Monday, September 26, 2005

"Looking at the Literature in Massage Research" students from AMTA conference--promised PowerPoint

Hi, all--

2 things:

1) I am returning to Philly today (Monday), and within a couple of days will get the promised PowerPoint and PDFs put up. I didn't have time to do it here, because the system administrator for my web page isn't available on the weekend, and he's got some kind of anti-hacker protection set up where I can't upload from strange locations. So by the time he and I coordinate this, given my flight schedule and the time zone difference, it will be a day or so. Look for the promised lit no later than Thursday.

2) Rather than putting it here, as I initially suggested--which, typical of a personal blog, is a very unfocused space, where you would have to pick through cat pictures, and personal gossip to find it--I decided to create a dedicated space to post the lit, and, if there is interest, to continue our discussion. So the blog address I gave you in the workshop comes here, and you're welcome to check out my personal blog, if you're interested. If you're only here for the literature, you should go to Massage Journal Club to get the promised literature no later than Thursday. Just click the name to be redirected there; you don't need to retype the URL.

Thanks for a great workshop, guys! Four hours sitting in a classroom on a Friday afternoon talking about introductory statistics had the potential to really bog down, but you were engaged, attentive, and asked great questions the whole time. I couldn't have asked for a better session.

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Mixed messages much?

Not sure which, because this trip has been a blur of work from the moment I arrived until I leave today, but either Albuquerque is more dangerous a city than others I've stayed in, or else the staff of the Hyatt is more cautious than most. I've never before stayed in a hotel which felt the need to put a disclaimer on the city maps they give guests:

It is not recommended to walk/jog alone or at night. If walking/jogging, always carry identification. Remember, you are walking/jogging at your own risk and just as you would be careful in a familiar area, be more careful in an unfamiliar area. Please be aware of your surroundings and keep alert at all times. The hotel accepts no responsibility for any guest who chooses to walk/jog.

I'm getting the feeling they don't think I should walk/jog alone here. But just when the cumulative effect of the message is starting to get a little much, and I'm expecting the next sentence to be something about be sure to leave the name of your next-of-kin with the front desk so someone will be able to ID the body, they whip around to end on an oddly perky note:

We hope you have an enjoyable and safe stay!

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Saturday, September 24, 2005


It was my honor and my privilege to call Damian Potts not only my colleague but also my friend. It is a little over a year now since he passed away from cancer.

Damian was not only scary smart--I remember his presentation of Redelmeier et al's "The beguiling pursuit of more information", and he would have been a brilliant informaticist when he finished--but he was also funny, kind, generous, and quirky. I was only able to make it to the last Kidney Party, but it was a tradition that he carried on for about 10 years after his kidney transplant. His friends gathered for food, fun, songs, stories, and art with a kidney theme in honor of Damian--and he had many friends.

His wife Leah has established a scholarship endowment at the Northwest Kidney Centers Foundation.

Team Damian is doing the Dawg Dash for the second year in honor of Damian. Unfortunately, I won't be back from Philly in time for it, although I will be able to be there in spirit by making Hawaiian-shirt memorial ribbons for the team.

My favorite Damian story (after the jokes that are so inappropriate that I am not going to post them here): Knowing of my interest in comparative anatomy, he asked me a question he had gotten during a recent Trivial Pursuit game: "What is the only animal that has four knees?" Mystified, I finally gave up. "The elephant!" announced Damian triumphantly, since the joints of its forelegs and hind legs point the same way.

I objected on ontogenetic grounds, and pointed out that a spatial rotation of the olecranon (elbow) did not transform it into a patella (kneecap), and that therefore the question was wrong in its assumptions.

Damian just looked at me pityingly and said, "I bet you don't get invited to play Trivial Pursuit much, do you?"

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Seemed like a good idea at the time...

"Oh, sure", I said. "To save a couple hundred dollars on my flight to Albuquerque, I don't mind stopping over in Houston", I said.

That's how the world's biggest chickensh*t flyer ended up flying into a hurricane zone. It wasn't pretty on a lot of levels.

That place (Bush International Airport) had grown totally feral by the time my flight actually departed Thursday night. Still, compared with what some people experienced from Hurricane Rita, I got off light, so I won't complain too much.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Goodbye, Lenin

I saw a sweet little comedy over at the college the other night--Goodbye, Lenin, a German film from 2003. It was predictable at times, yet quite funny overall, in a German, rather than an American, way.

The plot is a farce based on the measures taken by a brother and sister to prevent their mother--who dedicated herself to the East German Vaterland and all its trappings after her husband escaped to the West, and who awoke months later from a coma she fell into one month before the Berlin Wall fell--from finding out about the reunification, in order to prevent the excitement from causing her another heart attack. As I mentioned, it's predictable in some places, yet in toto quite enjoyable.

I don't want to get into spoilers, but I will just mention that there is a clear difference of sensibilities between the American and the German one, displayed in this film. Having not long ago argued with a fanatic Christian apologist over at Pharyngula about whether it's ok to lie to a dying child about its prognosis, I suspect the concept: "A brother and a sister remake the Marxist workers' paradise in a small East German apartment to spare their recently-awakened mother from falling into another coma" would make his head explode. Still, for me it was quite funny.

