Saturday, June 23, 2007

100 Words

From American Heritage:  100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know.

Apparently, these folks have never seen the vocabulary exercise in each and every Reader's Digest (what? lines at WalMart are long, and I have to read something).  The vocabulary in those is much less challenging.

For the record, here is the list.  Words I know off the top of my head are bolded.  If I'm pretty sure but not 100% sure, the word is italicized.

Edit: the bold was hard to see; it's yellow now too.
  • abjure
  • abrogate
  • abstemious
  • acumen
  • antebellum
  • auspicious
  • belie
  • bellicose
  • bowdlerize
  • chicanery
  • chromosome
  • churlish
  • circumlocution
  • circumnavigate
  • deciduous
  • deleterious
  • diffident
  • enervate
  • enfranchise
  • epiphany
  • equinox
  • euro
  • evanescent
  • expurgate
  • facetious
  • fatuous
  • feckless
  • fiduciary
  • filibuster
  • gamete
  • gauche
  • gerrymander
  • hegemony
  • hemoglobin
  • homogeneous
  • hubris
  • hypotenuse
  • impeach
  • incognito
  • incontrovertible
  • inculcate
  • infrastructure
  • interpolate
  • irony
  • jejune
  • kinetic
  • kowtow
  • laissez faire
  • lexicon
  • loquacious
  • lugubrious
  • metamorphosis
  • mitosis
  • moiety
  • nanotechnology
  • nihilism
  • nomenclature
  • nonsectarian
  • notarize
  • obsequious
  • oligarchy
  • omnipotent
  • orthography
  • oxidize
  • parabola
  • paradigm
  • parameter
  • pecuniary
  • photosynthesis
  • plagiarize
  • plasma
  • polymer
  • precipitous
  • quasar
  • quotidian
  • recapitulate
  • reciprocal
  • reparation
  • respiration
  • sanguine
  • soliloquy
  • subjugate
  • suffragist
  • supercilious
  • tautology
  • taxonomy
  • tectonic
  • tempestuous
  • thermodynamics
  • totalitarian
  • unctuous
  • usurp
  • vacuous
  • vehement
  • vortex
  • winnow
  • wrought
  • xenophobe
  • yeoman
  • ziggurat
Huh.  Better than I thought I'd do...but my vocabulary has always been pretty good.

I want to know, though, why "recapitulate" is on there and "capitulate" isn't -- if you know what "capitulate" means, you should know that to recapitulate means to give up again.  (Or, to "go over" something again -- restate it.  Suppose that's why it's on the's counterintuitive.)

Just sayin'.

On a totally (and I do mean totally) unrelated note, I've had the song "Blame Canada" from the South Park movie stuck in my head for about a week.  A straight jacket may be necessary before long.

Brief, More-Or-Less Non-Spoilery Stargate Comments

  1. Why is it that guys look horrible in "old" makeup, but girls look more-or-less normal?
  2. Awww, Vala.  (About halfway through...and again right near the end -- though the saying-it-without-saying-it was a tad uncomfortably close to Farscape.)
  3. Grrr, Daniel.  See #2.
  4. *snicker* It's not my birthday.
  5. *snicker* I'd like to argue with "only."
  6. Go, Cam!  Hold her hand!
  7. Amanda Tapping looks oddly like Meg Ryan when she cries.  I said that back in "Singularity," and I'll say it again now.
  8. Boo for Landry getting the last line.  Just sayin.
  9. The original Stargate-pulling-back-to-reveal-Ra's-mask theme!  Yay!
Hm.  B on first, fast-foward-to-the-'shippy-parts (and the cello discussion, 'cause I was confused about the cello...) viewing.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The End of an Era

So, the series finale of Starage: SG-1 is Tivoing right now.  I'm not watching it; I'll likely wait until later in the weekend.

But I can't let its passing go unnoticed.  By surviving ten years, SG-1 has all of the Star Trek series beat by at least 3 years (TNG, DS9, Voyager) and even 6 (Enterprise) or 7 (TOS).  

