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95 entries from February 2004 quote of the day: 02/28/04


docsigma2000: jesus christ man
docsigma2000: my son is sooooooo dead
c8info: Why?
docsigma2000: hes been looking at internet web sites in fucking EUROPE
docsigma2000: our fucking phone bill is gonna be nuts
c8info: Ooh, this is bad. Surfing long distance adds an extra $69.99 to your bill per hour.
docsigma2000: ...!!!!!! FUCK FUCK FUCK
docsigma2000: is there some plan we can sign up for???
docsigma2000: cuz theres some cool stuff in europe, but i dun wanna pauy that much
c8info: Sorry, no. There is no plan. you'll have to live with it.
docsigma2000: o well, i ccan live without europe intenet sites.
docsigma2000: but till i figure out how to block it hes sooooo dead
c8info: By the way, I'm from Europe, your chatting long distance.
** docsigma2000 has quit (Connection reset by peer)

Ahhh... takes me right back to my help-desk days.

Seattle Times: Couple sue after buying home where British teen was killed

LONDON—A British couple who unwittingly bought a house where a teenage girl was murdered and dismembered are suing because the sellers did not tell them about the crime.

Alan and Susan Sykes say they discovered their house's history by watching a TV documentary about Samson Perera, who killed his 13-year-old adopted daughter and hid her body parts around the house and garden in 1984.

He was sentenced to life in prison.

Their lawyer said the Sykeses could no longer bear living in the house near Wakefield in northern England, which they bought for the equivalent of $156,000 in December 2000 and sold at a loss of $14,000.

"Knowing there were still undiscovered body parts in the house was particularly horrific," lawyer Clive Freedman told the appeals court.

Praise be to full-disclosure laws... yuk!

Seattle Times: Christians try to debunk 'Da Vinci Code'

After reading "The Da Vinci Code," Holly Jespersen wondered if Jesus Christ did in fact wed Mary Magdalene and father her child, as the novel claims.

"It definitely made me question all that I have been brought up to believe," said Jespersen, a Presbyterian who lives in Chicago.

Glen Gracia of Boston, a former practicing Catholic, had a similar reaction, questioning the validity of the Bible if, in fact, it was commissioned and manipulated by the Roman emperor Constantine for political purposes, as the book asserts. "I was basically floored," Gracia said.

Alarmed by reactions like these, defenders of traditional Christianity have launched a counteroffensive against author Dan Brown's fast-paced thriller, which is in its 48th week on The New York Times' fiction best-seller list. It has sold more than 6 million copies, is being translated into more than 40 languages and will be made into a Columbia Pictures film directed by Ron Howard.

Brown has stopped giving interviews. But on the book's first page, he makes an assertion that galls his critics: "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."

Books and articles with titles like "Dismantling the Da Vinci Code" and "The Da Vinci Deception" have been or are about to be published. Preachers are giving sermons to church members who ask why they were never told there was a Mrs. Jesus. Web sites and discussion groups are humming over the book's "heresies."

I read this book and found it fascinating, but nothing that shook any faith I have. I'm not particularly religious, so it didn't make me question my entire world view or the like. But I would be most amused if the Christian church was uprooted by something of this type.

Gotta love a fiction book that spawns a dozen or so non-fiction books aimed at refuting the fiction's claims.

Coffee and fundamentalism

I’m at the coffee shop sippin’ my mocha and listening to the group of eight people at a table next to mine.

They’re entertaining the hell out of me with their heated discussion of The Passion of the Christ and how it compares, both favorably and not, with their fundamentalist ideology.

The older man—he looks like a clone of Charlton Heston from Ben-Hur—is declaiming quite forcefully about how The Passion depicts Christ’s final hours “exactly as it happened!”—as if he has some authoritative, indisputable knowledge of the events.

And I suppose, as a fundie, he figures he does have that in the Bible.

