Friday, September 30, 2005
The Gamer's Chicago 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
BoingBoing reports on Otherworld Excursions, a company specializing in RPG-themed tours "coming to a city near you!" See Chi-town as the gargoyles and the vampires do...
See the occult architecture of Chicago as only Kenneth Hite can show it to you--then use this knowledge to survive (or, at least, be the last one to lose their mind) in an original roleplaying adventure of eldritch horror!

The Windy City is the birthplace of urban horror. Riding on the L with a faceless mass of drones being herded back to their soul-crushing jobs, Fritz Leiber looked out across the sooty rooftops and envisioned the kinds of ghosts that the metropolis demanded. In his classic novel Our Lady of Darkness, Leiber invented the arcane science of megapolisomancy, the magic of cities. Or so the story goes...spend a Saturday afternoon inspecting the architectural evidence. Then head downtown to the Hotel Intercontinental - which was constructed as an athletic club for the Medinah Shriners, but may serve another purpose for their secret masters. [keep reading]

Thursday, September 29, 2005
Packard-Bell's Vision of the Electronic Future, a Decade Later 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
UPDATE: Bibliofuture has posted the commercial on YouTube.

One chilly autumn morning in 1996, during my first rusty days as a news-video engineer at Channel 5 in Plattsburgh (before I became a commercial producer), I watched a most unusual TV spot on our large studio monitors. It started as a nightmarish urban scenario, where grimy citizens drag their disabled vehicles by torchlight into a distant urban Dante's Inferno; all darkness and storm, set to a keening baritone opera soundtrack. Where were these poor, wretched people [shades of Katrina refu...er...evacuees] going?

They were going to the LIBRARIA - a fearsome fortress guarded by attacking lion statues, where Dickensian children read Paradise Lost as red-jacketed stormtroopers goosestep and shush the already-silent patrons.

They were also going to the BANQ, where an endless queue of customers trails out the door, waiting for a mummified teller to stamp their deposit slip. A evil, portly security guard gives a deep villainous laugh as a young woman ages before our eyes, while a large spider crawls across the teller's motionless hand.

The camera pulls back from this tableau into a lightning-lit skyscraper shaped like a battleship superstructure, further and further until the dark city retreats into a sunny, peaceful meadow. Dissolve to a hypercolorful home interior, with a Packard-Bell desktop computer ready to save you a fruitless trip into Hell. The tagline asks, "Wouldn't You Rather Be At Home?" as the Intel Inside!™ chime plays. [See screenshots of the commercial on this Millard Sheets Library page]

The ad was eerie, over-the-top - and downright weird. I loved it. I never saw the full 60-second version again (only cut-down 30-second spots), but I did manage to capture bits and pieces on 1-inch commercial videotape and dub them down to VHS. Every now and then, I pulled the tape from my archives and watched it when I needed a dose of übergloom.

Little did I know that these commercials had sparked a miniature tumult at the time of their release, ranging from people who felt the PB ads showed a damagingly negative view of public libraries, to those who felt they would inspire people to use computers to withdraw from society, becoming pasty-faced agoraphobes who interact with the world solely behind keyboards and computer screens. Ahem. Some just thought the ads were awful, period.

Nearly ten years later, we actually do live in a world where online banking and information access are routine, and technologies these ads never imagined are now on the horizon. (Remember the earlier and cheerier 1990's AT&T adverts that fantasized an imaginative technofuture - with the punchline, "You Will"?) We may have traded some of the grinding effort of trips to Hell for new risks like spammers, phishers and identity thieves - but the ease with which we can now accomplish many routine chores electronically seems miraculous. However, with this ease of access comes a price: information may cost less to acquire in some ways, but at the price of becoming less "free."

