it's where the hearth is
I have seen the future, and it is squishy.

Now & Then (a Log)

Saturday, November 30, 2002
 
Pretend Food

Home in Florida for the holidays... My nephew (he's almost 4) is becoming more inquisitive by the hour. The question burning in the back of mind the other night: Do stars poop?

Of course I'm preoccupied by more practical concerns, e.g., the effects of hard-rock music on mice. One study, purportedly done by a high school student, uncovered the nefarious nature of such music.
His experiment was prematurely cut short, "…Because all the hard-rock mice killed each other," David told us. "…None of the classical mice did that at all!" Is it any wonder, therefore, that if these lowly little rodents are so easily affected, why so many of today’s young people are being driven—literally possessed—to kill one another for apparently no reason?
Any wonder indeed. We'll have to keep the nephew in check.


Tuesday, November 26, 2002
 
Playmobil Sees the Future



A combination better than chocolate and peanut butter (via Boing Boing).


 
What Can I Do to Get that Rooster?

This (link removed; see update below) was also in my inbox this morning. Read it if you want some insight into how I spend my weekdays. I think I'm going to pee my pants, unless I make it to the bathroom first. But of course then, before reaching said bathroom, I'd be tempted to admire the exalted rooster as it roosts in its new home, and I'd pee my pants anyway.

Update: A little mischief.


Monday, November 25, 2002
 
Eastward Bound

I seem to be planning a trip to London, where my dear sister will soon be moving. Problem is, I'm totally new to this foreign travel stuff. I bought a couple of icky travel books yesterday, and they're not helping to demystify the whats and hows of the city.

I think I'll be there for eight days, and I plan to take one extravagant side trip to an as yet unspecified destination. I'm considering Paris (seeing as it's but a Chunnel ride away), Glasgow (mmm... Scotland!), and Wales (I've been utterly fascinated by its craggy coastal terrain since reading this).

Email me at the address in the sidebar (on the right) if you have general recommendations, friends I can drag to bars, or tips on how I can extend the formidable British pound. I want to experience the city, but I don't go much for touristy stuff. Suggestions on interesting, away-from-the-throng locales are welcome, as are opinions on where I should take my side trip.


 
Extensions

When I bought the thingstocome.net domain nearly a year ago, I checked out the sites using thingstocome with the .org and .com extensions to see what weirdness might exist there. The .com site is owned by a record label which represents a bunch of "underground" electronic artists I've never heard of. Innocuous enough.

The .org site, on the other hand, features a cornucopia of oddities any apocalyptically minded person would appreciate. In the editors' own words, it's "an apologetics website dedicated to defending orthodox eschatology and biblical futurism." A weighty mission indeed. Although I don't support their position (or many organized religion positions, for that matter) I'm rather impressed by the rhetoric they use to promote it. And if you thought biblical futurists were lacking a sense of humor, you need only read the article "Why it is Perfectly OK to Call Heretical Preterists Naughty Names" to see otherwise.


Friday, November 22, 2002
 
Love Thy Alien Neighbor

a universe person


Wow. Crazy NRM goings-on over at Universe People. (Thanks, socket.)


Thursday, November 21, 2002
 
Decay Calmly Now



Photograph copyright © Shaun O'Boyle


This Boing Boing post reminded me of Shaun O'Boyle's absorbing photo essays on abandoned buildings. The Seaview Hospital essay is my favorite, with its opening exterior shot reminiscent of Rebecca and other gothic goodies within.

A link from O'Boyle's site took me to Keizou Maekita's site, which houses photos of abandoned Japanese buildings taken at a once popular resort. So much to see here, and I haven't had time to absorb it all yet. Anyway. Here's the caption text, translated from Japanese to English, from one page (visit the page to see the corresponding pics):

White clouds have flowed to the empty of ruins where summer grass grows Luxuriantly.

It will be that what people enjoyed themselves in the past. It only waits to finish the duty and to decay calmly now. Again, a cheer cannot be heard.

The inside of a hotel on which pamphlet red is scattered has become ruined.

