Saturday, December 29, 2012

Achievement Unlocked: Laundry

The Small Year only has a few days left and I'm behind in reporting my accomplishments. I've been busy trying to reach a milestone, full laundry capabilities at home. This required me to finish the back 10 feet of the Spartan. I had to lay tile, buy and install all the 1x4 tongue and groove walls and ceiling, learn how to do two part plaster, find some, and do it, wait for it to dry, wax it, install trim work, and retrieve from storage and hook up my washer and dryer. I went ahead and put in my sink while I had my helper here from Jacksonville.
Clean towels uncontaminated with artificial scents!
My machines were ready on Thursday the 20th of December but I didn't get to wash these towels until Saturday Dec 22. There was a lot of other chores I had to do for other people first. I got my mother and aunt all fixed up for a cold winter with chemotherapy, with a new toilet, metal framed bed (indoors!) and revamped plumbing under their house for a shower (indoors!).

A lesson in cast iron quality. This $25 on Craigslist new cast iron sink
is crooked in every conceivable way a thing can be crooked.
Name brand cast iron costs more for a reason. See how the drain pipe isn't plumb?
 That's because the drain hole in the sink isn't straight.
Still have to put the trim around the bottom of the wall.
Here's the outside of my new laundry room.

The front 20 feet of the Spartan remains to be done, as well as finishing up the trim in the laundry room and setting the toilet.

Trick is I really hurt my back with the tile and the plaster and the moving those heavy things. I think I herniated a disc back in September and there's not many things I do that don't aggravate it. I'm considering how to occupy myself for a while without bending over or picking up heavy things. It's sort of a lost cause. All my favorite activities require bending and picking up heavy things. I can't even sit down to work on the computer it hurts so bad. Fortunately my computer works standing up, so that's how I'm writing this. Having an iPad so I can read lying down is really helpful, but the Blogger app is lacking. Lesson: Aging sucks. Plan ahead to have all your heavy stuff where you want it before you hurt yourself.

On the topic of achievements and the end of the year, I sort of despise year end wrap ups and lists and stuff. In case I don't make it back to the blogging before next year I will say that doing a Small Year suited me. Not as small as I would like, but the basic ideas of reduce, reuse, and recluse were a driving force. I'm going to do another one.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


So, guns. What're we going to do about them? Here's the typical reaction of people who don't understand guns in the New Yorker.

Posted by Adam Gopnik

I happen to think that article is simple-minded and basically wrong. This very long and cogent article seems more salient to me.

by Larry Correia

First the author establishes that he has first hand knowledge of the topic. I think the first article is exactly the sort of argument Larry Correia is tired of. Frankly I find all the arguments back and forth of what country tried what gun control and how it worked kind of tedious and irrelevant. At the end of the Larry Correia's article he gets down to it.
We’ve already seen that your partial bans are stupid and don’t do anything, so unless you are merely a hypocrite more interested in style rather than results, the only way to achieve your goal is to come and take the guns away. So let’s talk about confiscation. 
They say that there are 80 million gun owners in America. I personally think that number is low for a few reasons. The majority of gun owners I know, when contacted for a phone survey and asked if they own guns, will become suspicious and simply lie. Those of us who don’t want to end like England or Australia will say that we lost all of our guns in a freak canoe accident. 
Guns do not really wear out. I have perfectly functioning guns from WWI, and I’ve got friends who have still useable firearms from the 1800s. Plus we’ve been building more of them this entire time. There are more guns than there are people in America, and some of us have enough to arm our entire neighborhood. 
But for the sake of math, let’s say that there are only 80 million gun owners, and let’s say that the government decides to round up all those pesky guns once and for all. Let’s be generous and say that 90% of the gun owners don’t really believe in the 2nd Amendment, and their guns are just for duck hunting....
So ten percent refuse to turn their guns in. That is 8 million instantaneous felons. Let’s say that 90% of them are not wanting to comply out of sheer stubbornness. Let’s be super generous and say that 90% of them would still just roll over and turn their guns when pressed or legally threatened. That leaves 800,000 Americans who are not turning their guns in, no matter what. To put that in perspective there are only about 700,000 police officers in the whole country. 
Let’s say that these hypothetical 10% of 10% are willing to actually fight to keep their guns. Even if my hypothetical estimate of 800,000 gun nuts willing to fight for their guns is correct, it is still 97% higher than the number of insurgents we faced at any one time in Iraq, a country about the size of Texas.
As part of the ineffable gun culture I know in my gut that all of this is true. Most people I know have at least one gun. Some people I know have large safes with a whole lot of them. And they do not want to hand them over. I don't think my dad would set up on the roof of his shop to shoot people who came to take his guns, but he would definitely donate a hell of a lot of money to the political campaign of the person who would stop that ever becoming a law.

I have never bought a gun. My mother and aunts probably haven't either. But we have them. Like Larry Correia said, they don't really wear out. They're passed down from generation to generation. I have a handgun because my uncle gave it to me for a graduation gift when I got out of college. My mother told everybody I was going to be a high school science teacher in Miami. First thing my uncle thought, "She's going to need a .38." This is normal where I live.

(Of course I wasn't really going to teach high school. I'd be terrible at that. I went to work designing antenna controllers and never needed to get a concealed carry permit to take a gun with me to an electronics factory.)

So as a thought experiment I imagined getting rid of my hand gun, like people in the UK think I should. It's my mission these days to sell anything I don't need that's worth money. Maybe people are hoarding hand guns all of a sudden because they're afraid of backlash from this event. Maybe my .38 is worth a couple hundred dollars. Maybe I should sell it. Let me mull that over in my mind. No more revolver in the house....
Fire extinguisher, vacuum cleaner, pellet gun, .22.
I have a tiny house with a tiny closet but I make room
for these things.
I don't like this thought. I'm just telling you, people who didn't grow up like this, it feels weird. The idea of being left with just a .22 rifle is disconcerting. I have no specific scenario in mind where I need the capability of a higher caliber weapon. It just FEELS weird. My uncle gave it to me. He's dead now and he was one of my favorite people. I want to keep the gun he gave me. He wanted me to have it. He wanted me to be able to sit up in bed and scare away an intruder by shooting right through the front door. He wanted me to be able to put down a wounded dog to stop his suffering after the evil dog-fight people put him out in my woods to bleed to death. I'm sure my wanting a gun, more than one gun actually, is just as weird to people that don't understand gun culture as wanting a tattoos is to me. But we have to just accept that we don't get it and not judge people for that little part of them we don't understand and try to find our common ground to be friends.

Of course I would turn in my guns if there was a national confiscation. But because I don't actively WANT to do it, and I'm liberal, I feel fairly confident it is never going to happen. So all these other arguments are moot.

The discussions of how to do media coverage without making the shooter famous are the important ones. Not encouraging other losers to become powerful in an act of horror is valid. Let's talk about that and leave off the guns.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Leopards Got Pets?

 Check out this video where a young leopard kills a baboon then finds a baby baboon and makes a pet out of it. I don't care for the narration. I'd rather watch it plain, without somebody telling me what human feelings to assign to the leopard at any given time.

