Vigilance against vermin

My dogs have ticks and my kids have lice and the internet isn’t much help.

On ticks, I’ve learned that anything you buy at the pet store for less than a month’s salary is fairly useless. We have not found a spray for less than $30/bottle that does not leave me pulling at least 6 ticks off the lab every time I pet him. The $40 stuff is coming – but its gotta wait for payday. (The healer, OTH, has been more effective at removing the ticks herself. I only find them in places she cannot reach.)

Ticks don’t live on dogs, they latch on to feed, hide and grow, feed again, and then lay 10,000 eggs. You’ll never find them in all the tiny cracks they can hide in, but cleaning the house  front to back seems to help. They all have to come to the dogs, however, and that is where I have concentrated my surveillance.

Brown dog ticks, which is what we have (I think), don’t feed on humans. They’ll bite though. At least a hundred have gone down my toilet.

I’d link to a website here, but let me save the time: Remove them carefully, buy some products, ask your vet.

The internet is similarly obvious about head lice: Remove them carefully, buy some products, ask your doctor. And wash everything with hot water.

This is what we’ve learned from other parents: If you put a pillow or stuffed animal in a garbage bag and leave it out in the summer sun for two days, that kills everything. Mayonnaise is just as effective a hair lubricant as conditioner, and a ton cheaper. What’s going to do the most good is removing the lice and eggs with a fine-toothed comb. We own the one that came with the lice shampoo, but flea combs (for pets) will also work well. Boil it all (combs, brushes, hair clips) afterwards. OTC shampoos and treatments are hit-or-miss. Some strains of lice are just resistant. The comb is a sure, if labor intensive, thing. The spray is for the bedding – don’t use it on the kids.

The lice I think we’ve beaten back. The tick wars go on.

A segway into politics seems too easy. Let’s just do some links.

Steven Pinker, writing in the Wall Street Journal explains that – despite the news – we are actually becoming more tolerant and less violent as a species.

“Believe it or not, the world of the past was much worse. Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species. “

Feel better? Not so fast. Farhad Manjoo (real name) asks in Slate “Will robots steal your job?”

What I found was unsettling. They might not know it yet, but some of the most educated workers in the nation are engaged in a fierce battle with machines. As computers get better at processing and understanding language and at approximating human problem-solving skills, they’re putting a number of professions in peril. Those at risk include doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and creative professionals—even writers like myself.

But can they blog about urinals?

I updated Are We Lost Yet on my adventures up and down Mt Elden.

And finally something cool: (From APOD)


Now you know



Careful What you wish for…

For the Republicans, its a case of Careful What You Wish For. They have their majority in the House, and a working minority in the Senate. But to get that, they drank the Tea, and that same Tea is about to do them in.

The Tea Party sees the Debt Ceiling” Crisis” as their best hope to starve the beast – to eliminate the Federal Government as a major force in our lives. They believe the Debt Ceiling is an accounting trick, and many will not vote to raise it under any circumstances. It remains unclear whether the adult wing of the GOP can secure passage of anything without them (since apparently, working with Democrats is still unthinkable).

Here’s the Radical Moderate Position on the completely self-inflicted Debt Ceiling Crisis:

You pass a clean debt ceiling bill in the middle of the night – just like they always have in the past – not because its the responsible policy thing to do, but because it prevents one party or another from turning this into a hostage situation like we have now.

Everybody – that’s everybody – knew the budget passed would require additional debt by the summer of 2011. You can be appalled, but you cannot feign surprise.  They’ve had the same numbers in both houses since last November. If you haven’t affected “lasting change” by now – it’s too late.

Just raise the debt ceiling. Every alternative is actually worse now.

I know the Tea Party isn’t fond of facts clogging up their emotional catharsis about the Crushing Debt, but the chart above is derived from fairly undisputed numbers.

If you are serious about the deficit, you gotta put the Bush tax cuts on the table. Because the economy is what it is, and the wars can’t just be turned off. (Oh – and TARP actually made money – probably because it was actually cooked up by Republicans to begin with).

