Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cereal Love

One Christmas tradition in our home is to have extra selection of breakfast cereals. This usually causes us all to think of a cereal we haven't had in a while, and which we would love most for Christmas morning. I plan to start a poll in a week or two about this subject. My ideas for the best cereal of all time are currently Cracklin Oat Bran, Crispix, Kix, Count Chocula, and Cocoa Crispies. If I have missed a contender for this poll, please comment on this post.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Arctic Blast

We have had record low temperatures, and snow has been accumulating over the last few days such that schools, roads, and businesses have been closing. Last night it snowed about 4-5 inches, and I chained up on the ambulance. We were able to take someone to the hospital who had been on another ambulance that got stuck. On my way home from work, however, I didn't make it up our hill and had to abandon my car and walk part of the way. Brrr. And it appears this weather is going to be around for at least a few more days.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Today I was teaching high school PE. It was wonderfully simple. All you do is sort of watch the kids play basketball and make sure they don't hurt themselves. Once in a while you throw in a "no kicking" or "pull up your shorts." At the end of the day you whistle everybody out. If I wore sunglasses and had a tan, I think I could have passed for a pool lifeguard. It reminded me of a quote an old friend of mine shared with me: "Good times are had when you're having fun."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blagojevich Scores Big

I just got fined $60 for skipping the toll booth 3 times in Illinois back in November in a rental car. But here is the best part: "Failure to satisfy any fines or penalties...for 5 or more violations shall result in...suspension of...driver's license and possible...collection action." Guess what that means - I get off scott free. But then I remembered that my integrity is worth more than $60, so I paid the money. The rental car company also billed me $15 because they had to look up my information to give to the state of Illinois (a tattle-tale fee). It seems like big brother keeps a good eye on you on the roads of Illinois. So pay your tolls.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Superhero Poll

Comic book enthusiasts have been stumped by this question for years: who is the greatest superhero of all time? Unfortunately, I can't answer that question at this time. The poll was designed for such a purpose, but one voter (or possibly 2) hacked into the system and cast multiple ballots, which compromises the accuracy of the data. What I can say for sure is that the greatest superhero is not Spiderman, or anyone who would fall in the "other" category, i.e. Wolverine, Edward Cullen, or Captain America.
There may also have been some confusion regarding Chuck Norris' status as a superhero. Wikipedia defines superhero as a fictional character "of unprecedented physical prowess dedicated to acts of derring-do in the public interest". While Chuck Norris is not fictional, he does have unprecedented physical prowess (holding the title of world karate champion pretty much since he was 10 years old,) he does brave acts in the public interest (endorsing unpopular political candidates,) and he has a fictional alter ego (Walker Texas Ranger,) so he still qualifies.

Monday, December 8, 2008

High School

Substitute teaching a 10th grade English class is a sweet deal. The kids are great - not nearly as much trouble as junior high kids. And the money is great compared to EMT work. All you do is stand up at the beginning of class, take roll, announce what the kids have to do, and be open for questions. One drawback to substitute teaching is that you're more of a babysitter than a teacher. But on the plus side, you don't have to know the subject, no grading involved, nothing to work on at home, and you get the same money as if you were the real teacher.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Smoke Alarms

I believe smoke alarms save lives. And, in general, safety first. But last night I didn't sleep well because a smoke alarm had a low battery, and beeped every 30 seconds until I got up and pulled out the battery at 2am. I can remember 3 or 4 times this has happened to me in the past, and am wondering whether I might lead a better life without smoke alarms. Here's my analysis:
First, you have the cost of the alarm and batteries (about $50 over my lifetime).
Next, there is maybe a 1/1000 chance my home will ever catch fire (this is generous for Seattle).
Third, I'm a non-smoker, so divide that by 2.
Fourth, there is only a 1/3 chance I will be asleep at the time and need the detector to alert me of danger.
Next, let's say there is a 50/50 chance that I could have survived without the detector - maybe I had a dog to wake me up instead of the shrill beeping.
Now - the factor that I think may be overlooked sometimes - losing about 20 good nights of sleep over the course of my lifetime.
Finally, once every 2-3 years a smoke detector will tell me something I already know, i.e. I just burned some toast. That just bugs me. I guess, to be fair, I should add that there is potential comedic value in smoke detectors - you might use one in a practical joke.
So, the bottom line is you probably would win the lottery before a smoke detector saves your life. But we must put up with them to meet fire codes.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Stay In School

