Zhaba Zhournal
Monday, January 31, 2005 
Hair today, hair tomorrow 
File this under "Ew, I didn't even know that happened in first-world countries that manufactured soap": a 29-year-old woman in Britain hasn't washed her hair in 11 years. Let me blink rapidly and try looking at that again: 11 years. Damn. (When I saw the Fark headline, which didn't specify "Britain," I was wondering if it would be an East Asian holy person who didn't cut her hair for religious reasons and didn't wash it either for religious reasons or just because it took too damn long. [I have some justification for anticipating that conclusion: the Guinness Record for the world's longest hair is in fact held an East Asian holy person—a Thai shaman who hasn't cut his hair for sixty years—but even though it's over 17 feet long, at least his village helps him wash it once a year.])

So, as I was saying: 11 years. Yuck. And now, at last, I don't feel like the single dirtiest twenty-something non-institutionalized otherwise-clean long-haired female. I admittedly do not wash my hair very often—I'm surprised that I've had to wash it once a week this winter, and the time between shampoos is generally best measured in moon phases—but at least it's way more often than every 11 years. (I haven't cut my hair for almost 10 years, though—I've had an inch or two taken off every year or two, but no serious shortening—so washing it isn't terribly convenient; it takes half an hour to wash and half a day to dry, and I don't sweat much or do anything involving actual dirt, so I avoid it until I start feeling like I need to carry a bell and cry "Unclean! Unclean!" as I walk the streets.)

Well, there; I've confessed. And see, you're not thinking "Ew, that Zhaba is the most unclean person I've ever heard of"; even if you're thinking "Ew, that Zhaba should wash her hair more often," it's not overwhelming the "Ew, that British woman should wash her hair at all" thought that's the main takeaway message here. (Is it?) And in case you're wondering, I washed my hair yesterday, so you don't have to feel embarrassed to associate with me. (At least not for that reason.)

[ at 1:03 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Friday, January 28, 2005 
Gee, thanks 
I know everyone's excited about the Eagles getting into the Superbowl, but the local NBC station is really taking it a bit far with this weather report on their homepage:

(Although at least now I know it's not insultingly warmer in Florida than it is here. If it were above 60° down there I'd really have to go bang my head against something.)

[ at 3:13 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, January 27, 2005 
Still here, still 
Time for one of my occasional "I'm not dead" posts; I've had a few things I wanted to post about, but I haven't been able to scrounge up the time and the energy. Busy, weird, stressful stuff at work; weird, stressful stuff medically (nothing too bad; just the follow-up to the sleep clinic study that I'm still not thrilled about having had to do, and a remarkable amount of trouble getting prescriptions written, filled, and refilled); and although I feel neither regret nor guilt for having spent $299 on a full-length fox-fur-trimmed wool bouclé coat—I've waited years to buy a coat this nice, and hey, it was marked down from $430!—it certainly limits my money-spending choices until my next paycheck. (Just-add-water noodle bowls for lunch at my desk every day this week; at least with the weather so cold and the sidewalks so icy, it's a good time not to have to go out for lunch.)

So, yeah, busy, weird, stressful, but I'm still here. Hopefully I'll keep being still here. And hopefully have time and energy simultaneously so I can get back to reading and posting and remembering to eat. Till then, I leave you with an article from this week's Onion that had my whole office snarfing: Someday, I Will Copyedit The Great American Novel. (Sometimes you've just got to dream the achievable dream...)

[ at 2:21 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Sunday, January 23, 2005 
Snow screens 
I said I'd post pictures, and for once, I'm really doing it: I call this series "Sunday Semi-Silence; or, South Philly Side Street, With Snow." I took these in front of my house at about 2 p.m. today, and the street's probably going to stay like this until the weather warms up enough for the snow to melt; plows can't fit down our street, and if they did, there's nowhere for the snow to go except up on the sidewalk (and the cars) again. Some of our neighbors spent the morning digging their cars out, and you can bet they're keeping a jealous eye on those parking spaces. (Hopefully without gun in hand. People have been shot over parking spaces, but not in my neighborhood, that I know of.) (This is, by the way, the only time of year when I'm actually glad I don't have a car.)

Click on any of these thumbnails for the big(ger) picture.

Establishing shot, looking down my street. (The stadium where the Eagles play is about a mile away in this direction.)

snow street south

Establishing shot in the opposite direction. Notice the guy on the next block trying to get his car into the street.

snow street north

This one gives you a better look at the depth of the snow (and the tire tracks) in the middle of the street.

snow street tracks

Snowed-covered cars, and a parking space that's been turned into a shoveling drop-off site.

snow street cars

My front porch; our shoveling drop-off is that dead space between the gate and the big planting pot. (One year it got piled up so high we had to take the snow inside and melt it in the laundry tub.)

snow steps porch

Right in front of my door. I like the way the ironwork looks against the snow; I wish I had a better camera.

snow steps rail

[ at 9:55 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

We (okay, they) did it! 
Yes, technically only the Eagles players and coaches actually won the game...but, the heck with that, it's a city-wide synecdoche: We did it! And now I can finally stop worrying about losing another NFC championship...I don't know if I'll feel this way on February 6th, but right now I almost don't care if they win the Superbowl, I'm just glad they finally got to it.