Actually, even if that was a human and not a wild animal I still disagree with their assessment. I have no idea why I had to get that baby deer out of the hole. I'm pretty sure it wasn't because I was torn between being a mother and a playful child. Maybe there is just some universal instinct to give a baby a bit of help when it has a mishap.

What's that all about then?

Deer in a Hole from barbara tomlinson on Vimeo.

I notice that leopard video just kind of ends before the leopard eats the dead baboon, let alone before the baby dies. Because ratings?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

That's funny, I don't feel tardy

Nerds are getting a lot of mixed messages these days about showing our age. We're encouraged to use cultural references from the '70s and '80s, but we're expected to cover gray hair and hide wrinkles to get jobs.

I have this shirt.

I have this movie.
"Silicon Valley's dirty secret: Age bias" in the San Jose Mercury News gives examples of people not getting jobs because they looked out of touch with fashion. I'm not sure it even matters. People just don't want me in high tech even though most of my friends are in their 20s, my wardrobe comes from ThinkGeek, I sold my watches years ago, and I am like a factory outlet of Apple products. It doesn't even matter that my latest college degree is only 4 years old. Managers want what they want and are not willing to look at a resumé any longer than what they expect.

Today I'm just getting back to my usual freedom after a couple of tough weeks outside my comfort zone. I took advantage of being unemployed to take my mother to the good hospital 160 miles away to have a radical hysterectomy on my 45th birthday. In the 6 days at the hospital interacting with the various nurses I was called her sister 4 times, her twin once, and her actual self twice when she left the room and I was in there by myself. Nobody ever guessed I was her daughter. That 25 year age difference has been erased from her face with prescription RetinA, $150/50ml serums applied 5 times daily, and packing tape on her forehead. She spends more time on personal maintenance than I do on home maintenance, which is a lot. If that's what it takes to look like 45 at 69 I can forget it.

My multiple chemical sensitivities made me puffy and wrinkled and overall very bad looking. My borderline autistic reaction to alarm sounds made me very jumpy and crabby the whole time. My acoustics professor called me on my birthday and reassured me that I'm just a trained critical listener, not autistic, but it was overwhelming and irritating to be in a hospital where everything beeps and nobody listens. I found the "silence" button on every piece of equipment in the room very quickly.

Also my mother's extreme stamina despite Stage III cancer has thrown me into a bout of un-funded hypochondria. I can't keep up with her. I must be at death's door, or next door to it.

I definitely do not have the energy to pretend to be young enough to get a job in high tech or the money to achieve the necessary face for it. There has to be an internet solution for us old people. Do I have to start a company called Telecommuting Dinosaurs? The logo designs itself.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Insult Handling Skills

I get most of my news links from Twitter. I can go there any time and pick up an interesting story to read about a new scientific story or interesting natural occurrence. This is thanks to the many scientists and science writers I follow who share these things online. I encourage people to participate in this forum because I enjoy it and I see the benefits.

But I also totally understand the reticence to put yourself out there. I do not have a thick skin. I will dwell on the negative remarks and dismiss the positive if I don't make a conscious effort not to. I am terrified by stories of female bloggers threatened with rape and violence. I have been grateful lo these many years that almost all my blog comments are positive and contribute to the discussion.

At the same time I think the bad comments are good for me. It helps me understand that people aren't that good at reading. I got a comment today on an old movie review. "Barbara Fuck You! Dont Make Bad Review On Rajini Movie " What is he talking about? I'm not going to bother to go check, but I'm pretty sure that was a favorable review of Endhiran: The Robot. But the point is I have learned not to even go back and look at what they're commenting on and it didn't even occur to me to respond to it.

Wednesday I got this one I'm quite proud of. "Haters goona hate and you know nothing about tattoos you ugly dyke" I think I got sentence whiplash. That was a self-fulfilling prophecy right there, what? Again I didn't bother to go back to the original post or even consider a reply.

So these are good reasons for a woman to not want to be online. But this is the world. I have to get used to this stuff and learn the proper reaction if I have to write for a living. I'm still trying hard to find something anonymous to work on instead, some dull reports to proofread or anything without my name on it. But if I can't work that out I might have to put myself out there and try to sell something I write. I need insult handling skills.

This story today asking scientists to join the social media trend seems to be skirting the issue of personal insults. I am not sure I see how the internet is "reducing the opportunities for prejudice." I see that the internet increases my ability to find more people that share my interests, and that's great. But at the same time it makes it easy for people prejudiced against my interests to find me and insult me.

SpotOn London 2012: A call for women to get online or lose out
Tweet or Perish 
Some scientists may find it cringe-worthy to advertise their research on twitter and Facebook, while others might shy away from it out of concerns over the time commitment it requires, but no Scientist can afford not to be online. Tweeting and blogging about your work will improve the visibility of your research and deliver your findings to a far broader audience than a conference or a peer-reviewed article could ever hope to achieve13. It isn’t a time-consuming activity and learning to communicate concisely to a general audience is a skill no scientist should undervalue. Not to mention that, as the participation of scientists increases online, its value as a resource increases, with more links to more research being shared between scientists and with the public, a more rapid dissemination of information and fairer access to science. The Internet may not be completely anonymous, but it is certainly reducing the opportunities for prejudice and increasing flexibility for male and female scientists alike. Whether this can provide the push to achieve greater equality in science remains to be seen.
I don't delete bad blog comments. Only ones that are blatant plugs for something. I sort of think the nasty ones boost my blogger cred. I liked it when only people that agreed with me read my posts and made positive comments. But a sign of reaching a broader audience is getting in front of people that don't agree and also don't even bother to read, just skip to the end and call you names. Maybe I don't want to reach a broader audience, I'm not sure. But thanks to a few blog posts ranking high in Google I know how to do it if I want to. And I know that decision comes with a lot of trolls and hateful comments. It's a weighty decision.

*update 11/14/2012
The Oatmeal pointed out something I forgot. You don't have to enable comments on everything you create on the Internet.

Friday, November 9, 2012

3829 Write-in Votes for Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin got almost 4000 write in votes on Georgia ballots Tuesday, estimated to be almost 16%. This was thanks to UGA plant biologist Jim Leebens-Mack who wanted to send a message to Paul Broun, the guy who stood in front of a herd of taxidermied deer heads and said evolution is lies straight from the pit of hell.) (story from Inside Higher Ed.)

I kid UGA a lot, but I'm prepared to totally give them expertise on plants. (Just last night I was looking at one of their publications about figs. Georgia figs don't require cross pollination so we don't have fig wasps, which is disappointing.) The professor's success in getting the public to pay attention using social media is also excellent. This facebook page helped get these nearly 4000 people to go to the trouble to write in a vote, and this is on a touch screen mind you, so you can't just scribble it in, you have to pull up a touch keyboard or something I think. I've never tried it. I didn't even vote in uncontested races, I left them blank. Apparently 23,592 people did the same thing to this jerk. But 6,773 people stod at the voting machine looking at Paul Broun uncontested on their screens and took the time to read the instructions to write in a candidate and go through all the steps. That's wonderful.

