Saturday, March 07, 2009

For those wondering about the color scheme of our new car: These links should describe it pretty well.


Labels: ,

Monday, January 26, 2009

I've just come back from seeing Frost/Nixon at the Little Theatre here in Rochester. I thought it was terrific, but there are plenty of online reviews available and I won't try to write one here.

And my opinion of the MPAA rating system has gone from the toilet into the sewer. They gave this film an R rating. I'm trying to understand the possible justifications.

* Language: Yup, there's some cursing. Nixon was famous for it, of course. It would have been considered mild among my none-too-wild high school crowd in the early 1970s. Just about any 12-year-old would be able to understand all of the words and use each one correctly in a sentence.

* Violence: A minute or two of footage of casualties from the Cambodia bombings -- pretty much at the level that used to be televised routinely during the Vietnam War.

* Sex: A telephone call awakens a character while he is in bed with his girl friend. Emphasis on "awakens" -- they were sleeping.

* Nudity: A minor character jumps nude into the California ocean. For a second or so, you can see his butt.

Now, I doubt very much that groups of giggling middle-school students are going to be interested in getting dropped off at the mall by Mom so that they can see Frost/Nixon. But it might interest, say, a high school junior who likes American history or media studies. In fact, it's the kind of film you would hope your 16-year-old is aware enough to want to see, whether or not you had time to tag along.

(Expletive deleted) the MPAA. Do they give a special Oscar for "stupidest film rating of the year?"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I've been trolled again, so all comments will now be moderated.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Comments have been turned on again, with some restrictions that should be transparent for most readers. If there's more abuse, I'll switch to a more stringent moderation policy.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

As The Earworm Turns

My relationship with music has been lifelong, intense, and bizarrely crankish. For example, I must be the only self-described rocker who has always been bored by both Elvis Presley and the Stones. An old friend sporadically runs a blog-based game called “Jukebox from Hell,” and although I concur with most other participants on what constitutes hell (“Butterfly Kisses”? “God Bless the U.S.A.”? The entire Neil Diamond catalog?) I was usually the most likely player to actually find some of my favorites on the list. (They’ll take away my “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes when they pry it out of my cold dead iPod.)

Sometimes a song just hits me so hard in such a negative way that I become allergic to it from the time of first exposure, and often it’s a song that most other people like. For example: “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Hated it on first hearing it at age six, and still do; that one and “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” can probably take credit for driving my lifelong loathing of folk music. “Stairway to Heaven” took two or three tries, but it’s still up there on my turn-that-damn-thing-down list. And I could probably lose my pinko cred for life for admitting this, but I feel exactly the same way about everything that Bob Dylan ever wrote.

But very few songs have ever irritated me as much from the get-go as one that I keep hearing lately when some of my co-workers crank up the radio in the lab; that follows me around in supermarkets and department stores for the express purpose of annoying me; that crawls into my head like the entomologically incorrect earwig that ate Laurence Harvey’s brain on Night Gallery . It makes me want to rip out my eardrums with a crochet hook, and then, immune to the sound at last, go hunting for the sadists who wrote and performed it, and strap them down and force them to listen to Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler covers performed by a bad Dead Kennedys tribute band and blasted at full volume through the speakers of a 1965-vintage transistor radio.

I’m talking about “Clocks”, by Coldplay.

Like most visceral reactions, this one defies logic; the song was highly acclaimed when it was first released, and has the sort of relentless minor-key drone that I used to think was the pinnacle of musical goodness when I was about twelve. But it still drives me nuts. For one thing, at least for the purposes of this song, Chris Martin seems to believe in his heart of hearts and uvula of uvulae that he is Sting. My personal opinion is that no one, not even Sting, should try to sound like Sting unless Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland are physically present to keep him in line. Second, I do have respect for a good keyboard riff, and I presume the one in “Clocks” is supposed to set up a mournful, introspective ambience. Play the riff a few times and you might inspire some mildly emo high school kids to write passable snippets of poetry. Play it as many times as Coldplay does, and it’s more suited to flushing the next Manuel Noriega out of his sanctuary. (Look out, Rod Blagojevich.)

