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Monday, May 14th, 2007
6:07 pm - You saw it here first
Reports are now out for April's economy. Consumer spending was down. Even at Walmart. First time in ages it was down for something other than housing. What did I tell you?

You think April was bad? Wait 'til you see May.

Remember, you read it here first.

current mood: satisfied

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Thursday, May 10th, 2007
10:00 pm - The Economy
Although there was a very slight improvement in the economy in the second half of April, May is bad, very, very, very bad. So far. They only just got around to announcing that April was bad. Wait till they see May.

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Sunday, April 29th, 2007
10:34 pm - The Economy
Improved very slightly in the middle of April, but is still bad. And gas went up by fifteen cents in two days.

current mood: tired

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Friday, April 20th, 2007
5:10 pm - A car
Today I saw a cool car. Yes, a CAR. I, who find cars almost as boring as golf, am willing to admit that this car was cool. It looked like it had started life as a Volkswagon bug, but it had some new, pointy, grand-looking front part on it, and it was painted to look sort of like a tan and red mansion. Hard to describe. It had flags, too. It looked like someone had put a lot of time, love and effort into it.

The sight of this car enriched my life.

Right now my neighbors are blasting their music so loud that my house is shaking. The vibrations are making my feet numb. And my landlord and told me that this is a quiet neighborhood.

current mood: aggravated

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Thursday, April 12th, 2007
2:00 pm - The Economy
Just in case anyone is wondering, the economic indicators for March, especially the last 2/3 of March, will be bad. Down. Low. Same with April, so far, anyway.

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Sunday, July 23rd, 2006
11:14 pm - A benefit of getting older...
A benefit of getting older seems to be an increased ability for sustained flatulence. I can now create farts that are loud and long-lasting and melodious. My son is very impressed.

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11:03 pm - Senator Rick Santorum/ Karl Rove: OTP
I am experimenting with creating despicable politicians on Sims 2 and then having them engage in sexual activities with each other. Where better to start than with homophobia posterboy Rick Santorum? I must say, his Sim came out looking very much like him. Karl Rove was harder. The Sims Body Shop doesn't let one make the top of his head wide enough, and I couldn't find his hairdoo. But it sort of looks like him. Anyway, you can see this creation at:

Wait till y'all see what I have in store for Joe Lieberman... All dressed up like a French maid and ready to be ridden by every Republican in the community; the "town bicycle," as my daughter says.

current mood: pleased

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Monday, June 5th, 2006
3:02 pm - Mercury
Today I am thinking about mercury. There was quite a lot of it around when I was a kid. I remember holding a little bead of quicksilver in my palm, watching it scoot around much faster than it seemed like it should. It was a marvelous thing. One of my favorite toys was a little blue plastic maze with a clear plastic top, containing a fairly sizable blob of mercury. The point was to get the entire blob into the center. It wasn't easy. All of our thermometers contained mercury, and when we busted one, we would save the mercury to play with.

Too bad the stuff is so damn poisonous. One of my friends said that she played with mercury so much when she was kid that her extremities began to go numb.

When I was in college, there was a story about a retired professor who had spent his academic lifetime studying mercury compounds. When he retired, the story went, they remodeled his lab. When they lifted the linoleum off the floor, they found a virtual lake of mercury metal underneath.

When I was teaching college chemistry, I always started the class by passing around all the elements I could find in the stockroom. I wanted my students to see and get to know at least some of the entities they would be studying all year. We had chunks of bismuth, lead, tin, magnesium, iron, manganese, chromium, zinc, aluminum, titanium, molybdenum, tungsten, nickel, graphite, sulfur, silicon and copper, a coin for silver, iodine in a jar, a little bottle of bromine under the hood, some barium, sodium, potassium and lithium in oil under the hood, and some cruddy-looking calcium metal. I told them to look at someone's jewelry for gold, and to look at the air for nitrogen and oxygen. And I had a nice little bottle of mercury metal, carefully sealed up with parafilm and marked "HIGHLY TOXIC! DO NOT OPEN!" The little bottle was impressive in its shear heaviness. (The wicked assignment that went with this show-and-tell was for them to come up with at least one physical property that all these elements have in common, so you could tell by looking what is an element and what isn't. Wicked, because there's no such thing.)

