Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: September, 2004

The Thursday Threesome: Crockpot Marmalade Chicken

Onesome: Crockpot– Hey, Winter is just around the corner! Does that mean crockpot meals for you? …and how about the students: When you get home for the holidays will Mom have had something simmering all day?

Uh, I don’t have a crockpot. Don’t you know how much mold and bacteria can grow in that thing?

Twosome: Marmalade– Chunk style or creamy? Do you even do jams, jellies and peanut butters with bits and pieces in them? …or is that something you like have stocked on the shelves?

I don’t have a preference. I usually just buy whatever strikes my fancy at the time.

Threesome: Chicken–pot pies? Do you love ’em or hate ’em? Simple, -eh? …and if you love ’em, where do you find good ones? …or is that even possible ?

Ack. No thanks.

Tangled Bank #12

This week’s collection of science posts is at Lean Left. So what are you waiting for? Go and read!

The Curious Life of Robert Hooke

Anyone familiar with science history will recall Robert Hooke. But exactly how much do we know about him aside from the fact that he was the author of the beautifully detailed Micrographia and that Isaac Newton destroyed his portrait? Lisa Jardine fills in the gaps with the newest biography on Hooke.

Hooke was born on the Isle of Wight to a curate with political proclivities. His brush with Charles I while he was a boy profoundly affected his political preferences later in life. He spent much of his time exploring the scenery of the Isle which was remarkable for its geology and fossils. A brief stint as a painter’s assistant was perhaps one of the reasons why he was so good at drawing.

Later, as he made his way through London, he worked with Robert Boyle (who actually mostly “supervised”) on some critical air pump experiments and became the first Curator of Experiments at the Royal Society. After the Great Fire of 1666, Hooke and his friend and collaborator Christopher Wren helped rebuild London. It was here that his temper got him into trouble. Feeling that he never got due credit for the work he did he began the feuds which would lead the public to view him as a hot-headed crackpot.

Like Samuel Pepys, Hooke kept a diary–entries that are both illuminating and fascinating, in a bystander-looking-at-a-car-wreck kind of way. For his health, he experimented with a variety of medicines that his friends and doctors suggested, some of which did more harm than good. Hooke’s personal life was also quite tumultuous. Aside from working too much and suffering from insomnia, his relationships with everyone (with the exception of a few close friends like Christopher Wren) were a bust at best. Hooke never married, but he did have an incestuous relationship with his niece. When he died, seemingly destitute, his relatives made off with his savings.

So why did Hooke fall into history’s shadow? For one thing, he spread himself too thin by committing himself to many projects. He accomplished much but he never put his energies into one project long enough to yield results he could be solely credited for. Another thing was his temperamental personality. If he hadn’t rubbed Newton and his other contemporaries the wrong way, his name would probably still be in the credits.

And finally, what did Hooke look like? Jardine points out a long lost painting that she thinks might be Hooke. I’m not so sure–the man in the painting looks like Malcolm McDowell–based on just the biography, I pictured Hooke to be a bit more stout with more hair and perhaps a petulant look about the eyes.

And Some Links I’m Sure Everyone Has Already Seen

Seniors Rule. (via Kottke.org) Yeah, they’re pretty bad and pretty funny. When I was in high school, I didn’t really want my picture taken (I still don’t like being photographed) but of course, you had to for the yearbook. There was this black drape that we had to wear for the photo session and I supposed, what the heck, might as well get a few wallet sized pics for the edification of my parents. Do you know how much those things cost? Ripping off students because they’re required to do a yearbook picture is an understatement. Everyone else, to my dismay, were obsessed about getting their pictures done–especially with weird backdrops. Maybe they were trying to appease their own vanity with those really horrible (and expensive) glamor shots. I found the entire exercise completely pointless. Who, exactly, is going to see those photos besides your relatives?

Crazy Train or Emotional Subway Attack. (via Ectophensis) Oh wow. I would never have the guts to do this unless there was one other person willing to do it with me. And I don’t know any showtunes. I guess I better go learn some.

Up front. (via Monkeyfilter)

It was very interesting to hear that owning a cat increases a man’s pulling power, because it definitely doesn’t increase a woman’s. Whereas the male cat owner is apparently imbued with caring, sharing qualities, owning a cat for a single woman these days is tantamount to admitting you’re a frigid, emotionally unstable sociopath who should probably be burnt at the stake as a witch.


I do not own any pets. The last time I had pets was when I was eight years old and they were fish. Of course, they promptly died. What this says about me, I probably don’t want to know.