Overall, 6,773 people cast write-in votes in the 10th Congressional District race, including about 3,829 votes for Darwin. Another 23,592 people skipped over the race entirely. Only 42 percent of Athenians who voted pressed the button for Broun.
This website has the entire write in list for their district as a PDF, 371 pages. Mars Curiosity got votes. So dead scientists and robots on other planets are more desirable than the actual candidates running for office. Welcome to the future.

I can't hear words, only sounds

It seems AT&T has announced they want to stop supporting their analog switched network and go with a full internet protocol communications system. I'm looking at a story on GigaOm that starts with a photo of copper refrigeration tubing. This does not give me a lot of confidence in the story. When they call the old landline systems "copper pipes" it's just a euphemism. It's really small gauge wire arranged in twisted pairs for reasons explained in core curriculum physics classes in any engineering school.

But skipping right ahead past my criticism of journalistic misses, what about the audio?

The old analog system was designed to limit the transmission of audio to a range of 300 Hz to 3400 Hz and it was full duplex. You could both talk simultaneously and hear each other. It made conversations natural, even if you couldn't tell an S from an F because sibilance is above 3400 Hz. We had a phonetic alphabet and we worked around it.

Back in the '90s when I worked on equipment for the coaxial cable network we had high hopes we would be able to use the higher bandwidth capacity to IMPROVE voice quality on phone calls. AT&T built fiber networks that actually included some circuits that eliminated that 300 Hz to 3400 Hz notch filter effect. When you got put on hold on one of those circuits the recorded message and on-hold music sounded pretty good and I would beam with pride that we were making strides forward in audio quality. Ahh the '90s.

Then cell phones came. We had an expression in my ham radio club, "A cell phone is just a radio!" Well on the radio you usually have a Push to Talk button and you say "Over!" when it's the other person's turn to talk. When somebody was bad at this we'd tease them that the button is called "Release to Listen." So one main cell phone problem is that it is not full duplex. You can't both start talking at the same time and then one of you stop naturally like a real conversation. You have fits and starts where you realize you're doubling with the other person and you have to say "No, you first." It infuriates my aunt who still uses a land line 98% of the time. She asked me why that happens. People don't understand what they're giving up with cell phones and I'm afraid it's going to happen again if they are forced all to use internet protocol for a phone. My aunt can't remember what the home button is for on her iPad, which is fine because it stopped working after this humid summer with no air conditioning. She can't be made to use voice over internet. Any equipment made for that isn't robust enough to survive her house, let alone her luddite mindset.

In the late '90s the digital cell phones arrived. And they sounded terrible. I rationalized that they use codecs that were developed for ham radio and are notoriously tuned for the deep male voice. Codecs are the chips that convert analog to digital and compress the data to the smallest number of bits that can be converted back and remotely resemble the original. Coder/decoders = codec like modulator/demodulator = modem. Back then nobody could understand a woman on a digital ham radio. (I stopped messing with that stuff so I don't know about now.) Anyway, I figured the coding for female voices would quickly improve because the market would demand it. The digital signal processing people were smart. They could figure it out. There were all kinds of ways to fix this, even if they had to sell different phone models for people with high voices. The pen thing is sexist, but a phone, that's just physics. Make me one, now. Surely the money for research would be quick to appear.

Well they never did figure it out. The CODECs got worse and worse. When the iPhone first came out people complained that the voice quality on phone calls was terrible. But the computer part was so good people bought it anyway. I think that's why texting took off the way it did. You can't understand a word anybody says on those things. If you are hard of hearing but are too vain to get a hearing aid like my mother you wind up with conversations where she says things like, "I can't hear words, only sounds. I can't understand anything you are saying." "Can you speak in a lower pitch? I can't understand?" Well dammit! What the hell?! I went to school in the '80s with a passion for making clear, understandable audio. I studied acoustics in the Physics department and Psychoacoustics in the Psychology department to understand all the nuances of communication with sound. And then in 1990 they stopped teaching Psychoacoustics because the professor retired. Then my Physics professor retired. And I feel like the whole field has died. It's like the whole marketplace has turned it's back on sound quality. (Even though Dr. Patronis still updates his textbook.) I sure was never able to get a job working on it.

I want the FCC to demand that whatever changes happen going forward we get an improvement in audio quality. Technology has advanced and processors are so fast, bandwidth is so large, we should be able to cancel out audio feedback from microphones and speakers with small physical separation and get back to full duplex. I don't care if you have to put two separate radios in the phone that drain the battery twice as fast, somebody try it. Maybe it only works with other people with the same kind of phone. Call it the Can and String phone and you buy them in pairs and share them with your loved ones. Just try SOMETHING. If my phone is not a form of communication I have to go all the way to my mother's house to fix her heat pump controller instead of suggesting she just turn it off and turn it back on.

I want a phone that trains itself up on my actual voice and tunes the codec to make me sound awesome. When I have to speak on a video I use Garage Band to slow my voice down so it doesn't sound so high. Why can't my phone do that? Put my voice in the range the person I'm talking to can hear after the ravages of old age have taken away their high frequency range? Phone designers are going to all this trouble to make it so I can watch streaming TV shows on the damn thing, and that's great, but why not invest in the research to make it actually work as a PHONE?! I never talk to anybody anymore if I can help it. It's just too upsetting.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Foam Day

I finished riveting things to the skin of my Spartan, got all the wiring and plumbing done, and decided to go ahead and get the Icynene insulation done while I wait for my new front windows and vent parts to be delivered. It only costs $1.25/sq ft for 3" thick. Styrofoam costs $1.78/sq ft if you stack it up to 3" worth. So I decided to cover the bottom of the floor of my house. I didn't do it when I did the rest of my house because I wasn't sure how my floor was going to perform. Would termites get in it? After 8 years I have had no problem with bugs, but it is damn cold in the winter. Since I seem to be staying here winter after winter I thought I'd go ahead and foam it while the truck was here.
Here's the before picture of the floor. It's an old gymnasium floor that was held down with clips. That's the rusty marks on the bottom. It's 1 1/2" thick tongue and groove rock maple, so I only needed joists every 4'. I used a plank and beam design in my Architectural Graphic Standards book to find out I needed doubled 2x8s for the beams. The planks are all cut to end on the beams with staggered joints; 12' pieces, 8' pieces, and 4' pieces. This stuff had the tongue and groove on the ends as well so I tried to plan cuts to fall under the walls so the ends joined up.