This all went very well until one year when I had student X in my class. I could write a whole novel about student X, but for now I will just tell you that on this occasion, student X unwrapped the parafilm from the bottle and poured some mercury out on his desk. This desk was one of those kinds where the little table can fold up or down, and the surface isn't level. You can't keep a pen from rolling off a desk like that, and needless to say, the quicksilver was bounding off and scattering in an instant. It got all over the clothes and shoes of student X, and all over the floor.

You would not believe the paperwork involved in a mercury spill and cleanup. And the effort of a team of people crawling around on the floor with little squeeze bottles to suck up all the droplets.

Sometimes my students would ask what the point was of learning about chemistry. I would tell them the story about the teenagers who broke into an old paper mill and found bottles of mercury. Not knowing what it was, but thinking that it was really cool, they stole it. Then they dipped cigarettes in it and smoked it. And they would have been alive today if they had learned about the toxicity of mercury in chemistry class.

I once visited a high school on a Pacific Island which I shall not identify here... but it is an extremely impoverished community. Some kind and generous business had gotten rid of its toxic waste problem by donating all its poisonous chemicals to the high school on this island for use in science classes. The chemicals sat in corroded and often unlabeled containers on two tables in the back of a classroom. Among them were compounds of mercury, chromium, lead and so forth, as well as red phosphorus and concentrated sulfuric acid (into which the students had dropped pens and other objects to watch the reactions). And in the teacher's desk, in the drawer where she kept her purse, was a large quantity of mercury metal, just little beads loose in the drawer. I told her to tape that drawer shut and never open it again. The only thing saving these people was that the windows in the classroom had no glass, so the wind blew through freely. As we were going through the chemicals, one guy casually asked me, "Will these chemicals kill fish?" I said, "Oh, yes." And then I figured out why he was asking, so I quickly added, "And they will kill anyone who eats the fish afterwards."

current mood: blah

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Thursday, April 20th, 2006
5:30 pm
We needed someone to speak for Chuck Pennacchio at our local Democratic Party dinner, since the candidate for U.S. Senate (PA) couldn't be there in person. Who would speak for Chuck? Malachi immediately said, "I'll do it." "Are you sure?" "Yes, I'm sure."

We came up with a brief speech, about a minute or so long. Malachi studied the speech for a couple of days, not memorizing it exactly, but gettig the feel of it. Malachi took a shower, shaved, picked his suit up off the floor, brushed off the dust and cat hair, found a belt somewhere in the basement, and crammed his feet into his dress shoes, which are too small for him. He was ready to go.

Malachi, the confident, well-spoken, philosophical 15-year-old, was the youngest person at the dinner. Most of the people there, in fact, were well older even than I, the old Shubab. The people who attend these functions, the old guard, are typically OLD, the men with their expansive paunches and suit jackets, the women in neon-colored suits with enormous gold jewelry, some of them well into their cups. And I, in jeans and a sweater. That's as dressed up as I get these days. There were the candidates circulating around, leaving layers and layers of campaign stuff at all the tables. We had Jon Eich, Scott Corman, John Sayers, Ruth Luce, Alan Sandals, Don Hilliard, and Valerie MacDonald Roberts (running for Lt. Governor).

Malachi sat at the table, uncharacteristically nervous. He was greeted by various people, especially the candidates and members of our crowd, the Pennacchio crowd. Things eventually got underway. First they fed us a very good dinner, courtesy of Hoags Catering. Then the speeches started. The candidates were alotted five minutes apiece, although they gave the Pennacchio surrogates (there were three) only three minutes. You see, the Old Guard supports the Dem Party anointed one, Bob Casey, Jr.

Malachi got up and delivered his speech with gusto, expression and enthusiasm. When he spoke disparagingly of the fact that our primary is not an open primary (by definition, because the state party has endorsed Casey and other candidates), he was surrounded by a lot of harrumphing hacks. Then, when he was about halfway through his short speech, the local head honcho stood up and loomed over him, making him nervous. He faltered to a halt, shot the guy an unhappy look, and then finished off his speech. Afterwards he said that he wished he had told the guy to sit down.

Later on, the guest speaker, Mr. Michael Hanna, the State Representative from the Lock Haven area, insisted that it is an open primary we'll be having, which he apparantly defines as a primary in which his candidate is endorsed.

