Poor Malcolm, or, as we're now calling him, Mr. Squirty. I always take
him out with me when I get the paper at 6:30 or 7:00. He has a quick
pee and runs back in the house. I usually take him on a short walk
around 9:00 or 9:30, after the morning traffic has died down.
he started bugging me about half an hour after first-time-out. I took
him out in the front yard. He spent about 30 seconds sniffing around
frantically and then squatted and squirted. Complete with sound effects.
I gave him 2 mg of loperamide. Half an hour later, he started bugging
me again. Out again, squirt again. I didn't want to give him another
loperamide so soon after the first, but after another half hour or so
he needed to go out again. And so we went out every half hour all day
long. I did give finally him another loperamide around lunchtime, and
afternoon passed without much squirting.
Barbara got home about
8:00 p.m., and Malcolm seemed to have recovered. Then, around 10:00 I
went back to bed. Malcolm was lying on the floor, and few minutes later
he started growling periodically. It wasn't a warning growl. I took it
to mean that he wasn't feeling very well. Around 11:30 p.m., I'd just
gotten to sleep, when I heard Malcolm scramble up and head down the
hall at a dead run. I arrived at the front door about 10 seconds after
he did and let him out. He spent about five minutes out in the front
yard, alternating sniffing around and squatting. We went back to bed.
Shortly afterwards, he headed down the hall, I let him out, and he
repeated the sniff
and squat routine. At that point, I decided it'd be better to just
make up a bed in the foyer, to make sure I wouldn't sleep through
one of Malcolm's warnings. So, for the next few hours he'd periodically
come trotting down
the hall and I'd get up and let him out.
I eventually got cold
sleeping on the floor, so I moved to the sofa in the den. I almost
missed one warning there. By the time I was getting up to let Malcolm
out, Barbara had arrived from the bedroom and let him out. That was the
only time she had to get up, fortunately. I ended up letting Malcolm
out several more times over the remainder of the night.
Of course, it was dark outside, so I don't actually know he was
squirting each time. So far this morning, he seems to be fine. He's
whimpering at the moment, but that's usual for a Monday morning after
Barbara's left for work. He'll come pester me if he needs to go out.
Oops. He just came and pestered, and indeed needed to go. I just gave
him another loperamide.
still working on stuff for the biology book. I actually have four
chapters in progress at the moment, the first on equipping a home
biology lab, the second a lab chapter on using a microscope, the third
a lab chapter on the chemistry of life, and the fourth a lab chapter on
culturing microorganisms. In my other science books, I've broken down
the lab chapters into multi-page lab sessions, typically anything from
two to five or six per chapter. For this book, I think I'm going to use
smaller chunks. Instead of having full lab sessions, I'll do a running
narrative with "procedures" embedded in the narrative, with a procedure
possibly being as little as a paragraph or two. For example, in the
chapter on using a microscope, we'll start by making a wet mount (the
traditional letter "e") and have as the first procedure to explore that
specimen at different magnifications, including exploring the use of
the diaphragm. In the next procedure, we'll go through using the
mechanical stage. Then we'll do a procedure on measuring sizes,
eventually ending up with a procedure about using the oil-immersion
objective. The only exception I think I'll make to this is for the
defined AP Biology lab sessions, which I'll do as traditional lab
- Here, I suspect, is a real
for our troops on the ground. Although the XM-25 is described as a
rifle and looks like one, it's in fact a 12-pound mortar with
excruciating accuracy and very high first-shot kill probability.
hundreds of years, soldiers have depended on concealment and cover to
avoid being shot by their enemies. Over the last couple of decades,
infrared sensors, night-vision gear, and other technologies have
chipped away at the value of concealment. The XM-25 deals a serious
blow to the value of cover. Traditionally, soldiers use walls, rocks,
or simply terrain features to shield them from direct enemy fire. The
solution to that has always been indirect-fire weapons such as
howitzers and mortars, which lob explosive ordnance on high
But for the guy on the ground, there's often not a
howitzer or mortar (or ground-attack aircraft) immediately available
when he desperately needs fire support. Even if there is, calling in a
brigade or batallion fire mission takes time, which in combat is
usually at a premium. We're deploying the XM-25 down to squad level,
which in essence means each squad will have what amounts to
mini-artillery under its direct control. If a squad encounters a dug-in
bad guy firing at them from cover, its XM-25 can really
ruin that bad guy's day.
