ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: September 2010



September 2010



Hot Cartridge. Hot Cartridge!

Written by , Posted in Adventures

The past few days here have been loads of fun. On Saturday I went to the Huskies game with my roommate, my friend and her mom. Oh man, they stunk up the place, but it was fun to be at a live game. Plus, good weather! Then we headed out to get some fantastic poutine. Mmmm. Poutine.

Sunday was international talk like a pirate day, so of course we celebrated by drinking at a pirate-themed bar. As you do. I also made some progress on my latest project. In an attempt to stay sane while unemployed I’m archiving all my digital photos. As in, printing them and putting them into labeled albums. All my printed photos from 2003 through now were printed and when delivered weighed in at 28 pounds. That’s a lot of sorting and labeling, It’s a bit of work, but I’m enjoying being reminded about the trips I’ve taken and the good times I’ve had.

Yesterday my roommate took me shooting! I’ve never shot a gun before, but I’d been interested in trying it. He was a great teacher, and we ended up shooting three different guns. I found I was not horrible at it. Not great, but I managed to hit the middle circle on the target much of the time. The only off moment was when one of the spent cartridges ended up burning me a bit in a place it really shouldn’t have managed to get to.

Today we managed to eat our way through the Puyallup Fair. Seriously. Between the three of us we consumed more food than any people should. We also watched “Mutton Bustin'”, which may be the most bizarre sanctioned child abuse. Kids – 6 years old and under – are put on sheep and lay on them, holding onto the wool rodeo-style, with the goal of holding on for at least six seconds while the sheep runs around a muddy ring. The kids are wearing helmets and padding on their chests, but it is, in a word, odd. But it seemed an appropriate way to celebrate the last day of one of the best summers I can remember.



September 2010



The BBC Wonders – Can you be too tall?

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Can you be too tall?

By Katie Alcock Science reporter, BBC News

Obama family (Reuters) Malia Obama has now reportedly reached the height of 173cm (5ft 9in)

Recently it was reported that President Barack Obama’s daughter, Malia, 12, has reached the height of 175 cm (5ft 9in).

It has highlighted once more the social implications of being tall for your age.

In the past, some parents have wished for their tall girls to be shorter, and the other way round for boys – and requested medical intervention.

Families are advised to see a GP if worried about their children’s growth, as it could have an underlying reason.

But when there is no diagnosis of an underlying medical problem, it is now rare in the UK for medical treatment to be given to limit or boost children’s height for purely social reasons.

Growth hormone is not currently offered by the NHS, but it is available privately. In the US this treatment can cost up to $50,000 (£31,975) per year if a child needs high doses.

Until the 1990s, however, it was common for hormone treatment to be offered to girls to limit their adult height. It was felt that girls who were “too tall” would be unhappy and would never get married.

Peter Hindmarsh and Tim Cole of the Institute of Child Health at University College, London, say they still get a few families who consult them hoping to stop their daughter from growing too tall.

Tall girls

The treatment they can offer involves giving girls synthetic oestrogen in fairly low doses, which leads to the onset of puberty, and limits growth.

Start Quote

All the girls are about my height or a bit taller, and they are not bothered if they play with me as the romantic lead”

End Quote Tom Wyllie Aged 17

Nowadays it is rare for families to take up this treatment, said Prof Hindmarsh.

“I recently bumped into one of the last girls we treated, about seven or eight years ago, on a railway station,” he explained.

“She is now aged 25 or so and is about 6ft 2in and was wearing huge platforms, so she was effectively about the same height that she would have ended up without treatment.”

He said this young woman seemed very comfortable with her height.

Experts say families are right to consult a GP if their child appears to be at the upper limits of growth, because there are syndromes that cause other medical problems, but which have as their main symptom tall stature in childhood.

Marfan Syndrome, which can cause problems with the eyes, heart, and major blood vessels, is usually noticed because a child grows very tall.