“Sex and the City stars stay upright because h = Q.(12+3s/8)” say scientists. (via Rebecca Blood)

Physicists at the Institute of Physics have devised a formula that high-heel fans can use to work out just how high they can go. Based on your shoe size, the formula tells you the maximum height of heel you can wear without toppling over or suffering agonies.


I wear running shoes approximately 99.9% of the time that I am wearing shoes. This way, I don’t have to worry about stupid equations.

Successful matchmaker to be awarded a PS2. (via Monkeyfilter) You know, this would have been pretty funny if it weren’t also very sad. It’s one thing to give away a PlayStation to someone who finds you a girlfriend, but it’s another thing if you’re doing it because all your other friends are hooked up. My advice: Be different and follow what you want to do. Don’t let society dictate your social life. Or maybe I’m just cranky because I have to put up with people (male and female alike) whining about their lack of dates. You know what I think? People are too needy and dependent. That’s part of human nature, I guess, but it’s a really annoying part.

Hero and House of Flying Daggers

Along with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, these two movies belong to that genre of Chinese films that can be at least described as mythic/melodramatic/martial arts extravaganzas. Yes, these films are absolute eye candy and you can just sit back and get an overdose of color for the next two hours, but other than that–blech. Great fight scenes but not much there in terms of plot. There are always a bunch of doomed lovers in there somewhere and the characters are always blabbing about honor and sacrifice, etc. And perhaps catering to the sensibilities of male horndogs everywhere, Zhang Ziyi gets laid in all three movies.

In Hero, a lone warrior called Nameless recounts the tale of how he defeated three legendary assassins, Sky, Broken Sword, and Flying Snow, to the King of Qin. Except there’s one catch: is he really telling the truth? What’s the real story? The film had a fairy tale feel to it–the colors bright, coordinated, and surreal. It captures quite well how many Chinese seem to view their own history–partly history and partly myth–actually mostly myth. My two favorite scenes were fight scenes: the fight between Nameless and Sky in a water drenched courtyard and the fight between Flying Snow and Broken Sword’s apprentice Moon in a forest of golden leaves. The storytelling, though, left much to be desired. The film is more like a beautiful woman with an empty head and a pretty mouth parroting the same stereotypical lessons that most people know already.

The plotline for House of Flying Daggers thankfully has a little more depth. During the waning of the Tang dynasty, two captains plot to root out some underground rebels who call themselves “House of Flying Daggers”. Things get a bit more hairy than what starts out as a straightforward plan to sneak into the outlaws’ hideout. Romance, betrayals, and jealousy get stirred into the mix. The problem with all these films is that it is so obvious when they start using the tropes of the genre. To a Western audience that has seen little to no Chinese films, these conventions may seem ridiculous. Another problem, which is actually more endemic to House of Flying Daggers than the other films, is that although there is humor, I would say that the humor was written in such a way that the Western audience would think that it was specifically tailored for the Western audience. Also you have to suspend your disbelief. The minor bad guys can be downed with one blow but the more important characters take forever to die, even with fatal wounds. If you haven’t seen very many of these kind of movies, be prepared to laugh your head off at the end even when you know you really shouldn’t. My favorite scene in this one? Hands down, no questions asked, it’s the Echo Game. Now that was a brilliant piece of work.

Brief endnote: If you do decide to see these movies, I wish you good luck on sitting through it with an understanding audience. I’m afraid most of the old people in backwoods New Hampshire just have no idea.

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Pointless:: Meanderings
  2. Sadistic:: Glee
  3. Bunny:: Suit
  4. Betrayal:: Hurts
  5. Oliver:: Twist
  6. Star Wars:: Light saber
  7. Let it ride:: Out
  8. Ray of light:: Album
  9. Tight:: Rope
  10. Gadget:: Widget

Being Julia

A tired stage actress, bored and uninspired with her life, strikes up an affair with a much younger man who’s using her to climb up the social ladder. Once she finds out her younger lover’s real intentions, the result is revenge and hilarity.

If this comedic drama doesn’t get you out of a funk, well, maybe you need something a little more obvious than word play. Annette Bening is Julia, the over-the-top actress who steals every scene. People around her can never tell whether she’s acting or being real. The supporting actors were, although in some ways clichéd, refreshingly bizarre. From the lecherous old lady to Julia’s inner voice which takes the form of her late mentor, these characters were always good for a hearty snickering. “The theater is reality, the outside world is fantasy,” Julia’s mentor continually berates her. So for Julia even the real world becomes an extension of the stage.