What disgusted me when I read
the articles about the XM-25 was the focus on the price
tag, $35,000 each. Apparently, we're supposed to be outraged
the high cost. My reaction was exactly the opposite. $35,000 is very
cheap insurance indeed if it helps prevent casualties.
Barbara and I have joined the TV streaming revolution. Sunday night, I
gave her a Roku XD|S box as an early birthday present. It actually
arrived last Wednesday afternoon. Barbara was leaving first thing
Thursday morning on a trip with her parents, returning Sunday evening.
So I spent some time while she was gone getting it up and running and
Setup was supposed to take five minutes, but it actually
took about 90 minutes, most of that spent talking to Roku's so-called
technical support. The first problem was that, although Roku claims to
support WPA2, the XD|S refused to connect to my D-Link DIR-615 WAP
unless I enabled standard WPA on the WAP. That didn't make me happy,
but I can live with it. The next problem occurred when I had the Roku
up and connected to my network and attempted to enable Netflix on it. I
kept getting a failure-to-authorize message box. Once there, the only
options were to retry, which simply looped back to the same error
message, or to quit. After going through the whole procedure several
times and ending up at the same dead end, I finally called Roku tech
I spoke to a nice young woman with an American-sounding
name, but that was the only thing American-sounding about her. Her
English was a bit better than my non-existent Chinese, but that's about
the best I could say about it. She was obviously working from a script.
After half an hour of doing and redoing the same things I'd already
done, I finally asked her to bump me up to the next level of support.
She either didn't understand my request or pretended not to. Finally,
still doing the same things over and over, I got a Netflix
authorization code. I told her to hold on, tossed the phone aside, and
quickly entered the authorization code. At that point everything was
working. I'm afraid I was a bit short with her as she went through the
last part of her script, asking me if there was anything else she could
do to help me. I almost told her that she hadn't done anything at all
so far, but I decided she'd probably already had a bad enough day, if
not a bad enough life.
Over the next few days, I played around
with the box, making sure that the quality would be good enough to
satisfy Barbara. It is, in spades. When you highlight a video and click
OK to play it, a progress bar appears for several seconds as the box
caches the first part of the stream. It also displays a number of
balls--presumably one through four although I've never seen anything
other than four balls--to indicate video quality. If the stream is
high-def, HD appears next to the balls.
On our 42" 1080p HDTV,
HD streams look at least as good as cable HD. SD streams are also
excellent, at least DVD quality. The audio sounds fine to me, except
that very infrequently, maybe once in every three or four hours of
video, there'll be a burst of static that lasts maybe a tenth
second. But I consider the video/audio quality to be as good as cable
or satellite. Nothing to complain about.
Which brings me to why
I gave the box to Barbara on Sunday rather than waiting for her
birthday this Thursday. When I set up the box, I went to the Netflix
site and started searching for and adding titles to my streaming
("instant") queue. So far, so good. But the next day when I looked at
my instant queue, I noticed that a bunch of the titles were now flagged
as expiring on 1 December. I thought Barbara might like to see several
of the expiring titles, so I handed her the Roku remote as soon as she
got home Sunday.
I can't find any information about this
time-limited aspect of Netflix's streaming titles. Are these titles
that expire on 1 December gone from streaming for good? Or will they be
back in a week or a month? Other than Netflix, no one seems to know.
