Archive for November, 2009

Never Rope a Deer

Monday, November 30th, 2009

A friend of mine emailed this story to me.

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s true, it’s a funny story.

NEVER ROPE A DEER
Actual Letter from someone who farms in Kansas

I had this idea that I was going to rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it. The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that, since they congregated at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.

I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope. The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it. After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up — 3 of them.

I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope. The deer just stood there and stared at me.

I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold. The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation.

I took a step towards it… it took a step away. I put a little tension on the rope and received an education.

The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope. That deer EXPLODED.

The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt. A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope with some dignity. A deer, no chance.

That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled. There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I originally imagined.

The only upside is that they do not have as much stamina as many animals.

A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head.

At that point, I had lost my taste for corn-fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope. I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slow and painfully somewhere. At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual.

Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer’s momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in, so I didn’t want the deer to have to suffer a slow death, so I managed to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder – a little trap I had set before hand… kind of like a squeeze chute. I got it to back in there and started moving up so I could get my rope back.

Did you know that deer bite? They do! I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very surprised when I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist.

Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and then let go. A deer bites you and shakes its head — almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts.

The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was ineffective. It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds. I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim by now) tricked it.

While I kept it busy tearing the bejesus out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose.

That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day. Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp.

I learned a long time ago that, when an animal — like a horse — ; strikes at you with their hooves and you can’t get away easily, the best thing to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards the animal. This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape.

This was not a horse. This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would not work. In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy.

I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run.

The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head. Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down.

Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not immediately leave. I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering your head.

I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away.

Got To Get My Stuff Done

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

I wanted to write a real post tonight, but I need to get to sleep so I can get up early tomorrow to get my stuff done.

How’s the Economy treating *you*

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

The NY Times has put together a really cool interactive chart that shows The Jobless Rate for People Like You.
Select your personal demographic at the top or hover over the lines to see who they represent.

It’s the best argument for education I’ve seen in a long while.

yourjoblessrate.png

Google Suggests … what?

Monday, November 16th, 2009

The Google search engine offers a feature called  Google Suggest.  As you type into the search box, Google Suggest offers searches similar to the one you’re typing.  Type “New York” and you’ll get helpful suggestions such as “New York Times”, “New York City”, and so on.  But type something like “how do I”, “how did I”, “what happens if” and you can amuse yourself for hours.

I’m not the first.

CNET UK  wonders, What does Google Suggest suggest about the state of humanity?

Mashable.com has collected their top 10 suggestions.

This is built right into the Firefox toolbar.  How did I get fat bedbugs with STDs?

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A Thinking Problem

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker. I began to think alone — “to relax,” I told myself — but I knew it wasn’t true.

Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time. I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don’t mix, but I couldn’t stop myself.

I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, “What is it exactly we are doing here?” I soon had a reputation as a heavy thinker. One day the boss called me in. He said, “Man, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don’t stop thinking on the job, you’ll have to find other employment.”

This gave me a lot to think about. I came home early after my conversation with the boss. “Sweetheart,” I confessed, “I’ve been thinking…”

“I know you have,” she said, starting to cry, “and if you don’t stop, I’ll want a divorce!”

“But dear, surely it’s not that serious.”

“It is serious,” she said through her rolling tears. “You think as much as college professors, and college professors don’t make any money, so if you keep on thinking we won’t have any money!”

“That’s a faulty syllogism,” I said impatiently, and she began to cry again.

I’d had enough. “I’m going to the library,” I snarled as I stomped out the door. I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche, with NPR on the radio. I roared into the parking lot and ran up to the big glass doors. They didn’t open: the library was closed. To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night. As I sank to the ground clawing at the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye.

“Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?” it asked.

You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker’s Anonymous poster.

Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a noneducational video; last week it was Porky’s Revenge. Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting. I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home.

Life just seemed… easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.

—–

I didn’t write this.  You can find it many places on the internet, without attribution.

If I Had TWO Hammers

Friday, November 13th, 2009

There’s an old saying: “If your only tool is a hammer, all your problems look like nails.”  I know it well, because it truly applies in the software development industry.  Most of the time, the software tools a programmer chooses for a job will depend on either 1) what the programmer know or 2) what the programmer wants to learn.

Seth Godin mentions this tendency in his blog today:

Seth’s Blog: Hammer time
One study found that when confronted with a patient with back pain, surgeons prescribed surgery, physical therapists thought that therapy was indicated and yes, acupuncturists were sure needles were the answer. Across the entire universe of patients, the single largest indicator of treatment wasn’t symptoms or patient background, it was the background of the doctor.

