Zhaba Zhournal
Saturday, May 31, 2003 
Department of "no kidding" 
Get ready to act really surprised: Richard Chamberlain fesses up to being gay. (I don't know, maybe there are people who are surprised. But I think the gay community has had it figured out for, oh, forty years or so.)

[ at 7:22 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Nigerian spam 
Hey, someone's actually prosecuting Nigerian e-mail spammers. (Someone Nigerian, even. It's the country's new, and long-overdue, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.) Among the charges is that a Dutchman was scammed of $1.7 million. Um...how dumb was that Dutchman? Is he interested in buying the Brooklyn Bridge?

[ at 7:14 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Justice and/or the law 
Good week for catching evil killer scum: first the Louisiana serial killer, now the Olympic Park et al. bomber. Now all we need is for them to meet in prison and kill each other, and that'll be two problems solved. (Okay, okay, alleged evil killer scum.)

Also, Florida finally repealed that awful "Scarlet Letter" adoption law. (The one that required women who wanted to put children up for adoption and who didn't know who the father was to publish a newspaper ad describing themselves and when, where, and with whom they had sex, even if they were underage or victims of rape.) Certainly, it is a good thing that the lawmakers removed their heads from their asses long enough to repeal the stupid law (and even before this, they added a provision that it didn't apply to rape victims); it is, however, a bad thing that it got passed in the first place. Especially when you consider this quote from the New York Times article on it:
When the original legislation was approved, many lawmakers who voted for it said later that they did not read it thoroughly and were unaware that it contained the publication provision.
Great...so we've got legislators who are passing laws that drive women to humiliation, depression, despair, and sometimes even abortion, which actually hinder the adoption process, because they didn't read the fucking law in the first place. Jeez! There should be some kind of pop quiz for lawmakers: you have to answer ten questions about the law you're about to vote on, and if it turns out you don't know enough about it, you're not allowed to vote. Or you have to sit there and read it right then, with someone standing over you and checking your work. If I had to read every damn word of Catcher in the Rye to pass my freshman English class, they should have to read every word to pass a law.

[ at 6:25 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Friday, May 30, 2003 
Title of the day 
In the endnotes of an article about wine in the New Testament: Courtesans and Fishcakes. Hm. Is it either-or, or can you get them together? How about to go?

As J. would say, the possibilities are mindless...

[ at 1:47 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Say "cheese" 
Via Presurfer: an experiment by the Laugh Lab (the people who brought you the "funniest joke in the world" experiment) on whether you can tell a real from a fake smile. Much to my surprise, I correctly identified ten out of ten. Gosh. I had no idea I could read people, or at least photographs of people, that well.

[ at 12:32 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Friday Five 
1. What do you most want to be remembered for?

Causing no intentional harm, and remaining true to my principles; and, hopefully, having principles that are, and remain, fair and honest.

(And writing good novels that actually get published, but I don't know if I'll be able to make that happen.)

2. What quotation best fits your outlook on life?

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."—Samuel Beckett (cheerful, I know).

3. What single achievement are you most proud of in the past year?

Not having a complete nervous breakdown due to the stress of planning my wedding.

4. What about the past ten years?

Getting an A on a paper from Harold Bloom—a paper he didn't even agree with. (It compared the roles of Shylock and Antonio in The Merchant of Venice; the title was "'Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?': Antonio, Shylock, and the Merchandise of Venice.")

5. If you were asked to give a child a single piece of advice to guide them through life, what would you say?

Know that you don't know everything, but trust what you know that you know.

[ at 10:06 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, May 29, 2003 
Out and about 
Took advantage of the nice weather to walk home; it's about a mile. My feet hurt, but not too much. Now I've got the blinds up and the windows open, affording me a lovely view of the backs of the houses across the alley, but, more importantly, sunlight and fresh air. (As fresh as air can be in South Philly, anyway.)

Once saw a guy jogging on the Platt Bridge, over the refineries and the sewage treatment center; couldn't help wondering if it was counterproductive, or at least counterbalancing.

[ at 5:41 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Spam satire 
When life gives you spam, make fun of it: The 3rd Annual Nigerian EMail Conference. Including:
  • Debate:
    Attend a lively debate between Lady Mariam Abacha and Mr. Godwin Oyathelem. Topic: "The effectiveness of using all UPPERCASE characters."
  • Practical Discussion:
    Mallam Mahmud Abacah answers the question, "Are 10 million emails a day too many?"
  • Economics:
    A round table discussion: Is email now Nigeria's top export?
(Via anything but ordinary, via Presurfer.)

