Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Friday, November 06, 2009
I can talk to you until you're bored about percentages of CMYK color, but I'm pretty helpless in the RGB environment, let alone more arcane schemes. I'd be more inclined to advocate for teaching people to more closely observe their surroundings so they could reference appropriate phenomena to describe colors.
If you're from New Hampshire, for example, you could probably be relied on to know what kind of blue is the blue of a Karner blue butterfly, and you could show the uninitiated a photo to describe that necktie or blouse you saw... And so on, ad infinitum.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
You can demonstrate a remarkable exception through a simple procedure. Take a flash camera into a room with patterned wallpaper or a picture on the wall. It should be a room that can be darkened (an interior bathroom with a towel against the bottom crack is ideal). Turn off the lights and dark adapt for 5 minutes. Now, while holding your arm outstretched with an open hand toward the wallpaper or picture, aim and click the camera so the flash hits your hand. In a second or two, you will see a strong positive afterimage of your hand against the wallpaper. Now, move your hand downward. What did you see? What do you think happened?
When I carried out the kinesthetic capture observation above (not my design, but that of J. Seiver, or whoever JS got it from), I did as instructed, using a flashbulb to illuminate my hand against a visually interesting background. Here's what I observed:
In the moment of the flash, I didn't see much except "wow, that's bright!" Then I dropped my hand. Within a second, I saw a strong image of my hand and arm in a uniform magenta, as though my arm was still outstretched. I blinked, then saw my arm and hand outstretched in full color against the background, which also was in color but not as vivid as my hand and arm. After watching for a few seconds, the colorful scene faded, and I saw my hand and arm in cyan for a while before the scene faded away. I did the observation three times, too, just to enjoy it.
So, what happened? I think that by adapting to the darkness beforehand and then only having illumination for a moment, I set my visual system up to be fooled into seeing a false representation of the scene. I think the illusion is an outcome you'd expect when you essentially shut down the visual system then give it a brief flash of a scene then shut down the inputs again. It's reasonable to surmise the visual system has a feature analogous to the vestibular sense, and that the most recent output has an echo.
A corollary experiment involves just wiggling your fingers or making a fist with your arm in place after the flash. When I tried this, I found the afterimage blinked and never resolved completely as it did the scene did when I dropped my arm. I tried this again leaving my arm in as close to the same place as I could while turning my hand so that instead of having my palm outstretched I had the back of my hand turned outward. So I had my palm out when I hit the flash, then turned my hand inward. I saw, clearly but in dimmer light, my palm turned inward, then the afterimage of my arm and hand with the palm outward.
I have no explanation for being able to clearly see my hand with the palm inward. Maybe the flashbulb was still dying when I turned my hand? In any case, I am assuming that by turning my hand inward after that I disrupted the position of my arm enough to then see the afterimage, unlike when I wiggled my fingers. In that observation I never got a clear afterimage. In this one, I got the clear afterimage. This fits with what H Hogendoorn, M P M Kammers, T A Carlson and F A J Verstraten found in their 2008 study, "Being in the dark about seeing your hand: multisensory conflict resolved by proprioception erasing visual information," namely that moving your hand around in the place disrupts the afterimage effect but moving your hand elsewhere leads to the visual system taking over.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The original lead was:
WALLA WALLA -- A community task force met Tuesday to address a draft report released by the state Office of Financial Management last week that outlines several recommendations for how to cut more than 1,000 beds in the Department of Corrections, including the closure of Washington State Penitentiary's historical main institution.
All true, no doubt, but the reporter and I agreed it was pretty dry and didn't convey the feelings at the meeting, which included skepticism about the report's completeness and accuracy as well as a lot of concern about the fact that the "preferred" option in the report would mean about 300 fewer jobs up on the hill. Here's what we came up with:
WALLA WALLA -- Skepticism and concern loomed over a meeting of a community task force working to prevent major job cuts at the Washington State Penitentiary.
The task force met Tuesday to address a draft report released by the state Office of Financial Management last week that outlines several recommendations for how to cut more than 1,000 beds in the Department of Corrections, including the closure of Washington State Penitentiary's historical main institution, which could cost the Valley hundreds of jobs.
As you can see, this includes the skepticism, worry and stakes (big job losses), but doesn't overwhelm readers with all the details, which are farther down in the story.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
At a glance, the Magic Eye pictures (stereograms, like this one, which is in the portfolio of a designer whose Web site you can reach by clicking on the image) you see sometimes at stores in the mall, or in books or even postcards, look like a colorful abstract pattern or a collage of little pictures. But if you can learn to focus on a spot some distance behind the surface of the picture, you can get a 3-D image to show up. This all boils down to building into the image cues that let you perceive the 2-D image as having depth.
We have several mechanisms for perceiving depth. Some rely on having two eyes and others rely on just one. But although I have no problem resolving stereograms, I can't do it with only one eye, so that narrows the choices of explanations down considerably. I also observe that the pictures are harder to resolve if they are turned on their sides or upside down, which leads me to believe that what's really at work is that the artists have created images for the right and left eye that differ just enough to create the 3-D effect.
