Saturday, August 21, 2010

Metal Spinning Flowers and A Giant Tongue... and yet it was a good time. (Saturday Adventures)

This Saturday's Adventure:

The Arachnobot Playground of the Future.

The Saturday Adventures have been mostly on hold for a while as I try not to Almost Die a third time, but last Saturday I did feel good enough to take the Babies! to a playground Sweetie and I had driven by on the way home from one doctor's visit. I mostly sat while they played, and I took a lot more picture than I have here but to be honest, I'm really really tired right now and haven't been feeling well the last two days, so I'm not going to go to the trouble of texting the pictures from my cellphone to my email and then loading them into the laptop. If the pictures here aren't enough, you'll just have to use your imagination. (Younger people who's imagination has been stunted by videogames and television should ask an older person to use their imagination for them.)

The playground is near a middle school by the richer part of Madison, and is made up -- as you look at it, above -- of all kinds of vaguely-futuristic, woven rope-and-metal slides and jungle gyms. It's both neat and a little frightening, like a summer camp run by Giant Robotic Spiders who are friendly but will still give you noogies when you try to sleep and also have Giant Robotic Spider Pincers.

The Babies! did not seem put off by the arachnobotic theme; Mr F even seemed to like it. He started climbing on stuff, and he almost never climbs on things at playgrounds, having apparently inherited my dislike of heights. But he took to this place:

He kept busy climbing up and around things and working up a good sweat. (Despite being cloudy, it was about 90 degrees and about 150% humidity.)

Mr Bunches enjoyed it even more, especially the slide, which was by far the weirdest and most-uncomfortable looking slide I've ever seen.

To begin with, it looked like a tongue. I'm not even joking:

The giant-tongue slide made it seem as though Mr Bunches was climbing up out of the throat of some underground monster and then sliding down. And the fact that there were no rails whatsoever made me worry each time that he'd just go flipping off of it. He never did, but when he made me go down it, I almost toppled over.

More my speed was the little pod-like teeter-totter path-way thing:

That you could teeter on or walk across or stand and teeter on. But by far the best thing were these little spinning seat kind of things, a seat that looked like a metallic flower turned into a crooked stool. When you'd sit on them, they'd spin a little, and if you let them spin, they'd slowly pick up speed until you were whirling around a really good clip. Mr F and I rode on one while Mr Bunches did the other, and I took this picture as we were going:

That was just moments before Mr Bunches got flung off onto the ground, which appeared to be made of rubber chips and was quite soft; it was almost fun to fall off of things. Which Mr F and I did shortly after that picture, causing all three of us to stagger around dizzily for a few minutes before rejoining the world of the stable.

In all, we spent about 60 minutes there, heading home only after they'd tried all the stuff two or three times (except that Mr F wouldn't go down the tongue slide) and then only after Mr Bunches played "Buzz Lightyear" for a few minutes, standing up on the edge of the playground and saying "To Infinity And Beyond" and then jumping into my arms.

Of Cheeseburgers, Dehumidifiers, and Yoga Mats: A soliloquy.

There are some things in life that we all end up needing -- but when you need them, you have no idea where to get them. Things like "Yoga mats," which Sweetie needed this week. She had to go get one because she's taking a yoga class, but I have no idea where to get a yoga mat. And she didn't like my suggestion, which was "just get a really thick beach towel."

And then there are things like "dehumidifiers." It's been a hot, humid summer and we have a partially-sunk lower level, which means it gets pretty humid down there. I decided that we should get a dehumidifier to make it more comfortable, and, having decided that, I immediately wondered "Where does one get a dehumidifier and how can I tell which ones are good or not?"

As usual, I turned to the Internet to answer that question -- and luckily for me, there was an actual site that gave me the top rated dehumidifier around and also information and ratings of OTHER dehumidifiers. The site is the cleverly-named "Top Rated Dehumidifiers" and it does what it sets out to do: Gives me listings and information and ratings on dehumidifiers and specifications about them and it even sorts them by categories: brand or size, for example, and there are links to go buy the product right away from the store it sells at.

See, now, if there had been a site called "Top Rated Yoga Mats," I might have saved myself a trip around town. But, then, if that had been the case I'd never have had an excuse to buy the boys some hash browns at McDonald's and get myself a cheeseburger on the way, so it's not like the morning was a TOTAL loss.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Like understatement's now a crime. (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress 60)

Russian Girl on Pařížská
by Justin Quinn

At twenty, you hold this street’s attention

better than the Bolshoi could—

the boots, the perfume, not to mention

the bling and ermine on your hood.

The way you walk is slash and burn.

Like understatement’s now a crime.

