Monday, April 30, 2007

Math, Nature, and Ethics

In evolution class today, we were barraged by charts and math and theories talking about Genetic Linkage,Quantatative Trait Locus Mapping, and various other mathematical predictive ways to look at evolution. As I was beating my forehead raw banging it against this dry brick of information, I got to thinking (again, I think about this often) about why this type of material doesn't hook my attention. I need to learn this stuff to get a degree in Organismal Biology, but it's definitely not dear to my heart.

Pretty sure the vocation I'm interested in (getting into nature and just observing, gathering practical information and names of the flora and fauna around me along with ethnographic data) is called a Naturalist. But, I wanted a hard science degree, so here we are. As for the folks interested in quantifying nature, I have some observations/theories.

I will use Edward M. East as an example. He revolutionized genetics around the turn of the century, and was deeply interested in the mathmatical side of evolutionary information. He proved that Mendelian models of genetics could be applied to quantitative traits. What's this mean, or how can it be used? Well, you can take two parent crops with crappy genetics, breed them together and all the crappiness is hidden in the first generation of babies -- they perform just great. But when you breed generation 1 together to make babies, the next generation sucks rocks just like both parent generations. This is called inbred strain breeding, and is possible due to overdominance. What this means is that Monsanto and other Bio Tech firms can produce seeds that you as a farmer have to buy all over again every single year, because the seeds naturally produced from your own harvest will produce inferior crops. Great Stuff!! [NOT]

It's often said the highest use of science is to develop theories that are good enough models of reality that one can make predictions of future outcomes from current data. This seems reasonable enough -- humans have needed predictive information for as long as we've been scuffing around on this little planet. Shamans and Astrologers, Philosophers, Oracles and even Orthodox Clergy have been depended upon for millennia to provide predictive information by which important decisions could be made. But, once science and religion/spirituality split -- a code of ethics about the use of this knowledge was lost and we end up with folks like Mr. East figuring out something mind blowing and then turning around and using that information to screw generations of people that succeed him. We get brilliant scientists excitedly working on quantum theory, relativity, and particle physics who end up producing the Atom Bomb.

I guess that leads into a whole 'nuther discussion -- which would have to include the writing and thoughts of Morris Berman, Gary Snyder and others. It's too late at night (oh it's morning actually) to get into that tonight (morning) so I'll let it ride til a later date.



Morning quickie spam report with T.

The morning's spam report from T.:

Beaver wants to help me find top quality Rolex watches. "Get that, not just Rolex watches but TOP QUALITY Rolex watches."

Cassandra Phillips wrote again: Give your woman something to work with.

Cecelia says that she thinks size does matter.

Sammy Beltran: Chub teaser on the table. [!!!??]

Lauren Washington: Sexually Explicit: Tackles school terrorism ministry, same contract, down captured...

That last one is so genius I think I'll stop there. I couldn't type fast enough to keep up with T.'s reading of this morning's missives. I have to train him to slow down when such gems are passing by.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Waking up: Soundgarden lyrics help fill in the blank

{thanks Shocho for the image}

A few too many days in a row of *not quite enough* sleep. So I woke up this morning feeling just about like this:

Sitting here like uninvited company
Wallowing in my own obscenities
I share a cigarette with negativity
Sitting here like wet ashes
With X's in my eyes and drawing flies....

Thanks Chris Cornell, I couldn't have said it better myself.

A cup of Earl Grey Tea, breakfast with The Wife and a good friend (can't think of a good pseudonym for him yet), and my attitude improved markedly.

Been going since 8:00 am on this my "day of rest." But, I utilized time in between errands well; driving with the windows down, letting the sun on my face, blasting music. It's not laying around on the grass watching butterflies, but it sure was satisfying regardless.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Some change and some tears

Last night The Wife canceled her World of Warcraft account. There was real loss in the room, and as I heard her typing her last goodbyes into chat, I realized she was crying. I had quit a number of months ago, and it has been a huge change in my life.

For folks who have never played one of these style of games (MMORPG's, or Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) this level of emotion might seem odd, or ridiculous (in the true sense of the word "worthy of ridicule"). I wanted to at least attempt an explanation of why it's such a big deal, and a big change for people to quit one of these systems.

What you see when someone's playing this game, from the outside, is someone sitting at a computer. Occasionally you see them with a headset on, talking animatedly with folks. Flashy lights and colors, we all love that, except folks who eschew all electronic media; no TV, no movies, no web surfing. With these systems, however, what's really going on is a mix of video gaming, strategy, economics, and most importantly a social network.

Think of all the people you know who check their Myspace account 3x a day. This type of system has that level of involvement and more. It's got all the hooks of a well-designed game; rewards and progression, fame, glory, and moolah. But then you weave that with a social network (via chat channels, grouped play, large group or "raid" play which can consist of up to 40 people) you get something entirely new, and entirely engaging.

These games demand organization on the level of serious sports league play. You need leaders (coaches), team captains, teams and subsets of teams, organization of resources (the equivalence of bake sales to pay for uniforms), practice, skill, and perseverance. Almost every Guild (read: team) has its own discussion forum with pages and pages of text dealing with this organization, as well as being itself yet another level of social networking. The designers of these games know how to make sure all of these levels of involvement are required for players to be successful. The better they weave the social aspect into the game system, the more community it creates and the longer people will stick with their product.

In essence, these are the Bowling leagues of our day. You have friends waiting for you many nights a week. You have intrigue, backbiting, and drama -- inevitable with large groups of people pursuing ... well most anything. You develop many levels of relationship within the system. You have "game friends" who are folks you just play with and wouldn't care to know outside of that context. You have your close "game friends" who you prefer to hang out with inside the game over most anyone else you know in that world. But you also create many real-life friendships. I drove up to Victoria Canada last year to meet a clutch of folks who I only knew, up until that point, in the game. Now they're some of my favorite people, and I'm in daily communication with most of them.

So, changing the way you interact with all these people is real change. You walk away from all that engagement, and everything shifts inside you. It's not just giving up flashy lights and spell casting powers. It's very much like quitting a job, or moving to a new town -- that level of shakeup.

When I look at my closest friends, I realize that there is a huge percentage I have met over the internet. All of the blogs I link to here in my sidebar are people I've met over the internet, and only one of them I have yet to meet in person (Shocho, you are on the list man, best visit if you are in the N.W.). There are many stories in these meetings, and I'll have to include them as their own "mythologizing of my friends" posts in this blog in the future. Some were met in chat rooms (poetry ones, specifically), some over discussion forums of shared interest (fly fishing), and some within games. Even today I look at this in amazement -- I still can't quite believe anything that good has come from a computer, or the internet, or especially gaming.

I pray The Wife isn't embarrassed by this post (she's still asleep upstairs as I type this). It just struck me when I saw her getting shaken up like that how someone who has never been through this sort of thing just wouldn't understand, and I wanted to address that.

Blessings all,


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Effing opposum got one of my chickens

This isn't a picture of the one I caught tonight -- this one was caught in a trap, not by hand. But there has been a call for graphics on the blog so here ya go.

Man, they are relentless. Tonight is I believe the 11th I've removed from the property now.

I was taking out the garbage tonight, before I was going to go lock up the chickens since we've had some egg stealing going on lately. Turns out I was too late, I heard some squawking coming from the coop, grabbed a flashlight and looked and sure enough there's a juvenile opossum chewing on the neck of one of my blue Andalusians. I got mad.

I locked him in the coop, and was planning to kill the little bugger, despite having been dedicated to live-catching and transplanting them for quite some time now. I don't know what it was, I was tired, had some problems with a friend I've been chewing on, long day -- all that. The Wife could tell what I was thinking and talked me back into doing my normal thing, which is to catch em by the tail and dump them into a rabbit cage.

I bought a nice fancy fancy live-catch trap (pictured above) but it's on loan to some friends up on Mt. Hood who have a raccoon issue going on.

So I bent a piece of pvc over my knee to make some "opposum tongs," threw on some leather gloves and went in the coop to get the little bastard. He tried a few tricks but I got him by the tail eventually and got him dumped into the rabbit cage. I was frustrated and even said something stupid like "you're lucky my wife's a nice lady ya little bastard," and kicked the cage.

