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Sorry.  My darling Aunty Flow finally showed up.  Wetware nonfunctional.  But I couldn’t let Halloween end without posting Brian Switek’s awesome cat-o-lantern:

Love it!  Of course, it’s got stiff competition from Silver Fox’s Jack-o-Breccia.  If you haven’t seen Jack yet, you really must go say hi.  Bonus: considering what he’s made of, the neighborhood hooligans might hurt themselves should they try to smash him.  My kind o’ jack!

For those who’ve been waiting patiently all month, Accretionary Wedge #28’s up at Matt’s place.  It’s all tricked out, too – nice Halloween touch, there.

Hopefully, in the next day or so, I can show you what I did with my Halloween before Aunty got nasty.  I’m pretty sure I’ve got permission to post the photos, but everyone was rushed and so I don’t want to put anything definitive up until I’m sure I didn’t shoot something that shouldn’t have been shot.  We were testing the camera in low-light stage conditions, y’see.  Some of them came out brilliantly.  It’ll make you want to go see the musical, only you can’t, because it was the last show.  But there’s more where that comes from, and I might even have sneak peeks, and those of you who don’t live in Seattle will end up wishing you did.

Best thing about today: giving my intrepid companion his All Hallow’s Read.  He’s always doing superbly thoughtful things for me, rescuing me from computer ruin, chauffeuring me around whilst I car shop – it was nice to finally take him by surprise with a little something.  (Why Buildings Fall Down, in case you were wondering – All Hallow’s Read’s about giving a scary book, and, well, that’s grownup scary and interesting.)  Five minutes in a bookstore, people.  That’s all it takes to make someone happy – as long as you go in having a good idea what they might like.  Next Halloween, give your own intrepid companions the gift of a scary book they don’t expect.

Next best thing about today: watching Jesus hand out communion wafers while saying, “Body of me.”  Awesome!

And you, my darlings – what did you do to celebrate the best holiday of the year?

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Give Someone a Good Scare

So, Neil Gaiman’s started a new Halloween tradition I can definitely get behind: All Hallow’s Read.  Give someone a scary book today.

Look, I know it’s already Halloween.  That’s no excuse.  The bookstores are open.  You’ve got five minutes.  Just do it.

Now to think up something scary to give.  Romance novel?  Something from the self-help section?  Glenn Beck’s latest – ah, no, I want my friends to survive the fright, and preferably without projectile vomiting.  But maybe a little something by …. Richard Simmons.

Mwa-ha ha!

Give Someone a Good Scare

Adios, Jimmers

This has been a horrible month.  First Holly, now my parents’ cat Jimmy.

Jimmy seemed everlasting.  He married into the family when my stepmother and father tied the knot.  I could always count on that enormous bundle of orange tabby sacked out on his favorite blankie on the sofa when I went home.  There was a time when he got so fat he seemed to be competing with Garfield, but then the new kitten came home and bits of Jimmy just melted away, like winding a clock back to the days when he was slim, trim, and always ready for a good chase sequence.

I think Spook added years to Jimmy’s life.  Even though, later on, he went back to his former ways, and spent most of his time sacked out.  But then he’d wake up, decide he wanted his old dad, and get down on the floor to engage in some serious cute.

And if you yelled “Shrimpers, Jimmy!” from the kitchen, you could bet you’d have one attentive cat there in a split-second.  He loved his shrimpers. 

Goodbye, dear old Jimmy Durante.  Thanks for those 18 awesome years, buddy.

We’ll miss ya, Jimmers.

Adios, Jimmers

Oh, Schist! And Other Stories

Yes, it’s taken me this long to settle on an appropriate deskcrop for this month’s Accretionary Wedge.  In point of fact, I haven’t got any deskcrops.  I haven’t got a desk.  If I did have a desk, I wouldn’t be able to use it, as it would be covered in rocks, books, and the occasional knickknack. 

I have, however, got bookshelves, the bits of which that aren’t filled with books and knickknacks are covered in rocks.  I have also got tables, which are mostly covered in rocks.  Breakfast bar?  I hope you like stone-cold stones for meals, because that’s what’s on the bar.  Little half-wall in the entry way?  Home to more rocks.  And every single rock in this house has some sort of meaning.  Each and every one tells stories.  And they were all hollering “Me! ME! MEEE!” when I attempted to choose just one.  Worse than puppies, they are.

