Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So Long 2008

Yeesh, what a lame year! Post your resolutions and hopes for 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

On beards, the manly mane and bane

If anyone has noticed my new profile picture, it shows me with a month-long gray beard. I allowed it to grow mainly because my razors were having an increasingly difficult time dealing with it. After it got long enough I noticed that I seemed to receive more respect. That was not unwelcome, but there was a downside to it also.

You see, little Linnea, about 15 months old came to see us, and, after having known me all her short life as clean-shaven, the new appearance put her off. She just could not face my face. Not wanting to frighten my little granddaughter, I decided to shave it off. More accurately, I used machine clippers, then shaved the rest. The result was pretty stubbly.

The beard itched anyway, but, it grows naturally. It is a man's natural state. It sure is a nuisance though. Lynnis can't find my Double Duck straight razor, so I'm condemned to finding an alternative. I'm thinking of an old style double edge razor available on special order. They don't clog.

I don't know how people like Chris and Quick tolerate their long beards for long. What did people do before razors were invented ?

Priceless



Purebred sebastopol goose shipped from Oregon: $70
Vet bill for coccidiosis: $105
Double shot of wheatgrass juice: $4

Chortling coming from the bathroom: priceless

Review of an Important New Movie

By new, I mean a movie released in the last 20 years - in this case 2007, so very new indeed.

Mr. Bean' s Holiday is a beautiful, moving, meaningful movie on the phase of the life of Mr. Mister Bean, an English gentleman suffering from autism who wins a vacation to the Cannes Film Festival.  Have others seen it? This is such a cultivated crowd, perhaps all of you have. If you haven't I don't want to spoil the plot. I will say that the film includes one of the most powerful performances of the aria " O mio babbino caro"  from the opera Gianni Schicchi that could ever be, performed by Bean himself. I can't imagine any coloratura soprano doing it better. Let me know if you think the violence is excessive.

So, has anybody seen it?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pictures from our latest cheesemaking

Guy made farmhouse cheddar cheese again yesterday.  He is so eagar to try the one we have already made, but it is not fully aged yet.  The leftover whey from the cheddar looks much cloudier then the whey from our mozzerella, so he tried to further render it into whey ricotta. Something must have gone wrong, because it only yeilded about a tablespoon of ricotta, and the whey still looks cloudy.

The whey being heated for whey ricotta

The cheddar curds, after being drained


Draining the curds

The cheddar, after being pressed overnight


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hillbilly technology

There is a new blogosphere site "Hillbilly Technology" at hillbillytechnology.blogspot.com. Pick up lots of mechanical tricks there. Farming too most likely. The site has West Virginia street cred although located in Maryland.

Friday, December 26, 2008

I tried Bluetooth

Sometimes on the internet there hour long "radio" programs I like to listen to but it is a nuisance to need to sit at the computer. So, since I was sending an order off to Tiger Direct anyway for network attached storage, I decided to add a Bluetooth headset to order.

Bluetooth is a short range wireless technology optimized for audio transmission. It can also do IP networks if you want. You need to add a transmitter to your computer if it doesn't already have one. I bought a "dongle" for about $10 for the transceiver. It plugs into a USB port. The Motorola headset was about $39. Cheaper sets are available, but I wanted stereo because of my hearing problems. A headset with a microphone build in is about $90 and is worth it if you want to do handless phone service. Many wireless phones have Bluetooth built in to them.

Installing the software wasn't difficult but figuring out how to use it took a little effort. The difficulty was that many Bluetooth protocol services are available. Finally I settled on "Advanced Audio" service and it worked. A similar service is for telephone hookups. The Motorola S9 headset uses a password of 0000 and you need to know the password. You can also set up a short range IP network to hook up your laptop computer. Some laptops have Bluetooth built in, others require a dongle. The range is around a hundred feet, but as with all RF, your exact position and orientation will matter.

help, I'm trapped here in the title window, Can't put text into the big box! Can't edit! send paper and pencil, hillbilly caught in spaceship, gasp...

Escape pod arrived, piloted by Gordon, phasers set to byte. In his highscoool yearbook there was a whimiscal futuristic few sentences for each graduate, going out for a long pass-what was to come. The scene for Gordon was him exiting a spaceship that had just landed. So there. Longggggg pass, but caught, touchdown, all these years later. We're breathing Firefox air now.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Hawks are Circling Chrissy's Chickens

Today there are three hawks circling above Chrissy's chickens. Several have been killed already. I don't have a shotgun handy, but, I've been told that netting has been installed above the chicken yard and the chickens are permanently cooped up there. It might work. They are not free range anymore. When hawks get hungry though, almost anythng can happen.

I don't like to hunt but it doesn't bother me to defend domestic animals against violence. All of which brings me to an idea I've had for improved shotgun pellets. The general idea is to make the pellets in the shape of a raindrop, kind of like a bomb. Attached to the bomb shape would be winglets angled at about 8 degrees to the line of flight. The idea of the winglets is to make the pellet spin, improving accuracy. Since the cross-sectional density of the entire affair would be considerably greater than a sphere, it should have a considerably greater range than an ordinary shotgun pellet.

Making the these kinds of pellets would be a challenge. Casting them might be impractical for such a small size. I'm thinking of using a press to forge lead wire into a series of progressive shapes. Jon has suggested that he has read about people dropping molten lead from a very low height of a few inches directly into water. It is said to create a raindrop shape that carries very well.

All this is just speculation for now. I have my generator project to finish and also a paper to finish on chromosome disruption.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah




Hanukkah is about making due with what you've got so Brian made Karen an impressive menorah out of rachets. It's the nicest one I've seen, I think.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Skills

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, [...skill removed by blog poster], conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
--Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

This sort of goes with my feeling that we all need to hone our skills or develop new ones to aid us as the economy collapses. I just racked my second batch of pear wine today. I'm glad Guy knows how to make beer. I'm glad Jon has a machine shop and is good at farming. I think a good challenge for everyone who reads this blog would be to work on a new skill this year. What will it be?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blue Eyed Devil

Old Bastard and I had a face-off today. His little goose offspring are now grown, but he continues to assert his ganderly protection of his family as any good gander should do. But he goes a bit overboard it must be said. I was just walking by and he started intimidating me. Not being exactly a masculine wimp myself, this grandpa stooped down and extended my hand toward Old Bastard so as to imitate a goose neck with my hand. I even snapped my fingers open and closed so as to imitate a goose beak.

