February 2004 Archives

Fixes and Updates


I've spent most of my awake time today making a new home page for The Blue Room, then updating the table-based layouts of the wedding-related pages on this site (the last remnants of the table-based layouts). I also revamped the tourism page slightly, with a new image and the blue background that's used on most of the other content pages. I haven't gone through and updated the information because there haven't been visitors here forever, though with the in-laws visiting the week after Easter I might have to get my act together.

This is all because I had a dream last night, while under the influence of Vicodin, about how my old home page had too much text on it and what it really needed to be was a bunch of links and nothing more. I'm a big believer in the judgement of my subconscious mind (except for when it tells me to do things like dress up like a giant hotdog and go swimming in the English Channel; it has an absurdist side that is fairly easy to filter), so I drew up something quickly and it did in fact look a lot better. Maybe I'll get more clickthroughs from the home page now.

(The analysis I did a few days ago revealed that most visitors hit my homepage and go no further, apparently scared off by my confession of wanting to make plate cozies.)

The Joy of Friends


We had dinner last night with our charming friends Chris and George. (George officiated our wedding and Chris was our witness.) They made quiche, and the other dinner guest (a gorgeous boy named Joseph who had eyes like Elijah Wood) made some delightful poached pears for dessert. Chris is working on a web site with information about gay marriage and religion, and we talked a bit about that. We also started planning their wedding, somewhat hopefully, perhaps. It's sort of bittersweet to talk about a longtime pair being able to marry after years of discrimination; we still don't know how the court case will go, although the courts give hope when they don't capitulate immediately to the Religious Right.

The highlight of the evening was right after dinner, when George and Noel went into the music room and played a delightful duet for piano and organ. They play well together, and seem to have a good time doing it, too. Last weekend, Chris and I went up into the studio and painted for a few hours while they played together. It was all very arty and sophisticated of us (except that I got thalo blue all over myself and everything I touched).

We're planning to spend a week or two together at George's summer house in Maine this summer, probably in August sometime (subject to graduate school schedules, of course). We want to bring Rosie out and see whether she'll swim out to the island alongside the canoe. I think she'd have a great time there. It'll be nice, too, to get away from the rest of the world and just relax. We're planning to drive across, stopping in Ithaca to visit my parents and possibly in Minneapolis to see Noel's. I'm looking foward to the trip, even though it will add a certain urgency to the construction shedule for the workshop we want to build in our backyard, and it may come just as I'm making arrangements to move across the country for graduate school.

A Bit of Self-Examination


So while I was waiting for Noel to come home this evening, I decided to do a bit of analysis of my logs. It was quite interesting.

Keeping in mind that MovableType itself generates a lot of apparent hits on the server, half of the 16,000 hits in the last week were from my desk computer's IP. Of those, a good half were me reading my own pages. With my own web page, I am apparently like a monkey with a mirror. I'm fascinated by myself. And who wouldn't be? If you could only follow me around all day, you would understand the attraction, I am sure.

The real surprise was that the most popular area on this site is all our wedding crap. Now, I could look at my own wedding pictures all day (and apparently, sometimes, I do), but what on earth would anybody else find in there that's interesting? I can only think that there's a link to the page somewhere on The Knot or something, except I'm not getting quite enough traffic for that.

Also, a surprisingly large number of people have been looking at my portfolio. Which is odd, because it's not as if it's a great one. But OK. The favoured page is my rendering of the Rietveld Schroeder House, which I can understand, because when I was doing that rendering I was also obsessively searching for anything that showed what the house looked like. It must be in a search engine somewhere.

Which just goes to show you that a vanity web site maintained without regard for cross-browser compatibility can actually satisfy many people: drafting students, brides-to-be, and its own incurably vain maintainer. A win all around!

Splashity Splash


I took Rosie to the dog park for an hour this afternoon (after she'd languished in the car while I mailed packages at the Post Office, then dropped off some dry cleaning). We stayed in the dog run area for half an hour, so she could get good and wet and have a lot of dogdy time, then we walked around outside with her on leash, trying to be a Good Dog (and not always succeeding).

I took a bunch of pictures while we were out, which I put up on the photoblog. I also posted the photos I developed from my latest couple of rolls of film -- for the Contrast in Nature assignment for photography. Some of them came out really well, and others... well, the others lack a certain depth or something, because they scanned horribly, and look kind of like photocopied newspaper photos. I'll have to figure that one out.

I'm still posting to the photoblog manually, as I need to confer with Noel (aka, The One With Root on the Server) about what I can and cannot have happen when I set up a post. Also, it's been like a hundred years since I used Perl, and all the programmatic interfaces worth dealing with are in Perl, so I need his expertise on that. I just never feel like programming any more, almost like I rarely feel like writing anything of length any more.

Anyway, there's a load of new stuff up over there if you're bored out of your skull.