I cooled off pretty quick. I spread newspaper on the back seat of the Subaru in preparation for his transport. By the time I was carrying the cage to the car he looked like they all eventually look -- just a dim little omnivore trying to get along in the world. I'm real glad The Wife talked sense into me, I'd've felt like a dick if I killed him. He's just a little dude doing his thing -- that thing just happens to conflict with my thing.

So I drove him out to the Bible College and let him go, as is the tradition.

Why Bible College you ask? Well, it backs up on Rocky Butte, which has acres and acres of prime opossum habitat, for one. For two, there's a nice dark turnaround with a good spot for me to let em go. Also, it's probably 5 miles away, and has both a large freeway as well as many well-lit and very busy streets between their new habitat and my back yard. Finally, of course, there's just something poetic to me about giving these huge rats an opportunity for Old Time Religion as part of their rehabilitation from a life of crime.

PS: Little Missy, the Blue Andalusian who is no longer with us, will be buried deep under a vegetable bed in the back yard, providing nutrients for I believe Tomatoes this year and who knows what in the future. She was a brassy little thing, having escaped once and evaded capture by my whole neighborhood for 2 full weeks before she was trapped by the aforementioned apparatus and returned to her flock. May she rest in peace.

Movie Review: Grindhouse

So last night Doctor Octagon and I went out to see Grindhouse. He is one of the few friends I have with whom I could indulge my morbid curiosity without any embarassment. We went to a big screen Regal theater, paid student price, bought popcorn and sodas and candy, and sat ourselves down.

The beginning of the movie runs some fake rating information and a fake preview for a splatter film about a mexican immigrant hitman called "Machete" if I remember right. The scratchy film, the graphics and typeface, the colorization and the music were all spot-on. It sounds like it wouldn't be that big a deal, but I found the intro and intermission cuts really fantastic, the styling and presentation were novel, and the effects of scratchy old 70's film just rocked. I was encouraged.

The Rodriguez presentation, Planet Terror, is a zombie movie. It starts with a strip club, and gets into the action in no time flat. The pacing of the movie, the mix of action and "characterization" (what there was of it), and even the film reel melting at one point and going into a quick technical intermission were all well timed and enjoyable. The movie, of course, is utterly ridiculous -- and great. It's plenty over the top and schlocky, without an even vague attempt at artiness or highbrow anything -- just blood and guts and guns and booty.

I ended this movie glad I had shown up. This redeems Rodriguez for me from his (in my opinion) complete flop Once Upon a Time in Mexico -- a movie that didn't go far enough into schlocky, didn't pile it on high enough, and just ended up seeming ridiculous and a waste of time despite having two of my favorite actors in it (Depp and Dafoe).

Then came Tarantino's presentation, Death Proof. To cut to the chase, I'll say that the parts of it that were good, were just dandy. Really nice retro car-chase genre craziness. He even was able to take it up a notch and introduce new stunts and such that were great, I'll give him that. But then we come to the other -- oh, 45 minutes of this movie. Although most of this footage was of pretty women in skimpy retro clothing running around and gossiping -- it was completely and utterly bland and uninteresting. It was like a high-budget, long-ass Gap commercial. It's unfortunate that some of the best stuff in this movie is at the end, because I have to suggest to folks who have any interest just to stick it out so you can see a good, over-the-top, and satisfying ending. But I can sympathize with the people I saw walking out of the theater midway through.

An aside about me and Tarantino. As ridiculous as it is, through many 2nd- and 3rd- and 4th-hand accounts of him in public (including a story by Henry Rollins in his DVD Shock and Awe), I've decided Tarantino is a self-centered, ego-maniacal prig. This doesn't help my opinion of his movie. I developed a theory as I was watched a bone-crushingly overlong scene of 4 girls talking in a diner, where the camera slowly pans back and forth and back and forth in about a 270-degree pan behind the heads and into the faces of the ladies eating breakfast and talking about nothing in particular. Tarantino thinks we give a shit. He thinks everyone else's taste is exactly like his -- that whatever stylistic movie reference he was making with that scene was as gripping for all of us as it is for him. Sorry buddy, I don't give a shit and you should know better. I have decided that he's sucked up so far into his own head (and possibly an opposing orifice) that he has lost touch with his audience completely and is performing some kind of elaborate self-gratfication at our expense.

Ok that was a little harsh, but it was fun to write.

So -- if you like splatter films, or retro films, or even action movies, see Grindhouse; especially if you can catch it at a Beer Theater where don't have to pay full price, you can get a little tipsey on fantastic micro-brewed beer, and throw popcorn and insults at the screen with impunity. It will be a good time. If you miss that option, rent the dvd and fast-forward through much of Tarantino's film.

Almost forgot -- be warned that this sucker really is a double-feature and after previews etc. you will be in the theatre over 3 1/2 hours. It's a marathon.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Geek landmark, 1000 views

Looks like the site will hit 1,000 page views either today or tomorrow.

I first started this project because online friends who I met through gaming primarily were having a harder and harder time getting updates from me, since I quit gaming months ago. After the 3rd or 4th person requested I start a blog, I relented and started in on the huge learning curve.

Now that it's rolling, I'm completely enjoying having a daily writing practice again. It's been years since I've practiced writing so consistently, and I had forgotten how gratifying and fun it is.

I intend this to develop even more, possibly create more blog sites and focuses and develop into more writing projects as well.

Thanks for all the feedback and support -- and just for checking in, writing without an audience isn't the same endeavor.

Film review/thoughts on This Film is Not Yet Rated

Had a chemistry exam tonight, and by the time I got home and settled in was ready to Veg for a while. Grabbed a dvd off the pile and threw it in, didn't really care what it was.

I watched a documentary called This Film is Not Yet Rated. It's an engaging film about the MPAA, the folks who rate movies. This is the type of subject-matter I occasionally delve into in either books or film, just to keep my toe in the conspiracy soup. I like to keep tabs on my corporate overlords, but not so much or often that I lose sleep or develop ulcers, or start standing on street corners yelling incoherent political rants at passing cars.

As a film, I'll say it worked, and was watchable. There were slow parts as the director spent a good amount of time with the P.I.'s he had hired to find out the identities of the current MPAA raters and the appeals committee (who he outs, which is satisfying). It was not as exciting as all that, but it did an ok job of stitching together a plot of some sort.

So the MPAA is an unelected, industry-driven and controlled, secret group who censors movies. They say they don't censor movies, but if they slap a NC - 17 on a movie, they can guarantee it won't be shown in most theaters, nor will it be advertised in most media, nor will it make anywhere close to as much money as if it were run in the normal channels.

It goes without saying that American movie standards favor violence over sex, and European movie standards favor sex over violence. The movie investigates this a bit, and satisfyingly. It is also unsurprising that gay sex is more harshly rated than straight sex. The film depicts this well by split-screening sex scenes from movies deemed nc-17 on one side (the gay side) and R on the other side (the straight side). Not surprising, but a good reminder and well presented. And of course, since it's an Industry association, indie directors really get the shaft whereas Industry movies get away with much more.

A plus for this movie is that there are plenty of split-second racy scenes, and some aren't even blacked out. This keeps things interesting in the dry parts. There are also good talking heads, mostly indie directors (including the Clerks guy) talking about their experiences dealing with the MPAA, as well as former Industry types.

Overall the movie pacing and interest level reminded me of my reaction to Who Killed the Electric Car. The info wasn't novel or surprising, was unfortunate, and was informative. I was glad I watched it, but somehow I was left with the feeling that nothing much of note happened in my life over the last hour and a half.

B- for this one, definitely watchable and if you are a movie-phile at all probably very watchable.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fur shark update -- acupuncture and cat geriatrics

Jon Schell was kind enough to provide some visual fodder for the blogs while I am getting my stolen camera replaced. Over on the Fur Shark Chronicles I have a picture and some description of the acupuncture treatments Sula is getting now.