The rest of the group is agreeing with that but picking at small details and also complaining about the relentless violence, and a woman who looks to be about my age is complaining about how she had never seen an R-rated movie until now, but she finally had to see an R-rated movie because, gosh, it’s the story of her personal Lord and Saviour, but why did it have to be R-rated and ruin her perfect record of never seeing anything worse than a PG-13 movie?


Yahoo! News: Cops Caught Issuing Tickets As a Contest

PORTERDALE, Ga.—A contest between two police officers in a small Georgia town to see which one could issue the most traffic tickets was stopped by a judge who overheard the apparent winner talking about it, the mayor said.

Part-time Porterdale police officers Erin Cox and Frank Jackson wrote about 150 tickets in January, which was significantly higher than in previous months, Mayor Paul Oeland said.

Some tickets were for minor offenses including not reporting an address change to the state or having defective equipment on a vehicle, it was first reported in The Covington News.

The contest was revealed when City Court Judge C. David Strickland overheard the officers talking about it recently. Oeland said "Jackson indicated he had won the contest."

"I think it was sort of bragging rights," said Oeland, a lawyer. "They would make a traffic stop for a legitimate reason and then try to find anything else they could possibly write a ticket for."

The mayor added: "It is not anything that we as a city support."
Link via bug

CNN/Money: Smith & Wesson chief quits over crime

Chairman of the nation's No. 2 gun maker resigns over past armed robbery, a newspaper report says.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money)—James Joseph Minder, chairman of handgun maker Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., resigned after a published report revealed he'd spent as much as 15 years in prison decades ago for armed robberies and a bank heist.

The Republican, a daily newspaper in Springfield, Mass., reported Thursday that Minder confirmed his resignation without realizing that the company had not made an official announcement.

Smith & Wesson (SWB: up $0.04 to $1.58, Research, Estimates), the nation's second-largest gun manufacturer after Sturm, Ruger (RGR: Research, Estimates), told CNN/Money that it plans to release a statement later Friday but did not wish to comment on the newspaper report or confirm Minder's resignation at this time.

Minder's convictions were unknown to Smith & Wesson until the Arizona Republic newspaper chronicled Minder's criminal past earlier this month. Smith & Wesson is based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The Republic article reported that Minder maintains he had never tried to cover up his past, and that the reason he failed to disclose his criminal past to Smith & Wesson earlier was because nobody had asked the question.

Minder, 74, had spent time in prison in the 1950s and 1960s for a string of armed robberies and an attempted prison escape, according to the Republic. During that time, the Detroit News said he was known for carrying a 16-gauge, sawed-off shotgun.

Minder was sentenced to 3-1/2 to 10 years in state prison for robbing a store while attending University of Michigan as a journalism student, he told the Republic.

Guy's got balls. He didn't tell anyone about his criminal past because no one asked the question? Damn—whatever happened to full disclosure? Every job application I've ever filled out has included a section wherein I'm to list any felony convictions. Granted, the applications I've filled out weren't for executive-level positions, so perhaps that's the difference.

Now then. When I first saw this headline on CNN's home page, where the link was titled "Smith & Wesson chief quits over robbery," I assumed the story involved Minder's resignation because he had been robbed—some sort of embarrassment at the CEO of a gun co. unsuccessfully defending himself against a robbery.

Gross anatomy

The March 2004 issue of Discover magazine includes an article describing a process wherein certain chemicals injected into cadavers turn the tissues of those cadavers into a plastic-like substance, thereby preserving them and making the cadavers easily dissected for display.

The remains are dry and odorless, as well as color-correct, so they make for fascinating exhibits. I haven't been able to find any photos of the exhibit online beyond the few small images at the Body Worlds exhibit home page, so if you happen across the March '04 Discover, by all means check it out. The images are fascinating and disturbing in a way, mainly because of the artistic licenses taken with each presentation. Police Searching For Strip Search Prankster

ABINGTON, Mass.—Police are searching for a prankster who prompted the illegal strip searches of employees at four Wendy's fast food restaurants south of Boston over the weekend.