How Odd


If you had told me a month ago that the single largest predictor of whether I will lose weight or not was my calcium intake, I would not have believed you. And yet... it seems to be true. Weird. I'll have to watch and see on this one.

Lights Out


After an evening in cabinetry class with The Guy Who Stands Too Close (ladies, you know this guy. He stands RIGHT NEXT TO YOU even though there's plenty of other places to stand, and he likes to smile at you a lot, as if you were Something Special. Ugh. Anyway), I thought nothing would be more noteworthy to talk about. I was even composing a little entry about TGWSTC as I walked off campus.

Then I crossed the street.

As I did so, a lady came around the corner with her lights off, and of course, she didn't see me (on account of it being, like, dark and stuff). So I waved, and she slowed down. I tried to signal to her that her lights were off, but she didn't seem to get it, so I walked closer to her car and she FREAKED OUT. Like I was seven feet tall and four thousand pounds of pure muscle. Jesus, people! I'm a wimpy little girl. She swerved wildly, almost driving right into the street light in the median, then whipped past me as if I were Satan incarnate. So I did what I always do when people think I'm threatening: I cursed her soul, those of her ancestors, and hoped she drove into a pole.

Moments later, as I was pulling out of the parking lot, she came back up the street in the other direction, lights still out. I flashed my high beams at her, and she nearly drove into the side of my car. You'd think that in this time she might once have checked her dash, but apparently not.

I was ahead of her, so I drove slowly, hoping she'd pull up alongside and I could roll down my window and tell her, but she was having none of that. She stayed right behind me, then suddenly whipped into a dead end alleyway after I'd passed it. Um, that's not a very good survival skill if you seriously think you're under attack. But honestly, I was ahead of her, we were both in cars, and she's the one who nearly drove into me, twice, with her erratic behaviour.

Anyway, I gave up on trying to help her out and just came home. Some people want to live in a world where nobody will help them out, and they do everything they can to make it that way. I choose not to live in that world, so it's best to ignore psychotics like that lady.

Of course, she could have just been on drugs or something. This was downtown Oakland.



Lightning and thunder. A huge storm. And so the computers get unplugged for the night.

Stay dry!

Chemical High


I'm not even going to comment on the President's decision to get behind a constitutional amendment codifying marriage discrimination. Ugh.

I spent most of the day today in the photo lab, processing two rolls of film that I shot over the last week (mostly today, as it happens). I think I've got it down at this point; I can feel with the film is going on the reel right, and the chemistry part is naturally no problem at all. It is amusing how many superstitions people have about simple buffer solutions, though.

The lecture half of photography involved a trip to the library for orientation. These events are always painfully boring, and this one was no exception. If I have to sit through yet another lecture about The Magical Resources At Your Library, I think I may actually throw something. Half an hour of being lectured on using a search form by a librarian, I swear to god. Shoot me now.


Two rolls of film. But I somehow blanked and didn't bring my film-processing crap with me, so I wasn't able to make contact sheets from the negatives. I'll have to drop in and do that during open lab hours sometime. I think I got some really interesting shots in there. Some weird ones, too.

When I have scans I'll put them up on my wonderful new photoblog. Have I mentioned my wonderful new photoblog? I'm working on the comments templates and the archives as I write this, so I should have them up tomorrow or the day after.

A Place for Random Photos


I was chatting in e-mail this weekend about various issues around formatting images for the web, and that got me thinking about having an automated photo-posting location (ie, a method for posting images I e-mail to a script). I broke the problem down into two steps:

  1. Make a template site and see what sort of actions will need to be done on the images/text in order to get it up.
  2. Write the scripts.

I managed to get the first part done tonight. The biggest pain in the ass was vertically centering the image in the div, because fricken-fracken CSS doesn't have any way of handling that. I had to intall two MovableType modules and write a Perl script to calculate how far to offset the image from the top, and I don't even want to think about how idiotic some of the problems I ran into were.

On the other hand, I've worked out the kinks in the process, and have figured out how to do it all consistently, so now all I have to do is automate the process. Half the battle is over.

Oh, yeah, and that site's still very delicate, especially the comments area, so be gentle.

Employer versus Ethics


I didn't really appreciate how hard it can be for a lawyer to be forced to defend a position he doesn't believe in until I read this article on CNN. It seems that Gov. Schwartzenegger wants Attorney General Bill Lockyer to put a stop to gay marriage, but Lockyer doesn't support discrimination:

Attorney General Lockyer posted a statement on his Web site saying that it was "the duty of my office to defend that law against this challenge by the city and county of San Francisco, and allow the courts to determine whether the city has acted illegally."

But, he said, his own opinions lean decidedly to equality.

"As a lifelong defender of civil rights, due process and equal protection for all, I do not personally support policies that give lesser legal rights and responsibilities to committed same-sex couples than those provided to heterosexual couples," he said.

"That is why I have and continue to strongly support extending the benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples through domestic partnerships and civil union statutes," he said.

