, but they're seriously cute.

Also cute, especially if you're a cat lover, are the astonishing array of Flash clocks I found on this site

http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~mirin22t/tokeiDL.html

Yeah, it's a Japanese site, but each clock is next to its code (you need to scroll down to get to the 1st one), so you don't need to be able to read anything; there are 6 pages of clocks, so if you don't have one you love yet, take a look, because there's a bunch of good 'uns.

The last amazing thing I saw today was from the December 2005 Vogue, in an article called "Unhappy Meals":

"When I was growing up, no one I knew had a food allergy. Now, it seems, everyone knows someone who has one. Why has this happened? The answer, frighteningly enough, remains unclear."

"The most widely accepted idea is what's known as the hygiene hypothesis. Food allergies are due to an overactive immune system, which reacts to the protein in a certain food as if it were a parasite and creates antibodies (called IgE) that are specific to that food. The hygiene hypothesis holds that a decrease in childhood illness has left our immune systems with nothing to do but lash out against all the wrong things. In other words, by making our children too healthy, we have put them in danger."

In our arrogance, we've always assumed that we could alter the way our species lived for thousands of years and it would be an unblemished success; the reality is that we evolved to exist in an essentially animal way out in the natural world, and although there aren't many people who think that we'd be better off without agriculture, medicine, and homes in places where the only dangerous predators are of the 2-legged variety, you'd be hard-pressed to find any aspect of our physical, mental, emotional or spiritual beings in which we aren't pitifully weak compared to tribal peoples... that's the price we've paid for becoming "civilized." That'd be a useful thing for scientists to study... but don't count on it happening any time soon.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

A thing of beauty 


I almost missed it, buried in an article of wildly expensive things you might buy for the loved one who has everything in the December 2005 Vogue; a mostly-blurry little pic of a "mocha service" (it looks just like a tea set to me, but what do I know?) of a design so unusual, so lovely, that I just sat and stared at it... and I do NOT normally have any interest in porcelain unless it's in animal form. Luckily, the website for the place that sells them was included... and they've got a pic, a far better one than in the article

http://www.neuegalerie.org/data/databases/neuegalerie_0363/widgets/neuegalerie_department_item_c/00/00/00/70/picture/original.jpg

Isn't it GORGEOUS? My 1st thought was that it was like something Dr. Seuss would have made, if he did stuff in black and white rather than in vivid colors; it made me realize consciously that his forms tend to have a distinct organicness to them, which I find appealing in art and design as a whole... did that come in part from my love of his books as a child? Hmmmmmmmmm... Anyways, when I looked closely at the only thing in the Vogue pic that's really in focus, the cup and saucer, I saw that the saucer is actually a flower; this led to me seeing that the "mocha pot" is a gourd, and the sugar bowl is an apple. Only the very edge of the creamer is visible in the magazine photo, but I assumed it was cool too, and I was right; the online pic clearly shows it as being modeled after the opening of a pitcher plant.

The story would have ended there, and not gone beyond my finding something intensely visually pleasing, but Vogue described the service as "a reproduction of a Secessionist original," which made me think that there might be more goodies like this, so I did a little research on that term, and on the designer, Josef Hoffmann. It turns out that "Secessionist" just means the Austrian version of Art Nouveau, which was basically design based on plant forms; Hoffmann is one of the big names associated with it, but sadly, none of the other creations of his that I was able to find photos of had anything like the impact on me that the mocha service did, nor did any other Secessionist pieces... most of it didn't appeal to me at all, in fact. Oh well.

There was a tiny mystery that I discovered in my research; the Neue Galerie website places the creation of the mocha service at about 1925, at which time Art Deco was already in full swing in Europe (but not yet in the USA, oddly enough)... is the date significantly off, or did Hoffmann just feel the urge to make one final, extreme stab at Art Nouveau? I don't suppose I'll ever know, but it doesn't really matter; he elevated those porcelain receptacles to art, and they've entered the list of things I'll get if I ever win the lottery.

It's interesting to me to learn that my preference for "organic" forms extends beyond my passion for mid-century design (the term they used for their flowing, curvy shapes was "biomorphic"), which featured things like amoebic tables and non-rectangular couches

http://www.designboom.com/portrait/noguchi/furniture.html

and doubly interesting to see where some of the influence of that era undoubtedly came from. This takes me back to Seuss' art again, where nothing has a hard edge or a 90 degree angle, where everything from a car to a house looks like it might have grown in an enchanted and slightly warped forest; his art, like mid-century design, creates a vision of a world very different than the cold, sharp, metallic modern one we all inhabit... even though many of the latter things are still seen as "futuristic" a half century or more after they were created. It'd be interesting to see a psychological analysis of the preference for this stuff, given the unrelenting rectangularity of American culture, wouldn't it?

The older I get, the more "visual" I get, the more passionate I get about the artistry of the things that catch my eye, and the more cohesive my visual preferences become; I can only hope that some day I, although possessing no talent whatsoever for art in any form, find something to DO with my "vision"... although, I've gotta say, it's sort of weird to be constantly torn between being a geek, a mystic, and an interior decorator.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A surreal day 


Our latest Hitchcockian plague of vermin has been fruit flies; we were assuming that they kept coming in every time we bought fruit... until I happened to be standing nearby when my husband opened a rarely-used kitchen cabinet, and saw, to my utter revulsion, that there was a plastic bag in there that was FILLED with the bugs. It turned out to have fruit in it, or the rotted remains thereof, that my husband had stuck in there for no reason he could recall sometime in the past and promptly forgotten; the flies had been living and breeding in it ever since. He took the bag outside and dumped it in the trash, and now the lengthy process of taking everything out of the cabinet, sterilizing it all (to eliminate poop and eggs), and then scrubbing the shelves and other surfaces before putting it all back, is under way; I wish I could believe that he's learned something about how to handle fruit from all of this...

Our new possum showed up again tonight; this may be the tiniest, daintiest, and prettiest possum that ever lived... and I saw testicles on HIM today, so we've been fooled by yet another wild animal as to its gender. He felt relaxed enough to walk around with his tail up rather than tucked down, and to sit near the door, and in both positions the much-lighter fur over the little male protrusions was clearly visible; my husband thinks it's hilarious that I'm lying on the floor examining possum genitals through the glass door, but we DO kinda have to know, so there's no way around it. For the 1st time, the little male ate with another of our marsupial friends; it was the female, and unlike the way she treats the other males, she showed no hint of aggression towards him, even though he ate nose to nose with her, and then gave her bottom a few tentative sniffs... which makes me wonder if she's going to go for this attractive newcomer rather than the larger, more familiar, but less lovely suitors. Regardless of what she prefers, though, I'm betting that the 3 males will run her ragged come mating season.

I got a package today containing 3 Christmas figurines that I'd won on eBay and intended to give to my mother next Christmas (yes, I really DO plan gifts that far ahead); my husband loudly protested the idea of giving a particular one of them up, insisting that we keep it for our own display... a MAN, one who started out with no more love of the cute than any other straight male, pleading for us to not give up an anthropomorphic critter doodad, can you believe it? (Yes, I agreed to keep it; my mother will never know it was originally meant for her.)

The less sleep I get, the more my waking life seems to take on dream logic...


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Today I saw... 


Did you know that you can get M&M's with custom messages on them, in colors of your choice? Check it out:

http://shop2.mms.com/customprint/index.asp#

They're expensive, but if you can afford them they'd be a good way to impress your party guests. I'd be interested to know how they chose the colors they offer; what made them decide on 3 shades of green, but only 1, very muted, purple... and on what planet do they think they'll sell the GRAY ones?!! Can you imagine eating GRAY candy?!! :-O

Our beta male possum showed up with a huge patch of fur ripped out of his shoulder; the skin's only scraped a little, but it still looks awful, and he's also scraped up on his nose and around one eye... clearly, there's some fighting going on, and we're getting worried about the alpha male, who hasn't come to eat yet. Since we've got 4 possums now, including the very new one that we haven't seen eating with any of the others so far (and that we think got chased a few days ago, since we heard "barking" and then she ran around our back yard like she was freaked out), we expect some more disruption... I just hope none of them gets seriously hurt.

I saw "Ringu 2"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?movieID=149121&channel=Movies&subChannel=sub#Cast

which is vaguely the Japanese equivalent of "The Ring 2"... all of which (including the terrifying "The Ring") are based on the original "Ringu," I hasten to add-it's the Japanese movie that started it all, although it's very different from American horror movies. I wish they'd done dubbed versions of the "Ringus," because it makes it impossible to get really drawn into the suspense when you're only halfway watching the movie because you're reading the subtitles. It's also distracting that so many aspects of how the movies are put together are different enough from what I'm used to from American movies for me to be aware of them; the suspense-building music is absent, there's no sex, little or no actual violence is shown, and the women are astonishingly demure, speaking practically in whispers, almost never screaming despite it being a HORROR movie... but what seemed the oddest to me was the way they were dressed. In an American movie, there's a minimum level of hotness that even minor characters are expected to have, but the women in "Ringu 2," whether with speaking parts or just extras in the crowd, are all swathed in sober, conservative outfits, such that the only female flesh in the entire movie was the bare knees of a few schoolgirls, and not even they wear any real color. The main character, played by pop star Miki Nakatani, appears in EVERY scene with at least 2 layers of clothing on her upper body; collared shirts buttoned to the throat, and either a cardigan also buttoned all the way up or a sweater vest with a high neckline, all in dark neutral colors. She also wears, in every scene, big, shapeless below-knee skirts in dark, dowdy prints, thick, opaque black tights, and plain, flat black shoes... can you imagine the lead actress in an AMERICAN film looking like that in even ONE scene, unless her character was part of some fanatical religious group?

