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Friday, February 20, 2009

Corrolation

SciAm posted this little article about a study that found a correlation (a really pretty strong correlation) between the likelihood of a stroke and the number of fast food restaurants in your neighborhood. Now when I started reading the article, I thought, "Wow, that's weird. I wonder why." And that's what all the scientists reading this are thinking too. And lots of folks are probably designing studies right now to figure out closer correlations, with the hope to eventually find something that points to causality. Is it that the availability leads to a higher likelihood of consumption, leading to a higher fat diet? Is it that there's something in the air pollution produced by the restaurants? Is it that folks in those sorts of neighborhoods are somehow less likely to get exercise? Is there something else these neighborhoods have in common? There's a whole boatload of "Why?" to go with a result like this.

But correlation is not causality at all. I get to the second to last paragraph where a restaurant industry trade group is slamming the study. This study is "seriously flawed," they say, the study shows "no correlation whatsoever between dining at chain restaurants and incidence of stroke." Um, okay, nor did it show a causal relationship between eating your food and having a stroke, but that doesn't make the study flawed. It just says there's a statistical relationship between the number of fast food places in the neighborhood and the incidence of stroke. Don't you want to know why? I do. And this opens up avenues for so much exploration of why, so why get your panties in a bunch over it? It could turn out to have nothing to do with fast food. Unless of course you already have other studies showing the relationship between dining at fast food restaurants and risk of stroke (or heart disease, or something else), and you don't want anyone going and poking their nose in there to look more closely. Or maybe you already have a study about the smoke coming off your grills and deep fryers? I don't know, but your reaction makes me suspicious.

Meanwhile, will we start seeing realtors producing neighborhood maps showing the incidence of fast food restaurants in the neighborhood the way we do now with little maps of schools and their test scores? That could go both ways actually, because I suspect some people love their MickyD's enough to select a neighborhood based on how easy it is to get a Happy Meal on the way home. Also ironic, their definition of what makes a place have a lot of fast food means that Berkeley, haven to granola-eating hippies and foodies, has one of the higher incidences of fast food restaurants around, though I defy you to find a Burger King or Carl's Jr. in the city limits.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Living the California Way

I went to see Wicked last night, which was fabulous. Stayed with Sherman and Alex in Alameda and headed to work this morning. The fog wrapped around the Fremont hills and the bay was blue and foamy as I crossed the bridge. Arriving at work, I sat down and a few moments later, Nuriya asked if I wanted to be a Bird Sister. I was puzzled, but game. She had little temporary tattoos. All the ladies of Spruce Hall are sporting little Indian-style rust-colored bird tattoos. So I poured myself a cup of coffee while Nuriya applied a tattoo to my hip. Then I sat down to get to work. That's when I had that overwhelming feeling of "only here, only now". There's so many ways it's true. As much as I love dressing up and visiting the worlds of the past, I'm really glad I'm living my real life now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dollhouse

It didn't suck! Yay! I got a call during the last ten minutes and was surprised to find that I didn't want to wait to see the rest.

And then it ended, and the monster said "Grr Arg" and I clapped with glee. I missed that little guy.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Bad Horse Chorus

We were the Bad Horse Chorus, complete with new lyrics for induction into the ELE. Complete with cowboy costumes. Complete with facial hair.
mmm... real hair, but not any you grew yourself
A fun new way to torture your boyfriend: fake moustache!
Oh yes he did!

Dundracon

Went to DDC 33 this weekend. It was the perfect little holiday get away, just 30 minutes from home in San Ramon. A nice hotel, a cute boy, and games three days in a row.

Here's the big confession: I enjoy LARPing. Yep. That makes me one of the worst sorts of geeks. But I have to say, it scratches the itch that I get to act. It's improv. It's costumes. It's goals to achieve and mysteries to solve.

I ended up in three games this weekend. I think my favorite was Aaron's BSG game, aboard the Argus before the assault on Caprica. Most of my con friends were playing the L5R game that Wayne was running or the Mutant Saga. The BSG was a small game, but that's part of what made it awesome. I was the chief of staff to a politician. We were touring a new ship. Since the cylons hadn't been seen for 39 years, the spending on such things was questionable, but my guy was old enough to remember and he was a hawk who wanted to be ready when they came back.

At least, that's how it went at first. Just as I was getting discouraged, thinking I didn't have enough power to really get past the walls everyone was putting in my way, I got handed a sheet of paper. I'd seen papers go out to lots of other players periodically throughout the game. Mine said I was a Cylon sleeper agent. Hell, it said I was a Six. That explains why I'd had the attribute of "Stunningly Beautiful". Hunh. Okay. Make contact with the other Cylon I know about and get a message out using the comm system on a Cylon frequency. Through a special moment of serendipity, just as I figured out I was capable of what I needed to do, the comm officer left her post for one of the few times all night. I sent my message, and a half an hour later, we won. Well, the Cylons won. All the humans died when the base star arrived and took over the ship.

Anyway, it was a hoot. Well scripted and a small enough group that everyone was pretty involved in the same plot.

