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Feb. 11th, 2009


(no subject)

From the "punctuation matters" department -- a colleague finished off our IM session as follows (verbatim):

"no thanks for the follow up!"

And this is someone who's *writing* stuff for us.

Feb. 9th, 2009


(no subject)

The Sunday Trib pays for itself many times over in exclusive coupons and exciting offers. For example:


Yes, the "Royal Paulownia" is "one of the most incredible sights in all of nature," especially when it "smothers (ed: !) itself in massive bouquets of breathtaking lavender-blue blooms...like an entire flower garden growing in the sky. (ed: emphasis added, but just barely)"

I give this anonymous, likely long-deceased author credit for correctly using "its" and "it's" in rapid succession, and I take credit away for the use of "umbrella" as a transitive verb, and for failure to put a period inside quotation marks. (Perhaps the author was a(n involuntary) British expat?) Mostly, though, I note that the U.S. National Park Service considers this thing a noxious weed in the context of the United States, though others (many of whom would also like to sell you one, or something made from it) think it's keen. It would seem that supplies aren't "still extremely limited," in any case.

Turning to haute cuisine, the Campbell Soup Company would like to inspire you to "Create Something Delicious" with this new product:

...which is definitely *not* just Cream of Mushroom Soup in a fancy non-recyclable aseptic brick package.Collapse )

May I suggest that one might try this new "cooking sauce" in a casserôle with chunks of pan-seared ahi, grated artisanal Pecorino Romano, organic baby peas, breadcrumbs of crusty, homemade sourdough, and whole-wheat farfalle noodles? C'est superbe! And, to complete the feast, serve alongside these enticing côtelettes du quelquechose:

ONE (1) HORMEL ALWAYS TENDER (R) productCollapse )

Feb. 5th, 2009


(no subject)

Have you heard the tale of the great Friendly Floatee armada? Little plastic red beavers, green frogs, blue turtles, and yellow ducks, washed overboard from a container ship in the mid-Pacific in 1992, now circle the globe, helping scientists test models of ocean currents.

Jan. 28th, 2009


(no subject)

Ben Roethlisberger gets to quarterback the Steelers in the Super Bowl *and* he has the best dogs in the world. Some guys have all the luck (except with motorcycles, I guess).

(Ben's foundation provides K-9s to police departments in the cities where he's played football. The Belgian Malinois in this article looks pretty awesome, too.)

Jan. 26th, 2009


(no subject)

I'd never heard "Frontier Psychiatrist" by The Avalanches before WLUW played them this morning while I was in the shower. I really enjoyed it. Then I found this:

Whoever put that together is my new hero.

Jan. 20th, 2009


(no subject)

I got out of my 10:00 (CST) meeting just in time to run down to the cafeteria, where the company set up big screens with the live CNN feed, and, along with several hundred of my coworkers...

...watched reverently as Reverend Gays-Are-Sinners-Who-Should-Be-Discriminated-Against invoked his God, who was Himself watching live from his deluxe ultrathrone in the puffy white clouds of American heaven...

...listened raptly as Aretha sang My Country, 'Tis Of Thee from somewhere under her hat...

...politely clapped as Joe Biden was sworn in by Justice John Paul Stevens, aged 88, who had the admirable decency to keep breathing until George Bush was safely out of office at noon...

...listened raptly (again) to Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela Montero play an arrangement of Simple Gifts by "that Star Wars guy"...

...laughed on cue when Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed the handoff on the first couple of sentences of the presidential oath of office...

...applauded enthusiastically when it was over...

...and enjoyed watching W frown as our new president repudiated pretty much everything he had done and stood for these past, ghastly 8 years.

Apart from the uncomfortable spectacle of Rev. Love-Between-Gays-Is-Deadly-Poison showing off his command of how "Jesus" sounds when spoken by various non-white people, the most disappointing part of the experience was the part of Obama's speech where I learned that there are now five faith options in America: Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, and "non-believer." (Sorry, Unitarian Universalists and Sikhs!) In future, might I suggest instead, "...and all people who search for meaning through faith and reason"?