Well, Old Bastard and I had played this game a number of times before. On other occasions, I had quickly grabbed his neck or beak and held it briefly to show who had the most testosterone. On this occasion, Old Bastard remembered and was wary. But, finally he got close enough that I made an attempt at his head. But he knew what to expect. He escaped my grasp and quickly backed off with a loud squawk at my temporary grasp.

So, who is the blue eyed devil ? Old Bastard or me ? For that matter, which of us is the Old Bastard? From his perspective, it is undoubtedly me. From my perspective it is him. That is what politics is all about I suppose. Old Bastard certainly does have lovely blue eyes though.

While on the subject of beastly relations, I can not help but post this link about rhinos and elephants. Even better, is that the writer of the piece is Cecil Adams, the famed Chicago know-it-all.

Minnesota College opportunities

For the college bound interested in a Scandinavian background college here is a good one to consider. Gustavus Adolphus college has majors in many areas. Paabo recently presented some of his interesting Neanderthal DNA data at the college's yearly Nobel lecture series.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

great gift idea and support a local artist

My coworker's girlfriend does these really cool sandcarved stone pendants. Check it out at http://creativeartandsoul.etsy.com/

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The cheese has been waxed




With farmhouse cheddar, you are supposed to let the cheese dry for a few days until it developes a rind, and then wax it. We suspect ours might have a problem with excessive moisture, because it was not fully dry after nearly a week. We waxed it anyway. We just have to wait and see how it turns out. It still has to age for a month.

Wondering Where We are Going...

From the Wall Street Journal
President-elect Barack Obama's economic team is considering an economic-stimulus program that will be far larger than the two-year, half-trillion-dollar plan under consideration two weeks ago, according to people familiar with the team's thinking.

ie They are talking a trillion!!! (A one with 12 zeros!!!!)
I found some blogposters (Rich) at CR to distill what that means:
The solution is to float the biggest possible stimulus package, pump it into stimulating production of goods and services, and simulataneously tank the dollar to make those goods and services very affordable to the world.

Conversely, you could tank the dollar first and then float the big stimulus package possible. The order makes no difference. I actually think they are tanking the dollar in advance of the stimulus.

The bagholders are all long-term debt holders and pensioners of dollar-denominated assets. Also, foreign exporters into the U.S. market.

The dollar will fall against all other major currencies. But beyond that, all major currencies will fall against the value of goods and services. It's called hyperinflation.

Apparently, this is how certain problems will be "solved". Social Security will be solved if the inflation adjustments lag with true inflation. It's not hard to imagine that happening! Too bad for the elderly who depend on the payments or those of us who would like to retire some day. Obviously, inflating the currency will also solve the problem of overpriced housing.
And where is the trillion going to come from? Already the US owes more than it can possibly pay back. The way to stay solvent in this scenario is to debase our currency against other world currencies, thereby making the debt cheaper, relative to goods. My thinking on a response to all this is very down to earth. It's time to start living like Uncle Jon and get good at gardening and have a lot of tools. Be able to produce something.

PS Slightly off topic but not really: I just finished reading "Mortgaging the Earth", a book on the World Bank. In that book we learn that Larry Summers, Obama's choice for head of the National Economic Council, in 1991, while serving as chief economist for the World Bank, authored a private memo arguing that the bank should actively encourage the dumping of toxic waste in developing countries, particularly "under populated countries in Africa," which Summers described as "UNDER-polluted."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

picture for lona


from innes (they were talking about this on the phone)
"i've got several more of this kid painting, I liked the colors and the way the light hit"
I meant to post this earlier today but I forgot to:

Happy birthday, Lona!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Say Cheese!

For a few months now, Guy and I have been making our own cheese. Well, actually, Guy usually makes it while I watch the baby, which makes it a joint effort. We started with Mozzarella, and had a lot of success. From milk to cheese takes only a half hour! And its easy too! We use the leftover whey to make delicious bread. This past weekend we finally ventured into the world of more complex cheese making.

We decided to make Farmhouse Cheddar, because we eat a lot of cheddar and this recipe seemed reasonably simple and only needs to age for a month. With all cheese making(I think - maybe just some of it), you have to start with milk that is not ultra-pasteurized, we have been able to find it at MOM's, and its from Pennsylvania, local enough for me. You do have to be careful to raise the temperature of the cheese very slowly, but we found that the hardest part of the process was finding weights to press the cheese, to expel more of the whey.


That is a cutting board on the bottom, with a stainless steel cheese mold, the cheese is inside it, being pressed by a empty tin, weighted down with a bocci ball set, 3 heavy books and a box of photos. 50 pounds for 12 hours. That tower didn't last, and we moved it to the bathtub, where we tied the bocci ball ropes to the handicap railings in the tub and put our 20 quart pot of water on top of it.


In the end, we have 2 pounds of organic, local, homemade cheese! It is drying right now, tonight we will wax it, and then it has to age for a month. I can't wait!


Links:
Mozzarella Cheesemaking Kit
Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Free bread, not even from dumpsters!



My boss and I found a new thrift store in Herndon, VA today and it was P-A-C-K-E-D like it was black Friday at Wal-Mart or something! I think the poor economy has many people looking to thrift stores for holiday shopping and this is great for a number of reasons:

• I got LOTS of great presents for under $20 (and you will just have to wait and find out!)
• Stuff ends up getting a second life instead of going to the landfill
• You are supporting a local business
• The proceeds benefit people who can’t even afford to shop at thrift stores
• It is run by volunteers which fosters a strong sense of community

By the checkouts they have baskets full of delicious Trader Joe’s bread that has a sell-by date of today. There stands a sign that says “Free bread is for you, not the birds!). I got a loaf of Ezekiel bread* (my fave), sourdough, and fiber muffins.

This gift of bread reminded me of Russell Benedict.

