Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Coffee: it's still hot

Remember a few months ago when I was ranting and raving about how stupid people can be (oh wait, that was yesterday), and how I'd never allow my mother to mix her creamer into her coffee IN MY CAR, because, and she completely supports this, SHE'D SPILL IT!  I'd have a mess in my car, my mother would have to change her clothes, and she could possibly have burns.  Who wins here?  Apparently she would, if she sued me.

Read on **:

Memories last forever

It's time again for the annual 'Stella Awards'! For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the Mc Donald's in New Mexico, where she purchased coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right? That's right; these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep your head scratcher handy.

Here are the Stellas for this past year -- 2010 :


Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.

Start scratching!


Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.

Scratch some more...


Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, who was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter

the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight, count 'em, EIGHT days and survive on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's insurance company claiming undue mental Anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish. Keep scratching. There are more...

Double hand scratching after this one.....


Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place in the Stella's when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor's beagle - even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.

Pick a new spot to scratch, you're getting a bald spot....


Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. What ever happened to people being responsible for their own actions?

Only two more so ease up on the scratching...


Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000....oh, yeah, plus dental expenses. Go figure.

OK. Here we go!!!


This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was: Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her, are you sitting down?

$1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.

The winners this year are particularly stupid.....they must drink tea.......

**I didn't actually write any of these, so I take no responsibility for any grammatical or typographical errors.

Monday, March 21, 2011

*Shocking* mid-month resolution update and a shout-out to a friend

I've already spent way too much time at work this week because I'm having a really random train of thought that will probably only make sense to me, but as the first step towards conquering any problem is to identify said problem, I figure I'm ahead of the game just by acknowledging that it's a random train of thought.  Hopefully it's not so random that it's not worth the few minutes you're spending reading this blog.

Anyway, today I decided to remove two items from my resolution list.  The first is "Find a Writing Job."  Yes, I would love to be a writer, but the problem is, I already have a job.  A job that consumes way too  much of my time.  And while I'd never consider myself lazy, I've been doing mental cost-benefit analyses of this particular resolution for a while, and I've come to the conclusion that to make a standard of living even up to 50% of what I'm making right now would take way more work than doing my current job.  And while I'd have more free time to travel and do other things I love if I were a writer, I'd have less money with which to enjoy them.  And, (we're going to see how many sentences I can start with "and;" I know all sorts of fun games) what I'd like to do is be a novelist (I think), so if I'm going to spend my precious free time doing writing related things, I may as well be doing novel-writing related things. 

The second thing I've decided to remove from my resolutions list is "No Coffee/Soda (change/improve diet)."  It's not so much that I don't need to improve my diet, or that I'm not going to try, but I've decided to remove this from my resolutions list because I'm going to go about a different way of doing it.  Here's my shout-out to my friend, Tiffany, The Budgetnista.  Seriously, you should check out her site, her facebook page and buy her book. 

Anyway, she has this philosophy that there are four general categories of things you spend your money on: things you want, things you like, things you love, and things you need.  She wants you to ask yourself if you want it, like it, love it, or need it before you buy something.  Because, if you stop buying things you want or like, you'll have more money for the things you love or need.  Her example is that she likes watching TV and eating out, but she LOVES traveling.  So she cancelled her cable and stopped eating out (okay, I can't say ever here, but she at least cut back).  And last year she was able to travel to something fantastic like 14 countries. 

So, here's where this ties into my resolutions.  Before I eat something not useful, I'm going to ask myself if I want it, like it, love it, or need it.  Today I was craving a Coke.  But I decided I just wanted it.  So I ate my clementine.  I LOVE Entenmann's crumb cake, but I can't find it in California, so when I go home to New Jersey, my mom buys me one for myself.  And I eat the entire thing.  And I don't feel any regret.  But since I haven't been home in over a year, I think I'm entitled.  But I drink Coke more than once a year.

And now I've come to the end of my random train of thought and have completely lost steam and have spent the last 15 minutes looking at friends' facebook pages, so I have no conclusion tonight.   

