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In Real Life

So we have Warriors, but what is that for a life. When I was younger I thought that it would be great to be a cat, it would make everything so much simpler living by the rules of the warrior code and not having to worry about IRL problems like student debt, grades, etc. However, the warrior code sucks once you get past a certain age. If you want an unnecessarily restrictive set of rules to live by you can find plenty as a human, but I for one am fine without. I know the series romanticizes the concept of being a warrior and living by the warrior code, but you have to realize how brutal and hard life would be–even considering just the little things. Also there’s the whole aspect of war being…you know…bad. Yet you’d want to live in a culture where making war is so important that being called a warrior is just a normal mark of adulthood? It’s not like the clan cats ever learn from their past, either. They constantly fight over borders. You’d live a life with almost no breaks, waking up early for the dawn patrol or a hunting patrol, and suffering through harsh winters with an empty belly. You’d deal with foxes and badgers, rogues, and rival clans. You’d seldom be able to travel out of your own territory aside from Gatherings or very special occasions. And it always struck me that they never had anything as basic as a weekend or any sort of holiday. The closest thing they have is a Gathering. Otherwise, it’s a daily slog with no breaks for pretty much your whole life. I imagine that you’d get tired of living the same life of patrols, battles, and harsh winters. You’d witness the deaths of your clanmates, and may even meet a horrible fate yourself. Greencough, hunger, cold, battle, infection–not at all pretty deaths, either. Plus, living in a clan you have very few romantic options, and unless the leader has been letting new cats in they’ll mostly be your relatives. They have no art, science, or technology, so I hope you don’t want a career in those fields. Actually, hope you don’t want anything, because you won’t have much choice. Almost nobody gets to be a medicine cat, since there are so few at a time, ditto for leaders and permanent queens, so you get to be a warrior! Unless you’re lucky enough to be crippled by a wound or birth defect, then I guess you could live with the elders forever. Generally speaking, being a cat would be worse than being a human. You suddenly have to be terrified of things you never would have been terrified of as a human (birds, dogs, other cats) and you also don’t get to have hands anymore. Even though I wanted to be something like a medicine cat, the reality is that I’d probably be a Kittypet. Or, you know, myself.
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Options by Robert Sheckley

Robert Sheckley (July 17, 1928 – December 9, 2005) was an American writer. First published in the science fiction magazines of the 1950s, his numerous quick-witted stories and novels were famously unpredictable, absurdist, and broadly comical.
Options by Robert Sheckley. I thought it was a hilariously entertaining book by an underrated author. For the record I think Sheckley was well aware that he was not writing a fancy experimental novel, but a parody of one. I can only say that it is obscure, out of print, and highly recommended – by my then 18 year old self anyway.
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When it comes to Michael Crichton you sort of get a mixed bag, his books can be great and they turn into disappointing movies.

Or vice versa.

I really liked Timeline. I really felt like I was back there. I love the whole idea of time travel, and he captured it so well. I was really sad when the book was over, like I was yanked out of reality and back to the present. I really felt like I was back there. I was really sad when the book was over, like I was yanked out of reality and back to the present.

But I also enjoyed a couple of his really old ones: The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man. Both of which were turned into good movies. Even though both of them are about 40 years old.


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Perched Water Table

Understanding the perched water table really helped give me a better understanding of what it means to take care of plants.

Most containers will form a perched water table at the bottom, but they also occur when there is a sudden change in soil consistency, such as from clay to sand, or soil to gravel.

A layer of gravel in your container creates a higher perched water table that is more in the root zone of your plants, with adverse effects on plant growth and root formation. The gravel raises the perched water table in the bottoms of pots. Gravity can't quite pull all of the water from the bottom of the soil so it stays wetter than the rest of the pot and anaerobic.

The gravel takes up some space at the bottom of the pot so the transition zone is higher up in the pot where the soil and gravel meet, and potentially closer to the roots.

As you can see the perched water table occurs because of the bottom of the container, not because of the ground. As long as it's deep enough for your roots, you should be fine! And some species do prefer wetter soil too.

The reason that it is called the perched water table is due to soil retention.

I've literally never seen proper container soil sold anywhere, you need to make it yourself. Tapla Soil Retention is what forever changed how I go about preparing the soil for my pots. How? Now I make proper soil.