Valerie MacDonald Roberts turned out to be a real dynamo who worked the room with skill and won everyone over, even though she is not the candidate endorsed by the party hacks. (That would be Katherine Baker Knoll.) Chuck Pennacchio describes Valerie as a "soul-mate," and she is truly a wonderful person and a kick-ass candidate.

current mood: excited

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Monday, January 23rd, 2006
9:20 pm - Things that have enriched my life today
During the night we had a storm consisting of "wintery mix": snow, rain, sleet, and freezing rain. As I walked to work this morning, the sidewalks were covered with a peculiar, gelatinous slush that looked like glass beads suspended in water. Walking on it felt and sounded like walking on Rice Krispies. This slush enriched my life today.

In the library I saw a marvelous middle-aged man with a huge belly and remarkable facial hair. It was one of those beards where the cheeks are clean-shaven and all the hair is located on or below the jawline, so that it looks like the beard slid down his face. His facial hair enriched my life today.

And on the bus going home, I saw a wonderful bimbo, with blond hair and an orange tan, fondling an amazing cell phone. The front of the cell phone was covered with faceted laser pink plastic beads and glittered in its over-the-top pinkness. On the back of the cell phone were two pink hearts pierced with a silver arrow. And dangling from this phone was a short chain with heart-shaped links, and hanging from the end of this chain was a charm in the form of Tinkerbell. The wonderful bimbosity of this cell phone enriched my life.

current mood: peaceful

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Tuesday, September 28th, 2004
9:26 am - More about Sims 2
First of all, I found the pinball machines - they do have them in Sims 2. Secondly, it is possible to create even more facial, coloring and clothing variety using the Sims 2 Body Shop. I haven't played with it yet, but I will try it tonight.

Last night Malachi and I experimented with two cheats, the new faceBlendLimits on/off switch that you can use during Create-a-Family, and StretchSkeleton, which you can use during the game.

The first one can be used to turn off the built-in limits governing the creation of a child made in Create-a-Family. It is supposed to produce really odd looking children if the parents differ widely in their features. We did get odd-looking children using it, but we have also gotten odd-looking children not using it.

StretchSkeleton is truly remarkable. To use it during the game, select a Sim (put the Sim in play) and type in the cheat StretchSkeleton followed by a space and then a factor. For example, if you type in StretchSkeleton 2, it will double the height of your Sim. If you type in StretchSkeleton .5, it will cut your Sim's height in half. We found that varying the factor between .7 and 1.1 produces realistic height variations. If you want to create a really grotesque toddler, double its height. It looks like a centipede or a water strider or something arthropoid.

A really tall Sim and a really short Sim have a hard time kissing each other. The short one ends up smooching the tall one on the abdomen. So it's great fun. Try it out.

current mood: enthralled

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9:18 am - Quasar
Quasar, the fuzzy gray cat perfection, has been busy distributing objects to strange places, one of his favorite activities. He left three unmatched socks and a pair of Malachi's underpants in his cat food dish, a toy mouse in my shoe, and a fuzzy ball cat toy in his kitty litter. The last was partially buried along with his products, so he lost that toy.

current mood: content

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Monday, September 20th, 2004
9:48 am - A first look at Sims 2
Between me and Malachi, our new Sims 2 game didn’t get much chance to rest over the weekend. The new Sims creation tool is absolutely amazing. I like the randomly created Sim that begins every Sim creation experience. Sometimes this Sim is so perfect that it needs little or no modification. The software for creating faces is superb, remarkably versatile and endlessly fun. Now, here is what I would change about it:
• provide more hair colors, including artificial colors, highlights, greyed temples, etc.
• don’t make hats a body part. They should be in clothing, and something that any Sim can get, put on, or take off.
• allow users to manipulate head shape, aside from facial features.
• allow us to manipulate length and thickness of neck and prominence of adam’s apple.
• allow us to manipulate body size and shape: height, weight, fat distribution, relative lengths of torso and limbs, bust size, hip size etc.
• give us a selection of voices to choose from!

The aspirations choice is fun, and the personality points work well. I would add intelligence to the list.

Most wonderful of all the new features in Sim creation is the genetics feature. The fun that can be derived from breeding a pair of Sims in the creation stage and running through the various outcomes cannot be overstated. It will have you in hysterics. The ability to view the offspring in the full range of ages is a very nice touch. What would I change about this feature? Absolutely nothing. It is perfect.

