Of Cookies and Colds


It was the beast. I heard it. It was calling me. It has been calling me all week, but somehow I had managed to stiffen my emotions against its plaintive call. Until tonight.

This kitchen beast can be quite frightening; in fact, it can break your fingers without a second thought if you don't treat it right. But the only people who remain utterly terrified by the beast are those that don't truly understand it. Sure it growls when you're working with it, but the KitchenAid breed is a very old breed, and they just tend to do that. And it isn't in fact quite a growl; it's more like a giant purr of pleasure and satisfaction. So as long as you keep your fingers out of its whirling teeth, working with the beast is actually quite rewarding.

I had neglected the beast for a whole week. The beast doesn't like that. It is, in fact, quite a time-consuming companion, demanding my attention at the very least, once a week. Less than that, and it gets quite grumpy indeed. The beast's favorite time of year is at Christmas when I'm out of school and caught up in the Christmas baking spirit, but that is beside the point.

It seems I have two beasts in my life right now. The other beast - the energy-sapping type - I've been spending quite a bit of time with this past week. Maybe that's why my KitchenAid beast was so jealous. Anyway, this other beast happens to like it when I have to sleep a lot, and my throat hurts, and my eyes swell up so I look like I've been crying for the past week (which in fact I haven't). I don't really like this other beast, but it insists on staying at my house every time it's in town, and it seems inhospitable and rude to refuse (although I have to admit, I make its stay as unpleasant as possible). This week I had managed to be at least civil to the beast. Until tonight.

Tonight my KitchenAid beast's pleas became too touching to ignore any longer. In one last defiant act before that cold-hearted other beast unleashed its coup de grâce on my failing spirit, I abandoned it in favor of my KitchenAid beast.

It was a happy night. I started with no plan but to bake with my nose. In retrospect, that probably wasn't the best idea since I have no idea whether my nose works or not. Anyway, no expense was spared in that final desperate effort. Out came the treasured Mexican pure vanilla extract as well as the Vietnamese cinnamon. Orange oil, almond extract, cloves and the sweet, unspoiled unsalted butter worked their magic in my beast, calming and pacifying it. By the time I added a little bittersweet chocolate, it was in a heaven of spicy, sweet, bitter and tangy smells. It was gratified. I was happy. That other beast seemed far away.

I did make one mistake, the consequences of which are yet to be determined. I ate a cookie. I haven't eaten a cookie all week in protest of that other beast's rude and uninvited stay in my house. I hope it didn't notice. After all, it's probably so distracted by my desperate act of defiance against its coup de grâce... wait... I think I got that wrong. The real desperate act of defiance against its coup de grâce that threatens to extinguish my failing spirit is not eating the rest of the cookies. That would be good. Maybe it would get tired of the opposition and leave. Then I could go back to spending time with my KitchenAid beast.

He would like that.

So would I.




With lethargic eyes, I stared blankly out of the window at the trees and fields rushing by. The gentle sway and rhythm of the train on the rails lulled me. Suddenly there was a jolt, and I sat up quickly, alarmed. Then I saw we were approaching the city, and the train now glided seamlessly over new rails. Buildings rushed by, brown-grey, drab concrete buildings. Buildings with windows, buildings without. Apartment buildings and warehouses. But they were all of the same hue, the dull color of concrete – cold, blank, and indifferent.

“I might as well live in the age of the black-and-white camera,” I thought dully, “so much color is there in the world.” And with other similar thoughts, I settled back in my seat as the train still slid seamlessly along the rails. I saw a dark, black tunnel ahead. Without warning, the train accelerated towards the tunnel. Faster and faster we went. Suddenly it was dark. Still we went faster. Becoming frightened, I leaned forward in my seat, trying to peer into the darkness of the tunnel. Still we zoomed along at this incredible speed. Then there was a terrific bump so big I thought surely we had come off the track. Then the train slowed, slowed, slowed and smoothly came to a stop.

There was silence. I looked around and waited.

Then over the loudspeaker came the words, “This is the end of the line. All passengers will please exit at this station.” I felt myself standing up and getting out of the train. There was a platform with a single bench. I tried to read the station sign because I couldn’t remember there ever being a station in the tunnel, but the sign was recondite, and I couldn’t read it. I saw a woman get out of the train further up the platform, and then without a sound, the train glided away and disappeared into the darkness. With confusion that grew by the second, I searched for stairs that would lead above ground, but I could see nothing in the intense gloom. Panicking, I tried again to read the station sign, but to no avail.

