Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: June, 2007

Linkage Because I’m Really Tired

The Weird Things People Eat Around the World. Plenty of interesting and sometimes somewhat gross things. But the thing that really got me were the dead fish in the tank labeled “live trout”.

A Better Response to Rejection. (via Mind Hacks) I’m sort of skeptical about getting rid of bullies. You know the saying, kids are cruel.

The Bane of My Existence. Ah, those stereotypical losers. Yes, even the yuppie ones.

Goth’s Wan Stamina. There’s a distinction between Goth culture and fashion. However, I think most people wearing black are probably just doing it for the look.

Photographs of people juxtaposed with their gaming avatars. Perhaps the avatar does say something about the player. But frankly, some people just have too much time on their hands.

Narcissistic Blog Disorder and Other Conditions of Online Kookery. Heh.

Lovecraftian Horrors in Specimen Jars. (via Pharyngula) Nifty. Pondering how cool it would be to have an entire room filled with the stuff.

Are Book Clubs Ruining the Reading Experience? The non-conformist in me hates the idea of reading only what everyone else is reading.

On Your Feet. There are occasions where shoe fashion does matter (formal occasions for instance), but on a day-to-day basis, comfort triumphs. Besides, no one that I know cares about what I wear.

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Memes

Booking Through Thursday: Desperation

What’s the most desperate thing you’ve read because it was the only available reading material?

Month old newspapers and popular magazines.

If it was longer than a cereal box or an advertisement, did it turn out to be worth your while?

Not really. Old news is still old news. Popular magazines probably make the reader dumber. So I guess the lesson here is to always have your own reading material handy. It’s either that or some blank paper on which I could write on (and make up my own reading material).

* * *
The Thursday Threesome: Optimize your firewall!

Onesome: Optimize– Okay, it’s geek time: what do you use to optimize your computer experience? Is there a program or tool or piece of hardware that has made a difference for you?

Not really. Maybe the better question is what I don’t use. Like plugins for my browser. I could care less about the majority of embedded java applets and flash demos. Videos on YouTube? I don’t care if I’m missing something “cool”. I’m not installing anything that will waste my time on downloading and waste my time watching. (And if this makes people think that I’m a cultural dunce for not knowing the latest person to make a fool of themselves over the internet, so what? Some people probably already think I’m a cultural dunce for not watching regular TV.)

Twosome: your– firewall, is it a hardware or a software firewall? …or is that something you leave to someone else to worry about?

I just know it’s there.

Threesome: Firewall– appliances and programs stop some stuff, but have you ever had to use a malware removal tool because something slipped in through email or from a web site?

Yes, but it was because I had been connected to a network.

Must. Clear. Out. Bookmarks.

This stuff is getting close to unmanageable. Also: Comments are not necessarily related to the links. I felt like going off on a tangent.

TLLT. A lovely photoblog showcasing images with surprising connections.

A Sense of Anxiety a Shirt Won’t Cover. I bookmarked this article before I saw it posted on other blogs. (But in this case should I still credit “via” the blogs which posted this first? I’m not–unless someone starts sending angry e-mails. And even then, still no. I don’t hand out cheap links to just anyone.) Back on topic: There are cases where plastic surgery is probably the best option, but I can’t help feel that surgical modification for most people is merely another method for conformity. Why the heck anyone wants to look like they came out of a factory is beyond my understanding.

Night Streetwalking is OK by Me. I don’t really think the issue is that of women getting enough confidence to travel alone. The issue is other people’s perception of women traveling alone. If you saw a woman walking alone at night, would you think it’s right just to assume that she’s asking for it? (On the other hand: it’s sort of foolhardy to walk around alone in dangerous neighborhoods whether you are a man or a woman–people intent on harm don’t care about gender.)

Too Many Words? I think of it in terms of food. There are the words in regular usage, the major staples of the diet so to speak, the kinds used to convey basic thoughts and ideas in a clear and succinct way. Then there are the big words–these are the spices. A few of them scattered within usual discourse in a thoughtful way makes a typical passage something to be savored. Use too many of them and you might metaphorically end up in the emergency room with a jar of lemon pepper up your nose.

“I’m not a feminist, but…” F-that!! The word “feminist” is a loaded term. Why? Because a bunch of wrong-headed assumptions have become attached to it throughout the past decades. But I’m willing to say I’m a feminist–an angry feminist sometimes–but I’m not the kind of “feminist” that bash people simply because they have the wrong equipment.