Its cast has changed several times (Michael Shanks has come and gone, the guy playing...err...Jonas came and went, Richard Dean Anderson and the guy playing General Hammond have left, as has Teryl Rothery).  Some of the main actors' roles and waxed and waned throughout, and new cast members have filled in the holes.

In that, it's been more like ER than Star Trek.

And, like ER, I've watched some seasons, lost interest, and then been wooed back.  (And lost interest again, at least if we're talking about ER.)

It all started in, if I may be dramatic, in 1994 a movie theater in Granada Hills on a day off from school.  My friend Caryn and I went to see the Stargate feature film; I had been intrigued because it combined several interests of mine: archaeology, ancient Egypt, and science fiction.

Despite the running commentary of the idiot behind us, I rather enjoyed the film.  Yes, it took some suspension of disbelief (at one point, Daniel says that the only thing that's changed between ancient Egyptian and the language the people speak now is the vowels, and then proceeds to learn to speak it fluently -- by changing such words as "Necher?  Necher-u?" into "natay" and "naturu," thus making me wonder exactly what this crack linguist thinks is a vowel) but it was interesting and fun.

Plus, Ra was cool.

Apparently, that movie was conceived as the first in a trilogy, and I eventually read the books that would have been the other movies (plus, I think, one or two more).  They were fascinating, if formulaic, I suppose, showing how the Abydans reacted to a human presence on their planet, as well as to Ra's death.

But for whatever reason, that fell through, and in the burgeoning era of cable TV shows (there weren't many originally-produced shows in that age), Showtime decided to make a TV show of it.

To be honest, I was skeptical, because although I'm no huge fan of Kurt Russell or James Spader.  Okay, that sounds bad -- I just didn't much are for them one way or another.

But I watched the premiere when it aired in 1997, I was generally willing to give it a go.

For a few minutes, everything was going well.  Daniel threw a box of Kleenex through the Stargate, a nice nod to his allergies in the movie.  And if Richard Dean Anderson played Jack as a little more easy-going, that was okay.

Then Daniel referred to his wife.


And he called her Sha're.

With no explanation, her name was completely changed.  I is a vast understatement.

Now, if the rest of the names had been changed too, I might have dealt with it better.  But they even kept Skaara's name (the kid that befriends O'Neill in the movie, and who is only mentioned by name once, by Shau'ri, as she calls him into the chamber with the writings) the same.

I might have made a token attempt to watch a couple of more episodes (though I have to admit, watching people get nekkid -- this was a cable show -- around my dad just wasn'  Matter of fact, I think I remember watching an early episode, "The Nox," and despite Armin Shimmerman being in it, I was rather put-off by (1) the fact that all the aliens now spoke English, and (2) that advanced civilizations would have that horrible hair.

So a few years went by.  I went happily about life watching other things, even though Showtime was also, at that time, producing The Outer Limits. My dad apparently liked the show, because he taped all the way through the third season, though I don't recall him ever specifically mentioning it.

In the summer of 2000 (the summer after my dad passed) they started rerunning the episodes on Channel 9 (a local channel).  Now, you have to understand something.  At our old house, we had a C-band satellite in one room; the rest of the rooms had an antenna.  And that antenna worked in an odd way.  In the mornings, you could watch channels 2, 4, and 5.  In the evenings, 7, 11, and 13.

Some afternoons, 9 was the only one that worked.

But that was okay; the third season of Stargate, which is what they were showing at the time (the re-broadcast of both SG-1 and The Outer Limits was a year behind what Showtime was showing) has a lot of good episodes, notably "Urgo," "The Fifth Race," and whatever the one with Ma'chello's earwig things is called.

And, I think, the two-parter beginning with "Jolinar's Memories," which was just a stellar examination of how being taken over by Jolinar had affected Carter.

So I got hooked again, and watched the rebroadcasts until Sci-Fi picked up the show, when I watched until round about the end of the fifth season.

Now, I have no deep and abiding love for Daniel Jackson as a character; I frankly found Teal'c more attractive and Jack more interesting, but whatever.  One thing, as a girl geek, I loved most about those days of SG-1 was that the two biggest brains in the SGC were girls.  I especially loved that Janet figured out the Ma'chello earwig thing while half-insane, while the other (fully sane) doctor had no clue what was going on.

