Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: February, 2005

Tangled Bank #22½: The Quest for the Lost Articles

Go click on that link and read some interesting science articles hosted over at Pharyngula. These are an addendum to #22 since the submissions were lost to e-mail lala land while on their way to the previous Tangled Bank.

Overheard Conversation

“My neighbors think the university is a Stalinist state. Whenever they see me, they ask, ‘So how goes it over there in Russia?'”

Links and a Meme

Bloggers, Your Audience Awaits. (via Dustbury) I am somewhere in between “up-and-coming” and the rest of the slush pile.

How time flies. A Guardian article looking at how the Aymara view time–as the past in front of us while the future is behind. In a way, this intuitively makes sense–we can see the past but not the future–strange that more cultures don’t view time this way.

Banned Books in the Year 2191. It’s all about the robot overlords.

Whimsical Units of Measurement. Let’s see: for happiness, I’m feeling about 100 peeves (a hectopeeve) right now.

Chocolate-fed women have better sex lives. Silly article.

* * *
Unconscious Mutterings

  1. You’ve got a friend:: Here
  2. Immigration:: Port
  3. Waitress:: Tray
  4. Snickers:: Bar
  5. Recognize:: Something
  6. Concept:: Art
  7. Birthday:: Cake
  8. Told you so:: Sarcasm
  9. Unlikely:: Possibility
  10. Extension:: Cord

And a Long Meandering We Go

Well, I was curious as to all the hoopla surrounding a particular post from The Washington Monthly and I can’t really see what’s so original about it. I admit I don’t frequent pundit blogs, but everyone seems to be behaving rather predictably, hm? So here’s what I’ve basically taken away from the post and the comments: female bloggers argue that they’re not popular because they’re being ignored, the female bloggers that are famous use their wiles instead of their wits, male bloggers complain that female bloggers are too quiet but when they speak up, they’re labeled as bitchy, some people say female bloggers aren’t recognized because they aren’t good enough (and one has to wonder–by whose standard are they judging?), and that women can’t be dedicated bloggers because they’re raising kids, etc.

Mostly, it sounds like mean-spirited stereotyping, but I think someone had the gist of it when they said that the popular bloggers mostly read and link to other bloggers just like them. I think for a lot of people (and not just old white guys) reading and thinking outside of the comfort zone is not what they would usually do. Sure, there are some bigots out there who actively discriminate but for the rest of us, the danger is inertia and complacency. The author of the above post complains that there are few female pundits–but from all accounts, he’s complained about it before–so is he going to do anything about it now?

This is sort of like people who only read one kind of book and nothing else be it sci-fi, literary, or historical romances. And I have to wonder–don’t these people get bored at all? If I restricted my reading diet to a string of Piers Anthony Xanth novels, I’d surely go mad. Wouldn’t it be the same for people continually cross-linking to top bloggers? Think of it another way: let’s say the blogosphere is a huge mansion and all the bloggers and readers and commenters are the inhabitants. The popular pundits have firmly parked their butts in a couch in the den with their eyes glued to the television (which is tuned to CNN or whatever). Would you really want to spend all your time stuck in the den with them or take a look around elsewhere? I’d personally visit the library or the attic with the weird junk or the basement laboratory where all the mad scientists are swapping recipes for squid stew.

Of course, most people are not interested in the mechanics of making squid stew. They’re all parked in the den with the pundits on the couch lobbing spitballs at each other. Conveniently, the couch is next to an open window so the spitballs sometimes land on the innocent (or not so innocent) neighbors and passersby. Spitballs get boring really fast, but they don’t show any sign of stopping any time soon. Maybe someone should rig the satellite dish on the roof so all they get is exercise machine infomercials. Maybe then they’ll get off the couch and see that there are other people wandering about the mansion.

* * *
Bacteria thrive at stunning depths. Don’t they all. Researchers have confirmed that bacteria do thrive down in the deep ocean floor. Anyone not bowing down to their bacterial overlords should do so now.

What She Said! I personally don’t have very much time to sieve through weblogs to find the ones that are interesting (for one thing, they require a lot more reading than your run-of-the-mill link) but this one is handy because it lists a bunch of women pundits.

Photoshopped Romance Novels. Heh. Bodice rippers with altered titles such as “Lord of the Tube Socks” and “For the Love of Scottie McMullet”.

Is This It? A Metafilter post filled with links to bubble chamber pictures.

Still Brooding

This is not the original beginning of this post. I had started writing it last night, but it turned out to be a rant of sorts and it would have possibly been a bad idea to post it. Sure, it vented some frustration but in the end, I don’t think it would have solved anything.

Well enough of that. Onto more trivial things. I started on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell but it may not have been such a good idea–the novel is not exactly cheery. I’ve also been fiddling around with interactive fiction again (hence the IF allusions a few posts back) although on the surface, this may not be a very good idea either.

