Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Prospects of 2013

Things have been largely uneventful as of late--I chalk it up to being due to poor Seattle weather and being in the midst of the middle of winter.  One indirectly positive aspect about this year's winter season is having a new car (new cars seem to have the reputation of being pretty reliable) which keeps me from having to stress over whether or not my car will survive the cold season and see the light of the coming summer or having to feed money into it for maintenance and potential repairs.  My last (precious) car, which was an absolutely amazing experience every time I got behind the wheel, was sadly in need of quite a lot of TLC and while it was very reliable, there was always the fear in the back of my mind that something expensive breaking was on the verge of becoming imminent.  Thankfully, I don't think I have to worry about anything breaking for hopefully a while, which is a nice relief (so let fun driving commence!).  

On an unrelated note, I've started learning how to program in Java and I'm enjoying it quite a lot.  Learning a new language is definitely challenging, but it's extremely rewarding when successfully figuring out the solution to a coding problem (using the new language you've learned).  I've only begun to scratch the surface of learning to program but I hope to get better and better with time and hopefully bring some of the project ideas I've written down into a reality.  I recently wrote a cheesy little program which displays a pixelated "8-bit" Hatsune Miku using another program called DrawingPanel. It doesn't do anything except code the graphical representation of Miku but I think it's really cool (because I'm a noob that's never done anything like this before).  I'm sure when I get better at Java I'll look back and be really embarrassed about letting myself post this, but everyone has to start somewhere, right?

All in all, I have high hopes that 2013 will bring some interesting and exciting new things.  What exactly?  I don't even know but I'll hopefully have more interesting updates to provide until then.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fish Sticks (& small mammals)

Keep these away from me, thanx

So I recently had an eye-opening revelation which I had never really thought about before, regarding a certain processed fish-based food-product.  Fish sticks, you would think they are simply "pieces of fish" that are breaded and fried, right?  Well, unfortunately there is more to fish sticks than just that.  Basically, almost all fish are infested with parasitic worms--some more than others.  Certain species of fish in particular are characteristically infested with worms, Cod and Halibut (including other bottom feeders) are two of many such species which come to mind.  I doubt you will ever see "Cod sushi" due to this fact, but that's not to say it isn't impossible.

The story is essentially this: fishermen catch boatloads of Cod (or other) fish, and have them "cleaned / gutted" coming to realize the guts of the fish are full of worms, but not just the guts--the muscles and flesh are also riddled with small parasitic worms as well.  Fishmongers realized that although the worms are supposedly safe for eating (after being cooked), consumers would probably lose their appetite being given Cod fillets full of worms (with good reason).  So they came up with the idea that if you throw the infested fish meat into a grinder and grind up the worms with the meat, the processed fish could be battered, and turned into deliciously "safe" fish sticks--and the consumer would be none the wiser.

Who knew this was the case?  I didn't.  It makes sense but now I'm just a little grossed out--though I'm not one to eat fish sticks aside from Cod-based "fish 'n chips" which is likely also infested given that the meat is hidden from sight within a thick coating of batter.  Will this new found knowledge stop me from eating Cod?  Probably not but this information will likely be in the back of mind forever now.

For anecdotal evidence from fishing enthusiasts see:

Now for anyone who had the displeasure of enduring that disgusting revelation, here is something to cleanse your mind.

Pictured above is the Etruscan Shrew, the smallest mammal in the world (by weight).  It lives in a wide-spread region spanning Eurasia and parts of Africa.  This shrew gets to be around 2 inches in length and weighs 2 grams on average.  They have a high metabolism and will eat around 4 grams of bugs throughout an entire day, everyday.

It's pretty amazing to think that such small creatures have complete vascular systems with a full set of internal organs within a tiny skeleton in such a small size scale.  Given that these shrews weigh 2 grams, the shrew's heart must be smaller than a pin-head--it's crazy to think that something that small is pumping the shrew's entire blood supply which also must be a tiny incomprehensible volume as well.  I'm having a hard time pondering it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Back in Seattle

Black Butte, CA

A few days ago I made the long trip (driving) from Tucson to Seattle: a grueling 24 hour, 1600+ mile journey that was split into 2 legs--a 14 hour, 1000 mile leg on day 1, and a 10 hour, 600+ mile leg on day 2.  I mentioned previously that the last time I made this drive was during the middle of Summer so things would probably be a little different this time around, and they definitely were.

The excursion was largely uneventful and boring driving through the open desert from Arizona to Los Angeles, but then I found things to get really scenic through northern LA with its smooth rolling hills dotted with small shrubberies and I was reminded of how nice and varied the landscape and scenery is in California--my favorite state in the US. Whenever I drive up through California I see how self-sustaining (resource-wise) the state is with its huge expanses of fertile land for growing food, the pasturage for cows and other livestock, the pacific ocean and its fish stock, huge supplies of trees and lumber in the forests of northern California, windy zones with turbines providing power, oil pumps and deposits everywhere, not to mention the large quantities of gold and other precious materials that are present in the mountains.  California could likely operate as an independent self-sustaining country if it absolutely needed to.

Driving through the heart of California things were again uneventful through a good chunk of northern LA up to northern California where around Mount Shasta the scenery took a quick turn toward becoming a white mountainous wonderland.  Temperatures during my drive through the mountains of northern California dipped to as low as 19 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 C) and the roads definitely showed it with large portions being completely covered and iced over.  Many of the worst sections of road were coated with a thick layer of red gravel (?) which may have included some kind of ice-inhibiting chemical as well (salt, etc.).  The worst areas were those in shadowy valleys which didn't see much sunlight, preventing the road surface from heating up, and giving a nice un-melted icy slick on the surface.  I only experienced 2 "pucker moments" where the rear (thankfully) of the car nearly slid out but I quickly recovered, slowing down till reaching a slightly warmer area.  The scenery from Mount Shasta up to a little past the Oregon border was really nice, and barring the slippery conditions, was a pretty exciting drive.

Everything shifted to mostly green (scenic-wise) past this point and the drive was again uneventful into Washington state where the conditions felt a little strange.  It may have been the fact that I was 8 or more hours into the second leg of a long drive, but the snowy white scenery coupled with a white foggy sky and a lack of a definite horizon was throwing off my balance and there were times where due to parallax, I wasn't sure if I was travelling on a flat road or if I was going down a sharp declining road vs an inclined road.  It was only a little disconcerting and I mostly tried to ignore the feeling and get to the next area asap.

Things were familiar on the approach to Seattle and I managed to arrive at my destination and apartment without issue.  The next days were spent "starting over" in life with acquiring consumables and other junk needed to settle down.  Seattle doesn't seem to have changed much in the last 6 months when I was gone.  Though one thing I have noticed is that grocery stores and retailers are now charging for paper bags so the "ban of plastic bags" law must have passed recently.  People at the grocery store seem to be using their own reusable grocery bags now so I guess everyone is trying to be a little more environmentally conscious (people are going to have to do a lot more than that to make a drop of a difference though)--it's a start at least.

My new apartment is a tiny studio unit but I think it'll suffice.  Pretty much the only furniture I have is a desk and chair pictured below as my primary base of operations and from where I'll likely be making most of my future updates and postings.