Foaming the underside of my floor 

While one guy was working under my house the other guy was getting the Spartan ready. They masked everything with duct tape and visqueen.
One guy sprayed the foam while the other guy cut of the excess.
Apparently the respirator is just for protecting his face from overspray and
not really to keep him breathing the fumes. The other guy wasn't wearing
a respirator and he didn't mind. I thought it was stinky. I couldn't go in there
for very long at a time.
This is the air compressor that sends fresh air to the respirator.
It started to overheat so he took it apart to see what was going on inside.
It looked fine so he turned it back on and just let it be hot.
This is the saw they use to trim the foam.
It's flexible like a band saw blade.
After they finished the inside he sprayed underneath the Spartan.
He covered the respirator visor with cling film, just wrapped it around his
whole head. When it got stuff all over it he pulled it down and
wrapped a fresh piece. It's all built up around his neck.
This is the waste. That seems like a lot.
They shoved it in the truck when they were done.
They don't recycle it, just put it in the dumpster at the shop.
It mashes down a lot, like angel food cake.
When the trucks run over it at the
landfill it will only take up a fraction of that room.
But it will take it up forever. Since my brother designs
landfills, I guess I'm a job creator.
Before Panorama: Front
After Panorama: Front
Before Panorama: Back
After Panorama: Back

Of course I made a video of the actual liquid-to-foam conversion. This stuff goes on at 140°F. The smoke coming off it is steam. The formula is Isocyanate MDI + Proprietary Resin + Water = polyicynene foam

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mule Day Cavalcade

I got up early this morning and went to the end of my grandmother's driveway to see this private parade. 150 years ago people got everywhere like this. Only I guess the road wouldn't have been paved. Georgia has 159 counties, the most in the country after Texas. They planned them so anybody could get to the county seat, conduct their business, and get home that night, all on horseback.

These people are on their way to Mule Day in Calvary, GA to celebrate the importance of the mule in agriculture. See if you can pick out the mules from the horses. I can tell the mules because they bob their big ears as they walk.

I suppose I'm a farmer just like these people, but my crop plants itself and takes 150 years to mature. No mules necessary. Just a saw mill.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pre-election Anxiety

I despise most articles of advice for success mainly because I am not convinced that the thing they are trying to achieve is an admirable goal in the first place. Also if I had the inclination to do those things I'd probably be on that path already, but mostly I don't really value the mainstream constituents of typical success, ie children and sybaritic pursuits. So motivational advice just annoys me for being closed minded about what constitutes achievement.

But I came across this enlightened list of advice last weekend before Sandy hit. I've read it over so many times I decided to share it. I love that it helps me with something I've sort of fallen into naturally lately. It shows me that I can improve my worrying and proceed more elegantly to anxiety perfection. Tips for Obsessing from @pourmecoffee's Mom (click this link to send traffic to the source. I tried a lot of ways to block quote it, with the original formatting, without, and finally decided since not that many people read my blog I won't affect traffic negatively from the original. I want this text for my future reference in case that cool workflowy blog site goes away one day.)

Key Concepts
• Blur.
Focus is the enemy of anxiety. Learn to blur reality and see life as a super-massive whirling tornado of bitter defeat -- always savagely churning just over the hill, inexorably headed straight for you, and about which there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop or even influence. Always keep your eyes set softly on the horrible horizon.
• Find connections.
It can be difficult to effectively worry about a large number of discrete items. You can easily forget or confuse some, thereby lessening the negative feelings associated with your angst. To maximize your unease, draw connections among and between the subjects of your anxiety. How will each of them negatively impact people you love? Is it possible all of them are your fault? Find dotted and straight lines to draw your own frightful web of woe. Do the work.
• Establish themes.
Bad things happen to good people is not a lament; it's a coda. If you value your worrying, treat it as high art and work to establish a thematic nervous cohesion unique to you. What is the essence of your obsessing? Bitterness? Rage? Despair? Dig deep. Find a signature brand of fearfulness that flows from and through you, feeding from and into the mighty river of human anxiety.
• Build your network.
Surrounding yourself with positive, well-adjusted people can shine a light on your sadness and turn your paralysis into positive action. Don't let this happen to you. Find people who reinforce your negativity and harmonize your voices into a joyless song of sorrow.
• Think globally, obsess locally.
Don't limit yourself to problems in your area or that you have anything to do with or can do anything at all about. Open yourself up to a world of nightmarish potential outcomes. Treat the world's problems like exchange students -- invite them into your home to live with you and become part of your family of fear.

"But Beachton," you are likely saying, "What do you possibly have to stress out about?! You never have to interact with people, you are working your mind with constant problem solving of a rewarding nature. There is no way you could reduce stress in your life more than you already have!"

Exactly. Yet I am gripped by a constant empathetic angst these days. I'm sort of hoping it's just the election. I suppose a week from now I will either be hugely relieved and will look forward to being able to buy health insurance in about a year, or I will be thrown into a pit of deep despair imagining a weather stricken world without FEMA. Or nothing will happen at all and I will face the fact that I have a crappy signal to noise ratio in my brain. When I disconnect the input my sensitivity is so good I just get a lot of static.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

You can't expect me to be more evolved than I really am!

Rebecca Watson told her elevator-gate story on Slate. It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too: I spoke out about sexual harassment among atheists and scientists. Then came the rape threats.

The comment thread is exhausting.

I have a few take-away thoughts.

1. I am glad I'm a hermit and very few mean people read my blog. For every one mean people I have several nice people who stand up for me.

2. Is "skeptic" shorthand for people that say "straw man!" all the time? Seeing that phrase over and over makes it feel like skepticism is the same as being argumentative. I don't like arguing. I like learning.

3. Some men understand that feelings are real and some do not accept them as valid data points.

4. A lot of men who aspire to critical thought somehow don't realize that they can apply critical thought to their own misconceptions and update their outlook just like they would update how many moons Jupiter has when a new space telescope spots some new ones.

Whenever this topic comes up again I can't help thinking of this scene in Earth Girls Are Easy. As Geena Davis throws sushi at her fiancee he reveals the real issue with men and women.

You Can't Expect Me to Be More Evolved

There's no way I would do what Rebecca Watson does. I was NOT a communications major. I would feel woefully underqualified to address issues of society and education and to respond to the kind of remarks she gets. I think not enough men are evolved to the point necessary for this to advance the way she wants. (There are a lot of men who are sympathetic to Rebecca and who are painfully aware of making women uncomfortable in elevators. I am calling them the evolved ones.) Now maybe I'm just ignorant about forums where women make violent threats, but to my view there is clearly a difference in men and women in vile YouTube and blog comments.

When I say stuff about science it's usually because I do feel vaguely qualified to rant about somebody less qualified getting it wrong. But it's still just my opinion. I don't ever spend more than a couple of hours writing these things. Everybody knows that right? I'm not claiming to be infallible. The peer review on my blog is whoever is on IM when I post it. If I get anything backwards somebody will pop up and get me to fix it pretty quick. This is not the Journal Nature. If I worked on something that much I would be getting paid for it.

I got a weird comment on an old post about ocean acoustics today that made me wonder. They claimed I was less credible than Wikipedia. (I don't think they understand how Wikipedia works.) And they told me not to write blog posts unless I was a recognized expert. Umm, if everybody followed that rule there would be no content on the internet. I'm not claiming to be the best opinion -- my typical rant is just trying to clarify something another writer clearly understands less than me (a sky diver can't go faster than the speed of light) -- just AN OPINION. It's a private blog. Surely it's obvious? The way I get at the root of a topic is by comparing different people's opinions, find the things they have in common, then try to verify that. "You're a nobody, and you just googled most of the things you mentioned in here." Is that unusual? Doesn't EVERY nobody do that? Since I wasn't a communications major or a journalism major maybe I'm doing something wrong. Only difference in my blog and my term papers in grad school is I don't have access to the peer reviewed journals on the library log-in anymore.

