You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for November, 2007.

Who me?

November 21st, 2007

I’m reading a book called No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club: Diary of a 60th Year by Virginia Ironside. Despite that mouthful of a title, it’s not bad. It’s written as a diary of a woman who is 59 and turns 60, and it’s about how relieved she feels to be old. It takes the pressure off her — rather than feel like she can do anything, which she sees so many of her friends doing, she feels like she has the freedom to do nothing. In particular, she does not want to join a book group (as you might have guessed from the title) — I’m going to quote her on that subject here, because I suspect my friends in my book group might be reminded of one of our members:

As for discussing books, forget it. As far as I’m concerned there are only two phrases to describe books. One is: “Absolutely brilliant! You must read it!” or “Total crap. Don’t touch it with a bargepole.”

The book is really quite funny, a delightful tweaking of the chick lit genre. I suppose you could call it “granny lit” if you had to. Even though 60 is quite a few years in my future, I’m finding some of the tidbits the main character throws out about age quite comforting. In all honesty, the book is a lightweight piece of fluff — but it’s ingeniously clever. You must read it!

Great American Smokeout

November 15th, 2007

Today is the 31st annual nationwide Great American Smokeout. The Smokeout is always the third Thursday in November, one week before Thanksgiving. The Smokeout encourages smokers to abstain from smoking for 24 hours. It seems simple, and it’s hard to see how a one day quit can lead to smoking cessation. But the Smokeout is an important part of a process of quitting. Most smokers want to quit smoking, and most try to quit several times before succeeding — it’s as if they have to “practice” quitting before they get it right. The Smokeout generates thousands of practice quits and helps people take one more step toward their final quit.

The Smokeout also helps people create a plan for quitting. Most smokers who successfully quit do so with a plan. The plan varies from person to person, and might involve buying quit aids like the patch; talking to doctors, friends or ministers; joining a gym; getting accupuncture treatments or any number of things. It almost doesn’t matter what the plan is, but it’s crucially important to have one. A key part of any quit plan is a quit date. The Smokeout encourages many smokers to create a quit plan and choose a quit date, even if it isn’t the date of the Smokeout itself.

Do you want to quit smoking or help someone close to you quit? Based on current science, the most successful way to quit is to use some form of quit medication and counseling. Using medication or counseling alone is better than nothing, but combining them is potently effective in helping people quit. Medications vary widely, including prescription pills, nicotine patches, or inhalers. How can you find medication and counseling? Every state in the US has a telephone tobacco cessation quitline, with free counseling available. Just call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Services vary by state, but many states will help you get medication. It’s free and it works.

More about the Smokeout can be found here:
Put out your butts (Seattle Times)
Great American is Perfect Time to Quit (Business Wire)
Accept the Smokeout Challenge (American Cancer Society)

Ban the Butts

November 14th, 2007

Yesterday, the Washington Post published a nice article examining the trend of US employers banning, punishing, or even firing employees who use tobacco. Many of these actions apply to off-site smoking — that is, smoking somewhere other than the workplace — and the penalties can be very high. Smokers cost employers money in terms of insurance premiums, sick days and reduced productivity, so employers have a material interest in helping smokers to quit. However, it is less clear that employers have the right to force people to quit, or even if they have the right to do so, that it is a good idea.

During the 1910s, during the run-up to Prohibition, many American employers adopted formal policies to penalize workers (usually by firing) for drinking off the job. Many employers believed that drinkers were inherently bad employees because they engaged in an “immoral” activity or “wasted” their money on alcohol — traits that were thought to create workers who were less productive or dedicated, or in some cases traits that were taken as indicators of low intelligence. There were also perhaps more valid concerns that a drinker would be less attentive on the job or more likely to cause accidents. Henry Ford went so far as to hire Pinkerton detectives to spy on his workers during their time off, and if they were found in a bar, they would be terminated on the spot.

Such excesses seem silly to us when applied to alcohol, but we are headed down a similar path with respect to tobacco, and I think it’s just as silly. Employers should regulate rules about smoking at work, and on work premises — but beyond that they should butt out.

Toe Tags ‘R Us

November 13th, 2007

For reasons that are probably best left mysterious, I need a toe tag — you know, those things that coroners put on bodies. I don’t need a real toe tag, just something that looks like one, so of course I turned to the web.

And I hit the jackpot a the Cthulhu Lives prop site — in addition to an Arkham coroner’s toe tag, they have a Miskatonic Library Card and two different insanity certificates. Not only are they funny, but they are very well done — at least, the toe tag looks like what I would expect a toe tag to look like.

Handmade

November 12th, 2007

It’s no secret that I like to make stuff. In fact, I’d go further and say I have to make stuff. So it’s not surprising that I would find Buy Handmade interesting. The idea is to challenge people to make and give handmade gifts as a way to be more thoughtful consumers. The problem is that I suspect the campaign appeals most to people like me — people who were already planning to make most if not all of their holiday gifts. That’s not really a criticism, it’s more resigned.