I doubt that Annie remembers him but he was her Dad’s best friend and an early champion of dumpster diving. He used to go to grocery stores and fish baked goods and other palatable food from the dumpsters to give to the poor (like us!). I remember him giving Annie and me boxes of Little Debbie cakes and hostess pocket pies (not his most nutritious finds) and telling me that I shouldn’t stand on the dog’s tail because even though he almost knocked me over when he wagged it, it can’t feel very nice to have someone stand on it.

Sometimes Russell would get in trouble with the stores for taking from the dumpsters.

In his wallet he always kept a worn out letter, supposedly from Mother Theresa, commending him for his work to feed the poor. Whenever a store manager would hassle him he would whip out that letter and they’d go “Oh, sorry! Here, take whatever you want!” With that the food started to bypass the dumpster and he built a network that got lots of people fed.

We all can benefit from the value of free bread, even if we can afford to buy it ourselves.

It is ennobling to be on both the giving and receiving ends charity.







*(Side tangent: Apparently Ezekiel bread is missing a special ingredient that would make it authentic "....and thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight. And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them." (Ezekiel 4:12-13))

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Dachshund Song


This is in tribute to Lynnis

A day that will live in infamy

Pearl Harbor Day. September 11, 2001. The attack on the Cole. Madrid. London subway. Mumbai. Remember the Maine.

It pays to be prepared. You just never know when some bastard is going to stab you in the back. Good preparation does not mean just weapons but also disposition of yourself and your assets. It also means after attack survival.

I remember 9-11-2001. I was on my way into DC for a medical appointment. I was probably the only person in the country unaware of what had just happened in NY. The attack on the Pentagon had not yet occurred. I got off a nearly deserted subway downtown and went to my appointment. No answer at the door. Unknown to me the doctor was in an enormous traffic jam on 395 due to the Pentagon attack. I gave up waiting and went outside and saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon. Someone on the street filled me in on what they knew: something about an airplane crashing into a NY skyscraper. He thought that DC was under attack. Get out of town he said.

My friend William Caswell was aboard the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Bill and I had gone through the undergraduate physics program together at Maryland. He later got his PhD at Princeton in quantum chromodynamics. You can read about his career on Wikipedia. Imagine how I felt when later I learned of Bill's fate. At home in Accokeek, the odor from the Pentagon drifted to us some 20 miles away. All the subsequent week or two fighters were flying CAP over the DC area. I watched them maneuver at night, keeping each other alert by sneaking up on each other.

I remember 9-11. A few are still around to remember Pearl Harbor. It seems like it will never end. It won't end.

Do It Yourself Driveway Gate


When I wanted to build a driveway gate I found a paucity of instructions on how to go about it so I will detail the process. First I dug holes on each side of the driveway to sink 4x6 pressure treated posts. The posts were set in place with quick setting concrete. Use a level to make sure they are straight up. Then I ordered an adjustable gate frame from Fox home center (see http://www.foxhomecenter.com/fence/adjustagate.htm). To span a driveway you need 2 adjust-a-gates, plus 4 2x4s. The hinges and latch come with the gate. I installed the adjust-a-gate according to the instructions which was easy. It's a clever design that lets you easily get the second gate even with the first. The final step was to make it into some kind of artistic statement. I took a walk along the river and gathered interesting driftwood and also walked in our woods looking for dead mountain laurel branches. I made a frame of 1x6 horizontals with 2x4 uprights on the edges and natural wood uprights for spokes and used screws to attach everything together.
Total materials:
2 2x6 pressure treated
2 50 lb. ready mixed concrete
2 caps for the posts (optional)
6 2x4 pressure treated
4 1x6 pressure treated
14 gathered upright pieces
3 inch, 2 inch and 1 and 1/4 inch screws
Oh, and I bought a cordless drill for the work I had to do down at the end of the driveway. Other tools were a circular saw, a level and a post hole digger.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The NRL dish

In the 50s and 60s the government had Nike missile bases surrounding Washington, DC. Some of you kids have visited the radar dish there. Imagine my surprise when I ran across this website about it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Squash 2 Π - Part 2


A squashsicle this big takes days to thaw, but we managed eventually. Next you add the spices and puree the squash. We have found that the hand blender works better then the food processor.

Makes 1 pie:
  • 3 cups pumpkin mush
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 cans (12oz can) of evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground ginger (or more if you like it zesty)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Next, make your pie crust. I mix flour, a pinch of salt and a stick of butter in the flood processor.
After it is well mixed, add a little water until this happens.
Roll the crust out, and put it in the pie pan. Pour in the Squash mixture.

Bake at 425 F for the first 15 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 350 F and bake another 45 to 60 minutes, until a clean knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

We doubled the recipe, so we got 2 pies. And we still have pumpkin mush left over.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Get Well Wishes to Leo

Haven and I just got back from visiting Leo in the hospital. He did not seem to be in pain but he did have a lot of discomfort from the IV insert thingamabobby. I chatted with the doctor a little who said the case was unusual in that a young healthy person can usually fight off these kinds of infections. They are running tests and will do a more invasive test in a couple of days if they need to. Leo, I know you will read this --- remember the visualization exercise...breathe in white healing light...breathe out dirty impurities. Visualize your white blood cells fighting the infection. Get well soon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Skype me, baby!

I just started using skype recently, and would like to be able to talk to my nieces online but they don't have webcams. Woot has a two pack of webcams for $13 today. *hint hint*

How to save 30% on almost anything!

With the holidays coming and most of us feeling poor I thought I'd share some misering tips! I am always finding fantastic deals on ebay, and here's how to make them even better. Microsoft's products suck so bad they will give you payola for using them. They owe me $200 just since yesterday for things I was going to buy anyway. Here's how:

1) First find something you want on ebay with a buy it now using your regular search methods. Then open internet explorer and go to www.live.com do a vague search for the product you need. You may need to tweak your search terms so it knows you are looking to buy something (Fig 1)


2) On the results page look for the $ sign showing you can get cash back at ebay (Fig 2)

3) Click through the link and look for the microsoft cashback sign at the top of ebay, then edit the search until you've found just want you need. You can even paste in the item number from your previous search. (Fig 3)


4) You must use "buy it now" within an hour of your live.com search and you must pay with paypal.