The stadium's just about a mile due south of here, and the main street running through the city is a block and a half west; there's a veritable motorcade of fans making their way up Broad St., and I can hear the honking and the shouting and the sirens through the office window. (Someone on my street was trying to set off firecrackers after the game-winning touchdown, but the snow, as I hoped, has dampened both enthusiasm and fuses.)

Now I've got to go back downstairs and root for the Steelers...as counterintuitive as that feels, I really want an all-PA Superbowl. (New England vs. Pittsburgh is going to be a lot less affected by the snow and freezing weather than Atlanta vs. Philadelphia was; J. says New England has a better chance of winning in this weather, but then, he's from Boston. [Hey, Boston doesn't need to win anything else this year anyway; you got the Red Sox, let us have the Superbowl. Go Steelers!])

More sirens, louder honking, and man, I can't believe how loud those people must be yelling for me to hear it a block and a half away, two stories up, and through a brick-faced plaster wall. I guess they don't really need their voices for another two weeks, though...I wonder how many people will call in sick tomorrow?—either with hangovers or with head colds brought on by screaming their throats raw in below-freezing weather.

Oohhh, here come the traffic helicopters: whuppa-whuppa-whuppa. I think I know what'll be on the news tonight. And tomorrow morning. And tomorrow night. And Tuesday morning. And...

Oh, but I'll let myself be tired of that then. Right now? Dude, this rocks. If I didn't lose my voice at the drop of an octave and a thermometer, I'd be screaming too. And I've got to go make another margarita and cheer for the Steelers now. Woo-hoo!

Update: Aw, Pittsburgh didn't make it. So it's Philly vs. New England; I like New England (the region) just fine, but I think the Patriots have won quite enough Superbowls in the past three years, don't you? (New England residents excluded from that question.)

[ at 6:40 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Game day 
Another good thing about lots of snow the day before a big football game: if we win, it'll be much harder for people to celebrate(=riot) in the streets. (Conversely, if we lose, it'll be harder for them to express their disappointment[=riot] in the streets.) With the sidewalks and side streets blocked, you can't run amok very efficiently; and who wants to turn over a car when they have to dig it out from under a foot of snow first?

I started writing this about an hour ago—I've got pictures to post, and I've been editing them and working on the Javascript—but the game's just started, so I'm going to post this and go downstairs and get to work on the barbecue chicken wings. Pictures to come, though, perhaps at halftime; a South Philly side street the day after a weekend snowfall is as close to impassable as a major metropolitan area below the 60th latitude can get.

[ at 3:21 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Saturday, January 22, 2005 
Snow, part deux 
Lots of snow today—not by Massachusetts or Minnesota standards, but 8"-12" is quite a bit for a single day's snowfall in Philadelphia. No one's getting a car out of my street for a while, certainly. I'd prefer a big snowfall to happen on a weekday, so I'd get a day off from work; but, if it's gotta be on a Saturday, the day before the Eagles play the Atlanta Falcons is the best one I can think of. (The 11 o'clock news is a frantic series of Godardian cross-cuts between the weather guy and the sports guy, with the anchors in between hardly knowing which they should be more excited about. [My favorite "...but it's snowing!" newscaster perplexity: the day Saddam Hussein was captured, there was also a winter storm on the way. Those poor anchorpersons. They just didn't know what to do with themselves.])

I dreamed about the Eagles again last night; this is pathetic, I don't remember ever dreaming about a sports team before, let alone two nights in one week. In this one, they were winning what apparently was tomorrow's game; another person watching was saying "It's stupid to think they'll lose, look at that play!" and I said "It's stupid to assume they'll win, they've got plenty of time to screw it up." (At least, in my dream, it was a Terrell Owens play we were watching; perhaps it's a sign that he'll be back on the field tomorrow. [You never get a second chance to lose your first NFC championship!])

What, overly pessimistic? You can't be too cautious. I'm not gonna say anything to jinx it.

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

Thursday, January 20, 2005 

Hey, you know that inauguration thing?

Not gonna write about it.

I am going to write about some of the inauguration coverage on TV this morning, though:

Today Show piece on Bush's top three advisors; when they showed the intro clip of the three guys walking together, they probably shouldn't have played the theme song to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." (I know they're going for all the cowboy/Western themes they can, but that was not the best choice for that particular clip—at least not if they're trying to stay out of trouble.)

Showing highlights of previous inaugurations; clip from Clinton's inaugural address:
Clinton: We must keep this old democracy forever young—

J. (as Clinton): "And hot—"

Me: "And available. Here's my number."

[ at 1:08 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

First snowfall of the year yesterday—I watched it through my office window, small flakes falling thick and steady, with less than an inch of accumulation. And I was happy.

