Monday, July 29, 2013

The Plague

So my friend John posted these two posts (1, 2) with regards to squirrels found to have the bubonic plague in southern California.

It reminded me of a story the CIH (certified industrial hygienist) at Kleinfelder told us of work he did on a base in Wyoming or Colorado.

Their health and safety briefing including a warning to avoid the prairie dogs in the area.  Apparently, prairie dogs are normally shy and keep their distance from humans.  Unfortunately, the prairie dogs on the base were infected with bubonic plague, and the sicker ones were lethargic, and unable to flee from curious humans.

Now, we all in the modern age know how the plague was spread, and that the fleas would leave the dead or dying body of the rats and jump to nearby humans.  A similar thing was happening to the prairie dogs, with the added bonus that the sick ones were too weak to run away from the humans.  Those humans who had not been warned would approach the prairie dogs and get within flea jumping range.

I think I'll just avoid all rodents for a while, thanks.

(And as I tag this post, I discover that I've already told this story...)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Reading to Come

So last night I finished Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's The Long War.  (Yes, yes, I know, some wars are longer than others...)

I enjoyed the concept in the first book (The Long Earth), and I appreciate the story this time, but each book has ended with a big event that seems to only be there to set up the next book.  I think this is probably more Baxter's influence than Pratchett's.  Terry always wraps things up neatly at the end.  (Perhaps it isn't just an American sensibility then...)  That's not saying I won't read the coming sequels, it's just that the end of the book kind of comes one or two commercial breaks before I think it should really end..

I my reading queue I've got two new collaborations by Larry Niven, and then I'm probably going to re-read Discworld before the new book come out.

But first I'm reading Prophet of Bones.  I heard about Ted Kosmatka's new book this iO9 article.  And I found the concept intriguing.

Now, I'm not the kind of guy that reads the credits of video games.  I don't even always know the names of the people in the bands that I like.  (Yes, I know there isn't really a Pink Floyd.)  But the Portal saga runs parallel to the SimCity series for my favorite computer games.  And so I thought I would have to try this one out.  I just started it this morning on BART, so I'll withhold judgement for a while.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Birthday Weekend

So it was a busy weekend.

Friday I worked from home doing an online course for my 8-Hour HAZWOPER refresher, and in between sections, I went into the city and had a dental exam.  It appears that the silver fillings were not done very well, so I was scheduled to get a new filling on one tooth for Monday and we'll keep an eye on another one.

Saturday, on the day, Jennifer took me shopping, ostensibly for a new outfit for the evening's celebration.

We went in to San Francisco Center, and started the day with gelato.  Then we went to David's Tea and got some loose leaf.  For clothes, we found a cool jacket and a shirt at Express, but the shirt didn't really go with the jacket.  So, we just trotted up to Nordstrom and just happened to hit their anniversary sale.  We got two really nice shirts, one that I ended up wearing and another that we ordered to get the correct size.  That one has these great royal blue stripes and crisscrosses.  I'll wear that one soon.

So we went back home, relaxed for a bit, and then put the outfit together with other pieces I already had.

And that night we went to Bourbon & Branch with two other couples.  We even got the upper room.  We started everyone off with the Laphroaig Project which is Laphroaig Whiskey, Chartreuse, and citrus.  TI has an amazing mix of flavors that blend and separate when you drink it.  Then we all just experimented with different mixed drinks.  Then because none of us had eaten since around lunch, we went to Nopa for a late night dinner.

Sunday, Jennifer and I rode out on our bikes and had donuts at Golden Gate Donuts, and then went to Piedmont Springs for a hot tub and sauna experience.  After that, it became a supplies shopping day, and we did runs from Target and Trader Joe's.

Yesterday, I got my new filling, and came in for work afterwards.

This weekend, we're looking forward to the Berkeley Kite Festival.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Be Cos, Be Cos, Be Cos, Be Cos, Be Cos....

I just read this, and I am so happy.

There's nothing up yet at Comedy Central, but this is exciting news.

I can remember my parents talking about getting to see Bill Cosby live at one of the Chevron conventions.  They even have a picture of them together.

My first exposure to Bill Cosby was through "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids".  It was a show right up there with Looney Tunes, and I loved watching it.  It wasn't until a few years later that some other Chevron kids introduced me to his stand-up.  They had to albums: "The Best of...", and "When I Was a Kid".  And when I learned about then, I listened to them whenever we were over at their house.

