Reading Offline: Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments
by Alex Boese
Really odd book about various "scientific" experiments, some gruesome, many just insane. Have't yet gotten to the elephants on acid part, but am definitely freaked out by the "let's decapitate an animal and try to keep just the head alive" chapter. Ugh.
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay
by Nancy Milford
I never read much of Millay before, but Milford wrote a really interesting biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, so I was interested to see her next book. Still in the first chapter, but the prolog was amusing in itself. I always appreciate reading the background of how the author started on the book.
Kitchen Confidential Updated Ed: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
by Anthony Bourdain
I gave this to Jon as a gift a while back and only just recently remembered I never did borrow and read it myself. Am very amused so far. Sadly it's not the updated edition I've linked to - preface in our copy's dated Nov. 2000. Wonder what's been added/changed/corrected.
The New Kings of Nonfiction
by Ira Glass
Collection of nonfiction articles previously published in various magazines. Bought a while back in an airport and there are still a few articles I haven't finished reading. I really liked the Bill Buford article that became Among the Thugs.
Batgrl is a pop culture junky who loves to mess about with cameras and video games. And is constantly amused by Jon, who she did honest and truly did meet online. Though she's been blogging since the '90s, evil sp@m'rs managed to break the old blog, and thus there's only more recent stuff here. (No great loss, actually!)
Where You Might Find Me.... - 2011-08-01 19:46:54
So I've gotten absorbed by the borg-like thing that is the Google+ Beta Experience. If you too want to try the absorption process and see if it's nicer than Facebook (it is), drop me an email. (Check the left hand column at the end for the particulars.)
For some reason I'm more mellow about sharing stuff in G+ over Facebook, but some of that has to do with owning an Android phone. Once you have one of those you get used to Google shepherding (for good or bad) your contacts, etc. Anyhow we'll see what the G+ beast looks like outside of beta. At the moment it's a fun way of pestering my parents with a new technology that they will gleefully lurk in yet never actually post a comment with. (Sigh.) It's going to be a useful system for those folk that require different messages sent to different groups of people. Example: a teacher who has multiple groups of students (perhaps a group for each class), a group of fellow teachers/coworkers, and then the friends and family groups. This is easily set up in Google+ Circles.
Anyhow I'm found here. I do need to get a better bat-ish icon to use over there - will work on that later.
Alas, TNT doesn't show these great movie marathons any more. Then again, I have to admit I have no idea what that channel does broadcast anymore, since I stopped watching it when the programming choices went into dullsville.
152 CommentsThinking of Japan - 2011-03-14 21:56:03
Living on the west coast always has made me very aware that we share an ocean with countries to the west of us. And being earthquake prone ourselves, we're spending most of our time watching nothing but what's going on with Japan on tv. We quickly got tired of CNN and are watching mostly NHK World's English translation. The more we watch the more I think that California may be somewhat prepared, but it's nowhere near the level of preparedness that Japan has. We do everything on a local basis - but there's no national preparation for earthquakes. This seems like a bad idea. There's an idea around that unless you're a coastal state it won't matter to you - but California produces a lot of the fruits and vegetables that supply the US, and that's just one among many things the coastal states supply. And yes, we have one nuclear plant on the coast and it's not far from San Diego and Los Angeles, both heavily populated areas. There may be other plants on the coast - but I'm thinking of the one we've driven past multiple times. So yes, given the right size of quake and a follow up tsunami, we could have a similar situation.
So all the news we watch about Japan - well, I just keep thinking of all this happening to a country that is, in a way, a neighbor. And I hate to see the devastation, and empathize with all the people who have lost so much.
Anyhow, here are some of the many articles that I've found moving and/or helpful in understanding what's going on.
Here's the link for Global Voices coverage of the quake: Japan Earthquake 2011
I've found many of the posts at Global Voices interesting for the more local, first person reaction to what's happening. From that page: "What we do: Global Voices bloggers from East Asia report on how citizens use the internet and social media to make their voices heard, often translating from a variety of different languages."
Time Out Tokyo
If you ignore all of twitter, at least check this one. It's the Time Out magazine twitter for Tokyo which is the usual go to place for info on movies, concerts, night life, etc. - and now is doing an excellent job of not only passing on news but translating press conferences, info on blackouts, etc. I'm deeply impressed with whoever's behind writing it (one person? a team?), and there's a story waiting there for any western journalist who could step up and interview them.
I'll add more links as I find them.
Many links via the following threads on MeFi - note, they're both very long and you should prepare for a long load time, depending on your internet speed.
One is "shikata ga nai," which roughly translates as "it can't be helped," and is a common reaction to situations beyond one's control. The other is "gaman," considered a virtue. It means to be patient and persevere in the face of suffering."
A Squid Saga and Other Photos - 2011-01-16 21:30:56
First of all, here in a place of honor, is the Giant Plush Squid that resides in our living room.
