2007 July❮❮prevnext❯❯

june moon spoon

Should be making my way back from the city of broad shoulders today. (Update: broad shoulders and blistered feet. I feel a bit betrayed by my dress shoes, but maybe they feel the same way about me by using them for too much city walking.)

Music Store Review of the Moment
Hey, are you my buddy Mike Brown? If you're Mike Brown: dude, you are gonna totally love this place. You know all that crazy new jazz shit you listen to? You know how your music is so obscure that by the time it gets around to making a chord you're sick of it? This is your place. If you are not Mike Brown, however, Twisted Village got nothin' for you.

Note of the Moment
A long time ago I made a note to look up "High-Handed Outrage at Utica", a chapter said to have been read by Lincoln to has cabinet before the Emancipation Proclamation:
"Why don't you laugh?" he asked. "With the fearful strain that is upon me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do."
Well I finally managed to Google it up and I can answer... Maybe because it's, you know, not funny?

At the risk of spoilers, here's some of the ending paragraph:
Sez he, "That's all very well fur you to say ; but I tell you, old man, that Judas Iscarrot can't show hisself in Utiky with impunerty by a darn site!" with which observashun he kaved in Judassis hed.
Does the final line of the piece ("I sood him, and the Joory brawt in a verdick of Arson in the 3d degree" -- for a bit if religious fervor inspired art vandalism) some kind of pun I'm not getting?

Seriously, the image of Ol' Honest Abe reading this to a grimfaced crew, trying to get a laugh with such flimsy material, probably overdoing the accents... it's not all that reassuring.

segway or the highway

So, I've got pictures and what not from my trip to Chicago, but for now I'll just post some videos from a Segway tour I took. Of course, I didn't really need another tour of Chicago, per se; I just wanted to try out a Segway. And it was pretty fun!

Sarah was our capable and befreckled tour guide:

This is me noodling around. Segways are pretty responsive (I was surprised that turning is done with a rotating thing on the handgrips, for some reason I thought it was all body language driven) and I don't need to be throwing my weight into it quite as much as I am here:

And then I had to harass the local wildlife.

So, I can scratch that of the list of things to do...

Article of the Moment
Infants quickly learnt that using tactics such as fake crying and pretend laughing could win them attention. By eight months, more difficult deceptions became apparent, such as concealing forbidden activities or trying to distract parents' attention.
--from this article on how people become fibbers much earlier than previously thought.

the shapes of chicago


under a bridge near navy pier

blue line train car

ferris wheel on navy pier

view from the ferris wheel on navy pier

wedding in chicago


Congratulations Lex and Michi!

kirk the soggy vampire slayer

(1 comment)
So I was kayaking yesterday, and like a complete genius let my phone and palm get all wet, and both are at least temporarily out of commission. (note for next time: plastic baggy, genius) So for the moment, online communication is probably going to be the best way to get my attention.

So last year we benefited from some kind people who thought to bring anchor and food and a little wine and were willing to share, and this year I was able to "pay it forward", at least anchor-wise, with Ruby and Benjamin who were canoing but would otherwise be adrift for the fireworks. (Being able to kick back with an anchor is so much nicer than having to constantly adjust.) They also had a bottle of champagne to share, so it was a very agreeable time all around.

There was a buoy that marked the edge you could go to, but then about 4 or 5 canoe crews started using that to anchor, and were slowly dragging it to the middle of the harbor... kind of funny to watch the slow-motion progression.

Also, COPS on JETSKIS!, with lights and everything, were new to me.

Fireworks of the Moment

--Kayaks = best seat in the house!

Exchange of the Moment
"So tonight I'm going to be biking, which is kind of a workout for legs, and tomorrow I'm going kayaking, which is arms..."
"Dude, you're going to be buff!"
"I'm going to be so 'buff' I should be slaying vampires!
...you know, that might not be the imagery I was trying to project."
Me and Jonathan on Tuesday.

iphone youphone weallphone for iphone

I've already been accused of status symboling / bandwagon-ing, but yesterday I splurged on an iPhone.

