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March 20, 2008

March 11, 2008
  • Ten Brilliant Complete Movies Online -- tragically, these don't include the little full-screen icon-toggle on each YouTube window's menu bar, but still, a great selection. All b&w classics except for the unexpected bonus, "1984".

  • More YouTube goodness: three music videos from the mid-60s, all lip-synch but so what. The Beach Boys, Don't Worry, Baby; the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hey Joe, from a Belgian TV show in early 1967; and the Beatles on Ready Steady Go, in 1964, which includes the great opening with its theme music by Manfred Mann. More about Ready Steady Go at Wikipedia.

  • The Guardian ranks the world's 50 most powerful blogs. Somehow, the venerable Rash.log didn't make the cut. I know of eight on their list, have in the past followed just four of those, and now read only one, Jason Kottke's.

March 8, 2008

March 6, 2008
  • In his latest column Paul Krugman holds forth on Barack Obama:
    Some progressives are appalled by the direction their party seems to have taken: they wanted another FDR yet feel that they're getting an oratorically upgraded version of Michael Bloomberg instead. Others, however, insist that Obama's message of hope and his personal charisma will yield an overwhelming electoral victory, and that he will implement a dramatically progressive agenda. The trouble is that faith in Obama's transformational ability rests on surprisingly little evidence.
    Count me among the skeptical. And since Hillary's just too annoying, I may wind up voting Libertarian again, just as I did in '92 and '96.

  • Also in the NY Times -- predictably, he's popular in the small town of Obama, Japan.

March 4, 2008

March 2, 2008
  • In Wired, how High-tech Cowboys of the Deep rescued the Cougar Ace, an enormous automobile transport ship carrying a cargo of 4,703 Mazdas, which due to a ballast tank malfunction wound up listing 60° off the coast of Alaska. Also, at English Russia, Abandoned Frozen Ships.

  • The so-called Moon Museum contains doodles by Rauschenberg, Oldenburg, Warhol and three others, baked onto a ceramic chip and surreptitiously installed on one of the Apollo 12 lunar lander's legs by an un-named Grumman technician. Blogger Greg Allen's source is a November 22nd 1969 NY Times article. He also mentions "lunar nudity" in the form of a crude reproduction of a Playboy pin-up; perhaps Greg is unfamiliar with Tom Hank's That's All There Is which features actual naked astronauts. Mission Commander Dick Gordon allegedly insisted that after they returned from the moon's surface, Alan Bean and Pete Conrad had to strip completely before reentering "his" command module.

  • A series of photos: another ordinary day at the beach, in China.

February 29 - Leap Day
  • Urban and Urbane: the New Yorker in the 1930s and early 40s, apparently a project by three American Studies students at U-VA, interesting but at times annoying due to illiterate spelling errors. At least check the war-time covers.

February 28, 2008
  • A new weapon for law enforcment: the LED Incapacitator, a super-flashlight.

  • At the ever-reliable Dark Roast Blend, Rare & Beautiful Vintage Visions of the Future. Many tasty images from the Soviet Union, and don't miss parts 2 and 3.

  • Addressing the didn't-see-'em factor is a pre-Oscar rant directed at movie buffs like me who avoided last year's crop since they were all too violent and depressing (except for "Juno" which was merely bogus). Reminds me of the advice I used to hear quite often, that one should see a film because it was "well done" -- bah. Fortunately I have no trouble catching quality pictures -- new but obscure, as well as great stuff from the past, hitherto unseen.

February 24, 2008
  • Initially apprehensive about my upcoming trip into India, been avoiding thinking about that part of the journey, but of late, I've grown quite enthusiastic. Part of the fun will be experiencing amusing sub-Continental twists of English, and their term wallah tickles my fancy -- I want to include it in my everyday vocabulary, but don't since hardly anybody'd understand. Always preceeded by an identifying prefix, it's used as a title for workers, street vendors & etc. Apparently the most ubiquitous is the venerable chai-wallah, who dispenses little cups of tea for a rupee apiece. The Wallahs of Mumbai describes many others, including the doodh-wallah who sells drinks of milk. Of course, I think of him as the dude-wallah.