Remember that old beer ad that had the punchline "Why are foreign movies always so... foreign?"? "Ringu 2," although it had some impressive moments, is mostly summed up by that line. Still, I'm sure I'll end up seeing "Ringu 0: Basudei"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?movieID=151791&channel=Movies&subChannel=sub#Cast

eventually; if I can't develop an appreciation for foreign films from those made by the man who pioneered the brilliant "ring concept," Hideo Nakata, I'll probably never "get" them, and I think I'm old enough now that I should be able to embrace... whatever it is that people see in movies they have to half-watch while reading subtitles (I think people in non-English-speaking countries must have a much easier time trying to watch American movies; with all the sex, fights, sex, explosions, sex, car chases, and sex, they don't NEED many subtitles). Can I count the claymation masterpieces of Nick Park (the creator of Wallace and Gromit)

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/LoadActorDetail.action?channel=Movies&subChannel=sub&listID=998719248&displayBoxArt=true

as foreign cinema and just call it good, lol?


Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas '05 report 


First and worst, the tree didn't get finished until after dinner... an all time low. We did, however, get the stockings up last night, and I had my seasonal pillows for the 1st time in about 5 years thanks to enough junk being taken to storage for me to reach them, so it sort of balanced out. I've got a bunch of other display items that didn't get put out yet, that I haven't seen in 2 years because they didn't make it out LAST year either, and, much as I dislike the idea of putting up more decorations AFTER Christmas, I may do it just to remind me of what I've got... it could save me a fortune on eBay.

Speaking of which; there are a couple of items that'd normally be beyond my price range whose auctions are ending in the next few days, and with so many people still busy with holiday stuff, not to mention out of $, I may have a chance at getting 'em... keep your fingers crossed for me.

We had an unusually good Christmas dinner, not because of the food, but because we watched one of our favorite movies as we ate, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?movieID=111116&channel=Movies&subChannel=sub#Cast

This giant among classics was very advanced for 1967; the central plot is that the daughter of liberal, wealthy white parents brings home a black man and announces her intention to marry him. An interesting sideline is that the person who's by far the most upset is their black maid, Tillie (played by the incomparable Isabel Sanford, aka Louise "Weezy" Jefferson from "The Jeffersons"), and the funniest line in the movie is from her; she marches into the room where John (played by Sidney Poitier, ahhhhhhhhhhhh) is changing clothes, and begins to take him to task for, as she thinks, trying to pull one over on "her" family, with the best part of her rant being, as best as I could type with her talking so fast, "I brought up that child from a baby in her cradle, and ain't nobody gonna bring in any trouble here while I'm watching, and I'm watching you, and if you bring any trouble in here you're like to find out what 'black power' REALLY means!!"... all said with great vehemence right in his face while he cowers in fear, lol. If you've never seen this movie, I highly recommend it.

My final thing to report is; I wasn't expecting to get any gifts, since my husband and I have long since ceased to bother, but I got one anyways. It was 4:30AM, long after any possums usually come, so I hadn't replenished their food, and was in fact closing things down, when our original and still favorite possum showed up; while he ate the little bit of fruit that was left, my husband handed me some luncheon meat to see if I could toss it out without scaring our baby off. He didn't run away, and didn't seem afraid at all as he started picking up the tidbits, so I was emboldened to hold a big piece out and start coaxing him to come and take it; for the 1st time EVER, he approached, sniffed, his little pink nose brushed up against the meat... and then he chickened out and withdrew. Yeah, that was disappointing, but the fact that he ALMOST managed it, that he overcame his fear to the point where he was close enough to have taken food from me, was a HUGE thrill; it should just be a matter of time now before he DOES stay brave and let me hand-feed him, and that knowledge is making this the most exciting holiday season in a long time.

I know that isn't what most people'd call a great Christmas, but it was pretty good by my standards; I hope that whatever YOU did made you and your loved ones happy, and that you're viewing the approaching new year with the same optimism that I am.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!! :-) 


If you're reading this on Christmas day, you'll have seen a nifty Java window pop up to wish you season's greetings; it's set up to only show once a day per person, so if you want to take a 2nd look you'll need to delete the cookies, which should be listed for my URL in your cookie folder... and if you missed it entirely, don't fret, because I'll do it again for New Year's. I have nothing exciting to report about the installation of the code, for once, because it went perfectly the 1st time; a true Christmas miracle.

I've combed the internet to find the funniest Christmas e-cards, and these are the winners:

http://www.perfectgreeting.com/index.cfm?action=view&id=4162&scid=10446

http://www.perfectgreeting.com/index.cfm?action=view&id=8615&scid=10446

Warning, GROSS: http://websols.com/cgi-bin/ecards/upcardme.cgi?step=1&pic=Seasons/184941639.jpg

My final gift to you is a hilarious spoof on one of our most beloved Christmas songs, "Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland"; here's the tune if you're not familiar with it

http://thomas-distributing.com/midi/christmas/wondrlan2.mid

and here's the spoof lyrics... brace yourself:


Walkin' 'Round in Women's Underwear (to be sung to the tune of "Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland")

Lacy things... wife is missin'
Didn't ask... her permission
I look quite a sight
In corsets so tight
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear.

In her drawer... was a teddy
Little straps... like spaghetti
Its red is so bright
I'm sexy all night
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear.

In the office there's a guy called Norman,
He prefers to dress like Murphy Brown.
He'll say, "Are you ready?", I'll say, "Whoa, man!"
"Let's wait until our wives are out of town!"

Later on... if you wanna
We can dress... like Madonna
With falsies so large
We'll get quite a charge
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear.

Lacy things... wife is missin'
Didn't ask... her permission
I look quite a sight
In corsets so tight
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear
Walkin' 'round in women's underwear.


You can find an mp3 of a different version of this song here

http://x802.putfile.com/videos/b2-34718572783.mp3

lol

MERRY CHRISTMAS!! XO


Saturday, December 24, 2005

A lack of Christmas spirit from an odd source 


Brace yourself for this one:

"The wife of the pastor of the nation's largest church said she chose to leave an airplane after a disagreement with a flight attendant, disputing accounts that she was asked to go.

The FBI has said Victoria Osteen, of Houston, Texas, was asked to leave after failing to obey crew instructions. The Continental Airlines flight Monday from Houston to Vail, Colorado, was delayed an hour as a result."

Why would ANYONE refuse to obey the crew of an airplane in these paranoid times? Worse, why would someone with such a high profile as "a child of the most high God" behave that way? What went through her head? "I'm tired of being a goody-goody, so I'm going to cause trouble in a public place"? And what about all the other people on the plane, who had to wait around for an HOUR, thus leading to missed connecting flights and delayed reunions with their families? Why did she not consider them when choosing a time to be a jerk? If I were Joel, I'd be REALLY ticked off... this makes him look pretty bad.

"In a statement posted on the Lakewood Church Web site, Osteen says: 'Regardless of how some have portrayed the situation, please know that it was truly a minor misunderstanding and did not escalate into what you saw or read in the news. Contrary to those reports, it was my choice to remove myself from the situation. Nonetheless, it was a most unfortunate event and I truly regret that it happened.'"

Sorry, Victoria, but NO ONE leaves a plane, voluntarily or otherwise, for something minor, especially 2 days before Christmas... and I find it a little hard to believe that the FBI is lying about something for which there are so many witnesses.

"A statement from Continental Airlines said the situation was resolved and a spokeswoman would not elaborate. The FBI reviewed a report from the airline and determined that no illegal activity had occurred, FBI spokeswoman Luz Garcia said."

What a relief that must be to everyone.

I'm not making this up; I got it from CNN

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/12/23/pastor.wife.ap/index.html

And it gets better; an article on the Houston Chronicle's site

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/3538956.html

has the following claim from one of the Osteens' fellow passengers

"'She was just abusive,' said Sheila Steele, who said she was sitting behind Victoria Osteen. 'She was just like one of those divas.'"

"Steele said Victoria Osteen was upset about liquid on her pull-down tray and asked a flight attendant to have it cleaned. When the attendant, who was carrying paperwork to the cockpit, told her she couldn't do it immediately, Osteen replied, 'Fine, get me a stewardess who can,' Steele said.

She said Victoria Osteen pushed a flight attendant and tried to get into the cockpit. Passengers quoted in the Colorado paper did not address those details."

I hope some other passenger speaks up about all this; could Victoria really have PUSHED someone? Is this the beginning of the Osteens going the way of certain other TV religious figures, who thought themselves above actually following Christ's guidance? It'd be a bummer, if so; I really enjoy Joel's sermons.

Whatever occurred, I very much doubt that Ms. Osteen behaved in a blameless manner, which makes this final quote from the Chronicle particularly sad:

"A church spokesman said the couple and their children left the plane voluntarily after the incident Monday and took another flight to Vail, Colo."

She pulled this stunt in front of her KIDS; way to set a good example for them, Victoria, not to mention way to add to the magic of the season for them... and way to convince people to contribute to your husband's church, that you were willing to cause such a ruckus on your way to a luxury vacation.

