Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: January, 2005

Give It To Me Baby

(A meme from So Anyway. My answers are in italics.)

(A) First, recommend to me:
1. A movie: Kontroll
2. A book: “Imaginary Numbers” edited by William Frucht
3. A musical artist, song, or album: Er, Paul Oakenfold? I’ve been listening to him recently, but it’s clubbing music which I don’t think anyone is into except those darn young folks.

(B) Ask me three questions, no more, no less — anything you want. I’ll answer the questions collectively in an entry later this week.
1. What is your idea of a perfect writing utensil?
2. What would be the first thing you’d do when you realize you’re lost?
3. Why did the chicken cross the road?

(C) Copy and paste this in your blog, allowing your friends & readers to recommend and to ask you anything they want.

(D) Give me a story idea.
Since the author of So Anyway strongly hinted that she’d like to do erotica, I suggest using a subway. You know, for the symbolism.*snicker*

A Note To My Non-Existent Biographer

Some people may argue that memoir writing is mostly an ego-inflating exercise (and maybe they’re right), but it suddenly struck me that it’s also a rather morbid undertaking. Usually people write memoirs at the end of their lives when pretty much anything of interest is over and done with.

I don’t want to write a memoir. If I really wanted to chronicle the minutiae of my life, I’d start a diary/journal again (I had stopped, right before I discovered how to make a webpage). If someone else wants to write a volume about my life (I can’t really imagine why), well, you would have to do some sleuthing. Besides, I find it perversely funny to think about some stranger rifling through my grocery receipts after I’m gone.

Links and a Meme

Researchers Map The Sexual Network Of An Entire High School. (via Metafilter) Unlike adult networks where there are hubs of sexually active people, a high school network is more like a chain. This is probably due to the fact that most teenagers are not as promiscuous and they don’t swap partners like trading cards. And there is, of course, those unspoken high school social rules about cliques, dating, etc.

Monkeys Pay Per View. In a recent article in Current Biology, male rhesus macaques were willing to give up juice to view pictures of the behinds of female monkeys or pictures of high ranking monkeys. However, they demanded more juice if the researchers wanted them to look at pictures of low ranking monkeys. I’m sure some guy is going to use this as an excuse when somebody finds his extensive stash of pr0n.

Homemade Nuclear Fusion Reactor. I can see someone using this concept for a movie like Real Genius, but exactly how safe is this?

Author Theorizes 40 Microbiologists Killed Before Unleashing “The Ultimate Epidemic.” Sounds like a stupid conspiracy theory. What are the statistics of being untimely dying in other occupations?

Why Your Pointy Haired Boss Is A Mathematical Certainty. Ah, managers. People who are paid a lot for not knowing how to do anything.

Revenge of the Right Brain. Logical and precise, left-brain thinking gave us the Information Age. Now comes the Conceptual Age – ruled by artistry, empathy, and emotion. Blech. If it’s going to be only artistry, empathy, and emotion without any sort of logic–it’s going to be a scary thing. Any sensible person will realize that you can’t have one without the other.

Blog Overkill. A Slate article arguing that blogging is being overhyped and that it’ll fizzle out before most people realize its potential.

Color Fields. An interesting color picking utility that also uses images.

Blogging ‘a paedophile’s dream’. Well, the bad news is, if some pervert is really determined to find you, he’ll get the info no matter what you try to do. I guess the advice is not to make it too easy to tempt anyone who might be borderline.

Comparative Morphologies. At first glance these pages look like drawings of biological miscellany like a page out of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, but those objects are just computer parts.

A Silly Meme (via Dustbury)

How this one works:
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

From Jacob’s Ladder: The History of the Human Genome by Henry Gee:

“To backtrack slightly to before the birth of genetics, cytologists in the last quarter of the nineteenth century suggested that the consistent behaviour of chromosomes during processes such as recombination had parallels with the laws of inheritance.”

A Show and a Meme

Ah, Witch Hunter Robin, where to begin? It’s an anime series with seriously dark overtones in both plot and color palatte with main characters in stylish goth costumes. The title character, Robin Sena, is a fifteen-year-old girl raised in a convent in Italy and employed by a secret organization called Solomon which hunts rogue witches. Robin is sent to the Japanese branch to replace another witch hunter that died in the line of duty. We quickly learn that the Japanese branch doesn’t kill witches like the rest of the organization–instead, the hunters stun the witches with a mysterious anti-magic substance called “orbo” and carts them off to a place called the Factory for “further study”.