  • A great YouTube source for those mainstays of 1970s late-night syndicated TV, the complete first season of Star Trek with links to pages of the other two, as well as samples from "The Twilight Zone"s first two seasons. Although the latter is only logical on this CBS site, why are they hosting the NBC Captain Kirk?

February 20, 2008
  • 22 film remakes dramatically different from the originals. A cardinal rule of mine: the original version is the best; a remake should almost always be avoided.

  • Scientific American presents: A Solar Grand Plan. Using compressed air to store the energy? And -- direct current?? Edison would be delighted.

  • In 1973, Chairman Mao offered the US 10 million women, in a conversation with Kissinger. A co-worker of mine, back when I first moved to California, would've been infuriated, had this offer been accepted -- he was always railing against those "damn ornamentals" while driving. The stereotype wasn't familiar to me, but since then I've had some observational confirmation. Those who're oblivious or too cautious (of any persuasion) are the most annoying... but, why are Asians such bad drivers? Scroll down for some plausible explanations, from a Vietnamese.

February 17, 2008
Pipa players Experienced a great concert today, a Lunar New Year's performance by the local Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra. I've been wondering about some of these Middle Kingdom instruments they're playing for a while, now; at last, enlightenment via the program notes and multiple solos. The big round wooden ruan wich reminds me of the banjo are more like guitars (but with only four strings). Completely new to me, and very peculiar, is the set of tubes called the sheng (inspiration for the harmonica and accordian, apparently). The lute-ish stringed instruments they're playing in the foreground is the liuqin. (In the full-size photo [as ever, click the thumbnail], you can also see the larger version called the pipa.) The two-stringed, bowed stick I occasionally see an old guy playing on a streetcorner in Chinatown is the ehru, and and their hammer dulcimer (both familiar from the soundtrack of "The Last Emperor") is the yangquin. The kids were talented, enthusiastic performers, and the music was all very pleasant, to my surprise.

February 16, 2008

February 14, 2008

February 12, 2008
with Maya on Twin Peaks You can find me studying at the local library almost every day. (They have good Japanese-English dictionaries in addition to their quite adequate Internet access, which features free printing.) Ten years ago next month, I met the girl I call the Swiss Miss at this same library, and ended up showing her around town. Later that year, our roles were reversed when I visited her small town in Switzerland, on my way back from Slovenia. Our communications have by now become very infrequent, but last summer she emailed about how an acquaintance/neighbor traveling 'round the world would be passing through San Francisco at some point, and could I repeat my hospitality? A couple weeks back, she finally appeared, very briefly, and in addition to the usual tourist activities like the Golden Gate Bridge and a cable car ride, we were on top of Twin Peaks -- my first time up there. (Photos by Geoff.)

February 9, 2008

February 5, 2008
Speaking of the holidays...a little late with this one, but Lunar New Year starts Thursday, so we're still within range. Back when it was the other superpower I remember hearing about how they celebrated in the Soviet Union, where the godless commies had banished Jesus, St Nicholas and Santa Claus. Instead, Grandfather Frost brought the presents, on New Year's Day. Discussing the holiday with a Russian student yesterday, I learned that although nowadays he's almost like Santa, he's always had a sidekick, his grand-daughter -- Snow Girl! The name makes me picture a super-hero, like Saturn Girl, with a snowflake in the center of her blue-and-white tunic. Grandfather Frost's wikipedia entry has lots of interesting details, like decorating New Year Trees, but only a passing mention of the Snow Girl. Here's more: a retelling of her original folk tale as well as an actual photo of the dynamic duo.

February 3, 2008

February 2, 2008
Another recent NY Times article tells about how
Next year in California, state regulators are likely to have the emergency power to control individual thermostats, sending temperatures up or down through a radio-controlled device that will be required in new or substantially modified houses and buildings to manage electricity shortages.
Update: after public outcry about the proposal, the California Energy Commission has dropped plan to require new homes to have thermostats that let utilities control temperature remotely. I was imagining a big new knob on Arnold's desk, labeled Master Temperature Control.