We're gonna be hearing about this incident for a while, methinks.

I hope your Christmas Eve is going well; my husband is making a belated surge of effort on the tree, so things are looking up a little around here.


Friday, December 23, 2005

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR 


The fight to get my home decorated for Christmas before the day actually arrives has escalated to a white heat... and as you might have grasped from the title, it's NOT going well.

I'm tireder than I can say of being held hostage to my husband's procrastination and sloth, not to mention his outright refusal to do anything. After breaking his often-repeated promises to get the tree dragged out over the Thanksgiving weekend, and then the weekend after that, and the weekend after THAT, he finally got it up... but in the nearly 2 WEEKS since it got put together, it's STILL not fully decorated, not even CLOSE. Why? Because the ornaments are packed in big boxes that are in big stacks, and there's no room to take them out and just LEAVE them out for ME to use them (as much as I can-I can't do stuff above shoulder level anymore, sigh), so nothing can get done until my husband dismantles a stack and carries over a box. Why doesn't he just do that? Good question. I've hammered him ceaselessly about it, but he's chanted "In a minute" for as long as TWELVE HOURS at a time, and thus day after day, including an entire weekend, have gone by without it being done. To make matters worse, a couple of times he HAS brought boxes out at 3AM and thrown a few things up... and then has the unmitigated gall to complain that I'm not giving up a bunch of sleep to help him out!! At 3 in the frigging morning!!

At the risk of repeating myself; GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

And what excuse does he have for his endless refusals to get to work? None; when questioned, he LIES, and claims that all those evenings that I prompted him every half hour to fulfill his promises of work, when EVERY TIME I went to his study he was screwing around on a forum or on CNN, never happened... alternating with claims that those things were somehow more important than working on the tree, and so it was ok to lie about his intentions of getting to work soon and keep doing them-he can't even be bothered to be consistent or logical about his lies, how's that for rotten?

Worse, there isn't a single one of my hundreds of dollars worth of other Christmas decorations set up either, because they are all, you guessed it, packed in big boxes in stacks with other boxes, where I can see some of them but not get to any of them; worse, the stuff that's currently laid out where those things would go needs to be packed up and put in still other boxes in yet another stack... all stuff that only my husband has the muscle (and height) to handle.

Say what you will about my father, and if you're a regular reader you know that you can say quite alot, none of it good, when my mother announced that it was time to get the Christmas stuff out, he brought out the ladder and hauled all the boxes down from where they were stored up under the roof of the garage and in to the appointed place in the family room... and he did it that day, ALL of it that day, and without coming up with 12 hours of trivial nonsense to do to delay it, either. As my mother needed boxes moved around, or stashed back up in the storage area, he did that too, and right when he was asked, not after endless delays. It's pretty grim that my husband can't do as well as a man that should be locked up like a vicious animal.

So, once again, by the time Christmas Eve rolls around we'll have spent so much time screaming and fighting that we'll hate the sight of each other, and will spend the biggest holiday of the year with gritted teeth. Sadly, I've had to conclude that, although I have literally over a thousand dollars' worth of ornaments, which collectively create what everyone proclaims the most magnificent Christmas tree they've ever seen, this will have to be the last year we put it up; I just can't take another year of having the month before Christmas be non-stop arguing and stress to get the tree (and nothing else) done by the morning of the 25th. From now on, I'm just going to have my husband swap boxes of year-round display items for boxes of tabletop decorations, and I'll set them out myself (except a few that need to be hung up, which we'll most likely just do without) and that'll be it.

I hasten to add that no tears need to be shed about any of this; if all I can complain about is not having a Christmas tree, I figure that makes me one of the luckiest people on the planet. This post is partly to allow me to vent, partly to show the rarely-seen darker side common to many good marriages (as Chris Rock says, "If you ain't never had the rat poison in your hand and stared at it for a good long while, you ain't never been in love"), and partly to show that sometimes you need to just cut your losses and stop pushing to make something work... there's no holiday tradition ever created that's worth weeks of stress and fighting to have, folks, there just isn't, and if you're still doing a meal for 30 people, baking 100 dozen cookies, or anything else that you resent and dislike during what's supposed to be a season of joy and togetherness, I hope you'll take a moment to consider if maybe it might not be better for you and the loved ones you're with at this time of year if you found a way to celebrate that let everyone relax and have fun.

Stranger things have been said to have happened at this time of year, after all...


Thursday, December 22, 2005

An astonishing day 


A package came in the mail from the UK today; neither my husband nor I could remember winning anything on eBay from there that we hadn't already gotten, so we were at a loss. The customs declaration on it said "Sweets"; foreign sellers write all sorts of goofy things on those labels to avoid whatever problems their countries might give them for shipping certain sorts of items, so they're rarely any kind of useful clue as to a package's contents. I picked up the box, and it made scary rattling sounds; since most of the things we get from auctions are breakable, I do NOT want to hear anything moving around in a shipping box. I got the brown paper off and revealed a CEREAL box, which isn't remotely sturdy enough to ship stuff across the city much less across half the globe; now I was REALLY nervous. Bracing myself, I opened it up... and it WAS candy!! Package after package of colorful Christmas chocolates tumbled out; at a total loss, I checked the wrappings again, looking for a clue, and found a little return address scrawled in ballpoint pen on the back... I didn't recognize the name, but the city was Aberdeen, and there's a lady there that I've been emailing with for nearly 6 years, so I was able to add 2+2 and get 4. She must have either gone back to her maiden name, or back to her ex-married name so that it matched her sons' last name, because I double-checked my records and found that yes, the address WAS hers, but no, the last name was NOT the one she used on her correspondence; I was going to email her and find out (after thanking her profusely for making such an effort on my behalf, of course)... but I think I'll call her instead. That's not as crazy as it sounds, because thanks to these guys

http://www.1010297.com/

I can call the UK for 3¢ a minute... less than most people pay to call the next city. And, although it's obviously too late to ship anything to her by Christmas, I'm going to get her a bunch of American candy and send it to her ASAP; she and her boys will have it to celebrate the new year with.

The other astonishing thing today came from the movie "Slaves of New York"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?movieID=148955&channel=Movies&subChannel=sub#Cast

when the heroine said something I've never heard used as a description of the way any human being other than myself feels; "To me, having fun is almost identical to feeling anxious." It's being excited about something in general, not exclusively having fun, that does it to me, but it DOES feel almost exactly like anxiety; it'll even give me the same symptoms, such as sleeplessness, intestinal distress, head rushes, and hives. I don't know if that line appears in the book on which the movie is based

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0671745247/qid=1135248715/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/002-8570383-1034463?n=507846&s=books&v=glance

but the author, Tama Janowitz, was heavily involved with the movie, and even had a small role in it, so it's very likely that this concept came from her; some day, when I have time to read books again, I'll check her out. Anyways, see the movie if you get the chance; it got horrible reviews, but, perhaps because some time has passed since the era it portrays, I found it very entertaining.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Possum report 


We had a bad few weeks where we didn't see our original male possum and feared the worst; he finally came back, looking much thinner, so he'd either been trapped and relocated and taken a while to find his way home or had been hibernating... the little female has been vanishing for days at a time, and coming back thinner, so we think hibernating is the more likely answer. We were so happy to see him!! He chomped his food, grinned toothily at me, and brought joy back into my heart; it's foolish to get emotionally involved with wild animals, because a thousand dangers surround them every moment they're away from you, and eventually they'll succumb, but... although the possums show no sign of intelligence (except for the female, of course), they have a great deal of charm, and even my husband, who's not a remotely sentimental sort, adores them.

With the reappearance of the alpha male, we've had to return to worrying about what's going to happen when he encounters the beta male; the latter showed up with a chunk of fur ripped out of his head a week or so ago, and the former had an abrasion on his foreleg yesterday, so it's possible that they've already had a skirmish or 2. Both of them are totally cowed by the female (who's less than half their size, lol), so maybe if they meet up in her presence she'll square them away, but... it's just not natural for possums to hang out with each other, and the males will be territorial about my yard, the food, and the pretty possum girl, so it's a constant source of worry.

They may have had a close call last night; there was some loud squealing from nearby, so I jumped up to see what was going on, the female, who was eating by the sliding glass door, lunged into the landscaping, where she'd stay for the next half hour, and the alpha male came dashing in from the corner of the patio and began running hither and thither as if disoriented. I sprinted from window to window, calling anxiously to him, screaming for my husband, and looking for signs of blood or injury; we were both relieved when he finally calmed down and came over to eat, and an examination revealed not a hair out of place. The beta male was here tonight, and he's ok too, so maybe the squealing I heard was the rats, either fighting amongst themselves and scaring the alpha possum or perhaps fighting with him, since they're supposedly on his menu (although we've never seen him show any interest in them, sadly). The male possums MUST be able to smell each other all over the place around here, so they're aware of each other's existence at the very least; my best hope is that they've decided to just alternate visits and thus share the infinite supply of food.

