June 2005 Archives

Lū‘au

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The word lū‘au brings to mind some pretty exotic, primal imagery—beautiful, tanned, raven-haired hula girls in raffia grass skirts; muscled, bare-chested fire jugglers, wearing crowns of woven palm leaves; a succulent, imu-roasted pig suspended on bamboo poles; roaring tongues of fire reaching up to the night sky, casting flickering shadows over giant, hand-carved tiki masks.

We, of course, had excited expectations when we learned that our conference hosts, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, were holding a gala lū‘au on the second night of the conference, esp. since lū‘au tickets were an extra $35 a person.

All of the attendees piled into busses, and when we arrived, we could see the peaks of Diamond Head in the distance, and we could hear the sound of beating drums from some indeterminate location as we wound our way through a gorgeous cactus garden.

When we emerged we saw everyone queued up and milling about a paved concrete courtyard. Okay, we figured, they must be preparing the lū‘au for us in some hidden grotto or something. About forty-five minutes later, one of the conference organizers welcomed everyone and invited us to file inside for the buffet line.

Hunh? Inside? Buffet? Hunh?

Yes, our “lū‘au” ended up being a buffet-style dinner inside an air-conditioned community college cafeteria. Granted, the food was delicious, with a number of authentic Hawaiian dishes. However, the surreal blandness of the non-lū‘au became really apparent when they brought out a troupe of geriatric hula dancers.

We enjoyed the performance for what it was, after all, septuagenarian hula dancers need to find gigs where they can, and they seemed talented, even though their song selection had a strong Don Ho easy listening flavor.

The “no one is going to believe this at home” moment really came, though, when they returned from a costume change for their closing number, wearing red, white, and blue sarongs. Then they performed a hula to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” Yes, that one.

Alas, I was too stunned to take any pictures.

We really didn’t want to be wet blankets because we realized what a tremendous opportunity this conference was, but we couldn’t help chuckling to ourselves, “Worst…lū‘au…ever.”

Hero

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I had played a bit with the first version of UGO’s HeroMachine, but never posted the results. The avatar I created with HeroMachine 2.0u was more to my liking. [via Rob]

cartoon hero Michael at Kualoa Beach Park

I decided to go for realism, although my chest is not quite so defined, and my chi aura is a slightly different shade of yellow. There is a shark’s tooth on a black cord usually around the neck of the real world version. Thanks to Photoshop, cartoon Michael is visiting Kualoa Beach Park in the pic above. Per usual, click on the highlighted thumbnail for a larger version.

Fortune cookie 10

There was finally, once again, a fortune cookie waiting for me on the back table at work.

Think of mother’s
exhortations more.
Lucky Numbers 13, 15, 19, 23, 27, 31

Good advice, I suppose. Why, oh why, did I not listen to her exhortations a year ago when she said that a certain someone was not worth my time?

That nagging weight thing

There was one downside to my vacation (well, besides that ridiculous sunburn). I had not yet mentioned this partly because I didn’t want to admit it to myself, and partly because weight can fluctuate so much from day to day, hour to hour.

I probably gained at least three to four pounds during my eight days in the islands. I’m now up around 196-197 lbs. again, which sucks, but the numbers themselves are meaningless. The real indicator is that my underwear has been difficult to slide on, and my favorite pair of tint-washed jeans is quite tight around the thighs. I don’t think thighs are normally a problem area for guys, but mine are kind of muscular already, so fat deposits on them really make jeans uncomfortable.

Healthy eating can be extremely difficult when one is away from one’s home environment, going to a restaurant for almost every meal, and eating socially on a daily basis.

Portion control is the toughest. You are paying $10 to $25 on average for a meal, and the servers accomodate you with monstrous heaping plates of delicious food that probably tip the scales at 3 to 4 thousand calories a pop. Wasting food is anathema to me, and “doggy bags” are a pain. Also, part of vacationing is indulging in new experiences, and cleaning one’s plate at an exotic eatery ranks among the most enjoyable of those experiences.

