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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Genome Kelly's LiveJournal:

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Friday, September 29th, 2006
8:52 am
"I'll buy a vowel..."
Independent of any judgment concerning her qualifications for both major elective offices she has sought in the past couple of years, the ongoing brouhaha concerning Jeanine Pirro's marriage http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/29/nyregion/29marriage.html strikes me as a throwback aaaall the way to the mid-1980s. Anyone else remember Vice-President candidate Geraldine Ferraro and the investigations and innuendoes regarding her real-estate-agent husband John Zaccaro??
Wednesday, September 27th, 2006
8:44 pm
Mahmoud comes to America
I'll 'fess up: I broke the Sabbath and first-day Rosh Hashanah observance by watching C-SPAN's rebroadcast of some of last week's proceedings at the UN General Assembly.

There's one thing that struck me as... oh-so-subtle in Ahmadinejad's press conference. Nobody called him on it.

He spoke of how Palestine has Muslim, Christian, and even Jewish residents. And how they all ought to have a voice in a one-state pluralistic democracy (I'm elaborating upon his remarks a small bit here). And how everything was hunky-dory until the British Mandate period and all those Zionists arrived.

Hmm... Why am I hearing an echo of the notorious Nazi sympathizer, Amin Al-Husseini, the 1920s-1940s-era Grand Mufti of Jerusalem?

Could it be... that Al-Husseini threatened the British Mandate authorities if they did not block European Jewish immigration prior to the Nazi final solution? He more or less said "we'll tolerate the Jews who are already here, but no more of them."

Could it be... that once Al-Husseini fled to Berlin he personally oversaw the training of a Bosnian-Muslim SS division that participated in rendering the Balkans Judenfrei?

Could it be... that Al-Husseini's advocacy of real-deal genocide was enthusiastically greeted by wartime Arabs?

But - lest we forget - according to Ahmadinejad the Holocaust never happened.

Current Mood: disgusted
8:32 pm
waitacottonpickinminute...
...Before you go shopping for a merger target (remember what happened the last time??), and before you begin paying dividends to your present shareholders...

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/27/technology/27qwest.html

...you better pay-up on that class action lawsuit settlement to the US West shareholders you fraudulently deprived of value when you engaged in a stock-swap merger based on the telecomm bubble pricing aided by your overstated earnings.

(Even then, we'll be getting only about 20 cents on the dollar.)
Thursday, September 21st, 2006
8:56 am
MacGeekery
(i) When TechTool Pro 4's diagnostic module running on a MacOS X Panther volume pops up to tell you "incorrect valence" - don't ignore it. Eventually, the extents B-tree and other low-level directory elements will become either excessively fragmented or corrupted. The symptoms of erratic application freezing and trackpad non-responsiveness might be the least serious problem you'll encounter, though they're pretty damned bad.

(ii) TechTool Pro 4's e-mail notification feature won't work if any one of the following is incorrect or obsolete: your e-mail address, your password, or the SMTP server (esp. if you work from several different locations and the SMTP servers are picky about client IP#s).

(iii) Having a hard drive partitioned such that you have MacOS 9 and MacOS X on separate bootable volumes is very useful for diagnostics. IF you can switch startup disks and observe normal functioning from the non-X volume, you have a big clue that hardware isn't at fault. Unless, of course, the directory damage on the MacOS X volume progresses to a really severe state.

Of course, none of these will necessarily prevent you from spending parts of three days before you get to the, um, root of the problem.

ObSigh: *sigh*
8:49 am
The Wisdom of Crowds...
Call me old-fashioned, but one of my near-absolute daily habits is enjoying coffee while reading a physical copy of the New York Times national edition. With finite time and individual tastes & interests, I barely scratch the surface. So now & again I supplement my own selections by examining the NYT On The Web and clicking-through to articles on the 25-most-emailed list here http://www.nytimes.com/gst/mostemailed.html. After all, the consensus of many thousands of people concerning what's most important or interesting can't be entirely wrong.

What's independently interesting is to compare that consensus opinion of noteworthy articles to the rarely overlapping list of articles here http://www.nytimes.com/gst/mostblogged.html.