But besides all that, there’s something about the song that just projects attitude. Not the punk attitude of the Ramones or the artistically raunchy attitude of Frank Zappa or the darkly ironic attitude of Smithereens, but something more like the whiny faux-suffering-artist attitude of David Gates and Bread. Now, if you are not between 45 and 55 and don’t understand why someone in that age range who was reading over your shoulder just covered his or her ears and ran out of the room whimpering, I can tell you why; it’s because that person remembers David Gates and Bread. Even their happy songs were depressing; their albums sometimes seemed to sneak unbidden onto turntables at parties in the seventies for the express purpose of killing the buzz.

And that’s how I feel about “Clocks”, by Coldplay.

Really, I don’t even hate all whiny sad music. I like Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” I’ve loved Ambrosia’s “Holding On to Yesterday” for upwards of thirty years. Good lord, my favorite piece of music at age four was the theme from Exodus.

But I still can’t stand “Clocks” by Coldplay. It irritated me on the first hearing, and progressively more on the second, and the seventeenth, and the hundred-and-sixty-first; a mewling and puking, wretchedly repetitive, musically maudlin, lyrically insipid, emotionally manipulative feline ear mite of a song. After being subjected to it one time too many today, I had to crank up some Donna Summer on the iPod to get it out of my head. Just picture this; a superannuated New Waver who used to wear her hair a half-inch long and brutally hennaed with one long skinny bleached wisp down the back, and who misses turquoise striped pants and Roland guitar synths and the none-too-soothing sounds of Tones On Tail and Romeo Void, had to blast herself through both ears with old disco hits just to keep “Clocks” by Coldplay from driving her six or seven votes shy of quorum.

And it’s still running through my head.

Why are all these radio stations playing it now, anyway? The damned song is several years old; there’s no reason for it to keep popping up in every public place that I've visited in the last month. Maybe this means something; maybe some unknown tormentor is trying to incite me to drop out of society, renounce the use of radio, and spend the remainder of my life in an underground bunker trying on boutique headwear by Monique of Reynoldswrap.

Have I mentioned that I dislike “Clocks,” by Coldplay?

Oh, well -- just a hint: “Hot Stuff” worked best.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Since I've had to shut down comments here, I thought I'd try a new approach. I'm going to link to my blog posts from my Facebook account. That way, anyone can read the blog, but for the time being, only people I know can comment on it.

I have some ideas for future blogging projects, but haven't made up my mind how to make them real yet, so I'm going to remain here for now.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I've had to turn off comments on this blog, because a person who apparently holds a grudge against some of my friends has chosen to leave offensive messages for me via the comments feature. Since I haven't really been keeping the blog up, this shouldn't have much impact on friends.

More if anything changes.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Something good will come of this ....

Last week, I was combing through some DNA sequences that had just returned from the core facility, assuming that the data would to confirm the success of an experiment that I've been working on for several months. What I found out was that -- well, the data sort of confirmed success. That is to say, some of the problems I'd been having with the procedure had been solved. The only thing was, I also found out from the sequences that I'd made a mistake a few months back that was not only annoying, but truly embarrassing. We are talking about a rookie mistake here, one that an undergrad working on a senior honors project should have been able to catch, and sure enough, I did it myself, and didn't catch it for several months. And I didn't make the mistake in haste -- I made it after great deliberation. Color me very, very severely pissed off.

Okay, in the big scheme of things, it's not that bad. It will cost one to two weeks of work, plus about $100 worth of lab reagents, to fix my screw-up. On the scale of time and money already invested in this project, this is small potatoes. And at least I caught it before compounding the error by introducing it into the next few steps of the experiment. But I do have to fix this as soon as possible, so I decided to haul my butt into the lab for as many hours over the weekend as it took me to make maximum progress. This worked out to about seven hours on Saturday and a couple of brief pop-ins today. But it was the Saturday effort that really paid off in an unexpected way.

Important piece of additional information: There are a lot of people who work in my lab, and on weekends, people are constantly in and out, feeding and breeding flies, running bench experiments, or catching up on their reading and writing. It's probably not unusual for each member of the lab to be in at least once over the weekend without actually seeing any of the others. My first Saturday spell in the lab started at around 10:45 AM and ran for about two hours, during which I retrieved some DNA from overnight cultures of bacteria and began the process of digesting it with enzymes. I then went home for lunch, goofed off with Rick for a few hours while the enzyme digestions incubated, and then returned to the lab for more bench work at around 3:15 PM.