NewsCenter 5's Gail Huff reported that police believe it was all part of a prank targeting the restaurant's managers, and they're looking for one suspect who called all the restaurants.

"The phone call was received and the person on the other end identified himself as a detective from Whitman and said that one of the employees was wanted and a suspect and asked him to strip search," said Deputy Chief Raymond Nelson.

The same scenario took place in Abington, Whitman, West Bridgewater and Wareham, Mass. Illegal strip searches were carried out by four managers who are now on paid suspension pending an investigation. Numerous employees took off their clothes and were body- searched by supervisors.

Terrible, terrible. ::snicker loudly:: Polar bears at Singapore Zoo turn green

Perhaps we could, I dunno, clean the damned enclosure? Or, since these are Arctic animals, provide them with a cool environment to simulate their natural ranges?

SINGAPORE (AP)—It's a wee bit early for St. Patrick's Day, but Singapore Zoo's two polar bears have turned green.

The usually white coats of Sheba and her 13-year-old son, Inuka, turned green a few weeks ago from algae growing in their hollow hair shafts, said Vincent Tan, a spokesman for the zoo.

"The harmless algae is the result of Singapore's warm and humid tropical conditions," Tan said.

Polar bears have clear hair shafts that appear white because they reflect light.

Sheba's coat was successfully bleached with hydrogen peroxide 2.5 weeks ago and Inuka will be given a similar treatment in three weeks, Tan said.

The zoo wanted to observe Sheba's reaction to the treatment before bleaching Inuka, he said.

For now, Inuka remains mottled with bright grass-colored splotches behind his ears, on his back and legs.

Three polar bears at the San Diego Zoo developed similarly green coats in 1979 but were cured with a salt solution, according to the Web site of Polar Bears International, a nonprofit conservation group based in North America.

Shopping by mail

Levenger spring 2004 catalog coverIn today's post I received Levenger's spring 2004 catalog, the cover of which, reproduced here, shows two leather bags made to look like the paper grocery bags I've known my entire life.

But Levenger calls them the Origami Tote and mini bag, because "Paper Grocery Bags Made of Leather" is too, I don't know, obvious, I guess.

You can also get a Herman Miller Mirra chair which looks like it has about 3000 adjustments and could fold up and kill you if you triggered one of those adjustments incorrectly.

On the next page, you'll find a selection of hideous pastel wallets and PDA cases, and further back there's an entire four-page spread of pastel leather products.

Levenger does offer some very cool products. I picked up their Levenger Lap Desk a few years ago, and it works really well with the Mission-style chair I have in my living room.

But pastel leather products and fountain pens in a couple hundred styles?


Seattle Times: 2 escape being hit by 1 train, struck and killed by another

CENTRALIA—Two people missed being hit by one Amtrak passenger train but were struck from behind and killed by another Amtrak train Sunday night, authorities said.

The train struck two trespassers on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe main line at 7:54 p.m. in the south end of town, according to Gus Melonas, a railroad spokesman in Seattle.

The two people had just gotten out of the way of a southbound train and were standing in the northbound tracks when they were struck from behind by a passenger train traveling from Portland to Seattle, Melonas said.

The accident delayed two Amtrak trains and five freight trains before the tracks were reopened early yesterday, he said.

Imagine the brief feeling of exhiliration those two must have felt after they'd scrambled out of the way of that first train.

"Hey, we cheated death!"

Not an accomplishment

I got my hair cut yesterday.

Today at work, no fewer than five people have remarked on this fact in the 20 minutes I've been here. They all speak as though getting one's hair cut was a major achievement, something of which to be proud, a huge outlay of effort worthy of repeated mention.

I've never worked in a place where such things were noted for men much at all, and certainly not to the extent they are here.

Seattle Times: NASA determines how foam came off shuttle

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—One year after the Columbia tragedy, NASA has determined how and why a chunk of foam insulation that doomed the spacecraft broke off from the fuel tank at liftoff.

