Saturday, April 09, 2005

Blogging the Cat

So I hear there's this phenomenon on blogs where, if the blogger is out of ideas on what to write, they just write about the cat. I'm not out of ideas just yet, but I just figured out how to post pictures. So I'm practicing with photos of my kitties.

Image hosted by

Here's my oldest, Ringer, who is now 16. This is an early picture because he's still wearing the purple collar he had when we first got him. I was eight when he became part of our family - just in time to help me through some rough spots in my life. He's the one I spent the summer after my graduation nursing back to heath because he had a stroke while having some teeth pulled. He is a blue-point Siamese, and for those who don't know, a Siamese meow is more like a yowl. It sounds like a cross between a crying baby and a sheep. It is incredibly loud, and now that he is deaf, he screams even louder. It is a voice only a Siamese cat lover could love. But look at those baby blues! How can you resist him?

Image hosted by

You can tell I spent too much time at the computer, even as a child, because my attention-hungry cat had to resort to spending time with my computer as well.

Image hosted by

This is Mark. Mark was a year younger than Ringer and gave him a friend to pal around with when the humans were too busy to play. Here he is in his element - outside. He was an incredibly gifted hunter. Even after we put two bells on his collar, he still brought critters home. December 30, 2000, he was out hunting in the field across the street when he saw our car pull into the driveway. He ran to greet us and forgot to look before crossing the road. R.I.P Mark, Great White Hunter, quiet and loyal.

Image hosted by

Here's my little homewrecker- I mean, half-Siamese tourtoise-shell. She joined the family in 1995 at 4 weeks old when Mark and Ringer were 5 and 6. Like I said, she's half Siamese, so she kind of thought Ringer was her mom. That'll mess you up. She took over as queen of the roost and adopted Ringer as her nap buddy. Unfortunately, she didn't like Mark that much, so Ringer and Mark only got to hang out on the rare occassion that Diana was somewhere else. Hence, HOMEWRECKER! In case you can't tell, she's reading The Onion's Our Dumb Century article about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She is absolutely nuts and thinks we are trying to kill her, but I thinks she is mellowing in her old age. She'll even sit in my lap now!

Image hosted by

And, if I haven't used up my bandwidth yet, this is my favorite picture of the three of them. Why? It is the perfect demonstration of their relationship at the time. Poor Mark is alone on one side of the couch. Ringer is sleeping obliviously on the other side, resting his head on the arm of the couch, with Diana wrapping her front leg possessively around him. She's glaring at Mark as if she thinks he might come and steal Ringer away from her. What more could you want?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Scary Drug Reactions

Okay, so another painkiller got pulled from the market today. That's not news, so much, since presciption NSAIDs have been under close scrutiny for a while. The thing that scared me, though, was the "potentially fatal skin reactions" that appear to be unique to this particular drug. What?!? Dying from a skin reaction is like dying from a foot injury - it may be possible, but it ain't gonna to be pretty.

When Should You Take the Stairs?

Here’s a cost benefit analysis problem for you – when is it better to take the stairs rather than the elevator? In my life, I have lived on the 10th and 9th floors of a 12 story dormitory (freshman and sophomore year, respectively), worked on the 7th and 8th floors of an 18 story building with 3 basement levels, and I currently live on the 12th floor of an 18 story building. As such, I have often contemplated the virtues of taking the stairs (usually while waiting for an elevator).

The two major considerations when trying to get from one floor to another are time and energy. When you are on the 100th floor of a building, it will certainly take less energy and probably more time to take the stairs instead of the elevator to get to the lobby. However, if you are only going one floor, even if the elevator is right there, you can probably get up (or down) the stairs in the time it takes the elevator doors to close, the elevator to rise up (or sink down), and the elevator doors to open again. And frankly, if you are capable of walking unassisted, you had better take the stairs if you are only going one floor up or down, lest you invoke the wrath of your fellow passengers.