“If you’re looking for a way out, there isn’t one,” a voice made me jump. The woman I had seen getting out of the train stood next to me. “You’ll have to wait for the next train,” she said, peering at me through her hideous, pink-tinted, cracked glasses. Something about her glasses shook and disturbed me, yet I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.

With a hoarse voice I managed to ask her, “How often do the trains come?” She paused and reflected a moment and then replied, “I can’t really say; they aren’t very consistent.” Terrified at the strange circumstances, the woman with her hideous glasses, the station sign I couldn’t read, and the train that seemed to have a mind of its own, I shivered and moved closer to the lone streetlamp shining on the bench. The woman moved with me as if she and I were one unit. I sat on the bench, and she sat down likewise. Shaking with fright, I croaked out, “What is the name of this station?”

She glanced up at the station sign and said, “You can read it for yourself, can’t you?” I shook my head. She looked puzzled for a moment, but then a look of understanding crossed her face. She took off her glasses and held them out to me. With horror, I shrank back from her. Still holding out the glasses, she said, “Try these on and see if you can read it.” Then I noticed that she had her eyes closed very tightly as if she didn’t want to let a single ray of light in. Trembling, I gathered up the shreds of my courage and took the glasses. I paused, then put them on.
Instantly, like a deflating balloon, all my fear left me, and I gasped at what I saw. Everything was a rosy pink color. I could read the station sign easily now; the walls of the tunnel had beautiful, bright murals painted on them. The station’s name was “Illusion,” but everything looked very real to me. The woman’s voice floated to me.

“Can you read the sign now?” she asked. I looked over at her and was amazed to see that her skin was pale blue, and her hair was a lovely pink color.

“Yes, I can read the sign,” I answered the woman in wonder, “and I can see such things!”

“Yes,” the woman laughed, her eyes still tightly shut.

I looked down at my own skin and saw that it was a dark, forest green; my hair made a beautiful contrast with a mix of silver and gold. I heard a rumbling in the distance and looked down the tunnel which was now ablaze with many colored lights. A magnificent silver train glided towards the platform, and as it moved, it reflected the colored light all around the tunnel. With the woman at my side, I boarded the train, and it moved away from the platform. I stared out of the window in awe as the murals flashed by. Here I saw a cheetah running beside us, there a splendid purple castle. Presently the train left the tunnel and emerged into the city. All the concrete buildings now were overlaid with gold and silver, and intense colored light shone on everything. Looking up into the green sky, I saw the sun, a sphere that shone first green light, then pink, purple, blue, silver, and gold. I gazed out at the pink city as the sun turned purple, coloring the city purple.

A thought nagged at me. Everything seemed so unreal. Even as the thought crossed my mind, the sun turned everything an intense blue, and the woman said, “Keep the glasses for as long as you’d like.”

Suddenly I was afraid, more afraid than I had been in the dark tunnel.

“I don’t want your glasses,” I shouted at the woman, and I started to take them off.

She pushed the glasses back on as the city turned a brilliant silver and said, “Please keep them on.”

“No!” I screamed as the city turned a radiant gold, and with a mighty effort, I tore the glasses from my face.

Instantly it was dark. I could see the end of the tunnel ahead, and the train rocked and swayed toward it. We emerged from the tunnel, and the drab, ugly, gray-brown concrete buildings greeted me. The woman was nowhere to be seen. I put my hand to my face and was surprised to feel glasses. I took them off and gazed out of the window. With delight in reality, I wondered at the stark and simple concrete buildings. They were beautiful.

Verba potentia sunt.


Hello everyone! It has obviously been a very long time since I posted, but I thought this an idoneous time to revive my once-dormant blog. I have been off saving the world by listening to jazz, writing about Shakespeare (with a bit of acting thrown in), reading Greek epic poetry, analyzing aviation accidents, and surviving differential equations.

I have come to realize yet again how much I love language. Words are powerful. No, not in the Marxist sense of Deconstruction. But really, words are powerful. Not only are their meanings determined by their context - both culturally and historically - but they're also determined by the individual thoughts and perceptions of those to whom the words are communicated.

What is communication? Is it knowing exactly what someone is saying literally? Or is it knowing the idea or feeling that the person is trying to convey? I would argue for the latter. It is of paramount importance, then, to consider how words and language fit into effective communication. With our definition of communication as an idea or feeling conveyed to another person, communication can be seen to include not only words and their literal meanings, but also body language, facial expression, and speech inflection. However, as important as these other elements are, the words themselves must not be underrated.