In Steven Pinker's "How the Mind Works," a couple of illustrations are a big help in understanding how we achieve depth perception using binocular (p. 218, if that book's on your shelf) and monocular cues (p. 226). The two-eye mechanism works because information arrives at different parts of each of your eyes and your visual processors use those differences (and therefore trigonometry, really) to build a 3-D representation of what you're looking at. The one-eye mechanisms are easier to comprehend: Larger items appear to be closer, for example, than smaller items. It is helpful, I think, to look at a simplified stereogram so you can actually pick out the differences on the left and right sides.
So how these pictures work is deceptively simple: They capitalize on our ability to see in stereo, using cues we rely on for 3-D vision to give us a perception of depth when looking at a 2-D object.
Anyway, I have a couple of ideas of how to reenergize this blog, one of which is to recycle some content I've generated in another context. The next post is a good example :)
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
What this means, among many other things, is that we get a ton of mail for the departed, often the long departed, and often not the dear departed.
Or in today's case, the never-there: I think the envelope from Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-Free Iran (are you serious?) was addressed to Jim Schnass, Wdr Ndr. Uh, OK.
Reminds me of the story about the crime story written from a news release. Prime suspect: Fnu Lnu (weird name, eh?).
The story detailed Mr. (? ) Lnu's misdeeds but not the provenance of his name, a police report shorthand for First name unknown, Last name unknown. Damned phones! They never have cops on the other end when you need them!
Saturday, October 03, 2009
A classmate asked the rest of us for opinions about the swine flu vaccine, and whether it is OK to get the kind that has mercury in it (as has been approved for use in Washington state). Here's my response posted to the class discussion board:
My beat as a reporter for several years (several years ago) was environmental news, and being on the East Coast, mercury was a major concern because of all the coal-fired power plants (when you burn coal, mercury is in the smoke), plus of course the mercury in fish. Mercury is dangerous, of course, but it's not that big of a deal, from what I could determine, for adults to consume small amounts of mercury, like by eating tuna sandwiches or salmon, or just by living on the East Coast. But there's a lot of concern about chronic — as in not just a shot, but eating fish week in, week out — exposure for kids (and pregnant women and babies).
I think the big question here is: Do you think the risk of getting the flu is a bigger concern than a shot that has mercury in it, administered once? That's a personal choice, not really a science question. And the big obstacle in getting useful information is that most of the reliable information comes from doctors and agencies that are mostly concerned with public health, not *your* health.
Here's a for-instance: There are about 50,000 people in this county. If 50 of them die this year of swine flu, it will be a major national news story (unless we are on the brink of a 1918-style pandemic, which seeing as how there's a vaccine I seriously doubt). But even if 50 people die, that leaves 99.9 percent alive, a pretty good chance you and I will make it.
To me, the reasons to vaccinate for flu are simple: If you have immune system problems or a vulnerable family member it makes sense. Otherwise? I'd say just go with your intuition.
I feel the exact opposite about vaccinations for polio, measles, rubellla and all those, however. I don't think those vaccines should be optional, and I would never consider skipping one. For what it's worth...
Saturday, August 22, 2009
The story acknowledges his status as Major League Baseball's all-time leader in hits (4,256 vs. Ty Cobb's 4,189 - or perhaps 4,191), as well as his well-earned Charlie Hustle persona. But aside from that, the nonbylined piece is largely a side-by-side of baseball's all-time greats and Rose, with the shadow falling on the banned man and the light bright on MLB's stars and workaday players who could be conceived to outshine the Man Who Bet On Baseball.
Don't get me wrong: I view his as the ultimate sin in his sport, and I wouldn't say he belongs in the Hall. But you know, you can't win me on numbers when you forget - as USA Today did - to include that in addition to being the all-time hits leader, Rose was No. 2 in doubles, behind only Tris Speaker.
Maybe you haven't heard of Tris Speaker, inarguably one of the top hitters of all time. Besides being the all-time doubles king, Speaker is fourth in lifetime batting average, fifth in hits and sixth in triples. But hey, that's just one stat.
The thing is, you can tell a lot of stories with stats. True in life, true in baseball. But I don't think it's fair to tell a story and drop obvious important numbers, especially when the story is controversial (like Rose) and when you're trying to prove a point with numbers.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Friday, August 07, 2009
Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. You can't use the band I used. Try not to repeat a song title. It's a lot harder than you think! Repost as "my life according to (band name)".
Pick your Artist:
Are you a male or female:
"ballad of a thin man"
"like a rolling stone"
How do you feel:
Describe where you currently live:
"blowin' in the wind"
If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Your favorite form of transportation:
Your best friend is:
"just like a woman"
You and your best friends are:
"lily, rosemary and the jack of hearts"
What's the weather like:
"a hard rain's a gonna fall"
If your life was a TV show, what would it be called:
"simple twist of fate"
What is life to you:
"one more cup of coffee"
Your last relationship:
"tears of rage"
"you're gonna make me lonesome when you go"
What is the best advice you have to give:
"lay down your weary tune"
Thought for the Day:
"lay, lady, lay"
My soul's present condition:
"romance in durango"
"the times they are a-changin'"
Sunday, August 02, 2009
I'm sure that for some people, they are a godsend, but I've also seen a fair amount of evidence to suggest that maybe, oh maybe, they're not all they're cracked up to be.