Still, I think it's fascinating to look back at these ads' imagery, just to analyze how their promises and fears of the coming Information Age have played out so far. A few years ago, I found little or no online information on the ads. Now there seems to a host of writing and references to those 1996 M&C Saatchi spots; I'm glad to see others remember them as well, if not always so fondly. You can even watch them for yourself in QuickTime or .avi format courtesy of digital-age commentator Karen Coyle, who shares her insights on the subtexts of the 1996 Packard-Bell campaign in her article, "Home Alone."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005
The Nyquil™ Blues 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This weekend I stopped by my neighborhood Target™ to pick up a few of life's necessities, when I noticed something odd. All the cold medications from Alka-Seltzer Cold Plus™ to Nyquil™ to Sudafed™ (and their generic equivalents) were gone from the shelves. In their place were rows of reusable barcoded plastic cards hung on metal hooks, showing color photos of the missing products and the caption "This product is now available at the Target Pharmacy. Please take this card to the pharmacy counter to purchase." Wha?...

No, it's not really a surprise. I had expected this to happen for some time...legislatures have finally passed regulations placing all pseudoephedrine-containing OTC medications behind-the-counter, and limiting quantities of their sale.

What is surprising is that the prices of these products seem to have mysteriously doubled or tripled since the new law went into effect. Before, a 10-ounce bottle of Nyquil&trade cost approximately $3.50 to $4.00, and a equal-size generic version cost about $2.50. Now, I saw the same 10-ounce bottle of Nyquil™ priced at $9.55 - almost ten dollars. Administrative costs? Offsetting lost profits? Price gouging, if you ask me - making us pay through our collectively reddened runny noses. This paragraph in Forbes caught my eye:
Minimal Sales Impact in Illinois: Less stringent legislation that only requires single-ingredient PSE (pseudoephedrine) products (but not combination products), to be placed behind the counter, reported compliance issues in urban areas and a strong allergy season, post-legislation, reduced the sales impact in Illinois. While sales growth of non-PSE products has recently outpaced PSE product growth, the PSE growth trend in Illinois is positive.
That doesn't seem to be the case at the store I visited, since all PSE-containing medications were placed behind the counter, not just the single ingredient PSE products. This may be a policy of this particular store chain; I'll update when I learn more. I am curious whether all this will actually translate to alleviation of the crystal meth problem. UPDATE: Grits for Breakfast details an early results from Oklahoma that indicate "no" - less domestic meth is ust opening up the pathways for Mexican meth.

Not to mention, you feel like a sleazy tweaker just by handing the plastic card over to the pharmacist, who gives you a once-over before selling you an overpriced bottle of achy-sneezy-fever-sore-throat-this-gubmint-is-driving-me-crazy medicine.

MORE: A strange cold-medicine store tampering case from the Seattle area [KOMO-TV]

Monday, September 26, 2005
When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From Murphysboro, IL (not Murfreesboro, TN):
(AP) MURPHYSBORO, Ill. Police in Murphysboro have nabbed a 23-year-old man who tried to make off with a portable toilet in the back of his El Camino. Police say Gerad Gobel of Versailles took the outhouse from the site of the Murphysboro Barbecue Cook-Offs, which were held over the weekend. Authorities say the toilet fell out of Gobel's vehicle, but officers found a road barricade and a large amount of raw sewage left behind in the El Camino. Gobel was arrested early this morning and faces DUI and felony theft charges.
Is toiletlessness next to lawlessness?
(AP) Manhattan, NY - Toiletlessness is a chronic problem in Manhattan, and many New Yorkers spend a lifetime assembling a mental map of those special hotels, coffee shops and bookstores about town that have clean restrooms open to the public. Some small amount of relief could be on the way.

City officials announced this week that they have chosen a Spanish advertising company to install as many as 20 public pay toilets in Manhattan, as part of a larger project to replace 330 newsstands and 3,300 bus shelters. Under the agreement, announced Wednesday, Cemusa Inc. would install the toilets and other structures for free, and then hope to turn a profit by selling advertising on the kiosks and shelters. Patrons would pay a fee - no more than a dollar - to use the toilets, which would be in operation by 2007. The city would get a share of the advertising revenue -- perhaps $1 billion over 20 years.
A dollar to use a public toilet? Are they trying to become the Starbucks of toilets? Let's hope New York doesn't install those dreadful optical bill-readers that reject all but the most pristine sawbucks. It could be worse. Pay toilets could mimic the Internet, forcing those unable or unwilling to cough up $1.00 to watch an infomercial or Disney trailer before the toilet door opens.