How do words contribute to effective communication? This is an important issue to consider, especially given the obvious successful communication achieved by written works such as novels, stories, and poems. In those cases, language must stand by itself and, in a sense, provide the reader with all of the sensory information of interpersonal communication using just written words.

Words are powerful, first, in their meanings. The essence of effective written communication is using powerful words. For example, contrast the words "scared" and "terrified." It is obvious that the second word is much stronger, for it not only conveys the same emotion, but it goes a step further and introduces a nuance of emotion. Next consider "scared" and "uneasy." Again, the second word is stronger and gives a different mental picture to the reader. Contrasting "terrified" and "uneasy," we can see that although the two words have essentially the same root meaning, they communicate radically different ideas. This illustrates how heavily effective communication relies on the use of the right word at the right time. Using powerful words that work together to communicate the same idea can create an extremely compelling picture for the reader.

Flowing from the idea of using words that work together, the combination of words is also part of effective communication. For example, two similar-sounding words placed in close proximity can catch the reader's attention and provide aural support for the idea being communicated.

Powerful words can also be used to describe objects, scenes, landscapes, facial expressions, actions, and even ideas to create vivid mental pictures in the reader's mind. These descriptions can stimulate the reader's mind and create communication that includes all of the senses.

The power of language, then, is the foundation for the other sensory aspects of communication. If words are spoken out loud, their sounds - especially those of onomatopoetic words - can enhance the meaning of the words. The more obvious aspects of the physical delivery of the words can also help to elucidate the idea being communicated. Again, however, effective communication relies most heavily on the words themselves, for words, indeed, are power.

I was going to post a story tonight, but it looks as if you got an essay on the power of language instead. I think I'm still in school mode. Incidentally, I wrote an essay for my humanities class on how technology has contributed to the deterioration of effective, meaningful communication; I suppose that could be considered a "prequel" of sorts to this essay.

And I'll let you in on a little secret: the real power of language is its power to keep me up late. :)I'll get the story up soon, but all this serious thought about language and words is reminding me how inept I am at using them. :P

I'm still trying to come up with a title for it. I'm thinking, "Illusio."

We interrupt this program to bring you important weather information...


Quite some weather we've had these past couple days. First, nice 70 degree weather, then thunderstorms, hail, and tornadoes, then cool rain, now cold snow. Hmmm.... if it had stopped before the snow I would have been a lot happier.

So what in the world is going on?

Well, since you asked...
*everyone starts slinking away*

Here we have a current surface map of the US. The circles with tails sticking out of them are weather reports from individual stations. The tails point in the direction from which the wind is blowing, and the circle is filled based on how much cloud cover there is at the station. So, it looks like we have a nice, friendly mid-latitude cyclone meandering across the midwest, bringing rain, hail, drizzle, snow, thunderstorms, and tornadoes to everything in its way!

You can see the mid-latitude cyclone on this next map which shows isobars - lines that connect places of constant pressure. The big L (representing an area of low pressure) is the mid-latitude cyclone. Air travels from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure, so you would expect to see a lot of air converging on the center of the low pressure area. Because of the rotation of the Earth, however, in the northern hemisphere, the air tends to spiral towards the center of the low in a counterclockwise direction. You can see that on the previous map.

This is just a radar map showing precipitation. As you can see, the precipitation reflects the counter-clockwise spiral of the air around the low pressure.

In this satellite image, you can see the clouds also reflecting the counter-clockwise spiral around the low pressure system.

This detailed weather map shows the low pressure center currently dousing Denver. The heavy blue line is a cold front; the red line is a warm front, but what I really want to talk about is the purple line. This is what is called an occluded front. Occluded fronts happen when the fast-moving cold front catches up to the slower-moving warm front. When this happens, the air between the two fronts is forced upward, and when air rises, it cools, becomes saturated, and usually dumps all of its moisture. Thus, the rain we're getting. The cold front shown is what gave us thunderstorms and tornadoes yesterday; it looks like a particularly agressive and severe cold front. You can see some of the effects of it in the south if you look back at the first weather map.

This is an enhanced infared satellite image. That is, it shows the clouds, but also includes information about the temperature of the clouds. This can be helpful because it can give you clues as to the height of the cloud tops because the higher the cloud tops, the colder they are. The blue sections on the map show where the clouds are the coldest, and thus, the highest. This helps to explain why maybe the eastern plains got such big hail yesterday. The taller the clouds in a thunderstorm, the more distance the hailstones have to fall before reaching the ground. As they fall, they run into lots of water droplets in the cloud and grow larger and larger. Also, if the thunderstorm has very powerful updrafts, the hailstones can be carried back up to the top of the cloud and grow even more. Golf-ball sized hail? That's why.