For me, they don't make a dent. If I need a painkiller, I'm better off with an Aleve, or an aspirin, or a cup of coffee or glass of whisky for that matter.
And I know a bunch of other people for whom the pills don't kill the pain, or if they do also have a host of nasty side effects.
It makes me think of anesthesia: Something that's a good tool but nobody knows why it works. I heard a doctor recently saying he thought the painkillers don't actually "kill" the pain, but just give your mind something else to occupy it.
Of course, to be fair the medical sciences haven't had many years since coming out of the Dark Ages (i.e. pre-1900 or so), so there should still be a lot of mysteries.
Maybe that's why I find the field appealing: I like undiscovered country.
I don't think he actually says anything during the whole visit except growly grumbles.
Cracks me up!
Best I can do for a post just now, I suppose.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
This sort of thing has been back on my mind lately, as we've been in a flurry for our now-arrived daughter (still in wicked hectic mode; stay tuned for details!). Anyway, here's a very fancy cow quilt we bumped into at this winter's quilt festival in Tokyo...
As you can see, not a typical construction:
I like the button eyes:
and the ring in the nose!
and the crow in me is always fond of shiny things:
Just one of oodles of shockingly good work.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
I liked his earlier work, but I really like the arrangement here.
Monday, June 29, 2009
I've been playing Speed Bones lately, the lite version (although I sprang for the fancy $0.99 version, too), and I'd give it the thumbs up (yeah, yeah, I know, first digit).
I've borrowed a picture to give you an idea, but the name pretty much says it: You have to quickly! identify bones and bone structures, from the skull to the distal phalanges. It is most definitely fun, and it seems to work. I've gone from a pitiful score starting out to being able to handle the first eleven levels (from general bones to pieces of arms, legs, shoulders, backs and noggins).
Very cool! By the way, I always get way more than 1699 for the clavicle. Too easy. The channel for the carotid? Welllll, working on it.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
1. What brought you to Walla Walla? Originally, college. This time, a good job in a small city with great weather where work and a lot of other destinations are a short walk from my house, which is pretty much downtown.
2. Favorite memory: How to choose! Honestly, though, I look forward, not back. If I had to pick one, maybe having dinner with new friends in Redeyef, Tunisia, with the butterfly lady.
3. Current favorite song/CD: CD? What's that? Current song: Carvel, by John Frusciante.
Album: Sea Sew, by Lisa Hannigan
Favorite movie: The Deer Hunter, but it depends on the day. Maybe Heat, maybe Romeo + Juliet.
Favorite food: Well, that is an impossible question, isn't it? I guess it is a tie: Pastrami and swiss on rye with Russian dressing and sauerkraut or peanut butter and jam on country white.
Favorite book: Only one? Wind, Sand and Stars. But seriously, only one?
Favorite hobby: Bird watching. First easy question!
Favorite place in Walla Walla County: In the wheat fields east of the city, in the hills that overlook the valley.
Most recent local purchase: Two delicate drinking glasses with dragonflies from Willow of Walla Walla.
Worst job: Depends on how you look at it. You might imagine the curséd cannery, the miserable mill or the horrible hospital, but you'd be wrong. Worst job? Working at Roth's Vista Market as a box clerk, where the owner would drop by now and then to patronize his low-paid workers and exhort us to run, run, run when bringing those shopping carts back in from the lot. What a jerk. One of my jobs in New Hampshire was pretty high on the list, too.
Dream vacation: Beats me. How about three months in summer to complete the New England 67? (That'd be summiting the 67 peaks in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine that are over 4,000 feet). I'm between a third and halfway done now, but they're a long drive these days.
Person you'd most like to talk to: Cate Blanchett :)
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I'm not impressed. I mean, I am, but not in a good way.
Anyway, the proxy notice says nothing about which trustees support the idea and which oppose, but here's who the board wants to elect trustees: James C. Curvey, Albert R. Gamper Jr., Abigail P. Johnson, Arthur E. Johnson, Michael E. Kenneally, James H. Keyes, Maria L. Knowles and Kenneth L. Wolfe.
I figure, if you're standing for election to a body that doesn't give a damn about human rights, you're probably guilty of something.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Mullen: Military to comply if gay ban law changes.
And the Mullen in question, Adm. Michael Mullen (chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, if you're keeping score at home), says exactly that: The military would go along if the laws governing its rules change.
Well no shit, Sherlock. The only other option is a coup, which of course would mean the military is the enemy, which of course would mean all those "assault" rifles we're discouraged from owning would come in pretty damn handy.
