The Edge Effect

Monday, May 29, 2006

The True Story of My Big Head

A while back we were talking about big heads. It seems that quite a few members of the Ann Arbor blogosphere either have or have been accused of having large heads. At the time I promised to share my story in the future, and being a man of great honor, I now make good on that promise.

This is a story that you will hear if you spend much time with Christina or my best friend from childhood, Eric. They believe it as gospel, but tell an apocryphal version, so allow me to share the real story:

In Junior High I played football. I know, how impressive. In a small town Junior High, pretty much everybody gets a chance to play if he wants to. I was a lineman, usually center if you're curious. No real skills, but kind of pudgy.

Anyway, during the first week of practice, we had pads and helmets assigned. This was done in alphabetic order. We all lined up by last name and one at a time went from station to station where a leathery old coach would fit us with plastic armor and record a series of numbers.

It just so happens that my hat size is about 7 1/4. That isn't small, but not at all out of the ordinary. In fact, it's so common that it was the same hat size as the kid directly in front of me - a Pa__ name, where mine is a Pu__ name. Again, being a small town Junior High in rural Kansas, there wasn't a huge budget for athletic equipment. Yes, it was probably comparable to the budgets for art, music, and theater combined, but it still wasn't huge.

So this kid, B.P., got the last 7 1/4 and there wasn't anything that fit on my noggin without slipping around and covering my eyes. The only thing to do was to send off to the High School football team for a 7 1/4 helmet. This actually worked out quite well for me since the High Schoolers had better equipment and I got a white helmet so school colors weren't an issue.

Now if you ask Christina or Eric, they'll tell you that my head was so big that they had to send off to the HS, because Junior High kids just don't have heads as big as mine. Disregard what they say. I don't care that Eric's dad was one of the coaches, he is still wrong. My head is perfectly normal, only exceptional in its beauty and the quality of gray-matter it contains.

Next up, the story of the turtle that DID NOT attack my pre-pubescent manhood.


I've had a nasty cold for the past couple of days. It actually started while I was in Illinois visiting Christina (nice how things work out like that, huh?), but it hit peak cruddy-feeling yesterday. Being the smart human that I am, I figured that I would mow the lawn and do some yard work at the new house rather than rest and get well.

Anyway, part of that yardwork involved going to the Produce Station to get some bedding plants. While I was there I bought two peaches, a white one and a regular (yellow?) one. The white one was unfortunately green, but the yellow one was fantastic! Maybe it's because I'm only eating the food in our apartment right now so I haven't had a fresh fruit or veggie for weeks. But even the hard, green peach had a wonderful summertime taste to it. Mmmmm.... It's that taste that reminds me of being a kid with my friends, running around in the grass and woods all summer, eating random things that we found in other people's gardens, growing on trees, or that my parents had picked from their garden.

It was really invigorating and seemed appropriate for Memorial Day weekend. It's really summer now. Go have a peach!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Big Burritos

So it looks like Big 10 Burrito has a new location in Ann Arbor. Yes, it's true! And the best part is that it's on Packard, right around the corner from our new place. That certainly won't be good for my waistline.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Who knows what's going on with the UM e-mail server? I haven't been able to connect all day. The UM system seems to crash pretty frequently, but they usually get it back up within a couple of hours. Quelle Frustration!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Dog Blogging

The weather has finally gotten nice, and Saline has opened a temporary dog park. Yippee. I don't have any pictures of the mutts playing in Saline, so here are a couple of them outside last summer. Enjoy!

Monday, May 15, 2006

New Digs!

We finally closed on our new house today. Yay! There's quite a bit of work to do before we actually move in, but it's nice to have all the legalities finished for now. I see many Bar-B-Qs in the near future.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ash Fall

Among other things, Afarensis notes that the Ash Fall fossil beds have been named a National Natural Landmark. Ash Fall is near Neligh (pronounced "NEE-lee"), Nebraska. That's only about an hour away from my dissertation site so it's a nice place to take students for a short daytrip. It's also a very cool fossil bed in a gorgeous mixed-grass prairie setting.