That Bowflex book that I have mentioned many times before offers some strategies for dining out, but they do not seem particularly realistic. Darden recommends that you not even open the menu at all, but instead make a special request to the waiter for an ungarnished green salad, steamed vegetables, and steamed (or broiled or baked) whitefish or chicken. Doing that would take more discipline than I have, plus it somewhat defeats the purpose of dining out in a new restaurant.

Oh well, all I can do now is return to my weight-training and my calorie counting with renewed focus. After all, I have a fifteen-year high school reunion in September.

BlogExplosion explosion

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So…I haven’t really done the BlogExplosion thing regularly in months, and I haven’t really paid attention to their e-mails. I guess I’ve been a little preoccupied with other things.

Imagine my surprise when I stopped by the BlogExplosion site early Tuesday morning and saw that I had 15,109 unused credits. Uh, yeah, it…uh…seems that I won the May BlogExplosion Traffic Lottery. Weird thing is that during the month of May, I only used BlogExplosion for a couple of hours, at most.

Fortunately, unused credits roll over to the next month. So, now I have to figure out how to take advantage of this “power” to drive 15,000 people to my site for a 30-second (or longer) visit. (This humble site normally only sees 6 to 8 thousand unique visitors in an entire month.)

Hmmmm…

Feel the power!

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Just a few more Hawai‘i-related posts before I’m all tapped out. This next one skews toward the bizarre.

Japanese tourism is huge on O‘ahu, as are businesses that are more than happy to reach into their yen-stuffed wallets. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a storefront or advertisement that was not written in both English and Japanese.

One thing that usually made us chuckle as we hiked down to the Waikīkī Beach area was the preponderance of automatic rifle gun clubs and placard-wearing solicitors handing out flyers for the gun clubs.

Waikiki gun club

The gun club in the photo above was our favorite, mostly because of the “convincingly” Photoshopped blonde-haired, blue-eyed Asian on the sign near the entrance. (Plus it was a few doors down from a ramen bar that served the yummiest noodles I have ever slurped.)

One evening, for about ten minutes, I stopped to watch a few of the gun club solicitors. They consistently ignored every single non-Asian tourist who walked past them.

I just had to have a flyer as a souvenir. As soon as I approached one of them, the others swarmed. “You don’t want that one. We give you more rounds!” Alas, we all resisted the urge to “feel the power.”

The Big Kahuna

This statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku greets visitors to Waikīkī beach. He is known as the father of modern surfing and was the first athlete from Hawai‘i to win an Olympic gold medal (swimming).

Duke Paoa Kahanamoku statue

It was cool how this statue always seemed to be adorned with fresh leis.

(You may have caught a glimpse of this statue during the closing credits of Disney’s Lilo and Stitch.)

...uh...um...o-k-a-y...

…and now it’s time for something completely different. Lots more pics from the Aloha State in the pipeline, but for now…yes, we’ve got a site that features outfits that you can print, cut out, and use to “dress up” a certain male body part. [Durex Dickorations]

I’ve never really considered it as something that really cries out for adornment, esp. not a red cape, but…uh…never mind.

The site is probably SFW, but laughing out loud uncontrollably when you see this might be NSFW.

By the way, at the entry page, pretend you are under 18 for just a moment. Shudder.

Fishes and such

I made a point to visit the Waikīkī Aquarium, especially since I had lived in Monterey for a year and never made it to the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium (otherwise known as the Cetacean Institute to you Star Trek IV fans).

Anyway, I took a few photos. Most turned out blurry or grainy, and I got quite a few shots of fish butts—these little guys just weren’t into posing.

These first two are amazing. They seem almost alien; I had never even heard of a Sea Dragon before. They are native to the waters around southern Australia and are in the seahorse family. This first one (he was about a foot long) is a Weedy Sea Dragon.

weedy sea dragon

The creature below, which looks quite a bit like a clump of living seaweed is a Leafy Sea Dragon. Cool.

leafy sea dragon

Next up are some jellyfish. I love the way they lit them up.

jellyfish

This giant grouper (over three feet long) was lounging around inside the shark tank (all my shark pics, including the gorgeous black-tip reef shark, turned out blurry).

big fish

This octopus was making his way up the side of his tank.

octopus

This spiny specimen is a South Pacific Turkeyfish.

spiny fish

Unfortunately, I didn’t grab any photos of the unofficial state fish, the humuhumunukunukuāpua‘a. :-)

Your retail overlords

Yes, bow before your smiley-faced retail overlords. Two of our travelling companions had arrived in Waikīkī about six hours before us and decided to get a few staples (milk and such). They knew that there was a Wal-Mart in town, but none of the locals they asked would tell them where it was. One instead directed them to a grocery store where they paid $4 for a half-gallon of milk; twenty dollars worth of groceries ended up costing them over eighty dollars.

