Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gee, what will they think of next...

Mom, you won't miss anything if you want to skip this post.

I got this newsletter today telling me about a new insect repellent from SC Johnson Brands. The OFF!® Clip-On™ repellent provides personal protection from mosquitoes without having to apply something to your skin.

This is really appealing to me since I am really appealing to mosquitoes and rather sensitive to the repellent products that actually work to keep me from being bitten. I’d never heard of the active ingredient, metofluthrin, so I G00gled it. It made for some interesting reading. I learned about things like LD50 (lethal dose where 50% of the test subjects die) and LC50 (lethal concentration in 50% or test subjects). Here are some excerpts from the EPA’s sheet on this chemical (

… Metofluthrin, like other pyrethroids, is neurotoxic in rats, rabbits, and dogs; both sexes were equally sensitive to metofluthrin. Clinical signs include tremor (all species), vomiting (dog only), and increased salivation (rats and dogs).


… clinical signs including ataxic gait, tremors, tip-toe gait, lateral position, clonic convulsion, hypothermia, and mortality in both sexes.


… a single dose of 100 mg/kg produced tremors, twitches, abnormal respiration, increased motor activity, and mortality. The animals found dead or in extremis 24 hours post-dosing (7 out of 20 animals) exhibited signs of clonic convulsions, hyperpnea, prostration, lost righting reflex, soft or liquid feces, tonic extensor convulsions, salivation, chromorhinorrhea, and chromodachyorrhea.

… Increased incidence of tremor was observed in males at 30 mg/kg/day in the chronic dog study. Tremor was observed in the head, limbs, or body of all males beginning on Day 96 (1-5 incidences/dog except one male with 46 incidences) and in only one female and only on Day 289.


Well, this is just a little upsetting to me. I know, testing like this goes on all the time and it’s for my protection but shouldn’t we really be testing this stuff on humans to get results relevant to our own species?

I don’t know that I could buy this product knowing what I know about it and frankly I’m afraid the look at the MSDS sheet for the product I currently use.

On the other hand, the testing is done and the animals are already dead. Nothing can bring them back. If I don’t use this product, won’t their deaths have been in vain?

I fucking hate moral dilemmas.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Europe recap

We are safe and sound back in the good old U.S. of A. I have to comment about how well the traveling part of the trip went. I love vacationing in far-off destinations but I hate the physical act of traveling. I hate lugging luggage. I dislike plane travel (that must be a control thing) and I wasn’t especially fond of the public transportation (but was, frankly, glad not to be driving in Amsterdam or Paris). Once I’m where I’m going I’m fine, it’s the getting to and from that irks me. Can’t wait for transporter technology to be developed so I can just beam to my chosen place.

Here are a few more pictures from the trip, pictures that didn’t really fit in with previous posts (plus after running around all day, it was a stretch to stay awake long enough to post the entries I did; I’m not a spring chicken anymore). Our canal tour of Amsterdam was quite a long tour and there were so many things to take pictures of, but this one is noteworthy for the fact that you can see arch after arch after arch looking down the canal (I believe the guide said 8 in all) and the teeny-tiny delivery truck on one of the bridges is pretty darn cool.

As we were waiting for the Thalys train to Paris, we sat on this really cool red bench in the station that has all sorts of quotes about travel. I guess if we’d known and taken the train from Schipol instead of trekking into Amsterdam Central again, we never would have seen the bench.

Here’s what the view was like from the high speed train.

Everywhere we went people were very nice and polite. I loved Amsterdam and the people living there and there was quite an international assortment of guests at our hotel (it was a popular place for airline crews on their ‘you-will-get-some-sleep’ layovers. The Internet in the room (wired) was expensive but if you went to the lobby you could have the wireless for free so that’s where I ended most of my days in Amsterdam and at that time of night the guests coming out to smoke are pretty darn tipsy from happy hour. One night there was a drunk Englishman and a drunk Norwegian giving me tips on France. The Englishman kept repeating himself and the Norwegian was completely unintelligible. But they were harmless. When I saw this sign, I thought maybe it was a special place for the Russian flight crew that was staying at our hotel.