5) IMPORTANT: On the last page where your payment receipt is from paypal you must click "Claim your microsoft cashback". You'll have to sign up for a microsoft live account which can use your email address as the login. Your cashback should show up as pending shortly and in 60 days you can request it to be dispersed (the waiting period it so you can't return the item). You can get your payola by check, paypal, or deposited to your bank account.

I hear microsoft is discontinuing live.com so this opportunity may not be around much longer.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Artistic elephant

You won't believe this one. Maybe I don't myself. I suppose a photo sequence can be faked. Maybe a human did it. But at face value, an elephant did this amazing art work. Look at the whole sequence top to bottom. That elephant can paint better than I can.

I'm ever so glad Lona and I contributed to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee for retired circus elephants. Only females are accepted because of the impracticality of dealing with a bull.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Curbside compost comes to Boulder!

Happy post-Thanksgiving! I loved your thankfulness post, Lynnis. I am thankful to be able to read the thoughts all of you so far away.

I thought I should report on my newest happy Boulder living phenomenon. Sofi and Sam had a great time watching the trash company come this morning to reconfigure our trash carts for the new city curbside compost and single stream recycling program. For some time we tried to compost in our yard, but with the extreme dry climate compost actually requires watering, which strikes me as such a difficult use of a precious resource. Now all residential trash service in Boulder comes with a bin where kitchen waste, yard waste and non-plastic coated non-recyclable organics can go- this was a huge step for Boulder towards the citywide zero-waste plan. It makes us feel better knowing that not only are we overly concerned about our trash, but those around us are too. All things considered it chalks up to more points in the pro column for living in Boulder.

Now if only we could figure out how to go completely zero-plastic. I did want to follow up on Piri's older plastic rant by mentioning that we have a picnic table made of recycled plastic that I really like. It is very heavy duty and supposed to not fade or degrade very easily, and so far has not stained or changed state in any way. Maybe we need to just think of more ways for our plastic refuse to enhance our lives?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gratefulness


Porcupines demonstrate gratefulness even when no one wants to give them a hug.

We spend a lot of time taking things for granted. Thanksgiving is a time when we are reminded to show thanks for the good things in our lives. For most people it involves lots of food and family...two things most of us probably take for granted. Many of us don’t stop to think of how difficult life would be without them. Only once you are truly grateful for the bounty in your life, does the universe allow more blessings to come your way.

For the record, I am very grateful to have family and friends that raised me and continue to care for me, ample water to drink and food to eat (though I could use a little less), a warm home that I own, a job that pays me enough to live comfortably on, a partner who I know will be there for me no matter what, and of course my assortment of critters who bring me endless joy and amusement. So thanks, folks.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Polio Eradication

Because I had polio at age 5, the hoped-for eradication of the disease is something I keep up with. Most efforts heretofore have used a so-called "trivalent" oral vaccine that is intended to simultaneously immunize against Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 versions of polio. Type 2 polio is believed to be already extinct worldwide. Recently, monovalent vaccines against Type 1 and Type 3 have been separately certified. This is important because in endemic areas of the world such as India and Nigeria, the virus is so prevalent that the oral immunizations against multiple types compete with each other in binding to the gut. Therefore the monovalent versions are believed to be and mostly have been proven to be more potent. Sometimes the trivalent version is still used when both Type 1 and Type 3 are still present. Those are now alternated with the monovalent versions in various campaigns.

The success of the most recent campaigns has been mixed. The geographic diversity has been reduced to fewer countries, but, the absolute number of infected people has increased. The reason for this is mostly because of Islamic distrust of the rest of the world. They believe that medical personnel are trying to sterilize them and some imams vigorously campaign against it. Some medical people in Pakistan have been killed. Of course, Islamic doctors campaign in favor of immunizations. Northern India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are now the major reservoirs in Asia with mostly Nigeria infecting the rest of Africa sporatically.

No one knows how all this will turn out. In Nigeria, it is the corruption of officials hoping for a bribe that holds up things combined with religious fervor doing likewise. In Asia, it is mostly religion.

It is not obvious how much longer the world will continue to fund the eradication effort. If things collapse, infection will spread again worldwide. So far, there is still hope that the monovalent potency will reinvigorate the campaign. Asia has mostly type 3 and a bit of Type 1 combined, whereas in Africa it is the opposite. I hope everyone will contribute to the effort. The worldwide economic collapse is not helping things. There is still hope. Saudia Arabia holds a trump card. They do not allow haj unless a person is accompanied by a polio immunization certificate.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I wish sex ed was like this when I was in middle school

More bad news about plastics - Get away from my butt!

And the weekly Plastic News:

It looks like the BPA in waste water streams has been traced back to recycled toilet paper. I knew I hated recycled toilet paper for a good reason. It isn't added intentionally, but comes from recycled credit card receipts. BPA is not just found in recycled toilet paper, but all recycled paper, though exposure is quite high with the toilet paper. BPA is a hormone disruptor and having it in waste water is likely causing problems for marine life. And unfortunately, sources like this, probably means very small amounts of BPA in our tap water. Plastic in our water is beyond disturbing.

Don't put your plastics in the microwave. New tests show it causes BPA to leach out of even the "safe" plastics, numbers 1, 2 and 5.

And in creepy consumer news, despite a ban on phthalates in toys, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is allowing toys containing unsafe plastics to be sold throughout the holiday season, until February 10, 2009. Especially try to avoid buying soft plastic bath toys and teething rings for anyone this Christmas.

Links:
Holy S#@T:There's BPA in my Recycled Toilet Paper
Is it Safe to Microwave Plastic?
Get your Phthalates Cheap for Christmas at a Store near you
Piri's Anti-Plastic Spiel

Is the Climate getting Warmer ? Brrr...

It sure has been cold lately. This summer was not all that hot either. OK, so the glaciers are melting and the Arctic is showing a bit of bare skin.