However, treating girls with oestrogen to limit their adult height was common from the 1950s through the 1990s in many countries – especially Australia, the US, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

  • In about 97% of UK couples, the husband is taller than the wife
  • Some researchers think this happens for evolutionary reasons, and may lead to taller men having more children
  • In some countries the percentage of wife-taller marriages is nearer 8 or 9%. If people chose their spouses randomly, then many couples would be like this.
  • In these cultures – such as in the Gambia, and among the Hadza hunter-gatherer people in Tanzania – men and women do not seem to choose partners by height.
  • Source: Biology Letters, 2009

Psychologists have looked at whether this made girls any happier. An Australian study compared girls who had thought about being treated, but decided not to, with those who had gone ahead with treatment.

They followed up the girls when they were between 23 and 55 years of age, and found that women who had decided to get treatment were no less likely to have suffered mental health problems.

In the US, too, a study looked at women in the general population and in a survey of nearly 60,000 adults found that tall women were generally very happy with their height – 77% of women who were 183cm (6ft) were happy with their height.

One classic reason for families wanting their girls to reach a shorter adult height has been that parents were worried their daughter might never marry.

But the US study also found that it made little difference how tall women were. Even the tallest women were very likely to be in a relationship.

Short boys

At the other end of the spectrum, far more families seek help for a short son than a daughter. As with very tall children, some children are short because they have a clinical syndrome, and some are just short – they have no hormone deficiency or other problems.

If children have the genetic disorder Turner Syndrome, a growth hormone deficiency or some other syndromes, NHS guidelines allow for growth hormone treatment to be given to increase height.

Tam Fry, chairman of parent support charity, the Child Growth Foundation, said: “It is a possibility that families may gloss over a girl who is growing slowly – if you’ve got boys and girls in the family, you still need to monitor their height progress to be reassured they are growing properly.”

Tom Wyllie is 17, and lives in Northumberland. When he was a child, his parents noticed he was not growing as they expected.

He was diagnosed as needing growth hormone supplements for medical reasons and he still has a daily injection.

He has reached his final height of 157 cm (5ft 2in). But he has not let it stop him aim for his goal – to be a professional musical theatre actor. He has already been in Oliver!, Annie, Godspell, Chicago and has auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent.

“I’ve been performing pretty much all my life, it’s been my lifelong ambition, since the age of six,” said Tom.

Tom Wyllie says that the girls on his drama course are not concerned that he is short.

“All the girls are about my height or a bit taller, and they are not bothered if they play with me as the romantic lead.”

His says his main problem is that he looks a little younger than he is, and often has to show ID at the cinema or when renting a 15-rated DVD.



September 2010





September 2010



Koran Burning Cancelled

Written by , Posted in Politics and are both reporting that the Florida pastor has called off the Koran burning. Here is the full text of the story, from…


The Florida pastor who had planned to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday has called it off.

The Rev. Terry Jones of the Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center made the announcement Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, President Obama said Jones’ plan, which had triggered worldwide controversy, would be a “recruitment bonanza for al Qaeda.”

“You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan” as a result of the proposal by Jones, Obama said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “This could increase the recruitment of individuals who’d be willing to blow themselves up in American cities, or European cities.”

Jones had previously said he would proceed with the plan Saturday — the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — despite increased pressure to abandon the proposal and warnings that going ahead could endanger U.S. troops and Americans worldwide.

There were several developments prior to Jones’ cancellation announcement:

— Local governments said they were going to bill Jones for the extra cost of security for Saturday’s event.

— Interpol on Thursday issued a global alert to its 188 member countries, warning of a “strong likelihood” of violent attacks if the Quran burning proceeds.

— An armed Christian organization, which withdrew its support for the Quran-burning event last month, said the administration “needs to stay out of this” and pledged to defend the Dove Center’s right to hold the event, despite its disagreement.

— The FBI warned local law enforcement that the plan, along with other recent controversies involving the American Muslim community, could lead to hate crimes and could encourage extremist rhetoric, although a federal law enforcement official said there was no credible information that attacks were planned.

The FBI visited Jones at the Dove Center on Thursday, according to Jeffrey Westcott, special agent in charge of the Jacksonville, Florida, bureau. The FBI also visited him a few weeks ago, he said, but would not say what was discussed.

