Monthly Archives: April 2009

Brain Music

The Department of Homeland Security is into music psychology research?

Does the brain naturally compose melodies to rival those by Mozart or Chopin? Researchers at the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) think so. What’s more, they suggest that piano renditions of an individual’s cerebral music can help in dealing with insomnia and fatigue in the aftermath of a stressful experience. Psychologists, however, are sceptical of their claims.

The DHS researchers on the TechSolutions programme and in the Human Factors/Behavior Science Division hope to record the brain’s natural activity during periods of calm or alertness. Human Bionics – a company specialising in neurotraining in Purcellville, Virginia – will convert the signal into an audible polyphonic melody. Individuals will be asked to listen to the tracks at various times during the day to either soothe the nerves or improve concentration levels.

Such technology was requested by local firefighters, coast guards, bomb squads and others working within the DHS, says DHS science spokesman John Verrico.

Hmmmm…. is it just me or is there something a little bit X-Files about that?

Thanks Sounds and Fury

Oh Sweet Miracle of Life At Last I’ve Found You!

I might have mentioned before (I can’t remember for sure) that the local stores have not had Roman Meal Bread for over a year now. I know I never expressed to you the trauma, the hardship, the deprivation, the… Oh, okay! I might be exaggerating just a little bit. But starting today life is back to normal. As I was looking over the several varieties of Mrs. Baird’s and Nature’s Own I noticed, on the top shelf, a familiar logo – Roman Meal! They actually had Roman Meal bread. Pardon me, I have to go make a sandwich.

Guest Blogger: Friend and Hero

On April 30, 1975 Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. Thousands of South Vietnamese refugees came to the United States and started new lives here. For the past several years my husband and I have been privileged to know one of these people. His name is Tri (pronounced tree) He and my husband met at work and now, though they no longer work for the same employer, they have remained friends and keep in regular contact with each other. I’ve met Tri but don’t know him very well myself so I’ll let my husband tell you about him.

Tri
by Roger Sislo

He is a small man compared to most of us. I think he stands about 5’ 2” and weighs 120 lbs. He is from what was a well to do South Vietnamese family. I tease him by calling him a city boy because he grew up in Saigon. Due to the war in Vietnam Tri joined the South Vietnamese Navy and was an engineering officer at the rank of Commander. Tri speaks three languages Vietnamese, French and English that he got to practice with American sailors.

Saigon fell on April 30, 1975 Tri and his family were not sure what to do. It’s my understanding that just a few days before, the American government had evacuated his brother but did not have time to evacuate his brother’s wife and children. Tri had to do something to help his mother, wife, daughter and his brother’s family. Tri and a friend from his ship took a moped to the U.S. Embassy looking for help and like many others that day, the U.S. Embassy did not have room for them and could not help them. I’ve seen pictures of the U.S. Embassy that day with lines of people climbing on ladders hoping to leave on helicopters that were landing on the roof of the Embassy.

Tri and his friend left and went down to the Navy piers and found a small ship tied up there. The engine would not start but they found a problem with the battery and were able to get it started. Tri then removed the battery cables so that it would not start and went to get his family.

Tri and his friend loaded their families on the back of a flat bed truck. Tri led the way on the moped and his friend drove the truck. During the trip they had to stop for traffic and Tri’s sister got off the back of the truck and walked away. Tri did not know this until they got to the ship and everyone was getting on board. He asked his mother where his sister was and she told him that she did not want to leave her husband behind and had gotten off the truck hoping she could find him.

As they were getting on board a Vietnamese Navy officer Tri did not know came over and asked him if he and his family and friends could also go with them. Tri told them to hurry and get on board, that he would try and take everyone that was on board when he had the boat ready to go but that he would leave as soon as it was ready.

Tri and his group of refugees got the boat started and under way and soon found out the steering was not working. So they rigged a lever to the rudder and used the sound-powered phone from the bridge to the engine room to tell them which way to steer the ship.

Once they were out of the harbor and under way Tri used the radio to call the captain of a ship that he knew was already under way. The captain met with Tri’s ship and moved everyone over to his ship. He then told Tri to sink his ship so that it would not be found by the North Vietnamese Navy. Once Tri was on board the new ship the captain called for Tri to come see him on the bridge. On the Bridge the captain told Tri, “I just received a call on the radio and I am going to pick up some more people and I want you to sink their boat also once we have them on board.”