5-1-1 Mix

I idealy I try and mix my soil like this (based on Al's recip from Garden Web):

  1. 5 parts pine bark fines, dust – 3/8 (size is important)
  2. 1 part sphagnum peat (not reed or sedge peat please)
  3. 1-2 parts perlite (coarse, if you can get it)
  4. garden lime (or gypsum in some cases)
  5. controlled release fertilizer (if preferred)

Small Mixture

  1. 3 gallons pine bark
  2. 1/2 gallon peat
  3. 1/2 gallon perlite
  4. 4 tbsp lime (or gypsum in some cases)
  5. 1/4 cup CRF (if preferred)

Any peat based potting media should be replaced yearly, 5-1-1 every two years or so, but the gritty mix will last for ages without losing pore space. All my potted perennials are grown in gritty mix now.


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It’s in the Ending

I've always thought of it as really campy, but the ending of Soylent Green sort of made me smile when I was a kid. I learned later that the novel didn't even have cannibalisim in it, yet as a kid, I don't know, there was just something about it that made it good. Though the whole movie was for better or worse good.

On the off chance that I would find that again I tried to find some movies that were similar. My search efforts returned these results:

  1. Local Hero (1983)
  2. Miracle Mile (1988)
  3. Millennium (1989)
  4. Dark City (1998)
  5. Knowing (2009)
  6. Take Shelter (2011)

You could watch the trailers on YouTube, but for the older picks you would be wise in knowing that old trailers are crap. They pretty much just show the whole movie in condensed form and ruin everything, including the ending.

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I Miss Crichton

We don't have anybody like Michael Crichton anymore. People will tell you to try Brown (Dan) if you say that too loudly, but it is true.

Sure you can read Brown, but only if you consider dumbed-down pseudo-science and poorly researched historical conspiracies presented as fact 'the exact same', then maybe.

I suppose Dan Brown is Michael Crichton for the masses; he draws normally uninterested readers in with socially controversial topics and makes them feel like they have some ridiculous new insight into them. Dan Brown writes basically the exact same kind of books Michael Crichton does.

The big difference is that with Dan Brown books he throws in cliffhangers at the end of every chapter.

I have yet to find any other author that matches Michael Crichton's dedication to proper research for a novel nor one that understands the topics he writes about as well as he did.

Read some of his older books (Terminal Man, Congo) and nothing in them seems all the extraordinary because today all of that technology is commonplace. Apply that to his newer books (Prey, Jurassic Park, etc. even aspects of Timeline) and consider that he might able to give a very real view of the future and problems we might want to contemplate before it's too late.

If we're able to produce enough anti-matter to blow up the Vatican (or do anything useful), measure the weight of someone's soul, or even create a practical rifle that can compress/heat snow/sand into ice/glass bullets in the next 40 years, I'll come back here for my public shaming.

As far as I know, there's currently no replacement for Michael Crichton.

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Elementary My Dear Watson

The fact that he could admire The Woman, and appreciate her cunning was something I felt humanized him. Sherlock Holmes knew he wasn't the best, yet, he was not a particularly humble individual, yet he was smart enough to know that he had flaws and here were people better than he was out there.

I think the value he placed on others that he deemed worthy made him the both likable and great.

And it is because of this I felt that the BBC version of Sherlock was one of the more faithful adaptions of that brilliant detective. But there is a bit of a balance problem that I have with it. I feel that Irene Adler was both over and under represented as herself in that series.

I felt that the show cheapened her. She showed up way more than necessary, for no purpose whatsoever.

The Woman beat Sherlock based solely on wit. It had none of that sexual undertone that was built into the show that I found particularly insulting.

She didn't seduce him.

She beat him.

The end.

And Doyle was smart enough to write a character that didn't win by luck, she beat him with guile. However she wasn't interested in seeing if she could lose. So she never came back.

I read the complete adventures of Sherlock Holmes when I was in 6th grade, and Irene Adler shaped how I view women, then and now. It's interesting to me how adaptations of Irene Norton, né Adler, a woman who loved her new husband so much that she would never use the incriminating photograph she possessed because it would harm them both, depict her as this criminal in love with Sherlock Holmes.

Aside from that gripe it is a good show. Though if I am to pick nits, I might as well be thorough.

I hate how he is perceived as bumbling- and I'd say it's because of the Nigel Bruce characterization, except that Agatha Christie apparently at least in part based her Captain Hastings character on Watson and he was an absolute bumbling idiot.

One of my least favorite characters ever.

Watson was a normal guy working with the tools he had and generally going an awesome job. Watson added a lot to the stories.

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Autism Linkages To Vitamin D

Vitamin D

We should all know how important it is, but … an alarming number of people that I have spoken with do not realize how important it is for our health and well being.

It is likely that many of the diseases that we consider to be diseases of the developed world are due at least in part to decreasing vitamin D. These diseases include heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes. And it turns out that the levels of vitamin D that you need to prevent those illnesses is much higher than the level you need to prevent rickets, which is why in the vitamin D community we think that there is a widespread vitamin D deficiency, even though we really don't see rickets very often.