I guess what you want to blather about, and what you want your friends to know about, are two different things. Or, more likely, the blatherers and the informers are substantially non-overlapping subsets of the NYT-On-The-Web readership.
Sunday, September 17th, 2006
6:04 pm
A bit of a backgrounder...
...If you want to learn a bit about the neighborhoods I grew up in & near, go to these weblinks (courtesy of my sister):

http://www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/borderlinefarrock/farrock.html

http://www.forgotten-ny.com/NEIGHBORHOODS/rockaway.beach/rockbeach.html


Non-native New Yorkers, former New Yorkers, and tourists are likely to learn a helluva lot by perusing forgotten-ny.com more generally.
Monday, August 28th, 2006
3:36 pm
"That begins with A, right?"
Another anecdote in the continuing decline of America, courtesy of my sister.

Over the weekend she had occasion to shop for groceries, including fresh produce. I think she was shopping at a Trader Joe's, but it really doesn't matter. The cashier held up a piece of produce that he/she did not recognize it. The cashier asked my sister what it was - it's easier to get a name for searching the produce photo/price-gallery than to try and match shapes and colors.

"That's an avocado," my sister said, flustered by the question.

The cashier's response outdid the initial inquiry: "That begins with A, right?"




We're both really quite befuddled what vowel the cashier thought that word _might_ have begun with. It's not like my sister has some sort of crazy-ass impenetrable accent, even by Long Island standards.

I told her that the next time that happens, she should say "That's where guacamole comes from," and see what kind of response she gets.

We both laughed, and then I hastily added, "I know, I know - sarcasm and snarkiness are unpleasant character traits that I need to work on keeping in-check."
Saturday, August 5th, 2006
9:59 am
MRI Part IV
Yesterday I had the first of the post-surgical followup MRI scans. Two interesting procedural differences from the three previous pre-op scans.

First, the intake receptionist had a new question. Usually they ask about stents, shunts, artificial joints, possible metal debris in the eyes, and whether you ever experience claustrophobia. These are all routine & obvious questions. The new intake question is "do you have any tattoos?"

Before answering, I asked the intact the intake receptionist "why do you need to know?" Her explanation is that, apparently, tattoos perforrmed overseas often use inks & dyes that contain _lead_, which - as a metallic substance - can heat up rather painfully in the intense magnetic field generated by the MRI scanner. Helpfully, she thought, she added how it was a plot point in a recent episode of _House_, though I doubt the new policy was inspired by viewing a tv show.

(My answer was yet-another in the long list of "no"s I had provided to that point.)

The second difference is that, as of 1 July, the MRI department hired a full-time phlebotomy nurse-technician. ALL MRI patients now have an IV line inserted (top of hand, inside of elbow, your choice; they don't _exactly_ give you a choice to say "no"). As I've said, I'm rather experienced in MRI at this point - and I fully understand the necessity of injecting contrast dye for the second round of images. But apparently, an IV makes it a whole-lot-easier to _quickly sedate_ someone who, unexpectedly, throws a claustrophobic panic attack, or someone who just squirms way too much and ruins an image-gathering session. (A blown run is 45 minutes of precious equipment operational time.)

Me, I've never had a problem in an MRI scanner. In fact, I close my eyes, breathe deeply, relax, and nearly doze off.

Even through the earplugs, I can hear just enough of the MRI mechanical sounds to perceive an almost zen-like quality in the repetitiveness; I notice the changes in pitch and rhythm as different types of scan are performed; I recognize a lower-pitched, lower-volume underlying _basso continuo_ if you will.

Listening to an MRI in operation is not that different from listening to music composed by Philip Glass.
Monday, July 31st, 2006
7:00 pm
Help!
I've been a little zoned out the past two months post-surgically to read the extremely fine print in shareholder-and-proxy-voting mailings, so if someone would kindly explain WTF corporate restructuring involving Vodafone PLC ADRs occurred on the NYSE today I'd be grateful. TIA.

Current Mood: perplexed
Sunday, July 30th, 2006
5:58 pm
boxes...
The furniture from Long Island was in-town-delivered on Friday, along with the various cartons I'd packed (with help from my sister & the Amok Canuck). Problem will be finding place to store the contents of the boxes. Some are kitchen articles that I anticipate actually using (e.g., antique long-handled brass pots for brewing Turkish coffee - which my maternal grandmother used to quite frequently). Other kitchen items are special-occasion-ware (e.g., the poultry carving kit and the crystal highball glasses).