Yes, I know: snow in the city gets ugly very fast. Exhaust turns it black, tires turn it brown, dog pee turns it yellow. Traffic slows down or stops, cars skid, pedestrians fall, buses run late or not at all.* When the weather warms up, it turns into dirty slush, and then to dirty puddles; when the weather gets colder, it turns into slick ice. But...but, but, but...when I see the first snow of the season, when it's clean and white and covering everything with a pure even layer that looks as soft and rounded as a down pillow...the nine-year-old girl in me comes out and gets all excited and thinks "Oooohhhh, that's so cool! Ooooohhhh, it's so pretty!" Yes, even though I don't get snow days off from school anymore, the first snowy day is as fresh and exciting as the first snow I ever saw.

There, that's quite enough quasi-poetic transports of rapture and reminiscence for one day...

(I wish I'd had my camera with me yesterday, so I could've taken pictures when the snow was falling; I've got it with me today, and I'll try to get some pictures of non-black/ brown/ yellow/ trod-upon snow in the more attractive areas around my office and my neighborhood. Probably by the time we have another snowfall, forecast for this weekend, I'll be well over it, and I won't want to take any more pictures; but for now—Snow! Yay! Snow!)

*Earlier versions of this sentence included "cars skid and stall, pedestrians slip and fall, buses run late or not at all," but I thought it would be really lame to have that many rhymes.

[ at 12:56 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, January 19, 2005 
Semi-on day 
Well, this is the darnedest thing: I stayed home today (yesterday, technically, since it's after midnight) with the intention of getting work done, and I actually got work done. Quite a bit of it—I even got through the dreaded Bible-reference linking stage (this is where the program I've codenamed "Cite-O-Matic" comes in; the frippin' thing drives me crazy, but fortunately this project didn't have too much weird stuff getting in the way). Um, yeah, TMDI (Too Much Dull Information); I just think it's sufficiently odd to be noteworthy that I got more work done, probably, than I would have if I'd gone to the office.

I think staying home, warm, and well-rested has nipped whatever I was coming down with in the bud, so unless I feel markedly worse tomorrow morning, I think I'll go into work. The project's still due yesterday, and even though I did get stuff done, I think my manager would be a lot happier if I were in the office to be told it needed to get done.

Ideally, of course, if I want to feel better, I shouldn't be up till 12:45. But I'm only awake now because I didn't eat enough during the day and got painfully hungry at midnight; I had to go back downstairs and make a sufficiently filling mini-meal so I could get to sleep. Now I've got to brush my teeth again; phoo. Well, better get to it, and to bed. G'night.

[ at 12:46 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Tuesday, January 18, 2005 
Day semi-off 
Home today, sick-ish; but not missing work, exactly. I'm feeling run-down and congested and scratchy-throated, and since it's 15° out there with a single-digit wind chill, and today's high is only 21°, I really don't want to be standing at three different bus stops on my way to and from work.* And I knew I'd be tired and grumpy in the office, and I don't want to get anyone else sick, or pick up anything from anyone else who's sick, for that matter. (As I've previously mentioned, I really hate it when anyone who's sick comes into work and spreads their germs through the entire office.)

Right, so I'm not at work today. But not not-working: remember that project that, last week, was due this Monday? As I probably knew all along, it's not done yet. I'd brought the files and all my associated TextPad clip libraries and macros home on Friday, intending to work on it over the weekend; I didn't (as I probably also knew all along), but with those files at home with me now, and having had my manager send me my backup files from yesterday, I'm able to work on the project at home today. (Really, I am working on it this time.) (Except while I'm writing this, I mean.) I've worked at home before, not always with very productive results, but with my nifty-keen DSL connection, it's a lot easier to upload and download files from the company's FTP site and to do necessary research online. (It is too necessary!—looking up Bible references at BibleGateway.com is a lot faster and easier than flipping through the pages of an actual Bible, trying to remember if Habakkuk is before or after Haggai, and squinting at those tiny superscript verse numbers.)

*Three bus stops, for two trips? Yeah, it's an eastbound bus and a northbound bus on the way in, and a westbound bus and the southbound subway on the way home. (Yes, I could take the subway north and a bus east on the way to work, too, and avoid one of the out-in-the-cold bus waits, but the northbound subway-to-eastbound bus connection is spottier in the morning than the two-bus route.)

I hope they don't hate me for being in their "who links here?" logs now.

Before. But I only know that because I drilled the order of the Minor Prophets into my head through sheer willpower and rote memorization.

[ at 1:11 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Monday, January 17, 2005 
Muttering, two weeks in a row 
What the heck. Don't think my associations are very interesting, but I annotated them to give you a better idea of why my brain went where it went.

