Friday, August 18, 2017

laundry products update

You know how I always used to start with "today I learned?" Some things take several months to learn, and it's one of those topics I have today. It is, unsurprisingly around here, about laundry. If the only reading material available in the entire world was this blog, no one would read it because it doesn't get updated all that much anymore, and when it does, it tends to be about laundry, which, frankly, lacks the draw of the supposed leader of the free world going off the rails on Twitter.

I tolerate Charlie's Soap powder. It's essentially washing soda with a sudsing agent. I can use a washing machine with residue from Seventh Generation or All Free & Clear, and I don't get in trouble even if I don't wash out the machine first. My stuff doesn't smell, and it takes out my personal contaminant. (It may take a few washes for that last thing, but it does get it out.)

So I expect I'll stop talking about it now. Onward to better things.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

all about smoke and maps

Today I'm recording where to find information on smoke because there are a bunch of wildfires screwing up the air quality. I can go out and walk in the mornings if I wear an N95 mask, but it's put a crimp in my mountain biking schedule. I can go if I'm careful to not push it, which essentially means no hills unless they are very, very small, like you'd find in central Illinois, where it took me six months to realize I lived at the top of one.

NOAA ozone and smoke prediction department (click on the map where you'd like to see more, then argue with the mouse-over stuff to the left to see hourly predictions -- I had to lift my finger from the mousepad for anything to change, but I bet it's fine for an old-fashioned mouse)
NOAA smoke prediction for the day (not exactly labeled, but general smoke outline plus individual smoke plumes)
--that's the first map on the page for "Hazard Mapping System Fire and Smoke Product" (analyzed smoke data maps and stuff)
Map of where the fires/hot spots are
--that site came from here, which may go lots of interesting places
Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program -- scroll down to deployments

Here are my favorite pages from the EPA's air quality website, which come with a combined ozone/particulate forecast and rolling eight-hour average readings for up to four pollutants, depending on location. The EPA's prediction for Arizona is always the same general shape on the map, which is a product of their model, but the color of the blob over Phoenix and how far south is goes is a very good indication of what the day will be like in Tucson. I can only assume that their current readings map is also from a model, since they can't blanket the state with sensors, but it looks like a good guideline (e.g., badness is coming down from Phoenix, or ozone tends to be worse on the east side of town at the National Park, but it's always bad in the afternoon in the summer).
--here's Tucson's page
--here's Pinal's page (they have an actual forecaster because their air is worse, and he sometimes says helpful things about how long various pollutants will stick around)

It's more complete to include my local county, but they use an "instant" air quality index, and it doesn't seem to help me figure out if my chest will hurt or not if I go out without a mask. The EPA site uses the same data, but different averaging, and whatever they're doing pretty consistently tells me if I'll hurt. My limit on the EPA's site is currently 50, the break between "Good" and "Moderate," in all categories, as far as I can tell. But the locals get points for having a 360o view of town, and you can really see the particulates if they're there, or just admire the view.

If you can figure out which fire is responsible for the smoke blowing into town, instead of, say, a whole bunch of fires in Mexico, the national "Incident Information System" (here's the Arizona page) has recent information and maps of your local fires.

Ok, I'm tired now, so I'll update later, or forget all about this as soon as the rains start.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

helpful health insurance companies

If you have a preexisting condition, your health insurance company may have decided to send you a doctor or nurse practitioner to make sure you're getting all the healthcare help you could possibly need, free of charge! Did they mention it was free of charge? It is strictly for your personal benefit. They are really nice that way!

If you decide you don't want someone to come to your house and make you, personally, sick because of that pesky preexisting condition -- because you don't have to accept this totally free benefit -- they don't really take no for an answer. They just call back later, which makes you ask what, exactly, they are getting out of the totally free visit. They are getting your happiness! It's a free benefit. Did they mention that? Yes? Well, it's a free benefit. Can we sign you up?

If you decide, what the heck, how sick could I get, I'm tired of these phone calls, you get a visit from a doctor or nurse practitioner who asks you a bunch of questions, and you get to ask some back. It then becomes clear that a side-effect of your preexisting condition, or something totally unrelated to it, tripped something in their system, and they want to make sure you are a responsible healthcare consumer and don't cost them a lot of money down the road.

That makes sense to me. I just wanted them to tell me that in the first place instead of being coy and making me wonder.