At least there's one picture to hold everyone over.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Utopian bathroom & The Study Group

As I was utilizing the services of a newly-found Utopian Bathroom (read: rarely used & therefore clean) at the Library on campus, I realized -- I haven't introduced the Chemistry Study Group to the blogosphere.

The study group is ravenous. It's maniacal, and it tends to produce A's, or pull F's out of the gutter and transform them into B's. It consists only of pseudonym'd superheroes, no mundane people are present, and no one retains their actual name for long.

You do have to "be made" to be considered a part of The Study Group. "Being Made" normally occurs when you've stuck it out, with a good attitude, through a couple marathon study sessions of over 6 hours, especially when over 1/2 of those hours were after 11:00 PM on a weekday. If you show up with snacks, and wince but don't complain about your nickname -- these are added bonuses.

This list-of-people comes with my usual caveats for lists-of-people: they are in no particular order, and any omissions will be summarily blamed on the little green men who feed on my memories, and all complaints due to said omissions should be lodged against Them.

Doctor Octagon is the ringleader of this little cadre. He's got tons of ink, and many of his features look like someone went after him with a holepunch. He has uncivil amounts of energy and stamina for studying, and is always the guy who says "just one more problem" as opposed to "fuck this, lets get gelato." Doctor Octagon's child is, of course, Squirt. Dr. Octagon is not petite.

Big Chocolate is also not petite. He carries his weight like a Samoan aught to though, like he was born into it. Which -- I guess if you do the math -- he was. Big Chocolate is probably my favorite nickname of the whole group. The fact that it makes this seemingly mild-mannered Christian man wince every time he hears it only adds to its allure. Big chocolate has many super-powers, not the least of which is R & B Vocalist.

Lil' Mike received our first Rap nickname of the group. Lil' Mike is young, handsome, and smart -- but manages, despite these debilitatingly envious traits, to be a helluva nice guy. The only reason I mentioned "petite" in reference to the above two gentlemen, is because we realized at the coffee shop last night, during a study break, that Lil' Mike weighs 1/2 that of either Big Chocolate or Doctor Octagon. A sobering realization. Lil' Mike has wisdom beyond his years, the stomach for our style of humor, and a firecracker of a girlfriend who is quickly approaching "made" status. Lil' Mike gets ribbed for the very possibility that he would ever wear outfits in the style of Lil' Kim. These images cemented his nickname for posterity, it can never change. Lil' Mike with pasties and a white leather g-string is just so wrong that it must exist, somewhere.

Captain America is, well, Captain America. He's also young, smart, and handsome. One way to tell him and Lil' Mike apart is that he's shorn and blonde. He's a bit older and more world-weary than Lil' Mike as well, but still shines like a stallion when he shows up at school wearing his fancy work duds. He's got fast cars and a pretty girlfriend, he vacations in tropical locales and owns a home despite being a bachelor. He's just like so totally Captain America, it's hard to understand til you meet him.

Doctor Teeth is named after the leader of the Muppett Band from the Muppet Show. He doesn't have a big gold tooth, a green felt face, or blaze-orange marabou-feathered hair -- but you know he aught to. He is going into dentistry, which is one of the reasons the name came about. He's smart, prompt, and weird. I mean, we're all weird -- especially yours truly -- but this kid pops off with the most random statements approximately once a week it really makes you wonder if his head is generating this level of surrealism all the time and it only leaks out into his "out loud voice" occasionally. For novelty's sake we must assume this is the case.

We have The Sundance Kid, another youngster. How to say -- The Kid shows up to lecture (when he shows up) inebriated or very giggly quite often. He is spotty about studying or doing homework, and yet despite these behaviors gets just as good a grades as the rest of us. In short, he's a fucker. Recently he made the statement (after relating a story about getting involved in a 3-some after doing a multi-story beer bong from two different porches in his high-rise apartment building) "I'm so glad I got my "partying phase" out of my system while I was young." There is so much WRONG with this statement, we (especially the geezers of the group) can't even begin to digest it. Occasionally, even if The Kid isn't around, Doc Oc will relay the quote and just stare at me (we being the geezers), hang his mouth open incredulously, and just shake his head. "What -- the --- FUCK, dude." The Kid has pulled off some truly marathon study sessions and is, despite his inconsistent study stamina, a made man in the group.

There are more personalities, but in the interest of thrift I think I will keep this as the first list. We have some folks we have lost to the vagaries of scholastic life (Quark), and some folks who have fantastic nicknames and stories who don't need the intensity of our group dynamic to succeed in chemistry class, and therefore (only out of coincidence) haven't been Made yet. Janice (the hippy chick guitar player of the Muppet Band) is an example of this type of person. Her nickname rocks so hard, and she rocks so hard, that she's absolutely in our hearts -- but only by technicality has she not been "made" yet. She's the lone ranger of chemistry study.

We have a Pledge currently working with the group. Her nickname is Smartypants,and she really doesn't like it. There is screaming and gnashing of teeth, some subtle yet incisive "lashing out" when it is used. She's not easy to Coy, which bodes well for her status in the group, she's sweet as all get out and shows up to study groups with not only cookies but PISTACHIOS, which is genius beyond repair. She's on the razor edge of being made as I type this so probably the less said the better.

For now, I will cut off my report there. School calls.

Enjoy your day, and thanks for your support.


ps: My nom-de-studygroup vascillates from El Nombre (since I do most of the naming) and El Professore (since I'm going into teaching).

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Tea and Tirade: Sunday Morning at its best

I'm feeling fantastic this morning, I'm not hacking up pieces of lung, I'm slowly catching up on schoolwork, and I had fucking FANTASTIC tea first thing.

As you may remember T. and I have been working our way through some sub-par samples from India for The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants. It's a rough gig, testing teas, but we take on our portion of the labor for our friends at the shop.

So this morning, T. suggested we have a "real oolong" -- one of the primo standard oolongs that Jasmine Pearl stocks, instead of trying out more samples. The samples, once you get out of what India knows best in tea -- blacks -- were very hit and miss, mostly miss. So, we've been drinking bad tea for weeks now, basically. T. pulls out some Jade Oolong off our shelf, one of Richard's beautiful wood-fired teapots (perfect for two folks) that we have, and we did it up right.

Holy Cow the difference was staggering! I mean, really staggering. The first cup was absolutely full, the flavors ranging from floral to grassy, with plenty of "Gan." Gan is hard to describe, but it's basically a fullness of taste that lasts on the tongue and changes over time. It's one of my favorite aspects of premium high-mountain Oolong teas from Taiwan. You just can't get that quality in low-elevation teas. The flavor lasted through, oh I think 7 or 8 brewings, ending in a nice palate-cleansing grassy astringency, letting us know the tea was brewed out. Fantastic experience.

For some reason there was an Orgonian newspaper sitting around on the living room floor, maybe they are accidentally delivering the Sunday Only editions to us again. Happens all the time. Right on the bottom of the front page is an article about a debate raging in Milwaukie, an eastern suburb of Portland known for a weird mix of redneck/rural flavors with more standard Portland South East activist/green types.

This debate was centered around hanging clothes on clotheslines. It's one of the voluntary simplicity moves that are becoming so popular in Portland lately. Maybe huge environmental problems won't be solved by this type of thing, but it's got a great Luddite feel to it, saves money for electricity, and makes clothes smell great. Apparently there's a contingent in Milwaukie that wants to make it illegal in their city, calling it an eyesore. This set T. *right* off. "These dam people need to get out of the country, need to see a 3rd-world country! My God! Pull your head out! It's *laundry* for God's Sake! What if your dryer is broken? What if you are poor and trying to save on power bills? These people need to see multi-colored saris drying along the edges of rice fields -- how gorgeous that is. God, look at me, one little headline and I completely lose it. That's why I don't read the paper, I swear."

It was a good tear he got on, I was impressed -- we hadn't even had caffeine yet.

