Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Verizon Wireless Rant (paca)

A few days ago I received an email from someone trying to organize a boycott of a local CompUSA due to their "aggressive towing policy". Essentially his daughter had gone to a CompUSA to buy something but they weren't open yet. Therefore, she walked across the street to get a coffee and when she returned to do her shopping her car was being towed away. The details in the two to three thousand word mass email escape me but they lost several hundred dollars, most of a day, and even had the police involved to get their car back from Jerkus the Great.

I haven't organized a boycott ever, but I remember keenly wanting to - of Verizon Wireless. This was about 4-5 years ago and here's the story as I remember it.

N and I are not phone people. We've never exceeded our allotted minutes on a cell plan, and for the longest time we only had cell phones for emergencies. N got a job where she drove literally at midnight for 50 miles home from work in southern TN, and so we got a little local plan with Verizon in case the car ever broke down. I also used it when I delivered pizzas for Papa Johns when I couldnt find a home. In 2002 or so, however, I was invited to Johns Hopkins for an interview for their Cognitive Science program in Baltimore and so I decided to drive there, since I don't like flying. For this purpose, I decided I should switch to a nationwide plan so that I could call N while on the road without roaming charges. I spoke with a very nice person (which you will quickly see does not mean competent) on the phone at Verizon to change my plan, made sure the date of the plan switch was before my trip, and then took off to Maryland, making several phone calls along the way.

As you are all expecting, the Verizon bill arrives with $200 worth of roaming charges on it.

I called Verizon back and learned that my plan was never switched. In fact, my phone isn't compatible with the plan they sold me. Well, that's fine, in a sense, just please take the charges off my bill because the only reason they are there is because Verizon's rep told me my plan had been switched. Oh, sorry, no, we can't do that.

In the 4-5 year time span since I've forgotten how thing proceeded from here, and so I can't instill you all with outrage. But we had escalations to supervisors, multiple phone calls, multiple promises of calling me back from Verizon without ever ever getting a single actual phone call back, letters from them threatening me for not paying the bill, and on and on. Eventually, I only had the choice of hiring a lawyer or giving in. I gave in, since only MY credit rating was being ruined. They had nothing to lose by going after me for being a horrible delinquent for, you know, assuming I was on a nationwide plan because the company told me I was on a nationwide plan. The only thing I regret is that I promised to report them to a Better Business Bureau but never did.

I of course canceled Verizon immediately and have been with Sprint since. And so in a sense I am boycotting Verizon still as we speak. I would be much obliged if you joined in.

Favorite traffic pet peeve (paca)

People are such poor drivers in so many ways that it can be hard to choose the most annoying pet peeve. Is it No-Blinker Man? Mr. Weaver? The Bicyclist Against All Traffic? Ah so many to choose from. But I think I know the one for me. There's two different versions of the same basic annoying habit. The most common is:

THE CUT-OFF. In this move, you are in a line of traffic and you get stuck behind something. Quite commonly it's a city bus at a stop or perhaps a car parked in your lane. You turn on your blinker to switch lanes to go around the obstacle, as does everyone in front of you and behind. What's the easy way for all of the cars to handle this situation? Naturally, the first car goes around the obstacle first and each car behind follows in turn so that everyone can go around smoothly. What in fact happens? The car behind you squeals their tires and lurches right next to you, pinning you in, so that it becomes a crazy free for all of people almost running into each other trying to get around the car. If they could just stay in line.... I HATE the guy who can't stay in line.

THE ILLEGAL GO-AROUND. This is the corollary of THE CUT-OFF and happened to me tonight. I am on a One Way street with only one lane headed towards a major road with 4 lanes all going in the same direction. I pull up to the stop sign and look for a break in traffic to turn right. But no... Mr. Illegal Go Around pulls into the shoulder to my left, where there is no lane, and proceeds to fly into the traffic. It would be one still annoying thing if he had pulled into the second lane or some such, but, no, he cuts right in front of me, taking the lane I am headed into and then he becomes the Weaver with the other cars. I know what you are all thinking. Poor gentle Paca carries around Pomeranians in the rain and just drives calmly and isn't very aggressive with turning, so Mr. Go-Around got impatient. But you would be mistaken. I was at that stop sign so briefly it was a borderline "rolling stop" and I had to brake not to be hit by shoulder driving shmuck.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Pomeranian Paca (paca)

Last night B and I were headed down to the beach for the evening. We had our bucket and shovels and a little bamboo mat for sitting on, and as we turned the corner on to one of the two main streets in Waikiki (Kuhio in fact, see post below) we ran into this little guy.

He was just standing on the sidewalk with no one around, so I eventually knelt down and he came right over. Searched for the collar but nothing at all. He was immaculately groomed, so he clearly belonged to someone. Expressing his super calm nature, he didn't squirm a bit as I scooped him up in my arms as it started to rain on us. I really didn't want to dump the dog back down right next to a busy street, and so we started to wander around looking for someone looking for a dog. It's the first lost dog that I actually did something about, so at first I had no plan. B and I walked aimlessly. Eventually, I figured out that I could go to security desks in the nearby condos and ask if anyone had reported a lost dog.

B, by the way, has borderline (border collie?) dog phobia. When I first approached the dog, he hid behind me, but he didn't run or cry or anything. When the dog was in my arms giving my hand little kisses, B found it rather exciting, though, and he happily walked through the rain with me for a while, even though this meant we weren't going to the beach. I never got him to pet the vicious dog, but he did repeat often how nice the dog was and how we were going to find its people.

No one had heard anything, however, about a missing dog, and I was about to take the dog back to our house and make up Lost Dog signs. A little bit of me didn't want to find the owner, but since we are in a no pet lease, that wouldn't have worked. As the very last stop before home, we spoke to the guy who handles taxis next to the Tiffany's building. He had actually seen the dog and owner before, and the owner frequently walks his dog with no leash. As he was describing the possible owner, a man meeting that description, who I also knew by face, came around the street corner and I handed the dog over. I was very pleased it worked out that way because I had no idea how to find out if the person responding to a Lost Dog ad was really the owner or not. This way I had taxi guy's corroboration.

Right about this time, the rain finally stopped as well, and B and I headed on to the beach at dusk to eat teriyaki chicken plate lunch (rice, teri chicken, and mac salad) on the sand and dig sand holes.

I'm almost always the guy who just looks concerned about something that's not right and then walks on, wondering if I should do something. It was nice to have the presence of mind to actually act this time.

By the way, single men who are reading this blog, if you wish to speak to women that you don't know, get an adorable dog and a small child. The three of us (me, B, and the dog) got so many waves and "oh isn't he so cute"s from anonymous female tourists, you can't shake a stick at all of them. Whether or not these anonymous tourists then want to date you for the three days they are in town, I can't say, but it does attract attention. Nothing's hotter than a man with a Pom.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Happy Prince Kuhio Day

Today (Monday) is a state holiday - Prince Kuhio Day, celebrating the life of Prince Kuhio. Have fun!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Trees (paca)

A link to beautiful and amazing trees. Thanks to Brenda Coulter for the link on her blog.

