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December 15th, 2005

So... I'm over at reading some cool news -- apparently another Kuiper belt object has been discovered, but the tilt of its orbital plane (47 degrees tilted from that of our Solar System's planets) and its nearly circular orbit are playing havoc with existing theories for how the Kuiper belt formed and evolved.

Several words in the article appeared to be hyperlinked, and the first was the temporary name of the 500-to-1000 kilometer object: "Buffy." I expected to be linked to articles about how temporary naming took a fun spin with "Xena" recently, but no, this was a sponsored link, and mousing over it gave me a pop-up about buying Buffy The Vampire Slayer on DVD.

There were other words in the article that were similarly linked -- "remote," "coax," and "computers." Each was pointed to a page that had absolutely NOTHING to do with Kuiper belt objects, or even astronomy. Go look at the article and see those words in context, and you'll see what I mean.

I love HTML. I love the way the appropriate use of anchor tags and hyperlinks allows us to deepen our understanding of subjects by connecting words, terms, and phrases to articles that provide further information. The Astronomy Picture of the Day and Wikipedia both do this really, really well.

I also like Internet advertising. I have to -- it pays my bills. But it's getting better and better at connecting me with products, services, and information germane to what I'm reading about, or otherwise closely related to my own interests. Mind you, I block pop-ups, and scan pages for content before granting an eyeball to the ads, but it's nice. If I'm in a hurry, the ads don't slow me down a bit. I've designed my own site with this principle in mind.

But the method of inlining the ads used at PhysOrg hijacks the reader, confounding attempts at deeper understanding. PhysOrg just trained me to keep my mouse the heck out of that window while I'm reading -- I can't trust their hyperlinks.

Besides, I already own all seven seasons of Buffy on DVD.

10:00am, December 14th, 2005

Six years ago, almost to the day, I had a heart attack. It wasn't much of an attack, as cardiac events go -- it was myocarditis, after all. It wasn't caused by blockage, or high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, or any of the USUAL things that trigger arrests in 31-year-old males. I spent three days in the hospital being very bored (and a little scared, yes), and came home fit as a fiddle. Well... the strings needed to be tightened a bit, because the drugs they wanted me to take were worse than the myocarditis, but as soon as I ditched the battery of useless meds (including a blood-pressure regulator that prevented me from running up stairs, doing more than a couple of push-ups, or getting anything else up, if you catch my drift) I was fine.

They measured my cholesterol while I was in the hospital, and it was around 100. I was spectacularly healthy, and the ratio of HDL to LDL supported that. I'd been low-carb dieting at the time, and exercising upwards of 10 hours per week. Then I caught the "Luke Skywalker" flu -- the virus made it all the way to the reactor core, and my heart muscle swelled up. That's what myocarditis is: a viral or bacterial infection and resulting inflammation of the heart muscle.

Understand, though, that my Dad spent at least two decades being obese, had myocarditis in his 40's, and then had a massive and quite fatal coronary at age 56. Regardless of how healthy I felt back in 1999, I also felt that there was this hereditary sword hanging over my head, and if I couldn't move out of the way, perhaps I could put on a helmet.

So ever since 1999 I've been interested in my cholesterol levels. Some of you may remember the "guess Howard's total cholesterol level" contest I ran for three or four years in a row each winter. Sadly, I've never dieted-and-exercised as effectively as I did back in 1999, so the levels have been as high as 235. Back when I was twenty-five years old I had my cholesterol measured, and it was around 200, maybe 205. The few times I've been tested while low-carbing, It's been down around 150 to 175.

As far as I can tell, then, my cholesterol levels are high when I'm on the high-carb, high-junk, 21st-century fast-food-forager diet, and healthy or low when I'm doing some variant of the low-carb thing.

The latest round of results bear that out. I've been low-carbing, working out at least twice a week, and enjoying staple items like bacon-wrapped grilled chicken breast, butter-fried cheese, bacon and eggs, and ham-and-egg-drop soup for 16 days now. This morning I took a home cholesterol test, and was almost off the chart... on the low end. The chart only went down to "21 = 119" (a reading of "21" on the chart-calibrated device corresponds to a total cholesterol level of 119) and the fuzzy purple line generated by a few drops of my blood only went up to about 20.5. Eh. Call it 21. That puts my total cholesterol at or just south of 119, which is the lowest measurement I've had since 1999.