We soon found slightly better prices in the ubiquitous ABC Stores—$6.39 for a gallon of milk; the reality of pricing in an island economy was a bit shocking (the nearest land-mass outside the archipelago is 2,000 miles away).

Wal-Mart sign

Of course, we finally did find the O‘ahu version of Sam Walton’s shopping mecca. It even had an adjoining parking garage and a Sam’s Club in a second story above. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more crowded Wal-Mart.

Love it or hate it (I have a few friends who refuse to shop at Wal-Mart for various reasons), it was hard to say no to a gallon of milk that was “only” $3.88. I could see why local retailers would really hate Wal-Mart and the distinct advantage that their vast distribution network gives them.

This Wal-Mart even sold Hawaiian shirts and other touristy souvenirs, but I had to draw the line somewhere.

SUVs are silly

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On Tuesday I drove an SUV for the very first time in my life. Because our original traveling party had five people, we had gotten an SUV as a rental.

Trying to circumnavigate O‘ahu was just too much for one person, so I drove from Haleiwa back to Honolulu (after we stopped, of course, to get a shave ice at the world famous Matsumoto’s.

Matsumoto's sign

I can’t understand why anyone would want to own or drive such a massive, lumbering beast of a vehicle, especially when gas was $2.48 a gallon. At least the motorists on the island are much more easy-going and polite than New Jersey drivers, and traffic is much sparser.

(Hawai‘i would be a terrible state in which to play the license plate game, but I digress.)

My driving the rental vehicle may not seem all that significant, until one realizes that I smashed up our rental vehicle while driving at last year’s New Media Consortium conference in Vancouver. (No one was hurt then—just my pride, the rental car, and the vehicle of the three local Barbies, who were upset because I made them late for their party.)

I had sort of gotten over my fear of driving in large, unfamiliar cities when I took a road trip to the Montréal Jazz Festival a couple of weeks after my accident. Still though, this time my hands were shaking quite a bit when I first took the wheel, the memories of last June’s Vancouver crash still fresh in my mind.

Favorite Hawai‘i pics

I took just over 300 photos with a digital camera during the week I was in O‘ahu. Below are three of my favorite shots.

The first one I took while stopped at a scenic overlook along the south shore. The views of the waves crashing against the striated cliffs were so spectacular I was giddy.

Bonus: Here’s a 2000x1500 pixel version of the first photo.

waves crashing against cliffs

In the second one, a man-made rainbow sits at the end of a natural one in Waikīkī. My jaw dropped when I saw this one. A rainbow in the sky seemed to be an everyday occurrence; no wonder there’s a rainbow on their state license plate.

a rainbow shines on Rainbow Tower

This last one, which features Diamond Head Light, I took from atop the Lē‘ahi summit. I had hiked up through Diamond Head Crater early Tuesday morning, and the view from the top was well worth it.

lighthouse at the base of Diamond Head Crater

If you cannot laugh at yourself...

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I mentioned my awful sunburn in a post last week. What I didn’t mention is that while I was lying on the beach, I absent-mindedly rested my hands across my mid-section. The results were embarrassingly ridiculous.

photo of my sunburned chest

The area with the “Janet Jackson Rolling Stone cover” hands was one of the few unburned parts of my body. Now that the redness has mostly faded, I have the silliest looking tan line. Oh, well…

Aloha, Hawai‘i

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Howyadoin, New Jersey.

I walked through my door of my musty NJ apartment at 4:30 PM today.

We had arrived at O‘ahu airport at 6:30 PM on Tuesday. 22 hours prior, minus the six hour time shift.