What really blows my mind is that someone appointed to be the ultimate (OK, penultimate. Obama runs the place) voice of the military thinks it is necessary to explicitly state that the military would abide by the rule of law. Seriously, I'm pretty sure they're the people we need to be worried about the least.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Seriously, I rarely pass on a chance to fill out a survey if it is legit, so you can imagine I was pretty pleased when the Nielsen people asked us to be one of their "families."
So, we got a little weeklong diary in the mail to fill out anytime we watched TV. Now, I know I don't watch a lot of television, but I do watch 24, Lost, Desperate Housewives, Chuck (my fave!), Grey's Anatomy and bits and pieces of Dancing with the Stars, the Amazing Race, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and a bunch of other shows. Only I watch them, with the butterfly lady, online.
And truth be told, you can only get me to actually watch Chuck and 24. I mostly just hang out while the others are on. But make no mistake about it: I do watch TV.
Only, this week we turned on the TV just once, on Saturday after a major bout of gardening left me, my dear friend Chris and the BL needing some mindless entertainment. We channel surfed for a few hours, and that was it for our TV consumption. Today, the cable people dropped by to shut off the TV feed. Of course, we still buy our Internet service from them, but if we can live with this, I think we're saving about $600 a year and we still get the content we want.
Sound familiar? Yeah, to me, too. But hey, I make no bones about having used Craigslist - not newspaper classifieds - to sell two cars (they were old, but they sold) and a loom. Who wouldn't? It's free. It works.
I already pay for my Internet service, so I'm not exactly getting my shows for free now, and the people I'm paying are the same ones I was paying for cable, so I don't think this counts as freeloading, the way reading newspapers online for free does.
Maybe that was the big mistake newspapers made: not owning a delivery system that remains relevant. It's hard to see that as a mistake, really, more just the luck of the draw. If customers really wanted 15,000 of something delivered by hand each day, we'd be just the people to hook them up. I mean, unless those customers owned stamps.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Of course, nobody wants to say he needed the plaudits to get wings instead of a pitchfork, but to hear the old stories, he might have been puffing a cigar somewhere south of the ground if the judgment was just about interpersonal relationships.
He could be a tough guy, but I liked him.
He taught me to swim. (I was afraid of the water. His response was something like: "That's ridiculous. Get in.") He told the same stories nine times apiece, and that was just to warm up. (I do, too.) If he got a little wine (Mogen David, naturally) in him, he'd castigate the damn Nazis once more (I tend to be a little talky after the bottle, too). He had a good sense of humor, too.
In the same visit (on the occasion of my grandmother's death) this photo comes from, we were all sitting around the dinner table, the bunch of us, and the conversation had reached one of those inevitable dead spots. Grandpa was drumming his fingers on the tablecloth. He cast about us, meaningful-like, and said, "You know why I'm doing this?"
A pregnant pause. No reply.
"So you won't be able to hear the pin drop."
Yep. He could be a difficult guy, but he was one of the good guys.
Fill this out about your **SENIOR** year of high school! The longer ago it was, the more fun the answers will be!!
1. Did you date someone from your school? --- Not really.
2. Did you marry someone from your high school? --- No way.
3. Did you carpool to school? --- I walked, less than a block.
4. What kind of car did you have? --- Car? Ha. Bike. Skateboard. Shoes.
5. What kind of car do you have now? --- '02 Honda CR-V. I still prefer shoes, though.
6. Its Friday night ... where are you? (then) --- playing D&D at Chris's house. Or pining after a couple of girls (see above).
7. It is Friday night ... where are you? (now) --- in the kitchen, maybe having a beer, maybe reading a book.
8. What kind of job did you have in high school? --- A temp job at Nordstrom, box clerk at two grocery stores, pizza maker at Sunshine Pizza Exchange, hand weaver.
9. What kind of job do you do now? --- newspaper city editor
10. Were you a party animal? --- no way. The closest was the time Chris and I bought beer at the grocery store we worked at and drank it up in a neighborhood. Pretty wild. One beer each.
11. Were you considered a flirt? --- One of my friends nicknamed me Mr. Carbon (bonds to everything), sooo.
12. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? --- Um, no.
13. Were you a nerd? --- Usually, but see No. 14.
14. Did you get suspended or expelled? --- Yes, suspended, for fighting.
15. Can you sing the fight song? --- South Salem Saxons, that's our name! You betcha.
16. Who was your favorite teacher? --- Mrs. McGregor (that's just a joke for my dad). Actually Frau Maurer.
17. Where did you sit during lunch? --- I didn't. I stood in my kitchen.
18. What was your school mascot? --- Hello, Saxons.
19. If you could go back and do it again, would you? --- no fucking way. (sorry grandma, but if you knew what it was like, you'd probably say that, too).
20. Did you have fun at prom? --- I don't know how to answer that one. The girl who took me was one of my best friends, but not my lover, who took my best friend. But we did all go together and it was a pretty good time.
21. Do you still talk to the person you went to Prom with? --- Certainly, still my homie (she's a girl, but still a homie).
22. Are you planning to go to your next reunion? Probably, but it depends on my two best friends from high school. If they go, I'm rolling, too.