Older siblings are smarter. Once a stranger guessed that I was the firstborn simply because I “looked like it.” What?! Okay, so she was right, but that doesn’t make me comfortable with the stereotype. I hate being boxed in before I say a word. But I can’t deny that I grew up with certain pressures and expectations that my younger sibling didn’t have. Sometimes I think I’ve been groomed as the pseudo-elder son.

The things women do for beauty–or, beware the bikini wax. Even the microbiologist in me says, “Ew.” If someone only likes you if you do something to yourself which might compromise your health–run far, far away.

Aside: Often, I wonder why I even bother to write commentary to links. Most of the time, it’s pointless. No one cares about my commentary. If anyone stumbles onto this site, they just want the links. Linkees just want to know what sort of stupid blog is popping up on their referral stats.

Of Violinists and Mermen

What on earth does one have to do with the other? Well, if there’s anything I can say about Marjorie M. Liu, she sure likes to mix it up in her stories. It isn’t necessary to read the five previous stories in her Dirk & Steele series to understand her latest offering, Soul Song*, a gritty paranormal romance with some surprising points of complexity. Fluffy–no. Adventure, violence, sex, a little humor–yes. I’d compare it to a Bond flick with magic thrown in.

During one of her concerts in Vancouver, violinist Kitala Bell “sees” the murder of a woman sitting in a front seat of the audience. Kit normally tries to ignore her talent for seeing violent deaths, but in this case, she is compelled to warn this woman, Alice, of her vision. For her pains, Alice’s uncle is killed and Kit and Alice are kidnapped by a pair of corrupt police officers intent on delivering Alice to their mysterious employer. Although Alice remains in their clutches, Kit is rescued by a man who can sing others to their deaths and breathe underwater.

M’cal, however, is no do-gooder. He is Krackeni, a merman, enslaved by a beautiful witch who forces him to steal souls. Kit is his next target, but his instant fascination with her when he watched her perform on stage makes him warn her of the danger that he poses to her. What he is unaware of is that Kit herself has powers that have influence on his captivity.

There is much going on–from the obvious relationship between Kit and M’cal, to the witch’s motives, the circumstances and reasons behind Alice’s abduction, M’cal’s estrangement from his father, the appearance of shape-shifting agents from the Dirk & Steele agency, and even Kit’s subtle tug-of-war with her voodoo priestess grandmother speaking from beyond the grave. Somehow, Liu manages to tie everything together in the finale.

My minor quibble with this novel is the pacing of the relationship. Twenty-four hours seem awfully fast. But what do I know. The rest of the action-packed plot does slow it down a bit. I’m also not too sure about the use of the terms “fiddle” and “violin” interchangeably–for some people, they’re the same thing, but for me, they’re not (unless Kit has been switching out the bridges and the strings while I wasn’t looking). There were some details/possible references that I did enjoy. Like the description of Vancouver–hey, it’s easier to visualize someplace if you’ve been there and the author even gets the street names right. M’cal’s talent reminded me of the myth about the sirens that lured sailors to their deaths. And the name Kitala Bell–is that inspired by the violinist Joshua Bell? But I guess I’ll never know the answer to that unless I stopped lurking at the author’s weblog.

*I received this novel as an ARC for a buzz campaign.

Just Two Links

Stay tuned later this week when I continue clearing out my bookmarks. But meanwhile:

The Bem Sex Role Inventory Test. (via So anyway) This test says I have a “traditionally masculine personality.” I think this test is just getting it mixed up with my INTJ tendencies.

Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace. (via A Blog Around The Clock) Arg. I’m squarely in the target demographic, but even with invitations, I’ve avoided and ignored pretty much every social networking application there ever was, from Friendster, Orkut, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, ad nauseum. (I suppose one could point out one exception–LibraryThing–but I very, very rarely make use of the social aspects of that site.) Online, I’m pretty much just like what I was during most of my high school years–sitting by myself at a lunch table far away from everyone else. Someone on Metafilter said that the kids with their own domains instead are nerds. Well, if I’m a nerd, then so be it.

Don’t Put Rose Petals in the Bath

Because some of those roses might be coated with pesticides that are illegal in the US.

I’ve never quite understood what flowers were all about, specifically the ones you would get from a florist. Maybe it’s because I never got flowers as a gift. And no, getting a carnation in a beer bottle doesn’t count because all the other girls in the dorm got the same thing. I haven’t given flowers as a gift to anyone either (just not my style, ya’ know?). I’ve only been a messenger or an observer watching other people get flowers.

