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June 20, 2006
Sam Anderson addresses the mysterious appeal of Garrison Keillor. Regular readers of these pages encounter the occasional response or comment on the weekly "Prairie Home Companion" broadcast, so would expect anticipation for the new movie. Seemed promising, Robert Altman production, but reviews by those familar with the source are discouraging.

Top 25 Rejected Movie Roles. Omissions: Elvis as Tony in "West Side Story" and the Rolling Stones in "A Clockwork Orange." Plus of course Marilyn Monroe in "Breakfast At Tiffany's" -- Capote wrote it for her.

Today's fun fact, according to the wikipedia's Krakatoa entry -- the red sky in the background of Edvard Munch's 1893 Scream is just an example of the vivid sunsets seen world-wide, due to the eruption. Okay, the volcanic dust makes skies red, but ten years after? Their blue moon entry says they were only happening for a couple years afterward. (But more importantly, it has a link to a related Wilson's Almanac page which targets Trivial Pursuit as the vector for the periodic media blather about the second full moon in a calendar month.)

June 19, 2006
happy caterpiller Today's image is in the spirit of the Found books and magazine. Since it's the end of school, students are shedding their notebooks, and 'round by the dumpster a spiral-bound was mostly empty pages and crude drawings but this one caught my eye, the jolly caterpiller on his flower. Isn't it precious? Plus there was some brief text worthy of its own page, enhanced with a photo. More finds: these are things found in books or on the book cart at a jail, by a volunteer.

Another amazing account at DamnInteresting, concerning cavalier handling of a critical mass at Los Alamos, in 1946: Bitten by the Nuclear Dragon. Was the blue flash Cherenkov radiation?

June 17, 2006
Last month this was making the rounds, a bunch of photos of a once-secret Soviet submarine base near Sevastopol. And now, a Russian LJ page which seems to be the source of the previous, with additional images.

Ambassador Bolton's disgraceful performance at Oxford.

Ten Things the Rental Car Company Won't Tell You.

June 15, 2006
Mild earthquake this morning, first one I've felt up here in NoCal (USGS report).

Trussed thrust is a good post by Momus about Germany, the Stassi and the World Cup.

Architectural slide show: Best Buildings of the Year.

June 14th - Flag Day
I wouldn't characterize this as origami, but here's how to make a spider from $5. Also, how to do a wall flip, like Donald O'Connor did (twice!) in the "Singin' in the Rain" song "Make 'em Laugh". I desire this skill but first it seems one needs the ability to do a back flip, which I'd only attempt off a diving board.

New Yorker article from 2001 about composer György Ligeti, who died a couple days ago. We know his music from the films of Stanley Kubrick, especially "Atmospheres" from "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Speaking of Tony, his place up in Washington's near his wife's home town, location of the Maltby Café, one of America's Top Ten All-You-Can-Eat Restaurants. (None are familiar to me... anyway, nowadays I eschew the buffet, as it encourages gluttony; and the food's usually an epicurean disappointment, at best.)

June 12, 2006
Captain Shmoot Tony bought a boat! Readers of these pages occasionally encounter my boyhood chum who fled the Bay Area a couple years ago, for a farm north of Seattle. He still works in San Francisco part of the year, however, and part-time housing's been problematic -- so he realized a dream, and now lives at the marina, in a small vessel purchased off Craigslist!

Top Ten Geeky Father's Day Gifts. I'm not a Dad but that Utili-Key 6-in-1 tool is intriguing.

Read about these in Big Secrets a long time ago, and even though I have short-wave capability I've never really heard any of the mysterious number stations. But as the recent Damn Interesting post about them ends with linkage to a gallery of MP3 samples, I had a little Numbers Festival this weekend, and some are kinda creepy.

June 9, 2006
Paly cupola Final Japanese class of the season last night; formal studies will resume in September. Wandering around the campus beforehand, I snapped this photo of the cupola atop the oldest building at 'Paly' (which has a Wikipedia entry -- but then, so does my own high school). (Alumni of the latter will find the Uniform section very interesting... does it mean girls aren't allowed to wear skirts? O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.) Anyway, the thumbnail shows something surmounting the cupola -- anemometer gone wild & mated with the weathervane, or maybe it's just an ornament. As usual, click for biggery.