And speaking of food; while the squirrel girl ran fearlessly to me from the 1st time I offered her a nut, the alpha possum, who's by far the most familiar with me of the shy trio, not only hasn't taken food from me yet, he's been walking away when I try to offer him something... he doesn't RUN away, he eats for another minute or 2 and then saunters off, but the end result is the same. He's reacted the same way to me opening the door and tossing more fruit out when he's run out of food; ignoring the food and pointedly leaving. Last night, though, amazingly, perhaps because he felt safer near me after his bad scare, when he finished all the food he had and I eased the door open and tossed some more out, he sniffed a little (I don't think possums see very well) and then came forward and ate it. HOORAY!! :-)

There's one little drawback to the enhanced closeness with the possums; since, as my husband puts it, they're not "hermetically sealed," I periodically catch one of them crouching in a bathroom sort of way off in the shadows, and they totally ignore my outraged yelps of "Stop that!! Bad, dirty possum!!"... my husband laughs at that, but then HE gets to go clean up the poopies, so *I* have the last laugh. I'd periodically seen suspicious damp spots on the patio, and wondered if someone was piddling out there, but there was never any odor so I couldn't be sure; tonight, however, as I was putting out food, I heard the unmistakable sound of falling liquid, looked to my left, and there was a cascade pouring down from between the slats of the patio cover... and it was NOT raining. I watched in amazement and disgust as the puddle grew; at 1st I thought it might be a rat, as this was before the possums had showed up, but there was enough urine to DROWN a rat, so that left me with it being either a certain filthy stray cat that hangs around here or a possum... and a feline-loving friend assures me that a cat would NEVER climb through foliage on a patio cover and pee up in the air like that, so that means that one of our marsupial buddies had arrived early and had a nap, and a tinkle, on the patio cover. My husband thought this was VERY funny of course; less so after I informed him that he'd have to go clean it up, naturally, but still, anything to do with bodily functions amuses him greatly.

There's a big time gap between this sentence and the previous paragraph, because when I finished it I looked out onto the patio and saw... a FOURTH possum!! This one is very small, and without the bulgy skull of the males, so we assume she's female; her poor tail is damaged in several spots, and it looks like the tip is missing, which broke our hearts, but she's a pretty little thing, and was very brave about eating when she could see and hear me, even though she's not used to me... she even smiled shyly at me. We're thrilled to have a new visitor, and are crossing our fingers that an additional female will make it possible for the males to each feel like they've got all they need, and so not fight.

Christmas came a few days early to the Omni household!!


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Stone babies 


Tonight on the Discovery Health Channel I saw a program called "Pregnant for 46 Years," for which the blurb is "Follow two amazing stories of pregnancies that occurred outside the womb. The first story details Zahara's pregnancy that began in 1955. At the age of 75 doctors discovered her unborn, calcified baby that had grown to full term."

http://health.discovery.com/tvlistings/episode.jsp?episode=0&cpi=114743&gid=0&channel=DHC

I know it sounds more like a National Enquirer story than science, but it's the real deal; that lady carried a SEVEN POUND fossilized mass inside of her for half a century. The explanation is that it was an ectopic pregnancy that, instead of rotting when it died, got covered by a dense, thick layer of calcium by her body to protect itself from the foreign object; what they removed from that poor lady looked like a semi-abstract stone sculpture of a baby. What's even MORE amazing is that this is NOT a unique case, but has appeared throughout the world (Zahara is in Morocco, just FYI):


WARNING-MEDICAL PHOTOS

Brazil: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-31802000000600008

"A 40 year-old woman of brown skin had a primary complaint of lower abdomen pain. The patient reported regular abdominal growth and healthy fetal activity from a pregnancy that happened 18 years earlier. She had never done pre-natal follow-up. In the third trimester, she had started to feel strong cramps in the lower abdomen at the same time that fetal activity disappeared. She had not looked for medical assistance and some weeks later she had eliminated a dark red mass through the vagina with a placental appearance.

She had experienced the characteristic modifications of breast lactation. The abdomen had started to decrease but retained an infra-umbilical mass of about 20 centimeters in diameter, mobile and painless. A few months before being seen at our service, she started to fell pain in the lower abdomen and looked for medical assistance."

"The abdominal X-ray and computerized tomography showed the presence of an ectopic fetus in a mesentery blood vessel branch, with peripheral calcifications. The ultrasound examinations showed an empty uterus, regular ovaries and the presence of a 31-week fetus (determined from femur length)."

"A hypothesis of lithopedion was made, and because of the clinical symptoms and the patient's desire to remove the mass, exploratory laparotomy was done. After performing parietal celiotomy, an oval tumor was seen with adherence of the right ovary and epiploon. It measured 15 x 25 centimeters and weighed 1,890 grams. It was composed of a calcified ovular membrane adhering to a fetus, which was dissected and proved to be well conserved and partially calcified."

"In the cases related in the literature, the age of the patients on the date of diagnosis varied from 23 to 100 years, 2/3 of them being over 40 years old. The period of fetus retention was from 4 to 60 years. Fetal death occurred between 3 and 6 months of pregnancy in 20% of the cases, between 7 and 8 months in 27% and at full term in 43% of the cases.

Abdominal pregnancy results from the rupture of tubal or ovarian pregnancy with abdominal cavity implantation. The development of lithopedion happens under certain conditions: (1) extra-uterine pregnancy; (2) fetal death after 3 months of pregnancy; (3) the egg must be sterile; (4) there cannot be any early diagnosis; (5) local conditions must exist for calcium precipitation (deposit). The development of this pregnancy is the same as for abdominal intra-uterine pregnancy until fetal death. After this time, dehydration of tissues and calcium infiltration occur.

An abdominal pregnancy that calcifies is generically called lithopedion and can have the following forms: (1) lithokelyphos (litho = rock, kelyphos = shell): only the ovular membrane is calcified and the fetus can be in different stages of decomposition; (2) lithokelyphopedion: both are calcified, i.e. fetus and ovular membrane, as in this case; (3) lithopedion: only the fetus is calcified.

Although most cases remain asymptomatic for years, pelvic pain, weight sensation in the abdomen and compressive symptoms can occur."


WARNING-MEDICAL PHOTOS

Zaire: http://www.obgyn.net/ENGLISH/PUBS/ARTICLES/Stone_Baby.htm

"The patient is a 37-year-old Zairian female who lives in a village of Malongo at the headwaters of the Congo River. She presented with a relatively asymptomatic large abdominal mass. Examination revealed a distended abdomen with a very irregularly contoured mass present consistent with a large fibroid uterus 28-32 weeks size. The patient was having fairly regular periods. She has had eight previous pregnancies with five living children. Recommendation made for exploratory laparotomy through a midline incision with a working diagnosis of uterine leiomyomata.

Exploration through the midline incision revealed no free fluid present in the abdomen. The uterus and ovaries felt fairly normal to palpation. A large calcified spherical mass was delivered through the incision, enveloped with omental adhesions. At this point diagnosis was thought be possibly some type of splenic or mesenteric tumor. The diagnosis was finally made when a shoulder was delivered along with this mass. Finally, after the adhesions were removed, a four pound calcified fetus was removed. This appeared to be approximately a 32-week intra-abdominal pregnancy which had died and calcified.

In further questioning the patient, she stated that she had been pregnant about three years ago and everything seemed to be going fine, but 'the baby never came out.'"


Korea: http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:uSb5Hrf93ZEJ:jkms.kams.or.kr/2002/pdf/04274.pdf+lithopedion&hl=en

"A 63-yr-old... woman was referred to our hospital for a palpable abdominal mass with a 40-yr history... the patient reported that she had become pregnant 40 yr before and that the pregnancy had continued for about 9-10 months with fetal movement and abdominal distension, until she experienced a vaginal bleeding without any signs of labor. Because of poor accessibility to doctors and hospitals, she stayed at home and sought the alternative medicine such as herb medication. After some time, the fetal movement and the abdominal distension disappeared and the palpable mass developed. Two years later, she became pregnant again and successfully delivered a daughter, who was 38 yr old at the time the patient was admitted to our hospital. From history taking, we suspected the possibility of old advanced abdominal pregnancy.

On gross pathologic examination, the mass showed a glistening, stony hard calcified external surface. After decalcification, the mass was sectioned and found to be composed of mummified tissues, bones, and cartilages that were compatible with fetal long bones and ribs. So we concluded that the mass was a lithopedion."


Taiwan (France, UK, USA): http://www.taiwanheadlines.gov.tw/20000106/20000106s5.html

"Doctors at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei have recently discovered a 'fossilized' fetus in the Abdomen of a 76-year-old woman, suffering from cervical cancer while operating to remove her womb.

According to a an examination report, the fetus was conceived 49 years ago, making it only the fourth such recorded phenomenon, said Yu Chien-jen, chief of the hospital's gynecology department.

Yu said doctors on Dec. 31 found a 20-gram (0.7 ounce) and 12-centimeter-long lithopaedion, the rocklike remains of a fetus hardened by calcium buildup, in the abdominal cavity of the woman surnamed Wu.

Wu, who returned home for rest on Monday, said she first found a tumor in her womb in 1950, but doctors told her that the tumor was benign and did not have to be removed if she did not wish to have more children.

Wu decided not to remove the tumor because she and her husband did not have enough money to support a third child.

It was not until a few days ago did Wu find the so-called tumor was actually a fetus.

Wu and her 83-year-old husband migrated from mainland China to Taiwan in 1950. Wu's husband had been by her side since she checked in the hospital late last month.

Yu said the fetus appeared to have died in the 20th week of Wu's pregnancy when it moved from her womb to her abdomen. The average weight of a 20-week fetus is about 300 grams.

The hospital said their research yielded only three known lithopaedions, and the earliest case dated back to 1582, when a 28-year old fetus was found in French woman.