But beyond the extremes, how do you decide whether it’s easier to just take the stairs? Here are the things you need to consider:

- The speed of the elevator. Some elevators are faster than others. The one in the library at Virginia Tech felt like it took about 30 seconds to go up one floor. I’ve been on elevators that can go up 30 floors in about that time. So speed is a major consideration. It not only affects how fast you will get to your floor once the elevator picks you up, but it determines how soon the elevator will let you on.
- The number of elevators. If there is only one elevator, it is probably better to just take the stairs. Two elevators seems to be about the minimum. My apartment building has three, in theory, but they break down a lot. You should also consider the number of elevators in relation to the next criterion.
- The number of floors in the building versus the number of floors you have to go. In terms of time, the taller the building, the longer it will take for an elevator to reach you. But let’s face it, you are more likely to take the elevator to the fourth floor of a four story building than the fourth floor of a twenty story building. This is more of a psychological issue than a time or energy issue. Anyone headed to the fifteenth floor might look at you funny if you take the elevator to the fourth floor. And they will not be blamed if they shove you off the elevator after you went up only one floor. If you took the elevator down one floor, you are taking your life into your own hands, my friend.
- Up vs down. Below six or seven floors, down is almost always faster than waiting for the elevator. And the energy required is relatively minimal. If you were going to pace while you were waiting for the elevator, you probably used about the same amount of energy. Up, however, takes considerably more energy and, as the number of floors increases, considerably more time. When fatigue sets in, you can’t move nearly as quickly as you did at first. So when deciding to take the stairs up, consider…
- Physical fitness. If climbing a single flight of steps leaves you winded, then stick to the elevator. However, if you’re one of those people who races up the Empire State building every year, take the stairs. Save the elevator a stop.
- Time of day. Just like the highways, there is usually a rush hour for elevators. At the worst part of the morning, if you live more than four floors from the top, you may have to wait two elevator cycles to get a spot. Going up, you can usually see if there is a crowd waiting in the lobby and make a quick decision as to whether or not you’ll be able to get a ride any time soon.
- Accessories. The only way, the ONLY way you may be forgiven for taking the elevator up or down one floor when you are otherwise physically capable is if you have stuff that may make stairs difficult to maneuver such as suitcases, boxes, heavy items, bulky items, an armful of groceries, or giant pandas.

As it happens, I am far enough from the top of my building that I walk down and far enough from the lobby that I take the elevator up unless I’m feeling particularly in need of exercise. So there you have it. All the things you need to consider when waiting for the elevator and eyeing the stairwell. And if, by the time you are done thinking through all of these criteria, the elevator still has not come, perhaps it’s a sign that you should, indeed, take the stairs.

The Conclave

Father, forgive me, for this was a parody screaming to be done.

From the people who brought you “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire”, Fox presents the reality show event of the season: The Conclave. 117 cardinals forced to live together in Santa Marta for up to twelve days until one of them is given the ultimate title – Pope. Feel the tension every night as the ballots cast at the Sistine Chapel are burned. Will the smoke be black, telling the world that they have not yet come to an agreement? Or will it be white, signaling the beginning of a new era?

As the cardinals quietly contemplate which of them will become the next Bishop of Rome, alliances will form – and fracture. Will the Americans stick together? Will Italy regain the Papacy? Will there finally be a non-white at the head of Catholic Church? How will each candidate handle the legacy of John Paul the II? And what will the winner have to do with olives?

Join us starting on April 18 as we bring you this once-in-a-lifetime event. Who will be the next Pope? Find out on… The Conclave.

Maybe there will even be a water-skiing contest.

Bush and Anan

I really hope that someone farted and that this is not Bush's actual reaction to having Kofi Anan standing that close to him. I thought his wife taught him not to make faces?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Messed up, yo!

Check out this optical illusion. But take your sea-sickeness pills first.

Storms a'coming

Watching dark clouds on the horizon from my patio and radar on Weather Underground, I'm waiting to watch my first good warm-weather thunderstorm from my new apartment. I already know the wind can get pretty violent up here, so I'll have to close the door to the outside when the storm whips up, but the view of lighting should be good from up here. Oh, and I'll be turning off my computer, just in case...

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Religion in Space

Another post at Achenblog got me thinking about one of my theories about the colonization of space.

