kirk.is | archive | 2007 may

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mission accomplished: year five

(11 comments)
May 1, 2007
Ah, four years of peace and traquility in Iraq. Feels great.

Previously I was able to use Pythagorean theorem to put my walk, Arlington Center to Alewife via the Minuteman Bikeway, at about 1.4 miles (by coincidence, the Google driving directions made the two sides of a right triangle, each about a mile) and, lo and behold, that's what this tool tells me as well.

Design of the Moment
--Boingboing liked the fruit dispensers from a breakfast-ware design contest but I thought these these milkdrop bowls are fantastic.


Tool of the Moment
Wow, here's the feature I thought was missing from Google Maps! The Gmap Pedometer makes it very easy to compute a walking or jogging distance. (It took me a second to realize that once you hit "Record", you then have to double click to mark a waypoint.)

Exchange of the Moment
"You know what would be awesome?"
"What?"
"If rabbits laid chocolate Easter eggs."
"Yeah, but then their entire species would, like, fail."
"Yes, but they would fail deliciously."
--Overheard in New York

metapost

(3 comments)
May 2, 2007
I was looking at my old "Palm Pilot" journal, especially the early entries. Sometimes I feel I lost something switching to the blog-style of kisrael. I gave up keeping both when there was just too much overlap. (Heh, I found where I announced the end of the Palm journal... I'm surprised to see it only had a 4-year-run, it looms kind of larger for me than that.)

KHftCEA (the name of my journal when it was on Palm) was quirkier, and more immediate. I didn't have an audience in mind (other than myself; and actually it was letting Evil B read it that got me to shift it from a private to public thing) and it doesn't try to explain so much, had plaintive little diary-ish entries, and random prose bits. (I remember never quite finding the perfect journal program for Palm, one that would let me created images to embed in the text.)

Plus, the Palm journal seemed to have more interesting quotes; for a while I thought that was because I was reading less, but now that I've been tearing through a book every few days on my commute, I have to figure that it's because I'm paying less attention, or maybe that I've drifted away from Usenet groups.

Sometimes this site seems a bit sterile to me, or at least formulaic. Deliberately starting each day with an anecdote, then the "of the Moments"... the backlog has shifted from being a buffer for stuff I don't have time to write up and a stockpile for busy or uninspired days into a way of making each day have an anecdote and between 2 and 3 items...

So what to do? It can be a tricky balance. Amusing an audience is important to me, I consider Sharing Interesting Stuff a kind of humanist spiritual mission of mine. On the other hand, it's foolish for me to try and be a mini-BoingBoing or a MetaFilterFilter. Of course the two goals (a quirkier subjective journal, and an entertaining read for others) aren't necessarily exclusive.

What do you all think? What do you find interesting about this site? Are you in it for the links, the quotes, the anecdotes, keeping up with me because you know me in real life, the randomness, some of each? At the very least I think I'd like this site better if it more closely mapped into the interesting stuff I run into as I run into it, even at the risk of having some days more full than others. (Which was probably the benefit of the Palm; it was always there.) Be frank; if something strikes you as annoyingly self-indulgent or just is part of the appeal, let me know. I probably won't really see the "error of my ways", but still.

Doodle of the Moment

-From this morning's commute. On the one hand that's a good use of that tablet PC I shelled out for last summer, on the other hand it seems kind of pretentious and show-y (and I guess dangerous,-ish) to do on the subway. Doing casual art on the Palm Pilot would be cooler, though the resolution is pretty bad.

Video of the Moment
Bill the Splut found and linked to Gizmo!, a very cool 1977 documentary with all this great old footage of weird inventions (especially flying machines) and feats of physical ability. The link seems to have the whole movie, plus director Howard Smith's time on David Letterman after. (IMDB trivia: "Much of the newsreel footage, originally shot without sound, has dialogue dubbed in. A lip reader was hired to figure out what the people were saying in the newsreels, and actors lip-synched the lines.")

At around 20:20 in the film, there's a neat device that lets babies use their instinctive kicking motion to propel themselves around a circle... clever!

Article of the Moment
Huh! It looks like the problem with reviving people who aren't breathing isn't the lack of oxygen so much as what happens when the oxygen comes back. From Dr. Lance Becker in the article:
"It looks to us as if the cellular surveillance mechanism cannot tell the difference between a cancer cell and a cell being reperfused with oxygen. Something throws the switch that makes the cell die."
And later "The body on the cart is dead, but its trillions of cells are all still alive"... that's kind of spooky! And odd, how it might be a cancer-defense mechanism. Which makes sense since fighting cancer is pretty important, and CPR has only been here for a blink of evolutionary time.

superduperman

(5 comments)
May 3, 2007
Last night I was watching a movie over at FoSO's and FoSOSO's, "Hollywoodland", the life and death of George Reeves, TV's Superman.

"Huh," I said, "this guy kind of acts like Ben Affleck."

It was, of course, Ben Affleck.

That's how it is with me and movies. I watch a fair number, I appreciate characters, but actors just tend not to stick. (Or, possibly, he changed his hair for the role; hair plays an oddly important role in how I remember people.)

Market of the Moment
So yesterday was another record close for the Dow. Whenever that happens, I always think back to the Onion's tour de force Our Dumb Century, specifically this pair of headlines.
October 22, 1927:
Stock Mark Invincible
'Buy. Buy, Buy!' Experts Advise
October 29, 1927:
Pencils for Sale
Maybe it's just me.