Here's an amazing story: a sixth sense for a wired world -- about implanting silicon-coated magnets in the finger tips, in order to perceive electric fields.

At the great 'Red State Son' weblog, an update on the Dixie Chicks. Another, entirely unrelated: Slice -- America's favorite Pizza blog!

June 7, 2006
Jon Carroll's column from a few days back, about the War on Science (and Curiosity) that's been ongoing for some time now.

Mike Gerber has a few words about RFK.

The Gus, back in LA for awhile, on business out in the Valley, liberated a captured duck stuck to duct tape.

June 5, 2006
B-17 The vintage WWII airplanes were back again this weekend, flying 'round the neighborhood with their wonderful old engine sound. This was the B-17, taken from my patio. The ticket for a half-hour ride was priced at $425, up from $300 just a couple years ago (when I snapped their B-24, on the runway).

1500 Russian/Soviet propaganda or advertising posters. Only viewed a sample, since there's so many -- I like this one from the circus.

Five things never to do to your car, by Eric Peters.

Was the 2004 Election Stolen? Solid arguments presented by RFK Jr.
In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls
But I bet you already agree -- Poll: 2004 Election Was Stolen according to viewers of all news networks except Fox.

June 3, 2006
Jason Kottke's peculiar Manhattan Elsewhere project. One reaction might be that some people (and I'm one of 'em) just spend too much time looking at maps. He is featured in the current New Yorker Talk of the Town. (Click "see also" to reach the whole article.)

A trio of new products.
Black toilet paper. From Nike, Mork and Mindy shoes (which seem entirely Mork to me); and $12-pair, non-electric Water Talkies -- aquaphones everyone can hear, when you're swimming. Don't some swanky pools now feature audible underwater music?

Amazing photo of Alaskan volcano Cleveland taken from the space station. For more snapshots by the ISS crew, see Strange Clouds (they're the elusive high-altitude Noctilucents).

June 1, 2006
At Forty Media, the Top Ten Stock Photography Clichés.

Samuel M. Goldwasser's Notes on the Troubleshooting and Repair of VCRs, an extensive pre-wwweb (but still updated) FAQ.

The Times reports that Tintin will become the first comic strip hero to be honored by a religious leader when the Dalai Lama presents the Truth of Light award to the Hergé Foundation.

Scroll down and meet M.Chat, a Cheshire-grinning grafitto common in France.

May 30, 2006
The holiday weekend began with a bang, a fire in the unit catty-corner to mine, apparently involving the gas heater. Many are wary of these California-style wall-units, for good reason it seems. In my case it was cops pounding on the door Saturday 6AM followed by sirens and a first-responder up on the roof with a chain saw. The firemen got it undercontrol such that I never saw any flames but the they did cut a two-by-four foot hole in my next-door neighbor's ceiling, thanks a lot but I'm feeling sooo lucky it wasn't me.

Beginnerís guide to eBay -- confessions of an insider, parts 1, 2, and 3.

The Top 50 Conservative rock songs as compiled by John J. Miller. (I know only 19 of them). Sam Harris' Reply to a Christian. And didja hear Al Gore on Fresh Air today?

May 26, 2006
News from the fringes of McDonaldland:
A while back everyone was linking to a Japanese commercial featuring a female variant of the character they call Donald -- I found her rather appealing, as all clownish elements had been eliminated from her costume. (Trenchman took umbrage, however -- and he has pictures, the original's no longer handy.) Then there's the case of Miss McDonald, a peculiar woman who posts photos of herself (on LiveJournal) in various situations wearing full Ronald regalia. But the nightmare is a new commercial in India featuring a baby Ronald. The horror!

On his weblog, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the recent study which compared white mens' health, US vs. UK, revealing how older middle-aged Americans are much worse off than their British counterparts.

Urgh, I have a cold, runny nose and sneezy, made me think of a new term: nasal expulsive. Recently uncovered an old clipping of a "Straight Dope" column concerning anal retentive. Its key paragraph:
Freud talked about anality in part because he thought toilet training was a major factor in personality development.However, while "anal retentive" survives in common usage (undoubtedly because it seems like such an upscale way of calling someone an A-hole). the concept is not taken very seriously by psychoanalysts today.
Since the virus currently forces me to carry around an ever-more-disgusting handkerchief, I've realized ours is a culture of nasal expulsives -- we blow without inhibition, whenever the need surfaces. Asians on the other hand have a different philosophy: it's a serious breach of etiquette to blow one's nose in public, in Japan (not sure what the policy on sneezing is) and when she had a cold, my Indian office-mate would sniff. It was like clockwork -- she was nasal retentive.