Needless to say, I'm pleased. My weight may have plateau'd for the last week, but I feel great, my clothing fits better, and now I know that my cholesterol has retreated from the borders of the Undiscovered Country.

The Street Value of Uncut Cheese
December 14th, 2005

At almost the precise moment my "Cheeeeese" blog entry aired, a Schlocker emailed me with what sounded like an anecdotal or urban-legend-esque tale. Supposedly there was this young woman who saw a block of queso blanco on a neighbor's table, decided it was uncut cocaine, and hired a hit man to kill everyone in the house so she could steal the coke and resell it.

To her misfortune (and to the good fortune of everyone in the home) the hit man she hired was an undercover police officer. And the cops searched the house, having reasonable cause, and determined that the queso blanco was not, in fact, cocaine.

A little googling pulled up the original article. Here it is, from the Washington Post. The article aired on December 6th (here at Schlock Mercenary we're less than 10 days behind the rest of the journalistic world) and at that time Jessica Sandy Booth remained in jail, with bond set at a cool million dollars, on four charges of attempted murder and four counts of soliciting murder.

All over a block of queso blanco. I think I'll go fry some right now, and get my buzz on.

December 13th, 2005

The diet-and-exercise thing is going well. I've lost six pounds, and redistributed another five or ten, if the fit of my clothes is any indication. And I've discovered that I really, really like cheeeese.

This is a good thing, because cheese is something I'm allowed to eat. Lately I've been frying a "mexican snack cheese" called "Queso Blanco," and the stuff is AMAZING. I'll fry a couple of quarter-inch-thick slices in a little bit of butter, and they toast up nicely without going all gooey and impossible to flip. And when I eat them, they taste like grilled cheese sandwiches. I don't know how they did it, but the cheese-mongers managed to fake that toasted bread flavor without the help of actual bread.

The addition of a small dollop of tomato sauce (yes, it has carbs, but in insignificant amounts per dollop, and besides -- vegetables are GOOD) completes the illusion. Tomato soup and grilled-cheese sandwiches is one of my favorite foods, but with bread off the menu, I thought it'd be a few months before I'd be able to enjoy it again. Not so!

The funny thing is that the "Queso Blanco" I've been buying, with its picture of a serape-clad, burro-riding, sombrero-bedecked mexican man on the front is made in the Central American province of... umm... Wisconsin. My guess is that whatever the authentic recipe for white "mexican frying-cheese" calls for, these corporate cheese-mongers have found a way to pull it off without the use of anything hecho en mexico whatsoever. Still, it tastes fan-NAFTA-tastic. Naftastic? Whatever.

Needless to say, I tried this stuff in my standard Chupaqueso recipe, and it makes for a truly superior shell. I still prefer chupaquesos that have been filled with pepperjack, or mild cheddar (and bacon, and ham, and green chiles), but Queso Blanco is now my shell of choice.

Looking for chupaqueso recipes? Watch this space. I've had so many requests for them, I've found a special home in cyberspace for them to live, and I'll tell you where it is once there's some actual cheese there.

(And some ADS about cheese. I'm waaay too hungry to write recipies for free.)

Note: A little googling turned up this page about queso blanco, which apparently is a fresh white cheese made primarily in Venezuela, where I'm told they do, in fact, have lots of cows. That's about the extent of my ability to read Spanish, though.

Introducing the Dragon-Cow
Monday, December 12th, 2005

This week's marker-art auction is one of my all-time favorite pieces. It's the "Dragon Cow," and if you dare, you might just consider trying to milk it. I'm not sure what Dragon milk is good for, but I bet the process of acquiring it needs warning labels of its own: "The surgeon-general has determined that milking dragons causes broken ribs, excessive claw-marks, and possible passage through one or more additional stages of the food chain."

Obviously, the only way to do it safely is to pay someone else to do it, and to use an escrow service so the victim's family can't find you to come after you.

You know the drill: click on the picture to the right for the auction.