Monthly Archives: June 2009

Just For You

Moon and Clouds
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Bales of Hay
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I like the smaller version of the moon photo better than the large but I put the link there for consistency anyway.

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I think I’m getting a wee bit bored with the Skywatch Friday routine. I love taking pictures of clouds and I love showing them off. And I like getting more visitors and more comments. But… I don’t know… I think it is the routine of it that I’m not thrilled with, plus the competition aspect of it. It’s not really a competition at all but it brings out the competitor in me. I’m not actually much of a competitor, or at least I’ve never been very good at it. I guess what it really brings out in me is envy. Why did I only get seven comments and some other Skywatchers got 20 or 50 or more?

I think I’m still going to keep doing Skywatch but I’m going to try to be less into it. A Skywatch post is just another post and I don’t need to save my best sky photos for Skywatch Friday. I can post them any time I feel like it. (But I do have an awesome photo I’m saving for this Friday.) And I don’t have to spend Friday visiting as many other Skywatchers as possible. And I can completely skip a Skywatch Friday if I feel like it. I’m just not a meme-y kind of blogger.

Virtuality

I watched the two hour pilot for Virtuality a proposed new sci-fi series on Fox. I hadn’t even heard of it before. I was just surfing the on-screen listings to see if there was anything on to watch and came across it. Hey, Fox, if you want people to watch your shows you might try advertising them in places where people who almost never watch you will see the ads. Given their history with sci-fi I suspect that they only air such shows and do things to insure they will get low ratings so they can say, “See, we’ve tried science fiction and nobody watches it.” (Okay, to be fair, it was mentioned on sci-fi websites but I haven’t been doing much Internet surfing lately so it’s my fault I missed reading about it ahead of time but still…)

I don’t have much hope but I’d sort of like to see this become a series and last for a while. It’s about a ten year voyage to Epsilon Eridani and Fox TV, which is still around 100 years from now, is along for the ride, broadcasting a reality series from the ship. I was sort of hoping the “reality” TV fad would die out in the next few years but Fox is apparently planning to carry it into the next century. The show has the feel of a reality series, with the conflicts being played up and even little “private interviews” with each crew member.

There are interesting things happening though, including a mystery that is left unresolved as of the end of the pilot, leaving the few of us who actually watched it really wanting to see more. For entertainment the crew have virtual reality headsets, sort of like a bargain basement holodeck. They can lie in their bunks, alone or with a friend, and experience their fantasies. But, someone has hacked into the system turning some of the fantasies into nightmares. There is an interesting argument in which some crew members insist that, basically, it’s not real so just get over it, while the victims are saying that it feels real so psychologically it is the same as experiencing a real attack.

I think this show has the potential to be very popular if Fox gives it a chance but it doesn’t seem likely. As of now they’re not planning to continue it as a series.

That critic, David Hinckley, didn’t like it but I have to wonder if he actually watched it or if maybe he saw a different version than the one that aired on Fox Friday night.

In the broad outline, a 12-person crew has been sent on a 10-year trip to a distant galaxy…

Wait a minute. Slow down. Hold the phone! Epsilon Eridani is in a distant galaxy? Wow, I didn’t know that. The things you learn reading the NY Daily News!

And, the caption under the picture…

Astronauts in FOX’s show ‘Virtuality’ have no clue they’re part of a reality TV show.

This is very obviously not true. They talk about the reality show; they do the little interviews about what they think about the other crew members, what’s going on and the voyage in general. You know… I’m used to critics being idiots but this is just so blatant. How does he have the right to say that the show “delivers real boredom” when he is not even aware of these two very basic facts about it?

I think this show has the potential to be very good and I hope some network will pick it up and give it a fair chance.

Recent Passings

I hardly ever do celebrity death posts. I usually don’t know what to say and don’t see much point in noting something that everyone already knows about. But I did really want to write something when David Carradine died. I was never really a huge fan but I did like Kung Fu and, probably because of that show, he seemed to me one of those interestingly odd people. I watched the episode of Mental that he was on. Was that his last performance? I thought he was very good in that and it made me sad that we will see no more of him.

