Word of the Day


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Definition from TheFreeDictionary

I did my good deed for the day today, by delivering an empty insulin syringe I found in the parking lot to the onsite health center, so they can dispose of it in a proper sharps container.


Word of the Day

Today’s word is:




Definition from TheFreeDictionary


Coined in 1941 by Isaac Asimov, born this day in 1920 (or thereabouts).

Word of the Day

Today’s word is:




Definition from TheFreeDictionary


My blood donation today was not autologus, and it didn’t leave me feeling so great either.  Though I probably didn’t do myself any favors by reading The Island of Doctor Moreau while it was in progress.

Word of the Day

Today’s word is:


Definition from TheFreeDictionary

“…and all that is now
and all that is gone
and all that’s to come
and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.”

–Roger Waters

Word of the Day

A little something to get me in the habit of posting more often.  Enjoy!

Today’s word for the day is


From Wikipedia:

[Cuauhtémoc] Blanco remains remembered for the Cuauhtemiña (also spelled Cuauhteminha), or Blanco Trick, which he performed notably at the 1998 World Cup. In the trick, when two or more opposition players are trying to take the ball from him, he traps the ball between his feet and jumps through the defenders- releasing the ball in the air and landing with it under control as he leaves the opposition players behind. The trick is easy to perform but is eye-catching and has been incorporated as a special skill into the FIFA series of football video games.

“The trick is easy to perform …”  Yeah, maybe if you’re Cuauhtemoc Blanco it is.  :-)

First World Trade Center Bombing — an “It Was 20 Years Ago Today” text post

[Posted at the "It Was 20 Years Ago Today" site (http://20yearsago.libsyn.com), the Starlight Teahouse message board (www.starlightteahouse.com), and my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Sailbourne).]

Twenty years ago today, a truck bomb exploded in the underground garage of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.  It destroyed several levels of the garage, killed six people, and injured over a thousand.  The bombing attack was planned and carried out by a group of conspirators led by Ramzi Yousef, a Kuwaiti-born terrorist who trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

On that Friday morning (the bomb exploded at 12:17 pm local time, which was 9:17 am on the West Coast), I was at work.  I had just completed my probationary period as an employee of Intel, and was still settling into my new office on the fifth floor of the recently-completed Robert Noyce Building in Santa Clara, California, Intel’s headquarters.

I liked to listen to FM radio on headphones while I was working — the structure of the building was such that AM broadcasts were almost impossible to hear.  Portable CD players were still expensive and skipped if you so much as sneezed on them, the algorithms that would give rise to MP3 sound files were just being defined, and streaming audio on the Internet was, at best, somebody’s pipe dream.

Immediately after I learned of the bombing, I became painfully aware that I was working on the fifth floor of the five-story building, I became painfully aware that I was working on the fifth floor of the five-story building, by far the tallest I had ever worked in.  Having visited taller buildings only a few times, it was challenging — and quite frightening — to imagine what it must be like to be in one of the upper floors of the World Trade Center buildings.  I tried to get as much news as I could that day.

On the wider scale, I think it was that first World Trade Center bombing that really crystallized the image of the Middle Eastern terrorist as a figure to be feared more than any other in the culture of the United States.  It was not, of course, the first time a Middle Eastern terrorist had struck at Americans.  But it very quickly gained the title of worst terrorist incident on United States soil, and in so doing, gave the American people something to be afraid of, which we had largely lost in the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of global Communism.

Indeed, when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was blown up two years and two months after the World Trade Center bombing, everyone’s assumption was that a Middle Eastern terrorist had done it.  There are people who believe to this day that some Middle Eastern group — most often Iraqi — was responsible and that Timothy McVeigh was just a patsy.  The fact that McVeigh became known as a “domestic” or “homegrown” terrorist just underscores how pervasive the image of the Middle Eastern terrorist had become.  It is a strange distinction to draw; a distinction akin to “racism” and “reverse racism,” a distinction that should not need to be made.  But we make it anyway.

Farewell to the Friend I Never Met

I lost a friend this week.

She was a friend I had never met, and in fact I didn’t even know what she looked like – until I got the letter announcing her death.

But nevertheless, Patt Griffin was a friend — a kind and generous friend, and it feels strange to be saying goodbye.  I suppose that as the age of the Internet, World Wide Web, and social networks advances, this sort of thing will happen more often to all of us.  Somehow it seems appropriate, then, that I offer up my tribute to her on the Internet.

I can’t quite remember exactly when it was that I got to know Patt Griffin, but I do remember the how.  It was sometime not too long after our move to Portland, when I had rekindled my interest in sumo wrestling.  I wrote to the Sumo Mailing List that I wanted to see the basho, but I couldn’t get Dish Network at our apartment – at least, we couldn’t get two Dish dishes, which is what you needed to get TV Japan.  (There was no such thing as streaming video in those days.)  I got an email from Patt, who said that she would make copies of the basho and send them along, and all I needed was to reimburse the cost of tapes and postage.  A generous offer, given that a sumo basho is 15 days, at 90 minutes to two hours of coverage a day!  So six times a year, a package of five VHS came to our mailbox from Florida.  That lasted a couple of years, and was renewed — in the form of a package of DVD+R discs — when we had to move back to an apartment and lost the ability to have that second dish.  (Today, we have TV via fiberoptic cable, and one of the big reasons we switched was the ability to get TVJapan again.)