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Door Snake

Remember when I was all, I'm going to be super GREEN? Well, somewhere along the way, I fell off that bandwagon.  Work became more stressful, my sister abandoned me to a different farmer's market, and my husband changed shifts, so we're just not cooking as much.  And there was also the whole how-much-is-my-time-worth/how-much-time-do-I-want-to-invest-in-this debate. 

As I've discussed earlier, we recycle as much as possible, we use re-usable bags, etc., etc., but I'm not going to skip out on showers, and I have no interest in getting my hands dirty in a garden.  In fact, we haven't joined a CSA because I don't like vegetables that much, and the thought of getting a whole box of them every week (or two) completely overwhelms me. 

But, while my mother was here helping me recover from surgery, she made us a door snake.  Okay, I'm not actually sure what they are technically called, but it's one of those things that you put in front of the door and it prevents a draft from blowing in (see pic in ad...btw, Mom, you could be making a TON selling these things!).  Yes, I live in San Diego, but it does get cold at night, and we do turn the heat on, and there's no sense in allowing all of that heat to escape when the laundry/sewing/cooking fairy is in our house! 

And ours is purple, so it's way more attractive than what you can buy on-line.  I keep telling my mom to open up an etsy account because she sews a ton, but she keeps saying she's not interested in selling stuff.  Anyway, if you're interested in your own door snake, let me know, and I'll see if my mom is interested in making you one. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Resolution Followup: February

The calculation for the success rate for my resolutions for February became slightly more complicated than it was for January due to two events: I had surgery, and I paid off my car.  The raw number is that I accomplished 98 of the possible 280 things in February, for a success rate of 35%.  This is not as good as January.  However, if you count paying off my car as 100% successful, it would count as 28 items, which would boost my score to 124 (trust me on this math) out of 280, or 44%.  I then decided to deduct two from the denominator because I had surgery on the 28th, and while I'm sure no one expected me to do all that much that day, I absolutely could not exercise or stretch.  So my total was 124 out of 278, or a 45% success rate. 

Additionally, the categories that I succeeded the most at, were, unsurprisingly, reading with 24 occurrences flossing with 20, and exercising with 16.

I'm actually debating removing "write a novel" and "find a writing" job from my resolutions because they are just really hard to do.  But on the other hand, that's sort of the point of resolutions, isn't it?  I'm in this wishy-washy state with my career, and I'm feeling a little bit like I'm letting my life happen to me, and am not being quite as proactive as I should be, and again I'm going to blame my job.  Between the hours, the fact that I think my company is nuts, and the stress, I'm just all around exhausted.  And no one can do everything all of the time anyway, so as long as I do something every day, I'm going to consider it a success.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Science is...

This is another one of those posts I started a million years ago before my job hijacked my life.  Sigh.

Fun?  Funny?  Amusing?  More interesting than you'd think if you only had a public school education.

I just finished reading The Science of Harry Potter by Roger Highfield.  I know I've blogged about this book in the past, but I still have more to say.  Growing up with a librarian for a mom, I always forget that I'm actually allowed to write in my own books if I want to.  Which proves to be helpful if I want to take notes. (Somehow, I had no issue writing in my college textbooks, but this was after I was prompted by my English professor, who pointed out that I bought the books to succeed in his class, and if highlighting or whatever helped, what was the problem.  They were my books.)

Anyway, there's a chapter called The Greatest Wizard, and it's all about the Muggle brain.  A subsection called ...and Stop the Movement That Shows the Passing of Time discusses how sometimes when you look at a clock you think that the second hand has stopped moving.  This section discusses how the brain can stretch time because of "the way it edits reality."  What happens is that when you move your eyes to focus on something (in this case, a clock), what should happen is that the new object appears blurry (duh, we've just moved our eyes, so we haven't been looking at it), but then everything would appear blurry every time we moved our eyes, and that's generally not the case.  What happens is that our brains actually cut off our vision while our eyes are moving.  But then, to prevent us from being totally confused by this, it adds back on the time taken to move our eyes.  This actually makes "the image appear earlier than it actually did."  The section goes on to discuss various experiments that prove this, but I was just fascinated by what our brains do so that every time we shift our gaze everything doesn't appear blurry. 