Metapost of the Moment
I'm not sure if anyone else really likes them that much, but I'd really like to add more doodles to the site. (Kind of like the little incidental cartoons they have in the New Yorker.) In part to practice my doodling, in part to liven up the place a bit.

Early kisrael.com, the first few months of 2001, had a lot of doodles. I also noticed that all my images were small, even the photos tended to be less than 200 pixels across. Either I was excessively bandwidth conscious then, or more likely, I had the idea that the site should be very PDA friendly.

unoutgrabeable ... that's what you are ...

(5 comments)
May 4, 2007
Quote of the Moment
My analyst (who is also losing ground steadily) told me later that it was a happy thing that I had been able to go back to school and spank my teacher. He said that noticeably good results would begin to show up in my life. They haven't, though.
--James Thurber, "Back to the Grades".

James Thurber has always been a favorite of mine. I just reread his collection "Middle Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze". I was surprised by a few things:
  • "The mome rath never lived that could outgrabe me" -- Previously I attributed it (a slight variation, at least) to British actor Nicol Williamson. That limey punk! An Ohio boy came up with the idea first.
  • I still love his story "Something to Say", wish I could find it online.
  • "One is a Wanderer", the penultimate story in the collection, about a lonely, separated guy in a hotel room trying to stave off loneliness and boredom, seemed more poignant when I read how the book was published during his year of divorce and remarriage. Plus, thanks to my poor memory it always catches me by surprise when halfway through the main character's name is "Kirk". (Admittedly that's his last name, but still...)
Article of the Moment
Researchers think that the world is walking 10% faster.

That just reminds me of what a wuss I feel like walking to the T station. It feels like I'm slower than nearly everybody, some of the "little old ladies" included. And you know it's not supposed to be a race, but still. Those people passing you on the right... not the joggers, just the folks going to work like you... you know they're feeling just a bit smug.

Snark of the Moment
--I found this headshot (a .gif file, oddly) on a old review of a Pocket PC. I have nothing to say but: Mr. Zabrek, you deserved a better photo. Here you look a bit too evil to trust to PDA recommendations.


Pop Culture of the Moment
It seems kind of odd to me that Spiderman 3 seems to be taking the series down the same dumb-headed path as the Batman series. The first Batman was about the Joker; great. Then they did Cat Woman and Penguin. It kind of worked. Then it was Riddler and Two-Face, plus oh yeah, here's Robin. Then... Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Bane, and why not, here's Batgirl.

So this Spiderman seems to have the New Globin, Venom, and the Sandman.

I don't get it. You'd think the producers for potentially long-legged series would want to dole out the baddies one at a time... are they afraid any one of them can't carry the movie? That this mishmash is a way of increasing the odds that J. Random Moviegoer will be drawn to one of the characters at least?

the joy of boolean logic

(7 comments)
May 5, 2007
Programming Geekery of the Moment
Today in a UI design meeting one of the consultants mentioned that users "mix up AND and OR" when setting up computer queries.

It took me a moment to get beyond the "sheesh, users!" mindset and start to look at it from their point of view. I think I got it though...

Say you were looking to buy a used car, using some kind of database. And that you wanted a fast car, or at least one that was painted red, so that it looked fast. In computer terms you might set up a database query, something like "SHOW ME CARS WHERE CAR IS FAST OR CAR IS RED". That would give you a list of all the fast cars, and all the red cars, and of course all the cars that were both fast and red. ("SHOW ME CARS WHERE CAR IS FAST AND CAR IS RED" would return only cars that were both fast and red.)

But non-technical users might think of the question differently. They might think of the question as "Show me all fast cars, and show me all the red cars"... I mean, you want to see both sets of cars, right? So there's kind of ambiguity there, depending on how the user interface prompts the user to ask their question.

(Of course, when writing a query builder it gets uglier than that... I mean going back to the first query, what you really want to ask is "SHOW ME CARS WHERE CAR IS USED AND (CAR IS FAST OR CAR IS RED)"... it's a challenge to make queries like that easy for users to enter.)

Vocabulary of the Moment
When I accidentally ran across this word in the dictionary one day, it was instantly familiar, before I even got to the definition.
I didn't need to know phonetics to recognize the approximant liquid of that "or," the plosive "ga," the fricative "z," or the labial, nasal, sigh of the final "um."
--Alison Bechdel describing a vocabulary discovery in her touching autobiographical graphic novel "Fun Home". I never realized what a visceral word it is!

Backlink of the Moment
Heh, speaking of cars... Don't hear much from therosser these days, but he LJ'd about how he bought his new Honda Fit site unseen, and it was a kisrael post that first brought it to his attention. That's weirdly flattering!

In my comments on his post I mention how I'm not so crazy about Scion's "replacement" for my xA... and their redesigned xB seems to lose the fun of driving a box.

I know I'm older than their target demographic anyway, but I think I've lost whatever brand loyalty I've had to Scion...

new digs

(10 comments)
May 6, 2007
I've changed webhost providers. There are still a few bugs around; as far as I know, for you guys it's mostly that now in firefox the comments submit doesn't automatically take you back to the posted comments.