Although used as a garden, it does not put in with summer grass, and the reverse side of these ruins is until to a cherry tree.

A zoo is here once, a monorail runs and many Jolo Jolo birds are lying idle.

Oddly poetic, and the eccentric pockets of reconfigured text more than make up for any meaning lost in the translation.

The dream in 100. (Mannequins are melancholy: "Ruins which mannequins were govering. They had tedious days.")


Monday, November 18, 2002
 
Repackaged for Viral Distribution

I remember seeing this lovely Flash piece a while ago; at the time it was being described as digital art. Yesterday I received an email from my parents (forwarded to them by a cousin) that linked to it. The email's subject line? Polish Digital Clock. Surely this new presentation context has dramatically expanded its audience.


Saturday, November 16, 2002
 
On Eating Elephants

Small, lively, wonderful.


 
Miscellany Part 2

Last night I went to see Punch Drunk Love after failing to get tickets to the new Harry Potter (not that I was expecting to, what with arriving at the bustling multiplex after 7 PM; and not that I was terribly disappointed, since my motive for wanting to see it was pure escapism).

I'm still trying to work out my impressions of the movie, but so far they're mostly negative. After Magnolia and Boogie Nights, I've grown to appreciate the way P. T. Anderson handles ensemble casts and multiple plotlines. This film felt small in comparison, and suffered from poor character development (not a problem in an ensemble film, as long as the characters are interesting) and a carelessly conceived plot. In his other films (more so in Magnolia), Anderson deftly wove together disparate plotlines so that they played off one another in a way that magnified each story's impact, resulting in a "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" sort of clarity. This film staggered along aimlessly, which I actually wouldn't have minded had the journey been an interesting one.

My chief complaint is that I never reached an understanding of what motivated the primary characters, much less why they did what they did. Stylistically the film was on target, with strange kaleidoscopic interludes full of vibrant color that contrasted nicely with the grittier realistic scenes. The soundtrack was comprised mostly of experimental music, a departure from the cultural reference-happy pop songs in his previous efforts. At times I found the music overly loud and irritating; at other times it was subdued and appropriate.

At any rate, I wouldn't recommend spending theater dollars on this one. Rent it if you're curious.


 
Miscellany Part 1

Too much time has passed since the last post (*slaps self on wrist, then beats ankle viciously*). This week was a busy one, filled with time-consuming presentation prep at work (during which I attempted to soak up as much knowledge as I could about the pharmaceutical industry in general and infertility in particular) and more goings-on than I usually manage to fit in on weeknights.

On Wednesday I spontaneously attended the Beth Orton show after a friend's friend couldn't make it. I don't really know her work. When Trailer Park came out I remember hearing a few songs and not being turned off by them, but I haven't heard much since. The show was at Rosebud, a decent venue which is at once large enough to hold a crowd comfortably and small enough to feel intimate.

Karl Mullen, a fixture in the Pittsburgh music scene, opened the evening with a nice set of intense strumming, song, and saxophone. And then Ms. Orton came on, with a stand-up base player, cellist, and guitarist. I enjoyed it, but was disappointed that it was an entirely acoustic set (I was hoping to hear some groovy electronics). Ms. Orton, as evidenced by her on-stage banter, is witty and effervescent; of course her music didn't bear that out -- not an upbeat number in the bunch. By the end I was sleepy and my back hurt, another reminder that youth is no longer at my doorstep.


Tuesday, November 12, 2002
 
Trolling for Columbine

Went to see Bowling for Columbine last night. Not, of course, at the freakishly Disneyfied but insanely comfortable multiplex, but at the quaint neighborhood theater that makes my butt hurt when I sit in it for too long -- as was the sad case last night.

Despite the numbness in my nether regions, the movie was pretty good. I don't completely trust Michael Moore (never have), but the man is a master propagandist and entertainer, and his stuff if enjoyable to watch -- even if his tactics are often as subtle as a punch in the face.