In this photo the squid is carefully arranged so you don't see his injuries. More on that in a bit.
So this is the squid that Jon bought me in Monterey at the Aquarium something like five years ago. At the aquarium gift shop I had really liked this giant squid plush, but of course it would be silly to buy such a thing, so on we went to eat lunch. We decided to eat at the Bubba Gump restaurant - because it was there and seemed the most immediate source of quick food. Also there was an actor sitting on a bench outside, dressed as Forrest Gump.
I have to add at this point that I hate the movie Forrest Gump, and have never watched the thing all the way through - as problematic as that may sound. I find movies about the "magical/noble" handicapped/disabled person just as uncomfortable as the "magical" black person or the "magical" native American - no matter how well it's done, I just don't get into those sorts of storylines. (There's a Pudd'nhead Wilson tangent I could go on here, plus the fact that I was living in the south at the time, but I'm trying to be brief.) And I also didn't like Tom Hanks in that role. So the film was just ugh for me in multiple ways. Didn't ever make a big deal of it at the time, just kept quiet and rolled my eyes a bit when everyone went on about the film. (Unless you were talking about the special effects using archival film, which was cool and I have seen those portions of the film multiple times.) But then I didn't like Titanic (except for the sets, costumes and FX, those were great) and never have bothered to see Avatar. Anyhow that's all background.
Back to Monterey, where Jon wants me to sit next to a character I hate and get my photo taken - and of course we all know that I dislike having my photo taken. But then he says "if you do it I'll get you that plush squid." And I should point out that this is a seriously large squid - 4ft from top of the head to the end of the longest tentacle. I dither a bit, but I will do most anything for that squid, so Jon had his photo. And I got away from the actor playing Gump as soon as possible, I forget if he was in character the whole time - I think so. Not a job I envy. So we ate lunch, returned to the Aquarium gift shop, and I carried the squid around the rest of the day and was ridiculously pleased with it.
There you have it, the squid's past. I've been particularly happy once I put it in the living room - seems the right place. And now the tragic part of the story. First of all, it sometimes gets cold in California. Or at least, I get cold. I can get cold when it's 90 degrees outside - my internal thermostat is always out of whack that way. And of course Jon, man raised in the wilds of Montana where winter is long, never gets cold. Thus I have a space heater next to my desk. Problem was that we had too many things plugged into the living room electrical circuit, so I'd turn on the heater and in a bit the circuit would blow. So we plugged the heater into a heavy duty extension cord and all was well. So we thought. We began to smell something burning, but never could locate where the smell was coming from. Until I found this:
For a comedy show about news, it always amazes me when Stewart pulls back from the funny and just says what I think a lot of people feel, and doesn't focus on the usual blame. It's nice to look through all the blather and find the hopeful. This is a bit long - you do have to wait through the part where they do the Jon Oliver in Panda pajammas visual gag. A visual gag which is actually rather sweet, considering the news has been making a lot of us in desperate need of something to smile about, even if it is that the depressing news makes us want to regress to childhood comforts. (Also I noted the Wham poster on his wall and snickered. Oops, sorry, I meant Wham! - forgot the exclamation point that I think was part of the name.)
Also I'm extremely happy that we don't have working cable tv right now because I know I've not missed anything by not watching any television news coverage.
Still dealing with what I thought was a cold from Christmas (might be allergy, not sure) - will be getting around to emails that I've been meaning to reply to, I promise! Currently Halls Honey Lemon cough drops rule my world. I think I probably just need to drink more hot tea.
The Toynbee tiles (also called Toynbee plaques) are messages of mysterious origin found embedded in asphalt in about two dozen major cities in the United States and four South American capitals. Since the 1980s, several hundred tiles have been discovered. They are generally about the size of an American license plate, but sometimes considerably larger. They contain some variation on the following inscription:
IN Kubrick's 2001
ON PLANET JUPITER.
It's completely up in the air as to whether these tiles/mosaics actually mean anything and if so what the message actually is. But as art they're really fascinating.
The cool thing about the tiles is that they're laid into the asphalt and then sink into the tar as the cars drive over it. If they're made by placing a covering layer of the asphalt over the top of the tiles then you won't see the tiles at all at first, and actually must wait until the top layer wears away before the full tile is exposed.
I keep looking for a How To Make page somewhere, preferably with lots of photos (I love a good step by step photo story), but nothing so far.
...Ah but once I looked under linoleum asphalt mosaics - I found this video:
Later: Now that it's been a couple of months since I wrote this I'm still looking for someone writing on the science of scanners. The scanners had to be tested, I know there were some mentions of FOI requests for testing data, but nada in the news, which must mean that data still isn't released. From a tech angle this just seems odd - but then I guess it's not really possible to publish anything if you can't get the data. And this isn't the first time I've sighed and wished for more science and facts in my news stories. We need more quantitative data junkies in the news biz.