I’m not sure of the details but somehow during the trip to the U.S. Navy Base in the Philippines. Tri gave his only pair of shoes away to someone on board the ship. When they arrived at the Philippine base Tri, his wife and 5 year old daughter were lined up on the HOT concrete navy peer and it was burning his feet. Lucky for Tri a U.S. sailor noticed he had no shoes and that his feet were getting burned and got his own Shower shoes (cheap rubber flip-flops) and gave them to Tri to wear so that his feet would not get burned.

Later via Fort Chaffee in Arkansas Tri and his family moved to the U.S. Tri has a great sense of humor and is a lot of fun to know. It surprises me sometimes how much he and I have in common. We both make a living working on computers and enjoy doing our own repairs on our cars, trucks and RV’s.

I’m not surprised he is an enthusiastic, sometimes emotional, always generous, kind and caring person. He’s the kind of person who would give you his last pair of shoes if he felt you needed them more then he did.

One of my favorite quotes from Tri is “We are military, we know we survive”

I’ve told Tri’s story many times to anyone I can trap into letting me tell it to them.

No Fear of Color

Some people are horrified by John Daly’s golf pants. This sort of thing amuses me. Ridiculous and intended to be offensive remarks like “visible from orbit” and the ever popular “You need sunglasses when you look at him/her” makes wearing bright colors, which I like anyway, even more fun. Of course you wouldn’t want to wear those pants to a business meeting but for playing golf or any other casual activity, why not?

Frankly, I don’t understand at all why some people have such outrageously negative reactions to bright colors. Of course I understand different people having different tastes. If you don’t like bright colors that’s fine but why act like it’s a crime against humanity for someone else to wear anything bright and cheerful? Apparently some people don’t understand different people having different tastes. Or maybe they were frightened by a clown when they were little and never got over it. Anyway, whatever. The more people complain the more I will enjoy wearing “eye-popping” colors.

* * *

Speaking of bright colors… One day last week I was working on my current project and remarked to Number Two Son as he walked by that fabric marking pencils might be easier to see if they came in neon colors. On some fabrics none of the three standard colors, red, white and blue, show up clearly. (Red seems to be less common. Mostly I see just blue and white.) He smiled that slight, mischievous smile he has and said, “What if you were making a neon colored quilt?” Well, being a bit mischievous myself I responded, “Do you want a neon quilt?” and he said “I want a quilt so bright you don’t need a light to see it in the dark.”

I did not need that suggestion. I have too many ideas and plans already. But that’s going to stay in my head, nagging at me while I’m working on other stuff. I think true neon colors would be hard to find in quilting fabrics but you can get stuff that’s pretty bright. No rush on this one but maybe someday if I run out of other things to make…

100 Days

The media are all excited about President Obama’s First Hundred Days. Don’t you know they’ve been planning for this since January? (Maybe even since November) Okay, so I was already thinking about it back in January myself. I expected to have more to say but I’ve gone back to my default mode which is to mostly ignore what’s going on in Washington D.C. Maybe 5 to 10 percent of my attention is on Washington. I don’t want to completely ignore it.

So I don’t have much to say, just a couple of things. I still like President Obama. He’s turning out to be just about as liberal as people said he is and since I’m moderate that means he’s doing some stuff that worries me a little bit. But they are mostly things that need to be done. Like war – nobody likes it but sometimes it needs to be done. The economy is a beast that’s hard to control but I think Conservatives handle it with too long a leash or sometimes no leash at all. Almost no one is mature enough handle large amounts of money without regulation. The Conservatives left the day care unsupervised for too long. Now the Liberals have to come in and clean up the mess. For a while it’s not going to be pretty.

Foreign Policy – The people who liked Bush’s foreign policy are horrified that President Obama is trying to make nice with the bad guys. On the one hand, I can sympathize with that point of view. There are an awful lot of countries that seriously need a good, hard butt kicking followed by at least a century of adult supervision but we simply cannot do that. We’re big and bad but not that big and bad. (And in this case I mean “bad” in a good way.) Like it or not, sometimes talking to people we don’t like is the strategy most likely to give us the result we need.

Just a few months ago we (well, some of us) were happy and excited about having a new president, about finally being rid of Bush, about the first Black president (though he’s actually bi-racial) but now he’s just another president. At least that’s the way it feels to me. Better than the last one? Most definitely. A miracle worker, a savior, superman? Sorry, no. Just a man trying to do a really tough job. And if he does it with style, is that a bad thing? Of course not! With apologies to all my Republican readers, I like President Obama’s style and I’m going enjoy the next four (hopefully eight) years. Insofar as I’m paying attention.