The conversation then turned to the dangers of remaining single and insular into later adulthood. How this seems to create some serious problems for folks including solipsism, a resistance to "getting out and mingling" because hanging out with folks who don't share your world view leads to problematic situations demanding introspection, eccentricity, strengthening false world views and philosophical beliefs, among other things. This was rich conversation fodder and I think I'll need to visit it in another posting, as I have to get going with my day.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Friends and Superheroes: Flank

I'm being visited by an old old friend of mine. His nickname is Flank, as in Flank Steak. He got that name many moons ago because he was thin and cut and muscular. Interestingly, 10 years later, he's still thin and cut and muscular, the bastard.

Where do I start with Flank. We met in the restaurant business about... let me do the math here... 17 years ago? Ouch, yes I think that's right, 17 years ago. I worked the front of the house, bussing and waiting tables, and he was a cook. He became part of a small cadre of folks I hung out with, smartass cooks and smarmy waitstaff.

Not long after we met we ended up being roommates in Northwest Portland. At the time, it was before N.W. was even up-and-coming neighborhood. You could still get cheap rent there -- it wasn't yet the Rodeo drive/90210 yuppie scene it is today. I don't think there was a single boutique on the drag yet.

I'm beating around the bush -- dragging my heels about trying to describe Flank. The reason being, I am not quite sure how to approach the subject without getting either myself or him in trouble. I'll approach from the angle of rumor and heresay.

Some would say (Fox news fans will be familiar with that phrase) that Flank was a carousing young gay man when we met. He smoked like a chimney, was very into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and was a member of the Army Reserves. This was right at the beginning of the "don't ask-don't tell" era of being gay in the military. I remember him calling me from a phone booth on base, I think in Texas, drunk. He was going off about this one cute guy in his unit, when I asked "Flank, are there folks in line for the phone?" "Yeah, why" "Well, can they hear you?" "OH SHIT, yeah they probably can," "How bout you tell me about the cute Korean dude when you get home in a week ok?"

I remember sitting at a sidewalk table right on 23rd street one morning, brunchtime. A couple of very swishy young gay men came mincing down the street. They batted their eyes and waved at Flank as he was sitting there with his cigarettes and coffee. Suddenly, he flips them off rather violently and yells "Fuck off!." Startled and not quite awake, I just sat and waited for his explanation. "God, I HATE fags..... -- ... I guess that's why I don't get long with myself so hot then, ha" he chuckled into his coffee cup.

Rumor has it Flank worked in ... "film" a bit in the day. No, not art film. When I asked him about what it was like to work in "the industry," he said "well, I show up on set -- and pretty much be myself for a few hours." Rightio then.

Flank's a dabbler. He dabbled in multiple martial arts, spiritual systems, philosophical viewpoints, and special diets (as long as they included chain smoking). Over the years I've heard him having interest in everything from Tibetan Buddhism to Hawaiian Shamanism.

A bi- or tri-yearly event for a certain period of his life would be him calling me from God-knows-where, out of the blue, after not having spoken together for months or even years. "Hey, it's Flank." "You get another security clearance?" "Yeah, I'm going for special forces." "Ok, and I suppose I'm on the security background check phone list correct?" "Correct -- remember: I've never done drugs, I'm not gay, I've never done porn." "Check." "Thanks bud, I can't wait to see what this level of clearance will give me access to." "Talk to you in a few years." "Right on." "Right on." -click-

Flank spent some time in Hawaii, not only to chase Asian boys which he can't get enough of, but also to deepen his shamanic studies. At this point, our contacts got even fewer and farther between. He's been good about calling every 2-4 years, just to check in. He digs The Wife, though he can't fathom for the life of him why someone would want to be monogamous.

The newest contact came through, of all things, the Paleo Arts discussion forums I frequenly troll, looking for info on bowmaking, hunting, flint knapping etc. Out of nowhere I get a Private Message, and it's Flank. "Hey, I'm going to be in Portland in 2 weeks, I'd like to see you." How the hell he found me through the Paleo Arts boards I'll never know, but we got set up for him to stay here and now he's here. He's visiting family, which is always a strain (conservative religious types), and staying with us.

Turns out his newest thing is living in Lost Wages Nevada and basically gambling for a living. He's had some jobs here and there, but gambling has been a large part of his income for a while now. A way to test out his intuition in real-world circumstances. He told me a little about his philosophy -- not so much a "system" as a gambling worldview. He sets a goal to make 10% profit, and when he hits that % he stops for the day. He got pretty dam consistent, it seems, and is only now getting a "real" job because he wants to enter nursing school and buy a sailboat to live on. For that, he'll need credit. For some reason he's fixated on Key West now -- no idea why.

There's an intro to one of the mythological superheroes of my past, I'll present more thumbnail biographies into this blog in the future.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Naps" after staying up all night

Wow I'm discombobulated.

Just woke up from a "nap." I think I laid down... 3 hours ago? I don't really know, it was light out back then, that much I do know. Feel like someone snuck up on me and conked me on the back of the head with a lead pipe. What week is it?

I was on up all night on Mt. Hood, keeping an eye out for folks who are fasting up there. The ceremony is called the Hanblechya, or Vision Quest. The style they are doing is a "dark" fast, meaning they are inside little teeny sweat-lodge looking structures. Not only no food or water for 4 days, but no light either. It's an admirable thing they are doing, and last night is the only night I could fit in a helper shift in my schedule.

There is a fire kept 24/7 while they are in their altars, and there is a guard post or "Akichita" present the whole time as well.

Akichita is not a totally ceremonial post, as people do come and go off the land and need questions answered, and need to be smudged off (with smoke from cedar boughs) before they proceed into the property. Also, there is a very important feeling for the folks in ceremony that someone' watching over them. Nothing unexpected is going to interrupt their ceremony, they have someone out there specifically to take care of any problems.

It was a haul to stay up all night. I ended up using my cell phone set to an alarm every 15 minutes to pull it off. Gotta love technology. Nice test of my newfound health... sit up all night under a Pendleton blanket in the woods. It was beautiful out, but eventually it got cold enough I had to resort to sitting in my car. I didn't like this idea because I couldn't hear in there, but it was just getting too dam cold.

So, shout out to the folks (3 I believe) who are fasting. They're studs (studettes, all women); may they get the insight they are seeking, may they be safe, and be able to integrate their experiences back into the world.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cellphones killing off honeybeys?

Well, there has been a huge die off of honeybees. That much is known. That cellphones might be the culprit is still deep in the theory stage, though apparently it has a few teeth.

This article suggests that the waves put off my cellphones are messing with the navigation of honeybees, keeping them from finding their way home. Enough of them don't return and the colony collapses.

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm Pro-Bee. I don't have to be a fruit and vegetable lover to have an affection for these little guys -- but it does help. Whatever it is causing the enormous die off of domestic bees does need to be sussed out, because so many crops depend on domestic bees to amplify their pollination rates for good food production.

I'll keep a special eye on any bee news in the future for ya'll.

Pie for breakfast

If anyone at The Wife's work is reading this, the Girls would like to thank you for the breakfast of "berry medley" pie that you donated to the cause yesterday. Although the pie was sub-par for humans, they are finding it QUITE delectable.

It sticks to their beaks a bit, and there is a bit of in-fighting -- both of which make me anxious to replace my stolen camera.

Pie -- it's what's for breakfast.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Best tooth pulling procedure ever!

She reminds me of The Wife. It's the operatic opening I think.

What's so hot about being sick?

Went to school today and yesterday -- and got myself out of the house for some errands over the weekend. Not feeling so great, some of the times I've been quite frustrated and disgruntled by my whole health situation, and what happens? Folks are flirting with me, making eyes, starting conversations, tossing come-hither vibes.

What the hell is so attractive about being down-trodden?

I've been on this same campus for almost 2 years now, and rarely have I had so much attention than in the last two days. It's utterly baffling. Not just women either, but some men have decided that I looked attractive in some haven't-shaved, beat-puppy, about-to-hack-up-a-chunk-of-lung sort of way.

When I mentioned this to a friend of mine, she said "you are vulnerable right now, people like that." Vulnerable in the same way someone who is overworked or overstressed is vulnerable to infection? Attractive to people in the way bacteria find open wounds attractive? What do you mean, vulnerable?

