Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Even with a bad jaw, Roger Ebert socks it to me and makes my head spin

If booze companies advertise for responsible drinking and tobacco companies warn of health hazards, why don't gas companies ask you to buy a hybrid?

(what a place to have your head spun around with that thought; that’s why I like the guy).

His rhetorical question is part of his review of The 11th Hour, the recent environmental docco sponsored by Leo DiCaprio. And it is a valid thought... In the two examples given, alcohol & tobacco industries, their admonishments /warnings result in a reduced consumption of their product (or are seen as doing so, anyway) but they are also a strategic move on their part in order to give society an out for allowing those industries to otherwise do what they are going to do anyway. (Let's all be slightly cynical here for a second).

Given that thought scenario, why don't petroleum companies, instead of this quasi-apologetic-but-more-really-like-avoiding-the-bloody-issue ("we support".. "we believe"...), buy themselves more (albeit very finite) time by acknowledging the fact that limited consumption of their product is preferable to unlimited, wanton debauchery...?

ExxonMobile, BP, Shell, et al: It's 1964 and you've been called to task by the Environmental Protector-General; what you gonna do?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Feature You Shouldn't Need

From the "You have got to be kidding me" file.... (link goes to HP's page explaining this)

To use the slimming feature, select Apply Artistic Effects in the Design Gallery menu on your HP digital camera To use the slimming feature, first take a photo. Then, while in playback mode, use the arrows to select an image and press OK. Highlight the Design Gallery menu tab using the arrows.
Select Slimming Use arrows to highlight Apply Artistic Effects and press OK. Then highlight Slimming and press OK.
Adjust the slimming effect Adjust the slimming level using the arrows. Then press OK, and you're finished.

I think I could get rich selling a box for smokers to hang around their necks which, when they enter into a fit of hacking cough, covers it up with the sound of childrens' laughter or perhaps the 1812 Overture.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why Linda Ronstadt is my gal

OK this is from 13 years ago but it's my blog and I can do anything I want in this very tiny corner of the Universe, even bend time and pretend to be timely. My heart has had a "Welcome" sign for Linda since a couple of years ago when she was booed off not just a Las Vegas stage, but the entire Hotel that she was staying and performing in. Below is what caught my attention today (full article from 1994 here):

Linda Ronstadt[...]She says she hasn't heard Frank Sinatra's popular Duets album but confides that she was asked to sing with Old Blue Eyes. Producing friend Jimmy Webb's new record took precedence, she explains, saying she would love to do a duet with Sinatra - if she could produce it. Then she adds, "It just hasn't commanded my attention the way that it would if Aaron Neville called me up and said, 'Hey do you want to sing, you know, the phone book?' Fine, let's get together and sing the phone book. No problem. Aaron's my guy."[...]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007

ISP network traffic as weekly cycle productivity meter

The above is a chart of the network traffic of an Internet service / connection provider over the course of seven days. Note that while Monday-Friday shows a pentuple self-similar pattern of the daily cycle, the amount of network utilization actually drops a regular percentage every weekday, where on Friday it is significantly lower than what it was Monday. Something we all knew, now quantified down to the byte.

Also interesting is that Saturday and Sunday are mirror images of each other, with most of the activity on Saturday happening early in the day and vice-versa on Sunday. I would have predicted the opposite, but that just speaks to my own lifestyle, I suppose.

A tree (and some other crap) grows in Brooklyn

It is not often the case that I get to brag about having produced something tangible. A cry of "look at the fully normalized relational database I designed!" just does not bring the crowds beating down my door the way it ought to.

In that spirit I have taken photos of all the plants I'm growing on my rooftop deck. My thumb is thoroughly green, as you can see.

Sunflowers and a Cypress Vine, which it taking over the Time Warner utility pole (I hope it shorts out their switching office).

From the left: sunflowers, lilies and a white rose bush I bought Saturday.

Elephant ears, clematis and (mixed in) morning glories. There are also some marigolds in the two barrels.

Elephant ears, up close. I thought I was just going to get one ear out of each of the three bulbs I planted. This thing just EXPLODED....

In the lower right, African Violet (second bloom of the year).

In the rectangular planters, morning glories (regrowth from last year's plantings).

Clematis and Morning Glories (from the other side). The idea here was to, with some help, get them to grow up and into the oak tree that overhangs that spot. The string I set up for them to grow on sags rather severely under their weight so it looks chaotic (which it is) but I think next season I'll get it right.

Here is the string I've set up THIS year.. it's about 20 feet long and I know the MGs will just eat it up (and the clematis will soon follow).

In the metal barrel: ivy, which I'm told will grow (over the next two centuries, perhaps) to cover the entire neighbor's exterior wall (and increase the value of my property by $50k at least I'm sure).

Sunflower. The one on the right recently decapitated by a hungry squirrel. The fox urine I bought should prevent that but I don't always remember to sprinkle it about regularly. I'm told mothballs and/or soap (!) would work as well. Any other ideas?

The lilly, now in the spotlight. Who needs orchids?


MGs, growing up the sides of the stage area.