I've come up with a few justifications for it. I was thinking about my various gadgets. The iPod Nano is just amazing, it gives me a small tangible thrill, it's so compact and elegant. And that humble Palm Z22 was doing a similar thing, with its lovely curved feel, and super-familiar interface. That Fujitsu lifebook, about as small as a laptop can be and still have a usable traditional keyboard gives me a good buzz.

My other gadgets, not so much. My Canon Elph is compact and takes great pictures, but it's not a delight. Similarly, my waterlogged Katana was never better than decent for me... plus it seemed to need its battery recharged way too frequently. I'm not so thrilled with the iPhone form factor, but it's still pretty slick.

Design wise... well, it's ok. I think glossy black and metal is a bit over-80s, but at least it's not the toilet white that was the old iPod hallmark. Looks a bit like a cigarette case from the back, actually.

Exchange of the Moment
"So are you going to play some Pac-Man CE?"
"Well I thought if I came over here, I should at least treat you to some two players gaming..."
"No, it's fine, I know how much that Pac Man game resonates for you."
"You're like my dealer! I better watch out or you're going to start charging."
"Yeah, that was my plan with the video games, 'first 9 years are free'."
me and EvilB, who came over for lunch, and theoretically to drop off some books...

Article of the Moment
I talked to a pretty wealthy lawyer in Cambridge, and he won’t go to Starbucks," says Simon. "For him, it’s an expression of his relationship to New England, but also to working people. Like he’s more populist through that.
I know dunkies is definitely not as good karma as any mom-n-pop place (And I do go to Gail's on Medford St whenever I get the chance) but still.

little miss starscream

Watched the "Transformers" movie last night. It was... oh, OK I guess. Dragged a bit, but the big fight at the end was pretty grand.

The original cartoon really was more of an ensemble piece... the better to sell more toys with... and modern renditions tend to focus more on the human aspect, what it would be like to find these giant robots around, with fewer robot characters. At least in the movie, the "Robots in Disguise" aspect made some kind of sense, the cartoons "well the Ark thought cars were the dominant life form" shtick was kinda silly, and they hardly ever tried to fool anyone.

Interesting quote from Jonathan:
"I always thought Starscream was a girl."
and later, after I pointed out that Starscream had the voice of Cobra Commander...
"I really liked Starscream better a girl... she-- it-- he-- and megatron had that married couple aspect, the bitching and the fighting."
You know, it never occurred to me but but I can kind of see it:

Almost a Destro/Baroness kind of vibe. (Also, this clip plays it out a bit more.) Man, that really was the nadir of animation.

The other cute line from the movie:
Agent Simmons from the shadowy "Sector 7" Agency and the brave solider Captain Lennox are holding guns on each other in a standoff:

Agent Simmons: I'm going to count to 5...
Captain Lennox: I'm going to count to 3.
Whew, that's some action!

Link of the Moment
Very readable English2American glossary. I'm always fascinated by differences in vocabulary and attitude.

moderately well

Really odd detail in a dream, apparently I was given the superpower of performing any normal human skill but only "moderately well". So I could, say, speak a bit of Chinese, but not, say, fly.

It wasn't quite clear if these skills came at the cost of the things I feel I actually do well, if programming "moderately well" would override my hard-won Java mojo.

Chicago Photos of the Moment

Today's theme: color.

vacation scratchlog flush #1

(1 comment)
So I'm heading to New Jersey for a few days, then I'll be back up here and try to organize my life and declutter a bit more. I'm tearing through my "scratchlog"... this site's editor app has a box, a scratch pad of sorts, that's meant to let me preview HTML before putting it in a real entry but sometimes I tend to leave things for the backlog there, or links that I want to remind myself to check out. So this week will clean that out.
Steam Trek explores what Star Trek in the silent era of films might have been like.
New York Magazine had a fascinating read The Profit Calculator explaining how various businesses... from cabbies and yoga studios all the way up to the Yankees and the city government... make money, what aspects are most and least profitable, etc.
My friend Kate wrote a PDF on Best Practices for Web Developers. It's a pretty good read.
Geektastic... some links to Gary Stasiuk's lovely artificial creature work, including the math behind simple movement and behaviour. I really need to read this more deeply and try to make some more interesting interactions

--"Thou Shalt Always Kill"

vacation scratchlog flush #2

So there was a good xkcd comic and discussion on "cheesy pickup lines gone wrong". Here were my favorites: My contribution was
reminds me of a when my cohabitating then-girlfriend said to me "nice pants!"