When I walked into the lab, the first thing I heard was an alarm. We occasionally get weird alarms from the fume hood (which only rarely has to handle actual fumes,) and they never amount to much -- I think they're caused by drunken Drosophila from some ongoing ethanol-exposure experiments weaving in and out of the chamber. At least, that's what I first assumed was going on. But when I got to the hood, I realized the alarm was coming not from it, but from the -80ºC freezer in the next room. This is a very, very bad thing. Alarms coming from our "minus 80" mean that the temperature is higher than minus 80 -- in fact, it means that the temperature is -65ºC or above. Now, most of us humans cannot wrap our minds around the difference between minus 80 and minus 65; exposure to either temperature is remarkably effective at, for example, causing your skin to stick painfully to the shelf if you're distracted enough to reach into the freezer with wet ungloved hands. But some of the things that we keep in the minus 80 can most definitely tell the difference between minus 80 and minus 65. Like, for instance, the chemically treated E. coli that I have to use in some of my genetic experiments. These are not run-of-the-mill, sewer-dwelling E. coli. These are highly upscale, $200-per-box-of-25-tiny-tubes E. coli, and they become extremely petulant and refuse (permanently) to cooperate in experiments if kept at minus 65 instead of minus 80 for a prolonged period of time. And they really, really don't like minus 47, which is what the temperature display was reading by the time I got there. And it was reading minus 47 because someone who had been in between 12:45 and 3:15 PM had forgotten to fully latch the door after retrieving material from the freezer. (Wasn't me. I hadn't opened the freezer during my first trip to the lab. One rookie error per person per year is more than enough.)

Oh, and freezer alarms are supposed to go off in the facilities manager's office, as well as in a central facility in another part of campus. This one didn't. Our facilities manager, I think, lives in her office, and she is the kind of hyper-vigilant person who can probably hear a drunken Drosophila staggering into a fume hood from two floors down. Despite the fact that it was Saturday, she was there when I called to leave a message, and she'd heard nothing. The central facility, in fact, phoned me twenty minutes later to tell me that our freezer alarm was going off, by which time I'd closed the door, watched the temperature creep back below minus 60, and repeatedly re-set the alarm because if you hit the reset buttton to turn off the noise, the alarm only pauses for about five minutes. After that, if the temperature is still too high, it starts howling at you again. But it took, most likely, several hours for this whole mess to set off the remote alarms.

In other words, our freezer had failed to communicate with its minders.

And the next person to enter the lab didn't do so until around 7 PM. I know, because I was there until 8:30.

All because I messed up an experiment a few months back and had to come in on a Saturday to fix it.

And caught the open-freezer problem in some period of time that was less than or equal to two and a half hours, as opposed to six and a quarter hours.

Damned good thing I screwed up that procedure a while back, no? :-)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I've thought long and hard about a potential post on this subject, but I don't need to take that much time, because it's already been summarized perfectly:

On Wednesday morning, a teenage boy from Alaska stood in a receiving line on an airport tarmac, being glad-handed by the potential next president of the United States — because he got his girlfriend pregnant.

-- Ted Anthony (Associated Press)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I haven't posted here for some months, so just a quick placeholder:

* Yup, it is my birthday -- the first one I've actually spent in Rochester, in fact. Thanks to everyone for all the e-cards! Oh, and to the Drosophila Genomics Research Center for shipping my new plasmids. Couldn't have arrived at a better time!

* Yes, I've kept up the exercise program, although I haven't been doing it at the gym, because the apartment complex has a pool and during the summer I go there and swim and splash and generally jump around like a kindergartner. It just closed for the summer, but my bike should be out of the shop soon, and of course rainy days mean back to the gym.

More later. Rick and I are off to my favorite Italian(ish) restaurant for dinner.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 19, 2008

I haven't written about this before, but in early January, I started a pretty serious exercise program. And, honest to Zarquon, it wasn't even a freakin' New Year's resolution. That just happened to be when I got fired up to do it. Rick and I had been talking about how amazing it was that I lost weight on our trip to Italy, even though we indulged in plenty of great food. It's just that we walked a lot, climbed hills and steep trails, and often ate very little at lunch, preferring to pack down the calories at the end of the day when being energetic after eating wasn't a requirement.