Ultimately, it came down to rocks from home.  And I couldn’t choose only one. 

Some of you may not know this about me, but I have an abiding fondness for schist.  I’m not sure why.  There’s just something about its foliation that I adore.  It may have a lot to do with the fact that it’s a) not volcanic, b) is metamorphic, and c) something I can identify with greater than 89% confidence despite all that.

It wasn’t always like that.  In fact, the first piece of schist I collected, I figured was just an unusual bit of volcanic rock.  It’s the dark one here in this photo:

It’s been with me since the early 2000s, when I grabbed it from the formerly-vacant lot behind my old apartment.  Needed nice, dark, interesting rocks for a mini-Zen garden I was building, didn’t I?  And there it stayed for years, nestled in white sand, and after I moved to Washington it lived in a Ziplock bag, awaiting a day when I had more space for Zen rock gardens.  Then I visited Arizona, picked up that lovely golden piece of mica schist that’s sitting beside it, removed it from its bag to add to the Arizona collection, and went, “Wait a damned minute… Oh, schist!” 

I believe it may even be a bit of Brahma schist.  Not sure.  I mean, it was sitting about 3,000 feet above where it should’ve been, so I know it’s a souvenir rock someone picked up and later discarded.  An anthro-erratic, if you will.  Could’ve come from anywhere.  But I love it anyway.

The mica schist beside it comes from the Mingus Mountains (no, people from Arizona don’t usually refer to them as the Black Hills, at least, not where I came from).  And that other bit there is a very nice little grossular garnet I picked up at the same rock shop.

But I promised you more than schist, and here’s a nice little bit you may enjoy from the same display:

That, my darlings, is a fragment of the nickel-iron meteorite that slammed into Northern Arizona about 50,000 years ago and left us with the enormous hole in the ground known as Barringer Meteor Crater.  They sell bits of it in the gift shop.  I was rather skeptical, so I grabbed a magnet with a bottle opener and a resin-encased scorpion and did a little field test.  Tink!  Yep, it’s magnetic, all right.  So I bought the bits, and a tube of rock flour.  That white powder is pulverized Kaibab limestone.  The meteor hit so hard that it turned major bits of strata right over and turned some into dust so fine that the frontier ladies used it as talcum powder.

So many rocks in that case.  So many stories.  But I shall conclude with this one:

That, my darlings, is a lovely bit of bornite, which I first knew as peacock rock.  Fascinated me as a kid.  I couldn’t care less if it was a copper ore back then – all I knew was, it’s pretty.  And I’d lost my piece.  So one of my major objectives when I went home for a visit was finding a nice specimen.  Where else to go but Gold King Mine, where I’d got my first?  If you ever get a chance, go to Jerome and visit Gold King Mine.  It’s a hoot, and they have lovely rocks and fossils in their shop.

Aside from the fond childhood memories, aside from teaching me more about the copper industry to fueled so much northern Arizona commerce, and aside from the fact it’s pretty, this deskcrop also broke the barriers between me and my newest brother.  You see, my parents had acquired a lavender-point Siamese, whom I hadn’t seen since he was a tiny kitten.  He didn’t remember me.  He wanted nothing to do with me.  I was a Very Scary Intrusion into his settled universe.  He ran from me whenever I came in – until the day I returned from Gold King Mine with a nice set of rocks and fossils.  I’d laid them out on the carpet while I sorted, labeled, and stowed for the journey home.

He inspected the fossils, creeping ever closer, and found the bornite as tasty as I do:

We have been friends ever since.  So, my darlings, remember this: geology not only provides us with knowledge, awe, wonder, and amusement, it can also facilitate better relationships with the important felids in your life.  Trust me, bonding happens.  Especially when you’re doing something fascinating, like trying to build a home for all those lovely samples:

Cats love deskcrops.  Spread the word!

Oh, Schist! And Other Stories

Touring Evergreen Hospital

Evergreen Hospital

Last month, I got to visit Evergreen as a patient.  This month, I got to poke around the place for fun and education.  Thanks to Sherry in the marketing department, my intrepid companion and I got to attach ourselves to a tour group who were there for professional reasons, rather than mere curiosity. 