I taught 6 periods of language arts and math at a middle school today. Teaching wears me out. Most of the kids are great - quiet and patient - while others look for any excuse to get out of their seats and mess around. We had enough material to cover to keep them busy for most of the period, but the last 5 minutes for most of the classes was pandemonium. I need to pace my lessons better so I don't run out of material. Also, when the ruckus starts I need a way to regulate. Two ideas for that: 1 - make kids do jumping jacks if they get out of their seats (drain their energy), or 2 - send half the class to the principal's office. Any other ideas out there?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Surprise Visit

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a patient up to Bellingham. My brother happened to be available for dinner after we finished business, so I took him to the classiest restaurant in town - Wendy's. I was glad to find things are going well for him and show off my ambulance. My partner was gracious enough to take the picture.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


So, in the final moments of today's Jeopardy, on a daily double question, I think Alex Trebek was a little too harsh. The question was something about anthropology, and the person's eyes lit up (because she knew the answer) and she responded something like 'What is orapithidicea' with a big smile. Unfortunately, that wasn't good enough. Alex was looking for Oreopithecidae , which is a specialized hominoid from the Late Miocene of Europe. Ouch! Well, I guess some anthropologist would have been offended if they let that slide, but if Alex told me that wasn't good enough, I would have pulled out a can of clam chowder and thrown it at his head.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Auto Industry Bailout

3 reasons why we should not bail out the auto industry.
1 - It's not the government's responsibility
2 - American cars are inferior
3 - November 19, 2004 the Pacers visiting the Detroit Pistons. Pistons fans escalated a little argument with Ron Artest into a brawl. Everyone in the stadium in Detroit was throwing things at the Pacers as they left the game. Would that happen in any other city? The people of Detroit have no sportsmanship, and need to learn how to accept a big loss.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Price is Right Wins

The data are conclusive - the Price is Right is the greatest game show of all time. Perhaps part of the reason is that, aside from entertainment value, this show can help you live better. It can simplify pricing out daily vitamin supplements or exercise equipment. And of course, each show concludes with a reminder to help control the pet population, which we can all feel good about.

Uno's Pizza

We met up for lunch after the Children's Museum at Uno's. The pizza was pretty good. But spending time with family was even better. I can't wait to go back!

In Motion

We had so much fun in Indiana! These pictures speak for themselves.


One of the games the older kids played was to throw these rubber balls which stick to flat surfaces at the windows. They tried to get them to the top of the window, and came pretty close sometimes.
I asked the kids what their shirts say, and my niece read it to me. I then asked her why some of the letters are backwards and she said "They wanted it to look like a kid wrote it, but I don't write letters backwards."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Breakfast with the kids

In my recent trip to Indiana, I had a blast with my brother's family. We went to a Pacers game, the largest children's museum in the world, and lots of other fun things. It might take a while to chronicle the whole trip! One morning we had a wholesome breakfast of Chip Mate's Cereal, which is similar to Cookie Crisp. Afterward, the kids wanted to play the game on the back of the box. So we rolled dice and moved mini cookies on the game board. A little while later, we came back to the cereal because my niece had a great idea - take the mini chocolate chips off of the mini cookies, and put them on bran flakes, to create the first ever chocolate chip branflake cereal. My nephew volunteered to eat the chipless mini cookies. I think the chocolate chip branflakes were a big hit!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

An Historic Day

The economy was the biggest concern. That's why we had this tsunami toward the left. At least, that was the bottom line on the National news covering the elections. Well, we certainly will see change. I don't know how the unchecked Democratic majority is going to improve the economic outlook. I also wonder whether our new president will swear to uphold the Constitution, given that his vision for America is quite different from that of our founding fathers. My biggest concern is that we will lose much of our defense funding and be more vulnerable to terrorism. But we made the bed and now we are going to sleep in it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


This is the intersection of Dexter, Florentia, Freemont, Westlake, and Nickerson. I was impressed with the complexity when I saw this sign with 5 street names, so I took a picture.

Jack O'Lantern

According to Wikipedia, the name "Jack O'Lantern" comes from "the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called ignis fatuus or jack-o'-lantern." Not as Irish as I would have guessed. This is one I made on Monday, already starting to go bad.