But this is a minor quibble. The American flag has been liberated from the clutches of the bigots, and W can reclaim its place between V and X as a useful and honorable letter. Long Live President Barack Obama!

(no subject)

The last inauguration that I remember watching was Clinton in '92. There was a TV going in my high school's hardcore-nerdy Pr1me minicomputer lab where I tended to hide from the world with my more computer-science-oriented chums. I had a good laugh as the band played the Liberty Bell March (i.e., the "Monty Python Theme Song") just before he took the oath. We thought everything would be happy and perfect forever...

I hope everyone gets to sneak away from their lives for a second today to make a bit of "flashbulb memory" for themselves: Where were you when Obama took office?

Jan. 19th, 2009


(no subject)

This day-care center is down the road from where I work. Carey and I were horrified to read how a teaching assistant there in her early 20s -- one of those "warm bodies" with no training in early childhood education to whom we entrust the lives of young children -- slammed a noisy 16-month-old's head on the tile floor hard enough to crush his skull and kill him.

When I think of a person "snapping" and doing something horrible to a child in a moment of hopeless panic, I imagine a young parent with no safety net, who hasn't slept more than an hour or two for days on end, up yet again in the middle of the night with a baby who won't stop crying, a person who doesn't know where to turn and doesn't see any way out.

But this woman... she was going to hand the kid off to his family in a matter of hours. She was going to have dinner, maybe watch some TV, and get a good night's sleep, fully undisturbed by the sound of crying until her next shift. To be in that situation and to even entertain the thought of beating the child until he stops crying -- this is a fair definition of the word "monster." Who doesn't look for a fellow teacher first and say, "Hey, I'm at the end of my rope, and this situation is out of control"? Who doesn't pick up the phone and call the parent and say, "Your child is inconsolable, and it's causing a dangerous situation for the other kids, and you need to come now and take him home"?

I wonder if anyone who reads about this will decide that hitting a child is never ok -- even if they were spanked and turned out ok, and even if they've laughed before at some folksy story about the belt-wielding dad who made sure his kids learned right from wrong. If you want to hit someone and teach that person a lesson, go pick on someone who can hit you back just the same.

Jan. 17th, 2009


(no subject)

I found this interesting take on the 2008 U.S. presidential electoral map (by Mark Newman at the University of Michigan, http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2008/) while clicking around this evening:

On this map, the size of each county is scaled by the size of its population, reflecting the reality that a given 500 square miles in a Montana county, for example, might have 200 permanent residents, while that same area within Cook County, Illinois might have about 2 million. This seems equitable to me, as it's the people whose preferences are represented in an election, not the prairie grass. Counties voting 70% or higher for one or the other party are colored pure red or blue, while everyone else gets a shade of purple according to which party, if either, was dominant there, and by how much.

What strikes me is that this is, pretty much, how I think of my country, politically -- basically decent (blue or deeply bluish), with a nasty fungal overgrowth of bigotry (red or bright reddish) strongly afflicting its middle and bottom parts. It also illustrates how easy it is to tip the balance in favor of hatred and ignorance: Just grow those red tentacles a tiny bit more, and the infection overwhelms the patient.

Jan. 14th, 2009


"Questions are a burden to others; answers a prison for one's self."

Patrick McGoohan has left The Village -- or perhaps he's only just arriving there.

I got hooked on The Prisoner on late-nite TV in the dorky depths of my mid-teens, around the same time I started watching Doctor Who faithfully. The Doctor and Number Six were big aspirational figures for an awkward loser -- unflappable and witty, they were principled weirdos who followed their own rules, kicked everyone's butt, and were cooler than cool doing it. Both shows also had intricate mythologies and inpenetrable mysteries, which were especially intriguing in the days before you could just Google up the FAQ.

Seeing McGoohan pop up from time to time in something I was watching always made me smile; no matter the role, I was glad that Number Six was still out there, in whatever guise, kicking butt and generally out-cooling everyone in any given scene. I'll miss that.

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