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Strummit From The Summit (1) Mon, Nov 30, 2009
Strummit From The Summit is an album by two Alaskan mountain climbers named Vernon Tejas and Marty Raney.  It was passed along to me by a friend in Montana who claimed its weird mixture of comic folk tunes improves the quality of long car rides, especially through places like Montana.  It includes such lyrical gems as,
I really caribou you
I'm a loon when you're away
It's hard for me to bear, because I love you so deer
I really caribou you

You're salmon special to me
You give porpoise to my life
I dolphin thinking of you, I wolf forget I love you
You're salmon special to me
If you like your nose and all your toes
Listen to the Eskimos
There's things you can and things you can't expose

Jack and Jill went up the hill
Jack got cold, now Jack is Jill
The pail of water's just a pail of ice
When you're driving through miles and miles of big sky country and the nearest radio station is broadcasting from Canada, this music is an excellent choice.  It's also great if you happen to require an overabundance of puns. #entertainment

Touch lamp Mon, Nov 30, 2009
Wendy's mom has a lamp in her house that lacks a standard on/off switch.  Instead, it magically turns on when you touch any part of its metal base.  This baffled me for many years, even when I recently proved that a sock doesn't work, though a metal object does.  It turns out it's kind of like the lamp's metal structure is a circuit with very low current going through it at all times.  When something (i.e. a human or a metal object) does something to interrupt this circuit, it responds appropriately.  I didn't get a chance to test this, but apparently these lamps are tuned in such a way that a cat's touch won't set it off; it only recognizes the electrical capacitance of a human, which is based on mass and volume and alcohol content (kidding).  Next time I visit:  Does Prairie the Cat make the lamp turn on? #science

Don't touch sea life Mon, Nov 30, 2009
Whenever you go snorkeling or scuba diving, the tour guides and instructors will tell you not to touch the coral, both because it'll kill the coral and because it'll hurt the person (the former of course being more important than the latter).  Then there are sea urchins, whose black spiky things will break off in your skin and require you to pee on yourself to disinfect.  And be careful of lionfish because their stings are poisonous.  And of course watch out for fireworms whose bristles can cause skin irritation.  Yet stupid people get tired from swimming, so they rest by standing on coral.  As Wendy says, I hope they not only get scratched by coral, but that they sit on a sea urchin. 

I wish we could skip all the little rules and caveats and just agree that when you're in the ocean, don't touch anything.  That pretty much sums it up. #nature

Sugar in cereal Wed, Nov 25, 2009
I don't usually eat much for breakfast, but on the cruise ship I partook liberally.  My drug of choice (on my days off from bacon, eggs, and pancakes) was Rice Krispies, which I thoroughly doused with sugar.  They conveniently came in a little box that displayed all the wonderful ingredients.  Not that I care much what I put into my body, but I was slightly appalled to find not only sugar, but also high fructose corn syrup in the first five ingredients.  Rice Krispies aren't even sweet!  How is there sugar?  What function is corn syrup performing?  For chips and giggles, I looked at some of the other cereals and found similar results.  Corn Flakes, possibly the most bland, boring cereal on earth, has sugar and high fructose corn syrup in the first four ingredients.  Is this some sort of cereal conspiracy I'm unaware of?  I'll stick to my Pop Tarts, which are the model of healthiness, thank you very much. #food

Busted stuff Fri, Nov 20, 2009
I tend to be gentle with my gadgets.  I don't sit on my cameras, and my cell phones don't slide across parking lots.  But a couple years ago, Wendy and I found an iPod on the beach, and since no one was around to claim it, we adopted it as our own.  But Wendy had just bought an iPod, so this one became mine.  Alas, a wind-swept sandy beach, as one might expect, had not treated this poor device too kindly.  It had a scratched screen, and the usually beautiful shiny steel back was all mottled and ugly.  But I have to say from the time I've been using this thing, I've never treated a device more poorly, and I've never felt less bad about it.  If it breaks, oh well, it wasn't mine to begin with.  So I throw it in my bag, put my grubby fingerprints all over it, and laugh at the people who keep their precious little metallic music players in pretty little cases. #products

Price of waste Fri, Nov 20, 2009
The ranch veggie dip I sometimes buy comes in two types of containers:  One large container, or a package of four small containers.  The large container is obviously the better buy; you get more product for less money, and it uses less packaging (the small containers are held together with cardboard).  This is the container I've bought on multiple occasions for hosting small gatherings.  But since most small gatherings don't consume an entire container (i.e. tub) of ranch veggie dip, that container goes in the fridge temporarily, where it sits for a week or two until it goes bad and is thrown out.  The package of four small containers, on the other hand, can be used one small container at a time.  It turns out a small container of ranch veggie dip is pretty much exactly how much ranch veggie dip is consumed at a small gathering.  And since each of those small containers costs less than one large container, it's like you're really buying four separate large containers but for less money, and without all the leftover product at the end that ends up in the trash anyway. 