I didn’t feel comfortable whipping out the camera like a raw tourist – I mean, we’re talking about the ER, where people aren’t exactly living the sort of memories they’ll want to relive later – but let’s see if I can get you inside anyway.  Picture yourselves in a comfortable waiting area with hardwood floors, nice chairs, and an artistic display of ceramic teapots.  Just don’t picture yourselves there for long.  Evergreen built one of the prettiest waiting areas I’ve ever seen in a hospital, but people don’t get to use it all that much.  They’re whisked back to exam rooms too quickly.  While we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, we got to watch the average length of time people spent in the waiting room.  It seems to be around 2.2 seconds.

Should you have to go, you’ll be met by helpful people who don’t even let you have a full, frantic look around for where you should go before they’re meeting you, asking what you need, and getting you into a small, glassed-in room where your temp’s taken, an ID bracelet slapped on your wrist, and then zipped back to a room.  They say Sunday’s their busiest day, so I may have to spend an afternoon in that waiting room just to see how much time that adds.  The way their system’s set up, I doubt a crowd ever builds up in there.

So what’s beyond Triage?  So glad you asked.  There are rooms designed to function well for all involved – patients, medical staff, and visitors.  Most rooms are semi-private – you don’t get ogled by every passer-by, but you’re within whimpering distance of helpful staff members.  You don’t have to stare at a lot of scary medical equipment.  The bottles of gas (like oxygen) are tastefully concealed behind a painting at the head of the bed.  Extraneous medical equipment’s kept to a minimum by carts: suture cart, pelvic exam cart, etc.  The proper cart’s rolled in instead of having huge banks of equipment stuffed in cabinets.  All very tidy, and leaves plenty of room for folks.  Your medical staff gets one half of the room – the one with the counter space and monitor.  Your visitors get the other, where coats and things can be hung.  You get enthroned in the middle.

Things are laid out in a sort of triangle, with everything simple to get to, and the staff in the center where they can keep an eye on everybody as they work.  But if you’re needing some serious solitude, there are special rooms for that, where all equipment is behind rollaway doors.  These are the rooms for the folks having a severe psychiatric episode, or the roaring drunk, where they can be watched carefully over monitors.  The windows of those rooms don’t face out into the busy main areas, which strikes me as a good idea. It gives people there a sense of connection to the outside world – there is, after all, a window instead of blank walls – but doesn’t give them views of things that might make them more excitable.  I’ve seen a fair few psychiatric setups, what with a mother who has bipolar disorder, and these are among the best.

We didn’t, alas, get to see the trauma rooms this visit, but we got to go play in the decontamination showers.  They’re in a room accessible from the outside.  Five you of can shower up at once before heading in to the hospital.  For some reason, the adjustable temp on the showers amused me.  I doubt I’ll be worried about the shower being too cold if I’m ever in some unfortunate circumstance where I’m having to be decontaminated.  But at least now I know where I’ll be if that day ever comes. 

I have to tell you, seeing the ER in its entirety eased a lot of nascent anxiety.  If a true emergency ever happens, the ER here is no longer an unknown quantity.  Should you get the opportunity, tour your own local hospital.  You’ll find a lot of very good people working hard to ensure their communities stay healthy. 

Evergreen’s doing an outstanding job of it.  So, you East Side residents – if you live near Kirkland and need excellent care, come on down!  You’ll be in wonderful hands.

Although you might have to go back to appreciate the waiting room after your emergency’s over.

Touring Evergreen Hospital

What Fascinates You?

So it’s another day wherein I have abandoned my normal routine for an afternoon out and a marathon session of Castle.  Look, we’ve got just over two seasons to catch up on, all right?  And I only get to see it Mondays. 

The weather outside was frightful, so we accomplished our long-postponed tour of Evergreen Hospital, which I shall be writing up tomorrow.  If your local hospital gives tours, take advantage, my darlings: it’s impressive.  At least if your facility is as cool as Evergreen is. 

Then we came home, made obscene amounts of food, and plunked ourselves down for hours and hours of Castle, which plan my cat heartily approved.  I love this show.  I still love it, even though I was slightly afraid they’d hit a second-season slump.  There’s no other show quite so good at taking lines that coulda shoulda woulda been cliched and making them not just relevant, but hilarious.  Warps expectations, turns tired tropes 45 degrees and has fun with them, nice sexual tension going – what’s not to love, right?