Looking a gift horse in the mouth (paca)

I'm about to do what the title says you shouldn't.

I just ran across this article, which particularly caught my attention because it's a Hawaii story. A Japanese real estate developer who is worth over a billion dollars has just given away 8 multi-million dollar homes that he owns in one of the ritziest areas of Oahu (the Kahala area, which is also where the San Marino consulate is) to homeless families, all single mothers with children. The way that the families became homeless is an all too common Hawaii story lately. No drugs, alcohol, or mental illness. Instead, the rent on one family's apartment went to $1200 a month and they couldn't afford it anymore with her job as a customer service rep (and paying day care for 5 children?!). After living with friends or family as long as they could, they all ended up in a shelter.

Genshiro Kawamoto, the billionaire, apparently announced that he would give away homes for 10 years each to a family - rent free except utilities (which will cost in the hundreds of dollars potentially, but shhhh) - and interested families wrote in. I applaud Mr. Kawamoto for giving away homes. 8 homes, perhaps worth $5 million dollars each. As he says in the article, this is pocket change to him, but still, $40,000,000 is a wonderful gift to people who need help.

Still, if he wanted to help the homeless in Hawaii, there are less romantic gestures he could have made with the same $40 million. With a little math, it seems that he could have sold the homes and paid the $1200 rent for 10 years for a full 277 families, instead of 8. That would make a significant dent in homelessness on Oahu. He could also have built a couple apartment blocks with subsidized rent for a substantial number of families as well. One benefit to the current policy, however, is what some of the neighbors in the ritzy Kahala area are protesting against, which is that it would put people of different economic backgrounds together where the Kahala people can think less of homeless people as a problem to be handled and more as something that happened to that nice mother down the street. I've always thought that city housing should be spread out through a city instead of isolated to certain neighborhoods where all the problems fester.

However, even though one might be able to think of better ways to use the money - 277 families instead of 8 - Mr. Kawamoto has indeed helped 8 of them, which is 8 more than me.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Brushing your teeth (paca)

This is an honest question that I do not know the answer to.

I have always assumed that what brushing your teeth did for you was get all the junk off of them - sugar, acid, etc. So, if one forgets that one just brushed one's teeth and an hour later eats a handful of cheese nips and drinks some acidic Diet Pepsi, just to name a couple random things off the top of my head that I certainly did not just consume, have you just undone all of your teeth brushing work completely? Or was there still a little benefit to it?

How're those resolutions going? (paca)

Back in early January, I came up with a bunch of 2007 goals. I thought I'd check in on myself to see how I was doing.

a: Paca, how are you doing?

b: Well, Paca-

a: You can call me P.

b: Sure, P. You can call me P, as well, if you like.

a: What? Wait- no, that defeats the purpose of calling me P.

b: Oh, so you think you own the letter P now?! What kind of egomaniacal freak are you?

a: You're such an idiot! I meant that this way we have different names! We can't both be called Paca.

b: Of course we can. In fact we are.

a: No, well, yes. But for this conversation, call me P.

b: Whatever.

a: Whatever to you too, jerk.



a: Oh, so now we aren't speaking to each other?

b: No. We're not.

a: This is really mature of you.


a: Fine. You can be P, too.

b: I don't want to be P. You can have your stupid letter. Oooh, look at me! I'm P I'm P! You think you're so cool.

a: I was trying to be helpful. Unlike you who seem to only want to insult me in public.

b: Oh, I'm not the helpful one?! You aren't exactly being so accepting either.

a: Good lord....

b: All I've ever wanted- sob- is to be Loved. Why can't you love me?!

a: OK. That was a little uncalled for.

b: Sniffle. I'm sorry that I'm not a manly man like you. I can't always hold in my feelings all the time. Sometimes I cry, OK? Excuse me for being human.

a: AGHHHHH!!! You're driving me insane! I was just trying to choose a different name so that people would know who was talking! How did I become the ogre in this?!

b: You could let me have the cool nickname. I could be P.

a: You said you didn't even like the letter P.

b: I lied. I just didn't want to make it into a big deal.

a: OK, fine. You're now P. Happy?

b: Yes.

a: Good.

b: It wasn't so hard to be nice, was it?

a: Don't start-

b: You're right. I won't.

a: Thank you.

b: Your welcome.

a: So if you're P now, what am I?

b: Easily manipulated.

The 2007 Goals:

1. Write article on Korean apologies with J-W. - Hmmm. Not well. This is on the backburner while we work on another project, namely 2.

2. Article on pitch levels in discourse structure - This is going well. J-W and I meet through Google chat twice a week to discuss this. We are currently looking at default intonation and its effect on story comprehension. The current task is to choose the right story.

3. don't procrastinate - ummm, can we do this one later?

4. teacher of a linguistics class - still no solution here. The only way it looks like I'm going to be allowed to teach is if I drop my current job and become a department G.A. again, which means losing health insurance and cutting my pay in half. Unlikely choice.

5. sleep more regularly - going as bad as before if not worse.

6. More N and Paca time - same as number 5.

7. swim - huh. forgot I had this one. Well, I did swim a little when we went to the Ko Olina Lagoons a couple weeks back.

8. working paper - - YESS!! Score! I turned the draft in of this last week to my reviewers. I so rock!

9. comprehensive exams - I'm now putting this on hold until I'm ready for the dissertation proposal. Apparently, it doesn't really get me anywhere by itself, so see 10.

10. dissertation proposal- Still up in air. For the longest time it was going to be about discourse and intonation. However, I developed a much better defined program about statistical learning in Korean and English as a possible project with J-W that we decided against as a joint project. So I'm contemplating switching my dissertation ideas. It's a big change though. I need to talk to a prof here about it.

11. develop 10 decent Cajun Seoul dishes - no more work on this lately, which likely makes N happy.

12. create 5-10 not completely embarassing songs in GarageBand - uhhh, no. But I was toying with a House / Opera hybrid in my head a couple weeks back.

13. keep the house neater - better, not great.

14. write 2-3 more stories to complete a story collection; query it to at least one agent - sigh, no. not at all.

15. develop complete outline of Tira novel. - See 14.

16. drink less soda - holy crap, not at all. I've had two diet pepsis and a sweet tea and it's 1:41 PM.

17. eat more vegies - eh, maybe. I'm not measuring.

18. Work on information theory interpretation of cochlear "fourier analysis" of frequency - so far beyond my mathematical abilities, I should just admit it and move to 2009.

19. get an article published all refereed like - Depending on feedback, I might submit my working paper to the Journal of Linguistics and Philosophy. It would seem to fit best there.

