Thursday, December 26, 2013

Just when Christmas lulled us into a false sense of security...

Yes, I did have a lovely December 25, mostly spending time at home with Lucas, whose Hairy Pothead movie website is up and running. He even bought me some gifts important to my career such as painting supplies and a handheld stereo podcasting microphone.
` Both easy to carry around when interviewing people, and vastly more reliable than my laptop. And it's stereo! In case that counts. Eeeee!
` The cats even got some toys from my mom, and I bought another laser pointer for Dilly and Christina ("The gray dot is back!!").
` All in all, it was a warm and fuzzy Christmas this year, so imagine the change of pace next morning while taking Lucas to the Emergency Room for the nth time.

This, of course, is just another aftershock from Our own biggest insurance fraud ever.

Just after 8:30, I was faced with the task of both taking the garbage out and getting the Lucas to the ER without him vomiting on the inside of my car. This was difficult because his hands were numb and curled up and he was having trouble walking.
` Although he is still in the Emergency Room, I have come back home for a while and re-written my schedule because I am just that determined to focus on my own projects, like this blog. Which I haven't been at all for some time.
` Therefore, why not blog about what I'm so wrapped up with in meatspace? Let's go:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Our very own biggest insurance fraud fiasco ever

Lou Ryan is his stage name, but here I am referring to him as Lucas, because that is what people actually call him. He's been suffering for over a year with a debilitating spinal injury sustained on the job, yet he has been unable to get the insurance money he has been promised from this job.
` That means, lots of stress and work for us just to keep him healthy -- it seems I am finally losing my mind for real this time!

Since the daily drama has been keeping me holed up in 'defense mode', why don't I write you a nice, semi-coherent overview of the current situation as well as the larger context? Here goes:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Testing out the Blogger App!

I've just downloaded the Blogger app -- yet another way for the iPhone to change the way I do something!
It only took about ten hours of failed tech support before I learned that my regular gmail address will never work with Apple Accounts, and so had to create a new gmail account just to get any apps at all for my phone!
Granted, I don't see myself typing much blog material with my thumbs, but at the very least, I can upload my iPhone photos!

Dilly does not seem impressed. Right now, I am boiling up some turkey tail tea (see previous post), having regretted not taking it for a few days. During that time, I lost what little energy I had regained and took to sleeping most of the day and night. Yesterday, I had some more tea and improved dramatically, even regaining my appetite.
Unfortunately, my stomach felt as though it had a hole burning through it the more I ate -- which still happens for some reason when I don't get much physical activity.
I went to the gym, thinking that this would relieve my discomfort, and it did after everything I'd eaten in the past 3 hours came up and over the edge of the third story catwalk.

Luckily, I have no photos of this, although I do have one of me when I was barely able to get to the gym some days ago:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Recovering from many things right now...

Lately I've been too delirious to leave the house due to various illnesses, and am even having trouble sitting up at the moment. Didn't even have a chance to fully recover from TAM first. Grumble...
` On the awesome side, I have drawn a few Hairy Pothead character sketches, and got an iPhone 5 because of my involvement in the movie. Too many years have I relied on a basic phone that doesn't even work right!
` However, every time I draw, I keep thinking of Matthew Skenandore, that really awesome artist, who I won't have a chance to work with due to his demise.

It's been a rough few weeks.

On the positive side, I've got a little better phone service now that I've installed the signal booster -- after 6 weeks of outage! I can make calls from my house now, and I may even be able to access the internet with my iPhone, although this is proving tricky.
` I'm thinking of the spine-tingling prospect of using my iPhone to read things on Facebook, as I don't have much time for that when I'm around my computer.

For the time being, I have a lot of demands on me that I can scarcely meet due to my reduced mobility, plus there's blogging and podcast editing that I've had to mostly put on hold.
` Also, uploading photos has become technically more difficult than usual, so you're going to have to wait to see those character sketches.

Taking care of myself comes first, and I'm on the path to recovery. I'm taking ibuprofin and a little Guaifenesin, but I'm not above taking "herbal remedies", as long as they are full of useful drugs.
` A couple of cannabinoid-filled products dramatically reduce my muscle aches, general pain, lack of appetite, and lung filled-ness. It even increases my mental clarity in some ways, partly because I feel so much better.
` I even bother to drink tea made from the Trametes versicolor growing out of my dead apple tree. I'm interested to find that it seems to dramatically relieve the congestion and inflammation in my airways. I'm not sure exactly why this is, although it is worth mentioning that this mushroom is full of a variety of drugs.

Just had some frozen yogurt and my throat feels better, although I'm still sweating profusely. I slept six hours today after much activity at the house and am soon to be sleeping six more hours, I hope!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Amazing Meeting 2013, Day Two, Part Two

The opening ceremony began after dinner, which I have very little recollection of. Perhaps, because of my stomach, I didn't bother with dinner, because I remember eating plenty of delicious TAMnoms:

jux 161 - Noms

 The sleep deprivation was starting to get to me, and I began to have delusions of conquering the world, along with Gary from Gothenberg:

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Amazing Meeting 2013 -- Day Two, Part One

Although I was feeling about as refreshed as the gloomy, forest fire-ridden day outside, I nevertheless felt a rush of excitement when I thought about the upcoming Amazing Meeting, and when I saw my new friend Jamy Ian Swiss.

jux 135

In the Great Conference Hall, various skeptical groups were setting up their respective tables. Kyle Hill was keen on showing his... enthusiasm? while Sarah Mayhew hid inside of her fauxler bear jacket:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Amazing Meeting 2013 -- Day One

Although I'm currently suffering from TAMnesia, I've managed to upload the photos that will be featured in the next several posts, as well as make up for the lack of housework in my absence, attend the day-after TAM skeptic meetup, etc.
` I've been going through my notes, photos and videos, and find them inadequate to describe my experiences, to say the least. Then again, I did spend plenty of time at TAM interviewing folks for The Spoony Show, Podcast of Doom.

For now, I shall bring you photos from my first day of TAM, starting with high altitude shots of such dramatic landscape features as Mount Rainier:

jux 106 - Mt Ranier, I think

I like to pronounce it Ran-ye, for the entertainment value. And, there was more...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Making the best parody movie EVAR, and other big news.