By the way, I'm talking about serious exercise, not just a few genteel laps around the mall on Saturday afternoons. I mean, really hard exercise, 30 to 60 minutes at a pop, four or five times a week. Treadmills, elliptical trainers, weight machines, and -- on nice days -- my trusty bicycle have been doing the trick. I can't say that I've lost a huge amount of weight, but that wasn't the point. For one thing, I haven't been dieting, except to try to to plan my snacks to consist of caloric treats that I actually enjoy (high-cacao milk chocolate, Dubliner cheese) while avoiding the junk that I can really take or leave (French fries, doughnuts.) I have lost a noticeable amount of girth, though; for an investment of approximately $60, I had five pairs of jeans and crops taken in by a neighborhood tailor, and this was just like getting a new wardrobe that would have cost four times that much. And when I catch my reflection in the lab microwave, it looks better than it has in fifteen or sixteen years. (My reflection, I mean. I doubt the microwave is a day older than five.)

The iPod has been helpful. I often set it to shuffle, hop on the treadmill, and let the music direct my speed and elevation, but today I actually made an exercise playlist. Of course, I forgot to turn off the shuffle, so although I controlled the content, I didn't have much say over the order. It still worked out pretty well, though, so for fitness-oriented readers: I give you Today's Exercise.

I Predict, Sparks
(Lassie will prove that Elvis and her had a fleeting affair ....)

Goin' Southbound, Stan Ridgway

Der Kommissar, After the Fall

Go Forth and Die, Dethklok
(Hmmm, come to think of it, this probably isn't a great title for inspiring a workout. But it does have a good beat for the purpose.)

American Idiot, Green Day
(Thanks to my nephew, who gave me the album for my birthday last year.)

Loretta, Nervous Eaters
(Probably not one you've ever heard unless you spent the 1980s in Boston, but still....)

Flying North, Thomas Dolby

Satisfaction, Devo
(A way cool live version. Thanks, Greg!)

More later .....

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Earth to Bush:

Keep the golf. Give up the damned war.

Friday, March 07, 2008

AVUNCULUS (abridged)
In memory of James Marino, 1925-2008

The boy tail gunner came home
with stories of fighting men and airplanes
and taking a dump over the English Channel;
taught his brothers and sisters the songs of soldiers,
and married a pretty girl before Thanksgiving dinner ....

He teases my mother,
who married a Polack, and won't buy junk food
Then he takes her shopping
and they talk basketball
the way she once did with my father.
And he sang to his dog in merry Italian
and mourned her for months when she died of old age
and he cried at my wedding,
and during taps at my father's funeral,
and he calls my husband nephew.

In the rain forest he would have fed us
brought my mother meat from the hunt
and eaten at her table
and raised a niece born with his temper
and the face of her father's sister
while his own children ran with their uncles.

After a thousand phone calls
and a hundred thousand irritations
my mother calls me by his name
then apologizes and laughs,
"Did I tell you what Jimmy said to me yesterday?"
and under the giggle I hear
the girl who sat with Mama and Papa
beside the old Philco
waiting for news of the war in Europe,
crying with fear for her little brother.

Friday, February 22, 2008

And speaking of non sequiturs: This is my all-time favorite among David Letterman's Top Ten:

Top Ten Canine Disorders or Debutante Complaints

10. Distemper
9. Rabies
8. Broken heel
7. Wilted corsage
6. Mange
5. Out of shrimp
4. Heartworms
3. Warm Tab
2. Ticks
1. Kennel cough / Daddy's drunk (tie)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I haven’t been updating this page much in the last few months, so one piece of news has fallen through the cracks: I switched labs at Rochester a few months ago. Funding for my original project ended, I haven’t yet lined up a longer-term job, and my husband is still a postdoc here. So, when I was fortunate enough to find another faculty member with research funding, I moved to my current lab.

The big change is that I’m actually doing Drosophila genetics now. Although I’ve been working for a few years with wild drosophilids and other small flies, I hadn’t actually done genetics experiments on the critters since around ninth grade. The lab’s main focus actually has an ecological component – we ‘re not interested in breeding flies that have legs where their antennae should be – but I’m definitely working a lot closer to the operating system, so to speak, than I ever have before.

