Caution Confirmed

Published at 07:16 on 11 September 2023

Today I learned that a friend has become addicted to cetirizine and is going through withdrawal sickness after suffering an interruption in supply.

Cetirizine is more commonly known as Zyrtec. Yes, the over-the-counter antihistamine. That’s right, an antihistamine, not an opiate.

As an allergy sufferer, I have occasionally taken antihistamines most of my life as needed. The key words here being occasionally and as needed. I was originally given them by my mother as a child. It was not that long after I started being administered them that I pushed back, questioning why I was always being given a dose of them every day. Couldn’t we stop and see how bad the symptoms are without medications today?

Mom thought I was being somewhat silly for being willing to risk feeling miserable like that, all over a little worry about ingesting medication with a doctor’s approval. I felt that why should I take any medication unless I am sure I need it. (It’s not as if my allergies were life-threatening or anything.)

Such has been my policy about antihistamine usage to this day. If my allergies are making me miserable, I will medicate, and do so without guilt. Then I will cut myself off medication, and see how I feel without. If I don’t feel abjectly miserable, I will put up with low-grade symptoms and carry on. If I do feel miserable, I will take another pill.

Many, like Mom, have thought it silly bordering on Puritanical for me to be willing impose suffering on myself like this. Today I feel vindicated.


I have also run across those who try to make me feel guilty for being willing to turn to the products of the pharmaceutical industry at all. Try alternative treatments, they say. Well, I have. They don’t work as well (often, they don’t work, period).

When I query them, I find out that such individuals inevitably either don’t have allergies, or that their symptoms are vastly less serious than mine. As such, their opinions the matter are irrelevant.

On (Not) Being a Java Careerist

Published at 07:40 on 29 July 2023

Not to slam Java careerists. One thing they are is very smart and talented. One just has to be, in order to deal with all the gratuitous complexity bred by the traditions of that programming community.

But here’s the thing: I don’t want to devote basically all of my mental effort to doing that. I don’t want to lose my botanical knowledge, or my wide-ranging general scientific knowledge. And I would have to in order to succeed in the Java world. The mental load is just so extreme.

Even if I wanted to, I am not sure I could. I crave knowledge in a diversity of subjects. My mind would rebel, strongly, against being forced to hyperspecialize.

In a sense, this means I’m “lazy” in that I “don’t want to work very hard” at software software development. But I don’t see that as necessarily a bad thing. Why should I work harder than necessary? If there is an easier way to do a good job at something, why not choose the easier way?

Is it really intelligent behavior to continue doing something in a difficult way when you are aware that an easier way exists?

This all was, in fact, something I wondered a bit about going into this job. And I decided then that if this was the case, I wouldn’t succeed at the job, wouldn’t want the job, and would end up departing from it. And so here I am.

Neurotypicals, Sigh

Published at 17:33 on 22 June 2023

I am somewhere on the autism spectrum, and one thing I find difficult about neurotypicals is how they so often experience extreme difficulty using language to communicate, via words and their assigned meanings.

Like with my toothache recently. It was bad enough that I was reasonably sure that it was abscessed to the point of no return and that the f*cker needed to be extracted. But noooooo, the endodontist couldn’t say that. Instead, he has to write up a report to send to my regular dentist, who then can’t say it either. No, I have to schedule an appointment, face to face of course, so she can break it to me. And she spends about fifteen minutes doing so. Most of those fifteen minutes are filled with statistics about root canals that don’t apply to my particular situation. Eventually she gets to the point: the endodontist’s report said that options were not good for any restoration procedure.

End result: I learn what I had already expected some time ago.

What was I supposed to do? Cry over it? It’s dead, it’s infected, we need to do what one always does with dead infected things in one’s body: remove them. Just tell me it needs to be removed, so I can get it removed sooner rather than later. Is that so hard?

Oh well, at least I know now. And thankfully the really hurty phase of it ended three weeks ago, so it is not as if I was in any undue pain from the experience. But it sure would have been nice to know the truth sooner and with less fuss.

A $100 Offer

Published at 09:48 on 18 March 2023

I feel like making a little easy money. As such, I will bet the first taker USD $100 (CAD $137 if you prefer to wager in Canadian funds) that Trump will not be indicted in the next 14 days (i.e. by 9:00 AM Pacific time, 1 April 2023). Any takers? This is an honest offer. Comment on this post if interested.