Shed version 2.0

My parents put some finishing touches on the shed, including trim, a cupola, and a weathervane with a squirrel instead of a rooster (my mom's idea). I love it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Game Show History

Pat Sajak and Vannah White just gave away the largest total in Wheel of Fortune's history - $1,026,080. The contestant won a wedge from the wheel which changes the $100,000 prize wedge on the bonus round wheel to a million. So, she had to get to the bonus round, pick the right wedge on the bonus round wheel (1 of 24), and solve the bonus puzzle. What are the overall odds? Not good. But somehow, some way, she pulled through. What a moment!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

LIghts and Sirens

My company has an agreement with the Bellevue Fire Department in which we transport their patients in exchange for a guarantee that we will be there within 12 minutes of the call. For every call we arrive late, the city of Bellevue will fine my company $500. What this means for me is that I have to drive fast and bend the rules of traffic to get there on time or I will face the wrath of my boss. Well, yesterday I was dispatched to go lights and sirens to an emergency in Bellevue. It was almost 6 miles away. I found myself going a little faster than I normally would, and going over a median into oncoming traffic to get through an intersection. You can understand why I felt the pressure to make it on time. Mapquest says it should have taken approximately 14 minutes to get there. We made it in 11 minutes and 40 seconds. Perhaps driving against a stopwatch is more stressful than dealing with some emergencies. I'm glad only 2 of our 8 fire contracts have a time limit.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Blog Etiquette and the Definition of Marriage

I got an email from an old acquaintance inviting me to check out her blog because she wrote something she felt was important. Basically, she was arguing that traditional marriage is and has been the foundation for any stable society since the beginning of time, and we should choose to restrict marriage to traditional relationships. She began by talking about the definition of the word and I thought I could strengthen her position. I posted a comment that said something like "yes, if you change the definition of the word, the word may lose its value ... ethics aside, a traditional relationship has greater value than an (alternative) because it has the potential to bring new life to the world ... including other types of relationships under the umbrella of marriage would be like, for instance, changing the word 'square' to include rectangles, the word 'square' loses an important part of its meaning." I checked back to see whether anyone had responded to my comment because I was so proud of it, but it turns out she didn't allow my comment. Excuse me? You allow other people to post stuff like "Wow, great idea, you're so cool" but you screen out a new idea? Whatever, see if I read your blog again. Was my comment offensive? Does it make sense? Maybe she didn't want to open up a can of worms.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Back to School

Next week I start working as a substitute teacher, K-12, on my days off from the ambulance. It's more money, and it's a big change of pace. Part of the deal is I can only profess polytheistic or atheistic beliefs, and if I teach history, the only fact I can mention about the founding fathers is that they had slaves. But I'm excited to see what it's like to work with kids. My little sister is confident that I will be able to especially relate to the geeks.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Math Story Problem

One of the great things about working on an ambulance is that I go all over the greater Seattle area. I don't always have my camera with me, but I happened to get a picture of downtown from Providence Mt. St. Vincent in West Seattle. The most prominent features are the Columbia Tower (toward the right of downtown) and the Space Needle on the left. I estimated they were about 20 degrees apart, and the actual distance between the two is about 2 km, so assuming an isosceles triangle, what is the distance between this point and downtown? It should be about 6 km. Right? Right.

Neighborhood Security

One of our close neighbors takes the 2nd Amendment quite seriously. He sometimes likes to practice bearing arms out his window and aiming them toward someone else's house. You don't believe me? Well, I took a picture because I thought it was so strange. It is only a BB gun, but it still raises questions about his sanity. So far no casualties. I think we should designate him to be our neighborhood security guard/SWAT coordinator.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shed Completion