Discussions were taking place within the Obama administration about the possibility of intervening, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Thursday. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the possibility of calling Jones is under consideration, and that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was participating in the discussions.

Earlier this week, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, warned that the plan “could cause significant problems” for American troops overseas.

Jones has rejected the pleas, saying his message targets radical Islamists. “The general needs to point his finger to radical Islam and tell them to shut up, tell them to stop, tell them that we will not bow our knees to them,” Jones said on CNN’s “AC360.” “We are burning the book. We are not killing someone. We are not murdering people.”

Meanwhile, Obama told ABC, “As commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States, I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan. We’re already seeing protests against Americans just by the mere threat … this is a destructive act that he’s engaging in.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group, announced an initiative called “Learn, Don’t Burn” on Thursday and will distribute Qurans to replace the burned copies.

Awad said the group is concerned that the plan may lead to hate crimes against Muslims. Cross burnings by the Ku Klux Klan were an indication of hate crimes to follow against African-Americans, he said, and Nazis started with burning books and “ended up burning people.”

CAIR has been working with attorneys, and no basis has been found to stop the burnings under the law, he said, but he added that if the plan is going to incite violence, the government should step in.

“I can assure you that on September 11, you will not see a bonfire of Qurans being burned at the Dove Church,” Imam Mahdi Bray, head of the Muslim-American Society, told reporters.

He said he has just returned from Gainesville, where city officials told him Jones will not receive a burn permit and any sort of incendiary material will violate the city code. A fire truck will be nearby to douse any flames, he said.

Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe said Jones’ requests for burn permits have been denied, and city officials hope that he will comply. If he breaks the law, action can be taken against Jones, with the response based on whatever the infraction might be, he said. Lowe has declared Saturday “Interfaith Solidarity Day.”

City Communications Manager Bob Woods said the city will tally up costs related to the event and present Jones with the bill.

Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Art Forgey said “we do plan to compile and send a bill to Mr. Jones.”

“I don’t know that we have the teeth to enforce it, though,” Forgey added. Instead, the bill may just end up being a statement to Jones about how much the event cost local citizens, the spokesman said.

Before Jones announced the cancellation, the Gainesville Students for a Democratic Society said Thursday it would bus in students from as far away as Chicago, Illinois, and would have about 600 on hand Saturday to protest at a nearby park, then march to the church to picket the event.

Meanwhile, two websites associated with Jones and his church were down Thursday.

Rackspace Hosting took down the two sites because the church “violated the hate speech provision of our acceptable use policy,” spokesman Dan Goodgame said.

The company investigated a complaint in the past couple days and made the determination after reviewing both sites, said Goodgame, adding that Rackspace was under no pressure to act.

“This is not a constitutional issue. This is a contract issue,” he said.

Rackspace gave Jones until midnight Wednesday to migrate content and find another host. Goodgame said he did not know how long Rackspace had hosted the websites, but he said it did not handle design or content.

“We have about 100,000 customers,” Goodgame said. “We don’t even know what all the sites are.”

Jones and Dove World had agreed to terms on the Rackspace Cloud service, Goodgame said. The policy dictates the suspension or termination of service for offensive content, including material that is “excessively violent, incites violence, threatens violence or contains harassing content or hate speech.”

“We would have taken the same position if it was hate speech against Christians or other groups,” he added.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is one of the few public officials who defended Jones’ right to go ahead with the burning, even as he condemned the idea as “distasteful.”

“The First Amendment protects everybody, and you can’t say that we are going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement,” Bloomberg said, citing the section of the Constitution that promises freedom of speech.

The U.S. State Department issued a global travel alert because of the potential for anti-American demonstrations if the Quran burning were to have been carried out.




September 2010



Embarassed and disappointed

Written by , Posted in Politics

I am embarrassed. And disappointed. The last year and a half I’ve been watching much of what has been going on in this country from afar. I was mortified by the health care debate, and saddened by the woefully inadequate outcome. Health care is still attached to employment, and for some reason people are content judging those who do not have health care as deficient, as somehow unworthy of the benefit if they do not have a full-time job. I see people who have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have a job that provides health care actually believe that they alone deserve those benefits, and those without do not. Not having health care is a punishment for ‘not working hard enough.’ If you have health insurance, you are a good person in a worthy job. If you don’t, it is your fault. You are a bad person and thus not worthy of assistance from others.