I was going to say "thanks! i bet they'd look great crumpled on your bedroom floor" but then I remembered... she's seen them crumpled on the bedroom floor, along with some shorts and assorted other laundry and frankly, she knows that it doesn't look that great.

vacation scratchlog flush #3

1988 docudrama about "the ideas of Douglas Hofstadter"... includes a re-enactment of The Soul of the Mark III Beast and some other short stories that I first saw excerpted in Daniel C. Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter's, "The Mind's I". This video is an hour and a half, but worthwhile if you want some amazing ideas about what our brains and selves actually are.
A game that might prove momentarily amusing for Windows users, drunken hyper-blocky sumo wrestling.
Could hacketyhack be to kids these days what BASIC was to kids when I was growing up? Dunno.
A video of CSI Miami - Endless Caruso One Liners, just before the title song kicks in ... this guys is like the Sherlock Holmes of formulaic television!
Dali on What's My Line was more well-behaved than I expected.
Slate on the art of human beatbox. I'm still pretty likely to do this whenever I'm alone in an echo-y place.

vacation scratchlog flush #4

(1 comment)
I enjoyed tearing through Hardcore Gaming 101, for people interested in the history of gaming their recent special on Pre-SF2 Fighting Games was especially good.
Their page on the delightfully whimsical and increasingly homoerotic "Cho Aniki" series brought me to i-mockery's Cho Aniki page, part of their amusingly sophomoric Sexual Moments in Video Games series. I liked these images from the classic "Rampage"

These are your characters after they've de-morphed from their giant monsterous forms after taking too much damage. The amusing part is that you're then vulnerable to one of the other monsters coming over and gobbling you up as you're shamefacedly trying to slink offscreen...
Two last points... thanks to their explanation I now see "R-Type" as one of the coolest game names ever... a (somewhat obscure) evolutionary biology term describes "K-types" as species who have few young and invest resources into helping them thrive (ala most mammals) vs. "R-types" that try a more scattershot approach of many young cheaply, and maybe some will survive. A bioengineered "R-Type" (from the future, I think) makes a great enemy and scenario, an explanation why it's always one guy in a ship vs screaming alien hoardes.
Finally, The Phoenix had an OK piece on the best Video Game bosses.

15 Reasons Mister Rogers Was the Best Neighbor Ever.

The 7 minute sopranos (meant as kind of a prep for the final season I guess...) via this Slate piece on minisodes, turning sugary pop culture into, I dunno, pure glucose or something.

vacation scratchlog flush #5

Possibly more than you wanted to know about Boston Bike Messengers. They say it's all about sex.
Decent optical illusion video. (I recommend hitting youtube's full screen video button.) I've seen most of these before. It's kind of funny that there are two new trends in optical illusions I don't remember seeing: careful use of color to create a sense of movement in a static imagery, and then a variation on the old after image trick (stare at this, and then look at a blank surface) where you look at colors that are already a bit like an afterimage, and the brain edits them out. A few weeks ago after posting that spinning female optical illusion I got a link from the guy who runs Mighty Optical Illusions. Seems like a very worthwhile stop if you dig that kind of thing.
Similar to that previous guy who put a digital camera on his cat, this is a camera peeking out of the box its being shipped in. Weirdly voyeuristic, in a business-world kind of way.
Some final pre-Chicago photos:

davis square twilight, 2007.06.28

airport t stop hydrant

the boy is back in town

So I got back Thursday. I was happy to see how many comments the links I prepublished last week got, maybe that's a nudge about what most interests people about the site...

Probably of interest only to people who A. are me, or related to me B. like Chicago photos or C. were, you know, getting married that weekend, I've added a lightly annotated set of Chicago photos to the set from my previous trip circa 2005.