In the US, there are several diseases such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes that are much more prevalent in black people than in other ethnic groups. This could very well be due to lower levels of vitamin D, because darker skinned people need to spend much more time in the sun to generate adequate vitamin D.

They're doing some research at the university of Minnesota on autism linkages to vitamin D linked to the Somali population in Minneapolis.

Apparently there isn't even a word for this condition in the Somali language but it has been appearing in the Somali community there at an alarming rate. While it does sound plausible that a rise in autism coincides with a decrease in vitamin D, what with the advent of indoor entertainment, but of course we all know correlation != causation.

I think the Somali population could prove to be a very interesting control group.

I'd be interested in more study with maternal vitamin D status as a risk factor for autism in children as well. There is some thought that autism might be due to maternal antibodies attacking the fetus, causing problems during brain development.

As you can see vitamin D does a whole lot more than prevent rickets, though. Vitamin D regulates a whole bunch of stuff including blood pressure (it inhibits the Renin enzyme which regulates the body's mean arterial blood pressure), the immune system, hormonal activity (including insulin), and many other important biological processes.

A lot of people just think spending time in the sun is enough, but like most things it is more complicated than that.

In other words more exposure to solar radiation.

It turns out solar radiation correlates with skin tone at a strength of about 60-70%. There is another explaining factor that is also very important.

Vitamin D in your food.

One control group that was studied for vitamin D levels … Inuits. They live very far north, yet they have darker skin than many Europeans.


It's because the Inuit diet is very high in fish which have substantial amounts of Vitamin D, while most white Europeans and Americans are often Vitamin D deficient due to our diets. Hence we have lighter skin despite having more solar radiation.

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Lathe of Heaven

Lathe of Heaven is a very cerebral book and an equally rewarding film. It has a non existent budget, being filmed for WNET in 1979, but it hides it well. It's a great idea and there are some pretty great twists and turns. This is a movie that I can't believe hasn't been remade with a massive budget.

But this version is very well written and just omits expensive scenes as best as possible. the budget is not a distraction at all, and it's a great story.

The Lathe of Heaven is a 1980 film adaptation of the 1971 science fiction novel The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. It was produced in 1979 as part of New York City public television station WNET's Experimental TV Lab project, and directed by David Loxton and Fred Barzyk. Le Guin, by her own account, was involved in the casting, script planning, re-writing, and filming of the production.
The film stars Bruce Davison as protagonist George Orr, Kevin Conway as Dr. William Haber, and Margaret Avery as lawyer Heather LeLache.

It is the story of a young man who has the ability to change the future when he dreams. His doctor, Haber begins to use Orr's "effective dreams" to first create a prestigious, well-funded institute run by himself, then to attempt to solve various social problems.

These solutions unravel quickly: Haber suggests that Orr dream of a solution to overpopulation. This results in a plague which wipes out three-fourths of the human population. The end to all conflict on Earth, which results in an alien invasion uniting mankind, and an end to racism. This has the effect of a world where everyone's skin becomes a uniform shade of gray.

It is immensely satisfying and Ursula K. Le Guin is rarely a disappointment.

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New to Koontz

I know that Dean Koontz is popular, and I have seen his books in the bookstore, yet I never had the desire to pick one up. "It isn't my genre" I would say and walk past them. For some reason that changed earlier in the year. The reason for the transition was "The Silent Corner" and "The Whispering Room" the first two books in the Jane Hawk series and from there the Odd Thomas series. The first two "Odd Thomas" books were really good. And what I have noticed is that the Odd Thomas series is very different from his other books.

After that I picked up "Phantoms" which was great. And I was creeped out all the way through the book. The idea to use fungus/gigantic organism under the earth as the monster was an interesting idea. While it was good all of the way through I figured it out about half way in, still it's a nightmarish page turner.

I stayed up all night reading it, though I doubt that I could have slept afterwards. It's apparently one of Koontz's least favorite books of his, go figure. I think he didn't like it because, despite it's success, it un-intentionally placed him in the horror genre, when he is actually more of a mystery/sci-fi writer.

Something that I have noticed about a couple of the other books.

Unfortunately, writing endings seems to be his weakness.

I feel like he writes the beginning, then the end, and fills in the blanks later. Though I have been told that Velocity is one of his tightest books with a great ending and some Koontz fans have recommend because it "truly keeps you on the edge of your seat." As well as being "a masterfully written suspense novel." So it is on my list. Koontz really works in nice biblical references into his books and stories so I am happy about that.

I think he's better at character when he lets himself write longer books or series. A lot of times it's like the plot drives him faster than his potential for good dialog. That being said, the guy comes up with great ideas and paces his stories well.