Hope Theme

There is an Obama WordPress theme. Not for everyone, obviously. I like the colors though. (via Dustbury)

I wondered if there were any more. As usual Google is there to help satisfy our curiosity. Here’s an all blue one. Here’s a more subtle one on the official WordPress site. You could almost miss the fact that it’s an Obama theme if you weren’t paying attention. And another one.

I still like the first one best. I wouldn’t use it of course because it doesn’t go with the sort of blogging I do. Now if it had my face at the top…

Ethnic Issues

A couple of excellent posts by Tonio Kruger – one about movies, old and new and the lack of realistic (or any) Hispanic characters.

I also like movies that are older than me. I like newer movies too. I just like good movies, or even bad ones if they’re entertaining enough. Hollywood is in the business of making money. They like to pretend that they’re doing good work for humanity and there are movies that make you think but the movie business is first of all about making money and that makes them quite cowardly in the “doing our bit for the good of humanity” department. They don’t mind taking on causes if they happen to be popular ones that are guaranteed to do well at the box office. And no I’m not criticizing anyone for wanting to make money. I am criticizing them for pretending that it’s not mostly about money.

The other excellent post is also about stereotyping, in particular the stereotype of Hispanics as non- computer users. The only thing I have to say is in response to the last sentence of this paragraph:

Yet for a long time, the media promoted the notion that the use of computers was not a Hispanic thing. Indeed, prior to 21st century shows like American Family and Ugly Betty, the only recognition that we can use computers came from a mention in an old X-Men comic book written back in the 1980s which showed a Hispanic schoolchild doing homework on a home computer. And even that example couldn’t help undermining its credibility by having the child’s relatives refer to each other as “we Hispanics”–instead of, say, “we Mexicans” or “we Puerto Ricans” or even “we Americans” like most of the real-life Hispanics I know do.

You know what’s funny? I recently heard somewhere that it is not politically correct to refer to people from Mexico as “Mexicans”. We’re supposed to say “Hispanic”. Now, on one level I can understand that because not everyone who has brown skin and speaks Spanish is from Mexico. They might be from Costa Rica, Panama, Argentina or any of a number of Central and South American countries but if you happen to know that the person you’re talking about is, in fact, from Mexico what is wrong with saying “Mexican”?

White liberals who have had little or no contact with the groups they’re trying to protect make up rules for how the rest of us should talk and once they’ve made up their minds how it should be they won’t listen to anyone, not even the very people they’re trying to help. I wish they would just shut up, get out of the way and let Hispanics (and Native Americans and Asians everyone else) do the talking for themselves.

Unreality TV

Fred expresses a bit of cynicism about the various surprise talents on Britain’s Got Talent. I like this line at the end:

Britain’s Got Talent is an excellent reminder for us music snobs just how much it is true that, in the opinion of a great mass of people, music itself ought never aspire to the so-called condition of music. It wants to be a sound track for something else.

How true; sad but true. Everyone likes music but most people can’t imagine it being anything more than a soundtrack for their lives. I admit that much of the time it’s merely my soundtrack but sometimes I do really listen. There are many people who don’t even know what you’re talking about when you say “really listen”.

But I didn’t mean to go off on that track. This is about television. I still want to believe in the Susan Boyle phenomenon – dowdy spinster surprises and wows the judges and is an instant international hit. For those of us who desperately (well, maybe not quite desperately) wish the world would stop equating physical beauty with talent this was a shining moment of hope. And if it was only manufactured? So what? It’s still shiny; let us have our moment.

Alas, it looks like Britain’s Got Talent is turning back in the other direction – toward youth and the ever popular Cute Kids. (It’s funny… I know more about what’s happening on Britain’s Got Talent than I know about American Idol.)

The opening paragraph of that article illustrates exactly what keeps these shows going.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already sick of Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent. And I don’t even live in Britain! I’ve just reached my Boyling point with her.

Short attention span. On the other hand, those shows also encourage short attention spans. Of course it makes sense that they would encourage what they require for survival.

More Guthrie, OK

I have added four more pictures of the Guthrie Drug Store Museum to my Photostream. There is one more place in Guthrie that we visited – the State Capital Publishing Museum – but I haven’t decided yet which pictures of that I want to post. I’ll try to get around to it sometime this week but don’t be holding your breath in anticipation.