20. 23 minute 5K event - How about a 32 minute 5K? About two weeks after creating this goal, my left knee went out and it stayed out until about three weeks ago. With the bronchitis last December I've only run about 7-8 times in 4 months. Tonight is running night and I'm again now blowing my nose and sneezing. Who says there's no winter in Hawaii?

21. take at least a three day vacation where I take no laptop and no linguistics books - I so totally did this and you all saw the pictures.

22. find disseration funding and leave current job - ummm, no.

23. don't go broke - we're doing OK here. Go us.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Midling Madness (paca)

First, I should say that I think this betting pool thing is the whole key to March Madness, because I've never in my life read about men's college basketball unless it was the hometown team, but I just read two reviews of the tournament progress.

So how'm I doin'? Midling.

In the big picture, I chose 2 #1s, a #4, and a #6 to get to the final four, those teams being Florida, UNC, Southern Illinois, and Louisville. Louisville's already laying under the basket with its feet up in the air and little Xs for eyes, so I've got three left.

In the South regional, I'm bleeding demised. I'm bereft of life. I have Ohio State winning one more game, but other than that there are no more possible points coming out of there. In the Midwest regional, I'm only a little better. My only team left is Florida. Everyone else is pushing up the daisies. More on that soon.

I'm doing better in the East and West with three out of the four teams left. In the West, I thought Duke would take a couple before bowing out, but apparently the only reason Duke was in the tournament is because it had been nailed there. Out East, I had Texas grabbing one more but they too have joined the Choir Invisible.

At this point then, back in the West, it mostly depends upon my upset pick, Southern Illinois going to the Final Four. They have to beat both the #1 and the #2 (or#3) to do it, so it's not going to be easy, but, hey, you can't pick the favorite all the time, or there'd be no point in picking. In the East, I do have UNC, the #1, going through.

In the end, though, any victory of mine will come from Florida. I have them taking it all. If they do, I get 32 points and leap into the upper echelons. If they lose the next game, I am an ex-paca.

For those of you wondering why the odd language, the answer is here:
This is one difference between the old 20 year old paca and the new 33 year old one. 13 years ago I would have recited the whole thing to you. Just now, I had to go watch the skit to remember many of the euphemisms. Llama's mother used to say that it was like llama and I spoke our own language. That language was 42% Python. I'm down to periodically remembering a joke now.

Mushroom spinach omelettes (paca)

I am most often proud of my cooking when I make something up off the top of my head and it comes out pretty decent. You just look in the cabinets and see what you got. Then, voila! Yummy.

This Sunday the invention off the top of my head was: Mushroom and spinach omelettes. Here's my "recipe" as I remember it.

First, your spouse happens to make turkey burgers with spinach the night before, so that there's a little bowl of defrosted spinach sitting in the fridge. Second, you buy some cream for a strawberry pie - that you still haven't made. Third, you happen to buy some mushrooms the day before because they were on sale and you should be able to come up with something to do with them.

1) Toss a little butter in a skillet and about half a package of mushrooms. 4 ounces perhaps?
2) Fry the mushrooms until they are getting smaller and mostly done.
3) Toss in some of the left over spinach til it seems about half and half.
4) After a bit, pour in a little cream; sprinkle some salt and pepper on top. Don't let the cream boil too much.

The omelette. I don't know exactly what the breakthrough a few years back was on omelettes as for ever and ever I was one of those people where the omelette always always became scrambled eggs. But I eventually got the hang of it.

5) Toss two eggs in a bowl and scramble. You can add spices - italian seasoning, paprika, salt, pepper, tobasco sauce - as you please. This time I did nothing.
6) The omelette skillet must already be hot with a little grease in it. Medium to medium high seems to work.
7) Toss the eggs in and spin around until the skillet is covered with a thin layer.
8) Wait.
9) When the omelette starts firming up, run a fork along the edges gently lifting so they don't stick.
10) Shake the pan some and the thing should slide around.
11) When the omelette is almost completely done, sprinkle some shredded cheese you had lying around from a fajita night onto the middle.
12) Lay some of the mushroom / spinach mixture in the middle.

And now the hardest part of all and the part I only pull off about 1/4 of the time.

13) With spatula fold one third of the omelette over on top of the middle.
14) Slide the whole thing up towards the waiting plate so that the whole thing flips over one more time onto itself. I always screw that up. The good news is it tastes the same.

15) Repeat for each person.
16) Eat.

Obviously, if you are not a mushroom kind of person, you can do bacon or ham or sausage or onions or lots of cheese or whatever you in fact are.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hawaii Day Five

It's finally time for Day Five of the trip to the Big Isle. If you would like to review the earlier entries, they're here:

Day One
Day Two
Day Three and Four

Day Five was different in that N wasn't with us most of the time. The reason we'd gone to the Big Isle in the first place is because she had a business trip to Waimea in the north of the Big Isle, and this was finally the day to do it. Waimea's a cow town. It's the home of the Parker Ranch, one of the largest cattle ranches in the U.S. Parker Ranch got started when Captain Vancouver gave a gift of cattle to King Kamehameha. The Hawaiians had no experience with cattle and they soon ran out of control over the island. Spanish cowboys were brought in to help corral the cattle. Hawaiian cowboys today are called paniolos, which comes from Espagnol(os?) for the Spanish cowboys in the early 19th century. The cowboys also introduced the guitar and the Slack-key guitar tradition has been in Hawaii now for almost 200 years.

But I digress. Parker was favored by the king, had a musket, and somehow ended up with a ranch. Today the ranch is over 150,000 acres.

The north and west sides of Hawaii don't look like most people think of Hawaii. They look kind of like Texas to me.

So we started off the morning by dropping N at work. Then B and I took off to drive a loop around the Kohala northwest corner of Hawai'i. The morning was essentially a search for a beach, and we kept running into other things on the way. The first stop was the ruins / remains / park of an old Hawaiian village.

After our trip back in time, we did drive further north and come across a beach a little before lunch time. This made B happy.

Beaches up here are quite rocky. The little patch of sand you see here is almost all the sand at this beach. It was fine for us. B and I aren't laying out and tanning after all.

We ate a picnic lunch up at this beach park overlooking the railing. This is humpback season in Hawai'i and the strait between east Maui and NW Hawaii is one of the main places to see the whales. In theory then you might be looking at a whale right now in this picture. I saw somewhere between 0 and 500 whales, with the odds being 0. Every white tip of water could be a splume when you want it to be; every wave's shadow is a whale breaching.

After our close encounter with the whales, we headed up to the northern tip and ran into this little town whose name I'm blanking on. The arid grasslands and rocks are about 5 miles to the west. We are rounding the tip of the island towards the Windward side and notice the trees appearing.

The guy closer to the camera in the picture above is an impressive individual. He was cycling the same territory that B and I were and we ran into him both at a beach park and the old Hawaiian village. He was making time as well as us in the car.

