Monday, February 21, 2005


Hunter S. Thompson, requiescat in pacem.


It's enough to make me want to go get a bottle of scotch and a 44 magnum loaded with tracer rounds, to see that hot metal hurtling across the night sky. I think the good doctor would've approved...

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Friday, February 18, 2005


I was just out waiting at the ATM next door to get cash for the pizza delivery, and as I am wont to do when waiting around at night, I was looking up at the sky. Orion was nicely placed, and there was ruddy Betelgeuse on Orion's shoulder. I was contemplating a book I just finished which featured Betelgeuse going supernova as a plot point. Betelgeuse is the most likely candidate star near us to go supernova in the next while (we think), and if that should happen it could be a Very Bad Thing. Depending upon how much gamma radiation it might produce, our ozone layer could be completely ionized, ending most interesting life on this planet. It's a very pretty star though, one of the few bright enough for our eyes to discern its color.

While pondering this cheery thought, I saw a very bright satellite drifting slowly across the sky. After getting back in the house, I was able to use the incredibly cool Heavens-Above website to quickly identify my little moving blip of light as the Hubble Space Telescope.

The book, by the way, was Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer, and is a very good read if you're interested in things like paleontology, the evolution vs. intelligent design debate, theology, museum politics, and the possible nature of an alien first contact scenario. Sawyer's website is pretty extensive, and contains a lot of interesting nuggets. I'm still exploring it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Musical Realism

M____ requested the movie Xanadu from the library and we picked it up tonight. (or last night, Wednesday, since I haven't been able to synch blogger to my own time)

You do know you can do that, don't you? Your local library system is, even as we speak, adding titles to their collection of movies. In our system, you can even type in "DVD" or "VHS" into the online search page and get an alphabetical list to request from, and have them delivered to the closest branch to your house. This week was Xanadu, last week was the first season of M*A*S*H, last month Yale lectures on Existentialism and Shakespeare's Twelvth Night. More varied than a video store, if not as well represented in new releases. Remember, libraries get public money based upon how much we use them! Next time you want to rent a movie, think about your local library!

You're already paying for it, so use it!

Anyway, I was as enchanted by Olivia Newton John as was the rest of my generation back in 1980, which may not mean anything to people not of my age. But trust me, she could do no wrong in 1980.

I only saw this on TV, because I was, well, a twelve year old boy and neither me nor any of my twelve year old friends would dare cop to wanting to see this to each other. So I saw it on TV a year or so later. Adored the soundtrack for ELO as much as ONJ, which I never owned because a whole ablum was a bit much for our household budget at the time. Read all the lyrics and credits at Aunt Chris' house, to be sure-- "'Destiny-y' will arive, not "destined the eve' will arrive! Ahhhh." I had a lot of 45s, though. $1.49 fit within my allowance, but $6.99 didn't.

Seeing it again, I think I may actually have liked it more than I did when I was twelve. This isn't usually the case as most movies completely suck when I watch them again. When the TV broadcast rolled around, the magic had worn off and it just seemed a bit cheesy. There was probably some lingering resentment about not being able to afford the soundtrack album, as well, but who knows...

Okay, it's still cheesy, but cheese which has aged and which a refined palate, properly prepared for the experience, can discern elements to appreciate in the proper context. Some nostalgia ages well, and some gets musty and bitter and best left alone. Then again, there's no cheese so musty and bitter that you can't find someone else to appreciate it, but Xanadu is many things but not bitter by any means!

The pacing still sucks, though, and there's no getting around that.

However, I've now got an excuse to finally rent TRON, since the visual effects guys from Xanadu who did all the back projection work which M____ really liked went on to greater glory there.

Tonight, I actually had seen enough movies and understood enough about the history of the movie musical to get all the many references to past movie musicals. And there were a lot. I had no idea who Gene Kelly was when I was 12, for instance, not to mention other obvious nods to people like Busby Berkeley. M____ is right about Kelly, though, he looks much less gay here than he did when he was younger and wearing a tight sailor suit all the time :)

In watching it and talking about musicals in general, I came up with an interesting phrase. She had pointed out that in the tap scene, sometimes their shoes tapped, and sometimes they were soft. Then in the next musical scene, I noticed that the "recording studio" they were in would be lousy for recording, but made a great dance area. I'd been thinking for a while about the literary concepts of Magical Realism, which I enjoy, and the ways in which cinematic magical realism differs from the literary kind.

I think that there needs to be a term Musical Realism which describes the genre of art where the presence of music alters the demands of physical reality. If there's a good song playing (from where? don't ask...) then you just dance around and six months of work and promotion gets done in an afternoon!