OMG.  In another chapter, There Be Dragons. Really, a subsection, The Basilisk, talks about how evidence of an ancestor of the basilisk was found in the Faiyum Depression in Egypt.  Fossils of Gigantophis were found in areas of what are now Egypt and Libya.  This snake had vertebra that are larger than an anaconda's vertebra.  Unfortunately, (or I suppose fortunately), it seems that this snake did not have the venomous bite of the snake in the Chamber of Secrets, based on they types of venom snakes have today.

In the same chapter, this one sentence amused me: Celts believed that the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, an amazing structure consisting of around 40,000 geometrically shaped basalt columns, was the work of one of Hagrid's relatives.

Chapter 13: The Philosopher's Stone

I'm just going to quote this paragraph.

Thanks to the intervention of Harry and his school chums, however, the Dark Lord does not succeed, joining a long line of individuals, from Chinese rulers to Holy Roman emperors, and many more besides, who have tried,and failed, in the age-old quest to find the elusive stone.  The "philosopher" in question was a natural philosopher, the designation used for a scientist before the latter term was coined in the 1840s by William Whewell, a polymath who was a fellow of the Royal Society in London. (Because the term "philosopher" sounds somewhat dull and worthy, the publisher of the American edition of the first Harry Potter book changed its title to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when in fact, it should have been Harry Potter and the Scientist's Stone.

There's a big long section in this chapter on Hermetism that I'm going to try to sum up, but what was interesting to me was that Nicolas Flamel was a real person, and I quote "'Among the many effects of the Harry Potter phenomenon has been the introduction of a fabled character from the history of chemistry to millions of readers who otherwise would probably have never heard of him,' comments Lawrence Primcipe of Johns Hopkins University, and expert on alchemy."  I had no idea that there even were fabled characters in chemistry.  Back to Hermetism and Nicolas Flamel, Hermetiscism is some sort of semi-religious and quasi-magical set of ideas that forms the basis of alchemy.  Flamel had this book that instructed him on how to turn elements into silver or gold using red or white philosopher's stones.  He traveled around a bit and wrote a couple of books on the subject.  However, his story does not seem to check out.  (Go figure)  Flamel and his wife did exist, but it's unlikely that they actually performed any alchemy.  However, their work influenced other alchemists like Robert Boyle and sir Isaac Newton.  That's still a legacy to me.

However the chapter does state: "Thanks to the transmutations of cosmic alchemy we are all, in effect, made of stardust.  Now that is magic."

And did you know that there's a rare disease called Werner's Syndrome in which people appear to age in adolescence, and usually die before the age of 50?  That's interesting and disturbing.

The next chapter, Belief, Superstition and Magic, was also very interesting to me.  Apparently, our "common sense" that is hard-wired into our brains is actually "common sense for living on the African savanna," and not so much common-sense-for-modern-urban-life.  Somehow, though, I think I'll survive a lot longer in modern life than on the African savanna.  For one thing, I don't like being dirty. 

However, this helps explain our tendency to anthropomorphize.  "In the face of persuasive (if mostly unconscious) uncertainty about what we perceive, we bet on the most meaningful interpretation we can."  Basically, this is why we get spooked at night.  If we're out somewhere and something in the dark might be a mugger or an overflowing garbage bin, it's in our best interest to assume it's a mugger because if we're right, our flight-or-fight instincts will help, and if we're wrong, we just have a little laugh about how silly we are. 