Then there are the _books._

Five cartons are "Judaica" - including prayerbooks and Torah texts dating to the early 1920s and the late 1870s. It's not entirely obvious which were published in the US, which in Austria, which in British-mandate pre-independence Israel, which elsewhere. Others are contemporary, e.g., ArtScroll Mesorah Series, but with my uncle's handwritten notes (the obligatory purloined bank deposit slip as note paper) inserted as placeholders. At least one of these has a nice dedicatory inscription from my uncle's rabbi.

A handful of books were used by my uncle when he was a boy; others presumably belonged to his father.

I've got a pocket-sized prayerbook which has French translations (!) of the Hebrew text. Don't recall its antiquity, but I assume that our distant cousins in Tel Aviv were the source.

Of some importance - since the contents of none of these boxes were thoroughly listed while they were being packed - is finding the Special Items I've set aside to give to one of my best friends here in Birmingham.

Current Mood: contemplative
Wednesday, July 26th, 2006
9:09 pm
Merely mortal
I had a conversation this afternoon with one of my faculty quite-colleagues, by which I mean he's more of a friend due to certain aspects of common academic heritage. It meandered, as all good conversations do, and it turned to the topic of the pharmaceutical industry.

A professional acquaintance of his has discovered 300 commercially successful drugs, all derived from natural-product lead compounds. The work involved purification and isolation of the individual agents (his career probably began well before automated/robotic/microscale assays, so some of this work must have been _incredibly_ tedious); synthetic organic chemistry to perform structure-activity-relationship studies to optimize each drug for safety and efficacy; and cloning of the relevant microbial genes to use genetic engineering rather than industrial-scale chemistry to obtain key intermediates more efficiently and inexpensively.

I'm not sure which made me feel more inadequate: (i) the sheer scale of this man's research output - though of course he didn't do it all alone, and probably over the course of several decades; (ii) that one of his drugs has saved the eyesight of literally _60 million_ people; or (iii) his annual royalty stream is $100 million.
8:03 pm
broken hearts that can't be fixed
Both my aunt & uncle had major open-heart surgery quite late in life - one was a mitral valve replacement, the other was an aortic valve-replacement-plus-three-coronary-artery-bypass grafts. Medically, both surgeries were complete successes, but the patients both died. My aunt, because her condition was not diagnosed promptly and she was severely weakened when she finally went in for the operation. My uncle, because he simply didn't want to live as a post-surgical kidney dialysis patient and, more importantly, without my aunt. Though they were brother and sister, they had shared a home their entire lives, and my uncle was literally, irreparably, broken-hearted by losing my aunt.

A couple of days ago I received email from a former M.S. thesis student. I hadn't seen him since he graduated from my old lab in 2000. As a part-time student with a full-time job it took five years for him to finish, so we got to know one another relatively well. We have only intermittently been in e-mail contact since then. He opened a new email account and was informing his "undisclosed recipients" of the new address. I replied, noting that his birthdate was still part of the account name & wished him belated happy birthday. I asked for an update regarding both his professional & personal life, to the extent he was willing to share.

I knew that he had some sort of congenital heart malformation, which was surgically corrected while he was young - or at least younger than when I met him. This explained his fascination with the molecular genetics & developmental biology of heart formation, research papers about which he never ceased to present in our lab journal club despite their total irrelevance to our own work. I didn't discourage him because one of the functions of graduate education and journal clubs in particular is to get people reading _and thinking_ about research papers, perhaps especially outside their normal sphere of interest.

One day years ago I discovered he was part of an internet support group for people who had similar heart defects. He'd become quite expert in the area, and had befriended a woman living on the US East Coast. He'd met her often enough to move from Chicago to join her, and a year later in the summer of 2001 they were wed.