Now I have a ten-day pile of mail, a flood of e-mail, a full TiVo, and luggage full of dirty clothes and receipts; and I don’t want to deal with any of it. I just want to go back to Hawai‘i (or at least go to sleep).

My sunburn is much better. I will have a few stories and many incredible pictures to relate after I come up for air.

I have been completely without internet access since Saturday morning. Our hotel didn’t have net access, and I decided to not bother with the internet café thing. This is probably the longest I have been away from an internet connection since 1997. Yikes.

Zzzzzzzzz. Bleah. A three-hour cat nap shouldn’t screw up my sleep schedule too much…

Burnt to a crisp

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Friday evening…around 5 PM. Not being especially adept at the fine art of sun-worshipping, on Wednesday I allowed myself to get an all-over lobster tan. The harsh Hawai‘i sun did bad things to my alabaster skin.

Ow. Owie! When does the hurting stop?

I discovered that waterproof sunscreen…really…isn’t, and constant reapplication is necessary. Live and learn.

For the last two and a half days, the simplest of tasks, such as dressing myself, have been a significant and time-consuming challenge.

It feels much better than it did yesterday. At least the conference started on Thursday and lasts until Saturday, so I am indoors most of the day. After the conference, though, I would really love to fully enjoy the north shore of O‘ahu, but I imagine I will have to remain in a long-sleeved shirt if my body is still too sore.

I just hope it doesn’t rain our last three days here as forecasted.

Near-near-death experience

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Tuesday night…around 10:30 PM…I am typing this post while sitting pool-side in a canvas chaise lounge, my wireless-enabled PowerBook resting in my lap. A gentle nighttime breeze is caressing my slightly sunburnt skin. Flames from a dozen or so tiki torches dance around the perimeter.

I’m actually not at my hotel. I’m at a much nicer one down the street. I probably shouldn’t be here, but as long as you act like you are supposed to be here, no one bothers you. (Plus, it is the same hotel where we will be attending the conference, starting on Thursday.)

This morning I made my way out to the beach. I waded into the water, and paddled around a bit. To my annoyance, I noticed a bit of a sharp pain in my left big toe as I was scissor-kicking. About four months back, I think I fractured my toe, but I never bothered to go to a doctor about it because it didn’t hurt when I walked or ran, only when I flexed it a certain way, Also, there was no external evidence of any kind of injury.

So, anyway, I decided to make my way out to the edge of a long lava-rock-boulder jetty. Silly, stupid Michael decided to jump off of the jetty and swim diagonally back to shore. As I started swimming, the pain in my toe became excruciating; I could barely move my leg through the water. I’m not a particularly strong swimmer to begin with. When I realized that I was still less than halfway back to shore, I started panicking a bit, even though part of my mind was screaming at the other part, “Don’t panic!” I floated on my back a bit, trying not to take in too much water. Slowly, but surely, I eventually made it back to shore. More embarrassed, I suppose, than anything.

Let’s just say, I don’t think that I’ll be doing that again. Also, a trip to the doctor for an x-ray is in order as soon as I return.

Trackbacks disabled

Our hotel, the Waikīkī Holiday Inn, is in the process of changing internet providers, so their guests can’t get online for another three weeks. Bleah!

I was able to walk over to the hotel where our they are holding our conference…and we’ve got wi-fi! Five bars of signal strength. No stupid credit-card-number-demanding portal. No hassle.

As such, I won’t be able to be online as much as I had hoped, and, unfortunately, while I was away, the TrackBack spammers were zombifying my site. So until I get back, the TrackBacks cgi is disabled. They’re evil; evil, I tell you.

Time to go to dinner; more later, including a near-death experience, $8 milk, and begrudging praise to the almighty Sam Walton.

Update 6/23: It seems there is no easy way to turn off TrackBacks sitewide in Movable Type. Disabling the TrackBack cgi may have stopped a few spam pings, but a few spammers still got through. Apparently, you can run a SQL command to accomplish what I was trying to do, but I wasn’t going to mess with SQL while I was on a borrowed laptop with a limited internet connection. TrackBacks are back to normal once more.

Aloha, Garden State

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Aloha,…Aloha State.

