Monday, December 31, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Also, my friend sent me a Liberty Meadows comic strip today and as I was going through their archives I found this gem:
I guess what's funny about it is that the dialog is actually in German and the translation has nothing at all to do with the text, but I am sure you can tell.
Just in case you are curious I have also included a translation of the text for those of you who are not German speaking (feel free to correct me though as it has been a while since I've spoken Deutsch)
"Luke, I am your father. Are you Chupacabra?"
"Is that train number three?"
"I have two coconuts."
"If you drink the beer before the liquor, it will make you sick" (though I think they did not use good German here, did they?)
"The garlic makes my feet stink"
"The Germans love David Hasselhoff"
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
First: Yungas Road in Bolivia
It is in fact called the Road of Death by some, but has many other names. It runs approximately 65km from La Paz to Coroico. It was built by prisoners in 1930s (though some sources say it was built in the 70s by some company called 'Grove') and claims 100-200 lives each year. One of the worst accidents took place in 1983 when a bus carrying 100 passengers went over the edge, killing everyone. A new road has been in the works for years but at the moment this road appears to be the major truck route between the capital and the Yungas region. It is also very popular with adrenaline junkie bikers.
Second: Guoliang Tunnel in China
Located in the Taihang Mountains of the Henan Province in China this tunnel is 1200 meters long, 5 meters high and 4 meters wide. It was carved by the people of the Guoliang Village between 1972 and 1977 to create an alternative to Tianti, a stairway carved into the mountain rock and the only means of travel to the village until the Tunnel was made. This tunnel is perfectly safe and attracts many tourists each year because of its quiet tranquil beauty.
Not included in the emails but equally impressive:
Federal Highway from Moscow to Yakutsk in Russia
I guess it is sometimes called Lena (it's the Lena River region over there), and is said to be the only way of getting there by car. In the winter it is quite passable because it freezes solid. In the summer months however, rainfall turns it to mud. At one point 600 cars became stuck on the road, without food, water or any real shelter. Authorities did not want to go into to help because previous attempts had led to violence towards the rescuers by the stranded motorists. It is actually a bit of a tragic story, I think.
and in the winter:
And finally, the most ridiculous hiking trail ever: Mount Hua (Hua Shan) in Xi'an, China.
There are five sacred mountains in China and this is one of them. The mountain itself has five peaks, North, South, East, West and Middle (they all have more imaginative names in Chinese). You can get up there in cable cars but you can also hike on steps carved in stone and these insane board walks! This path is between the North and West peak (Changkongzhandao) and is basically planks, nails and some chains. You can apparently also rent a harness. There is a great account of the hike by a blogger here.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
So I finally watched the conclusion of the Pirates of the Caribbean series and I was stunned by the finale. Will gets to be an immortal Dutchman captain and can only set foot on land every ten years for a day, while Elisabeth has to stay behind. Yes, I know it's just a movie, but this upset me a bit. Clearly Elisabeth plans to 'stay true' to her love, which means that she will spend her life aging alone, will get a shag once every ten years, maybe for the first several decades, at which point she will become old and saggy and Will will show up looking as fresh and lovely as only an immortal can to find his wife first aging and eventually dead. My thought was that he should have 'set her free', but in the absence of that maybe she would get lucky enough to get pregnant from their first encounter, which would at least occupy her time while she waits.
Imagine my surprise when after a wikipedia search I discovered that there was a hidden scene at the end of a mile of credits that would 'clarify Will and Elisabeth's future'. I raced home, begged my DVD player to work just one more time (it's on the fritz) and watched this little 30 second gem. It showed 10 year old Will Turner the Third and his mom watching the Green Flash and their beloved father/husband at the helm of the Dutchman coming ashore. To use Jack Sparrow's words, this was "maddingly unhelpful".
It turns out that what writers Ted Elliott and Terry Russio meant was that because Elisabeth's love had remained true, Will was now free of his spell. The Green Flash then, signifies the release of his soul from the dead. Did you catch that? I certainly didn't. Nevertheless I am pleased. Elisabeth may be a flirtatious, indecisive rebel but they are sweet together.