Thought of the Moment
"What do you say now to women (and maybe men, too) who are ambivalent about having a child?"
"Get to it! Life is short and kids are the best. They connect you to the future, they force you to grow up, they make you appreciate life in a totally different way. There will never be a perfect time, the right amount of money, and the mate of your dreams. You may get one out of three, and that's enough."
--Rebecaa Walker. Not that it's a currently pressing issue for me, or I think I have any of the three really, but she makes as good an argument as I've seen.

Absolute Geekery of the Moment
Huh, one weird problem with the new system... after some empirical experimentation and tracking down some red herrings, I realized that on my new serve any query string ending with the string "perl" would come up with a server error.

Anyway, I was weirdly proud of coming up with this unix one liner for helping synchronize my new site location with the recent changes on the new one:
find . -mtime -30 -print -exec cp --parents {} /tmp/foo \;
That finds all files modified in the last 30 days and then copies them to /tmp/foo , preserving their directory structure. (That way you can do a simple tar in that directory, and then untar it in the root directory of your final destination.) For me the new parts were find's -mtime and cp's --parents.

The other line I've been using is
find . -name "*cgi" -exec grep -Hi "/kisrael" {} \;
which would find all *cgi files containing "/kisrael"... the argument I kept forgetting is grep's -H, which prints the filename (otherwise I have to tell it to also look in /dev/null.

One of the things I remember from "The UNIX-HATERS Handbook" is how for all the love Unix "pipes" get in terms of connecting data between different programs, Mac and Windows' clipboards really blow it away, just in terms of handling text and graphics. Yeah, it's not as scriptable, but there are definitely times when you want to work with more than plain text. It must be a fair amount of automagic to get that to work properly.

just one good ol' boy

(5 comments)
May 7, 2007
Yesterday my car was followed by the "General Lee":



Seriously... this is where route 16 forks onto 2 and 3 near Alewife.



Man, I loved that show when I was in like fourth grade. Much to my parents dismay.

Poem of the Moment
I live in a Chiropractic World
A world free from drugs and disease
A world free from pain and suffering
A world free from poverty and war
A world free from anger and hostilitym
A world free from chemical imbalance and ill mental health
A world free from vertebral subluxation
--Eric Plasker, "A Chiropractic World". This is the first half of a poem also posted at the Marino Wellness Center I take my yoga class at. I have to say, that seems a lot to expect from keeping folks' backs in order... plus I like all those rather lofty and noble and somewhat abstract goals, culminating in a rather more prosaic medical issue.

Quote of the Moment
"I am against using death as a punishment. I am also against using it as a reward."
--Stanislaw J. Lec, on that QotD thing on iGoogle. Gah, can't believe they're calling it "iGoogle"... how late-90s of them!

stuper

(3 comments)
May 8, 2007
Ex-Coworker Humor of the Moment
"Yeah, I think people are just getting stuper. Stupider."
--Scott
Scott: Oh, lunchtime already?
Kirk: Gee, too bad they don't have any clocks or watches in Scott-land...err, oh wait, that doesn't quite work, does it?

Rob had a great story about his friend, ex-marine, who was in the Peace Corps in Africa...showing people how to dig wells and all that stuff. A neighboring tribe was known to raid the group he was working with, so he taught his folks how to lay an ambush and set traps and basically kill a bunch of 'em and send the rest running. Which wasn't such a bad thing, that other tribe totally had it coming, but you know, it was the Peace Corps, so he got kicked out.

--from the probably-forver-unpublished Rob Database I was keeping at my last company. Unfortunately most of it was either too context-sensitive or tasteless to really make sense here, but Rob was one hell of a funny guy.

does whatever an emo can

(5 comments)
May 9, 2007
Evil B and I caught Spiderman 3 at the Boston Common Cinema last night. he parked at the Boston Common Parking Garage... that thing is crazy! There's an entrance in the middle of the park, and it looks just like some kind of tourist pavilion, but it has stairs and an elevator down. Very James-Bond-Super-Villain-esque, this innocuous looking structure in the park, with the massive steel and concrete infrastructure beneath...

Movie Quote of the Moment
"You want forgiveness? Get religion."
--"Emo" Peter Parker, shown here, in Spiderman 3. It's even more blatantly obvious in the film, that has a bit of fun with the new hairstyle = a darker broodier you bit. The film wasn't too bad but man... when did summer blockbusters start getting so long?

Politics of the Moment
The War Nerd answers Sen. Lindsay Graham's rhetorical, would-be-points-scoring question "If the war in Iraq is lost, then who won?" Answer: Iran. It's like we wrote the finishing chapter of the Iran-Iraq war 15 years later.

Video Gaming of the Moment
I've mentioned dessgeega, hardcore gamer gal, before, and just want to say that I like her new blog. Very content rich, with each entry talking about some interesting game, most of which I haven't heard of before.

death is as natural as life. It's part of the deal we made.

(1 comment)
May 10, 2007
Quote of the Moment
We are so afraid of the sight of death.

I read a book the other day. It said that as soon as someone dies in a hospital, they pull the sheets up over their head, and they wheel the body to some chute and push it down. They can't wait to get it out of their sight. People act as if death is contagious.

It's not contagious, you know. Death is as natural as life. It's part of the deal we made.

[...]

It's natural to die. The fact that we make such a big hullabaloo over it all is because we don't see ourselves as part of nature. We think because we're human we're something above nature.

We're not. Everything that gets born, dies. Do you accept that?

