Thursday, June 28, 2007

A post completely stolen from an email from a friend

I would like to clarify a statement I made about my position on valuing my time and how and why I do it. "Dude, what is your time worth?" It is not a money thing at all.

When I was 25, I made like $20/hr. The guys that did things like change brake pads and landscape my yard would charge me more than double that. Additionally my time was "cheap" because I felt like I had lots of it. The big dirt nap was far, far off - 50 years away which might as well have been 1000 years away for as much connection as I had to it. I changed my own brake pads because it held intrinsic satisfaction for me since I am a gearhead and my time was "cheap" i.e. I had lots of it left in my life. The money piece of it confirmed that equation because I would have to work 3 of my hours to make enough money to pay for 1 hour of the guys that could do it for me so I would actually be decreasing my net output at that time by paying them to do it.

When I was 35, I made around $35/hr. The guys changing brake pads were only charging like 1-1/2 times that rate to do it for me. The dirt nap loomed closer but I still did not give it much thought. I worked many, many hours, up to 75/week for months at a time and so sometimes it made sense to hire out some of the more mundane tasks simply because I didn't have the time to do it after work. I wanted to spend what little time I had left after work with friends and family (looking back now I would say I didn't spend enough time with them although I had some great times with you and other friends in Laguna and in Irvine)

Now, approaching 45, I make somewhat more than what I have to pay the guys that change brake pads. I am feeling the dirt nap peaking around the corner at me, who knows, maybe as little as 15 years away (both my grandfathers passed by age 60). I have a lot of shit to get done before I meet my maker - traveling, raising a family, spending time with friends and family and maybe squeezing off one more major project, my Taj Mahal, my swan song. I don't want to spend 1/8 of a second of those 15 years changing brake pads or even thinking about changing brake pads. It is not in the top 10,000 things I want to do before I leave this rock - I am going to run out of time before I even complete 10% of my list. I can afford to pay someone else to change my brake pads while I do some of the many things that are on my to do list. In fact, I can afford to pay guys $20 - $25/hr to do many of the mundane tasks I don't want to include on the list on my headstone and still be way ahead. What's more, that is how I can multiply my output in my life. I will get a lot more done in the 15 years remaining by working and making the money I can make doing so and paying for as much other stuff as possible so I can spend more time doing the things that are really important in this life like spending time with my family and recreating. Life is not about working man!

Donald Trump doesn't even know the name of the guy that changes his brake pads. Well, he probably doesn't own a car long enough for the brake pads to wear out before he buys a new one, but he makes yooge money doing what he does best, developing real estate, and he buys everything else he needs or wants and still puts large stacks of casheesh in the bank. I, like the Donald and everybody else, whether they know it or not, use money to normalize the simultaneous set of equations that must be solved to tell me when to work and when to pay someone else to work - thus the phrase "what is my time worth". It is not a money thing at all, it is a balance thing. Balance work with play and family. I want to spend as much time on family/friends and play time as possible before I wind up in the obits.

So my point to you when I said "Change brake pads? Dude, what is your time worth?" is that you make way more per hour than what you have to pay the guys that change your brake pads, your pride is in tact since you have proven you can change pads having done it many times, and it probably isn't even that fun anymore, if it ever was for you. Make your money doing what you do so well, pay the knucklehead guy to change your brake pads and spend the afternoon with your girlfriend at the beach or on a bike ride or on a hike while he does it. You will be multiplying your output while increasing your life enjoyment. "Dude, what is your time worth?"

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Spanish Moth

Here is a video from my time in Can Serrat last year. It is a video of a moth that I swear I though was a hummingbird the first 74 times I saw it. It loved this flowering bush on the side of the house.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cornstarch Aliens

In this 2:44 long video, you will watch some interesting physcis of cornstarch. And then the aliens appear.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Being an eco-tourist in a miniature Alice in Wonderland

I just watched this video about gut microbes in termites. It is really fantastic.

You get to see how these bacteria and microbes live inside the gut of termites. Of course I have heard about the fact that termites don't actually digest wood - the microbes in their gut digest them. But there are so many kinds of microbes swimming around in there!

It makes me think about all the secret worlds that surround us, everywehre. What kind of bacteria nad microbes are living inside of our own guts, unbeknownst to us? How many do we need to survive?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why invasive species are bad

Invasive species are responsible for:

Increasing the intensity, frequency, and size of wildfires
Altering soil chemistry and nutrient levels
Lowering water tables
Altering rates of sedimentation and erosion
Displacing or outcompeting native plant species
Degrading or eliminating habitat for native animals and organisms
Providing habitat for undesireable non-native animals and organisms
Posing a serious threat to native wildlife by upsetting delicate food webs

See a directory of North American pests here.