Tomorrow, I leave for The Amaz!ing Meeting 2013, but that is only my second-most exciting piece of news. First place belongs to my involvement in the movie version of Hairy Pothead and the Marijuana Stone by Dana Larsen.
` I'll likely be working with Ed Ghertner (head animator/castle designer at Disney), so there's a good chance I can learn a thing or two about a thing or two. Maybe he can also give me advice on what color I should dye my hair next:

jux 089 - Goth enough for ye

In addition, I've done some podcasting work here and there, and plan to do a bunch more recording whilst at TAM. With all this going on, I hope you understand some of my reasons for leaving my last several posts unfinished (for now).
` But wait, there are many other things going on -- and many more cute/stunning/interesting photos to see!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The foreskin: Why is it such a secret in North America?

Note: Never have I gotten so many comments and emails in response to a blog post, much less rumors that I'm a man. I'll keep that in mind.
` And for the record, it wasn't until 2014 that I had the opportunity to put a man's intact penis in my very much female vagina -- that is, after I regained sensation in it. Long story. This frictionless appendage made me realize that sex doesn't have to be painful or cause hazardous inflammation. And with that image in your mind...

I was nineteen or twenty years old when a male friend of mine, we'll call him Bill, let me in on a most shocking fact: He was missing part of his penis, and so were almost all boys and men that I had ever seen in my entire life, as well as all the anatomical diagrams that I had ever seen. Ever.

Sure, I had heard of circumcision as a Jewish religious practice, but thought myself unlikely to ever see its results. Little did I know, all the male genitalia I had seen both in real life and as depicted in American anatomy books, had been edited in exactly the same way.
` The shock from this revelation overwhelmed me for weeks, especially since I considered myself to be fairly knowledgeable about anatomy. (My interests included biology and drawing biological structures.)

Why would anyone selectively remove foreskins, not just from real people but from scientific anatomical texts, which I had thought were meant to represent the natural human form?
` And why did no one ever tell me about this? It was as though a basic feature that males (of all mammals) are normally born with was not to be understood or even acknowledged.

I spent the next few weeks at the local library, immersing myself in primary and secondary source materials on the relevant anatomy, medicine and history, before I was satisfied that I had an accurate understanding of what was going on. To summarize what I had found:
` The foreskin (or prepuce) is a man's most sensitive erogenous zone, more well-developed in humans than in other species of mammal. It has unique sexual functions (more on that later), which circumcision effectively destroys -- and this is intentional:
` Although foreskin-chopping was once a purely religious or cultural practice, it was introduced to American medicine in the late 1800s, as a 'cure-all', thanks to the trend of pathologizing (treating as illness) normal human sexuality and healthy genitalia.

At the time, many doctors believed that sexual stimulation and ejaculation literally drained men of their vitality and caused all manner of illnesses and mental problems. Semen was thought to take a lot of blood to make, and losing one ounce was considered the equivalent of losing a quart of blood.
` Painfully severing the man or boy's most erogenous zone was recommended, and in orphanages, it was more common to sever the penile nerve as well. This was meant to traumatize and discourage him from masturbating, lest his health deteriorate from excessive ejaculations (which was diagnosed as "spermatorrhea").
` Yes, really.
` There were many quack remedies in the 1800s to improve men's virility and erections, and to keep them from losing semen via masturbating and nocturnal emissions. This was not considered a contradiction because a man's purpose was thought to be saving his sperm for making babies.

This may be a shock to some, although my readers may be more familiar with the ancient belief that women suffered from a vague illness called "hysteria", some of whose symptoms are sexual desire and vaginal lubrication.
` Typically, this was a "disorder" of women who didn't have husbands, or whose husbands left them wanting in bed, and it was thought that the buildup of sexual fluids such as "female sperm" (ejaculate) were poisoning them.
` In order to relieve "hysteria" symptoms, the two-thousand year old wisdom of treating it involved "massage" techniques of the "womb" (vulva), in order to induce a "hysterical paroxysm" (orgasm).
` For doctors in the 1800s, this was hard work, so often they recommended a midwife to do this, and later on invented a number of vibrators and water jets that were much more effective.
` The fact that vibrators were the fifth household appliance to become electrified is a testament to the pathologization of women's sexuality, not to their sexual freedom, as is popularly imagined. (That part happened later.)

Importantly, this treatment was not openly considered to be sexual because it did not involve penetration, thanks to the male-centered view of sex.
` This is how masturbation (that is, without a medically-sanctioned device) could be thought of as causing illness in females.
` However, there was another, less popular "treatment" to discourage "irritation" and "over-stimulation" in females -- excision of the external clitoris. In other words, medicalized 'female circumcision'.
` Various forms of this practice appeared sporadically until the 1970s, and were even funded by Medicaid and promoted for the same reasons as male circumcision (appearance, reduction of 'dirty' smegma, health, etc).

It may come as a shock to find that in the U.S., many widespread popular beliefs about the penis today are actually based on the same Victorian Era quackery rather than today's medical science.
` Indeed, the non-therapeutic circumcision of infant boys has continued to be medicalized in the U.S., and to a lesser extent in Canada, due to such persistent beliefs.
` Thanks to Lewis Sayre, notable surgeon and pro-circumcision quack of the 1870's, one example is the pathologization of completely normal infant foreskins:
` This continues today in hospitals, thanks to continued ignorance about penile gross anatomy: Attempts to 'fix' the child's normal foreskin normally result in severe injury and pain. More about this shortly.

Non-therapeutic circumcision of boys by medical professionals did spread to a few other countries -- most of which have long rejected it on the grounds that it is extremely harmful, with no significant medical benefit.
` As for the few cultures that continue to give routine infant penis-reductions a veil of medical validation, the justifications for it depend on the culture and era. In other words, it is based on local beliefs, not science.
` The scientific literature reveals the physical, neurological, and psychological harms of this tradition, but these are creatively ignored or glossed-over in much of the U.S. medical community.

Yes, that's me with the weird hair.
This past April 28th, the Seattle Atheists invited John Geisheker to correct some of these myths. He is Executive Director and General Counsel for Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC), an organization which opposes the unnecessary genital surgery of any child.

His presentation was video-recorded and uploaded on YouTube, so if you're interested, you can open the link in a new tab before reading on:
Circumcision: At the intersection of Religion, Medicine, and Human Rights
` Either way, I have handily rehashed most of what he says in the rest of my article. This is partly thanks to the notes I took -- which you can see me doing in the center of the frame.