May 24, 2006
Since the airwaves are full of babble about the threat of illegal immigration, some relevant linkage. Unintended consequences of border restrictions, by crasch; "Yes, I Am Actually Calling Them Racist" (a new column by Molly Ivins); and Greg Saunders in a guest post at This Modern World: Hell Yeah, I Support 'Amnesty'. Why Don't You?

Also appreciated Tom Tomorrow's comic from last week, The Revised Revised Story. More fun with words and pictures -- Peter Bagge on the WoD.

Team Jeannie in a slideshow of the Bay to Breakers, which happened last weekend. Some day, I'll have to participate in that race.

May 21, 2006
According to Playboy, the 25 Sexiest Novels Ever Written. I've only read about four and a half.

The big movie of the weekend is "Da Vinci Code" -- I didn't read the book, like Harry Potter, too popular; but I did see the preview and after reading Dana Stevens' excellent review there's no need to go.

Historical Sounds in MP3 Format -- useful for someone seeking samples for a mashup, or those with a general interest in history. The James Dean didn't work for me, and the Apollo 13 went on so long it got tedious; but otherwise, pretty nifty.

May 18, 2006
I Love New York Back from a brief sojurn east, my first JetBlue experience; nothing but praise for this new airline. No photos, however -- I was traveling light. Given a camera, though, I'd have taken pictures of the brand-new Hearst Tower. (Scroll up and down for more photos.) Security chased me away from the entrance; couldn't get an adequate view into the lobby, with its waterfall. Another stop was the Transit Museum in Brooklyn, which set me to wondering about a curious omission -- although a lucite block featuring each type was available in the the gift store for $85, there was no display addressing the evolution and history of the subway token.

10 Character Actors who should be in every movie; the Top Ten Creepiest kids shows; and 100x100: Michael Wolf photos of cramped living spaces in Hong Kong, with their inhabitants. Also, the Ten Best Musical Works as chosen by Condoleezza Rice. Apparently Bono requested this list, hence #7 (but -- anything by U2!? Yish.) And Steve Earle's Condi, Condi doesn't rate?

One more list -- Ten Foods You Should Never Eat. As a bit of a health nut, I wouldn't classify a lot of this list as food -- groceries, perhaps, or food items.

May 11, 2006
John Michael Greer's Practical Response to the coming deindustrialized society.

May 10, 2006 (updated)
Weird -- the FBI's Top 11 Homicides of the Year.

John Cook at Slate ponders a question for our time: If you hate rap, are you a racist?

Village Voice article about a recent festival featuring a different style of contemporary music: emo. What is that? Never heard of any of those bands, although reading about it in the Wikipedia seems I should be familiar since its origin is the mid-1980s DC music scene -- I gather it's that repellent too-fast screamy harDCore stuff, or close enough I can't tell the difference. The best DC band was of course the Urban Verbs, circa 1980 New Wave -- how did I miss their reunion in 1995? Dimly recall the 9:30 Club closing during my three-year NoVa interval, but this highlight of the final blow-out didn't register. (Warning: nasty popups on that FortuneCity page.) Good to see the Verbs' first LP is finally available on CD.

May 9, 2006
bottle brush tree The bottle-brush trees are blooming... photo snapped shortly after taking the test on the Constitution I'd been putting off, meaning I've now completed all the requirements for a Santa Clara County teaching credential. Not sure what I'll do with it yet, the idea is to be an occasional sub; but a horrible manager has been injected into the org chart, directly above me, which may hasten a career change.

Ich bin ein Carrot, by Will Ferguson -- discovered when researching the word ninjin in order to answer a homework question: Yoku donna yasai o tabemasu-ka which means "What kind of vegetables do you often eat?" (I've read his Hokkaido Highway Blues documenting a journey hitch-hiking from one end of Japan to the other -- recommended.)