If the money that went into Social Security had actually stayed in Social Security, it would still be solvent.

Speaking of shameful legislative skullduggery – Mitch McConnell is right: if the Tea Party (let’s face it – they’re the problem here) torpedoes every  Ceiling deal, they will be on the hook for whatever happens August 3rd and after.

The Democrats would have just raised the ceiling. You know its true.

I know none of the Tea Party Caucus read my blog, but here’s some advice anyway:

You could vote yes because its actually good for the country (at this point). Did we spend too much? Probably. But – and this is key – we already spent that money, in the sense that once you order the food from a restaurant, you still have to pay for it, whether you enjoyed the meal or not.Even if you have to borrow money from your date.

As one of our supervisors famously explained to an obstructive client, “Look. This is what it costs. At some point, you have to grow up and pay the bill.”

Or you could vote yes because you value your own stock portfolio.

OR you could vote yes because otherwise you get the blame for an economy that might otherwise sink the current President. Pinning a secondary collapse on obstructionist Republicans helped FDR get elected in 1936 with 12% unemployment; and it could help BHO do the same thing in 2012.

That’s right: a vote against the debt ceiling is – in an admittedly convoluted but foreseeable way – a vote for President Obama.

Now you know.

Graphic displays of hope and fear (and some words for the writers)

From the NYTThe top bar is how wealth is actually distributed in the US. The middle bar is how (via survey) we commonly believe it is distributed in the US. The bottom bar is how we think (again via surveys) wealth should be distributed, given the choice.

That’s right – in reality, the top 20% of the income bracket owns 85% of the country while  the bottom 40% of us own nothing. When liberals whine that our defecit is at least partially caused by not taxing the rich enough – they actually have a case to make. But, as the New York Times article this was pulled from points out:

Why would the poor oppose taxes on the wealthy? Because many believe that they, or at least their children, will eventually be wealthy, voting for taxes on the rich may feel like voting for taxes on themselves. As a result, even the word “redistribution” has negative connotations.

So hope contributes to our national debt as much as fear. Good to know.

We’ll come back to hope. On the subject of fear – here’s the graphic truth about radiation levels courtesy of XKCD:

So you don’t take HP damage until you absorb a full Sv. And you don’t get that much accidentally.

What’s happening in Japan is pretty much a worse-case scenario about nuclear plant disasters. If this is all an 8.9 quake and a Tsunami can do to a coastal nuclear plant (so far, no one outside of the plant itself has taken harmful levels of radiation) – then its simply not that dangerous. How many people die every year mining coal?

Thousands (worldwide).

Vintage Russian safety posters – from English Russia. It translates “Don’t clean the cylinder while it’s in motion.”

Some links and notes (mostly words) from Writer’s Group – and elsewhere:

Join  or meet our gang at First Friday tomorrow night. Chaos of the Earth Cafe and Art Collective – 910 N. 5th Street (downtown Phoenix) – from 6pm to 10p.

One of our own – Greg Clifford –  has published a story in Golden Visions Magazine.

Literotica is a real thing – and NSFW.

A sample of Eudora Welty’s southern literate charm: Why I Live at the Post Office

Kelly and Kelly’s Moorea website. It was all true – with photos.

Finally, James Gleick explains to Wired magazine how everything is information and information is everything.

Now you know.

Abuses of power both serious and trivial.

First the trivial: The Suns have a tough schedule ahead – still. Why yes, I have written about that on PhxSunsNews.

Do you know the difference between a Canadian SF writer and a dangerous terrorist? Neither do the US Border cops . Canadian writer and academic Dr. Peter Watts was stopped by Customs and Border Patrol officiers on his way back to Canada through the Port Huron crossing. I mention that because it is the fact a lot of posters get wrong. He was then beaten, detained and charged with resisting arrest. Anything more specific is in dispute.