Random Linkage

Twictionary

Photos from Cassini – beautiful

8 Food Myths – I already knew all of them except the Alka-Seltzer thing. I’d never heard that one before.

McDonald’s Diet – Someone who lost weight eating only McDonald’s food for 30 days. (via AMCGLTD)

Rays – Beautiful sky photos (via Bifurcated Rivets)

Artifacts From the Future

Curvy house – I can’t see myself living there but it is beautiful, in a way.

Morgan Cars – Still making them they way they used to.

Warmth – great painting

Russian Prince Seeks Bride – Amazing palace photos. If it weren’t for that creepy first photo I’d almost feel sorry for the guy.

Amazing Samplers

Not the usual bunny slippers

Pardon me, I’m gonna swear. A LOT.

I am really hating UPS right now. I’m so mad I can’t think about anything else so this might be all the blogging you get for a while. Until now I have trusted UPS. I’ve never had any trouble with them at all. I don’t want to go into detail. I’ll only say that there must be a new driver on my route because until now no UPS driver has ever been too f*cking lazy to open the damn gate and drive up the driveway to deliver a package. I’ve come to expect that from Fed Ex but never UPS.

The really bad part is that he put a note on the gate that says it’s the Final Notice but it is, in fact, the ONLY notice I received. And the really really bad part is that I can’t contact an actual person at UPS. Every phone number I can find has one of those automated answering systems and there is no “Press 4 if your delivery driver is a lazy-ass f*cking moron” option and there’s no way to get to a live person. Their website is not any better. It just leads you around in circles like most commercial websites. I did fill out their contact form but I fully expect an annoying automated answer and still no way to contact anyone.

UPDATE: I tried the suggestion in the first comment and got a very nice lady on the phone. The package is supposed to be delivered tomorrow.

I had never heard of Gethuman.com. What a great website! Very useful.

Pondering Music

Much thanks to Brian Micklethwait for posting this delightful poem by Leonard Bernstein:

Of time to think as a pure musician
and ponder the art of composition.
Four hours on end I brooded and mused
on materiae musicae, used and abused;
On aspects of unconventionality,
Over the death in our time of tonality,
Over the fads of Dada and Chance,
The serial strictures, the dearth of romance,
“Perspective in Music” the new terminology,
Physiomathematommusicology;
Pieces called “Cycles” and “Sines” and “Parameters” –
Titles too beat for these homely tetrameters;
Pieces for nattering, clucking sopranos
With squadrons of vibraphones, fleets of pianos
played with the forearms, the fists and the palms
And then I came up with the Chichester Psalms.
These psalms are a simple and modest affair,
Tonal and tuneful and somewhat square,
Certain to sicken a stout John Cager
With its tonics and triads in E flat major.
But there it stands the result of my pondering,
Two long months of avant-garde wandering –
My youngest child, old-fashioned and sweet.
And he stands on his own two tonal feet.

On TV

Yay! The Explosives Network Discovery Channel has actually had some new shows on in the last two weeks – best of all, new Mythbusters. There was also a new Time Warp this week. I’m not sure about that show. Sometimes I’ll see something on it that makes me say, “Wow, that was really cool,” but overall I don’t find it all that interesting.

I watched one episode of Pitchmen. My attitude toward direct marketing TV ads has always been, if the stuff was any good you would be able to walk into a store and buy it. They wouldn’t sell it “only on TV” so you have to send your money without being able to actually see the product and they wouldn’t need all the shouting and the questionable demonstrations to convince you to buy it. Also the “a [$100] value for only [$29.95]” bit always annoys me. I have never seen anything on any of those ads that could possibly be worth any more than what they were selling it for.

After watching Pitchmen… my attitude hasn’t changed all that much but I was impressed with the impact gel (or whatever they were called) insoles and now I’m willing to admit that maybe some of the stuff they sell on those ads is not complete garbage. You can get some of those products in stores. Our local Walgreens sells some of them. I haven’t been in to look yet but they were advertising a lot of “as seen on TV” stuff on their digital sign outside the store.

* * *

I finally watched Fringe. Thank you, Brit Gal for encouraging me to give it a try. I like it. I hope it will last for another season or two.

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The last few episodes of Chuck have been very interesting. There’s not much I can say without spoiling the most recent episode but the story arc has really developed on this show and I’m nearly going nuts wondering what’s next.