Tuesday, February 28, 2006
There's no promotion like self-promotion: if you're interested in nuclear news and Atomic Age history, visit the new and improved (Chernobyl 20th Anniversary Edition) RadioActive! The Nuclear Blog at http://corium.blogspot.com.
New visitors may wish to read the FAQ first. And for Pete's sake, it's pronounced "new-klee-er," not "new-cue-ler."
- News from the blogosphere: Congratulations to Erika (of Snazzykat) and Jay on the arrival of their first child, Samson, on February 24th. Little Sam is undergoing some surgery on his heart today, so your thoughts and well-wishes will be greatly appreciated: send some love their way!
- Jill at feministe has a fine commentary reacting to conservative backlash to the film Brokeback Mountain; no particular quote to single out here, just good observations all around.
- Hummer-B-Gone: in droves, Indie bands are refusing to contribute music to Hummer ads despite the lure of instant money:
Washington D.C.'s Trans Am were offered $180,000 by Hummer for the song "Total Information Awareness." "We figured it was almost like giving music to the Army, or Exxon," guitarist Philip Manley said. They said no. The post-punk band LiLiPUT, who broke up more than 20 years ago, could have pocketed $50,000 for "Heidi's Head" after making close to nothing during their five-year existence. But they, too, said no. "At least I can sleep without nightmares," Marlene Marder reasoned.
"My standard line is you guys will play a hundred million gigs before you see this amount of money," [Lyle] Hysen [of Bank Robber Music, an ad-music licensing group] "Usually they come back with, 'We'll do anything BUT Hummer.'" [Austin360.com]
- Watching TV may in fact help you learn to read: Tzuredzuregusa has a post on PlanetRead's innovative Same Language Subtitle program for increased literacy.
- Check out FIQL's Top 20 Canadian Rock playlist. Spoiler: Rush' "Tom Sawyer" is listed at #1. Eh.
Friday, February 24, 2006
"One banana, two banana, three banana, four
Four bananas make a bunch and so do many more.
Over hill and highway the banana buggies go
Coming on to bring you the Banana Splits show
Making up a mess of fun
Making up a mess of fun
Lots of fun for everyone
Tra la la, la la la la, Tra la la, la la la la
Tra la la, la la la la, Tra la la, la la la la"
- Gene Rains - "Tiki"
- Magnetic Fields - "I Can't Touch You Any More"
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - "Telepathic Jah A Rise"
- Clan of Xymox - "Equal Ways"
- Cluster & Eno - "Wermut"
- Conjunto d'Angelo - "Charmaine"
- The Banana Splits - "The Tra La La Song (One Banana Two Banana)"
- Rush - "Mystic Rhythms"
- Kraftwerk - "Aero Dynamik (Riga)"
- Harold Budd - Chrysalis Nu (To Barney's Memory)"
Thursday, February 23, 2006
- Click here to view a streaming Windows Media video of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells 2003" (Sorry for the "hotlink," but I found this through the SingingFish music and video search engine and the main directory is unreachable. I'll give credit where it's due once I find out.)
- The Chicago Transit Authority has received approval for a 180-day trial of the new Silver Line. No, it's not the proposed legendary "Circle 'L' line," but it reroutes part of the Blue Line (the 54th/Cermak spur) on a north-south pattern west of the Loop using refurbished service tracks. Details at ChicagoIST and the CTA Tattler.
- Contemplating making an illegal crossing into the U.S. via the Mexican border? The "Brinco" art shoe is just for you. [via BoingBoing]
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
- We've made some major changes to sister site RadioActive! The Nuclear Blog, including a brand-spanking new (and less orange) template. Comments are not yet enabled, but those should be coming soon.
- UPDATE: A blog post on the Dubai Ports deal at feministe, and two articles on the issue worth reading are "Big Problem, Dubai Deal Or Not" (New York Times, reg. req.) and "Dubai's Point of No Return" (Village Voice). President Bush is threatening to veto any bill blocking the Dubai Ports deal that would give the UAE-based company management control over several key U.S. seaports. Opposition is strong across both sides of the political aisle, but still, Bush seems determined to force the issue. Something really stinks about this deal. Bush is quoted in CNN as saying
"I don't understand why it's OK for a British company to operate our ports but not a company from the Middle East when we've already determined security is not an issue," Bush told reporters aboard Air Force One after [Bill] Frist urged the administration to block the deal.""We've determined security is not an issue"? Sez who? During the Cold War (or any war, for that matter) could you picture a president proposing, say, having a Soviet-bloc based company run our ports - and forcing the issue with a veto threat? Simply incredible sinister lame-duckiness.