These two news items remind me of "The Big Bus" when the supercilious priest, lording his window seat over Ruth Gorden's aisle, says "Where is your God now, old woman?" Lightning kills 5 children praying at a metal cross, in Mexico; and a 34-year-old Christian dies during attempt at a 40-day fast, in England. Seems she was fasting Ramadan-style: no water, either (so she only got as far as day 23). One more news article, illustrated: American troops in Iraq complaining about a new armoured body suit which makes them look "goofy" -- an assessment any real warrior would find intolerable.

May 7, 2006
The first half of this Times article claims the "uptalk" contagion mostly familiar from girls' speech is spreading. (Calls it the high-rise terminal, or HRT: ending a sentence like a question, even when it's not.) I haven't noticed any increase, but maybe I'm isolated -- also don't know from 'The Dip' and associated head-bobbing ascribed in this AxMe thread to talking heads on TV.

Hey, kids -- time for one of my periodic reviews of the new products! First one's vaporware, although it looks neat: the Transparent Toaster. Another item, for surfers, which may be available soon: the Shark Shield. The Waterphone (a musical instrument); and the Cat Cocoon. (Check the latter's price -- ouch!) Wedgey plates for servings of pizza, cake or pie; and Portion-Control Bowls. Okay, now let's think big: B9Creations is marketing full-scale replicas of the "Lost in Space" robot. And finally, I realize the appeal of Segway (and motorized scooters) is how it seems so cool, standing there and moving at the same time, chillin'; but I can't relate. Like the shower-bath dichotomy, why would your choice be to stand, when you could sit down? Hence my rejection of Segway in favor of motor- or bicycle. But now, behold: the WL-16RIII! Easy for me to imagine this becoming a favorite among wealthy fat people, although it should be reserved for the disabled.

According to The Guardian, the Ten Most Controversial Films. Since I don't go to the cinema to get grossed out, I've only seen two: "The Devils" and "NBK" (and the former's so weird, heretical and well-made, I'd go again). Speaking of weirdness at the movies, interview with Crispin Glover about his new "What Is It?" He's pictured with the same unfashionably long hair like that time in Venice, when David pointed him out to me inside I Love Juicy. Very much appreciate how he won't be releasing this new film on DVD 'cause he wants the film to be a theater-viewing experience that people come together and see properly projected. Looks like his road show won't be appearing here until October, and I'll have to shlep up to the Castro to see it.

May 5, 2006
To Hell with Country -- interview with Merle Haggard, on tour with Bob Dylan.

Scary Peak Oil update by Michael C. Ruppert.

May 4, 2006
The Stanford Theatre's site has been upgraded, worth a visit for the dazzling interior photo, taken from the balcony with lighting much brighter than the usual dim redness. Note that the design motif is said to be Assyrian and Greek.

In the WSJ, Hollywood's take on the Internet often favors Fun over Facts. It's not just limited to the internets, of course -- computers are the issue. The worst offense IMO was Newman's excremental "Ha-Ha-Has" in "Jurassic Park"s 'Unix' while the most honorable mention for Getting It Right goes to the recent "Me and You and Everything We Do."

Self-locking F-22 fiasco at Langley. Would that this happened when the shrub was a passenger in the S-3 Viking landing on the Abraham Lincoln.

May 3, 2006
You've seen occasional linkage to James Kunstler's weekly column here, but there's also a lot of worthwhile material at his own kunstler.com site. I was in there today searching for a specific Eyesore of the Month and then stumbled into his Memoirs, Biographical Sketches, and Notes. From them, we learn he was driving a cab in DC in 1975; possibly the funniest Sketch, Getting a Grip, isn't in that list. Since the Eyesores aren't indexed at all (dammit, Jim!) let's log another pair which really stand out. (That previous example is atypical; they're all about architecture.) Those stupid "decorative" shutters most residences Inside the Beltway have, taken to an absurd degree; and the Ontario College of Art & Design.

the Devil's Interval. Says it's common in Heavy Metal but the easiest reference for me to recognize is at the beginning of "Maria" -- not Tony's vocalization of the name, but the initial, random Jets singing it offstage.

Why Bother? -- the A.V. Club's 2006 Summer Movie Preview.

May 2, 2006
Today's top story's gotta be this K5 posting: How to cure Asthma or Hayfever using Hookworm. The skepticism in some of the followup commentary is definitely warrented.

