bunsen_h: (Popperi)
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Like in my great-grandfather's days
Through blizzards howlin',
To school they crawled, twen-
Ty miles, uphill both the ways...
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."  This is true as far as it goes.  But there are always an infinitude of remaining possibilities, of varying degrees of improbability.  You can't begin to think of most of them.  And you definitely shouldn't assume that the first one that comes to your mind must be the one correct one.

We are very tired of doctors who, having failed to find a probable cause of a symptom by anything they can test for, jump to some conclusion about something that wouldn't show up on any test they can think of... and insist that that MUST be THE answer.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Right close to the wall, the floor in the Emergency and Observation areas looks okay.  And around the beds, where there's a lot of wear from the beds being shifted, the floor looks fairly clean.  In between, it's grungy.  Incredibly greyish grotty.

I know the floors are washed, sort-of.  I've seen people pushing around some kind of antiseptic mop/brush/swab thing.  But it's not taking the crud away.  If I squirt a bit of hand sanitizer on the floor, wait a few seconds, then rub with a tissue, the floor gets back to the appearance of the clean areas.  And the tissue turns dark grey.

The old line about "but it's clean dirt" I find unconvincing, under the circumstances.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
I have seen the assertion that the reason many people are uncomfortable with seeing a woman wearing a niqab is a relic of our primate ancestry: we want to be able to see someone's face.  That we're wired that way.

This would be an argument from "evolutionary psychology".  Anything coming out of that is questionable; most of its assertions are untestable, explanatory without being predictive.

Even if it's true... part of being sentient is overcoming such prejudices.  Or at least working to do so.

The pernicious thing about the Conservatives' and BQ's raising the niqab as a significant issue is that it provided a positive spin on the prejudice, gave people an excuse for their behaviour.  "I'm really supporting women's rights!  It's not that I'm prejudiced..."

If only that supposed concern for women's rights had extended to other issues, it might be more plausible.

I'm ashamed that so many Canadians made such an issue about women wearing the niqab during the citizenship ceremonies.  I had thought we were better than that.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Sad StephenSad Stephen

Sad Stephen I saw sitting all alone
Purging his flock all down the mountain side

I still need to do a headstone with "Requiesce In Purgatorio", but I have a few days left.


Oct. 18th, 2015 07:16 pm
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Travelling past Hallowe'en displays this afternoon, in stores and on lawns, gave me an idea for our front lawn.  Perhaps late for the election, but we'll see how the riding and the country go tomorrow.  A tableau of famous scientists... Albert Einstein, bound, gagged, and tied to the tree.  Marie Curie, mouth stitched closed, with her glowing skeletal hands.  I don't know which other scientists are iconic and easily recognizable by typical passers-by.

If I end up wearing a costume this year, it might be generic "scientist" (lab coat, pockets full of stuff) and lips stitched together.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
The other day, in a conversation about the meme of "X is natural, so it's good for you!", I jokingly suggested strychnine arsenate.  Strychnine is an alkaloid, so can form a compound with acids, for example arsenic acid (H₃AsO₄, analogous to phosphoric acid).

I am slightly surprised to discover that not only is it a thing, not merely is it a compound with known properties, there are chemical suppliers that will sell it to one.

The only use for it that I've been able to find in a quick on-line search, apart from a cagey "chemical research", is for making homeopathic preparations.  I might have guessed.

It's possible that its real purpose in supply catalogues is to send a warning note to local police agencies that they might want to keep an eye on you.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Exercise it regularly, when you can.

We voted in the advance poll yesterday.  The wait was about half an hour.  People in line were pretty good-humoured about it, even those with mobility problems.  There were a few chairs and benches, enough to go around; people who needed to sit were invited to grab a chair until their spot in line had advanced to the next chair.  The only complaining I heard was from a guy upset about inadequate signage, which had caused him to walk from one door to another and back again, and the loudest snarking I heard about him was from other handicapped people.  "For God's sake, it hurts me to stand, let alone walk.  Get over it!"  But the polling officials did discuss the matter, to try to figure out signage that would be simple and clear -- yes, it would have been possible for the guy to enter by a different door, if he didn't need a ramp.  The original signs directed everybody to the one door that was was fully handicapped-accessible.

In retrospect, it would have been nice if people with mobility problems were given priority.  But nobody seemed to expect it; nobody suggested it.