R.I.P.: Last Shoe-Phone Call for Don Adams ("Get Smart") 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
[ABC News] Adams [age 82] died of a lung infection late Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, his friend and former agent Bruce Tufeld said Monday, adding the actor broke his hip a year ago and had been in ill health since.

As the inept Agent 86 of the super-secret federal agency Control, Adams captured TV viewers with his antics in combatting the evil agents of Kaos. When his explanations failed to convince the villains or his boss, he tried another tack: "Would you believe...?" It became a national catchphrase.

Smart was also prone to spilling things on the desk or person of his boss the chief (actor Edward Platt). Smart's apologetic "Sorry about that, chief" also entered the American lexicon. The spy gadgets, which aped those of the Bond movies, were a popular feature, especially the pre-cell-phone telephone in a shoe.
I loved that shoe phone. Who wouldn't love to bang it on a table Khrushchev-style when telemarketers call? What? Khrushchev never banged his shoe on the table? Awww, it doesn't matter...it still makes for a great, goofy Cold War image - straight out of Get Smart.

Friday, September 23, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 117 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Thursday, September 22, 2005
Someday, Your Dandruff May Snitch On You 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
WIRED News has an interesting Bruce Schneier piece that asks questions about the future of privacy laws - and what might happen when a not-so-big-on-"privacy" Chief Justice decides the constitutionality of developing surveillance technologies:
[John] Roberts is 50 years old...he could be chief justice for the next 30 years. That's a lot of future...[and] the decisions of the Supreme Court on these questions will have a profound effect on society.

Here are some examples. Advances in genetic mapping continue, and someday it will be easy, cheap and detailed -- and will be able to be performed without the subject's knowledge. What privacy protections do people have for their genetic map, given that they leave copies of their genome in every dead skin cell that they leave behind? What protections do people have against government actions based on this data? Against private actions? Should a customer's genetics be considered when granting a mortgage, or determining its interest rate?

New technologies will be able to peer through walls, under clothing, beneath skin, perhaps even into the activity of the brain. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) rhetorically asked Roberts: "Can microscopic tags be implanted in a person's body to track his every movement.... Can brain scans be used to determine whether a person is inclined toward criminal or violent behavior?" What should be the limits on what the police can do without a warrant?

Quoted in a New York Times article...privacy advocate Marc Rotenberg laid out this scenario: Sometime in the near future, a young man is walking around the Washington Monument for 30 minutes. Cameras capture his face, which yields an identity. That identity is queried in a series of commercial databases, producing his travel records, his magazine subscriptions and other personal details. This is all fed into a computerized scoring system, which singles him out as a potential terrorist threat. He is stopped by the police, who open his backpack and find a bag of marijuana. Is the opening of that backpack a legal search as defined by the Constitution? [read entire article]

The Blog Archive Meme 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
This lil' meme seen on feministe reminds me of another one I saw a year or so back, that required you to go to the book closest to you and follow these same instructions:
  1. Go into your archive.
  2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
  3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
I've been fascinated with them for years but I've never actually eaten one, just read about them in old cookbooks and more recently in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, where the hero Shadow enjoys a preternaturally good Cornish pasty at a Wisconsin diner.
That post, from January 2003, is called "Ghost of a Cornish Pasty." I suppose blogs are now gaining the 'weight' of books? But tell me, what is it about the mystical significance of 23 and 5?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Row The Boat Ashore: Rita's Comin' 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Hurricane Rita reaches Category 5 strength3:45 PM Central Time: CNN and the AP just reported that Hurricane Rita has been upgraded to a Category 5 storm.

Katrina was a Category 4.

Head for the hills, Texas. The golddiggers haven't wasted any time, as the Washington Post reports "Oil Prices Surge As Hurricane Rita Nears."