But I’m still trying to figure out why I love it so much.  And the conclusion I’ve come to is that every regular character is eminently likable.  They’re just fun to hang out with.  They’re interesting, they’re sympathetic, they surprise just enough to stay interesting and not enough to dismay.  It’s a delicate balance that’s very hard to strike.  And, bonus, even when the show could go there, it doesn’t reach for the supernatural.  Seems like every fucking show has thrown in gratuitous supernatural shit since Lost.  Now, I do enjoy the supernatural shit – I’m a die-hard Buffy fan, for fuck’s sake – but when it’s thrown in willy-nilly, it just irritates me.

So that’s now got me curious.  What does it for you, my darlings?  What hooks you on a show?  What keeps you hooked?  And what should I become obsessed with next (aside from House, which is already in my collection)?

What Fascinates You?

Is There No End to Inanity?

By now, the more perceptive of you may have realized I haven’t been writing about pollyticks lately.  That’s not because I’ve lost interest, it’s because I’ve been awash in a target-rich environment.  After so many hours of exposure to ever-increasing stupidity, day after day, my poor brain crawled out a convenient ear canal and ran away.  I’ve been luring it back by feeding it lots and lots of science, not to mention a heaping helping of Connie Willis.

We’ll have a nice roundup of political dumbfuckery later this week.  For now, suffice it to say that if a politician in this country has got an R after his/her name and is currently electable, he/she is probably batshit fucking insane, so deplorably stupid that no words have been coined which properly describe the horror, and the fact he/she has any chance at all of getting elected solves the mystery of why great civilizations fail.  Forget all those theories of environmental catastrophe, barbarian invasions and so forth: it was probably the because they let their politicians become as horrifically idiotic as ours.

You’d think this current election cycle would have sated my appetite for stupidity.  Alas, no.  It’s just caused me to crave a little variety.  IDiots are always good for a laugh, and watching ol’ Billy Dumbski nearly get expelled for not toeing the good Baptist line gave me the giggles.  Still, I wanted more.  So I went though PZ’s blogroll looking for new sources of entertainment, and came across a site called DC’s Improbable Science.

Parents: if you have ever thought of sending your kiddies to a Waldorf school, unthink that thought now.

In an article entitled “The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. Part 1,” we learn that these schools are repositories of quackery of the first order.  We’re talking people who think the moon’s phase is important to crops, kiddies aren’t completely incarnated yet, and pigeonhole them based on “The Four Temperaments.”  Yes, just like the Four Humors, only in this case, even dumber.

Oh, and if you think your kiddies shall at least be taught to read, think again.  That, you see, would hinder their spiritual development.

As far as history class, well, you know, “‘The narrative thread for Ancient civilisations often begins with the fall of Atlantis’.”

You may remember the fear of being held back a grade because you were flunking reading, math, or science.  Well, kids in Waldorf schools have a whole other set of concerns:

To quote from The Age:

“One parent, who did not wish to be named, said she moved her son out of the school after a Steiner teacher recommended he repeat prep “because his soul had not been reincarnated yet”.

“I just don’t believe it is educationally sound,” she said.”

Ya think?

I marvel, my darlings, positively marvel, at the sheer volume of utter bullshit human beings seem capable of swallowing whole.  I guarantee you: down a cocktail of magic mushrooms and LSD, write down the insanity that ensues, blend it with the contents of the newage and religion sections of your local bookstore, pick bits of it at random, and serve it up after having translated it from English to Swahili to Japanese and back to English using Babelfish, and you’d still find people who would wholeheartedly believe every incomprehensible word of the resulting mess.

People are weird.

Is There No End to Inanity?

A Little Something of Photographic Interest

For our own George W., who knows how to rig up inexpensive solutions to photographic needs, with outstanding results.  This is probably something he’s already invented, but hey – why not?

My darlings, may I present you: “The poor man’s macro kit.” Complete with before-and-after shots!

So, go interest yourselves in some extension tubes, avoid the hideously expensive specialty lenses for macro shots, and don’t forget to save your old Pringles cans in the name of photography!

A Little Something of Photographic Interest