[ at 4:07 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Gender? What? 
According to Spark.com's Gender Test, I am a man. (They have 80% confidence in it.) Last time I took it, a year or so ago, I was a woman. But in both cases, I was right smack dab in the middle of their chart; I guess I just edged a few millimeters over into masculinity.

I've always been on the balancing point of a duality: bipolar, bisexual, and a Gemini. And I've never been particularly gender-specific; I'm afraid of roaches, but I drive stick; I wear lipstick, but I keep my wallet in my pants pocket.

Somebody once said "Gender is overrated," but I forget who. (Either a woman or someone non-heterosexual, or both, I'm guessing.)

[ at 1:31 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Satellite art 
Very cool Web site: Earth as Art. Landsat satellite images, some artificially recolored, that could give any modern artist a run for his/her money. River deltas, weather patterns, mountain ranges, crenellated fjords, flowing glaciers...my favorite so far is this almost-abstract cloud vortex. There's also an environmentally-frightening, mosaic-like image of Bolivian deforestation. Prints are available; if I had any wall space, I'd buy some.

[ at 11:55 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Geek test 
Time for the test lemming thing: the geek test. And I am:

39.25049% - Major Geek

I'm not sure if I should be proud of that.

[ at 11:16 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Burning down the Net 
I guess everyone in the blogosphere knows about this by now: a blogging shutdown due to a fire in NAC's DSR room. The Net always seems like some intangible, omnipresent entity, which it kind of is; very strange to think of it being affected by something so quotidian as a fire in New Jersey, of all places.

[ at 9:27 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Woke up this morning and noticed something very odd: Light coming in the windows. Light! From outside! How strange! Moreover, the sky was blue. You mean it comes in colors other than gray?

However, this odd situation won't last long. Clouds and rain predicted for this afternoon. Yup, back to normal soon...

[ at 9:21 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, May 28, 2003 
On-air correction of the day 
NBC Nightly News: Tom Brokaw refers to the 50th anniversary of the ascent of Mt. Everest by "Sir Edmund Hillary and his sherpa guide." J.: "...who has a name! It's not like 'Sir Edmund Hillary and his faithful dog.'" We both grumbled at the TV. Apparently someone right in the studio grumbled too, because at the end of the broadcast, Brokaw did his best not to look sheepish when he said that he had to make a correction; of course, the sherpa did have a name (Tenzing Norgay, if no one's mentioned it to you today, which wouldn't surprise me).

[ at 10:18 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Font geekery 
At last, I have found the name of the font I have been craving: Trebuchet MS. I like it almost solely for the lowercase g: g. Even better in italic: g. I could look at it all day: ggggg.

Okay, I know, enough of that for now. Still: it's remarkable how an appealing font can lure you to read the text it styles.

[ at 3:28 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Archaeologists really never know where they're going to find things: while searching caves at Ein Gedi (near the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found), archaeologists discovered textiles from the second century A.D.—in an owl's nest. Yes, one man's antiquities are another bird's nesting materials.

[ at 1:07 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Nothin' much 
Nothing much to report today. The weather continues to be dull and gray, but that pretty much goes without saying these days. (I think we've had exactly one and a half days of sunshine in the entire month of May.) Work continues to be dull, if not gray. (Chasing down italics and transliterated Hebrew in the Biblical Archaeology Review; whee.) I seem to have picked up some annoying sleep habits that drive J. to sleep on the futon, although tonight he came back after I had stopped running in my dreams, or whatever I was doing.

Watched about three hours of forensic shows on the Discovery Channel last night (yeah, there's a real mood-lifter). One of them was about a murderer who killed four people between 1967 and 1973, three of them children. He finally confessed, after police found pieces of his fourth victim wrapped up and labeled in his freezer; hours later, he hung himself in his cell. To which I say, the world would be a better place if he'd done that in 1966. Oh well...at least they caught the Louisiana serial killer scumbag.

[ at 12:08 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Tuesday, May 27, 2003 
World's smallest dog 
Why, God, why?: The world's smallest dog. This is not what early man had in mind when he domesticated the wolf.