All right. Now here's the payoff. Here is how we are different from those wonderful plants and animals. As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on--in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.

Death ends a life, not a relationship.

--Morrie Schwartz, quoted in Mitch Albom's "Tuesdays with Morrie"

I'd previously been exposed to the idea of living on in the community of people you've touched.

My internal scientist would argue about that point with my internal poet, saying that, well what about when all the people you know die? That the best you can hope for is an ever-dispersing circle of influence, the old "ripples in a pond" metaphor. But the poet, no intellectual lightweight, has come up with a new tact; the trick is to look beyond tracking the scope of one individual, but to start considering them as part of a community... even if it's just the ad hoc community of people that individual touched. Then, you can start looking at how that community influences the slightly larger society, the community of communities, so to speak. And so on up the line, like a big fractal.

It's vain, and usually in vain, to just focus on "my influence". You need to take solace in being part of something larger, and thinking in terms of "our influence".

Alright, it might not be the most profound observation you'll read this week, but I was happy to think of it.

Article of the Moment
On Slate, Daniel Gross on Why Bubbles are great for the economy. In short: the money goes out, but the infrastructure remains, plus our system seems to be able to weather these times pretty well. Might be a small consolation if you're burnt by one of these, but still.

stumblebum!

(4 comments)
May 11, 2007
The other day I managed to mildly impress some of FoSO's friends by having the words "stumblebum" (as in the phrase "haha, look at those stumblebums!") immediately at hand as three beleaguered Toronto players almost ran into each other while failing to catch a Red Sox foul ball in deep right. It was such the right word for the action.

So, hooray vocabulary!

Quote of the Moment
We live in a world in which people are beheaded, imprisoned, demoted, and censured simply because they have opened their mouths, flapped their lips, and vibrated some air. Yes, those vibrations can make us feel sad or stupid or alienated. Tough shit. That's the price of admission to the marketplace of ideas. Hateful, blasphemous, prejudiced, vulgar, rude, or ignorant remarks are the music of a free society, and the relentless patter of idiots is how we know we're in one. When all the words in our public conversation are fair, good, and true, it's time to make a run for the fence.
--Daniel Gilbert. I saw this as collected in the book "What's Your Dangerous Idea?", which is based on the Edge.org forums. The funny thing is, by the time it made it to book form "Tough Shit" got bowdlerized to "Too bad".

shhh

(2 comments)
May 12, 2007
One of the final entries in "What Is Your Dangerous Idea" is Leo Chalupa's A 24-hour period of absolute solitude, that that period of "no verbal interactions of any kind (written or spoken, live or recorded) with another human being" might be of benefit, and that only people in monasteries or solitary confinement are likely to have experienced it.

An intriguing thought. I know I've kind of come to embrace my novelty-seeking behavior, in fact, built an ad-hoc personal morality justification for it. But I can see the appeal of being otherwise, at least for a while. (I get a measure of solitude walking to work, though the path is rarely empty... and sometimes I elect to just have it be me and my thoughts, and not me and a book, or me and an ipod.)

It makes me wonder about the monks. "The Sixteen Pleasures" talks about an outsider who gets some refuge in a nunnery (she's helping them preserve flood-damaged books,) though that was only silence for certain parts of the day. But the idea of being among people, probably interacting to some degree, but never talking... beyond the spiritual goals you're pursuing, what kind of emotional community life develops there? When you go to get served your bowl of monk chow, do you waggle your eyebrows in gratitude? Do you get some form of the usual power plays and social dynamics, specific friendships and bitter rivalries, but all in silence? Or is it qualitatively different, and is the outer silence just a manifestation of a tranquil inner life? Do you keep up an inner-monologue, or does that too start to fade, until your mental landscape is made of purer, more obtuse structures than words or sentences?

(Of course, I'm lapsing back into my old way of assuming my "inner monologue" is more or less "me", and more or less there all the time, when in reality I know it's often little more than the post-facto rationalization that I come up with every once in a while.)

Photo of the Moment
--UT cheerleader via CHFF's cheerleader thread. Obviously there are different aspects to appreciate in this photo, but mostly I like the sense of flying.


ET phone home. or just get up off of that damn couch!

(7 comments)
May 13, 2007
In Nyack with dear ol' Major Mom... as my dad would say from the pulpit, "Hello to all you mothers out there!"

Thought of the Moment
Thoughts on one final Dangerous Idea: Geoffrey Miller thinks that Runaway Consumerism explains the Fermi Paradox, that maybe we've never been contacted by alien intelligences because they get very self-absorbed and lose some their drive and energy once their culture reaches a certain narcissistic point.

He points out
We don't seek reproductive success directly; we have always sought tasty foods, which tended to promote survival, and luscious mates, who tended to produce bright, healthy babies. Modern results: fast food and pornography.
(I wish I could google up this one article I read about researchers who made up a crude parody of a female fish, but sexed up... to a human it look nothing like a fish, but its oversized tailfin and waggling motion made it more attractive to the boy fishes than any girl fish could ever hope to be. That sometimes seems like a rich metaphorical landscape for our celebrity-obsessed culture.)

Miller then goes on to argue that the survivors will probably be fringe groups who combine "the family values of the religious right with the sustainability values of the Greenpeace left" (Heh, you know... that just reminded me of Heinlein's writing, especially Lazarus Long) who find the pop-culture abhorent. He further argues that this might already be happening with Christian and Moslem fundamentalists.