Jon and I are both following the TSA new scanning and opt out for full body pat down thing that's creating such a headache for people traveling. Thankfully I'm not flying in the next two months - if I was I'd opt for public pat down simply because I'm having a hard time getting information on exactly what the scan entails. There's just not enough information out there on the radiation/possible health issues to make a knowledgeable judgment, so I'd say no. (Not to mention my suspicion that we'll eventually see these images posted on the internet, even though the scan'd images are currently not being saved - I somehow don't trust TSA to secure its own data, not to mention train or pay its employees well.) I also think a lot of the problem here is that the public wasn't warned to expect this - it's as though someone at TSA really thinks that everyone will just accept any treatment these days with the excuse of "it's for your safety." I think that this recent attitude has gone a bit far, and isn't particularly believable.
Interestingly I was having a conversation about this with Jon (to let him know I'd opt out of the scan and in for the pat down) and then the next day this happened:
Oceanside man challenges airport's full-body scan
LA Now/LA Times, November 15, 2010
"A recording made by an Oceanside man who refused to undergo a full-body scan at San Diego International Airport over the weekend has gone viral as Internet viewers ferociously debate whether airport security measures have gone too far..."
Man faces $11K fine for refusing TSA screening
FOX 5 San Diego Staff, Chicago Tribune, November 15, 2010
"An Oceanside man who blogged about a confrontation with security officials at the San Diego airport could be slapped with a civil penalty of up to $11,000 for violating federal law, a Transportation Security Administration official said Monday.
"What he's done, he's violated federal law and federal regulations which states once you enter and start the process you have to complete it," said Michael Aguilar.
Aguilar, the TSA's federal security director in San Diego, told reporters at a news conference outside Lindbergh Field Monday, that the agency has opened an investigation, which could result in a civil penalty because the man refused to complete the security scanning process.
"Once a passenger has entered into that screening process, he cannot opt out of it,'' Aguilar said. "We conduct our screenings under the auspices of the 4th amendment...constitution of the 4th amendment that allows us to do administrative screenings and searches."..."
And the blog of John Tyner, the man in question: Insert Title Here (that's the name of it, not a note to self) for his own words, specific post is TSA encounter at SAN, and the follow up posts after it.
And that's when I realized that this wasn't some distant choice because now our airport in San Diego has those types of full body scanning machines.
Some other media links to ponder:
If you won't go through screening, you won't fly, TSA says
Washington Post, November 17, 2010
"Airline passengers who object to any type of physical screening are not going to fly anywhere, the head of the Transportation Security Administration told a congressional committee Tuesday.
...[TSA Administrator John S.] Pistole told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that his inspectors at 453 of the nation's airports are not going to back down in the face of complaints that techniques are invasive."
TSA chief likely to face lawmakers' questions on pat-downs, body scans
CNN, November 17, 2010
"...Earlier on Tuesday, a public interest research group said it was suing the Department of Homeland Security in a freedom of information lawsuit intended to obtain medical records and studies that it says the agency has relied on for its use of body scanners. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has also asked authorities to suspend the use of advanced imaging technology and called for public hearings into its use, center spokesman Marc Rotenberg said."
Should We Worry About Radiation Exposure From New Airport Scanners?
By Meredith Melnick Wednesday, Healthland/Time.com, November 17, 2010
"...Whether or not you feel the new backscatter body scans (let alone the security gropes) are an overly humiliating invasion of privacy, there's no arguing that the scans expose you to extra radiation. Many passengers and some scientists say the excess radiation exposure could pose a health hazard to frequent fliers and to young children. ...For its part, the Allied Pilots Association, the pilot's union, publicly advised its members — who are scanned two to three times per day during the course of their work — to opt for private pat-downs instead of the scan, noting that "airline pilots in the United States already receive higher doses of radiation in their on-the-job environment than nearly every other category of worker in the United States, including nuclear power plant employees.""
Strip Search: How Safe are Airports' New X-ray Scanners?
By Alice Park Saturday, Oct. 09, 2010
"...The backscatter numbers, however, seemed too good to be true to several scientists, including John Sedat, a biophysics professor at the University of California, San Francisco. After studying the degree of detail obtained in the seconds-long scans, the scientists wondered how the radiation exposure could be so low. The answer, they concluded, lay in how the manufacturer and government officials measured the dose: by averaging the exposure from the beam over the volume of the entire body. This is how scientists measure exposure from medical X-rays, which are designed to zap straight through bone and tissue. But backscatter beams skim the body's surface. Sedat and his colleagues maintain that if the dose were based only on skin exposure, the result would be 10 to 20 times the manufacturer's calculations."
The next story about scans with similar equipment from a Federal courthouse is relevant - all these scanners can save the images, they're just currently set not to store them. Or they're supposed to be set that way - we sort of have to take this on faith.