None of that helps me. According to actuarial tables a male my age has about 19 years life expectancy left. I don't think it will warm up much in 19 years ... if at all. Tonight at latitude 38 degrees North, that is here near Washington DC and same latitude as southern Spain, it is predicted to go down to 20 F. It is only November.

If you want a Federal Job by Law Register for Draft

It was quite some time ago that I urged Soren and Scot to register for the draft. The draft has not been used since the Vietnam war, but, Congress passed a law that all males who want a federal job must have registered for the draft. This is supposed to be done at 18 and must be done before turning 26.

Today that paid off for Scot. He applied for a Navy job where Greeleo works. He was sweating it for a while because he didn't remember registering and the Selective Service site said that since he was 26 it was too late. But then he remembered to check to see whether he was already registered. Lo, and behold, he was registered. It PAYS to listen to elders advice. Now if only a different male would do so on other matters ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's a Woot Off today!

Woohoo! Cheap crap that you never imagined you needed until you see it on woot! I know I have turned Piri and Sandi on to woot and they've gotten some good junk there, but those of you who haven't used it yet should check it out. They post one ridiculously cheap thing everyday at 1am. The other day they had 2gig SD cards for 2.99, so I got 3!

Special days, like today, they use to clear inventory and when one item is sold out, another item will be posted immediately afterwards. The grand final is usually a bag of crap for $1. This usually instantly crashes their server as people have been known to get plasma TVs in the grab bags. Also no matter what you get or how many it is $5 shipping. One caveat - I have not have much luck with their refurb goods (cleaning robots & vaccums), I have usually needed to send them back for repair.


You could go to www.woot.com but I like to watch woot-offs at this RSS feed because it's less drag on their server and you don't need to refresh.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Possibly Useful Summary News Source

Google news is a nice summary, but it is automated without much in the way of human selection or summary. I ran across this summary news source you might like to bookmark. It has RSS feed also.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My favorite stock gets the Jim Cramer treatment!

Full article on The Street

When it comes to ethanol, Cramer made it no secret he's not a fan of the commodity, nor the companies that make it.

But with the collapse of Verasun Energy (VSUN Quote - Cramer on VSUN - Stock Picks), along with several other ethanol stocks, Cramer's changed his tune on Archer Daniels Midland (ADM Quote - Cramer on ADM - Stock Picks).

Cramer said when all of the weak players get washed out of an industry, the last man standing usually wins. In this case, with just about all of the smaller ethanol companies now bought or bankrupt, ADM stands alone as a giant in the ethanol industry. Add that to an Obama presidency that heavily favors ethanol, and Cramer sees dollar signs.

Cramer said ADM is a huge buy based on its enormous size and global reach. He said in the biofuel business, size really does matter, and with its international business model, ADM is in the unique position of being able to shift its end product production to meet global demands.

For example, he said, now that ethanol is back in vogue in the U.S., ADM is shifting some of its corn syrup production back to ethanol to meet increased demand. Likewise, the company has the ability to weather disruptions in crop production by shifting supplies around the world.

Cramer said he's also a fan of ADM's bioplastics division, which makes bio-based plastics for plates, containers, utensils, coatings and other products.

When you put all of the pieces together, ADM is a buy, said Cramer.

Abraham Lincoln eloquence speaks

Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov 21, 1864
To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five (5) sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
A Lincoln

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Geek Stuff: Simple Motion Control

After my crude success with CAD drawing for the snake grabber, I have now tried something a little more ambitious. This is a simple way to make something move in a more or less linear controlled fashion using leaf springs. If you just use a simple leaf spring and attach something to the top of it, the spring bends over. The classic solution to this is to attach something to counter bend the top of the spring so that the top of the spring stays more or less parallel to its original position, but displaced as desired. The sketch below (excuse my beginner CAD abilities) shows a two leaf spring device with the leaf springs in RED and the top controlled portion in black with something coming half way down to counter bend the top so that it remains parallel.



The thing labeled wobble pin is a method for accomodating the fact that the pusher (usually a screw with a dimple in the end) will never be exactly perpendicular to the motion control device. By inserting the wobble pin between a dimple on the motion control bar and the dimple on the screw, the wobble pin accommodates in accuracies of construction that are always present. The location of the dimple on the bar should be half way down but it is best to empirically locate the best point since sometimes materials are inhomogeneous. By attaching a mirror temporarily to the top the image can be viewed while pushing. Find a point where the image doesn't deviate. When the CAD drawing was made the RED leaf springs should have been shown as extending over the top and bottom pieces for attachment.

A more sophisticated version of this can use three balls in a cylinder at each end of the wobble pin. The cones of the wobble pin rest against the three balls. It is easy to drill a hole in the control bar for the bearing balls. In a pinch disassemble a ball bearing, but it is easier to just order a box of loose precision bearing balls. A box of 100 1/8" bearing balls will cost around $7.00.

A still better version of this device uses four leaf springs with the second set displaced from the first set so as to form four upright springs in a rectangular bedpost configuration. The counter-bending bar then sits between the two sets.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

neat

How to catch a snake peacefully

An old trick for making a grabber for anything I show here in the following picture.



An alternative way to make it is not use a pipe, instead use a stick with another loop tied to the end of it. Insert the rope loop through that loop. Ask the snake to please insert herself into the loop of the rope. If she refuses you know it is probably another pesky male.

Squash 2 Π - Part 1

The last day of the farmer's market, a slippery squash salesman talked Guy into buying this monster squash. The price was $3, a very good veg to dollar ratio. Apparently, this is a good type of squash to make into pumpkin pie.
After giving the squash a bath, hack it to bits. Its harder then it looks, this is one mighty squash. Remove the seeds from the bell at the bottom, an ice cream scoop works well.
The next step is to steam the squash. We got out our very large, 20 quart, beer brewing pot. Put a veggie steaming basket or a stainless steel colander at the bottom, add a couple of inches of water and pack the squash in. This one filled the entire pot. We cooked it for 30 minutes (a smaller squash should cook in half the time) and it was really nice and mushy.

Peel off the skins. If your squash is watery, let it sit in a colander for a few hours to drain.

