The [Ninja Turtles] henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady have hijacked the musical genres for us just like the Lone Ranger hijacked the William Tell Overture for our parents.

- xkcd

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Just because I love baseball

Billy Beane, the reason I think I'll be an Oakland A's fan once I'm out there, pimps the sports blog. Again, partly to keep this in my mind and also for you, Ben. Oh, and the A's acquired two of my beloved Cardinals this off-season. So, I'll be in the stands rooting for Kiko Calero!

Post a comment, curse you!

The article here and the blog-related response below.

BB: Right, and that's what is interesting about these trades. And that's what I love, for lack of a better word, about the blogger's world. There is a tendency to really analyze things in detail. Ultimately, because there is so much conversation and investigation on a site like yours, people may not ultimately agree with it, but they stumble onto what you're trying to do. Someone emailed me something written on a Cardinals' blog, and they had nailed all the things we were talking about. The economic reasons, the personnel reasons and the reasons we made the exchange. The world of a Web log will lend itself to a lot of investigation. And you will often stumble across the answer more than someone who has to write in two hours to meet deadline just to make sure something is out in the paper the next day.

Indie Rock

Yes, yes, Titan postponed indefinitely. I guess they shut off my channel (extremely bizarre inside joke about the fact that one of Huygens probe radio channels wasn't on [and yes, I know this is in violation of the "if you have to explain it, it is no longer funny" maxim]).

Songs I heard this morning that I don't want to lose to the mists of time:

1) The Go! Team - The Power Is On ...Rock with synthesizers and sequencers but fun!

2) The Chemical Brothers - Come Inside ...Vaguely electronic, but not techno

3) Bettie Serveert - Attagirl...Dutch indie rock, huzzah

Few details, so you have few preconceptions.


A language decision has been reached, at least for the moment. I am going to try and hit Chinese hard for the spring. After all, I'm living on the West Coast and in San Fran and its deservedly famous Chinatown. Stop the excuses and at least scrape off some of that rust. Then, come summertime, try and find an opportunity to start learning the new language (currently determined to be some form of Arabic).

relevant questions:
1) What is the most standard form of Arabic, or most widely spoken/understood? Is there one?
2) How easy is it to find a class on this? Community colleges or private tutors or ???
3) What is a recommended Chinese primer for me at this point? I had great success with this Spanish primer book but it is easier to puzzle out unknown Spanish words than Chinese. Although I am willing to bring my many dictionaries to bear, never fear.

On top of this, I need to stay up with some science reading (including much delayed post on Titan) and I would like to do some philosophy and Chinese culture stuff. Time, time, time. Well, that's enough self-pity. I'm trying just to look at it as things to keep me busy not as an onerous burden. These are, after all, things I ENJOY.

Personally, this fall was a blast and I was juggling a new girlfriend, indie rock, Spanish, and two jobs. Surely, I can manage this paltry new assignment. Enough self-motivation, eh? More later today and then the wall of silence as I pack up and lug my stuff out to the coast.

Thanks for dropping by Ben and any others who stumble in here.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Cunning Linguist?

Overused and horrifically bad pun aside, I am thinking that in the not-too-distant future I need to get back to one of my primary hobbies, studying a language. I had achieved low-level competency in Chinese, have some ability in Spanish, and am considering trying to learn some Middle Eastern language.

I am framing the debate internally as a question between: 1) acquiring fluency in either Chinese or Spanish and 2) Learning Arabic or Farsi or some other Mideastern language. I am drawn to option two because of my innate preference to start something new instead of completing something old. Some (not-insignificant) part of me says that Ishould try to actually be accomplished in one of the other languages. I think both ideas have some merit. I'm not really expecting any answers, obviously, but this is one of those instances where I'm hoping the fact that I am writing it down where I can see it will encourage me to come back and do more with this debate. I'll try and follow up on this again later.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Suggestion box for imaginary people

For tomorrow...I'm hoping to talk about something biological. Suggestions are welcome or else I might end up with more stuff from the fossil record. Actually, I'll try and read one of the essays on the molecular origins of life that I have (yes, I'm a nerd -- see the title) and see if I can make it interesting.

