Friday, February 25, 2011

Rain into snow Friday Random Ten

It was forbiddingly wet throughout most of the day, so seeing a bit of a flurry around 8:30 at night was not a terrible thing. Oddly enough, this is also the day that snow disappears in Animal Crossing. That always gets me by surhe prise.

1. Esquivel--Delta Dawn
2. Nina Simone--Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
3. The Clash--The Guns of Brixton
4. The Who--Rael 1
5. Warren Zevon--Excitable Boy
6. Nellie McKay--Please
7. Roy Orbison--Sweet and Easy to Love You
8. Don Byron--The Quintet Plays Carmen
9. The XX--Islands
10. Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan--Little Man (You've Had a Busy Day)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Handy how-to's

One thing about writing/attempting to write fiction is that you very quickly come up against the limits of your knowledge. You're going along and suddenly realize your character--or at least the narrator--has to know something that you don't.

This is, of course, an opportunity to conduct research. And the internet makes it possible to do that research without getting out of your chair. Potentially, the very ease of doing so can lead you to waste time wading through websites when you should be writing. But you can also come across genuinely interesting stuff like this . It's a good find, even though it's kind of tangential to the story I'm writing.

Dead birds are a weirdly ubiquitous part of life, whether you live in the country or the town. Or the really big town.

Drop ceiling

I finally have the partial dental replacements in now. Tney fit tight between the teeth that were there before. But the dentist warned they might hurt, and so far they don't really.

The plastic surrounding them is a little weird. It's like having and lower roof of the mouth. A drop ceiling, if you will. Your tongue sort of has to relearn some consonants like "s" and "n". But if I wind up talking a little slower because of it, that's not an entirely bad thing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Now that's metal!

Don't know exactly what the Ice Agers were drinking out of these vessels Seems like a waste of human resources (heh-heh) to just drink water out of it.

Ice Age folk who lived in what's now southwestern England gruesomely went from heads off to bottoms up.

Bones excavated at a cave there include the oldest known examples of drinking cups or containers made out of human skulls, says a team led by paleontologist Silvia Bello of the Natural History Museum in London.

Measurements of a naturally occurring form of carbon in the skulls places them at about 14,700 years old, Bello and her colleagues report in a paper published online Feb. 16 in PLoS ONE. Prehistoric cave denizens cleaned the skulls before using stone tools to shape the upper parts of the brain cases into containers, the researchers say.

Bello suspects that Ice Age Britons hoisted hollowed-out crania in rituals of some kind. Other human bones found near the skull cups show signs of flesh and marrow removal, a result either of cannibalism or mortuary practices. The striking similarities between the cave finds and historical examples of drinking cups made out of skulls further support a ritual role for the Ice Age receptacles, Bello says.

Two French sites previously yielded skull containers presumed to date to between 15,000 and 12,000 years ago, but those finds have not been directly dated.

You can't tell me they didn't know how badass this would look 20 thousand years later.

Saturday Random Ten, cuz I couldn't not

Never got around to it on Friday, but Saturday I carved out a bit of my busy schedule. BTW, I have a pretty good roster of neighbors now.

1. Alexander Brailowsky--Chopin: Impromptu in C Sharp Minor
2. Joni Mitchell--The Hissing of Summer Lawns
3. Soul Coughing--Sugar Free Jazz
4. Esquivel--Estrellita
5. Patsy Cline--Faded Love
6. Elvis Costellow with Burt Bacharach--Toledo
7. Count Basie & Sarah Vaughan--Until I Met You
8. Kendra Shank--Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair
9. XTC--Knuckle Down
10. They Might Be Giants--Hearing Aid

Thursday, February 17, 2011

½ & ½

Falling asleep when you didn't intend to is always a little disorienting, when you wake up again. When you're fully dressed and half on a chair, half on a bed, it's just weird. Oh well.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pushback, sweet pushback!

If you've heard about large-scale protests recently, it's... Oh, I'm sorry, was I sighing too loud? In any case, protest movements in the last few years have tended to be orchestrated by people who aren't at the protest site and whose interests may not align with those of the protesters. So it may seem like actual grass-roots action has gone the way of videos on MTV.

Maybe not, though.

Nearly 800 Madison East High School students walked out of school Tuesday morning to join a demonstration against Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill at the Capitol.

As teachers beamed and offered thanks, student organizers in the hallways handed out signs identifying each as a "future worker, future voter," proclaiming this was a "Walk out for Walker out," and calling on the Legislature to "kill this bill."

Senior Riley Moore, whose mother is a Madison teacher and father works for UW-Madison, carried a bullhorn and distributed two fliers, one with contact information for Republican legislators who he thought might be on the fence about the bill, the other with information about what to do if confronted by police.

"Last time I checked Madison was the new Cairo," Moore said as he fired up the torrent of students spilling from the sidewalks into the bus lane on East Washington Avenue.

Sophomore Shiloh Forde, whose mother is a bartender and like several hundred other parents granted permission for an excused absence, shared a common sentiment among students.

"I like my teachers and I don't want their rights taken away," Forde said. "And I like protesting."

There was skepticism among some students that others were using the exercise as an excuse to skip class. But it appeared that most students who left made the entire two-mile trek to the Capitol.

Senior Ona Powell said many students who wouldn't normally attend a protest and had no idea on Monday what was happening were inside the Capitol for several hours chanting.

"I talked to people (Monday) who had no idea what was going on and now they're passionate about it," Powell said.

Powell, whose mother is a Madison teacher and father is a professor, coordinated the walkout through Facebook and word-of-mouth at school on Monday. She said she attended a rally at the Capitol on Sunday and was disappointed by the low turnout.

