Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You Know the Steak’s Done

When the smoke alarm goes off.

I'm cooking steaks in a cheap hotel room on a George Foreman grill. Absolutely delicious, minimal fuss, only one problem — a hyperactive smoke alarm. So I got up on a chair and ripped that sucker out. I'll take my chances, I guess.

I hate motels. You can get a better night's sleep in a sleeping bag on the back seat of your car, but you don't get the shower in the morning. It's a trade off. Fifty bucks a night for sticky carpets, a lukewarm shower, and a tiny sink to brush your teeth over.

Some of the larger employers have gymnasiums with locker rooms and showers. For my first week at Intuit in San Diego I actually slept in my car in the parking lot. One morning while shaving I overheard another gym user's comment.

"You can always tell these guys who live on their boats..."

Hey, I appreciate that.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happy Mongolian Valley

happy_mongolian_valley_cropped.jpgFour times a year WSJ Weekend includes the glossy WSJ Magazine, a high fashion supplement that usually makes my eyes glaze over. This time though there's a pretty interesting article on modern Mongolia. I checked for you and the online version is not behind the pay wall. What's more, there are slideshows. Dozens of beautiful photos by Andrea Fazzari.

Go look.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Marilyn Monroe Was Not Plump

Virginia Postrel has proof.
The auction's top-ticket item was Monroe's famous white halter dress from "The Seven Year Itch," the one that billowed up as the subway passed. It sold for almost $5.66 million (including the buyer's premium) to an unknown phone bidder. Sharing a rotating mirrored platform with Hedy Lamarr's peacock gown from "Samson and Delilah" and Kim Novak's rhinestone-fringed show dress from "Jeanne Eagels," Monroe's costume was displayed on a mannequin that had been carved down from a standard size 2 to accommodate the tiny waist. Even then, the zipper could not entirely close....

In fact, the average waist measurement of the four Monroe dresses was a mere 22 inches, according to Lisa Urban, the Hollywood consultant who dressed the mannequins and took measurements for me. Even Monroe's bust was a modest 34 inches.

That's not an anecdote. That's data.
More at DeepGlamour.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Importance of Stupidity

Via Improbable Research.
At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else.

... What she said bothered me. I kept thinking about it; sometime the next day, it hit me. Science makes me feel stupid too. It's just that I've gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid. I wouldn't know what to do without that feeling. I even think it's supposed to be this way. Let me explain.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This Blog Is Not Dead

Just busy with other things.

With luck I'll get a chance to read the news tonight and maybe even comment on it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Rick Perry's First 100 Days

When asked to forecast the first 100 days of a new presidential administration if American voters were to choose the Texas model, Mr. Perry sketched out a pretty picture for GOP primary voters. Mr. Perry said that assuming a GOP victory over President Obama and a Republican takeover of the Senate, the first item of business would be a repeal of ObamaCare "in totality, and a great sigh of relief would be heard across this country." Next up would be spending cuts, and eliminating the two cabinet departments [energy and education] could be just the beginning. "Those are minor amounts of money but they are very symbolic," he added.
WSJ Political Diary.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Twisty Ribbons

Derbyshire contemplates the ineluctable.
I can't say I mind the thought of death. I'm close to the allotted span. I've been around the world a couple of times, published a few books, raised a couple of decent kids, and got a good life-insurance policy for the missus. What's to bother about, so long as it's not protracted and painful? A Blighty One? I'll take it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Perry’s In

Daniel Henninger says Rick Perry will run.
My guess is he's in. Why? He got clearance from what obviously has become the second-most powerful force in American politics—a candidate's wife. In the governor's telling, his wife, Anita, sat him down and said this was no ordinary presidential election for the country. Rick, you've gotta run.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shasta Coming

shasta_coming.jpgAs promised yesterday, here's that shot of Shasta taken on the way down to Sacramento.

I recieved confirmation email today, and I do have the job, which means I'll be making that five and a half hour drive twice a week for the foreseeable future. Down on Mondays and back on Friday.

On the way down I listened to two violin concertos each from Bartok and Prokofiev. Then I listened to Macbeth and the first half of Julius Caesar. On the way back I finished off Caesar (or, rather, Brutus) and listened to the first half of The Tempest. Listening to Shakespeare keeps me from getting drowsy.