Instead of Camp X-Ray it should be called Kafka Gulag. Wilting Dreams at Gitmo: A Detainee is Denied a Garden, and Hope. Impossible to read this and believe we're still the good guys.

Peter is Single and Looking for a Woman. With so many appealing qualities, he's bound to have attracted one by now.

May 1, 2006
Slogan of the Day:
Reality has a well-known liberal bias. It's in the speech Stephen Colbert gave at the the White House Correspondents Dinner. (The Decider left shortly afterwards, in a snit, and the media's ignoring the incident bacause it wasn't "funny.") Video is available at thankyoustephencolbert.org.

Jane Jacobs died last week. (Toronto Star obit.) I'd never heard of her; all the acclaim got me curious so now I'm reading her last book, Dark Age Ahead -- fascinating stuff, although it amplifies my pessimism. In the first chapter we learn of the Chinese 'treasure ship' fleet of Zheng He, from more than fifty years before Columbus. His program was dismantled by a new, ignorant emperor, who saw no value in maritime trade or exploration -- and then China fell into centures of cultural stagnation. (More info at The Admiral of the Western Seas.) Reminds me of Al Gore's pet project, the Triana satellite, which would provide a real-time view of Spaceship Earth (the program was stalled for obvious political reasons). More about Triana in this optimistic Space News report from a few weeks prior to the Columbia disaster.

Dismayed reactions to the FDA's 4-20 announcement: Reefer Madness in the Economist and All Smoke in Slate.

April 30, 2006
Errol Morris interview, with Adam Curtis, another documentary film-maker (who I'd never heard of) -- It Becomes a Self-fulfilling Thing. Morris made the recent "Fog of War" (about Robert MacNamara), the earlier "Fast Cheap and Out of Control" as well as an upcoming 9-11 movie.

Mason Tvert's Denver Movement -- he has the effrontery to compare weed and booze, and declare the former less harmful.

Sam Smith identifies the source of 'Death Tax' Repeal agitation -- a cabal of eighteen of the nation's wealthiest families.

Concerning a modern annoyance, now in progress just beyond my front door. Y'know those ecological light bulb replacements, high-efficiency curls of fluorescent tubing mounted on the usual light bulb's screw-in base? They're an update on the Edison incandescent old-timers knew as the Mazda, from before the automobile. These new-fangled, expensive but long-lasting lamps don't burn out -- their fading-away deaths are lingering, and creepy. They strobe, irregularly, for quite some time.

April 27, 2006
This made me bust out laughing. It's a paragraph from film critic Anthony Lane's "High and Low" article in last week's New Yorker (the April 24th 'Journeys' issue), which they didn't make available, online. It's about low-cost European airlines, how they've changed the face of travel there.
At a recent lunch, I met somebody who swore truth of a story from the 1980s. He was sitting in an Aeroflot plane at an Italian airport. In fact, he had been sitting there for four hours, on a warm day, with nothing to eat or drink. The plane, like many of its brothers and sisters in the Aeroflot fleet, was not in good shape, and any prospect of an imminent take-off had long since receeded. Finally, the man lost patience. He attracted the attention of the cabin staff and asked for a drink of water. Their reaction could not have been swifter. A sturdy Russian flight attendant strode down the aisle and slapped him in the face.
David Barker posted another excerpt on his "33 1/3".

About Edison's Conquest of Mars, a sequel by Garrett Serviss to The War of the Worlds which was serialized in a New York newspaper in early 1898, but now available in a new book. (More: René Rondeau's 1999 review.) Should be public domain; hence available online -- ah, here 'tis. I'm reminded of "Mars Attacks" -- not the '96 Tim Burton movie, but its inspiration, the original card series, starting at about #46, when the tide turns, inexplicably; and humankind wins the war, on Martian soil.

Excerpt from recent two-hour BBC interview with Brian Eno, where he discusses the origins of Ambient music. Another interview making the rounds, dated yesterday: Matt Groening.

I always try to check the GasBuddy before heading out to refuel. They've got enough data now to put up one of those intricate county-level CONUS maps.

April 25, 2006
Photo gallery: The Enchanted Forest, near Baltimore, then and now (it's been closed for a few). I remember my last visit, when I was a teenager, and my little brother and sister were still kids. The memorable thing about that trip for me was the peculiar sight of a wizzened older couple, sharing a bottle in a brown paper bag while watching the families passing by. (Link harvested from a roadside attraction query on AskMe.)