You leave a wake of men who turn

to make sure they were right first time.

They’re like small countries who betray

their old allegiances awhile.

Bound over as your vassals, they

blame others when they go on trial.

You yawn, head for a brasserie—

all gold and mirrors, lit like Christmas—

and join the two men drinking tea,

dressed in black suits, who mean business.

Originally appeared in The New Yorker.

About the poem: I liked that it rhymed.

About the Hot Actress: I just finished Lost season 5 and am waiting for Lost Season 6 from Netflix. Alice Evans was a big part of the end of Season 5, so I chose her.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I think I set a World Record For Almost-Dying: Part Five: Coffee Turns Out To Have Very Few Medicinal Qualities.

I almost died twice in one week. This is part five of that story.


Part 1.

Part 2.
Part 3.

Part 4.

I don't call in sick to work.

First of all, what's the point? My job is phenomenally easy. It's not like I have to lift heavy objects, or make sure that the wing doesn't fall off the 747 in flight, or inject tiny nanorobots into someone to help ensure that the hypnotic programming I gave them works properly and transforms them into the Ultimate Hot Dog Eating Champion just in time for the World Record Competition. Those kind of jobs require a great deal of attention and skill and strength and stamina and nanorobots.

My job, on the other hand, requires reading and talking on the phone, and occasionally appearing in court. And most of the time, the "talking on the phone" part is to other lawyers, which means that the actual conversation is not taxing in any way, just annoying.

Second of all, my job doesn't stop. I have this memory of a Lucille Ball show where she was working in some kind of factory and things -- maybe bottles -- kept coming out of the wall, faster than she could handle, and ultimately she couldn't keep up and catastrophe happened. (By catastrophe, I mean "She created a show that will forever be held up as the pinnacle of humor, even though really it was just old vaudeville routines.)

Also, I maybe am confusing Lucy's show with the opening to Laverne & Shirley. Anyway, the point is, law is like those bottles: It never stops. If I take a day off of work, not only will I not get all the telephone conversations and letters done that day that I was supposed to, but more letters will come in and more telephone calls will be made to me and more notices will be sent setting up hearings that conflict with other hearings, and more motions and briefs and suits will be filed, and in the end, I'll take one day off and come back to three days worth of work, which you might think is exaggerating but I'm not, because if I'm not in the office, then not only does nothing in my office get done, but the mail gets delivered giving me more things to do, and, people in my office will try to come find me to see if they can schedule something for me to do that day or some other day. They will not be able to find me and will therefore assume that whatever it is they wanted me to do, I'm okay with it and they'll therefore schedule that thing for me.

That's what was running through my head when I woke up the Friday morning of the day I almost died for the second time.

"Woke up" is a bit misleading, since I hadn't actually slept. For most of the night, instead of actually sleeping what I'd done was lie in my bed, begin to fall asleep, and then, about as I faded from consciousness, I'd run out of air and gasp myself back awake. Being back awake, I'd try to focus on CNN HLN FAFSA, which is what I watch when I'm trying not so much to watch TV as I am trying to fall asleep, and then repeat that cycle. I did that all night long, and you'd think it would have worried me, but it didn't. Not even in the slightest. All I thought, all night long, were variations of these thoughts:

1. Stupid bees.
2. It sure is tough to breathe. Stupid bees.
3. Who gave Joy Behar a show?

I finally gave up on pretending that I was sleeping around 6:30 in the morning, and came downstairs to begin getting ready for work via "Taking some Benadryl and having a cup of coffee." I sat at our kitchen table, not really feeling energetic enough to go get the paper, or sit up straight, and waited for one or the other of my breakfast to kick in.

Twenty minutes later, I'd gone from "trouble breathing" to "trouble breathing and also feeling dizzy," and there was some tightness in my chest. I'd finished up all the bee sting medications two days earlier, but I figured that the Benadryl would help. So I mustered up all my energy to get up and walk the four feet to have a second cup of coffee, which I poured and set on the table. I briefly thought about grabbing something to eat, but decided that would require a bit much out of me, and also decided that it might be difficult to chew when I really couldn't breathe very well at all.

I sat down for a few more minutes, alternating between wondering how many minutes it had been since I took the Benadryl, and wondering whether it was worth the effort to reach out my hand and take a sip of the coffee. After ten minutes of that, I admitted defeat and told Sweetie that I was going to call in sick to work.

"Are you okay?" she asked. "Do we need to go to the ER?"