NASA's top spaceflight official, Bill Readdy, said yesterday that the agency has learned through extensive testing that air liquefied by the super-cold fuel in the tank almost certainly seeped into a crack or void in the foam, or collected around bolts and nuts beneath the foam. The trapped air expanded as the shuttle rose, and blew off a piece of foam the size of a suitcase.

Rather than peeling off, as NASA had assumed from past experience, the foam was pushed off with explosive force, Readdy said. The agency also had assumed the foam would fall along the tank and miss the shuttle, but the falling foam shot toward Columbia and the left wing rammed into it, resulting in a large fatal gash.

"That is really the root cause that we've been able to discover here," Readdy said.

A tank redesign and improved techniques for applying and double-checking the foam should solve the problem, NASA said. But all this will take longer than expected and is one reason space shuttles will not fly until next year.

The Day After

I was awake 38 hours, then slept for 12. I feel hungover and I don't even have the advantage of blaming a night drinking.

I remembered when I first awoke at 08:30 why I'd always hated all-nighters. That's exactly what happened today. Very mild headache which went away shortly after I got up, which is good, but the rest of the run-down generally crappy feeling lingers still.

Ah well. It's a beautiful day, some light high clouds and temps in the mid-50s, so it actually feels like a spring day for once.

Data's STILL not ready


Still waiting for data from Portland. About every hour, they tell us it's another hour or so away, as they fix a multitude of small problems that are preventing our lab system from generating a full report.

My exhaustion ebbs and flows, I'm in a bit of a high right now but can feel the next low rushing toward me.

Must finish spreadsheets and go the hell home!

The Friday Five: 02/20/04

And while I'm at it, since today's Five is related to my all-nighter....

When was the last time you...

  1. went to the doctor?
    In 1998.

  2. went to the dentist?
    Also 1998.

  3. filled your gas tank?
    Two days ago on my way home from work.

  4. got enough sleep?
    Wed. night to Thu. morning, woke up feeling very refreshed.

  5. backed up your computer?
    Several months. I do regular synchronizations between my desktop and my laptop, however.

24 hours up

Been up since yesterday morning, worked through the night putting together the data and such for a client's Big Project. Drove to Tacoma to drop off the data etc. to the client, who danced gleefully around his office when he saw the two large 20# bond paper boxes full of reports and supporting documents.

Now the sky is getting lighter and even though I'm dead tired, I'm feeling that increase of energy as my body goes into overdrive to keep my head from banging into the desk.

I could sleep leaning against a wall right now....

Waiting for Portland

Except for some analysis data we need from our Portland lab, we're all finished. We're about to trek down to Tacoma to deliver one project to a client, then back to the lab to bide some time before the Portland info arrives.

Their analyst is supposed to be in at 05:00 to finish up and get the stuff to us by around 07:00.

The end is in sight....

"Thanks for not dying at my hands"

I left the lab about 30 minutes ago, climbed into my car, started the drive out of the parking lot to relax at Tully's for a couple hours (going back to work at 19:00 to compile a huge project). I'd gone no more than 20 yards, however, when an idiot woman driving a Cadillac LeBehemoth swung too wide around a driveway curb in the parking lot and nearly drove right over me. The woman jerked her steering wheel to her right to avoid slamming into me head-on, and then she smiled and waved at me, as if thanking me for avoiding death (or injury, anyway) at her hands.

As it happened, I had about an hour before that read a Miss Manners column ( free registration required) in which a writer asked the columnist how to deal with exactly that situation:

Dear Miss Manners:

In these increasingly etiquette-free times, I have stumbled on what appears to me to be a new and slightly unsettling expression of etiquette. I am referring to the strange phenomenon wherein a driver pulls a harebrained (and often dangerous or even illegal) maneuver—cutting me off, running a red light in front of me, or such—then smiles and waves thanks, as if permission to pull the maneuver had actually been requested and granted, when in fact neither is the case.