As a last note, the nurse was really nice and had actual experience with chemical injuries, but I still got sick because her previous, presumably non-chemically injured patients polluted her tools. It was a fast, bad reaction, too, but afterward it left me with a feeling that the world was a wonderful place. You know that fantastic feeling when something really awful goes away? I can't say it worth it, but at least they won't call me again this year.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

the definition of a beeline

Three days ago I learned how come a beeline is called a beeline. When you're on the end of one, it's like being shot with a bullet that travels at bee speed. You can see it coming, straight for you. If you're me, you think, bugs really, really enjoy being around me, but maybe this one will sheer off at the last second to avoid smacking into me.

I was wrong. It flew smack, straight into the apple of my left cheek. Since I have been bitten by a hornet (actually bitten, not stung. It drew blood, but there was definitely no sting), I thought maybe I'd get bitten again, but no, this time, I got stung. It hurt, but I wasn't going to die or anything. We had stopped at the side of a mountain bike trail and were looking at the map, so spouse was right there. I flapped around very gently and asked if I'd been stung. Why, yes, I had been, he said, while the bee settled on the index finger of my right glove.

Settled is the wrong word. This honeybee, which I could see quite clearly right there on the end of my finger, was attacking the sh*t out of my glove like a small, crazed terrier. I thought they were supposed to die after they stung you, unless it was a bumble bee. It must take longer to die than I thought. This one looked quite energetically enraged.

I went for my tweezers -- all mountain bikers in spine country carry things like tweezers, which required shaking the bee off so I could use both hands. The bee continued its tiny biplane vs. King Kong routine, which flustered me to the point I couldn't find my tweezers in the 5" by 7" pocket in my backpack. I instructed spouse to get the stinger out as best he could with his fingers. Spouse informed me I still had a speck of stinger in my face. I flapped around, trying not to hurt the bee in case it was Africanized so squishing it would call all its friends.

The bee was still biplaning. Spouse told me to go without my pack. I got on my bike and took off, bee in extremely close pursuit. The chase only lasted a minute. When I got up to speed, the bee couldn't keep up, so I kept going another minute or two to make sure it was far enough away that I could stop and get my stuff back from spouse. I didn't see another bee the rest of the ride.

It has been suggested that the bee wanted to scare me off because I got too close to the hive. I was on a well-traveled path, and there was only one bee, so I don't know that there would be a hive there without many more people being aware of it. I do know that this bee completely ignored spouse to the point that he could come close enough to take a stinger out of my face without being hassled, and when I left, he could pick up my pack and get going in the quiet of the desert, not under the attention of a loudly buzzing enemy.

On the first day, I looked pretty normal. On the second day, I looked a little swollen, but it still wasn't that noticeable. Today, the swelling has slipped down to my jaw, and I look like I escaped from the dentist, mid-treatment, with cotton stuffed along my lower gum.

But it got rid of any impending wrinkles from being close to fifty and enjoying the outdoors.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

laundry detergent, ribs, and nettles

I didn't want to jinx it by saying anything earlier, but I tolerate laundry detergent now. Not anything as complicated as liquid or those packs that look like candy to children, but just plain powder. It works way better than, say, vinegar, which, as far as my contaminant is concerned, just makes you feel like you're doing something by adding it, but totally doesn't do anything.

In highly related news, Trader Joe's just stopped making their powdered laundry detergent, but I'm fairly confidently switching to Country Save, which used to be hard to find, but is now all over the place.

In dirt-related news, I learned that when you break your ribs crashing while mountain biking, you can actually push some of them out of place. The doctor explained it by comparing the situation to venetian blinds that get out of whack. Getting your ribs twisted back into place is not really entertaining, but not being subtly twisted up all the time is worth it.

In other doctor-related news, my nose started running like the proverbial faucet on Wednesday a couple of weeks ago. I saw the doctor for my ribs the following Tuesday, and besides fixing up my ribs, he told me to take quercetin, hesperetin, and nettles for my runny nose. I was already taking quercetin because it does something with mast cells and it helped earlier this season. I couldn't find hesperetin easily locally except in other brands of quercetin, so I blew it off. I had some nettles pills I'd tried a previous year (but not much happened), so I tried them again, and my nose stopped running. That evening.

I can't actually say it was the nettles that did it, but I'm not willing to risk that level of nose issues to find out. I hope nettles don't turn out to be expensive.




Friday, December 02, 2016

things I didn't know about water softeners

Today I learned that if you unintentionally neglect your water softener by not cleaning the resin for, like, ten years, when you finally get your act together and clean it, your water can run black afterwards for more than an hour (so far). It's gross, and it smells kind of yucky. I can't communicate the smell, but have a picture of my sink:


If you were wondering, that pipe is the drain for the second washing machine. (I still have a second washing machine because of my laundry issues, and it drains into the kitchen sink because of course it does.)