I am not willing to accept that compassion for others no longer factors into how we interact with our fellow humans. I do not believe that most rich people got there solely by working hard and pulling themselves up by their bootstraps; they had help, whether they are willing to admit it or not. They had a connection through a parent or friend, or happened to be born into an environment that nurtured their growth. Even those salt of the earth folks who begrudge others access to health care because it is too much government assistance gladly take large farm subsidies, and are happy to have the police show up if they call 911. I do not subscribe to the idea that any one person can succeed all on his or her own, and I also do not believe that some deity rewards some people and punishes others based on some perceived work ethic. Many people work very hard and don’t succeed; others pick a good stock and end up rich. I do not believe life is fair, but I also do not accept the use of that platitude as a way to justify unfair and cruel actions. It may be true that life is not fair, but that does not mean we as a country should be actively engaged in acting in as unfair a way as possible.

The issue of health care hit close to home to me, as previous posts describe, but that is not what motivates me to write today. What spurrs me on is the disgusting Islamiphobia that is bubbling up throughout the country, as evidenced by the opposition to the Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan and the proposed Koran burning on September 11.

I posted Mayor Bloomberg’s response to the debate on the Islamic Center, and it is the most eloquent statement I have heard. In spite of all the severe problems with the US constitution and the inequalities present at the founding of the nation (slavery, lack of vote for women), there were some things the framers got right. They did not found the country on Christian principles, and they chose to specifically allow in the Bill of Rights for both freedom of speech and freedom of and from religion. Those who claim to so love the constitution and the framers seem to be unable to grasp this reality.

Some who have discussed the issue of the Manhattan Islamic Center have said that they think the builder has a right to develop it where it is proposed, but that he probably should not. I disagree. I think he has a right, and I think if that’s the real estate that is available within the group’s budget, then build it there. What is missing in this discussion is the fact, the reality that the people who flew the planes on September 11 2001 were not accurately representing the Muslim faith any more than Scott Roeder was accurately representing the Christian faith when he killed Dr. Tiller. Just because people claim they subscribe to a religion and are acting in support of that claim does not mean they are actually representing that religion.


The ‘faith’ of the September 11 terrorists may be what they used as their excuse to murder people, but it is not an accurate representation of the religion. Muslims did not kill nearly 3,000 people that day; assholes with no moral compasses did. That they happened to be Muslim, and believed they were acting in furtherance of their version of that religion does not mean they, the nineteen “men” who destroyed thousands of lives, somehow get the honor of being the poster boys of their religion. That’s not how it works, and it is not what they deserve. 

I am especially disgusted by the Republicans who suddenly care about NYC. I know that September 11 has always been exploited by the GOP, but I find it extraordinary that the same people who spend each day telling me I am not American because I live in a big city on one of the coasts and think gay people should be able to get married suddenly cares about what happens in that city. Either people from New York – including those who support the religious freedoms of all people – are Americans, or they aren’t. If you are not going to take their opinions seriously on other issues, then butt out of this local land use decision. Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, I’m talking to you. And Newt, as I believe Jon Stewart and others have pointed out better than I can, your statement about Saudi Arabia not allowing churches is beyond ironic. We used to be different from such nations because we allowed religious freedom – ostensibly, at least. Now there isn’t even a pretense; either you’re Christian or you apparently don’t deserve the same rights.

This leads me to the proposed Koran burning on September 11. Book burning is an action taken by people who are afraid that their own belief systems cannot stand up to scrutiny. They hide behind these acts of aggression, Burning books is disgusting and childish. It is the action of those who either know they cannot win an argument on facts, or are too lazy to attempt to do so. I certainly recognize their right to act in whatever manner they choose, but I remain gobsmacked that there are people who would choose to act in this way. As I write this I am trying to find some way to not be filled with such anger towards these people, but I am at a loss.