You go, Bill.

The Judicial Branch is My Favourite


I'm overjoyed that Judge Ronald Quidachay refused to block the marriages taking place downtown.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay denied the request on the grounds that the conservative family values group, the Campaign for California Families, had not presented evidence showing that irreparable harm would be caused by allowing the weddings to continue.

And really, what is the harm? Even if the marriages are not allowed to stand, the worst thing that happens is that... well, a bunch of marriages are annulled and families torn apart, but the impact on the lives of the anti-family contingent (erm, that would be the religious groups opposing legal marriage, which sounds really odd to me) is and would be nill.

Which makes me wonder why they oppose the marriages in the first place, except that I know the answer to that: they're blinded by hate. How else could they possibly avoid seeing the irony of the message they are giving with this:

about a dozen protesters carrying signs that read "Trust Jesus" and "Prepare to meet that God" milled about outside the elegant copper-domed civic building.

I would not want to meet God with so much hatred in my heart. I certainly do not think I could look Jesus in the eye and say I had lived by his teachings if I'd done what those people are doing.

In other news, Sandoval County, New Mexico had its own little burts of civil disobedience today, before being slammed by the attorny general.

More Nerdiness


Upgraded to MovableType 2.661 today on a whim. I think have made it possible to use some HTML in the comments, but there are some configuration options that seem contradictory, so we'll have to see.

Oh, Barf


So the original Jane Roe wants to have Roe v. Wade overturned and has talked a court into hearing her argument. Why does she want this? Because of the supposed psychological harm to women from abortion. Never mind that worldwide, a lot of women have abortions every year with no side effects, psychological or physical. Just because she feels an abortion would have harmed her (she didn't have one, mind you) doesn't mean the rest of us should be denied health care.

The reality is that the Religious Right managed to brainwash her into believing that what she did was wrong, and convince her that she needs to do something. Hell, that she can do something. Last I heard, decisions of the Supreme Court can only be overturned by the Supreme Court, and they've upheld Roe v. Wade multiple times.

Ana's Spiritual Brother


Tuxedo cat, in a fancy new cardboard box, glowering at the world and especially at his brother? I think a meeting between Dapper Sam and Ana would be interesting.

Photos of My Neighborhood


I stayed a bit later at school today and knocked off five prints for my photography class. These are my first official actual developed pictures from black and white roll film, so pay attention. Alas, the scanner made them much darker than they really are, and I lost a lot of the nice grain in trying to fix that, but that's what I get for doing this on Noel's computer instead of my own, where everything is calibrated right.

Looking up at the portico

Rosie in the grass

View through the fence

Rosie and ball


I love how moody and artistic this makes our house look.

Happy Camera Day


My Graflex Crown Graphic Special arrived today, in a large box marked "M&M's" -- leading to a moment of half-happiness, half-disappointment: "Oh, damn, no M&M's... wait, that's my new camera!"

I had to wait to unpack it because Ana wanted to sit on my lap for two hours, and she's been so angry at me lately that I let her do it and didn't knock her off to play with my new toy. I finally unpacked it after dinner, and Noel and I figured out how to open it up, aim it, and focus it. Focusing a view camera is a bit weird if you think normally: the image is upside down and backwards when it appears on the ground glass screen that you use to set up the shot. But it makes sense to me, largely because of my experiments with learning to write backwards like Da Vinci.

I'm going to go buy some film and take some sample shots this weekend. I'll be developing a roll of film in the darkroom on Monday, anyway, so I will be able to develop it then. I'm not sure if I want to develop my own film every time, but it can't hurt to give it a shot and see how much of a pain in the butt it is. Maybe I'll have enough time to do a contact print, too, if being in the darkroom for that long doesn't make me irritable.

Whistle Whistle


Goddammit, my nose has been whistling for days now. I am going to have to kill somebody. Or myself.

Quite Probably Another Nerdy Victory

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It took a while, but I managed to get a couple of MovableType plugins -- MTAmazon and BookQueue -- and and running on this installation. So now, with a small amount of tweaking, I can maintain a list of books on queue on my bookshelves or in my mind.

This is far more interesting to me than to any of you, because I was looking for a way to flag books as "I want to read this" short of my current method (laying them on their sides on the shelves, which does not work for books I don't own). But now you can all (erm, all three of you) have a view into my book-mind. Also, you can see how slowly I read when I'm trying to teach myself abstract math.

All I need to do now is extend BookQueue to include a comments area, so I can write little notes to myself about why I was interested in reading or re-reading a particular book, and also a flag for "owned" so I can remember whether I've bought a book I was interested in. I'd also like to be able to sort by author name or genre, but that's sort of unimportant if I've got everything else.

The Things You Learn in School


Unlike many people, I've never thought that shaking a Polaroid picture would make it develop faster. That just never made sense to me. If it's a chemical process, you'd hope the chemicals are stuck on there pretty well so they don't make a huge mess when you're handling the photo later, which would seem to indicate that they don't need agitation.