I told her "I'm fine," and declined the ER, and then called my coworker-- who not only helps me admirably but also steps up to the occasion on days like that one, so I'll call her Wonder Woman -- to tell her I wasn't feeling good and that she'd have to cover for me that day. I gave her some instructions and Wonder Woman said that she'd thought I looked terrible the day before, and that she'd take care of things, and that I'd better get to a doctor. I told her what I'd just told Sweetie: that I'd lay back down and probably try to get into the doctor's office that afternoon.

I hung up the phone and considered getting some coffee. I realized that I was breathing very shallowly, and focused on that for a minute, trying to concentrate on drawing a full breath. When I managed that, though, it felt like someone was grabbing my chest, from inside, and squeezing it.

I tried a few more times, just to make sure I wasn't imagining it. It was there each time: Breathe, Squeeze, Breathe Squeeze.

On the third breath, the squeezing didn't go away. Sweetie walked back into the room and saw me sitting there and said "Are you sure you don't want to go to the ER?"

I hadn't yet ceded to her the right to make me go, and I overruled her.

"I'll be fine," I said. I still thought it was the bees, and figured that I just needed to get some medicine. I did wonder where my adrenaline pen was, and gave some thought to trying to get it out of the cupboard in case I needed it, but that seemed like a lot of work, too, so I sat there a few seconds and then said: "What time does Urgent Care open up?"

"Nine o'clock," Sweetie said. The clenched fist that was pulling my chest inward was getting worse. I looked at my cell phone on the table. 7:10.

"I'll go to Urgent Care when it opens," I said, and Sweetie said "I'll drive you there."

"Okay," I said, and stood up to go lie down for an hour or so before we had to go. As I did so, a wave of dizziness swept over me. I grabbed the chair to steady myself and then, standing there swaying by the kitchen table, I had to remind myself to breathe again and wondered when I last had. I could see little sparks out of the corners of my eyes from standing up, and the fist that was squeezing my chest had turned into metal. Hot metal.

"Or, maybe we should go to the ER," I said.

Next: The drive to the hospital.

Disney probably won't approve. (Stuff, and Junk.)

I just found out about Dina Goldstein, a Vancouver artist who, among her other neat works, has done photographic updates and reinterpretations of Disney princesses, like Ariel, above.

Another one I liked: The Princess & The Pea.

Check them all out here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The death of journalism can be primarily blamed on journalists. Or should I say "journalists?" (Publicus Proventus)

Remember how terrifying the BP oil spill was in the first few days of Oilageddon? And how reporters were rushing to fall all over themselves describing the end of the world that would result from oil-covered pelicans dive-bombing the Gulf Coast? You sure do; we all do.

Remember how those same reporters (and government officials) also mentioned that most oils from spills evaporate and do so fairly quickly? You sure don't -- because nobody said anything about it. While the media went nuts over bogus oil-spill contingency plans that mentioned protecting the penguins and listed deceased professors as the primary contact, no reporter, no BP exec, no government official, no pansy-preening member of Congress, ever mentioned things like this report from 1994 that found that as much as 75% of crude oil spills evaporate in the first few days.

Even now, the media is focusing largely on claiming that the success of the clean-up is "more spin than science," a claim they can make only if they ignore the science, which I checked into when I myself was skeptical of the claims that the oil had evaporated. And I quickly found that paper, referencing the spill model equations that can tell how quickly oil might evaporate after a spill.

So where was that reporting when the Gulf spill occurred? Where were the media and government representatives noting that while this wasn't good, at all, that a large volume of the oil might actually simply evaporate and not require a massive, presidential ass-kicking response?

Or was there no interest in reporting facts when there were good storylines to develop -- even if the storylines weren't exactly real.

It just goes to show what happens when "news" is synonymous with "Facebook opinion polls and CNN reporters diving into water."

Monday, August 16, 2010

You ARE free to attempt using cars to fight other American wars, though. Like the War of 1812. That NEEDS some cars. (This Is Why I Hate People.)

I sometimes think I could spend a significant amount of time hating people because either (a) they think we'll attempt things that we clearly wouldn't, or (b) people would actually attempt those things.

Probably both (a) and (b) are true, which leads to ridiculous moments in life like the one that happens at 0:41 into this commercial:

Did you see the fine print? Do Not Attempt. In case you need clarification, and apparently people in our society do, the full version of that warning would be:

In the event that you start a revolutionary war against the then-dominant world power, do not attempt to anachronistically run the invading armies off your shores using internal combustion-engine powered vehicles.

I imagine, at some point, we'll take all the people who might attempt the things they're warned not to, and simply engrave, on their retina, the warning Do Not Attempt so that everything they look at will bear that warning, and the rest of us can be spared watching commercials and wondering "How WOULD one attempt that?"

Sunday, August 15, 2010