The other two cases were reported in the United States. In 1995, the Lancet medical journal reported that a 92-year-old woman had a lithopaedion inside her body. In 1999, the Madigan Military Hospital in Washington D.C. said a 67-year-old woman had been found to have carried a calcified fetus for 39 years." (Note: The Lancet is a British medical journal, not American.)


http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1348500

"A stone baby, or lithopedion, results when a fetus dies during an ectopic (typically abdominal) pregnancy, is too large to be reabsorbed by the body, and calcifies. It is not unusual for a lithopedion to remain undiagnosed for decades, and it is often not until a patient is examined for other conditions that a stone baby is found. The oldest reported case is that of a 94 year old woman, whose lithopedion had probably been present for over 60 years.

Lithopedion is a rare phenomenon, occurring once in about 20,000 pregnancies, and with less than three hundred cases noted in medical literature accumulated over some 400 years. Lithopedion may occur from 14 weeks' gestation to full term. The earliest stone baby is one found in an archaeological excavation, dated to 1100 BCE."


http://path.upmc.edu/cases/case128/dx.html

"The appearance of a calcified fetus or lithopedion may be evident if maturation is advanced. This can occur if there is retention of the fetus for many months beyond the average gestation. It is important to remember that a lithopedion does not need to be a twin. In one reported case, a 94-year-old woman was found to have a lithopedion, probably present for approximately 61 years."


Truth really IS stranger than fiction!! :-O


Monday, December 19, 2005

Sunday stuff 


Joel Osteen went traditional Christian on me tonight; his sermon centered around the idea that everything you take in is recorded in your brain, which is certainly true, and that whatever you see over and over can eventually seem normal and ok to you even if you started out knowing better, which, given the weak-mindedness of many people, is a fair assertion, and that therefore you should try to surround yourself with things that are positive, encouraging and uplifting so that THOSE are the feelings you absorb throughout the day, which is a perfectly good idea... but then he veered off into describing our culture's TV shows, movies, music, games, ads, and even catalogs as things that a "child of the most high God" needs to refuse to see or hear, because those things are unwholesome and bad for you. I've got alot of respect for Joel, and his skill in analyzing the workings of the spiritual world, but the idea that to be a good Christian you have to not go to the movies with your friends, or not flip through the catalogs that come in the mail, and even use the remote to change the channel every time an "impure" commercial comes on, is just plain ridiculous. I guess the honeymoon's over...

I saw Morgan Freeman on "60 Minutes" this evening; he said that he hated Black History Month, that he wished it didn't exist, because black history is part of American history, and since there isn't a special month for whites, there shouldn't be one for blacks either. If a white person had said that, they'd be torn to pieces by a howling mob; it'll be interesting to see if there's a reaction from any of the black leaders about this. I personally am happy to have as many months for different kinds of history as the public wants, so that we can be reminded that all kinds of people have done important things, but when asked how we'll fight racism if we don't have things like BHM, Freeman said something thought-provoking; that the way to end it is to just stop talking about it, because if we're not calling people white or black but just men (or women, presumably), then there's no more racism. People could still think racist thoughts, and commit racist acts, even if we weren't talking about it, but it'd certainly be far less of an issue in general if it wasn't always being talked about... I doubt we'll see it happen in our lifetimes, though.

My quote script came up with the following yesterday:

"There are no facts, only interpretations." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

You've gotta hand it to Nietzsche; he gives good quote. Although I can't imagine that many people take this concept literally, it's undeniable that many things presented as facts are NOT, although they might have been based in facts at some point; sadly, just as the visual processing area of the brain alters what we see so that we don't notice any gaps in our perceptions (this is why we don't see blackness every time we blink), the thinking areas of the brain pad the information we take in with whatever's necessary for us to believe we saw and understood the whole situation, even though if we look at it objectively we know we rarely do. A favorite example of mine is the case of UFO's; most people who've seen inexplicable lights in the sky and call them UFO's make the jump to claiming that aliens were in them even though they didn't SEE any aliens, or any evidence that they were there, or that the lights were ships... we're so programmed in this culture to think that UFO stands for "alien spaceship" instead of just "unidentified flying object" that we see the presence of aliens inside of them as a fact rather than a pretty extreme interpretation of some oddly-behaving lights.

Quantum physics shows us that the very act of observing something, or even having a mechanism observe it, can change it, so how can we ever be sure that what we saw or recorded was the way the thing would be if we weren't observing? We ASSUME that what we see or record represents overall reality... but does it? What if we found out some day that EVERYTHING ever observed through a microscope, telescope, or other scientific instrument was just the tiniest bit off due to "observational interference"? What would that tell us about how well science explains reality?


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Check out my new sidebar game 


I know, most sidebar games are stupid, which is why I haven't gotten one before now, but finally there's one that tests knowledge, ability to reason, and memory; it's called "LittleNeo's Flag Quiz," and thanks to it I've discovered that, because of my other NeoWorx doodad, "Online Visitors," I've learned to recognize an astonishing # of countries' flags... pretty cool for someone who never took a geography class. You don't have to know that many flags to play it, though, if you understand how countries in the different parts of the world tend to design them; for example, European flags are usually striped, African flags tend to be fancy, and Asian flags often have alot of solid-colored area... it sounds silly, but you'd be amazed at how many right answers I've gotten just with that. It also helps to know what countries control, or used to control, various other countries, particularly the islands, because that's often reflected in the flags; I was VERY pleased with myself for recognizing the flag for the Faroe Islands because I knew, having seen them on the geolocator and looked them up, that they're part of Denmark, and the flag is very similar to Denmark's. Even without being able to use any of those sorts of hints, though, you can still play if you've got a decent memory; with 60 flag displays per game, you can see them all pretty quickly, and each game you can learn a few more. Give it a try; go ahead, I'll wait.

Fun, isn't it? Sadly, getting it installed was FAR from fun. In the News section of the Neoworx site it says "You will find the HTML code in the Members Area," but my problems with doing things on that site continue (don't ask), because the darned thing would NOT let me log in; undeterred, I copied the code from the blog I'd seen it on, swapped in my own member #, and stuck it in my template. I republished, refreshed, and... where the game should have been was a 2nd copy of my "World Wide Clock."

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!!

Since both of those things are iframes, I thought maybe they were confusing each other by being too close together, so I moved the game; no matter where I put it, it still ended up being the clock. I found out on a forum that you have to do something with the iframes to have more than 1 on a page at a time, but I didn't understand enough of the explanation to actually alter the code, so I consulted with "Jayson the Tech God," who'd given me the 1st iframe code (see my post of 11-20-05), and, after a couple of false starts, he came up with the idea of sticking "id="id1"" in one of the commands and "id="id2"" in the other, and it worked; the game was finally in my sidebar... well, mostly.

The problem with these free doodads is that there's no standard for whether or not they have imbedded line breaks before or after them, or as to how much space, if any, they pad themselves with, and there's something else going on that makes some of them REALLY not like to be next to each other, because they create a bunch of extra space between them; in other words, I had to do the usual trial and error to get the game spaced properly from the surrounding doodads... which was complicated in this case because the game is different sizes based on whether it's being played or not, and even on the names of the countries listed, and I had to recognize that, stop messing with it, and plan its placement based on its size in the reset position. There was an additional wrinkle, too; at one point, a sliver of the bottom of the box vanished; fortunately, I'd seen that once before, and knew that it meant that, although there didn't seem to be any overlap, there was an invisible margin from the doodad underneath it that WAS overlapping, and I needed to add another line break to fix it... I took what was undoubtedly an excessive amount of pride in how quickly I figured that one out.

So, at last, after more time and trouble than anyone who doesn't read this post will ever guess, I've got a cool sidebar game; I hope you enjoy it half as much as I do.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Recursive cursive 


Can anyone give me a valid reason for why American kids still have to learn cursive, or why nearly everyone's signature is in cursive even though most of us don't use it for anything else? Why does cursive even still EXIST? What purpose does it serve? Can you write anything other than your signature in cursive without thinking about it? I can't. Even if I really try, I can't remember how to do capital Q's... and G's and Z's... and probably a few others. All I've used it for since whichever grade it was that they stopped requiring all writing to be in cursive is to sign "love" or "love always" and my name on cards, and of course to sign things; interestingly, while most people develop their own style of cursive writing, at the very least for their signatures, MY signature looks exactly the way it did in grade school (with the obvious exception of my having a different last name now, of course)... mine is the only adult signature I've ever seen that still looks like a kid's signature, so that probably means something, but I don't suppose I want to know what.

Cursive DOES seem to be fading away, but it's fighting to survive; just when I think I've seen the last of it, it reappears on a greeting card, or in a hard-to-read font (usually yellow on red or something equally eye-searing) on some teenager's blog, and my hopes of getting rid of it are crushed... maybe it's gotten so outdated that some people think it's cool? I hope not.

If you're from a culture that doesn't use cursive, or that doesn't use the Roman/Latin alphabet at all, I found a site that has a pic of one version of it

http://www.hwtears.com/cursivedeskstrips.htm

and a site that shows the fancier, older-school version of the capitals, complete with animated guides as to how to make them

http://www.handwritingforkids.com/handwrite/cursive/animation/uppercase.htm

so you can see how ridiculous it is... can you see any reason for the capital Q to look like a 2? No wonder I can't remember what it looks like!! It's silly to make kids who are still struggling with printing legibly learn a whole different way to write; I can see making older kids learn how to READ it, because they WILL see it periodically, but isn't there a better use of class time than this pitiful duplication of effort? Heck, today's kids will TYPE far, far more than they'll handwrite, so they should be having typing lessons instead of learning cursive... not that I'm holding my breath for American schools to ever show that much logic in the design of their curriculums.