So, how did an anti-sexuality practice of the Victorian Era ever become normalized and progressive? And, what was missing from all those anatomy books, anyway?
` Even anatomy books I've seen that include the foreskin do not have a detailed visual representation of it, nor do they have much description beyond saying that's skin that 'covers the tip of the penis'.
` But it isn't:

An anatomy lesson that a medical professional should not need:

The male prepuce, or foreskin, is a highly mobile and extraordinarily sensitive double fold of tissue that is the end of the penis. During an erection, it rolls back and inside-out, unfolding until it covers much of the penile shaft.
` Typically, the swelling glans (head of the penis) extends "through" the foreskin until it is mostly or completely exposed. (Sometimes, the foreskin is so long that the glans is unable make it across -- a feature which was prized by the Ancient Greeks.)
` When there is nothing holding the foreskin back, so to speak, specialized mechanisms cause it to spring back into place over the delicate mucus membrane of the glans. In this position, it serves as a protective function similar to one's eyelid.
` Even in its 'neutral' position, it can be retracted simply by pulling the skin of the shaft toward the body:

While Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, and most other people may wonder why anyone would need to explain this most mundane fact, the truth is that the foreskin is not well-understood in U.S. culture and medicine:
` One of Geisheker's jobs is tracking cases of American doctors who are so outrageously ignorant of intact penile anatomy that they cause serious pain and injury, usually to infants.
` They don't even know the following basic facts, so read carefully:

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Warping backwards through BlogTimeSpace...

Once again, I'm importing my earliest blog posts over to the Mad Science Writer blog, but this time I am presenting them here in reverse-chronological order, for optimum mental stimulation. Keep in mind, they date back to April 2005, before I had dared to take my life into my own hands.
` Back then, I was a real homebody and so had plenty of time to check my email. My last post in this sequence (which I'm presenting first), starts with an email from an editor mentor of mine, concerning exploding toads -- presumably for my subsequent investigation, and investigate I did! (Took me two tries to get to the bottom of it, though, thanks to another email a little while later.)

Great Exploding Toads, Batman!

I didn't edit this article much when I transferred it over to the Mad Science Writer blog, except for the portrayal of my translating the German into English -- originally, I had divided most of the sentences up into bits, like so:
Die Erdkröte (The toads) atmet nur noch schwach (weakly draw a deep breath), ihr Körper bläht sich auf wie ein Ballon (their bodies blow themselves up like a balloon) bis ihr Magen schließlich herausquillt (until their stomachs finally pop out).
In reading this over, I realized that this arrangement might infuriate a lot of readers, so I changed it from parts of a sentence alternating in German and English to entire sentences.
` As for the whole 'exploding toad' phenomenon, it reminds me of 'cattle mutilations' and the like, which are caused by flies and scavenger birds eating all the softest tissues, and blamed on strange phenomena such as satanic cults or aliens.

The next post in reverse order is somewhat disconcerting -- a very 'flat' trip to a very three-dimensional Whidbey Island. Not only were my descriptions a reflection of my own dismay at this, but there are no photos, as I did not have a digital camera. Nevertheless, it's an interesting head-trip:

Landslide-Sliding - How we celebrated Dirt Day.

Next in sequence is a post that illustrates the type of defensive thinking that sparked in my mind after something really bizarre and upsetting would happen. I found out later, however, that the fault of this incident was probably more in the psycho Neo-Nazi than in me and my sleep-starved brain:

Does Insomnia Ruin Your Life?

Not surprisingly, for this stage in my life, I was focusing on times when I was not allowed to sleep, yet it appears that I was not yet even aware of feeling an intense fear of lying down. That's just one amazing example of what one can live with every day and not even know -- and then recognize and get rid of.

And now for some laughs, and more emails -- you see why I put this one last? I used to subscribe to a certain Yahoo group for a 'demented' band called Barnes & Barnes, which I had decided to share on my blog, just for the surreality of it all:

What did one Barnes say to the other? (And who are these weirdos, anyway?)

According to Wikipedia, 2005 was also the year that Barnes & Barnes were inducted into the Comedy Music Hall of Fame -- along with Dr. Demento, I see!
` As for Joey Migeed (a.k.a. The Swill Man), I've sort of fallen out of touch with him, but apparently, his voice has dropped considerably, and, well, he's gotten... weird.

I was just in the act of formulating a comedic ending to this post when someone asked me if I wanted to see "the excitement" going on downstairs. This quickly ended in me watching him asphyxiate a small bird while absorbed in a hockey game on TV, yelling "Score!" as the life went out in the bird's eyes.
` Yes, really.
` It really sort of ties in nicely with the exploding toads, there. If anyone wants me, I'll be at the beach, fantasizing about scenes from The Birds. That is all.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

No, really, it's noisy in my office.

I know it's bad form to whinge about noise disrupting my concentration, but it's getting so ridiculous that I'm beginning to feel that I'm stuck in some sort of reality show. And so, I made this video just today, in order to show my readers exactly what I'm dealing with:

After some hours being annoyed by the compressor, I had an opportunity to make a video featuring the sound of a circular saw, and so on, but I won't bore you with that. Instead, I'll bore you with what's been going on:
` If you've read my last post, you'll remember the "hilariously" over-the-top BS that Dr. Hypno has been deflecting at his second job as a van driver. On the next payday, he grabbed his check and walked out the door without saying a word -- tempted though he was to show the same amount of professionalism back to his co-workers and boss.
` He ignored their calls during his long bus trip home -- they were probably afraid he would report their shenanigans to their higher-up boss. (Mua ha ha ha!!)

Aside from me struggling to get a lot done in the face of loud yard-work, and rocker Lou Ryan having much success in his non-musical business, there isn't much else to bore you with besides... KYOOTNESS! Lookee here -- our good old grumpy friend, Vada:

apr 106
I'll remind you not to disturb me while I am guarding the house
from that dratted Siamese!

And little does Dilly suspect, but someone is watching as she chews her way through the tall grass...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Tug-of-War on Drugs, Part 1

In celebration of Washington and Colorado's first quasi-legal 4-20, I spent days writing a series of heavily-referenced posts on why certain drugs are illegal -- which somehow disappeared from cyberspace. So, here's my best paraphrase...

Strolling through the suburbs on a gray November's day, I couldn't help but notice a blue spruce surrounded by red dinner plate-sized mushrooms. Immediately, I recognized these as the fruiting bodies of the European Amanita muscaria ("fly agaric") which form a mycorrhizal relationship with the tree's roots.

oct 451 - European amanitas

Hello there, stupid primates! Let us play with your brains!