At least I'm trying to improve by making an effort, exercising my writing and researching skills, and getting feedback, unlike these men who won't take a woman's word for what makes her blood pressure jump and her hair stand on end.

Quiet Bat People Halloween Costume

I love the creative process of dress-up, but I never go to costume parties. I had a great idea for a costume this year and realized I could just describe how to make it here so somebody with less creativity but more sociability can reap the benefits of my free time. Timely reference costume for this year: Quiet Bat Person

(The reference comes from The Thick of It, Season 4, Episode 2 and then recurring through the rest of the season. It's a BBC show but they have it on the internet in the US.)

All you need is an all black outfit, a black eye mask, and something to indicate how quiet you are. $4.99 $2.99

You can also get a 3/4 Batman Dark Knight mask from for $12.99. While you're on that site you can stock up on Batman band aids too.

For Quiet I like the idea of a vest made of acoustic foam. You can buy single 12" squares of Sonitex from for $3.90 each.  $3.90 ea
I would make a vest out of black vinyl and use rubber cement to attach the foam to the front and back of the vest (be sure to change the direction front and back.) Or if you don't feel like going to all that trouble you could just pin the foam to your shirt with safety pins. I actually was getting some other stuff from so I had them throw two squares of Sonitex in the box for me. When it arrives I might throw together an outfit to illustrate.

I might also add some bat wings. There are some online for sale, but I would make some by sewing some black fabric cut in bat wing shapes to the sleeves of my shirt. If you can crochet it would be awesome to make bat wing arm warmers. For a guy this would probably be stupid. Some cool batman gauntlets wouldn't be amiss though. 

For an added hint you might want to download a Sound Pressure Level app for your smart phone and show it to anybody that doesn't get your outfit. Then make them sit down and watch the whole episode until they get it. (This is why I don't go to parties.)

This video won't let me embed it. Big Bang Theory Halloween costumes. (from @Rojsmith)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Smoke is Pollution!

I just read an article about hookah smoking. I had no idea people thought it was GOOD for them?! What the hell? Why do people believe such nonsense? It's STILL SMOKE! If all the "harmful" things were taken out of it it wouldn't be SMOKEY! When is it EVER ok to suck something you can SEE into your lungs? The author said to his cigarette smoking friends:
“You schmucks know you’re going to get cancer, right? You cool with that?” 
“You are too,” they’d shoot back.... “You smoke hookah like two hours every weekend.” “Yeah, but that’s ‘pure’ stuff,” I’d tell them. “The tobacco smoke is cleaned by water.”
I almost like the cigarette smokers better than the hookah sucker. (I mean that both ways)
Several studies have found that an average 30-60 minute hookah session is about equivalent to smoking a whole pack of cigarettes. This really made me think, because most of the people I know that smoke hookah (myself included) sat around smoking for at least an hour. That means that we were smoking the equivalent of 1-2 packs of cigarettes each time we went out. Not good.

Ya THINK?! Why the hell did you imagine you were doing was GOOD? Smoking constantly, surrounded by second hand smoke, for an HOUR? Have you timed your friends on cigarette breaks? And THEY'RE going to get cancer?

I just can't believe how stupid people are. If I have a wildfire and I have to run around with a rake trying to put it out I can feel a SIGNIFICANT affect to my sinuses and lungs from breathing the smoke. Tobacco is leaves, and my wildfires are all basically leaves. The volatile compounds in pine needles are probably like the ones in tobacco, inasmuch as they're POLLUTION!

Don't breathe that. For serious. What idiots.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Speed of Light, Speed of Sound, Whatever!

When I was a teenager I had the speed of light and the speed of sound saved in my HP-15C calculator. I'd written the constant in pencil on the face of the calculator next to the button where the number was stored. I used a subscript l for light and s for sound because both constants share the symbol c.

Speed of Sound (in dry air at sea level, 20°C) cs = 343.2 meters/second

Speed of Light (in a vacuum) cl = 299,792,458 meters/second

My professors often approximated these as 300 x 10^6 m/s and 340 m/s to plug into equations to see if the answer looked plausible. I had a pretty good grasp that these were very different speeds. Six orders of magnitude. That's a lot. But only if you know what an order of magnitude is. But there are still physical examples everybody should know. Thunder and lightning? Count the seconds to the thunder to know how far away the lightning was? We don't do that anymore?

This past week has revealed to me that this distinction is lost on a lot of people working in media.

Tweeted by @maggiekb1, with the caption, "MSNBC science desk has an embarrassing typo." retweeted by @TreeLobsters with the joke, "I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you! MSNBC has a science desk?!"
Sidebar: After the skydiving stunt on Sunday the AP released a story saying he jumped from 28,000 ft, or 24 miles. Well they left off an order of magnitude in that feet number. They quickly went in and changed their copy to the real number, 128,100 ft. But it was too late. TV stations all over the country had scraped that copy and posted it on their websites. A lot of them went back and changed it with no correction statement. A lot of them just left it alone. Here's a screen shot I made from a Google search Sunday.

But that's distance. I was talking about velocity, distance divided by time. Speed, for those in the media. For Baumgartner 308 m/s was Mach 1, not 340 m/s. The speed of sound increases with the density of materials. Speed travels faster in steel railroad rails than in the air. It travels faster in sea level air when it's cold because the particles can cozy up to each other when they aren't vibrating like crazy from heat energy. Cold air at sea level is denser. (Why do race cars go faster when it's cold then? Seems like there would be more drag. It's because the denser air gets more oxygen to combine with the fuel to burn more efficiently. There is also increased down force that lets the cars turn faster. And when the pavement is too hot the rubber on the tires doesn't give good grip.) Sound is a great deal slower in the thin, cold air at 100,000 feet. I don't expect media folks to know this. Fortunately Red Bull Stratos managed to phrase it to satisfy the media and pedants. (Christopher Mims saw that typo on MSNBC and analyzed the possibilities of a skydiver going the speed of light on another blog.)

Back to me now: I was contacted last week by the Discovery Channel about my rocket video. Remember? The one where the rocket reached the speed of sound exactly when it passed through a cold dry/warm moist air mass transition? Refraction made the shock wave visible from the ground?

They were interested in licensing this footage for all media in perpetuity. I was pretty excited because that sounds like a decent payday to me. Since the Japanese paid me $1000 to use it just once and only on TV, not the internet at all. But there were some red flags. The first person to contact me left a comment on YouTube. I sent her to my website to get my email address. She said "I'm brand new to YouTube." That seemed odd for a TV producer. A few days later I got email from a different person. The first woman isn't with them any more, so I have to start over. She wanted to know if I could prove I owned the video because she saw it first on Jokeroo and contacted them already about licensing. Umm, really? You don't know those sites steal everything? That's like contacting FunnyJunk for permission to use a comic by The Oatmeal. Also she used two spaces after a period.