The reason we decided to clean the resin was that after we would come back from being away, the water would always run brown for a little while. We bleached the iron bacteria a few years ago, so we kind of ignored it until now. The internet said to try cleaning the resin, and here we are.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

colloquial overuse of the word "awesome"

I have another laundry contaminant, but after that last one, this one is just a hassle as opposed to a massive difficulty, so I'm not even all that concerned about it.

Instead of actually working on it, I went for a nineteen-mile bike ride. It was super awesome because my ribs felt fine, I only crashed once, and nineteen miles is about ten miles farther than I can ride at Fantasy Island, near the closed dump. I thought I was too out of shape to do anything cool. Swimming may have helped, but not being near the closed dump could be a much bigger factor than I imagined.

After that we got iced tea. Then we went to a bike shop with a dog who wanted to play tug-of-war. It was super awesome.

I don't always have super awesome days, so I'm making a note. It was super awesome.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

failure of the B vitamins

Yesterday I learned that the local bike coop, BICAS, where you can rent bike tools, has a mosquito problem when they aren't running their fans. We paid $4 to rent a derailleur hanger straightener, and I got bitten four times. I was the only person hopping around and flapping, so I can assume there were only four mosquitoes in the whole place. This post is mostly a note to myself to dress for a desert trek (i.e. wear tightly-woven long pants and long sleeves) if I go anywhere near the place ever again.
A dollar per bite. Dress appropriately. Stop being a mosquito magnet.

In other bike-related news, I relearned how to ride part of Fantasy Island that will get bulldozed sometime in the future (the yellow part, below), but I also did really well on a short loop that will live on. My ribs feel fine, so despite the bug bites, progress has been made.

These maps are posted on the affected trails, but not anywhere on the internet I could find, so have a picture of a map.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

crickety mayhem

Recently I sort of learned to make a cricket trap from a fairly standard wikihow, and by "fairly standard," I mean it had a massive lack of details, so I'm not going to link to it. This project came up because I mentioned that we had a cricket in the house the other day, but it was only a little annoying. It came to keep us company while we watched tv the other night, and it transitioned very quickly to super annoying because it kept talking whenever the show got exciting, plus it proved too elusive to vacuum up easily.

Later that night, I set up my trap with parts I had lying around the kitchen. All I had to do was wait and see what I had in the morning. I went to bed. I had hardly closed my eyes when I heard a thump nearby. The thump was unusual, but my trap was not going to make one unless someone kicked it into a wall, plus it was in the living room, so I did not immediately associate the thump with the cricket. That association did not occur until spouse reported that he had met the cricket in the hallway, and in a split-second decision, whacked it with his hand.

So God only knows if the trap would have worked (I bet not), and I'm not going to go recruit outdoor crickets. Crickets outside are fine as long as they don't invent little bullhorns and try to yell over my tv.

You know, this is a terrible story. It serves me right for not really learning something.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

carbon sequestration, water in the desert, and project appropriation

Today I learned that people at Oak Ridge have figured out how to convert CO2 to ethanol, and it was easier than they expected. Burning the ethanol would not exactly be carbon sequestration, but recycling carbon is better than pumping more out of the ground. Maybe we can have vast reserves of booze underground for future archaeologists to puzzle over. I don't usually pay much attention to news about things that have only happened in a lab, but I hope this one turns out to be good for something. In related news, the US Government Printing office decided to change the "ae" in "archaeology" to "e," but there is disagreement, so I used the ae.

In other nerd news, a company collaborating with UC Berkeley invented a device that condenses water out of the air -- reportedly 11 gallons per day, even in arid environments. It's not in production yet, but there's a go fund me with a buy-one-send-one-to-a-place-with-water-issues program. I totally want one. I do not need one. I don't really want to bury something 2 m deep in my yard. I still want one.

In yet more news, today you couldn't keep me out of the toys. Spouse wanted to repair the windshield washer squirter problem in the nice car, and in the past, despite my background, I pretty much just held the light and fetched things. Today I was busy taking out screws and breaking little plastic body clips faster than he could catch me. (I felt better when the clips broke for him, too.) Then we found the hose to the squirter had gotten either eaten or cut, and I stuck it back together not at all the way he wanted, but it works, so it was ok that I did whatever I wanted while he wasn't looking. He's going to have to watch out for hijacked projects if I keep feeling better.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Ooh, ooh! I got my ballot!

I got a green envelope from the county in the mail! I get to vote for President, and I can do it right now! Hang on....

Ok, I forgot about the roughly thirty judges on the ballot you have to sort through and decide if they're worthy. I got voting homework, and I'm not doing it on Friday night. (Not that Friday night is any different than any other night around here, but it's the principle.)

