Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Jewish Traditions

Recently, my daughter, (and by extension, my husband & I), were invited to a Bat Mitzvah here in town. It was a deeply moving experience, almost 3 hours long (my memories of marthon-like High Mass at The Grotto are similar), and was familiar, yet VERY different. It was held at the Beth Israel Temple on NW Flanders here in Portland. I knew it was special when we walked in, and I was right. It was built in the 1920's and condsidered one of the best examples of a Byzantine style Synagogue in the world. It is on the National Registry of Historic Landmarks. It was followed by a traditional reception across the street at the beautiful Schnitzer Family Center, where a Hamotizi prayer over Challah (the Sabbath bread) and Kiddush (the Wine Blessing) take place.

A Bat Mitzvah (for a girl-Bar Mitzvah for a boy), is a Jewish tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. It means a "Daughter of the Commandment". It signifies the coming of age and requires a commitment to accept responsibilites in the Jewish faith and community. The young lady celebrates this commitment by conducting the Shabbat service with the help of several Rabbis (there was a woman Rabbi present too). There was alot of Hebrew, which we didn't understand, and many other traditions with which we were unfamiliar, like the Bar'chu (the Call to Worship), the Shema (acclaiming the belief in one God), the Aleynu (Adoration) and the Kaddish (a prayer for those who have died). The last one, the Kaddish, meant the most to my husband and I, and we so appreciated being able to share in this service (although there was alot going on we really didn't understand!) with new and old friends.

Upon the advice of a Jewish friend of my husband, we gave the celebrant a small gift with $18 enclosed. Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet is assigned a numerical value, and when the Hebrew letters for the word for LIFE are added up, it comes to 18; so money in multiples of 18 are given.

Please note I've used the Bat Mitzvah program as a source for most of the information given.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Now Here's an Interesting Bit of Environmental News

Them limeys plumb done it again.

They're building a new electrical power plant that runs on grass clippings. Yes, you read that right. It'll provide enough power for 2,000 homes while producing a ton (sorry, "tonne") less carbon dioxide per hour than an equivalent amount of fossil fuels.

Hmm...I wonder if they're planning on offering money for grass clippings. That way, they can produce cheap power, help protect the environment, and encourage men to get off their loathsome, spotty behinds and mow their lawns, all at the same time!

God save the Queen.

The Price

Today we remember those who paid it to protect us.

May we work towards the day when the top picture is part of history.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Furriner Wins, Chick Gets 4th

Briton Dan Wheldon won the Indy 500 and Danica Patrick led for a while towards the end but had to preserve fuel to finish, thus finishing 4th. It was a great race.

Meanwhile, Robby Gordon cries in his beer.

Cue "Fair and Balanced" Whiners in 3...2...1...

Robby Gordon raining on Danica's parade

CONCORD, N.C. – Robby Gordon accused Danica Patrick of having an unfair advantage in the Indianapolis 500 and said Saturday he will not compete in the race again unless the field is equalized.

Gordon, a former open-wheel driver now in NASCAR, contends that Patrick is at an advantage over the rest of the competitors because she only weighs 100 pounds. Because all the cars weigh the same, Patrick's is lighter on the race track.

As someone on the Fark.com forum said, "It isn't fair to let Shaq play basketball because he is too huge." If the weight is so important, maybe its time to put the proper sized athletes behind the wheel instead of beer-bellied good old boys. I can't imagine what Churchill Downs would look like with a bunch of 200+ pound jockeys riding around. Maybe NASCAR and Indy are out of whack with real competition allowing "tradition" to impede performance. Then again, maybe this is one whiner and all that really matters is driving ability.

It is also noteworthy that, in the tradition of new media, the article was distilled down to a "talking point" issue, rather than discussing how good the actual driving of Robby Gordon or Danica Patrick might be. They did mention that Gordon participated in the Indy 500 and Coca Cola 600 in one day, but driving a lot isn't the same as driving well. There was no mention of Patrick's race history at all, as if she were merely a controversy generator and not a competitive racer.

Friday, May 27, 2005

"New Blood" at the Brickyard

One of the things I like about Indy Car racing over NASCAR is that there are always plenty of furriners, chix, and neegruhs (well, comparatively anyway). When I was growing up, the Indianapolis 500 was the race America watched over all others. It had the superior engineering of Formula One and the American character that NASCAR aspires to.