Anyway, after picking up batteries and koala chocolate cookies in this town, we headed about 5 more miles east to where the road ends. And here's why the road ends:

Supposedly, you can hike / ATV into the valley and there's a 150 foot waterfall or some such. But B fell asleep on the way down the road, and so all the pics you see here and in the next couple places are just me standing next to the car. I'm not sure I would have been up for a 3 mile hike into a mountain valley with B on my head anyway, but we can all pretend I was on the verge of going.

The area around here is still farmland actually, and if you were a farmer, wouldn't you love to have a place like this as your homestead?

Unfortunately, the most magical part of the entire journey occurs in between this picture and the next, but it's undocumented. Driving back towards Waimea, you go up into the Kohala range and are at about 3,000 feet, but up on this side, it's the greenest pasture land you've ever seen in your life. It's the type of green that you imagine on the Emerald Isle. It breathes life and beauty. It's still farmland and it's still cattle ranches, but where before the sloping grasslands were brown and dry, everythng here is green and vibrant. If I ever were to start an alpaca farm in a dream world, you'd have to at least think about this area.

As you get closer to Waimea again, things are turning arid once more, but you are still at 2,000 and 3,000 feet, and so you can see for 30 miles, I'm guessing.

And here's the view of the top of Mauna Kea, the highest point in Hawaii and a 13-14 thousand odd foot volcano. The little domes you see are all of the observatories you hear about on TV. If you start at the ocean floor, either Mauna Kea or Mauna Loa is actually taller than Everest.

Finally, we made it back to Waimea. We were supposed to go find cows, but time ran out before going to get N from work. But we did see some horses at the Parker Ranch home.

And then it was back to Oahu.

N's supposed to go back to the Big Isle this summer and this time she's going to Hilo, which is on the wet windward side. I don't know if B and I will make this one, as this little jaunt was expensive. If we do go, I will barrage you with pictures once again.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Warning: Sexually Explicit (paca)

No, really, this time I mean it. I've made that joke as a teaser before, but I'm actually going to end up discussing an erotic romance novel down below and quoting it, and it's explicit. Naughty bits will be mentioned and not with the term "naughty bits". (However, that makes me want to see how hard, I mean difficult, it would be to write an erotic story that's completely graphic but uses terms like "naughty bits".... I definitely see a project in my future.)

Anyway, you've been warned. Huh. I hope the llama's parents don't drop by....

The way I came to this topic was that I was discussing the cervical cancer vaccine thing (see post below) with a classmate, and she told me a story from her sister who has taught in Baton Rouge and Texas somewhere. The sister reported a class in which there are pregnant students sitting in the rows, while the teacher has them peeling petals off of a flower and explains to them that if they lose their flower too often, peeling a petal each time, they won't have anything left to give their husbands.

If my classmate wasn't wicked smart and trustworthy, I'd take this as an urban legend. In fact, I still have a hard time actually believing it. The classmate's point was about the irony of teaching this to already pregnant students. I was just thinking that I now know the reason abstinence education often doesn't have longterm effects on sexual activity: the students aren't sure what the class is about. They keep peeling flowers and picking fruit from the tree and watching trains enter tunnels and leave more baffled than when they entered.

But mainly I was thinking how insulting this is to all the girls in the class.

If they don't save their flower, they have nothing to offer their husband? Hmmm... Maybe they could offer... just an idea off the top of my head... love? Kindness? Humor? Chicken soup when sick? Passion, sexiness, smiles, intelligence, wisdom, advice, family,.... You get the idea. To put it bluntly, nowadays, a lot more men are interested in a woman's smile than her hymen.

So after all this ran through my head - my maidenhead? - I started thinking about an erotic romance novel I've read. As I've mentioned before, I've been perusing a lot of romance sites in the last year or so, and there I've learned about the erotic romance sub-genre, which is one of the hottest areas of romance fiction right now. N always looks at me funny when I talk about something on a romance blog, because I've never really read romance unless you count Jane Austen. And that was 11th grade. Anyway, I decided I would try an erotic romance book, because, well, I'm a guy and you know erotic's got to be a plus, right? So I finally read one. And I've only read one. (Sorry, December. I have a feeling you can think of one or two others I might read, but I didn't read your blog back then.)

I ended up reading Undressing Mercy by Deanna Lee. Of the rows of these books at Border's, I chose it mostly for the cover. It seemed a far better cover than most. Also, the back cover didn't make me cringe with domination themes, which, well, do nothing for me. In fact those themes, wildly popular among the female readers, make me put the book down.

I finally made it through the book, but it took a little effort. I hate to say that, but it's true. Much of the sex is really steamy and that's largely what carried it. But there kept being these places where I would roll my eyes or get annoyed. One was closer to the beginning. Our heroine, Mercy, is an Assistant Director of an art gallery, and she's been tricked, basically, into posing nude for one of their artists, hunky Shamus. Here's how the back cover describes her sessions posing for him. "Burning under the intense gaze of the hottest man she's ever known, watching his hands work their magic, Mercy feels vulnerable yet liberated and fully aroused, desperate for the kind of satisfaction only a master like Shamus can give."

The author does do a really nice job of building the sexual tension between the two in the first couple posing scenes, but then at the end of session 2, so this is maybe the 3rd time they've ever been in each other's company, when she's leaving, they come together for a passionate kiss and groping hands and he slides his hands up her thigh and a finger enters her. Yes, there.

It's an erotic romance novel. I'm largely OK with this. It's expected.

But after a little bit of him being inside of her, she breaks the contact and ends the torrid frisking. Shamus then shakes his head, disappointed in her, because she won't release the passion she has inside. You see, he can see inside her soul, he's an artist after all, and knows about the amazing passionate tigerwoman inside her that she's repressing.

My reaction was... well, f- you, Shamus. You've only met this woman three times. She's here making out with you, grabbing your ass, panting, you've got your hand inside her which she's OK with; and when she decides she might wait till the third date before ripping your clothes off, you are sad and disappointed in her self-repression? Patronizing as hell to me. What an arrogant shmuck.

I think I took a week off before continuing in the book.

Finally, I'm arriving at the connection between the hymen-preservation-society class and this book.

You see, Shamus is black, and in a erotic book, you know what that means. His middle appendage ends somewhere around his knees. (I'm giving Lee a pass on the racial stereotypes, because she treats Shamus with respect and it is an interracial romance. Actually, I was just flipping through and noticed a secondary character admitting benignly that she once had "fine, hot jungle sex" with Shamus. Minus 2 more points for the word jungle.) And this size factor is a huge bonus to Mercy. She likes it a bit rough and a lot big.

I told you this was going to get explicit! People will never read this blog the same way again.

Part of the story also revolves around Mercy having been raped, (don't worry, she smashes the guy on the head with a bat at the end of the book, which is a nice thing for the author to do. Shamus does not need to save her; she saves herself). The fact that she wants Shamus to take her, in a sense, troubles her, so at some point she runs to her therapist to make sure she's not messed up. After a bit of discussing this, we have the following exchange between Mercy and her therapist Lesley. Lesley is asking her to discuss what she liked about men before the attack.

