Monthly Archives: July 2008

Things to Look At

Some interesting photos and links. I like the “gothic machinery” and the shadow photo. Among the links there’s this list of exotic fruits. I might be willing to try some of those. What a food looks like definitely has a lot to with whether or not it is appetizing but I also shy away from fruits that are a lot of trouble to eat, like those that have too many seeds. And this bit of fence conversation is sort of interesting. (Keep clicking on the photos)

Yay, Sharks

It’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Normally that would not excite me at all. I’m not a fan of Shark Week, unlike a certain 8-year-old I know. But we haven’t watched anything on the Discovery Channel for over a month since they turned it into the Crab Fishing Channel with nothing but Deadliest Catch every night so anything new is exciting. Best of all, there are two new two-hour Mythbusters. (I watched the one last night.) Who cares if it’s about shark myths? It’s the Mythbusters!

Top 10 Most Annoying Things Heard on HGTV

1. Some people are afraid of color – Oh no! Oh no! Don’t let those scary colors in here!

2. Warm earth tones – formerly known as neutrals. Currently popular in kitchens and bathrooms. These designers should get together with the people-are-afraid-of-color designers.

3. Some people are afraid to paint brick. – No, some people are smart enough to realize that brick is a beautiful, durable material that does not need painting and that if you paint brick you are giving up a major advantage of having brick.

4. Go outside your comfort zone – There’s a reason why it’s called a “comfort zone”. It’s what we are comfortable with. We want to feel comfortable in our homes. If you mean that some people are reluctant to try new things just say that.

5. Utilize – Have you ever noticed that people on HGTV never simply use anything? They utilize spaces, utilize color, utilize plants, utilize materials. Everything is utilized. I’m sure that “utilize” is a perfectly good word in its proper place (wherever that is) but it’s silly to utilize things when you can simply use them.

6. Glam – While some designers never pass up the chance to use three syllables when they could use one, others can’t even seem to manage two. Please don’t give me any glam. That’s the ugliest word since the word “blog”.

7. We don’t want everything to look too matchy-matchy – Oh for crying out loud… talk like an adult, why don’t you! Since when did they start having 3-year-olds host design shows?

8. “These are not the colors we agreed on.” – “This accessory doesn’t go with our design.” etc. – I remember one designer on Curb Appeal who was literally almost in tears when he found out the homeowners had decided to paint their house a different color from the one he had tried to talk them into. Some designers get way too possessive of other people’s houses.

9. Water feature – If it’s a fountain, call it a fountain; if it’s a waterfall, call it a waterfall. The term “water feature” is only excusable if, in the early stages of the design process, you know you want something with water but haven’t decided exactly what. Once you have decided, call it what it is. A couple of times I’ve even heard “fire feature”. Fortunately that one hasn’t caught on yet.

10. Green when it’s used to mean “Earth friendly” or “environmentally responsible” – I’m extremely tired of hearing this everywhere, not just on HGTV. I have no problem with people wanting to be environmentally responsible, within reason, but green is a color, the color you get when you mix yellow and blue, to be specific, the color of grass and leaves in summer but, strangely, most “green” products come in “warm earth tones”. If the bamboo floor or the countertop made of old toilets or the new lightbulbs are not literally green don’t call them green.

Dishonorable mention: Pop – as in, “These colors really pop.” For a long time this one didn’t bother me at all but like most buzzwords it gets annoying after you’ve heard it 5,000 times.

A Few Links

The Rule – sounds like a pretty good rule to me except that I don’t especially care whether or not a movie has at least two women in it.

Teeth – OMG! OMG! What the…!? Weird, crazy, messed up… What kind of sick minds… I probably shouldn’t link to this but I can’t unread what I have already read so I’m going to make you suffer along with me.

Do it yourself Droste Effect – well, that is if you’re geeky enough to figure out how to use GIMP, which I, apparently, am not.

Stained glass for gamers and geeks. Links to more in the comments.

More Droste effect photos

10 things you can stop worrying about – Well, that’s a relief. I’m a little bummed about #1 though. I like carbs better than fat. Unless the fat comes with carbs. (via Neatorama)

Revisiting a Lost World

Slight SPOILERS ahead.

Way back in the late 70′s when my husband and I were newlyweds we frequently went to a small library that had a fairly impressive collection of science fiction. The most memorable book I read in those days was The Ice People by French author René Barjavel. (English translation by Charles L. Markmann) For years I looked for the book in stores – not a great effort of searching, just always hoping to find it someday. It was only recently that I thought to look for it at Amazon. They had several used copies in hardback and several more paperback copies. I bought the hardback.