Unconscious Mutterings, Week 102
  1. Yoda::'s penis (thanks, The Onion: they've got an article titled "Don't Tell Me You've Never Wondered What Yoda's Penis Looked Like," and you can get that headline on a t-shirt; and now I'll never be able to get it out of my mind, thankyouverymuch.)
  2. Mensa::genius (bo-ring)
  3. Pink::Rose (not just the flower; that's the name of a little bakeryrestaurant near South St. where you can have breakfast and dessert all day as well as order big ol' cakes and pastries for all your sugar-intensive party needs)
  4. Text message::go away (irritable, I am)
  5. Galactic::Enterprise (is that from "Star Wars" too?—I know the "Star Trek" ship is called the Enterprise, but I don't know if there's an organization called the Galactic Enterprise in that.)
  6. Chicks::eggs (even I am surprised that I didn't go for an "attractive young women" reference there, but I think little fluffy bird chicks are so darn cute I can't not think about them when given the opportunity)
  7. Quesadilla::yo quiero Taco Bell (no idea if I'm spelling that right)
  8. Backpack::CD drive (that's what my external CD drive is called)
  9. Socket::wrench (I've been hanging around J. too long to think of anything but a tool for this one)
  10. Compromise::or else (you can't compromise and have an ultimatum at the same time, can you?—oh well; irritable, I am.)

[ at 11:36 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Fourth time's the charm? 
Last night I actually dreamed about yesterday's Eagles game; it was near the end of the fourth quarter, and the score was 28-24, and one of our players was running down the field holding the ball, and I was saying (in the dream) "Don't fuck up, don't fuck up, don't fuck up..." And then I woke up, and remembered that they had not-fucked-up, and had won, 27-14 (okay, so my dream-numbers were off), and were headed for their fourth NFC championship game in a row. And then I thought, in my conscious mind, "Don't fuck up, don't fuck up, don't fuck up..."

This is from my pen-and-paper journal, written back in June, right after Smarty Jones lost the Belmont by less than five lengths:
The Philly contestants—teams, individual humans, individual horses—always choke in the clutch. Snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Come up short at the last minute. In other words, lose—not all the time, like some teams (I don't know for sure all the legendary ones, but aren't the Red Sox and the Cubs up there?)—in cities that just shrug and wait for another 3-27 season; our teams wind up with 27-3, where the third of the three is the NFC championship or the Elite 8 game in the NCAA tournament or the seventh game of the NBA finals. So, hey, the third leg of the Triple Crown? Hell, we were practically expecting it. (All down the backstretch I was just saying "Please do it, please do it"—never mind yelling "C'mon!", just "don't let us down again.")

But they always do...
Yes, okay, I'm sounding pessimistic. But this time it's more like upside-down pessimism flipped into optimism—"we've always fucked up, maybe this time we won't fuck up, maybe this time we will make it, let's just hope they're good enough." They don't have to be great, they don't have to be the best, they don't even have to be good—just good enough. (Or, as the saying goes, "You don't have to be faster than the fastest cheetah; you just have to be faster than the slowest gazelle." Or [the one I like better], as one fleeing Great White Hunter might say to another, "I don't have to be faster than the lion, I just have to be faster than you.") We don't have to be the best team in the NFL; we just have to be better than the Falcons, and we just have to be better than them for one game on one day.

So: let's all hold hands and say it together. Don't fuck up, don't fuck up, don't fuck up. If the Red Sox can do it, why can't we?*

*Don't answer that.

[ at 10:57 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, January 13, 2005 
One of those weeks 
Did you ever have one of those weeks where you said "Yeah, I'll have that project done on Monday" and then it was Thursday and you had absolutely no idea why you ever thought it could be done by Monday? (Even better—I'm making up a program name here—I said "Sure, we can make the deadline, unless something really crazy comes up in the Cite-O-Matic step." Today, I got to the Cite-O-Matic step, and guess what? Something really crazy came up! I mean, you think you've seen every weird way someone can do a Bible reference citation, and then, my God [um, so to speak], someone does something weirder. Oy. How hard is it to say "Genesis 1:1," people?)

It's also been one of those weeks where I get to work late-ish (9:30 instead of 9), don't start actually working till 10, then forget to have lunch until 2:30 or later. (Today I kicked myself out of the office at 3:30 to get something to eat.) This is probably one of the ways I lose weight ("dang, I forgot to eat again!"), but it's annoying to have to tell myself to eat, and, for that matter, to move every half-hour so my legs don't fall asleep. (Behold the power of Ritalin. It's legal speed, I tell ya.)

Gosh, another really boring entry. I've been copying links and quotes and writing draft posts in my ever-growing "text.txt" file, but I never get around to perfecting them and posting them. Feh. This weekend my DSL connection and I might spam my blog with a week's worth of backed-up "I read this in the Times" or "I saw this on Fark" or "J. and I talked about this last night" posts. And pictures. Oh, you guys are gonna get pictures of my bird, whether you want 'em or not. (She's molting right now, and not very photogenic, but I've got plenty of pre-molt pictures languishing on my hard drive.) Oh, and the Mummers Parade! I meant to post pictures of that on New Year's Day. If you're not from Philly or the Philadelphia TV viewing area, the Mummers Parade is...hard to explain. (If you are from Philly, it's still hard to explain, but at least you're used to it.)

Okay. Time for that nighttime-routine thing again. And if I survive the work week, I'll be back tomorrow.