So, we programmers are not alone (I never thought we were :))

I love the phrasing of his parting advice.

The best way to find the right tool for the job is to learn to be good at switching hammers.

Of course, you can’t switch hammers unless you have more than one.

The software developers workers who will thrive in today’s and tomorrow’s global economy are the ones who make it a life-long practice to add new tools to their tool belts.

What I’m Reading Now

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

I’ve accumulated quite a stack of current reading, most of it really interesting to me. Perhaps someone will be interested in a few of these.

Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond
You have to get some exercise to live and lift some weights to live well.Actually, I just finished this one, and I rather enjoyed it. Probably because I already eat well and get a lot of exercise :)This ties in with In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan. (see my previous post.) I also really enjoyed this book – I think I listened to the audio version of this one. I have his previous book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meal on my “next” list.
Parenting Today’s Adolescent Helping Your Child Avoid The Traps Of The Preteen And Teen Years by Dennis Rainey, Barbara Rainey, and Bruce Nygren
We have read this one before, but we have a 14 year old and it’s time read it with new eyes.
Predictably Irrational
Yep. I’m still reading this one. It’s too interesting to rush through.
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, by Daniel H. Pink.
This is another that my wife got from the library and I picked up. I’m on the last disc of the audio version.The premise here is that we are at the end of the Information Age, and us “knowledge workers” are going to have to pick up some new skills if we are to survive. Computers and lower-paid workers in other countries are taking away the linear left-brain work – at least the portion that can be parceled out into chunks or reduced to an algorithm.
Complete Baths (Stanley)
We’re trying to put a bathroom in the basement.Nothing is as easy as it looks.But, I got to use a jackhammer last weekend!Now I have a Home Depot credit card, ’cause I’ll put up with a lot for 10% off.
The Shack
Some friends from my church want to discuss this one in our community group.
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
I’m not sure where I found this one (perhaps I intended to write about the source).Sounds interesting.

I’ll let you know if it is…

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz
I haven’t started this one yet either, but I have it in my hands, so it counts.I think I found this one with Nudge.
200% of Nothing: An Eye Opening Tour Through the Twists and Turns of Math Abuse and Innumeracy by A. K. Dewdney
And one final book for the nightstand. This was in the pile of books I picked up at the library today (we’re on a first name basis with all the librarians).Here’s a story to illustrate:

A man by the name of Smith was walking home from work when he spotted a $5 bill on the pavement. He looked around, picked it up, and put it in his pocket. His other pocket already contained a $10 bill. Smith smiled. “My wealth has increased by 50 percent,” he said to himself.

Unfortunately, the pocket that held the $5 bill had a hole in it. When Smith got home, he discovered to his dismay that the $5 was missing. “That’s no so bad,” he said. “Earlier, my wealth increased by 50 percent, now it has decreased by only 33 percent. I’m still ahead by 17 percent!”

Not Such a New Idea, Perhaps

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

I’ve just had one of those interesting coincidences; you know, the kind where six friends from different areas of your life all mention kangaroos in the space of a week.  It makes you wonder.

In this case it’s a series of books on nutrition.  Once again, my wife picks them, and I pick them up because they look interesting.  (Thanks, Honey.)

The first was Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.

I listened to the audio version of the book and found it very engaging.  The premise of the book is simple (and tangential to this post).  Pollan summarizes it thus:  “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”  He also addresses the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats in our diet and laments the fact the the vast majority of our calories are now derived directly or indirectly from corn and soy.

The second book was Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond, by Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D.

I’m still to young to be reading this one, by the way.

This one is mostly about how important it is to get regular exercise, both endurance and strength. Their premise is that we are either growing or decaying.  Decay is inevitable, and we must fight it by promoting growth.  Oddly enough, growth is triggered by stress and damage, but only at higher levels than we get watching TV.

However, it also discusses nutrition and spends some time on the omega fats.  Omega-3 fats are dynamic and flexible.  Omega-6 fats are stiffer and promote inflammation.  We have so much omega-6 in our diet that our bodies are forced to use these fats for cell construction even when the blueprints call for omega-3.  This leads to brittle cell walls and inflammation.

The final coincidence was an article a co-worker sent me: The Vanishing Youth Nutrient.

In this article, Susan Allport also discusses the American omega-3/omega-6 imbalance.  She adds the concept of Spring vs. Fall fats.

Omega-3 fats are Spring Fats and are found mostly in the green leaves of plants (and in fish, because they eat plankton).