In The Ice People an international group of researchers find a chamber buried deep beneath the Antarctic ice. Inside are two people who have been frozen at near absolute zero for nine hundred thousand years. They succeed in reviving one of the people and through her memories we see the last days of a highly advanced civilization of Earth’s past.

I had wondered if I would still like the book as much as I did when I first read it. Some things don’t survive time and experience very well but, except for a couple of complaints, I still do like it a lot. In fact, it’s one of my all-time favorites. It is a romantic tragedy and a protest against the arms race of the 20th century. It was originally published in France in 1968; the English translation in 1971. It feels just a little dated in some parts (computers still use punch cards) but mostly it still works because it’s more about people than technology.

The complaints? The love scenes read like laughably bad soft p0rn – not that I’ve ever read any kind of p0rn, at least not on purpose, but I can say that these scenes do not turn me on or make me feel romantic; they make me feel like laughing and that does not go with the rest of the book, which is otherwise a tear-jerker. Maybe you have to be male or French or both to get it. Fortunately there is very little of that sort of thing. My other complaint is that it gives away its own ending with an “if only we had done things a little differently” statement near the beginning of the story. I hate when authors do that. However, I nevertheless found myself “on the edge of my seat” rooting for the soon-to-be victims and desperately hoping that what I knew was going to happen would not happen.

But in spite of these faults I still feel that it is a great story. It is unique and haunting and feels important somehow. The book is only 182 pages long. The story could have been filled out a little more and I almost always prefer longer books but I don’t think this one could have been improved by adding to it. I’m not a fan of tragedies at all. Too often the tragedy seems senseless and easily preventable and therefore stupid. I think what I find haunting about The Ice People is the idea of a civilization that existed 900,000 years ago. It’s such an intriguing idea and there is enough left to the imagination that it remains intriguing.

White Knight Two

Beautiful.

It looks like the Mojave Desert is once again the center of the private space industry, with Richard Branson and crew on hand to unveil Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo spaceship carrier as promised. This craft (only the first of more that are promised) has been named EVE (after Branson’s mother) and, with a 140-foot wingspan, it’s apparently now officially the largest all carbon-composite aircraft ever made. Eventually, it’ll be used to help carry the the yet-to-be-completed SpaceShipTwo craft in orbit although, as Burt Rutan himself tells Space.com, that’s still a little ways off…

It has to do a lot of test flights – at least 40 – but I’m already excited. This is what private industry can do: They don’t just build spacecraft, they make them beautiful too.

Take a look at this gallery of photos and illustrations.

Books!

FullBooks.com – A large collection of public domain books. A wide variety of stuff from classics to the obscure. There are magazines too, for example, several issues of The Atlantic Monthly from the late 1850s to early 1860s. Just browsing through the titles is fascinating.

Fonts

Everyone has been linking to this video so, in the time-honored copy-cat tradition of the blogosphere, I’m going to link to it too. I can’t decide whether it’s very clever or really stupid but it amuses me.

Colors

Can’t keep up with what all the different color awareness ribbons mean? Here’s a list. Looking at it makes me a little tired. It’s not exactly that I don’t care anymore, it’s just that the overwhelming number of causes represented by a few colors makes the whole ribbon thing seem silly. What if you agree with one cause represented by a particular color but disagree with another? I suggest that everyone go back to wearing big tacky-looking metal buttons so we can all tell what people really care about.

Fantasy Maps

Fantasy Cartography (via Quiddity) – Very cool! I love maps and even non-existent places need maps.

On the other hand, although I do like when sci-fi and fantasy novels have maps, they can be annoying and distracting. I can’t resist turning back to the map over and over again while I’m reading. And I hate maps that are incomplete or difficult to read. The most annoying maps I’ve come across recently are the ones in in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. There are lots of locations in the story that are not marked on the map and it’s not like the map is too crowded it’s mostly empty. It seems like the map maker was more interested in preserving that feeling of vast emptiness than in helping readers visualize the story.

Quotes From Here and There

Get over it. The great ones are always a pain in the ass.here (Not that I necessarily agree completely with the article. More on this subject some other time.)