I also suspect from one of the characters in it that the director either is poking fun at some of his film-school colleagues, or else engaging in some self-deprecating humor. The "2001" scene made me laugh out loud.

Go see the film; it's worth a view, and if enough people see it, I'll stop being so coy about spoilers and actually start discussing details.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Whatever did we do before Google?

Sitting here in the cafe, working on my research, I've had the opportunity to chat with a couple of different strangers here. One woman came in with her two sons, obviously lost. She was looking for an address in the neighboring town, and she and the barista were unable to figure it out from the phone book.

Easy solution--I google'd the place, and then google-mapped directions to it from the cafe, all in less than a minute. So here I am able to give directions to a place I'd never even heard of before in a different town, courtesy of Google's information repository.

Before coming out to Pennsylvania, too, I had scoped out all my bus routes, my commute to work, my shopping from Seattle--I'm trying to remember how much trouble being in an unfamiliar new place used to be pre-Google. Mercifully, I seem to have forgotten.

I first came across the name "google" in one of the great books of my childhood, Mathematics and the Imagination. If I can get a copy from the library, that would be worth reviewing, after I finish the reviews currently in progress.

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I just got Mooned!

While I was writing the Isadora post below, I was approached by a young Russian boy, a missionary from the Unification Church, trying to sell me some jewelry. Nothing especially remarkable about that encounter, except he acted and sounded just like Andy Kaufman's Latka character from Taxi, which was amusing enough to keep me talking to him a little bit longer than would otherwise have been the case.

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A dollar short and a day late: Saturday cat blogging at the local wireless coffee shop

I found a workaround for the graphics problem I was having--taking my laptop for free wireless access at a nearby cafe. They don't take Visa, though, so I had to stand there with my ice cream cone in one hand rummaging through my backpack for pennies to pay for my "rent".

I'm also a day late for the traditional Friday cat blogging, but that's ok--it'll just stand out more that way.

This is Isadora:

Isadora is a "feral" rescue from Yesler Way. (She's about as feral as Grandma Walton, but that's beside the point, as she was abandoned and starving when we trapped her.)

She had obviously belonged to someone as a kitten, because she was wearing a pink collar several sizes too small for her. It was so tight that it interfered with her eating (believe it or not, she was actually very skinny when we found her), and could have strangled her if it had been left on much longer.

Although she's quite reticent on the subject of her ancestry, we think she's fully or partially Maine coon cat, because of her size and coloration.

She has a cauliflower left ear. When we trapped her, she had a bad case of ear mites, and our best hypothesis about the cauliflower ear is that it must have itched so bad that she scratched it hard enough to cause a massive hematoma, filling it with blood and distorting the underlying structures. When the blood was reabsorbed, the cartilage must have collapsed.

(this is from an old, classic post on my web page. update at the bottom.)

Since moving in with us, though, to the Feral Cat Welfare State, Isadora has been doing really well. She no longer has ear mites, and she is eating well. But lately, Isadora's developed a new problem.

Click here for a clip of the problem.

She insists on sleeping on the mantel over our fireplace. But the mantel is not as wide as she is, and so she has to balance. This is not a problem when she's awake, but when she falls asleep, and totally relaxes, then gravity takes over. (By the way, that thing about cats always landing on their feet is apparently true only when they're awake. We've arranged the boxes here so that she only falls about a foot or so, rather than 4 or 5 feet from the full height of the mantel to the ground, and landing on her head or something.)

This is happening about ten times an hour now at peak times. We've been waiting for her to wise up and quit climbing back up there to go back to sleep, but after several weeks, she shows no signs yet of wising up in the least.

The problem is, the mantel is only 4 inches wide. Isadora's ass, by contrast, is 7.5 inches wide.

So we are going to build a cat shelf on the mantel to accommodate the width of her ass, and (we hope) stop the falling. (End of original post)

(Update: Finally, we got so sick and tired of this, we blocked off the entire mantel with boxes of books, and kept it that way for a few months. Although it was like living in a Costco, when we finally moved the boxes away, Isadora had totally lost interest in the mantel, and in a 180 from her previous obsession, never tries to go up there anymore. But we still enjoy watching the movie and laughing at her, even if Isadora has moved on from that phase of her life.)

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Ahror's making his way in the world

Ahror, the young Uzbek man who came here for surgery and left with a computer science degree (see "Congratulations, Ahror!"), is off to a great start.

More news to come soon; he doesn't want me to give away the surprise--not yet anyway. But we're very proud of him.

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Our little girl's all grown up!

Hua Mei just gave birth to twins! One male is being kept in an incubator; we don't yet know the sex of the other, because it is remaining with its mother. In the wild, when a panda gives birth to twins, one usually dies, but in captivity, all efforts are tried to keep the second cub alive, as in this case with the incubator.

It doesn't seem that long ago, but it was actually all the way back to 1999, that Hua Mei herself was born in San Diego.

The Seattle Games Night crowd celebrated her 1-year birthday with a cake, though it proved impossible to get a bamboo cake locally.

Then it was time for Hua Mei to go home to marry.

Then she was watching panda porn.

Then she gave birth last year, and now again this year.

祝贺, 好熊!

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