Video of the Moment

--OK... Likely (but cleverly) faked, and even secretly advertising for Ray Bans, but still... very goofy appealing. Wouldn't that be an odd superpower?

The irony, or appropriateness, of posting this kind of stuff right after that last bit about the Fermi Paradox explanation is not lost on me.


t^10-shirt

(6 comments)
May 14, 2007
New theory about my sense of introversion:

On the one hand I seem to have a diminished sense of privacy, I'll glad talk about fairly private subject matters to anyone who seems interested. On the other hand, I have trouble opening up to close friends sometimes, or rather there are certain subjects I won't get it, especially ones where I might get disapproval about a current course of action.

At first I was thinking that it's not so much that I don't mind being seen as The Fool... paradoxically, I might be so sensitive about it that I've lowered the bar for what would I think would make me seem Foolish.

I think there are a few other idiosyncrasies in my life that reflect similar defense mechanisms... like how I have such an inflated idea of my native abilities that I avoid situations where my limits would then be pointed out. (Though like Michelangelo once said, "The great danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high, and we miss it, but that it is too low, and we reach it.")

Quote of the Moment
The ultimate goal of physics, as it is often described, is to have a "theory of everything," in which all the fundamental laws that describe nature can be neatly written on the front o f a T-shirt (even if the T-shirt can exist only in ten dimensions.)
--Lawrence M. Krauss

Photo of the Moment

--EB's pride-n-joy, last weekend.

Article of the Moment
Bill the Splut linked to an interesting piece on on how we slept before electric lights.
Until the modern age, most households had two distinct intervals of slumber, known as "first" and "second" sleep, bridged by an hour or more of quiet wakefulness. Usually, people would retire between 9 and 10 o'clock only to stir past midnight to smoke a pipe, brew a tub of ale or even converse with a neighbor.
That sounds really nice... the article goes on...
Others remained in bed to pray or make love. This time after the first sleep was praised as uniquely suited for sexual intimacy; rested couples have "more enjoyment" and "do it better," as one 16th-century French doctor wrote. Often, people might simply have lain in bed ruminating on the meaning of a fresh dream, thereby permitting the conscious mind a window onto the human psyche that remains shuttered for those in the modern day too quick to awake and arise.
It's a really intriguing idea. Also, it makes me want to get better at remembering my dreams, and maybe provoke lucid dreaming. (Supposedly an upcoming issue of Make magazine is going to have a device to help with the latter...)

does this taste funny to you?

(6 comments)
May 15, 2007
On online dating sites, everyone wants to be known as having a good sense of humor. In fact, OKCupid specifically suggest not making one of your 3 main self-descriptive adjectives be "funny" because it's such a cliché. (I'm trying to think about the phenomenon, but I'm hardly above it... actually I was grateful for OKCupid's suggestion as a reminder to try and "show, don't tell" when it comes to being funny.)

But...why is that? Why are we so instinctively drawn to being funny? Why is "has a good sense of humor" such a huge prerequisite? (Isn't there some list of the three things I guy will never admit to: being a bad driver, being lousy in bed, or having a bad sense of humor? Of course, they also claim that when a guy says he's looking for a gal with a great sense of humor, he really means he's looking for someone to laugh at his jokes... I don't think that's a fair accusation, but I see where it came from.)

Is it just because it's fun and relaxing to laugh? And healthy, the stress relieving aspect of it... Is it a correlation with intelligence? I guess to answer that, you'd have to understand humor's role in society in a broader sense. Being able to joke about something can be empowering, whether it's cruel teasing from someone who already has the upper hand, or the dark humor that sees us through tough times. By making a funny joke about something, you're shaping the perceptions of others.

Alright... I suppose a risk of analyzing something too much is taking the humor and joy right out of it, so I'll end this here...

Quote of the Moment
"...A deification or divinization of humankind may have been attractive to Feuerbach, to Victorian England, or to German thinkers early in the twentieth century, infused as they were with the fiery certainty of cultural superiority. But the twentieth was, by any account, a bad century for the so-called infinite goodness of Man."
--Phillip Clayton, "Mind & Emergence"

Video of the Moment

--Its been said that I look like this guy, the lead for "Death Cab for Cutie". Could be, maybe even more so than the Barenaked Ladies singer! Still, my claim to fame, or infamy, will always be the Nazi guy in Indiana Jones who gets the medallion burned into his hand, and then his face melted. Lucky me!

we are all bound to the earth with our experience of life

(1 comment)
May 16, 2007
Quote and Presentation of the Moment
"Whether we like it or not," Hopper wrote, "we are all bound to the earth with our experience of life and the reactions of the mind, heart, and eye, and our sensations, by no means, consist entirely of form, color, and design." This was meant as a swipe at the Abstract Expressionists...
--From a Slate sideshow about the MFA's Edward Hopper exhibition. In my interesting as axiomatic good subjective morality, art about "stuff" will usually be more compelling than expressions that just use shape or color, so I see where he was coming from with that comment.

catcher, rye. rye, catcher.

(1 comment)
May 17, 2007
Quote of the Moment
"I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty... you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are."
--J. D. Salinger, I think from "Catcher in the Rye". Probably says more about guys than gals.