But it turns out it means health club. The fitness center was right next to it. Zorg gets me to thinking of the girls from Kazakhstan. I was out having a smoke one night and these two dark beauties and a guy were waiting for the hotel shuttle into Amsterdam. They were in town for two days and ready to hit the clubs. Of course they spoke better English than I do. I always ask the foreign smokers to translate the warnings on their cigarette packs. The ones we have here in the US are so wimpy. Other country’s warnings detail the slow, painful death that results from smoking. They told me the ones in Bangkok even have pictures of lungs and deformed babies. We traded cigarettes. I ended up with the remainder of a pack of Kiss Superslims Energy. I don’t know what’s in them that makes them call it energy, but my bet is it’s not legal in the U.S. There were supposed to be four of them going to the clubs but one of them wimped out and went to sleep. They invited me along and as appealing as it sounded, I declined on account of the fact that I might have succumbed to all the vices of Amsterdam.

As you can see from this next picture, I really will take a picture of anything. Another of the things I liked about Europe (at least the parts of Europe I went to) were the public restroom stalls. These babies had floor to ceiling walls and total privacy. Why don’t we have that here? Oh, because we can't even get the toilets to flush here...

Everywhere I looked there was ornate detail on everything. The buildings…

…the statues…

…even the light posts are works of art.

I know we are a young country, but why don’t we do structures like this? Everywhere a feast for the eyes.

On my 270 photo day, there was a lot to go through when the day was through. I didn’t know how well my pictures of the high up statues were going to turn out. This one had a little bonus when I looked at it full sized. Don’t ask me to identify the kind of bird, but it’s a one in a million shot, oui?

They are very environmentally conscious over there. To get the electricity and air conditioning to work in the hotel you have to put your room key in a slot by the door otherwise you get nothing beyond the 30 second courtesy light that comes on when you open the door. This can create problems if one of you keeps heading down to the lobby for a smoke because the one that stays behind gets left in the dark. We learned quickly that we’d need a second key. They’re big on recycling and make it easy with bins all over the place. Trash cans too. No, the car in the picture below is not being recycled…yet.

The cars for the most part are much smaller than here but I’m not sure if that’s an environment thing or a we-have-the-smallest-streets-you’ve-ever-seen thing. There were a lot of Smartcars and they even have a program where you time-share a Smartcar with other people. It makes sense. Many people live in walking distance of where they work and the public transport is usually faster than driving on the streets. If all you need a car for is the occasional large purchase, why not share a car with others?
I loved touring Paris by open-topped double-decker bus but it did have its hazards.

I liked the cobbled streets and would like to get the moss between the stones thing going on the cobbled paths in my garden. The local upscale produce market has these plants called step-ables for sale. I think I will get some and see if I can’t recreate a little Europe in my own backyard.

The food was divine. We did a lot of eating but for the most part the calories we consumed were canceled out by the calories we burned walking. We only had one meal that wasn’t WOW and even that had a wow factor in that it was topped with a thick layer of melted cheese. We really like the fried egg sandwiches and even made some at home for dinner when we got back. We went to one restaurant that turned out to be a mistake. Funny, everyone kept telling us that the French were rude, especially to Americans. Maybe it’s because we mostly went to tourist sites, which depend on your dollars, but the only rude people we found in Paris were the two Italians that were on staff at Pompei Pizza. We’d been eating off and on all day so we weren’t looking for anything heavy. We thought the pizza place around the corner from our hotel at Rue de l’Arcade & Rue de Castellane would be perfect.

We’d figured to split a pizza and have drinks before calling it a night. Well apparently you don’t split a pizza at Pompei Pizza, everyone is required to order an entrée and they were extremely rude about it. So we left and went to Triadou Haussmann at Boulevard Haussmann & Rue de Rome where we each ended up ordering something and I had the best omelet I’ve had in a long time. All in all it was a great vacation and I’d highly recommend both cities to anyone, but Amsterdam was my favorite. But skip the pizza in Paris.

And Amber, re the building you were asking about (across from the giant marshmallow peeps bunnies). I don’t know if it’s anything special in the architecture/historic category, but it is the GAP store at Rue Auber & Rue Tronchet.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Paris: Last day - Montmartre

Our last day in Paris finds us on the Metro again.
This time our destination is the Montmartre area.

