Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: February, 2006

The Thursday Threesome: Visualize Whirled Peas

This week’s topic sounds like someone had a weird hallucination, not a slogan from a t-shirt.

Onesome: Visualize– Hmmm…How are you on maps and mapping? Are you one of those people who can translate the paper version to what you’re seeing on the road? …or do you rely on a ‘trusy native guide’ (or GPS unit) to get you around someplace you’ve never been?

Make-believe maps? Sure. Real maps? Not necessarily. If the streets look like a tangled ball of yarn instead of a grid, I’m not going to make any guarantees about finding anything.

Twosome: Whirled– about in your head: did you ever have a phrase or song lyric you “just got wrong”? You know, like that Hendix “Kiss this guy” malapropism…

Off the top of my head, Elton John’s “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” To me, it sounds like he’s saying “pack of bones” instead of “vagabonds.”

Threesome: Peas– porridge hot? Even though we’re looking to the end of Winter (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere), what has been your favorite hot meal this past few months?

Soup.

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Links I Should Have Posted Earlier But Got Sidetracked

Animalcules. (via Modulator). A new carnival just for those “wee beasties”, i.e. microbes. The latest edition is posted here.

Via Neil Gaiman, a bunch of London Underground maps remixed: Going Underground (where a Guardian reporter wastes some byte space organizing musical influences through the tube) and The Great Bear (the tube map organized by “stars”–philosophers, footballers, scientists, etc.)

Dragon. (via Drawn!) Here’s the cool animation of paper cutouts for United Airlines as well as the making of the commercial.

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The Thursday Threesome: Going for the Gold

Onesome: Going– out on a limb: are you watching the Olympics? …obsessed by them? …or are they just one more reason to watch “Leave it to Beaver” reruns?

I’m watching the Olympics sporadically since I’m a rather casual and indifferent observer. The only coverage I’m interested in is curling and maybe luge. Otherwise, there are other things to occupy my time.

Twosome: for the– heck of it: what happened in your neck of the woods on Groundhog Day? Are you looking at six more weeks of Winter or is Spring poking its head around the corner?

It was warm on the second, but after that the weather has been a yo-yo. Who knows what will happen in six weeks.

Threesome: Gold– Golden dreams: did you ever aspire to any sports championships? How about academic ones? How did that work out for you?

Sports–no. But other kinds of championships? I went if I had the opportunity but I wasn’t obsessed with winning anything. I left that to the more anal retentive people.

More On That Book Cataloging Site

After my mention of LibraryThing in the previous post, Tim Spaulding, the creator of this online book cataloging app, graciously extended an invitation to me to sign up. So how could I resist? As someone who organizes her bookmarks by Dewey Decimal, I’m not going to turn down an opportunity to check out someone else’s system.

The first thing one would guess a user could do with this is to assign his own call numbers to his own books. But this is painstaking, and if you wanted to be objective, you might as well take your cue from the Library of Congress or even your local library. You can assign numbers if you wanted to, but I think the primary advantage of such an online system is not so much organizing your own personal hoard of texts as it is to peruse other people’s libraries.

LibraryThing utilizes tags. It’s not a new concept as evidenced by Flickr and del.icio.us, but tags seem better suited for books–intuitive even–than links (which could contain any amount of random information) or photographs (which seem too personal to be stuffed into any sort of system aside from chronological). I really like using the tags to see what other people have tagged similarly or who has used that tag the most–which usually indicates a far more specialized library–to get recommendations for other books of similar content. There’s a very fine line–a book tag is like an electronic word of mouth without the biases of reviews and commercial data but also without the cold objectivity of an actual library.

Another thing I like about it is the statistics for “users with your books.” At first glance, this can be quite creepy. Are there really that many people who have at least fifty books in common with you? But at the same time, one can take heart that there are others out there who have the same tastes in reading. Just take a peek at one of their libraries to see if there are any other similar books that you might like. Aside from that, I was really happy to see a rather flexible import/export system. As they always say, there’s no such thing as too many backups.

Of course, with all things beta, there are glitches and incomplete features. But according to LibraryThing’s blog, these problems are recognized fairly quickly by the creator and the users. All in all, a very nifty app for the bibliophile. At any rate, far more useful than that other website which used to keep up with blogged books before it metamorphosed into some sort of media-recommendation-list-thingee.

(For the curious, here are my profile and my book catalog on LibraryThing. It is not the same as my bookrolling page.)

The Ol’ Rigamarole

The Thursday Threesome: Premium Web Service

Onesome–Premium – Have you paid for any access to web services? What services? What are they like?

I’ve paid for dial-up. Download times, even for regular pages, are really slow. So I’ve come to appreciate sleekly designed sites.

Twosome–Web – For the free stuff on the web, what it your favorite out there? What do you find yourself looking at everyday?