On advice from Phil Plait I asked for details about the show and who their expert would be to explain this stuff. When I got that information back I knew it was a dead end.
We will be using the footage in our new series Alien Mysteries airing on Discovery Channel next year. The show candidly chronicles first person accounts of UFO sightings, alien encounters and abductions. In each episode real life characters take viewers on a suspenseful and often terrifying retelling of their bizarre, life altering encounters with forces from beyond our planet. Each story is backed by credible witnesses, investigative reports and tangible evidence. We turn to hard science experts (physicists, astronomers, astrobiologists, along with psychologists, and law enforcement officials) to probe the question: How is this possible? 
Your footage would be used to visually support the explanation one of our experts provides regarding the speed of light and sound and if an alien space craft could travel that fast.
I don't want anything to do with a show about alien encounters. But just to be certain it wasn't a legitimate explanation of sonic booms, I emailed the expert she said they were using, an aerospace engineering professor at UT Austin.
I was interviewed by the ######## ##### folks last spring. They are trying to figure out what happened with a UFO sighting at Stephenville, TX several years ago. I think that I was the “voice of reason” in their approach to the situation. I explained that the “UFO” sightings were assuredly not “alien” (in the “off-earth” sense) and were probably mistaken identification of earthly phenomena or deliberate fabrications. I looked at the problem of traveling to the nearest known “earthlike’ planet in the so-called Goldilocks zone – 600 light years away. If you accelerated at 1 earth g until you reached one tenth of the speed of light, flew at that speed until it was time to decelerate, and then decelerated at one g, it would take more than 6000 years for the flight. If Einstein is correct, the energy and time required for such a trip are far beyond reasonable for any beings. 
I was not asked about the sonic boom / halo occurrence. I had never heard of it until your note.
So no, it was a completely illegitimate use of my footage. The expert never even mentioned the speed of sound, only the speed of light. Which, apparently to people in the media, are interchangeable. By this time I'd already sent the producer an email saying I was not interested in participating in their project.

I wanted to make a chart to illustrate the distance light travels in a second next to the distance sound  goes in the same time but Numbers won't let me make a column chart with more than 10 divisions on the height. I stretched one out to 180 inches tall by 4 inches wide and the column for sound hadn't even shown up yet. If I put it on a log scale that won't help illustrate it to anybody that doesn't already understand.

My next idea was to make a chart in Keynote using transitions to illustrate how much slower sound is than light. This could be a useful method for a teacher who is talking the whole time the slide is building. But a movie of that is just a giant waste of bandwidth. I truncated it to an animated gif.

For a sound to go as far as from Atlanta to Los Angeles it would need to be about as loud as Krakatoa exploding in 1883. This would kill everybody in Atlanta and people in California would be ready for the sound because people in Texas would have been tweeting about it for an hour. If there was anything on CNN it would be from their New York office because the Atlanta headquarters would be dust. Reports that say people in Perth heard Krakatoa explode immediately are wrong. The ones that say people heard it across the Indian Ocean 4 hours later are amazing. ("The concussion or shock waves produced by the blasts at Krakatoa were remarkably high energy and could be heard by pressure sensors around the world. In fact, many stations recording barometric pressure revealed that the atmospheric shock waves created by the explosions travelled 7 times around the Earth before they were dissipated to immeasurable levels.")

The speed of light in air is about 90 km/sec slower than in a vacuum. It makes no difference if you round it off to 300 x 10^6. In glass the speed of light is about 200 x 10^6. But the change in speed of sound matters a lot more when the medium changes.

Light wouldn't really travel from Atlanta to Los Angeles because the earth would curve out from under it. If you put it in a fiber optic cable to bend it the speed is reduced. Sound would take 1 hr 36 min to travel as far in dry air at sea level and 20°C as light in fiber optic cable travels in 0.01 seconds.

I did some other charts at the same time for other conditions. I didn't bother to animate these.

I don't think my charts will help make it clear to ignorant people that speed of sound and speed of light are not the same. But MAKING the chart was sure a good exercise. This would be quite a good homework assignment for high school students. Go make a chart to illustrate the difference in the speed of sound and the speed of light. They should assign this in English class since these are the people that don't seem to get it.

* Update. @ed_davies on Twitter disagrees with me that speed of sound goes up with density. "Speed of sound in air is dependent on temperature, not density (mostly). (with wikipedia link)" "Halve the volume of some air. P, ρ, T and c increase. Let it cool to original T. P & ρ are double but c is approximately original."

I'm trying to illustrate that speed of sound is less than the speed of light, and as an aside that the speed of sound in the "thin air" at 100,000 ft is less than at sea level. The nuances of the ideal gas law and acoustics are beyond the scope of this article. I am aware of the details of the physics and intentionally left them out. By using what's left of my memory of studying this stuff I'm trying to get closer to the stuff that laymen can understand. At this point even I struggle with my old college notes -- partial differential equations. If I get them out and mention all the conditions and exceptions like a scientist then the whole point is lost. Members of the media that don't understand light is faster than sound probably aren't ready for PV=nRT. I might have gone too far even using the word "density."

If you want the details of all this the way I learned it Amazon is there for you. My acoustics professor, Dr. Eugene Patronis, just finished a new edition of his book, Sound System Engineering.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Enforcement for Geoengineering Violations? With what? The Science Army?

I'm shocked, appalled, despondent, and depressed at this story about some asshole running a scam on innocent people to take their money to pollute the ocean.
A controversial American businessman dumped around 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean as part of a geoengineering scheme off the west coast of Canada in July, a Guardian investigation can reveal. 
Lawyers, environmentalists and civil society groups are calling it a "blatant violation" of two international moratoria.... 
Satellite images appear to confirm the claim by Californian Russ George that the iron has spawned an artificial plankton bloom as large as 10,000 square kilometres. The intention is for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the ocean bed – a geoengineering technique known as ocean fertilisation that he hopes will net lucrative carbon credits.
Anybody besides me remember what happened when oceanographers tested iron fertilization? Using ordinary grant money with an honest explanation of what they really wanted to do? When iron ceased to be a limiter in the ocean chemistry there was the expected algae bloom that sequestered carbon, but it also caused a shift in the distribution of plankton in favor of one that released a strong toxin that killed all the fish. It pretty much convinced all oceanographers that iron fertilization was off the table. No point in even testing it further because it does so much harm.

And then this ass goes and does this.
The dump took place from a fishing boat in an eddy 200 nautical miles west of the islands of Haida Gwaii, one of the world's most celebrated, diverse ecosystems, where George convinced the local council of an indigenous village to establish the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation to channel more than $1m of its own funds into the project. 
The president of the Haida nation, Guujaaw, said the village was told the dump would environmentally benefit the ocean, which is crucial to their livelihood and culture. 
"The village people voted to support what they were told was a 'salmon enhancement project' and would not have agreed if they had been told of any potential negative effects or that it was in breach of an international convention," Guujaaw said. 
International legal experts say George's project has contravened the UN's convention on biological diversity (CBD) and London convention on the dumping of wastes at sea, which both prohibit for-profit ocean fertilisation activities. 
"It appears to be a blatant violation of two international resolutions," said Kristina M Gjerde, a senior high seas adviser for the International Union for Conservation of Nature. "Even the placement of iron particles into the ocean, whether for carbon sequestration or fish replenishment, should not take place, unless it is assessed and found to be legitimate scientific research without commercial motivation. This does not appear to even have had the guise of legitimate scientific research."
The problem with highly motivated psychopaths like this is they have no compunction about ruining the ecosystem, stealing money from people, and breaking the law. But the people that want them to stop have to worry about all those things. And often they are ineffectual little wimps to boot.