But I digress.

I wasn't terribly perturbed that Daniel got killed off.  It's a sci-fi show -- death is never permanent, and even if it is (witness "Ripple Effect") there are always alternate universes.

And I didn't really dislike Jonas, either.

I just didn't find him...interesting.

So the show lost me for a few years.

When Daniel came back, I tuned back in now and again; I saw the end of the war against the Goa'uld.  But the Replicators smacked of stealing from the Borg, and I just wasn't intrigued anymore.

It wasn't until the Ori showed up that I realized why:  part of the appeal of Stargate for me (and part of why, I think, I'm not too gung-ho about Atlantis) has always been the blend of sci-fi and mythology.  The Replicators were just Borg bugs.


But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Replicators weren't terribly exciting to me, but when I heard rumors that they were killing off Janet, I figured I'd tune in.  I liked Janet a lot as a character, and (I'll admit it) had come to kinda see the Sam/Janet subtext, so despite a healthy dread of the Drama that would explode on the Internet, I decided to watch "Heroes."

"Heroes," in contrast to Atlantis's "Sunday," was handled quite well.  I especially liked (1) Sam being asked to give the eulogy, although I would have liked to have had the reason for that be explained -- I always rather assumed it was because Cassie was in the audience -- and (2) Teal'c being the one to give Sam the idea for it.

I liked it because it was senseless and stupid, the way that death happens in war.  Janet wasn't on the front lines trying to get shot at, but she got shot nonetheless.  It wasn't a huge Replicator plot, or a Goa'uld out to get revenge for Nirrti, or even an illness she couldn't diagnose.

It was just a random, stupid staff blast.

Anyhow, after "Heroes," the cast changed rather dramatically.  Richard Dean Anderson was faded out; as I recall, Amanda Tapping's role was reduced.  Instead, we got...Beau Bridges and Lexa Doig (as the new nerdy girl doctor -- tell me why we had to kill Janet just to have a Janet double?).  Now...Lexa Doig was good as Rommie on Andromeda, but it never felt like she hit her stride on SG-1.

But meanwhile, the Ori thing was brewing.

And when they started tying in the Arthurian myth -- that's when I started tuning in every other week or so.

Now, I'm not the type to watch something just because an actor I like is on it -- but I did tune into Claudia Black's guest appearances as Vala.  As the character evolved, it was great to see her get to play someone funny.

Then they brought Ben Browder on.

Given that I've probably produced more fiction for Farscape, and certainly more videos, than any other fandom, you'd have thought that would snare me in instantly.

But, again, it took me a while to get back into the swing of things.  When they started looking for Merlin's weapon, when they found Arthur's Mantle -- that got me intrigued again.  When they brought Claudia Black on as a full-time cast member, I was hooked again.

In fact, despite many people complaining that Vala's character was developed at the expense of others -- I don't really care.  Vala is fun and funny, while also very sympathetic, especially with the drama of Adria's birth.

Some of my favorite moments of the last few years have been Vala's: the "I told you so" look she gives Daniel when he asks the Atlantis database about the planets, the way she tries to sneak off in Atlantis to 'explore,' the look on her face when an adolescent Adria displays her powers.  On a more serious note: her reaction to Daniel when she gets her memory back being the most prominent.

Plus, we have the Cameron/Sam interaction (who, me, an equal opportunity 'shipper -- but of course!), like him getting after her for working all night, caring for Sam after she got shot in "Lines in the Sand," and the look on her face when she finds him cuffed to a bed.

I know this is long and kind of rambling, but I just need to put into words my experience with this show as it goes off the air.

At least until the direct-to-DVDs come out!  :-)

I Am Poor

The money is once again gone from my account.  Much as I like having money, I'd just as soon Disney keep it this time around.

Summer school classroom is all set up, except for one missing schedule picture.

And tonight is the last Stargate: SG-1.  I'll probably post about that later.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More Disney Woes

So, I finally convinced Disney's website to take my money.