Today I learned, in response to my inquiry about his personal life, that he had had his heart surgery performed by THE Dr. John Kirklin here are UAB. Kirklin was a gifted cardiac surgeon, one of truly international stature (his recent obituary in the New York Times was quite lengthy and included a photograph, befitting his significance to medicine). The main outpatient clinic (designed by I.M. Pei, no less) is named in his honor. Not only had Kirklin saved my former student's life, he inspired his interest in science. I never knew _any_ of this before.

Today I also learned that his bride of four years had a heart defect that could not be corrected and she died last summer. He wrote, more or less, that they had both married with their eyes wide open as to the risk of this eventuality. Yet being widowed at age 37 is something I _cannot_ imagine.

There's an old Yiddish saying that roughly translates as, "You think _you_ have problems??"

And indeed, by way of comparison, No, I do not.

Current Mood: sad
Tuesday, July 25th, 2006
8:21 am
The shredding continues...
I kept neatly organized boxes of every cancelled check I wrote beginning in mid-1980 when I first arrived in California. The other night, I began shredding them. Most, of course, were prosaic utility bill payments. However, the last check I wrote in Pasadena (March 18, 1988, thereabouts) was for $756.35 (or so, I don't have it in front of me) payable to United Parcel Service.

See, while living in California I lived in furnished student housing (it was more akin to matchsticks, but that's another story), and in typical student fashion I had makeshift bookcases built of plywood boards and cinderblocks.

So... moving for my post-doc involved boxing all my LPs (remember them?), CDs, floppy disks, computer, hard drive, stereo system (the electronics in their original manufacturer's cartons, of course). My dad flew out to help with the packing, while my sister spent several days in Westwood hanging out with an old K-12 friend she hadn't seen in years.

When it was all done, I had something like 50 boxes weighing 1500 lbs. All of them very neatly packed, taped with fiberglass-reinforced packing tape, neatly labelled, including the obligatory handwritten "Box 1 of 50," "Box 2 of 50" etc.

Fortunately, a friend with a Chevy S-10 Blazer offered to transport the entire shipment, with my father & me in the D-Mobile, over to the local UPS office.

It was a Friday afternoon. Once the clerk got a grip on the sheer scale of my shipment, she (he?) called over a second clerk to open a line to handle _all the other customers._

Personal service at UPS. Wow, what a concept.

This is separate and apart from the overnight-express transport of fly stocks I wanted to have in Cleveland, and the Special Handling at the LAX FedEx Office for the dry-ice-containing styrofoam boxes that contained my clone collection I needed/wanted in there. Both matters I'd attended to prior to my father and sister's arrival.

After we got the UPS shipment out of the way, my sister returned from Westwood. The three of us then piled into my car first-thing Saturday morning, with the TV-on-the-backseat-for-which-I-had-no-shipping-box. I remember my last morning in LA as being "spring-time" dreary/drizzly.

We made the run in five days: Overnight stops in Flagstaff, AZ, Amarillo, TX, Springfield, MO, and the western "suburbs" of Indianapolis. I had planned the route (primarily "southern" to avoid potential mid-March winter weather further north) and the schedule with near-military precision (my dad was particularly proud). Across the Texas panhandle, I-40 was so utterly straight, flat, and empty of traffic that I allowed my sister, who was then just beginning to learn how to drive a brief run on the interstate. In St. Louis, we stopped to eat the supermarket-bought coldcut sandwich lunches we had prepared by shopping in Springfield the evening before. We had some spare time, so we bought tickets for the tram that took us to the apex of the Gateway Arch.

Upon arrival in Cleveland, we checked into a delightfully designed hotel called the Alcazar. While run by Christian Scientists, some of whom are permanent residents (think of it as part-hotel for the general public, part retirement home for CS believers). "Via con dios" adorned the Moorish styling of the building. We parked in an archaic-looking underground garage, scoped out the nearby Norton's and Russo's, and arranged to buy Holmes County Amish oak furniture for my new apartment from Design Union (all of which, nearly 20 years later, is still in daily use).

But this isn't the real point of the post...

In that box containing the last cancelled checks from my time in California was a series of ticket stubs, torn in half, representing various concerts or theatrical performances I'd attended. Many were incompletely dated, and the performer's name only fragmentary. How they got stuck in with the cancelled checks...? Probably a weird bit of space-saving on my part.