In other news, I can now do the backstroke with impunity, but hauling my mountain bike back into line when the tires don't go where I would like still makes my ribs a little sore. I can ride sedately around the Bunny Trail, though, so that's good enough for now.

It turns out that I just feel like talking this evening, but I don't have much else to report. I'm going to get the air conditioning fixed in my car because it's so good at getting me to the pool, and I don't reek after swimming like I did after going to classes, so I can ride around with the windows closed. There's a cricket living in our master bedroom, but we can't hear it over the air cleaner in the room we sleep in, so we don't have to actively hunt it. I caught six rats on the back patio last month. None of them tried to eat my car, but you don't want to have a bunch of rats running around on your patio.

Ok, that's probably enough.

Friday, September 23, 2016

not a mosquito magnet

In a full and careful study of anecdotal evidence on the internet and in discussion with a bunch of mountain bikers, I learned that garlic or B vitamins would make you into less of a mosquito magnet. Since at the time of the study, I was the mosquito magnet who attracted mosquitoes away from everybody else, including the other mosquito magnets, I tried both at the same time. The garlic pills made my stomach hurt or had an interesting aftertaste, depending on when I took them. I dropped them and stuck with a B-complex.

I am pleased to announce that roughly ten days later, either all the mosquitoes in my neighborhood dropped dead unexpectedly, or the B-complex is working like nothing I've ever experienced. I hung around outside at dusk, and I didn't even see any bugs. I was pretty twitchy about it, and I didn't stay out for more than about five minutes, but I only itch in one place, and it appears to be purely psychosomatic.

The results of this study are applicable to chemically injured people who are related to me; I believe that includes pretty much no one. B vitamins are cheap, though, so I will volunteer to be part of interested parties' personal careful studies of anecdotal evidence.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

stuff and things and endangered plants

Today I went to the doctor and learned that 65% of pesticide used in the US goes on cotton. Pima cotton, which accounts for one-sixth of US cotton production, comes from just north of us, even though we're in Pima county and that's Pinal county, but I digress. Anyway, that means that approximately 10% of the pesticide used in the US is sprayed all over the valley north of us, which happens to have the worst dust particulate problem in the country. So the pesticide-encrusted dust that gets kicked up wafts over here, and EIs in the Tucson basin are feeling it this time of year. That made me feel better to know because now I have some idea of why I've been sleeping all day the day before a storm, which is when the wind blows down from up there.

In other news, carnivorous plants are mostly endangered. In yet more news, I broke my ribs mountain biking on July 3rd, but it didn't hurt enough for me to worry about them being broken. I resumed riding about a week later, and about five weeks later, I went on an epic ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains sorta near my parents' house, and made my ribs really sore again simply by breathing pretty hard. (Trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains are pretty steep.) Then there were some x-rays. Now I'm about six weeks out from that, and I've been swimming, and my ribs are starting to feel pretty reasonable. When I can do the backstroke with impunity I'll know I'm all better. For reference, it's much harder to fall on rocks from a lane in a swimming pool, so I may stick with that for a while.

Friday, September 09, 2016

the sun's roast settings, depending on latitude and ozone absorption

Today I learned that the UV highs in the summer in Darwin, Australia top out around 14 on the UV Index (Sydney was more like 13). In Phoenix, they top out around 12. The local weather station we used to look at here in Tucson usually read 14 in the summer, but I don't know how accurate it was because the prediction in the newspaper was usually 12. The upshot is that the sun will peel your hide off pretty nicely (and very quickly) at 12 or 14, and various health organizations indicate either will cause instantaneous death.

I had to look that up because all the way back in April, a friend of mine demonstrated proper Australian application of sunscreen, and we attempted a subjective comparison of how burny the sun feels in summer. Now we have data -- lame data in that I don't even know if the UVI is linear, and I'm not going to extract that information from the internet tonight. I don't have any data from when the ozone hole was worse, either, but burny is no fun, anyway, and Australia wins(?) on the burny scale.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

too much starch

Today I learned that the piano arrangement of "The Gambler" I learned in high school is still stuck in my fingers, even though I haven't played it for probably twenty years. I have access to an inferior arrangement, and after about the third try, it sounded wrong, and the old one emerged. I really didn't think I could play things that weren't on the page in front of me on the piano, so this is an entertaining development.

In other news, I like fake yogurt, but it costs a lot, which fixes it so I won't buy it. By compiling a bunch of soy/other yogurt recipes, I settled on 1/4 cup of arrowroot starch in 4 cups of soy milk as my base. It thickened up some when I cooked it; people on the internet had complained that other recipes didn't always thicken.