Afarensis inspired me to post some photos that I took there in summer 2004. I was more interested in the landscape than the fossils so check out the original post for more links about actual paleontology stuff.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday Dog Blogging

I haven't been great about dog blogging every Friday, and for that there is no excuse. So today I offer two pictures. The pups are a bit restless these days because they are latch-key dogs with a working single parent (temporarily until C is done playing mad scientist in Illinois, don't worry). I didn't want to take pictures in the appartment since it looks like a bachelor pad right now, so here they are sitting in the wet grass out back. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Whereas Beer is Good

The latest Ann Arbor blog that I have discovered is Suds & Soliloquies. Aside from having his priorities straight (i.e. suds come before soliloquies), Dave also notes that the US House of Representatives has designated next week as American Craft Beer Week. Somehow this restores a little of my faith in the House. Well that and the fact that Tom DeLay has officially announced his resignation.

Anyway, be sure to drink your fill all week from May 15-21. Anything else would be unAmerican!

*Addendum - I also noticed Beer-In-Government over at Nasa. Check out Suds In Space for the best-yet justification for the space program. There's beer out there!


You may have noticed that the "About Me" section of this webpage refers to cliticizations. One of my many, many readers (two "many"s ~ 2) e-mailed today to ask exactly what is a cliticization. In the interests of public education I thought I'd share my response with the rest of you. It follows:

Well, it's er... maybe nothing. Technically a clitic or clitical is an independent morpheme in speech like the "n't" in "don't" It has no meaning on it's own, but a distinct linguistic role in combination with other words. Some clitics, especially articles, are real words on their own, but they are pronounced as a single word like "an apple" is pronounced "anapple." I think cliticization therefore is the process of mushing the words together.

When I was putting my blog together, I was searching google for pictures of forestry edge effects. I saw a page talking about linguistic edge effects which were basically just a different way to talk about cliticization. Of course being of high-academic mind, the word "clitic" seemed dirty to me. I was also at the time under the mistaken impression that junk words like "um" and "like" were clitical, hence the line in my "about me" profile. In fact, the way I have it written, with commas around the "um", completely decliticizes it. I'd like to claim that there is an irony there that I was shooting for, but in fact I just misunderstood what I was trying to get across.

So there you have it.

*Thanks to Bobby Squidhead for the inspiration to post this!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Family Jewels

From Stochastic, the newest addition to Science Blogs, we learn that King Tut's penis has been re-discovered. Unfortunately the original article from has been taken offline, but the gist of the text is preserved at Stochastic.

Does it make me a bad archaeologist that I didn't even realize that Tut's little Titan was missing? Well, I ask how many of you - especially other archaeologists - had any idea about this.

As it turns out a set of X-rays taken in the 1960s failed to show the pharaonic unit, leading to the belief that it had been taken. However a new set of CT scans show that the mummified monarch was not necro-neutered after all.

I'm no radiologist, but I would have suspected that the lack of a bacullum in H sapiens would make it difficult to identify mummified manhood with an X-ray.

Natural Laws

The Edge Effect is proud to present our first law of auto repair -
  • The likelihood that any part of an automobile engine will fail is directly proportional to the difficulty of accessing and servicing that part.
The primary practical application of this principle is in the field of diagnosis. If a car should need service, but the problem is not immediately obvious, simply crawl under the car and find the part that is wedged between the oil pan, transmission, and transfer case such that it cannot be serviced without removing at least one of those major pieces. In a bit of empirical research this weekend, I discovered that it is the starter in the case of the 2001 Ford Ranger.

Friday, May 05, 2006

comments issue

In my never-ending quest to futz things up around here, I seem to have done something strange to the comments. I was informed by Bob the Grand earlier that when viewing a post in it's own window (you know, like when you click on the little date-time stamp thingy at the bottom), the comments link still points to Haloscan. Grrrr. I never should have started messing around with that in the first place. I'll see what I can do to fix it, but be aware in the mantime.


Pontifical Prophylactics

Although I have strayed from the Catholic church, I still have a good deal of respect for it on many counts. Yeah, I know it isn't perfect and it would be an understatement to say I don't care for the new pope. But having so many serious Catholics in my family (three of my aunts are or were nuns), I can see an awful lot of good in the Church. Especially in historical perspective. Traditionally, the Vatican has held very strong positions for social justice, especially concerning poverty and peace. In the past decade, they seem to have thrown the white dove under the bus in order to pursue their strict pro-life and anti-gay agenda, needless to say this is a big part of the reason I don't identify as Catholic anymore.