On Friday, in the Pajama Game LARP, I was one half of a super-popular couple - the fashion model and the race car driver, returning to camp for a charity benefit and deciding whether or not to send our two little girls to camp there. It was just such a burden playing the happy, cute couple with Erik all night! Suffice to say, our kids will NOT be attending that camp. I also played T's Fading Suns LARP, which was intensely complicated, but in a good way. I could've done with an extra 20 minutes to get familiar with my co-players own character sheet at the beginning, but beyond that, it went well. It's a crazy complicated system: a lot of Dune, a bit of Arthurian legend, a bit of Firefly. Fun stuff.

But the highlight for me was running the Evil League of Evil auditions with Erik and Erik. It was AWESOME! Sure, the characters we planned were fun, but boy howdy did some of our best characters and players come from folks who walked in the door prepared. The Cloak of Anxiety came with his own henchman, the Sexatary. He was a classic oily villain, but suave and debonaire, except when he was doubting himself, which was a lot of the time. There was also the Questioner, who would not ever ever ever make a statement. I could go on about it more, but I think we'll be running it again at either KublaCon or Conquest later this year. It was too much fun, and we can see where to refine it now, so the second run should be even better.

It was a really fabulous weekend, but I'm tired and the kitties say I should stay home and snuggle them rather than going out in the rain to drive to Alameda for the ceili.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Yay Us!

Fezziwig's is awesome. We, as a whole, are generally a group of folks who really are committed to giving back to our community. Back in 2007, Danielle suggested that we donate to the school that was hosting us for our pre-Dickens workshops and rehearsals. We enthusiastically helped to complete several pending projects on Donors Choose. This year, we didn't have Danielle to lead the charge, but I remembered that we did it before and consulted with her on the details. The Fezziwigs, who are already buying/making a costume to donate their weekends to teaching Victorian dance and games and pay for registration and parking while they do it, chipped in and completed another batch of projects on Donors Choose. I just got the thank you note from one of the teachers this week. As I read through the list of donors, I realized that every last one of them was a Fezziwigger. If it weren't for us, it wouldn't have happened. Yay us!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Browncoat Ball 2009

The Browncoat Ball for 2009 is in Portland. Tickets go on sale tomorrow. I already have hotel reservations. This is going to be awesome!!!

Lion Attack

Going to bed early is great except when you wake up 2 hours later shoving yourself away from your pillow in a fruitless attempt to escape the lion in your nightmare as it lunges to bite your face. (For the record both of my little lions are sound asleep curled up together and not remotely biting me in the face.)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Unexpectedly Teaching Again

Apparently Monday is my day to train people without proper preparation.

Friday, Mark came by. He was shambling. Instead of zombies, he had the flu. He was scheduled to teach Outlook 2007 to 18 people on Monday at 9am, and he knew the odds were poor that he'd be up to it. So, could Jo-Ann or I teach it? I looked at my calendar, looked at Jo-Ann's calendar, and it fell to me. Okay, get through the day, prep for the class after our First Friday Social and all will be fine.

Except I sat down to read the instructor guide and realized my system had Outlook 2003 and I was teaching 2007 and I'd never touched it. That's not good.

Also, there were a bunch of prep emails I was supposed to send to the participants, only I don't have a roster, or access to the system that has it. Also not good.

Okay, so I freaked out a bit. I emailed the manager to ask about the roster and such, and to confess I didn't have access to Outlook 2007. But luckily, my brain said, "Erik got a new computer. It probably has 2007." I called and he said, "Um, yeah, maybe? Not sure, I don't use it." But I confirmed he had Office 2007, so the odds are very good for me, and better yet, using it won't mess up his email because he doesn't use Outlook. And I was planning to be in Davis anyway. Awesome.

So I ran through things using 2003 on my system, then went off to dance myself silly at FNW. FNW was awesome. On Saturday I headed to Davis, sat down, and walked through it all again in Outlook 2007. I got emails back from Nancy and they confirmed that Mark (the original instructor) was recovering from his 105 degree fever on Saturday and is down to a mere 101.4 now and would send the emails on Sunday night or Monday morning.

Off I go, arriving at 8:30. The emails are there. The roster is there. The handouts are there. I teach the class. It's the first time I've taught a hands-on class in three years, but it went totally fine. Pacing was spot on. I don't think anyone got really lost. I count this a big win.

So, that's two weeks, two classes I hadn't planned on teaching, and all is well. It's like I'm actually good at my job sometimes. I like that.

Friday, February 06, 2009

California Weather

This has been a week of unexpectedly delightful weather. Tuesday was so warm and sunny (75 degrees!) that I roused from my chair and went for the stairs at 4:30, not because the caffeine called, but just because I wanted to get up to see the view at the top of the Clark Center. It was just lovely.

Yesterday and today have been characterized by a sort of warm, misty precipitation. It feels and smells like rain out there, but I'm not getting soaked. During a break in the mist, I headed back to the stairs to see the puffy clouds and grey chunks wrapped around the Fremont hills.