Skip ahead to about five hours into the culturing stage, when I saw that my container was going to overflow. No one mentioned overflow as an issue, but I went with it and scooped a bunch into another container and let it go.

When it was time to put it in the refrigerator, I saw that the volume increase came from tiny bubbles trapped in the yogurt. Why were there bubbles in there? Because I made a perfectly acceptable tasting soy yogurt, but with too much starch. The consistency can accurately be described as "gelatinous gloop." You can stir it, but it won't stick to the spoon. It should be sold as a childrens' toy, except I'm gonna eat it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

socks, road construction, coconut oil, laundry contamination, and long braids

Today I sort of learned to darn a sock, in that it didn't look that complicated, I didn't do any research at all, and that sock is going to die soon anyway. I just wanted to try it because when my in-laws downsized last month, I got a sock darner.

Now I can say I learned that, based on a fifteen second survey of the internet, other people have old sock darners, too, and ones in similar condition to mine go for about $10. I don't actually care how much it's worth. It's worth another month or two of this particular sock plus whatever other socks I choose to fiddle with in the future. Yay, socks?

In other news:
  • The road construction stopped kicking up dust about two weeks ago, so I've been feeling like a human off and on, which is an improvement.
  • The coconut-oil-in-the-hair trick got old fast, but with the contaminant mostly out of my hair, I went back to the way I'd been doing it before.
  • I cleaned out one of the washing machines again, and from now on, any contaminated laundry I come across is getting tossed instead of mixed with other laundry in the hopes it will be diluted. The result from the last experiment was a whole load of contaminated laundry. 
  • The laundry contaminant is oil-based, and I'm going to have to start tolerating detergents if I want to get it out. Two of my doctors were all on board with vinegar if I couldn't use ammonia anymore, and vinegar doesn't do a whole lot, contaminant-wise.
And, because I had a vague interest in growing my hair longer just to see what it did, I read that if your braid is too long, you have to wrap it around your neck in the bathroom if you want to keep it out of the toilet. I have scissors, so watch me never have that problem.

Monday, May 09, 2016

more laundry contaminant

Yesterday I learned that both my washing machines were contaminated, which is ironic since one is specifically for decontaminating things. I took them both apart and cleaned everything with Bon Ami and alcohol, and now their insides don't give me heart palpitations. Hopefully without gunk in the machines to retain badness, my laundry issues will subside.

The good washer had mud in it that smelled like mountain biker sweat. There are some serious drawbacks to using detergents that don't smell like fake flowers.

Friday, April 22, 2016

the unremoveable contaminant?

Today I may have learned how to get rid of the unremovable laundry contaminant. I got it into two small quilts I rely on, and my previous method for light contamination -- two washes with detergent, two with vinegar, and one with just water -- didn't work. It worked great on single layers of nylon, but cotton quilts are another thing. Anyway, I decided to go with Oxyclean, even though soaking badly contaminated pillow cases didn't do a whole lot.

So this is what worked (I think) on the quilts: two washes with detergent and Oxyclean, and then as many washes with vinegar as it takes to make the rinse water not foam. I think it was around five. Then after the quilts dried, I had to air-fluff them in the dryer for three hours to get the unrinsable residue out because that was making them stiff and icky, besides giving me heart palpitations. Ok, I can totally work with stiff and icky. It was the heart palpitations.

Tomorrow, assuming I don't get blown out of here by the wind combined with lots of recent dirt-moving at the road construction site, I should start this procedure on the pillow cases and maybe even the nightshirts, maybe with three or four washes with Oxyclean.

I guess this post was more record-keeping than interesting, but it could turn out to be fascinating to the right person down the road. Hopefully not me. Never mind, I hope nobody ever has this problem ever again, but I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

how to contaminate most of your bedding

Today I learned that you can, indeed, put coconut oil in your hair, and the sky won't fall immediately. I'll let you know how this experiment turns out, but for today, you can hear how this event came about.

This story starts with glutathione. I had heard years ago of EIs getting glutathione IVs and how they felt great afterwards. They tended to mention the cost at the same time (around $100/week), so I never looked into it very hard. A couple of years ago, my doctor told me to get some, and it was a total disaster -- I was supposed to try the nebulizable kind, and there was miscommunication, and next thing I knew I couldn't breathe and I was detoxing so hard I actually got that rash I'd heard you get when you detox nasty stuff out your pores. It itched.