The Last of Us Is So Fake

Published at 21:39 on 4 March 2023

It’s a compelling story, but it has a hard time horrifying me because it is so fake. This is the consequence of a) the film being engineered to horrify and b) my knowledge of basic mycology.

First off, Cordyceps is no threat. This might make some of those reading stay up at night, but Cordyceps species are found over much of the Earth, including, yes, much of North America. Odds are it is where you live.

And yet, despite mammals living in close proximity to Cordyceps for literally millions of years, no fungus in this genus has crossed over into infecting mammals. It just hasn’t happened. And this includes periods when the climate was much warmer than today (so there goes the movie’s premise that climate change could push Cordyceps to cross not just a species barrier, but a class barrier). Trust me, it’s not happening.

But set that aside for a moment and suppose it would? Then what? It would probably be barely capable of infecting a human. It would cause a minor, localized infection, something like a case of athlete’s foot or jock itch, which the patient would eventually fight off and recover from. It would fail to complete its life cycle and fruit.

But again, suppose it would, then what? The infected would go insane and then die. After they were dead, the fungus would sprout from their bodies and fruit. End of life cycle. No decades-long zombie stage, sorry.

And by “insane” above, I just mean randomly berserk and increasingly deranged. Remember, it took eons for Cordyceps to evolve to instill in an insect a very rudimentary desire to climb into a bush and bite a leaf vein. It would take eons more just to properly instill in a mammal the desire to do climb high up in its last hours of life. Forget about the complex desire to pursue prey that happens in The Last of Us. Just not happening. And don’t get me started on how preposterous the whole hive mind thing in the infected is.

And the long-term infected are just so unrealistic. Cordyceps is an ascomycete fungus, yet the infected sprout characteristic basidiomycete fruiting bodies.* That’s a difference at the division level of biology — a step above the class level! And to put the icing on the cake, they are a mix of fungal fruiting bodies from many different genera of basidiomycetes.

* In fairness, I will note that Cordyceps fruiting bodies do appear growing out of the skin of some relatively recently-infected individuals. But that doesn’t diminish the nonsensical premise of all the other unrelated ones erupting later.

It’s like some Hollywood type with little or no knowledge of mycology was tasked with making people look like ghoulishly infected corpses full of fungus. Because, no doubt, one was.

The Drive Back: a Trip Journal

Published at 11:47 on 25 July 2022


I have for at least several years desired to make a road trip at least from New Mexico back to the Pacific Northwest (if not a round trip), camping instead of staying in motels and carrying mementos of my parents back with me.

While stuck in Albuquerque handling Mom’s estate, it occurred to me: things were slowing down, I could leave about a week earlier than planned without harming much, and use much of that extra time to drive back… if I could secure a one-way rental car at a non-extortionate price. Surprisingly, I could! It was still pretty expensive, mind you, but still doable, and still worth it to me at that price. I really wanted to revisit some of the places I passed through on my drives from New Mexico to northern Utah in my college years, and now, unexpectedly, I could. Plus it would salvage what has been basically a blown summer as far as camping and vacation opportunities are concerned.

Thursday, 21 July 2022


It all went pretty much as planned. Collected the rental car (2018 Buick Encore, as hoped, a compact car was unavailable so I got bumped up to a small SUV) shortly after 09:00. There was a little trouble locating the rental car place, but not a whole lot.

Drove back to my Mom’s house, loaded, went with my sister Mary to Dad’s grave, and departed Corrales at 10:45. Lunch at noon near the Continental Divide north of Cuba.

Was in the 90’s Fahrenheit until I dropped down into the San Juan river valley, then it was in the 100’s. Had forgotten just what a barren desert it is for much of the way between Shiprock and Cortez.

Since I had left before noon, I was optimistic about being able to get to Soldier Summit. Nope, didn’t happen. Back to the original plan of camping near Monticello. Am at Dalton Springs Campground. $20, but decided it was worth it for a picnic table and the ability to refill my water jugs. About 8,000ʹ. Gambel oak and aspen.

Was in the 80’s when I arrived (17:00), but has already cooled into the 70’s (19:00). Bet ABQ is still in the upper 90’s at this time. Should be a nice, cool night for sleeping.

Lots of mule deer in the area. The cheap Walmart tent and sleeping bag are indeed cheap. Would not want to rely on the tent in a storm. It is fine for keeping the bugs out in present conditions.

There were plenty of campsites when I arrived. Looks like there will be vacancies tonight [there were]. So glad to be here and not in the desert below.