"Chicago" playing the Hartford Civic Auditorium in 23 November 1976. His insurgency to stop Jimmy Carter's nomination having failed, Jerry Brown was touring with Chicago for fund-raising to pay his campaign debts. A sketch of where the musicians stood on stage and a playlist I made are book markers in my copy of Morrison & Boyd's _Organic Chemistry Third Edition._ Other ticket stubs included a dorm-trip to see _Equus_ at the Helen Hays Theatre, spring 1977, Arlo Guthrie and Shenandoah performing at the Wesleyan dining hall in October 1977, a Berkeley-theater-in-the-park performance of _Othello_ that my other old roommate & I attended in the early 1980s, "Renaissance" at the City Center for the Performing Arts in March 1978, which I attended with the Great Unrequited Crush/Infatuation/Object-of-Attention of that time in my life, the valedictorian of my high school graduating class. There's another playlist bookmarker, and a "rest of the story" not fit for print). There are other ticket stubs as well in that check-box.

I really ought to assemble the concert & theatrical stubs in one place - Branford Marsalis here in Birmingham I've got handy, but what about Marcus Roberts and Herbie Hancock? What did I do with the Wynton Marsalis ticket from his performance in Chicago's then-newly-refurbished Orchestra Hall, circa 1999? Trevor Pinnock & The English Concert playing Severance Hall in Cleveland, circa 1989? The truly precious ticket stubs from the last New York Mets baseball game my dad & I attended before he died? The Wesleyan campus performance by Orleans from the fall of 1976? The list could go on and on.

Some people keep scrapbooks or "memory boxes." I keep scraps - sometimes at random, and the memories in my skull - sometimes with frightening clarity.
Sunday, July 23rd, 2006
12:59 pm
Every piece of paper tells a story, don't it...
"Inspired" by the chaos my sister & I have contended with this past two years with my aunt & uncle's haphazard filing of some crucial financial documents, and by the sheer mass of random receipts stuck literally everywhere, I've been busy shredding lately.

In my case, old bank account & credit card account statements are neatly organized in pendaflex folders. Credit card purchase receipts are matched up and stapled to the corresponding monthly statement, each bundled into an account-specific annual folders kept in chronological order. I have every tax return I ever filed, dating back to 1981. I think I've got all the supporting documentation for charitable donations and Sch-A deductions, etc., properly filed with each year's return - though by statute I am not required to keep any of these more than seven years

These papers date back over 20 years, the oldest decade of which occupy two filing-boxes in my garage, which I use for storage.

I've been taking everything prior to 1997 and destroying it (except for tax returns, which I am keeping intact). Strictly speaking there's no legal requirement for me to keep most of these records; the 1997 date is arbitrary based on which stuff is newer and in my apartment in filing cabinets, versus which went into deep storage.

But every now & then I pause to look at the receipts themselves. Here's a random assortment:

There's the traffic ticket I paid to the Kane County sherrif on-the-spot by credit card in March 1995. This was when PJB was still a graduate student at FermiLab and we had regular get-togethers for "video night." I had just left PJB's house and was driving a surface road back to I-88 around 1AM when I crossed the line from a 55mph-zone to a 45-mph zone. I didn't have time to slow down from 60mph before the sherrif pounced and wrote me the ticket for 15-over ($75, with a $3 service fee for taking a credit card number rather than surrendering my driver-license as bond).

There's the $80 towing charge when, in February 1994 I couldn't park in _my_ designated spot because the management office hadn't yet plowed the parking lot and someone had "slid" into my spot. Trickle-down or domino, take your metaphor, but one of my neighbors was a complete jerk about the fact that my car was in his spot, and had my car towed to make room for _his_ car. Management allowed me to deduct the $80 fee from my rent, but they didn't compensate me for the taxi or the inconvenience of retrieving my car from a Jim Croce-esque junkyard-dog-grade impound lot.