They may be getting 6 more weeks of winter on the east coast, but this surely feels like spring out here, for better or worse. And I know this warm rain isn't really helping anything in terms of the nasty drought conditions we'll see this summer, but I can't help but love it regardless.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Books on CD

I love my local library. It's open reasonably late a few nights a week so that I can run in, drop off my two items, and pick out two more. That's just swell.

So last night I dropped off City of Ember, which was alright. I wanted more. I wanted something to the Artemis Fowl level of wit and humor. It wasn't that. It was just a "kids escape from the corrupt and failing city" kind of story.

I also dropped off Assassination Vacation, which was totally awesome! I love that it is such a random rambling about 3 major presidential assassinations, but it's mixed in with weird little anecdotes about her nephew Owen and his love of cemetaries and commentary on Gramercy Park, the only private park in New York City. It's just a hoot. I loved the bit about the Oneida community and how Charles Giteau was probably the only guy who couldn't get laid in a free love community and about how poor Robert Todd Lincoln had the misfortune to be present or had seen the person earlier that day for three presidential assassinations. Anyway, suffice to say, history is rarely so entertainingly told.

I picked up Our Mutual Friend and Sarah Vowell's next book, The Wordy Shipmates on CD. Instead of cursing the pledge breaks on KQED, Sarah shall tell me a story as I drive home.

More Science!

Okay, seriously, too much good stuff today!

Cows with names produce more milk? Mooooooooo!

How about a tattoo that can tell your blood glucose level? It's for diabetics so that they can read their skin rather than having to stab their finger several times a day.

Also: 20 things you probably don't know about fat.

Science!

The science news is just full of fun stuff today. Well... fun, disturbing - you decide!

Eating beef doesn't just clog your arteries, it also contributes to global climate change. Don't want to give up meat altogether? Well, eating chicken produces 13 times less greenhouse gas than eating beef. Go figure. And yes, this is why I originally gave up eating beef in 1990, but I've gotten lazy over the years. This is a good kick to remind me to choose veg (or at least chicken).

Autism and schizophrenia - turns out there's no link to vaccines, but there is a link to the father's age.

In other news, homophobic men are more likely to be turned on by gay porn than their non-homophobic (but straight!) counterparts. Gee, really? You mean guys like Ted Haggard who preach all about the sinfulness of homosexuality might be compensating for their gay urges? Why I'm shocked, simply shocked. Only not. The worrisome part is that these homophobic guys were also more likely to be aggressive against gay men when given the opportunity to hurt them. That's just a shame.

Feeling down? Think fast! It actually makes you happier. (I submit that this is why watching Gilmore Girls used to make me very happy. The content wasn't all that, but the rapid-fire dialogue was always a joy. Same goes for Oscar Wilde plays.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Making Lemonade

Work the last couple of weeks, well, it hasn't been all that. Lots of annoyances and disappointments. Nothing to be done about it besides keep moving forward.

Saturday, I'm at home testing the new release of Zimbra, playing around with a bunch of stuff on a copy of my calendar. I notice that there's this training session I'm supposed to teach for a project where I'd been told they'd hired a trainer to do the full training, so my piece of the puzzle would be handled by that person. That's why there was the random journey to Redwood City. It was ostensibly to hand off my portion to that person, though still, I have to wonder why I had to go to that emergency meeting where no one else showed up til 20 minutes after the meeting start time. Anyhoo, two training sessions on my calendar. I decide to email the project manager (the one who showed up 30 minutes late to the aforementioned (30 minute) meeting). I asked, "Is this still happening?" She replied on Sunday and said, "Yes! Definitely!" and promptly sent out a reminder to everyone invited to the meeting saying that I'd agreed to present this to them. I read this chain of email in horror and frustration. I do not have help desk and order processing training prepared for this project, it's Sunday, the training is scheduled for Monday at 1pm, and I've got meetings in the morning til 11am. This project manager has some major sucking up to do and she doesn't even know it.

So I arrive a few minutes early on Monday, get through my morning chores, go to my morning meetings, and get back to my desk. I heat up some lunch and start putting together a training outline. The project manager stops by and answers a few questions. I keep tinkering.

Then Kevin calls. He's on campus for a UI Test but he doesn't really need to be there hovering. Ordinarily, I'd drop everything and go have a bite of lunch, but y'know, training in T-65 minutes. Not good. But he stops by and we chat for a half an hour (which is totally awesome). With the half hour remaining, I finish typing and formatting my teaching notes and head to the conference room.

The phones aren't set up at 2 minutes to start time. I look to the project manager and she says, "I'll call." I'm thinking, "Um, yeah, good, because... Hello!" Can't teach people how to use their nifty new VOIP phone system if they can't even see what looks like. I'm just not that cool.

But I get through the training content in 40 minutes, and then reach deep into my teaching tools bag and say, "So what I'd like you to do for the last 20 minutes is to familiarize yourself with the phone and the documentation by playing around a bit. Call each other, use the intercom, transfer calls. Feel free to ask if you come up with any questions." And, as if I'd planned it all along, they fell to testing out the phones and worked happily for the remaining 20 minutes, asking me questions, asking the project manager questions, and asking the technician questions.

None of the participants had a clue that 2 hours earlier, I hadn't been remotely prepared.