Anhydrous Wit

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Monday, January 29, 2007


I don’t like the thought of sounding like a grouch often (especially since lessening negativity is one of my goals at work), but Robomarkov encouraged me to do so, so flame him if you think I’m whining.

I just shut off the annual Miss America Pageant -- or is it still annual? In an attempt to increase their audience, they have changed most of the aspects surrounding the pageant (if not the pageant itself). Obviously, it is no longer held in September. Apparently, they have abandoned Atlantic City, NJ for the other casino city: Las Vegas, NV. The pageant was shown, not on one of the three major TV networks, but on CMT (originally named Country Music Television, but since this program was on, I’m guessing that CMT shows about as many music videos as MTV does nowadays. Yeah, remember "Music Television"?). Finally, they encouraged viewers to participate in the voting by using their cellular phones. Let’s see: change when it’s on and what network it’s on and hope that people will remember it exists and watch. The only reason I found it was because I put on my local programming channel to see if anything good is on TV any more.

As I said, the pageant itself appeared about the same. I missed the talent, evening wear, and platform portions (give me a break; I had a Pinky & the Brain DVD to watch), but the swimsuit competition survived. Mario Lopez was this year’s host (you might remember him from such cultural, classic hits certain to go down in history like Saved by the Bell and Pet Star). Thankfully, he didn’t sing. They played a recording of Bert Parks’ rendition of the theme.

I'm glad that the swimsuit competition remains, although, being a knee-jerk moderate and traditional fence-sitter, I can understand both arguments about the presence of the swimsuit competition. On the one hand, if you’re looking for someone intelligent, talented, and caring, why should her body matter? (Obviously, based on some of this year’s contestants, prettiness certainly wasn’t a factor in their selection.) On the other hand, can you really select an ideal, well-rounded representative of American womanhood if she’s, well, rounded?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Where are we going to find rubber pants our size?

I went to a well-known discount department store the other day because they had jeans which I like on sale. Just to make sure I still wear the same size (hope springs eternal that I’ve gotten thinner since I started working out), I took a pair to the fitting room -- which was locked. I asked at the customer service desk if I may try on the jeans. The girl manning (?) it didn’t have the keys, so she paged one of the employees. I waited at least five minutes, and the girl paged the coworker again. Just when I was about to go back to the desk and tell the girl that her coworker had just lost them a sale, the coworker happens to pass by, notice me, and then said that she didn’t hear the page (twice).

I should probably write to the store manager and ask him to read my letter during the next staff meeting. Come to think of it, I should probably write the regional vice-president and tell him that they need to replace the missing and water-stained ceiling panels -- and, by the way, fix the roof, too. Plus, given that I had ample time to look around, I figured out that one of the reasons I like a competing store is that it doesn’t look so warehouse-like. I could see rack after rack of items, every stinking bare fluorescent bulb on the ceiling, and the screaming white walls and floor tiles. There was nothing to distract the eye; it was almost overwhelming. (This is the same department store that went through bankruptcy proceedings a few years ago and then "successfully" bounced back. I don’t think this particular location got the message.)

The most unfortunate thing is that this chain is the only one that sells my favorite casual/work slacks. Can I ever find them in my size, though? Of course not. I’ve gone late in the week, to avoid the first-day-of-sale crowds. None my size. (Is everyone in town as big as I? I haven’t met anyone like that.) I’ve gone on the first day, just in case they run out later. (There are plenty with my waist size but with inseams as short as my dad’s. Are there only short, fat men in town?) I really didn’t expect them to be in stock when they weren’t on sale, but I looked anyway. (I’m too tall for a regular store but too short for a big & tall store.)

What’s really sad is that I phoned the manufacturer and ordered some directly, and even they didn’t get my order right. Now I’m just hoarding the trousers, wearing them a little at a time, so they don’t wear out. (Unless, of course, you know someone who’d like to see me pantsless.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Old Dog

Maybe my problem is that I’m trying to learn too many new tricks at one time.