After we got to this point, we had to take a break and our squash turned into a giant squashsicle. Hopefully, it will turn into pie soon. If you must know, the story ends with pureeing, seasoning, making pie crust, baking and eating.

Exercises in Compassion Part II- More than one way to kill a snake

Gordon mentioned he wants a gun for killing snakes. I want to remind him that there is more than one way to kill a snake. In general I don’t believe in killing things that don’t bother you, copperheads are the exception. Most snakes I just relocate to the far reaches of the field. They only hang around because they like to eat the rodents. This means that Gordon will have to choose between whether he has a snake infestation or a rat infestation since killing the snakes means more rats. Personally, I like rats. I don’t like it so much when they carry pestilence or when the cat bats their rotting corpses under the vacuum so I can spend weeks looking for that awful smell once they are reduced to a furry grease spot. Whenever I catch a varmint, I cross both the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers before letting them go in Maryland. Crossing two bodies of water with mice is a rule of thumb Lona taught me, when she drove the 20 miles to Upper Marlboro to release the mice she caught in her geodesic dome.

Since moving into our house two years ago I have had more than one interesting encounter with snakes. When we first inspected the attic we found it was filled with snake skins. We had the trees trimmed so it wouldn’t be so easy for them to slither out of the trees and onto the roof for sunning themselves. It seemed to help keep them out of the attic.

The trouble really happens when Brian travels. While he was off eating a rattle snake his friend bludgeoned and dried on a rock, I was having a snake of my own. I was in the downstairs bathroom washing my hands when I noticed a copperhead coiled around the showerhead! I almost called the police but I remembered that my very capable mother (who has braved the bites of a much larger copperhead) was on her way.

In the meantime I began to think of how the snake got in and how I could dispatch it. There is no good explanation for how it got in, but it could have been through the bath tub drain I suppose. Later we found that drainpipe just dumped under the foundation despite the plumbers telling us it was all hooked up.

I came up with several ideas of how to deal with it. They included:

a) Cutting its head off with a pair of brush loppers

b) Turning a can of spray air upside down and freezing it (somehow I thought I could then shatter it)

c) Trapping it under a bucket and leaving it for Brian to deal with when he got home.

Lona arrived and we chose option C. We were too afraid it would lash out at us to get close enough to freeze it or lop its head off, so I got a 6 foot long garden stake and pried it off the showerhead while Lona covered it with the pig’s water bowl. The bottom of the tub was too curved for the bowl to sit flush so we had to swap it out for a flower pot. That unfortunate reptile sat in wait for at least three days until my neighbor called to check in on me and sent her husband over to see about the snake. He picked it up using the loppers as tongs and took it outside and dispatched it. This concluded that adventure.

Two months later, Brian went away to Iraq for 9 weeks I was stepping outside one morning and there was another small copperhead coiled up on the doormat, right where my foot was about to land. My intrepid neighbor, Smitty took care of that one too by bashing its head in. I owe him such a debt.

the next time Brian went away I only saw one wrapped around the porch foundation. I implemented an aggressive regimen of naphtha (moth balls) to try to deter the copperheads as I am afraid my dogs or pig will get bitten one day. The regimen wasn’t having the desired effect. This spring, Brian was away in the Mid East again. It had been raining cats and dogs all day. When I came home I immediately noticed the house smelled off. I looked in the basement and it had several inches of water on the floor.

After I stood in the water like an idiot to unplug all the power cords, I called Brian’s dad for advice. He suggested I try to get to downspouts to dump farther from the house. I went out to clean the leaves over from under the downspout and lay down a shower curtain. What did I pull out of the leaves but a huge black snake! I left well enough alone with the snake and the sump pump finally started to make a dent in the basement flood. However, when I went outside in the morning, the snake was dead. I felt bad; it must have been from drowning or the naphtha. I had seen the snake around before and we never bothered each other. He was just here for the mice.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Moonshine, Pirates & Paranoia

Yesterday some website was running a promotion that they would make you an LLC free of charge if you just pay the state filing fees. Brian was very excited about this. I told him “psshaw, I can do that! I’m a paralegal remember?” You actually need no legal training to do it, it’s just going to your secretary of state’s website and filling out forms. He wanted to do it through this online company because the special was on Nevada LLCs. Nevada doesn’t require you to have the names of the managers on file with the secretary of state so it is the preferred jurisdiction of shady businesses.

I asked him what he was planning on doing that required that kind of anonymity. His response “I'm going to make it an umbrella corporation for everything evil: gun selling, whisky making, tranny p0rn sites and cute little piglet pictures. You should register merrygoosemother LLC and they can own your blog so if you say anything inflammatory, your LLC will get sued and not us.”

me: why do you need your officers hidden?

Brian: because i don't want protesters!!!

me: what kind of shady things are you planning on doing?

Brian: make moonshine!

and sell guns

and fight piracy in the gulf of Aden!

me: this is wv, that what we DO and no one protests

Fighting piracy in the gulf of Aden was Brian’s brainchild at least six months ago.... long before shipping companies started to see the need for private escorts. Destroyers are just so darn scarce on Ebay right now.

Brian’s same partner in privateering wants us to make whiskey on our farm. He figures we have street cred being located in West Virginia. (or is it dirt road cred?)

He also wants to become a licensed firearms dealer. I NEVER thought I would say this but I actually think it’s a good idea. I think gun dealer licenses are set to become the real estate agent licenses of the early 2000s, everyone can make a few bucks with minimal effort. Ever since the election, guns are flying of the shelves and into the hands of paranoid rednecks. Our local store can not keep assault rifles in stock, they sell in a day and now they have a waiting list. Maybe it would be a business plan for some of you Marylanders as "Fairyland" seems to be an under-served and under-armed market with plenty of paranoid people.

Back to the start up business train of thought.

Brian’s “Free” service wanted $250 for a Tax ID number. Which are available from the IRS for free. I also think that if you are a small business with one location you should incorporate in the state in which you intend to do business. Otherwise you will have to maintain registration with both your state of incorporation and where you actually operate your business. Those annual reports are expensive to file are a pain in the ass, plus you'll need to maintain a registered agent in each state you do business. Maryland is actually the worst state I’ve ever had to file in. They require a complete inventory and valuation of all your assets once a year so they can tax you on them. I’m no expert but if you want to start a small business in Maryland sole proprietorship or a partnership is probably the best option. If you are going to have a partner though always always get the arrangement in writing! None of this is legal advice as I'm not qualified to give it, it's just my own thoughts on the subject.