Monday, December 10, 2007
"My mother was a fanatic about public toilets. As a little girl, she'd bring me in the stall, teach me to wad up toilet paper and wipe the seat. Then she'd carefully lay strips of toilet paper to cover the seat. Finally, she'd instruct, "Never, never sit on a public toilet seat." And she'd demonstrate "The Stance," which consisted of balancing over the toilet in a sitting position without actually letting any of your flesh make contact with the toilet seat. But by this time, I'd have wet down my leg. And we'd go home.
That was a long time ago. Even now in our more mature years "The Stance" is excruciatingly difficult to maintain when one's bladder is especially full. When you have to "go" in a public bathroom, you find a line of women that makes you think there's a half-price sale on Mel Gibson's underwear in there. So, you wait and smile politely at all the other ladies, also crossing their legs and smiling politely.
And you finally get close. You check for feet under the stall doors. Every one is occupied. Finally, a stall door opens and you dash, nearly knocking down the woman leaving the stall. You get in to find the door won't latch. It doesn't matter. You hang your purse on the door hook, yank down your pants and assume "The Stance."
Relief. More relief. Then your thighs begin to shake. You'd love to sit down but you certainly hadn't taken time to wipe the seat or lay toilet paper on it, so you hold "The Stance" as your thighs experience a quake that would register an eight on the Richter scale. To take your mind off it, you reach for the toilet paper. The toilet paper dispenser is empty. Your thighs shake more. You remember the tiny tissue that you blew your nose on that's in your purse. It would have to do. You crumble it in the puffiest way possible. It is still smaller than your thumbnail.
Someone pushes open your stall door because the latch doesn't work and your purse whams you in the head. "Occupied!" you scream as you reach out for the door, dropping your tissue in a puddle and falling backwards, directly onto the toilet seat. You get up quickly, but it's too late. Your bare bottom has made contact with all the germs and life forms on the bare seat because YOU never laid down toilet paper, not that there was any, even if you had enough time to.
And your mother would be utterly ashamed of you if she knew, because her bare bottom never touched a public toilet seat because, frankly, "You don't know what kind of disease you could get."
And by this time, the automatic sensor on the back of the toilet is so confused that it flushes, sending up a stream of water akin to a fountain and then it suddenly sucks everything down with such force that you grab onto the toilet paper dispenser for fear of being dragged to China. At that point, you give up. You are soaked by the splashing water. You are exhausted. You try to wipe with a Chiclets wrapper you found in your pocket, and then slink out inconspicuously to the sinks.
You can't figure out how to operate the sinks with the automatic sensors, so you wipe your hands with spit and a dry paper towel and walk past a line of women, still waiting, cross-legged and unable to smile politely at this point. One kind soul at the very end of the line points out that you are trailing a piece of toilet paper on your shoe as long as the Mississippi River! You yank the paper from your shoe, plunk in in the woman's hand and say warmly, " here. You might need this."
At this time, you see your spouse, who has entered , used and exited his bathroom, and read a copy of War and Peace while waiting for you. "What took you so long?" he asks, annoyed. This is when you kick him sharply on the shin and go home. "
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Hansma, a biophysicist, was collecting samples in a mica mine when she noticed organic material growing on the mica, and so an idea was born. There is a remarkable poetry in this hypothesis. Individual layers of mica are perfectly flat and thin, and would have acted as cell membranes for the first biomolecules, providing support, protection, and the isolation necessary for Darwinian selection and differentiation. RNAs and some proteins and lipids are negatively charged, just like mica. The distance between RNA phosphate groups is the same as the spacing between negative charges of mica. Mica is held together with potassium, which is found at the same concentration in our cells. The heating and cooling expansion of the mica layers, as well as the movement of the ocean would have provided a mechanical energy for the breaking and forming of bonds in the earliest biochemical reactions.