I enrolled in an introductory computer-aided drafting (CAD) course. The instructor started off our first class with an overview. She used some terms which I remembered from my college landscape design course, so I figured I’d do all right. Then she instructed the class to turn on our computers. My coworker (who is taking the class also) and I leaned under our desks, looked at the machines, sat back up, looked at each other, and asked, "Which button are we supposed to push?" If the machine is so complicated that I can’t even figure out how to turn it on, maybe I should leave it alone.

The instructor reviewed the syllabus, which included instructions how to save our projects: a CD-ROM, a "flash drive", or a "zip drive". What, no 5 1/4" floppy disks? Okay, I’m not so technologically challenged that I am ignorant of CD’s, but I wouldn’t have known what a flash drive is unless my coworker (the one taking the class) hadn’t already been using one at work for a few months. That seems easier to use than "burning" a CD, so he helped me pick out one at the campus bookstore. I’m not even going to bother learning what a zip drive is.

Today’s in-class assignment was to draw lines, arcs, and circles. My coworker whispered, "Look at the second monitor." On the screen was not a scrawl of odd shapes, like most of us had. Instead, the student had something that looked like a Ferris wheel, and it was spinning or rotating (or both)! Wait a minute; wasn’t this supposed to be a beginner’s class?

My irrigation class is marginally better. At least I can read faster than the rest of the class. The instructor told us to start reading the first chapter in the book, and I ended up finishing the exercises at the end, which turned out to be our first homework assignment. I had a few problems with the book, though -- like leaving out some basic information.

I can accept that the missing "/" (meaning unit "per" unit) was a typo. However, I really wondered what that constant was in the first equation presented. It turned out to be the weight (technically the density, according to the units, but why should the textbook bother with accuracy?) of water, but shouldn’t the book have defined all the terms used in the equation (not to mention calling them by the right names), so I wouldn’t have to look like a dummy asking the instructor?

Next, the book presents an example involving 1/2" diameter pipe. "By squaring the inside diameter of the pipe, .622 in, and multiplying the product..." Um, okay. How can the diameter of 1/2" pipe be larger than 1/2"? Even if the 1/2" refers to the outside diameter, shouldn’t the inside diameter be smaller? Wait. I mean the insi... Wait. What if the .622 referred to the diameter squared? Never mind. That would be 0.25, and the units would be squared. (Even if the units were a typo, the number is still wrong.) Again, I had to ask the instructor. It turns out that pipe sizes don’t match their names, kind of like a two-by-four, which is actually a five-by-ten (5 cm x 10 cm.) I can’t wait to see if the book ever explains that one.

Adding insult to injury, I have brought home the office laptop to finish my drafting homework. This is a brand new machine, which arrived just weeks ago. While I was on page three of the owner’s manual, trying to learn what all the unfamiliar keys were, aforementioned coworker was busy doing things with it, so his hands were obscuring the keyboard. Today, as he handed over the machine, he sarcastically informed me that the owner’s manual was in the bag, as well as the mouse. He seemed to have used the computer without the mouse, so I asked if the manual would tell me where to plug it in. Being a technophobe, I thought it was a reasonable question. However, he seemed to take offense. Wasn’t this the same guy who couldn’t figure out which was the power button either? If he has forgotten that quickly that not all of us can intuit how to use gizmos, I’m darn glad he’s not the instructor! (I’m also glad I didn’t ask him where I’m supposed to plug in the flash drive.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


"1. A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true. 2. One exhibiting inexplicable or contradictory aspects. 3. An assertion that is essentially self-contradictory, although based on a valid deduction from acceptable premises. 4. A statement contrary to received opinion." (American Heritage Dictionary Second College Edition, 1982)

The crossword puzzle clue was "Darwin word". The answer was "origin". I started thinking about Darwin’s most famous work, On the Origin of Species. Many people object to the theory of evolution because they say it conflicts with their religious belief in creation. I don’t think that’s necessarily so.