The computer revolution may have an unintended benefit that I hadn't realized until now; it may speed up the elimination of cursive. I don't know if this thought makes anyone else happy... but *I* say good riddance.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Race, religion, red hair, and medicine 


From the January 2006 issue of Discover comes the following:

FDA Approves First Race-Based Drug

"The Food and Drug Administration's formal approval in June of BiDil, a medicine designed to treat heart failure in blacks, ignited a furious debate over the role of race in medicine. The Association of Black Cardiologists, a paid sponsor of the clinical trial, cheered the FDA's action. But the idea that a drug can be race based was roundly criticized by prominent medical researchers who argued that race is a crude and invalid scientific concept.

BiDil is derived from two generic compounds: hydralazine, an antihypertension drug, and isosorbide dinitrate, a blood vessel relaxant. The combination therapy was rejected by the FDA in 1997 because trials showed inconclusive benefits for patients overall. But Jay Cohn, the University of Minnesota cardiologist who developed the drug, had observed that BiDil appeared to be more effective for black patients. So he designed a study of 1,050 self-identified black patients and found in 2004 that the medication decreased their death rates by 43 percent. Cohn and his colleagues were taken aback by the negative reaction among sociologists, geneticists, and ethicists when the drug was approved. 'We thought they'd realize we've found an effective drug for treating an underserved group with a high mortality rate from heart disease,' Cohn says. 'We thought that would overwhelm the racial concerns.'"

I don't know which is more astonishing; that there's a clear racial difference in the effect of a drug, that someone was willing to fund that sort of research, of that anyone would DARE protest the discovery of a med that could save the lives of so many black men.... how is it racist to save lives, or to accept the incontrovertible fact that the med DOES discriminate by race?

"Critics contend that approving a drug for use only by blacks could be interpreted as validating a genetic basis to race that does not exist."

Could it be interpreted that way by people who are already racists? Sure. Does that in any way counteract the many lives that will be saved? Hell no.

"In recent years, researchers have identified subtle genetic differences between populations-such as Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans-but these differences aren't as clearly defined as 'black' and 'white.' Even so, scientists hope to use these variations to understand why drugs have different effects in different people. It may be genetics. It may be environment (diet, exposure to pollutants) or sociological factors (access to good health care). Most likely it's a combination of all three. But one thing is clear: Race is defined by society, not by science."

Is it just me, or does that sound a little TOO PC? After all, with any other species of creature, if it has populations with even pretty darned minor differences in coloring or features, they're designated as different sub-species, with their own special scientific names... so why is it that the substantial differences in appearance between humans originating in disparate parts of the world are supposed to be ignored? Most people are PROUD of their racial heritage, and rightfully so as every race has many things to be proud OF, so why would anyone want to take that away by pretending that all those genetic differences are meaningless in humans and only humans?

No scientist would be insane enough to try to use medical data to "prove" that any race is superior or inferior to any other, and since we have eyes we already know that there are differences between the races that are obviously genetic and thus NOT created by society or environment, so what is there to worry about if we discover more ways that the races are different? Those who are trying to make an issue about this need to bring all such thoughts to a screeching halt and focus on the idea that we might be able to save more lives by seeing if other drugs have different effects in different sorts of people; it won't mean that some folks are better or worse than others, just that they'll vary in which drugs they'd benefit the most from... and doesn't everyone deserve the best possible treatment regardless of WHY it's best?

If you're thinking that this is a moot point because there's no reason to believe that there's any other connection between external physical features and anything else medical, check this out; in the November 2005 issue of Discover in the R&D section is "Secrets of Redheads," which makes these astonishing revelations:

"What do redheads have that the rest of us don't? Plenty, say scientists. Two recent studies:

Skin Cancer. Red hair often means light eyes, pale skin, and freckles-plus sunburns and a high incidence of skin cancer. Chemistry professor John Simon and his colleagues at Duke University believe that melanin, the pigment responsible for darkening skin in the baking sun, is more likely to kick-start DNA damage--and therefore cancer--in redheads than it is in black-haired people. The researchers compared the reaction of melanin in red hair and black hair to various wavelengths of ultraviolet light. They found that pigment isolated from red hair requires less energy to undergo the chemical reaction that produces the unstable, DNA-damaging free radicals linked to cancer. The melanin in black hair needs more energy to produce free radicals, reducing their damaging effects under normal atmospheric conditions.

Pain. Natural redheads have a higher pain threshold than others, says geneticist Jeffrey Mogil of McGill University's pain laboratory. Men and women with naturally red hair can withstand 25 percent more electric shock than non-redheads. And painkillers used in childbirth work three times better on red-haired women than on others. Mogil and his team found that the mutant gene that causes red hair, melanocortin-1 (MC1R), also affects how redheads (including mice) react to pain. Now geneticist Ian Jackson of the United Kingdom Medical Research Council plans to study redheads in the hope of developing new painkillers. Connecting the gene to pain was surprising and exciting, Jackson says. 'We thought that MC1R was involved only in hair color.'"

It's not so hard to imagine the existence of painkillers with fewer side effects (or other benefits over currently available kinds) that don't work well on the general population but that could get FDA approval just for use on redheads, is it?

And there's more; even things that aren't necessarily reflected in outward appearance, like religion or country of origin, can indicate that someone may have medically important genetic differences from the general population:

"Tay-Sachs disease (abbreviated TSD, also known as 'GM2 gangliosidosis') is a fatal genetic disorder... Historically, Eastern European people of Jewish descent have a high incidence of Tay-Sachs and other lipid storage diseases. In the United States, 1 in 27 Ashkenazi Jews is a recessive carrier, compared to 1 in 200 in the general population. French Canadians and the Cajun community of Louisiana have the same carrier rate as Ashkenazi Jews, one in 27, and among Irish Americans the carrier rate is about one in 50."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tay-Sachs_disease

There's no proof yet that this sort of genetic difference would lead to differing reactions to drugs... but don't be surprised if it does.

In the bad old days, differences between people of different races, religions or countries of origin were seen as reasons to view others as inferior, and treat them in often appalling ways; I'm sure we're all in agreement that THAT must never happen again. BUT, we don't do anyone any favors by trying to ignore or deny that we look different because we come from different gene pools, or that those differing gene pools affect aspects of our health and the medical care that's best for us. There's no need to have philosophical arguments on what race is or isn't, or to debate the rightness of doing research that'll help those in one subset or another of the world's population get medical treatment that'll save their lives; all that should matter to the medical community is that they'll be better able to treat their patients... and that's all that should matter to the rest of us, too.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

A couple of things about my husband 


Time and time again, when I'm having problems with some electronic thing, my husband will show up and press the same button, click the same control, that I've already done 500 times, and it'll suddenly WORK; more astoundingly, he can often just come into the room and approach the recalcitrant machine, and it'll start working. He always jokes "machines fear me, because they've heard from the others about how I take them apart and don't always get them put back together right," or something similar; there's a limited # of times that something that freaky can be funny, though... it's long since switched to being eerie, especially because it's happened over and over and OVER, far beyond what could be seen as coincidence-how many times could something "coincidentally" start working the instant he shows up, right?

Yesterday, I was having problems with the mp3 player on my laptop; I tried every song in the player, and none of them would play, and I tried all the files, which should have opened in the player, and none of THEM worked either... and I tried them repeatedly for about an hour without success. When my husband got up from his nap and stumbled in, and I told him that the player seemed dead, he clicked a song... and it played. Every song, every file, that he clicked on played... and I don't mean that he changed settings or fixed something and they played, I mean he reached over my shoulder and clicked exactly where I'd been clicking.

Today, I was half-watching a comedy thing while doing eBay searches when I noticed that the image had frozen on the TV screen; I figured I'd give it a few minutes to sort itself out and went back to my search. Eventually, I realized that 15 minutes had passed, so I yelled for my husband; while he was taking his sweet time prying himself away from his computer and walking down the hall, I was switching through a bunch of stations, and they all showed a BLANK screen, including the original one when I got back to it. When he emerged from the hall, he turned to the TV... and the picture INSTANTLY came back on. I was screaming, he was laughing... and then he chalked it up to coincidence. {sigh}


A few days ago, I saw the movie "Head Over Heels" (aka "Chilly Scenes of Winter")

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079278/

which shows a couple getting involved, and then the man becomes significantly more in love, and the woman withdraws, eventually going back to her estranged husband; when he asks her why she'd want to be with the man who loves her less rather than the one who loves her more, she says something like "Because with him I feel like less of a fraud." WOW!! I've read alot of explanations as to why people tend to fall out of love with those who love them "too much," but this was a new one, and it had the ring of truth; my own reaction when men have had too exalted of a view of me has been to think disgustedly "You must be confusing me with someone else, because when you talk about me it doesn't sound like you're describing me," and I've certainly heard other people talk with dismay about the unrealistic view a partner has of them, making them think they're not being understood, or that they can't live up to it, etc, and people who have major success at work sometimes talk about how they feel like frauds, so it's not much of a jump to see that someone who's having too much success in getting their loved one to admire them might feel like a fraud... and once they start feeling uncomfortable, the passion would usually fade away fast.