D. melanogaster is a real workhorse, or maybe a workbug, in genetics labs, but the cultures still contain real insects with every instinct you’d expect from a critter that breeds in fermenting fruit and knows how to make lots more of itself. For instance, if you think you’re working with a purebred strain, but somewhere between the supplier and your benchtop some little dude from a different strain made his way into a vial and had his way with one or more of the pedigreed females, complications will ensue. And they won’t be hilarious. In fact, if Lothario introduced a rare allele into a population that has no business hosting it, your experiments will fail in ways that are not necessarily reproducible, and in fact look for all the world like a common type of PCR glitch. This will waste a lot of your time when you mistake the result of unplanned fly sex for that of a non-optimal bench protocol. In fact, every one of the humans involved in the effort will become at least somewhat irritable.

It’s not easy on the flies either. After throwing away a good week’s worth of work, I had to personally dispatch six thriving culture vials, and then put out a contract on any other subcultures of this strain that might happen to be in our incubators. Fortunately, this strain makes up only a minor fraction of our cultures, and weren’t being used in extensive breeding experiments. But I’m still sufficiently cheesed off to have sporadic fantasies involving very, very small flyswatters.

The other high point of my week was having to take my annual online lab-safety refresher course, and document this via a standard quiz. Now, I’m a big fan of safety training, and I think it’s reasonable to require lab personnel to understand safety regulations and regularly review the procedures to follow in case of lab accidents. The problem is that the quiz is made up primarily of questions like this:

Which common biological-lab items are safe to spill on your skin and clothing?

a. Burning ethanol
b. A live culture of transgenic bacteria
c. The contents of a container marked “CAUTION: HAZARDOUS WASTE”
d. Glacial acetic acid
e. None of the above

I’m sure I passed the test, but if I ever needed to dial the campus emergency number I’d probably still have to look it up. I have stories very much like this from a previous workplace, but will stop now. Readers with similar tales of training sessions that aren’t are invited to comment.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I was saddened to find out yesterday that the extended quizbowl community has lost Albert Whited, one of its best and most original voices. I didn't really know Al from playing the game itself, but we participated in some of the same forums, discovered our common distress over the same political issues, and occasionally exchanged e-mail messages. Only a few months ago, we friended each other on Facebook. Albert died at his home recently, after an accidental fall that may have been the result of a heart attack. He was just 41, a big guy with a big heart and an incisive mind. I wish I'd had a chance to know him better.

On a happier note: I'm at the Ravenclaw Common Room in Ann Arbor (okay, Kevin's place) with a bunch of good friends, surfing, watching trash TV, and looking forward to tomorrow's even trashier tournament. Rick and I were in Kalamazoo last weekend, renewing old friendships, so I'm getting a good fix of Michigan this month. It really does still feel like home; I suppose we'll just have to watch this space.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where's Dennis?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The food curmudgeon holds forth again

Yesterday, Rick and I went to the mall for a pre-Christmas scouting expedition. Because we were on a schedule due to other commitments, we wound up eating lunch at the food court.

A local Indian restaurant has opened a stall in the food court. This is a welcome development. I'll preface my further remarks with two important statements. First, we understand that fast food is never going to be as good as either home-cooked food or the fare available in a good restaurant. Second, this food-court establishment is still a cut above the usual greaseburger-and-fries mall haunts.

But still ....

We've eaten at the parent restaurant several times, both on buffet nights and on occasions when we ordered off the menu. We like the place a lot. In fact, we went there with a friend from Delhi, who is a terrific cook herself and is totally unforgiving of mediocre Indian restaurants. She liked the buffet there. Enough said.

But the food court food is just -- blander, I guess. The curries weren't as spicy. The palak paneer was actually a bit sweet, as well as too milky. And the rice pudding was sorely lacking in cardamom.

Yup, we understand that food-court food has to be suitable for keeping on steam tables, and that the prices have to be held at least somewhat in check. But the parent restaurant provides a good, reasonably priced buffet that survives its spell on the steam table just fine, and ordering off the menu there is always enjoyable, and won't break the bank either. Have they been totally co-opted into the conventional wisdom that most Americans won't touch South Asian food unless it's laced with sugar and deprived of all of its spice and sass?