I am not referring to a similar situation, where the other driver musters up a shrug and grin of apology, which I can accept. I am speaking of a cheerful and guilt-free offer of gratitude.

What the hell is it with people such as the writer describes? They fuck up, nearly kill someone (or at the very least nearly cause major damage), and then smile and wave thanks to their near-victim as if the hapless person had granted them leave to engage in the idiocy?

May there be a special place in hell for such persons!

NYTimes essay: Scientists Accuse White House of Distorting Facts

James Glanz:

The Bush administration has deliberately and systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad, a group of about 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, said in a statement issued today.

The sweeping charges were later discussed in a conference call with some of the scientists that was organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent organization that focuses on technical issues and has often taken stands at odds with administration policy. The organization also issued a 37-page report today that it said detailed the accusations.

Together, the two documents accuse the administration of repeatedly censoring and suppressing reports by its own scientists, stacking advisory committees with unqualified political appointees, disbanding government panels that provide unwanted advice, and refusing to seek any independent scientific expertise in some cases.

"Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front," the statement from the scientists said, adding that they believed the administration had "misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies."

The link in the post title requires free registration.

Link via bug Teen finds his picture on missing children's Web site

This would be a hell of a surprise.

LOS ANGELES, California (AP)—Authorities arrested the mother of a 17-year-old boy who saw his picture on a missing children's Web site and discovered that he was allegedly abducted from Canada 14 years ago.

Acting on a Canadian-issued warrant, U.S. marshals arrested Giselle-Marie Goudreault, 45, at her home in the San Fernando Valley. She was being held without bail until Canadian authorities can extradite her on child abduction charges, authorities said.

Goudreault "was shocked and very emotional" during the February 11 arrest, said Jimell Griffin, a deputy U.S. Marshall in Los Angeles. The boy's father had custody of his son, and Griffin said Goudreault did not return him after a court-ordered visit.

The teen, whose identity was not released, was immediately put in a foster home.

The boy spotted his own photo, taken when he was 3, on a Canadian missing children's Web site a few months ago and told a teacher about it, authorities said. The teacher contacted police, who then confirmed the story with Canadian authorities. Weddings continue as judge delays conservatives' bid to stop them

I await rampant frothing at the mouth:

Two judges refused Tuesday to put an immediate halt to the parade of same-sex weddings taking place at San Francisco City Hall, leaving open the possibility that gays and lesbians will be able to obtain marriage licenses and wed at least until the end of this week.

Superior Court Judge James Warren turned down an anti-gay marriage group's request to issue an immediate stay that would bar the city from issuing licenses. However, after a 2 1/2–hour hearing in a packed courtroom, Warren gave city officials an option: "cease and desist" from issuing licenses, or return to court March 29 to explain why they should be able to allow gays and lesbians to marry.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said officials would talk Tuesday evening about whether the marriages would continue.

Lawyers for the group seeking the stay, the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund, said they would file an appeal of Warren's decision if the city continues to issue licenses to same-sex couples. Attorney Robert Tyler said the plaintiffs were pleased that Warren "did make a determination that there was a violation of the law."

Lawyers for the city also claimed victory, stressing that the judge never got to the question of whether the city was acting legally.

NYTimes: Beyond Delicious: Could Chocolate Also Be Good for You?

That Valentine's box of delectable chocolates that made your heart sing last weekend also might—if it is the right type—help make it tick better and longer, scientists gathered last week in Washington said.

Raw cocoa contains flavonoids, plant-based compounds with protective antioxidants like those in green tea. The antioxidants, which may help decrease blood pressure and improve circulation, according to preliminary study results released at a daylong session centered on the medical uses and developmental potential of the cocoa tree.

As far back as the Mayas, the South American native tree, formally called the Theobroma cacao, inspired songs praising the liquid, which they called the "food of the gods." The ancient inhabitants produced it from the beans of the tree's football-size pods.