A few years back, the Indy Car drivers had a sort of falling out and split into two camps. This allowed NASCAR, with its slower cars but superior marketing to win out in popularity.

As an aficionado of Studebakers and OS/2, it is only natural for me to gravitate towards that which endures despite hardship and the injustice of a fickle marketplace. For that reason, I applaud the Indianapolis 500 with a female qualifying in the number 4 spot, 2 Foyts, and drivers from the Czech Republic, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, the USA, New Zealand, England, Sweden, Canada, Scotland, Australia, France, and Japan. There is something for just about anyone here who loves auto racing. About the only thing missing is Willy T. Ribbs.

I might be an old timer who is out of touch with the new "in your face" reality TV world, but I happen to like successful women and African Americans. I also don't wring my hands worrying about whether Europeans are going to turn us into a socialist nightmare. I happen to like people from other countries. Therefore, I plan on enjoying Indy 500 weekend with all of its multi-cultural, gender positive stereotypes. These are good things in a time of "fair and balanced" whining about what we all know is right. I invite you to enjoy it as well.

Swelter in the Shelter

Well, light blogging appears to be epidemic lately with nice weather and light news days (well, light in terms of missing children and celebrity trials). After a few straight weeks of rain alternating with showers, we in Oregon grappled with a 95 degree day (about 35 deg C).

I am stubborn and I have faith that the temperature will plunge soon, so the old-timey air conditioner sits in the garage and we are going to sweat it out for the night. What kind of cheap tomfoolery do you use to keep warm on the hot days of the year?

(It is perfectly okay to rake me over the coals [literally, in this weather] for not using the A/C I got.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

When Science, Classic Literature, and Religion Come Together...

This is definitely something to file in the historical records under "wow". Multispectral imaging, a technology developed by NASA and used for filming the surface of Mars, was first applied to piles of papyrus that was charred and buried when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in a.d. 79. The result? Long-lost ancient writings now clearly legible.

The scientists then applied the technique to massive stacks of burnt papyrus found in vast rubbish heaps in the ruins of the long-lost city of Oxyrhynchus, unearthed in the 19th century.

We now have several new pages to add to the chronicles of the Trojan War. We have a lost tragedy by Sophocles. We also have some early Gospels, such as the Gospel of Thomas, which was not included in the New Testament but is believed to be a more authentic record of Christ's actual words.

And people say space exploration is a waste of time and money...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

May Day Celebration!

May Day, traditionally the day to raise the Maypole and celebrate Spring, has been celebrated by this school since 1902! Interestly, John Langstaff, the creator of The Revels (now in many cities, including our own), was a music teacher for many years at this school. The May festivities also include "Morris Dancing", an ancient form of folk dance from England-here's a link to a group I've seen perform several times Bridgetown Morris Men. There's a women's group also!

Let's all go A-Maying! (Hippie flower garlands anyone?)

Friday, May 20, 2005

Heck With Viper...I Want One of THESE

A famous, if enigmatic, custom-made German super-roadster which was built in the late 30s and vanished without a trace soon after the start of WWII has now been reincarnated...with a 700-hp V-12 engine, no less!

Vielleight söllte es „Das Vadermobile" heißen...

Speaking of Missing Weather Service...

Apparently some members of congress are trying to put forth a measure that will make National Weather Service data unavailable to the general public except in emergency situations. The reason they are doing so is that commercial weather services in their districts are complaining about the lost business:

Sen. Rick Santorum, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate leadership, has at least 14 such commercial weather companies in his home state of Pennsylvania, including powerhouse AccuWeather. In April, Santorum introduced the National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005, which states that with the exception of the "preparation and issuance of severe weather forecasts and warnings designed for the protection of life and property of the general public," the National Weather Service must not provide any product or service "that is or could be provided by the private sector."

That sounds perfectly reasonable until you consider the fact that those private weather services use National Weather Service data, which is provided at taxpayers' expense in the first place. In other words, the public ends up paying for it twice.

Maybe grandpa's bunions really are the way to go.

No Rain in Portland...

We've had some pretty decent rain and hail storms over the last few days here in Portland. Of course, we don't get the REALLY big stuff like Oklahoma and Nebraska, but when it pours, I like to go check out the weather radar to see the cloud top heights, hail diameters, and all that fun stuff.

For the last few days, I've been going to Weather.com for Portland and the Weather Underground (Wunderground.com) and it shows our radar screen as blank. WOW! We live in the Mojave all of a asudden. At least Wunderground.com informs the user that the radar is down for scheduled maintenance.