And guess what. I'm right. Ha!

How to Make Chocolate Sushi


For Christmas, I bought Noel a box of candy sushi bought from Stupid.com. It was supposed to be gummi sushi, but it turned out to be hard candy, which actually wasn't as weird as I wanted it to be (it's now discontinued). Anyway, now I have found a place in San Jose that sells chocolate sushi. Maybe this will be my present to Noel for his birthday.

Duck Amuck

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So apparently I can eat duck with no ill effects. Except on my friends. Sorry, C.

Made dinner last night for my two dear friends, E. and C. Started with a nice spring greens salad, then roast duck stuffed with apple-raisin stuffing (Joy of Cooking) with wild rice and JoC's No-Knead yeast rolls. My mother's Apricot Brandy Pound Cake (which for some reason E. kept hearing as "Apricot Brandy pancake") and coffee for dessert. The rolls turned out a bit tough -- I overkneaded -- but the rest came out delightfully, apart from the minor detail of my leaving the neck on the duck (well, it was tucked inside and I don't know what those things are supposed to look like). The dog ate well on trimmed fat and drippings, and the duck meat actually turned out nicely; it was tender and tasty, and not tough and stringy like I kind of expected it to be. The pound cake was, of course, perfect.

And we broke out the good china for its inaugural use. I love that pattern. We even used our nice crystal that we got as wedding gifts, even though it wasn't quite the right shape for white wine.

And I wasn't vilely ill afterwards, which was the point of this exercise. Although I doubt I will ever roast a duck again for an everyday meal.

A Day for Family

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wedding.jpgNothing makes me happier than seeing so many people lining up to reaffirm the importance of marriage and family on Valentine's Day. The people who want to have these marriages annulled should think long and hard about whether they want on their consciences the destruction of family and love, and the weakening of respect for the sanctity of marriage that they appear to be demanding. When the government can decide to annul one kind of marriage, it can decide to annul them all.

[added later...]

Think that's not too terrifying? Well, the government keeps telling us that the reason why heterosexual marriage is so important is that it is the breeding ground of children. If the government granted the right to marry only to fertile adults who planned to have children, then a large number of marriages could be annulled, including those of parents who are past their childbearing years, or adults like myself who are unable to have children. If we decide that marital fidelity is important -- and it is, to the government, because infidelity is grounds for divorce -- then marriages of partners who cheat can be summarily annulled, whether the parties concerned wished to work out the problem or not. If we decide that marriage is God-given, and a privilege of living a faithful Christian life, then marriages of non-Christians or the doubting can be annulled at the government's will. You may think these are all unlikely to happen, but they have happened before in history, and nothing is preventing them from happening again.

The sad truth is that most people who oppose the freedom to marry oppose it because they're afraid of gay people. Afraid to live by Jesus's commandment to love one another as he loved us. Afraid that somehow, if gay people could marry, it might not be so hard to be gay, and fewer gay people who voluntarily closet themselves. And then we'd all have to think about our sexuality and capacity for love, rather than letting other people tell us what is right.

God gave us free will, and it is a sin to ignore that gift and let other people tell us what is right and what is wrong. When Judgement Day comes, you will be judged by the moral choices you made, not by how obedient you were to an earthly authority. I wish the "righteous" would think about that when they pray to God to hurt people whose only sin is love.

OK, enough fire and brimstone for the day.

Through the Eyes of a Child


Apparently my vision is weird in a way that's weirder than the opthalmologist has ever seen before. His nurse got all worked up because my glasses are just prisms, not focusing lenses, as if I were trying to scam them or something. I explained the whole seeing two overlapping images thing, and it confused her no end. "You mean you see two overlapping images? All the time? How long has this been going on? Have you ever seen a doctor about this?" I wonder if she thought I just made up my glasses prescription for the optometrist.

And after all that, I have no new glasses prescription, because my eyes were so confusing to the doctor that he referred me to his colleague the pediatric opthalmologist -- because my double vision is a childhood condition. The funny/surreal moment was when we were sitting there talking about the double vision and he said, "Well, I don't treat pediatric conditions; I handle adult eyes." I just blinked at him. Apparently, like the graduate schools I applied to, he feels that 33 is a trifle young to be out on your own.

Anyway, I have an appointment with the pediatric opthalmologist next week. And now I get to spend the rest of the day with dialated pupils TWICE.

As a side note, he was surprised to see that my corneas are very large (13mm; as large as they can be and still on the normal end of the scale). In fact, they were so large to him that he measured them with a teeny pair of calipers. This may or may not be related to the double vision.

Head to Toe in Sawdust


I was kind of excited by the woodworking class, but it's so incredibly slow-paced that it's actually not all that fun. I mean, I get that we're talking about safety and all that, but it's been five weeks and we just cut wood for the first time today.