Judging by samples of their pepper-laced version—the ancient recipe was reproduced for sessiongoers to sample—the fiery cocoa they brewed was strong enough to jolt the drinker into good health. And for centuries, people followed the Maya and Aztec prescriptions and consumed cocoa, the ground beans of the cacao, for an array of ills.


Though chocolate's popularity as a favored sweet trumped its medicinal uses beginning in the mid-19th century, scientists turned again to investigating its health benefits more than a decade ago, financed partly by Mars, which is privately held. So far, researchers have begun to connect flavonoids with lowering the death rate from heart disease, said Dr. Helmut Sies, chairman of the biochemistry department at the University of Düsseldorf in Germany.

The heart benefits of chocolate consumption are far from confirmed. In-depth comparative studies still need to be conducted to learn whether certain elements of cocoa act like baby aspirin for the heart. And some experts point out that the fat in chocolate could instead be associated with deadly cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

We see a new study like this every couple of months, and then nothing about it ever again from the same source.


Link via bug

Return to standard layout

Back to normal content.

Thanks to everyone who commented, emailed, IMed with kind words about my "I remember" posting. I wanted that post to be the center of the site for the day.

We now return to our regularly scheduled ramblings, including some postings I made throughout the day but held in "draft" status. Those entries appear at their original draft date/time.

CNN/Money: Cingular nabs AT&T Wireless to create No. 1 wireless firm

Venture outbids Vodafone with offer of $15 a share; better coverage, new services promised.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money)—Cingular Wireless said Tuesday it would buy AT&T Wireless Services Inc. for about $41 billion, topping a rival bid from Vodafone of Britain in a deal that would create the nation's biggest mobile phone company.

The combination of Cingular and AT&T Wireless will create the nation's No. 1 cell phone service provider.

Cingular, currently the nation's No. 2 cellular service provider, is paying about a 27 percent premium to shareholders of AT&T Wireless, the nation's No. 3 wireless phone provider. Vodafone, which had recently raised its offer to $38 billion, dropped out of the bidding Tuesday.

The deal would make Cingular the largest wireless carrier, ahead of Verizon Wireless, with about 46 million subscribers.

During a conference call, Cingular CEO Stan Sigman said that the deal should close by the fourth quarter and that the combined company will keep the Cingular brand name. Sigman will be the head of the combined company.

He also said it was likely that some employees would be "affected" by the merger but declined to discuss how many jobs may end up getting cut.

This will mark the first time I've had wireless service under anything other than the AT&T Wireless name. I carried a Sprint PCS phone for a few weeks in 2000 but never used it, since I already had my AT&T Wireless phone at that time (the Sprint phone was a freebie).

I imagine the workers at the AT&T Wireless campus near the lab are freaking out along about now....

I remember

My grandmother, Eloise Sadler Hills, would have been 95 today.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

We grandkids called her Gammy, and she called us Gammy’s Lambies. She was always fond of lambs.

She died September 15, 2001, after a long life full of love and family, friends and acquaintances, good times and bad. The ups and downs of a life that spanned the amazing changes of the 20th century: Two World Wars; the Depression; the Baby Boom; the astounding social and economic progress of the post-World War II era and into the 1950s; the even more amazing social change of the ’60s; the cultural insanity of the ’70s and ’80s; and the winding down of a century and a life well lived in the ’90s.

Gammy was 62 when I was born. (I’m named for my grandfather, Donald Lynn Hills, who died before I was born.) I remember about the time I was 6 or so, she was so vigorously alive—enjoying her daughter and her grandchildren, her friends and extended family, the daily activities that filled her life. She lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia then, so it was a really special event when we’d pile into the car for the overnight drive to visit her. We usually spent a week or two, made a visit to Disneyland each trip, had so many wonderful times with endless happy memories that still warm my heart.

My grandmother experienced many hardships just in the final 20 or so years of her life, those years I most clearly remember about her. In the mid-1980s Gammy’s husband Bob died, and she moved to Salt Lake City to be closer to her daughter (my mother). And then Gammy ran into other troubles.