"Since this isn't a regularly scheduled session, I'll give you a pass for the moment. Just talk to me about the sex for the time being."

"I suppose I was like most other women." I shrugged and covered my arms over my breasts. "Let's see... I'm tall for a woman, so I've always found taller men attractive. Strong but careful hands, stamina, and of course a big dick." I laughed softly and shrugged. "I mean, some women will say that it doesn't matter much."

"But you don't agree?"

"No, I don't. Size matters. It matters a lot."

Me again. So this bit made me mad again. I'm sad to say that I've never had sex with a man and don't possess a vagina, so I can't say if size matters or not. But let's imagine turning this around to a man talking to his therapist:

"...I've always found smaller women attractive. Slender but not skinny legs, stamina, and of course a virginal tight pussy." I laughed and shrugged. "I mean, some men will say it doesn't matter much."

"But you don't agree?"

"No, I don't. I want a woman who's tight. This bullet train doesn't stop in Grand Central Station."

Wouldn't most people think this guy's a complete A-hole living off old stereotypes and bizarre fetishes? If so, isn't Mercy acting the same way? Maybe size does feel good and after all she's supposed to be exploring her sensuality, meaning her physical senses. But, come on. You're saying what makes a great lover to you and the third thing you come up with is the guy has to hung? I'm OK with 'it feels good', 'it's a bonus', 'it turns me on' and the like. But 'it matters a lot'?

In some ways, these erotic romances are written by women for women, so maybe some of the talk is like locker-room junk. Guy's erotica probably has far more blatant shallowness in it ("her tits were the size of watermelons") but it is shallow when a guy does it, and it remains so when a woman does it.

So there you go.

I kinda connects up, right? It's people being obsessed with body parts instead of, well, people.

I can't run for office now.

What's going on with Texas and cervical cancer? (paca)

I have two or three regular readers who live in Texas, so can any of you inform me as to what's going on with the school requirement to have 6th grade girls vaccinated against cervical cancer and HPV? This is the Yahoo AP report.

As I understand, there is a sexually-transmitted disease, the HPV virus, which is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Supposedly, 1 in 4 U.S. women carries some strain of the virus, which is a quite large number. However, I just did some Wikipedia reading and the percent of strains that the vaccine actually prevents is under 5%, 3.4% to be exact. Number crunching time: There are 20,000,000 people in Texas roughly, so I will assume that 10,000,000 are women. This means that 2.5 million women in Texas carry some strain of HPV. The good news is that most HPV strains are largely harmless, having no effect or easily destroyed by the immune system or causing a harmless wart. However, if you just take 3.4% of women who have the strains which the vaccine affects, you still end up with 340,000 women with the approriate strains. And if half of those are the cancer causing variety, you get 170,000 women who are at high risk for cervical cancer, in Texas alone, who this vaccine can help.

Anyway, last year a vaccine against many strains of HPV became licensed by the FDA. In response, the governor of Texas - that radical left winger, I'm assuming, since this is Texas - issued an order adding the vaccine to the school requirements for 6th grade girls. So far, so good.

But apparently, the Texas legislature is fighting this tooth and nail, and they have overwhelming support to kill the requirement. The House of Reps version of the bill passed 118-23, which is 82% in favor of removing the requirement. So what's going on?

I can think of some good reasons to oppose the requirement:

1) You think the vaccine is too new and therefore might be unsafe. Hopefully, you have some evidence of this, but it's a legitimate concern.
2) You don't think the government should be involved in a family's medical decisions at all. I get this point of view, too. However, the state already has vaccination requirements for things like measles, mumps, rubella, etc. And the reason that states have a legitimate interest in this is because the diseases are environmentally transmittable. Simply by attending school with one of these diseases, you are putting other children at risk. I guess the question is then, does a sexually transmitted disease fall into this category or not? This is a very similar issue as when I earlier discussed whether or not having children is a true choice. In some ways, I think it doesn't matter though. I wasn't able to find any decent looking estimates of teen rates of sexual activity. The wikipedia article is clearly written with a huge bias, so I will use a ballpark figure of 33%. Unless you have a way to drop that number drastically in the next few months, the decision to not require the vaccine is going to immediately affect a large number of girls. I tried to dig up the number of students in the Texas school system, but Wikipedia went down. If you guess that 20% of the females in Texas are grades 6 - 12 and assume infection rates as above, you have... 11,220 girls in Texas that this vaccine could help right now.

So what alarmed be about the article was the money quote: "Gov. Rick Perry's executive order has inflamed conservatives who say it contradicts Texas' abstinence-only sexual education policies and intrudes into family lives."

Ahhhh! That's what it's about. Of course, it is. Texas parents don't want their girls having sex. I get that. I'm a pretty traditional guy and if I ever have a daughter, I'm going to have a hard time making my head control my gut reaction when she gets to these ages. But not only do they not want their children to have success, they want the penalty for messing up to be, not just higher risk of pregnancy, but even a decent chance of cervical cancer. The vaccine provides a method to help prevent 11,220 girls from catching the virus which could eventually kill them or at least cause significant damage to their reproductive system right now. But Texas is going to keep those girls at risk, because reducing the risk of cancer... might make children have more sex?

So, Texas residents, what's actually going on? Is it all just about the old "teens should never have sex and we don't care if they die as a result of screwing up, we are going to stick to our principles"?

It should of course be mentioned that the Texas legislature is not banning the vaccine. They are making it strictly voluntary. But the reason the governor put the rule in is that the best guess was that only 25% of girls would get the vaccine if voluntary.

By the way, New Mexico and Virginia have already put the requirement in place or plan to soon.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Madness (paca)

I seem to be joining my first ever NCAA men's basketball pool this year. J is organizing a tournament on Yahoo sports where the winner gets a loaf of banana bread mailed to them. I don't think J's considered the possibility yet that she might win. Anyway, the comments are pretty hysterical. While I check the NHL scores 2-3 times a day, I've never watched a complete men's college basketball game in my life**. J chose hers based upon whether the city "had a good liberal church". Another person is choosing based upon town names she likes.

Promises to be amusing.

If anyone has advice, send it my way. Maybe I'll use all numerology. I think the winning candidate should follow a path that equals 42. I wonder if I can make that work.

** I went to a couple Lady Techster games when I was a kid or teen. La Tech was great in that it might be the only place where the women's basketball game ends and everyone clears out before the men start. At least back in the day. As Sammy would say, "true that."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It's time to go back to Greenbow, ALABAMA! (paca)

I just noticed a typo in my working paper, which was the following:

The framework developed here is routed in the fundamental notion, since at least Lashley 1951, that producing and understanding language involves mapping between a hierarchical representation of meaning and a linear sequence of symbols.

