Monthly Archives: February 2005

Angel, Spike, Kain [Open Thread]

Momentarily surfacing to update the sidebar:
Angel – Season 5: It’s Spike! On Angel! This makes me happy. Also, there was an episode with Simon Templeman (aka Kain of Legacy of Kain) guest starring in a very Kain-esque role.
Rilo Kiley: More Adventurous: I told Amazon I liked Universal Audio and it recommended this. Good call! Some of the tracks are pretty girly, but since the music’s good I’m willing to overlook this. Fans of The Postal Service may be interested that Rilo Kiley lead singer Jenny Lewis does background vocals on a number of songs on Give Up. More Adventurous itself contains a stylistic nod to the Jimmy Tamborello half of The Postal Service: “Accidntel Deth” (Tamborello’s solo work is under the name Dntel.)
How serious am I about my video game hiatus? Xenosaga II arrived in the mail last week, and I haven’t taken it out of the envelope. Sometimes I pick up the envelope, look at it, turn it over in my hands. Then I put it down and go back to work.

God as sloppy engineer

I missed this until everybody linked to it, so you may have seen it: an opinion piece in this week’s New York Times Magazine on “intelligent design”, which looks at some of the bizarre engineering found in biology:

But if we can’t infer anything about the design from the designer, maybe we can go the other way. What can we tell about the designer from the design? While there is much that is marvelous in nature, there is also much that is flawed, sloppy and downright bizarre. Some nonfunctional oddities, like the peacock’s tail or the human male’s nipples, might be attributed to a sense of whimsy on the part of the designer. Others just seem grossly inefficient. In mammals, for instance, the recurrent laryngeal nerve does not go directly from the cranium to the larynx, the way any competent engineer would have arranged it. Instead, it extends down the neck to the chest, loops around a lung ligament and then runs back up the neck to the larynx. In a giraffe, that means a 20-foot length of nerve where 1 foot would have done. If this is evidence of design, it would seem to be of the unintelligent variety.

Another great example is the wiring of the eye: as I recall, the human eye has a blind spot because the optic nerve connects to the front of the retina and therefore blocks off a patch in the field of view. Maybe this was the only way to make it work? Apparently not, as the octopus eye is wired from the back. (This is all from memory so I may be getting details wrong.)

Counting Down The Hours [Open Thread]

This has got to be the longest long weekend ever. Too much work to do, not enough distractions. Also, it will not stop raining. It’s a good thing Berkeley’s on a slope, because otherwise I would expect it to be underwater by now.
Giblets has the best post on the death of Hunter Thompson.
In my referrer logs, possibly the weirdest search request to reach this site came from ask.com yesterday: “quantum dead zombie pakistan”. I am the third hit for this.
Million Dollar Baby: This powerful film deserves all the praise it’s been getting. The day after seeing it I kept thinking back to it and each time brought tears to my eyes. Don’t be put off by the premise—a gutsy woman aspiring to professional boxing seeks the attention of a crusty old trainer—which sounds like it should be a cliché-fest; the movie is really about the characters and the relationships between them. I probably shouldn’t make declarations like this when I haven’t seen three of the four other nominees, but: this film should win Best Picture.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: Shake the Sheets: I wasn’t expecting to like this, having been unimpressed by Hearts of Oak (with the exception of “Ballad of the Sin Eater”), but after hearing “Counting Down The Hours” I had to give it a try. It’s terrific, bursting with infectious, punk-ish energy and intruiging lyrics that are occasionally politically-tinged. Also, I love the album art (which I didn’t find on a poster, so I may have to settle for a t-shirt).

Friday Catblogging: Tribute

catblogging - tribute
Here’s Omen sitting in his favorite chair.
Wednesday morning my alarm clock was set for 8:00, but I woke up at 7:00 and attempted to go back to sleep. I did drift off again, but I dreamed that I was still awake, and that at 7:30 I decided I might as well get up. I went over to the computer to read my e-mail, and saw several messages in my Gmail account. The top one was from someone named Bast; as I went to click on it, I was awakened from the dream by the aforementioned alarm clock.
A few minutes afterward I recalled that Bast was the name of an Egyptian goddess: in fact, she was a fertility goddess and the patron goddess of cats. So consider this episode of Friday Catblogging a tribute to Bast, since when I have the attention of the goddess of pregnant women I probably shouldn’t piss her off. :) And Bast, if you’re reading this, please re-send the e-mail, as I still don’t know what it says.