She endured a series of medical problems—cancer and its treatments, an intestinal blockage, a few other things—and eventually she began slipping into the initial stages of senile dementia. She could no longer live alone, so she moved into my parents’ house. Mom went to extraordinary lengths to make sure Gammy felt at home there. When she first moved in, she was the vibrant woman we’d known our entire lives, a bit worse for wear but with the light of life shining brightly still.

We were fortunate for that. She’d tell us stories of life in Salt Lake City “back in my day,” of life in the greater Bay Area (Menlo Park, Pebble Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea) and the Los Angeles area (Santa Ana!). We lived those stories with her as she reached deeply into her memories to bring them to life for us.

But she slipped further from us. Eventually she needed more care than we could provide. Then came another medical emergency, and it was time to find an extended-care facility where she could go after her latest hospital visit and where she would receive round-the-clock attention from professionals who did the work because they had extraordinary passion for it and were damned good at it. We searched for several days and eventually found Highland Care Center near 4500 South on Highland Drive. It was a godsend.

By this time Gammy spoke but rarely. When she did talk, as often as not it was to tell whomever was with her that she didn’t know where she was, or who was with her; she needed to get home right away, she didn’t recognize this place. She had starkly vivid memories of life on 1100 East in the first half of the 20th century and she retreated into those memories, taking comfort from the images of a life that existed only within her own consciousness, 70 or more years in the past.

Of course we had trouble with it. It was difficult to watch this vivacious woman slowly waste away and withdraw further into her own mind. Sure, she had lucid moments—she always recognized my mother, and pretty often she knew me because she held on to the name association with my grandfather—but other faces she knew only sometimes, never predictably.

We always assumed she was suffering, and I suppose she was in some discomfort now and then, but we overlooked the fact that in her retreat to memories of her life so long ago, she’d found a part of her life that was well worth reliving.

She was enjoying a moment forever.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

I’m sorry to say that I stopped visiting Gammy regularly after she moved into Highland Care. I’d been the most adamant about finding a good care center, and I did the research and asked all the questions when we visited the place the first time. Once that was done, I stepped back and became shamefully reticent about visits. Oh sure, I visited regularly, several times a week at first, but over the next several months it became an occasional drop-in and the regular visits for birthdays and holidays.

It was hard for me to see my grandmother changed so much from the smiling, talkative, warm woman of my youth to this quiet shell of a person, the suggestion of recognition flickering only occasionally across her face when her family visited.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

In September 2001 I traveled to Chicago on business. I flew into O’Hare on September 10. The next day saw the terrorist attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Maryland; and the day after that marked the start of my grandmother’s descent toward death. Mom called me Wednesday to tell me Gammy wasn’t doing so well, might not survive much longer, and three days later Gammy was gone.

I couldn’t get back to Salt Lake until the 16th, by which time my sister, my aunt and cousins, and other family members had come together.

We held no funeral. Instead we gathered on September 17 for a long dinner at a beautiful restaurant, Tuscany, where we cried and laughed and told stories and toasted the memory of a woman who had brought so much joy and love into our lives through times good and bad.

Gammy wanted to be cremated, and in October 2002 we made a trip to the Bay Area to realize her wishes. We scattered her ashes in Monterey Bay and drank a toast to her memory at Coit Tower, in remembrance of her trips there with my grandfather and my mother, when they’d offer a toast as they gazed out on the city from the top of the tower.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

It’s funny how our emotions reveal themselves as time passes.

I made my peace with Gammy’s death a few years before it happened, for she had long since ceased to be the person I’d grown up knowing.

She was still physically there, certainly, but the emotional process of grieving the loss was already complete.

Now, as I finish writing, I feel a lump in my throat and a tightness in my face, and I’m surprised by them. But now I know even more the strong effect she had—still has—on the people, the events, the places that made me who I am today.