Lots of people in the class were seduced by nice woods at the lumberyard. I bought poplar (went over to MacBeath's in Berkeley this afternoon) because I figure I'll paint the project (a bench) and put it in the front hall. I don't want anything too fancy as a hall bench. One woman got some rough-cut maple that was truly lovely when it had been jointed and planed -- one of her pieces has a gorgeous figure on it. Another had bought a very nice piece of poplar to do a solid (not glued-up) seat. Mine is going to be very utilitarian. Bench, not art.

Another thing I did today was buy more stuff to make molds from for ceramics. I'm out of control. If I make all these molds I'll have no time for anything else all semester, I think. But I must. It kills me to think that I might not be able to make castings and fire them in the future. I will work overtime, all weekend, making plaster molds, so I can cast them and get them in the kiln before school is over (no ceramics in the summer, alas, and besides I'll be travelling and building a shed).

What Next?


Mattel sent out a press release today stating that after 43 years together, Barbie and Ken have broken up.

Barbie and Ken "feel it's time to spend some quality time -- apart."

Which is just celebrity-speak for "Barbie found out Ken was sneaking around with Skipper and dumped him. She gets the Dream House, and he's going to be sleeping in the convertible until he finds a new place."

The real question is, how is heterosexual marriage as an institution going to weather this blow, on top of the shocking behaviour of San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom? I fear for my marriage, readers.

More About Eating


I've been thinking a lot about food lately, and not just because I keep forgetting to have meals until I'm stuck in a studio for three hours on end. Mainly because I want to eat better, and I need to eat better to deal with the whole inherited diabetes thing.

Anyway, I've come to the following conclusions about myself:

  • I can eat whatever I want, pretty much, as long as I don't eat it to the exclusion of good food.
  • I eat too much bread, and too few fresh vegetables.
  • If I eat breakfast, I can't get a handle on my food for the rest of the day, no matter what I do.
  • If I skip breakfast and have lunch at 11 am, I'm fine.
  • I often eat the whole sandwich when a half would be plenty.

It's a pretty scattered set of observations, but from that I'm deciding to make a real effort to not eat white flour or sugar most days of the week. Not give them up altogether, but just cut it way down. I don't know if the whole Atkins vilification of wheat is true, but I do know that there's only so much room in my day for food, and if I fill it up with bread I don't have room for things I should be eating.

So I'll start my day with a breakfast at 10 or 11 (my break between math and studio) which will be vegetable and protein (maybe a salad with hard boiled egg -- this is very difficult when you are a vegetarian). Then I'll have either a snack at 4 or an early-ish dinner which can have a small amount of carb in it -- like a wheat bread sandwich. If we're having dinner that night, it can be a normal dinner, or maybe I'll just have a snack, which can also have some carbful ingredients. Dinners here are generally small, anyway, because we're too lazy to spend too much time cooking for each other.

Anyway, that's the plan so far. In case you were on the edge of your seat about my eating habits.

As Promised


So, I've been taking a bunch of art classes. I like learning new art things, and generally enjoy these classes, except for my classmates. While most people seem to understand what the teacher says the first time around, in every class there is at least one person, usually more like five, who simply cannot make sense of the language.

I'm not talking about non-native speakers. I've got a lot of sympathy for people who simply don't know how to translate technical words into something they can understand. I'm talking about native speakers of English who sit there in a demo and ask the same question five times, seemingly unable to understand:

Teacher: You take the temperature of the developer and look it up on this chart to find the developing time. See, this developer here is 68 degrees, so we'll process the film for 9 1/2 minutes.

Student #1: So the developing time is 9 1/2 minutes?

Teacher: If the temperature of the developer is 68 degrees. If it's 70 degrees, see, it says to develop it for 10 minutes.

Student #2: So which time do we use?

Teacher: You check the chart in your lab manual for the time.

Student #1: There are lots of times here. Which one do I use?

Teacher: You find your film in the list. You find your developer in the list, too. And then you find the temperature of your chemistry to find the time. See, we're using Kodax Tri-X 400 and this Lauder developer, so you have two choices. You can use the developer at full strength and it will take this long [points to chart] or you can dilute it 1:1 and it will take 9 1/2 minutes at 68 degrees, which is what we're doing now.

Student #2: So do we have to have a thermometer?

Teacher: Yes, to take the temperature.

Student #3: Can we use those times even if we're not using the same film?

Teacher: No, you have to look up the film you are using separately. But the assignment requires the Tri-X film.

Student #1: So we process the film for 10 minutes?

Student #2: How do we know how long to process the film?

This went on for HALF AN HOUR.

OK, I get that I'm an impatient person, and I also understand that I tend to learn this sort of skill really quickly (especially anything involving mixing chemicals). But were these people even listening?