Exchange of the Moment
"It just occurred to me that I'm sitting around the house in my underwear."
"....Yeah, it's like you're always the last to know, huh?"
Err, "Anonymous" and Me last night.

Article of the Moment
Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature. The pieces paints with an overly-broad brush, but has some interesting ideas. There's a lot of stuff we have trouble admitting about human nature, I suppose because of the risk that labeling some unpleasant behavior as "natural" might grant a license to keep that behavior up.

pray not for aid to one who made a set of never-changing laws

Last day of vacation. Sigh. I'm not dreading the routine of work as much as I usually do, guess that's a positive.

Poetry of the Moment
A Mouse that prayed for Allah's aid
    Blasphemed when no such aid befell:
A Cat, who feasted on that mouse,
  Thought Allah managed vastly well.

Pray not for aid to One who made
    A set of never-changing Laws,
But in your need remember well
    He gave you speed, or guile--or claws

Saki, writing as a Persian scholar Ghurab, in The Cupboard of the Yesterdays.
It goes on for a few more stanzas, but I like these two the most. (One of the things I know I lost on my drowned Palm are some other references to quotes of his that I wanted to post.)

Video of the Moment
Boingboing had a great piece on Sesame Street skits that scared us as kids... and people are a tad unnerved to this day! But mostly I just loved these guys, the Yip yips.

To this day I still go "YUPyupyupyupyupyupyupyuuuup uh-huh uh-huh".

Looking back at these videos, I find myself recognizing voices across characters in a way I don't think I did previously.

Article of the Moment
Slate on why the beehive collapse disorder isn't as apocalyptic as reported... and how visions of merry little buzzing bees ducking in and out of a hive (or even those wooden structures some beekeepers use) has been ill-founded for a long while, its gotten a lot more industrial than all that.

aargh my eyes!

One thing I noticed in Chicago... I love helping couples and larger groups all get in the photo by volunteering to take the picture using their camera. But it can be a little awkward to offer, because you're a stranger and they don't know if you're a camera-stealing nutter or what. Still, when I'm on the other side of that equation, I think the small risk of camera theft is worth not having the "gee, there are no shots of us together" after the trip.

Video Game Anecdote of the Moment
Ok yeah, I see what you're saying. In fact one of the best experiences I ever had with a Metroid game was when I used to take drugs, and I was playing Metroid Prime thinking it was the most beautiful game I'd ever played; I was tumbling through glittering ice cavern after glittering ice cavern, not knowing where I was going, not even caring that I'd probably never find my way back to where I was originally going. So much of the game seemed to be open to me to explore and yet it would take so long to make sense of it. Just as I thought I'd got out of one chasm I'd fall down another one, getting ever deeper into the labyrinth.

Then I realised I was just climbing our of and falling into the same hole over and over again. Don't do drugs, kids.

Optical Illusion of the Moment

--"Out of Focus" by Akiyoshi, via this Boingboing zen pieace. I have never seen my monitor look so deep! Try moving your head back and forth.

blink... very.... gingerly...

Snarky Comment of the Moment
Man, I could just watch hungover Hugh stand absolutely still and blink very gingerly all day. It’s kind of hypnotic. The next three weeks of this strip could just be Hugh blinking as the storyline is advanced by word bubbles coming from off-panel. They could call it The Angriest Hungover Brit in the World.
The Comic Curmudgeon. I laughed. A lot. It's just such a good description of a rather unusual bit of mainstream comic.

Quote of the Moment
A hypocrite is a person who--but who isn't?
Don Marquis, of Archy + Mehitabel fame. You know I love the poetry, but realize it's the George "Krazy Kat" Herriman that gives it 1/3 of its charm.

Art Game of the Moment
Continuing yesterday's instance of "things your eyes won't like very much", try 3D Stereogram Tetris... if you thought regular "Magic Eye" puzzles were tough or annoying, you ain't seen nothing yet.

c is for cookies. java is too.

(1 comment)
Programming note: cookies is one of those words that always looks a little misspelled.

