Saturday, June 28, 2008


Has any group of scientists done an environmental impact study on the utter removal of mosquitoes, biting flies, no-see-ums, and fleas from the planet? What would happen if we forced the extinction of predatory insects? Who depends on these horrible creatures for sustenance? What else needs them, aside from themselves? Does the right to live extend to critters that prey routinely upon humans?

I am covered in tiny bites from an outing this weekend--there's some from skeeters, some from no-see-ums, some from who knows what--about 50 in all, all of them itching and swollen. I even have them on my legs, and I was wearing long pants. Natural bug repellent does nothing (except make me smell like a candle) and DEET-containing sprays are very bad for you if you don't wash them off daily (long camping trips? showers? ha.) I can't figure out how to avoid these things while still performing my job, but an idea popped into my head regarding their forced removal from the world.

Mosquitoes are known carriers and transmitters of disease. These horrible animals suck up infected blood from one mammal, carry it around a bit, then shove it uninvited into the flesh of another mammal, infecting and frequently killing them, without ever contracting the disease themselves. This made me wonder--to what extent do mosquitoes interact with other skeeters? do they have skeeter mixers? Is there a way for humans to play their game back at them--infect one mosquito, and have it pass a skeeters-only disease to the rest of them? I know poisons are supposed to work like that for colonies of cockroaches, but would it work with a disease? How could that backfire on us? Could the disease mutate and infect humans, or infect all insects, upsetting the food chain? Would they pass it to one another or would it just die with one? Could it be mixed into bug spray--if buggy bites, buggy dies--without being harmful to the wearer? So far I think all insect killers are harsh chemicals that kill by dissolving the critter where it stands, which isn't exactly pleasant for people and pets. I don't want to wipe out bugs altogether, but I seriously can't see any particular value for bugs that bite me but don't wind up being eaten by frogs and birds. Can we isolate the blood sucking bug community and level it?


So I just did a store location search for Barnes and Noble Booksellers in my area, and lo and behold, the first hit was none other than...the Barnes and Noble Bookseller I can see from my porthole and actually could hit with a well-lobbed book of my own. Wow. Impressive. Some mornings this brain of mine forgets my name. Can I trade it in?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We Apologise for the Inconvenience

So. Erm. Wow. I've had an interesting week.

It begins last Wednesday, when I flew out to Berkeley for my cousin's wedding the following day. It was a beautiful civil ceremony with sunflowers, beautiful mountains, heartfelt vows, numerous interrelated organisms, silly songs, delicious cake, and too much wine. The following days were filled with family, alcohol, sushi, amazing food, alcohol, Napa, family, excellent friends, alcohol...and precious little else. The weather was beautiful, another cousin's purse was stolen, a dog wandered into the reception hall, the eggs at the hotel breakfast were decent for being so geometrically pleasing, my old house was empty for summer, I installed Kim's window box and held a sweet kitty...and then it was time to fly again.

I arrived at the airport at 9:45pm for an 11:45 flight. The check-in area was completely empty aside from my airline, which had a massive line. All four attendants were working frantically but it was hectic. I waited, numbly, for my chance to get my boarding card cum grocery receipt--seriously, it was ticker tape with a bar code--and just as I approached the desk with 45 minutes to spare, i was asked to stand aside so people heading to Indianapolis could move through. Passengers whizzed through as I stood, confused, and watched the clock tick by. Their flight was early, and was trying to leave early for some reason. That seemed suspect. Eventually they ran out of Indiana-bound customers and I was allowed to check in.

Uh-oh. My flight time was listed as 10:49pm, a time which had come and gone a while ago. The attendant didn't appear concerned. My confirmed time, however, and the time listed on the departure board, which read On Time, were still both 11:45. I thanked the man and hurried off to security to figure out what was going on.

The security line was long but moved quickly, and as I mooed along with the herd I studied another nearby departure board. This one had my flight listed as Delayed. The next time I looked, the flight time had been changed. 2:00A. Some innocent, optimistic part of me hoped that meant 2 minutes after, but the jaded, realistic area of my brain hung its head.

Yes, the flight was delayed until 2:00 AM. Both the 10:49 and the 11:45 had been shunted to this plane, so it was to be packed. Would-be passengers waited, cracking frustrated jokes about missed connections, until they dozed off. People shouted at the desk attendant, who got annoyed and shouted back. I curled up on the freezing floor, after deciding my connecting flight time was surely a misprint, and attempted to sleep. I failed but did get a great carpet mark on my face. When I got up again, shivering violently, I met up with the now-calm desk attendant. I asked if we would be accommodated for somehow in Milwaukee if our flights were insane. She didn't think we would. 'What if I pitch a fit to them?' I suggested. "I think that's an excellent idea. Go for it." she said, with genuine zeal.