"The Incredible Machine" was a personalization-gitt-item store in Pasadena, from which I bought an engraved lucite desktop nameplate for SS when he assumed his first faculty appointment in 1986. (I remember the store being located in a tall glass atrium miniature shopping center off Lake Avenue just north of Colorado Blvd, that was shared with Primo Gourmet, one of my favorite lunchtime restaurants of the day, a Gund stuffed-bear store, and the Dirk Cable antiquarian bookseller). A flurry of receipts for mail-order software purchases made in the immediate aftermath of buying my first personal computer, a Macintosh Plus in March 1986 (steep campus discount that, but I haven't found the paperwork for it yet). My very first credit-card purchase was a dinner with RKW at Americo's Crazy Pasta Pizza House in Pasadena late in 1985. The travel agent's receipt from when I booked a round trip LAX-JFK for June 1986 (remember travel agencies????) - the dual purpose of _that_ trip was attending the engagement party of my old college roommate GMD, and attending my 10th-year high school reunion. Good gawd, I just marked my thirtieth-year HS reunion, which I suddenly realized meant that GMD & UTWD are going to have a 20th wedding anniversary this fall! Not long after the tenth-year HS reunion, I flew one way to Cleveland, met my dad, and drove the "D-Mobile" back to Pasadena - I'd just learned how to drive that spring, in response to GMD's offer of taking his old car off his hands if Certain Conditions Were Met [tm]. My father & I drove that car Cleveland-Pasadena in four days - straightshot I-80 to I-15, stopping in Des Moines, Cheyenne & Provo.. (somewhere among my dad's effects, in my sister's storage locker on Long Island, are the unnanotated photographs he took). We arrived in Pasadena in time to watch television coverage of the rededication of the refurbished Statue of Liberty the Fourth of July 1986. I have every gas receipt and Motel 6 bill of that road trip. First day, Cleveland to Des Moines, I didn't let him drive my car. He was _furious_ with me ("I'm not here just to ride shotgun!"), but the steaks we had at that restaurant in Des Moines were the best we had _ever_ eaten.

I found a pizzeria receipt from my solitary birthday dinner in 1989, when I turned thirty and nobody in my lab group took note of the event. Like this year, in 1989 my birthday fell on a Friday.

There are the receipts circa 1988-1990 from The Greenhouse Restaurant, equidistant from my apartment and lab on the edge of the CWRU campus, and Sunday brunches at Norton's at the base of the Cedar Road hill, and lab-group dinners at Mama Santa's down the block in Cleveland''s Little Italy neighborhood, and groceries bought at the Russo's across the street from Norton's and around the corner from the Design Union furniture gallery. There are receipts for CDs bought at The Music Box in Cleveland, and at Classics Unlimited in Pasadena.

I wonder, are any of these sole-proprietor/small-family-businesses still open, under their original names & owners??

There's the first-ever statement from a credit card account I opened for the sole purpose of "reimbursible professional expenses." That was the month in 1989 I drove from Cleveland to New Orleans by way of Atlanta. In one direction, my route skirted Birmingham, but who knew back then I'd eventually come to work at UAB? Just handling the receipts from New Orleans establishments brings back memories of the conference hotel, and how we'd all flow-out into the French Quarter for lunch & dinner. I spent a lot of time at that meeting hanging out with WWM & RNN & MK, the latter of whom was a Tulane alumna who knew _all_ the good eateries. (Suddenly I'm reliving the contact-high I felt upon entering Jackson Square Park one afternoon). I still remember seeing freighters glide by _above_ the sidewalk promenade-level, and marvelling at a city below sea level. But who knew the disaster awaiting Nawlins, or that in the four pre-Katrina years I lived a six-hour drive away from it I'd never get 'round to visiting the city a second time.

It's odd to be at _this_ age and deliberately destroying the most-prosaic imaginable physical evidence of the places I've been, the things I've done, as a student, a professional, as a human being. While the receipts are, in some cases, yellowed and crumbling, mere marginalia of my life, the memories they evoke are none of these.

(And I've got four more accounts to go through!)

Current Mood: nostalgic
Wednesday, July 5th, 2006
6:31 pm
A bad habit I've got to break...
I have a Southwest-cross-branded Visa card. I buy just about everything using it because the dollars-spent transfer into points towards free travel on Southwest Airlines.

There's a lot not to like about Southwest - the group-ABC open seating system and the densely packed Boeing 737s - but they _do_ frequently serve the airport which is most convenient WRT family. And as those who know know, in the past three years with the sick-and-dying relatives and the tangled aftermath therefrom, I've been flying BHM-BWI-ISP _quite_ frequently.