(For the non-techies, "cookies" are these little bits of data that websites are allowed to keep on your browser, used to help recognize who you are when you return to a website and stuff like that.)

Yesterday at work H. asked about the web toolkit we're using, Wicket:
    "What does say about cookies?"
The weird bit is how Jonathan and E. responded in one voice:
    "It says they're yummy."
Weird, man

Video of the Moment

--"Eleven Twelve" by Braces Tower. It's funny that LAN3 NickB mentioned the original version of this video in the "Scary Sesame Street" post the other day, because I ran across the MP3 of this remix while cleaning up my home PC's desktop, and then sought out the Youtube for it. I love it, all yesterday I was singing "one two three FOUR FIVE six seven eight Nine Ten Eleven Twelve!"

Quote of the Moment
Seeing ourselves as others see us would probably confirm our worst suspicions about them.
Franklin P. Adams. I love how it's a much less facile quote than it first might seem.

furniture doesn't bleed so much

So I gave blood last night, yay me.

When you're lying there the cot waiting for them to finish setting up, they give you a little sheet with a number to call in case you need to tell them not to use your blood donation, like if you're coming down with a cold or some other health thing comes up.

The thing is, they always tend to put this sheet of paper on you. I guess they just don't want people, in their potentially slightly woozy state, to forget about it, but it does tend to make one feel a bit like a piece of furniture... "don't mind me, I was just going to be lying here for ten or fifteen minutes anyway."

Creepy Robot of the Moment
--this creeps Mr. Ibis the hell out. It really does look like the bottom half of two humans, and the cadaver-suggesting buzzing fly noise doesn't help...

Livejournal of the Moment
Candi pointed out the useless facts livejournal community. I'm digging it. (Oh, and happy late birthday Candi!)

the danger of graph paper

So finally at Staples I found what I was looking for, item 716522, spiral bound graph notepaper. (I could live without the 3 holes, but whatever.)

One day during a meeting I started to see if I could make an alphabet where each letter was a 2 x 2 grid of triangle and squares. My first attempt had little lines to help define letters, but then I wanted to see if I could make a font without those tweaks. The result was something like:

Not the most legible, but hey. Kind of looks like the old Pac-Man font.

So here's the Java applet I made to help me... you can type your own text.

To view this content, you need to install Java from java.com "trifontula" // source code // built with Processing

(The code is very raw, but clever in bits, especially some of how it draws the outline but not in the internal squares.)

I tried adding certain punctuation (especially what a URL would need) with mixed results. It's not the most useful font in the world, but I think it clearly shows the dangers of letting geeks take notes on graph paper.

i put on my robe and wizard hat

(1 comment)
Thinking about how historically bad I am at plotting vacations. I think one factor is... I dunno, other places don't interest me much just in the sense of being other places, that sense of "being elsewhere" doesn't feel like a relaxing change of pace. (It doesn't necessarily score highly on my "interesting"-based way of viewing the world and judging actions.)

But I'm happy to go some place if there's someone I want to see, or something particularly interesting to do.

How normal is that? I mean, I know "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation" idea is not uncommon, so I guess I'm not the only person who finds these things to require trade offs...

Silly GIF etc of the Moment
My very-late-release July loveblender is out. I kind of went with a bit of a Harry Potter theme.

I haven't read a book in the series after I quit two halfway (too much like the first, I thought at the time, and then the pagecounts started to go up up up) but I've been enjoying Wikipediaing some of the details, and that's where I'll go for Spoilers of the latest one... supposedly it has been leaked already, but I don't know who to trust, since there are conflicting reports. So I've read 3 or 4 different possible endings. And, you know, they're all fairly plausible, and might make a for a good wrap up. But of course, people want to know what REALLY happens. Though, duh, it's fiction, so nothing REALLY happens, there's just a "canonical" plot and all the others.

And in honor of the day, (vaguely) adult material, the finest in instant messaging cybersex, I put on my robe and wizard hat. Though I like the one about the rhino better. It's surprisingly hard to find the version I remember of these.