The series starts out slowly as the first few episode are somewhat self-contained like a typical television mystery show–basically the witch hunters track down mysterious deaths, find the witch responsible, and take him/her down to be sent to the Factory. The plot picks up around the ninth or tenth episode and we see everything unfurling. As Robin eventually learns who and what she is, it is also revealed that practically every other character on the show has hidden agendas which may or may not be at cross-purposes with witch hunting.

It’s very solemn and brooding and atmospheric. The characters, especially the main ones–Robin and the head witch hunter Amon–are aloof and enigmatic. I liked the design but I didn’t feel the series really got going until episode fifteen, which I will have to attribute to dramatic fight scenes.

* * *
Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Coroner:: Dead
  2. Mystify:: Doubt
  3. Corroborate:: Cooperate
  4. Misinterpret:: Fact
  5. Humorless:: Unsmiling
  6. Calculus:: Math
  7. Eye for an eye:: Outdated
  8. CPR:: Heart
  9. Stitched:: Fabric
  10. Facility:: Utility

Yeah, Lazy

I didn’t feel like going outside in the cold if I didn’t have to, so I settled down to watch some anime. I could be reading, but I’ve been feeling that I usually read more in a week than some people do in a decade. Stay tuned for a review tomorrow if I manage to finish the series tonight.

End of the Week Digest

Genius grants don’t pay off in lit. Well, that’s the thing about lit. If you haven’t been recognized before and you haven’t yet published anything, you’re a nobody. And when people are on some committee doing nominations, they’re not going to vote for a nobody. Besides, lit is extremely subjective. What may be genius to one person may be downright moronic to another. (Like Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow–I can’t even think about it now without cringing.)

Do we need more scientists? / Is There a Science Crisis? Maybe Not / Wanted: Really Smart Suckers. (All three articles via Raymond at Tiger Cafe.) I’ve been feeling rather gloomy this week and this really cinches it. Maybe I should run to the hills and start screaming my head off or something.

100 Soundtracks of All Time List. Most of these are old movies so I’m not sure how fair this list is. And when it comes to soundtracks, I’m more about visceral aesthetics anyway. Lots of romantic strings or pounding techno? Bring it on.

Be happy. Here’s some utter cuteness: Tsunami hippo befriends tortoise.

Mommy hottest. Sure, I grimaced when I read this, but these women can wear whatever the heck they want. But is the next generation going to be populated by more than their fair share of kids with Oedipal complexes? I personally don’t buy their excuse for being sexy for themselves–I think they’re just succumbing to society’s obsession with youth.

Big Art/Short Fiction. Is your attention span not long enough for an epic novel? Then read faster! Okay, so that advice may only pertain to me, but it is worth a try. As for equating art for literary fiction–ugh. I can’t stand it. If I want to read about truth, I’m going for non-fiction. Fiction for me is supposed to be an escape. I want action! Adventure! Totally crazy stuff! I want a story and not some narrative so frought with meaning and symbolism that I need a lit doctorate to decode.

Peculiar Type #13 – Wake

On a silver afternoon, Peter watched his grandfather’s ashes whisk across the slate blue waters of Dunnaday Bay as a glimmering soul-cloud in the crisp air.

He stood for an hour on the water-worn dock listening to Reverend Matthews’ solemn words and Uncle Gordon’s elegy. He remembered when his grandfather first took him here and told him how he worked as a fisherman when he was younger, knotting rope, tending the boats, pulling in the catch. Seagulls had cried overhead and he could swear he could smell the fish and the brine and the sweat and could see his grandfather’s eyes, hard and bright.

Uncle Gordon said that Peter’s grandfather was a stubborn man who knew his mind. That line made Peter smile. His grandfather had always been proud to say that he smoked a cigar every week since he had been ten and a beer every day since that age as well. Aunt Rita, a retired surgeon, was always pestering the old man to give up his bad habits, but he had brushed her off saying that he was immune to such poisons.

Peter discretely sniffled as his family headed back toward solid land when the last of grandfather disappeared into the watery beyond. Grandfather would be pleased, he thought. After one last glance at the bay’s choppy waves, he turned and nearly bumped into a glassy-eyed woman trying to pull her collar up to protect her neck from the cold wind. Peter frowned. It was Josephine, his cousin.

“Cold day. Can’t wait to get inside,” she said.

“Yes.” He walked with her toward one of the large wood-planked sheds dotting the shore where a brief reception was to be held. He had intended to have a drink and linger for a while commiserating with his family, but with Josephine around, he wasn’t so sure. He hadn’t known that she would come to the funeral. Of course, his grandfather was hers too, but a week before, everyone knew she was immersed in something Big and Important. But only Peter knew she was seeing a psychiatrist and taking meds.