How to Get People's Attention 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Yesterday morning I was walking to the bus along Randolph Street, across from Gallery 37 near the Chicago Cultural Center, when I noticed a huge (about 30 feet high) object draped in a black tarp sitting had suddenly appeared on the sidewalk.

No, the object didn't appear suddenly out of thin air - I meant to say it arrived that morning: as far as I know, we haven't perfected teleportation yet. Several local TV crew vans had descended on the scene, and a passel of nattily dressed people hovered about, waiting for their closeups. Whatever it was, it was news.

On my return trip, I discovered the mysterious object had been de-tarped. It was a huge brushed aluminum sculpture that resembled either a stylized cedar tree, a huge deer antler, or an upside-down lightning bolt - drawn by kindergarteners. It probably cost the taxpayers a million bucks.

"The Bean" it certainly isn't, and now I'm worried about the daily possibility of snagging my coat on the monstrosity as I walk by. So far, I've had no luck finding out the name or artist on Google™. Anyhow, you'd think something this enormous and shiny sticking up out of a busy sidewalk would turn heads and get people's attention.

Strangely, I noticed people were completely ignoring the giant metal antler, but were staring intently at something on the sidewalk below it. I watched with curiosity as each person stopped, looked down at the sidewalk for a moment, made a quizzical expression and walked away. What was all the excitement about?

Someone had dropped their (thankfully, still-wrapped) Tampax™, which had rolled into the crack between the sidewalk sections.

Who cares about a gleaming 30-foot high antler when there's a tampon on the sidewalk?

In The Event There's an Event, Your Ass Is Still Grass 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The metal detectors are gone from the entrances to the Sears Tower.
It has concerned many people who work in the high rise who were not screened as they entered Tuesday. "I think they should screen everybody who walks into the building because certainly the Sears Tower would be a potential target for terrorists,” said consultant Eric Deitchman...Employees still have large bags X-rayed and they swipe their ID cards. “For the last year we have been trying to strike a perfect balance between security, safety, comfort and convenience,” said Barbara Carley with CB Richard Ellis. Security expert Carlos Villareal headed security at Sears Tower after 9/11 and raised security measures then. He says the national trend is toward more technology.

“We've gone from analog recording to digital recording, so that in the event that there's an event, we have a trail to follow,” said Villareal with TrizecHahn Properties.
In the event there's an event. No kidding. I thought we were trying to prevent events?

Relying on a more robust (?) security recording system instead of heading off problems at the door uses the same uncomfortable logic - and false sense of security - as keeping children's fingerprint and DNA samples on file somewhere in case of abduction and murder. Granted, you may have a better chance of "following the trail," identifying the (presumably unrecognizable) child and apprehending the suspect. Unfortunately, the child will still be dead.

In the case of terrorist attacks, I think a "few ounces of [metal detector] prevention" - in the country's tallest building - are probably well worth the protection to lives and property their deterrent value offers...not to mention umpteen billion dollars in future overseas military interventions, in the event of an event.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Picture Archives: 'Why Can't You Take the Bus Like Everyone Else?' 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
For the past few years or so, the University of Chicago student association had been lobbying for a dedicated shuttle service from the South Side Red Line to campus (instead of the CTA bus), citing safety concerns during off-hours. The resolution is a bit old-school (640x480), so let me translate the handwriting. The top reads, "FOR RACIST A--HOLES!" and above the right-hand image, "WHY CAN'T YOU TAKE THE [#]55 [BUS] LIKE EVERYONE ELSE?" Thoughts?

Is it racist to use alternative transportation between a CTA train station and the University of Chicago? To be fair, robberies, muggings and assaults do occur somewhat frequently in the off-campus Hyde Park area - but the UC area isn't the only area with crime, and victimization risk isn't limited to when one waits for a bus. Other schools - like Loyola and Northwestern - also use private charter buses to shuttle students between their outlying and downtown campuses, but I haven't heard any accusations of racism because these students aren't taking the CTA.