It all started with a dream. The dream became a plan. The plan started a cascade of trips to Home Depot and BMC. Then, any time it was sunny, my parents or my little brother or I were out there working on the shed. It was the project to end all projects, the icing on our back yard cake. 3 months later the dream has become reality. I don't want to brag, but I can't deny that it is a fine structure.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Yesterday I went to Arizona to interview with a PA program. The trip was short and sweet. An old time buddy picked me up from the airport and was benevolent enough to let me crash at his place. And his roommate did us the courtesy of snapping our picture about 5 times when we were not ready, the best of which is posted here. The interview went well. The most difficult question they asked me was what do I have on my iPod (because I don't have an iPod) and I think I should hear back from them within the next couple of weeks. The school has a beautiful campus, lots of cactus and it seems you never have to pull weeds in Arizona. I was impressed by the students. They seemed happy and friendly.
The second picture is of Mt Rainier. I happened to get a window seat and to look out just in time to get a picture. Magnificent. If I move to Arizona I would probably miss seeing the mountain once in a while. The Phoenix area seemed very flat.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Prices always depend on supply and demand, right? It's a free country, and I can always buy what I need from whoever offers me the lowest price, right? Not always. The price of labor can be fixed by unions, which exercise absolute control over labor supply. You might say a union has a monopoly on labor, or that they are a sort of labor cartel. This system can be detrimental to the economy, and does little to satisfy the needs of the company.
If, for instance, you are a large aerospace company with a multi-billion dollar deal on the horizon, and you need a lot of laborers, and you are willing to pay out (demand) $25 an hour along with excellent benefits, stock options, etc., and there are heaps of guys (supply) who are willing to work for you for said price, you can't hire them unless you meet the demands of the union. So the union says $30 an hour, and a $5000 bonus, and Mariners tickets along with a large bag of cotton candy to sweeten the deal. You can't move forward until you come to an agreement, meanwhile your stock is dropping $2 every day and you are paying millions in penalties and there is a growing possibility of losing some of the business altogether. You see where the damage to the economy comes into play as well as the potential to seriously mess up important business deals that have been years in the making.
It seems to me that most of what unions do these days is get their members riled up to bite the hand that feeds them. They call for strikes and file grievances at the drop of a hat while communication and negotiation would be more in the interest of the laborers, as well as, of course, for the company. Strikes are a last resort, as in the 1800's when working conditions were hazardous and guys working 80 hours a week could hardly feed their families. I think Samuel Gompers would turn over in his grave if he could see what unions are doing nowadays. And I think today we could do without unions altogether.

Pacific Raceway

Today I worked on an ambulance crew posted at Pacific Raceway. Our responsibility was to provide basic life support in the event of an accident on the track. It was time trials or something, so there wasn't very much traffic, and fortunately there were no injuries. We just listened to the roar of the bikes and read books for 9 hours. Meanwhile, all the other ambulances in the area were slammed because a national private ambulance chain sent down several of their Seattle crews to help out with hurricane Ike. I should have bought a lottery ticket - it was my lucky day.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Husky Fever

My ladyfriend and I went to a college football game Saturday. Her brother has a great eye for the game. He can see offsides and holding better than the officials from all the way in the back of the stands. We supported the visiting team and won by 1 point after the visitors blocked a PAT. It was wild. Unsportsmanlike conduct was called after the hometeam scored a touchdown which brought them within 1. This made the PAT 15 yards longer, which made the kick easier to block. Some say the unsportsmanlike penalty was wak and it should have gone into overtime. I believe there was a deficit of penalties against the hometeam throughout the game so it worked out fair enough.


Looking around the highways, you might guess that there is one motorcycle for every 20 cars. Maybe 30. But working on an ambulance it might seem like half the vehicles involved in accidents are motorcycles. I know that's not true, but what does seem to be true (in my limited experience) is that half of motor vehicle accidents in which someone has to go to the hospital involve a motorcycle. And who is the one going to the hospital? It's always the guy on the motorcycle, never the guy in the car. So it seems to me a very disproportionate number of MVA victims going to the hospital are motorcycle guys. I think this is part of what makes motorcycles cool. They show less regard for personal safety than any other mode of transportation, which is very cool.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Birthday Wish

I recently celebrated my birthday, and I knew what I was going to get as a present. On my flight to Indiana I lost my hat. Not just any hat, it was an unique, custom tailored secondhand hat. What sorrow when I realized it was gone, but I was confident my mother would get it back for me by calling customer service or lost and found. And it would be the perfect birthday present. Unfortunately, the hat was never recovered. I think the kid sitting behind me had his eye on it, and quietly took it from my head when I was taking a nap or something. Well, you know what the good book says - if a man takes your cloak, give him your coat also. So, he has my hat, and I would like to offer him my birthday wishes also. May he enjoy the hat and have a long, prosperous life.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dog Poll

I offer my sincere thanks to those who participated in the dog poll. It seems most voters like mutts, huskies, and retrievers golden and labrador. So I guess I'll get a mutt that is a mix of retrievers and maybe a little husky in him too. Now, I know it's hard to name a creature without seeing its face, but if any reader would like to suggest a name for the mutt please post a comment. If no comments are posted, I might just name him Karl Barx.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


There's something you don't see everyday. A medium-sized mammal strolling through my brother's back yard. I thought it was a beaver at first, but it didn't have the paddletail. It must have been a marmot. Wikipedia states that the marmot carried the bubonic plague, which makes it the most notorious killer of humans second only to the mosquito. So watch your back around these things!