- Think that nice, blood-red beef on the grocery shelf is slaughterhouse-fresh? Maybe not. The AP reports meatpacking companies have recently started using carbon monoxide gas - the same gas that makes CO poisoning victims look healthy and pink by suppressing hemoglobin oxidation - to make old meat look fresh. Consumer organizations are lobbying the FDA to ban the practice. Treehugger has an especially unappetizing-looking photo of gassed and un-gassed beef of equivalent ripeness. From KATU-TV.com:
"Carbon monoxide masks the natural coloration of meat by reacting with myoglobin in the meat and producing a bright red color," the Consumer Federation of America and the group Safe Tables Our Priority wrote last month in asking the FDA to reverse its acceptance of the practice. The artificial color, they said, "has been found to last 'beyond the time of spoilage,' thus masking the true color and freshness of meat packaged with carbon monoxide."
Monday, February 20, 2006Outsourcing Chicago bus shelters to French company JC Decaux: Not too bad. At least they're clean, and look
Outsourcing the Chicago Skyway for 99 years to Spanish/Australian consortium Cintra/Macquarie Infrastructure Group: Fashionably global, but 99 years is a damned long lease - even in the global scheme of things.
Outsourcing management of six major U.S. seaports to a United Arab Emirates-based company: Brilliant, Mr. President...just brilliant. If it's actually more profitable for a foreign country to run our major seaports than for us to run them ourselves, you know this whole "global superpower thang" ain't long for this world. Thanks for your vote of confidence in our nation. Just don't lease our country out for 99 years, mmm-kay?
[insert "you'd sell your own mother" joke here.]
Sunday, February 19, 2006I just wanted to alert everyone that something is seriously wrong with my Blogger account lately. For some reason I can no longer post new entries, and in the one time out of ten that a post actually "takes," others disappear - or my template disappears. Maybe I've run up against some server space limit in the "fine print" I never noticed. Perhaps more advanced users might have a clue what the trouble is?
In any case, you may not be seeing new postings here at this URL much longer. I'm definitely in search of more professional blogging accomodations. I'm grateful for the three or so years the service has worked fairly trouble-free - but now, losing posts I'd spent a good deal of time on or having them vanish randomly just isn't worth the trouble. Readers, if you could give me your personal recommendations for a better bloghosting service (no, it doesn't have to be free - I finally understand "you get what you pay for") I'd welcome your thoughts and suggestions.
Thursday, February 16, 2006Minds out of the gutter, dear readers. If you can read the symbol in the post title and these parentheses (‽), you're looking at the one and only "interrobang." In profile it resembles a stylized boxing glove in mid-flight; in censorful times, when one needs to go for the mild instead of the wild, a ‽ is (almost) as good as a carelessly flung WTF in polite company, with fewer characters to boot.
A hearty shout-out to Bob the Corgi for helping spread the word about a punctuation mark whose time has truly come.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006No one knows where the it came from, or when it first appeared in our silverware drawer. We don't remember buying it, borrowing it, or even bringing it home "by accident" from a restaurant - and it doesn't match any of our others. What's so strange about this fork, besides the fact it's unnaturally long and has only three sharp prongs, you ask?
It has very bad fork shui. It just feels intrinsically ... well, wrong.
When I'm on the receiving end of the Evil Fork - usually unintentionally - I snarl inwardly and tromp into the kitchen to replace it with a more manageable drawermate. I attempt to bury the fork deep in the recesses of the silverware, but the next day when I reach into the silverware to set the table the Evil Fork has somehow risen to the top of the compartment, daring me to place it amongst the unsuspecting innocent forks aleady on the table.
On daring days I've tried eating with it, only to misjudge its awkward length and jab myself in the tongue, or have it skid screeching across the dinner plate in pursuit of a fleeing carrot. It might be my imagination, but food even seems to lose its flavor when handled or pierced by this fork. Perhaps it was never intended for actual eating; maybe it was forged for the sole purpose of stabbing unruly pickles, or serving slimy slices of bologna to bridge partners from a polite distance.