Even better, when we had class yesterday and had to produce our developed film, one person had simply NOT DONE one step in the developing (adding fixer), and she wondered if that was a problem. Um, yes. Notice how your film is not transparent? That will make it a bit rough to do any kind of printing, don't you think?

Then there's ceramics. High-fire glazes are kept on one side of the classroom. Low-fire glazes are on the other side. There is a good reason for this: low fire glaze in high-fire conditions is VERY VERY bad for the kiln and anything else in there. So why is it that every class has one person who mixes the two glazes? And why is it that every time we talk about glazes, we need to discuss why it is that glaze looks different when it's unfired? This is just how it is, no amount of questioning it is going to change it. Come ON, people.

The worst part is that all this dithering about stuff that's written on big signs all over the room (well, now I understand the need for the big signs) means we don't get to get to the meat of the matter. I'd really like to understand more about the chemistry of glazes, for example, or maybe discuss different methods for developing that will produce interesting results. But we're too busy repeating the same basic information over and over for the people who are categorically unable to listen and comprehend. It's a good thing I'm not a teacher, or there would be bodies everywhere.



If I can't stop hiccuping, I will have to KILL MYSELF.

Tomorrow: Why people who can't retain information for more than two seconds should not be allowed to take college-level art classes.

Apparently I've Got a Magnetic Personality


Twice today I turned around or stopped walking to find somebody standing right behind me. Now, when I say right behind me, I don't mean feet or even inches away. I mean standing so close that you could not slip a piece of paper between that person and my backpack.

One guy chewed me out because he was apparently trying to get around me, despite the fact that he'd stepped, with me, to the side of an aisle -- a move I made to get him to stop walking directly behind me like some kind of creepy stalker. The other guy responded to my turning around and smacking into him with "Excuse ME!" as if it's unpardonably rude to expect that it will be safe to turn around in place without finding yourself in an intimate situation.

The next time I feel one of these creeps breathing on my neck, I'm going to suddenly take a step backwards, with all my mass aimed at knocking the idiot over. I may even throw in a quick elbow, if I'm feeling cranky.

This is All Ridiculous


I've always felt a bit self-conscious about this whole blog thing, although I had a reasonable facsimile of it before I installed MovableType (no archiving, natch, and updated significantly less often). Now I've found a page of obscenity-laden ranting about inane personal weblogs. And a pledge:

I realize that nothing I say matters to anyone else on the entire planet. My opinions are useless and unfocused. I am an expert in nothing. I know nothing. I am confused about almost everything. I cannot, as an individual, ever possibly know everything, or even enough to make editorial commentary on the vast vast majority of things that exist in my world. This is a stupid document; it is meaningless drivel that I do not expect any of the several billion people on my planet to actually read. People who do read my rambling, incoherent dumbfuckery are probably just as confused as I am, if not moreso, as they are looking to my sorry ass for an opinion when they should be outside playing Frisbee with their dog or screwing their life partner or getting a dog or getting a life partner. Anyone who actually takes the time to read my bullshit probably deserves to ingest my fucked up and obviously mistaken opinions on whatever it is that I have written about.

Large Format Joys


I managed to win an auction for a large-format camera on eBay. It's a Graflex Crown Special (a press camera, mostly) with a Schneider Xenar f4.5/135mm lens and Syncro Compur Shutter. Also a bunch of other things like a case and a tripod, and two film pack holders and thirteen sheet film holders. A good complete setup for getting going in large-format, definitely. I may look around for a Polaroid back, but I don't think that's going to be critical for the stuff I want to do.

Some photos:

The camera from the top, and from the front

The case with all the accessories (like a nice flash unit) and the camera packed inside

A Proud New Era of Intolerance


News yesterday was that Ohio's governor passed a restrictive religious definition of marriage as law. This makes Ohio the 38th state to ban gay marriage, and one of a few to refuse to allow state benefits to unmarried heterosexual domestic partners. It also makes it that much more likely that a constitutional ban on gay marriage -- however unconstitutional it might be to establish religion like that -- will pass.

Taft, a Republican, denied assertions that the law promotes intolerance. He said the new law would send a strong positive message to children and families.

And that message is: the message that God sent with his Only Son is ridiculous. We should not be required to love everybody and let God decide who is a sinner when Judgement Day comes. Only those who are convinced of their righteousness should be allowed to live in peace and love on this Earth.

Not only does the law fly in the face of Jesus's teachings -- an argument which would hold no water if we were not talking about people who profess to be true Christians acting in accordance with their faith -- but it does little or nothing to make things better for families and children in Ohio or elsewhere.

For example, one thing that might make marriages stronger is if only people who were really prepared for marriage could marry. But in Ohio, there are almost no restrictions on marriage, other than heterosexuality.

Sure, there's restrictions regarding consanguinity, but there's no waiting period, no blood test, no required premarital counselling. You can get married with parental or court permission at 16. Furthermore, they even recognize common-law marriages that took place before 1991 (and are one of only a very few states to do so). § 3105.12 of the Ohio code says, "Except as provided in division (B) of this section, proof of cohabitation and reputation of the marriage of a man and woman is competent evidence to prove their marriage, and, in the discretion of the court, that proof may be sufficient to establish their marriage for a particular purpose."