I really disliked that book in high school, I find that whole hating the "phonies" thing, tales of not being able to adapt to society or give people the benefit of the doubt, to be grating. (On the other hand, I didn't even get through "The Great Gatsby" back then, just Cliff Notes it, and now it's one of my favorites, maybe I needed a personal experience with unrequited romance. So maybe I should give that book a second chance.)


Screenshot of the Moment

--From my Mom's PC, about her printer. I don't know why I found the idea of a misleading "Close" button so striking, just that moment where I thought "gee, can the computer DO that on its own?"

Reminds me of that old New Yorker caption I've been thinking of lately: "The cat is trying to open the door on the hinge side. I laugh, then realize that I make the same mistake with people, ideas, and doors, too."


everything is uncertain except for five facts

(1 comment)
May 18, 2007
Been thinking about animated gifs lately, the flipbooks of the online age. I made those Groove is in the Heart ones a few months ago, and as far as I can tell Lady Kier herself, now a well-regarded DJ, left a comment there asking if she can snag 'em... (On the Internet, nobody knows you're not a diva, but still I think it's legit.) So, woo! (Followup: hee, they're on her myspace page...)

Animated GIF of the Moment

swing,baby!
EB's Baby Swings!

Taken the same afternoon as the woodsy photo.

Virtual Chat of the Moment
ALICE: Are you alive?
Jabberwacky: Perhaps.
A: Why the uncertain tone?
J: Everything is uncertain except for five facts.
A: The whole universe?
J: And we both might just be some ones and zeros in the computer memory.
--ALICE and Jabberwacky are two chat programs Discover set talking to each other. Fun to read. Makes me wonder about the five facts!

what is this?

(5 comments)
May 19, 2007
Here's a photo I took...



Any guesses as to what it is? Guesses to the comments section!

I might put up a larger version on my desktop wallpaper page after people take a stab.

ANSWER: (highlight with the mouse or hit Ctrl-A to read):
it's simply the inside of a cheap umbrella. The droplets are actually on the other side of it, lit by the sunlight behind.
Hope that wasn't too anticlimatic!

took me out to the ballgame

(4 comments)
May 20, 2007
Lee / EB / Me in the nosebleeds
So EB was scheduled to see Friday's Sox game which got rained out and became the second part of a double header last night. His friend Lee then had an extra ticke for the rescheduled game, and I tagged along, a good way to unwind after a day of tearing down cabinets and stripping wallpaper up in Rockport.

I hadn't been to a ball game for years and years, since well before I started watching Sox games and learned a little something about how the game is played, beyond the basic rules. What I most noticed about seeing a game in person is this: it's motion vs. space. on TV, a hit ball is about motion, the camera panning to follow the ball as it soars along, the stadium a blur behind it. In person, it's all about space, watching the ball go up up up to some superhuman height above the fixed confines of the stadium.

That evening was not the Sox's finest moment. After hearing about a 13-2 victory that afternoon, we left in the seventh as the Sox were behind 0-8. By sneaking out then we missed 6 more runs by the Braves and some extra rain. We did get to see a drunk fan sucker punch a buddy who had snagged some of his Italian Sausage, and then watch a fan dash across the field, but like an idiot I didn't think to pull out my camera until the cops already had him.

Exchange of the Moment
"Huh, I hope this new Sox cap was looking over. [Checks in visor mirror] Nope. Baseball caps always make me look like I'm wearing a slightly oversized yamaka. I guess that's what I get for having the last name of Israel."
"No, that's what you get for having an oversized head."
"'Pumpkin-like cranium' is my prefered term but... yeah."
--Me and EB in the car after the game.

jeremiad cliff notes

(120 comments)
May 21, 2007
Commentary of the Moment
The other day Salon had two pieces that I thought kind of complemented each other... on how Oprah should stop promoting The Secret and its view that thinking of something positive, being grateful for it in advance, can change the world, and How our generals got so mediocre. The latter taught me a new word, Jeremiad, "a long literary work, usually in prose, but sometimes in poetry, that bitterly laments the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and always contains a prophecy of its coming downfall."

Animation of the Moment
--Speaking of animated GIFs, I've always admired Nick B's LJ avatar, that he assembled himself from the game Pac-Mania.


Link of the Moment
BoingBoing linked to this piece on what happens to online profiles when the person dies (recently an issue in the aftermath of Virginia Tech.)

I sometimes wonder about the fate of my sites should something happen to me. For a long while, I was wondering if there was any kind of market for "perpetuity" websites, something that would keep some (static?) pages and a domain alive, and maybe a comments section free of Spam, "forever".

Someday maybe I should try to make loveblender self-policing, or at least setup caretake roles, and maybe I should give my s00per-sekrit password to EB, and/or my family. I guess it all depends on the circumstance of my demise though...

bicycle built for me

(5 comments)
May 22, 2007
I bought a bike yesterday!

Yesterday was a bit of a trial by fire, from the bike shop near Porter Square to Alewife, and then the bikepath home. I wouldn't be surprised if a bike on the Minute Man is about as fast as you can get from Arlington Center to Alewife, given the traffic and bus-waiting you avoid.

I didn't learn to ride a bike 'til I was in sixth grade or thereabouts, and always felt a little shaky. But yesterday felt pretty good; cars coming up on me weren't bothering me nearly as much as they used to. Hmm, maybe 15 years of driving makes me more confident in my situational awareness. Or, it might be this is just an easier riding bike than my old tenspeed.