US.550 is 4 wide lanes all the way to Bloomfield. Used to be called NM.44 and be mostly two lanes, sometimes two narrow ones and with “aprons” that would flood in each heavy rainfall, closing the road. Highway to Monticello no longer narrows significantly when one crosses into Utah. Ah, the changes that happen in 35 years (more than half my life).

Friday, 22 July 2022

Left Dalton Springs CG at 07:30. The decent into Moab was spectacular [it was, in retrospect, probably the highlight of the entire trip]. It also warmed up like crazy, from around 60˚F at daybreak at 8,000ʹ to 90˚F in the desert by 10:00. Right after I left Monticello, a family of wild turkeys (a mother and four poults) crossed the road.

Stopped in Moab to buy a few groceries, text a status update to Mary, and check on a debit card, which both the gas station in Cortez and the supermarket in Moab declined. They couldn’t find any problems with it and there is plenty of money in that account.

Lots of road modernizations. About half the road from I.70 to Moab has been 4-laned. There still is a rest area on US.6 between I.70 and Price, but much larger (and in the process of being expanded) and in a slightly different location (atop a plateau, not below it). The Thistle Slide bypass no longer sticks out like a sore thumb for being 4-laned. Was hard to recognize Soldier Summit as the road had been straightened and 4-laned there.

It has been 35 years (2022–1987) of course. When Dad helped me drive home from USU that time it was so hot in an old car without A/C, he was younger than I am now!

Stopped for gas at Ogden. My debit card worked. It was in the 100’s when driving through the Wasatch Front megalopolis. Did not make any other stops there.

Camped for the night at Bennett Springs, a free USFS campground near Burley. Was a little worried given the lack of a reservation, the late hour, and Pioneer Day long weekend that it would be full. False alarm, though it did not take long after I arrived for it to fill up.

It is on a paved road, but the sign on the road just says “Bennett Springs,” not “Bennett Springs Campground.” Bet that helps keep the riff-raff out.

Lots of dejected latecomers, including ones in large RV’s, are now showing up. I dread one of those “squat-camping” along the road in front of my site, generator running until late [false alarm]. One of the annoyances of Dalton Springs last night was how the host (yes, the host) ran her generator until 22:00.

There is no drinking water here and the camp sites are a lot less level. But, hey, free!

Found the campground no thanks to the Gaia app. The latter is the worst $35 I have ever spent. They claim you can download data for use off the network, but the downloading often randomly fails to include route data. The app itself sometimes randomly fails to work properly absent a network connection. Total P.O.S. Wasted an hour getting sent in the wrong direction this evening thanks to it.

The way back from here on (actually, from Spanish Forks on) is mostly interstate. Rural interstates were built to such ridiculously high standards that there will be a lot less changes to the roads from here on. Plus, I drove most of this route with Rick not too long ago.

I.15 through the SLC metro area had been widened to 4 or even 5 lanes in each direction, however, and rebuilt using concrete. No bridge work noted! [In the 1980’s, that stretch of freeway was notorious for having perpetual bridge repair work.]

Mimulus lewisii, Penstemon procerus, Rudbeckia occidentalis. The flora is starting to look familiar. I can tell it is going to get cooler here than it did at the last place [it did].

21:10 — Incredible sunset underway.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Left Bennett Springs at 07:30 despite waking at 05:30 and not 06:00. Rolled up the tent with half of my jewellery in it (no harm done).

After a somewhat weak start (exhibited poor stopping discipline, making separate stops for ice, water, and fuel when one would have sufficed), realized that this had to change because making it past The Bottomlands (otherwise known as the Columbia Basin) meant for a long day.

Between then exercising greater discipline and gaining an hour due to a time zone change, I’ve made it to Taneum Creek Campground [near Ellensburg]. Plenty of vacancies, despite it being a few hours from Seattle and one of the nicest Forest Service campgrounds there is. $20/night, and the water system is working.

Not that I need water. A janitor at a rest stop in Idaho saw me walking around with empty jugs and invited me to fill them at his janitor’s sink “because the hydrants outside are broken.”

Was nowhere near as hot today. Car thermometer never got warmer than the mid-90’s Fahernheit (and was doubtless reading several degrees too high).

My down-to-business pace today did not allow for photography, but I don’t feel terribly deprived. The gap between seeing most places I drove was not 35 years. Only exception was the stretch between Ontario and Baker.

Speaking of the latter, opted to eat lunch by the train tracks on the hunch that I might see a train (I did). (Messing with my phone to find out how far it was until the next rest area would have made for an extra stop.)