Starbucks is in the process of closing 600 stores nationwide, while Dunkin’ Donuts — that oh-so-unhip place where you can pay less money, get good coffee, much less attitude, and even a sinful doughnut if you dare — is opening 500 stores. Draw your own conclusions…there (via)

Frankly, I don’t think it’s an oil shortage we need to be worried about, but a shortage of thinking caps!here

First off, I’m thinking of a movie that started with a long battle sequence that’s so gigantic and filled with mayhem and destruction that it’s “impossible for the brain to follow”, and that sequence is uniformly hailed as filmmaking genius.there

Incontrovertible proof that aliens have visited the Fredölawn. here

Weird, Silly Cat Dream

I had another one of those dreams where the impossible seems perfectly logical, reasonable and normal. I dreamed that when we got Dax we also got two other kittens at the same time. One was a black and white male who was a delightfully mischievous little scamp and he could talk. This wasn’t surprising at all. It seemed perfectly normal that he could talk. The others couldn’t talk yet and I thought how clever he was that he learned to talk sooner than the other two kittens but it didn’t seem the least bit strange. (until I woke up)

The two kittens I just dreamed up didn’t have names yet. I was thinking about what to name them and the clever little talking kitten asked me something about his name and I asked him what he would like to be named and he said, very enthusiastically, “I want my name to be Diesel.” Now where the heck did that come from? I have never thought of that as a cat name. That’s as weird as talking cats.

How Photos Lie

Photoshop beauty tutorials. This post has links to Photoshop tutorials and, for those of us who don’t necessarily want to learn how to do it ourselves, lots of photos showing what can be done. Be sure to show this to any teenage girls you know. Never believe magazine photos.

Princess Watching

Shock! Horrors! Princess Anne recently showed up at a wedding wearing the same dress she wore to another wedding in 1981. So what? Maybe she likes the dress. I’ve always felt a teensy bit sorry for rich women. You spend hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars (or pounds) on a beautiful new dress and only get to wear it once? How silly! How wasteful! How sad. I say good for Anne. And you know, it’s a pretty dress. I’d wear it again too.

Via Dustbury

More Links

Medieval Help Desk – very funny (via The Mumpsimus)

Haha – I guess we’re supposed to groan when we read something like that but I just smiled and felt special because I get it too.

Cake Wrecks – bad, strange or amusingly decorated cakes (thanks, Scott)

Ooooo, shiny!

How It All Began – Warning: Pun Alert! (via Bifurcated Rivets)

Scientists’ wordclouds

Star Wars classics – a Photoshop contest. These are great! (via Dark Roasted Blend. Many more great links in that post.)

It’s a… uh… it’s a… I have no idea what it is but it’s cute and steampunkish

Russian aerial photography – awesome

Penguin vs. Ostrich

It’s Hard Being Normal

I guess I’m not really as nice a person as you probably think I am. I mean, I strongly believe in niceness. I sincerely believe that the world would work so much more smoothly if everyone was nice and I do try but sometimes it’s so difficult. To practice niceness is not too difficult but to think nice thoughts is nearly impossible sometimes.

Being nice is never more difficult than it is when I encounter unbelievably stupid people. I actually do feel sort of bad about feeling this way. If people honestly can’t help being… let’s say “intellectually challenged” then getting angry or impatient with them is the same as getting angry or impatient with a person who is slow and walks with a limp. Such a person is not as handicapped as a person in a wheel chair but they still have no choice in the matter. But stupid people – not people who are truly mentally challenged but people who function more or less normally in society but who are shockingly ignorant about certain things – are so much harder to deal with.

I have two general examples that are getting under my skin right now. First example: computer stupidity. Those stories are hilarious but also sad. The guy from Roswell who turns his monitor to the wall every night so the government can’t spy on him is my favorite but I suspect that one was made up. It’s just a little too outrageous. Some of the others though, I’ve met people exactly like that – people who are terrified of computers and especially the Internet and fear all sorts of ridiculously impossible bad stuff that they are sure will happen.

These people have completely misinterpreted warnings about things that could happen if one is not careful online and now have fixed in their minds the notion of the Internet as a vast mysterious realm of terror with evil lurking, ready to destroy them and everything they hold dear at the next click of the mouse. How do you get through to people like that? How do you convince people to take reasonable precautions – like not sending your bank account numbers to those nice folks from Nigeria – without having them thinking that computers are some sort of black magic, evil force device?

Of course, computer stupidity is not just limited to the fearful. Many people merrily surf the Internet every day without having the slightest clue what it is or how it works:

Customer: “Can you copy the Internet for me on this diskette?”

* * *

“You really should get some English literature on your Internet. All I can find is computer-related stuff. The computers at the University have all sorts of information on their Internet. Maybe you should ask them for a copy?”

* * *

Student: “I’m not on a web site. I’m on www.ask.com.”

* * *

I used to work at the IT Support Desk for a university. A librarian at one of our libraries was surfing the web one day and came across a site that said it was best viewed using the Internet Explorer browser. So she called me and said she needed a “browser” to view this site, and could we install a browser onto her system?

I told her that if she was viewing the site already, she was already using a browser, but, unsatisfied with that answer, she went over my head to the Directory of Libraries and said that we were being uncooperative about providing her with a browser.