I think I'd better buy the boxed set.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Drove to Sacramento...

shasta_evening_6_13_11jpg.JPGInterviewed for 75 minutes. Got the job. Drove back.

Shasta, as usual, was beautiful coming and going. Here's going (8:46 PM). I'll find coming tomorrow.

Tired, tired, tired.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Still Ain't No Cure

Watching Charlie slouch around the house while Mom nags him to write a resume, fill out an application, get a job, gosh sakes do something, just makes me despair. There may be a cure for cancer but there isn't yet, nor will there ever be, a cure for the Summertime Blues.

What's that, Marielle wonders? Ask the magic box: When I first had the blues I thought the definitive rendition was The Who Live at Leeds. But now, looking back, I have my doubts. Those cats aren't too bad.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Quote Of The Week

One German organic farm has killed twice as many people as the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Gulf Oil spill combined. Crickets.
Rich Fisher quoted on Small Dead Animals by way of Instapundit. (I don't care how many people saw it fist, it's still worth quoting.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living Google-Free

keel_da_google.pngJoshua J. Romero in the IEEE Spectrum.
One reason this stunt seemed worthwhile is that I expected it to be hard. After all, I was quite content as a Google customer and even recommended many of its services to friends and colleagues. And as I began my research, I realized that I used a lot of services. Early on, I stumbled upon an incredibly handy page called Google Dashboard. At a glance, it showed how much stuff I had entrusted to Google: I had data stored in 16 different services.
Via Instapundit.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Food Test Fail

iq_test_fail.gifTimmy the cat concurs.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Weird Dream

I dreamed I'd just been hired by the Grateful Dead. I had no idea why they hired me or what they had in mind for me to do. There was just time to stop by the house and pick up my gear before getting on the bus. I made a quick list.
  • Sleeping bag
  • Guitar
  • Soldering iron
I figured I'd make myself useful somehow.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer Reading List

Welcome back to the sixth annual Zeta Woof Summer Reading List. As always, this is a list for you, not for me. I've read them each already, and most of them twice, and I feel that any book worth reading twice is a book that you can confidently recommend to your friends. Enjoy.

history_world_6_glasses.jpgA History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage.

You might think, along conventional lines, that agriculture was invented first, and then bread, and finally beer. You might, in fact, have it exactly backward.

Tom Standage says it's more likely that beer was discovered first, that bread was an accidental by-product of the beer making process, and that agriculture and all the rest of civilization was developed primarily to ensure a dependable supply of beer.

Beer, wine, whiskey, coffee, tea, and Coke®. What you didn't know about beer is nothing compared to what you didn't know about Coca-Cola®. This light but fascinating history of the world is perfect for the beach. Enjoy a glass or two while you read it.
life_among_the_savages.jpgLife Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson.
Our house is old, and noisy, and full. When we moved into it we had two children and about five thousand books; I expect when we finally overflow and move out again we will have perhaps twenty children and easily half a million books; we also own assorted beds and tables and chairs and rocking horses and lambs and doll dresses and ship models and paint brushes and literally thousands of socks. This is the way of life my husband and I have fallen into, inadvertently, as though we had fallen into a well and decided that since there was no way out we might as well stay there and set up a chair and a desk and a light of some kind; even though this is our way of life, and the only one we know, it is occasionally bewildering, and perhaps even inexplicable to the sort of person who does not have that swift, accurate conviction that he is going to step on a broken celluloid doll in the dark.
We all read Shirley Jackson in high school, at least those of us in AP English. This is not one of her horror stories, though. Catalog it under humor, as in: you'll die laughing.
peterson_understanding_photography.pngBryan Peterson's Understanding Photography Field Guide: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera.

When I got my SLR I needed some instruction, and Peterson became my guide. I can't imagine a better one.

We began with Exposure, a topic on which he has written entire books, and then on to Aperture, and Shutter Speed and ISO. That's the technical foundation but it's only the beginning. In Learning To See we explore the lenses, including the versatile “street zoom” my camera came with. Then on to Designing A Striking Image, where we deal with line, shape, form, texture, pattern, color, and scale. Then composition, and filling the frame, and on, and on. Every topic illustrated with one of those thousand dollar photos that Peterson makes his living producing.

You can learn a lot from a talented artist, especially one who writes so clearly. If you own a camera, you should own this book.
why_we_get_fat.gifWhy We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes.