The flight to Milwaukee, Wisconsin was uneventful, and I did manage to sleep in that dizzy, nauseated, in-flight sort of way. I always wake up from that every few minutes disoriented, in considerable pain, and still tired. A fourth-grade boy near me, who had been politely asking me questions about air travel since we checked in, had begun mimicking my actions. I'd stretch, he'd stretch. I hung my glasses off the tray table, he hung his glasses. I dozed off, and when I woke again a few minutes later he was cuddled to his mother, his sleeping eyes smooshed into her shoulder. It was cute.

We arrived four hours later, at 8:00AM, and immediately formed a quiet mob around the gate attendant's post. Surprised and very busy she asked us all to wait for our questions until she had gotten the same plane loaded with passengers for Atlanta. We did, patiently, only to find out that thirty passengers, bound for Orlando, had just missed their connection while they patiently waited. Apparently San Francisco had not mentioned that there might be problems, or indeed that the flight had been delayed at all.

I was confirmed through on a flight that would leave in exactly 10 hours, at 6pm. They didn't have any options open for an earlier flight, and they didn't have any means of putting me in a hotel during the day ("had it been night time, ma'am, of course...") but they did offer me a $10 complacency coupon which bought me exactly 1 mini-pizza, 3 breadsticks, and a medium soda at the concourse pizza hut...three hours later, when the restaurants opened.

While waiting and wandering idly I happened to espy a departure board with a listing on it for Washington, DC that left at 2:00pm. What joy! I can get to Baltimore easily from there, and will get home much earlier, I thought to myself. I hurried to the gate attendant, who agreed that that was a fine idea and printed me a brand-new boarding pass, cutting out 4 hours of waiting.

I thought.

The 2pm flight was delayed a little at the gate. Just 30 minutes, and what did I care? There was a train every hour. We boarded, enjoyed the seat belt demonstration, and settled in to watch the day pass in fast-forward as we headed east. Er...North. West? Oh certainly not South. Ah, East that river looks familiar...

Yes, we flew in circles. Big, lazy circles, for over an hour while the control tower in DC held us out of their airspace. There's a big storm, ladies and gentlemen, and its just not safe. The pilot cut another big donut to show everyone on both sides the scale of the anvil-shaped clouds. But...erm...we're running out of fuel. Oh dear.

Another forty minutes found us landing without ceremony in Dayton, Ohio. Half an hour passed while crew and remote operators ummed and erred as to whether we should get off. Eventually they decided we must all de-plane, if only to use the restrooms, and handed us nifty plastic boarding passes to show we belonged. I used the free internet console down the hall and considered getting a drink. I didn't, which was just as well as we shortly re-boarded, found all of our stray passengers, clipped in, revisited the safety lecture, and shot back into the sky. It was 7:30pm.

The pilot had been offered a small window of opportunity by the meteorologists as they projected the storm would have moved a few miles away from the airport, if briefly, in about an hour and a half. We flew to a strict timetable and were able to land comfortably, even as a giant lightning storm raged a stone's throw away. It was highly cool to watch from just under the cloud level, as electricity coursed down from our elevation to make contact with the ground below. A few more minutes and I was marching toward the Metro station and eventual freedom.

Except. The first train was no problem. I had to connect in Chinatown. The connecting train conductor caught my eye as I ran toward the open doors, arms flailing, and pressed the Close button. We all shouted, helpless, as the near-empty train raced away, and settled in to wait the measly ten minutes until the next one arrived.

I arrived in Union station ten minutes too late to get a ticket for the 9:30 train to Baltimore and settled in to wait for the 10:45. A young Starbucks employee suggested I get a triple-shot mega-massive latte, and I took him on it. He was nice, and rather cute, if a bit young. I pondered my rapidly-increasing age and read a little further into Something Happened, by Joseph Heller, which I'd picked up in Berkeley a day and a half before while waiting to go to the airport.

The waiting area filled up slowly, and when time for our train to arrive arrived, we were asked to follow a pleasant train employee...not to the train, but to a smaller waiting room. He apologised, but the 8:40 train had broken down en route, and our train was being used to push it to the mechanic. It was around this time that I started laughing maniacally and the air filled with little golden stars. They wouldn't go away, but I knew they weren't real. I called my mom. She informed me that I was hallucinating from exhaustion, but I wasn't crazy. Reassured, I began to cry and said if the train broke down, I was going to walk home. She suggested that this was a bad idea, and said so in such a calm, soothing voice that I figured she was probably right.

11:15 rolled up and we all boarded, midnight rolled around and we all got off. I got a cab, shared some jokes with the friendly cabbie, was dropped off at my door, showered, and crawled into bed. It was 1:00 this, Tuesday, morning, 29 hours after I left Berkeley, 16 hours after I was supposed to be home. I missed a day of work but my coworkers were glad I made it home safely.