In another note, when you make homemade half-whole wheat rolls and have dough left over, you can put it into a plastic baggie and save it for a few days in the fridge. Used the leftover Valentine's Day dough for pizza tonight. I should probably develop a post on tomato sauce for pizza vs. tomato sauce for pasta, because they're two very different things, and M____ tells me I do both quite well.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


We had a nice, low-key Valentine's Day yesterday. M____ had her poetry class last night, so who was I to compete with three hours studying The Romantics?

She gave me a fun little grow your own chili peppers kit. Growing peppers has been a hobby of mine for a few years now, so it's nice to get another variety to play with. As she pointed out, they will turn red eventually!

On my side, I made one of her favorite meals: quiche, salad, home-made rolls, and Breyer's vanilla-bean with chocolate fudge ice cream for dessert. I also borrowed the DVD of Pretty in Pink from our cool next door neighbors and presented her with a very pretty rose when I picked her up from class. The rose has opened up nicely today and looks even better than it did yesterday. It's a nice multicolor with dark red edges turning to gold and warm orangish-pink in the middle.

Inspired by an evening studying lots of poetry about sex and death, we used a Halloween champagne flute as a bud vase. It has a plastic skeletal hand rising up out of a pentagram base as the stem holding the glass proper.

Today I saw an interesting page on the history of Valentine's Day. If you're someone who refuses to celebrate the Christian holidays which are actually re-named pagan holidays, looks like you should add Valentine's Day to the list. Others include Groundhog Day, Easter, May Day, Halloween, and of course Christmas.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

One Ring Zero

We saw an amazing show last night at Octavia Books, the wonderfully twisted duo One Ring Zero, and had a great time. How many other bands could move one to exclaim, "righteous theremin solo!" Not many, to be sure. And I totally want a claviola now.

I first heard about them on Neil Gaiman's online journal, and was intrigued enough to make a mental post-it note to check them out sometime. If they ever play nearby, do go see them.

The songs of their latest CD feature lyrics contributed by 17 top authors and the ones they played at the show last night were all fascinatingly fun. A must for literary geeks everywhere.

One highlight was a song penned by Paul Auster called Natty Man Blues which will be very amusing to anyone who's ever lived in Cincinnati. We both loved it.

At one point in the show they threatened the crowd with Free Bird as a joke, but I think that it would have totally rocked on accordian and claviola, personally. One of my favorite concert memories is of seeing The Slobs launch into a perfect version of it when some drunk joker in the crowd called it out.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Numb3rs, again.

Watched Numb3rs again this week, and remain pleasantly surprised by this program.

Still no serial killers or pornographic violence against women since the pilot, and, yes, this is a good thing in my book. I can't stand more than five minutes of most other crime investigation shows, but I actually look forward to watching this one. Not just me, but my partner in crime *cough* enjoys it as well, so it seems to appeal to the female and male(?) demographics. It remains quite distinct from the typical, not only because I'm a math guy and I loved Northern Exposure and Taxi but the general level of production quality seems well above average. Glad to see Ridley Scott isn't selling himself cheaply.

The quality of dialogue seems to suffer sometimes, as they seem to be more worried about getting the ideas into play moreso than relationships, or as much as the relationships. This really isn't a complaint as the dialogue is still well above the TV median, and given the limitations of the format I can't see how they'd do much better in trying to foward both ideas and relationships, but it's just an observation.

Lady M____ did point out that to be a modern, sexy mathematician I don't have the right hair, as my do doesn't use enough Product. I should seriously consider this if I ever get back to grad school in math. I've been doing what I refer to as the "Buddhist monk" look-- a self-shaved head using a 1/4" guard on the clippers, but the trendy thing among TV and movie mathematicians seems to be gently tousled curls. Which I can do, but I need some length. Have to think hard about this since I live in the tropics and hate sweating. To tousle or not to tousle?


What a crappy week. I've been down with a nasty intestinal bug which has sapped most of my will to live, and the less said about that the better. Pepto hasn't been able to keep up, so I stepped up to Immodium tonight, and I guess we'll see... *bleh*

I'm just going to shut up after tonight about my lack of posting frequency, because it seems to be asking for trouble.

In looking at the blogs of various folks who seem to actually be popular enough to be paid for this type of narcissism, I've noticed a certain amount of filler which I've tried to avoid among those who manage to post daily. Then again, I initially only promised to post daily, and never-ever mentioned any qualitative parameters... hmmmm... I suppose it was too much to ask of myself to write something interesting daily, when the exercise was just to get in the habit of writing itself. Quality is not the goal, merely a nice frosting. I think I was not posting unless I had some sprinkles, much less frosting. Let's work on the cake afore decoratin'.