The Most Useless Quiz, Ever: The Mustard Confessions 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

[via Brutal Women]

C'mon, just admit it - you've given someone a jar of hastily gift-wrapped mustard at some point in your life; it may have been a fancy schmancy crock of Pommery Moutarde de Meaux or simply a plastic squeeze bottle of Jack Daniels Tennessee Old #7. I admit it: I have gifted a hastily-wrapped mustard...on more than one occasion. M. Diddy I ain't.

Friday, September 16, 2005
Friday Random Ten: The Windmill 'Em Boyo Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
  1. The Clash - "Hitsville UK":
    No slimy deals with smarmy eels in Hitsville UK
    Lets shake'n say we'll operate in Hitsville UK
    The mutants creeps and musclemen
    Are shaking like a leaf
    It blows a hole in the radio
    When it hasn't sounded good all week
    A mike'n boom in your living room in Hitsville UK
    No consumer trials, no A.O.R. in Hitsville UK
  2. The Velvet Underground - "There She Goes Again"
  3. (The Young Ones) Neil's Heavy Concept Album - "Lentil Nightmare"
  4. Nicola Conte and Rosalia de Souza - "Tempo Futuro"
  5. The Special AKA - "War Crimes"
  6. Queen - "Princes of the Universe"
  7. Pete Townshend - "North Country Girl"
  8. Casa Loma Orchestra - "Casa Loma Stomp"
  9. Kiss - "Psycho Circus"
  10. Bloodhound Gang - "The Ballad of Chasey Lain"
  11. BONUS: Pazuzu's Banana - "A Half Hour Ago I Destroyed the Entire Day"

Thursday, September 15, 2005
Three Mice with the Plague in New Jersey? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Sometimes a rat is just a rat. But sometimes, it's a mouse carrying the bubonic plague:
Three plague-infected lab mice unaccounted for in New JerseyNEWARK, New Jersey (AP) -- Three mice infected with the bacteria responsible for bubonic plague apparently disappeared from a laboratory about two weeks ago, and authorities launched a search though health experts said there was scant public risk.

The mice were unaccounted-for at the Public Health Research Institute, which is on the campus of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and conducts bioterrorism research for the federal government.

Federal officials said the mice may never be accounted for. Among other things, the rodents may have been stolen, eaten by other lab animals or just misplaced in a paperwork error.
As if you needed something else to worry about.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 116: The Animal Magnetism Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
New Pentagon Nukes Plan: Pre-Emptive Strikes Return 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
On September 11th, The Washington Post reported some details about the Pentagon's proposed stepped-up new nuclear arms plan. From the UK Times Online:
A PRESIDENT of the United States would be able to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes against enemies planning to use weapons of mass destruction under a revised “nuclear operations” doctrine to be signed in the next few weeks. In a significant shift after half a century of nuclear deterrence based on the threat of massive retaliation, the revised doctrine would allow pre-emptive strikes against states or terror groups, and to destroy chemical and biological weapons stockpiles.
The new document is the first to spell out various contingencies in which a preemptive nuclear strike might be used, including:The previous doctrine, promulgated under the Clinton administration in 1995 made no mention of the preemptive use of nuclear weapons against any target, let alone describe scenarios in which such use would be considered.

Moreover, the new doctrine blurs the distinction that existed during the Cold War between strategic and theater nuclear weapons by "assigning all nuclear weapons, whether strategic or nonstrategic, support roles in theater nuclear operations", according to Kristensen.

Another particularly worrisome aspect of the latest doctrine, according to Oelrich, is its conflation of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons as one "WMD" threat that could justify a US nuclear strike, particularly given the huge disparity in destructive and lethal impact between chemical weapons, on the one hand, and nuclear arms on the other.

"What we are seeing now is an effort to lay the foundations for the legitimacy of using nuclear weapons if [the administration] suspects another country might use chemical weapons against us," he said. "Iraq is a perfect example of how this doctrine might actually work; it was a country where we were engaged militarily and thought it would deploy chemical weapons against us."

Critics also fear that resorting to nuclear weapons may have become increasingly attractive to the administration as the Army and Marines have become bogged down in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. [continue reading]

Picture Archives: Bicycle Bones 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Friday, September 09, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 115 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Does Beer Consumption Cause Natural Disasters? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Two calamities does not a trend make, but I suspect I should be more careful what kind of beer I purchase, lest it cause a natural disaster. Let me explain.