Otherwise, maybe someone can surprise me with a comment. Alright, that's all for now.

Not a good sign

I've only been at this for a week and I'm already struggling to come up with interesting things to write about. Hopefully, things get easier with more practice and I shouldn't be feeling that this is some foreshadowing of what the experience will be like.

As far as useful things to talk about, allow me to refer to the last book I finished reading, "An Hour Before Daylight : Memoirs of a Rural Boyhood" by Jimmy Carter. It was really a quite interesting book. In it he describes the experience of growing up on a farm in the 1930-40s. He really focuses in on that and the family and regional history. It doesn't dwell much on his adulthood which lets him reflect thoroughly on the experience and people that defined his early life.

He writes in a very simple style and everything is forthright. He tries to put forth his ideas and generally defend all of the individuals involved while at the same time managing to feel that I am coming closer to understanding the time than I have before. Personally, my grandfather grew up on a farm in southern Illinois about five years earlier. He left to join the Navy in time for WWII. I imagine that some of this must be like what he went through. Obviously, a lot of the particulars are different but the understanding of the time, place, community, and work involved seem to make the experience more vivid than I had known.

The book doesn't really change a whole lot more than that. It has a relatively simple goal and he sticks too it. I found it easy-to-read, interesting, and informative but I've always been a sucker for biographies, especially biographies about boyhoods. I certainly recommend it for those interested in the time or place in general who want an accessible introduction to the area.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Vocab for the day

Courtesy of Slate and this article on inaugural addresses, combined with the mentioning of vocabulary in yesterday's review, I bring you the word chiasmus. It means, "a grammatical figure by which the order of words in one of two of parallel clauses is inverted in the other" (Oxford English Dictionary) (via because I am lazy).

It even gets its own website,

Anyways, it's pretty awesome and I realized that chiasmi (what an awesome plural!) provide some of my favorite jokes and quotes:

"Why do we drive on a parkway
and park on a driveway?"

-- Richard Lederer
"He does not possess wealth;
it possesses him."
-- Ben Franklin

That's all for now. Hope that provides sufficient erudition until I can thinking of something original.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

If it's not too late

I just learned about this site, The Principles Project, via one of the more astute policy and economic blogs I read, BOPNews. They are trying to make an interactive, or at least community-based discussion and principles for "progressive politics" in the digital age. It looks like an interesting project. Will it ever mean anything, I'm not so sure. At any rate worth checking out and thinking about. We've got to start somewhere.

Here is the invitation letter and follow the above links to head into the uncharted waters of internet political discourse.

back to the Enlightenment...

I got back from San Francisco about midnight last night and haven't really come up with anything remarkably insightful or erudite to say yet today in science or philosophy. Instead, let's talk about the novel I just finished reading.

I completely re-read Neal Stephenson's "Quicksilver" in preparation for getting through the other two books in "The Baroque Cycle" finally. I have a few things to say on that point. First, my overall gut response is disappointed. The sheer amount of exposition is overwhelming. I know Neal is a genius and manages to know something about everything but do I really need to know it as well? It reminded me, both favorably and unfavorably, of my experience reading Les Miserables (the 1400 page unabridged edition) where I thought the plot was interesting but could barely make it through the digressions. Hopefully, this improves somewhat in the following two novels.

Second, I am generally one of the more verbose people I know. It is generally rare to encounter words I don't at least recognize. However, he manages to work in so many synonyms that I have actually had to put the book down and look up the meaning of the word in order to grasp the context of the sentence. He must know he is doing this; I hypothesize he delights in it. However, I imagine that if I struggle with this, then most others must be completely lost. Now, of course, I can't think of any particular examples, but I might try to edit them in (if I am diligent) later. At any rate, I often felt like I was just working my way around these digressions to try and get to a plot that is still lacking some cohesion after 900+ pages.