[ at 11:40 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, January 12, 2005 
Hey, DSL backwards is LSD 
Ooohhhh, I got me some DSL—on my home computer, even—so the slow dial-up connection I so often complain of is gone, gone, gone—at least till my 60-day free trial of DSL is up, and I have the feeling I'm going to pony up the money on Day 61.

It's not as fast as I'd hoped, but it's sure as hell faster, and being able to download a 5MB file in 38 seconds is a vast improvement. And I really like being able to click on Firefox in my QuickLaunch menu and go straight to my homepage, instead of clicking on the AOL icon, waiting for the window to open, clicking on "Connect," waiting for it to dial, waiting for it to do that "brrring, brrrring, beep beep beep" thing, waiting for it to say it had done that and actually open AOL, and then click on Firefox and get to the real Internet.

This is probably TMI in the most boring sense...but, really, this is the most exciting enhancement to our house since we got cable in June (um, since we paid to get cable in June; for the two previous years it was, ahem, free). J. asked if he was going to need a photograph to remember what I looked like; I posit that I won't spend too much more time online, because a lot of the time I used to spend was waiting for things to download or upload and being mugged by Windows updates. (I'll let you know how accurate that "not too much" prediction turns out to be next week.)

Oh, phoo, almost 11:30; must be a good computer-user and post this and...I was about to say "log off," but I don't have to. Sah-weet. But I do have to post this and get ready for bed. G'night, at 10MB a minute...

[ at 11:28 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Tuesday, January 11, 2005 
.tmp-orary insanity 
Cross-posted from my journal, because I'm busy lazy nah, busy.
Spent(=wasted) at least half an hour editing/re-editing and running/re-running one of my Perl programs over and over, unable to figure out why one of the steps wasn't getting the right results when all the other ones were; finally realized it was due to the difference between these two things:
Ah, the wonderful world of programming, where just a few characters can fark up the whole thing...and I get paid to catch tiny little incongruities in other people's text; how'd I miss that comparitively glaring error in mine?

Oh well; at least it's less significant than the three letters left out of the 1631 "Wicked Bible," which turned the Seventh Commandment into "Thou shalt commit adultery." (I've heard various stories of what happened to the printers after that, including that they met untimely, fire-induced ends; they didn't, but they did have to pay a £300 fine that put them out of business.) (My mood has been vastly improved, by the way, after reading about this and other Bible-printing bloopers at The "Wicked" Bibles, from Theology Today 37:3 [Oct 1980].)

[ at 5:21 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Monday, January 10, 2005 
Muttering meme 
I've been signed up for the "free association" meme at Unconscious Mutterings for a while now, but I usually don't post them; a lot of the time I don't have any associations, or at least not any interesting ones. But this week I actually had some immediate responses to the first few words, so I went ahead and did the whole thing. Without further ado, Unconscious Mutterings, Week 101:
  1. Pistol:: whip
  2. Rick::shaw
  3. Full circle:: Half-nelson (no, I don't know why)
  4. I wish:: for fish (is that a line from a Dr. Seuss book, or some other rhyming children's book?—I have this in my head: "I have a wish, a wish for fish")
  5. Frame::-up
  6. Adult:: films
  7. Photography:: studio
  8. Stew::meat
  9. Cheat:: lie
  10. Brad:: cop (that's my brother's name, and he's a Philly police officer)

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

Friday, January 07, 2005 
Friday miscellany 
Hey there. I haven't drunk an entire bottle of wine tonight—J. had one glass, so I only had, um, the other five—but I'm a bit punchy and I haven't posted here for a few days, so I'm throwing a few things at the wall to see if they'll stick. Stand back.
  • Have you guys noticed this trend in movie advertising? Movie ad: "[Some movie] is the winner of three Golden Globe nominations!" Excuse me, no, you're not. You're the recipient of three Golden Globe nominations. You're only a winner if you win an actual Golden Globe, okay? (Or a Film Critics/People's Choice/Academy/Whatever-the-Hell Award.) Stop trying to make it sound better. Geez, they already stopped saying "And the winner is..." in favor of "And the Oscar goes to..." so they wouldn't hurt anybody's feelings. If they're not even saying you're the winner when you win, you're sure as hell not the winner when they nominate you. Okay?

  • Philadelphia Traffic Imponderable: When two people run a red light in opposite directions, and one of them is making an illegal left turn, who has the right of way? (Hint: The guy in the biggest car. Or, if they're the same size, the guy in the least-expensive car. You wanna chance your new Beemer against my '85 Saab? I didn't think so.) (God, I miss my '85 Saab. It was dark blue and stick-shift and had no radio or air conditioning and was named Nixon. [Because it had a nose like a weasel.] I went to grad school in North Philly for four years and I was the only person I knew whose car was never broken into. Hell, there were times when I'd've paid people to break into that car. "You want it? If you can get the damn thing started, it's yours!" {I eventually gave it up when the parking tickets got to be too expensive; and buying the third transmission would've cost a lot, too.} Oh well, Nixon; rest in pieces. Lots of pieces. Probably distributed among many Saabs in the Delaware Valley by now.] At any rate, if any asshole in a Beemer had tried to assert his right-of-way over mine in the middle of an intersection when we both had a red light, I'd've gunned the engine and said "Yeah, Beemer boy, crash the fuck into me, I don't even have collision insurance, see if I care." Ha. [I miss you, Nixon.])

