Click for bigger picture.I got so excited tonight! I was getting ready to clean our little 20 gallon aquarium, and I noticed that the glass was crawling with a bunch of hydras! Now, the only experience I’ve had with hydras was some pictures in my High School biology book, but these guys are the real deal, and they look hungry.

They range in size anywhere from about 1/8th to 3/16th of an inch (or as we Americans like to say, a couple-three millimeters), and they’re clearly visible to the naked eye. They look a lot like pieces of lint with serious intentions.

I collected several and looked at them under both of the microscopes that I bought last fall, and they look fantastic under our fairly decent optical microscope, but the blue toy microscope that hooks up to a USB port has a hard time picking them out from the background noise – even though they look as green as this one in my ‘good’ scope, they look almost white otherwise, and of course, they don’t stand still or even lie in a plane, and ol’ Blue didn’t seem to want to focus on anything, even though I was looking at the little guys right there on the stage.

So, the bottom line is that I tried really really hard to get you a picture of one of my hydras, but I just didn’t have the resources, so this is the most representative sample I could find on Google, and I looked at several dozen and this is the best I could come up with. (Hey, worse things have happened.)

Buy me & Read me. Now.I’m currently reading The Evolution of Useful Things by Henry Petroski, which is all about stuff like paper clips, staples, and forks, and it’s absolutely fascinating.

One of the things that’s occurred to me this evening is that, while I have to work hard to convice our 4 year old that mommy and daddy didn’t have computers when we were growing up, my parents had to work hard to convince me that they really didn’t have televisions. But here’s what I was thinking about – Janet’s Grandmother, or my Great Grandmother (or yours) probably had a couple of Edison light bulbs (patented 1879), and maybe even a phone (1876) or a car (Model T’s were $950 in 1908, which actually seems kinda steep), but they didn’t have paper clips (1901) staplers (1923) or Scotch&#153 tape (1930). I’m guessing when some of this stuff came out, it was a lot like 1980 or ’81, when a saw Post-It&#153 notes for the first time, and I thought, ‘Now why would anybody want that?’ Kinda weird, huh?

In today’s news, Microsoft is offering a $250K reward to anyone who helps authorities get the guy who created the Mydoom.b virus (and SCO has also offered a $250K reward for Mydoom.a). Here’s the ‘duh!’: “Microsoft said residents of any country are eligible for the $250,000. The company has said previously it will not pay rewards to anyone involved in creating the viruses.”

Es Car GoghHere is a picture that Carla from my office took of a trail that a slug left behind on her screen door. It looks like a stick-figure person, and she calls it ‘Es Car Gogh.’ Pretty cool.

Remember when I found these slugs?

Do you remember a few months ago, when I was suffering from changing long distance carriers for our office? Well, it seems that even though I started the changeover last July, this week we still had several But then again, I could be wrong...of our 18 phone trunks that were either still with the old carrier, or the old carrier had somehow snatched them back.

(If you ever need to check who your carrier is, just dial 1-700-555-4141, and there’ll be an announcement that tells you, but we have a bunch of lines that are in the PBX phone switch in our basement, and you can’t tell which line you’ve got because it picks the next available one automatically, so there’s really no easy way to test.)

Anyway, here’s the rant:

I call up SBC (oh, did I say that out loud?), and the auto-attendant greeting says, ‘To experience our world-class customer service, press 2 now, and an SBC representative will be with you in a moment.’ OK, well, that sounds great, so I press 2.

I get to enjoy about a minute of delicious Muzak&#153 in the ‘on-hold’ style that we all love, and then I hear, ‘Please hold for just a moment, and a representative will be right with you,’ and again, I’m thinking, well OK!

About 5 seconds after that, it says, ‘Due to an overwhelming number of unexpected calls, we are unable to service your call at this time,’ hangs up on me, and I get a fast busy.

‘An overwhelming number of calls?’ This is supposed to be The Phone Company!

This goes on for 3 or 4 cycles of calling, waiting, and being hung up on, then I finally get through to a warm body and they answer the phone, ‘I’m Theresa… How may I provide you with excellent service this morning?,’ and I explain to Theresa that evil forces seem to be in control of my phone bill. She takes a look at our account and says, ‘Hmm. Well, I don’t get this… can you hold for just a second,’ and proceeds to put me on hold for 14 minutes 27 seconds (our phones have a display that tells call duration). After said 14:27, someone named Ky comes on the line and says, ‘Hi, I’m Ky. How may I provide you with excellent customer service?’ and I say, ‘Gosh, I don’t know but I hope it works out better than the excellent service I was getting from Theresa when she put me on hold about 15 minutes ago!’