Battle For Yumness

My brother's family came into town near the end of our stay in Indiana. It was delightful to find that they are still a happy family. My brother's kids drew and colored on pieces of sheet rock and on the sub-floor of the house. One of my favorite drawings was the "battle for yumness" in which vegetables and candy are physically attacking each other to determine which of them is yummy. I think the candy is winning, although the vegetable doesn't have a sword like the candy does so it's hardly fair. My nephew also drew pictures on scraps of sheet rock including a self-portrait and a car.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


My little brother, Link, and I came out to Indiana for the week to help my older brother, Ignacio, work on a fixer-upper. Step 1 was demolition. We took out baseboards, crown moldings, wood paneling, bricks, and some insulation. When I realized how much work we have ahead of us, it hit me like a ton of bricks. But we have a few more days to work on it. The house is in a great location and after it's all done, it's going to be a keeper.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ultrapure Water Corrosion

I was told by a sagacious professor of chemistry that ultrapure, de-ionized water will corrode stainless steel. You can't blame me for wondering why. I always pictured water as a passive solvent. But "H2O" in its purest form can indeed be corrosive. Copper, glass, plastic, and stainless steel will all slowly lose molecules to the pure liquid. Highly insoluble metals, i.e. pure tin, are the only materials immune to water's alluring properties. But, if the gaseous oxygen is removed from the water before it is stored, you're ok to use whatever typical storage container you want. I still don't know why this happens, but I imagine it has to do with huge osmolarity forces coupled with the chiseling action of electrons on dissolved O2 molecules.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Call Me a Pour Sport

Yes, at last we poured the foundation and we are so happy with how it turned out. The stars really aligned for us. It was delivered and mixed for us, which saved an unthinkable amount of work. A family friend came over and helped us figure things out. And the surface is about as smooth as we could have hoped for. Except, of course, for a little decoration provided by my sister and mom.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Global Warming

If people are genuinely convinced about global warming, why aren't more people moving up to Alaska? I don't believe in it, so I'm happy where I'm at. But it seems to me that those who do believe in imminent, dramatic increases in temperatures would go somewhere cold to beat the rush. They might expect the property values in Alaska to go through the roof when it happens.

Foundation Part III

The grading of the foundation is complete, and the box for the concrete slab is built. It will be poured Friday at 2:30. Funny how things always take a little longer than we plan. But they always get done.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Man's Best Friend

I have always loved dogs. It's not a good time for me to go and get one, but maybe in a year or two. So I have posted a new poll hoping to get some input. There are few options to choose from, but there should be at least one you like. Comments would be acceptable for a write-in candidate.
Also, please note that the breed name "German Shepherd Dog" is correct nomenclature: the "Dog" part is not redundant. It carries over from the translation of "Deutscher Schäferhund." Whereas in the "Australian Shepherd," the "dog" part is only implied. In Germany maybe they call it "Australier Schäfer." Anyone know? I love dog trivia.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My Favorite Infant

My sister and her family came up to visit last weekend. They brought my youngest nephew who I will refer to as Jacques. Adorable. I didn't get to spend that much time with him because he was more of a night owl than I am. Actually he sleeps in 30 minute intervals some nights which has taken a toll on his parents. But he is cute anyway, and my sister took a REAL picture of us which I borrowed from her blog.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Please disregard any rumors that may be circulating about my engagement to Jennifer Aniston. It is a hoax. It is best to squelch rumors before they get out of control, as much fun as it can be to pretend. Sure, we are good friends, but that's all we will ever be. I wouldn't be able to handle the constant media attention, nor am I confident our relationship would last (you know how volatile celebrity relationships can be). Plus, I can't see myself dating an older woman.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