Geek News of the Moment
To merge two Nixon memes, You won't have Checkers to kick around anymore. Its been "solved". Though I'm not sure if that solving is that much of a detriment to actually playing it.

who are the people in your neighorhood?

(1 comment)
Personal History of the Moment
BoingBoing was (I guess) amused by the swearing and poor composition skills of a Councilman writing to a convicted drug seller. What caught my eye was how near it was my old street and church.

My main counter to people who assume I went to some kind of hick school in Cleveland is pointing out how they installed metal detectors there a year or so after I left.

a more pointless than usual entry

Had an odd dream where some little academic community, built around courtyard that had some kind of small nuclear reactor buried in the middle to provide for its power needs, was mysteriously cold and snowy even in the middle of summer. I suspected it was the reactor somehow gone awry but I didn't have any evidence.

Lyrics of the Moment
America rocks! America rocks!
From its busy bustling cities
To its quiet country walks
It's totally cool, it's totally hot
I mean it's like right there at the top
America rocks! America rocks! America rocks!
lyrics from a song by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), which he described as a "patriotic rock song for children"
I love the painfully self conscious use of "like". (via Bill the Splut who is currently writing entertaining reviews of this old time serial Manhunt of Mystery Island.)

Odd Nostalgia of the Moment
A boingboing plug for a book about "Objects with Unexpected Significance", little relics people have harped on, wouldn't have caught my eye except for the photo they used... I think I had this dog (which was made of wax or something?) when I was a kid. I was attached to it but my folks told me to leave it in the car "so the people in the store wouldn't think I stole it". Or something. I then vaguely remember stuffing it in the bell of my mom's trombone. Or something. This is not the most reliable of childhood memories, but darn it, I think I remember that dog.

two-fisted politics

You know, for primitive culture without many reflective surfaces, you'd think seeing your reflection in still water would be pretty deep magic, a basis for mythology... I mean, I guess a lot of animals get over it and don't seem to freak out about the "other", but still. Despite stuff like Narcissus and "Through the Looking Glass", I'm surprised reflections don't get nearly as much mythological play as, say, light vs. dark.

News of the Moment
One Laptop Per Child is underway, and already kids browsing porn is an issue. Actually, the morning before I read that story I heard about the progress of OLPC, and how they agonized about the $2.50 extra adding a camera to it would cost... for a second I wondered if "teen webcam girl" culture might spread through these potentially at-risk populations in the most vile ways imaginable. Mercifully, I don't think the economic infrastructure is there for that, but still.

Funny of the Moment
Cute Slate piece on what they should have asked at last nights Youtube debates:
Gentlemen, here's the scenario: As you are flying home from Moscow--having told the world you will never deal with terrorists--hijackers, posing as reporters, seize Air Force One. They vow to kill a hostage every half-hour, including your wife and daughter, until you release a murderous Russian general. I'll start with Senator Obama. Do you negotiate with the hijackers in the hope of saving lives, or do you flee into the bowels of the craft, then pick them off, one by one, with makeshift shanks and your bare hands?
Ah, sweet politics. May the most physically attractive candidate win, again, and may that be Senator Obama.

Game of the Moment
I posted some sandbox particle-based games earlier, but now they have little fighters who kick each other. Fun!

all the news that's fit to do the sudoku and then throw away

(1 comment)
So, Boston NOW seems to be edging out Boston Metro... at least I see more people handing it out, and more piles of it around.

I always feel a little bad for the people handing it out. As well as for the folks selling the more traditional papers.

Overall that seems like a lot of trees on a daily basis, and I wish there was a corresponding upgrade recycling program.

International News of the Moment
Slashdot reporting on Iranians capturing squirrels they claimed were spying, that is, wired with high tech gear and what not. "Wait Wait Don't Tell me" had the best line about it, roughly paraphrased:
I can just see the situation at the White House, Cheney turning to Bush at the conference table and saying "OK, we tried your idea, now could we please get back to business?
The show then devolved into Rocky the Flying Squirrel "Moose Undt Sqvierrel" jokes, but still.