* * *

Boss: (brandishing a newspaper ad) “Sign us up for this Earthlink thing!”
Me: “We don’t need that. It’s just another ISP. We have AOL.”
Boss: (blank stare)
Me: “A…O…L. That’s our ISP.”
Boss: “But I want to send email to (his friend), and HE’s on EARTHLINK! We can’t send email to him on Earthlink while we’re using that AOL thing!”
Me: “Sure we can. We can send email to anywhere we like.”
Boss: “No, that’s impossible. I’ve looked into it…we have to be on Earthlink, too. And that Netmeeting and Microsoftnet…we’re just going to have to join them all. Will I need a different e-dress for every one, do you know?”

Ah, bosses. You gotta love ‘em. But that guy is not so different from a lot of other people. Everyone thinks they know. They’ve “looked into it” or they learned it from someone who “knows what they’re doing.” Grrrr…. Sometimes I want to… to… well, to not be so darn nice anymore. Lots more stories here. I couldn’t be a tech support person. Before the end of my first week, if they didn’t fire me for bluntly telling someone how stupid they are they’d have to haul me away to the loony bin for the effects of having to hold it in.

The second general example of stupidity that is bugging me right now is stupid rumors about Barack Obama. This is quite a bit more important than computer stupidity. I don’t even know what to say about this. She said it better than I could. Much more fair-minded than I am. I just want to start slapping people around.

A life-long annoyance for me is people who don’t understand satire. (not to mention metaphor) You can explain it to some people and they will seem to get it but the next time they see satire they take it literally just like always. Their brains just aren’t wired right I guess, but you would think that anyone who is smart enough to dress themselves every morning would be smart enough to realize that such a thing as satire exists and that they have a problem recognizing it so maybe they should be careful about taking things literally.

I don’t consider myself to be a genius or even unusually smart, just average. That’s why the title of this is “It’s Hard Being Normal” – because I consider myself normal. But that would mean that there are an awful lot of people out there who are way below normal. Half the people? Because I’m right in the middle? I don’t know. It seems like most people are smart enough but afraid to use their brains. And don’t give me that nonsense about age. There are people who are a lot younger than me who don’t get computers and who believe all the ridiculous Obama rumors. It’s probably a good thing I don’t get out much. If I met more people sooner or later I might slap someone.

Conversation With My Cat

A Drama In One Act

dramatis personae
KES: a nine year old calico
ME: her disobedient servant

~ ~ ~

KES: Let me in; I have a mouse.

ME: No. You’re not bringing that thing in here.

KES: I demand that you let me in.

ME: Demand all you want but I am not going to open the door as long as you have that mouse.

KES: Pleeease let me in.

ME: No. I didn’t let you in the last time you brought a mouse to the back door, nor the time before that nor the time before that. What makes you think I will let you in this time?

KES: But you don’t understand. This is extremely important. I must bring this mouse inside.

ME: No. It is extremely important that you DO NOT bring that mouse inside.

KES: But… but… it’s fresh.

ME: Ewwww. Go away.

KES: But I brought it for you. See? It’s a gift.

ME: Humans don’t like mice. Haven’t you figured that out yet?

KES: What!? I don’t believe you! How can you not like mice? You’re just being cruel, rejecting my gift to you.

ME: Believe it. I am not being cruel. I really do not like mice.

KES: Okay, look. I lied. The truth is it’s a gift for the kitten.

ME: Oh please! You don’t even like the kitten.

KES: But I’m trying. I thought maybe we could bond over this nice, tasty snack.

ME: That’s not necessary. She likes you already; all you have to do is stop running away from her. No mouse and that’s final.

KES: F*ck you!

More Blogs

Horse/Water – images, (photos, posters, signs, album covers, etc.) videos and links

BillieBlog – cooking, gardening, life in Mexico; very nice

The Arab Aquarius – lots of images; design, pop culture, etc.

The Hungover Gourmet – food, drink and travel

Mixed Meters – Have I mentioned this one before? I should have. Music and more.

Confessions of a Half Breed Prince – movies, TV, science fiction, etc. Lots of quotes.

Confessions of a Cardamon Addict – mmmmm, cardamon. Actually, the only place I’ve ever seen cardamon is in tea. As you might guess, this is a food blog – an excellent food blog; well-written, fun, lots of recipes and tips.

The Devil’s Kitchen – a newsy UK blog. Very good but I confess, I mainly wanted to point out the cool page design.

Not the Eternal Tao – general life-blogging; nice but intermittent. I was attracted to the cat posts

Quiddity – That title sounds familiar but I can’t remember if I’ve seen this one before or not. Various very interesting stuff, such as 7 Hamburgers of the Apocalypse. (Why do I keep finding so much food today?)

Pink Wallpaper – an interior designer’s blog