Glutathione helps get the stored crap in your system out where you can detox it. If you aren't good at detoxing your particular crap, which is how I, for one, got sick in the first place, you just shake everything loose and make yourself really sick while the crap finds a new place to settle. The solution to this problem is to take "sequestrants," which are things like charcoal and bentonite clay, that adsorb the crap so you can, appropriately, poop it out.

So you get back on the glutathione, but in a different form because screw inhaling it, and you're taking your sequestrants, and everything seems to be going ok, but you feel lousy. If you're me, you blame it on the road construction and move on with your life until you stop tolerating all your nightshirts and some of the bedding. Pollen season plus road construction plus, when you go to the doctor, you learn the small amount of glutathione you thought you could handle was too much. You do a lot of laundry, give up on the nightshirts, and hope the next pollen season doesn't resurrect the laundry issue.

The laundry issue reared its ugly head a few weeks back. I upped my sequestrants -- I'm still not taking any glutathione -- and surprisingly, to me at least, felt better. Thus I have not irreversibly contaminated any sheets lately, but I'm still trying to get some new nightshirts tolerable. Nightshirts are cheap if you make them, but bedding is expensive, so this situation is asking for trouble without nightshirts to buffer the sheets, but the sheets are still ok. The fact that they've lived for two weeks without meeting the unremovable contaminant is a huge improvement.

The pillow cases, however, continued to die. Since I haven't used shampoo in years, I knew what the problem was. It was time to use something real on my hair. Instead of using salt water and having stunning hair (yes, I get compliments, but maybe it's not stunning), I switched to a bentonite clay "hair wash," which has predictably removed the contaminant, along with all the oil that made my hair work. Then I couldn't get a comb through it, and it was either cut it or oil it. Since you can cut it after you oil it, I figured I'd try that first.

The first hour has gone fine. Hopefully there is no huge downside like being eaten by whatever eats things that smell vaguely of coconut.

So that's enough of that; I'm off to make a hammock out of nylon, which seems to not hold the contaminant so hard, and then I'll have a place to sleep if I kill the sheets.

Monday, April 11, 2016

easily entertained

Today I learned that "Afternoon Delight" is grocery-store approved shopping music, which made my husband laugh all the way through the produce section and into the Asian food department. This after we heard "Talking in Your Sleep" at the auto parts place. My shopping run went from middle-school dance to, um, not middle-school dance, I guess.

In other news, during pollen season, sometimes it's a good idea to sit on the couch and inhale as little as possible. Then you need some kind of brainless activity because realistically, with that level of pollen difficulty, you're going to be an idiot. The kind of idiot who throws medication in the trash instead of tossing the packaging, but enough about yesterday.

But back to the brainless activity. I've been slowly working through the millions of seasons of NCIS. This is a show I've seen described in print as "something your father watches," but as much as it's a stupid procedural, sometimes the writers get turned loose, and they put something crazy in there. It's an interesting mixture of predictable -- which is fun if you can accurately guess what will happen -- and crazy, which I really enjoy.

Anyway, it's set around Washington, D.C., usually, but every time they go to an outdoor crime scene, there are coast live oaks there. The latest episode I saw, the camera panned right across the trunk of one, showing the distinctive lichens that grow in the same area as the oaks.

Those oaks live in California, and I think it's hilarious every time.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

shrimp mashing -- not for the squeamish

Today I learned by clicking through a bunch of things that shrimp have such rudimentary nervous systems that people aren't sure whether or not they feel pain like we do. People have noticed because the way you get shrimp to reproduce in captivity is to squish this one gland they have that inhibits fertilization, and the shrimp don't seem to mind for more than a few minutes. Now I'm glad I pretty much gave up shrimp years ago.

In other news, Tucson is now one of Amazon's same-day delivery zones. Usually nothing particularly useful happens around here unless it's tourist-related, but it looks like Amazon twigged to the fact that Tucson is kind of a spread-out retail desert if you want something Target and Home Depot don't carry. We'll have to see if there is anything I actually need the same day, but it doesn't hurt to have the possibility.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

getting back on track

I haven't learned anything today except that the landscaper the neighbors recommended could come over today and clean up my yard. I could have worried that he was available right away, but I chose not to because I figured he'd probably been working since sunrise, and it wasn't a million degrees out, so he could work past 11 am if he wanted to.

I hadn't cleaned up my yard myself because of the ongoing road construction that tends to be upwind of us. Being downwind of large quantities of moving dirt has proven to be a nasty problem for us mold-injured people, so we spend all our outdoor time somewhere else, on mountain bikes lately if we can help it, but we greatly enjoy the cafeteria patio at the Desert Museum. The result is that the yard got away from me, and I wasn't in a position to do anything about it, which would be torturing my do-it-yourself soul if I chose to let it.