If I were in charge of radar maintenance, the ONE TIME I wouldn't schedule a maintenance is in the middle of spring. Heck, spring and hurricane season are the only times having a radar provides any significant public value. At any rate, I will need to view my spring showers in shades of gray instead of green, yellow, and red.

Hopefully my computer doesn't get zapped. My surge protection sucks (precisely because I live in [normally] thunderstorm-averse Portland). Maybe I will take my computers down for maintenance for a few days...NOT.

Update: Wahoo! Radar is back up...just in time for things to dry out.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Review of Revenge of the Sith

Yoda rocks! Go see it. Time for bed. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Update: Now that I've had my nap and worked for 5 hours, I can note a few more things without giving anything away. I put "Revenge of the Sith" up with the original Star Wars movie in terms of quality and entertainment. It was well done. Special effects were vivid as always and the acting was good.

We saw the film at Lloyd Center cinema in their big theater. The room reminded me of the big theaters of old and that added to the experience. I am not sure why, but the first preview stopped about 3/4 through and there was a long, maybe 15 minute, delay. Not a cool thing when it is already after midnight. The mood was festive and people cheered for many things, but mostly for Yoda I think. I wonder why?

There were over a dozen people in costumes. Three were Imperial Stormtroopers that were reminiscent of riot police and there was a Padme en regalia. As always, there were a couple gals with Pricess Leia buns and a bunch of guys in robes.

There were plastic lightsabers everywhere. We were all sternly warned about turning them off along with our cell phones. We were also told we would be frog-marched to jail if we were caught with any recording devices including photo-ready cell phones. We were told that they had to protect Copyrights. The ghost of Benito Mussolini smiled broadly at the martial atmosphere. I bet those people felt very important. The weiners always do. A few people called Bulls**t. Business matters are a civil, not a criminal matter. Most people can't tell the difference anymore anyway. After the pall of that passed, things got perky again.

There were also TV crews there. Some of the costumed people were interviewed of course. I friend who came with me got a free Star Wars paper bag filled with promotional items including a glowing spoon (Spoonsabre?). I better watch it, the phrase might be Copyrighted. What do you call 10,000 dead digital rights lawyers? A good start. Just a joke, people. Just a joke.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Revenge of the Sleep

In an attempt to induce jet lag without actually flying, we will be seeing the midnight showing of "Revenge of the Sith." I was going to wear my Zaphod Beeblebrox costume, but was then informed by a Sir Edmund Blackadder that I am a prat and that I should pay more attention to past movies. Given that my shortest work day this week (today) was 10 hours, what could possibly go wrong?

In any case, the reviews are good so far and I hope that I either agree or catch a couple hours of shuteye. I doubt there will be many young children, so I will need to pay full price instead of stealing if I want chocolate. Given that I don't eat much of the stuff, maybe I will stick with eating my ticket (see post below for details).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I'm a Candy Snatching Bully

It was an impulse maneuver. The neighbor kid (who is almost 3) came over to visit and say Hi as he sometimes does (with Mom or Dad of course). Today he had a tasty morsel of chocolate. I stood behind our screen door and gave him my usual hello and said, "Can I see your chocolate?" Being a trusting lad, he extended it towards the edge of the screen door.

I grabbed the chocolate out of his hand, closed the screen door, closed the door and locked the dead bolt. I waited 973 milliseconds (about a second to those who loath metrics) and opened the door back up to give back the chocolate.

The boy was crestfallen. Normally he expects these sorts of cheap parlor tricks from me, but today he must have been overdue for a nap because he just stared at the ground. I gave him the little morsel and picked him up. He didn't cry but just kind of melted into my shoulder and held his chocolate behind his back.

Poor little guy. What kind of wretched shrew am I to do that to a little kid (type 37 as any shrew connoisseur could tell you)? Anyway, I got him another chocolate which he graciously accepted while simultaneously jettisoning the old morsel into Mom's hand. He was still pretty sheepish and I hope he sleeps it off, but I still feel pretty crummy.

Ah well, who cares? I forgive myself. Maybe tomorrow I will teach him that bees taste like chocolate and like to be petted; especially the bright yellow ones.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Changes in Links

This was long overdue...I changed the Dew Kid from his inactive blog to his active blog chronicling an on-line version of Magic Realm. Cool stuff!