These "edible" (or, alternately, "poisonous") Amanitas can cause quasi-psychedelic states of mind (and possibly gnomes), thanks to the active ingredient muscimol. These mushrooms are traditionally "deactivated" when eaten as food in some countries, and are technically legal to consume in the U.S..
` More interestingly, this same suburban neighborhood was likely home to thousands of small, drab fruiting bodies of Psilocybe cyanescens. This species is chock full of psilocybin and its breakdown product psilocin, which is a powerful, LSD-like drug.
` The mushrooms of active Psilocybe species are illegal to gather in most states, even from one's own flower bed.

So, why are some "magic" mushrooms legal and others not? One might naively suppose that the illegal species must be worse for people's health, but as Ben Goldacre might say, "I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that."

As I shall discuss further in this post, the so-called "psilocybin mushrooms" are seemingly impossible to overdose on, even on purpose. Long-term use also does not correlate with any negative physiological effects, or mental illnesses, aside from exacerbating symptoms in people already inclined to psychotic breaks.
` Compared to A. muscaria (and the more potent A. pantherina), the psilocybin mushrooms are generally much easier to dose according to one's preferences, and have little to no unpleasant physical effects.
` So, the concern with the psilocybin mushrooms is not for the health of the people who take them. Instead, I found that psilocybin was banned at least in part for its role in the 1960's social revolutions -- and I am saving that part for next time.

In this article I will discuss the science of psilocin and LSD as "boundary-dissolving" drugs, meaning that they shut down the ego process: With the ego gone, so goes the misleading and limiting effects that others have on us by appealing to and manipulating one's sense of self.
` This experience reveals that all of the power we think others have over us is only an illusion. Conflict and prejudice arise mainly because of the barriers that are "programmed" into the ego. When people use these drugs specifically for the purposes of erasing such damage, compassion and self-actualization can blossom far beyond what was previously possible.
` This can be extremely empowering and therapeutic to an individual, and is also why LSD completely backfired in the U.S. military's attempt to create 'super-soldiers': Once the subjects realized that authority and social pressure really are "all in your head", they laughed in the face of orders.

Psychedelics are also bad news for politicians who want to distract the populace from the real issues (such as the pointlessness of the Viet Nam war) by ensnaring people's identities in political propaganda that turns them against one another.
` Timothy Leary's experiment in releasing psychedelics to masses of young people resulted in revolutionary and often naive inspiration to rebel against the system.
` Not surprisingly, these drugs became identified with anti-war groups, hippies, feminists, socialists, communists, anarchists and other people with "funny ideas". (Also, Charles Manson, though he wasn't very funny.)

To Nixon, all this meant trouble, so it is no wonder that he banned psychedelics and spread massive amounts of misinformation to scare people away from them.
` Other governments followed suit, effectively shutting down all psychedelic research in the entire world for decades, thus delaying new and valuable discoveries until recent years.

If any of this surprises you, then you really should read on:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Back at the homefront, and the waterfront

On April 9th, Vada was happy that I finished re-arranging my office, which I did while listening to rocker Lou Ryan and his friend McCagney rockering out in the living room. The main reason for this is so that I can have better access to my things, more room to move around, and a clear space on my wall so that I can hang my new white board.
` Since this involved moving my magazine shelf five inches to the right, I had to take down all my magazines and put them all back. Notice how they are stacked in offset chunks for ease of finding a specific issue -- just that that took me hours.
` Also, I laughed when I found my mom's nail file in my November 2006 Scientific American.

apr 044

Vada says, "That is so hilarious -- now shut up and let me sleep!"

The 9th was also a tough day for Dr. Hypno, whose second job driving a van with some canvassing retards is going disastrously as usual. Not only did his boss rudely comment on his having trouble hearing directions over the noise of the underling retards, but the underlings wouldn't roll down the van windows while they were passing the pipe around.
` Yes, really.
` Although the spoiled lawyer's kid hasn't dared to taunt Dr. Hypno again by farting in his face, the cretin still stinks up the van and is now flatulating on the female employees. ...Because chicks totally dig a guy who walks in front of them emitting ass-stench.

Dr. Hypno said that the next day, he would bring an air filter mask, and perhaps some even more drastic measures in case they still don't want to roll down the windows. Luckily, his hypno powers worked once again, and the underlings are even more hesitant to mess with him than ever before.
` As for me, I've been cleaning the house a lot, and have been annoyed that whenever I took a break in order to check my email or write, there was someone doing ridiculously loud yard work. That's the curse of spring for me, although I've also been having more outdoor fun...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Disclaimer: I am indeed a NASA shill

Conspiracy theorists can safely ignore anything I have ever written about such things as the moon landing being real because I had connections with NASA as a teenager. Here's proof -- a 1998 article from the Medina Gazette:

NASA tomato 1

I'm the scary-looking girl, of course, next to Phil Jones, who was one of a very few people my age that I had ever met. The creepy-looking younger kid was Daniel Marciniak, whose Boy Scout skills I admired. We were standing next to the garden in my driveway, in front of tomato plants... from outer space.

Yes, that's right. OUTER SPACE.

Hence, my involvement with NASA: In 1984, Space Shuttle Challenger brought some tomato seeds up into orbit in an experiment that was only supposed to last several weeks. Unfortunately, when Challenger was on its way to get the seeds back, it exploded, killing all the astronauts on board.
` This, by the way, is the event that inspired a very young Phil to become an aerospace engineer rather than an astronaut.
` These seeds, unexpectedly being exposed to years of radiation, eventually found their way into my garden. Therefore, I am a NASA shill. Es lógico, ¿no?

Without further ado/pickles/paramecia, the actual newspaper article:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Much ado about little extinct people

Once again, it is time for a time warp post from the beginning of my bloggering days in 2005. This time, I go back to my enthusiasm about the discovery of Homo floresiensis, thinking them to be a good candidate for the legends of three foot tall human-like creatures called the Ebu Gogo. (Alas, hobbits are still fictional.)
` It is certainly true that H. floresiensis outlived the Neandertals, but were they alive recently enough to have been remembered in the Nage people's legends? Or, more likely, could the inhabitants of Flores living thousands of years ago have come across fresher remains than what has been found in modern times?
` At the time, I had been hit with the bug of thinking about such exciting possibilities -- probably because I had read such articles as this one from Nature News.

