It was a triathlon, in an out of shape, over 50 sort of way.

We still haven't been able to fill up the cars since the gas panic Wednesday night. Not that we tried very hard, but the one station we pulled into on our way home from choir rehearsal Thursday night was out of gas. (It's not that our choir meets two nights per week; we sing with two churches.) So instead of driving to the park for our thrice-weekly run, on Friday we rode our bicycles.

  1. Ride to the park.
  2. Run (or walk/run in my case)
  3. Ride home.
  4. Jump in the pool.

Works for me. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 3, 2005 at 7:02 pm | Edit
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Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
The terrifying power of panic to disrupt and destroy was best illustrated this week in Iraq, where the stampede provoked by rumor of a suicide bomber killed and injured innocent people in numbers exceeding the wildest expectations of any individual with a bomb in his backpack.

As a far-off planet reflects the fiery sun, panic made its power known here on Wednesday, also. Driving to choir rehearsal on Wednesday night, we could have filled our gas tank easily at any of a number of stations along the way, for the price of $2.69/gallon. On the way home it was a different story. While we had been happily singing, word began to spread that Florida was running out of gasoline. The Orange County School District cancelled all non-essential bus service (sports, field trips) and announced that even with the cutbacks parents might have to begin driving their children to school in another week. This was enough to convince half of Central Florida that they needed to buy gasoline, NOW. Those calm, quiet gas stations we had passed earlier in the evening now had lines of waiting cars that stretched for blocks, and police officers on site to keep order. Prices had jumped at least 10 cents per gallon. A few stations had no lines—because they had run out of fuel.

We chose not to join the snaking lines, trusting that our 3/4 full gas tank would see us through until the situation stabilized. During hurricane season, the recommendation is that you don't let your gas tank get below half full. Maybe that's a good idea year 'round, because it wasn't Florida's disaster that caused this shortage.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 3, 2005 at 5:08 pm | Edit
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Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Even before Hurricane Katrina, when we were paying around $2.55 for a gallon of gasoline, the adjustments made necessary by the increased price fueled many a news story. From the tone of the reports, one would think we were in a crisis of terrible proportions, but their content was encouraging. People now had to think twice, it was said, before making a trip by car. They were combinging trips, carpooling, using public transportation, walking, and riding bikes. All of which looks like good news to me.

News reporters, it seems, are most enthusiastic when reporting bad news, and love to expand problems into disasters. I don't believe you can call our fuel problems a crisis, even post-Katrina, any more than I believe we have an obesity crisis, although most Americans are undeniably overfed and underexercised.

Nonetheless, I will use the media's terms and make the encouraging prediction that if we don't interfere with the process too much, the energy crisis may go a long way toward curing the obesity crisis.
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 3, 2005 at 4:31 pm | Edit
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If you have contacts in the Mississippi area, please check out this friend's plea for locating missing relatives.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 2, 2005 at 7:40 am | Edit
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Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Pressure is increasing on schools to remove that nutritional disaster called soda from their vending machines and replace it with healthy fare like water, juice, and milk. In response, the soft drink manufacturers, not to be caught with their profits down, have succeeded in spinning milk into soda. Take a delicious bottle of milk, add sugar, artificial flavor, and sometimes even carbonation, give it a name like Milky Way, Starburst, or Bubble Blast, and voila! — a drink no calf would recognize. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at 7:53 pm | Edit
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Category Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
By this time last year we had already experienced our first major hurricane, Charley, but Frances, Jeanne, and Ivan were September storms. Now we are not even into September, and we are up to K in named storms, with Tropical Depression 13 forming in the Atlantic.

Unless she takes an unexpected turn, the bull's eye of Katrina's target is New Orleans, but even far-away Pittsburgh is preparing for trouble, fearing heavy rains will cause flooding and trouble for the area's dams. Last year the remnants of Ivan made quite a mess of Western Pennsylvania. Our friends in Ohio and Indiana may be in for some rough weather, too. But it's New Orleans that needs our prayers most at the moment.
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, August 28, 2005 at 9:38 pm | Edit
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Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
In England, Darren and Debbie Wyatt are fighting in court to save the life of their 22-month old daughter, Charlotte, who is severely handicapped. Charlotte is no Terri Schiavo, with her parents and her legal husband in disagreement over her medical care. The Wyatts' battle is with England's medical and legal system, with doctors who insist Charolotte has no "quality of life," and a court ruling giving the doctors authority, against her parents' wishes, to refuse to resuscitate Charlotte if she stops breathing. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 26, 2005 at 10:32 am | Edit
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Category Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
We awoke to our first hurricane warning of the season: Hurricane Katrina is heading towards South Florida, but that doesn't mean we're in the clear. It doesn't look like anything we need to worry about, but it's worth noting. I observe that the first hurricane warning comes one letter of the alphabet further than the last hurricane warning of last season.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Typhoon Mawar is aimed straight at Janet, and it's a lot stronger than Katrina. I'm trusting the mountains will remove some of its fury before it reaches Kofu. Classes have been cancelled for the first two periods tomorrow, although the teachers still have to come to school.
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 25, 2005 at 7:08 am | Edit
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Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
This has been going on long enough I'd better post a notice here: our phones have been out since some time after 3:30 p.m. today. This is the biggest problem we've ever had with our almost entirely delightful AT&T CallVantage Voice Over IP service. It's not a local problem, as other CallVantage customers in the midwest and on the west coast have reported the same problem. Apparently when you call us, you get the "All circuits are busy" message. If we try to call out, we have a dial tone, and the phone appears to dial, but the connection is never made.