For the first time in weeks, even months, I've harbored a sour mood for more than a lunch break. I mean, I know it's not hip to be happy -- you're supposed to be cynical and nihilistic to fit in with the kids these days, but could this really be it?

It's that subtle "fuck off" vibe I'm putting off, isn't it. That "I don't want to deal with you, so don't look at me" vibe. Like when you have a visitor (like we did recently) who is allergic to cats -- that's the person they want to sit on, and rub on and eat off the plate of. There's just something so appealing about repulsion.

Granted, I'm not kicking it out of bed. Any positive moment in the last week's episode of "super mutant ninja germs" is a plus. I'll take it, gladly.

Done for now,


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Book Review: Two Leggings; The Making of a Crow Warrior

I know, this book was published in 1967 -- I never promised NEW book reviews, just book reviews.

Peter Nabokov writes excellent biographical and historical books on Native American culture. Two Leggings is a biography of one Crow warrior based on the field manuscript prepared by William Wildschut for the Museum of the American Indian. It's an excellent piece of writing, both for interest and for history's sake. I enjoyed it very much.

I like reading history from the perspective of the people themselves. If I want to learn about a culture, I want to learn about it from the folks living in it (even in hindsight) over folks in ivory towers telling me "how it is." The first book I read in this style that really galvanized my attention was Sun Chief, autobiography of a Hopi. The guy was irreverent, honest and lewd; as well as wise and of course full of mourning. It lit me up for this style of historical writing.

As for Two Leggings -- I appreciated seeing into the Crow culture, because it is so different than most of the NA cultures I've studied so far. These folks were Raiders, pure and simple. They hunted and followed buffalo, but they were very directed (at the least, the main character was very directed) toward warfare and raiding.

Seeing various ceremonies I half-recognize from my own life (I participate in many Lakotah ceremonies and have for many years) used to hunt down and kill enemies or steal their horses is a real mind bender. It shows the "practical" side of the mysticism, as well as the fact that it wasn't always used for self and humanities' spiritual betterment. It is an excellent way for me to get some perspective on my own studies and personal history.

For folks without this direct connection to the material, this is just a rousing read about a young warrior who wants nothing more than to be raiding constantly. He's obstinate and doesn't listen to his elders until eventually, and inevitably, life shows him that he aught to.

In the end, of course, everything goes south. The Crow are one of the tribes that thought of the white man "enemies of my enemies are my friends." They contributed scouts for the cavalry, even for Custer. They expected to be treated fairly for their help, and of course weren't. The book doesn't dwell on the years of decline, it's entirely about this one man and his life and life stories. I highly recommend it to anyone who has interest in history of the U.S. West, Native American history, or Native American spirituality.

Monday, April 16, 2007

No Honor Among Thieves

Disappointed to report that due to my lack of lying, we won't be getting a full settlement for the burglary. Both The Wife and T. said to just report anything missing as owned by us, not T. When it came down to brass tacks, I couldn't pull off the lie, and boom -- some of T's items weren't covered. Since he's not a relative staying in the house, his items aren't covered.

I'll get over it in a few more minutes but I do get frustrated at how not lying has hurt us as a family.

When The Wife had to claim personal bankruptcy over signing for business debts her (our, long story) electrical contracting company had, we could have thrown all our debts into that pile -- pretty much everything. Did we? No -- because we were using the bankruptcy as we viewed it was intended for, business dept. Something to help encourage people to be entrepreneurial and take risks in the business world.

Did this decision help her credit rating? No. Did the credit cards companies (who never received one late payment, never had any debt removed from their card balances) treat her as a normal customer? No. They either dropped her as soon as that card was paid off, while reducing her spending limits as the balances reduced -- or treated her as a second-class citizen. Despite the fact that the bankruptcy claim didn't affect them whatsoever.

I'm already losing steam over the lack of payment from the insurance company; some money back is better than no money back.

Why hadn't I just had the gonads to lie, though, dammit.

Hell -- I should have just made up stuff that wasn't stolen. Lots of my friends joked about it -- but in reality, how many people in our situation would have done that? I could have added fly rods and reels and knives, more jewelry, replaced my cruddy TI calculator... tons of stuff.

In the end, does The System even register a little personal ethical burp like that in the face of the horrendous white collar crime going on? Well, no, it doesn't. But, my conscience would; so I guess I get to stop bitching now.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dinosaur RBT -- Birds and T. Rex

Looks like there was some soft tissue (collagen) in a T. Rex bone viable enough to be tested for it's DNA sequencing. The Article I first found this out from is scant, and I don't have time to get deeper into it right now, but this is a big deal. It was thought impossible to have soft tissue survive and be testable over such great stretches of time.

One of the major revelations was a distinct genetic similarity to modern-day birds, which formerly was attributed only to physiological traits that could be seen in fossils. Big news, because DNA similarity takes the hypothesis that birds evolved from dinosaurs to a whole new level of veracity.

I almost didn't check out the story, because as a biologist, you get tired of stories on T. Rex, and Great Whites, etc. The show-stopper, TV-crowd type of subjects. Glad I did though.

If more interesting info is revealed I'll revisit this, but I have a Chem assignment due at midnight which I haven't started yet, and I still sport a Tubercular cough bad enough to scare grandmothers at 200 paces, so I expect it's going to take me a while to finish.

Morning Tea -- review of Jin Xuan Oolong

T. and I sat down in the middle of the front room, tea paraphernalia set up for two, electric kettle plugged in; all excited over this new Oolong we got from the Jasmine Pearl. It was an unusual one, called Jin Xuan, Winter Pick, High Mountain Oolong.

This is an oolong house. We dig the ritual (there really is a use for those cute tiny little teapots and cups from China), and the variety of flavors you will get from just one set of brews of one tea. It's great stuff. Plus, how could we justify collecting so much varied teaware if we didn't do such an elaborate brewing style?

A high-mountain oolong is guaranteed to have more character just due to the growing conditions. But Winter pick had me intrigued. Little variations like elevation and time of picking have huge ramifications on the taste of the tea.

So, we brewed some up. At first, the brews (one and two) seemed awful light and grassy, but with a strong enough bitter/astringent end that we knew we hadn't under brewed it. But by the third brew, the taste opened up and had some more depth -- not a lot of rich deep tones, no caramel or smoke or anything like that, still very grassy, but richer and more satisfying. By the 4th and 5th brews I was really liking the tea. It had attained a nice ... whats the phrase I want to use, straw, or dried-leaf kind of note. That probably doesn't sound very appealing, but as light as it was, mixed with the original grassiness of the tea, it was very pleasant.

Overall, it's a light taste -- not as light as a White Tea, but definitely not as strong as the oolongs we are used to drinking in this house.

So I'd say it's a good tea, but enough outside my own taste (a little light) that I'm not crazy excited about it. For those who like white teas however, it would be a perfect crossover into the world of oolongs.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Stu and Horses

My buddy Stu has put up a great post about horses. Had to post it here for anyone who might be interested, very nice piece.

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Got this email from a good friend, thought I'd share it. Just makes me all warm and fuzzy to think how safe we are. Here is a text copy of the link to the official website. It appears to not like to be hotlinked to via text as per below.

"I saw a reference to it in a Yahoo news blurb and was like, "What? Who the F are they?". So I looked them up and this is a brief explanation of who they are and what they do. (Just thought you'd like to read about another government agency keeping us safe.)"

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) provides timely, relevant, and accurate geospatial intelligence in support of national security objectives. Geospatial intelligence is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth.
Information collected and processed by NGA is tailored for customer-specific solutions. By giving customers ready access to geospatial intelligence, NGA provides support to civilian and military leaders and contributes to the state of readiness of U.S. military forces. NGA also contributes to humanitarian efforts such as tracking floods and fires, and in peacekeeping.
NGA is a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community and a Department of Defense (DoD) Combat Support Agency. Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., NGA operates major facilities in the St. Louis, Mo. and Washington, D.C. areas. The Agency also fields support teams worldwide.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Stingite music

Sometimes, you just have to let art stand on it's own two feet, without complication.