This is what is called a meteogram. It shows the weather for the past 25 hours. The first graph shows the temperature and dew point (the temperature at which air becomes saturated and its moisture condenses).What is especially interesting to note is how the temperature (the top line) rises until it drops off suddenly. If you look right under the graph, you can see some funny symbols. The symbol right under the drop in temperature is the symbol for thunderstorms. According to this map, it looks like the cold front came through around 3 pm yesterday when the thunderstorms and tornadoes happened, and there was a corresponding drop in pressure (the bottom graph) which often signals the passage of a front. Also, you can see that the temperatures have steadily decreased, which is another indication that the front was a cold front. The numbers directly above the wind symbols are showing wind speed (in knots) of gusts. It is interesting to note that there were a lot of gusts right around the time of the thunderstorm. Usually, there will be a sudden shift in wind dirction with the passage of a front, but the wind directions are all over the place in the graph, so it's hard to discern any general shift in direction. After the wind has stabilized a little, though (towards the right of the graph), we can see that the wind has shifted slightly counterclockwise which indicates that perhaps the low pressure center is moving slightly to the south. (?) That's just a guess, though. The graph second to the bottom shows cloud ceiling and cover which I'm really not quite sure how to read. :) Back up with the weather symbols, we can see to the right that we've had two-dot and three-dot rain which indicates continuous rain. You can see an explanation of the weather symbols at this link: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream//synoptic/sfc_plot_symbols.htm#ww

This is just a close-up surface map of the midwest area. You can see the wind moving in the counterclockwise spiral. I wish I had gotten this map off the website last night because last night, the cold front was very obvious. There was a definite line where the wind basically turned all the way around. No wonder we had such sever weather! It's not quite so obvious now, but you can still kind of see it over eastern Texas where the wind coming from the Gulf of Mexico is blowing in the opposite direction from the wind over western Texas. The cold front is where the wind changes direction.


This map is an upper-air data map. This information is recorded by balloons and satellites at the heights in the atmosphere where the air pressure is 250 millibars. On this map as well, the tails coming off the dots point in the direction from which the wind is blowing. The more lines are on the tail, the stronger the wind is. This 250 mb upper-air map is useful because it shows the jet stream which moves around during the year. The areas shaded blue are the core of the jet stream, the places where the winds are the highest. Knowing where the jet stream is and what it's doing is important because often, mid-latitude cyclones follow the jet stream. Right now, it looks like the jet stream is kind of all over the place and doesn't really follow any strong path. Especially around Colorado where our current low pressure system decided to call home, the upper-level winds are all over the place, so it looks like our friendly, neighborhood mid-latitude cyclone is around to stay for a while. Yep, the weather stays rainy at least over the weekend according to the forcast. So, just relax and enjoy it, and try not to think about the snow that's coming down and stacking rather quickly. Or about all the flowers that are going to be frosted. Or about all the fruit trees that were just getting ready to bloom.


If this lecture fascinated you (I can tell you all were engrossed), you can find all these great maps on these sites: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc/?n=mapslast
But if you'd rather back away slowly, oh well. I tried.
I'm afraid that mine is soon to join the ranks of boring blogs crowding the great expanse of blogger.
By the way, when do you think Google's going to start buying car brands? I can just see it-introducing the new Toyota Google... comes in four bright colors with the speed and precision that has characterized our search engine for years... more powerful engine than ever...



We interrupt this silence with an important message.

"Contrary to popular belief, the earth's gravitational force exerted on an object in orbit is not zero. Experts estimate that the force of gravity on a satellite such as the International Space Station is actually around 90% of the gravitational force on the station at sea level. How can this be? Stay tuned to find out."