I use the web as a tool, so I mostly appreciate finding information quickly.

Threesome–Service – What goes on in your mind when you’re out and get bad service from a restaurant or store? Do you let it slide off your back like ducks do to water? Or, do you make sure the business knows your dissatisfaction?

I probably won’t be vocally mad. It seems rather counterproductive. Maybe the service people are having a bad day. Most likely, I might vent my displeasure on this blog.

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Links: Some Digital Library Stuff

Corsair. Ah! Another library of manuscripts digitized–primarily medieval and Renaissance ones.

Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project. A digital collection of old cookbooks–yummy!

LibraryThing. “Catalog your books online.” Hm. I already keep a list of books I’ve read on this site so I’m not sure if this is really necessary. Besides, you can only enter 200 books for free (after that, a fee is required).

The Map Realm. Fictional road maps. I am totally amazed by the detail. The maps I make for background for my own fiction writing are piddle compared to his.

Beastly Mispronunciations

Charles Harrington Elster‘s The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations is billed on the cover as “the complete opinionated guide for the careful speaker.” And, boy, can I relate. Sure, I’m far more forgiving for non-native English speakers, but after partly growing up in the South where enunciating vowels and consonants are at best lax (although I must hastily add, there’s nothing wrong with speaking with a Southern accent–it’s only those who use it as an excuse to speak in an alien tongue), it’s a wonder I don’t go absolutely batty when words get horribly mangled in someone else’s mouth.

Before you get the wrong impression, I must say that I am no language paragon. I know I’m not one, so it was with great interest that I picked up Beastly Mispronunciations. Even a cursory look-see garnered some intriguing history on pronunciations. For instance, the French-sounding pronunciations for “ambiance”, “amateur”, and the like are in fact wrong or strongly discouraged. Personally, I can see why. Mimicking a French pronunciation doesn’t make you sound educated. It makes you sound like an intelligentsia wannabe.

Some other interesting tidbits: I did not know that the emphasis of the syllables in “zodiacal” was on the second instead of the first. I’ve always heard “sanguine” pronounced (incorrectly) as SANG-gwyn (rhyming with wine) instead of the accepted SANG-gwin (rhyming with win). “Harass” can be both pronounced as HAR-is (like Harris) or hur-RAS (rhymes with alas) although I’ve only heard the latter said. And “Ayn” (as in Ayn Rand) rhymes with wine, dine, and fine, and not pronounced like “Anne”.

The last time I was scolded for mispronouncing a word was the time I said “lingerie”. I pronounced it as LIN-ger-ree (just as it looks like) because I had no idea it had any French origins (which is a bit embarrassing since I had four years of French in high school–but then again, I’m not one to have salacious thoughts while trying to master a language) and when someone did pronounce it correctly, I mistook it for another word altogether. But then I was told that it was pronounced lahn-zhe-RAY. Which as it turns out, is also wrong. The last syllable is REE, not RAY.

On Audiobooks

My primary argument against audiobooks, before I managed to get through an entire one, was that someone reading aloud was a poor substitute for reading a book oneself. I had a bad opinion of audiobooks because I didn’t like having the Average Joe reading something aloud. Was it how the author intended his or her story to sound like? Did the reader completely miss the nuances? Did the reader’s voice somehow cheapen the story?

I suppose my dislike for this form of storytelling stemmed from listening to teachers and librarians read children’s books when I was in elementary school (with the exception of my fourth grade teacher who read the class The Chronicles of Narnia throughout the school year) because the speaker’s interpretation of a story did not mesh with my interpretation. The story in my head was almost always far more witty and sophisticated. An elementary school librarian sounded like she was talking down to the students, at best. An idiot, at worst.

But, of course, how can I decry a media form without really trying it out first? So last week, I checked out several audiobooks from the library–all of them for books that I’ve read before. I figured that this would control for the quality of the book so I could concentrate on the quality of the narrator. After trying several audiobooks, I’ve decided that it depends on who the narrator is. Some people are good with different voices. Some, not so much.

The best analogy I can think of is that audiobooks are to the written word as a movie is to a screenplay. I can see there is a certain appeal for audiobooks (after all, unlike reading a book oneself, listening to an audiobook allows one to do several things at once), and some may be quite good on their own merits. But I still believe that the actual book in hand is better than listening to someone else reading it. For one, the version in my imagination is funnier. The narrators always sound so serious! Or, the narrator may have a certain tone that I am sure the author never intended. But above all, the audiobook is a dramatization–someone else’s interpretation of a story–and like the movie, it does all the work for you. The listener doesn’t have to think. He or she can just sit there like a zombie and let the voices pass between the ears without much processing.

However, I have yet to get my hands on an audiobook in which the author reads his own work. I suspect I will have different expectations for it.