23. Were you a good student? Yes, especially for not cracking those books. (I'm copying my pal Vicki here)
24. What did you like most about high school? being done with it. (I'm copying Vicki again)
25. Do you still talk to people from school? --- Two, yes, in the real world. A few more online.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Anyway, here's a good cover of a Damien Rice song I like:
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Travel, the first of three 6-song travel themed collections coming from the sonically spacious Future Of Forestry this year. Travel combines the intelligent rock ‘n roll fans have come to love from Future Of Forestry with thought provoking lyrics delivering a creative and vast experience to a listener. Future Of Forestry quickly made a name for themselves following the release of their debut album Twilight, taking fans on a musical journey with their bright optimism from sunny southern California mixed with their epic, sweeping euro-rock sound that has left fans wanting more from the group. On May 5th, Future Of Forestry unveils the next step in the journey with Travel - songs that will provoke contemplation, encourage day-dreaming, and deepen perspective on all things beautiful….sure to be a fan favorite and a perfect opener for a travel series we will definitely be hearing more of throughout the year.
Now, granted, the player came across screwy, but that may have to do with my blog. But this is better than average for the first full-service press release anyone's sent me to my recollection.
Pretty cool, huh? I got an .mp3, too, of the second track off the album. Now, *that* is a press release.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
However, the cheap plastic construction is, well, cheap. Now I have had two Bissells with broken parts. Both failed in the same way. You know the handy little pedal you push to make the handle be not upright. Well, it's more important than it looks. Now I have a vacuum cleaner that's always lying down. Super annoying.
I'd recommend the vacuum if it weren't for that problem. Seriously, it is super for vacuuming, costs very little and is easy to field strip for serious cleaning. Alas, that's not enough. I guess I shouldn't expect more for something I bought at Wal-Mart for $50, but I'm still annoyed.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I wish them luck. I just don't think H1N1 is going to cut the mustard.
Juniorette is expected to show up around the end of July, which is mostly why we've been on the major home-improvement kick...
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
A new ceiling fan in the living room (thank you, Dad/Steve!!! Not a one-person install).
An assembled crib in Juniorette's room.
A massive amount of extraneous crapola donated/recycled/set at curbside with a "free" sign.
A revamped bathroom upstairs (new paint, new lighting, new hardware).
New flooring in the living room & kiddo's room (old news, but I did it!)
A cleaned up and organized garage.
I think that's about it. Next up is a platform for the pooches to lie on by the back door that will have a compartment for dog towels and a nice cushion on the top. That'll also mean clearing out the beater old couch that now lives in that room. You can see the couch here:
That "room" is part of the kitchen, pretty much, but separated by a partial wall and a counter. The other side of that room, behind the camera operator, is the washer and dryer area. That door behind the couch leads to an uninsulated storage closet (paint, cardboard boxes, fascinating items like that).
Our plan is to have the platform on one side and Yuki's garage on the other, so the door can open and there will be a little more space.
Anyway, that's in the middle distance (i.e. not this weekend).
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
But speaking of shooting the messenger, these guys had it way worse.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Sandwich - Reuben
For me, a good Reuben is a few slices of corned beef, about the same amount of sauerkraut as beef, a slice of Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on toasted - but not greasy - rye bread. I can live with some of the variations, like marbled rye or pastrami, but those are small strikes against a place. Too much meat and not enough kraut are the most common felonies.
Drink - Martini
Pretty simple. Gin and olives. If you can't figure out how to put chilly gin in a glass with some big, tasty olives, I'm pretty sure you can't be trusted to make a sidecar. I know, I know, vermouth. I'm with Churchill on this one.
Pizza - Italian sausage, bell peppers, onions, thin crust.
I eat other pizzas, but this combo will uncover any fault, whether it's subpar toppings, flimsy crust, incompetent baking or insipid sauce.
The funny thing is that even though that's what I order to find out if a place is good, I'd really rather have a peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich on toasted wheat bread and a glass of bourbon. I'll stick with that pizza, though.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
A study found the casualty rate is about 15 per 1 million participants, way higher than marathons (4 to 8 per million). The raw numbers are similar to the rate - 13 dead swimmers out of 922,810 (and one dead biker!) over a roughly 2.5-year period.
The story goes into detail, which is cool, and offers some sound advice for people thinking about doing a triathlon (get the OK from the doctor, do some open water swims, wear a wetsuit if the water's too cold and make sure race staff are prepared for emergencies).
But although it acknowledges the rising popularity of triathlons, the story is silent on the health benefits enjoyed by the 921,996 people who weren't killed in competition. And it says nothing about the 4,749 pedestrians killed in 2003 alone, a number the federal government provided me within about 30 seconds of my doing a Google search. If that number held up, you'd be looking at, what? Ten thousand dead pedestrians in the same period as 14 dead triathletes?
Granted, the study is new, so its news. But still.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I'll try to give a 9x13 recipe, but it may be a couple of 6x9s.
Four strips bacon, chopped
An onion, diced
Six cloves of garlic, minced
Two medium carrots, chopped
A big stalk of celery, chopped
A pound of ground (but hot Italian sausage is better!)