[ at 11:17 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Lemming (of the B.D.A.?) 
I've gone and done it: I've blogrolled. (As you can presumably see to the right.) Figured it was about time I put in some bloglinks, and made my righthand column a bit more useful. Fame and fortune will follow, right?

Well, maybe not.

Extra points if you pick up on the reference in the title of this entry.

[ at 7:45 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

A metaphor 
I've finally discovered a metaphor for the sound of a Siamese cat in heat: a fire engine stuck in traffic. Not in terms of volume, of course (though not for lack of trying on the cat's part), but the pitch, tone, and urgency are remarkably similar.

(Heard the fire engine wailing while walking home from CVS; traffic was backed up in various weird ways, there was honking and shouting everywhere, but I couldn't figure out exactly where the truck was. Anyway, I believe there is a special place in Hell for people who get in, or don't get out of, the way of emergency vehicles that have their lights and sirens going.)

[ at 6:27 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Stupid spam 
What kind of lame spammer sends spam with broken graphic links? Nothing like a big box with the dreaded red "x" to make people want to click on your link. (Sarcasm: "click on your link"="avoid your link like the plague.")

[ at 4:31 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

This strikes me as very, very odd: there are books about blogging. Not just cyber-intellectual studies of it, either; actual books about how to blog. (See some of them in this Amazon.com search result.) I'm extremely surprised that anyone interested in blogging wouldn't have enough Internet savvy to find information on-line. It's not like there's a paucity of it; heck, some people think it's taking over the Web. (An Internet version of that classic horror movie: "The Blog," rather than "The Blob.")

[ at 3:08 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

In the news 
Headline: Rumsfeld: U.S. Won't Let Iraq Be Made Into New Iran.

Ah. So that whole thing about "letting Iraqis choose their own government" actually meant "letting Iraqis choose a government the U.S. wants them to have." I gotcha.

[ at 10:14 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

A very international day yesterday: India, Yugoslavia, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Romania. Today, someone searching for "spamming bureau" got to my Evil Spam page; I've done at least one good thing for humanity today.

[ at 9:52 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

My aunt, after last week's medical emergency, is doing remarkably well, as reported in this e-mail from my mom:
Connie will be coming home 5/28 or 5/29 and is being called the Miracle Patient. She arrived via helicopter in the most dire, unstable condition, gold level, and has made a remarkable recovery which has surprised the medical staff. She will need some rehab but not much and has recovered ramazingly from the stroke and surgery. She will be allowed to go up and down stairs once a day and is extremely tired but anxious to get back to her life. Her aorta is defective and she will be watched closely. They also suggested her kids be checked and if they have the problem, they will need to be watched and probably have surgery at some point to correct it. Hard to believe just a week ago they weren't sure she would survive and were predicting severe deficits! Prayers do get answered!
Amen to that...

[ at 9:32 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Another bug 
Another huge black cockroach last night; this one, however, was crawling slowly across the living room floor while the lights were on. J. opined that one of our neighbors had bug-sprayed their house and now the cockroaches were crawling out to die. The sooner the better, I say, and preferably not in our house. I did refrain from screaming; just inhaled very sharply and called, in a quavering voice, "Honey? Bug!" So J. came down and whacked it and threw it away. No further cockroaches in the mouse room; good. I don't want to bug-spray the mouse room, lest we harm the mice. It's tough when your vermin have vermin...

[ at 9:23 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Monday, May 26, 2003 
In my anti-Cyrillic-misuse post, I didn't mean to imply that everyone who doesn't know how those Cyrillic characters are pronounced is a frickin' moron; only those who are producing a two-part, four-hour special on Russia, and have, presumably, at least some ability to discover which Cyrillic character is which. (E.g., "Hey, can someone get a production assistant to type 'cyrillic alphabet' into Google?")

[ at 9:26 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Another peeve 
Dear History Channel,

Kievan Rus' is not Russia. (And vice-versa.)



(I actually did watch 15 minutes of the Russia special, but turned it off because I was getting too annoyed. Also because J. has another, or is continuing to have the same, interminable headache; but mostly because I was annoyed.)

[ at 9:23 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Liquor's not quicker 
The laws regarding alcohol in Pennsylvania are ridiculously Byzantine and often bizarre (for instance: you can't buy wine and beer in the same store, and in an official beer distribution outlet you can only buy it by the case, but in a properly licensed convenience store you can buy a six-pack [but no wine]). There have been some rather half-hearted attempts by the Liquor Control Board to make the system a little more consumer-friendly; a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist sums some of these up in an article with the wonderful headline Too little liquor, too much control.