My reasoning is: those flowers are all on death’s doorstep. It’s far less depressing spending an afternoon walking through a botanical garden (even if you’re by yourself); the plants, if not perfect, are at least still alive.

Amy Stewart‘s viewpoint in Flower Confidential is the opposite of mine in regards to this vegetable decoration. Even after her extensive research into the flower industry, she’s still excited about buying and receiving flowers. But hey, everyone’s entitled to their vices. So what if priviledged women living in industrial societies don’t give a damn about the ecological and economical consequences in third word countries as long as their hubbies give them their pretties on arbitrary holidays?*

But regardless my opinion on flowers themselves, I found Flower Confidential to be an intriguing look at the process from which flowers get from the field to the local supermarket. People don’t merely pick blossoms and ship them to the store anymore–everything is done clockwork as in a factory. Flower farmers these days control everything–from the nutrients, the temperature, the sunlight, even their genes**–so that their product will be produced in the exact shape, size, color, smell, and time. (Otherwise, how the heck can a beleagured man find two dozen perfect red roses for Valentine’s?***) The business of selling flowers is equally unsentimental–whole cargoes of the stuff can be auctioned off in minutes or even seconds without even a cursory glance by the buyer.

However, it was the more human side of the industry that really held my attention. Stewart recounts the story of the eccentric lily breeder Leslie Woodriff who never saw any profit from his creations, most notably the “Star Gazer” lily which is now a major staple in many florist shops. She shadows the owners of some major flower farms who are quite enthusiastic–abeit obsessively workaholic–about their products. She chats with a jaded flower auction coordinator who really doesn’t like flowers any more because her ex-husband always gave her free flowers. On the Central American flower farms, Stewart details the process in which the workers wear biohazard suits and respirators just so they can dip roses into vats of fungicide–that have been banned in the United States–so that the rose can be preserved in its perfection for American and European consumers.

I suppose flowers aren’t all doom and gloom though. Stewart does mention one company that develops environmentally friendly biopesticides (bring on those Bacillus subtilis isolates from Fresno peach tree orchards!) and the fact that several flower farms are voluntarily getting certified. But these things seem to be going by slowly, and by the end of the epilogue, I still could not quite understand the author’s enthusiasm.

*Do I really have to explain sarcasm?

**A (not so minor) nitpick: Genes are extracted from vacuoles (pg. 43)? Tell me this is a journalistic mistake and not what the scientist actually told the author.

***Well, there’s always the local craft store.

Why Telepathy Is Impossible

I’m doing 60 in a 60 mph zone and a shiny white SUV passes by me. Then it passes the car in front of mine.

Idiot! Don’t pass the car after that one…!

The SUV passes the car after that one. Red and blue lights start flashing up ahead.

Sigh.

What Did I Ever Do To You?

I’m driving home from the grocery store on a main road, minding my own business, when a sedan peels off from the side road right in front of me without stopping–going a kazillion miles an hour. I slam on my brakes, nearly missing the other car. The driver sticks his arm out the window and gives me the finger.

Maybe he was just having a bad day.

Memes

Booking Through Thursday: School days, Golden Rule days

1. Do you have any old school books? Did you keep yours from college? Old textbooks from garage sales? Old workbooks from classes gone by?

I’m still in school. And I still have my textbooks–I haven’t sold any of them back.

2. How about your old notes, exams, papers? Do you save them? Or have they long since gone to the great Locker-in-the-sky?

They’re all stored. Somewhere.

* * *
The Thursday Threesome: Laundry Stain Removal

Onesome: Laundry– Ah, the relaxing way to spend a day, -eh? …or not. “Laundry, bane or boon?”, the question of the week!

It’s just another chore I have to do. (I’m not the domestic kind of person, so of course I don’t like it.)

Twosome: Stain– Okay, we’ll work on cleaning this Thursday: what’s your best stain removal tip?

There’s that stain removal stuff you can buy at the store.

Threesome: Removal– So you’re doing dishes (presuming you don’t nuke everything on paper plates and use plastic utensils): what’s the hardest food to remove from day to day stuff (cookware doesn’t count!).

If you wash your dishes immediately after using them, you don’t have to work as hard scrubbing them.

I’m Lurking in Various Places…

And I read complaints about how some books are too intellectual. WTF? I think people are failing to see the distinction between intellectual and unclear. Big words and obscure references do not necessarily make anything intellectual.

But if they truly are meaning that certain books are too intellectual, I only have one recommendation for them: picture books*.

*Then again, if all the pictures were Kandinsky paintings people would still be whining.