'Westerners are too self-absorbed' -- Alice Thomson meets the Dalai Lama. Did we know Buddhists don't approve of sodomy or same-sex?

More Al Gore, The Ressurection -- multiple articles in the current Wired.

April 24, 2006
Excellent -- Scott Ritter interview in last week's San Diego Citybeat. Related: Jon Carroll's Friday column, about The Decider.

The Busheviks' Great Leap Forward -- posters in the Soviet style, by Kirk Anderson.

'Talk of the Town' in the current New Yorker, about the new Al Gore documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."

Roadside Attractions -- an ongoing gallery of roadside treasures and sights spotted during travels about the country.

April 21, 2006
At the royal web-site, 80 Facts about the Queen of England, to commemorate this her actual 80th birthday. Did you know HRM's taking on an active role WRT Global Warming?

Ten Basic Questions. If I was grading the answers, the second half of #5's would be rejected. An hour is just an arbitrary length of time -- the real question is, why was one planetary rotation broken up into 24 segments? Since precise single-word answers would be acceptable (like "scattering" for #6 and "refraction" for #7) the word I'm looking for is "duodecimal". (Check the Wikipedia's hour page.) Bonus: why was each chunk then divided into 60 minutes? Their minute page says an
hour likely contains 60 minutes due to influences from the Babylonians, who used a base-60 counting system.
Can't be avoided these days -- inevitably, we return to Babylon, the Land of Two Rivers. Wish the news wasn't so saturated with them, those three I-countries (Israel, Iraq and Iran). They're nothing but trouble.

The current Rolling Stone cover story has leading historian Sean Wilentz tallying up the score on The Worst President Ever. Hoover, naturally, is one of the contenders -- the first student at Stanford. The shrub himself blew into town today, on a morning flight -- I'm currently in a heads-down phase at work, so didn't go out to lunch; but my office-mate did. He spotted the motorcade leaving the base, as well as Air Force One out on the runway, and a loaded black SS SUV and assorted supplemental LEOs gathered at the South Gate. The radio said one of today's stops would be -- the Hoover Institute.

April 19, 2006
Post Apocalyptic Media -- links, blog, etc.

Joe Frank update.

Joni Mitchell: about "Blue", concerning the photo shoot for the covers of "Hejira" and the new "Songs of a Prairie Girl" compilation, and a PBS page (which focuses in on "Amelia").

Leggman's Time-Life Library is a depository that indexes all those series, which they seem to have stopped publishing around the time of the Warner Bros-AOL amalgam.

April 17, 2006
shi Studying kanji again, a phase I go through every few years, but never so seriously as now. Had to share this lil' image from a flashcard for the character shi meaning city or market.

Tomorrow morning will be the 100th anniversary, Earthquake Day. Smithsonian has an interesting feature story about the Mint but online is missing the great contents-page photo from Stanford, of a dislodged statue stuck head-first in the Main Quad. The epicenter was out in the ocean off Golden Gate Park but it was certainly felt down here -- San Jose wants you to know that they suffered too.

The other day with coworkers, driving to a luncheon, I took issue with the radio's setting on a Soft Rock station. "Precious and Few" came on; had to complain. It's a cloying number (by Climax, a one-hit wonder) which is all too familiar to me, the theme of my Senior Prom. Due to the era (1972) I often intentionally mis-remember this as "Dazed and Confused" in the re-telling, for laughs, and have been doing so since way before that peculiar period film with the same title. As for the song, "Dazed and Confused"... one of the outstanding tracks on the first, best Led Zeppelin record, a favorite since first hearing their version in late '69. Turns out they stole it from a certain Jake Holmes! For more info see Jimmy Page's Dubious Recording Legacy (with lots of Yardbirds history) and the Incredibly Strange Saga of Jake Holmes, both by Will Shade. Listening to an MP3 of the original last night; can't recall the source of that download, but it can't be hard to find.

How Nuclear Radiation Can Change Our Race -- Mechanix Illustrated speculation from 1953. Those magazines used to be really something. Thanks to Finkbuilt for posting the scans.