Darwin’s book wasn’t titled, On the Origin of All Species. In fact, he wrote it after observing a limited number of species in the very limited Galapagos island chain off the coast of Ecuador. I have not read the book, but the animals I remember being mentioned in biology courses were birds (finches, I think) and lizards. Darwin hypothesized that the various species of finch could have derived from a single species, which, because of physical barriers separating the islands, evolved into several subspecies (exhibiting different phenotypic characteristics but still genotypically able to produce viable offspring), which then evolved into separate species. He said the same for the lizards, and offered that the animals best suited to survive on their given island were the most likely to reproduce. Hence, the best-adapted phenotypes turned into separate genotypes, when they are not allowed to commingle.

Darwin’s argument does not say that humans evolved from, or even alongside of, apes/primates. His argument does not say that God (or your deity of choice) didn’t create the earth. For all we know, God created the earth and a certain number of species, but He allowed for genetic adaptability, so that the species could adapt to changes in their environments. Evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive.

Related arguments are these. 1) Chimpanzees and humans have 98% similarity in DNA; ergo, the species evolved from a common ancestor. I say, "Oh yeah?" Why couldn’t God have seen that He created a perfectly fine animal then just tweaked the genes a little bit, rather than starting from scratch for the next one? 2) There is so much repetition and similarity between species that one must have developed from another (or two developed differently from one). My take on this is similar to my first response: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Another paradox that confronts faith with logic is the argument over abortion. The two commonly accepted sides in the disagreement are either pro-life (against abortion) or pro-choice (for abortion). I, however, being a knee-jerk moderate, don’t see the distinction in that way. I see two separate arguments: one about the legality of a medical procedure and one about the sanctity of life (often including a disagreement on when human "life" begins). Someone can be both pro-life and pro-abortion, and someone else can be pro-choice but anti-abortion. Did you see how I switched the words around? One can say that she will never have (or he will never encourage his partner to have) an abortion, while still supporting someone else’s legal opportunity to do so. Similarly, one can support a woman’s legal right to choose but personally oppose the act in one’s own life.

Since I’ve basically mired myself in the quicksand of political and religious arguments -- but without actually advocating one position over another, did you notice? -- let me talk about euthanasia. (This is one I’ve only started pondering, so I definitely have not formed an opinion yet.)

A coworker had her beloved dog of twelve years "put to sleep" because it could no longer stand up and walk properly and, presumably (we can not, strictly speaking, put ourselves inside a dog’s body to feel what it feels), without pain. On the other hand, Dr. Kevorkian (and others) are prosecuted for murdering or enabling the self-elimination (suicide) of gravely ill individuals. Why is it that we appear to have more mercy for "dumb animals" which are suffering than we have for fellow humans facing similar circumstances? (Boy, that one’s liable to keep me up at night.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Last night, I walked to get groceries. The fresh fruit I bought weighed more than I had expected to carry, so my arms were sore by the time I arrived home. After adding the fruit weights from the receipt and the package weights of my other items, I discovered that I had carried 18.81 pounds for half a mile! (At work today, I unloaded all the 4"x6"x12' timbers myself, but I graciously allowed the guy on the tractor to move the boulders -- just so I wouldn’t show off, you know.)

I guess I’m on a self-improvement kick (which started a few months ago, not as a new year’s resolution). Tomorrow starts my irrigation class (a refresher, since college was so long ago), and I’ve also signed up for a computer-aided drafting (CAD) class this semester. (How about that? I’m learning to be a cad.)

At work, we were told to set goals at the end of our previous year’s annual evaluation. My two were to be less negative and to be more assertive. It’s a lot tougher than I expected. (Duh, or else I would have done so earlier.) I’m also having trouble modifying my diet. Working out is easy, but limiting my intake of junk food is very difficult.

"Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, / When you’re perfect in every way."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Book Him, Danno!