But we almost think we’ve taken a wrong turn when we see this Metro stop.

I think we’ve walked quite enough on this vacation so when I see transportation to the top of the hill, I can’t get to the ticket window fast enough.

At the top of the hill is the oldest church in Paris, Sacre Coeur. It also contains the world’s oldest bell (according to the driver of the choo-choo tram that runs between the metro and Sacre Coeur).

Along with the church there is what is probably very expensive real estate with killer views.

Like Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur has lots of rain spouting gargoyles.

No sign of Quasimodo, but this pigeon apparently spends a lot of time in front of the camera judging by the poses it ran through for me.

I ran across a familiar name…

The guy in the orange shirt is about to sketch my portrait. The orange shirt is a sign, oui?

And I’m glad to have gotten the portrait sketch out of the way right away as there is another sketch artist around every corner. Sort of like stink on you-know-what. Around each corner is some little gem of scenery like this fountain.

Or this garden.

As we sit at a café on the main square overlooking all the resident artists, I realize it truly is springtime in Paris and the birds are looking for love in all the right places. This is the only French Porn I saw.

We skipped Dali’s place…

…since we had the real McCoy’s right in front of us. The gentleman peeking out of the right side of this display is a true artist. He stretches his own canvas.

We’re making it an early day today since we have to rise at oh-dark-thirty to catch transportation to the airport. We take the stairs down the hill. Gravity does help but after so many of them I get dizzy and worry about overstepping and tumbling the rest of the way down. When we arrive safely at the bottom we celebrate with cappuccinos…

…at a café with a photogenic waiter…

…and an aptly named toilet. Definitely not sitting here.

Finally, here is the café area of our hotel where we had breakfast every morning.

And the lobby where we had refreshments in the evening.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Paris: Louvre & Notre Dame

Today was a misty day in Paris. A day fit for ducks…
…and tourists who weren’t letting a little water stop them from enjoying the sights and sounds of Paris.
We decided to walk from our hotel to the Louvre for some indoor sight-seeing. From the Tuileries looking back towards the Place de la Concorde I noticed an obelisk that was just screaming to be pinched.

Upon our arrival at the museum, I discover they’ve installed this pyramid that is begging for the pinch treatment.

You enter the pyramid and descend to the ticket counter.

Once you have your tickets you are free to roam. The last time the missus was here, she jokes that she and her traveling companion did the Louvre on roller skates. We will not repeat that feat. I love statues, sculpture, and works in stone. I am in heaven.

I could spend hours studying the detail in this relief of Adam and Eve.

Or this bust of Antinous.

It’s hard to maintain a serious demeanor when you are on vacation. Sometimes you just have to let life imitate art.

This place is huge and after yesterday’s climb up l’Arc our legs and feet are a little out of sorts. In fact, our feet hurt. We collapse on a bench and our heads fall back and WHOA! Look at that freaking ceiling. Not only is this place packed to the rafters with art, it IS art.

Everywhere there are signs to beware of pick pockets and other thieves. This poor guy is on his way to security. Seems someone stole his cell phone…while he was still using it.

In the Apollo Gallery, where there is an awesome Zodiac on the ceiling, I discover they were a little more advanced in the late 1700’s than I’d originally thought. Who knew they had email?

In the section that hosts many Da Vinci’s, I tried to imagine the dialogue between the painter and the subject.

Subject: Hey Leonardo, did you know I have a roof leak?
Leo: No, I did not.
Subject: Yeah, it’s right up there.
Leo: Don’t move; the light is perfect right here.

Did you know the Louvre had a moat?

Or an extensive Egyptian collection? Here is a little known work called Pharaoh Pharted.

I enjoyed the vice room but I think the dice were loaded.

There was much, much more to the Louvre and I took many more pictures. Sometimes the light just didn’t cut it and the opportunities to use the flash were few and far between. I have way too many pictures to post here and then what would you have to look forward to on your own trip? We actually ran out of time and had to leave. Fortunately we were able to catch Mass at Notre Dame, where I lit a candle for my brother.