I hasten to add that, unlike most folks, when I'M on the receiving end of partner worship, although I take a dim view of their unrealistic perceptions (people showing illogic and ignoring facts always aggravate me), I do NOT lose interest; instead, I think "This is a great deal!!" and become MORE interested, because the whole POINT of a relationship is to be deeply loved... and there are plenty of benefits to being with someone who thinks you should have everything. There's no trick to making this work; I just never get the discomfort that a "normal" person feels under those circumstances... for which my husband is profoundly grateful. :-)


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

When is meat really meat? 


In the January 2006 issue of Discover is a blurb entitled "Tissue Engineers Cook Up Plan for Lab-Grown Meat"... isn't that a contradiction in terms? The dictionary says that meat is "the edible flesh of animals," so could something grown in a lab as opposed to in a creature's muscles qualify? Read on and see what you think:


"Last June, in a paper published in the journal Tissue Engineering, an international team of researchers proposed a new kind of food handmade for sensitive carnivores (and maybe even vegetarians): meat that comes from a laboratory instead of a farm."

They make the point so briefly that it almost gets lost, but I think it's a big one; WOULD those vegetarians who've made that choice on moral grounds, because animals must die in order to be eaten, be willing to eat something that animals did NOT die to provide?

"Clinical research scientists routinely grow muscle cells in the lab. And NASA-funded experiments have succeeded in culturing turkey muscle cells and goldfish cells as a potential way to feed astronauts on long space missions."

They want to feed astronauts GOLDFISH?!! I know that NASA has a tight budget, but...?!!

"Jason Matheny, a graduate student in agricultural economics and public health at the University of Maryland, and his colleagues turned this scheme earthward, proposing two methods for growing meat in bulk. One would culture thin sheets of meat, seeded by cells from a living animal, on a reusable polymer scaffold; the other would grow meat on small edible beads that stretch with changes in temperature."

I'm sure this would be a sterile process, certainly far more so than what occurs in a slaughterhouse, but... doesn't that sound sorta icky?

"Currently the process is far too expensive to bring lab-grown meat to the supermarket. A tasty fake steak is an even more distant dream: To have the structure of filet mignon, muscle tissue needs blood vessels, a major challenge to tissue engineers."

BLOOD VESSELS?!! I love meat, and it's part of our natural diet, and hard to get proper nutrition without, but... ugh. I hope they hurry up with those lab-produced steaks, or pseudo-steaks, or whatever they end up calling them; I'm definitely a "sensitive carnivore."

"Still, Matheny says that within several years, lab meat could be used in Spam, sausage, and even chicken nuggets."

Given how little those things resemble meat in the usual sense, it shouldn't be too hard to fake them with the "meat sheets"; heck, considering all the icky stuff that goes into those particular food items to save $, if they could use cheap lab-made "meat" instead, we'd have alot less fat, skin and beaks in our diets.

"Europe has taken an interest. The Dutch government has invested $2.4 million in a project that would cultivate pork from stem cells."

Hasn't there been alot of protest in Europe about so-called frankenfoods? There's no talk about genetically altering the meat cells, at least not YET, but couldn't a case be made that making the cells grow in such an unnatural way might cause... problems? I'd drop dead of shock if SOMEONE didn't end up protesting this; time will tell.

"But will people eat it? Matheny thinks so. 'There's nothing natural about a chicken that's given growth promoters and raised in a shed with 10,000 others,' he says. 'As consumers become educated, a product like this would gain appeal.'"

What planet does this guy come from, where consumers can be EDUCATED, and would act on education if they could be given it? If they tell consumers that the lab-meat is lower in calories, or lower in fat (would there even BE fat in it... they didn't say anything about culturing fat cells to mix in), or carb-free, or has 1 chance in a billion of reducing the risk of cancer, people will stampede to buy it... other than that, their best bet is to just stick it in, quietly reveal it in the ingredients list and leave it at that, so people can't be put off by it.

The more I think about it, the more it seems like there's going to be a big battle about what to call this stuff; meat isn't just a blob of meat cells, it has structure because the cells are part of muscles, which exist in fibers and have blood vessels (cringe), and usually have fat distributed through them... if you created potato starch from scratch in a lab, you couldn't call it a potato, so why should this be different? Heck, if you created something identical to a potato from scratch in a lab, don't you think you'd have to call it by something different so that consumers could tell it from a naturally-grown potato?

If they eventually make lab-meat look, smell, feel and taste like real meat, would it be a valid substitute for meat? Sure, at least for MY purposes... but would any significant % of other people be willing to make the switch? And, would its being identical to meat mean that vegetarians still wouldn't eat it, or will they embrace it because nothing died to make it other than in the way that ALL foods are made from cells that were once living? Hopefully, some vegetarian and vegan bloggers will eventually weigh in on this issue; I don't fully understand their mindset, so I can't guess what they'll do.

Even if they can't make a perfect match to meat, we have to accept that we're over-fishing in too many places, we're keeping chickens and veal calves in conditions too horrible to describe, and in general that it's a nice idea to stop killing animals for food if it can be reasonably avoided, so we should probably incorporate as much pseudo-meat into our diets as possible once it's available; it'd have to be good karma, too, and that couldn't hurt.

My final thought on this topic is of the horror-movie variety, brought on perhaps by having been deeply affected by "Soylent Green"; what happens when HUMAN cells get onto those meat-growing scaffolds, either accidentally or on purpose?


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

You've never heard of it... 


... but you've gotta see it.

I saw the most astonishing documentary tonight; it's called "Paper Clips"

http://www.blockbuster.com/catalog/DisplayMoreMovieProductDetails.action?movieID=152748&channel=Movies&subChannel=sub#Cast

which is described as

"Directed by Joe Fab, this documentary chronicles a rural Tennessee middle school's unique class project: finding a meaningful way to honor Holocaust victims. Brought up in a heavily fundamentalist Christian environment, most of the students had never seen, let alone spoken with, a member of the Jewish faith; nonetheless, the children of Whitwell found a poignant method of honoring the slain. Using individual paper clips to represent each life lost in the Holocaust, the students were inundated with contributions from around the world. Eventually, they managed to procure an authentic German rail car, which would become container to the millions of paper clips collected."

No plot outline can capture what made this such a powerful thing to watch, though; what moved me to tears over and over again were the faces of the people involved... children, adults, female, male, Christian and Jewish, every person involved was obviously deeply moved by the connection that was being made, to the past and to each other.

When the Holocaust survivors arrived at a gathering of the townspeople, they looked understandably uncertain of what they'd gotten themselves into, since many such towns are full of anti-Semites, and their hosts weren't sure what to expect either... but then the magic that often occurs when people who think of each other in terms of "us" and "them" get to interact started happening-they began to empathize, and to see each other as human, as being part of "us."

Each survivor stood up and told their story, and their Christian audience listened with rapt attention, and with every sign of grief and dismay, as they tried to take in the enormity of the suffering, and as that suffering went from being abstract to being about people right in front of them; when it was over, these folks who'd never even met a Jew before hugged them and wept. Interviews with some of the teens revealed that they saw those sweet, elderly people as being like their own grandparents, and that they were trying to imagine what it felt like to endure what they did, how they would feel if it were they, and their families, who were the ones who were taken from their homes, shipped in cattle cars, beaten, starved, tortured and murdered, if it was them who lost all their loved ones... they no longer saw Jews as some sort of unimaginable others, but as people just like them.

One of the stories keeps playing in my head, so I'll include it as an example: One of the men who spoke, who was a boy at the time of the Holocaust, was brought to Auschwitz along with his mother and brother, where they encountered the unspeakably evil Dr. Mengele, who sent the boy off in one direction and his mother and brother in the other; the next day, when he still hadn't been reunited with his family, the boy asked a guard what had become of them... and in reply, the guard pointed to the smoke coming from the chimneys. The boy didn't know what that meant, but he soon found out; Mengele decided who would be allowed to live, to work and serve as the subjects of his sadistic experiments, and who would go to the gas chambers, and the boy's family hadn't made the cut.

The entire documentary is deeply moving, not just that one part, and it's fascinating to see how what started out as a way for the children to be taught that "not everyone is white, Protestant, and living in a community where they're protected" turned into a global thing, such that they didn't get the 6 million paper clips they'd hoped for but nearly 5 times that many, plus a library's worth of letters telling the tales of thousands of people's experiences and those of their families, plus, miraculously, the rail car that would become a shrine of sorts... and the way both Jews and Christians were overwhelmed at the sight of it, and by touching it and standing in it, was the other intensely emotional segment of the movie for me.

I don't have anything clever to say about what I saw, and won't cheapen it by analyzing it; like all shining examples of how wonderful human beings can sometimes be, it speaks for itself. I strongly encourage you to watch it; it's currently showing on HBO, and can be rented from Blockbuster and probably other places as well... and as painful as some of it is, it'll leave you with a renewed sense of hope that people of differing religions CAN come to see each other with understanding and love rather than what human history is full of.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Sunday stuff 


Joel Osteen's sermon tonight contained an interesting idea; that God wants you to walk away from all the negative influences in your life before He'll give you the good things He has waiting for you... and He really means ALL the negative influences. Osteen told the Biblical story about how Abram took his nephew Lot, who he knew to be a potential source of trouble, along when he moved when he wasn't supposed to, and thus had troubles, and didn't get the goodies, until Lot was out of the picture, to illustrate that if you fail in the task of rejecting ALL negatives, even to the seemingly forgivable extent of keeping a loved one around who's a bad influence, you'll be out of luck; that's pretty intense, if true. The question this brings up is; granted that the presence of negative energy blocks positive energy from getting to you, does that mean that ANY negative energy, even the tiniest source, is sufficient to block positive energy? If so, what does that say about the power of - vs + ? OR, would it just mean that you can only fully be open to one state or the other, and if you embrace eve the slightest -, your mind isn't receptive to +? Joel may be wrong about this one (conceptually-I wouldn't presume to debate him about the intentions of a God I don't believe in)... but he's usually so dead-on about spiritual matters that it bears thinking about rather than dismissing out of hand.