Checked my checking account balance yesterday and the money was, in fact, gone.

Checked my checking account today after my mom said that Disney still showed a balance due, and the money is back.


C'mon, guys.  I'm trying to pay you money.  Just take it, will ya?

Edit:  Disney shows that the bill has, in fact, been paid. B of A still thinks it hasn't.  Sigh.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Only On Good Eats


Yeast as tribbles.

*insane Trekkie giggle*

FOX 11 is on My List

I'm a very visual person.  For years now, ever since the first TV I owned that had the capability, I've watched all TV (except live stuff) closed captioned.

But for the last couple of days, Fox's closed captioning signal has been weak or non-existent.  It's bugging me.


If you look at the links to the right, you'll see I'm a Good Eats fan.  I like the science that Alton embeds into his show.  In fact, I never really understood emulsions (yeah, I know, my AP Chem teacher would be very sad) until he explained them with his styrofoam balls and push-pins.

I have wanted him to cover pretzels for a long time.  I enjoy pretzels (especially Wetzel's with sour cream and onion (? or is it chives?) but most pretzels that you buy -- and especially frozen ones -- have an odd chlorine-y taste to them.

Tonight's Good Eats is all about pretzels.  Yay.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


You know, it's Disney for cripe's sake -- you'd think they'd want to take my money.  Please fix your software so that I can pay for our vacation.  Thank you.

Well...I Did It

So as some of you may know, we're going to Disney World later this summer.

I don't handle heat well, so I've been investigating options for cooling myself down.  The most promising (besides misting fans, which I already have) is evaporative cooling hats, which serve the dual purpose of keeping my very, very pale skin from burning.

(The last time I was at Disney World, I ended up with a second degree sunburn.  I have no desire to repeat that experience.)

Anyway, the best hats have wide brims (the better to protect your face and neck) but considering my sensory issues about my hair (I can't handle hair touching my ears...weird, I know, but true), I always wear my hair back in a ponytail.  Obviously, that won't work with an evaporative cooling hat.

So I took my butt down to Fantastic Sam's today and got my hair chopped off.  Cat -- it looks kinda like your Miss B.'s hair.  The bangs may need some tweaking; she cut them at an angle to hide my forehead despite my repeatedly saying that I've been wearing ponytails for 15+ years, so I'm used to my great big forehead showing.

Other than that, it feels...weird...but good.  I took Patrick along for moral support, but it was relatively painless.  And she even trimmed around my ears so the hair doesn't touch.  :-)

Monday, June 18, 2007

What Makes You You?

When Patrick was younger and I would mention that he had Down syndrome, often people would respond with "I'm sorry."  My grandmother once told me that she felt sorry for my mom, having to "care for a child like that."

Every once in a while, people would ask me if I would change the fact that he has Down syndrome if I could.

It's an interesting thought experiment.  It's the old nature-nurture thing.  How much of Patrick's personality is genetic?  How much is based on experiences he would not have had if he had not had Down syndrome?  If he had not played Mrs. Wishy-Washy in his speech therapist's play in elementary school, would he have played Dr. Frankenstein with equal aplomb?

But underneath the thought experiment are some pretty heavy-duty questions, not the least of which is: what right would I have to change -- to utterly, irrevocably alter -- everything about him?  His very DNA?  What right do I have to judge the quality of his life, and judge it lacking just because he doesn't read or do math as well as I do?  What right do I have to reshape him in a "better" image?

And what message would it send to him, if he found out it was being considered?  In a Deep Space Nine episode ("Dr. Bashir, I Presume?") it's revealed that a character had genetic resequencing because he was developmentally slower than his peers.  After the treatment, he is at the top of his class; but he lives his life feeling that the old "him" had died, feeling as though he was a great disappointment to his parents.

In the episode, of course, the sanitized Star Trek view of the universe prevails; while still upset with his parents, Julian does come to realize that his parents were -- if misguided -- acting out of love and concern for him.