Granted all of this is just conjecture at this point. But this one struck me as a particularly harmonious hypothesis. I just love science!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
One website gives this explanation for shopping dreams:
"To dream that you are shopping, indicates your needs and desires. Consider what you are shopping for and what needs you are try to fulfill. In particular, to dream that you are shopping for food and groceries, signifies your hidden attempt to buy the attention of others."
Here is an altogether different explanation:
"To dream of a store filled with merchandise, foretells prosperity and advancement. An empty one, denotes failure of efforts and quarrels. To dream that your store is burning, is a sign of renewed activity in business and pleasure. If you find yourself in a department store, it foretells that much pleasure will be derived from various sources of profit. To sell goods in one, your advancement will be accelerated by your energy and the efforts of friends. To dream that you sell a pair of soiled, gray cotton gloves to a woman, foretells that your opinion of women will place you in hazardous positions. If a woman has this dream, her preference for some one of the male sex will not be appreciated very much by him."
I am fascinated by the bit about the soiled gray cotton gloves. Can you be any more specific?
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Can you guess these actresses? The answer is in the comments section.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Anyway, over Thanksgiving I was reunited with a dear childhood friend and we had a lovely time looking at pictures, decorating the Christmas tree and drinking hot tottie. She was also kind enough to introduce me to the joys of http://vkontakte.ru, a facebook-like website for Russians. Remarkably, I was able to locate my old classmates whom I have not seen in nearly 15 years!!! Eagerly I had typed in my school name and class in the search field and received quite a number of hits, but there were several problems. They had all changed so much (well, we were 12 when we last saw each other after all!) and I could not for the life of me remember any names (with a few exceptions, and even then only the first name).
Moreover, and this is really the interesting part - I still had certain notions about the character of my various classmates, based on 15-year old events! I mean, this was the time when it was important who you had a crush on, who was a tattle-tail, who took your favorite pen and who was your best friend in the entire world! And so I found myself looking over the profiles of these people, men and women who have long finished college, married, spawned etc, and thought to myself - "wow, here is Lada! We used to skip class and climb trees and I used to take the bus all the way to her place!" or "Natasha - she was always the tallest in the class and lived in my building and had a little sister who threw up on me once", and "Anja - she got me into so much trouble, that jerk." And here they all are, excited to 'see' me, asking me how I've been. Do they remember me better than I do them? What kind of people did they turn out to be? Did my 'friends' and my 'foes' mingle, have romances, get over our childhood prejudices? Whatever happened to that girl whose name I don't even recall but who was my nemesis, teacher's pet and over all coolest girl in the class? And would she have turned out to be my best friend if I had stayed?
Monday, November 12, 2007
So what exactly is going on?
A set of four currents in the northern Pacific creates a clockwise vortex known as the North Pacific Gyre, which encompasses 10 million square miles, or basically the entire northern part of the ocean. For the purposes of this discussion I have also included an image generated by Greenpeace, which shows the two trouble areas: the Western Garbage Patch near Japan and the Eastern Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California. The Subtropical Convergence Zone, a 6000 mile current that connects the two patches is equally loaded with refuse and has been the center of some recent marine research.
Although it is not a solid island of trash, as the SF Chronicle suggests, this area of the ocean is littered with plastic flotsam. The UN Environment Program estimates that 46,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square mile of the oceans. Captain Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, has come up with the estimation that the the Trash Vortex contains concentrations of plastics on the order of 3.3 million pieces per square km, with an average weight of 5.1 kg of plastic per square km of ocean.
Plastics are notoriously durable, degrading only in the sunlight and even then slowly and incompletely. They contain DDT and PCBs, and are of great danger to marine life. Fish, jellyfish and other underwater creatures consume the degrading plastic, which mimics and outnumbers their foodstuffs (plankton etc). Birds and larger animals consume larger plastic products mistaking them for fish. A study of the albatross at the Midway Atoll, a seabird rookery between Japan and Hawaii, found that of the 500,000 chicks born each year, 200,000 die of starvation and dehydration, their stomachs filled with plastics. 5 tons of plastic are fed by the parent albatross to their young each year at the atoll alone.