Failed Products of the Moment
Format Wars, The Tech That Should Have Won. (Warning, gratuitously cheesy illustrations.) The (largely USAian) Slashdot readers thought it was junk as were the technologies it championed, but this gentleman points out that most of these did pretty well in the UK, where the article came from.

unclean sweep

History of the Moment
The glimpses of the infernal world that we get in Salem are highly incredible. The witches say prayers by a tall black man with a high-crowned hat--always with a high-crowned hat. They ride on sticks and poles, sometimes they are on brooms, and sometimes three are on one pole. One relates that a pole carrying two broke, but by holding fast to the one in front of her, the witch got safe to her destination. The witches fondle yellow birds, sucking them between their fingers, and one day a girl cries in meeting that a yellow bird sits on the minister's hat as it hangs on a pin on the pulpit. The witch usually sits on the great crossbeam of the meetinghouse, fondling the yellow bird. One man was seen to nurse two black pigs at his breasts. Sometimes a hog, sometimes a black dog, appears and says, "Serve me." Then the dog or pig "looks like a man," and this man has a yellow bird. Cats naturally abound, white cats and red cats and cats without color.
Edward Eggleston's "The Transit of Civilzation, excerpted in David Freeman Hawke's "Everyday Life in Early America".
I actually found the details in the excerpt to be really creepy, especially the color aspects.

The sticks and poles, sometimes brooms idea makes me think about how these Harry Potter-rich days it's always brooms. But are they always with the brush part backwards?

The Sexy Witch blog claims it's usually brush in back, but offers some counter-examples, including this striking postcard from 1907:

This page monstrous com witch page on brooms claims
At first, the brush end of a broom (or faggot), was pointed downwards so the witch could "sweep her tracks from the sky." Nevertheless, by the end of the 17th century, the reverse was true. Witches often rode with the faggot-end up, with a candle in the faggot to light the way to the Sabbath gathering place.
(Also pitchforks were 'popular', especially for guys.)

I wonder if the design of modern aircraft has helped cement the "brush in back" imagery, since it looks like a stabilizing tailfin (or possibly a source of jet propulsion, which provides a somewhat stronger link than a rotating propeller in front.)

salad bar, obesity, chimneys

So there's a "Souper Salad" in the building where I work. Unlike where I last worked the salad bar is fixed price and not by weight, so the incentive is to load up the plate, if you're paying six or seven bucks for a salad, you kind of want it to be a meal. They have lots of that pseudo-salad stuff like pasta salad and potato salad and sesame noodles. Overall the effect is like leftovers the day after a potluck; cold stuff that's alright, but nothing that anyone really likes.

Oh, yeesh, I realize I'm on the verge of becoming my own stereotype of how not to blog, "this is what I had for lunch today..."

Science of the Moment
That obesity is contagious meme that has been going around is, no pun intended, food for thought. I remember previous ideas that some obesity could be virus-related, and I'm not sure if this latest study absolutely pins down the cause and effect relationship. (Though it points out that the same effect happens for weight loss, but since that happens less often overall the effect is less pronounced.

Hate to think it could lead to some kind of shunning of heavy people.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the casual image of "obese" is probably closer to the strict definition of "morbidly obese". Meaning more people are technically obese than you might think, but that's because the standard is stricter.

Ingenuity of the Moment
No day passed when the fireplace was unused. As a result, soot accumulated quickly in the chimney. This could be hazardous when firs were the principal source for fuel, for they left behind a thick, tarry, highly flammable coating. Brooms were used to clean short chimneys. For taller ones it was not uncommon to drop a chicken or two down the chimney; their frantic wing-beating did a good job cleaning quickly.
David Freeman Hawke, "Everyday Life in Early America"

pitagora suitchi!

Video of the Moment
I've posted this kind of thing before, but this is simply the most charming and clever set of Rube Goldberg setups I've ever seen. I literally laughed with delight at some of these, used as bumpers in the Japanese kid's show PythagoraSwitch ("Pitagora Suitchi", which is the refrain that repeats at the end of each.) Well worth the 9 minutes...

Pythagora Switch from cereal griego on Vimeo.