Monday, June 18, 2007


I realize that I have posted several sarcastic posts in a row. I'm going to stop.

How to Use A Diet Club to Market Your Network Marketing Company's Weight Loss Products

Wow, just what I've always wanted, I clicked on "next blog" from my blogger account, which (as far as I can tell) takes one randomly to another blog, and I found this fascinating article that can be published freely as long as one includes the full author info in the last paragraph.

I thought it went very well with A Buyer's Guide to America's best Selling Diet Pills. Maybe the pharmaceautical companies can start hosting diet clubs. Or maybe the MLM scammers can start a consortium to advertise their products.

------------------ ARTICLE START ------------------

How to Use A Diet Club to Market Your Network Marketing Company's Weight Loss Products

It seems that, everywhere you look, everyone is trying to lose weight. If you are in a network marketing company that has a weight loss product line, you have a huge, hot, and hungry market that you can sell to.

One of the easiest marketing strategies that you can implement is starting a diet club in your town. Here are tips to get your diet club started off right.

1. Host a diet club in your home. If you cannot do it, one of your friends, family members, or colleagues may be willing to be the host, especially when you offer them free samples of your network marketing's company's weight loss product.

2. The host will need to invite six or more people to your diet club. The invitations can look something like this:

"Your Dieting Days are Over!"

The problem with diets is that, whenever you go on a diet, eventually you have to get off the diet. What usually happens? The weight returns.

*Drink a shake. Lose weight! Eat a cookie. Lose weight! Try these and other fun and easy ways to lose weight!

*Never be hungry! (that's better than willpower!)

*Enjoy great tasting cookies between meals!

*Lose weight and keep it off!

Come to our diet club kick off! Meet new friends, bring your favorite dish and recipe, and lose weight while snacking with us!

Fun! Healthy! Plus it all tastes so good!

Tuesday, April 18th, 150 broad Avenue, Winchester, VA

3. Purchase a scale so that you will have one for the official "weigh-in".

4. Plan to have your diet club meet on the same day and time every week. Every member will need to weigh in each week. The member who loses the most weight will get to keep the special "Weight Loss Trophy" for the week. You will need to remind them to bring it back for the next group meeting's winner. When you do it like this, you will only need to purchase one trophy.

5. The member that loses the least amount of weight or gains the most gets a booby prize. This can be anything, such as an embarrassing poster they have to put on their refrigerator for the week. Get creative! Whoever gets the booby prize will need to bring it back to the next meeting so that the new winner can receive it.

6. After the weigh-in, trophy, and booby prize awards, give your diet club members a tip or two about proper eating and dieting. Share with them how your weight loss product can help them meet their goals.

7. Lastly, socialize! Share recipes, give out cookies, shakes, or whatever weight loss product your network marketing company promotes. Dig into the delicious dishes that members bring. Overall, just enjoy the fellowship and then repeat next week!

That's it! This is all it takes to start your own diet club in your hometown. Your members will appreciate your efforts, and it's highly likely you will get lots of orders for your weight loss products! So, get going with your first diet club today!

Monique's Hawkins is a retail representative for a network marketing company. She believes failing in network marketing is NOT your fault. To discover how to end years of failure and frustration with MLM, visit

------------------ ARTICLE END ------------------

I especially love how they give out a booby prize to chastize the "loser" who loses the least. And of course focusing a on a weekly weigh-in has got to be good for the self-esteem. Especially conisdering that muscle weighs more than fat and that if yo uare actually toning muscle you may not be "losing weight," even though you could easily be losing fat. So healthy. And, of course, I love that they market cookies as a weight loss tool.

I'd like to just take a moemnt to state that, ultimately, there is only one diet: eat less, exercise more. However you reach that equilibrium can be different, and different approaches work better for different people, but when it comes down to it, that's the only way to become more fit.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

On shit

Sometimes when I'm sad or upset my mom says, 90% of
life is just trying to swim thorugh a river of shit
and keep your head above the river, but the other 10% make
it worth it.

Actually, I think she just said that once, but it
stuck with me.

And I think it's actually probably less than 90%,
closer to 50%, but the shit river comes in waves, so
sometimes it's all shit and you can't keep your head
above it.

Another friend once said, every day you have to eat a
shit sandwich, and if you miss a day, it just means
you have make it up later.

Yeah, so life is full of shit. But shit is just a
small part of life.

I considered taking a picture of a shit in the toilet
and posting it here, but I decided it was already
a little edgy for me to be talking about shit in my
blog. I generally try to make it all-ages.

