Monday, August 31, 2009

Tomatoes and Tomatillos:

We didn't grow tomatoes last year, but we're at it again. So far, my six tomato plants have produced 643 cherry tomatoes. One of my two tomatillo plants has produced only flowers and leaves, but the other has grown 14 tomatillos. And these lovely things seem to have no natural enemy or devourer in our climate.

Hurricane names for 2009 (not):

My wife and I were struck by the fact that the first two hurricanes to threaten us in 2009 have plebian male names: Bill and Danny. We started to think about a list of hurricane names that would alternate beautiful, elegant women with utterly ordinary men. Here's the real list for 2009. And here's our much better list:

  • Ariella
  • Bill
  • Cecilia
  • Danny
  • Eurydice
  • Fred
  • Georgiana
  • Hank
  • Iolanthe
  • Joe
  • Kimberly
  • Larry
  • Mariana
  • Ned
  • Ophelia
  • Pete
  • Qadira or Quetzalxochitl
  • Ron
  • Stephanie
  • Tom
  • Ulrike
  • Vic
  • Wynona {The official list stops at W, but we don't.}
  • Xavier
  • Yolanda
  • Zeke

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Well-packed staples:

We ordered 5,000 tiny staples for our mini "Tot 50" stapler. They fit easily into a package about 3/4 of a cubic inch in size. Now I'm sure you will agree that staples are pretty robust. They're not likely to get damaged in shipping. But our vendor wanted to be sure, so he shipped them in a box large enough to hold a reasonable amount of packaging material. Here's a photo of the box, with the staples inside it. Egregious excess.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sit down! Is your father a glazier?

My mother's family was in construction (father, brothers ...). She said that when she was young, if you blocked somebody's view, they would say "Sit down! Is your father a glazier?" (If you don't get it: the idea is that if you want to stand in front of somebody, you ought to install a window in your body for them to see through.) When they said that to my mother, she would reply "Yes."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 (under construction):

Great thanks to those of you who clicked through to my website. Google now has it properly listed again. Update:And thanks to Elaine for getting me to correct this entry's link.

More Efficient genetic Engineering:

This week's NYT Science Times is chock full of medical studies done on mice that might, just might, affect humans. Exhibit one are studies that do or maybe don't suggest how we can prolong our lives.

The rub is that it's terribly unclear how medicines and treatments that affect lab mice will affect humans. This has been a devilish issue for years, and I want to suggest how to solve this problem.

Our geneticists should devote most of their efforts to figuring out how to genetically engineer us humans so that we will be more like mice. That will greatly improve the odds that medicines helping mice will be good for us as well. And think of the side benefits, such as being able to squeeze through narrow doors.

Friday, August 14, 2009 is not suspended!

Google reported, a few weeks ago, that my website had been hacked and was dangerous to visit. (More precisely, I think, my web hosting company's customer web sites were hacked.) My old provider advised me how to purify my website. But I was in the last month of my contract with them, and I decided to find another provider instead. It took me awhile, and when July began, my old provider suspended my account. I think that being suspended is better than having Google warn people not to visit me.

I'm now rebuilding my website, and you can already see the terrific front cover that the book will have. Please click through here and take a look. A few clicks may help persuade Google that my web site's okay again.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I h8 2 edit ths stff!

Sometimes, for my novels, I write down short scenes or paragraphs on my Nokia N800 PDA. There's only an onscreen keyboard, so I abbreviate in every possible way, writing only in lower case, and using SMS-like abbrs. I've discovered that while this breezy writing style saves many keystrokes, it's horrible for real writing. Because eventually I upload my paragraphs, and I have to edit them into readable text. And that usually means I have to edit every single word.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'm off my Game:

Most human endeavors require a variety of skills, and the great thing is to use them in their proper balance, rather than to emphasize one at the fatal expense of another.

Take chess for example. A grandmaster spends part of his time visualizing precise positions that may arise in the future, assessing the tactical danger of each. But he or she may spend equal time assessing the strategic value of positions, in order to choose moves that have long-term value. Imagine that you are a chess master, and you are playing an opponent who, as you know, is more tactically skilled than you. You may be tempted to spend more time than usual analyzing tactics against him, and if so, your strategic assessments may suffer. Imagine playing a twenty game match with such a person. Inevitably in the course of the match, you will adjust way from your normal balance of tactics and strategy time. It may be weeks after the match before you have regained your normal equilibrium.

That's the way it has been for me, washing dishes. Our dishwasher died after many years of service. I hardly realized it, but I had developed a typical balance in my dishwashing skills. Now do not imagine, even for a moment, that every dirty dish goes into the the dishwasher. Some will be needed so soon again that they must be washed at once. Others are too delicate or too precious. I had long since fallen into a groove in which some dishes were washed by hand and others queued in the washer. My judgment in determining what to wash by hand resulted in a smooth procession of full dish loads, auto-washed in time to meet our needs.

And then we spent two weeks without a working dishwasher.

I learned to wash everything quickly, so that the sink never piled up to a depressing height. It all went well, I thought.

And then we got a new dishwasher. It's very nice, really. But it doesn't fill up fast enough. That's my fault, of course. I'm washing too many dishes by hand. Too often, I fail to appreciate that a certain dish must go into the dishwasher.

The sure touch I had in the past is lost. I'm off my game.

Friday, August 07, 2009

If you can study the Rorschach ...

Wikipedia now has a detailed article describing the Rorschach Test, and how it is interpreted. The article is over 5,000 scholarly words long. What does it mean that this information is now online and accessible to anyone? Here's what I think: if you can understand this entire article, then you are sane, and probably quite boring.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Old Habits ...

Our municipality used to pick up garbage on Monday and Thursday mornings. Months ago, to economize, they cut back to once-a-week pickup on Thursday. You might think it would be easy, even for an oldster like me, to adjust to this change. But it has been very difficult, and here's why:

Years ago I realized that we only needed to put our garbage out once a week. So despite the choice of days, I have put my garbage out for pickup on Monday morning only. The new schedule has forced me to do two things:
  1. Do not put out garbage for Monday (easy to remember).
  2. Put out garbage for the unfamiliar day of Thursday (very, very hard).