Now, late last week, we have the double blow of the losses of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I hadn’t thought about Farah Fawcett in a long time. She was a huge star back in the 70′s and I never had a particularly strong opinion about her but I’d easily rank her far above any of today’s hot young female stars. I did like Charlies Angels. I’m sorry to say I never paid any attention to any of her more serious work. I think it’s worth noting an area in which she had a huge impact and I suppose this is actually a trivial thing but it’s big in the context of trivia. She changed women’s hair. Before Farah we wore our hair either long and smooth or short and carefully sculpted. The standard was to have not a hair out of place. Then she comes along with her big loose mane of hair standing out all over the place and everyone loved it. Hairstyles have changed since then but loose and free is still favored over the beehives and other stiff, precisely arranged hairdos. Thank goodness! Thank you Farah.

And now what to say about Michael Jackson. My Michael Jackson ceased to be many years ago. My Michael Jackson was a cute little kid – a kid my age and he could sing like nothing I’d ever heard before and when I hear those old songs I still like them. My favorites were, and still are, I’ll Be There and Ben. When he made his come-back in the 80′s I still thought he was okay. I liked a few of his songs fairly well but was not a huge fan of the new, grown-up Michael Jackson. What he became later on was just sad. Whatever issues he had I’m sorry for him as a person and when I think about that cute little kid who could really sing I wish things could have turned out differently for him. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

UPDATE: And another one. Not someone I liked but still, this weekend is getting to be sort of creepy and I’ll be glad when it’s over.

Quotes From Here and There

We should only listen to the words of people who care about us, because we will then attempt to live up to their good opinions.here

At its best, friendly conversation is about giving up all claims to property and priority and engaging in collaboration—so that, at least for the two of you, something like an improvised musical composition in two parts is taking place.there

After such a long absence from these pages, I feel an obligation to say something profound. Hmm…well…um…sorry, nothing comes to mind.here

I have nothing to add. At a complete loss here. I can’t even come up with a bad pun.there

Just Thinking

There are so many fascinating things in the world you have to wonder how anyone can ever possibly be bored. It seems to me that people who are easily bored rely on a limited number of artificial things for entertainment (TV, the Internet, video games…) and when they are temporarily separated from those things or those things let them down (i.e. “There’s nothing to watch on TV.”) they don’t know what to do with themselves and they get bored.

I know that most people don’t find clouds, plants, birds, insects and so forth as fascinating as I do (not to mention reading, sewing and listening to music) but maybe that’s because they’ve gotten acclimated to the artificial things. That happens fairly early in life for most people. Take a walk with a two-year-old. He will stomp in puddles, stop to examine weeds, chase bugs, get massively excited over finding an earthworm, even be momentarily fascinated with cracks in the sidewalk. A couple of years later you’ll be lucky to even get him to voluntarily go on a walk. He might miss his favorite TV show.

Yes, I do get bored sometimes. Mostly I get bored when something is keeping me from the things that fascinate me and sometimes that something is only myself. I have been known to sit around and complain that there’s nothing on TV. But I do think I have an inner two-year-old. I think we all do. Some people are too much in touch with their inner terrible two-year-old. We all need to send that little guy or gal to his or her room and wake up our inner curious two-year-old – the one who still thinks beetles and dandelions are pretty cool.

First Tomato of '09

Our first tomato. I took this picture this morning right after I had watered everything and as soon as I got the camera close to the tomato the lens started fogging up but I sort of like the way it turned out. We planted the tomatoes next to our back porch so we could tie them to the lattice.

Quilting There and Here

There… Fillyjonk recently finished a beautiful quilt top. I love those colors. (second photo) Tumbling blocks, the blog named after my favorite quilt pattern, has a crafty new header. I envy her ability to get the points to all come together right. I just found Life’s a Quilt, a nice quilting blog. And here’s a nice table runner. I’ve thought about quilting a table runner.

And here… I’ve been doing some more cutting. I’m still not quite finished cutting for the two tops I mentioned but it’s coming along – slowly but it is coming along. I’ve also started another clothes sewing project. I’m making a summer tunic out of the most beautiful bright pink cotton print, something irresistible that I spotted in the Wal-mart fabric department a few months ago. I should be finished with that in another day or two. I want to start something else right away as part of my long, long term “closet cleaning” project but mostly I need to get to work on those quilts.