Also, we've been graced by a visitor with a web site called Eugene Freaks. An audio edit from Rob there is based on the comment thread from my military base map post. Check it out here.

Anyway, Eugene Freaks is now on my list of freaks on the right under Snabby Friends.

The Electric Mower may rise again

I pulled out the batteries on my Black and Decker mower. I did some more searching and I found batteries for $28.60 each (you need two) at Amerizon. So $57.00 looks much better than $100+ (Black and Decker wants $100 for total battery replacement, so the $80+ place must have been either the wrong battery or something).

Still $57 every 3 years is pretty cheesy compared to a gas mower. I am looking to see if battery restoration (desulphation charger) is the answer as well. Maybe I can juice them up and make them last longer. This method might also work if we go solar some day. I want to make sure it really works before I try it though. There are many scams in electronics out there that aren't worth the money.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

I Hate Grass

I am talking about the linear-leafed members of Poacae (if memory serves), not the aromatic skunkweed that wafts over crowds at rock concerts. It is not a good idea to leave for the better part of three weeks in Oregon during April if you have a lawn, even if you mow half way through. I can't blame it all on the lawn of course. My Black and Decker (don't sue me you sh*ts) CMM100 electric mower lost its battery power after a stunning 3 years (2 batteries at $80+ each). I might be able to reinvigorate them with a charger, but I don't have one.

Luckily, I still have the old hand-me-down gas mower...unfortunately, the blades were dull and after my time away, some of the grass was over a foot tall. My neighbor, Bill, who has been a champ in recent times, sharpened the blades for me. That made it easier, but wet, cloggy grass is just a bastard; no way around it. I managed to get it mowed and raked at the highest setting. Today I set it lower and beat it down again. Bill has a riding mower and mowed the front as a lark...what a gem. People, you need to treasure good people when you find them...and be good back to them and to others on speculation...'Nilla Said.

I also have a weed eater that likes to feed line, then make lots of noise because the auto-chop blade is dull. I got it as a refurb and I am thinking it might be ready for the dung heap.

Well, enough about my minor problems. Other people have bigger fish to fry than I do, such as TheHer, Iraqis, and American Soldiers to name but 20 million.

I barbecued some burgers and asparagus tonight. It was popular with the household Snabulites. I used patties from Painted Hills beef (good stuff that I highly recommend) with some A-1 on it and seasoned the asparagus with a coating of olive oil, salt, pepper, and onion powder. All of it went on the grill and thus was dinner created.

I felt absolutely no effect from the US base realignment, but you probably already knew that.

Friday, May 13, 2005

From the Bureau of Useless Statistics

Well, I had better things to do, but I did this anyway. I used the Military Closures by State report put out by the Defense Dept. and made a map. I shaded the states who gained military jobs red and the states who lost jobs were in blue (colors chosen totally at random, I swear [fingers crossed]). Below that are two maps that compare the presidential vote totals in 2004 by county and state. As luck would have it, the chosen Republican color is red and the Democrats are blue. I got these maps from some folks at University of Michigan.

I did this only because I read some blogger or pundit recently say that it would be a shame if the military closures were based on politics instead of expediency. Did this happen? I will let you be the judge.

Here is my base closure map (thanks to EnchantedLearning.com for the blank)

Here are the 2004 election results by county:

Here are the 2004 election results by state:

I call it useless because there are a number of things not shown on this map such as how many were gained or lost. Perhaps a weighted distribution map would have shown more. Any bored grad students out there? For instance, there is no way to know from the map that Texas and Florida made big gains or that Iowa lost only six. You need to read the report for that.

Nonetheless, I hope the reader at least gains a deeper fondness for how red and blue make purple. It might help the next time you need to paint something.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Hiatus from the Hiatus...

...to see what condition my condition is in.

I spent most of the last three weeks out of town. A week of vacation was followed by a week and a half of work-related program activities. Now I am back home. The grass was over a foot tall (it took three hours to mow...it turns out I allowed my mower blades to become as dull as a butter knife...handle. No wonder it quit 50 times.) About half way through, my personal PC decided to melt down, taking the hard drive with it. The house patiently decided not to clean itself. Two of my neighbors are feuding with one experiencing mary-joo-awna related paranoia and the other drawing an indelible line in the sand of things said that can't be undone. Did I mention that three weeks of work piled up as well?