What this is illustrating is that it's not always a good idea to get the most product for your money.  Sometimes it's better to pay more for less, depending on how much you plan to use and how quickly you'll be able to use it before it goes bad.  For things like frozen or canned foods, the best investment is probably the lowest price for the largest amount, because these products have a pretty long shelf life.  But for things with a short shelf life like ranch, mayo, milk ... ok pretty much all dairy products, the best investment is for the amount you can consume before it goes bad.  Otherwise you're just paying for wasted product. #business

Invisible forces Fri, Nov 20, 2009
Sometimes something will happen that will convince me that there are tiny, invisible men all around us that prevent certain bad things from happening, and we should make it our goal in life to learn as much about these creatures as possible and worship them accordingly. 

For example, sometimes I drop things.  Like plates and cups.  Made of glass.  Yet they don't break.  Everything I know about physics and strengths of materials tells me that glass objects break when enough force is applied.  Yet, magically, this isn't the case.  The only possible explanation is tiny, invisible men. 

Just a few minutes ago I was unloading stuff from my car when my coffee cup tipped onto its side.  It was more than halfway full, yet it didn't spill.  I saw it happen and quickly set it upright, then stared in amazement at the lack of spillage.  Once again, tiny, invisible men. #lifestyle

Kokomo (2) Fri, Nov 20, 2009
Kokomo is of course a song by the Beach Boys from 1988.  I remember riding the bus to school as a first-grader, listening to some kids in the back blast it from their boom box.  A few years ago, I decided to make it my life's goal to visit all the places mentioned in the song.  This past cruise completed the journey for me: 
Aruba - November, 2009
Jamaica - August, 2004
Bermuda - September, 2008
Bahama - May, 2006
Key Largo - May, 2006 (Key West -- close enough)
Montego - August, 2004 (in Jamaica -- close enough)
What I just learned, however, is that three other places are mentioned:  Martinique, Montserrat, and Port-au-Prince (Haiti), all of which are in the Caribbean.  While I achieved my initial goal, it looks like I still have some work cut out for me.  Some real tough work. #travel

Inconvenience of public transportation Thu, Nov 19, 2009
I live about an hour from the center of the world, New York City, yet one night a few weeks ago was the first time I had ever actually driven my car into the beast.  In the past, I had driven to a train station, paid money to park, taken the hour-and-a-half train, then taken the subway to my final destination.  The problem with this is (a) it's ridiculously inconvenient, and (b) it's overly expensive.  It's inconvenient because most trains don't run on weekends around me, and I typically don't go to the entertainment and nightlife capital of the universe during the week, so I have to drive 30 miles to the nearest one that does.  Then there's the fact that this whole process takes no less than two hours to accomplish, assuming I don't have to wait for a train (which I always do).  And of course I have to keep checking my watch while I'm in the city, because the last train out is usually at some ridiculous time like 11 pm.  And then there's the price.  The number 36 is stuck in my mind, as in it's something like $18 round trip per person, which doesn't include parking or the subway, or food, or drinks, or a campsite for when you miss the last train. 

Yet one night a few weeks ago, it was about an hour drive, I sat in about 45 seconds of traffic, it cost $8 to go through a tunnel, and it took about 15 minutes to find a free parking spot on the street.  In other words, it was easy, cheap, and convenient.  Every time I've used public transportation to get to the city, I've been disappointed.  I'd like to be a proponent of a system that's affordable and convenient and environmentally friendly, but until a train can beat a car, I'll stick with the car. #travel

Small engine efficiency Thu, Nov 19, 2009
I own three machines that utilize small gasoline engines:  A push lawnmower, a weed whacker, and a leaf blower.  During the summer, I use all three every few weeks to keep my tiny yard looking nice.  In the fall, I use the leaf blower pretty extensively to clear leaves.  Despite that incessant hum of engine noise and the wonderful smell of exhaust, I would posit that these engines are actually pretty efficient, more so than a typical car.  This isn't a scientific statement or one that I can prove with numbers, but all I can say is that only after three years of home ownership did I need to refill my five-gallon gas container that feeds all three devices.  I burn through five gallons of gas with my car in probably two or three days. #technology

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