Then we moved to Kentucky, and the charity my parents were volunteering for had an auction.  I bought two things at that auction (live too, not silent).  I got a black, baseball mitt which I would use for a good 20 years and a promotional LP copy of "Bill Cosby: Himself".

That's when I stared looking around, and soon found out that some libraries had records you could check out.

So I began to grow my Cosby collection.  TDK SA90 all the way.

It was at this time that my physics class partner in my Maryland high school and I used to run whole routines back and forth during Physics lab.

As I worked my way back and around, I heard the evolution of the Cosby kids, and that Fat Albert's car with a Cessna airplane engine was originally attributed to someone else (whose name I am ashamed to say, I cannot remember right now).  Then there were the routines that I recognized as having been turned into Cosby Kids episodes (the Chicken Heart, the hernia, the game of buck-buck).

Not long after my parents saw and met Bill Cosby, his son Ennis was killed in a shooting.  I thought he would stop performing because it was obvious that while he loved his four daughters, Ennis had a special place in his heart for his son.  He did take some time off, but he returned and kept providing humor to all of us who have enjoyed his work for years.

I am certainly looking forward to November, and a new show.

Jumping for Joy

So my latest binge read was Steven Gould's Jumper series.

...Except for Griffin's Story which was written as a prequel for the movie.  That book sucked.

Jumper came out in 1992, and I was instantly a fan.  It is a book about a boy named Davy Rice who becomes able to teleport, and how it affects his life.  There are other events that follow that direct his development, and the book just gets better.  It's a 5-star book.

I wanted a book every year like some of the other authors I was reading at the time.  Jumper became one of those books that I would read every year.  And then when our GURPS group started a psionics campaign, I shaped my character around Davy.  My character even keeps a copy of Jumper in every home he has, and often has a copy on him as well.

The sequel Reflex came out 12 years later, and tells the story of Davy's wife Millie.  While it doesn't have quite the same fun behind it as Jumper did, it's still a really good book.

Then there was 4 years of silence, and then a tease with a short story called "Shade".

Last year, he wrote a third book called Impulse, the story of Davy and Millie's daughter Cent.  Yes there's teen angst to it, she's only 16, but there's also the continuing story of Davy and Millie doing their good deeds, tracking those who are hunting them, and dealing with their daughter.

Everything after Jumper is 4-star stuff.  That's probably my perspective because the first one caught my imagination so much, but that is not to say that 4 stars are bad, they just weren't as captivating as the first.

I can only hope that Gould writes more in the series.  Soon.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Haste Makes Waste

So, sometimes things go differently than what you expect.

At MacArthur BART (and most BART stations), it is stated on signs and therefore, predictable what train is on which track.  This morning I came up the stairs and there were two trains waiting at the platform.  On any normal day, from the stairs, Concord/Pittsburg/Bay Point trains are to the right, and Richmond trains are to the left.  The doors to the trains were open, so I rushed into the nearest car, and waited for the doors to close.

As the train took off, I started reading, but I noted that we got to a tunnel before stopping.  I thought I must have not been paying attention, and missed Rockridge.  Then the next station we stopped at was underground.  Neither Rockridge, not Orinda are underground.  Then right before the doors closed, I heard the voice of the operator say, "Richmond."

Damn, wrong train.

So, I got off at Berkeley, thankful that there was a new bike policy in place from July 1 allowing bikes in the commute direction, and rode back to MacArthur where I got on a Concord train, and ended up at work no earlier than I had been getting there.

Friday, July 05, 2013

8,500 Pages

So, Wednesday I finished Sandworms of Dune.

With the completion of the series, I read just about 8,500 pages.

There are probably other books that will come out that will be designed to fill in portions of the story, but the over-arcing tale is complete.

I have to admit that Brian and Kevin did a pretty good job of writing like Frank.  There are still bits of the story that I wish had gone better, but I am happy to have read the complete tale.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


So BART is on strike.  And being in negotiations with someone over buying my car, I didn't really have  way to get to Walnut Creek.  I explained my situation with my office manager, and he gave me permission to work from home.  At least this week.

So I've been working in my home office with my work computer.  I've reviewed boring logs, and have been working on reports.  Yesterday was so nice to sit with Jennifer and have lunch together.  And the weather has been so wonderful.

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