It's nice to see people so engaged in the political process.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Spotted by a friend of mine in Barrhaven, and posted with her permission:

Darth Vader lawn sign
bunsen_h: (Popperi)

"Lake Wobegon Loyalty Days" is the name of our show tonight.

It's named after the old name they used to have in Lake Wobegon for the 4th of July.

Back during the first World War they called it "Loyalty Days." And they made all of the people of German extraction stand up in the middle of the town, where everybody could see 'em. Made 'em all stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance and salute the flag, and everybody watched to make sure they weren't crossing their fingers, I guess.

Well, everybody goes through that sort of foolishness once in a while. Our country does more often than most, but here we are. We are who we are.

— Garrison Keillor

Now it's the women of Moslem extraction, and we're supposed to watch 'em to make sure they're not just mouthing the words, I guess.

I'd hoped we were past that sort of "foolishness".  To use a much-too-weak word.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
To paraphrase from Dave Barry's Homes and Other Black Holes: Ask any conservative politician to name the three most important factors in maintaining national security, and he'll say, "Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists."  Now ask him to name the location of the Supreme Court, and he'll say, "Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists."  This tells us that we should not necessarily be paying a whole lot of attention to conservative politicians.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Well-known Ottawa folk musicians Shelley Posen and Ian Robb have crafted a nice song and video, "There's Always Money For A War".  Though the sentiment is general, it pokes at Stephen Harper in particular.  I recommend it.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
When the accused has pretty clearly done something insanely monstrous, and the defense lawyer spits out something so monstrously insanely monstrously insane that it would be far better just to say "he didn't do it, neener neener", who is responsible for that?  The defendant and his lawyer by consensus?  Would it be that the defendant has come up with it and the lawyer has to do what the defendant says?  (And the lawyer can't withdraw from the case?)  Surely a defense based on mental incompetence doesn't require that the lawyer lack mental competence?

Appalled.  Boggled.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
A couple of months ago, Steven McNulty from Edward Jones financial advisors stopped by our house.  [livejournal.com profile] mentisiterinvit gave him our phone number.  (I don't know why, but that's up to her.)  Since then he has been calling every few weeks.  This afternoon he called again, while I was busy and unable to pick up the phone, and left no message.  I called him back.

"You've been calling us, well, semi-regularly, and I'd like you to stop, please."

"But you gave me your number."

"My girlfriend did.  At any rate, we'd like you to stop calling."

"Then why did she give my your number?  That's pretty immature."

"She was interested.  She isn't any more.  Please stop calling."

"Fine.  I wouldn't want to deal with you anyways."

I called him a twit and hung up.

So.  If you're looking for a financial advisor who isn't, well, an ass, I'd suggest looking elsewhere.

I was very careful with my tone of voice to not be rude, condescending, or otherwise offensive, right up until the final word "twit".  He was given our number; he had the legal right to call us -- until I asked him to stop, with my first sentence.

I cannot fathom why he, and other salescritters, try to argue with such requests to stop calling.  It's not like they're going to change my mind.


Sep. 5th, 2015 12:59 am
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
In a couple of years, after the Hugo rules have been changed to prevent a repeat of this year's soiled newspapers, would it be feasible to do a set of 2015 retro-Hugos?
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Experiment: large-flake oats cooked by steam alone in a pressure cooker for about 25 minutes + cool-down time.

Result: the oats were dry, slightly darker than before, not much moisture seemed to have been absorbed.  When the oats were subsequently cooked with water as usual, they absorbed less water than usual and "fluffed up" noticeably.  Apparently the structure of the flakes was "loosened" by the steam, and/or more moisture had been absorbed than was apparent. This is more or less what the "modified" means in phrases such as "modified starch".

Conclusion: this does not appear to be a very useful way of cooking rolled oats.

Oh well, not all experiments are "successful", and my curiosity has been relieved.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Gimli: 'I don't wish to meet that old man at unawares without an argument ready to hand, that's all.  Let's go!'

Does that look wrong?  Or more precisely, sound wrong?

I enjoyed the audio book version of The Fellowship of the Ring quite a lot.  Reader Rob Inglis has a reasonable range of voices -- nowhere near Luke Daniels, who reads Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles, but that's a very high bar.  So I expected to like his reading of The Two Towers.

But I keep getting thrown out of the story.  He keeps altering the text, including the dialogue, by using contractions.  Frequently.