The most amusing thing about watching our current First Lady swell up to truly Oprahoidal dimensions while telling the rest of us what to eat is that she will never understand what has happened or why, because she won't read this book.

Three years ago I recommended Good Calories, Bad Calories, but it was too long, at six hundred pages, and too difficult, what with all the citations and end notes, for the average person. Taubes has remedied that with this book. It's just over two hundred pages and an easy read for anyone with a high school diploma.

It's the bare minimum you should know about the new nutrition. Do you want to live to a ripe old age? Study up now.
nothing_to_be_frightened_of.gifNothing to Be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes.

No matter how good your nutrition, though, eventually you're going to, you know, well... pass on.

That's all right, you don't have to think about it. Most of us don't. Julian Barnes didn't think about death either, except for the times when he woke up in the middle of the night screaming, and then he couldn't stop thinking about it for days afterward. Gradually it became an obsession.

So he dealt with his very rational fear of death the way any writer would. He wrote a book about it. A very interesting, very literate, very funny book.
when_money_dies.jpgWhen Money Dies: The Nightmare of Deficit Spending, Devaluation, and Hyperinflation in Weimar Germany by Adam Fergusson.

Speaking of death, what happens when those fine, engraved portraits you carry around in your wallet become worthless? What happens when money dies?

The first edition, published in 1975, has long been out of print. In 2010 Adam Fergusson and his publishers, witnessing the budget deficits and the quantitative easing in the U.S. and Britain, saw fit to bring out a new paperback edition. It has been selling briskly.

When money becomes worthless it doesn't matter how much you're paid. If the farmer refuses to accept cash you must barter your possessions for food. A grand piano, for example, for a sack of flour and a ham. But when you run out of things to barter, when you're sitting on the floor of a house with no furniture and empty cupboards, what then?

What then?
citizens_constitution_lipsky.jpgThe Citizen's Constitution: An Annotated Guide by Seth Lipsky.

The Constitution of the United States is a deceptively short and simple document. Anyone can, and many of us do, carry a copy of it our shirt pocket. You can read through it in an hour. But be honest now: how much did you really understand?

The President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and everyone else down to the local sheriff and the lady who sweeps floors at the courthouse have been arguing about the meaning of every word in that document for going on two hundred and twenty-five years. It's not settled, and it never will be.

What we need is a guide, clause by clause, section by section, article by article, written in plain language that anybody can understand. No arguments; not the final word. Just a little background and history and explanation.
farnsworths_rhetoric.gifFarnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric by Ward Farnsworth.

Of the seven classical liberal arts, the first three, logic, grammar, and rhetoric, are referred to as the trivium, from which we get the expression "that's trivial." Would that it were.

You can find plenty of books on logic, and grammar is still taught (so we hope) in grade schools. But try — just try — finding a good book on rhetoric.

Up until now.

This is Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric, and if the title echoes the sound of Fowler's Modern English Usage and Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, that is deliberate. Ward Farnsworth has set out to write an indispensable reference that belongs on every reader's bookshelf. He has succeeded.
world_of_carbon.jpgThe World of Carbon: New, Revised Edition by Isaac Asimov.

My brother, who works in a medical lab, says this is the best intro to organic chemistry he's ever read. As geeky kids we grew up on Isaac Asimov, who at one point seemed to be cranking out a book a week.

Methane, ethane, propane, butane. Pentane, hexane, heptane, octane. For the first three chapters we deal with carbon and hydrogen, nothing else. Then we toss in the halogens: fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine. We get carbon tet, chloroform, plastics, and teflon. In chapter five we add oxygen, and things really get interesting: methyl, ethyl, and isopropyl. Alcohols, that is.

And so on. Every compound has a name and a story, and it's the stories that stick with you. Sometimes the science sticks too. Asimov was good at that.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

All Wound Up

saturday_satellite_6_4_11.pngInteresting satellite picture today.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Two Down, One to Go

charlie_graduation_2011_thumb.jpgCharlie marched with the graduating class of Crater High School last night. The rain slacked off just long enough for the ceremony to take place in the stadium as usual, but it was cold and windy. Four valedictorians spoke for a mercifully short time, and then three hundred and seventeen names were called one at a time.

Congratulations, Charlie.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Arf-arf-arf-arf-gasp-arf-arf-cough

palin_bus.jpgShamelessly stolen from Way Up North.