High Winds

high winds
High winds today toppled this big tree on campus (near North Gate).
The sign that’s sliced in half helpfully explains that the path is closed.
Some dude’s elbow included for scale.

Quote of the day

Found while blog-surfing:

First off, following your heart is a really bad idea. This is why we have civilization, so people don’t do that.
Hearts are like pirate caves. They are reputedly full of hidden treasures but usually when you open one up a whole lot of bats, spiders, and angry bears come rushing out, and there’s no gold.

That’s awesome.

I am a big dork.

Fark has declared tomorrow “National Take Your Dice To Work Day”.
Geeky, yes. But it’s tempting, if only so that as I return the first homework set I can claim that d% were used to determine the grades.
(In Mason’s course, he can claim that he used a d20.)

Oz Definitions [Open Thread]

Is the media post getting later and later each week? Eventually it may be on Sunday and you can consider it early instead.
Sideways: You’ve probably heard a fair amount about this already since it got an Oscar nomination. The story follows two men on a road trip through California wine country; the trip becomes increasingly disastrous in ways that are sometimes funny and sometimes sad. Like Election (another movie by Alexander Payne), these disasters arise from the personal weaknesses of the characters. I often find myself laughing uncomfortably at this kind of movie, but Sideways did a good job of generating empathy for these guys even as you’re laughing at whatever dumb thing they just did, so I ended up liking the film.
Of the films doing the award circuit, I’d also like to see Million Dollar Baby, so maybe I’ll do that this weekend if I have time.
Clerks: This was for a long time one of my favorite films, and I suddenly felt like watching it again this weekend. It’s interesting how my view of this movie has changed. For one thing, after seeing a lot of Aaron Sorkin and Joss Whedon creations, Kevin Smith’s writing seems very clumsy by comparison (with occasional moments of brilliance). Also, the characters: When I was 17 I thought Randal was very cool, but these days I don’t see much at all to admire about him. His only good quality is that he challenges Dante’s view of himself as perpetual victim, a view which helps Dante assuage the guilt he feels about being selfish and irresponsible. The problem is that Randal is also selfish and irresponsible, but just doesn’t care—and his advice to Dante is for him not to care either. Veronica is the only character that shows any selflessness, and she doesn’t seem like very much fun, whereas Caitlin seems fun and exciting but ethically is just as bad as Randal. One has to assume all this relates to Kevin Smith’s huge Catholicism issues.
The Trip (created by Snow Patrol): This is that Snow Patrol mix CD set I found a few weeks ago. I was pleased to find that I like most of it, and don’t hate any of it. I haven’t put up any tracks for download, since each disc is clearly meant to be played all the way through: rather than just being a compilation it’s professionally mixed, so there’s no break between tracks. Going by Oz definitions, the second disc (“Ernie”) is more suitable for a gathering1 while the first (“Bert”) might be played at a shindig2 or even perhaps a hootenanny3.
1“brie, mellow song stylings”
2“dip, less mellow song stylings, perhaps a large amount of malt beverage.”
3“chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny”

Blonde Redhead!

It probably goes without saying that I enjoyed the concert. I was unimpressed with the first few songs—I guess some calibration and warm-up was necessary, as Amadeo and Kazu were both nearly inaudible until the fourth song, “Anticipation”. At that point they seemed to hit their stride and it got much better: a really good rendition of “Messenger”, followed by a new-to-me song, and then “Misery is a Butterfly” which was completely awesome. “Melody” at the end of the set was also stellar.
Amadeo’s singing sounded very clipped compared to the recordings; I wonder if he had a sore throat or something. This also might have been related to why I couldn’t hear him at the beginning. Fortunately Kazu sounded great (and made her bandmates look like slackers by rotating between two guitars and the keyboard as well).
Oh yeah, Interpol played too. They were ok. Well, alright, I got into it more than I expected, although I still don’t like their earlier songs very much (i.e. the stuff from Turn on the Bright Lights; Antics is much better).