Now it is time for a brief walk into the nearby state wildlife lands.


Boise still sprawls very little to the east. Even 8 miles out, nothing but arid grassland as far as the eye can see. Then you crest a ridge and BOOM!

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Dropped the rental car keys off in the after hours drop box at the Bellingham airport, with a note that I’m returning the car a day early (will not get credit for the time it sits until the desk opens tomorrow morning). There were only 2 drop off spots available, and it was tricky to find a bus to Vancouver that left at decent hours — but I found one.

The drive from Taneum Campground felt very short, and very anticlimactic. Was hard to believe I had driven that far. Was odd looking though the various items I had bought and realizing I had bought them in various distant places all within the past several days. Hard to believe just two mornings ago I was savouring the sight of the rock formations near Moab in the morning light.

The night spent at Taenum was cool and crisp, easily the coolest night of the three, ideal for sleeping.

Now comes the wait for the cab.

Monday, 25 July 2022

The final leg of the trip went just fine. As hoped, I arrived at my Vancouver home before nightfall yesterday.

The wrinkle was figuring it all out. There are at least three bus lines running between Bellingham and Vancouver these days: Greyhound, FlixBus, and Quick Shuttle. The latter would have been optimal, because it departs from the airport terminal, which is the same place I had to drop the rental car off at. Alas, all seats were sold out. A further complication was that the Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty (all three are merely different brands owned by the same parent corporation) counter at BLI is closed weekends. Worse, all buses on Monday were booked until the evening runs, meaning I would have to blow over 24 hours waiting for a connecting trip. But FlixBus had vacancies on a Sunday evening run, if only I could drop the car off after hours. There really wasn’t anything specific on after-hours returns, so I had to go to the airport and verify that: a) there was an after-hours key drop, b) with my contact, I was allowed to use it, and c) there was space in the lot to drop off the vehicle. All three were the case, so the key drop and FlixBus it was.

FlixBus was a bit strange. It was a nice new, clean bus. However, it was a pretty basic bus (no outlets for laptops or anything like that). The bus showed up in Bellingham promptly on time. What floored me is how little the bus driver scrutinized anyone’s tickets; she basically did not scrutinize them at all! She announced it was the bus heading north to Vancouver and requested Vancouver-bound passengers board. I could have gotten a ride for free if I had wanted to! Got off at Pacific Central Station and took the No. 19 trolleybus home.

Was expecting to start work today, but that cannot be done because my access to all accounts got suspended and it will take about a day to un-suspend it all. So I have an unexpected day in which to tie up loose ends.

Checking in after Nearly a Month

Published at 22:31 on 24 July 2022

A lot has happened since my past post. My Mom fainted while reaching for something in the laundry room, took a bad fall, and ended up in the hospital. Since she was 92 and already in frail condition before this, it was pretty obvious where this was likely headed.

So I headed down to New Mexico to see her while I still could. Then the obvious happened, and I was stuck there for a couple more weeks working on settling her estate (which is far from done, but at least I managed to get the ball rolling). Complicating it all, I came down with COVID-19 shortly after arriving and had to self-isolate, which acted to somewhat limit what I could do. (Thankfully, I never got seriously ill and for the most part felt well enough to be able to make phone calls and do research.)

I did manage to somewhat salvage what is otherwise a pretty blown summer by managing to finagle a road trip back to the Pacific Northwest in a rental car filled with camping gear and mementos of my parents (and these two are not disjoint sets; I cooked on my Dad’s old Coleman stove). I had to be focused on the business of transporting myself and the goods with me and didn’t have much time for side trips, but it was still a lot of fun to drive routes some of which I had last been on 35 years ago.

Throughout it all, I did write down my thoughts and experiences. I just did not post them here. I will now be doing that as time allows.

Questions About Lasqueti Island

Published at 22:31 on 30 May 2022

I just got back from a (quickie, not nearly enough time) trip there, and it begs a number of questions. Namely is it a paradise or a Potemkin village, a model or a cop-out?

On one hand, the general vibe there is amazing, even if the place is more developed and technologically-impacted than I had imagined. Yes, there are more cars and roads (which, although almost entirely unpaved, are wider and better-travelled by motor vehicles than I had imagined), but it is still a beautiful place with an amazing aesthetic.