I apologize in advance for the 'white highlighter' effect on the text, which I didn't know about until I published the post, and have no idea what to do about it. I did, however, "deblathify" the first of these for your reading pleasure:

Richard Roberts and the Little People (deblathified)

Despite the title, it doesn't actually have much to do with the archaeologist Richard Roberts, although the second one was about him and a certain Teuku Jacob, who claimed that the H. floresiensis bones were merely a deformed modern human.
` Unfortunately, that post disappeared -- I don't recall how -- which leaves us with this one:

Richard Roberts, Little People, and Snits

At the time, television interview transcripts were one of very few sources of information I could find about the kerfuffle over Jacob hiding the H. floresiensis remains (apparently from people who didn't agree that they were  modern humans).
` Three months later, he returned the bones, with serious damage apparently caused by making casts. According to this BBC article:
The damage included long, deep cuts marking the lower edge of the Hobbit's jaw on both sides, said to be caused by a knife used to cut away the rubber mould. 
In addition, the chin of a second Hobbit jaw was snapped off and glued back together. Whoever was responsible misaligned the pieces and put them at an incorrect angle. 
The pelvis was smashed, destroying details that reveal body shape, gait and evolutionary history.
Way to go, Team Jacob! Then, presumably to further stop anyone from disproving Indonesia's "king of paleontology", the Indonesian government blocked scientists from the dig site until Jacob's death in 2007. Yes, really.

Originally, I was going to go on to say that there is no longer any doubt about H. floresiensis being a new species because more remains, including another skull, were found on a separate island. However, I was surprised to find absolutely no mention of this anywhere on the internet, not even as a hoax.
` I don't know how I could have gotten such a false impression, but it happens from time to time, and this is why I generally check my facts before spouting them to the whole world. So, what did I find?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My still-lost presentation about the history of quinine

Continuing on with the theme of college finals, going back to fall of 2007 I was taking biology, my favorite subject, partly to make college easy for a biology enthusiast living in a scary (and noisy) crackhouse.
` I didn't have to dissect any dead baby kittens, thankfully -- in fact, the most intense task of the entire class was extracting genetic material from a cheese puff in order to determine whether or not it was made with Bt corn. It even barely worked!

breaky genes
Yes, this is an actual photo of electrified genetic fragments, probably
from the cheese puff, which appear to be racing one another across the gel.

I was assigned to do part of a group presentation about malaria, but as the other members of my group took up our entire time slot, there wasn't enough time for my contribution. Since then, I seem to have lost the presentation itself, although recently I came across some notes I had made for it.
` They seem interesting enough, although I'm not sure what book(s) I had taken them from:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Strange sights so far this month

As far as number of posts go, I'll try to make this a record-breaking month... although I'll certainly avoid breaking this one!

apr 036
And that was the highlight of the Jones's vacation.

As you can see, I have a few pretty photos for this post, mixed with some ugly ones, like this one of Arcrylic Patintering #2 that I did at the Treehouse Lounge. This time, I tried black and white, with an indigo undertone for the crows, and a sepia tint for the background.
` Didn't come out the way I'd wanted -- brushes can be so unwieldy! -- but I still think it gets the job done:

apr 030
The baby crow says: "With death out of the picture, what are we going to do for food?"

As far as pretty photos go, I noticed some kind of pink, fluffy life form that's slowly creeping over the fence:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Delicious huckleberry drawings

Another step I'm taking in order to increase blog productivity is to post as-yet-unpublished pieces of my artwork (and I use the term loosely). There certainly is enough of it -- in fact, my main blog at the time was packed so solid with "drawrings" that I had to start another blog called I Can Draw, Too! so as to give my writing some breathing space!
` I shall eventually come to transfering those posts over here along with the others -- in chronological order -- as well as continue this trend with yet more drawrings, and sometimes even "painterings" for my fans to enjoy. For this post, I have some tasty-looking close-up drawrings of huckleberry plants, and a story to go with them:

Huckleberry 2
Mature pink and white flowers of the Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)

During my time in college, I made a point of taking a botany class so that I could look at any plant around me and have some understanding of what I was seeing. To a great extent, I did manage to achieve this goal, and there are many important things that I still remember, particularly about plant classification and anatomy.
` The unfortunate part is, this happened back when I lived in a 300-square-foot room with five other people -- my talented and rockin' boyfriend, Lou Ryan, along with four also-talented degenerates. (They purportedly wanted to help us rake in the dough with their impressive music and movie-making skills, although wound up preferring to take meth and heroin.)

I made a lot of drawrings for this class, although my roommates managed to destroy many of them before I could even show my teacher. This included a stack of tree identification flashcards that I painstakingly drew from real twigs of various species, using a magnifying glass, and which I found one day scattered outside the window in the rain.
` Great job, scumbags. And they did even worse than that:

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fooled by Bigfootery

As a kid, I was always fascinated with animals, particularly the more intelligent ones. I read lots of books about natural history and watched thousands of wildlife documentaries on the Discovery Channel. These were generally accurate programs, as far as I could tell, and so I thought nothing of taking their Bigfoot documentaries just as seriously.
` Since those programs don't usually give "the skeptics" much air time, nor portray them as as knowledgeable on the subject, I had the distinct impression that they were a bunch of puffed-up idiots who were given just enough time to embarrass themselves on shows about a scientifically verified animal.
` For years I thought I knew almost everything about the subject, including all of the skeptics' 'nonsensical' arguments, until I actually read some skeptical material for myself. As it was mostly unfamiliar to me, probably years went by before I had heard enough to think it had much merit.

One of my main misconceptions was that these "skeptics" on TV were so ignorant of the mountains of evidence for Bigfoot, and yet so sure that Bigfoot didn't exist, that they must be too arrogant to be worth listening to. Instead, I found that I was the ignorant and arrogant one, not bothering to question sensationalistic TV programs Just Because The Discovery Channel Said So.
` Why hadn't I heard about the "other side" of the debate before? Because on programs whose point seems to be arguing that Bigfoot exists, the "token skeptic's" strongest arguments are often omitted or edited down to a weakened form. (The same can be said for shows on Nessie, ghosts, alien spaceships, etc.)

The first thing I learned was that people who doubt the existence of Bigfoot are not necessarily saying that they "know" that it doesn't exist, but that the evidence for Bigfoot is only slightly better than the evidence for unicorns.
` After all, no 100% clear trace of Bigfoot is actually known to science, although there have been plenty of confirmed hoaxes, suspected hoaxes, and mistaken observations. But if Bigfoot isn't real, then how could so many people believe it anyway?
` To answer that question, think of the masses of people who passionately defend their view or ideology on some subject, while other masses of people disagree -- at least one side or the other has to be wrong! So yes, millions of people can be wrong, even if they cite scientific-sounding evidence in support of their stance.
` Based on all of the evidence I'd collected by that point, I decided that justifying a belief in Bigfoot's existence was much more problematic than doubting this belief. However, if an undeniably real Bigfoot is discovered, then 'belief' would no longer be necessary and 'acceptance' would be inevitable.