Re-discovery

I had another one of those great “I LOVE the Internet” moments last night. When I was a little kid my mom used to buy this stuff for burns, called Foille. It was oily and messy but it worked better than anything else I’ve ever used. I haven’t seen it in two or three decades so I assumed it wasn’t being made anymore but it does still exist! You know… I really should get into the habit of searching for things I think don’t exist anymore, whenever I happen to remember them.

Feet

Foot fetish contest – I hate to even admit that I’m the least bit interested in this but the possible variations in human toes, including deformities, is slightly fascinating.

Thanks, Ellen

Reading

I first read The Birth of an Island by Francois Clement in 1977 or 78 and it seemed to me an odd and intriguing book. It’s one of those books that I mentally put on a pedestal so that I felt I had to wait for the “right time” to re-read it. I can’t say that this mythical “right time” ever arrived but I ran out of anything new to read and I had been thinking about it so I finally re-read it.

This book was originally written in French. Being mono-lingual myself, I read the English translation of course. The main character and narrator is a young Frenchman who cannot keep a job. His father, a man of some influence, gets him a position as an administrator on the small Polynesian island of Raevavae, effectively exiling him so that he will no longer be an embarrassment to the family. The position turns out to be little more than a title.

Then, on the same morning he arrives on Raevavae…

Suddenly, while we were looking at the blinding sea under the grey sky, the universe shuddered. I’ve looked for a better expression, a less theatrical one, but I haven’t found one. Nothing happened, really. Not a leaf moved, not a blade of grass. But something suddenly changed, so unmistakably that we looked at each other, all three of us. I think it was only a sudden change in atmospheric pressure. But we suspected nothing. We all thought of an earthquake. We looked at the summit of Hiro behind us, but there, too, nothing was moving. And then, all of a sudden, the sky began to move. Without our feeling a thing, the clouds that had been gathering over the island since morning broke up and rolled away like handfuls of dust toward the southwest…

This event is followed by a violent cyclone which is strange in that it comes from the wrong direction. After it’s over the approximately 700 survivors, of which fewer than ten are Europeans, clean up, rebuild and life goes on. The radios have gone silent but at first this is no more than a worrisome puzzle. It is only when three survivors in a lifeboat wash up on the beach that they learn that the rest of the world has been destroyed in an atomic war.

Still, life on the island goes on pretty much as before. The complete destruction of civilization seems a distant event. Things change gradually. As supplies from the industrial world run out the survivors have to learn to make do with what they can find on the island. Some of the natives want to return to “the old ways” which, it is hinted, include cannibalism. Other natives want to help the handful of Europeans to preserve civilization. They set up a simple government. More survivors, natives from another island arrive. More conflict.

The book takes the form of the main character’s long letter to a grandson many years after the events in the story and is very typical of what you would expect such a letter to be. There is much rambling and philosophizing. The latter is often ridiculous, in my opinion, but interesting. For example…

How, indeed, could we expect to progress if we were unable, for lack of incentives, to get the people who seemed best qualified to fill the jobs we were planning to create?
The answer seems obvious. It wasn’t to me. Everyone should do what he likes. Individual tastes differ enough so that for every job, there’ll be at least one person who likes it. A job that nobody wants is always artificial and useless.

The Birth of an Island has a strangely pleasant, laid back feeling, not at all what you normally expect in post-apocalypse stories. Even the most serious conflicts do not seem all that serious, partly because the story takes place on an “island paradise” and partly, I think, because the author partially gives away the ending at the very beginning of the book. You know from the start that these people are going to build a new society; the story is about how they do it and that is interesting.