Last December, I bought a six-pack of imported *Lion® beer from Sri Lanka for our beer files; shortly thereafter, the island nation was devastated by the Asian tsunami of December 26th, 2004. About two weeks ago, we bought some Turbodog™ and Purple Haze™ beer made by the Abita Brewing Company of Abita Springs, Lousiana. And y'all know what happened next.

If you'd like to guarantee your region's safety from watery inundation, kindly email me your geographic location and I will do my best not to buy any beer from your part of the world. I can't guarantee it'll work, but hey - I've got a few cans of tiger repellent left in my pantry, too. Works great.

* Deutsch-o-philes will recognize that the name "Löwenbräu™" also means "lion beer." However, I think it's safe to buy German beer, as it is highly unlikely that nation will ever see a hurricane, cyclone, or typhoon.

Varnish the Tarnish 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Brownie, over and out:
WASHINGTON -- Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being removed from his role managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, The Associated Press has learned. Brown is being sent back to Washington from Baton Rouge, where he was the primary official overseeing the federal government's response to the disaster, according to two federal officials who declined to be identified before the announcement. Brown will be replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who was overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts.

Brown has been under fire because of the administration's slow response to the magnitude of the hurricane. On Thursday, questions were raised about whether he padded his resume to highlight his previous emergency management background.
This week, Brown has been called an idiot, an incompetent and worse, according to The Associated Press. The Oklahoma lawyer has emerged as chief scapegoat for what went wrong in the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Jefferson Parish, La., President Aaron Broussard said the bureaucracy has murdered people in the New Orleans area. "Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency and give me a better idiot," Broussard told CBS. "Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot."

Thursday, September 08, 2005
Time Flies Like an Arrow, Fruit Flies Like a Banana 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The head of a red-eyed Drosophila melanogasterFor some reason, my office is plagued with Drosophila melanogaster, commonly known as fruit flies. Perhaps my somewhat overripe banana is adding unnecessary appeal to an already fragrant area, but it's hard to tell your co-workers not to wear tons of perfume. As I write this, a red-eyed Drosophila taunts me from the top of my computer monitor. It's probably getting karmic revenge.

Why karmic revenge? My first job in college (after being hired as a mural painter at my old high school) was sexing fruit flies for the biology lab. No, I wasn't the entomological equivalent of a fluffer. To 'sex' flies, one first anesthetizes them. You take a sealed bottle containing a fly colony, and carefully insert a cotton swab soaked in a volatile chemical that smells suspiciously like poppers. Think ether-huffing Dr. Wilbur Larch in The Cider House Rules, only smaller and with compound eyes.

The trick is to apply just enough poppers Flynap™ (triethylamine) to send your flies to the Land of Nod without giving them a one-way ticket to Fly Valhalla. Once the flies stop moving, you open the bottle and shake out the flies (but not the eggs and larvae) onto a sheet of white paper. Under a stereoscopic microscope, you use a fine camel-hair brush to separate flies by sex, eye color, and wing size. This is easier said than done: flies are smaller than the brush, and don't seem as hung up on displaying secondary sex characteristics as humans. There seemed be a lot of butch and metrosexual flies in the colonies I sexed.

After you separate the flies, you shake them into new culture-media filled bottles to start their own eugenicized colonies, so college students can endlessly repeat Brother Gregor Mendel's genetic experiments for themselves since textbooks are so unconvincing. These days, between Intelligent Design mandates and banning of contraceptive sales on campus, we'll surely see inherited characteristics experiments of a different variety.

Let's just say that during those long ago hazy days, I accidentally sent more than a few of our winged friends to the Other Side. This was almost 20 years ago, but probably only a blink in the eye to the Great Fly in the Sky: I'm doomed to forever waft fruit flies away from my bananas.