Hawaii is not faring any better. The Gyre currents wash out tons of plastic trash onto it's many beaches, covering them with piles several feet tall or even worse, plastic sand which is impossible to clean. 80% of this trash originates on land and is carried through sewers and rivers to the ocean, only to be trapped in the gyre or to be washed ashore elsewhere. Clean up of the Pacific is unlikely. The area is too large, and trawling the ocean may be even more disruptive to the marine life. While clean ups of Hawaiian beaches are underway, and some efforts are being made to capture the trash from rivers (such as the LA river pictured here) before it enters the ocean, the only sure fire way to decrease the growing Vortex is to reduce our use of plastic waste. An average American is estimated to use about 300 pounds of plastic every year. On land, it will take decades, if not centuries for petroleum-based plastics to degrade into carbon dioxide and water, but in the water, where the temperature is low and sunlight blocked out by algal growth, the process will take much longer. Some starch-based 'biodegradable' plastics are currently in production, but these also require land conditions and time to decompose. Recycling is always a good practice but unlike paper and organic waste it is harder to transport and reuse plastics, due to the differences in make up and previous use. Certainly I would encourage everyone to reduce their plastic waste, but at the moment, my outlook on our planet's future is pessimistic.
As a side note, Australian artist Helle Jorgensen is currently working on a project called the Rubbish Vortex, in which she will crochet a creation from plastic bags. Helle also participated in the crochet coral reef, a collaboration of many artists and IFF, which was exhibited in Chicago. Helle's work is beautiful and meaningful at the same time, and brings a little ray of light into my gloomy day.
Update 8-5-2009: CNN is running a story abou the vortex today. Check it out here.
Friday, November 2, 2007
I have been searching all morning for ways to donate to relief efforts. Somehow there are no obvious donation sites for this disaster, which is troubling to me. Let's not forget that just this past week Mexico provided the state of California with much needed aid and electricity while the fires ran amok. Perhaps something will spring up by the end of the day, but for now all I could find was this:
- you can donate online at redcross.org under the international response fund tab, but you will not be able to specify your beneficiary.
- the better way at the moment is to mail a check or money order to:
American Red Cross
PO Box 97089
Washington DC 20090
with "Tabasco, Mexico flood relief" hand written in the memo line
I'll keep you posted, but if you hear of a better way, do let me know.
Update: you can donate at www.crs.org. Thank you John Rivera for pointing that out.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I am actually fairly upset about what happened but I haven't heard many people talk about what bothers me. The Republicans are mad at Craig because he turned out to be gay and brought bad press to the 'moral values' crowd. The Democrats are so happy to have another Republican caught with his pants down that they are milking it for all its worth. While I have no appreciation for Mr. Craig's politics, I am most upset about the fact that he was arrested in the first place! We should all be outraged that a man can get arrested for what is in essence flirting, simply because the object of his advances happens to be another man. It's not like he was having sex in a public restroom, which could have fallen under indecent exposure. Maybe he was going to take the fella out for a drink or a romantic dinner!
Nevertheless, this video is funny.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
So here is a drawing I did, mostly from memory, playing around with the calligraphy tool.
This song cracks me up beyond all reason. It is sung by Rodney Dy and is called "Funk da Pamonha". A pamonha is a Brazilian dish made of mushed corn and cooked in corn husk pockets. This song uses advertisement slogans like the ones you hear from the speakers of advertising cars and bikes. That is one job I would not want. The other food mentioned in the song is cural, which is also made of corn.
The lyrics go along the lines of "come see my pamonha stand", "my pamonha's are cheaper then theirs" and "if I give you my pamonha will you give me your cural?" I would love for someone who speaks Portuguese to translate this for me!
Oh what a hoot!