  • I didn't do any New Year's resolutions posts, or seeing-how-I-did-on-last-year's New Year's resolution posts, because I can't recall ever having made a serious New Year's resolution in my life. (I haven't given up anything for Lent since I was in Catholic school, either.) It's not that I don't want to improve myself; just that the Gregorian-calendar year isn't something I feel the need to attach it to. Hell, it's the middle of the fucking winter; you think I want to be standing on a scale next December 31st and seeing if I, for instance, lost the 15 pounds I said I'd lose the previous January so I'd look good in a swimsuit the previous July? Hell no. So fuck it.

    But—there had to be a "but" for me to be writing this—but...I want to learn to draw birds. Or to get good at drawing birds. (I'm pretty good at drawing; or I was, back when I had free time and free art supplies.) I have an ulterior motive, which I haven't confessed to anyone but myself and J.; but I'll put this one right out in public for anyone online to see, while the five glasses of wine put the smackdown on my usual inhibitions: I'm going to learn to draw birds. I already bought two books on drawing animals at the art supply store on South St., and ordered an "Artist's Reference" book on birds from Amazon. I've been collecting Peri's feathers in a glass jar (she's molting, and she's not very happy about it), so I can use them as models; and, eventually, I can try to use her as a model, though I imagine she'll be much more interested in perching on the pencil or pecking the paintbrush than in standing still for me. But. Anyway. I'm saying it: I'm going to learn to draw birds. And if I don't, you can call me on it in 2006. Okay? Okay.
So there's that. Now, it's not even 11 p.m. yet, and even though the wine bottle's empty, there's a box of red wine downstairs that will do almost as well now that my quality-receptors are happily down for the count. I'll see you when I see you. G'night...

[ at 10:59 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, January 05, 2005 
Something to get on my chest  
If I wore t-shirts with stuff printed on them, which I almost never do (like, once in the past five years—my "VOTE" shirt on Election Day 2004), I'd want the one from T-Shirt Humor that says this:

"Okay, I give up. It's Nucular."

Hm. Maybe I'll get it as a coffee mug or a mousepad. I don't have any of those that say things on them, either—no one-liners, anyway; I've got mugs with college logos on them—but having a few political ones would make it a lot more fun to serve coffee when my Republican relatives visit.

[ at 1:06 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Tuesday, January 04, 2005 
Can we get Tommy Schenck a job at Fox News? 
Now, this is the kind of "network affiliate preempting program it finds offensive" that I can get behind: a Fox station—a Fox station!—refused to air that reprehensible "Who's Your Daddy?" reality program:
WRAZ-TV (Fox 50) in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., has yanked "Daddy" and instead will air a documentary, "I Have Roots and Branches: Personal Reflections on Adoption," in the 8-9:30 p.m. EST block slated for "Daddy."

"We are proud to share this enlightening and heartwarming program, both as informative, appropriate family viewing, and as a public service as well," FOX 50 VP and General Manager Tommy Schenck said on the Web site of the station's Capitol Broadcasting Co. parent.
Fox itself has actually done a bit of censorship since getting whopping horrific shitloads of bad press and protests about the show:
Fox has shot a total of six episodes of "Daddy" but so far has scheduled only one airing as a special.
In case anyone doesn't know what those other five episodes contain, swallow your gorge and read on:
The show challenges a woman who was adopted as an infant to pick her father from a group of eight men for a $100,000 prize. If the woman picks the right man, she wins the $100,000, but if not the impostor gets the money.
Excuse me, I have to go whack someone with a stick now. Fox is defending itself, of course:
Fox reps have stressed that despite the show's provocative title, all of the people featured in "Daddy" were willing participants and that regardless of the competitive element, all of the women are reunited with their biological fathers as a result of their participation in the show.
Yeah, whatever. I repeat:
The show challenges a woman who was adopted as an infant to pick her father from a group of eight men for a $100,000 prize. If the woman picks the right man, she wins the $100,000, but if not the impostor gets the money.
Damn, where's that stick? Really, there are heads that need whacking. I'll conclude with a line from "Daily Show" correspondent Lewis Black: "Oh, Fox, why won't your animals attack when we need them?"

[ at 2:06 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Reverse magnetism 
Well, knock me over with a feather: "Support the troops" yellow ribbon magnets don't necessarily support the troops. This story focuses on a Cincinnati woman, Tamara Deal, whose husband in Iraq:
"There are yellow ribbons on almost every car now, and I'm just wondering where people are buying them from."

Tamara says many stores selling "support the troops magnets" are not really supporting the troops.