UPDATE: About one hour ago, one of people in my office suite asked, "has everyone been having problems with flies, or is it just me?" I related my Drosophila dilemma, and promised to check into it. Five minutes later, said faculty member emerges from office, exclaiming, "I think I know where all those flies are coming from!" while holding a plastic grocery bag filled with soggy bananas so old they dripped brown juice on the floor.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 114: The Let Them Eat Cake Edition 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Thursday, September 01, 2005
Mother Nature, Terrorist 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The situation in New Orleans appears to be growing truly desperate; an on-the-scene account from CNN reporter Jeanne Meserve (available on the CNN blog) does a good job describing the extremity of the disaster:
I truly believe that apart from 9/11 this is one of the most significant events that has ever hit this country. Anybody who tells you this disaster is going to be rectified in a matter of months hasn't seen the situation.

People are carrying their children, trying to get them to safety. A woman coming down to the police, close to hysterics, saying, "My elderly mother is in a building over there, she needs dialysis. She can't get it. She is dying. Can you help me?"

And the police had to say, "There is absolutely nothing we can do. We don't have a precinct house. We don't have communication. There is absolutely nothing we can do for you." That was amazing to me.

The other thing that struck me was the looting. The police were standing in the middle of the street and right in front of them stores were being ransacked. And they didn't even make an effort to stop it. I don't think they could, under the circumstances.

They were totally outnumbered. They couldn't call for any reinforcements. And frankly, the priority now isn't property. The priority has to be people and people's lives. The police are there protectively, I think, in case things escalate even further. But they are powerless. They're powerless in this situation.
We've been holding our collective breaths expecting the next great American disaster to be man-made. Will it be an airliner crash? Gasoline trucks crashed into targets? Or perhaps biological agents or a "dirty bomb"? As Hurricane Katrina amply demonstrated, Mother Nature seems to have a terrorist streak at heart, too. [BoingBoing reports that Google maps will have extensive new flyover and satellite images of the Gulft Coast damage region available soon.]

Pripyat Forum: Chernobyl, Unforgotten 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
When I checked my visitor stats, I recently found that a certain page on farkleberries (and my atomic blog, RadioActive!) was receiving an very large number of hits: it contains a post showing a photo of what appears to be a video capture of Chernobyl reactor #4 burning at night. It's a very unusual shot, and a bit of a mystery because the timestamp appears to show the picture was taken very close to the time of the reactor explosion on April 26, 1986. (I found the image on the Italian Progetto Humus ("Humus Project") site.)

Chernobyl firemen remove radioactive debrisIt turns out many of the visits have been from the Pripyat.com forum, named after the nearby abandoned town where Chernobyl's workers and families lived until the disaster. Since my Ukrainian is rusty basically nonexistent, I tried using Altavista's Babelfish page to help translate the content directly. Unfortunately, Pripyat.com doesn't allow the page to be viewed in this manner (a "foreign hosts not allowed" error page appears) so I'll try copying and translating some of the text lines individually. The forum page has some rare, troubling shots of the Chernobyl "firemen" shoveling buring reactor debris, and so forth. Interesting viewing.

There Sure Was a Lot Of Lousy Music When I Was In High School, Con't. 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Continuing the meme via Trish Wilson, here are the top 100 songs from 1985 according to musicoutfitters.com. Here's how it works:
Enter the year you graduated from high school in the search function and get the list of 100 most popular songs of that year. Bold the songs you like, strike through the ones you hate and underline your favorite. Do nothing to the ones you don't remember (or don't care about).
And no, I didn't attend my 20th high school reunion...because apparently there never was one! It's also telling that whenever most of the songs on this list pop up on the radio, I'll change the station. I much prefer music from 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982 (the year pop sort of went over the hill, in my opinion) to the overripe fruit that passed for music on this chart. Mind you, these are the songs most popular in the US during these years: the UK and Canadian versions are far more interesting.