In one segment, e.g., Moore displays on screen the number of annual gun-related deaths in several foreign countries, ending dramatically with the much higher U.S. number. But because it didn't bother to offer the slightest bit of context (like, how populous is the country in question?) the segment left me feeling as though I'd been sucked into a rhetorical vacuum. Now, I'm not saying that gun-related deaths aren't disproportionately higher in the U.S., but his numbers (as they often do) paint an incomplete picture weighted heavily toward his point of view.

I do admire Moore's interviewing style, and he has a knack for choosing subjects who aren't afraid to be themselves on camera. Among the wacky interviews in Bowling: Charlton "I love guns 'cause it's my right" Heston, a couple of bullet-ridden Columbine massacre victims who attempt to return said bullets to K-Mart, Marilyn Manson in a reflective mood, some "we're just normal people, really" militia dudes, a trio of peaceful Canadian teenagers, and a clueless PR lackey from Lockheed Martin (a major employer in the Littleton, CO area).

The one segment in which I was too glued to the screen to munch my popcorn involved a replay of surveillance camera footage from the Columbine massacre. It was thoroughly chilling. What struck me most was how choreographed it looked -- from the fluid sea of students moving swiftly into and out of their makeshift table-top shelters to the studied swagger of the killers as they scoped out the joint, I might have been watching the staging of a high school play.

The movie's biggest takeway, however, is that -- if Moore's Canadian subjects are representative of the populace at large -- our neighbors to the north appear to be much saner than we are. Where have you been all my life, Canada? (Starting Canadian grad school research posthaste.)


Sunday, November 10, 2002
 
Doing Something While Doing Nothing

36% complete of protein p208, in addition to 4 units of 137 and 2 units of 203. Will these be the proteins that revolutionize modern medicine? Time will tell...


Saturday, November 09, 2002
 
Fighting the Good Fight

Fancypants implemented a CSS-based layout sans HTML tables. If I can gain me some technical knowledge, I'd like to try it too.


 
Death to Pagerank, Long Live Folding

After ignoring it for weeks, I finally clicked the "New!" button on my Google toolbar. It seems I've been randomly selected to participate in a new Google initiative, enabled by said toolbar, which leverages the power of distributed computing to help scientists understand how proteins fold into shapes.

The romantic in me wishes I could toggle between helping the folders and SETI, but Google (at least initially) has a more noble cause to support. Future releases, they say, will support multiple projects.

(Interestingly, I tried to link to Google's FAQ page for the new program, but the ghost in the machine won't let me!) No ghosts, just me being foolish. Linkee works now.


Wednesday, November 06, 2002
 
Like Water

The Chronicle weighs in on the Bogdanov affair. Notable, if only for the fact that an MIT physics professor uses the phrase "ass backwards" in the article.


Monday, November 04, 2002
 
The Unbridgeable Gulf (in which I take generous liberties with the limerick form)

There was an inciter named Sokal
who laid bare the sins of a journal.
Whether for or against
his true aim was not sensed;
'twas really an hommage to Urkel.

* * *

Came across this today (via Robot Wisdom), which is serendipitous considering I'd just the other day been reconsidering the Sokal Affair (while reading a lengthy but well considered opinion piece I can't seem to find now). A little more digging unearthed this account of the new scandal, which closes tantalizingly with the author's admission that he can't disclose some new tidbit of information he's come across.

Seems that while pomo journals sometimes suffer from a lack of understanding of the subject matter they attempt to dissect, the referee process used by physics journals (or some of them, at any rate) isn't much of a process. More bloggy analysis here and here (scroll up to read more commentary).

These things that poke holes in the academic system are a source of endless fascination for me. Whither thou goest, and why? (And perhaps more importantly, why are there so many German-language sites devoted to Steve Urkel?)


Saturday, November 02, 2002
 
Unwhacked

My first googlewhack is no longer a googlewhack. :(


Friday, November 01, 2002
 
Conned

Teresa Nielsen Hayden posts an insightful analysis of why people fall for confidence games, along with some delicious examples of the recent Nigerian 419 scheme. Makes me thing fondly of one of my favorite movies, perhaps the only Mamet film I could watch again and again.


This is the work of Abbi Ball, and is licensed under a Creative Commons License.