The choice of neighborhoods is much more interesting than it used to be, and we can do more with the land than previously. Building is more versatile than previously, except that the choices available for decorating the houses are surprisingly limited. We can hope that expansion packs will provide us more wall covering, door, window, and flooring options. The same can be said for furnishings: one would like to see more variety of stuff, but in particular, more toys and games (right now there are no pool tables, pinball machines, volleyball nets, basketball hoops etc.). And there are no area rugs, throw rugs, welcome mats or that kind of thing. On the other hand, the choice of paintings and wall hangings has improved.

As for game play: the choice of actions has greatly expanded, as well as the view into a Sim’s head. We can now see their aspirations and fears as well as their needs and relationships. Their variety of facial expressions and movements has greatly expanded. They are absolutely fascinating to watch. And it is possible to zoom in for a close look at what a Sim is doing. There are also more options for interacting with members of the community, including chatting with them on the computer.

Another great improvement is that a Sim woman experiences pregnancy (and the way a pregnant Sim moves is absolutely wonderful), and that the resulting baby grows up through several stages. Sims now age and eventually pass away. My only problem with this is that they age too fast. Luckily, it is possible to turn aging on and off. It is great fun to see a Sim child grow up.

My one great complaint about Sims gameplay is that the camera action is slow and cumbersome. I am having a great deal of trouble moving my view around the house to watch what the Sims are doing. Half the time I end up with a view of the interior of a wall or the back of the fridge. Moving straight forward is particularly difficult. The camera just doesn’t seem to want to move that way. Perhaps there are tricks that I haven’t learned yet.

I recommend that you buy the extra book that is a guide to Sims 2. It doesn’t come with the game, so you have to buy it separately. It includes a gold mine of very useful information, such as how to maintain a toddler, how to get your child into private school, and how to turn aging on and off. It also explains in detail how the personalities and other Sims characteristics work.

current mood: impressed

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Saturday, September 18th, 2004
5:35 pm - Odds and more odds, no ends
The base of our street is closed off for some sort of mysterious roadwork, and they have detoured us to the next road down. But last night the detour was closed, too, due to flooding. This morning we saw a car up to its windows in water in the ditch at the roadside. Ivan's remains also made our little creek overflow its banks to flow over the yard, but not dangerously so. The basement flooded, of course, making a soup of spilled cat food, spilled kitty litter, and a shredded roll of toilet paper left down there by the kittens. The cats have waded through it and left pale brown footprints all over the kitchen. We also had a roof leak that dripped into the shower - very considerate of it.

The Tarnished Six performed at the Hiway Pizza, minus Roger, plus Mike L. The high school football team made a valiant attempt to play, but they were flooded out at halftime. Mr. K, the band, and a bunch of soggy cheerleaders came dripping into Hiway. In the bathroom, band girls and cheerleaders were freaking out over hearing their own Mr. K playing tuba in a public venue. "I wonder if he ever does solos," one asked. So I requested Asleep in the Deep, so the gals could hear Mr. K play a solo.

We bought Sims 2. So far, it has not disappointed us. I reluctantly left it and Malachi behind to come to the radio station. To get here, I had to swim upstream against people leaving the football game. The police weren't very cooperative, but I finally got through all the barricades. All is peaceful now.

current mood: calm

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Tuesday, August 24th, 2004
9:29 am - A lull
I was actually hard at work for once, entering course reserves into the system, when Workflows ceased to flow. I can't tell whether it has stopped entirely or whether its viscosity has just suddenly increased to the point where I can't tell whether any flow is taking place in my lifetime. It says "Command in Progress" but no progress is evident. So, I am taking a few moments to update this journal.

The Annex trolls are in fine form. I just ran off a six-page report of items overdue in transit from us to other locations. Five and a half of those six pages are things in transit to the Annex, because the Annex trolls don't discharge their books when they arrive!

And Linda asked me to look up something for her in GOBI, and my GOBI password isn't working for reasons unknown.

What a morning... plus we're going to have a meeting in an hour and I forgot my NoDoz.

Boris the DJ has a list on his website of things that annoy him. It was a fun list, so I thought I'd start a list of things that annoy me.