Seriously, though, how badly trained do you have to be to require pepper spray to subdue a middle-aged Canadian biologist? Beyond the obvious civil rights concerns, that’s just an embarrassing lapse of competence.

You can contribute to his legal defense fund, and his pal Cory Doctorow is on the case (both facts pretty obvious if you follow the link). I suspect the charges get dropped long before a court date.

What I find really creepy is the one in 20 commentators on these things who take the position that the cops are always right because they’re cops,and if they beat the shit out of someone, they must have deserved it. Look, I’m a 40+ middle-class white guy who’s never been arrested, never even been in court outside of jury duty or a traffic violation – and even  I know better than to blindly trust the police. Watching the watchmen is an essential responsibility of being a citizen in a democracy – or even in a quasi-republican corporate oligarchy.

As evidence of what happens when a community ignores this responsibility? Joe Arpaio and his war against the rest of the county government. And here, the ratio of cop-worshipers is even higher.

Every time bad cops beat up someone for no good reason, they put good cops in danger. Because if I’m really a bad guy, and I believe I’m going to get beat up no matter what, why not throw the first punch?

Flex Your Rights offers a lot of advice for dealing with The Man under stress.

Roadblock Revelations deals with border security abuses, particularly in Arizona – where they aren’t always polite like the might be in Port Huron.

Now, links to graphics:

The Guardian has some sobering graphs on troop levels in Afghanistan.  Scroll down to see how many more private security forces there are than actual NATO and US troops.

Info is Beautiful painstaking compiled graphs regarding climate change, with contrasting claims each side of the debate makes about the same information. Note that no serious scientist disputes the warming – they just dispute the cause.

Finally, Sketchy Santas. Merry  @#$%ing  X-mas.

Now You Know.

Panic and Pride and ignoring the circus

The circus elephants dance backstage. They’re fond of dance-pop.

Other than that, I’ve been trying to ignore the circus at the USAC this week as much as possible. It’s not that hard: if the spots work – I can go hide. So I do.

Let me now debunk the legend I heard today that bra sizes originated in the army. in the 1930’s, Maidenform was the first company to actually make bras in different sizes (small, medium and full) but Warner Brothers Brassiers (no relation to the movie conglomerate) devised the alphabetical size categories that have become industry standards.

See how the internet improves our lives?

Yes. Its true. Had the Suns held on the Shawn Marion, letting him walk at the expiration of his contract, they would have saved more money than the humiliating Shaq “trade” (neither of the players they received from Cleveland are expected to be on the roster next season). These are the wages of Panic and Pride.

We’re not even to the all-star break, and you can write off the D-backs. Hows this for historically perverse: “Can’t wait for Cardinals season, so that we can see our team win once in a while…”

For the writers: Book Marketing 101

And lost in all the Micheal Jackson Is Still Dead nonsense – the state of Arizona is either going to pass the most regressive budget in my lifetime or shut down completely by July 1st. Flat tax. Elimination of the property tax that provides the bulk of the money for the most poorly funded state education system in the nation. I am understating how bad this is. More on this later.

Now you know.

No Cure for Dumb Fear

First of all – its just the flu. It’s not The Plague.

As my wife wrote on her facebook:

Everyone, please-take a deep breath. The REGULAR flu kills 35,000 people a year, every year. Maybe 80 people, in the country, have the swine flu. 80, out of how many million? It’s all over the news because that makes people panic, and panic induces more news-watching. Wash your hands, get on with your life. Thank you.

And the numbers you’ve heard about the current flu – wrong.

From The Age (in Australia)

Vivienne Allan, from WHO’s patient safety program, said the body had confirmed that worldwide there had been just seven deaths – all in Mexico – and 79 confirmed cases of the disease.

“Unfortunately that (150-plus deaths) is incorrect information and it does happen, but that’s not information that’s come from the World Health Organisation,” Ms Allan told ABC [Australian Broadcasting Company] Radio on Wednesday morning.