This is a rambling post so I’ll do a recap on the themes I’m trying to express:

  • Entrepreneurship is good.
  • You can start a business by your own damn self
  • Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be
  • Tax ID numbers are free
  • Gun dealer licenses are the new hotness

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A happy mello motorbiker

Here is another youtube time waster.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgESrylh--8

But very entertaining.
Happy Armistice Day, Frank Buckles!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another reason to go plastic-free

It looks like plastic #5, polypropylene, is not as safe as originally thought, it leaches oleamide. Oleamide is a chemical naturally found in the blood and the brain, and is used to improve the fluidity of molten plastics. It has been suggested that a bit extra could alter brain function.

Link: Researchers raise alarm after chemical leak found in common plastic

Friday, November 7, 2008

Beat Bawking

I often go about bawk-bawk-bawking little ditties which Brian has dubbed "beat bawking". This is because I love chickens. They are the only pets that contribute more than just love to my family. Chickens are so relaxing to see pecking around in the yard. This activity also keeps away ticks. My own High On The Hog mascots at right are also the endless source of comic amusement.

Becky, the buff orpington recently started laying eggs and it's really wonderful to have fresh local eggs that I know are humane. Chickens are so easy to keep and their only need is to be protected from predators and a bit of scratch grain. For Søren's 30th birthday I made him a chicken ark complete with three chickens. It was fun to build and a thing of beauty, although their chicken population has outgrown it.

I realize many of you face local ordinances preventing you from keeping chickens, but if they are legal where you are I highly recommend checking out The City Chicken. This is where I got the idea for Søren's chicken tractor. The City Chickens recounts tales of keeping small chickens on an urban balcony. Small breeds of chickens are great alternatives to parrots for city dwellers. My own Japanese bantams are about the size of a pigeon.

Chickens, like dogs come in difference breeds which you make select base on your needs. The Feather Site is a great place to research the variety that's best for you. Here are some breeds I've raised and my thoughts of them.

Buff orpington – beautiful fat dual purpose chicken. Classic look, very sweet disposition, reliable layers.

Golden Comets – Sex linked. Lean birds are excellent for commercial egg production. They have wonderful tame personalities. I will be getting more of these in spring.

Silkie Bantams – Beautiful plumage, nice layers for their size and good temperaments.

(these three breeds above are the ones in the High on the Hog logo)

Barred Plymouth Rocks – Classic looking dual purpose, big birds. Unfriendly to people and aggressive to other chickens.

Japanese Bantams – exotic looking small birds. Aloof and skittish but very self sufficient.

Road Island Reds – Excellent for egg production but tend of be skittish and aggressive to each other.

Brown Leghorns – Excellent for egg production and self sufficient, aloof personalities.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Expertise counts

I went over to Lyle's today to have some welding done. It was all completed in an amazingly short time. He uses a MIG instead of a stick welder like mine. Of course he is practiced while I am an utter novice. Both equipment and expertise did the trick.

Lyle says he is going to teach Scot to weld if Scot wants to learn. I hope he does. That boy needs a trade. Scot is a smart, quick learner.

Maybe I will get a MIG some day. Lyle says that even a monkey can learn to use one. I'm sorry to repeat an insult to a monkey. The thought police are listening. I hope I am smarter than a monkey.

Things that you wished people noticed

Have ever had that feeling? Hasn't there been something you felt like you had improved on and you want somebody--anybody to compliment you for the hard work you put into improving it.

I was just thinking about my signature. I know it must be sort of weird, but i have spent hours practicing my signature in the hopes that i may one day get complimented. when i look at now objectively, id say that it looks average/normal. At the same time, i suddenly realized that people weren't there for the time that i put into it. It's not a big thing, it's just wierd thing i have noticed before.

What about everyone else?

a radio that "only plays music that you like"

You might've heard about this website already but I hadn't heard about it til yesterday. I looked it up this morning and used it for a few hours to supply my background music for working on homework, etc.
The website Pandora Radio is a website that is sort of like a cross between youtube and a radio. You create an account (free), and enter the name of a band, composer, or song that you like. It creates a long list of songs that have similar qualities for you, and plays them continuously, (I think) like a radio. If a song comes up that you don't like or that you've heard too many times, you can click the "thumbs down" icon on your list and it won't play it again. You can have multiple playlists.
I think its pretty cool because I get tired of listening to the same songs over and over again, and I'm not very good at discovering new songs that I like by myself. The only downside is the songs don't download, so when you want a song you have to go out and buy it.

Angry Bloggers Unite

Karen found this article and linked below. I had trouble accessing from work so it merits re-posting:

LINK: The Great Google Rebellion
By Lou Cabron
October 19th, 2008

Thursday Google unveiled a new design for its iGoogle homepage
service. Unfortunately (according to one geek), it's "a big unwanted
piece of crap."

In an email interview today, Google defended the changes. But Google
won't let users switch their home pages back to the way they used to
be, which has sparked a furious revolt, online activism, and even some
homegrown fixes.

22 million people visit iGoogle each month (according to January
figures from Comscore), but Thursday Google foisted their changes onto
every user in the United States. The same day, Johnson Rice created an
online petition urging Google to allow a rollback option — and found
nearly 1,000 people to sign it. Then he expanded his crusade on a
nationally-syndicated radio show, and launched a Facebook Group
protesting "forced website redesigns." Its goal? Fighting for the
best-loved sites "if the corporate committees start trashing them."

iGoogle's product manager, Jessica Ewing, emaield us today arguing
Google is "constantly thinking about how to improve our products for
our users. Then, we take our ideas, prototype them, and put them
through a vigorous set of usability tests and experiments to make sure
we are doing the right thing for users.

"The iGoogle features we launched went through this exact process and
we've made changes along the way based on feedback from users and
developers."