This is one of my best friends -- I am humbled and honored to present:

Don't Hide your Chinchilla

Robbery details

Friends are asking me for details on the robbery. I am not too worked up about it, although the next day I DID get heinously sick, so maybe it was more stressful than I was letting on.

5:30 in the afternoon, approximately. I had pulled out 1/2 hour before using T.'s car, to do an errand. That means whomever did this was probably casing the house and knew that car was the "other car" at the house. Makes things a bit more creepy.

T. was out in the separated garage working out. He plays music, but not super loud. When someone's in there, you can't tell from the house. He locks the front door and leaves the back door unlocked when he's gardening back there etc. About 20 mins after I leave he hears someone go into the house, he figured it was me -- that I had finished quickly. He heard them leave to, not long after.

Looks like they came in, swept through each room of the house and grabbed pocketable items. They grabbed 2 digital cameras, 2 ipods, 2 change jars' worth of coin, some bills laying around, $20 out of T.'s wallet (but none of the cards/I.D.), and an heirloom locket of The Wife's that was in the bedstand. That last one hurts -- it's from her Great Grandmother, is 10k gold, and has sentimental value.

Dumb things they did: Moved a Tag Heuer watch out of the way to get at a dollar bill on the desk. They grabbed a change jar and might have left prints on it, putting it right back down. They also left behind a real string of pearls when they grabbed the locket. So, we're thinking kids (dummies) or druggy (dummies).

Our street doesn't have a lot of endemic crime, but it has GREAT escape routes and is very accessible not only to the freeways but also the light rail. Because of this it does get a lot of "drive-by" crime, or transitory crime. So... we have to stay on our toes regarding crime and security and shit. Sucks but true.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

East of the Mountains, David Guterson

Well, I'm sweating out my cold in thermal underwear and sweats and a flannel cap. While thus ensconced, and under many blankets, I finished reading the Guterson novel, East of the Mountains.

It's a good book, especially if you are middle aged or older, male, and bird hunt in the Pacific NW. And who should lend this to me? Well a man who is, well... male, middle aged, and hunts birds in the Pacific NW. Go figure.

I never read Snow Falling on Cedars, but people sure seemed to love it.

What can I say, in my dazed state, about this book... It's quiet, the depictions of landscape are spot-on perfect. The writing style is flat -- like, who is that guy, Hemingway? It's not *like* Hemingway, per se, but it is flat.

The narration is written with such skill that it seems almost boring. It's not wild, it's not flashy, but it is sold -- very solid.

If you are a writer, this is a good book. If you live in the Pacific NW, it is a good book -- especially if you hunt or hike or grew up on apple orchards. For the rest of the world, I bet it is a little staid.

I know I enjoyed it -- the author managed to contemplate mortality without being heavy handed, that's not a small task.

I'll give it a B.

Visual and text update on my sickness

Visual update on my sickness ^ Dog Vomit Slime Mold ^

Text update ------------ My urethra hurts.

That will be all.

ps/edit: I so have to do a RBT on the Slime mold, they rock.

Baan Thai, it's for what ail's ya

OK, so I wasn't feeling so hot last night, for obvious reasons. Woke up sick, what a surprise. Amazing what stress will do to ya.

As predicted, I felt like dog barf today, only amplified. When I had my lunch break, I called my buddy John Schell, who also happens to be my Acupuncturist (Alethea Acupuncture). I wasn't up for street car-ing it to his office (yes I'm that much of a wimp today -- I skipped Meditation for crissakes) so I called and asked him what kind of food would be the most medicinal to help with my symptoms: chills, headache, sore throat, achey, little cough, little nasal, no sweating. He said to sweat it out, get some warming food (sometimes not just "hot" either, warming herbs can be slightly different). So I asked what I should order at a Thai place, he suggested Tom Kha with lots of galanga root. You got it boss -- I'm on it.

I was standing right out side Baan Thai, and just yesterday someone told me it rocked. Went in, ordered a small bowl of Tom Kha off the dinner menu (it was lunch, nice of them) and it did indeed rock. I was going to order "mild +" and the waiter sized me up and suggested mild. I said I needed it to be spicy today -- he asked me what I order at my other Thai restaurant (how did he know?), I said "medium." He held his ground at mild.

Sure enough, the soup had me tearing up just a *little* bit at mild. There was a sludge of chili flakes in the bowl when I slurped the last bit down. Perfect heat for this wimp, and it was fantastic. I already feel tons better, and it was cheap too.

Many of the restaurants around the campus suck, frankly, so this is a very nice surprise.

Thanks for all the emails and text messages I've received re: the robbery. I was surprised at some of those names -- pleasantly surprised.

I wish I could turn the event into something funny or witty, but so far it just ain't happening. The print duster lady was a peach, however, and they did get a couple prints off our change jar (imagine, getting busted for having taking $20 in change, ouch). Maybe something will surface worth writing up about the whole experience... there definitely were some serious characters from Downtown in our house that night.

I'd show you some pictures, but...

I do have some pictures coming soon from when John gave Sula acupuncture last night tho. The arthritis in her hips responds fantastically to the needles -- and she puts up with them amazingly well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

We were Robbed -- no kidding.

Ok, so no pictures for a while -- today's mid-day burglar took my brand new digital camera.

I'm now waiting for the fingerprint people to come by. I'm sore from Aikido practice, and have a 10 hour school day to look forward to tomorrow.

I know, bitch bitch bitch.

I think I'll start a new Label actualy -- LOL.

Pictures will be forthcoming soon -- or I suppose so, haven't read the homeowner's insurance policy yet.

Chemistry, sleep deprivation, and E.T.'s

Stayed up too late last night. Had my last Chemistry study partner (Lil' Mike and Captain America came over -- at some point I'll do an expose on the whole study group) take off at a reasonable hour, but then my brain was just buzzing and I didn't go to sleep. The internet is the devil at times like that -- cruise a few things, do some "research" and boom I'm watching some Google video with hours of former military types talking about UFO's.

How the hell does this happen? Oh, and there's a Part Two?

Next thing is -- "holy hell is that the time?" and I shamble off to bed.

Now I feel like dog barf and have a full day in front of me. Dam you cathode ray tube! (Ok, it's a flatscreen -- but Dam you Flat Screen!).

Ps: One of the reasons I was watching those videos is that years ago I met a lady who was working on The Disclosure Project -- the name rang a bell. How I ended up bumping into it on Google Video is beyond me tho.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fur Shark -- enlightened accounting

It is known that when he attained his enlightenment, Buddha touched the ground to acknowledge the necessity of his surroundings in this realization.

Buddhakitty too, it seems, acknowledges his surroundings -- even when he's partaking in tea and helping with the household finances.

We bow to Buddhakitty.

[Couple more of this morning's photos at the Furshark chronicles]

Monday, April 9, 2007

Morning Ritual, spam reading -- and tea

T. my oldest friend (since kindergarten) and roommate is sitting next to me at The Wife's computer, reading me excerpts out of his spam log. "Jade wants me to know that I can extend my Johnson." "Wow, I didn't even know you could extend your Johnson... only hear about it 500 - 600 times a day over email, I must be stubborn." "You gotta love emails that just say "an acre" or "it is" in the title -- WTF is that?"

We are both dazed and not awake and haven't even had tea. I've been drinking a lot more tea lately (don't do coffee at the moment, I'll explain later), because we have an enormous box of testers from our friends who own The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants. Hmm, is it more appropriate to say who ARE the Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants?

Anyway, our family has been part of their tasting team for quite a while now, and we have this box full of samples from India that we're working through. Jasmine Pearl doesn't carry anything to my knowledge that isn't basically the very best they could find in the whole world. Their options are narrowing -- and much of the stuff they receive from wholesalers to test out now isn't even worth drinking (in that context, at least).

So we're taking the bullet and trying out all this tea. We've found 2 out of the maybe 20 we've tested so far that are worth a squat. Some have been mediocre (fine for us, not good enough for JPTM), some have been downright bad. Like -- really bad. One tasted, honest to goodness, like water from an ashtray. Not a good wood-fire ashtray, but a cigarette ashtray. A nice smoky Lobsang tea it wasn't. Another tasted like it had gotten mold on it during drying and nobody caught it before it was shipped out.