I am embarrassed. And disappointed.



September 2010



A Beautiful Night

Written by , Posted in Adventures

Two friends of mine, Megan and Michael, got married last night. It was a beautiful evening, one I feel privileged to have been able to attend. Live piano music greeted us as we entered the house and were directed to sign the guest book. Guests made their way through the house to the back garden, where champagne was available as we waited for the ceremony to begin. There was a tent that had been erected at the last minute, as it was raining all morning, although by the time the wedding began not only had the rain stopped, but the sun began to peek through the clouds.

After about a half hour we were directed to take our seats (I joined up with Troy and Jamie, as Renee and Kevan were both in the wedding) and the processional began. There were eight bridesmaids, all in gorgeous dresses in various shades of green, escorted by the groomsmen in tuxedos that had a distinctly early 1960’s feel. Megan was guided down the aisle by her brother, and she was stunning in a simple dress with these amazing jeweled cap sleeves. The officiant was this great Irish man (former clergy, I believe) who just loves performing weddings. The vows were sweet, and Renee managed to stay still throughout even though a wasp was hanging out on her during half the ceremony. Impressive!

After the ceremony was complete, Megan and Mike ventured off to have some time alone while we got to enjoy an amazing cocktail hour. As we were clearing out of our chairs, cocktail rounds appeared. On them were four different cheeses paired with four different wines. There were delicious passed hors d’oeuvres, and a station with miniature toasted sandwiches paired with different beers. A dream for those who love good alcohol and good food.

An hour of enjoying the view of the lake gave way to dinner in a beautiful tent. Everything was so lovely, not overdone. The bride and groom had bookmarks as place cards and quote books for favors. Dinner was (unsurprisingly) delicious. After dinner, we were treated to three witty, charming and loving toasts to the bride and groom. It was just so good to sit there and be a part of such a happy, happy evening.

The cake was cut, the first dance done, and then the rest of us invaded the dance floor for three hours of non-stop shaking it. The band played covers of mostly 70s and 80s songs, and the floor was packed most of the night. Around 10pm the ice cream station opened up (seriously!) and they brought out some more munchies to keep us fueled for the rest of the night. Around midnight the band finished up – with a rousing “Don’t Stop Believing” – and we went back to the house to see the bride and groom off! 

Today I am exhausted. I got some sleep, but my training schedule had me running nine miles this morning. So today is all about sitting. Sitting, watching movies, and uploading photos. And sitting.



September 2010



How bummed are they?

Written by , Posted in Random

Bristol Half Marathon runners ‘not timed’

People running in half  marathon - Graham Bloomfield More than 11,000 people took part in the race

About 900 runners in the Bristol Half Marathon did not get an official timing record after microchips they were wearing fell off.

The race started and finished at the Harbourside earlier.

An event spokeswoman said was thought the “champion chips” could have fallen off due to wet weather.

She said organisers would check video pictures taken at the start and end, and give those affected their times as soon as possible.

Some of the elite runners also lost their chips, she added, but their times were being measured by stop watch.

Organisers said 16,400 people signed up for the race, but 11,166 had started it.

Two people were taken to hospital, with one into intensive care and the other under observation, the spokeswoman said.

She added another 40 people were treated for minor injuries.

The 13.1 mile (21.1km) race was organised by Bristol City Council, which apologised for the problems.

The spokeswoman said runners had been recommended to attach the chip, which comes with an adhesive strip, by weaving it through their shoe lace to ensure it was secure.

People running in half  marathon - Graham Bloomfield The event took runners along the Portway and through the Avon Gorge

She said: “Unfortunately a number of runners lost their championship chips during the race and were unable to get an official race time.

“We are looking into why this happened and believe it could have been due to the wet weather conditions.

“We apologise to all the runners involved. We know how hard they’ve worked.

“We have successfully used championship chips for three years in both the 10k and the half [marathon], and they have been used in major road races for over five years.

“But we are not aware of anything happening like this before.”

The route took participants, including wheelchair racers and walkers, along the Portway, through the Avon Gorge, and under the Clifton Suspension Bridge.