I did something this week I should have done a long time ago. I got a Branigan Memorial Library card. "What? You've lived there how long and are just getting your library card?!" (Betty, I stand ready for your punishment.)

In my defense, I offer that much of what I read is in the mystery genre, and I receive many of those books from my mother, a member of the Mystery Guild book club. Second, when my dad started clearing out his old books before he died, I picked up a whole shelf full of them, and I've only started on two of them thus far. Also, I ransacked the city library's delivery to the recycling center* and picked out another shelfful (?), of just mysteries. Therefore, I hope I have earned some dispensation by not actually needing to borrow any library books.

When I was a student at NMSU, I was a Crimson Scholar. Supposedly it held some sort of honor, but the only reason I even applied for the merit was so I could register first for classes. Another benefit was semester-long checkouts at the campus library. I qualify for an alumnus library card, but I've never bothered because "I don't have the time". "What? You work on the campus and can't take some of your lunch break to go check out just one book? (Betty, I stand ready for your punishment.)

* I'd like to know why the library would rather dispose of books rather than spend the money on a bottle of glue to stick the pages back in. Of the four books I've read so far, the worst problem was a few loose pages. Ergo, I squeeze a bead of white glue, stick the pages back in, and take the books in for credit at the used bookstore three blocks away. Problem solved, and I've just profited from someone else's waste. It's so easy, I almost feel guilty. Almost.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

B. C.

Be cool. I read a bit of humor today about how to behave when meeting a celebrity (specifically, how to tell them you like their work/accomplishments and to ask for their autograph). The gist of it was be cool. Don’t fawn. Don’t become a blithering idiot. Don’t ramble. Don’t follow them. Remember that, as momentous as the occasion is for you, it happens to them dozens of times a day. Be cool.

That brought to mind when I obtained Bill Cosby’s autograph. "Be cool," sounds like something Bill Cosby would say. (Note that his initials also are B. C.) On a flight from Chicago to Philadelphia (he was on his way to an appearance in Atlantic City), the stewardess took me (a child at the time, sometime after Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids but before The Cosby Show) up to first class, but he was asleep. However, I got to talk to him at baggage claim. I don’t remember how I acted, but I certainly hope I respectfully asked for his autograph then graciously thanked him before walking over to the conveyor. I hope I was cool.

I stood alone at the conveyor (my parents let me get the bags by myself because it was -- and still is -- fun to pick your suitcases out of all the others passing by) and felt very self conscious. I suddenly realized that I was, indeed, alone. Every other person on that plane was on the other side of the baggage conveyor, staring at B. C. sitting behind me.

I observed two black boys approach B. C. with candy bars they were selling as a fundraiser. For those of you who might not know, Bill Cosby grew up in Philadelphia, and he knows what it was like to be a poor, black boy in the city. I’m sure that he admired the boys’ attempt to better their lives, and he probably would have paid $100 each for those two candy bars, if he were asked to. B. C. was cool.

By the way, B. C.’s luggage (Yves Saint Laurent or some other brand that has the designer’s initials plastered all over it by way of a pattern) was monogrammed. "Cos" was on one. "Jell-o" on another. And "Pudding".

Monday, January 08, 2007

Hurts so Good

I changed workout routines this afternoon, and I can tell. I can feel my arms (by which I mean they're making their presence known), and my legs were sore enough to give me a little bit of trouble getting up the stairs when I returned home.

Of course, I could be complaining about that, but I prefer to take it as a reminder that I have all of my faculties and I am healthy. I have a handicapped friend who has spent most of his life using crutches, so I thank God that I'm blessed with "normal" abilities. (My friend, on the other hand, has superhuman upper body strength to make up for his suboptimal legs, and one handshake from him will have you quivering on your knees, red-faced, and gasping for mercy.)