A cup of dry white wine
1 big can (28 ounce) crushed tomatoes in puree
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
As much basil as you've got, within reason, chopped or pureed.
Cook bacon on low heat in a big sauce pan or high-walled skillet (it needs to hold all this stuff). Raise the heat to medium.
When the bacon's pretty much cooked and the fat's rendered out, dump in the onion and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes, then dump in carrots and celery. Cook another five minutes, then dump in sausage. Brown the sausage, pour off fat if you're crazy or on a diet, then add the wine. Cook off alcohol for a few minutes, then add tomato products. At this point, you have about 15 minutes of simmering to go. The tomato paste is the key to that. If you don't add tomato paste, you cheap short-cutter, you're in for a 45-minute simmer to achieve the same effect.
When you're on short final, add the basil. I preserve basil by pureeing it with olive oil and a little garlic, then freezing it. For this sauce, I use maybe a third of a cup of frozen puree and just drop the frozen chunk in when there's 15 minutes to go.
As soon as you hit this point, you can cook the shells, but only to the what the box says is al dente. Don't go farther or they'll become fragile and wussy.
Also at this point, mix a 1-pound tub cottage cheese (yeah, yeah. Ricotta. OK, buddy, what do you think "ricotta" means?), a quarter-cup or more freshly grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano and a few sprigs freshly chopped parsley. If you're big on cheese, slice up some fresh mozzarella, too, small enough to fit in a shell.
Now it's hammer time. Strain the noodles and rinse with cold water to arrest cooking. Spread some sauce in the bottom of your casserole(s).
Fill the noodles with a portion of the cottage cheese mixture and top, if you have mozz., slap a slice on each shell as you put it into the casserole(s).
When all the noodles are in the dish, cover with as much of the sauce that's left as you like (I always have leftovers, which I always freeze). Unless you're out of Parm, grate some more on top, and...
Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly, then wait a while and eat!
Monday, March 23, 2009
The optimists think that when the "economy" turns around, so will the picture for our industry, not to mention the current employer, which is still in the black, but not without some painful moves to stay that way.
So, how will we know when the economy, whatever that is supposed to mean, is OK again? When our revenue shoots through the roof and I get a fat raise? That would be a good measure, except I think it is maybe a little foolish to assume those two go hand in hand.
I'm told that a good indicator of the health of our economy is the Dow Jones Industrial Average. I've yet to hear a convincing argument to back up that proposition, however. Why should I think the best barometer for the vitality of the U.S. is the "behavior" of a market run by the people who got us into this mess?
Seriously. Stocks rise and fall based on expectations of earnings and growth, usually measured by the quarter. So if you aren't seen as likely to make a certain amount of dough in the next three months, your paper value goes in the tank. Is that really a sustainable way to run a country, quarter-to-quarter?
I mean, even the fundamentals of this supposed system are obviously flawed from a logical standpoint, let alone, you know, the empirical reality. Permanent sustained growth? How's that supposed to work?
I know there's a dissertation in here. But I also know the situation is hopeless in the absence of a mathematically capable populace (oh, and business writers. Another problem, eh?)
So in place of a solution, I'd just like to go a week without having to hear about the god damn stock market. *That* would be news worth sharing.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I guess the rest of the list is:
Ghost of Tom Joad
My City of Ruins
I'm on Fire
That's not in order, because the order changes by the day. And it is probably incomplete. Damn lists.
Friday, March 13, 2009
It's a good question, but it is tied up in an expectation that I, the supposed curer of cancer who chose the wrong career path, will somehow also have an answer, the answer, that will save the profession. That's pretty ridiculous: Those test scores don't give me any better idea than the next newsie of how to "monetize" online news.
I like the question sans expectations, partly because it is a chance to talk about what I like about the business I'm in.
The best part is simple: You get to help people. It's kind of like being on the A-Team. When some unlucky soul has tried everyone else and has nowhere else to turn, they call us. I get UFO calls, psychological emergencies, cooking advice queries (How many melons do I need for my party? Seriously), drunks and druggies, you name it.
I relish the customer service part of my job. If a reader is mad as hell, I want them calling me.
Now, I can count a few times a caller has been an unacceptable asshole: The criminal mastermind whose scumbag daughters showed up on the blotter, the Freedom Forum dickhead who called me "one of the Nazis" and the guy who called an opinion piece I wrote "one of the most one-sided, biased stories I've ever read." No shit, Sherlock.
On the flip side, I can't count the times I've picked up the phone to someone who had driven past their wit's end and been able to get them back on the road to somewhere. That's tied for the most rewarding part of the job, really.
It beats the awards, though they reap the praise from above. It beats the substandard pay, although that comes in more handy for paying bills. It doesn't beat sticking it to the man, however. Nothing can come close to holding someone in power accountable when he's (or she's) screwed the least among us.