So I did some choosing today, which is cool if it works. It didn't work yesterday unless I really, really wanted something, like a new bike helmet. The bike helmet store is not downwind of road construction, so that went pretty well. I got a new bike helmet, and it's orange! I sound like I'm ten.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

stopped shoe shopping

Minimalist/barefoot running shoes have been disappearing from the stores in favor of well-padded zero-drop shoes. I'm pretty sure that's because people in general like to run on pavement, and pavement is hard, plus the fact that some people's feet really don't adapt well to minimal support.

I am not one of those people. I like to run behind my subdivision -- an area covered in sandy washes -- and I pretty much hate wearing shoes. Most shoes aren't wide enough anyway, and I have really short toes, and no shoe company I've found caters to that. Why would they?

So I made essentially a sock with a homemade insole, glued onto a 4 mm sole, shored up with paracord with its insides pulled out:


I'll cut the laces sticking out the back once I'm sure the tension is right, but that's probably mostly the finished product -- a floppy sole that's good in the sand and enough of an upper to keep out most of the cactus spines.

In related news, you can make more flat insoles than you could probably ever need for about $30 including shipping if you get a sheet of 1/8" p-cell foam. I used spray adhesive to attach some thin, stretch nylon I had lying around on the top so I wouldn't have to run around on plastic, but if you wear socks, you're already finished when they're cut out.

Similarly related:


You can see my running shoes' roots in my everyday shoes. I don't always wear orange, but I'm pretty good at tying things to my feet with gutted paracord. And if you look closely for the dinged spot on the ball of my foot and know that a commercial shoe did that, you can imagine why.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

adventures at Picacho Peak

Recently I learned that if you take a picture of your husband on top of Picacho Peak, you can get bugs in the picture that, despite being about an eighth of an inch long and not in the same focal plane as your spouse, look like helicopters. To get up there, you take a really steep trail built by the CCC and use cables put up by Boy Scouts to keep you from falling off. It's a fairly popular system, based on the traffic we saw on a Monday morning.

Right after we started, a side peak

 Spouse (no bugs)

Part of the peak

Me going down the hardest part (it wasn't as bad as it looks)

 Pictures of flowers, mandatory for children of botanists

I can report that going down was, for once, easier than going up, entirely because of the cables. Also, the state park campground facilities are fantastic, except for the part where it looks like all the sites have electricity you don't want to pay for. I've never seen non-electric sites that have a box -- a box with a note on it and a little lock. Who knew?


Friday, March 06, 2015

reduced typing skills and medical stuff

Today I learned that I don't like switching from Linux to a Mac. Because there are more bored engineers in the family than just me (some of them are legitimately retired), there's a project, and we needed a Mac, and I got it because reasons. I'm sure I can adapt to the fact that the Finder stays open all the time, so you hit the red x when you want to get rid of it, but for any other program, you have to do that (thingy)Q deal.

Besides that inconsistency, what's really driving me nuts is all the keyboard shortcuts are a little different in the web browser, so it takes two or three tries to do anything, and then I have to read a complicated journal article, and then I fish for shortcuts, read another article, etc. I can type in two different keyboard layouts, but minor alterations to keyboard shortcuts appear to be my limit.

In other news (news with much less whining), I went to the doctor, and I'm only the third patient of his with my particular issues to have reached this one goal in the treatment protocol. I'm determined to be happy about that -- he seemed really happy -- but realistically, I have no idea how many patients have tried.  (From what he said, it sounds like I am some sort of genius at taking pills, and most people suck at it. You learn something every day.)

It can be a little difficult to remember to feel good about being a genius pill-taker, so I'm going to be all excited about getting this one supplement rearranged, and suddenly I can function pretty well again, right in the middle of pollen season. I got to go on a five-mile hike yesterday, which hasn't happened since December, and there were a million wildflowers, and I should have taken pictures.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

all about understanding

Today I learned that the government has actually, as an experiment, sprayed the populace with something. In 1950 the Army was fiddling around with how someone might deploy a biological weapon, so they sprayed a totally harmless bacteria off the coast of San Francisco for three days. Twenty-six years later, when the records were released, people realized that the perfectly harmless bacteria had killed somebody, and to this day it persists in the area and periodically kills somebody.

I had no idea that the chemtrails people had anything beyond paranoia upon which to base their theories. Anti-vaxxers, sure -- there is always that tiny, tiny percentage that is going to have a reaction to a vaccine. But now I have some understanding of the chemtrails people.