For a culture that's obsessed with food, that overeats junk while worrying constantly about diets, we don't seem to actually like food all that much. I couldn't help remembering the Indian-American family we knew during our days in Boston who invited us to a lavish dinner party. Some of the food was catered by an excellent local restaurant, and the rest was cooked by the hostess herself. It was amazingly wonderful. I still remember it sixteen or seventeen years later.

And one couple we knew were so afraid of Indian food that they ate at Burger King beforehand. I don't get it.

During our recent three-week trip to Italy, we noticed that we were in a culture that didn't fear food, and didn't have to disguise main dishes or coffee as dessert in order to get people to eat or drink them. If you order a salad at a restaurant in Italy, you'll be served a bowl of wonderfully fresh vegetables (probably only three or four kinds) with a bottle of balsamic vinegar, a bottle of olive oil, and salt and pepper on the side. If you want lemon instead of vinegar, you get nice freshly cut wedges. You season your own salad to taste, and it's great. No one pours glop loaded with sugar and squashed cheese on their radicchio in Tuscany or Liguria, and it doesn't matter whether you're eating at a tourist joint or a small, family-owned trattoria. If you go into a local bar (generally more like a coffee shop than an American tavern) for a snack and a drink, you'll find interesting munchies like little eggplant sandwiches that are actually made with freshly cooked vegetables and flavorful cheese. And people might lace their after-dinner espresso with a touch of liqueur, or top it with real whipped cream, but no one serves you a pint of coffee-spiked drink base that tastes like apple pie. (Nor, for that matter, like cannoli.)

I don't get it.

I'm not a food snob, but I really like food. I'm a little pudgy because of my too-sedentary lifestyle, but I don't intend to stop eating the things I like (most of which are reasonably healthful, anyway.) I even like real Southern and Midwestern U.S. home cooking, which is a far cry from Sicilian or Sichuan food but is still great when it's made from scratch. And I occasionally still eat fast food when I'm in a hurry. Really, I don't think I'm that much of a grouch where food is concerned.

But I can't imagine being so afraid of food that I want my palak paneer de-spiced and sweetened before I'm willing to eat it. And it seems like a great opportunity to introduce suburban kids to interesting food is being very badly missed here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I wish that I could have blogged about this before Election Day, but my four-year-old iBook developed a bad case of amnesia. Fortunately, I was able to fix this by replacing a dead 512 meg memory card with one of twice that capacity, and it looks like my main axe will last me a while longer.

The recent election here in Monroe County was colorful out of all proportion to its mere 35% voter turnout. Or maybe the turnout was down simply because some aspects of the campaign were just too damned colorful. The report in the local paper is deceptively low-key as well.

A bit of background for those not living in New York State: Our governor has proposed that illegal immigrants should be able to get driver licenses in New York, subject to certain limitations. This has become a contentious issue, but one that I won't address directly here. (Interested readers can Google for "Eliot Spitzer immigration driver license" sit back, and watch the fur fly. You might want to pop some popcorn first if you find this kind of thing entertaining.)

Nothing directly pertaining to this issue was on state or local ballots this year, nor was our governor up for re-election. Still, about a week before the election, Rick found this charming message in our mailbox:

If you click to enlarge the images, you'll notice the bold, decisive print and the striking photography. Also appreciate the single artful use of the words "welfare benefits" amidst the other sentiments expressed. Incidentally, if you click on the first photo for a closer look and try to make out the name on the license on top of the stack, you'll notice that the surly dude in the kaffiyeh is named Anthony. (Rick dubbed him "Tony the Sheikh".) Anthony's secret identity nonwithstanding, the mailing offended a large proportion of its recipients and precipitated many, many complaints to the Monroe County Republican headquarters. I mean, you'd think no one in the county had ever seen a racist caricature wrapped in a jingoistic screed before.

But -- wait, that's not all. Many households in the county received automatic phone calls from these clowns. Not once, not twice, but once a day for an entire week before the election. The 'bot calls pretty much repeated the sentiments expressed in the flyer, only in a variety of freakishly chirpy voices. One of those voices belonged to the current sheriff of Monroe County, and another to our county clerk. While you do have to give these elected officials style points for lending their own voices to the kind of dirty campaign trick usually delegated to the shadows, this really made me worry about how they would treat a citizen who required their official services while wearing a kaffiyeh. Or if his name was Anthony.