So between travel-credits and cash-purchase-credits, I literally accumulate free-travel vouchers faster than I can use them.

Shame of it is, I think these free-travel vouchers aren't transferrable - and if they were, the Most Likely Candidate For A Gift Round-Trip does not live conveniently near a Southwest-served airport. *sigh*
Sunday, July 2nd, 2006
5:24 pm
spot 'em, frame 'em
In the course of decluttering my apartment, I came across an undeveloped and unlabelled roll of 35mm-slide film. I was _assured_ by the sales person at the Target photo department that she could ship said film out for development by a partner firm as had been done for me in the past, and that it would take a few days for it to come back. Friday afternoon I received a voice mail at home that, um, somebody had screwed up and developed the slide film using their in-store automatic development machine suitable for print film. Needless to say, um, it didn't quite turn out right. This morning I dropped by to pick up the pieces & try to figure out if I could figure out what in blazes had been on the film. When all said and done, it appears that the film was a series of scientific presentation illustrations from ca. 2000. The only images that were even vaguely recognizable were a probable exposure-series of 600dpi black-print-on-plain-paper laserprinter output done back in the day when we used 35mm cameras with macro lenses, copy stands, and tungsten floodlights to convert hardcopy into 35mm-transparency slides (the Target employees to whom I tried explaining this to reacted as if I'd fallen from another planet). It's not obvious whether the exposure series _really_ spanned 24 different conditions of a single image, ranging from totally black film to totally white or whether there were other images, in color, that were completely toasted by this accident. It was so clearly a Target personnel training problem: (i) the clerk should have known "no, we don't farm out 35mm slide film any more and can't accept your business;" and (ii) the technician running the machinery should have actually read the film cassette to see that the required process for _my_ film wasn't supported by _his_ machinery.

At least I got a Target gift-card out of it (though, really, I should have asked for double the value of what they gave me).

In other news, both my Plan A and Plan B lunch partners have apparently stood me up and haven't returned my phone calls regarding finalized plans.

Current Mood: irritated
Friday, June 30th, 2006
10:23 pm
wierd bit of google-ania
This showed up in a google-related window:

"There is more to life than increasing its speed." - Mohandas Gandhi

Um, Steve Jobs, take note: maybe we didn't need a PPC G5 laptop let alone Intel dual-cores after all.

Current Mood: amused
9:12 am
Old moon, new moon, blue moon
Three nights ago I made a _shivah_ call. The 74-year-old brother of one of my morning minyan acquaintances had died. The tony-suburb home of the son of the deceased - my minyan acquaintance's nephew - was where the family was sitting. I didn't know most of the people - the deceased was a member of a different congregation, and most everyone attending were Birmingham natives rather than transplants - but the important thing to me was offering condolences to the brother whom I _do_ know, and to his wife.

Amid the conversation at such gatherings was a peculiar one with the now middle-aged childhood friend of the deceased's daughter, who had driven from Memphis for the funeral and _shivah._ After quick introductions, said friend, whom I had never met before, didn't hesitate to ask me for help finding work in the general area of clinical-research-trial participant recruitment & followup. As a Registered Nurse, she certainly has relevant qualifications, though it's not at all obvious I have the relevant contacts.

After the obligatory hour or so of circulating and making sure I'd expressed condolences to all the right people, I left the house and stepped into a spectacular summer's evening: Warm and dry, shortly after dusk, with fireflies flitting about the gardens and driveways.
Hanging above the house the new moon was visible along with Saturn very nearby (see http://skyandtelescope.com/observing/ataglance/article_110_1.asp). The thin crescent was noticably enhanced by prominent Earthglow (see http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap060629.html for a photo-enhanced version of what I _might_ have seen just a few days earlier).