We can still access the Internet, except for getting our phone messages; we can't access the CallVantage site, which also tells me this is a major problem, and that it is AT&T's, not ours.

I'll post here when service is restored. In the meantime, I have my cell phone on, and you can post messages here (via comments) if need be.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 22, 2005 at 5:42 pm | Edit
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Category Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
After lunch we used our United Arts two-for-one card to visit the Orlando Museum of Art and their new M. C. Escher exhibit. I’ve been a fan of Escher's works for as long as I can remember. The travelling exhibit is from Portland, Oregon, and most of the prints were anonymously lent. The collection represented works from the obscure to the famous, from all periods of his art. University of Central Florida composer Stella Sung created the ambient music for Orlando’s presentation of these works, and the exhibit was complemented by a video presentation of Escher-inspired animations created by UCF students. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, August 21, 2005 at 5:12 pm | Edit
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Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
It hasn't been this hot in Orlando since 1950.  Today's high was 97 degrees, officially, though when we were out in the car its thermometer read 100.  Naturally we chose today to struggle about  a dozen heavy boxes up the the aluminum ladder and pack them into the attic.  But there was really no point in waiting till October....
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, August 20, 2005 at 4:45 pm | Edit
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I've noted before some of the problems with epidural pain relief during childbirth, and my latest reading, Lise Eliot's What's Going on in There: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life confirms my worries. Here are a few of her concerns: (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 12:15 pm | Edit
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Category Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Nobody's Fool, by Richard Russo (Random House, New York, 1993)

I can't say as I recommend Nobody's Fool, since it's the kind of book that makes me want to wash my brain out with soap afterwards. However, I will admit that his characters are somehow so human (if not humane) that the sleaziness seems essential to their characters and not gratuitous.

The incentive for reading a book that would not otherwise have attracted me was learning that its fictional town of North Bath is based on Ballston Spa, New York, which is not far from where I grew up. It was easy to recognize Schuyler Springs as the real-life Saratoga Springs, and other places that I know (Albany, the Northway, the Adirondacks) are not disguised. Unfortunately, all I know about Ballston Spa itself comprises one family, one home, and one church, none of which is evident in this story, for which they all should be deeply grateful.

My experience reminded me of another time I read a book solely for its setting: Catcher in the Rye is set in Wayne, Pennsylvania, another of my home towns. That book was no better, though probably no worse, than this one. It's been a long time since I read it, and I have no intention of doing so again, setting or no setting, so I can't say for sure.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, August 15, 2005 at 3:38 pm | Edit
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Category Reviews: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
I'm reading an extraordinarily important and fascinating book: What's Going on in There: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life (Lise Eliot, 1999, Bantam Books). I'll probably end up making several blog posts out of quotations from this book, so here's a start. I always wondered why deliberate smiles, such as those manufactured for photographs or in an attempt to look more cheerful than one actually is, usually look so false:

[S]miling is not voluntary. Although you can willfully concoct your face into a smile, this kind of “polite” smile uses only the muscles of your mouth. Genuine smiles, by contrast, also involve a specific muscle that surrounds the eye, the orbicularis oculi, and movement of this muscle is entirely involuntary.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 12, 2005 at 8:00 am | Edit
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Category Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
There's purpose and meaning in all aspects of our lives, even the seemingly random incidents. We don't often have the privilege of glimpsing the pattern as well as I did last night.

Our local Target store has a two-layered system of checkout stations, which makes finding the best line a little more complicated than usual. After checking out several in the first tier that turned out to be longer than they looked, I found an almost-empty line in the second tier and headed for it. When I was almost there, a man popped up from another direction, striding determinedly toward my goal. Not wanting to fight him for it, I swerved and settled on the nearest available station.

While I was standing in line, a fellow customer looked at my purchases and asked, "Is that clear contact paper?" It was. "Where did you find it? I've been looking all over for it." She had come up empty at Wal-Mart and found nothing at Target. I was not surprised, as the first time I tried to purchase contact paper at Target I couldn't find it and neither could the clerks I'd asked for help. But I'm a seasoned clear contact paper buyer now, and upon entering the store had headed immediately for the sign that says "Small Electronics" and picked up the last three rolls. At the checkout line I was therefore able to hand one of the three to the very grateful woman and her more grateful daughter, who I'm guessing needed it for a school project.

It was gratifying to know there was a good reason for my comical, pinball-like bouncing around at the checkout stations.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 9, 2005 at 7:09 am | Edit
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Category Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
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