When I started my first blog in 2005, I thought it would be fun and educational to write an article on some of the things I had learned about this subject over the years. This effort quickly turned into three posts -- numbers six, eight and nine.
` Before transplanting those posts over here, I did a fair bit of fact-checking, edited out excessive wordiness (which I call "deblathification"), and used the extra space to help me cram in more details. In the first of these (creatively titled) articles, I discuss how the "ape" version of Sasquatch, as well as Bigfoot were "invented" via stunts in the late 1950's:

Bigfoot Critique Part 1 (deblathified)

Curiously, I have encountered people who accept this recent origin of the whole Bigfoot concept, and yet also believe that later on, Bigfoot coincidentally turned out to be real anyway.
` In the next post, I go on about some of the supposed evidence of Bigfoot's existence. Except I'm not done editing it, so for now, please enjoy this blank and linkless title:

Bigfoot Critique, Part 2 (deblathified)

And finally, well, this is coming next. Check back to this post soon!

Bigfoot Critique, Part 3 (deblathified)

To hold you over, I'll link to another post on this blog, about Matt Crowley's investigation (and recreation) of Bigfoot dermal ridges.

Although this is a massive amount of work, I would have finished these by now if I hadn't spent a few days away from home. Even so, I'll still probably not be really finished, as I expect to see critiques of my Bigfoot Critiques, especially by people who are more convinced of Bigfoot's existence than me.
` This thought unnerves me because I know a few people who say that they live among Bigfoot. Some take photos that they claim are of Bigfoot in their backyard, or Bigfoot tracks on their patio. Even one of my long-time friends shocked me by saying, "Of course Bigfoot is real -- he's my neighbor!"
` So, a post like this one could be interpreted as an insult by some, as though I think that I can change their mind about something they take for granted in their daily lives. I don't really, although I have told people about such things just to see what would happen.

In one such instance, I was standing at a college bus stop with a fellow student, describing what an Australopithecus looked like. (Wouldn't anybody?)
` He said, "Oh, you mean like Sasquatch?" and proceeded to tell me (if I remember correctly) that although he hadn't seen one himself, he had heard some scary animal calls and felt as though something was watching him from the woods.
` He also said that while he was on a Sasquatch-hunting expedition, someone had gotten a video of a small, black-furred figure stealing pancakes from their camp, of which I expressed much interest. He hadn't seen the video, although he was confident that it existed, that there was no mistake about the figure's identity, and that these Sasquatch expeditioners were not out to fool each other.
` During our time on the bus together, we had a friendly debate during which I gave him an abbreviated version of my Bigfoot Critique, curious as to his response. As I recall, he mainly seemed somewhat dismayed that I kept telling him to watch for trickery.
` I never saw him again, so don't know whatever became of him, nor this alleged video. I still would like to watch it for myself, however. Do you hear that? I think that's... YouTube calling...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Aliens of My Mind

My next post was going to involve bigfoot, but instead you get aliens this time. Sorry folks. You see,
after some internet-usage yesterday, I was told that the internet had gone out due to lack of payment -- thus disconnecting me from my blog posts-in-progress -- so I decided to work on other projects, which incidentally did not involve the use of my computer.
` This morning I finally opened my laptop, fully expecting the internet to be disconnected, when I noticed the 'internet connected' icon. It was then that I realized that I had not even bothered to check whether or not the internet was out in the first place.

Way to go, Spoony, great critical thinking skills! You probably could have been checking your email again last night, as well!
` In any case, I found a most bizarre English assignment on my hard drive and thought that some would appreciate the subject matter:
I'd woken up in the night, or thought I had, in the bed I'd had after I had finally been permitted to move out of my parents' room. It had a gigantic, cramped frame of dark, varnished wood that was built into the wall, its first bunk hanging higher than my waist so that I would have to jump in order to crawl into it. The second bunk was low overhead, and was closed off from the rest of the room by a trapezoidal structure that stretched halfway across the ceiling. The bedroom may have been only the size of our bathroom, making my child-sized furniture appear full-size, but it was this bed that really gave the impression that the walls were closing in on me.
Lying in my bed was something like being inside a coffin, as it had such low clearance that my only place to sit was the carpet, which was pungeant from my feet staying in the same place for hours each day. In the dark, I tried to make out the familiar patterns in the unvarnished wood about two feet from my nose, but for some reason it didn't look right to me. On top of that, I couldn't seem to move.

What was going on, here? I thought. Before I could think further, I found myself slowly sliding off the bed, toward the center of the room, where I seemed to be lying in mid-air. The pink-orange sodium glow of the streetlight revealed my tiny dresser and chest of drawers, and the open door of my cramped closet -- full of hanging shirts sprawled out on the shelves below them -- which all seemed to bend toward me menacingly as a colorful wave of anxiety overtook me.

This must be what sleep paralysis was, I figured, just as it was described by psychologists on those television shows where people would claim they were abducted by aliens. I had once found those reports convincing, but now I realized that sleep paralysis must be a very good explanation. After all, closets don't actually bend toward one in real life, nor do their colors shift from sodium lamp orange to mauve when they do so.

With a sudden lurch, I drifted out of the window and mysteriously found myself looking up at a bright ceiling, which I figured was also a hallucination. In the brightness, I vaguely could make out gray figures standing around me having pale, bulbous heads and enormous, all-black, almond-shaped eyes -- just like the 'gray' aliens I'd seen on those shows!

Realizing that this must all be happening in my head, I somehow was able to convey the message, "You guys really could use some color!" and suddenly, their light gray skin turned a vivid purple. This seemed so ridiculous to me at the time that I immediately started laughing aloud, before noticing that, far from being in a spaceship, I was safe and sound in my own claustrophobia-inducing bed.
And that, dear readers, is something that my 2011 English 102 classmates were subjected to. They still probably haven't gotten over it.
` This 'alien' incident, by the way, was the first completely-convincing evidence to me that such alien encounters could be hallucinated. Later on, I learned that people in other times and places describe similar encounters with ghosts, old hags, demons, sprites and witches.
` As for me, the 'aliens' didn't come back, but I had plenty of sleep paralysis episodes that involved human beings, even people that I lived with, even though it wasn't really them. (Thankfully, none of these hallucinations anally probed me.)