First, let’s start with omega-3s, what I’ll call the spring fats. These are likely the most abundant fats in the world, but they don’t originate in fish, as many believe. Rather, they are found in the green leaves of plants. Fish are full of omega-3s because they eat phytoplankton (the microscopic green plants of the ocean) and seaweed. In plants, these special fatty acids help turn sunlight into sugars, the basis of life on Earth. The spring fats speed up metabolism. They are fats that animals (humans included) use to get ready for times of activity, like the mating season. They’re found in the highest concentrations in all the most active tissues: brains, eyes, hearts, the tails of sperm, the flight muscles of hummingbirds. Because fish have so many of these fats in their diets, they can be active in cold, dark waters. These fats protect our brains from neurological disorders and enable our hearts to beat billions of times without incident. But they are vanishing from our diet, and you’ll soon understand why.

Omega-6 fats are Fall Fats.  They are found predominately in the seeds of plants.

Next up are the omega-6s, what I’ll call the fall fats. They originate in plants as well, but in the seeds of plants rather than the leaves. The fall fats are simply storage fats for plants. Animals require both—omega-3s and omega-6s—in their diets and their tissues. But omega-6s are slower and stiffer than omega-3s. Plus, they promote blood clotting and inflammation, the underlying causes of many diseases, including heart disease and arthritis.

I found it really interesting that information about the balance of Omega fats is coming at me from three sources.  They don’t all say the same thing, but they all agree.  Our traditional American diet has been systematically stripped of omega-3 fats and loaded up with omega-6 fats, largely as a result of misguided science and nutritionism, and it is killing us.  In addition to the direct effects the different fats have on, there are indirect effects that may be even more important.  Our sedentary lifestyles and the prevalence of omega-6 fat both send signals to our bodies that Winter is coming and we’d better prepare.  Preparation consists of putting on fat, slowing our metabolism, and accelerating the breakdown of expensive-to-maintain muscle tissue.

The thought that followed is the one that prompted me to write this article though.  It occurred to me that these revolutionary new ideas came from books. Books – not the newspaper or nightly news.  Not a weekly magazine.  Books take time to conceive, to write, to publish (and more time to get into the libraries, where I get mine).  These cutting edge ideas therefore can’t really be all that new then, can they.

Woohoo! I’m Popular. (hey — wait a minute…)

Friday, November 6th, 2009

I have a lot more visitors than comments.  I suppose that’s typical.

Nonetheless, I like comments.  I decided today to drop the bar on comment submission to see what will happen.  I took a look at my registered subscribers and got a shock.  I have 69 registered users!  Wow – I had no idea!

But wait a minute – take a look at the email addresses:

userlist23.png

I don’t want to expose any sensitive data on a real user, so I posted this as an image and obscured any data that looked legitimate. If you’re a real person, let me know and I’ll scrub the image some more.

I’m expecting lots of comment spam followed by a policy change.

At this point, it’s more than a guess.  I consulted my oracle on a few of these addresses (including Mr. Obama’s) and get  hits at BotScout.com (“We catch bots so you don’t have to”) and Stop Forum Spam.

Phish: Facebook Update Tool aka Facebook Account Update

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

I had a rash of spam get through the filters at work today.  Supposedly, I need to click some links in an email to update my Facebook account — for “increased account security.”

facebook4.png

This is actually one of the most convincing phishing attempts I have seen, but there are telltale clues:

1) I got three copies with two different subjects.  Sometimes it pays to procrastinate.

2) They don’t seem to know my name.

3) The return address looks fishy, and it is different in all three copies.

4) The URLs are just wrong.  Always check the URL before clicking.  I see “facebook.com.ppiof.eu”.  Remember that this really means whatever.ppiof.eu, and something.com.something_else is always the bad guys.

And the real giveaway:

5)  I don’t have a Facebook account.  If I did, this would be the wrong email address.

facebook1.PNG

Now, if you do have a Facebook account, and if you only get one copy,  you can still spot the fakes pretty easily.  These phishing emails will go out to mailing lists and lots of users who pay attention to this sort of thing. When I get an interesting email, I will search for some of the text of the message on Google.  Generally, I find an article like this one.

Here’s the text of the email for the search engines.

Dear Facebook user,

In an effort to make your online experience safer and more enjoyable, Facebook will be implementing a new login system that will affect all Facebook users. These changes will offer new features and increased account security.
Before you are able to use the new login system, you will be required to update your account.
Click here to update your account online now.

If you have any questions, reference our New User Guide.

Thanks,
The Facebook Team