Sunday, February 04, 2007

Weekend Ramble


It's been a distressingly cold weekend, and hasn't gotten above zero (that's Fahrenheit, since you asked) for the past two days, and in fact, last night it was down to minus double-digits. I'm telling you, our fine state isn't called Mini-so-cold for nothing. There are those individuals and business that thrive in such climes, but I just find the cold oppressive, and downright dangerous. Indeed, a couple of minutes of exposure to this kind kind of weather can lead to frostbite, and worse. In any case, the bitter cold makes me depressed and agitated - exacerbated by aches and pains in my right wrist and left hip - and I am eagerly looking forward to the first signs of Spring in the coming weeks.

I took the girls out for breakfast yesterday and intended to go out On Adventures, but just headed back home: at 11 AM it was minus 11 degrees, and the wind was whipping around something fierce, and I felt nearly-frozen just walking from the restaurant to the car. Thing is, even if one doesn't intend to be out in the elements, if the car should break down, a hike of even a block or two can be disastrous, when there are little ones involved.

Anyway, since Mrs. Muzzy was working yesterday, AE, LK and I just hung out all day, reading, watching videos, sitting by the fire. We did make it to church today, although we didn't go out to dinner, we went thru the Arby's drive thru for takeout for lunch. This afternoon I've just been chilling - quite literally.

I guess it's not the worst thing, is it?


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Oh yeah, I saw something last week that I don't think I've ever seen in Minnesota: an icebow. I was driving into work from my physical therapy appointment on Friday when I sad the most amazing sight in the sky: a rainbow circling the sun, or as Wikipedia explains:



An icebow, also known as a halo, is phenomenon similar to a rainbow except that it is formed by the refraction of sunlight through cloud suspended ice crystals as opposed to raindrops or other liquid water suspended in the air. Generally the appearance is as arc sections as opposed to a full circle. Brighter sections usually occur above, below, and lateral to the center (where the sun is visible). These bright areas are referred to as "sun dogs," "parhelia" (plural), or mock suns because of their bright appearance and possible confusion with the actual location of the sun. Those icebows that are caused by very small ice crystals are one color, because diffraction blurs the colors together. A 22 degree icebow has red on the inside and blue on the outside.



Here's a view of what I saw, stitched together out of two separate photos I took:







Pretty cool, eh?

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Every so often we hear a rash of stories on the news about the possibility of a Bird Flu epidemic, with projections of the numbers of dead. But with the possibility of such an outbreak still somewhat remote, it was shock to read this tragic hometown story this past week, as reported in the La Crosse Tribune:



Spike in flu shot interest after 8-year-old’s death

By The Associated Press
Published - Saturday, February 03, 2007
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ST. PAUL — The death of an 8-year-old boy from flu complications has caused a surge of interest in flu shots.

Health officials organized a special one-day vaccination clinic for Saturday in St. Paul to accommodate demand, which spiked this week after the death of Lucio Satar of St. Paul.

The state Health Department took about 100 calls, and Children’s Hospitals in Minneapolis and St. Paul each reported about 50 inquiries, said Patsy Stinchfield, a pediatric nurse practitioner who leads the Minnesota Immunization Practices Advisory Committee.

Saturday’s clinic was scheduled for Children’s in St. Paul.

Lucio was healthy before he began feeling sick Jan. 24. He died Wednesday of pneumonia, a complication from the flu.

Nationally, about 100 children die every year from flu complications, Stinchfield said.



Of course having 2 young ones in my home gives me pause when I hear such news, but it occurred to me just how relatively rare such stories are in modern times. Wandering the cemeteries of the Twin Cities offers glimpses of a world in which child mortality was quite high, nearly 25% in 1910. Thing is, those terrible days could return, but I don't know how we'd cope. I think we moderns are psychologically unprepared to deal with such a catastrophe.

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In related news, there were confirmed outbreaks this past week of H5N1 (the Bird Flu virus) in the poultry populations of both the United Kingdom and Japan.

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Superbowl 52 is being played between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts as I type this. I must say, I'm hard-pressed to give a hoot in Hades, but even so, I've got the game tuned to the Big Game, anyways. Well, I'm not really watching it, and I'll probably turn it off until halftime, when the-artist-known-again-as-Prince is scheduled to appear. It's a tradition for American advertisers to unveil their best commercials of the year during the halftime of the Superbowl, which is one more reason to tune back in then. Of course, the ads will probably all be on YouTube before the evening is out, so I'll try to link to them later in the week.

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I am a Mac loyalist. I use PeeCee's at work, but when I get home, I use a Mac. And honestly, while XP is a decent OS, I don't understand why anyone would want to use it, if they didn't have to. There was a time when Macs were more expensive, but that's no longer the case. Even the old saw that one *has* to have Windoze for some work-related purpose doesn't really cut it anymore, since the new Intel-based Macs can run Windows at native speeds using Parallels. Aside from the fact that at its core the Mac OS is rock-solid Unix-based computing, it's just cooler, and better-looking. Can you honestly say that Vista is anything more than a poor imitation of the Mac OS? Anyone? Bueller?

OK, I admit, I'm biased. I purchased my first Mac nearly 20 years ago, and have owned 8 of them since, starting with a Mac Plus that set me back $1800 for a bare-bones model, with 1 meg of RAM and no hard drive. I spent another couple 1000 dollars more to outfit that computer with a drive, printer, modem, and more RAM. I am now using an iBook G4 laptop, running OS 10.3.9 and connecting to the net on a home WIFI net, listening to streaming audio from one of the 100's of free iTunes radio stations. Pretty cool.

Of course, in inflation-adjusted dollars, the machine I'm using cost alot less than my first Mac Plus, and does so much more, but I still remember the sense of wonder I had the first time I sat down in front of one of the original 128K Macs and actually managed to interact with it. Yes, my current machine is much more useful, but who doesn't think fondly of his First True Love, at least once in a while?

So, just in case I get nostalgic for the Good Old Days, I can launch my Mac Plus Mini vMac emulator - which has a version that will even run on the new Core Duo Macs - and marvel at splendor that was the Mac Plus. I can even play classic B&W games like Shuffepuck Cafe. Yes, a Windows XP or Vista user could run an emulator that allows them to use Window 3.1 in a window, but who would want to?

So, go on, get your Old Computer jones at Old-Computers.com. See you there.

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Speaking of streaming audio, as I mentioned earlier, I'm right now listening to one of the 100's of radio stations available thru iTunes. There appear to be many more stations available than on AOL's radio service, and it all seems more stable. I haven't one experienced a dropped the connection this PM. Unfortunately, it's not as well-organized as AOL's system, and increased quantity doesn't necessarily mean increased quality.

Still, the fact that both services are utterly free offers me the option of listening to music that I would not otherwise have easy access to, especially foreign language music stations. My only complaints have to do with how haphazard the content is, and the fact that it's so hard to find decent stations.

More from Wikipedia:

AOL Radio and iTunes Radio.

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Anyway, it's Sunday night, and that means we eat popcorn for supper. It was a tradition started (I think) by my maternal Grandmother, and my girls insist on it. So I'm off to pop some corn. Cheers.

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