My Bollywood movie source, Punjab Video, closed down yesterday. I met a guy who opened up a new Bollywood store not too far away, so I'll have to go up there instead. He was surprised to know that I was a regular customer at Punjab, so that tells me there is not a lot of interest among ethnically challenged Americans. So, for the reader who may want to see what it's all about, I have compiled a short list of my favorite films.
1. Veer Zaara
2. Madhumati
3. Kal Ho Naa Ho
4. Satte Pe Satta
5. Lagaan
The music is great! The acting is good. Bollywood is where it's at. But as Lavar Burton once said, "you don't have to take my word for it."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rocking Out

My dad and I finished excavating for the foundation. We threw down some cinderblocks and poured some gravel. So far we have a yard and a half, but after we get it all packed down, I think we'll need another half-yard. Then we will pour the concrete and start thinking about walls.
This foundation is a kind of metaphor for my life. The excavation of grass and dirt was when a girl broke my heart in 2004. It was like she tore a piece of my life away. Then I filled the void with cheap rocks but I would never be the same. I put cinderblocks around the rocks to hide my sorrows from the world. Next, I'm going to cast a 4 inch concrete slab over my broken heart, so that I will be able to move on with my life (build a shed). Poetic, isn't it?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shed Foundation

Today my little brother (Alexander) and I dug out a ton of dirt, grass, and rocks in preparation for pouring a foundation for a shed. It's going to be 8 x 10 feet. After the hole is finished, we will lay down 4 inches of gravel, and then pour a 4 inch concrete slab. I think tomorrow we will finish digging, and maybe finish the foundation this weekend. It was great to get out in the sun after so many weeks of cold and drizzle.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Axis and Allies

With my brother "Alexander" home from school, and some free time, I have been playing Axis and Allies. It's kind of like Risk, but it takes twice as long so it's twice as fun. The first game I was the allied forces - US, UK, and USSR. This time I'm Germany and Japan. And as you can see from the picture, I'm just about to win. On the other hand, little "Alexander" almost pulled an upset last time by attacking Canada and coming down through North America, so I can't say whether he has some trick up his sleeve. He keeps me on my toes.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bobblehead Night

Is there anything better than going to a Mariners game in June? Last night was bobblehead night (Adrian Beltre) against the Washington Nationals. What a game! Not that the Mariners won. Or even any spectacular plays. Or the bobbleheads. It just amazes me that a guy can throw a baseball-sized object at a hundred miles an hour and another guy could have the wit and power to hit it with a 4" diameter wooden cylinder so that it sails up to 400 feet away. Yes, the Mariners lost, but what a great game.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rattlesnake Lake

The following pictures were taken on a night hike of Rattlesnake Lake in North Bend. We started hiking at about 8:45 and finished at 11. I didn't make it home until after midnight. This was out of character for me, the last time I had stayed out past midnight was New Year's Eve. The previous sentence was also out of character in that it contains a comma splice. I'm just full of surprises these days!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Volunteering Doesn't Pay

This morning I volunteered with city park maintenance for a couple hours - pulled some weeds, spread some gravel, etc. What was my motivation? No money. No expectation to ever return to enjoy the beautiful landscape. So why did I go? I guess it's hard to justify our actions sometimes.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mole Mining

My dad set out four traps last night at 9PM, and harvested two moles at 7AM today. This is certainly an unique success in mole warfare. He has tried a variety of traps, baits, and poisons and has concluded that there is no silver bullet. The key is experience and instinct as to where to place the traps. The traps, moles, and a garden gnome (for size reference) are pictured here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spring Cleaning/Painting

During the process of reorganizing and cleaning out our garage, my parents and I came across some latex-based paint that we do not want. Although it is not considered hazardous as of January, latex paint can not be thrown out unless it is dried out, nor will these paints be taken as hazardous waste in liquid form. So it becomes our green-compliance responsibility to dry these paints out.

Because we plan to replace the garage doors, my sister and I decided to use some of these paints to make a mural. My plan was to make some kind of pastural scene, with goats, rabbits, and ninja turtles. But the "green" I tried to make was more of a blue, and so it ended up being a seascape. My sister was going for more of an abstract, draw-your-own-conclusions artwork.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Book Report

The silver lining to unemployment is a surplus of time. With some of that time I have read a few books, and feel like I should share my opinions with readers of this blog (who may also like to read books.)
The Kite Runner - good, but not for the whole family.
David Copperfield - too long, and fizzles towards the end.
Reservation Road - builds up to nothing; dumb.
Thomas More's Utopia - wordy and difficult to sort through, but good.
To Kill a Mockingbird - the best one.
Moby-Dick - fun to read, symbolism was too deep for my shallow brain.
The Alchemist - ok, but I disagree with parts of it.
The Great Gatsby - I'm just getting into it, but don't like it so far.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Baby you can drive my ambulance