[ at 8:21 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Peeve of the day 
Dear History Channel,

I would like to call your attention to the following Cyrillic letter:

You may recognize it as the one you are using for the "R" in the logo for your Russia: Land of the Tsars special.

Well, you frickin' morons, it's not an R. It's pronounced "ya." I don't care if you think it looks like an R, or if you think it makes your logo look more Russian, or anything else; it's not an R. Got that?

While I'm at it, I'd like to call your attention, as well as the attention of everyone else who designs logos for Russian-themed things, to the following Cyrillic letters:

I have seen them used as, respectively, "N" and "U."

Well, you frickin' morons, they're pronounced, respectively, "i" and "ts." Bugger your Russian-looking logos; they just make you look stupid to anyone who knows Cyrillic. And if you can't figure out the proper use for the Cyrillic alphabet, why should we expect you to have figured out any useful information about Russia?

You do get points for correctly transliterating "tsar" (I really can't stand "czar"). I'm still not watching your program. If only because, every time I see the logo, I start shouting at the TV screen.


[ at 4:34 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

A day out 
Yesterday was an actual leave-the-house day; yea, verily, a leave the house for a reason other than work day. In the mid-afternoon, J. and I finally got sick of sitting around looking for something to do, and decided to brave the weather. (It rained off and on for the rest of the day, but not too badly.) We went to South Street; to the dismay of many Philadelphians, it's become increasingly mainstream and commercial (it's even got a Starbucks now; and, as I discovered while writing this, a Web site), but it's still got plenty of cool, offbeat places to go. Stopped at Garland of Letters first; I looked at the Tarot decks, but didn't see anything I wouldn't rather buy on-line. Also, there were some patchouli-smelling people standing uncomfortably close and I didn't feel like waiting for the clerk to stop talking to them and wait on me. Then we headed for Book Trader, one of the coolest used-bookstores I've ever been in. It's a rambling, two-story converted rowhouse, complete with two or possibly three store cats. I found a book on the English Regency that I've been looking for; J. didn't find anything he wanted. After that, Mineralistic, where I indulged my shiny rock cravings. I saw a fossil ammonite that is high on the list of the most beautiful things I've ever seen: it had opalized, so it was glazed with a rainbow sheen, and the chambers of the shell had become filled with crystals of different colors; some of them looked like geodes, caverns with crystal walls. Gorgeous. Also $195, so it stayed in the store. I did buy a flourite octahedron; I thought it was a natural crystal, but it turned out to have been cut that way. Feh. Still, very attractive.

Then, sushi at Hikaru; it's been a long time since we went out for sushi. (Our first date was at a sushi restaurant, and when J. proposed, we went out to a sushi dinner afterwards.) We only had three maki rolls apiece, plus appetizers and sake, and, with tip, it was only $80. Downright cheap. (For six glorious months in 2000, I was a restaurant reviewer; it wasn't uncommon for us to have a $400 dinner, which, of course, was paid for by the company I wrote for. Oh, that was wonderful...)

After that, we went to the new annex of Book Trader; smaller, and a little...classier, I guess; no shelves full of people's old paperback Stephen King novels. The best thing about the place was that they, too, had a store cat; specifically, a store kitten. (I never really thought about it, but obviously that's where store cats come from.) It was a little tabby, absolutely full of energy, chasing shoelaces and dashing up and down the aisles. J. and I both played with it, and got plenty of little kitten-claw scratches to show for it. Frickin' adorable. We can't have a cat; J.'s allergic to them, and besides, cats and pet mice do not mix very well. But other people's cats, for limited time periods, are a lot of fun.

At that store, we bought a book titled "Impractical Pets," which I think I'll leave in the living room to freak out my parents. (They never know what odd animal we're going to want next; chinchillas are high on our list right now.) I also was very pleased with myself for picking up Jeffery Deaver's latest book, still in hardcover, for $10.95; it retails for $25. I'd resigned myself to waiting for it to come out in paperback. After that, we went home, and immediately settled down to read. Went to bed around midnight; I slept till noon, then got up and finished the book. Then decided it was time to get back to my usual day-off activity of sitting in front of the computer for hours at an end. And here I am.

[ at 3:27 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Yes, that's me.

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