My attention span and persistance on IF puzzles typically is very short. Nonetheless, I finished two different games in a relatively short amount of time without much help which must be some sort of record for me. The Dreamhold is billed as a game for beginners although the puzzles are not exactly trivial. The Cabal is really easy–I’m not sure there’s really any way you can actually “lose”–and is more humor and parody with lots of IF in-jokes. I dabbled around on two other games: Risorgimento Represso, the protagonist is a college student who gets sucked into a fantasy world, and The Abbey, which was inspired by Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.

Insiteview has started posting again after a long hiatus–just in time for his blog’s third anniversary. One thing the blog’s owner had worried about was what to post and was contantly agonizing on what to say. Everyone has something to say and there will always be something to post. True, some stuff might come off as stupid instead of brilliant, but nobody can be brilliant all the time. Not even Einstein. And if other people expect you to sound brilliant all the time–well, don’t worry about them. They just have unrealistic expectations.

As the blogosphere matures, webloggers are starting to take themselves more and more seriously which on occasion can sound quite comically extreme. I think one should take it seriously if you’re earning a living via blog, but otherwise, this internet medium is nothing more than a way to disseminate opinion and thought, put out some information, hone the writing skill.

Speaking of taking things seriously, Pharyngula asks if he should be flattered or creeped out by somebody exhaustively analyzing his blogroll for gender bias. I think he should be creeped out. It would have been different if a lot of other people’s blogrolls were also analyzed for gender bias, but he was singled out for something that suspiciously resembles witch hunting. Blogrolls are poor places to find gender bias anyway because people use them for different purposes. Some might use them to list sites they read, but others might just link for the sake of linking somebody famous or linking to get hits or linking because somebody commented on their site or linked back to them.

More blog-related stuff: I got a Google search for “unattractive persons mostly perceived as murderers.” Depressing. Would people automatically think that the ugly person killed someone rather than the attractive person? Let’s say you read about a murder in the newspaper and there are two suspects–one that looked like Tom Cruise and one that looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame. Further in the article, the police states that only one person committed the crime but so far they can’t tell if it’s one or the other. What would your gut feeling say?

Okay, so I know everyone would say that they would look at all the evidence first before declaring one person the murderer, but what if the murder is never resolved and the two suspects are free to roam society? Would you automatically avoid walking into the hunchback more than the Tom Cruise look-alike?

The Thursday Threesome: Sweet Potato Queens’ Field Guide to Men

Onesome: Sweet Potato– Sweet potatoes always remind me of thanksgiving which brings me to food…what is your all time favorite holiday food that you wish you’d get a chance to eat at other times?

I don’t have a favorite food.

Twosome: Queens’– do you follow what Prince Charles and others are up to? What do you think about the Queen not going to the wedding?

I don’t really give a crap what the British royal family is doing. But aren’t they wasting British taxpayers’ money?

Threesome: Field Guide to Men– when it comes to the opposite sex, do you feel you have a grasp on ’em – or do they continue to just surprise you?

I treat people on a case by case basis. If I think I have a grasp on any group of people, I’m probably in big trouble.

Tangled Bank #22

Here’s this biweekly’s edition of Tangled Bank brought to you by The Scientific Indian. Some interesting science posts all collected in one place.

Xyzzy: That’s Not A Verb I Recognize

This is just one of those days. I feel like a beginner trapped in the “expert mode” of an interactive fiction game. Or lost in a maze of twisty little passages. Makes one want to kosh one’s head against a cave wall except the parser blinks with admonishment: “Violence isn’t the answer to this one.”

Feeling Darkly Humorous

The Haunted Boy. A reporter finds out the real story behind The Exorcist.

Unintelligent Design. This New York Times article has been making the rounds among weblogs. I find ID patently ridiculous. For one thing, it’s the lazy man’s explanation for how things work–“I can’t figure out a rational reason for how things are so some Higher Intelligence created it!” Oh please. If everyone thought that way, we might as well be vegetating blobs basking in hot springs.

Baby stable after second head removed. Creepy. Has anyone written a horror story about parasitic twins already?

How to Destroy the Earth. Heh. There are some good ones in there.

It’s Snowing and I’m Not Smiling

Yep, life’ll burst that self-esteem bubble. Oh yeah, like this will make me feel any better.

Immortality Through Google. “What are memorials to the dead but touchstones for the great post-mortem popularity contest? He whose gravestone draws the biggest crowds wins.”

Meet the Slacker Mom. One mother decides to let the kids amuse themselves rather than driving them around for soccer practice and piano lessons.

Too Many Books. Crazy authors. There’s no such thing as too many books.