By some lights I'm something of a purist with regard to Tolkien, no question.  I was lukewarm on Jackson's version of FotR, disliked TTT, and have seen only a few minutes of his RotK -- which was enough to confirm my decision to give it a miss.  I've seen most of the first Hobbit movie, at home for free while I was working on something, so it wasn't completely lost time.  That convinced me that Jackson has no sense with regard to sacrificing plot in favour of ludicrous action sequences.  I saw a few bits of the second Hobbit movie a couple of days ago, and that was enough; I was shrieking in laughter at the fight sequence with the Dwarves barrelling down the river, and the melting of the "gold" in Moria.  I don't know what that stuff was, but it wasn't gold.  Negligible specific heat and heat of fusion; low melting point.

But this audio book's problem is subtler... "just" contractions.  But Tolkien was very careful about character voice.  Some characters speak casually, some always formally, and some change their style of speech depending on circumstance.  To chuck that out is wrong; it significantly affects the characterization.  For Gimli to say "That's all.  Let's go!" just knots up my neck and shoulder muscles.  It's fingernails-on-blackboard stuff, full-on "uncanny valley", who-are-you-and-where-is-the-real-Gimli material.

bunsen_h: (Popperi)
[livejournal.com profile] mentisiterinvit and I have been going out for evening walks around the neighborhood recently: good exercise for her, together time for both of us.  Last Thursday, she had spent a stressful afternoon going through her medical records (again), trying to anticipate objections to her application to the insurance company for payout of her critical health insurance.  She wanted to walk a bit farther afield, and decided we should drive out to Hog's Back Park and wander around that bit of intra-urban semi-wilderness.

It was pleasant and relatively quiet.  There were some areas that felt oddly far-from-people; I tried to understand why they gave that feeling, and all that I was able to come up with was that the sound from the running water masked any other noise.

There were familes of American black ducks (I had to look them up at home later to identify them; we were pretty sure that we weren't seeing a bunch of parthenogenetic female mallards) with ducklings -- one duckling kept wandering a bit farther from its family than the others did.  A few of them approached us hopefully, but we hadn't thought to bring any food for them.  There was another bird, alone, which we couldn't guess about.  It stood by the water for a few minutes, stretching its neck out remarkably and then pulling it back into its body, like a Muppet; then it flew off, slowly and heavily.

Eventually, twilight edged into night, and we thought we should be heading home before things got too dark for a mobility-impaired person to walk on uneven ground.  As we were turning to go, I thought I saw a tiny flash of light out of the corner of my eye.  I wasn't sure if it was a real thing, or a sign of Yet Another Thing Going Wrong With My Body.

I turned to [livejournal.com profile] mentisiterinvit and saw that she had frozen in motion.  She asked me, "Did you see that?"

Then we saw another tiny flash, then more.  "Fireflies!"

She had never seen them before.  "We don't have them out on the west coast."

I don't remember the last time I saw fireflies; some decades, I'm sure.  Probably not since I was a teenager.

We stayed an extra half hour to watch them; they were very pretty.  At one point, they seemed to stop flashing near us, but continued farther along the path, apparently trying to lead us on.  We weren't going to fall for that old trick.

At some point, I mentioned the fireflies in LMB's first Sharing Knife book, and yesterday, she started listening to the audio book.  So: double win.

We'll have to go back there soon.  With duck snacks.  And flashlights.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
But on drying, gerbil pee leaves a tough white residue, poorly soluble in water and difficult to remove from a plastic surface without damage to the plastic.  However, it is readily soluble in concentrated hydrochloric acid, with evolution of gas.  I suspect it's giving off CO2, but I don't have the resources to try to confirm.  It would probably also dissolve in something like vinegar, but much more slowly.

I miss working in a chemistry lab for many reasons, and one of them is ready access to small amounts of harmless chemicals for personal use.  But some reagents are available from craft and hardware stores, if you know what to look for.  Hydrochloric acid is also known as muriatic acid, and the version sold in hardware stores is pretty close to the concentrated HCl we used in labs.
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
... do not, I think, include doing phone spam to solicit appointments for itinerant financial advisors who "will be in [my] neighborhood".

I think.

I do wonder what manner of creature would have shown up on my doorstep if I had agreed?

As it was, communications broke down when I insisted that I would not let the caller speak with his "special friend" unless he told me his account number, and he insisted that he wasn't allowed to do that.  (More plausible responses would include things like "what account number are you talking about?")

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