Well, back to blogging and checking my email where I left off yesterday!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I remember that guy!

There's a lot coming in my next blog post, and I won't be home much to finish it in a timely manner -- so I decided to throw out one of the next early blog posts. It's short and mentions George Ruefner, who was this awesome writer I saw at the Medina County Writer's Group or whatever the hell it was called.
` Neither his phone number, nor his CompuServe all-numbers email address will work anymore, so I hope he's all right. I remember he said that he had a hole in his mind, so I hope it hasn't exploded or some such.
` Here's a link to the post, newly-imported into this blog's archives:

My friend George

What's funny is, my response to the dark energy article says "dark matter" instead, but I didn't bother to fix it. And I'm still not!
` Today, we're still asking the question -- is there really such thing as dark energy? There is an ongoing debate to this day. Maybe it's there, after all, but more work needs to be done before anyone can be sure. I hope to see this resolved one day!

In the meantime, I've got a lot on my plate, with gardening, to boot! I'm also hugely excited to have just registered for The Amaz!ng Meeting today, in big part because of Gerg Dorais, that really awesome skeptic guy. Yeah, I remember that guy, too! Thanks, Gerg! I mean... Greg!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Small fuzzy mammals and more of my first blog

Yet another highly-assorted post for my readers -- first, some material that I left on the cutting room floor, virtually speaking. You may remember that post I did upon discovering a Mysterious Rodent by the grocery store, and had no clue what it was until later!
` This event was surprising to me since I normally could tell what type of fuzzy mammal I was looking at. In this bit of edited-outness, I describe the surreality of learning that this ability is not very common:
Years ago, I saw a rat foraging through a dumpster in broad daylight, and mentioned this to someone. When he asked me whether I thought it could have been an opossum, my mind just about crashed trying to figure out how someone could ask such a nonsensical question. After much perplexed stuttering, a stab of insult helped to force out an intelligible answer, along the lines of; "What kind of ignoramus do you take me for?"
` Since then, I've found the reason for this question is probably because so many people around here don't know the difference between a rodent and a marsupial. Even more shockingly -- to Australians in particular -- several have even said they'd never heard of a marsupial! Others have thought that the word "rodent" means "pest", and so have referred to cockroaches as "rodents".
Which brings the question -- why would anyone be so passionate about identifying some small mammal, anyway? It's because the more you understand what you are looking at in the world around you, the more you can appreciate what you see (or hear, or smell...).
` When you know about our atmosphere's various layers, for instance, you can literally see more when you look at the clouds, because now you have a specific way to interpret what they're doing. One could say, understanding adds layers of interestingness.
It's easy to see why this section was distracting to my article, although I've included it here because it's a good illustration of my values when it comes to writing. Granted, now I am so inundated with science news, particularly in my email, that I don't seem to have the time to read most of it.

Back in 2005, however, I had such a low amount of email that keeping up with the latest wasn't that difficult. This fact was evident in my second post on Land of the Big Wingy-Dingy, which is entitled:

Tyrannosaurus Cells and Elephant Mimicry

That is, supposedly preserved cell remains and mimicry by elephants. If you haven't heard of either of these things, then by all means, take a look! (Also, you may want to follow the latest research that's been done on these topics...)
` Originally, I was reluctant to mention religion on a science blog, but since ideological extremists are a good discussion topic, I did comment on the unreasonable behavior of a religious extremist in the third post:

Unwholesome extremists -- gotta love 'em!

By the way, 'Jonathan' is now a psychologist and lives far enough away from his mother that it would be hard for her to persecute him for being gay as well.
` I was also reluctant to write about such insane people as my PsychoDad, but then figured that it might be somewhat relevant in that it shows ways in which one can be tricked/brainwashed, which is relevant in the fields of reason.
` So, already by post four, I have a rant/description about my dad's psychotic behavior, which is alright (if you can stand the craziness of it all) except that it has no explicit connection with critical thinking:

The importance of recognizing abuse... An unbelievable tale of insane people in my life

And what is the importance of recognizing abuse, you ask? It is knowing enough to realize that you have been duped by a complete nutcase, and that your model of the world doesn't really fit what's there. Thus, I had thought it might go well with the skeptical blogging theme.

Next up, having left off from the sciencey second post, I finally had written about the plants that do weird genetic things -- apparently, the discovery of a bizarre epigenetic effect.

Plants that correct their genetic mistakes!

Research has soared since 2005, of course. Right. I should get to poring over that. In the meantime, if that isn't enough for this post, I have also saved some snippets of the aforementioned rodent article which involve links to YouTube videos:
The largest rodents in the world, the water-roaming capybaras, are related to guinea pigs although they can weigh upwards of a hundred pounds (45 kg, 7 st). Thus, it does not surprise me that some people are kooky enough to have them as pets, although as tropical species, they don't much like the snow.
Also, a mention of shrews (for not being rodents), led me to this:
I found this video of venomous short-tailed shrews, slugging it out, even killing and eating a snake. It's really cool. Apparently around 8,000 years ago, there was once a species that injected venom, much as solenodons do.
There's even one more part of this damn article, but I'll save that for next time.

Next time, Gadget! Next tiiime!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Warping Blog-Time...

Seven years ago, I wrote my very first blog post, with the hope of spreading awareness of science and critical thinking, as well as perhaps even sharing the insanity of my own human experience. I've learned a lot since then (and have probably forgotten even more), and am now in an overall better position to accomplish my goals.

Back in 2005, I devoted most of my waking hours to writing somewhat aimlessly, and then sculpting the raw material into good prose. It worked well enough to be able to churn out at least one lengthy post per day, as well as gain some appreciation from readers.
` My technique has improved quite a bit since then, although production has slowed markedly. At present, this has a lot to do with the fact that I spend more time accomplishing other tasks -- which is mostly a good thing, when you think about it.

Still, in order to demonstrate my worth -- and increase readership -- I need to create new content at least every other day. This can be easily achieved, considering how many articles I've written but never published before; as well as how many articles that I have published, yet would like to see updated.
` I have published older material on this blog before, although it includes only one archived blog post, because I didn't like the idea of taking old posts out of their timeline context. Now, however, I've decided to post articles from my other blogs here, but at their original date, and announce each move as I go.