On the other hand, there is basically nothing definitive to rule it out being Santa Cruz North. (The latter is a small coastal city just south of San Francisco that has huge pretensions about being some sort of alternative and model for the rest of the country, but the reality beneath the veneer is that most of the worst dysfunctions of American life remain, in spades, and are largely not being challenged by its residents. The overall pattern is more of escapism and self-delusion than of an alternate model.)

There are, in fact, some worrying signs, first and foremost amongst them the growing proliferation (the structures are mostly new) of “snob gates” — very fancy gates across driveways on the main road, gates that do far more than just demarcate a private road to a private home. These are gates that literally scream “You may not be able to see my fancy house, but you better believe I have one behind those trees. Look and me and give my owner the social status his money entitles him to!”

The reaction of the one Lasquetian I pointed the gates out to on the ferry ride back was also troubling. He seemed taken aback about my very use of the term “snob gate;” it all gave me the distinct feeling I had committed a faux pas by traducing his blessed island. He evidently could not perceive the troubling trend.

The choice to use the term accidental Eden in the book I read while staying there (plus the largely self-congratulatory close to that book) could also be troubling. It all mirrors a lot of how Santa Cruz residents see themselves.

As one of my travel partners pointed out, it’s also all White people there. At least, all the people we saw were White.

Ultimately “back to the land” can be a sell-out. It can legitimize using one’s racial and class privileges to disengage from a world that desperately needs engaging (and changing). It is not enough to merely “live by example” (and what sort of example does an almost total lack of racial diversity say)?

Of course, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about building hippie havens… if they are somehow used as a base with which to engage the world. This can, at its simplest, be merely to function as a refuge from that wider world where those in need of such can recuperate and repair. But the danger of refuges is that they can very easily lead to escapism.

So far, however, the jury is out. To reiterate, it was a quickie trip. There just wasn’t enough time to do the sort of investigating to see which attitudes and trends predominate.

So Far, So Good

Published at 11:30 on 18 February 2022

The crackdown is in process, and perhaps “crackdown” is something of an exaggeration, since so far I haven’t heard any stories of heads being cracked. Arrests, yes, but they were only to be expected.

It was, after all, a protest that chose to use illegal tactics. Camping on a public street is not allowed in most all cities. And pretty much every place has parking regulations that do not let you store a vehicle on a downtown street indefinitely. Not to mention that parking your vehicle in the middle of a traffic lane and blocking traffic is unlawful even on the most minor of side streets.

Now, protesters commonly choose to use illegal tactics. The reason is rather simple: such tactics are an effective way of attracting attention, and attracting attention is the chief motive for any protest. I have myself been part of such protests, and helped in the planning of them, including the choice of illegal tactics.

The rub is that illegal tactics are still illegal and as such those who choose to use such tactics should expect legal repercussions. It is up to you as a protest participant, and particularly as an organizer, to decide whether or not the likely consequences of the repercussions are a price worth paying for the increased attention. Perhaps more importantly, it is also your responsibility to reflect on how your chosen tactics adversely impact others, and whether it is reasonable for you to exact such an impact on others. And, guess what, the protest planning I have participated in did quite openly ponder all these issues.

When the crackdown comes, it makes for good propaganda as an organizer to then adopt a “those jack-booted thugs are oppressing us” line when the inevitable repercussions materialize, but that’s just propaganda. It is not actual fascism if a deliberately illegal protest gets dismantled by the authorities. As much as you might passionately agree with the cause of the protesters, it is important to keep this in mind.

All that said, never was I part of a protest where the plans were to occupy a downtown core and to expect to be allowed to do so for weeks on end. All of the illegal protests I helped plan got broken up within six hours of their onset. There has definitely been a different standard applied for these protests.

What sticks out, therefore, is not the use of force on the part of the authorities to end the protest, but how reluctant the authorities were to use such force in the first place.

This is, in fact, part of the reason behind the national state of emergency. It would not have been necessary if action had been taken earlier, before the occupations had gotten so large and so entrenched. (None of the protests I helped organize resulted in even a local emergency declaration.) This, and not the mere use of the police to disband an unlawful protest, is the real scandal behind the invocation of the Emergencies Act.

But I have digressed from my original point. So far, so good. I have heard no reports of violence. I hope it stays that way as the rest of the protest is ended. Whether or not it will is an open question, as so far the police have merely nibbled at the edges of the occupation. Things may well change if they encounter a core of more passionate and committed occupiers.

Immediate Crisis Over at Work

Published at 21:16 on 1 February 2022

It really does not look like I am about to get canned soon. They are starting to at least somewhat realize how impractical the whole onboarding process has been.