Does anybody else remember imaginary numbers?  I loved imaginary numbers.  I loved that the same group of people who came up with something as tedious and mundane as geometric proofs could also come up with something as strange as the square root of a non-positive real number.  (I realize I'm probably mixing mathematical fields, but whatever.  It all counted the same way on your transcripts.)  And was anybody else ever bothered by pi?  I always thought, why would you divide the circumference of a circle by the diameter and come up with something as random as 3.14159... and think that it's the right answer, even though it works every time?  I mean, why wouldn't you have tried that seven or eight times, and thought, this is a random number, and tried something else?  And then, it really pissed me off that because of this stupid pi, there was no such thing as a "perfect" circle.  You can totally draw a perfect circle with a compass.  I don't see why it's not perfect simply because when you divide it's circumference by it's diameter it comes up to some number that has a never-ending decimal. 

But I have been validated! 

A century ago, it was thought that the power of mathematics was limitless.  Mathematicians, notably David Hilbert, had believed that every question could be resolved and shown to be true or false.  That dream died on November 17, 1930 when a journal called the Monatshefte fur Mathematik und Physik  received a twenty-five page paper written by Kurt Godel, a logician working in Vienna who was the first to demonstrate that certain mathematical statements can neither be proved or disproved.  In effect, Godel showed the inevitability of finding in arithmetic logical paradoxes that are the equivalent of the statement "This statement is unprovable." In other words, if it is provable, it is false, and mathematics is therefore inconsistent.  And if it's unprovable,then it is true and mathematics is incomplete.

I realize that this doesn't specifically say, pi might be wrong, but it also doesn't say, pi is absolutely right. 

Finally, the book concludes that while science is really cool, even if history were to rerun differently, we'd still eventually develop the same scientific models and theories. 

If Newton had not, as Wordsworth put it, voyaged through strange seas of thought alone, someone else would have.  If Marie Curie had not lived, we still would have discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium.  But if J. K. Rowling had not been born, we would never have known about Harry Potter.  That is why Master Potter means so much to me.  Science may be special but Harry, as a work of art, is more so.  Harry Potter is unique. 

Doesn't that just make your eyes well up that you are not the only one who is so moved by art?  As a mild digression, there was a contest to win the Beedle the Bard book way back when there were only 6...it was put on by Amazon, and the winner was a girl who wrote a poem about what she was doing in school each year a Harry Potter book came out, and she ended by saying what a great adventure it was and how she had learned all of these things about growing up and friendships and dragons and such, but the best part was, and I'm paraphrasing, growing up with Harry, mostly I learned to read. Yup, I'll confess, I cried.  Okay.  I just found the poem.  Here it is:

Rhiannon D., age 16, Australia

When I was six, he was eleven
I learnt how to be brave.

When I was seven, he was twelve
I learnt to misbehave.

When I was eight, he was thirteen
He taught me how to cry.

When I was nine, he was fourteen
He showed me how to try.

When I was twelve, and he fifteen
He taught me to forgive.

When we were fourteen and sixteen
I learnt what it was to live.

When we were fifteen and seventeen
He showed me he could bleed.

But growing up with Harry taught me, mostly, how to read.

Anyway, for those readers of mine who are still with me in this long post, and who aren't looking for their hanky right now, I've got more!  You can read Rhiannon's blog about the experience here.

So back to the book about which I'm actually supposed to be blogging.  If you skip past the references section, you come to the glossary, which in itself is amusing.

For instance, it explains the spell, densaugeo, which Malfoy uses to make Hermione's teeth grow very fast.  There is a gene that controls tooth growth, and Stanley Cohen administered an extract of this gene to newborn mice and caused their teeth to grow prematurely, but the best part is that in his lecture he called it "precocious tooth eruption."  Somewhat surprisingly to me, when you google that, you get around 200 results.  That's not a whole lot considering it's google, but still, 200 instances of that phrasing!

I am a little confused about the entry on entropy.  I always thought, in a nutshell, entropy stated that in the end, everything will be at rest.  As in, when the sun goes out and we no longer have that to power the earth, eventually, all molecules will stop moving and everything will come to rest.  Of course, we'll be dead by then so it won't matter to us.  However, this book describes entropy as "a quantity which determines a system's capacity to evolve irreversibly in time...loosely speaking, we may also think of entropy as measuring the degree of randomness or disorder in a system."