Besides, it's really kind of sick to take
a picture of your shit.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A buyer's guide to America's best-selling diet pills.

On the second page of this two page ad the reader gets a description of all the "best-selling" diet pills. They might as well just call them the "most popular" or say "everyone is doing it." The first page imbeds the idea that "Everybody wants to lose weight," and here they give you so many ways to do it, none of them requiring effort, thought, or consideration!

The first one says "Eat all you want and still lose weight?" Though it implies that readers of this ad can continue to eat fast food six times a day, that is not actually how this pill works. No, you take this pill before you eat, and then you don't want to eat!

Then there is the "Belly Fat" pill, which is cross promoted here also as a "feel good" pill because it reduces stress. Fantastic! I can be skinny and happy, with just one pill. Of course, if you become skinny you will also become happy, right?

Then they outline the pill for those who are "significantly overweight" and caution that this pill is only for those who are truly obese. Of course it costs $153 a bottle so it "is much too expensive and much too powerful for the casual dieter." I find this particularly disturbing because they act like they are cautioning the reader here, implying that this ad wouldn't lead readers astray. Whoever is paying for his ad just wants to help readers find "the right" diet pill.

Or two. Becuase in the pink box they explain how celebrities like to "combine two or more diet pills" to lose weight super-fast. They flat-out explain the upper-downer cycle: "One pill picks you up, the other pill calms you down...both of them help you lose weight...but together, oh my goodness!" But don't worry, they let you konw that the makers of the drugs do not condone combo-pilling. Okay, but what about doctors? They don't bother to note that many people who combo-pill (celebs or not) go to multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions.

As you can see, this ad is absolutley creepy and conniving. It never says who has paid for it, and all of the pills are from different manufacturers. It must be some kind of consortium. This adds to the disturbing factor because again it could appear that it was written by an unbiased third party. It makes me sick to think about someone who doesn't have good critical thinking skills and who suffers from low body image or self esteem. They would be on the phone to their doctor immediately to get the cure to all their problems.

But don't worry, if you're not a pill person, they've thrown in a "slimming gel" for good measure. "You can even apply [Tummy Flattening Gel] to your double chin."

Everybody wants to lose weight

...but which "diet pill" is right for you?

Okay, so I found this very disturbing ad in a recent issue of some garbage pop-star magazine. Why I was reading such a piece of trash is another story, which I'd rather not have on the record.

Anyway, I come across this double page ad. First of all, I generally hate the ads that try to look like articles published by the magazine. And I also wonder if anyone doesn't motice the "Advertisement" typed in tiny font at the top... some people must not.

This ad starts off assuming that "everybody wants to lose weight." This is problematic becuase it's not true, but also becuase it implies that if you don't want to lose weight there is something wrong with you. The last portion of this title/sentence then goes on to imply/assume that everyone wants to lose weight by taking diet pills. I know I just wrote a what is wrong with our society, but I think I've changed my mind. The addiction to "mircale pills" for all our problems is really what is wrong with our society.

Also, the girl on this page isn't fat. In fact, it just looks like they slightly distorted the picture of a normal and thin girl so she looks a little wider, not fat, just distorted. So here we again see the idea being planted into people's heads that even normal thin people need to lose weight.

The timing of this ad couldn't have been better, either. The feature article of this issue was celebrity cellulite. Now, I have heard of this before. It is actually a common complaint about magazines targeted twoards female audiences; there seems to be more behind the secne deals regarding advertisers only buying space if the magazine will run an article along the same lines. "We are the biggest consumer society on the face of the earth, and advertisers often apply tremendous pressure to the media to adapt content."

Let me just also mention that they use ellipses three times in the first paragraph!

But the creepiest thing of all about this advertisement is that it doesn't say who has paid for it! Read "A buyer's guide to America's best-selling diet pills" to learn more about this disturbing ad.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

what is wrong with our society

Today I went for a run along the PB-MB boardwalk. As I was crossing over to the bay side, near the roller coaster, I saw a cop hassling a homeless man. The man had a cane and a guitar and the cop had taken both of them away from him, and was making him cross the sidewalk without his cane. The man was elderly, and life had certainly been hard on him. He really did need that cane.

I was paused, not knowing what to do. The man said, "Hey! This cop is picking on me!" I acknowledged him with a compassionate look, yet I didn't speak up. I don't know why the cop was hassling him. I suspect it was some kind of panhanlding law, that the homeless man was playing guitar for money.