It’s inevitable to describe it as a mesh of things which might be a more accurate summary than a word for word byplay. Think of it as Sunset Boulevard but replace the angst with amusement and the older woman ends up empowered rather than letting her neediness for a younger man destroy her. And I really liked the soundtrack–especially the main theme which is rich with romantic strings and brought to mind stage acting and sumptuous eighteenth century period costumes.

Anyways, I really liked it. The grand finale had me grinning even when I stepped out of the theater and into the pouring rain.

First the Audience and Some Unrelated Links

The audience was comprised of old people.

I mean old people as in people with a substantial amount of gray in their hair and/or balding. (And was that a toupee over there too?!) Okay, so maybe I should not have been surprised. When I went to the box office early to get tickets last week (and still had to wait two hours) the line was mostly old people.

But really. I only saw one or two other people who could have been students. Everyone else was the over fifty type and even though I usually don’t pay attention to other people in the theater, this was borderline weird. It made me wonder if there was something wrong with me. If I’m surrounded by old people, shouldn’t I be watching a different movie?

The answer to the previous question is no, but there is an interesting note about the subject matter of the movie. Because on one level, the movie was about the old (the age of most people in the audience) vs. the young (people my age) and the older characters in the movie “won”–which probably put off any potential younger viewers.

* * *
Pajamagate. Lynn S. remarks that sometimes the political bloggers have all the fun, but you know, I didn’t find this very amusing. People were obviously exaggerating–which is the whole point, you might say–although I found a picture of a laptop in the bathroom a bit funny. Yes, something may be out of whack with my humor-o-meter, but I have to point out that the so-called blogosphere in its self-absorption is once again behaving like trendy teenagers who have no ounce of originality.

The #1 reason why people didn’t reach 50,000. 7 out of 8 people fail Nanowrimo, mostly because they fail to start writing at all. Also an anecdote: if you mention you’ve written a novel just once, people will keep asking you about it even if you never mention writing ever again. Since I’m not an egomaniac (at least I hope not), this gets annoying real fast.

How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later. An essay by Philip K. Dick:

“Science fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can’t talk about science, because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful. A few years ago, no college or university would ever have considered inviting one of us to speak. We were mercifully confined to lurid pulp magazines, impressing no one. In those days, friends would say me, “But are you writing anything serious?” meaning “Are you writing anything other than science fiction?” We longed to be accepted. We yearned to be noticed. Then, suddenly, the academic world noticed us, we were invited to give speeches and appear on panels — and immediately we made idiots of ourselves. The problem is simply this: What does a science fiction writer know about? On what topic is he an authority?”

Movie Gluttony

This is just a heads up that most of the next couple of posts will probably be about movies. Some of these movies won’t be in general theaters until a couple months later so perhaps this will be of some interest to those of you who are film freaks.

Added aside: What I really want to see is the sequel to Ghost in the Shell but none of the theaters in this whole entire state is playing the movie. I’d have to go to Boston. Boston! It’s as if all the theaters around here are conspiring to lower the IQ of hapless theater goers with inane fare.

Some Other Stuff

Traveling Salesman Problem. “Given a finite number of “cities” along with the cost of travel between each pair of them, find the cheapest way of visiting all the cities and returning to your starting point.”

Alien microbes could survive crash-landing. “Bacteria could survive crash-landing on other planets, a British team has found. The result supports to the idea that Martian organisms could have fallen to Earth in meteorites and seeded life.” Okay. But all this really proves is that terrestial microbes are very hardy and that if spacecraft aren’t sterilized properly, we could potentially contaminate other planets that we want to explore.

Mathematics, marriage and finding somewhere to eat. Here’s the problem of finding Mr. or Ms. Right boiled down to numbers. But somehow I don’t think mathematicians themselves follow their own models.

What kind of book marks a watershed in a woman’s life? (via Modulator) Well, I wouldn’t consider any books I’ve read really a “watershed” but in my formative years, I read stories where the hero or heroine kicked butt or where the plot was a little strange.

Survey Confirms It: Women Outjuggle Men. “It may fall into the category of Things You Knew but Could Never Prove, but a new survey by the Department of Labor shows that the average working woman spends about twice as much time as the average working man on household chores and the care of children.”

‘Excuse Me. May I Have Your Seat?’ Asking for a seat is more traumatic than giving up a seat.