Spoiler alert:
The plot of the trilogy, apparently has to do with Daniel being called back to England to try and settle the Newton-Leibniz "who invented calculus?" debate. However, he starts to reminisce and suddenly we are exposed to the whole history of the Enlightenment. I think one part that I struggle to grasp is, given that ending, what is the purpose of the whole Eliza and Jack portions of the tale. In Cryptonomicon (which this is clearly a prequel to in many ways), it made some sense because the two family branches tie together. However, if this is just tracing back those parallel lines this far back it smacks of ego far more than novel. Not that I mind completely, since the Eliza and Jack sections are generally more entertaining, but I just wish I felt like they were relevant to the whole story.

Overall, I will say it revived my interest in Enlightenment figures. I definitely feel that I need to read a "real" biography of Hooke and his many accomplishments (inventing the microscope and many others). I have always been interested in Leibniz, a philosopher and mathematician who has a large supporting role. But, the work, as literature and, especially, as novel seemed a little flat to me. I have just started the second book, "The Confusion," and will hopefully feel that the book makes more sense from that perspective. Neal Stephenson has been one of my favorite authors since I was forced to read "Snow Crash" so I will give him another chance here.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Mammals not quite so meek?

From Nature and also in the NY Times there is news that maybe Mesozoic mammals weren't quite as mild as previously thought. You know the drill. Tiny, shrew-like mammals that scurried away from dinosaurs. Recently, researchers in Liaoning, China found 130-million-year-old mammals as large as dogs and, the kicker, one of them had eaten a baby Psittacosaurus (or so the speculation goes). These new mammals, dubbed Repenomamus giganticus (and a smaller cousin R. robustus), seem to allow mammals into new parts of the ecosystem. When you start to think about that in combination with animals such as Velociraptors and other smaller dinosaurs you really get a sense of the variety of scale that existed then. I think that ecosystem must have been quite complicated with the diversity of scale that existed then. And none of these larger animals can get away with eating things like krill.

Unfortunately, the actual article requires a subscription to Nature (which I lack) and so you only get the newsy version.

Alright, there's my random science trek for the day. Maybe something else but unlikely as I fly to San Francisco tonight.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Generating interest

Here's the deal. I decided to create this blog because I would flip through the various blogs on blogspot in the hopes of randomly finding one that seemed interesting. I read a number of serious blogs about politics, science, economics, Asia, law, and even philosophy. Once I started wandering through blogs at random very few that seemed to be serious. So I am trying to just add another place where some kind of intelligent discussions about things that are in the news and in science can go forward. Also, I am hoping to force myself to be more active in fleshing out my thoughts and reading some different books and articles.

I will try to post at least once a day for these first few weeks whenever I am not travelling. After that, it will probably depend on my interest and whether or not I've heard from anybody else.

No pressure -- because after all, what kind of pressure would you get from reading nothing of substance from someone you don't know. Exactly.

How many is too many?

This is yet another blog. This post is mostly just to let me sort out all of the settings there are to play with here. Also, to try and get this whole thing started.

Hopefully, this will let me capture some of my thoughts as I go and keep them from being completely forgotten about the following day. Unfortunately, this also means they are out there for anyone to see. I will see how it works.

Just to remind myself of what I'm trying to do (and in case anyone else actually stumbles upon this thing):
1. Post intelligently about subjects I'm interested in, namely:
a. biology -- particularly microbiology, genomics, and some cancer research
b. philosophy -- hellenistic (Greek), existentialism, a little ethics, and anything I stumble across
c. china -- current events, travel, philosophy, culture, and even paleontology
d. politics and policy -- probably not too much, and mostly US focused
e. music -- primarily rock'n'roll but whatever I can find.
2. Where am I -- probably a dash of travel and personal info
note: this is not a confessional or diary but a little bit of pretty pictures and "hey, look at me"