Some of the people who have most dramatically reshaped their bodies did so by getting into biking. But, I think you have to get really into biking to have that kind of effect.

Photo of the Moment

--Elio's hand, outside of Viga, Back Bay.

Quote of the Moment
"One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain't nothin' can beat teamwork."
--Edward Abbey

Game of the Moment
Stick Remover... try to avoid as many load bearing sticks as possible while keeping the star above the line... kind of like a more engineer-y jenga.

hhhuuh! hammer!

(8 comments)
May 23, 2007
I learned one thing this past weekend... the best way to remove long nails from a board is to hammer the nail from the other side, and then use a clawhammer to remove it in the normal fashion. (For some reason, maybe because he was considering trying to preserve the wood, EB had me using pliers. Macho, but not so efficient.)

Sigh. I'm such a tool illiterate sometimes.

Link of the Moment
I recently caught a reference to the Eton Wall Game, and danged if that doesn't sound like some primitive emergent version of calvinball.

Video of the Moment
--The Civil War in 4 Minutes. Ericball points out this page about its construction, along with links to more from the making of the Abraham Lincoln Museum.

i m pei we all r pei

(1 comment)
May 24, 2007
The "Plywood Palace" Days, from Wikipedia
You know, I've known about the John Hancock Tower for a long while. But it's only lately that I've started thinking about how lovely it is.

I guess that's one of the differences between kids and grownups. When I was a kid, all I could think of was how funny the story about glass getting blown off of it was. And even now, it seems a little incongruous next to Trinity Church, but still it's a really nice work. (I posted a few photos last month.)

Sigh. Maybe I should wait a while after finishing "The Fountainhead" to post stuff like this.

Quote of the Moment
"Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods."
--Japanese Proverb on a birthday card I got from Matt and Jess. It seems a little trite at first, but an interesting concept to think about.

punchdrunk hate

(3 comments)
May 25, 2007
Biked around Malden and Melrose yesterday. But today... I can't believe it's not Friday. Thank goodness for the 3 day weekend.

Video of the Moment

--National Geographic on the anatomy of the one punch knockout. Scary stuff!

Quote of the Moment
Hipster: When I was little and went to Sunday school my teacher told us we all have a little piece of God inside of us, and I thought, I hope I have his thumb.
--Overheard in New York. I guess this is a variation on the "kids say the darndest things" line that I most tend to repost here, but still...

it only thinks it's happening.

(4 comments)
May 26, 2007
My company has a "Beer O'Clock" tradition of having some booze at 4PM on Friday. Somehow yesterday it got joined with a "Whisky-Thirty" supplement to toast some birthdays.

That was good.

Images of the Moment

EB is a big believer in cheap coveralls during renovation work to keep the toxic stuff away from family and baby...I just like looking like late-period Beastie Boys.


A mirror inside the house.


Graffiti on the bikepath.


I enjoyed the self-referentiality of someone writing the word "penis" as opposed to scrawling the more typical crude rendition of one.


My team "Posh Spies" from the latest grunthunt. Tinfoil hats ahoy!


Aprés le Grunt, a smooch from soon-to-be-newlyweds.


The only recent photo in this lot, "hug harder" from a bench at the Harvard Square T station. I <3 hippy graffiti!

Quote of the Moment
"Oh man, this isnít happening. It only thinks it's happening."
--The movie Tron, celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Saying "it only thinks" is more clever than I remember it being; I never noticed the kind of sly nod to Descartes in that before.

cool as i ain't

(3 comments)
May 27, 2007
Video of the Moment
So one song that misses my top three songs ever but is in my 29 bestest (and probably more like the top 5) is Dar Williams' "Cool as I Am"... and I just found that it has a very solid video...



I've seen the lyrics of this song misheard so that "I will not be afraid of women" has more of a lesbian tinge. (I think the "other" in this song isn't particularly gender typed, ala like Jeanette Winterson's "The PowerBook", though is a man in the video.) And come to think of it, I first heard it on a compilation called "Lesbian Favorites".

And I do love the lyrics, especially
And so I'm leaving,
you can find out how much better things can get,
And if it helps,
I'd say I feel a little worse than I did when we met
Plus, best use of a didgeridoo evar.

I think I need to find out more about Dar Williams. I know she was at that Harvard's Humanist Chaplaincy event, which I missed. I like the expressions she gives the camera in this video, a more natural version of that scrunched up look Renée Zellweger's Bridget Jones hits so often.

Line of the Moment
Very Well, Butram,
You May Kiss Me....
But First, You'll
Have to Remove
Your Clarinet.

--from the closing credits for the Ernie Kovacs show.

copywrong

(1 comment)
May 28, 2007
Up in Rockport this Memorial Day, so not much of an update...

Video of a Few Moments Ago

--This film, telling about Fair Use through tiny fragments of Disney works was making the rounds a week or two ago.

Similarrly, Spider Robinson's Melancholy Elephants was kind of re-released a little while back, arguing strongly against perpetual copyrights. The core argument there is that the space of potential meaningful POSSIBLE createive work isn't as infinite as we might assume.

In theory, if not in practice (probably due to the relative obscurity of most computer code) Programmers run into exactly that issue in terms of software patents. Coders and Architects, roughtly speaking, are paid to come up with new approaches (or meaningful repurposings of old ones), so the whole idea of "non-obvious to a practioneer in the field" becomes kind of thorny.


reading kisrael.com for dummies

(14 comments)
May 29, 2007
So I started "The Complete Idiot's Guide® To Zen Living".