*woman pours spaghetti sauce into a plastic bag*
*bag spills onto floor*
*woman laughs hysterically*
Narrator: "You don't seem to understand the gravity of the situation. This calls for Glad® Food Storage Bags with new extra wide seals."
*woman pours spaghetti sauce into Glad® Food Storage Bag and seals it confidently and happily*
"Now available in local stores."
*woman's son plays football with bag of spaghetti sauce*

"How is it possible that astronauts on the International Space Station are weightless while still experiencing 90% of the earth's sea-level gravitational force?
"Dr. B. I. Ghead of the Northern Alaska University of DRK & CLD explains:

'When a projectile of mass m is launched from the surface of a planet at a launch angle Θ = 0˚ with a gravitational force of G*((Gm1m2)/r²) where G is the gravitational constant, m1 and m2 are the masses of the projectile and the planet, and r is the distance between the center of the planet and the center of the projectile, the initial velocity of the projectile v0 is directly proportional to the range of the projectile. If vo is sufficiently large, the surface of the earth will curve away from the projectile before the projectile can reach the surface. Thus v = √rg is the tangential velocity that will allow the free-fall acceleration to provide the centripetal acceleration (v²/r) necessary for a circular orbit of radius r. This radius r can be found by'

"Wow, pretty amazing isn't it! We'll talk more about this exciting discovery when we come back."

*Sir Isaac Newton walks through orchard*
*birds sing*
*wind blows gently*
*suddenly a bag of Doritos® falls from the tree and knocks him flat*
*Newton sits up*
Newton says breathlessly, "I've discovered gravity... *pant, pant* ... not even our planet can resist Doritos® Spicy Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips."
*bags fall around him, he lays happily in a pile of Doritos® bags*
Narrator: "Doritos® - Snack Strong"

"Welcome back. We just heard from Dr. B. I. Ghead as he gave us an explanation of gravity in earth orbit. Dave, that was just fascinating wasn't it? *broadcaster Dave nods* I found the part with the m to be especially enlightening; you know, all of us have grown up hearing about m's and n's, but to finally have an explanation of how they relate to the whole universe is really interesting." *Dave nods again* Dave: "I think yours is a universal sentiment. Dr. B. I. Ghead really did a great job in explaining that, um, concept, and I think it is one that could be projected into many other fields - electric and magnetical, excuse me, *laughing* electrical and magnetic fields as well." Lady broadcaster: "Exactly, and I think it's great what Dr. Ghead is doing up in Alaska. He's actually head of their free-fall research class." Dave: "Now from what I understand, correct me if I'm wrong, that class is actually an accelerated class, right? Very intense and fast-moving." Lady: "Actually, I think I heard recently that he's slowing down in his presentation of material because they're reaching the terminal velocity, excuse me, *Dave unintentionally lets out a big snort* the end of the term up there in Alaska." Dave: "Well, those term ends come pretty fast that far north since their days are so much shorter. I've heard that an Alaskan day is 30% shorter than a typical day. Lady: "Really! I'm learning all sorts of interesting things today. We'll be right back with updates on the absence of weather in the Midwest."

Ok, all that to say, I finally figured out why astronauts are weightless even when there is gravity in orbit. They are in constant free fall!
It's so simple, it makes me feel dumb. Basically, when a projectile is launched fast enough, the earth's surface curves away from the projectile before it can hit the ground. So, the International Space Station is constantly falling towards the earth's surface which is why the astronauts (and the station) are weightless.

It was a big realization for me one day in physics class, and it warranted breaking the silence of a dormant blog.

As for the sick humor, hey, it's late, it's almost spring break, I got my physics test over with today, so you'll just have to put up with my craziness.

It's Meee!!!!


Yes, I'm that egocentric.

I haven't posted for a long time (obviously), and I happened to find these in a random email in a random person's inbox. Maybe it was mine...

I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.

Police were called to a day care where a 3-yr-old was resisting a rest.

The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference.

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

A thief who stole a calendar got 12 months.

A thief fell & broke his leg in wet cement. He became a hardened criminal.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles , U.C.L.A.

The dead batteries were given out free of charge.

A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.

A will is a dead giveaway.

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

A backward poet writes inverse.

In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.

Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft & I'll show you a flat miner.

The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.

A grenade fell onto a kitchen floor in France , resulted in Linoleum Blownapart.

You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

A calendar's days are numbered.

A lot of money is tainted: 'Taint yours, and 'taint mine.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

He had a photographic memory which was never developed.

When you've seen one shopping center, you've seen a mall.

Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.

Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.

Anyway, some humor for those of you who are lexophiles. If you know what that word means, you're probably one of them.

Tomorrow is the national bridge contest. I was excited to get 2nd in the regional back in February, but as usual, I put off building my bridge for the national a little too long.
I have very little faith in my bridge, but I sent it off anyway. What do I have to lose? (except five dollars postage) I think I know exactly where it's going to break. Oh well.

Happy B-Day to Ben!


Um... yeah.

Happy Birthday, Ben!

And yippee that you're coming home...
Just in time to catch the cold.

Maybe you'd better stay and watch a few more stage shows in Vegas first!

Here's a dumb video just for you!