Albus was outed this past Friday by creator Rowling during an appearance at Carnegie Hall. Reports are saying "the rumors are true" but I have to admit I was surprised, mostly because I always thought of him as some sort of Buddhist monk, asexual and celibate. But it could be my own orientation-centricity (is there a term I could use here? anyone know?).
Some comments on the news include:
"My mind is blown and lying in little pieces all over the floor."
by your mom
"Now, that you made her millions, she reveals it. She was a clever one. If I had known this sooner, I wouldn't have never allowed my children to read the books or see the movies."
"I think this is great. It's a good statement for tolerance. Especially the fact that no one in the HP universe seemed to care."
And now onto Laura Mallory. Mother of four from Loganville, GA, she keeps trying to get the Harry Potter books banded from her kids school because she claims they promote Wicca. Mind you, she hasn't actually read the books, but I am sure her opinion is very well informed. While appeal after appeal was being rejected, she became ordained as a Minister and was named Washington Post's 2006 "Idiot of the Year." Mallory told ABC news:
"My prayer is that parents would wake up, that the subtle way this is presented as harmless fantasy would be exposed for what it really is: a subtle indoctrination into anti-Christian values. A homosexual lifestyle is a harmful one. That's proven, medically."
For further musings from Mrs. Mallory visit www.hisvoicetoday.org
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
A few thoughts on sex education.
"Schools are not the place to choose to hand out condoms. Kids can go to the health department for that. It's not the school's job. It makes it look like you are approving having sex. We are supposed to be teaching, I thought, 'Just say no.' So it is very shocking that the school would be supplying them."Just say no indeed. Honestly now, show of hands - how many of you DID NOT have sex in high school? Some studies show that about 35% of students are sexually active on a monthly basis (mind you, how many teens in long term relationships do YOU know?) So if they are going to be sexually active anyway, and what we really don't want is for them to get hurt, pregnant and/or sick, condoms and proper sex education are key. And why do we bother having schools? So they can educate!
So here is the question: should parents be solely responsible for educating their kids on sexual matters? Sure many of them can do a great job, but what about those who are uncomfortable talking about sex with their kids? What about the parents who for some religious or ethnic reasons feel that sex is shameful, taboo or inappropriate? What about parents who may not be all that informed themselves? This isn't drugs we are talking about, or drunk driving - topics that a "just say no" attitude is more than appropriate for, but a biological function which just about everyone will experience at one time or another.
There was a piece in an advice column that I saw recently, though I don't remember where, in which a mother was worried about her daughter who had 'discovered' at the age of 14 (through snooping in parents bedroom) that the parents were sexually active. She was so angry that she threatened to commit suicide if her parents did not cease having sex, and proclaimed that married people should not be intimate because intercourse is for making babies. The mother put her in therapy. Now, barring any abuse, a child's reaction to sex may initially be that of fright, but I was so surprised to find a FOURTEEN year old holding on to such bizarre notions! Did the parents not talk to her enough when she was younger about healthy sex lives? Did she pick it up at school or from her peers?
So here are my two cents:
It is the parents responsibility to make their kids feel comfortable talking about sex, so that they can explain to them not only where babies come from but what role sex plays in our daily lives. They have to tell them about unwanted pregnancies, ALL the ways of preventing it, homosexuality, lust and most of all love. After all, when the hormones are raging, deep spiritual connections are the last thing from any teens/tweens mind, but they should know that sex does not have to be a purely physical function, but one of the many facets of intimacy. And just to make sure that the kids got their lesson, the schools should repeat those teachings.
In summary - don't teach abstinence - teach moderation. Preach respect, not fear. And give out condoms like they're candy!
Just for fun: for a list of increasingly vulgar condom slogans click here.
Update (10-19-07): CNN.com poll of 154,437 people showed 22% in favor of giving out the pill to students, 78% against.
Update (01-03-08): This post used to be entitled "if you are nude, tube your dude" which I thought was clever and appropriate but apparently too similar to a porn site URL, causing a lot of search engine traffic from porn seekers. Oh well...