1. People who talk to me when I'm counting something, especially if I'm counting money.
2. People who use third person when second person is appropriate, as in "So, how is Shubab doing today"? when addressing me.
3. Telemarketers, although I don't get too many anymore.
4. Recorded telephone calls.
5. When people say "heighth" instead of "height," although this shouldn't annoy me because language does evolve.
6. Trying to think of something to say to an answering machine.
7. When I accidently play the wrong song over the air at the radio station.
8. Men.
9. Tailgaters
10. Getting mayonnaise on a sandwich after requesting its omission.
11. Not quite finishing a task when I run out of time.
12. Excessive perfume or cologne.
13. Loud music.
14. Credit card offers.
15. Spam.
16. George W. Bush
17. Cleaning out the kitty litter.
18. Powder at the bottom of a cold cereal box.
19. Finding out that someone else has been using my toothbrush.
20. Wireheads whose music is so loud that I can hear it.

Stay tuned for another bunch of annoyances tomorrow!

current mood: tired

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Wednesday, March 24th, 2004
2:38 pm - The only show I watch is Mad TV...
I am really sorry to hear that Mo Collins is leaving/has left Mad TV. Does anyone know why? What about Michael McDonald? He wasn't on the show for the last two weeks, either. It's hard to imagine the show without them.

I like most of the Mad TV characters, but I guess my three favorites are Stephnie Weir's Leona Campbell, Aries Spears's Dollar Bill, and Michael McDonald's Depressed Persian Towtruck Man. And I loved Paul Vogt's portrayal of Cousin Natalie. He makes a gruesomely convincing woman!

current mood: pensive

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1:56 pm - A slow day at the library
This is the week that we are collecting statistics on how many reference questions we get asked at our library. Naturally, it is the slowest week we have seen since the semester started. I think it is even slower than the week of Spring Break. It was well into late morning before I got asked anything, and then the question was "Where's the bathroom?"

Why couldn't we have done this last week, when one of the huge freshman-level geography classes had a project due and we were absolutely flooded with desperate students seeking help?

The administration is going to get the wrong idea about us...

current mood: recumbent

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Tuesday, March 23rd, 2004
9:10 am - Remarkable name
Yesterday I found a marriage record in which the groom's name was Squirrel Period. Squirrels don't even have periods. Very few species are so cursed. And although there are many theories, no one has yet figured out why human women have periods.

current mood: awake

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Thursday, April 3rd, 2003
4:11 pm - Popular culture, Part I
I have discovered that there is disagreement as to the definition, functions, and origin of popular culture. Here is what I think, and in this, I am speaking of United States popular culture.
I think that popular culture is a standard by which individuals assess their status and place in the social hierarchy, and is a guide to increasing social standing. Popular cultural standards apply to personal style, taste, activities, occupations, possessions, sexual roles, and attitudes. Aspects of these are invested with positive attributes (status) or negative attributes (stigma). For example, in American popular culture, engaging in the activity of soccer imparts status, whereas Dungeons and Dragons is a stigmatized activity.
Popular culture is established by synergistic interactions among the individuals who embrace it, entertainment and the media, corporate influence (through advertising), and to some extent, government, religion and education. Popular culture can also be influenced by outside cultures (as in the adoption of Japanese anime as a status style in the United States). Some people are so immersed in popular culture and embrace it so wholeheartedly that they probably are only dimly aware that it exists - it simply defines the way that life is to be led. Other people embrace it, but with reservations, as with those mothers who reluctantly buy Barbies for their daughters because they think they have to, that a girl without a Barbie is somehow deprived. Other people fervently reject popular culture by adopting the styles of an established counter-culture, such as the Goths or Punks. Some people appear to be indifferent to it; these are the ones who happily and obliviously wear, do, and think what they want, often engaging in stigmatized styles and activities. These are the ones labeled "nerds" by those engaged in popular culture. Other people are aware of popular culture and may dabble in it, picking and choosing what they want of it, and ignoring the rest.
Some theories attribute popular culture (versus "high culture") to class differences. Probably class differences were more significant in the past than they are now in delineating popular culture, as access to television, movies, music, and Internet has brought popular culture to all levels of society. Although people may differ in their financial ability to achieve status as defined by popular culture, most of them agree on what should be done to achieve status.

current mood: thoughtful

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Monday, March 31st, 2003
2:42 pm - Advice from the Son of Shubab
Shubab's son says, "Never show your penis to a cat."

His explanation: The cat will think that the organ is a small animal and will behave accordingly, with deleterious results.

According to the Son of Shubab, this advice is based on untested theory.

current mood: amused

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