Swimwear and such

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I realized that I needed a new pair of swimming trunks for my trip to Hawai‘i (Monday is fast approaching). The ones in my drawer are for a man with a 36-38 waist. He’s gone, and he’s never coming back.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make as much progress during the last month as I had hoped. Well, I did make some progress; my arms and chest are a tad bit larger. But I could kick myself for slacking off for the first three months of the year. Oh well, I guess I should be grateful for what I did accomplish, rather than dwell on what I failed to accomplish.

A fly on the wall of the fitting room would have died laughing, though. Alrighty, then…the medium Tommy Hilfigers were too big; let’s try the small. Puff out chest. Suck in gut. Ah, damn it. If only I could suck in the parts of my gut that hang off to the side. Oh well. Puff out the chest a bit more. Nope, these ones make my butt look big.

You know, I really hope there wasn’t anyone who tried on the same trunks I did “commando.” Yes, they’re getting laundered today, but still…

Anyway, I finally settled for a pair of turquoise Polo trunks that are so unabashedly preppie that they are almost a parody of preppieness. Just one embroidered Polo horse guy wasn’t enough. Oh, no. Instead a veritable army of little yellow Polo logos adorn these trunks like polka-dots. I figure they’ll draw attention away from what my culinary indiscretions have wrought.

Retail therapy

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There’s nothing like enjoying the fruits of consumerism to boost one’s spirits—even if those fruits add a few digits to the evil Zero Percent Interest Rate for One Year Credit Cards.

I absolutely adore my iPod and find myself mostly using it when I am driving. The Griffin iTrip (a wireless FM transmitter) has served me pretty well since my iPod first came into my life, but there is just way too much static and interference from other radio signals in New Jersey.

Crutchfield had a decent sale over Memorial Day weekend, so I bought the Alpine CDA-9830 car radio and the Alpine KCA-420i iPod Interface Adapter.

Alpine CDA-9830

Installation was pretty easy. I do have to say—soldering a wiring harness can be surprisingly fun. Plus the sight of the Alpine logo booting up on my iPod’s LCD screen when I plugged it in gave me a satisfying sense of accomplishment. And everything fit neatly inside my dashboard.

Alpine KCA-420i

The thing recharges the iPod via the dock connector, and you can see the song, artist, and album titles from the ID3 tags right on the faceplate. No support for foreign characters, though, so when a few of my favorite tracks come up (e.g. “傀儡謡_陽炎は黄泉に待たむと”) the display shows “NO SUPRT.”

After listening to it for a week, my verdict is that the sound quality is outstanding. I guess my expectations were pretty low after using the iTrip for so long, but the clarity of a clean signal and the broader frequency response (5-20,000 Hz versus 50-15,000 Hz for the iTrip) make a huge difference. This particular radio also has a feature called Media Xpander that’s supposed to correct information that was lost in digital compression, producing a more balanced sound. It does indeed make the MP3s sound better.

I discovered one disadvantage when using the control knob to scroll through 370 albums (or 3450 songs). It is s…l…o…w and always goes back to “A” when you return to the list after playing a song. Accelerated scrolling is such an amazing feature of the iPod’s click-wheel, and you really miss it when using another device to navigate through a long list of albums or songs. At least the Alpine interface recognizes playlists that have been pre-built in iTunes; it looks like I will be using that quite a bit more (and Shuffle Songs, of course).

Rock on.

Master of procrastination

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Even though it is just past 3 AM, I just finished my resistance training. I have been trying to talk myself out of my workout since I got home from work today. My procrastination attempt was quite successful last evening. In fact, my success at talking myself out of my workouts is why I won’t be hitting the beaches of Hawaii in a few days with a flat stomach. Bleah.

Here is one technique to counter my exercise-related procrastination that does not work—eat something unhealthy to guilt myself into doing my workout. Like I said, does not work—plus there’s the double whammy of the unnecessary fat and calories. Double bleah.

One would think that with May sweeps over, at least there wouldn’t be anything on television to delay my workout. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tear myself away from the second episode of Beauty and the Geek. You know, its kind of disheartening to realize that certain aspects of my life are even more pathetic than the characters on that reality show who are described by the latter half of its title. Triple bleah.