In case you're wondering; NO, the tree did NOT go up, despite all promises to the contrary. My husband, like all little kids regardless of age, needed a nap, and he never got back up from it; although I could have tried to drag him out of bed, he'd be stumbling around groggy and complaining and not accomplish anything, and then complain he couldn't get back to sleep and so would supposedly be too tired to do anything TOMORROW, either. He managed to procrastinate away another day, but he's getting LOTS of sleep, so Monday night he'd better knuckle down and get to work OR ELSE.

I took a potty break after writing that last paragraph, and when I passed the closed door of my husband's study, where he'd retreated to nap, I heard... TYPING. I flung open the door, and there he was in the dark, in his boxers, typing madly away; when I shrieked in accusation, he claimed that he'd "only" been awake for 15 minutes (translation-over an hour), and that it was somehow ok, because he was going to have to leave the room to pee soon... in other words, he ADMITTED that he was trying to feign still being asleep as long as possible to avoid getting any work done. As you might imagine, I had a few words to say to him on the subject, many of which had 4 letters; he's going to find that his life isn't worth living tomorrow until that tree is UP.

Men, especially those who are squeamish about female bodily functions, will want to skip the rest of this post.

One of the greatest strides in making women's lives easier in modern times was the mass production of various products to deal with menstruation, as a replacement for the handmade wads of absorbent material that had served that purpose since the earliest days of civilization; instead of handling a bunch of bloody rags (or whatever) each month, a woman could use disposable products just like we have for our other excretory functions. The pendulum is swinging back, however, as it always does, and now there's a company that's marketing CLOTH alternatives to sanitary napkins, and sea sponges, I kid you not, as an alternative to tampons:

http://www.lunapads.com/home.php

They've done some commendable things on this site; they show photos of real women, including an older one and a couple of women of color, they show a woman's body that has a poochy tummy modeling a pair of their panties, which are available in black or organic cotton, and in various styles including THONG, their pads and liners come in a variety of cheerful colors and patterns... but... but... IT'S JUST SO DISGUSTING!! They warn that having to change protection in public bathrooms might be problematic, because "some" women might object to seeing and/or to having young girls seeing these blood-soaked nightmares being washed out in the sink; I personally wouldn't object, because I'd be too busy PUKING in the neighboring sink.

Yeah, I understand that feminine care products end up in sewers and landfills, but so do tissues and toilet paper, and I don't want to see cloth versions of THOSE things being washed out in front of me either, nor would I touch them with a 10 foot pole myself; still, if you're a very green and crunchy-granola kinda gal, by all means check them out... just PLEASE don't blog about your experiences if you get them.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas cards and Criss Angel 


One of the least pleasant aspects of the holiday season for me is doing the Christmas cards. I take a dim view of cards in general, since in the 21st century most of us have access to email and free or low-cost long distance minutes, which are quick, easy and cheap ways to contact people; it was nice to send cards back in the days when mail was the only way, or only affordable way, to keep in touch with distant loved and liked ones, but why do we STILL have to dig through gigantic racks of folded pieces of paper and spend $3 apiece so we can send people sentiments written by a stranger? If we're seeing them in person or talking to them on the phone, we can give our true sentiments to them directly, and if it's not possible to see or call them, we should write out our OWN thoughts and feelings rather than buying other people's... wouldn't YOU rather get a heartfelt seasonal note, paper or electronic, than a factory-made card with a factory-made message?

This bit of sending cards when it's been DECADES since phone calls have been too expensive to do except on extra-special occasions is ridiculous... and don't get me started on the insanity of the concept of sending cards to people you don't care enough about to contact at any other time of the year (see my post of 12-12-04 for my rant about that one). Still, if you don't send them you can hurt people's feelings, so I do it, but I take a minimalist approach; I only send cards to those who've sent ME one, I don't write a note, and I absolutely under no circumstances enclose a LETTER... who's the psycho who thought of that one, and why did anyone else start doing it? If you're in regular contact with a person, they already know everything that'd be in the "Christmas letter," so it's silly to send them one, and if you're NOT in regular contact with them, I guarantee you they have no shred of interest in seeing a summation of the "accomplishments" (most of which are woefully trivial to outsiders) of every member of your household for the year, and why would you WANT to tell them so much about your life in any case?

My final comment on the subject; unless you're desperately poor, don't send flimsy little dime-store cards, and DO get Christmas stamps, nice return address labels, and maybe even seals... if the idea is to spread a little joy, make a valid effort at it. As Scrooge-ish as I may sound on this subject, *I* do all that, and even use a red pen to write out the envelopes and sign our names... but, I also have a stash of freebie cards provided by the many charities we support to send to those who send ME tacky cards-hey, if they send 'em out, they must think they're great, right? If you don't have the time to do it properly yourself, Hallmark lets you pick out cards online, and will add your personal message to each one and mail them out for you... all you have to do is give them the necessary info, and be willing to pay $1 per card for the privilege

http://www.hallmark.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?storeId=10001&catalogId=10051&tabOn=products&categoryId=89054&CatIDsList=-2;-105367;89054

If they ever invent a way to make Christmas cards more impersonal than THAT, I don't want to know about it.

And now to a more pleasant subject; world-class illusionist, Renaissance man, and uber-hottie Criss Angel

http://www.crissangel.com/photos.php

This was a banner day, because I finally got my DVD set of the 1st season of "Mindfreak"; my husband's comment about it was, "Is your entire blog entry for today going to consist of 'Criss Angel... oooooooooooooh... aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah'?". No, but I WILL point out how nice it is to be able to pause and zoom in whenever he's got his shirt off; now, if he'd only stop shaving his chest!! I watched the 1st DVD while I was doing the Christmas cards, and it made an onerous task much more agreeable; if, as I fervently hope, we get the tree up tomorrow (not the decorations, mind you, just the tree and maybe the lights and tinsel garlands), that'll be when I watch the 2nd disc.

The Christmas tree... it was supposed to have gone up over the Thanksgiving weekend, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. My husband dragged his heels so badly LAST year with hauling out the boxes that the tree wasn't finished until Christmas morning, and our many other decorative items never got brought out at all, which made for a VERY unhappy holiday; cross your fingers for me that THIS year I can maintain the momentum I started with the cards and get the tree process begun so it can all be finished well before Christmas... and who knows, I may even find time for mistletoe.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

A brilliant ad from Old Spice 


Like most people, I usually skip over magazine ads without so much as a glance; ad agencies have to be pretty clever to get us to pause in our attempts to get to the next page of an article before we forget the last line we read, and I suspect that they rarely succeed... which makes the occasional ad that's a true attention-grabber something special. I saw such an ad recently in Cosmo; it caught my eye because nearly the entire page is a photo of snowy ground, with a large snow angel mostly above the center line... what the heck could be advertised with a snow angel, I wondered, maybe soup or hot chocolate? The product, a tiny image in the lower right corner, turned out to be Old Spice's Red Zone body wash, with a tagline of "The perfect gift to spice things up." Huh? I looked more carefully at the snow angel, and comprehension dawned; there are 2 sets of footprints leading to it from opposite sides, a bigger set that's obviously male footprints in rugged footgear, and the other set, I kid you not, appearing to be prints from high-heeled shoes, or maybe boots, but definitely with that little hole for each print showing a heel that would be very difficult to walk with in the snow... I know they had to make it clear that one set of prints was from a woman, but did they have to make her a fashion victim, lol? Although it's hard to imagine what sexual act could cause bodies to thrash in such a way as to form a snow angel, much less that could be done quickly enough for the participants to not freeze to death, clearly that's what we're supposed to assume has happened, since there's ONE snow angel, and the 2 sets of prints go off together side by side from its head... and the line about spicing things up has to apply somehow, right? Granted that some elements of the ad are a little goofy, they managed to make me stop and look at it for about a minute, which is a triumph by advertising standards; in addition, I think it'll be effective in demolishing the stereotype of the Old Spice user as being a conservative older man, which was undoubtedly part of the idea.

You can see the ad here:

http://ad-rag.com/1892419a5fe496db0cbc79b16e955623/2004/oct/redzonesnow.jpg

Well, almost; the date shows it as being from last year, and they've altered it since then. In the version you'll see, there are 2 product images rather than the 1 in the newer image, and the footprints are so close together it looks like they must have been walking with their knees tied together, which would make whatever they're supposed to have done to make the angel even trickier; the newer version has about half as many prints, spaced in a more natural way.

Even in the older version, the ad is conceptually brilliant; I bet it's been brought back because it sold more Old Spice than anything else they've come up with. Unfortunately for them, there's no chance whatsoever of my buying any of their products for my husband; my father wore their aftershave.





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