1. Careless Whisper, Wham!
2. Like A Virgin, Madonna
3. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Wham!
4. I Want To Know What Love Is, Foreigner
5. I Feel For You, Chaka Khan
6. Out Of Touch, Daryl Hall and John Oates
7. Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears
8. Money For Nothing, Dire Straits
9. Crazy For You, Madonna
10. Take On Me, A-Ha
11. Everytime You Go Away, Paul Young
12. Easy Lover, Phil Collins and Philip Bailey
13. Can't Fight This Feeling, REO Speedwagon
14. We Built This City, Starship
15. The Power Of Love, Huey Lewis and The News

16. Don't You (Forget About Me), Simple Minds
17. Cherish, Kool and The Gang
18. St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion), John Parr
19. The Heat Is On, Glenn Frey
20. We Are The World, U.S.A. For Africa

21. Shout, Tears For Fears
22. Part-Time Lover, Stevie Wonder
23. Saving All My Love For You, Whitney Houston
24. Heaven, Bryan Adams

25. Everything She Wants, Wham!
26. Cool It Now, New Edition
27. Miami Vice Theme, Jan Hammer
28. Lover Boy, Billy Ocean
29. Lover Girl, Teena Marie
30. You Belong To The City, Glenn Frey
31. Oh Sheila, Ready For The World
32. Rhythm Of The Night, Debarge
33. One More Night, Phil Collins
34. Sea Of Love, Honeydrippers
35. A View To A Kill, Duran Duran
36. The Wild Boys, Duran Duran
37. You're The Inspiration, Chicago
38. Neutron Dance, Pointer Sisters
39. We Belong, Pat Benatar
40. Nightshift, Commodores
41. Things Can Only Get Better, Howard Jones
42. All I Need, Jack Wagner
43. Freeway Of Love, Aretha Franklin
44. Never Surrender, Corey Hart
45. Sussudio, Phil Collins
46. Strut, Sheena Easton
47. You Give Good Love, Whitney Houston
48. The Search Is Over, Survivor

49. Missing You, Diana Ross
50. Separate Lives, Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin
51. Raspberry Beret, Prince and The Revolution
52. Suddenly, Billy Ocean
53. The Boys Of Summer, Don Henley
54. One Night In Bangkok, Murray Head
55. If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, Sting
56. Obsession, Animotion
57. We Don't Need Another Hero, Tina Turner
58. Material Girl, Madonna
59. Better Be Good To Me, Tina Turner
60. Head Over Heels, Tears For Fears
61. Axel F, Harold Faltermeyer
62. Smooth Operator, Sade
63. In My House, Mary Jane Girls
64. Don't Lose My Number, Phil Collins
65. All Through The Night, Cyndi Lauper
66. Run To You, Bryan Adams
67. Glory Days, Bruce Springsteen
68. Voices Carry, 'Til Tuesday
69. Misled, Kool and The Gang
70. Would I Lie To You?, Eurythmics
71. Be Near Me, ABC
72. No More Lonely Nights, Paul McCartney
73. I Can't Hold Back, Survivor

74. Summer Of '69, Bryan Adams
75. Walking On Sunshine, Katrina and The Waves
76. Freedom, Wham!
77. Too Late For Goodbyes, Julian Lennon
78. Valotte, Julian Lennon
79. Some Like It Hot, Power Station
80. Solid, Ashford and Simpson
81. Angel, Madonna
82. I'm On Fire, Bruce Springsteen
83. Method Of Modern Love, Daryl Hall and John Oates
84. Lay Your Hands On Me, Thompson Twins
85. Who's Holding Donna Now, Debarge
86. Lonely Ol' Night, John Cougar Mellencamp
87. What About Love, Heart
88. California Girls, David Lee Roth

89. Fresh, Kool and The Gang
90. Do What You Do, Jermaine Jackson
91. Jungle Of Love, The Time
92. Born In The USA, Bruce Springsteen
93. Private Dancer, Tina Turner
94. Who's Zoomin' Who, Aretha Franklin
95. Fortress Around Your Heart, Sting
96. Penny Lover, Lionel Richie
97. All She Wants To Do Is Dance, Don Henley
98. Dress You Up, Madonna
99. Sentimental Street, Night Ranger
100. Sugar Walls, Sheena Easton