Similar reporting has appeared in other news sources, mostly from Oz or New Zealand. Curious to see if the US media picks this up or what.

If they shut down my kids school over a runny nose, I’m gonna be pissed. (AZ Superintendent of Education Tom Horne has promised to do just that.)

Meanwhile, I’ve been looking into Aspergers – a subject near to my brain.

There’s two types of advocacy groups for people on the Autism spectrum:

* Normal adults whose children or grandchildren suffer from autism. Autism Speaks heads this movement. They raise money in hopes of a “cure”.

* Adults with Aspergers who do not feel they suffer from the condition enough to warrant a cure. GRASP leads this movement, though there are many others.

These groups do not always get along, and you can follow along on Wrong Planet – a chat board for those with Aspergers.

Here’s a brief glossary if you wanna troll Wrong Planet:

Aspey – someone with Aspergers.

NT – Neuro-Typical = normal people

Curebys (or Curebies) = those who believe Autism as a condition can and/or should be cured.

Yeah, well, there’s a lot of whining – like any other single interest group that feels oppressed.

One fact you need to take away from all this nonsense: No one can agree on what Autism even is at this point, much less what causes it, or how it could be “cured”. Those who say otherwise are trying to raise money.

Why yes – this is all for an article I’m writing (technically an essay). Thanks for asking…

Now you know.

My Easter in PV, and the weird, wild future

I have a little plastic Buddha that I carry around in my backpack for luck. I’m not actually Buddhist, but I like the little thing, and this Buddha also carries a bag. He’s Travel Buddha.


Kinda fuzzy in the foreground, but that’s him at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, where I basically spent Easter. Prescott Heights Mega-church (I’m not sure that’s the real name) hold their easter service there every year, bringing production up from Phoenix. They, however, provide the 20′ wooden cross to be suspended over the stage.

easter-buddhaThat’s our buddy on the balcony behind the set. So, a few things:

If you’re the guy who drives the van from Phoenix, you can’t stay all day unless the whole crew stays with you.

Without going into detail, when the computerized fire alarm in Tim’s Toyota Center is activated, even in test mode, it will automatically shut off show power, whether the show is going on or not. Related, do not flip switches marked Fire Department Only unless you are the fire department.

I don’t know how many of you will be in possession of a walki-talkie radio during a show, or some other reason. But if you have a radio, and a dramatic even happens, like, say, hypothetically, show power shuts itself off in the middle of an Easter Service staged in a hockey arena, please, for the love of whatever you hold sacred, resist the urge to key open the microphone and blurt out the first thing that comes to your head.

Let me revise and repeat: if you’re not directly involved with The Incident, stay off the radio!

I swear it felt like three minutes waiting for all the knobs to stop telling me the power had gone out so that I could tell them that the power was back on.

What we particularly don’t need is people who have no idea what they’re talking about (the followspots are not part of show power, for example, and the fact that they’re working does not mean the power is restored) chirping in with their opinions of what might be going on.

Now that I’m done venting, let’s take a look at the future:

Did you Know? (via Methodshop, via lots of other sites)

Juan Enriquez at TED about Homo Evolutis (and why bankers are dicks).

PS: Asking when they’re going to nail the Easter Bunny to the cross is not considered an “appropriate” question, and none of the “worship team” will find this as amusing as the rest of us.

Now You Know

Just throw strikes…

The Suns are out. For those who get their NBA news from my blog.

Mule line, the flat line somewhere between rope and string that we use to pull cable through conduit is expensive – but so is labor. At some point, you just gotta cut the line, tie a new one, and move on with the job.

It’s a lot more expensive to change plans after the conduit is in place – a lot.

If your first instinct is that you probably can’t quite get the boom basket around the obstruction from this position – you’re right. Proving that to yourself is a slow and frustrating exercise.