I actually own a kaffiyeh -- not as a political symbol, but simply because kaffiyehs make comfortable light scarves and were very much in fashion for that purpose about fifteen years ago. I thought about digging mine out of storage and wearing it to the polling place as a gesture of solidarity, but as it turned out Rick and I had some late work to do and there just wasn't time to change before voting. I wish I could tell you that the offending party lost its majority in the county legislature. Actually, its lead was merely cut from 17-12 to 15-14, but more than a few potential swing voters explained to exit pollsters that they made their choices after been put off by the ads. I suspect that more than a few Republicans stayed home because they didn't want to vote for non-Republicans but were offended by their own party's tactics. (I'd consider doing the same, or at least voting third-party, if the local Democrats ever pulled a cheap trick like this.)

Anyway, things have settled down here, and as far as I can tell, nothing much is going to change. If you're ever in the Rochester area and run into a guy named Anthony who wears a kaffiyeh, it's probably nothing to worry about; you probably won't have to frisk him for semiautomatic weapons. You might, however, find him a good resource if you want to find a place to buy wingtip shoes. He'll probably be able to warn you about which shoe shops hire illegal immigrants, too. And he's going to make damned sure that they keep on taking the bus to work.

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 08, 2007

I've put a "magnetic words" application on my Facebook page if anyone wants to mess with it. (No links; feel free to "friend me" if you know me, but I'll accept only if I already know you.)

My friend Gail keeps actual, tangible Magnetic Poetry words on her fridge for visitors to play with, and records the special ones in a notebook for posterity. When I visited her at her former home in Georgia some years back, I was proud to score an entry in the big book with this creation:

the puppy is an ugly drunk
I have to spring her out of the pound
mother will scream and shake her finger
but it will be no use

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I'm going straight to hell for finding this amusing, so why not share it with my friends?

Readers of the online New York Times know that paging through their articles will sometimes take you to an ad. Today's ad, sponsored by "Parents -- The Anti-Drug" showed a photo of a sweet-faced high schooler (funny how they're always blonde and female in these ads), accompanied by a properly ditzy website profile ("I love McDreamy!"). And, of course, the usual dire warning that your kid can meet up with even more sexual predators, drug dealers, drunks, and all-around churls via the web than (s)he can by hanging around the mall parking lot after closing time in your home town.

Okay, so you're supposed to mouse over some part of the photo to see the creeps who are talking to your kids, and I presume that this is supposed to reveal an image of some nasty-looking fortysomething dude with biker tats and a roomful of bondage gear. Or maybe even a shot of Kevin Federline, if you're not scared enough already. (Oops, sorry, Kev's been ruled a fit parent. Never mind.) The problem is, either there's something malfunctioning on the web page, or else it's just not compatible with my browser, so instead, when out of curiosity I rolled my cursor over the photo, all that popped up was the next page of the article I was trying to read.

Which was about Blackwater.

Uh-oh. What if this WASN'T a browser incompatibility?

Omigod, Internet predators are trying to recruit your kids to become mercenaries! Your cheerleader daughter or Eagle Scout son is just one ill-advised mouse click away from being seduced into a life of corporate-financed, no-strings-attached gunplay!

Hell, I'd lock up the kid's computer in an instant after seeing that. Who wants to be in the position of saying, "How could you do this to me, Caitlyn? Why couldn't you have run off with a nice ex-con pedophile like your little sister did? He makes a good living, after all ... owns his own meth lab, and ... wait a minute, HOW much did you say Blackwater offered you to start?"

I suppose I should be taking this more seriously. After all, kids (and adults) do get victimized by web scams. But I never could resist a good absurdity. Besides, I'm a grownup, and can take care of myself, so I'm going to sign off and start constructing a page on MySpace. How does "SexyGirlNRA" sound? I figure the job offers should be pouring in soon. No strings attached, and the money would finance my research for years. And if it works, I'd be glad to write a glowing testimonial ad for the New York Times.

Labels: ,