That typo pisses me off. Routed? I stared and stared at that. What did I mean when I typed that something was "routed in a fundamental notion?" Ohhhhhhh! Rooted! It's rooted in the notion. So why does that typo make me mad? Because in my part of the South, the word "route" is pronounced like "rowt". It's "rowt 1" not "root 1" in pronunciation. But apparently, I've lived in other parts of the world so long now that temporarily I thought that "route" and "root" were synonyms such that I made the typo - just like people confuse "there" and "their" because they sound the same. Grrrr... I'm not a Southerner anymore.

Eating your vegies (paca)

B, who is 4 and a couple months, has always been an amazing fruit eater - raisins, bananas, apples, grapes, pinapple, cherries, fruit cups of peaches and pears. Apples are probably his favorite food and he chows the whole thing down, skin and all, no pansy peeling and slicing and such. : ) He even used to munch on jicama regularly over at his old auntie's. But we've never had great success on actual vegetables ever since he grew out of the strained and creamed variety. However, we've had more luck lately. Some of the progress has been technique on our part. After the helping of yummy cheesey rice, he has to taste something else on his plate to get any more. This "tasting" can start with simply touching it with your tongue, and then it slowly builds up to actually eating a bite or two. After that, we don't press it, since I don't think turning vegetables into a screaming or crying or moping fit is going to help long term. Actually, he's not forced to eat a bite, but he doesn't get anything else until he tries it. But through this technique, he has been eating a little more.

The other, much bigger success has been making the vegetables more interesting. He eats corn on the cob now, and the key there was buying corn holders, which he thought were just super ultimately cool. He gets to choose the color for everyone's ear of corn, and this peaks his interest. He still started off only putting the corn to his lips, but eventually he sank his teeth in and now will eat the ear of corn before the roll on his plate. We've also had huge success with brocolli. I'm not sure if this was us or someone at school, but brocolli is now "brocolli trees" and he likes the idea of eating trees. He ate an entire crown of the stuff by himself recently.

The most bizarre thing that he doesn't eat is potatoes. Oh, he'll eat fries no problem and has not branched out to tater tots, but mashed potatoes, sliced potatoes, etc., he won't touch. I've never heard of a kid who wouldn't eat mashed potatoes. What of that?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Aim High (paca)

Last night around 2:00 AM, I was wandering through the kitchen when I thought, "If I was king of the world and could have anything I wanted right now, it'd be a bag of Fritos. The scoop ones. And some Ranch dip."

Aim high.


Do you find something amusing about Biguth...(paca)

Writtenwyrd requested more of the paca humor in a comment a few days back. I'm too lame to write new funny at the moment, but as I went through collecting music posts (see below) I grabbed funny-ish ones too from the last couple months. So here those are:

Fish in the sea
The mighty alpaca
Some Guess the Plots at EE
working for the consulate
whale calving
The probability of love

Music Essays Greatest Hits (paca)

I don't know if these posts are useful to anyone else, but I stumbled upon my old Van Morrison essay from a couple months back and I realized I wanted an easier way to find those musical posts again. So here is a list of Paca's musical essays so far. I'll incorporate it into my massive TOC whenever I do that again.

Van Morrison
Cui Jian morphing into traditional Chinese instruments
Michael Nesmith
Kool & the Gang - Summer Madness
80s Hair Rock
Puffy Amiyumi 1 2 3 4
James Brown and old writing
Nina Simone, Wilson Pickett, and a little EE. Also, a zombie father of Jesus.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Starving Child (paca)

Each day B's daycare sends out a report about what happened that day and they attempt to have each child in one sentence. The other parents reading these reports must think that we never feed our son at home. They've been making grilled cheese sandwiches in the morning and the report every single day this week had B at the table cooking and eating. You'd think he was a starving child looking for the food he couldn't get at home, when in fact I made him pancakes and sausage 30 minutes earlier - which he ate. Well, he ate the pancakes. B just likes to eat, I guess. And he's not fat. I've posted plenty of pics here. He's not chubby at all.

I used to be like that. I remember eating seconds and thirds routinely in college and having a 30" waist, which is pretty much the smallest size possible in the men's department. You can find some rare 29s. Then I became 22, 23, 24 years old, and the inches went 32, 34, 36... But, hey, 34 again! Huh. Somehow this post ended up about me instead of B. Well, that's entirely appropriate. Everything should be about me. Look at me! Look at me! That's what a blog is for, right?

Booklist Meme

Here's a meme from Katze. But I'm lazier than her, so I'm going back to the original format of just bolding and italicizing. Ok, it turns out that I'm going to have to hand-code every item with tags to do the formatting, and I'm not taking the time for that. Therefore, I'm moving to just adding "read" and "like to" after a book.


*Look at the list of books below.
*Bold the ones you’ve read.
*Italicize the ones you want to read.
*If you are reading this, tag you're it.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) - read
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) - like to
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) - like to
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien) - read
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien) - read
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien) - read
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) - like to
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling) - read
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling) - read
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling) - read
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)- if audiobooks count :) - read
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien) - read
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) - read
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) - like to
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) - like to
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) - read
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) - read
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell) - read
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) - like to
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True(Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) - like to
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) - read
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) - like to
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible (not the whole thing) - read
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) - like to
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) - read; perhaps my favorite book, period
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) - like to
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens) - read
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) - read
54. Great Expectations (Dickens) - like to
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) - read
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling) - read
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) - like to
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) - I read about a third of this and was really enjoying it; never got back to it
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand) - read
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy) - started this to and was liking it; never got back
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice) - read, unless i didn't finish
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) - read chapter one, like to finish one day
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) - like to
69. Les Miserables (Hugo) - read, unless I didn't finish
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) - like to
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving) - read, but the movie was better
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White) - like to
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen) - like to
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams) - N read large portions of this to me; did we finish?
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) - read
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding) - like to
93. The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce) - like to; I read the first page of Finnegan's Wake and liked it, but that was clearly a book I would have to put energy into and so I never pursued it further. I don't think Ulysses is quite that difficult. I've planned to read this for many years.

By the way, I have no idea where this list of books came from - every Potter is mentioned separately? (Note that I've read books 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6.) It's a curious blend of classics and contemporaries. Another thing to get from this is that I don't read fiction very much. Basically, the books I've read are 1) for a class, 2) fantasy and not for class, 3) about 3 others. On the other hand I have several thousand pages of reading material sitting right next to my laptop as I write, but they have titles like "Learning antecedents for anaphoric one," "Reading the book of nature," and the new classic, "The biological endowment for language and arguments from the poverty of the stimulus." The last one is in fact a paper I am currently writing.

I've already discussed my lack of reading here. And the related nonfiction faves here.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Open face strawberry pie (paca)

I'm looking for a recipe again. I want to make an open face strawberry pie. By that I mean a crust that is baked, a load of fresh strawberries that remain uncooked, some sort of glaze, and probably some whipped cream on top.