So basically, it's really easy to get married in Ohio. It's also really easy to get divorced or to annul a marriage (if you change your mind, you only need to attest that the marriage was not consummated). Nobody's been able to explain how banning gay people (some of whom are parents) from getting married makes things better for families and children. I think families would be better off if the state instituted a 6-month waiting period before allowing a marriage, with mandatory premarital counselling.

Speaking of mandatory counselling, is it easier to get an abortion than to get married? Nope. I mean, abortion kills a child, right, and a badly thought-out marriage just makes a child's life a living hell. § 2317.56 of the Ohio code indicates that 24 hours before abortion, a woman must be provided with propaganda designed to convince her not to abort, information on the nature of abortion and its risks, the nature of pregnancy and its risks, a doctor's estimate of the age of her baby, and counselling. So it's better to talk a woman out of abortion and let another unwanted child be born into a household that is probably poor, where it will be resented and probablyt abused, then it is to make sure that every marriage is a strong marriage.

So basically, we're not talking about a state that really, really cares about the welfare of families and children. There's plenty of childhood poverty in Ohio; children still go hungry at night there. Women are still abused by their husbands or boyfriends, children are still abused by their male relatives or family connections. There's no special aura of security around Ohio keeping child abductions or sexual abuse from happening there. None of this addresses any of the real problems actually facing children and families in Ohio.

All it does is keep committed couples from marrying.

Every Author's Fevered Imagination


What's worse than form rejections? Here's a sample:

You receive your MS back with each and every page stamped in red ink: CRAP, CRAP, CRAP. Some pages have been virtually obliterated by the stamp.

Further Proof of the Bozone

Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

I've long considered grades as a relatively objective way of determining whether you're not getting it to sucha degree that you're incapable of understanding how little you're getting it. If you get bad grades, you can be reasonably sure you're doing something wrong, right? I was not previously aware of just how deep this unawareness could be.

So it surprised me to discover that one of my physics classmates from last semester had failed the class three times, and yet was unable to understand why she was doing so poorly. I suggested to her that perhaps the combination of her rare lecture attendance, inability to keep a coherent lab notebook (I was given hers to grade in a peer review once), and spending much of the classes she did attend texting her boyfriend might have contributed to her lack of absorbtion of the concepts of mechanics. But, well, I'm not one to fight for other people's lost causes, so I didn't try to make her a better student. I ran into her in the hallway this semester, and she admitted that she was re-taking the class, again, and said, "I don't know what I have to do to pass this class." [smacks head]

Around 2pm today, I began thinking, "What if I'm one of those people? What if I'm so stupid I can't figure out how stupid I am, and all my friends and teachers are just humouring me?" You can really go down a rabbit's hole with that one, my friend.



After reading that posting about clutter, I attacked the desk, and went from three feet of paperwork to only 3 inches of filing. And most of that is just sorting out syllabi and graded papers for temporary storing (until I know whether I have to substantiate my grades for a particular graduate school).

I do like getting rid of stuff. I just wish I had the balls to go at the stuff with sword and flame. And sometimes, like today, I have these elaborate fantasies about walls of built-in cupboards in the studio, or hundreds of wee drawers in a cabinet along the hallway. Taking a woodworking class only makes these a bit closer to possible.

Maybe I'm Not So Bad

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If you're feeling bad about being a hoarder or a packrat, this will either make you feel better or give you a kick in the pants: My Mother is Insane.

Come to think of it, I could throw away about a trash can worth of stuff right now....



I managed to develop a whole roll of black and white 35 mm film today, with no (serious) mishaps. I did end up making too damned much fixer, due to a ridiculous set of dilution instructions (which explained how to get to a concentrated solution, then how to get to a working solution, requiring two scale-downs, one of which I forgot to do). At any rate, I have film, and it is ready to be turned into a contact sheet.

While I was on campus, I dropped by the ceramics studio and paid attention to my wall piece, which is approaching greenware. It will be bone dry by Monday, I am sure; I think we're going to load them into the kiln then. It should be interesting to see how well it fires up; there are a lot of deep overhangs, and I'm sure there will be some unintended sagging. If I'd thought it through, I might have chosen to glue more of it together after the fact, firing it all flat. Ah, well. It's just an exercise.

One Way to Keep Your Girlish Figure


If your pup is a touch overweight, fear not! A simple item of clothing can smooth out that bulgy middle and give her the figure of her puppyhood.

I'm in Love


Margaret Cho has a blog.