But let's get back to that question: What are you going to do when the bell tolls? I've got backup plans, of course. Who doesn't? But it isn't that easy to find something that has the same day-to-day make-a-difference aspect. Except for one option, which a perceptive reader might intuit from reading this blog, or at least checking out the frequency of my tags.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Here's a good rendition of Ellis Unit One, too.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
I caught this guy surreptitiously (he's texting, not sleeping, as far as I could tell) on the train from Nagano to the Jigokudani Onsen area.
His hat reads "The Bird of Fighter," and although you can't tell, he's wearing, like, five gold rings. I think the three pairs of sunglasses makes the outfit, though. That and the leather shirt.
I know he'd stick out here, but trust me, he's way weirder of a sight in Japan.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
In a lot of ways, my musical experience has been one of blundering from my sheltered past into unknown universes. Cool, but also a little embarrassing when I arrive somewhere everybody's already been.
I'll shoot for albums that changed my outlook. These are pretty much in chronological order. I put in some samples, too.
- Bad Religion - Suffer. I grew up listening to classical music, Dust Bowl folk and country & western. I rarely listened to rock 'n' roll until high school. I mean, I knew about Ratt, Styx, Foreigner, all that in middle school, but that wasn't what I usually listened to. When I heard this (with my best friend, Chris, over at Jay Dunlap's house), it blew me away.
- Jimi Hendrix - Some compilation or another. I was unaware of the existence of classic rock that was other than what you might hear in Back to the Future.
- Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers - My introduction to reggae. Chris bought that one.
- Pink Floyd - The Wall. Weird-ass movie but a ton of great music.
- N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton. My exposure to rap was pretty limited until college (first roomie was an Army brat, a black guy from Oceanside, not a jazz guy). "Fuck the Police" was a revelation.
- The Geto Boys - The Geto Boys. Pretty much the most outrageous and funny gangsta rap ever made.
- Richard Thompson - Rumor and Sigh. Opened my eyes to the folk scene of the early 1990s.
- Tori Amos - Crucify. My favorite from the angry woman movement. Alerted me to the existence of a completely unexpected scene.
- The Butterfly Lady - Her musical taste is similar to mine, but she searches for new music in completely different circles, so I get a lot of exposure to music I probably wouldn't find on my own, like Ali Farka Toure, Outlandish, Mister Gang...
that one is aka:
- The White Stripes - The White Stripes. Opened my eyes to garage rock. I think I listened to this album about 50 times in a row.
- Townes Van Zandt - Live at the Old Quarter. I obviously had heard his songs before, but not performed by him. This is a fantastic album. Minimal production is a big plus. This album got me to check out a lot of folk/country from the 1970s.
- Joe Purdy - Julie Blue. Uh, yeah, there's a pattern here. I didn't know there was an L.A. folk scene until I blundered into Joe Purdy, who incidentally kicks ass live. Here is a song from his supposedly upcoming album, Last Clock on the Wall:
- Mitch Hedberg - Mitch Altogether. Not music, right? Yeah, but he changed how I tell jokes and how I look at run-of-the-mill stuff, which was his bread and butter.
- 9 Songs. OK, that's a movie. But it tuned my in to music of the hipster scene. What they were listening to in that five minutes, anyway.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
That loan came at a fortuitous time: We had an assortment of debts, from the now-paid off CRV to the costs and fees associated with being homeowners. OK, there might have been some frivolous stuff in there, too.
The loan terms were pretty good. They handed over a stack of loot eerily similar to what I needed with three years to pay, for about $1,900 in interest (7 percent, so you math whizzes can figure out how much I borrowed). I figure $50-odd a month is an OK price for peace of mind. I pay about that for Internet service, after all.
After about a year of payments, last June or so, I started getting the dear-valued-customer letters offering me the "increased flexibility" of a much larger loan. The most recent offer I got was to lend me $30,000, a portion of which would be used to pay off my current loan and the rest handed over with a minimum payoff plan of four years at 8 percent. To keep payments similar to what they are now, I'd have to opt for the 7-year payoff plan at 9 percent.
Seven years? Ouch. We're very fortunate to be out of woods with debt (unless, you know, you count the next 15 months of loan payments and the 2012 end point for the butterfly lady's student loans and the house), but I would like to remind anyone who thinks me overly smug that I work at a newspaper, which means that being out of debt is pretty god damn urgent.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
When he said "Democrats," he clenched his fist - not hard, like fighting, but an actual clench. I notice politicians usually feign fist clenching when it would be appropriate in normal conversation. I assume this is to look less kooky. Usually, I observe them closing their hand as if around a baton (like the ones runners pass in relays), but Obama's fist clench was the real McCoy, maybe a sign of "we are strong, we are together."
He followed "Democrats" immediately with the words "and Republicans," which he accompanied with a slightly wagged index finger, like "you bums better get on board."
You can watch - yegods - the whole thing below.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Anyway, the re-org has left my aging computer untethered from the Internet, which puts a damper on blog posts, especially ones with photos.
So, trust me: It looks good, but it'll look better when you can see it!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
So, I usually forget to take "before" and "during" photos, so it should be no surprise that the befores are missing. But here are a couple of during photos of the now-in-progress project to install new flooring in the living room and the soon-to-be-former office. Those last five words are foreshadowing, for all you literary types.