The good news is that I honestly believe that Ky got things straightened out, but it took phone conversations with at least 5 different people over a period of almost 3 hours, and most of those people honestly couldn’t help me.

By the way, since I mentioned Theresa and Ky (and Mary Alice, you rocked!), I feel I should quote Kurt Vonnegut’s foreword to Sirens of Titan, to wit, ‘None of the names have been changed to protect the innocent, as God protects the innocent as a matter of heavenly routine.’

More links in the Great Chain of Being...I’m about to leave you with a few quick linky doodles, and I’m considering turning this into a pattern of ranting or providing a meaningful essay followed by a bunch of interesting links. By the way, if it isn’t obvious, ‘linky doodle’ is a free association off of ‘Yankee Doodle,’ as in, ‘here’s a linky doodle dandy.’ But I digress…

So I’m looking at MetaFilter today, and I ran across this wonderful documentary on the Federal Reserve banking system (and evils thereof), but it looked to run about 2 hours, and I realized I didn’t have nearly enough time in my life to watch it this month, so I went looking for other sources of information, and I ran across this nifty Fed 101 tutorial on the Fed’s own website. I think I may really need to take the time to learn about this stuff.

Here is one of the worst ‘good news/bad news’ jokes I’ve ever heard… guy hangs himself because his wife catches him cheating on her, and the wife saves him, but in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, where they all live, attempted suicide is against the law, so charges are being brought against him: Excite – News

I don’t believe in astrology, but somehow it seems fitting to follow a bunch of posts on the skeptics’ meeting I attended with this astrological report from Excite:

Your mind is a blissfully chaotic place. Your brain is a beautiful machine in motion. You’re a vessel spinning in its moorings, eager to leave the dock for open waters. You’re churning out ideas that conventional language can barely touch. When you speak, it’s an explosion of pure thought that makes conventional thinkers run for safety. Surprisingly, there are people around here who understand you. Where have they been all your life? The point is that you’re forming a bond right now. Your combined powers are sure to break records. You’ll all be talking about this for years.

Hey, it may be a bunch of hooey, but they took the time to write this about me, and when they’re right, they’re right, right? And yes, I am a Gemini.

Quick Update – Sound Bites from The Amazing Meeting 2:

  • Just remember, when you hear the term ‘New Age’ that it rhymes with ‘sewage.’
  • Michael Shermer: On average, those Mormon boys that go out to witness convert about 1-2 people every year. That’s not enough, but it’s OK, because they can fill their needs internally through breeding.
  • Julia Sweeney, speaking about the poster of Jesus she had on her wall as a young girl: ‘Oh my god, that Jesus was sooo hot! I have to admit he helped me to discover the pleasures of my own body.’
  • Me: They made fun of the ‘cold fusion’ guys, but that made me wonder, ‘hey, what if cold fusion had been real?’
  • Michael Shermer again: ‘Good and Evil are good adjectives, but they’re not good nouns.’
  • Bob Park: ‘The greatest discovery of modern medicine is not vaccines or antibiotics, it’s the double-blind test.’
  • Me: ‘If the placebo effect works for me, that’s good enough!’
  • Julia Sweeney: ‘Sister Wendy. Now there’s a cool job… six months in a silent convent, and six months as a television star!’
  • Lance Burton (while doing his straight-jacket escape): ‘I’ve heard (or read) that Houdini could dislocate both of his shoulders to do this trick. I don’t have any idea whether or not that’s true, but it sure would help.’
  • Don’t recall who said this: ‘Epistemological Hedonism – if it feels good, believe it.’

Amazing Meeting Update OK, so here’s what I’m doing this weekend in Las Vegas. If you know or care, please take a look – it seems they’re updating in near real-time, their pictures are much better than mine are turning out, and I need to go to the lunch buffet. (Thursday I was in the 4th row, Friday I was in the 3rd row, and today I’m in the 13th row, which is not only an unlucky number, it’s a much less satisfying experience.) The Amaz!ng Meeting 2: Las Vegas