But some users clearly aren't satisfied. One thread in Google's
discussion groups "is full of thousands of complaints about this
sudden and unannounced change," according to Slashdot. In fact, one
commenter posted that "Google has gone evil," joining a chorus of
other negative threads.

What were you thinking????
How do I complain to Google?
Please return the hijacked horizontal space
I agree that the new igoogle changes are crap

Within 24 hours, disgruntled users had gotten even more aggressive,
and resorted to posting email addresses for iGoogle's developers. One
commenter claimed they'd also contacted a Google employee, "and they
said they agreed that the new layout is horrible and was surprised
that it was distributed to everyone at this point in time.

"They also said that as soon as they saw it, Google would be bombarded
with complaints."
Soon the fierce discussion had identified several unsanctioned
workarounds, which include logging into Google's Australian, British
or Irish home pages or running a Greasemonkey script in Firefox. (The
script's name? "Old Google Ig...") Other protesters used Google's
discussion group to tout Google's competitors, including Netvibes and
Protopages. Another blogger located a Firefox add-on which
"disappears" the unwanted column, and one user even bragged they were
accessing their Google Gmail account using Yahoo's home page service.

Comscore's January figures suggest Google has more than a quarter of
all personalized home page users, and one iGoogle user says it's
corrupted Google's philosophy. "Notice that the more powerful Google
becomes, the more they take away our choices....once they reached the
status of monopolistic stardom they suddenly fling off the sheep's
clothing and out comes the wolf."

"Welcome to the future of cloud computing," warns a commenter on
Slashdot. "This is what it means to give up control of your software
for the convenience of a net-based service."

Information Week iGoogle's senior product manager, Jessica Ewing,
defended the new column added in the re-design. "The left navigation
allows users to go from canvas view to canvas view of the new gadgets
with one click, which we think is important as we see more and more
great canvas view gadgets that require a scalable navigation model."
Jessica says Google was careful to narrow the column because "We
realize it does take up some screen real estate, particularly on small
monitors," and adds that "We'll continue to monitor user feedback and
usage and adjust accordingly." But angry users on Google Groups were
already posting her phone number, along with a number for Google's
"User Experience" Vice President Marissa Mayer, urging "flood her
inbox people!" One user even posted that "After trying the phone
number and getting the 'error' hangup — I sent her a fax!"

The new iGoogle features "were designed to make it more powerful,"
according to Google's official blog, saying the redesign will "bring
more information to the homepage." Besides the new column (which
re-lists the homepage's links), iGoogle now also offers a new "canvas
view" expanding RSS feeds to fill the screen. (And another option
condenses that view to a Gmail-like list of the feed's headlines.) The
changes will simply "bring more information to the homepage," argues
Google's blog. But some critics see it differently.

"They forced users to a hideous new format today with no method to opt
out," complained a blogger named Merry Goose Mother. "Everyone on the
interwebs is roaring about how much it sucks and how inconsiderate it
is to make changes to a page that users customize to their own
preferences without providing them a medium to give feedback or
revert." She titled her post "Google has officially become evil."
(Ironically, she posted it on Blogspot — a service owned by Google.)
And she asked her users for the ultimate solution.

"I need a new homepage, does anyone use Netvibes?"

Lifehacker posted another Greasemonkey script which eliminates
Google's new design changes, telling readers that "over half of you
gave it the thumbs down. Your main complaint: The new sidebar eats up
a substantial chunk of screen real estate." And Information Week
reported that "Almost all of the 80 comments posted on Information
Week since Thursday express unhappiness about the new iGoogle," adding
that "The situation is similar on other sites. Almost all of the 149
comments posted on the Google Operating System blog express
displeasure with the iGoogle changes."

But statements from Google suggested the easiest workaround — of
logging into a foreign version of iGoogle — may not last forever.
Google's blog announces cheerily "Don't worry. We'll also be rolling
out this updated version in other countries very soon."

Google isn't the only offender, according to Johnson Rice. "Facebook
has done the same thing to all their users," he argued in his radio
diatribe. "They just changed the design, and so what has happened is
people are starting to get angry, because this is an egregious use of
force on these people..." Today Slashdot reported that Yahoo "decided
to massively screw up their entire userbase by changing all user
profiles to blank, while Friday Thomas Hawk noted a thread on Flickr
complaining about changes to Flickr's "Recent Activity" page. (Hawk
sardonically headlined the post "Flickr Changes Most Popular Page on
the Site, Users Go Bonkers," and in three days the thread has racked
up over 3,700 posts.)

Johnson Rice argues the web services are committing a clear injustice.
"Both Facebook and Google, while they offer a free service, make their
money on advertising," he told the radio show's hosts. "Which means
that their users and their community are the people who are in fact
paying them by using their service." But despite his best efforts, he
hasn't succeeded yet in rallying everyone to his cause.

The radio show's host responded, "I'd like to go on record as not
giving a crap."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

OMG BLOG!1!!!1!

How did I not know about Ysa's blog? Check it out peoples!

Exercises in compassion.

A few days ago I noticed a ladybug crawling on my work pc monitor. I thought it was cute since I used to have an app of crawling ladybugs for my igoogle before I quit using the updated version. Yesterday I found her struggling on her back so I flipped her over. I found her today and she seemed weak so I told her I’d take her outside. I carried her to the elevator on my ID badge. When I stepped in the elevator I noticed she was no where to be found. I was disappointed I’d let her down but moved on. I went to the restroom where one does a lot of looking down at ones shoes and saw her clinging to my instep. I picked her up worrying the action may have hurt her and took her outside. I set her on a leaf and she happily latched on.

Why is it so much easier to be compassionate towards cute things? I also have an infestation of ants and stink bugs in my home. At first I could tolerate the ants and just vowed to keep the place cleaner. Now I have ants no matter what and they have lost their protected status. Stink bugs are also the most loathsome little critters I have ever encountered. I found hundreds living in my fireplace and set them on fire. Not only are they gross and stinky they are also an invasive species so I don’t feel bad about killing them.

Lona got Julia a book that teaches children to show compassion for ants. Where do you draw the line on showing compassion for inconvenient pests?