"I asked one, the manager had no idea, she said she had no idea where the money went."
The writer of the story reports that one major retailer, Walgreens, "tells me 50 percent of their magnet sales goes to the USO, which helps military families." (No word on whether he asked any other retailers, and, if he did, what they said.)
But with almost every discount store now selling ribbons, Tamara asks you to buy only from charities, veterans groups, and stores who confirm your money will help soldiers and their loved ones.
The reporter's concluding message:
My advice? Before buying a support the troops ribbon, ask how your purchase will support the troops.

If you can't get a straight answer, look for an organization that will tell you exactly how it's helping.

So don't waste your money.
Yes. Thank you. My point exactly. And as for supporting the troops, I made my donation directly to the USO; I don't have a car, so I don't have anywhere to put a magnet anyway, but even if I did, I'd rather put my money into a direct donation than into an outward show of support. (If I wanted an outward show of support, I'd go into my gift-wrapping supply box and tie my own damn yellow ribbon around my car antenna.)

[ at 2:03 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

So are they all, all honorable men 
Hey, remember how the House Republicans, trying to prove themselves more ethical than Democrats, put in a rule that any leader facing indictment had to resign, and then changed the rule when it looked like Tom DeLay was going to get indicted? And got criticism from all sides, including a few people on their own? Well, they changed their minds again, or un-changed their minds, thus proving that sometimes either common sense or the desire to appear to have common sense prevails:
Stung by criticism that they were lowering ethical standards, House Republicans on Monday night reversed a rule change that would have allowed a party leader to retain his position even if indicted.

Lawmakers and House officials said Republicans, meeting behind the closed doors of the House chamber, had acted at the request of the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay, who had been the intended beneficiary of the rule change.

When they rewrote party rules in November, Republicans said they feared that Mr. DeLay could be subjected to a politically motivated indictment as part of a campaign finance investigation in Texas that has resulted in charges against three of his associates. The decision, coupled with other Republican proposals to rewrite the ethics rules, drew fierce criticism from Democrats and watchdogs outside the government, who said the Republican majority was subverting ethics enforcement.
DeLay himself actually instigated the change/un-change; and while I don't like his policies one little bit, I do have a certain degree of appreciation—on the "I had no idea rattlesnakes cared so well for their young" level—that he's telling other people not to make decisions about what they think he can and can't handle. (My thinking on this issue is probably overly influenced by the annoyance I still feel towards a guy I was dating who obviously wanted to break up with me but didn't have the guts to say it because he was afraid of hurting my feelings; dude, just come out and say it—do you think I'm so fragile I can't live without you?) (But anyway...let's go to the quote.)
Those attending the Republican meeting, which was held on the day before the opening of the 109th Congress on Tuesday, said Republicans unanimously agreed to restore the old rule after Mr. DeLay told them that the move would clear the air and deny Democrats a potent political issue. In the past year, he has been admonished by the ethics panel three times: for his tactics in trying to persuade a colleague to support the Medicare drug bill, for appearing to link political donations to support for legislation and for involving a federal agency in a political matter in Texas.
This is my favorite part, both for its message and for the guilty-pleasure reason I describe below the quote:
Some Republicans who originally opposed the rules change enthusiastically greeted the decision not to go through with it.

"It allows the Republicans to focus on the issues, the agenda that is before us and not to have Tom DeLay be the issue," Representative Zach Wamp, Republican of Tennessee, said. "I feel like we have just taken a shower."
How awesome is it that there's a guy named "Zach Wamp"? I love it; it sounds like one of those proto-futuristic names from mid–20th-century sci-fi TV shows: "And in the engine room, the zany protonic engineer Zach Wamp keeps the hyperdrive atomometer running!" Or the name of a small town in Eastern Europe: "News from the Croatian capital of Zagreb has been slow to reach the eastern village of Zakhvamp..." Or a regional term for an animal with a distinctive call: "Down here we call that a zackwamp because it goes 'zak zak zak!' and then puffs out its throat and goes 'whomp!'" Oh, the possibilities are mindless. I mean endless. I mean mindless.

Disclaimer: No disrespect to Zach Wamp or his forebears here; I'm having fun with the name, but I'm not making fun of it. Words are my chief joy, and when I find a new one, or a new combination of them, I dive in and roll around in them like a chinchilla in a dust bath. (Or a zackwamp in a fishing hole. [I envision the zackwamp as some kind of frog or other amphibian, but it could also be a relative of the blackbird that lives in marshes.]) (There, see what I mean? Give me some new words and I get completely carried away.)

[ at 1:45 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Steal this bus 
Do you think it's a good idea to advertise "Grand Theft Auto" on the side of a city bus? It seems almost as inappropriate as advertising alcoholic beverages on NASCAR race cars and highway billboards. I dunno, maybe the idea is that if your car is stolen, you'll have to take public transportation.

[ at 10:20 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Monday, January 03, 2005 
Bless the beasts and the children 
Annotated link dump: assorted tsunami survival stories demonstrating why you should pay attention to animals, elders, and children.

As conventional wisdom so often suggests, animals apparently sensed the tsunami coming and headed to higher ground:
An Associated Press photographer who flew over Sri Lanka's Yala National Park in an air force helicopter saw abundant wildlife, including elephants, buffalo, deer, and not a single animal corpse.