Honestly, the answer I eventually arrived at was that if the option ever existed to remove Down syndrome from a person's makeup, then it should be the person's choice.  If Patrick wished, for instance, to have cosmetic surgery to alter the shape of his eyes or extend the length of his fingers, that would be his decision.  The same would be true of any hypothetical cure for Down syndrome.

Some may say that that's all well and good for Patrick: his life is well-rounded -- he has a girlfriend to whom he plans to propose, interests and enough literacy to read about them, and hobbies (including abstract photography).  But what if the same were offered to one of my students, E., who is significantly more challenged than Patrick?

E. has vision issues, may have kidney issues, has little reliable speech (she can imitate words in a low-stress environment and can make one or two requests; she's also learning to use this to request attention without pulling hair or pinching/scratching), requires extensive adult support throughout her school day.

But by and large, she's happy, as is Patrick.  She gets off the bus with a grin and a "wow!" or "I know" (which seems to be her current way to say "hi" or "please talk to me").  So who am I to judge the quality of her life?

I teach her to the best of my ability.  I provide ways for her to communicate; I search daily for ways to engage her and keep her learning.  I also make sure she understands that she's cared for and welcomed in our classroom -- something she hasn't had for years.

If she does indeed have kidney problems or other internal maladies, certainly those should be treated.  Her teeth need considerable work, and when she's been to the dentist, her outlook and ability to learn improve tremendously.

But going to the dentist and having her mouth not hurt does not make E. not have Down syndrome.

And thus I get to the real point.  Over on Kristina's blog, there was a fairly long discussion a few months ago that I just read today, partly a debate about the cause of autism and partly a heated debate about cures for autism and how they are perceived by some in the autistic community.

Many people who have autism are opposed to the idea of a cure for autism -- ultimately for the same reasons I spoke of above in regards to Patrick.  They feel that it would fundamentally change their experience of the world -- an experience that many people with autism do not feel needs changing.

Unfortunately, the entire debate seems to -- as many heated debates often do -- have boiled down to two extremes: the group that believes in a cure and characterizes anyone who does not as not wanting to do anything to educate or help children who have autism, and the group that believes in neurodiversity and views any talk of biomedical interventions and some other approaches to autism education as offensive in the extreme.

Add into this the question of the causation of autism -- thimerasol in vaccines, other heavy metal poisoning, genetics, other environmental or biological factors -- and you have one huge mess.

So here's my two cents.

If I had a child with autism, I would look carefully for any of the concerns that seem to occur with autism -- for instance, lactose intolerance.  If my child had stomach issues that required a gluten-free diet, and that diet helped them feel better, I would do it.

Would my child appear to have "recovered" from autism?

Well -- my child would probably be more comfortable and more able to devote mental energy away from "ow, my stomach hurts!" to other tasks.  But that just means I cured their stomach problems, not that I did anything for their autism.  The results might look similar because I might have freed up some more energy "packets" to use for social interaction, speech, or coping skills in order to avoid overstimulation or overload.

(I borrowed the "packets" description from a description of multiple sclerosis I once read that said that you started every day with a set number of energy packets that you had to expend throughout the day, and when they were gone -- boom, that was it.  If you used all your energy packets going to the grocery store, you might not have energy to cook, etc.)

Ultimately, I believe that there's a difference between curing autism and educating people with autism.  That education should include social skills, coping strategies, how to recognize and deal with overload/overstimulation, and other skills unique to the requirements of having autism.  To discuss and advocate education and amelioration of physical discomforts is not to advocate taking the autism out of someone any more than teaching Patrick to remember that his Down syndrome had caused him to have a dry mouth and large tongue, and that he, therefore, should never, ever eat without a liquid nearby.

What makes a person with autism the person that they are?  What could you safely remove without altering that person's personality -- the core of who they are?

There's no real good answer to that question -- we just don't understand enough about the human brain yet.

For that reason, I think that even if an external cause for autism were to be found, if a way to ameliorate it were to be found, it should be an individual decision -- just as it should be for people with Down syndrome.

Meanwhile, I think it does us all good to remember that a life can be full and interesting even if it's unusual.  The gentleman I referred to in my previous post who created a Star Trek home theater certainly seems unusual to me, but if that floats his boat, fine.  Writing fan fiction is viewed as strange by lots of people, but it floats my boat.