A Meandering Drive

It’s red. Break. Drum the steering wheel as Saint-Saëns pours out of the speakers. Watch a stream of cars cross the intersection. And out the corner of my eye, I watch the car on the next lane inch forward and then gun it on green.

Is this a nation of impatient drivers? Why is everyone so antsy to go from A to B even traveling at 65 mph? Surely not everyone is late to their next appointment. Surely no one’s schedule is so full. Is everyone itching to get to the nearest bathroom? Does everyone have a pregnant woman in labor in the backseat?

I thought not. So back off and stop tailgating. Stop going 70 in a 45 mph zone. Stop the sniveling and the sneering because I’m going so “slow.” I blame those car commercials for extolling the virtues of powerful engines. Unless you’re a race car driver, what’s the point? Every car must go the speed limit. You’re not getting to grandma’s house any faster if you have one car model rather than the other.

Aggressive driving–perhaps a phenomenon purely endemic to this technology for personal transportation. Do we have tailgating fishing boats or airplanes? If we have “beam-me-up-Scotty” technology, would people jostle each other to get to the transporter room first? A car is something that the driver controls, an extension of us, a shell which we can manipulate with impunity. It reminds me of the Internet. Just as online anonymity can embolden a person to say things beyond social tact, so can driving. After all, who’s going to arrest you if you drive a little too close to the next car or flip the bird to the truck driver?

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Cool Links from the Blogroll

The 50 Best Robots Ever. (via A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance) Although I have a bit of a quibble with the order, it’s a very cool list. Also for some reason reminds me of the magazine, Giant Robot.

Perfume Whom. The 2Blowhards talk about the inverse relationship between a woman’s attractiveness and how much perfume she sprays on. Personally, I’ve never noticed that relationship–for women or men. I just notice the perfume and run away. If I can.

Pharyngula. Yeah, yeah, this blog is already on my blogroll, but I just found out he moved! I am so behind on a lot of stuff–including reading weblogs–that it definitely is not funny any more. Go check out his Friday Cephalopod–aw, he’s so cute!

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Other Kinds of Links: Digital Libraries

The Hours of Jeanne d’Evreux. An illuminated manuscript made for the fourteenth century queen of France, Jeanne d’Evreux.

Electronic Biologia Centrali-Americana. A way cool resource of biology books, digitized. Who can resist this monkey from Edward R. Alston’s Mammalia or shudder with morbid delight at these little beasties from Reginald Innes Pocock’s Arachnida?

Tales from the Vault! An awesome archive of Canadian pulp fiction.

Two Cubed

Lately, I’ve been thinking that it’s a shame that this blog has gone semi-erratic. Is it blog burnout? Or is it just that my attention currently is elsewhere? Is there just a certain expectation I have that I don’t feel that I can match at the moment?

I learned that the Millikan Man had passed away (not recently, but a couple years ago). For those of you not in the know, the Millikan Man was quite the icon at Caltech–as a fellow former Techer remarked, a reminder “that Caltech isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.” With him gone, it marks the end of an era and current Techers probably don’t know what they’re missing.

Anyways, here’s a list of former Caltech Lloydies’ blogs for the curious:
Arcane Gazebo
Quantum Chaotic Thoughts
Teh
/dev/shm
Journal of Lemming

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The Thursday Threesome: A Dangerous Step

Onesome: A– whole new year is in progress and we’ve made it just over a month into it. Do you have any new projects started around the place or are you waiting for Spring? …or does it already feel like Spring?

I would rather not say which sort of projects I’m starting.

Twosome: dangerous– It’s a dangerous world out there on the Net some days! What are you using for Anti-Virus and/or Firewall software? …and is it working well for you? (If not, it may be worth seeing what the gang has to say…)

Norton Anti-Virus and the Windows Firewall. But I think the best way to prevent getting your computer infected is to “Surf Smart”. Don’t go to dubious websites or download dubious files. I also try to use a browser with the minimal amount of plug-ins I can get away with.

Threesome: Step– right up and tell us what you have planned for the “Annual Commercial Extravaganza” this Sunday. You know, the one with the football game cut up and slid between the segments. Is it party time? Shopping? What commercials?

I intend to go about my day like any other day. I don’t like football. I won’t be partying. Shopping is out. And I could care less about the commercials.

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The Thursday Threesom: Certainly Worth the Drive

Onesome: “Certainly– is there anything in life you are “certain” about? Firm in your beliefs? Strong in your convictions? Tell us…

Nothing in life is certain.

Twosome: Worth– what do you value? What people or projects are “worth your time”?

A lot of things have value. Like my family, my academic interests, my hobbies–you know, things I’d devote my time to.

Threesome: the Drive– and from where you live, can you “get” to places easily? Is it an event to drive to the store? Do you live in a metropolis where everything is close?

I can get to places easily with a car. By foot? No way. And the public transportation system is really crappy.