Floodwaters from the tsunami swept into the park, uprooting trees and toppling cars onto their roofs [...] but the animals apparently were not harmed and may have sought out high ground, said Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, whose Jetwing Eco Holidays ran a hotel in the park.

"This is very interesting. I am finding bodies of humans, but I have yet to see a dead animal," said Wijeyeratne, whose hotel in the park was totally destroyed in Sunday's tidal surge. "Maybe what we think is true, that animals have a sixth sense."

Elephants giving rides to tourists on a beach in Thailand not only headed for higher ground, they brought people with them:
"The elephants didn't believe the mahouts [who were trying to calm them down]. They just kept running for the hill," said Wit Aniwat, 24, who takes the money from tourists and helps them on to the back of elephants from a sturdy wooden platform.

Those with tourists aboard headed for the jungle-clad hill behind the resort beach where at least 3,800 people, more than half of them foreigners, would soon be killed. The elephants that were not working broke their hefty chains.

"Then we saw the big wave coming and we started running," Wit said.

Around a dozen tourists were also running toward the hill from the Khao Lak Merlin Resort [...]

"The mahouts managed to turn the elephants to lift the tourists onto their backs," Kulada said.

She used her hands to describe how the huge beasts used their trunks to pluck the foreigners from the ground and deposit them on their backs.

Knowledge passed down by generations of elders saved an entire village of Thai fisherfolk known as the Morgan sea gypsies:
"The elders told us that if the water recedes fast it will reappear in the same quantity in which it disappeared," 65-year-old village chief Sarmao Kathalay told the paper.

So while in some places along the southern coast, Thais headed to the beach when the sea drained out of beaches - the first sign of the impending tsunami - to pick up fish left flapping on the sand, the gypsies headed for the hills.

A 10-year-old British schoolgirl saved hundreds of people on a beach and in a nearby hotel because she'd just studied tsunamis in a geography class:
"Last term Mr Kearney taught us about earthquakes and how they can cause tsunamis," Tilly was quoted as saying by The Sun.

"I was on the beach and the water started to go funny. There were bubbles and the tide went out all of a sudden. I recognised what was happening and had a feeling there was going to be a tsunami. I told mummy."

Her intuition was enough to raise the alert and prompt the evacuation of Phuket's Maikhao beach and a neighbouring hotel before the water came crashing in, saving hundreds of people from death and injury.


The girl's geography teacher, Andrew Kearnay from Surrey in northern England, told the paper he had explained to his class that there was about 10 minutes from the moment the ocean draws out before the tsunami strikes.

[ at 4:49 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Of mice and medicine 
Well, I'm gonna go get studied. Tonight I'm going to the Jefferson University Hospital sleep lab to get hooked up to machines and somehow have a typical night's sleep, which seems highly dubious. I mean, I have a hard enough time getting to sleep in my own bed in my own house without any wires attached. And I really, really don't like the idea of people watching me while I sleep. Humph. Then again, if I have a hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep tonight, I guess it'll prove the point. I certainly didn't sleep well last night, mostly because I was filled with anxiety; I woke up at 6:30, unaccustomedly early, with my heart pounding so hard I could hear it: THUMP-thu-THUMP-thu-THUMP-thu-THUMP. I am so not looking forward to this. (I posted about not looking forward to the initial evaluation back on December 14th.)

I was also anxious about coming back to work after over a week off—not because of any actual work, but because I was afraid Bad Things might have happened. One of my coworkers was literally deathly ill in December (he has muscular dystrophy and he got a respiratory ailment that turned into pneumonia, which is especially dangerous for people with MD), and the updates my boss was getting from his mother, who was pretty much living at the hospital and hardly sleeping, had been sporadic and unpromising. The first thing I did when I got in this morning was check my office e-mail; and, thank God/gods/heaven, he's doing much better, is out of the hospital, and is going to work from home for a few weeks and come back to Philly when he's fully recovered. Whew.

On a less important but proportionately anxiety-inducing level, I was also hoping the office mice hadn't started dying or eating each other (yes, someone was supposed to feed them, but what if he hadn't?—and yes, I could've gone to the office and checked, but, well, I didn't; so if they'd been dead and cannibalistic I'd've felt even worse about it). So the second thing I did this morning was check the mouse cage, and once again had anxiety allayed as I discovered they're all alive. Or at least there aren't any dead ones in the cage; I'll do a head count when I clean the cage later today. Um, a head-attached-to-a-body count. A head-attached-to-a-living-body count. And, as much as I hope there aren't fewer of them, I really hope there aren't more of them. I've tried to keep the males away from the females, but as I've posted before, it's very hard to determine the genders of spiny mice, and you never know when you're going to discover that your supposedly same-sex cage has produced a litter of little inbred mouse babies.

Argh, increasingly long entry here. I'd better get it posted so I can get back in the swing of blogging things, and so I can get a 2005 archive started. Oh, yeah, and do more work; the kind they pay me for. Right. Well, Happy Julian-Calendar New Year, everyone; let's get this party started.

[ at 12:46 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

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