And if lining squares of blocks out on the floor floats your boat, who am I to judge that?

(And if this wasn't long enough or philosophical enough, just wait for my rant on the Ashley Treatment.)

Why? Just...Why?

As the article says, there are Trekkies, and then there are Trekkies.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Eight-Zero Fathoms, Aye Aye!

After crashing on Friday (after being ready to check out at 1:15! (a new record for me), thanks to the generous help of Patrick, Miss T., Miss J., Miss S. (who came to visit and still helped, even on her healing knee, bless her), and Miss A., I packed up for my birthday trip that started yesterday.

It was a simple trip, just a jaunt down to a Hilton Garden Inn on Harbor Blvd., about two or three blocks away from Disneyland.  The goal was to be able to get to DL to be on Main Street when they opened, so that we could go straight to Nemo.

Meanwhile, Saturday night, we went out for my birthday dinner.  Now, despite being within driving distance of one of the best Italian places ever, I had a real hankerin' for Olive Garden black tie mousse cake, so that's where we went.
And therein hangs a tale.  (Or, as Dharma once said on Dharma and Greg "therein squats the toad" just 'cause I'm random like that tonight.)

There is a large outdoor shopping mall in what is technically (I think) Irvine, off the Jamboree exit on the 5 South.  I was sure there was an Olive Garden there.

Well, there's a Buca di Beppo (which is delicious, but does not have black tie mousse cake), and Macaroni Grill (ditto).

Before we'd left the hotel, I had been playing with the new photo feature of Google Maps, and had seen there was one on Katella.  But after driving west on Katella quite a ways, we had to turn around and go the other way.  But, we finally found a (not very crowded) Olive Garden, and I ate a week's worth of calories that I did not need, but oh, it was yummy.

(And given that as I type this, there's an add for an iPhone, which has google maps functionality, I can't help but moan, in a nerdy-like way, I WANT AN IPHONE!)

So we went back to the hotel and went to bed for our adventures this morning.  I had new ear plugs (to avoid the almost-sleeping-in-the-bathroom disaster of a couple months ago) that worked very well, and I actually slept pretty well.

We left the hotel at about 10 after 7:00.  Got to the parking lot right around 20 after 7:00. 
Plenty of time.

Except that they apparently do things differently now.  They did not even let us into the parking building until 7:30.  By the time we got to the park, it was 10 after 8 and the line for Nemo was 3 hours long.

But I had my shuffle, bunches of podcasts to listen to, new sunscreen that actually wasn't gross to apply (thanks, Megan!), and comfy shoes, so we got in line while Patrick went to play.

Except that I either tweaked my back moving school stuff or it really did not like my bed the night before.  Plus, I had one of my Stomach Aches (capitalized on purpose, and if you've ever seen me have one, you know why), which makes this one area in my back just agonizing.

But by that point, we'd been in line 2 hours, and I wasn't about to give up then.
Patrick -- who wasn't going to ride -- came back for money to buy a drink as we were about 15 minutes out, and decided to ride with us.
I'm not sure it'd be worth 3 hours in line again, but I'd wait 1 1/2 or 2.  It was really, really good. 

The underwater projection was amazing, and nearly everything the main narrator on the subs said was a nod to the original subs.  Without spoiling it, I especially liked his comeback to the question about putting what they'd seen in the logs.

I took a video of it with my digital camera -- to make it fit, I had to do it at half-resolution, but I might upload it anyway.

Well, by the time we were done with that, we were all tuckered (my Stomach Aches leave me feeling like a dish rag, and Patrick had taken a page out of my book and hurt his ankle), so I bought myself a stuffed Dory that I'd been eyeing for some time, three chocolate covered strawberries, and headed on home, where I promptly crashed for a few hours.

My favorite part: unquestionably all the nods to the original subs.  In fact, I told just that to the DL cast member who was doing a survey as you got off the subs.

Patrick's favorite part: Monorail Red dressed up as a sub.

All in all, a fun day.