My electric toothbrush is on its last legs. The battery is wearing down so much that it is good for only two or three uses between charges. I need to find its box, so I can determine if the battery is replaceable. (I think there might be a spare toothbrush in there, too -- bonus!) On the brighter side, I still have all my teeth, with only a few cavities. I think I might be fighting a receding gumline (first the hair, then the gums, what next?), but I could always be worse off, having lost my teeth in a severe accident or something.

I think my teakettle is leaking. There's water on top of my stove, but I haven't used it since fixing instant oatmeal this morning. I suppose that I could have spilled some, but I think I would have remembered doing so, especially that much water. Maybe there's some weird sort of condensation action happening.

I'm not sure what's going on with my telephone, either. When I tried to log on earlier, it sounded as if I already was connected, rather than a dial tone. However, I still couldn't use my phone when I had the computer shut off. At that point, I worried that I'd have to call the phone company (using my cell phone) and have them come out to look at the lines again (but I don't think I ever told you about the first time). I checked with a neighbor, and his phone sounded the same -- until he realized that he was logged on, and he got a normal dial tone after disconnecting. The only other neighbor home and awake uses a cell phone, so she couldn't help me determine if the problem was solely mine. Our seasonal neighbors moved in today, so I baked some muffins (almond poppy seed) tonight, and I'll drop by tomorrow to welcome them -- and, oh, by the way, they wouldn't happen to have had their phone line connected, would they? My mom phoned me at work early this morning, and she mentioned that she had tried me at home but hung up when she got my answering machine, and there was a prerecorded telemarketer on the machine this afternoon, so I know that the problem suddenly arose sometime today. (How's that for a comma splice, Betty?) Then, a friend phoned me tonight, so the phone worked again, but we kept hearing clicks, and twice I heard a rapidly dialed number. (Oh, please tell me that my line hasn't been crossed with that automated telemarketer!) Well, if you're reading this post, I, at the very least, have effective phone service -- for the time being.

I think I'll just go to bed and "count my blessings instead of sheep. / Then I'll fall asleep, counting my blessings." (How about that -- two song quotes in one post.)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Nice Day for a White Wedding

I suppose you heard all about the snow that snarled Denver, CO (twice). What you didn't likely hear about is the same thing happened to Albuquerque.

The week before Christmas, they got some snow. It melted from the roads and sidewalks before I arrived, but it stayed cold enough to remain on the lawns and other planted areas. This itself is unusual for Albuquerque, and even more so for me, because we rarely got snow in South Jersey before January. For the first time in years, I had a white Christmas.

Snow was predicted again for the Friday after Christmas, so my mother decided we should take down our outside lights and refuel my car on Thursday morning. It turned out to be an excellent idea because the snow started falling that afternoon. I shoveled Friday morning -- then again Friday afternoon. By that time, over six inches had fallen. I shoveled again Saturday morning, and at least ten more inches had fallen by then. By the time it finally stopped snowing on Saturday afternoon (48 hours since it began), we had at least 18" of snow. (It’s kind of neat to take a yardstick outside to measure, and it just keeps going and going and going then finally touches the ground.)

We had snow here in Las Cruces yesterday. It started about 6 a.m. (I know because I was out for my morning constitutional) and ended at 12 noon. It stuck to the cars and some of the ground, but not to the streets and sidewalks. I phoned to ask if we had to go in to work, to clean up any place, but I was told not to worry because it would reach 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the afternoon. Wouldn’t you know it, it did? This is the type of snow I’m more accustomed to in NM: that which melts by morning’s end. It’s also how I can irritate people in other parts of the country (or even the state) when I say, "‘Snow’? What’s ‘snow’?"

In Las Cruces, I can reliably say that it snows once per winter, and most frequently during the break between fall and spring semesters. (Although there was that one year it didn’t snow at all -- so it snowed twice the following winter to make up for it.) In many cases, that snowfall is even during the week that staff is off, so I’m usually in Albuquerque and miss it completely. This year, I saw more snow that all my years in NM combined! We got it in spades (or should I say ‘shovels’?)