Moving on to things that are less confusing and way more interesting, there's a field of biology called evolutionary developmental biology that is apparently nicknamed evo devo.  How silly is that?

In discussing dreamless sleep, Shakespeare is quoted, sort of: "To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation?"

And the last thing I'm going to say about this book is regarding Harry's scar.  I think as a kid, you learn that if you pick at that scab on your knee or elbow, it will leave a scar, but I never thought to wonder why.  Why doesn't your skin just grow back normally?  After all, you shed tons of skin cells everyday and they seem to grow back normally.  And apparently, scarring doesn't occur in tissue damage before birth.  I'm not entirely sure how tissue gets damaged before birth, but I think they've discovered ways to do surgeries on fetuses, so that would be one possibility.  I'm going to see if I can translate this long paragraph into something shorter without destroying the science behind it.  When you have a wound proteins migrate into the wound site in an abnormal patterns, which cause disorganized fiber growth, which causes the valleys and ridges that make scarring less smooth than regular skin. 

In conclusion, I'd say this book is very interesting, but because it's about science in general and not a particular field, some parts are going to be more or less interesting than others, depending on your predilections.  However, I clearly enjoyed this book, and because I'm a kind and generous person, I'll send you my copy if you'd like to read it.  The deal is, though, that when you're done you have to pass it on to someone else.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Deeds of the Disturber (An Amelia Peabody Mystery, #5)The Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Deeds of the Disturber was pretty good. It's been better edited than some of the other books in the series, and Ramses has fully outgrown that stupid lisp. He still is an inconceivable child to me, but I guess you're allowed to do that when you write fiction. This book introduced a number of new characters, and two of them were Lords, so that became a little confusing. Also one of the Lords was dying of something, and I deduced it was syphilis, but in proper Victorian fashion, the book was very discrete about it. I think I prefer when the series takes place in Egypt (they were in England in this addition), and I'm really not sure that including Peabody's family added anything useful to the story line, but all in all, it was a very enjoyable read.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Feeling Good

Here's another post from a while ago.  It's amazing how working 6 days a week can destroy any organization your life once had!

I am currently reading Feeling Good by David Burns.  Chapter 5 is called Do-Nothingism: How to Beat it.  This chapter lists several mindsets associated with procrastination and do-nothingism.  Number three is Overwhelming Yourself, and Burns says:

There are several ways you may overwhelm yourself into doing nothing.  You may magnify a task to the degree that it seems impossible to tackle.  You may assume you must do everything all at once instead of breaking each job down into small, discrete, manageable units which you can complete one step at a time.  You might also inadvertently distract yourself from the task at hand by obsessing about endless other things you haven't gotten around to doing yet.  To illustrate how irrational this is, imagine that every time you sat down to eat, you thought about all the food you would have to eat during your lifetime.  Just imagine for a moment that all piled up in front of you are tons of meat, vegetables, ice cream, and thousands of gallons of fluids!  And you have to eat every bit of this food before you die!  Now, suppose that before every meal you said to yourself, "This meal is just a drop in the bucket.  How can I ever get all that food eaten? There's just no point in eating one hamburger tonight." You'd feel so nauseated and overwhelmed your appetite would vanish and your stomach would turn into a knot.  When you think about all the things you are putting off, you do this very same thing without being aware of it.

What's funny about this is that I have thought about all of the food I'm going to have to eat.  I've often said what a pain in the neck it is to have to eat MULTIPLE TIMES EVERY DAY.  Not that I want to eat all of the food I'm going to have to eat in the rest of my life right now, but it would be nice to only have to eat, say once a week.  Think of all of the time you'd save preparing meals and doing dishes.  And what would be even better is if after you ate everything you'd need to eat in a week, you could do all of the sleeping you'd need to do.  Then, you'd have several straight days in a row to get everything else done.  While I'm very good at overwhelming myself, somehow, this example just doesn't work for me!