I would, however, like to work towards more quality, but in the meantime my goal is to simply get back to daily postings. I'll go for quality whenever it presents itself, but no promises. In guessing who might actually be reading this, here's a list of filler topics which I may resort to if I don't have anything more interesting to say:

cooking / what I made for dinner
books I've finished
movies I've watched
observations / annoyances


I'm leaning towards the cooking one. A number of folks have commented favorably upon my culinary skills, a number of folks possibly reading this seem to like reading and chatting about cooking, and it seems to be the filler topic which might include the most original material. Recipie? I ain' got no recipes. I don' cook wit' no recipes. We don' need no steenking recipes!

Here's a last topic: getting pedantic about words

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and I've got a little knowledge about many things involved with words, historical linguistics, etymology, and so on. Not grammar, mind you, as if my cavalier comma usage and irreverant fragments weren't clues enough, but words themselves.

Not sure I can come up with daily blathering about that last one, so I'm still voting for cooking. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Trying to get back up to speed on posting, and sorry for the hiatus. I could blame Mardi Gras, and living in New Orleans it'd be a great excuse... but it's my own laziness and distraction, honestly. Apologies again *sigh*

My commitment to daily posts was of course a goal, rather than a promise. I have been missing the mark, technically sinning, which is what that term originally meant in Hebrew. I wonder how sinning wandered from, "Oops, try again!" to "You're going to suffer torment for all eternity"? Anyway...

Someone posted a vague and anonymous comment to this post, and while I answered there, I thought it was an important enough point to warrant it's own topic.

Blogger is annoying about comments, requiring people to register in order to comment if the host doesn't allow anonymous comments. That seems silly to me as it does not allow people to conceal their identity if they so wish and I'm in favor of options which promote free speech. This being my sandbox, I'm always free to dictatorially delete anything egregious, so what the hell...

However, I just want to state that I'm much more likely to feel like responding to your comments if there is an identifier of some sort. So if you want to kibbitz or don't feel like a response or are making wit or whatever, anonymize away! If you want to chat please do something like put a name, initials, or identity at the end of your post even if you don't feel like registering, e.g.:

Blather, I found on google.
Blather, you moron!

So, then I can conversationally start my answer in a much more friendly, pleasing, and civilised manner, "L'Idiot, you ignorant slut..." or "Thanks for the info, L'Idiot, you've saved me and countless others from a lifetime of useless toil!"

Thank you!

Visualizing the year

A while back I saw this interesting calendar which maps the year onto a circle instead of the usual grid, which never clicked with me intuitively.

I've always visualized the year as being roughly oval, so I was very excited to see something which hopefully would closely match my inner picture. There were enough differences from my inner year, however, to make this calendar as frustrating for me to use as the regular sort. I'm excited by their idea so I may eventually get around to making one which fits my own perceptions, poster-sized and laminated for writing. A rotating underlay with days of the week and little cutout windows for it on the main page would be handy as well. Not sure what to do about leap years, but just shifting a day on leap day seems simplest, with a little sticky note on the calendar for leap years before 2/28 as a reminder. Couldn't have this feature on a oval version, though. Have to ponder which would matter more to me, a perfect adaptation of my inner psychological year, or a quite handy tool to identify the dates to weekdays, which in my mind is the only benefit of the grid style calendars. Probably the latter.

Their year is a perfect circle, with the shortest day at the very top, and January 1 just a little bit clockwise of that. My inner year is an oval with the shortest day near the bottom, and the year goes counterclockwise. Odd, yet fascinating, that they chose to orient the circle based upon astronomical information, rather than calendric. I'm sure pagans and the like will be enthusiastic.

An odd bit of trivia to bring up here is that the actual shortest day isn't the same as the earliest sunset or the latest sunrise, which more affect psychological perceptions of the day's length. None of these correspond to the earth's distance from the sun, the actual closest distance (aphelion) oddly happens in early January.

From a very early age I had vivid mental pictures of such things as the year and numbers. Neither picture really lined up well with how these things were taught to me. My inner view of numbers is really weird, based upon how I added to ones I already knew (there's a right angle turn at 10, for instance).

I always saw the year as a rough oval larger in width than height. Winter at the bottom, with the week between Christmas and New Years being at the centerpoint (Christmas is before, and New Year after). The year proceeds counterclockwise from January 1 near the bottom. Since this visualization was formed in early Childhood, the area around Christmas takes up the most space, so I guess it's an ovoid rather than an oval. December is much larger than the other months. September is a bit larger as well, since it's the start of school and includes my birthday. The area around "now" seems to expand a bit in my mind too.

Summer is the brightest, colored with a hint of yellow, Spring with a vague greenish cast, Fall with a hint of brown, and Winter with greys. All colors are very faint, and brightness varies as well and much more vividly than color, there being a sharp contrast at January 1 and at the beginning and ending of typical Summer vacation. There's also a bit of variation around Thanksgiving, and in general my inner texture still corresponds to the typical school year.

I'll think about it some more, as my inner view is still more complex than I've related it, but I'm not sure how to accurately describe it. I'll add details in comments.

How do you all picture the year in your minds?