More sunflowers. Always, more sunflowers. Never enough.

The greenhouses I bought. They're quite cheap.

Marigolds and a hydrangea (in the foreground of the green planter, post-bloom). There is also a stowaway tree (planted by a bird I imagine) which I've just learned would swallow my entire building if left unchecked (and apparently is of the species that inspired the book from which this article's title is derived). Scary stuff since there are actually three others growing in various containers around the deck -- good thing it's not an actual yard so I imagine it will grow to the extent that the pots will allow -- killing everything else it shares space with...)

And, finally, what allowed me to fire Time Warner's CEO.
More people should take this option, I think.

On top of the world with Obama

Never the most timely of photojournalists, I have taken slightly over a week to post these photos of a rooftop cocktail party / fundraiser I attended last weekend which was thrown by and for Obama supporters. With particular thanks to our hosts, Molly, Jeff and Terrence.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Asperger's Syndrome: Diagnosis as performance art

Recently I was diagnosed with a strange little neurological developmental disorder called Asperger's Syndrome (and, no, I don't watch Boston Legal although I hear perhaps I should; we'll see when time is made for THAT; it took me three months to put this together). Here is the diagnosis letter from the professional who evaluated me (clicky biggy):

In one sentence, Asperger's is a condition that is related to autism, learning disabilities, obsessive-compulsiveness, Tourette's, ADHD, schizophrenia, epilepsy, etc etc without managing to be quite any more of any one of those than any of the others. The particular outwardly-apparent symptoms are loudness of voice, lack of eye contact, lack of social engagement, a seeming disregard for the feelings of others, monotonic voice and an affinity for mathematics / engineerings as well as music and other arts. The inward symptoms are social anxiety / panic / aversion, sensory hypersensitivity, inability to understand subtleties of social interactions, inability to "see the forest for the trees" in any given situation, cognitive fixation with an object, word or idea, etc etc all of which most of the time is appreciated by innocent bystanders as narcissistic self-centeredness. Read more about it here; some symptoms are more prevalent in some people than others so I tend to focus on those that preoccupy me (cue laugh track).

As a bonus I also have a rather intense case of ADHD, which jives with the statistical co-morbidity of A.S., i.e. that if you experience one of the above-listed conditions you (or a relative, as these things are genetic) are also likely be diagnosable with one or more of the others.

Please note that the vast majority of diagnoses for this and related conditions these days are done of people under the age of ten. Even highly educated and trained professionals until recently didn't have the awareness of this and so often children were either dismissed as "retarded" (which we are in some specific areas, strictly speaking, but not in most and certainly not in a purely cognitive sense) or else were just chided for not trying hard enough to be normal or otherwise address whatever the "problem" was.

It feels like a watered-down version of coming out as gay at age 17 (1991) -- while at the time the prospect of coming out might have perversely suggested sordid, unwelcome and unfathomable images into the minds of friends and family, now the only response to the question "Well, what do you *do* as an Asperger person?" is "I try not to get hit / fired / dumped." Not exactly fuel for conversation one way or another.

So, in honor of this and my now having to re-evaluate 33 years of painful, boring, significant, mortifying, unexplainable, happy, transcendent experiences in terms of them having been certainly colored (if not outright caused) by a weird brain, I have put together a small piece of performance art in the form of a scientific study. It is a MS Word document which you may download by clicking on the image below:

portrait of the artist as a scientist

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My favorite linear equation of the day

A report-with-analysis released by Gallup in the last week shows a direct and "sturdy" correlation between favorable ratings of Barack Obama and the level of education of the respondent.

In other words, the more (formally) educated the person is (feel free to translate that to "smarter" or not as you see fit) the likelier they are to think the guy is OK.

I used the word "sturdy" because the Gallup people were smart enough to also present the data controlling for the fact that

(a) higher-educated people are more likely to be Democrat, across the board (also a surprise that wasn't a surprise but it's nice to see it written down), and (and this is the real surprise)

(b) among Republican respondents Obama is the only candidate for which the favorable numbers go up significantly as a function of education(*).

(*) Conversely, the other consistent finding in this survey/study is that Hillary Clinton is the only major Democratic candidate for which the favorable numbers drop significantly as a function of educational level -- both on the Democratic and Republican side although strangely not for independents (added 8/17: most likely a taxonomy issue; "independent" often being a catch-all term for "don't know / don't care / hung up").

If only there were more smart people than non-smart people this would be a lot easier.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Richland County Public Library

The first in what I'm threatening myself with being an ongoing series of architectural photo essays.

In my recent trip down south I stayed with a friend in Columbia, SC. One of the more pleasant surprises of that trip was this absolutely WHACKED OUT building, inside and out, that proved to be the county public library. Fits in rather nicely with my photographic style. Kudos to the guy that sold them on the design (see? not all magnet buildings come from the Gehry tissue box).

Click to see the photos (will open a new window with an automated slideshow from; once that begins I suggest you use the popup menu on the right on that screen to activate "Picture stretching" to make sure the images don't get cropped inside your browser).

Something I may or may not recommend depending on which ad is shown: