Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Sickmas

The runny nose from Christmas Eve turned into a full blown cold Christmas Day, the runny nose joined by friends tired, achy, coughy and sneezy. Bah. Hopefully I'll feel better before I have to get on the plane back to Boston.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Your bad (my bad)

I'm certainly not a perfect writer -- I begin sentences with conjunctions, misuse semicolons and overuse dashes like nobody's business -- but I've always been something of a stickler for spelling. I'm far from perfect, but I thought that I was at least pretty good about the whole you're/your too/to its/it's business. At least I did until recently. I mean, it drives me nuts when I see it misused out and about in the wilds of the interwebs, and yet, here I am, correcting my own posts.


RNC talking-points pod people

An awesome article by Wil Wheaton on Salon:

...I thought Tookie Williams was probably guilty and deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison. I wasn't defending him; I was just voicing my opposition to the death penalty. My dad acted as if I loaded the gun for Tookie and helped him aim it at my sister. We weren't able to have a respectful discussion about the death penalty, because my dad wouldn't allow it. Bill O'Reilly must be so proud of the world he's helped to create.

Now here is the terrifying thing: my dad is a really smart guy. He's so smart, in fact, he should see right through it when these right-wing noise-machine guys throw out facts in favor of emotional arguments to manipulate their audience. He should know when Rush is full of shit the same way I know when Michael Moore is full of shit...
I feel like I see this happening all around me, and it just makes me sad.

Along with everything else.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The buzz

Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

I think I mentioned the bees, right?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

To the lady walking her dog this morning...

To answer your question: no, I don't think you should try to run through it if you start feeling pain at the front of your shin. Even if it's muscular, the pain is telling you that something's wrong and you should probably stop running to prevent it from becoming a more serious injury.
I'm back in L.A. for the holidays, and this morning I went for a run, hoping to kick-start myself back into shape again. On one of the small side streets on the way back to the house, I saw a woman walking her dog coming from the other direction. This wasn't particularly remarkable until, just as I was passing, she suddenly asked me if I thought if it was okay to just run through the pain if her leg started hurting while she was running.

I was a bit startled, but I think I stopped and tried to get more information and ended saying that she should at least stop and "try to stretch it or something" and then continued on my way. It kept bouncing around in my head as I continued up the hill until I reached the next (and final) turn off to the house and decided that I should go back and be more definitive about not running through an injury (unless, at that particular moment, she might be trying to escape from hungry bears or something). Never did find her, but it did stretch out my run by an extra 10 minutes or so. Oh well.

I've been stopped for directions once or twice before, but I've never been stopped by a pedestrian before, and certainly not for training advice. I guess she was hoping to get the green light from a fellow runner perhaps because her regular peer counselors had already advised against it. But I find it particularly interesting, because in the past, I've always felt like the people in California tended to keep to themselves, at least as far as runners go. You're just another runner, another health nut, whatever, just another body that's out on the road. In New England, you're one of the few who get it, especially if you're out when it's below freezing, or raining or snowing. I'm sure there are more runners per capita than in other parts of the country, but it's still a fairly small segment of the population, and because of it, sometimes if feeling like you're part of a secret club or something. At least, that's my take on it.

Anyway, it doesn't suck that it's been in the high 70s the last two days after feeling the "reprieve" of above-30° temperatures in Boston. But it's not a true vacation -- I've already put in a few hours of work and I need to write some papers for school. But hey, let's hear it for telecommuting, so I can actually get some work done.

Coming back home has changed over the years. For one things, it's not really Home so much anymore. Well, it is, and it isn't. It's the home of the past, it's live action reminiscing. Home is where the SOOTTAD is. Waltham is where I hang my hat(s). (I guess I'm hardly ever home these days.) It's good to be back to spend time with family and friends, but I'm really not as excited about coming back as I used to be. It doesn't feel like an escape, a time-out from the hectic day-to-day, it feels like an interruption, a disruption. Time apart from the SOOTTAD is a part of it, but I feel like at a deeper level, my connection here just isn't as strong anymore, not that that's a surprise or anything.

The usual list of random notes and observations:

  • Ugh, headache -- probably because I'm a bit dehydrated. Hopefully I'll acclimate soon.
  • I know that I should be pleased that it's in the 70s, but I actually feel like it's just a shade too warm. I'm actually a bit uncomfortable. WTF is wrong with me?
  • I'm a few years shy of 40 and yet I still feel like a kid the moment I drop my bags off in my old room at my parents house.
  • All of my married high school friends here have spawned kidlets. All of them. It makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong.
  • To be fair, there are actually only three who fall into the previous category. But 100% is still 100%.
  • there are a lot of bees in the backyard. I couldn't find a hive or anything, but the constant buzz is just ever so slightly disconcerting if you stop to pay attention to it.
  • I've mentioned this before, but I still find it amusing that nasturtiums and morning glories are not annuals here.
  • I seem to recall many years ago, the California government outlawed the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, and yet I still see them being used. I wonder whether the law changed, or it's enforcement, but I think I'm more bothered seeing, in drought sensitive southern California, people using a hose to wash leaves into the gutter off a 50 foot driveway.
  • I still find it weird to see water constantly running down the gutters along the sides of the street. Constantly. And somehow this didn't used to bother me when I was a kid.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The quality of information

I really should be writing a paper for class right now, but I got distracted, and well, here I am. Hopefully I can keep it brief and get back to writing things that I'm actually going to get graded on.

I've been meaning to write a post about this for a while now, but every time I've started I've kind of run out of gas in the middle. The arguments become too subtle, the examples too longwinded or convoluted, I lose my train of thought and eventually just give up. But here we go again. I guess we'll see how it turns out this time...

* * *

It always goes back to an idea that I remember reading in Job by Robert Heinlein, where the protagonist keeps finding the world around him suddenly changing entirely. Except that [ok, so the following is a spoiler of sorts, BTW, just so you know] it turns out that it's not, really. Things do most certainly change, but it turns out that the changes only take place in the localized region where he can physically experience and interact with it. The rest (like the background of the overall society, its history and all that) only gets changed in the books -- history books, atlases. (It's SF/fantasy, ok? Just accept that it happens so I don't have to spoil the rest of it for you.)

And with all the "he said, she said" business that you find in the blogosphere, my mind always wanders back to that story, and I wonder, how good is the information that's out on the web really. I mean, how good is it *really*. It seemed like all it would take would be enough people to just *say* that something happened in such-and-such a way, and at some point it would hit critical mass and that would be it. But that couldn't happen, right? Is this ringing any bells? Heard about the controversy that's been going on over at Wikipedia recently?

But, y'know? People are talking about this now, which is good. And I figured since that dialog was going on elsewhere in the blogosphere, and probably better thought out and better written, I certainly didn't need to throw in my two cents.

Except that I was just surfing around because of something our new Physiology teacher was talking about at the end of class, when he felt the need (which I must admit, was in response to some specific feedback he was given when he had finished his lecture) to show that he could be an independent thinker, free from the shackles of the iron thumb of the school administration. (Dear god, the mixed metaphors!)

So he decided to talk about the evils of Aspartame. (ironic that I send you to a Wikipedia page, no?) You go, dude. And being a curious monkey and feeling unmotivated, I did a little web searching and, well, it was more of a mixed bag than I had hoped.

One of the first pages I looked at was on Snopes, a site that categorizes Urban Legends. In the past I've found it entertaining as well as an invaluable resource when receiving scare-chain-letters from well-meaning family, friends and acquaintances that urgently need to be forwarded it everyone I know. And their brother. A good site, but not a good sign for the anti-aspartame camp. (Especially since a lot of things our teacher said seemed to parallel points made in the email in question.) But I did note that they cite government organizations (such as the FDA) to debunk the claims, and there are those who suggest that the FDA was on the take. (The Wiki entry covers this somewhat) Unfortunately, most of the links only dismiss the chain letter, and only in broad sweeping terms. And can you really trust a reference from a site called or I did appreciate that the latter article at least addresses the formaldehyde concern with specific numbers. (although those too are called into question by other sources) Well, at least I trust MIT.

So that all made me a little concerned about the temperament of our new instructor. But I dug a little more, and found a few other sites of interest:

Kinda depressing really. And even trying to stay openminded, it certainly raises some questions. But I think that's enough for me; I've got work I need to get done, after all.

However, you might consider bouncing back up to the broader questions about the quality of information and the reliability of sources, where it seems the question fundamentally distills down to: who can you trust?

Again, no answers, but food for thought. Who's saying what, and why... be it a friend, a teacher, a writer or a liarleader.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Um, wow.

Programming, soley for art's sake. Very cool.

For All Seasons

by Andreas Müller, from Kaliber 10000.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Life imitates art

So, the SOOTTAD just called me up; she's going to see King Kong tonight.

If you want to see how the conversation went, all you need to do is go back about a week and a half to Penny Arcade and read:

"As Regards Spoilification"

Well, it didn't go down exactly like that, but there was some unfortunate spoilage action. And on the one hand, I find it HI-larious that we just unintentionally role-played online comic characters. On the other, I feel kinda bad that I spoiled the ending for her.

And I've never even seen any of the other films in their entirety.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Chasing sunsets post snow day

I kinda wish I had some pictures from the sunset this evening, but I guess that's part of the story, really.

We had the first major storm of the season yesterday. It snowed pretty heavy all day, pretty much all day, with thunder and lightning in the late afternoon. I was happy to be working from home, thankful to not have to drive through the mess outside to get to the office. That would have been fraught with peril as I don't think the plows made it to our street until well into the afternoon. They certainly hadn't been through when I briefly poked my head out to grab the mail around 1pm.

Marginally productive during the day (finally finished that one thing I was supposed to have had done Tuesday... ugh), but the only tangible accomplishment of the day was shoveling out the driveway at dusk when the storm had finally passed. We had maybe 10-12 inches, but the work is always in the 3 foot snowbank of packed snow that the plows push up which block the whole driveway. Well, exercise for the day at least.

I spent most of the rest of the evening lost in the interweb. Severe RII I'd say. But happy to have found videos for the Ditty Bops and the Dresden Dolls at least, thank you Wil Wheaton. I'll take what I can get. (the Dresden Dolls video is a little crashy, safer to do a SaveAs or go to their site and grab the small one.)

Today, clear and sunny and beautiful. Or at least that's how it seemed like it was from the bed. For whatever reason (probably the usual suspects), I had a hard time getting up. I eventually dragged myself out, mid-John Funke. I don't even know what I did today... oh yeah, work. Read. Some laundry. Sat at the piano for a while. Tried to study. Participated in a phone survey. (sounds like they're trying to put in a monster mall in Waltham... called it a village-lifestyle-touchy-feeling something or other. Ugh, more development. But I guess all the people moving into the luxury condos up the road are going to have to shop somewhere. *sigh*)

So anyway, I had to study at some point, But it hit me that I really needed to get some exercise. (The difficulty getting out of bed was a pretty good sign.) In a perfect world, I would have gone for a run this morning when it was bright and sunny. But it's not perfect. And the very reason I needed to run was the reason I was having so much trouble going out and just doing it.

I was losing light, but near dusk, the forces of procrastination finally provided the last little nudge I needed to get myself moving. Not too cold yet, and... wow, it was beautiful out. To the east, the sky glowing pink, apparently catching the light from the setting sun, trees with bare branches outstretched, silhouetted against it in the foreground. Down the hill, roads are wet but not slick -- they haven't frozen over yet. I plan to take my usual route, but realize the sidewalks haven't been cleared, so it looks like I'm doing a neighborhood ramble today. I turn a corner, and the clouds to the west are a mix of pink and rich fuchsia, but it's the sky behind that it stunning -- a gradation of blue down to an almost amber near the horizon, somehow contrasting perfectly with the pinks and reds. And it has this amazing intensity and strange clarity, as if the cold is somehow making things appear hyperreal.

I want to run home and get my camera but I realize that it'll be too late. As I turn towards the house, the colors are already changing. The sky to the east is already gray as the night encroaches, and I just have to try and enjoy the moment and take it all in.

It's funny. I'm reading about the Long Now, which is all about thinking in terms of, well, "long time." We're all focused on this year, this month, this week, and it suggests that we need to think, this decade, this century, this millennium. And yet, the colors of the sunset are visible in a span measured in minutes, seconds, moments. The book may get to this, but the thought I had was this: watching the sunset, in that moment, you can sense how transient that moment is. And in so doing, you can feel the transience of all things. And yet, in that moment, things somehow seem timeless.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dating myself

An old college friend forwarded me a link to Flashback Alternatives, an on-line streaming radio site. (Am I being redundant when I say that?)

F'ing awesome.

The first track that got me totally hooked was when they played "Telephone Operator" by Pete Shelley. Man, I probably haven't heard that song in over 10 years. That took me back. And then songs from Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, Oingo Boingo (even if it was one of their later, poppier tunes)... perhaps only marred by a single disappointment of them playing a crappy remix of Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" without the trademark pounding drumbeats in the background. A minor bummer. But otherwise... awesome.

Anyway, he forwarded the link when he heard "Man with a Child in his Eyes" by Kate Bush, and thought of me. Which also takes me back, because I had been somewhat obsessed with her (and that song in particular) my freshman year in college when we first met. Kinda forgot about that, understandably, I'd think, given that all my old Kate Bush LPs are back in L.A. at the 'rental homestead. You all remember LPs, right?

Yeah, good times.

So now, I want one of these so I don't have to turn on my desktop or set up the laptop next to the stereo in order to listen to the music sans headphones in the house (and there's this cool simple mod that you can do to increase its range), but I guess I'll get to that eventually.

Of course, the best part of it was forwarding the link to the SOOTTAD and then exchanging emails throughout the day like the following:

To: tallasiandude
Subject: ooooo, listen to next song!

peter & the test tube babies -- i haven't heard anyone ever play them but me. :-)

The two of us, totally into, and listening to, the same music during the workday.

*sigh* Just like the good ol' days.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A thought on time

Actually, about time. And really, a question about time. A rhetorical question. Well...questions.

I'm reading The Clock of the Long Now, by Stewart Brand, a series of essays which is self-described in the introduction as "a mosaic," and I'm finding it pretty engaging:

"If Moore's Law is true," queries a media developer, "over time is time more or less valuable?" In other words, is compressed time dearer or more disposable? The price per minute is higher, but is the sustainable value? Does intense progress make everything better, or just more temporary?"

I expect I'll be providing some updated commentary as it develops...

Disappointment and...

It's not done!

I realize that it's not technically winter yet, but it sure is close enough. Cold and gray and just... blah.

Watermato close-up

We had several well-formed melons from the garden this year, but I just never felt the desire to actually eat them so they sat on the coffee table for a time and then eventually migrated to the fridge, with the hope that they'd keep until I'd actually decide I wanted to eat them at some tonight. With winter beginning to take hold, and falling in and out of sadness, depression, ennui, not necessarily weather related, but certainly not helping, I thought I might steal a bit of residual summer, a little bit of sunshine that had been stored by the garden fruit.

But of course, disappointment.

Hollow. Unfinished. I had hoped that I had just picked one of the fruits that had fallen from the vine early, but several subsequent fruits showed similar appearances. (Fortunately, there were at least a few that had some edible sections that were actually quite sweet and nicely watermelony).

It made me wonder if I started them too late again this year, or if this was a result of my underwatering/overwatering disaster mid-summer where I thought I was going to kill off the vines -- they seemed to recover alright, but the vines were never quite as robust as they had been before that, and then opening them up...

So yeah, the watermelon was something of a disappointment. But I did find it kind of cool that they seemed to have these natural contours on the inside that look a bit like clover-leafs. And when I looked at a bunch of them together...


...I started to wonder: did they cross-pollinate? Because they kind of remind me of, well... tomatoes.


And that really is kind of cool.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Aw, crap!

1:55AM. WTF?

Working on the project for class and talking to the SOOTTAD. But I didn't get any studying for Anatomy done. Crap, crap, crap.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I gots personality

A personality test found by missludmilla.

Cattell's 16 Factor Test Results
Warmth ||||||||||||||||||||| 70%
Intellect ||||||||||||||| 46%
Emotional Stability |||||||||||||||||| 54%
Aggressiveness ||||||||| 26%
Liveliness ||||||||||||||| 46%
Dutifulness ||||||||||||||| 46%
Social Assertiveness ||||||||| 22%
Sensitivity |||||||||||||||||||||||| 74%
Paranoia ||||||||||||||||||||| 66%
Abstractness ||||||||||||||| 50%
Introversion |||||||||||||||||| 54%
Anxiety |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 86%
Openmindedness |||||||||||||||||| 54%
Independence ||||||||||||||| 42%
Perfectionism |||||||||||||||||| 58%
Tension |||||||||||||||||| 58%
Take Cattell 16 Factor Test (similar to 16pf)
personality tests by

Nothing really new here. I generally would like to think of myself as generally balanced, and you look at the things that scored at extremes:

High anxiety? Check. (Heh, High Anxiety.)
Low Aggressiveness? Low social assertiveness? Check, check.

The only thing that might be a surprise to some -- intellect, which is described as a scale between [instinctive, unstable] on the one hand, and [cerebral, analytical]. Then again, maybe it isn't such a surprise if you know me well enough.

AEM Day 30 - Done

Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

First, thanks to all the participants of AEM -- seeing what everyone else was doing and getting all the feedback and encouragement -- awesome. I know it's been a good exercise for me, despite the challenge, but it was easier with all of you out there, doing your own things. All separate, but all together.

Anyway, it's done. The collage. And Art Everyday Month. There are other things that have been trying to get my attention for weeks that I need to deal with, but hopefully I'll be able to start back up again, even without the challenge of trying to do something every single day.

As is always the case, there were some things that didn't quite come out the way I would have liked, but I think overall I like the result. And it was good to try something different. The words are the lyrics to Billy Joel's Vienna, from the album, The Stranger. It's funny, I had just read an article on Slate about Billy Joel that was fairly critical of him, but sitting at the piano last night really reminded me how much his music was a part of my high school experience. Several songs were personal anthems to me and my friends (some songs more than others, to some of us more than others). Many resonate with me simply because they were songs that I had learned and were a part of my repertoire that I could call on when I wanted to escape. It wasn't about performance or entertaining -- playing piano was a way to hide, to avoid uncomfortable social situations where I was incapable of being social. No talking, no thinking. It was a place where I could just be by myself something.

Vienna is probably one of my favorite songs, but it also happens to be the one that I play the worst, or at least, that translates the most poorly when I play it, perhaps because I learned it by ear rather than from music. It makes me just a little sad, but I also find it amusing in a "well, that figures" kind of way.

Anyway, I think I missed my bed-before-1AM window, but maybe I'll make it by 1:30AM.


Slow down, you crazy child
you're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart, tell me
Why are you still so afraid?

Where's the fire, what's the hurry about?
You'd better cool it off before you burn it out
You've got so much to do and only
so many hours in a day

But you know that when the truth is told
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even get halfway through
When will you realize...Vienna waits for you

Slow down you're doing fine
You can't be everything you want to be
Before your time
Although it's so romantic on the borderline tonight

Too bad but it's the life you lead
you're so ahead of yourself
That you forgot what you need
Though you can see when you're wrong
You know you can't always see when you're right

You've got your passion, you've got your pride
but don't you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true
When will you realize...Vienna waits for you

Slow down, you crazy child
and take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile
it's all right, you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize...Vienna waits for you

And you know that when the truth is told
that you can get what you want
Or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even get half through
Why don't you realize...Vienna waits for you

When will you realize...Vienna waits for you.