Once inside, Peter slipped away from his cousin and headed toward the refreshment table for a glass of merlot. He didn’t bother taking off his coat. He smiled again as he swirled the wine and took a sip. If his grandfather was there, he would be scowling. “Wine?” he’d roar. “Your friends have corrupted you, Peter.” And then the old man would forcibly take the glass out of his hand and replace it with a beer can. But it would have all been in good fun. His grandfather would drink the wine as he had developed a taste for it himself.

He spotted Uncle Gordon talking to the reverend at one corner and turned to walk toward the two men, but he froze as out of the corner of his eye, he saw Josephine talking to his younger brother Bobby, Bobby’s girlfriend Eliza, and one of his other cousins. “So,” Josephine said loudly to Eliza, “How many other guys have you dated before seeing Bobby?”

Bobby’s mouth dropped. Eliza blinked, shocked. Peter took a deep swallow. Please let that be an isolated incident. Even when they were little, Josephine always talked before thinking. And even after she talked, she never thought what she said was ever wrong. The woman never had any tact, no filter to screen out whatever was churning in that brain of hers. Peter had hoped the meds were doing something.

Peter made his way toward his uncle and the reverend. Greetings were exchanged and he chatted with the older men, feeling a little comforted. After a few moments, he was about to excuse himself to get some water when footsteps sounded behind him. It was Josephine.

“I must be leaving soon,” his cousin announced. “It’s getting so dark at this time of year.”

Reverend Matthews agreed as his uncle nodded. Peter said nothing.

“It was nice seeing you Reverend. Peter, don’t drink too much. And Uncle Gordon, you look absolutely terrible. Take care of yourself, now, you hear?”

Josephine emphasized the word terrible like an overblown stage actress and then patted Uncle Gordon’s coat lapel with a disapproving tsk. As his uncle’s body jerked at her words, startled, the reverend tried to cover-up a scandalized gasp with a hand. And as a headache brewed behind Peter’s temple, his cousin whisked herself off.

Those meds definitely aren’t working. “I am so sorry,” Peter found himself saying. “She’s just not herself with everything going on.” But that was all that he was going to say. He was the only one who knew about Josephine’s psychiatrist–she had entrusted that part of her to him. If it ever got out to the rest of the family, well, he knew for certain that Aunt Rita would be having a field day.

Uncle Gordon was silent for a second, gazing at the door that Josephine had breezed through. Something flickered briefly across his eyes before he glanced back at his nephew. “Don’t worry, Peter. I know she’s been like that for quite a while.”

The Thursday Threesome: Light or Dark

Onesome: Light– Light chocolate or dark chocolate? …or no chocolate at all?

Either one is okay.

Twosome: or– Yeah, easy stuff this week : Coffee with cream or black as night? Or maybe: colas or clear sodas? …or just water, thank you?

If coffee, then cream. If soft drinks, then the clear sodas. Water is fine too.

Threesome: Dark– Light-colored clothing or dark clothes? Which do you prefer to wear? Angel to goth, we’re curious?

At this time of year, it’s jeans and sweaters with no particular preference to colors. (In the summer, it’s jeans and t-shirts with no particular preference to colors.) I am neither angel nor goth. But I think that goes without saying even though I haven’t provided any pictures.

Tangled Bank #20

Go read this week’s round-up of self-selected science writing around the blogosphere over at Jasmine Cola. Trust me, you don’t want to hear me rant about my cheetos-induced nightmares and how snow has turned driving to school into a zero sum game.

* * *
On another note, I am truly disappointed in my fellow graduate students. This year is the first year they’ve allowed us (and not the profs) to invite a seminar speaker or two and less than half of the students voted for the nominated speakers. When people are given a chance to actually do something, they don’t take it. What does it take to shake people out of apathy anyway?

Must Clear Out Bookmarks

Jules Map Server. “An interactive map tool for virtual exploration of Earth and other worlds; custom map creation with fully interactive pan and zoom & extensive image selection.”

Storyblogging Carnival. (via Science and Politics) Now this is interesting. Maybe I’ll use this as an incentive to pick up fiction blogging again–particularly to add to this list which has been languishing lately.

Viagra for Broken Hearts? This Science article sums it up better than I could.

Jan. 24 called worst day of the year. Personally I found yesterday depressing for various reasons that I will not get into, but it could have been a lot more depressing. Most people don’t realize that their lives could be a lot worse and never think that they’re already quite lucky.