Thusly, I shall transfer everything from my other blogs, day by day, in chronological order, to the archives of the Mad Science Writer blog. Sounds mad, I know, and that's perfect for this place! So, let's start with the first post, so full of humor, hope, and wonder.
` It even mentions an issue that I've only recently been able to deal with (thank goodness!). So, without further ado/figs/atmospheric inversions, here's my first blog post EVER:

Introduction (To my SEO-blog, 'Land of the Big Wingy-Dingy')

Uh... you have to click on the link...

And yes, I'll have articles other than ones I've published before. This is just for starters.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Siberia: Nearly 105 years between giant space rock collisions!

Keeping up with the times as always, I've only recently heard about the February 15 meteor impact near Chelyabinsk, and have, today, finally dragged myself to the internet to see all the dash-cam videos.
` Installed for the purpose of recording events in cases of police corruption or insurance scammers, dashboard cameras have provided many angles of viewing the 7,000-ton meteor as it flared up in the earth's atmosphere. (Hooray for legal fraudsters?)

As it approached the earth, the meteorite was only 50 feet in diameter when it exploded into an enormous fireball (sometimes called a bolide), with the strength of a large nuclear warhead at 500 kilotons. Luckily for the folks below, this happened so high in altitude that the air was too thin to conduct much of this force.
` The infrasound from the shockwaves were detected by a global network of monitoring stations dedicated to use for upholding the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. (These same stations also detected North Korea's third nuclear test on February 12, finding it to be laughably small in comparison to the meteorite, although that Kim Jong young-un would probably claim otherwise.)

There are, of course, many videos of said shockwaves, blowing out windows and sending glass and debris flying. In this case, stationary security cameras were more instrumental in getting these shots, as well as folks who have whipped out their video cameras in response to the meteor.

From this, some 1,500 people were reported injured (mostly from glass), and to add insult, many homes were missing windows or otherwise damaged during the winter in Siberia! (And here I was thinking that single-pane aluminum windows are bad!)

Not only is this the second well-documented impact of an enormous meteor recorded in science history, but it is also the second such meteor impact recorded in Siberia. (Thus, without Siberia, none of this could have happened...)
` The odds of two huge meteors striking Siberia really aren't so low, considering that its borders stretch to nearly 10% of the earth's land surface, and the fact that the two impact sites are about three thousand miles apart.

More interesting (to me) is learning that there have been other large meteor impacts at times between 1908 and 2013, which I've never heard of before. However, I am getting ahead of myself...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Drat this infernal illness!

Despite being so ill since about January 12, I've been making good use of my time. Although there is a great deal written here, you will find this post to still consist more of colors than anything else.

feb 009 - How is this
Yes, even pretty colors!

Writing has been difficult for over a month now, due to the constant congestion and brain-frying inflammation from a particularly bad bug that's been going around. (I mentioned the start of this illness in this post about hypno-awesomeness -- speaking of which, Rachel's wrist has healed, so she's beaten me in recovery time.)

It's true, most of my photos are not of an intellectual nature, but they are worth a fair amount of words. For example, the words that would be coming from these creatures that have occupied the living room:

feb 004
Example words:
Heather (front): Why do I get the feeling that there's... a third cat?
Christina (middle): Invisible Cat is... invisible.
Dilly (top): My hazardously long fur... it has a flavor.

Although my angry immune system has made thinking difficult, I've been taking a nootropic called Piracetam on my better days since January 23. With the help of choline capsules (which I've been taking anyway for deficiency reasons), I've only noticed positive effects -- and more of them compared to Ritalin!
` Hence, on those days when I've taken Piracetam, my schedule has been fairly packed. On other days, I've spent more time needing to rest and/or recreate.

For example, on February 2, I went to a fairly dark room to play with arcrylic paints for the first time ever -- explains a lot about the color scheme, doesn't it?
` Why did I choose a dark room? Because in there, $15.00 gets you a beer and a small canvas with paints -- and I didn't even drink the beer! Hard-core, right? Yes, now all the pieces are starting to come together!

Here's what it looked like as I was painting at the table -- minus all the cognitive reframing exercises happening off to my left:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I STILL LOVE YOU FOREVER, MAYNARD!!! Also, Dilly the cat's new height of stupidity.

You may be familiar with my account of The Amaz!ng Meeting, in which I was interviewed for half an hour by Australian Interviewing Guy, Maynard, for podcasting goodness that was so massively exciting my brain started spinning and ehrmegerd...

Some of it has finally shown up on this TAM 2012 episode of Maynard's Malaise: There's short bit in which I am introduced, at the 9'15" mark, starting with "I have deformed sinuses." Nice!
` And, as I have in other cases of video and podcast bits relating to TAM, I've updated the post where I originally mentioned the interview.

I've also been updating other posts, such as re-editing the amazing tale of 'Nine Years of Numbness, Reversed with Hypnosis.' This is when I realized that the comment filter would not allow anonymous comments, hence others' complaints that they cannot comment, and so changed that.
` There are a great many other posts that I have taken offline and will be re-editing, so it is no wonder that my blog seems sparse at the moment. Although I already have other blog posts and writing projects going, I'll be filling in those back-posts gradually.

Before I go, I'll leave you with an especially cute and stupid story about our especially cute and stupid cat, Dilly -- here she is taking her frustration out on a roll of TP:

octojan 099
You will rue the day you mess with Dilly Badger!

Earlier today, I brought Dilly over to the Clampett's house in order to show them how much she's grown since last time. Now that Dilly is no longer a kitten who would sit under the deck screeching like a dying eagle because she couldn't figure out how to get back to the door, I figured she would be alright if I just let her find her own way home. After all, our house is in view of their house.
` So, after playing with the eleven year old neighbor girl and her new rats and toaster oven (though not at the same time!), I came home and wondered where Dilly had gotten to. Hours later, Lou Ryan and I went back to the Clampett's house, looking up and down the street for the cat, and were puzzled that we couldn't find her, nor hear her dying-eagle squeals.
` Later on, when Lou's friend Anthony (and his kid Little Anthony) were visiting, I went looking for Dilly some more, bringing Little Anthony (and his soccer ball) with me. After not finding her again, I went back to the house and brought one of our newly-inherited cats, Christina, to the Clampett's front door, instructing her to sniff out Dilly's path.

Instead, she made a beeline for our house. Dilly could easily have done that, considering how many months she's had to explore the neighborhood, but soon it was clear that she had stayed put all this time: I heard very distinctly the sounds of a dying eagle and began searching the Clampett's yard. ...