Or maybe it just belongs in another dimension. I'm afraid to throw it away, for fear I'll open the drawer the next day and it'll be back.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006In light of the weekend's discussions of the powers of triplicity,* oscillating agreements of forces,** and "cutting one's own switches,"*** may I offer you a fine meme spied recently.
Four Bloggers I'm TaggingFour Jobs I've Had
- Television Commercial Producer
- Radio Announcer
- Mural Painter
- Lab Technician
- The Exorcist
- Star Wars
- Silence of the Lambs
- The X-Files
- Rome, Italy
- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- Miami, Florida
- Roswell, New Mexico
- Vegetarian Indian dishes ... yes, I know ... cop-out ... okay, masala dosa, dhal, or mattar paneer
- Maki Sushi
- Pad Thai
- The Pine Yard's Mongolian Beef
- With my Better Half
- A good used book store
- My kitchen
- How to Live in the World and Still Be Happy by Hugh Prather
- The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman (yes, I know it's really a 'graphic novel,' but take my word for it, it is Literature.)
- Legion by William Peter Blatty
- The Aristos by John Fowles
** Isn't that all the universe really is?
*** Are we the recipients of switches we deserve, whether we cut them or not?
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
- Outsourcing the Pineapple: Del Monte has announced it will no longer grow pineapples in Hawaii, because it's much cheaper to grow it in countries like Thailand, the Phillippines, Brazil, Costa Rica and India.
- Los Angeles, the de facto "car chase capital of the world," is abandoning high-speed for high tech: rather than engaging in dangerous street pursuits, the LAPD will test new GPS tracking darts that attach themselves to absconding vehicles [Engadget]
- Random quote from a Epinions review of a set of stereo headphones, the author of which shall remain anonymous (no, it isn't me):
I think of music like a good meal. The carrots (drums) are cooked in its own pan. The bass Potatos (bass) is doing it's thing seperately [sic] in a pot. The meat (guitars) sizzle in its own pan too. And on and on with the other ingredients. And you're supposed to smell (hear) all these ingredients separately. What I heard (smelled) from Panasonic was all the ingredients thrown in the same pot and when you looked in it, sometimes you saw a carrot pop up. Sometimes a potato. Sometimes a meat poked its head above the morass. I thought it was the phones. It wasn't. The circuits thought only the most prominent sound should be amplified and everything else stayed in the background buried as puree until it decided something should pop up. I hope mpeg files aren't like this. All compressed in a mush until prominent peaks pop up.Smells like synesthesia, gone horribly awry.
- Get smart on the
cheapnada: University of Chicago's Center for International Studies now has a variety of lectures and presentations downloadable as free podcasts. Tuition not included, of course.
Monday, February 06, 2006You've no doubt seen some news coverage of the escalating international rioting over some mysterious Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad - perhaps, like me, thinking it's a sign of at least part of the world truly gone mad. Would you like to see these drawings for yourself? A quick Google search turns up a small copy of the Jyllands-Posten caricatures on Wikipedia, with the Wiki page editing wisely disabled for the time being, and links to a page on www.faithandfreedom.org depicting larger versions of the drawings.
CNN had this to say about reprinting the images in question:
The controversy began in September, when 12 drawings of the Muslim prophet were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The paper said it had asked cartoonists to draw the pictures because the media was censoring itself over Muslim issues. In January, a Norwegian newspaper reprinted the drawings. Some other European papers later published some of the cartoons, as a way of covering the controversy and also, some papers said, as a matter of freedom of expression."Respect for Islam"? Or perhaps out of worry their personnel and real estate will be targets of the extremist violence seen elsewhere in the world? I'd call that "fear of terrorism." Part of me doesn't blame CNN, but it's too bad robust values like "covering the controversy" and "freedom of expression" have fallen by the wayside.
CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons out of respect for Islam. ... Jyllands-Posten has apologized, saying it did not mean to offend Muslims and that the drawings had to be understood in their original contexts.
The paper's cultural editor, Flemming Rose, said the uproar came after "radical imams from Denmark traveled to the Middle East, deliberately lying about these cartoons," and saying that the paper is owned by the government and is preparing a new translation of the Koran "censoring the word of 'Allah,' which is a grave sin according to Islam."