I take my name from a man I never met. The name was a true honor for me long ago when I’d heard stories and seen photographs and had some sense of the history of my mother’s family, but the honor is magnified immeasurably now, for my name became the most solid connection I had to my grandmother in her final years.

My mom would say, “It’s Donald here to visit you,” and Gammy’s eyes would light up like the sky at sunrise.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

Happy birthday, Gammy.

domain mapping go boom

My domain mapping has bitten the dust, and of course my registrar's online account access function is down right now. The formatting of this page will be 7 different kinds of wonky until I can get the mapping problem resolved, which will probably be this evening sometime. Oh Joy!

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

UPDATE 18:29: Finally, it's back... or so it seems. Now I just have to republish everything to get the formatting back to human-readable form....

Seattle Times: It's a microbial world out there

Just how wretched is this?

That soap scum that forms on the shower curtain? It's really a biofilm loaded with more than a billion bacteria per cubic inch.

The moving belt on an escalator? When you put your hand there, you're dipping into a puddle of bacteria left by all those who went before.

How about the potting soil for your petunias? It's the happy home of a pathogen called Microbial Avian Complex, a potentially troublesome bug.

Then there's the sponge you use to rinse dishes at the sink. Yep, loaded with thriving bacteria.

If this makes you want to go relax in a hot tub, think again. The air wafting from the hot water is probably loaded with microbes, some of them able to give you a hacking cough.

It's a microbial world, says Norman Pace, a researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Virtually everything you touch is coated with the little critters. You couldn't escape them if you wanted to because your skin is covered with about 100 million bacteria, says Pace.

Yet, science knows very little about environmental microbes, how they live, reproduce and thrive in the natural world. Most of what is known comes from germs cultured and studied in the lab.

NYTimes: In Europe, Lovers Now Propose: Marry Me, a Little

MARSEILLE, France—Nathalie Ramirez and Djillali Antar have been together for eight years. But like many modern couples whose relationships are shaped by practicality and logistics as much as romance, they are not sure what they want in the future. Marriage, so far, has always seemed like a goal too much.

So two years ago, they presented themselves to a court in Aix-en-Provence and signed a pacte civil de solidarité, or PACS, as they are popularly known, giving them many of the same legal rights as married people but not, Ms. Ramirez explained with some relief, committing them to be together forever.

Today they are happily, if somewhat ambivalently, "PACS'ed" in an arrangement that Ms. Ramirez, 28, and Mr. Antar, 31, say does not feel like conventional marriage, but a light approximation of it. They do not wear wedding bands. They still refer to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend. When they visit her parents, Mr. Antar does not spend the night. He has not even told his parents, who are originally from Algeria, that he got PACS'ed.

"They wouldn't understand," he said. "For them, it is marriage or nothing."

Even as President Bush is proposing to spend $1.5 billion to promote marriage in the United States, European countries are moving in the opposite direction. They are granting new status to couples looking for some legal rights in the broad gray area between living together casually and "till death do us part."

What European laws have in common, said Kathleen Kiernan, a professor of social policy and demography at the London School of Economics, is that they take a pragmatic approach to their populations' changing attitudes about the role—and even the relevance—of marriage in contemporary life. article link (free registration required)

Fascinating idea. At the same time the US is convulsing over bared breasts and gay marriage, to the point that President Bush has said he'd support a Constitutional amendment codifying marriage as a union between one man and one woman, Europeans have experienced a mass attack of sensibility and are recognizing that the world's changing.

Link via bug New scholarship created for whites only

I give it a week before pressure from students and the school administration forces this group to withdraw the scholarship offer:

BRISTOL, Rhode Island (AP)—A student group at Roger Williams University is offering a new scholarship for which only white students are eligible, a move they say is designed to protest affirmative action.

The application for the $250 award requires an essay on "why you are proud of your white heritage" and a recent picture to "confirm whiteness."

"Evidence of bleaching will disqualify applicants," says the application, issued by the university's College Republicans.

Jason Mattera, 20, who is president of the College Republicans, said the group is parodying minority scholarships.