But I am interested to see what comes of this campaign, given the relatively high-profile (in the crafting world at least) sponsors. I signed a pledge, and I signed up for their newsletter. It’s the newsletter that intrigues me the most. What will they have to say in January? or May? or August? If this campaign has legs it will be very interesting.

Pretty little fishes

November 9th, 2007

I’ve had a couple of fish tanks in the past. I had a lovely freshwater community tank for a while. I had the usual mollies (in orange and black) and some snails, but the true star of that tank was a pair of plecos, “algae eaters” as they are sometimes called. They were beautiful and interesting, with gorgeous brown and black patterns. I also had a smaller tank with 3 albino aquatic frogs that were so cute. I gave them away in one of my long ago moves.

But I’ve been thinking lately that I might like to have a fish tank again. Specifically, I’m thinking about getting a betta — one of those “Siamese” fighting fish from Thailand. I’ve been investigating reputable breeders, trying to find one locally. If I do buy one, I’ll probably wait until spring or summer, when teenage betta (around 3.5 to 4 months old) are abundant — most breeders ship their fish, and don’t want to ship them in the cold winter months, so they tend to not let their betta breed in fall and there aren’t many good betta to be had in winter.

Why don’t I buy one of those poor fish in a cup at Petsmart? Because I don’t believe in fish torture, that’s why! Those poor things are treated so badly that by the time you get them home, they are usually badly diseased and half-dead. Please don’t buy those fish — you might be tempted to try and “rescue” one of them, but it’s really no better than buying a puppy from a puppy mill, and in some ways it’s much worse. At least most puppy mill babies don’t have to wallow in their own feces in a putrid, weirdly-colored environment with no food or fresh air.

Also, I’d like to have a fish with one of the newly-developed fin styles. I’m particularly taken with the new crown tail varieties, which are mostly only available from breeders. I think it would be cool to have one of these amazing fish in a well-planted tank, with a few snails. With proper care they can live 5 years or more — unlike the relatively short lifespans of those poor fishies in cups of six months or less.

If I’m going to do this, it won’t be for several months, during which time I’m going to be doing more thinking and reading. I’ve found several particularly helpful websites:
Nippyfish: A Betta Blog
BettaTalk (especially the betta database)
A.thomasi (a general fish-keeping blog)
Betta Splendens Group on Yahoo!

Fusion wisdom

November 8th, 2007

There’s a restaurant near my office that I have sushi at a couple of times a month. Five years ago I wouldn’t have eaten sushi on a bet, but now I frequently crave it. Go figure.

The restaurant serves a variety of Asian food — they make a few Japanese, Korean and Mandarin Chinese dishes. And you get a fortune cookie with your sushi. This makes it somewhat disappointing if you want, say Chinese food because the Chinese choices are necessarily limited since they are just a portion of the offerings

The sushi lunch special is good, reasonably priced, and just the right size — not too big, not too small. And the restaurant has the coolest chopsticks. The chopsticks themselves are just like any other freebie restaurant chopsticks, but the wrapper is a deep purple-red, and it says “Happiness, Longevity, Health, Peace” in English and (presumably) in some kind of Asian characters. They make me happy whenever I see them, because right there in my hand are all my wishes for a happy life. I have one of the wrappers stuck up on my bulletin board at work to help me put things in perspective.

Happiness, Longevity, Health, Peace. How hard can that be?

Clean house

November 7th, 2007

After years of equivocating about it, we finally decided to hire a house cleaning service. I thought I would like it, but had no idea how deeply delighted I would be by it! I am *never* going back to cleaning my own house. Not only do they do an excellent job at the things I used to do, but they do things it never occurred to me to do — like dust lampshades. Seriously, it never remotely entered my consciousness that lampshades ought to be dusted until they did so. Now it’s entirely obvious that they were in need of dusting, and I feel a bit silly for not thinking of it before.

And the lampshades are only the least embarrassing example of things-I-never-cleaned- because-it-never-occurred-to-me that I can think of!

A vortex of bad house energy

November 6th, 2007

My house leaks.

When we bought this house, there was an odd spot on the ceiling. The house was very dirty when we moved in, as the previous occupant smoked a lot — the carpet, windows, walls and ceilings were stained with tobacco smoke (don’t worry, we cleaned it very well before moving in). But this one spot on the ceiling was troubling, since it was right under the upstairs bathroom. My husband, sister-in-law, real estate agent, and home inspector all agreed that it was just another tobacco stain, and not a water mark.

Unfortunately, we have had persistent water problems in that spot. First it was a pinhole leak (the 2nd of 3 we’ve had since moving in). That led us to have the pipes in the house replaced, because fixing all these pinhole leaks was adding up. I’m glad we did that. But now it appears that the roof leaks too, because we still have a leak in that spot. We had a plumber come out and give the place the once-over, and despite looking very carefully at everything, he could not find a leak in the plumbing anywhere (and neither could I). So now we have to bring in roofers. I just want a house that doesn’t leak — is that so much to ask for?

The memory of that stain on the ceiling plagues me.