After weeks of looking for a job in the biotech industry, I decided to take a step back and see the big picture. Sure, it would be great to get a job in R&D or manufacturing, but it seems that the competition for those jobs is ferocious (1000 resumes were submitted for the TGC opening). So I looked into healthcare. I set up an interview over the phone. Next thing I know, I'm an ambulance driver/EMT. Orientation starts Tuesday. The money is not especially attractive, but I will get patient care experience to enhance my applications to PA programs for next fall.
If the title of this post doesn't ring a bell, please check out The Beatles "Rubber Soul" album.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Don't Go to Grad School

A riddle: How can you go from no experience to overqualified without even getting a job? Answer: graduate school. I just got a polite email from the company I interviewed with last week saying how great they thought I was, but that they would be doing me a disservice if they were to hire me because I would be bored with the job in 3 months. Don't most people get bored at their jobs? Whatever. So, if you want to work in the biotech industry, don't follow my example. Don't go to grad school. Just work your way up.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Seattle Underground field trip

I was invited to chaperone a field trip for my sister to the underground Seattle tour. Seattle was built on a sawdust landfill, and there were numerous problems throughout the 1800's with plumbing and sinkholes. So the main level of the city was later built to the level of the second floor. It's still sinking, but the first story is "underground" so it isn't noticeable. After the tour we walked around Pioneer Square and found the birthplace of the United Parcel Service, where there is a monument including a waterfall. The picture shows myself and my sister Penny at said monument.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Broke No Joke

Over the last several weeks I have been looking for a job and worrying about my waning bank account. It didn't help that I forgot to sign my tax return, nor that it costs $50 for a tank of gas. I had a job interview today at a biotech company downtown, and hope with all my heart that it works out. I will find out if I got the job by the end of next week.
I dropped in at a law firm where I used to work to see my old boss before the interview. He gave me a pep talk, and assured me that everyone goes through a rough time looking for a job, but one of these days when I least suspect there will be 8 job offers all at once. It was inspiring, and when I went out the door, I had a renewed confidence. But walking the few blocks to the interview I felt something hit the top of my head. It wasn't raining. In fact, a malicious and diabolical bird had relieved itself just at the wrong moment in the sky above me. I had to use a restroom in a neighboring building to clean it all off before going into the interview.
This done, I was just a couple of minutes early to the interview. I met with 11 people over about 3 hours. Many of the questions were the same, and I was prepared for most of them. I feel like everyone I met had as good an impression as I could have hoped. Now it's back to writing more cover letters, submitting more resumes, reading Charles Dickens novels, waiting, and crossing my fingers.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

More Celestun

These are more pictures taken by the Czech sisters at Celestun for which I am most grateful. What superlative photogenicity and photographical skill!

More from Celestun

I received a few new pictures from Celestun which were taken by a couple of lovely Czech sisters, Petra and Sona. In this picture L to R are shown Petra, myself, Samuel (our guide), and Sona. Petra and Sona are both studying archaeology and hope to study Mayan ruins for their graduate work.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Half the man I used to be

I was getting a haircut today, and after the normal routine the barber asked "So, what are we going to do about the moustache?" I had thought it could use a trim because, truthfully, I hadn't trimmed it in a month. She wanted to use a 2. I told her that was out of the question. I was leaning toward performing the important cut myself, but seen as she was an experienced barber I consented that she could take it to the lip. I guess our idea of what that means was a little different. My moustache extended below the bottom of my upper lip and to trim it back to that boundary was what I wanted. Before I knew it, she took about 2 cm off. It can no longer be called a "soupstrainer" and will be several weeks before I am again close to achieving the "handlebar" I was aiming for. I told the barber that although I didn't like it, I took confidence that she was a professional and she thought it looked better. In reality my self-confidence has been reduced proportionally to the length of my moustache.

Flamingos at Celestun

These are the flamingos of Celestun. The video quality is poor but the normal pictures didn't turn out. Watching the video again reminded me how loud these birds are. And there were so many of them. I wish I could have captured some of them take off flying out of the water. The flap their wings and run along the top of the water until they're going fast enough to fly. It's beautiful.