Mea Culpa


I didn't know it until I read this online chat with Peter Sprigg, Director of Marriage and Family Studies at the Family Reasearch Council, but it turns out that people like me, women who cannot have children and yet have the gall to get married, are in fact partially responsible for the erosion of marriage as an institution:

Homosexual relationships cannot result in the natural procreation of children, nor can they provide children with the many demonstrated advantages of being raised by both a mother and a father. These are among the central benefits of marriage to society.

This fits nicely into recent re-published bullshit research that "proves" that women who have miscarriages will die of cancer.

Fine Reading Material


Every now and then somebody points me at a link that points me at a link that points me to a site with lots to read that's interesting and well-written. That's how I came across v-2 Organisation. Some articles to look for include a nice commentary on usable design (an easy route to my heart), this interesting take on the modern rebel's fashionable hatred for IKEA and Starbucks, and a nice piece on internationalization and culture. Check it out.

Blood Canticle


I've been struggling through Anne Rice's latest offering all week. I keep putting it down and reading other things (like Carl Hiaasen's Lucky You, which was a significantly better read, but Hiaasen has yet to disappoint me). I'm not sure what it is about Anne Rice and her desire to be on the cutting edge of coolness, but I really do wish somebody would sit her down and explain what the parts of a computer are called and how to describe them properly in writing. Because at the end of the book, some people need to get vital data from a computer, so they grab the microprocessor. Good Lord, people.

OK, so she's not technical, you say. Willing suspension of disbelief. Well, fine. How about characters who don't seem to be able to stay in character (both from book to book and within the book), conversation that reads like some juvenile message board on MSN, and a plot that goes nowhere, nowhere, nowhere, until the book abruptly ends? That same plot is not so much a plot as a setup for a later book about what was happening with the Taltos from the end of Taltos until Blackwood Farm. I forced myself to finish the book tonight, and I rather wish I hadn't. If I hadn't, I could have lived in the delightful state where I believed this to be a perfectly good book that I had just not had enough time to read yet.

Pain and Suffering


For some reason, I've been having headaches for the last few weeks. These headaches are strongly correlated with reading, or looking at small things close up, so I suspect that my mother's warning's have come true, and I have actually RUINED MY EYES by reading too much. I have been reading a lot lately; about a book a day, or sometimes two. And I having been hanging out on the web too much, and reading on the screen is stressful on the eyes. Luckily, I have an eye doctor appointment in a week and a half.

In the mean time, I have been considering hunting down my old reading glasses, with the crappy lenses that make everything all rainbowy, and using them, just to tide me over. Not reading for a week is absolutely not in the running as an option.

Added at 11pm: I used the reading glasses tonight (have them on right now, in fact), and they do help somewhat. This is a bit relieving (these headaches are not likely to be caused by a brain tumour if glasses make them go away) and also worrying (the one ability I fear losing more than any other is my sight). Also, it's rather irritating to see little fricking rainbows on everything from these crappy lenses, but I'm getting over that.

Where I Have Been


Somebody sent me a link to this odd little communal travel blogging site, including this nifty tool for making a map of countries you've visited. (There's also one for states, but mine is uninteresting because I've been to every state except Hawaii.)


I'm Just Saving This for Later


Everybody else has already blogged this (that's what you get for being in school), but I wanted to save a link to it in a place where I could find it again: Slushkiller

This would just about kill her, if she weren't, alas, dead already. I mean, how can you miss with articles like "Larger Mini Designed to Make Germans Think They're Shrinking" and "Are You a Giant Lizard? You'd Be Surprised!"?

"So, I'm A Giant Lizard": What To Do If your doctor discovers that you are, in fact, a giant shape-shifting lizard, there are several basic steps to follow.

1. Don't Panic. It is important in moments of stress to remain cool. Since you're cold-blooded, that shouldn't be a problem. Don't chew your claws: it's not only a bad habit, but you're probably treif

2. Eat Your Physician. Not only you'll feel much better after a noshikeh, guess who won’t be violating doctor-patient confidentiality.

3. Ask Yourself Some Hard Questions. Find out what species you are; if you are a kindly species, go home to your family, and consider a career in pest control; if evil, go home to your family, and use them to build a nest.

Kids, in Classrooms?


On another forum, somebody remarked that her classmates bring their kids to class when they can't get adequate childcare. This leads to some rather awkward situations in biology lab, which is definitely not the place for a child. Hell, it would lead to fisticuffs in my physics lecture, where there are not enough seats for all the students in the class, much less an extra seat for a child. I caught some flak in the conversation for asking where the fathers of these kids were (it's always the mother who gets stuck with the kid). More to the point, where are the so-called friends, the family, the social network every mother needs? We're so socially detached that somehow we let people get in a situation where they have nobody they can ask for a favour. I can't think this is a good thing. Not at all.

My Heroine


In a recent column, Miss Manners suggests this method for dealing with a hot flash:

Miss Manners suggests confessing that you have the vapors, and holding the back of your hand to your forehead while saying, "Oh, dear, I feel one of my spells coming on."

I just about died.

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