It's much better that such a sad occasion be ameliorated by a cooperative climate (BIME).
Thursday, June 29th, 2006
6:55 pm
Anniversaries, part I
The week I was fending off GI-tract-madness had some interesting anniversary dates. For example:

June 15, 2001: The big truck loaded in Chicago. The following day, the then-girlfriend and three cats joined me on the drive down south. We stayed overnight in a pet-friendly motel in Bowling Green, KY. I took the keys to my apartment on June 17th & let the cats in. That day and the following day we bought miscellaneous household items in anticipation of the big truck's arrival and unloading on the 19th. Weds 6/20, the then-girlfriend boarded a CRJ for the run up to O'Hare. Those were the days when unticketed riffraff such as myself could walk through the metal detectors, and then wander an airport concourse. Watch as the passengers buy overpriced sample-size toiletries they had forgotten. Watch as the passengers buy goofy "Kilroy Was Here" type gifts. Watch as the passengers crossed the tarmac to climb the CRJ's built-in staircase, only to have airline employees "gate-check" the bags that are small enough to carry on a typical airplane but too large for the CRJ's overhead bins. Watch as the plane pushed back. Watched as it taxied to the far end of the main runway. Watch as it accelerated, lifted off, turned and banked and then vanished into the distance. As that day wore on the humidity built up; I think that afternoon we had a brief but torrential downpour along with lightning and thunder. It was the first such afternoon transient thunderstorm to occur daily for what felt like the next two weeks.

That was my welcome to Birmingham, where the air is thick with humidity half the time and thick with history all the time.

Flash-forward to 2006: Just last week one of my non-academic friends took me on a pet-supply shopping run. Post-surgically I continue to have restrictions on what I am allowed to do, and hefting 20-lb bags of cat food and litter were just over the line of what's permissible. I remarked to her about the date - that it had been exactly five years and two days since the big truck arrived. "You know what _that_ means, don't you? she asked me. "I'm afraid to ask." "It means you're an ALABAMIAN now!" I resist that appellation mightily.

I look back on some of the e-mail I'd written in May & June 2001 regarding my expectations for life at UAB, and the estimated duration of my stay here. "Naive" doesn't begin to describe it.

I've been quite contemplative these past few weeks regarding the life I've made (and not made) in Birmingham, but those will be the subjects of other posts.
6:33 pm
Victory Tax
Firecat's recent post regarding decluttering struck close to home. Well, to _two_ homes, actually, though my packrat-tendencies are not at issue here.

My recently deceased aunt (Jan 2004) and my recently deceased uncle (June 2005), who were siblings who shared a home their entire lives were _notorious_ for not throwing anything away. This has left my sister & me in an unenviable position - having to literally handle _every_ scrap of paper in their house in order to ascertain its significance.

In late April I returned to Long Island for a weekend to attend the unveiling of the footstone at my uncle's grave. Upon returning from the cemetary, my sister & I spent about six hours working through paperwork.

My aunt & uncle had kept _every_ tax return they ever filed, dating back to 1942. My task was to shred my aunt's papers. If we had the time (I certainly had the inclination!), we could have learned an awful lot about our aunt's life - when she reported changes in job title, when salary raises came into effect (which we could have cross-referenced to personnel record file copies she'd kept elsewhere in the house), that sort of thing. We could have learned an awful lot about the development of the US tax law - when did terminology such as Form 1040, W-2, W-4 and the various flavors of Form 1099 come into being, for example.

But the most interesting observation was how during 1943-1945 (if memory serves) they didn't pay an "income tax." Rather, they paid an "Income And Victory Tax."

Those two additional words conjured up the image of how an entire nation mobilized _all_ its resources - human, natural, industrial, financial - to defeat fascism. Tens of millions of able-bodied men served under-arms, some volunteered, others drafted; almost a _half-million_ died in combat. Tens of millions of women (many earning good wages for the first time in their lives) worked in munitions factories which had been converted from civilian use (carrier-borne Wildcat fighters, originally designed by Grumman, were built by Ford Motor Co. under license, for example). Paying for the war effort was done _off budget_ (sounds familiar, no?) but that's what Victory Bonds were about. That, and siphoning civilians' income from chasing after too-few civilian goods and creating inflation.

So two little words on the top of a moldy old form underscore the vast differences between the Roosevelt Administration's conduct of World War II (which was not without controversy at the time) and the current administration's conduct of the greater war on terror(ism).

One imposed a Victory Tax. The other seeks to repeal the estate tax.

And some of us wonder how the "American Century" got frittered away.
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