Which brings us to an insight brought to us by a thread on an article about something stupid that I can't remember because it didn't make any sense. Someone pointed out that when you don't understand something, it's sometimes hard to see how another person can understand it, even if they're an expert. If you take that to an extreme, where you didn't understand anything in school and the world seems to run on arbitrary rules, everything is an opinion because there are no facts. 

I feel like that could explain a few things, and I understand the world better now.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

nice bras and funny-looking shoes

Today I think I learned my bra size. I knew my existing bras were the wrong size because there were issues. Then last night I came across this video, which indicated I was a truly unusual size, but in the description had a bunch of suggestions of where to buy things. I mentioned to my spouse that I might want to go to one of them sometime and try on bras.

This morning, I was surprised to find myself in the car on the way to the Nordstrom Rack, which is clear across town. It appears that I have been fussing about bras enough to merit an emergency trip across town.

I learned that the unusual size wasn't available, but a much more common size (not anywhere near what I'd been wearing) fit fine. Pretty much any bra I put on in that size was pretty close, which was a totally new experience for me. We'll see if wearing them is a totally new experience, or if I should go in search of the truly unusual size, or give up entirely.

In other news, you can reshape the uppers of crocs clogs by putting them in the oven at 170 F for five minutes and then putting your double-socked foot in the shoe. The sole doesn't deform much if you stand on it some -- it's thicker, so it doesn't heat up the same way.

I knew you could stretch the straps on Crocs flipflops by dipping them in boiling water and then pulling on them, but the oven method results in a better fit because your foot is definitively the right shape. I was just guessing when I was pulling on stuff.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

politics and bathroom lighting

Those of you who live in Tucson and have a landline are by now well aware that we have an election coming up. Both sides (but as far as I'm aware, not the actual candidates themselves) have at this point essentially accused the other of intending to act like God did during most of the book of Job.

With today's telephone technology, you can blacklist phone numbers, so now our exposure to the vitriol predominantly supports the US Postal Service, through which we have learned that no matter what happens at the election, we're probably all going to live painful, short lives in the post-apocalyptic wasteland derived from the other side's policies.

In other news, after almost ten years in this house, we have concluded that the lighting in the master bath should be upgraded such that it no longer makes you look like you're dead. I thought I was just sick, but it's the lighting.

Internet searches revealed that ideally you should put lights on the sides of your enormous builder-standard mirror, not just the top, because that makes shadows under your eyebrows, and you look like you're dead. Because of the placement of the medicine chests in our bathroom, there is no room for lights at the premium locations, so I did what any self-respecting physicist would do: I got a laser pointer and figured out where I'd put a light or lights on the opposite wall to get the same effect. (That's the theory.) Then we got out our shop lights and concluded that a pendant light would eliminate the need for two wall lights. (That's the experiment.)

Now we're letting the idea simmer -- we're not exactly sure that a pendant light would look good. Or, as my husband put it, "Not everyone designs their bathroom lighting like a laser table."


Monday, October 06, 2014

things they don't want to tell you

Recently, I went on a new cell phone hunt, and I learned that when someone is trying to sell you something, they sometimes don't really want you to tell you much about it.

I was used to a cut-rate cell phone carrier because if something is cheap enough, it works great, almost no matter how it works, but I finally started caring about good reception outside of town. I researched the other cut-rate companies, ones with better coverage than I had, and I found that you couldn't get any information off their websites. I suppose that could simply be a result of a cut-rate website, but the cable company (not cut-rate) does the same thing, so it looks more deliberate. It makes you wonder if they're hoping you're stupid and will click on whatever they tell you to.

So now that I have a better cell phone camera, have the one unblurry picture I took at sunset last night.


That's Windy Point, halfway up Mount Lemmon. It is close enough that if you snarf dinner at five o'clock at my house, you can still catch an October sunset.

Friday, June 20, 2014

properly prepared in all situations

You know how when you buy a purse, it's all about what looks cute and happens to be in your price/quality range? Today I learned the process can be replicated by a husband.

See, I got a phone call from my husband saying he was near a porcelain repair place with his parents, and there was a purse factory next door, and could I maybe tell him the dimensions of something I might like? So I go get a tape measure, and I'm rattling off dimensions of things I would carry, and I'm thinking this is a hopeless case. How's he going to eyeball something like that, much less get something cute?

It turns out that if you're a particular type of man, who is along for the ride to a porcelain place with his parents, you go armed with a tape measure in your pocket, so dimensions are nothing. Then you just take your mom in with you, and bang, I have a new purse.

I freely admit that it took 9/11 to break me of carrying a pocket knife with me everywhere, but even I never happened to be carrying a tape measure at the right time.