We also shared a love of animals — while Joe and I just had the cats, she also had dogs, and quite a few birds.  When she and her husband Michael moved to California from Florida, they traveled cross country in an RV, so they could bring all the animals along.  I got to share in the adventure via her emails — I always knew it was from Patt if it came with a subject line that was nothing but the day of the week it was sent.

Just a couple of years ago Patt’s husband died, and her own health, never of the best to begin with, began to take a serious downward turn.  She mentioned to me that she had some sumo memorabilia and a pair of Japanese kokeshi dolls that she wanted me to have when she passed on.  I said I’d be honored, that she didn’t need to do that. What else could I say?  Privately I hoped that was a long time away.  Sadly, it wasn’t.  In July, I got several boxes from her:  books, calendars, tegata (a handprint with the rikishi’s autograph) and more. I thanked her; I told her how astonished I was.  I still am!  Joe and I both worried for her.  What else could we do?

The last email I got from Patt was in October, expressing her sympathy for us in the news we had received that the eldest of our cats was suffering from kidney failure and we didn’t know how long she might live. (Mina is still very much with us, I’m glad to say.)

Around the 14th of last month, I got a small box containing two kokeshi — antiques, I’m sure — which Patt had told me she’d had since she was a kid, when she got them from a Japanese pen-pal.  There was a note inside from Patt’s friend Jacquie, which said that Patt wanted me to have these.  And that she was very ill, needed round-the-clock care, and that I should pray for her.  I sent notes to both of them … but a few days ago, I got another letter from Jacquie, the death announcement.  Patt won’t ever read that last letter I sent.  She was gone before it reached her.

As I told her in that letter, I put the kokeshi on top of our computer desk in the bedroom, so that every time I go in or out of that room, I see them and think of her and her amazing kindness and generosity.  We’ve kept all the other treasures too — the model rikishi on one of the bookshelves, the calendars carefully stored.  Maybe there’s room on the walls for a banzuke and a tegata or two.  I still wonder what I did to deserve all this.  Maybe it was enough that I was a fellow sumo fan; at least she could know that if she gave me these things, they would be appreciated for the treasures they were.

I try to comfort myself with the thought that wherever she’s gone, she’s better off.  She is reunited with Michael and all her pets.  She doesn’t have to worry about evil bankers trying to take her home away.  And … she can enjoy all the sumo she could ever want.

Sayonara, tomodachi.



Why the 20 Years Ago Podcast Is Coming Back

I bring a lot of my own memory and experience to the history in “It Was 20 Years Ago Today.”  It’s fascinating because I can look back at events which I knew at the time were world-changing.  But, even more interesting, I can also look at events which were, on the day, not a big deal at all — yet over the course of time prove to be the heralds of transformation in our lives.  More than perhaps anyone could have imagined.

In August of 1991, there were examples of both kinds of events.  An attempt to overthrow the government of the Soviet Union failed. A physicist at a research lab in Switzerland told a group of computer scientists about a new networking protocol he’d worked out, and a Finnish student told fellow computer nerds about a new operating system he was developing.

We all knew, I think, that the USSR was on the way out.   A scant four months later, it ceased to exist entirely.  But did anyone even dream of the transformation those two technologies would work on the world?  For one thing, without the World Wide Web and Linux, you wouldn’t be reading these words.

Join me for all of this and more in new editions of “It Was 20 Years Ago Today,” coming this weekend.

One Person’s Intractable Dandruff Is Another’s Golden Opportunity

… or, is that price gouging on the Internet or American Capitalism at its finest?

I have very stubborn dandruff.

For a while, tea tree oil shampoo (a recommendation from a stylist) was enough to deal with it.  Then I went through several flavors of ordinary dandruff shampoo: the salicylic acid, zinc pyrithione (Head & Shoulders), selenium disulfide (Selsun Blue), and coal tar (Neutrogena T/Gel).  Finally I tried Nizoral, which contains a pretty powerful antifungal agent called ketoconazole.  Worked great.  Kind of spendy, for sure (around $10 for a 4 ounce bottle or $15 for a 7 ounce bottle)  — but I didn’t have to use it every time I washed my hair, so it wasn’t such a bad deal.

For a while I thought I’d beat the problem permanently so I didn’t buy more.  Buta few weeks ago the trouble came back so I went looking for more Nizoral.

None of the stores had it.  Some had an empty section of shelf where it was supposed to be.

What was up, I wondered. So I went to Google, typed in “Nizoral shortage” and hit the enter key.  The best information came in the form of a product review on Amazon — it was not so much a review of the product but an explanation of the shortage, written by someone who had called the manufacturer directly.  The manufacturer had shifted production to a new plant and was waiting on FDA certification of that new plant.  Supplies should be getting back to normal in July if all goes well.

In the meantime the sellers on Amazon were charging $26.95 for the 4 ounce bottle and $52.95 for the 7 ounce bottle.  That’s 2.5 to 4 times the usual price.  And that was the low end: the upper end was $39.95 for the 4 oz and $59.97 for the 7 oz!

I’m all for the entrepreneurial spirit, and it’s a free country with a modified capitalist economic system (so it’s not illegal to jack up the price of this stuff when the supply is low) that I don’t particularly want to change.

But 4x the price just because you can?!  Seems to me some folks need an ethics transplant.

As for me, I think I’ll endure the flakes and itchy scalp for a few weeks.

Topics on the Teahouse for April 15, 2011

A sampling of topics posted this week on the Starlight Teahouse forums (all links should open in a new window or tab):

Head on over and check out these and many more discussions, and feel free to join the community and start your own discussions!