Not that it really matters much. Most of the streaming titles are also
available on DVD, so we can watch them that way if we need to. But it
would be nice if Netflix would give a bit more information about
expiration dates, if any. Perhaps they do and I just haven't been using
the Roku long enough to realize it. But from my experience it looks
like Netflix gives only a one-week notice of expirations. It'd be nice
if they listed the expiration date for a title as soon as they posted
it. That way, we could manage our queues a lot more effectively.
Here's a pretty stunning example of data visualization, plotting
average income versus average lifespan for many countries over the last
What goes unsaid is that average income is actually a proxy
for the harder-to-quantify advances in science, technology, and
medicine. But his conclusion is correct, I think. None of this is a
I suspected would happen, most of the items in my Netflix streaming
queue that were listed as expiring today have been moved to the saved
queue, with availability dates unspecified. Presumably, Netflix is
talking to the BBC about licensing them for additional periods. Oddly,
two of the items that had been listed as expiring on 12/1 (two Miss
Marple videos) are still in the available streaming queue. Those
changed status yesterday from expiring 12/1 to no expiration date
listed. I hoped they were just the first, and that Netflix had come to
an agreement with BBC.
With all the streaming stuff, I'd kind of
forgotten about DVDs. Barbara and I are on the 3-at-a-time plan, which
pretty much covers us for all our TV watching. Call it six discs a
week, or nearly one a day. With streaming, we're not going to have time
to watch as many DVDs, so I'm considering cutting back to the 2 or even
1-at-a-time plan for DVDs. I don't want to drop DVDs entirely, because
there's a lot of stuff that's not available streaming. Or I suppose I
could do what most people do: stay on my current plan and just not turn
around discs as quickly. After pillaging Netflix for years to the
extent of averaging probably 25 discs a month for $18, that'd give them
a chance to make a few bucks on me.
have so many balls in the air right now that I'm always looking for the
quickest way to deal with problems. This morning, Barbara left for work
and then came in the front door a minute later. She said the battery in
her garage door controller needed to be replaced, so we did that and
off she went. Then I walked downstairs to close the garage door, which
she'd left open. I pressed the button on the wall, but nothing happened
other than a buzzing sound coming from the opener motor. Hmmm.
my inclination would be to head over to Home Depot, buy a replacement
opener, and install it. But I just don't have time for that kind of
thing. So I called Carolina Garage Door, which we've used before for
maintenance and repairs. I told her I was pretty sure the opener motor
had failed. She asked how old it was, and I told her I couldn't
remember. She said that was evidence enough that it needed replaced.
Even good units, she said, lasted 10 or 15 years tops. She recommended
their most popular model, which she said most of their staff used in
their homes. They're coming out this afternoon to replace the opener
motor. Total cost, parts and labor, is $285. Fine. That's better than
me wasting hours on buying and installing one myself.
- Happy Birthday to Barbara. She turns twenty-thirty-six today, or, as I prefer to think of it, 0x38.
Yesterday was one of those
days. The guy showed up late yesterday afternoon to replace the failed
garage door opener. The new one worked fine, and after he left I
headed back upstairs and back to our bedroom to get something I'd left
there. It was already growing dark outside, so I flipped on the ceiling
light. I got what I needed and left the room, flipping off the light
switch. The light stayed on. Hmmm. I don't think I've ever had a light
switch fail, and certainly not in the shorted position. And a Leviton,
Fortunately, we keep a small stock of spare switches,
receptacles, and other small electrical components, so it took only a
few minutes to replace the switch. Still, I found myself wondering what
else was likely to fail. Nothing, so far.
I read about public school teachers buying classroom supplies with
their own money. I'm sure that happens routinely. Even in the
wealthiest school districts, the school systems don't provide
everything the teachers need or want. I'm sure it also happened
routinely 40 or 50 years ago, when I was in public school. And I know
it's not unusual for teachers to ask students to bring in things from
Yesterday, while I was working on the biology book, I
thought it might be a good idea to see if I could find a high-school
biology teacher who'd be willing to answer some questions I had about
how things are actually done in high school biology labs today. So I
found the web site for a high school near our home and located the
individual pages for the science teachers. I was surprised to come
across this on one of the pages.
items for general class use (extra credit) Any 2 will be a free
homework; any 3 will be a 100 on a quiz. Most can be
purchased at the dollar store.