Monday, April 14, 2008


This was an exotic beetle I picked up in Ek Balam. I wanted to capture it alive, and had it in a bottle, but it died after only a couple of hours, perhaps because it was too stuffy and hot. It had red and black striped legs, and a pattern of red, black, yellow and blue on the back exoskeleton. It was about 1.5 inches long, 3/4 wide.


The last couple of weeks I have been going through bouts of dehydration. I don't know if they are related to my trip to Mexico, but that's an easy explanation. Symptoms have included gastrointestinal trouble, orthostatic heart rate, headaches, etc. Most recently, I wake up several times throughout the night in cold sweat. My mom said cold sweat sounds like a symptom of menopause, but I don't think I'm old enough for that.
I need liquid - referring to the physical state of matter as well as the economics term. My liquid assets are as low as they have been in years. I am also going broke because I don't have a job, and of course I blew a lot of liquid pesos in Mexico. So Mexico will dry you out. On the bright side, the country is beautiful, and as Ralph Macchio may have said, whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wonder of the World

On my way back to Cancun to fly home, I stopped at Chichen Itza. On a coolness scale from 1 to 10, this place is a 9,95. It would be a 10, but no one is permitted to go up any of the pyramids (Mexico is not as free of a country as America, no offense to the good people of Mexico).
My camera was broken, so no pictures. But pictures couldn't do it justice. The archaeological zone is so big, probably twice that of Uxmal. Many of the structures serve as calendars, with windows aligned to important points in the patterns of movement of celestial bodies, i.e. polaris, venus, the sun. So, basically, you had to be there.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


This weekend I went "camping" with some buddies to Ek-Balam. It's about a 3 hour drive, but we got a late start Thursday evening, and ended up stopping in a neighboring town, and sleeping in a hotel. Get this: 2 nice, clean rooms with 2 double beds each, hot water, cable, and anything else you could want at midnight, for $45. 4 beds for 45! And it felt great to sleep in a bed!
Friday morning we went to Ek-Balam, which is in central Yucatan. Ek-Balam is Mayan for "black jaguar", and was the name of an important post-classical Mayan guy. There is an archaeological site, which features some impressive ruins. And there are some "ecotourism" places as well. We camped at one of those places Friday night. It was the first time I ever saw an "ecological" bathroom. That whole concept is a bad idea, and if you see one you will know what I mean.
Saturday, we took bikes down to some less-impressive caves. Although the tour was cheap ($10 for the guide, and $2 to rent a bike) there were drawbacks. My bike was missing the platform of the pedal for the left foot, and the chain broke about 3 km into the trip. So I jogged the last 2 km, and on the way back, the guide loaned me his bike. Believe it or not, his was in much worse condition than mine. All in all, it may be best to avoid the Ek-Balam ecotourism sites.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Garbage Man; Coca Cola

The sanitation industry is a whole different ball game in Mexico. The garbage man comes by two or three times a week, and I usually hear him when he comes, but I can't figure out what the schedule is supposed to be. He has come weekdays in the evening or very late at night, or even 9am on a Saturday. Last night he came at 2:30 am, and I heard him, and it woke me up, but I didn't even try to catch him, even though I have been trying to "take out the trash" all week.
If you know when he's coming, you can leave your stuff in bags outside your gate. When I see bags outside peoples gates I leave it out. But if he doesn't come, the cats and dogs get into it. Aside from that, there is lots of garbage in the streets and gutters. Littering is common.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard the garbage truck and went out to give them my garbage. The guy who took the bag from me asked me for a drink, so I got him a cup of water. He drank it and got back to running alongside the truck. After he left I realized I should have given him something else. People here don't typically drink water. Why? I think because (in restaurants) it is about as expensive as soft drinks, and people here like their coke.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Yesterday, at 5PM, just as I sat down to eat some black beans and rice, I felt something on my leg. Apparently, a small scorpion had been under my seat, and when I sat down he was startled and climbed onto my shorts and then onto the bare skin of my knee! If that had happened to me two months ago, I probably would have caught the next plane back. It scared me like few things could. But it didn't kill me. Quite the contrary. This picture was taken moments before its unearthly demise.
Tom - 1, Scorpions - 0

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Seahorse Stalactite

One of the less-impressive features of the canyon to which the guide directed our attention was this stalactite in the form of a seahorse. You have to see it to believe it. So there you have it.