Saturday, January 17, 2009

Most repulsive gift ever?

About a week after Christmas, I came home, and there was a package on the front step, in the snow.....marked "Open immediately - live". My wife thought maybe somebody sent you lobster. I thought, maybe poisonous snakes! There was no indication of origin on it, other than the name of the company that sent it, so I opened up VERY carefully.

It was filled with mostly moist straw, and some paperwork. About 5 gallons of moist straw, which was, according to the manual, impregnated with fungal spores. It was a "grow your own mushrooms" kit, mushrooms of the kind you find growing on dead, decaying logs. The manual showed pictures of what, with proper moisture and care, I could hope for.....the bag of straw, with holes in the plastic, would grow tumor-like bulges......

Possibly the most repulsive present I have ever received, but kind of fascinating nevertheless. I still have no idea who sent the best of my knowledge, I have no serious enemies.

Believe it or not, I made the required "humidity tent" from clothes hangers and the enclosed plastic is in my basement, only about 10 feet from where I blog. The bottom of the straw is in a bowl of water I boiled and cooled for the purpose (to remove any chlorine that might be in the tap water)....I have been using a spray bottle of the same stuff to periodically "mist" it inside the moisture tent.

Less than a week after I started the process, I had this (moisture bag removed to make picture):

By today, I had this:

With the moisture bag removed, and the wife giving the shroomie a kiss (for scale), this is what it looked like:

(Note: this was the wife making a sacrifice to please her husband. Don't get the idea she has some kind of mushroom smooching fetish)

To sample the goods, and to be able to get the moisture tent back on, I harvested the largest of my mushrooms and boiled it up. Subtle flavor, a bit like crab. Believe it or not, it looks beautiful to me now. My family, however, still finds it repulsive (although they did sample the simple soup).

Thinking of calling in sick?

Perhaps nobody at your work place has called in with the hockogrockles before!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Health care costs...

Coyote has a blog post which discusses health care plans and prices.

One interesting item I had not known is that price increases have been smallest (lower than inflation) in cosmetic surgery - which is generally not covered by insurance.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Style and Condoms

I don't know whether this really is the "best condom commercial ever", but it has got to be the most stylish

Stupid human tricks

Trying to see what you can get past airport security.

I'll stick with amusements less likely to lead to an enthusiastic cavity search. Not that there's anything wrong with you if you like that sort of thing.

Form vs. Function

Language Log has an inspirational post about politics, presidential phrasing, and "prescriptivist poppycock".

I won't have to pee again for a week now.

Quote of the day

In other words, older women are discriminating, which is why so few films are made for them.

New Yorker

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I freaked out and cried when my mom went shopping for a cute pink skirt....

Yup, that's what my titles would probably look like if I were a woman blogger, at least according to this table of word frequencies by sex. You know, actually it DOESN'T read like my typical title.

On the other hand, I've never blogged about "gb", whatever the hell that is.

Constructive Criticism....

"Stimulus" spending has been in the news lately (seems to me like the crisis has yet to appear that can't be simply solved by the politicians spending more of our money!), but I did not realize the Japanese have been outdoing us all along: apparently Japan spends "three to four times more than what the United States, with twenty times the land area and more than double the population" spends on construction.

Lasered fighting woman ...

Nope, this is not a B movie. We've known that those lovely white statues from antiquity were originally painted, and we have just found an actual example (head of an Amazon warrior) in Herculaneum.

The video here shows how it is laser scanned to capture the geometry.

HT Archaeoblog

Monday, January 12, 2009

Common Writing mistakes...

... are humorously summarized here.

They are self-illustrative: "Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors."

Hat tip: Volokh

Sunday, January 11, 2009

OK, Pumpkinhead!

This is too weird NOT to point out.

We all want our kids to go to college....

...but Coyote makes a good argument that this is not always wise.

Back when I was still in Germany, there were 3 tracks in education: Volksschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium. You were routed to one of these tracks based on a test you took in 4th grade. Maybe this is a bit early to decide the rest of your life (actually, this was not final, there ARE ways of switching tracks), and Germany has abandoned this system, but it did have its advantages.

Volksschule was for the worker bees. School was only mandatory until you were 14 years old (plenty of time to get a grounding in literacy, math, and civics), and then you were expected to move on. This didn't mean your education was OVER - typically you moved into an apprenticeship that prepared you for a trade.

Gymnasium was a college preparatory school, and the track you took if you wanted to be a teacher, a college professor, a doctor, various highly respected professions.

Realschule I don't really understand that well, but apparently it was a middle ground between the two.

This satisfied both an egalitarian ideology (everybody had the same fundamental first four years of schooling, everybody had a chance at ANY of the tracks) without forcing everybody to sacrifice a large part of their life on preparation they did not want - in the American system there is no way these days to opt out before you are 22 without being labeled in some way a failure.

In Germany, a kid who attended Volksschule and went on to become a Master at his trade was STILL a highly respected person (qualified to lead and teach others - my own father was a Master in 2 different trades (metalworking/plumbing and heating/cooling) and an advanced Journeyman in one other (electrician) although he never finished Volksschule) with no history of failure behind him, even though the respect was of a different flavor from that accorded an intellectual.

In retrospect, I mourn the demise of that system. It should have been improved rather than abandoned.