Oh yeah, the living room is getting overhauled, too. Trust me, you're glad you can't see too much detail on the carpets.
OK, here's the roundabout part:
Our office has had several names over the years.
When we lived in this city in the 1990s, we called the office "Monny's room" because that was who lived there before he moved out and the computer and all our extra crap moved in.
In our dinky apartment in New Hampshire, we still called the second bedroom "Monny's room," though we occasionally also called it the office, among other words. It was small.
Here, we've pretty much called the office "the office" from day one, but in late July or early August, Allah willing, it should have a new name. Like, maybe, "Aurelia's room" or "Ridley's room" or "Gabriel's room" or something like that.
Whatever it is called, it will not have carpet. I am not a fan of carpet. I think it might be fairer to say I despise carpet. Read into that if you like... Also, if you were looking for the big excitement, go back a paragraph.
Anyway, being as we have two leviathans hanging around - and I'm alarmingly klutzy sometimes - tile is out, as is cork, as is most kinds of wood. I'm not sold on bamboo, either, not for flooring anyway. Too many questions about the adhesives for my taste. So our friends at DuPont, who make low-emission and generally responsible flooring now have this stack, plus another behind it, ready to be installed. On Monday!
And because every big job demands the acquisition of a nice tool, the butterfly lady kindly bought me this handy dandy late birthday present.
Stay tuned. If the job goes as planned, the next "during" photos all will be a blur. But the "afters" should be good. They damn well better be, anyway.
Oh, and someone likes the same music I do:
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The checker rang them up ($2.50 each!) and was about to bag them when Chalese said, "Oh, no, I'm done with those. You can toss them." The checker looked askance, as I'm sure I did, and she said, "I already got the coupons out of them."
I needled her about sacrilege and stuff and we wound up chitchatting about coupons and such. She said she doesn't take the paper I work at - not enough coupons - nor a larger one down the road - also not enough coupons. She's pretty organized, too, a strategic shopper who uses coupons when the items she wants are already on discount at the store.
Chalese is the perfect person to have as a reader: She's smart, articulate, a mom, young and professional (she's a cop). How could you lose? By not having good enough coupons, obviously.
So I took her gospel to work with me this week and had some decent results. We're working on a project to help people get through these troubled economic times and Chalese or someone(s) like her are likely to be source(s) for a coupon-clipping story. The ad director was interested, as was the online guy. So, we'll see where things take us. And just today, I was passed an e-mail from another reader who wishes we had better coupons.
I'm sure there's irony in here somewhere. The best part of the whole deal was when we were bidding adieu at the store. I'd just asked if she'd be up for being a source if we did a story and she said, "Sure. You know how to get in touch with me." I said, "Yeah, dial 911."
One day at work, I was telling this joke to a coworker. When I got to just before the alfalfa sprouts part, another coworker who was walking through the room said that line and I said, "Well you're not in the fucking club." Everyone was like, "oh my god, you're so mean!" Except of course the other Mitch Hedberg fan.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Our hanging around and shooting seemed to snag a few onlookers, but most people just hurried by.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
What a treat! Not a bird I ever expected to see, for sure.
Yesterday, I caught wind of another oddball bird, a great gray owl, that is hanging around the local Corps of Engineers flood-control project, and I met up with a couple of in-the-know bird people who showed me its haunt. A half-hour of snooping around in the cold river bottom and presto! Here's a for instance, so you can see how cool it was:
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Is that a good thing? I don't know. It's handy at the grocery store when you're trying to read labels, but not so handy when you have to listen to every cotton-picking thing everyone says.
I don't think I've used cotton-picking in a conversation, ever, by the way.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Rice had good numbers, great numbers even, but he's always going to be one of those guys who, outside the Boston area, is a marginal choice. The real stat wizards name as his comparables some scary hitters, but only four of the top 10 named by baseball-reference.com are in the Hall of Fame, and I think you have to be an aficionado to know who they (Orlando Cepeda, Duke Snider, Billy Williams and Willie Stargell) are.
On the flip side, numbers aren't everything, right? Maybe, maybe not. That's one thing you can say for baseball: Numbers are king. I guess that makes Jim Rice a viscount or a minor duke.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Now, obviously if you're not from here, you don't enjoy the rights we citizens do, so it's not like this is some big infringement, but it does remind me of the rigamarole involved in traveling to the former East Germany, where ordinary travelers got they hairy eyeball from hokey security types who I think had pretty much zero chance of intercepting a serious mischief maker. I mean, they were pretty much just about petty nosiness and schoolyard intimidation.
If you're nervous about your name and address or scared of men with guns, they've got you. Otherwise... which brings us back home. What exactly are we preparing for? Another 9/11? Remember all those people saying dipshit stuff like, "If we cancel the World Series, the terrorists have truly won," or "If I don't eat this Boston creme doughnut, the terrorists have truly won."
Maybe it isn't so, but it kinda seems like if we turn America into an impregnable fort, the terrorists might have gained the upper hand.