"I felt outraged that unions are being attacked and didn't want my mom hurt by this," Powell said.

Students said teachers appeared torn by their support for what their students were doing, but also awareness that they weren't supposed to encourage student political activity.

Travis Turnquist, a senior who stayed at East on Tuesday because his parents, a credit card agent and construction worker, didn't grant him permission to leave, said the protest was the topic of discussion in every class Monday. Though teachers mostly responded to questions from curious students, some were telling students they wouldn't be marked absent if they left.

John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., said the union hadn't encouraged any specific action by teachers or students, though he called the walkout a "teachable moment."

"What teachers are doing is following their own conscience," Matthews said.

Madison School Board policy states "teachers shall refrain from exploiting the institutional privileges of their professional positions to promote candidates or parties and activities," which includes protests.

Several teachers attended Monday night's School Board meeting asking the board to make a statement opposing Walker's proposal. All seven board members signed a statement at the meeting.

"The rush to push radical changes through the Legislature in a matter of days before anyone has a chance to consider their ramifications in a careful and balanced way shows lack of respect for our employees and the democratic process," the statement said. "We will work to urge the governor to reconsider his position and bring all parties to the table in order to reach a more collaborative solution to our state's financial problems."

That's another thing you've probably heard a lot about. Apathetical youth.

Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites are demonstrating visibly and audibly against the governor's extreme budget porn. Can they stop the cuts from being enacted? That remains to be seen. But they're setting an example, at any rate.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sun-bright Friday Random Ten

Had a strange feeling today. As I left work, and a few minutes after, I felt like I had left early. Looking at my watch, I realized this was not the case. But I figured out why it seemed that way. The sun was still high in the sky, making it look like afternoon. For better or worse, Spring is closer than it appears.

1. Warren Zevon--Lawyers, Guns and Money
2. They Might Be Giants--Road Movie to Berlin
3. The Who--Odorono
4. Nina Simone--I Put a Spell on You
5. Soul Coughing--Supra Genius
6. The XX--Crystalised
7. Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan--The Gentleman is a Dope
8. Brian Eno and David Byrne--I Feel My Stuff
9. Patsy Cline--Always
10. The Clash--The Card Cheat

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wherefore art thou

After reading this article on Google Art Project, I mostly have to agree with the author. The web can keep art in front of people who can't get to it easily. It can introduce people to new images and visual ideas. It can act as a refresher course on art you've already seen and started to forget/take for granted. And it has at various times done all these things. But you can't get much of a better understanding just by zooming in on brushstrokes.

There probably are untapped ways to exhibit work online. Something that wouldn't try to replicate the experience of museumgoing, but would actually create a new work in itself. But Google doesn't seem to be going that route.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


aka A Streetcar Named Desire. Yeah, that's about the size of it.
Image above via Better Book Titles, where they don't sugarcoat it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Waterloggededed Saturday Random Ten

Man, the rain today hasn't been that heavy at any given time, but it hasn't let up either. Result being that with all the snow laying around, the edges of the street have been filling up with these huge puddles. To the extent that you think you're stepping onto solid ground when you are very much not. Which is... interesting, really.

1. The New Pornographers--Silver Jenny Dollar
2. Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach--I Still Have That Other Girl
3. They Might Be Giants--Your Racist Friend
4. Blossom Dearie--Love Is a Necessary Evil
5. The XX--Basic Space
6. Finn Riggins--Furs
7. The Fiery Furnaces--Charmaine Champagne
8. Sly & the Family Stone--You Can Make It If You Try
9. Kendra Shank--You and the Night and the Music
10. The Clash--Death or Glory

Friday, February 4, 2011

Naughty caverperson fun

All right! Mesolithic porn!
At first the scientists believed the geometrical figure carved onto the antler could have been either the mentioned woman, or a nude man raising his arms. Measurements to determine the ratio of the stick figure limbs, in addition to comparisons with other early human representations, lead the researchers to support the woman interpretation.

Zigzags are very popular motifs on artifacts from many cultures throughout the world, with many possible meanings, but Płonka said, "I think our zigzag lines are connected with water and life symbolism."

The lines also appear to have been carved by different individuals, suggesting that some group effort was involved in the creation of the object.

A geological study of the Polish site found that thawing of ice blocks occurred, increasing the number of water bodies in the region.

"Consequently, the role of aquatic environment as the source of food (fish, mammals) and perhaps transport thoroughfare gained importance," the scientists concluded.

Giant elks were the most imposing animals of the European Plain, perhaps symbolizing "the power of life," according to Płonka. The structure of the carved antler indicates its growth stage was spring or summer. The scientists believe the elk was selected and killed on purpose to make the object, which may have served a role in rituals for many years.

"Some strokes of zigzag lines, which are near the edge of the ornamented surfaces are worn," Płonka explained.

Oh, I just bet they're worn. And I'm guessing the scientists wore thick rubber gloves while picking this baby up. You never know where it's been.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

You're so vain I bet you think Egypt is about you

Seeing pictures of the anti-Mubarak protests in Egypt, I've been struck by how many of the protesters are women. Some young, some old, quite a few in what we'd call Western dress. If it's a big ploy by Islamists to get the country in their iron grip, as many seem to believe, then there's little to explain all the female-types involved.

As a counterbalance, this slideshow highlights what some actual Egyptians think. Notably the hijab-wearing women don't really fit our preconceptions either.

Even if the new boss turns out to be very much like the old boss, I have faith in the Egyptian people.