When I think about colonizing space, I think back to the colonization of the Americas. The two primary motivations for the European colonization of the Americas were money and religion. And the two primary enablers of colonization were governments and the Catholic Church. Other than governments, religions are the most effective organizations at collecting large sums of money by taking a little bit of money from a lot of people. They are also great at utilizing a natural resource known as people. When people go on mission trips, they are almost always asked to go outside their comfort zone to do something they never would have done otherwise. When well known religious leaders say something, a lot of people listen. Imagine if the Pope said that colonizing space was a moral obligation. What would that do for manned space exploration?

One of the reasons the early space program did so well was that there was competition. Beating the Russians to the moon was extremely motivating. But when Russia gave up on the moon and, eventually, the cold war ended, the competition became cooperation. Which is great and all, but competition gets faster results. See the X-Prize. But billionaires with hobby planes can only get us so far. So what will our new motivation be? Between the money and the ability to get people to stand behind something they usually wouldn’t think about, I think religion may have to be a prime mover if man ever wants to move beyond our little blue sphere.

Phone Like IM

Maybe the technology is up and coming, or maybe it’s around but it’s not in the price range that I usually consider, but I have a question. Why can’t my cell phone be more like IM? And I don’t mean text messaging. I mean that on instant messenger, I can tell if my friends are available to talk before I even bug them. If they’re online but just in away mode, I can look at their message and (in theory) tell what they are busy doing and decide whether I really want to interrupt them or not. It’s a simple concept but, to me, it eliminates some of the reasons for hating telephones (one of these day’s I’m gonna write that rant…)

When I go into a movie, why are my only options vibrate, silent, and off? I want to be able to select a mode that I created and saved called “movie” that will automatically put my phone on vibrate and change my voice mail message to “Hey, I’m in a movie. Try again in an hour or so.” If I’m in a meeting it should say “I’m in a meeting. If it’s an emergency, call the office.” And so on for however many settings my phone will hold. Also, it would be cool (but probably harder) to be able to listen to people’s phone mail messages without actually calling them if they are in my phone list. I see that feature as being a bit further into the future. Still, you would think the first part about changing your phone mail message on the fly would be possible by now. Just record the messages on your phone and when you set the mode, it automatically dials phone mail and changes the settings. I’d be willing to pay a little extra money for that feature. Say, $5 a month. It’s worth more to me than call waiting and three-way calling, that’s for sure.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Getting Your Priorities Straight

There's an interesting little discussion going on over at polyscifi about how different people give different weight to different values when establishing an opinion on a given matter. Jody's idea that "Improving Society Is a Time-Varying Multi-Dimensional Multi-Objective Nonlinear Optimization Problem" is a refreshing change from the "this way or that way" approach that seems to dominate a lot of discussions. However, it may need to be trimmed down and simplified just a touch if it's going to catch on with the general public.

Jody listed ten values off the top of his head and asked his readers to weight them (as opposed to rank them, which Thason and Jody effectively did anyway, but that's okay too). Here they are, with my weights (on a scale of 1 to 10).

Prosperity: 7.5
Security: 7
Family: 8
Liberty: 8.2
Justice: 6
Beauty: 3.14159265358979323...
Fairness: 6
Intellectual stimulation: 10
Happiness: 7
Faith: 5

Now, of course, your ranking of each value may also depend on your definition of each value. Thason gave his definition of each value, which, based on the discussion, differed from those of the other people who had already ranked and weighed the values for themselves (especially in regards to security). Although, amazingly, I didn't think about this before I ranked the values, I realized as Thason scolded the rest of us for not prioritizing security that I have, since graduating from college, made several decisions that were directly effected by how I prioritized these values. Selecting my apartment, every job choice, etc. Security, though certainly important, could have been gained much earlier if I had not prioritized intellectual stimulation(my anything-but-secure engineering job, followed by my more secure current job), liberty(having a job rather than going to school, which may sound strange to my friends in academia), prosperity(no starving student status for me), or my cat (cats are family; besides, the job market was dry as a bone when I was nursing him back to health). Of course, the list is also incomplete. You could add life, loyalty and obligation, fame, social interaction, being well liked (or well perceived), or any number of other things. But it's good to think about these things every once and a while, especially when you find yourself disagreeing with other people and not understanding why.