It reminds me of working for the Bureau of Beaches for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. There are unambiguous laws against building walls on the beach. In the rare event they give a special permit to build a wall it has to be a certain kind of wall. This is spelled out plainly in only two pages or so of regulations. So when I found a condominium complex building a wall out of dry stacked concrete blocks backfilled with gravel I immediately called the enforcement officer. I sent him pictures and expected to see the Sheriff roll up while I waited to stop the contractor and tell the men stacking the blocks to start shoveling up the gravel instead and get it all off the beach. None of it is "beach compatible material." It all has to go. Instead the enforcement officer in Tallahassee did nothing. They finished building the wall, using $1mil of the homeowner's money. For a blatantly illegal wall. I felt helpless and frustrated and miserable every week when I took pictures to document the progress.

The example was set that the State of Florida is unable to enforce it's own laws. Anybody walking on that beach would know they could do anything they wanted and get away with it, as long as they had money.
The parties to the UN CBD are currently meeting in Hyderabad, India, where the governments of Bolivia, the Philippines and African nations as well as indigenous peoples organizations are calling for the current moratorium to be upgraded to a comprehensive test ban of geoengineering that includes enforcement mechanisms.
How in the hell am I supposed to be reassured that the UN is going to be able to enforce something like "no dumping iron" on the high seas when Florida can't do it right where officers with guns in cars with lights drive by several times a day?! Is there going to be a budget for drones to patrol the Pacific Ocean? Are they going to drop sondes that can tell ordinary sewage which ships are allowed to dump at will from an insidious experiment?

I'm having a very disappointing day. I only got on the computer again this afternoon to look at pictures of baby platypuses to try to cheer myself up. I imagine they feel like the ears of Labrador Retrievers. I can't fix the world today, must go to my happy place....

Monday, October 15, 2012

Unsafe at any status

I just got an automated email from one of those outsourced job application services telling me the job I applied for has been filled. I get those all the time, but this one is different. It's a job that was thought up for me and I actually had an interview. Spent $80 on gas to drive to Atlanta and back and spent two nights. Fortunately my college roommate put me up for free in her palatial estate.

It all started back in August. I got email through LinkedIn from a friend I worked with a lot in the internet boom. We were both owners of our own companies at the time and took turns hiring each other on various electronics projects. I did hardware and he did firmware. Of course after the tech crash in 2003 we both had to change course. He ended up as a regular employee at a military contractor, wife, kids, big mortgage, the whole bit.

He's been working on the design of the display for the new joint strike fighter. It's like two iPads side by side, only not as technologically advanced, but with much more stringent physical requirements. It's time for all the qualification testing and massive amounts of documentation and everybody is freaking out. This is when my college friends usually contact me. Nobody likes documentation, but everybody knows I put words on a page like trees put leaves on the ground. Word is my bitch. Style sheet, mutherfucker. Get behind me, Track Changes!

And for this particular job my friend thought it would work out to have the person managing the documentation also manage the actual testing. This is something I have also done. Environmental chambers, shake tables, take a prototype to the extremes the specs say it should handle and measure all the pertinent parameters with $100,000 analyzers and $100 cables. (Hint: The problem is usually the cable.) My friend envisioned that I would go to the testing labs in Huntsville and Philadelphia and call the design engineer every night to troubleshoot the day's work; probe the circuits with the digital volt meter and oscilloscope and tell him what I measured. And all the while write this all up for the official reports. He wanted me to be based out of Atlanta with 75% travel.

After outlining this job and presenting it to the vice presidents and getting approval it was out of his hands. The proper organizational hierarchy put me in a different group. I would need to report to one person administratively but work for this other group. It was tricky to get them to schedule an interview. It went from "Be here Monday," to crickets. A month went by. I was desperately trying to get the Spartan door finished so it would be waterproof if I had to leave suddenly. I stopped writing my blog because the only thing on my mind I couldn't really discuss.

Finally in September I got email from my friend telling me to come on up to Atlanta. He would get me in front of the 5 people I needed to meet on Wednesday. Of course this is when I was packing a UHaul truck of furniture to take to my brother in Jupiter. I thought it would be good for me to spend the weekend around people and fly back Monday and practice all this being in public. Good preparation. I was going to nail this interview. I got in my car Tuesday morning and drove to Atlanta, found the office I needed to go to the next day, and checked my email on my phone obsessively. I still didn't know when I was supposed to be there on Wednesday. Finally at 8 pm on Tuesday I got an email from my friend telling me to be there at 10 am.

I showed up in my outfit approved by two HR professionals. I even let their 8 year old paint my toenails. (She did a great job.) I turned in my iPhone and iPad at reception -- no cameras allowed inside -- and went in with my friend.

I met five different people, one at a time in their desperately sad tiny white offices with outsized particleboard furniture, depressing old Dell computers and cruel lighting. Each one told me something completely different that they wanted me to do. The first thought it was important that I schedule the testing. Send all the proper equipment to the labs, plan the travel for the people that needed to be there, be sure the purchase orders went through.

The next wanted me to go into the database and verify that every spec had a corresponding document and that they were all in the same format with the same style sheets applied.

The one after that stressed that I needed to be a spy for management. Reporting if the customer was trying to stop at performance spec level and not go all the way to qualification specs. I was to talk to the design engineers every day and trouble shoot any problems and repair anything that went wrong with the electronics.

It went on like that. What they had in common was they all seemed really stressed out and had no sense of humor. I was smiling my interview smiles and making jokes, as I do, and I was getting these stoney looks. None of them asked me any normal interview questions. They just told me what they needed and I said, yes, I can do that. Here's when I did something like that before. If their behavior was stiff I wrote it off as just being engineers. I didn't think anything of it. I sort of expected the same dispensation.

The last person I met was a contractor working in Human Resources. She had prepared a job description to put on the internet. She used their standard Technical Writer job description. English or Journalism major, experience with Federal document databases, know Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, Framemaker, Adobe CS. 75% travel. It didn't say anything about doing all that electronics troubleshooting or project management.

The pressing question I had this whole time was "What's it pay?" It sounded like a very expensive job. I would have to pay for all this travel up front and be reimbursed, provide my own computer and about $10,000 of software, and there would be no health insurance or other benefits. But it would be over in 9 months. I finally got to ask that crucial question of the HR person in the last meeting of the day. It would have the same pay scale as their other office based English Majors, about $30/hr. It made me sorry they shut down in 2002.

I left the HR office and my friend showed me back to the lobby. I got my iPhone and iPad and we went outside. He told me that he'd had a chance to talk to the people I met. They all were easily convinced I had all the technical skills to do the job, but they thought I wasn't tactful enough to keep the customer happy. I was floored. "Well, I guess they met the real me!" I said.