Anyway, my other procrastinating distraction was my pro-bono web development work. I’ve been doing way too much pro-bono stuff lately. This latest project is a pretty advanced PHP-driven site for my high school class’s fifteenth reunion. (Fifteen years—now there’s a scary thought.) Problem with the pro-bono stuff is that is takes just as much time (if not more time) than the stuff that actually pays the bills, but I often have a hard time saying no. Haelb.

I guess it’s time to get to bed…although, there are few other things I should probably take care of first…

Therapy and such

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Two days ago I stood up my therapist. Actually, scratch that. The “my” part bugs me. He wasn’t my therapist; he was just some guy I wasted six hours of my life with.

As part of our health plan, we have the option of six free therapy sessions. I figured “what the hey.” This would have been my seventh session. The first one for which I would have incurred an out-of-pocket expense. I decided it wasn’t worth it. Unfortunately, I may still get charged for this one because I never bothered to cancel. Oh well.

During each session, the topic of conversation always drifted back to one person. One incident. One string of incidents. I’m sick of talking about that. I’m sick of thinking about that.

No amount of therapy will make right what happened. Therapy won’t help me come to terms with what that person did to me. This is something best left to time—and the peace that only fading memory can facilitate.

Instead I decided upon a pint of Chocolate Therapy. It’s not something I really needed, but I had two weeks of good workouts, damn it.

Search engines & blog logs 5

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  • r****** r**
    1826 searches for Ms. Ray this month. Somewhat of a downward trend.
  • hayden christensen nude
    Here is a secret for driving traffic to your site—mention a celebrity’s name and use the word nude in that entry or even a different entry.
  • rory gilmore nude
    See above.
  • katie holmes nude
    See above. I could do this all day.
  • nude freckled women
    Freckles are hot.
  • things to do in your lifetime budapest
    Definitely high on the list of places I’d love to visit.
  • michael the ark angel
    He’s the one that kept Noah company.
  • what would chloroform do if dropped from a plane
    Hunh?
  • my name is mike and i suck
    Okay…
  • michael and katie
    No, it’s Tom and Katie, I’m afraid.
  • mike hawaii
    Michael in Hawaii in thirteen days.
  • caught nude satellite
    My expectation (and hope) is that satellites would not be able to resolve enough detail to make it worth your while.
  • categories of women pubic hair photo atlas
    This one is a head scratcher.
  • evil cookie monster pics
    Evil cookie monster?
  • something a secret admirer would write
    “On rainy days like this, I can’t stop thinking about you.” Uh, obsess much, Michael? Nah.
  • women that are too skinny
    Ms. Lohan certainly comes to mind.
  • absolutist viewpoint on abortion
    Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.

P.U.-Tang Clan

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This post-P-rade pic goes out from Fiendish Observational Comedian to Rob, otherwise known as Sullen Choirboy, who’s keeping it real in the land of the rising sun.

Princeton alums in orange P.U.-Tang outfits carry ODB R.I.P. sign

I counted four of these guys in the P-rade. Once you get past the awful pun, you have to admire their dedication.

Word.

Let me out!

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The cubicle next to mine, which has been vacant for a few months, had a new (albeit temporary) occupant, whom I discovered this morning.

During Reunions weekend, I had swung by my office a couple of times to check e-mail. I had thought I had heard a rustling sound once or twice, but thought nothing of it; same thing during work yesterday.

However, this morning the rustling became a persistent scabbering. Perhaps, I thought, it was the ghost of one of that cubicle’s former occupants, having come back to haunt me. As far as I know, though—Emily, Laura, Fergus, Rob, Matt, Jin, and Kati are still very much in corporeal form.

A quick investigation of the cubicle brought me face to face with the cute little guy in the photo below.

mouse trapped in a recycling bin

It seems this mouse had fallen into a plastic recycling bin a few days ago, but the sides were too high and slippery for him to make his way out. His vain attempts to gain altitude were funny, but sad considering the length of his imprisonment in the rank, befouled bin.

After a brief coworker “show and tell,” the little guy finally gained his freedom and scampered across the grass.

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