January 31, 2008

January 28, 2008
Most detailed true-color image to date: composite true-color Earth image

January 26, 2008

January 20, 2008
  • Appearing suddenly at the top of my Get List, a new (and at last, complete) "Fahrenheit 451" soundtrack -- and look, mp3s for seven of the tracks!

  • YouTube: Acker Bilk and band furiously performing In a Persian Market -- 'Trad' music from early 60s England, popular just before the guitar bands changed everything.

  • Good photo of the mostly-dark lunar disk lit by earthshine, in Texas. The moon only looked like that in pictures until moving to LA where it's the normal appearance in the early evening, due to the still-shining sun reflecting off the Pacific Ocean. Back East, the land to the west hasn't enough albedo to illuminate the moon’s dark side.

January 14, 2008

January 9, 2008
Beard PapaCream Puffs
I've seen these stores but never paid any attention, too outlandish. But a student brought me some of his cream puffs today and they were incredible! Also, how can we resist the kawaii logo of Beard Papa's? The Japanese chain now has competition, of a sort, from South Korea: Deli Man Joo. Those puffs are much smaller and their deal is being served warm from a machine. I had some in NYC and much prefer Papa's.

January 3, 2008
It's pouring here in Silicon Valley, a regular deluge, but I'm warm and snug inside, listening to jazz and working on various projects, like some needlewoork. temari ball for Maria Jose
This temari ball is my first in ages. Also made the requisite modification to any long-sleeved shirt entering my wardrobe, since I got a new striped button-down yesterday -- show you what I mean. sleeve before
Off-the-rack sleeves' default button configuration is unappealing visually and unworkable for me (skinny wrists, but not that skinny) so I always remove both buttons and then restore one, in-between, that's just right. sleeve after

December 31, 2007
Safely home from my 16th transcontinental sojourn Back East for Christmas, attending the family gathering just outside DC, in Maryland. Yesterday's Virgin flight west was hellish, two hours late due to tarmac holds both at IAD and SFO, with a dozen assorted babies and crying toddlers among the passengers, but the earplugs made things tolerable. Brand-new humans must find flying so weird -- how life is usually active, people kinda spread out, but here's a time where everybody's all crammed together, essentially sitting still. For hours! Extra-curricular highlights this trip included a hike along the Appalachian Trail with old chums; and at the East Wing, the Hopper Show (although that visit was too brief. New discovery: Summertime.)
  • Remember his listing from a couple years ago; well worth reading the Beast's 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2007. Note to self: check his site more often than biannually.

  • In the news, unbelieveably, smoking bans are going into effect in France, starting tomorrow. Also, revealed: the seven great Medical Myths. That water business has always seemed excessive, to me -- if you drink that much, you're in the restroom way to frequently.

  • A common gift among Asians seems to be Ferrero Rocher, those crunchy chocolate truffles individually wrapped in foil. I've received some this season from a student, re-gifting perhaps but who cares, they're quite tasty. Their wikipedia entry reveals an unexpected humorous aspect, due to advertising in the UK: "With these Rocher you're really spoiling us" but I'm still unclear on the pronunciation of that 'ch' -- my inclination is to rhyme it with crochet.

December 22, 2007
Out of all the pictures Roger Ebert mentions on his 2007 best-of page, I haven't seen a single one -- not even among the genre films at the bottom! Since I may see his ichiban today ("Juno") I'll post my own top ten now -- the best movies of the year, in the order screened:
  • Children of Men
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Venus
  • DOA 1950
  • Gwoemul (The Host)
  • Das Leben des Andern
  • Paris jet'aime
  • Destry Rides Again 1939
  • Outsourced
  • It Happened One Night 1934
Those marked with years are oldies caught at the ever-blessed Stanford. More lists:

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