Friday, February 03, 2006UPDATE: I just discovered an interesting essay on the same 1950 Popular Mechanics article at Analog SF Online: "One Crystal Ball, Slightly Used."
Sometime this weekend, take a moment and mosey on over to a cool site I recently discovered, HepcatWilly's. It's one of a few sites I'd like to tell you about in the near future that are jam-packed with retro treasures, like out of print Space-Age exotica and obscure jazz albums. It's the kind of website that represents one of the most endearing aspects of the Internet: amateur preservation (in the sheer "for the love of it" sense) of the past for fellow aficionados. If not for fans like these the music, memories, and images of yesteryear would soon be relegated to trash heaps, antique shops, dusty attics and online auctions.
I wanted to specially note one item at HepcatWilly's that caught my eye. It's a scanned 1950 Popular Mechanics article by New York Times science editor Waldemar Kaempffert, "Miracles You'll See In The Next 50 Years." Essentially, it's one of those futurist pieces that combines then-current scientific breakthroughs with popular trends and tries to extrapolate them into a vision of the future - usually with mixed results more shaped by wishful thinking and current social presumptions than the true unknown. After all, we're only human.
Although the predictions aren't all the overblown "hovercraft in every garage" variety, the article illustrates clearly that even if technology did develop in unimaginable directions, mainstream 1950's America had little clue of globalization and the international trends that would shape our lives even more profoundly than industrial miracles.
Practical concerns of that age differed from our own, as well. Save for some mention of solar and nuclear power, and alcohol-powered automobiles, scarcity of resources and the global need for conservation didn't seem to be an issue. In 1950, meltable plastic dishes you could flush down the drain with superheated water seemed an ideal solution for harried housewives. Today, we'd balk at the energy needed both to make the plastic and heat the boiling water, and the need for fresh water - not to mention wariness regarding food coming in contact with plasticizers needed to make low-melting-point resins. Today's better solution might be biodegradable dishes you'd toss in a compost heap.
The Popular Mechanics article augurs:
- Disposable plastic dishware; but incorrectly predicts they would be made of fusible vegetable waste we'd flush down the drain with superheated water. The problem is, as soon as the melted mass cooled to room temperature you'd have one helluva of a clog. That's where the robot plumbers come in, I suppose. Why not just make compostable plates?
- Fresh food will be a thing of the past, and most edibles will be stored as frozen bricks, or synthesized from waste like sawdust and recycled plastics.
- Instead of dusting and vacuuming, the author predicts in the year 2000 housewives will don rubber suits to hose down their homes from floor to ceiling - because everything, yes, everything - will be made of waterproof materials. Note that it's still the housewives doing the hosing. You'd think if technology advanced this far, we'd be capable of building cleaning hoses right into the walls and ceilings, like live-in dishwashers? But noooooo....instead of equal-opportunity push-button convenience, we still need housewives in rubber to do the dirty work.
- There's a cheery illustration of a man eating "processed sawdust cake." Perhaps sawdust cake is fitting wifely revenge (served dry) for being relegated to house-hosing duty. On the other hand, today's "carb-lite" breads often contain added cellulose from wood pulp to add filling indigestible bulk, so Kaempffert wasn't that far off the mark.
- Kaempffert says in the future "discarded table linens and used rayon underwear [will be] bought by chemical factories to be made into candy." Good grief! Those liquorice twists you're eating? Last week, they were Uncle Bill's tighty-whiteys!"
- In the future American "women will outnumber men by a 'glorious million' for the first time in history," 70-year-olds will "look 40," wrinkles, sagging cheeks and signs of aging will be "curiosities or signs of neglect," and the average lifespan will rise to 85.
- "Superantibiotics" synthesized in the laboratory that would kill all dangerous microbes and cure the common cold - but PM couldn't have foreseen today's superbugs that have learned to resist them, nor new forms of deadly disease like AIDS. Interestingly, the article says cancer "will not be cured by 2000, but we will be a few years away from a cure." Haven't we been saying exactly the same thing for over 50 years now?
- The article describes rudimentary forms of videoconferencing and "shopping by television," the microwave oven, even electric screwdrivers and wrenches.
"If old Mrs. Underwood, who lives around the corner...insists on sleeping under an old fashioned comforter instead of an aerogel blanket full of glass...she must expect people to talk about her 'queerness.'"Of course, her rubber suit has nothing to do with it whatsoever. Some things never change.