When the crosswalk turned green, I went on. But I felt really wretched about it. I cried for several mintes as I ran. I was overcome by compassion for this man whose life had clearly been so hard and who doesn't have any options and gets hassled for existing. I was also disappointed in myself for not speaking up. Not even disappointed - disgusted. In that moment my non-action represented so much of what is wrong with our society. I should have at least asked the cop why the man was being stopped.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lemon Stealing Neighbors

The other day I was walking to my bedroom from the bathroom after just having taken a shower, when I see a man lurking around my yard. My home and yard are set a bit differently than most, making this occurance both more possible and more disturbing. First of all, the house is rather dark and gets very little direct sunlight. There is a sort of enclosed pation in the center of the house, which can not be seen form the street or the neighboring houses. So, there are no curtains or other type of shades on the windows that look into this patio. Hence, if there is someone in my yard, they can see right in.

The other odd thing about the house is that there really isn't a back yard. The yard is rather large, but it's all in the front. There is a wall that goes around a lare portion of the ayrd. To me and my family, this wall designates public sapce from private space. Outside the wall is open to the neighbors and filled with decorative plants species; inside the wall is a more private, secured area and has mostly fruit trees and vegetable gardens. It is, in spirit, our backyard.

Now, at the time I saw the man lurking in my front-backyard, I didn't have any clothes on, so the alarm I would normally feel was heightened. I hid in the hallway and peeked out the window and patio to see who this person was. Well, lo-and-behold, it was my neighbor. He had come to take a few lemons off my tree.

Now, taking a few lemons and here there really isn't a problem. During peak seasons I give them away by the bagful. The issue here really isn't about the lemons. The issue is my privacy and respect for property that doesn't belong to him.

So, now I was in a predicament.He had behaved innapropriately, yet I was the one who had to deal with it. I have mentioned neighborly isuses to him before and he has responded by blowing them off. Nothing major. But these neighbors are a certain type of people. I don't know how to describe it, but I strongly suspected that if I went and approached them about, they would suddenly see me as the bad guy here. They are like the guy with TB who says "Oh poor me, I would never wish this on anyone," but in the mean time he has exposed hundred of people in his selfish and egocentric antics.

Anyway, here are my options, in the order I thought of them:

1. March myself over, knock on the door and say to the man, "I saw you taking lemons off my tree, and I'd really appreciate it if you would ask before taking lemons next time." The problem here is that suddenl; I would be the "uptight bitch" and probably case neighborly drama that I really don't want.

2. March myself into their backyard and spend an afternoon in their pool. When they come home and ask me what I'm doing I'll just say, "Well, no one was using it, and I thoght neighbors shared. I mean, you help yourself to my lemons." This is not my style, though I wish it was.

3. Write a note to the man saying the same thing as #1. Same problems as #1, plus I will be seen as passive agressive.

4. Approach the man's wife, when the man is not home, saying "I saw your man taking lemons off my tree, and I'd really appreciate it if you would tell him to before taking lemons next time. Becuase, well, when he came over, I was just out of the shower, and I was naked, and I felt really uncomfortable." I could play the naked card, but it that's not relaly the issue.

5. Drop the part about saying I saw them, and just throw out randomly, "Hey, if you want some fruit here and there it's geenrally not a problem, but you need to be sure to ask first, uot of respect for my privacy."

6. Leave note that says the same as #5, with a couple of lemons.

So, I am thinking if I see them I wil use #5, but if not, then I'll go with #6. Since I hardly ever see them, it will probably be #6.

Friday, June 01, 2007

An Open Letter to Yahoo!

Dear Yahoo!,

I have had a Yahoo! email account for a very long time. Yahoo! was my first, and I am still using it. Other email addresses have come and gone (alegra@meowmail, alegra@mail.utexas, abartzat@mail.sdsu, alegra@sdecocenter). And even though I actually prefer the other addresses because they are my name, just my name, and nothing but my name, I have stuck with Yahoo! because I like consistency.

I like knowing that pretty much anyone from my past, from high school, college, graduate school, or any job, could contact me at any moment. It is easy to reach me, because my email address hasn't changed. Once in a while I still recieve an email from a long lost friend. And this is nice.

I also don't want to burden others with keeping up with incessently changing email addresses. When I get those "This is my new email address" emails, I rarely update my address book, becuase the sender usually sends them from the old email saying "Don't use this email address anymore." I understand; it's easier because that is where your addresses are saved. Yahoo!, you could save us all from the dilemmma by allowing us to to set up an additional Yahoo! Mail accounts for each Yahoo! profile.

I know that my address book, even my electronic address books, have a great number of expired email addresses. This is sad, especially when you think of someone and write to them to tell them you have thought of them, and the email bounces back. Most especially when you don't have their new address in there along with the old. Again, multiple email accounts within a single profile, and which would be checked at the same login would prevent this kind of problem; the old would be checked along with the new.