I made one of these before and the first time I did it, I thought it was one of the best things I've made. However, every time I've made it since, it's been mediocre at best. I think one of the problems is the glaze recipe I have.

So has anyone ever made a tart / pie like this with uncooked strawberries? Do you have the recipe?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What is the moral context? (paca)

One thing I've discovered in my years is that what you think is reasonable or right depends as much on your perception of the context of the action as much as the action itself. OK, that's trivially true, right? Of course, whether or not shooting someone is the right action depends on the context - are you invading their home? are you on the battlefield at war? are you defending your life? Etc. So, let me just skip to my examples.

Many years ago when I was an undergrad, so early 90s as I gadjiated in 94, my father was telling me some story about a local guy having trouble with a beaver. The beaver kept putting a dam up or chewing one down or some such on the land, and it was actually causing real trouble. I made some sort of silly comment like, "go beaver!" (I should also confess that for many years my favorite animal was the beaver. yes, the beaver. At some point it switched to polar bears. But generally I like furry water mammals. Even the musk rat is cooler swimming across a pond. Do I digress?) My father made some sort of response like "you know, people have just as much of a right to use a river as a beaver."

He's right of course when you think about it a certain way. Beavers are not more important than humans and we get to use waterways, too. So if you just think about this one incident, you could imagine that it is best for the human to win out. The problem is that when you broaden the context, things change. If the human wins every single time because of his or her right to use a stream equally, then these "equal rights" don't seem equal at all. They really mean that people get everything.

A similar story comes from the Daily Show. There was a segment several months back where they did a mock interview of a guy who moved into some area of San Francisco with a really large gay population. And in this neighborhood there are lots of sex shops with very graphic displays in the windows - BDSM related items with leather and chains and huge items to be inserted into other people. So this guy moves into the neighborhood with his family and doesn't like his children going past this stuff all the time, so he was leading some sort of campaign to either close the shops or remove the window displays or something. Now, if you just consider this one neighborhood by itself, the father isn't being completely unreasonable. We regulate stuff like this all the time with where sex industry businesses can locate, what stuff can be shown on TV at what time, what businesses can be near schools, etc. But then, as part of a joke of course, the Daily Show puts up a map of the U.S. with one color, say black, for neighborhoods that are friendly to this gay subculture and another color, say green, for those who are not, and you end up with something like two tiny black dots, one in San Francisco and another in Manhattan, in the entire nation. If you think of it in that context, then the father's "reasonable" desire not to have his child exposed to this stuff really amounts to banning it for all, which is not reasonable if you think the government should stay out of what consenting adults do when alone. In short, if the context is a single street in San Francisco, the dad can make a decent case, but if the context is the U.S. as a whole, the case has a lot less merit.

You see this context problem all the time in discussions about religion and government. Many, many Christians particularly of an evangelical bent feel like they and their religion are constantly under attack. Some times the offenses are urban legends or misunderstandings, but they are often real as well. Typically, the Christian victim is looking at some individual incident and feels it to be wrong or unfair. The "liberal" for lack of a better term then looks up and says, "let me get this right. You are an oppressed victim who can't get his voice heard and yet Christians control every single branch of government and have since the founding of the nation...." If you ever read any political sites, you will have seen these discussions.

The difficult question of morality then becomes: what is the context to consider? Moral situations don't come with the context labeled conveniently for us. You might be able to shrink and grow the context of an action and get 10 different decisions due to the shifts. I would hazard a guess that moral disagreements arise from disagreements about what the proper context is as often as they do about the action itself.

My final example is the never-ending abortion debate. One reason that access to abortions is considered such an important right to defend among many feminist-leaning people is because they view abortion rights in a context of womens rights generally, societal patriarchy, and the social and political role of women. Letting access to abortion disappear for people with this view is not just to lose access to something important to many, but is an attack on women generally. That is the context.

There is probably some portion of pro-life people who also think of this context and have simply decided that the child's right to life is more important (or some other argument), but again I'm guessing that most pro-lifers don't even consider this context at all. It just doesn't occur to them. And I can confess I'm most often one of those people. I fall pro-choice when I have to say anything, but I fall that way because I think the pro-life position doesn't give sufficient weight to a woman's right to control her own body. Now that is different than the sort of feminist view. Indeed, my position could be argued in a sort of classical liberal or libertarian way. A woman's individual rights trump the rights of the child. This has little to do with the role of women in society and what gender groups maintain power. I go into all of this simply to make the point that even people who agree on some particular issue might be considering very different contexts when reaching their decisions.

I don't think there's an answer to this issue unless God's going to stick post-it notes on the world for us. But maybe by keeping the problem in the back of our heads, when we next have to make a decision, we can remember to play with the context consciously and make an actual informed decision instead of just whatever we happen to be assuming at the moment.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Red Alert! Red Alert! Whooop! Whoooop! Whooop! (Llama)

So I'm back in Cambodia. I made my plane reservations Friday afternoon, the very last possible time I could have made them since the travel office is closed on the weekend and my flight left Monday morning. The original cause of this emergency trip was because it appeared as if the double entry process our data entry contractor is using was failing, resulting in much dirtier data than we could accept, as high as 3%! After a bit more discussion and contemplation, however, I figured out that the denominator in our little calculation was wrong... alot wrong... rather than an error rate of 3/100, it was really 3/100,000. A very acceptable level.

However, my boss never lets the facts get in the way once he has made up his mind. So here I am back in Cambodia. I'm trying to not get so stressed this time... for example, I'll leave work today and probably not think about again until tomorrow morning. And that's.... OK! (Ah, remember Stuart Smalley? Back when Al Franken was just a comedian and not a pundit? Why is it that as soon as someone expresses an opinion, they cease to become attractive to anyone that doesn't share that view? For example, I use to think Dan Miller was amusing, if a bit full of himself... now that he's gung ho on Bush I can't stand to listen to him. Hm, has this aside gone slightly off track?)

So one comment about traveling to Cambodia that I forgot to document last time... the good service of Asian airlines. I flew Thai Airways, but in my experience this is a regional thing... or perhaps just a "non-US" thing. So here's the latest evidence that the Asians run laps around the US when it comes to service. The flight between Bangkok and Pnohm Phen is about 50 minutes... I think that's even shorter than the hop from BTR to ATL. In the US that would mean you get a pack of peanuts or pretzels and, if you are lucky, a soft drink. But I'm in Asia, now, babbbyyy! Awwww yeah. With the plane about 50 feet off the ground, and still at a very steep incline, the hostesses jump up and start working. This is fairly big plane... six seats across. What is that, a 737? Something like that. Airbus 360... Whatever. They wheel out the meal cart and start serving. Everyone on board gets a hot meal, complete with salad and desert; fresh juice, soft drinks, coffee or tea, and even a glass of wine. I think it's not just that Japanese guy from Heroes, but every Asian must have the ability to stop space/time... it's the only way I can figure that they are able to serve everyone and get everything stowed away again in time for landing. Did I mention complimentary newspapers also?