Overall, our impression is that for whole leaf teas, India might consider sticking with black teas -- and let Taiwan, China, and Thailand deal with the greens and oolongs.

So I have to wrap this up, as we have water to boil and teas to try. This is of course done on the bitching wood-fired pottery I mentioned earlier. It's a rough job but someone's got to do it.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Ahh friends

So one of my friends today relayed that he would prefer "less words, more cat pictures" in my blog. I snapped one picture before I got distracted, and when I looked at it, thought it looked like crud. Then I realized -- Sula's doing a celebrity impersonation!

There ya go Tony, at least one cat picture and considerably less words today -- updated Fur Sharks blogsite.

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Muppett -- Our Little "Manx" Chicken

Figured it was time to introduce the chickens. The first picture is them staring down the barrel of a near-naked man in a purple bathrobe shoving a digital camera in their face.

The second picture is one of our favorite

chickens, she's new to us. We don't really have names for them anymore -- that stopped about 3 years ago -- but this one we do call The Muppett. She is a fine Polish cross, and we love her so.

In the third picture you can see that she looks like a Manx chicken, but she is not. She was attacked by a possum one night, and since they are horribly ineffective predators (dam generalist omnivores, get some jaw muscles would ya?) he only got her tail feathers before we ran out there with torches and pitchforks to run him off.

And the last picture is today's haul of multi-colored eggs. We have chickens that lay green colored eggs, tan, and creme. We have Blue Andalusians, as well as a gold-laced Wyandotte and some banties (miniatures) -- which don't really count as chickens, they're more like little couch pigeons. The banties and The Muppett are quite mouthy and will follow you around the straw yard while you are doing your chores and Tell You All About It.

It's a drag that we have to lock them up at night lately, as I haven't caught the latest (which would be the.... 12th or 13th) possum that has decided our back yard is Nirvana. When that does happen, there will be photos and explanations, because just saying I release all possums caught on my property at a local Bible College won't quite make sense without some more background.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Eel sperm and Irreducible Complexity

Although it seems outlandish, there is still a heated debate over evolution in some circles. I don't support the dichotomy it produces between science and spirituality/religion, I think that view is too extreme on both sides. Supposedly from the folks engaged in this debate, you have to be either an atheist scientist or a biblical literalist -- there is no in-between.

Anyway, one of the most compelling and popular arguments for the anti-Darwin camp has come from Michael J. Behe, and hinges upon "irreducible complexity."

To keep an explanation of irreducible complexity short, lets use the example of a mousetrap -- but think of it as an organism. If it developed (evolved) in bits and starts over an enormous amount of time, it would have spent the grand majority of its existence inoperable. You would have a hinge running around without a trigger, or a hinge and a trigger without a platform upon which to operate. It wouldn't be able to catch it's prey, the mouse. Irreducible complexity says, in a nutshell, that massively intricate creations in nature couldn't possibly develop gradually, because they can't function in the intermediate states. The thing doesn't work til the very end of its evolution. Therefore, it was made all at once, bang.

Sperm comes up not only because it's a big crowd pleaser, but because the flagella in sperm (the whippy tail-thing) is one of the linchpins in this argument. The way flagella work is mind-bogglingly complex -- you can click on the picture heading this post to get a peek inside that mechanism. So, if scientists could find an intermediate form -- one that didn't have all the elements of modern flagella but worked anyway -- they'd be able to refute this piece of evidence.

They have found this evidence, in Eel Sperm. The link I provided there is to a long and relatively dull article explaining the situation in more detail. Point being, intelligent design folks who are trying to shoot down the current understanding of evolution and bring our understanding back to the world-view popular in the 1800's don't have many legs to stand on, and this one just got cut off.

Now although I don't prescribe to either of the extremist camps of this argument, I do take umbrage at the "results" of the modern creationist movement in society: reduction in federal funding for scientific research involving anything "evolutionary," and weakened science curricula in schools (U.S. teens in the lowest 25% of scientific understanding; over 1/2 the U.S. population believes that humans were formed as we are now ~10,000 years ago).

[Many thanks to Professor Estes at Portland State University for the ideas contained in the current RBT posts, as well as some text and images. This post is essentially a synopsis of one portion of her last lecture. Since she is teaching the one Bio class I have this term, I expect her work to figure prominently in the RBT's for the next 2 1/2 months]

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

80's pop, pizza, and Ageism

So I went to my favorite pizza place on campus for lunch today. The first thing I noticed was Cute Girl was looking like she's due any time now. Cute Girl was one of the big reasons I frequented this particular pizza place over the past two terms [before my feminist brethren get on me for using the sexist term "girl" in her pseudonym, consider that it's possibly more ageist than sexist -- so there]. The pizza is good, granted, but so are stripey thigh highs and Doc Martins.

There was bad 80's pop playing and I queried the cashier as to whether they thought the music selection was healthy to be exposing to a soon-to-be-newborn.

During my meal it dawned on me (I was lacking study material, so musing was my only option) that playing atrocious 80's pop was actually quite blatantly ageist! These young kids don't realize that what for them is kitchy and bad and ironic -- is for those of us who had to live through that crap, potentially mentally destabilizing. Who wants flashbacks to acne-ridden virginity and social ostracism over lunch. Moreover, who wants to listen to that simplistic crap.

Now I know how the 40-year-old generation must feel when they go into a hip dance club only to find it's Disco night. Yeaoch.

I'll have a dandy RBT post later tonight or tomorrow involving how Eel sperm is kicking Intelligent Design's ass.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

New Associate Blog -- Fire Lookout Rantings

Quick note. I've decided to start posting my fire lookout journal on another blog. I've linked it in the sidebar for easy access. Unlike the Fur Shark blog, I won't be hollaring here about updates on the fire lookout site. I expect I'll be posting there most every day til I burn this journal's material up.

Enjoy and thanks for all the kind words.

Got a camera today... testing testing

So I had to run out and get the digital camera I've been procrastinating over for months now. The Wife [her online pseudonym, sly ain't it] has this fantastic and rarely grown orchid, a deciduous orchid, that's blooming furiously right now and I know the blooms don't last long. So, between that and this blog, I just had to get it done. Got a Canon Powershot A710 and took a few photographs before running off to school [know that you can click on the pictures and get slightly bigger versions to pop up].

Here are two test photos that I dinked with, I can just feel the learning curve on this, it's intense how little I know.

First is the deciduous orchid -- a Dendrobium Devonianum, from India. It needs 6 months where it's left completely and utterly dry, not even high humidity, or it won't bloom. The Wife finally got it to it's happy place and here's the result. Note all the righteous wood-fired tea ware on the shelves behind -- it's good to know talented and classy potters, and buy up all their seconds.

The next picture shows some beautiful Phalaenopsis. The Wife is kind enough to grow these -- she's into the weirder ones, the flashier ones -- because she knows I'm so into them. I completely dig them. There's something so simple and direct about them, very regal.

There we go my first few pictures, I'll get all the editing and posting stuff figured out to so they'll be clear and studly in the future.


Ps: Posted another test picture on the Fur Shark blog as well. Pootie doing an imitation a favorite 60's era dessert.

Monday, April 2, 2007

God loves Lesbians -- HIV and Evolution

I'm going to try to write this up right after acupuncture, but I'm feeling pretty loopy so we'll just see. Never know what's going to happen after acupuncture -- ravenously hungry? bone-crushingly tired? hornier than a 3-balled tomcat? You just never know. Good thing it works, I effing hate needles.

So, the biological tidbit. In Evolution class today, we talked about HIV. It's a devastatingly great example of evolution, because it's one of the most mutagenic [appears that might not be the right use of the word, but I mean it mutates like crazy] organisms on the planet. In a single day 10 - 100 million mutated HIV virions can appear inside a single human being. Our cells have enzymes that destroy mutated DNA and RNA to keep them out of circulation -- but HIV doesn't, it wants to mutate. It wants to mutate because it wants to adapt very fast to changes in its environment. If you want to learn more about how HIV works, click this,then go down to "activity" on the left bar, and after that click the tutorial. But be warned, it's not really in layman's terms. Might be a fun cartoon to watch for a few minutes at work tho.