April 13, 2006
I first had sushi in 1980. Turns out that's when the Unification Church began infiltrating the wholesale raw fish business. Marketplace had a feature last night on this, repeating the Chicago Tribune's Sushi and Rev. Moon. Fish are to be avoided for reasons of ecology (due to overfishing leading to extinction) and health (due to the mercury). Now, also, for reasons political/religious. Company to watch out for: True World Foods.

Two entries at DamnInteresting.com: England's Armed Iceberg of War (was never built) and King Nine Will Not Return: The Remains of Lady Be Good.

Plus two from the BBC: Rising copper and zinc prices dooming penny? and Train driving draws professionals.

From a British blog by Becky, a post triggered by this find in a book store: Off the Hook, a Japanese guide to Afro-American slang.

April 10, 2006
The current wave of Girl Scout cookie sales is fading out. They maintain an official Cookie History but I find it best augmented with the one at Little Brownie Bakers -- for example, data in the latter show that Van'Chos' last appearance was during the first Reagan administration. More information at the wiki but what everybody's after is the recipe. Can't find the reference, thought I read it in Cecil or one of Poundstone's Big Secrets books -- somebody reverse-engineering the Thin Mints found a best result with the coating by melting a birthday candle into the chocolate. But there's no wax in Heidi's Thin Mint Recipe, just a lot of work -- easier to buy 'em (and the money's to a good cause).

The remainder of today's post is linkage into recent news headlines.

Bill Nye "The Science Guy" in Texas, ruffles some fundamentalist feathers.

An Anglo-American pair of adventurers was detained in Russia after crossing the Bering Strait on foot.

DIA airport screener 'roughs up' woman, 83, in wheelchair.

Harry Taylor of Charlotte, and the White House transcript of the speech where he took questions and Harry told the shrub of his shame. (No need to wade through his usual soul-killing boilerplate, just search on the word.)

Bizarre baby born in Dolakha. Despite (or because of) the photo, I'm skeptical about this one's truthiness.

Stolen oven doors passed off as flat-screen TVs.

April 8, 2006
If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn't everyone in Asia have a headache?
Like pizza and vermouth, MSG was a taste American soldiers brought home with them. They weren't aware that MSG was what they'd liked in Japan - but the US Army catering staff noticed that their men enjoyed the leftover ration packs of the demobilised Japanese Army much more than they did their own, and began to ask why.

A doctor discusses four Health Problems Related to the Geek Lifestyle.

April 6, 2006
Ye Olde Graphic Designer: adapting the archaic Blazon language of heraldry to corporate logo design.

April 5, 2006
Helen Thomas with all the roses she received for perservering.

The Beef About LA is a burger survey. The author prefers cheeseburgers, and she likes 'em rare, so her opinions aren't all that useful to me; but there's comparison between Fatburger, Tommy's, the [way over-rated] Apple Pan, etc. She's also unaware of the In'n'Out Freedom Fries secret: order 'em well done.

People take vacations in Central America to learn Spanish -- you sign up for a week-long homestay situation, including informal class sessions during the day. The Gus just got back from something like this, in Guatemala -- locate his March 10 entry for the beginning.

April 3, 2006
The Soundtrack of your Life is a fascinating article in the current New Yorker. Although the history section covers territory familiar from Elevator Music David Owen brings things up to date, profiling a worker at the Muzak corporate HQ in South Carolina. I experience their product at my health club -- years back, management made an immeasureably positive upgrade, when they disconnected the old radio. It's not the new tweeters, the musical selection isn't all that different, but no longer am I compelled to listen to commercials, and even worse, that awful morning 'drive-time' DJ chit-chat. For a long interval, can't hear it anyway, since I'm jacked in to my own music while running on the treadmill, using one of the tapes I've compiled, songs which match my rhythm. A recent query on AxMe produced a plethora of new selections, such that I just completed transcribing my sixth cassette. The amazing resources of DJ Prince was the best recommedation, easily -- he maintains an extensive database of popular music which includes tempo information, which can be used as a search term.

The Problem With Monotheism is an interview with Charles Kimball, ordained Baptist minister and author of When Religion Becomes Evil. Related, last night's "To the Best of Our Knowledge" program: Between Belief and Unbelief, concerning the growing rift between Science and Religion.

Heard about the APL Panama? It's a loaded container vessle which went aground near Ensenada on Christmas Day. According to the APL Service Status they got it floating a couple weeks ago, but it's still anchored offshore.