#2 pencils Pens Tissue paper (Kleenex) White board markers (primary colors preferred) Liquid soap/ sanitizer
It is not a necessity to purchase these dream items but they are things
that will help the class as a whole and your students will get some
extra credit points. Free Homework for 2, free quiz for 3 or more.
I'm misunderstanding this, at least some of our public school teachers
are accepting gifts in return for academic credit. That can't be right,
Things with the book are even more chaotic than they usually are this
early in the process. I now have eight, count-'em eight, chapters in
progress. One of those is the narrative chapter on equipping a home
biology lab. Two others are appendices (I. Formulary and II. Sources),
but the remaining five are lab chapters (1. Chemistry of Life I, 2.
Using a Microscope, 3. Culturing Microorganisms, 4. Staining Protocols,
and 5. Histology I). I'll probably end up with many more lab chapters
stubbed out before long, because every time I come up with a good idea
for a lab there's a good chance it belongs in a chapter I haven't
started yet. All of this is a Very Good Thing. It means things are
coming together fast. There's a ton of work to do, but at least I'm
getting the book very organized very early.
Barbara and I started watching the Australian series McLeod's Daughters on Netflix streaming last night. Barbara was not surprised that I've already picked out a woman to watch, Lisa Chappell.
(Yes, I know she's written out of the series early, but she'll do for
now.) Barbara likes the series, and of course it meets my simple
requirements: a pretty woman to watch. Actually,it has lots of pretty
women. As a matter of fact, it's almost exclusively pretty women. An
ideal series, in fact. What can I say? I'm an art lover.
the first in years, I talked yesterday with an old friend who's a
veterinarian. He's a couple years younger than I am, and we got into a
discussion. He told me something that left me almost literally
speechless. While he was in vet school 30 years ago, he did numerous
surgeries. Everything from simple spay/neuter
surgeries to delicate abdominal surgeries. That was how things were
done then, but it's not how they're done now, or at least not in all
vet schools. Apparently, many
recent vet school graduates have almost no surgical experience. They
may do one or two spay/neuter operations, but that's about it. All the
other types of surgery, they simply read about. When a recent vet
school graduate operates on your pet, it may very well be the first
time he or she has ever done that procedure. In fact, it may be the
first time he or she has done any surgical procedure other than the
routine spay/neuter in vet school.
Surprisingly, the impetus for
this apparently comes from the students themselves, many of whom
consider surgeries done for the learning experience to be animal
cruelty. This despite the fact that the animals used for learn-by-doing
surgery in vet school are treated humanely, given sufficient
pain-killers, and often recover completely. As he said, how would you
rather a vet learn a surgical procedure? By operating on an animal
that had never been a pet, or by operating on a little girl's pet dog?
That's the choice. And the answer seems obvious to me.
seems obvious to me that the first question anyone should ask the vet
when surgery is proposed is: "How many times have you done this type of
surgery before?" To me, at least, it's very unsettling to learn that
many vets are practicing surgery on clients' pets with no prior
experience. It's kind of like finding out that the pilot of the
airliner you're on had never actually flown an airplane before today.
It's snowing pretty heavily. The deck is already solid white, with a
layer an inch or so thick on the railings. The ground is covered. If
this isn't the earliest significant snow on record for Winston-Salem,
it must be close to the record.
Barbara's decorating the tree
and house. I'm doing laundry and working on the equipment/supplies
chapter. As usual, I'm trying to put myself in the position of someone
who knows nothing about the subject to make sure I don't skip past
things like explaining why one might use either gel media and broth
media in culture tubes and what different purposes they're used for, or
what the difference is between food-grade agar agar and culturing-grade
agar, or why one can't use food-grade gelatin for culturing, or why
it's a good idea to culture at room temperature rather than 37 °C until
one is proficient.