Nonetheless, it was time well spent. Lake Chelan in Central Washington is a beautiful and pleasant place. It fills a formerly glacial valley hanging a few hundred feet over the current level of the mighty Columbia River. Glaciation scoured the valley so that the lake bottom is actually 400 feet below sea level! Well, it impressed me anyway. The remote town of Stehekin is a 50 mile boat ride away and there is no road to it. Boats, barges, and seaplanes are the only available routes. Check it out someday if you can.

The whole family flew to company HQ in Philly the next week. The family stayed long enough to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the US Mint while I had meetings with the boss and co-workers. That evening we had dinner at a local winery and a company picnic in the rain the next day. The gals flew home and I jetted off to Atlanta for a product training. The training facility (in Peachtree City) is owned by the vendor and it was the perfect marriage of capitalism and communism. I was calling it a corporate commune.

The place was completely self-contained like a resort, but it was geared towards business activities. The setting was the Georgia pine woods with a lake full of carp, catfish, and perch. The hotel, recreation facilities, training classrooms, restaurant/cafeteria, and lounge were all in the same complex. They issued a badge which was the ticket to three gourmet meals/day and an unreal snack spread during training breaks. I was warned that I could gain 10 pounds and I think I might have gained five (even while trying to be careful). It was a great place to train because the normal travel worries from shuttles/taxis on down the line were taken care of, so it was easy to focus on the product without a great deal of outside interference.

However, the most important thing I got out of this trip was three weeks away from computers, news, and politics. I regained an appreciation for the complexities of life that are simply not addressed by our bipolar political/press system. Working at home, it was too easy to read the Internet and think the whole world was somehow wedged somewhere between Commondreams.org and The Drudge Report. Getting back out and talking to a diversity of people reinforces the idea that it is a big world and a big country with many disparate viewpoints and values. In short, I relearned how to keep my mouth shut and my ears open. You learn a lot that way.

I wonder how long it will take before I get sucked back into the crucible of alter egos and intellectual fisticuffs of internet politti? I will try to avoid it...

Monday, May 09, 2005

Fanfare, Please!

I really hope no one finds a "From the April 1st Edition" buried on this one. If it's for real, it's probably one of the best medical breakthroughs of the decade. At any rate, it just goes to show that traditional medical advice sometimes really does know best.

Still, it seems like a sort of vicious trade-off, kind of like the antidote you take for a brown recluse spider bite, but which can wreck your liver, or cancer treatments that can give you a few more years of life but leave you seriously messed up in the meantime.

Mmm...single malt! A toast to your health (or mine, anyway)!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Lest We Forget One of our Favorite Home Legends...

He has been less than favorably portrayed in several movies and TV programs. He has been pursued by all manner of would-be investigators ranging from modern-day bounty hunters with high-tech equipment to wild-eyed teenagers just out for a thrill. He has been hoaxed, both blatantly and surreptitiously. Various bits of evidence suggesting his existence have been picked apart at length by all manner of researchers, determined skeptics, and eager-to-believe enthusiasts. The most famous visual "proof" has been described in wildly differing ways by different "experts" over the years, most recently with evidence of its apparent falsehood...which has in itself become the subject of much debate. He is a fearsome monster to some, a benign, mystical beast to others, a thrilling legend to many, and a preposterous bit of fairy-tale hokum to many others.

Who am I talking about?

(Cue in an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, in which a dead serious, Native American man says:) "Sasquatch. You call him...bigfoot."
(You can't leave out that dramatic pause in the middle, or it just doesn't work.)

Yes, sasquatch is still very much a part of the American cultural landscape. In fact, there are still a great many people that truly believe he is part of the literal landscape. It seems that a very large percentage of sightings (and hearings) over the years have taken place in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, mainly up in the heavily-forested mountain regions. Several encounters have occurred in areas that some of us that frequent this site have visited (including Colton, home of a certain church camp...). I guess you could say that sasquatch is an inextricable part of Oregon culture, as well.

Hmm...I wonder if he likes smoked salmon, hazelnuts, and craft ale...

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Top 10 Most Bizarre Movies of All Time

Okay, enough about musical instruments already (especially since I seem to be the only one left posting on this site). How 'bout we talk movies, 'kay?

The linked site gives some critic's list of what he considers the ten most bizarre movies he's ever seen. I only remember having seen one of them, but judging by the descriptions, I might have "seen" others and had my faculties too jarred to have the memory stick.

I'm surprised he didn't include "Brazil". That movie left my cognitive array in total disarray for hours afterward.


Have a look at the list and see what you might add.