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
On that Sunday, as Mass was being given by San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer, two men, dressed in what could perhaps be described as 'subdued' drag and wearing copious amounts of makeup, joined the ranks, and were granted communion by said archbishop (do forgive my terminology as I know little of Roman Catholic lingo). One of the men wore a rainbow colored maypole hat, while the other was dressed in a habit and princess Leia buns (Ear Brassieres if you want to be precise). After consuming their wafers, the nun and the clown (maypole? you decide) shared an air kiss, no doubt celebrating their successful invasion.
The men are part of a group known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a social activist 'order' that arose in 1979. It's mission - to combat homophobia, raise awareness of AIDS, and collect money for charity in their spare time. In 1987 the order performed a notorious exorcism of Pope John Paul II, and in 1992 they started the Queer Army, enlisting "for the Holy Wars against homophobia in the church and the government". With more than 20 'orders' world wide, and nearly 30 years of awareness-raising, tolerance-promoting charity work, this is the group of vicious militant blasphemes that Bill O'Reilly would have arrested.
So what did the devout have to say on the subject?
The Archbishop issued an apology, and explained that he saw two strangely dressed persons at the end of the line but did not recognize any signs of mockery, protest or disruption.
His apology did nothing to endear him to the already displeased Catholics who feel that Niederauer is too much of a gay-lover anyway. Here are some choice comments from a great Catholic blog, the Curt Jester:
"This act by our Archbishop is actually a good thing, in my opinion. What took place on Sunday was the result of 25 years of gay activism in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Now the rotten fruit is out there for all to see--it was there already, but now everyone can see it. This will be the turning of the tide in San Francisco."
"Just when I think I'm desensitized to these things...something more outrageous then I could ever imagine occurs. I say out loud what happened, and I don't even believe my own words."
"I pray that someone is collecting all of the info, compiling it, and burning it to a CD to send to the Pope."
"I miss the inquisition."
So these men, who behaved themselves very respectfully, are blasphemes because they
a) arrived at mass wearing their ostentatious attire in quiet protest to the condemnation of homosexuality by the Church
b) received communion while being sinners in the eyes of the Lord (according to Bible)
What do you think?
My thought is that they would not get dolled up for mass in their make up and habits (problem A) if they were not endlessly condemned for their 'sinful' lifestyle (problem B). After all, these guys are the epitome of 'doing the Lord's work', what with their support for the sick, the young, and the persecuted. And if these are the problems, what solution is there? Is it possible to change our biology? Is it wiser to reexamine the doctrine? What are our priorities here anyway? Tell me, what would Jesus do?
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Monday evening especially, the sun turned the sky an insane gold and the air itself seemed to glow, while in the east ridiculous black/purple clouds actually stood like mountains or really dirty cotton balls, just to make sure that you wouldn't miss the sun-lit autumn foliage in its foreground. And then, as if it wasn't enough, it began to rain. And the sun shone through the water, and you could see every drop, which was, of course, gold, and a rainbow appeared against the black sky, and it was a full half circle with one end starting, I swear, over our home. I am sure that nature that day had decided to drive me mad! It was an infuriating situation to be in - standing as I was in the middle of this perfection, wet, overwhelmed by the sight, and completely unable to capture the moment with any of the numerous digital devices at my disposal. I tried of course, but 'lame' does not begin to describe the photos that I took.
Being an artist, I could just paint it, but who would ever believe it? There is a great quote from Terry Pratchett's novel, "Thief of Time" (which is an excellent book, and by far his best and this quote does not due it justice, nor does it pertain to any subject matter covered in the rest of the narrative - but it made an impression) :
"Sometimes the gods have no taste at all. They allow sunrises and sunsets in ridiculous pink and blue hues that any professional artist would dismiss as the work of some enthusiastic amateur who'd never looked at a real sunset. This was one of those sunrises. It was the kind of sunrise a man rises and looks at and says, "No real sunrise could paint the sky Surgical Appliance Pink.""
So there you have it. There was magic happening all around me for a few minutes, and all you get is this blog.