The virus "wants" [that's anthropomorphic shorthand for "it's evolutionarily beneficial"] to adapt around anything that stands in its way, any changes that hinder its progress. Changes like the original anti-AIDS drug AZT. HIV, it turns out, can adapt around the problem that AZT provides it in approximately 6 months. It just needs a mutation to appear with a minute shape change on one of its enzymes and it's good to go. With millions and millions of mutations happening every day, this exact mutation is bound to pop up soon enough. If this extra-special virus is then spread to other humans, well it doesn't bode well for the new medicine. Due to this AZT isn't even marketed anymore. It's incredible, actually, that Medicine has found anything to target this vicious, shape-shifting little bugger.

An organism adapting to survive despite the presence of elements designed to kill it is an evolutionary process. It's simple, if normally time consuming. There is a pressure on a population of organisms (ATZ for instance), all the organisms die that don't have what it takes to live in this circumstance -- the ones that survive have a specific genetic trait (mutation) that allows them to survive. This mutated, successful trait will then spread because its both helpful to the organism, and able to be inherited by the next generation. Wallah, textbook case of evolution of a population. [there's one tie-in to the title] It's of course much more complicated than this, as behaviors pass on as well, but we'll leave this discussion there.

Another interesting tidbit is that there are humans who are genetically resistant to HIV. They carry a mutated element in their cell walls -- if you are dying to know more, then google delta 32 allele and you will find many papers like this that will explain it to the minutest detail. These people are densest in population around northern Europe. One theory for this is that same genetic mutation they have was something that protected people from Bubonic Plague. This would leave happy mutants behind when the Black Plague hit Europe, and keep that trait centered there in the world stage.

How does this relate to lesbians? Well -- the idea was posited to us in class today that, for those who believe HIV is a punishment sent down from God, God must love lesbians. They are, after all, the least affected of all human communities on the planet by this virus. And, by extension, northern European lesbians must be God's extra-special chosen people [so hot].

Fire Lookout, '92

Still surfing the technological learning curve here -- took me a while to get this photo on the right computer, in a decent size, etc.

Storyline: This is a photo of my first day on the job as a fire lookout in the Mount Hood National Forest in 1992. I'm facing East and a little bit South, from the notes on the back of the photo.

As a Prehistory post (I considered labeling these "nostalgia" -- but that inferred I would be pining for these long-lost times and that isn't accurate, life's good now and these are backstory), consider this a literal snapshot of the place where for the first time I got serious about writing. I starting writing, as a "writer" or "artist" before this, but this is where I practiced -- a whole lot. Longhand even, how retro cool is that.

I may end up posting snippets from the fire lookout journals onto the blog, as they're quite trippy reading.

Oh, and the Morels are starting to pop. I saw this post and got all jazzed thinking it was here in the N.W. Morels, I will find you this season -- I will find you!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

First Book Post

Oh how many books will I read while trying to finish the one book my wife suggested I read, the one bookthat she said changed her life in college. [I've just decided, this book will remain a link reference and shall be not be named in these profane pages, to hide my shame] Our lives are easily changed in college, granted, but the dam thing has importance for her and I need to finish reading it. We don't have the collective time or communal patience here in this little post to confront all the book titles I've polished off in the process of working through this one book. But, I will mention tonight's conquest.

Just finished reading Fishing the Northwest, which was lent to me by a good friend of mine who will be known as Stud Farmhand (there is a story here for another time). Stud has a phenomenal collection of fishing books, and I grabbed some before I left his house on my last visit. My outings have been few and far between since this newest bout of school, and some armchair fishing trips were in order.

I liked the book because I've fished some of these places, and read some of these authors before. I like anthologies because you get a smattering taste of many different styles and sometimes pick up a new name that might be worth investigating further. Mostly though, my last fishing trip was the first in many many months, and wasn't necessarily so hot for all it cost me in driving time and frozen fingers. It did, however, stoke the fire in me to get outdoors again and more often. A couple nicely written fishing stories are just the ticket to keep me on the straight and narrow, in college and in control, until summer.

Black Snake Moan -- Music review

When I was cleaning my desk the other day, I found a gift certificate to Music Millenium that was two years old. They were kind enough to let me redeem it even though it was technically expired. I had seen some trailers for Black Snake Moan, and I just couldn't get the visuals of Christina Ricci out of my head. Maybe a little hair of the dog would work, so I went and got the CD.

When I first got the soundtrack, I listened once or twice, found it entertaining that Samuel L. Jackson was actually singing on it, and put it aside. I was going to mail it to my father who would would definitely freak out over the thing. But it stayed in my car CD player and I kept listening to it, and kept listening to it, and now it's grown on me.

I started first to dig the new bands that I hadn't yet known, such as The Black Keys. Their soulful little ditty, with it's fuzzy guitar and heavy-handed drumming really rocks. Outrageous Cherry has a spot-on retro sound straight out of the late 60's/early 70's. I had to double check them to make sure it wasn't some band from back when.

I appreciated also that they had a nice mix of lesser known bluespeople -- I say people because the ladies are well represented here. It surprised me to see John Doe, formerly of the most excellent punk band X, doing a great jangley track on the album that sounded so much like The Doors it gave me flashbacks (to high-school -- don't read too much into that, weenies).

Overall, it's a solid CD with some good variety within it's genre of deep-south blues. If you are either a blues fan, or a Samuel L. Jackson fan, it's probably worth your time.

Fur Sharks

So I've started posting some pictures and comments about the Fur Sharks. I will update these as needed, and notify fans here of their presence. They are a huge part of our daily entertainment and deserve shrines of their very own. They also deserve better pictures, but this too shall come.

There is a whole language we use around the house when we talk about, or more specifically *as* the Fur Sharks. We figure they refer to us (in their minds) as Monkeys. Continually chastising us, "God-Dam Monkeys! Use those opposable thumbs for something useful and open up that fridge!" They also disdain our constant use of "The Noisy Part" (I.E. mouth). All the monkeys seem to do is sit around in groups and use the noisy part -- what good are they.

Back to blogospherical musings -- I may start similar links for Garden, as well as Chickens -- we'll see if it's necessary.


Children of Men, a review of Sorts

T. and I went last night to the Academy Theater to see a cheap movie. I love Portland's beer theaters. We chose Children of Men, as I'd heard good things about it.

I can suggest the movie, although finding things to comment on about it is challenging to me right now. I will say that it's tight, well shot, and well acted.

Maybe I should back up -- the first characteristic of this movie, and you should know this going in -- is that it's really dark. It's a dystopia set in the near-future, and many of the images are intense and startling. There are many images of war, of bombings (people walking around holding on to their own limbs), and of personal violence. But it's not gratuitous, it's just the state of the world they are presenting.

Little things sway me about movies, and the consistency and attention to detail of the setting in this movie really caught my eye. I'm quite sure if you were the type, you could see this movie 3-4 times, just watching for interesting and revealing details in the background of the shots, and be satisfied every time. The director and art team worked their butts off, and it shows. There are direct and stark images that will flash you back to Abu Ghraib -- like they are setting up re-enactments. There is, on the other hand, a shot where they give a complex and interesting back story to a new set of characters by simply panning across a vanity in a bedroom -- knick knacks, family pictures, vintage brushes and scissors -- it's mesmerizing.

Ok keep this short Bpaul -- so yes I suggest the movie. On a scale -- lets use grades since I'm in school -- I'd say B+. I especially suggest it if you are a movie buff type who loves to pick out relevant details and pay attention to the cinematography as you watch a film. One criticism I could posit is that the story itself is simple, almost so simple as to be flat. Neither T. nor I are quite sure what we came away with afterwards, but sleeping on it didn't answer that question for me so I figured I'd just let it go, write this up, and see what ya'll have to say.