I sort of like when these "for Dummies"-style titles take on weighty subjects. "Rocket "Reconciling the Fundamental Contradiction of Free Will and a Deterministic Universe for Dummies", "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Coping with your Crushing Sense of Existential Dispair", etc etc. (Hmm. If I were feeling a bit more ambitious it would be amusing to make an automatic cover-layout generator for faux titles such as those.)

The books generally are pretty good. I kind of mentally rewrite the titles to "...with few assumptions about what you already know of the subject", which I think is the real crux of what they're getting at. The first ones, like "DOS for Dummies", capitalized on a self-deprecating feeling that PCs of the era brought on.

So I just started "Zen Living". I think I might have some trouble keeping the concepts of Zen's un-ness seperate from what I know of Daoism's "uncarved block", at least in terms of life application.

It also raises the issues of whether you can have relative degrees of Zen. Is it a problem that I'm not looking a moment of "and thus, Kirk was enlightened" so much as improved general clarity and definition in the flow of my life?

Sports of the Moment
Indians played (and lost to) the Red Sox last night. Both are division leaders, likely the current two best teams in baseball, and these games are kind of "win-win" for me... my deeper loyalty is with the Sox, and every win makes life more difficult for the Yankees, but the Indians are in a tighter division race.

Anyway, I was reading the Indians' wikipedia page when I came across this gem:
In April 1962, the Indians sold Harry Chiti to the New York Mets for a player to be named later. In June 1962, after playing just 15 games for the Mets, Chiti was named by the Mets as the player to be named later.
Plus, I was reminded of another reason to dislike Edgar "Rent-A-Wreck" Renteria... besides extremely spotty play for the Red Sox he scored the run that made the Indians lose the '97 World Series to those Punk-ass Marlins.

Beer O'Clock of the Moment
--LAN3 pointed out this awesome "Beer O'Clock" reference. The show is a BBC production "Life on Mars" where a modern era British police officer finds himself transported to the 1970s version of his current life. The show plays with the ambiguity of whether he traveled through time, if he's dreaming in a coma in the current day, or if he's from the 70s but mentally unstable. In any event, it plays up with the cultural differences between the two eras.

book inventory 2007

(3 comments)
May 30, 2007
I took a personal day yesterday and used some of the time to reorganize my books, since I was moving 3 bookcases from a common room into my bedroom to make more space for my bike.

I'm not too obsessive about sorting my books, but I do liked them lumped by large category. I thought it would be interesting to take an inventory. (Each shelf provides about 24-26 inches of book space.)

So, going from the front of the house into my bedroom I have:

1 shelf - poetry and eastern religion
1 shelf - self-improvement, home maintenance / interior design, and fitness
1 1/2 shelves - graphic novels, especially superhero and star wars
1 1/2 shelf - indy comics and cartoons, with a lot of Alison Bechdel, Jeffrey Brown
1 shelf - video game history and cheat guides
1 1/2 shelves - technical computer references and tutorials
1/2 shelf - star wars, with a lot of those oversized photo-books
1 shelf - stacked vertically and two deep with sci-fi paperbacks
1 shelf - larger format sci-fi
2 shelves - american humor (including 1 just of James Thurber, Garrison Keillor, and a hint of Woody Allen) which drifts into...
3 shelves - modern literature, a lot of Douglas Coupland and Tom Robbins
2 1/2 shelves - science and philosophy
1 shelf - history and culture
1 1/2 shelves - of mostly oversized art, design, and music
1 1/2 shelves - "school literature" including a stack of paperbacks and books from my childhood
1 shelf - boudoir reading
2 shelves - "to read", which shold be assimilated into the appropriate shelves as I get through them.

26 1/2 shelves in all. 56 feet (or so) of reading! And I've conducted a few purges in the past, so most of what remains is pretty good stuff.

Well, that was probably more fun and informative for me than all of you, but still. Anyone else ever try this?

Video of the Moment

--From the Muppet Show: A Drum Battle, Animal vs Buddy Rich.

Less visceral, but interesting and a bit topical with today's entry: a video art piece on cerebral organization by Jim Henson, introduced by Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.


Quote of the Moment
"In this limitless world, breath is like a swinging door. If you think 'I breathe,' the 'I' is extra . . . what we call 'I' is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no 'I,' no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door."
--Suzuki Roshi. Its been dawning on me that 55-odd feet of books, or rather my attachment to them, is not really in harmony with principles of Zen. Or decluttering for that matter.

make way for gooslings

(3 comments)
May 31, 2007
This morning by the path to Alewife:

(Or watch a boring Youtube video I shot)

Quote of a Previous Moment
"Personally, I always claim Cecil Earl is a little screwy, or if he is not screwy that he will do very well as a pinch-hitter until a screwy guy comes up to bat."
--"Broadway Complex", Damon Runyon. Its been on my quote file for... yeesh, almost 15 years now, but I still love its construction. I read the book of short stories during the Guys and DOlls revival in the early 90s... Nathan Lane as Nathan Detroit was great.

Link of the Moment
Programmers who have had to go on spelunking expeditions in other peoples code might like WorseThanFailure, "Curious Perversions in Information Technology", kind of a more hardcore ThisIsBroken.
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