And I did it all without screaming.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

nag champa

I knew there was a reason I should only call my mother from the grocery store--it provides me with means by which I may wander aimlessly and look at things without wandering aimlessly across town until I'm lost. Today I foolishly called her from outside a cafe and wound up following the harbor halfway to the marine terminal before my battery died. I looked around, gained my bearings, and immediately ran for cover as the storm which had been tiptoeing behind me suddenly leapt. The nearest shelter was a head shop with a patient kitty in the doorway who graciously allowed me to scratch his ears before ushering me toward the rack of colorful, beaded skirts. Compelled to at least browse while the sudden downpour ravaged the streets, I did my best impression of a shopper and examined their wares with what I hoped was a look of genuine discerning interest. The store was packed with low-cut summer dresses in Egyptian cotton, which I've always coveted but have always found disappointing on my own form. Typically these frocks are cheaply made for growing teenage girls who will have only fleeting encounters with them--the bust is cut for small, high breasts, the waist is practically aligned with the hips, and there's simply no allowance for a behind of any kind. I must pause here and note that I never had this figure--by the time I lost my baby belly I'd grown the large, jiggly thighs I continue to despise today and completely bypassed the svelte high school body so many women regret losing.
Imagine my delight, then, when I idly tugged one of these gossamer garments from the hanger and found it was cut to flatter a grown-up's shape! I tried several on and found each delightfully comfortable and attractive. Gleefully I skipped from one rack to the next, for the sheer joy of trying something on and having it fit. Thirty dollars and the backside of a raincloud later I emerged from the shop, triumphant, resplendent in bright, flimsy fabric and a pair of $3 paint shorts. Ah, consignment.

I'm heading to Berkeley for a wedding later this week. I'm excited to revisit my old haunt and hopefully will have time to catch up with friends. If you're going to be around, do let me know.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Heat Index or When A Gallon Just Isn't Enough

So it's pretty dern hot and humid out. This weekend saw the first day of hazardously hot weather for the greater Baltimore area so the computer voice on the weather station had helpful tips and reminders for how to stay safe. In addition to the temperature, wind, and waves, the weather voices occasionally are programmed to offer little quips such as "turn around--don't drown!" and "on frosty days, cover your delicate seedlings and bring potted plants indoors." While the voices are a bit more sophisticated than the typical "Alvin" speech replicator, they nevertheless sound pretty funny when called upon to say anything more than "at Thomas Point Light House, Fog was Re-ported. The TEMperature was Nine-ty Four deg-rees. Now for some Ob-Ser-Va-tions from the surrounding A-rea."

In any case, I realized I drank 5 liters of water today and still felt a little dehydrated. We've reached a point at which it's just too damn hot to eat, but if you don't eat you get even woozier with nothing to hold your water. Bleh. Interestingly, this hot weather has brought with it the smell of salt and a number of breathtaking lightning storms, pretty much overnight. I'm glad I got my hair cut when I did--curls plastered to the back of my neck would be intolerable right about now.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

picture time!

Buy Boat Mildred Belle (who just celebrated her 60th birthday on Friday!) in front of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The buoy near the span is actually the Francis Scott Key Buoy, which marks the spot where the British boat was anchored during the battle. If you look closely, the buoy is a cone with the stars and stripes painted on it. The city had just put it out when I took the photo. By the dawn's early light, Mr. Key saw the star spangled banner nearly 4 miles away, at Fort McHenry, visible because the dern thing is 60' long. Mahoosive.

Pungy Schooner Lady Maryland. Near Dundalk Marine Terminal, Fort McHenry Channel. Taken from Sigsbee. I helped raise her topmast. Lady Maryland was built by the Living Classrooms Foundation, for the Living Classrooms Foundation, in 1986. She's 108 feet long.

Sigsbee interrupted a regatta recently down near Annapolis. While these little boats were impressive in and of themselves, with their spinnakers flying, Sigsbee and Mildred Belle ambling through with our historic selves made an impression.

Gratuitous Kitten Shot! Awwwwww look at the Teddy. he's HUGE. Memorial Day '08.

Osprey nest on Day Marker 1, near Dundalk Marine Terminal. This little family just hatched at least two osprey-lets. This pair has been mated for life and returns to this nest every year after going their separate ways for months at a time. They're very protective of their offspring.

My room, from my bed. Yep. That's it. Home Sweet Taney.

My watch tan. I'm trying to get rid of it without burning the white skin.

And my sandal tan. I'm not bothering to try and get rid of it. Its just too funny.

Someone else's racing boat.

as of yet i haven't actually taken any photos Of Sigsbee, but I've taken dozens From her. You can kinda see bits of her.

Please note the original images are massive and not of awesome quality. I wouldn't bother waiting for them to upload. Well, they look great when they've been auto-scrunched by your browser. If your browser does the auto-scrunch thing. Mine doesn't.