My friend laughed, which is more than I can say for any of his humorless colleagues. I mean, yeah, I'm tactless compared to my extrovert public-relations-major step-sister, but I'm not tactless compared to my engineer brother. And nobody mentioned the customer was anything but Lockheed test engineers. Engineers are my peeps! They don't need passive-aggressive mollycoddling! What the hell is this bullshit!? We're all after the same goal. Get the best display system possible, approved and in production.

But nothing more to do about it then. I got in my car 290 miles from home and went back to a week of jury duty. The HR person said she would call me the next day with an offer, if there were one. Then she would let me know when she posted the job online, I would apply, and she would immediately take it down. Of course I never heard from anybody at all. I kept checking online to see if they posted the job that looked like the description the HR person showed me. I found it a week after my interview. I realized if I applied for it then it would automatically send me a "fuck off" email when they filled the position. So I half-heartedly filled it in and submitted it. Just over a month later my plan came through. I like a little closure on these things.

I'm still baffled by what I did that was so tactless. I chalked it up to them just not getting my jokes. I couldn't get a smile out of anybody. Then today I read something interesting on Guardian Science about how status affects people returning smiles.
Carr found that responding to smiles was more complicated than expected. "If you feel powerful, you suppress smiling to targets that are of a higher status," he said.
Oh, really?! So maybe they felt somehow THREATENED by me and that's why they wouldn't smile back at me? This is fascinating. I mean, why wouldn't it be? It makes me AWESOME. I think if you are going to get rejected for a job that was designed for your exact experience then you are allowed to fabricate some kind of flattering rationalization for why you didn't get it.

I understand I'm unemployable by the usual means, but I really did think that my high-level friends could still hire me if they wanted to. I have skills. But it turns out the only important skill for holding down a job at my age, as long as I'm a woman, is social skills.

I'm not broke yet though, and my Spartan isn't finished. Some work will come along as soon as I'm ready! It always does. Also, that was a fucking awful sounding job. I feel bad for whoever got it. If they call me in January and want me to come fix everything after that contractor quits suddenly I'm going to make them pay a good sight more than $30 an hour.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Paul Broun: That's why I'm a hermit in Georgia

I woke up this morning to a Twitter message from my friend in Northern Wales, @RojSmith: @beachton Evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are "lies straight from the pit of hell"

I clicked that link:
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia Rep. Paul Broun said in videotaped remarks that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are "lies straight from the pit of hell" meant to convince people that they do not need a savior. 
The Republican lawmaker made those comments during a speech Sept. 27 at a sportsman's banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell. Broun, a medical doctor, is running for re-election in November unopposed by Democrats.
Well isn't that special. I read it as a state representative, which means he can't do much harm. Then I googled him to see if he went to UGA, as you do, and realized he's a US congressman. How embarrassing. (And yes, he did go to the university in Athens. They are a big football rival of my alma mater, Georgia Tech, and we mock them relentlessly for lacking academic rigor. "Be sure to roll your windows up when you drive through Athens or they might try to throw a diploma in your car." "What does a UGA grad call a Tech grad? Boss." "How 'bout them dawgs?! Piss on 'em." "At the football game the UGA fans kept throwing firecrackers in the Tech student section. But we didn't care. We just lit them and threw them back.")

My twitter feed revealed that this is indeed an international story with this link from Guardian Science, with the video of him talking nonsense.

Whoo doggy! Lookit the deer heads! Lookit them looking at Paul Broun! I love how they arranged them to all look to the center. I bet the person that hung those up worked on the yearbook staff in high school. I couldn't watch this whole thing. I stopped after the "pit of hell" quote.

Welcome to rural Georgia. Just so you know, this clown's district is on the other side of the state from me, so even if somebody was running against him I couldn't vote for them. But it's not any better where I live. And as much as I'd like to blame UGA, those are really just jokes. My creationist relative-by-marriage went to Georgia Tech. Religion can even corrupt smart people with good educations. I cannot understand how they believe the earth is only a few thousand years old, I can't argue with them, I don't even want to know they exist.

This is why I can only live here if I maintain complete isolation from society. I am a highly sensitive person. I only maintain my happy disposition by delusion. And I maintain my health by trying hard to avoid migraine triggers. Emotional rage triggers migraines. I knew better than to watch the presidential debate. I've been having trouble with my eyes lately so I haven't worked on the computer much. I just got some new glasses Friday so I thought I could brave a post today. But it's so bright in my house I got aura already. I'm working very hard to finish the Spartan for my lab/laundry which should be a lot darker than my house and better for computer work. (I went to the eye doctor and tested 20:15 uncorrected. I can see better than most people my age. I have a tiny bit of astigmatism and only need 1.00 reading glasses. But I'm just so sensitive what's trivial seems monumental to me.)

In honor of all the deer skins stretched over fiberglass forms in that video here's a picture of a real live Georgia deer with antlers. (Taken out of my bathroom window some years ago.) I don't ever shoot these because they are way to big for me to clean and eat by myself. And I'm not a big fan of taxidermy. I prefer photography. Also prefer staying in bed until the sun comes up. And chicken.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Abuse is always bad, I don't care who you are

Jen McCreight, the Blag Hag, is quitting blogging because she is routinely attacked and called names and that triggers depression, which has been a problem for her since elementary school.

I do not have depression. But I still wouldn't tolerate abuse. The vaguely critical but mostly benign comments I sometimes get on here are more than I want. I don't understand how she managed as much as she did. I am not inclined to depression but I am highly sensitive. When I'm dealing with a lot of negative feelings I get symptoms of depression. But I still think my jokes are funny, so it doesn't count. I wouldn't like it if I didn't always have that relief of good brain chemistry.

I am happy to remain obscure and insignificant. I want nobody to read what I write if they don't like it. I only hope to entertain others who agree with me.

I'm sorry people were mean to Jen. I hope I can avoid them.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Oh and they're clever, of course

"Well, intelligence in the abstract has no value. If your intelligence hasn't been noted by your fellow man, perhaps the question to ask yourself is why you have failed to deploy it in a more striking way...."

"Fundamentally, being underrated is a failure of presentation. I have always flattered myself that I am overrated. Perhaps you agree. If so, please don't feel obliged to leave a comment saying so."

I relate to this. I have a hypothesis that pleasing word choice is the key to being perceived as intelligent. David Mitchell strings words together like a regular PG Wodehouse. I also attribute my own overrating to the word usements that I structure. Even when a lot of it is actually memory that allows me to recycle Steve Martin quotes.

I also expect sounding smarter than you are may have something to do with speaking with a nuance of annoyance. Cynics just sound smarter. Nothing like a rant to make people think you're just brimming with intellect.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Wet Hands

Hands of blue
Smooth the sealant.
The ant tickling my wrist 
Is not an ant.
Bewildering water
Fills the gloves.
My hands are pruned
When the job is done.
How do TSA workers
Wear these all day?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Deer Can Dance

Deer love the funk. I was listening to Parliament this morning when I noticed these deer kicking it  on my lawn.

They can't really hear the music. My house is soundproofed. But it was still funny to me that this is what I was playing at the time. Audio is not dubbed, is live.

I shot this with my iPhone vertical then cropped it to achieve some magnification. That's why the image is not very sharp. Batteries were dead in my zoom video camera.