With the new advent of google email, or gmail, I feel pressure to change or update my email address. I already use google for their calendar. I also use blogger. I don't want google to be my end-all be-all. I don't like how google is taking over the internet. Neither does Silicon Valley.

I still use Yahoo! Yellow Pages to look up stores and restaurants. But I will admit, google maps is my go-to for mapping, beating out both Yahoo! and MapQuest. It's hard to resist google's powerful pull. Yahoo!, you can help us resist if you would suddenly offer such a useful service, which google hasn't yet thought of and offered.

I want to support Yahoo!, and other internet giants. I also enjoy having a long history of emails at my disposal, able to search out emails from my past on a whim, or for a purpose. So, Yahoo!, I urge you: Allow me to to set up an additional Yahoo! Mail accounts for my Yahoo! profile. Allow me to have both a new Yahoo! Mail account, and my old Yahoo! Mail account.

I understand this is a demanding request; I understand it will require larger servers and more providing power. But, if you spin it just right, and beat google to it, this could keep you in the running as internet's most important player.

The Biology of Running

Running is a great sport. I have been, at various times in my life, very into running, or not into running at all. I love that it takes no special equipment, and that you can do it anywhere. It is also a fairly amazing biological feat of coordination between many muscles, and between body and mind.

The major msucles involved in running include the quads, calves, and hamstrings, as well as the core muscles and hips.

Running is defined as having three phases, which repeat with each stride. The support phase is the time the foot is in contact with the earth. One foot touches the ground as the knee joint begins to flex. This is basically catching your body before you hit the ground. The body's center of gravity is typically above the point where the foot touches the ground. The primary muscles involved are the quadriceps.

The drive phase is the time the leg (that was previously supporting the body) extends behind the runner. This pushes the runner forward and somewhat upwards. In this way, the leg continues to support the body from falling to the ground, but also propels the runner. The primary muscles involved are the quadriceps and various calf muscles.

During the recovery phase the foot loses touch with the ground and returns to the front of the body, where it will re-enter the support phase. In this way, each leg and foot is in a constant cycle between these phases while a person is running. The primary muscles involved are the hip flexors; this is the least intensive portion of the cycle.

Though running is typically considered a lower body sport, significant upper body movement is required, and competitive runners naturally develop strong upper bodies. This is especially notable in sprinters, as the faster you run, the harder your upper body works to keep balance. Your arms move in opposition to your legs, moving backwards as the oppostie legs drive the body forward. This helps runners keep their balance and is a natural occurance.

Running also releases your bodies natural endorphins. With running (or any strenuous aerobic endurace excercise) your pituatary glands release these natural "feel good" hormones. While it may take a while for your body to adjust to the intense exercise that is running, I highly recommend it for a complete workout that will make your body and mind feel good!

Some Marathon Thoughts

A recent NY Times article addresses the change in attitude toward marathons in the past few years. While marathons were long thought to be unattainable for the average person, they are often now considered "the everyman's Everest."

I see that reflected in the world around me. I can name at least three friends, right off the top of my head, who have run a marathon. And now a fourth has come to mind, just as I write this. Maybe it's beacuse I have health-minded friends. Maybe it's because I live in health-minded California. But I think it is also becuase it's something people like to do nowadays. I have always said I wanted to run a marathon before I die. With the inspiration of friends and strangers all around me running marathons, many of them less athletically inclined than I (and I'm not so particularly athletic, compared to many others), I feel that I, too, can complete a marathon. I don't have to be the fastest. I just have to finish. That is very exciting.

I was disappointed to read in the mentioned article that many attribute the rise in female marthoners to Oprah's completion of a marathon a few years back. I'm happy for Oprah, but I'm not an Oprah follower, and I innately resist anything that might suggest I'm becoming one, such as reading from her book club list or running marathon after she did. Still, it has been on my list since I made that list in high school, and I don't remember most of the other stuff I put on that list.

But here is a question. Why do we all have to fundraise to run marathons? I didn't even sign up for a marathon that required fundraising, but I am still doing it. I'm tacking on a cause I care about and asking people to give money.

For me, it helps my level of accountability. It would be easy to quit training out of laziness or inconvenience. (It takes a LONG TIME to run so many miles each week!) But if you've sent out an email to 300 of your closest friends who are going to ask you about the run come time, well, it makes that much harder to face quitting. And if they've given $5, $10, $26, or more, again it becomes even harder.

I guess, also, it takes a lot of effort to run 26.2 miles....might as well put it to a good cause.