So this week I saw a link to a story about the Vatican potentially OKing condoms. It isn't the great stride toward a more reasonable agenda that I was hoping for, but this article is a really interesting read. Apparently condoms will be OK only in the very specific circumstance of a married couple, one of whom already has AIDS.

I can't really congratulate the Church for it's moral clarity on this one, denying the legitimacy of condoms in this case would be truly draconian. And draconian aptly describes the Catholic policy on condoms for the past quarter of a century. While AIDS was ravaging developing nations (and developed ones too), the Church refused to promote barrier-method contraceptives because that would not have been "pro-life" enough. One has to ask how many lives ended early because of the transmission of HIV.

Even if this move is a bit more than a day late and a dollar short, the article has some interesting tidbits. The decision to allow condoms in this circumstance rests on two theological principles of which I was not fully aware. The first is the principle of self defense. It makes sense, but I didn't realize that the Church had an official policy stating that normally-sinful actions (all the way up to murder) are allowed if they are done in self-defense. In this case, the sinful act of using contraception is allowed if done by a spouse protecting herself (interestingly the article gendered this all the way through) from the sexual advances of an infected partner.

The second principle invoked in this decision is the principle of "the lesser of two evils." I had no idea that this was an official principle either. You've gotta love the example provided in the article - apparently priests frequently counsel mobsters to beat up their erstwhile associates rather than killing them. In the condom case denying a potential life is considered a lesser evil than knowingly infecting a partner with HIV.

I'm glad that's all cleared up.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Curb Your Car

Apparently May is Curb Your Car Month in Ann Arbor. This seems like a good idea, after all Spring has finally sprung and most of us could use a good excuse to enjoy the weather while we get some more exercise.

I love bicycle commuting, but it's long been a peeve of mine that Ann Arbor is not more bike-friendly. It really doesn't make any sense that a town like this should be so difficult to bike around. It's getting better for sure, and the folks at GetDowntown have a lot to do with that. You may have noticed the little arrow/bike symbols painted on streets downtown and maybe even the GetDowntown signs posted in strategic locations.

I was poking around their website and noticed that they have something called Bicycle Ambassadors. This is basically a group of volunteers that "engage people directly in a friendly and non-confrontational way to provide information and answer questions on how cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists can share the road." I haven't met any of them yet, but it's an interesting idea and I hope the program becomes successful.

While I think Ann Arbor could use better bike lanes and maybe even some bike-specific traffic signals like you find in the Netherlands, I think the key to better bicycle safety in Ann Arbor is education and enforcement. Pay attention here, I'm about to prove my liberal cred in a big way. The main thing keeping me from biking more in Ann Arbor is that car traffic can be unpredictable and rather hostile to bikers at times. A certain amount of this has to do with drivers not understanding that bicycles have a right to use the roadways including left turn lanes and a safe berth from the curb and parked cars. I don't exactly know what the solution is for this, bike safety should be part of drivers' ed, but public education a la GetDowntown is important for people who are already dricing.

But I still think the largest part of the problem is bad bikers. Drivers in Ann Arbor often don't know how to react around bikes because they have no way of predicting what the cyclists will do. We've all seen the awful bikers who act like Ann Arbor pedestrians. They blow through intersections without slowing down, they ride the wrong way down the street, they make erratic and unpredictable moves, and my biggest peeve - they dart on and off of the sidewalks. And there is basically zero accountability for this. Some enforcement of bicycle safety laws could go a long way toward creating more predictable bike traffic and better bike-car interactions.

That's right, I'm a bicyclist and I think my life would be better if the cops wrote more tickets to bikers. That's how things were when I lived in Lawrence. I was stopped in my first week of college for blowing a stop sign. I didn't get a ticket, but I knew that I could be stopped and they told me it would be $50 next time so you can bet I never rolled through again. They were also strict about using hand signals, riding with lights at night, and staying off of sidewalks. There were regrettably few bike lanes in Larryville and they were even worse-maintained than the Ann Arbor ones, but bicycling in traffic was seldom scary. When you, as a driver, saw a biker, you could predict how they would act and it made you much less likely to do something irrational.

Maybe these Bicycle Ambassadors are supposed to do this without the monetary penalties. I'll be interested to see how it turns out, but my vote is still to get Ann Arbor's bicycle-mounted public safety officers into the game coupled with a public education campaign about traffic safety.