You all know that North Korea will never actually launch a nuclear missile at the US, right? The whole country operates like its run by kindergarteners, and this is just one more tantrum for attention. We gotta calm down and be the grown-ups. Really.

Much as I like the Obama admin, they still live in fear, at least in foreign policy. [sigh..]

In little league, you can hit a ball three feet from the plate and still score a run on that very play.

And the team my son’s team faced last Tuesday – they’re the terror of the entire league. My son’s team is closer to the middle of the pack than that game would indicate.

And they played well tonight. And Ben scored his first run (walk, two stolen bases, walk home on a bases loaded HBP). His team played well and won. Don’t worry – I’m not going to update in this sort of detail all season.

Now you know.

The Nash Era: Exit Whining

You can get drunk with a friend over Facebook chat. Does this make me tech savvy now? (and that’s why there was no update last night…)

“We have to find a way to play with pride and play for each other.” – Steve Nash (last night)

You think?

Every one of the last 5 games was winnable. All were lost by a few possessions. The Suns are a great team for 42 minutes.

While it is still mathematically possible for the Suns to make the play-offs after last night’s debacle against Dallas, it is no longer plausible. The championship window on the Nash-era Suns has just slammed closed. Sarver will blow this team up over the summer and no one is safe.

Two bad decisions:

The Shaq trade.

Letting Mike D’Antoni leave for New York.

One decision rooted in fear and one decision rooted in pride – both of which are poor criteria.

Every decision after that has been damage control. Nobody’s happy. The Nash era is down to 18 games with nothing left to play for but pride, and precious little of that.

Good thing baseball’s starting soon.

Now you know.

Dangerous When Smiling [2/17/09]

Terry Porter marched out of the US Airways Center well before any other NBA luminaries, and looking grim – even for him. The reason became apparent within the hour. The Suns had fired him as Head Coach.

GM Steve Kerr covered his mistake by making the move with a few days still left on the trade deadline, and timing it so it had no chance of leading Sportscenter. (A-Rod unwittingly helped this considerably).

We hope that Kerr finally grasps that you adapt the system to the players – not the other way around, particularly at the NBA level, where they are (theoretically) no longer learning how to play.

I suspect this culminated a player-organized coup.

The deal – and this is purely my speculation would be this:

“Look, Steve, (many of the Suns have played with or against Steve Kerr. He is hardly a wizened wizard.) this guy is killing us. We’re never going to be the Pistons. We gotta play the way we play, but every time we try, he puts on the brakes. So you got three choices: Either we keep losing, in which case [Suns owner] Sarver’s going to fire all of us, We openly defy him on court, which we [Hill, Nash and probably O’Neal] can’t bring ourselves to do, Or you fire the guy.

“But, if you get a guy on the bench who will let us run, we guarantee we’ll get far enough into the playoffs to save your job…”

The Alvin Gentry era Suns beat the LA Clippers by 40 points. Now, the Clippers contributed a lot, since the only defense they mounted was Zack Randolph’s punching a player, but it still seemed like better days had returned. The Suns were smiling.

They have always been at their most dangerous when they’re smiling.

Other things I learned at the NBA All-Star Game:

Construction tradesmen and stagehands use different logic about how heavy things should go up and down, and these differences are not always reconcilable.

Do not mention that a followspot “flickers” over a headset during a camera rehearsal. This will panic and then stampede the vidiots. Make them notice it.

The catwalks at USAC are held up by the same all-thread and magical thinking that holds up much of the structures above our heads. However, due to turnover in engineering firms and rennovations, no one could give a real number to how much weight they would hold. That’s a problem since the NBA planned to put transformers up there. We spent much of the pre-rig re-enforcing the catwalks.

Even spaced out over 10 days 112 hours is a lot of time served. Last night I dreamt about sleeping.

Over the weekend, satellites collided in space, adding 600 pieces to the 18,000 that they track in orbit. But I don’t worry about that any more than I worry about the USAC catwalks – even when the shake beneath my feet.

I just smile.

Now you know.