One Hundred Naked Citizens: One Hundred Leaked Body Scans
"At the heart of the controversy over "body scanners" is a promise: The images of our naked bodies will never be public. U.S. Marshals in a Florida Federal courthouse saved 35,000 images on their scanner. These are those images. A Gizmodo investigation has revealed 100 of the photographs saved by the Gen 2 millimeter wave scanner from Brijot Imaging Systems, Inc., obtained by a FOIA request after it was recently revealed that U.S. Marshals operating the machine in the Orlando, Florida courthouse had improperly-perhaps illegally-saved images of the scans of public servants and private citizens."
The images in the Gizmodo article are a lot more pixely than the images I've seen in other media for the airport scanners - no idea what's accurate depiction. Meanwhile I think the one thing we've learned with technology is that if someone takes a photo/image of something, eventually it will leak to the net - whether it's legal to post it or not.
Apparently the TSA were stupid enough to mess with Penn Jillette. If you know anything about Penn*, you'll know that he is not the person to try and intimidate. Besides the fact that he's 6ft6, he's fairly well known as an advocate of personal freedom. Not the person to try and intimidate.
Federal V.I.P Penn - 11/13/02
Penn Jillette's blog of Penn & Teller
"... He said, "Once you cross that line, I can do whatever I want."
I said that wasn't true. I say that I have the option of saying no and not flying. He said, "Are you going to let me search you, or do I just throw you out?"
... I said that I had talked to two lawyers and they said it was really a weird case because no one knows if he can be charged with assault and battery while working in that job. But I told her, that some of my lawyer friends really wanted to find out. She said, "Well, we're very new to this job..." and I said, "Yeah, so we need these test cases to find out where you stand."
She said, "Well, you know a LOT about this." I said, "Well, it's not really the right word, but freedom is kind of a hobby with me, and I have disposable income that I'll spend to find out how to get people more of it." "
I am a bit confused by the date - I can't tell but this seems to be dated 2002. If so, has TSA been using this line for that long?
UCSF scientists speak out against airport full-body scans, November 4, 2010
"Four UCSF scientists sent a letter last April to the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, expressing concern about the health risks of full body scanners being implemented at U.S. airports. The co-signers were David Agard, PhD, John Sedat, PhD, (emeritus), and Robert Stroud, PhD, all professors of biochemistry and biophysics, and Marc Shuman, MD, professor of medicine (hematology/oncology)."
More..... 13 CommentsSomething I Wish I Lived Closer To: Halloween Iron Pour - 2010-11-11 00:23:12
Who wouldn't enjoy watching molten iron being poured in the evening?
Iron Guild’s 6th annual Iron Pour
"The Iron Guild’s 6th Annual Halloween Pour at the Steel Yard in Providence tonight featured zombie attacks, moody electronic music and molten metal." [Photos at this link!]
The announcement of the event: Iron Guild's 6th Annual Halloween Pour is Friday
"...Gates open at 6 p.m. and the live motel metal pour runs from 7 to 8 p.m. ...This year they’re talking about zombies, brains and candy.
The pour will be preceded at 6 p.m. by bike art and costume building with Recycle-A-Bike, a pumpkin flinging trebuchet, and a ceramic bowl sale by The Steel Yard’s Ceramics Cooperative to support its ceramics department and resident artists. Hot cider and snacks will be available by donation."
"Each year, the Steel Yard teams up with the Iron Guild to demonstrate the industrial arts in an exciting, accessible way. Our annual Iron Pour is a luminous spectacle in celebration of the fall season here in Providence. This year's performance promises to be in keeping with the dramatic displays of the past with a monster theme.
Our incredible displays of molten metal in the past have included: liquid iron being poured into a huge, hand-carved wooden skull and casting the insides of pumpkins while a giant steel one was brought to life. Like those of the past, the 2010 Iron Pour is sure to be a sight to see during this Halloween weekend."
And now for something completely different - bumped into this while looking at melted metal: Final list of Worst Public Art Nominations
Secretly I love lists like this. And I almost always find something I like looking at - though not necessarily something I'd put in my yard. If I had a yard, that is.
And check out this video of a shark swimming near surfers: Chuck Patterson Shark Video
"Half Moon Bay, CA - Aug 12, 2010 - Yesterday, legendary sportsman Chuck Patterson posted a video to Vimeo that showed the world a new perspective on the interactions between surfers & Great White Sharks... i decided to go back out at around the same time and take my GO PRO HD HERO camera mounted (with the GoPro handlebar mount) on a 10 ft pole and do some exploring. Sure enough within 5 minutes a 9 ft shark came out of no where and circled twice and slapped his tail on my board before disappearing. then a minute later a 7 ft young juvenile Great White swam circles around me for 12 minutes."