(Via bb)

this july in photographs


the loosest slots in town

Took my coins in to the coinstar machine to be counted. $200! All in that plastic fishbowl-like container an order of Atomic Fireballs came in.

I guess I hadn't cashed in since moving 3 years ago, but still... considering that bowl had also been raided for bus fair and laundry, not bad.

You can avoid the 9% counting fee by taking out your money as a gift certificate, like to Amazon. So now I gotta see if I should make my backlog of reading that much bigger, or hold out 'til Christmas, or what.

Analysis of the Moment
Three somewhat related pieces, studies in "how do they do that": Slate had two similar video slideshows, the clichés of videogames and a deeper one on the 12 basic types of tv advertisements. A few days ago this comprehensive piece on the design of slot machines, from the machines themselves (I was a little shocked to realize how the "tightness" or "looseness" of slots was manipulated; I assumed it was luck of the draw) to the layout of the floors.

I kind of count myself fortunate that I feel zero draw to slots, because I've been known to get obsessive from time to time. The article mentions the skinner box aspect of it, lots of small payouts, and the promise of a tiny chance for the big payout... kind of like playing the lottery in real time. Me, I just get stressed at not winning and watching my starting money go inexorably down, and kind of bored by the machines that, while colorful and hypnotic, aren't as engrossing or interactive as the video games I grew up with.

The Ten Things Class that was the source of the slot machine study has a lot of interesting design bits, though not many are as fleshed out as the slots.

long ramble and a funny video

So, for around a week now I haven't had any soda. I haven't missed it much, a bit too my surprise.

Part of the impetus might have been EB sending along this Soft Drinks Linked to Metabolic Syndrome Risk link. There wasn't any particular reason why it should be a trigger for positive change over previous warnings, but so far, so good.

I made another odd health-related purchase... the StressEraser, a somewhat overpriced biofeedback-lite tool. In practice it's a breathing meditation guide gizmo, cue-ing when to exhale based on some light biometric data (pulse and heat, I think.) The net result reminds me a bit of the practice outlined in The Relaxation Response. Plus, err, Wired gave it 9/10.

(I should say that I'm more willing to risk a trip into the wonderful world of pricey electro-quackery after being delighted with DermaSeptic as a startlingly effective fever blister remedy. Forget the Abreva and all those goops, this is the only thing short of acyclovir/alacyclovir that works.)

Also this weekend I finally got to digging up all the 401K stuff I could find so as to enlist the aid of a new financial adviser. I've made the effort in the past, but with 7 job changes and just as many moves its been a mess, and I have evidence that some attempts to rollover failed, while other ones succeeded. (In digging through the paperwork, I found $5K in an old Scottrade account that I guess was a project of Mo's but went to me as part of the divorce settlement. W00T!)

QUESTION: I now have a big garbage bag full of old, potentially sensitive bills and other documents that I want to get rid of. It would take forever with my puny shredder. And, personally, I don't quite trust myself to make a bonfire on my own. Any suggestions?

In a similar vein I got (yet more) bookshelves. (Priced at $30 at Tags, though the computer thought they were $50.) So I reorganized the front room/shared workspace of the apartment. Plus, I sorted through the old stash of Atari games, took out the ones I really care about (mostly head to head games, a few others) and am getting the rest ready for Ebay.

So, I'm optimistic about my life decluttering and simplification efforts. This was a good weekend for them, and I need to ride that to make my apartment and financial environment

Quote of the Moment
The most effective way to do it, is to do it.
. Guess I showed that this weekend! Though one shouldn't forget the old technique of "productive task avoidance", setting one unpleasant task against another.

Link of the Moment
Yeesh, after all that prattling you deserve an amusing video:

--Recruitment Spot from the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force's. I want to go fight for Japan! Via 5 Military Recruitment Ads That Suck, which also includes the Spanish-language US spot with the Latino who went on to get killed in Iraq, whoops, and a painfully blatant "soldiers are attractive to women!" spot from Ukraine.

The Who Sucks site is interesting. A bit overly cynical, but it reminds me of what I think was the original mandate of (long lost) suck.com: websites that suck.

2007 July❮❮prevnext❯❯