List of the Week

Ten Favorite Quotes

1. A musicologist is a man who can read music but can’t hear it. – Sir Thomas Beecham

2. My favorite thing about the Internet is that you get to go into the private world of real creeps without having to smell them. – Penn Juliette

3. A bore is a man who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company. – Gian Vincenzo Gravina

4. The characteristic fact of the moment is that the mediocre soul, recognizing itself as mediocre, has the audacity to assert the right of mediocrity and impose it everywhere. – Jose Oretega y Gasset

5. Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality. – Jules de Gautier

6. Learning is ever in the freshness of its youth, even for the old. – Agamemnon

7. A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets. – Arthur C. Clarke

8. Giving money and power to Congress is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. – P. J. O’Rourke

9. People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything. – Thomas Sowell

10. “Everyone carries with them at least one piece to someone else’s puzzle” – Lawrence Kushner

Kitten Update

Kitten

You knew this was going to happen didn’t you? In a few days I’ve gone from “We’re probably not going to keep her,” to “We probably are going to keep her.” Honestly, I was serious about not keeping her but after having her around for a few days, getting to know her, playing with her, getting used to seeing her adorable little face looking up at me, I want to keep her. I still don’t really want three cats, and it’s a little disturbing to see my sweet, precious little Dax turn into a vicious, hissing, snarling little monster at the site of this adorable little kitten, but… well… darn it, she’s such a cute little rascal and she has decided that I’m her new mommy. How can I give away one of my kids just because my other kids don’t get along with her? (Yeah, I know… I once said that a cat or a dog is not a child and I still believe that but the cats think I’m their mommy. Really.) Besides, Kes is over ten years old now so in about five years or so we’ll have only two cats again.

I decided to call her Three when I thought we weren’t keeping her. Now, I’m not sure. I have a relatively low tolerance for silliness and I especially don’t like silly cat names because they’re a little embarrassing when you have to take them to the vet. But on the other hand, I’m inclined to stick with Three. In this case I actually sort of like the silliness of it, or maybe it’s not silliness but cuteness. I said I was going to always give my cats Star Trek names for “good luck” because our two longest lived cats so far have both had ST names but I can’t think of any more good ones and if you really bend and stretch matters you could say that Three is a Star Trek name. You know… the Borg, Three of whatever. And then there was that episode when they were stuck in a time loop and Data used the number three to send a message from one loop to the next. Well, anyway…

Three is healthy and playful, every bit the typical kitten. She demands a little more of my attention than I really want to give her but I expect that in a few weeks she will snub me in favor of my husband like most cats do. If I was going to pick a cat based on looks alone gray and black tabbies would be the last ones I’d look at. They’ve always seemed sort of dull and ordinary to me. I like colorful and unusual-looking cats. But when you start really looking at Three you see that she is rather interesting, if not unusual. Her gray is a warm gray, she has a bit of almost white on her face and under her chin, and her spots and stripes form interesting and attractive patterns. She’s going to grow up to be a fine looking cat and I think she’ll probably have a pleasant personality. The last time we found a kitten in a tool shed she turned out to be someone special.

Trying a Little Stravinsky

Stravinsky’s Birthday was this week. I’m not a fan but I haven’t heard very much Stravinsky so I thought I’d look on YouTube and see what I could find. Well… I’m still not a fan but here’s a little Stravinsky anyway, for your Friday music video.

Quotes From Here and There

The verdict: if I have time, I’ll watch it, … But just to be safe, I’ll put my brain in a jar and bury it in the back yard first. No need to damage it any further after that trailer.here

When some new technique of communication is invented or stumbled upon, you should not judge its impact by picking ten uses of it at random, averaging them all out, and saying: Well that’s a load of trivial crap, isn’t it?!? … The question to ask is: Of all the thousands of uses already being made of this thing, which one is the most significant? And then: Well, is that very significant?there

I’m not a gardener; I leave that to my wife. And it’s not really food I’m after. I just need to feel the rush and throb of the universe at my elbow as I work.here

Industrial Man

Very cool poster, sort of steampunky. I like the first one. The second one I’m not so sure about. Sort of creepy. I think it’s the way the figure has her head thrown back as if in passion or pain, I’m not sure which. And then of course there’s the hand. The woman is obvious being tortured.

The Final Comma

Okay, I’m convinced. I vaguely remember learning in school that you do not need to put a comma before “and” in a sentence like, “My favorite composers are Mozart, Bach, Dvorak and Beethoven.” In that sentence you could do it either way and there would be no confusion but in the example, “To my parents, Ayn Rand and God,” I can see how the extra comma would be helpful. So I guess I’ll use it from now on although it feels wrong.

By the way, what to make of Judge Sotomayor not knowing that Spanish has adjectives? Well, I’m sure someone will make something of it.