April 1, 2006
When the Franco-Prussian War broke out, Flaubert wrote: Whatever happens, we shall remain stupid.

For this April Fool's Day, the tasteful local college radio station KFJC is without warning replacing their usual music programing with continuous audio from old "social guidance" or just educational films, (One example: The Outsider from Centron, a studio in Lawrence, Kansas which my father actually did some work for, back when that was his college town.) In between these little dramas they're running archaic commercials or ancient Public Service Announcements, and at the usual breaks, recorded voices identify the "KFJC eLearning Network" accompanied by uplifting slogans like We Care Beyond Compare or a longer message about the special programming which concluded, Some of these programs may help you reëvaluate your current situation. Once figured out, I've become totally into it but it's mighty weird when you first tune in (and occasionally, having no access to the missing b&w visuals is tragic).

The emotional social intelligence prosthetic device will allegedly warn the autistic when they're being boring or irritating.

More about the Scalia photo -- the photographer got in trouble.

March 30, 2006
Even though he asked 'em not to, the Boston Herald has posted the photo of Justice Scalia's rude gesture, with an explanation.

$1,000 Ice Cream Sundae offered at Serendipity 3 in NYC. It's a little place on East 60th which has been around at least since the early 1960s -- I hear Warhol liked it, as well as Marilyn. Want to try their Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, but when I finally located them my last visit, there was a discouraging line. (Maybe I should just order some from their site.) A tip from the other end of the gastro-economic spectrum, How to pour ketchup (posted before the lab's had an opportunity to verify the efficacy of this new technique, but it seems reasonable.)

Qwerty Car and Twisted Bike.

Feelin' Morbid?
Famous suicide notes; entertainers who died onstage or maybe just in public, at Snopes; and Wikipedia's chronological listing of unusual deaths.

March 28, 2006
Mexican Coca-Cola: The 'Real Thing?'

Slate Explainer on the World Passport -- sounds like the League of Nations' Nansen passport. Also in the Wikipedia, the Colors of Noise and -- the Brown Note.

Beverly Cleary: Before Harry and Hermione, there was Ramona the Pest. Didn't realize Henry Huggins' location was Portland.

March 26, 2006
I saw the Phantom Corsair at that automobile museum in Reno but I'd forgotten its nickname, The Flying Wombat. Plus, the Top 11 Spaceships.

If you ever encounter the expression Grim Meathook Future Joshua Ellis coined it.

You'll recall how a power failure darkened the compound here on and after New Years, forcing us to endure a pre-industrial, candle-lit lifestyle for just over two days. At the time I was thinking there should be compensation of some kind and they've just sent a $25 check by way of apology for any inconvenience! Thank you, PG&E. Seems uncharacteristically benevolent and potentially budget-busting behavior for a public utility.

March 23, 2006
In a happy coincidence, took off work yesterday, calling in sick 'cause the day before, I'd made a significant break-through, and just didn't feel like showing up. Turns out it was National Goof Off Day and I did my part, by doing nothing special.

The Amazing Childhood of Joni Mitchell is a new exhibition at Saskatoon's Mendel Art Gallery, which includes her bowling trophies and blue prom dress. Down at Graceland, a pair of new exhibits: Elvis '56 and Elvis After Dark, which includes something about red, blue and yellow dashboard lights similar to those used by police or fire departments. I recall from Albert Goldman's notorious Elvis biography how he (the King, not the author) had talked the Memphis PD into letting him install a special little blue light on his dashboard, which would allow unhindered passage through police roadbloacks. Being the only place I've heard of such (perhaps it's a Tennessee thing?) I'm naturally curious 'bout what this After Dark show has on display, but alas, like Saskatoon, I doubt that I'll be passing through Memphis any time soon.

At a blog called Marginal Revolution, Le problème du pain: Why is the bread in Paris better than any that I can find in Washington? One of the follow-up comments points out that the selection in German bakeries surpasses the French, an assessment which feels acurate but one which my own experiences can't honestly verify (since I haven't visited France in a long time). Another comment points out how neighborhood French bakeries are disappearing and being consolidated, a phenomenon I definitely observed in the Fatherland also, my last trip.

Detailed, illustrated instructables for converting your fridge into a magnetic LED Lite-Brite!

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