Oh, and less you think they charge out the yin/yang for this service, my round-trip ticket, booked just 3 days before departure, costs 9,460 Baht, or 270 USD.


Goatskin Pants Redux (paca)

Since I have 2-3 new readers of the blog (in relative terms), I thought I'd post a link back to the old Goat Skin Pants Theme Song.

Goatskin Pants

And if you ever wondered, as a new reader, why this blog is named "Goatskin Pants", here is the answer to that.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Weird acting neighbors (paca)

I've had a series of odd neighborly behavior lately.

1) I've run into my nipple-ringed shirtless neighbor a few more times since my last posting, and the nipple rings are becoming the less interesting item. What's starting to fascinate me is whether or not he ever puts on a shirt. I saw him around 2:00 this afternoon and then later at 7 in the evening. No shirt either time. I'm contemplating keeping a log. How many times can I see someone before I ever see them with a shirt on? I'm beginning to suspect it could be a while. (It might be worth noting that this neighbor spontaneously offered to help me bring in loads of groceries from Sam's Club at the 2:00 sighting, so this has nothing to do with his character. It's entirely a matter of amusement at the lack of fabric on his torso. Ever.)

2) Due to the fever, I stayed home about three hours extra on Thursday morning, and at one point heard someone outside my window asking another person for a couple quarters to finish her laundry. I glanced out and discovered it to be a neighbor**, but I did not recognize the person who was opening her purse and handing a quarter over. Indeed, after the quarter was given, the askee kept on going down the sidewalk to some other destination. In other words, my neighbor had just stood outside on the sidewalk and asked a complete stranger for money.


3) I was lying in my bed reading Noam Chomsky's Nature and Language (1999) at 11:30 on a Saturday night, like any good linguistics grad student, and a couple people were talking outside my window. Well, really one person seemed to be talking. It ran something like, "and the little aparment right down here is ADORable." I didn't know what she was talking about, since there are mutiple little apartments around. Then I heard her go on. "I can see naked legs. Legs wearing boxers."

Well, that's me. Our mini-blinds were down, so it wasn't like I was doing a nipple-ringed-guy thing where he sits on his sofa right beside his open door. But there apparently was about a single inch, maybe two, gap between the bottom of the window and one of the blinds. So they had to be trying to look in to notice my amazing gams. My first thought of course was, "are you really peeping into someone's apartment?" and next was, "and who would talk about their peeping at full voice while still engaged in it?"

I couldn't help but imagine a peeping tom huddled in the bushes next to a woman's bedroom window peering through a crack while the woman undressed -- providing voice-over narration the whole time, three feet from the victim as she listened:

"Here I am, Tom Q. Peep, standing behind the astrumeria looking in at Jane from work. She'll never know I'm here. Oh, she has removed her Penny's dress that I watched her purchase last September from behind the belt display. It looks like she's got a new bra and panties set. I'll go through her trash later to see if I can find the receipt. Oh, it looks like she's picked up the phone and dialed a number. I can't quite tell what it is, but the first number was a 9 and it was short. There was at least one 1. She seems to be speaking to someone softly. I think I heard the words 'stalker freak'... 'brainless'... 'come quickly'.... I wonder what that's all about."

All I'm saying is when you are being sneaky, don't tell everyone while still doing it.

On the good side, our overly curious naighbor did say our apartment was adorable. On the bad side, she never made the same comment about the naked legs.


Perhaps I should clarify the word "neighbor". We are in a one bedroom apartment on the first floor, right at the front, so that the front door is 4 feet from the sidewalk. Our building only has 4 apartments. Two on the first and two on the second. There's us as a young family, a young couple (nipple-ring guy and partner), another family with one older boy above us, and some mysterious set of college age guys with visiting females in the final apartment. I've never figured out who actually lives there. Then across the driveway are 5 or 6 more apartments. We do laundry in that building. For the most part I don't know who's in there or exactly where. There's one family who are the only people who've been here longer than us. Never spoken to them. There's a guy who drives a stretch limo (and perhaps does some autobody work on the side in our driveway). And there's this group that's anywhere from 2 to 15 in size. I think it's 2 or 3 with visitors, but those visitors are there a LOT. Then on the opposite side of our place are a couple more buildings. We don't hear from them much except for when parking. However, the apartment straight across from B's bedroom is inhabited by a Native American guy who likes to play Native American music every once in a while really loud. Even at, say, 1:30 AM. Sometimes its really cool like when he was chanting once and I wanted to run over there and yell, "do you speak any languages other than English? Really?! Teach me! Teach me!". Mostly, it's just really loud music at bad times.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I'm sick (paca)

I'm sick with a fever and stuff. We are not amused by it.

In other sick news, the state of Hawaii has health care coverage for low income families. Supposedly, adults can be on there, but you'd first have to hunt down another low income person and kill them to get on the rolls. However, children can get on and B is in fact covered this way. We received a letter a few days ago saying that as of tomorrow B's coverage is cancelled due to us never sending in wage reports last year. However, I spoke to our officer last December and worked through each payroll stub and he certified that B was still eligible. So I called last Friday and left a couple messages. I should have known that was a waste since he said "messages will not be returned". Ah, governmental customer service. So I called back again today and got him and he agreed we should still be eligible and put B back on. (Actually, B was never off. That would have been tomorrow.) At the end, I thanked him and asked if we would get a letter in the mail certifying this. His response. "Uhhhh, not unless you ask me to." I didn't have to think long. "Could you? Thanks."

In other news, I have little problem with "advanced" elementary probability theory. Give me a hypergeometric probability mass function with a nice Bayesian twist anyday. But ask me to do that chapter 2 stuff where I count the different ways to get a full house or win at Yahtzee? F. I do. not. get. counting.

In penultimate news, I have not yet forgotten, -e.

In final news, I am aware that my blog has degenerated to little paragraphs about news items and sports reports and other blah blah blah stuff. I intend to do an interesting post again soon. Topics are welcome.

In post-scriptian news, all of us know about the "royal we" which is in fact singular, meaning I. Today I would like to highlight the "spousal we". Many of our familial chores are pretty shared. I have no idea which of us does more dishes. However, other items are pretty divided up. N does laundry 80% of the time. I do B hair washing 95% of the time. Each of us likes to use the spousal "we" as well, such as "we should wash B's hair" or "we should do the laundry tonight." In this context of course "we" means "you."


Olympic medalist and father story (paca)

For all who were around several months ago when I got involved in a long conversation about issues of ethnicity with adopted children from Korea in the U.S., here is a recent story of such a child who has recently had a reunion with his father. I can't say that my emotions are simple when I read the article. It's in the news because 1) the son is an Olympic medalist and thus semi-famous and 2) the reunion was done as a news conference instead of in private.