PRATIE PLACE

Monday, July 30, 2007

Mike does Illustration Friday: "Moon"

Mike wanted to put airplanes or houses into the bottom part of this picture, to show scale, but we ran out of time.


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Open letter from Annie Choi to architects of the world

Since I'm using my blog as a filing cabinet, here's one I don't want to lose. Found at Music and Cats.

Once, a long time ago in the days of yore, I had a friend who was studying architecture to become, presumably, an architect. This friend introduced me to other friends, who were also studying architecture. Then these friends had other friends who were architects - real architects doing real architecture like designing luxury condos that look a lot like glass dildos. And these real architects knew other real architects and now the only people I know are architects. And they all design glass dildos that I will never work or live in and serve only to obstruct my view of New Jersey.

Do not get me wrong, architects. I like you as a person. I think you are nice, smell good most of the time, and I like your glasses. You have crazy hair, and if you are lucky, most of it is on your head. But I do not care about architecture. It is true. This is what I do care about:
  • burritos
  • hedgehogs
  • coffee
As you can see, architecture is not on the list. I believe that architecture falls somewhere between toenail fungus and invasive colonoscopy in the list of things that interest me.

Perhaps if you didn’t talk about it so much, I would be more interested. When you point to a glass cylinder and say proudly, hey my office designed that, I giggle and say it looks like a bong. You turn your head in disgust and shame. You think, obviously she does not understand. What does she know? She is just a writer. She is no architect. She respects vowels, not glass cocks. And then you say now I am designing a lifestyle center, and I ask what is that, and you say it is a place that offers goods and services and retail opportunities and I say you mean like a mall and you say no. It is a lifestyle center. I say it sounds like a mall. I am from the Valley, bitch. I know malls.

Architects, I will not lie, you confuse me. You work sixty, eighty hours a week and yet you are always poor. Why aren’t you buying me a drink? Where is your bounty of riches? Maybe you spent it on merlot. Maybe you spent it on hookers and blow. I cannot be sure. It is a mystery. I will leave that to the scientists to figure out.

Architects love to discuss how much sleep they have gotten. One will say how he was at the studio until five in the morning, only to return again two hours later. Then another will say, oh that is nothing. I haven’t slept in a week. And then another will say, guess what, I have never slept ever. My dear architects, the measure of how hard you’ve worked and how much you’ve accomplished is not related to the number of hours you have not slept. Have you heard of Rem Koolhaas? He is a famous architect. I know this because you tell me he is a famous architect. I hear that Rem Koolhaas is always sleeping. He is, I presume, sleeping right now. And I hear he gets shit done. And I also hear that in a stunning move, he is making a building that looks not like a glass cock, but like a concrete vagina. When you sleep more, you get vagina. You can all take a lesson from Rem Koolhaas.

Life is hard for me, please understand. Architects are an important part of my existence. They call me at eleven at night and say they just got off work, am I hungry? Listen, it is practically midnight. I ate hours ago. So long ago that, in fact, I am hungry again. So yes, I will go. Then I will go and there will be other architects talking about AutoCAD shortcuts and something about electric panels and can you believe that is all I did today, what a drag. I look around the table at the poor, tired, and hungry, and think to myself, I have but only one bullet left in the gun. Who will I choose?

I have a friend who is a doctor. He gives me drugs. I enjoy them. I have a friend who is a lawyer. He helped me sue my landlord. My architect friends have given me nothing. No drugs, no medical advice, and they don’t know how to spell subpoena. One architect friend figured out that my apartment was one hundred and eighty seven square feet. That was nice. Thanks for that.

I suppose one could ask what someone like me brings to architects like yourselves. I bring cheer. I yell at architects when they start talking about architecture. I force them to discuss far more interesting topics, like turkey eggs. Why do we eat chicken eggs, but not turkey eggs? They are bigger. And people really like turkey. See? I am not afraid to ask the tough questions.

So, dear architects, I will stick around, for only a little while. I hope that one day some of you will become doctors and lawyers or will figure out my taxes. And we will laugh at the days when you spent the entire evening talking about some European you’ve never met who designed a building you will never see because you are too busy working on something that will never get built. But even if that day doesn’t arrive, give me a call anyway, I am free.

Yours truly,
Annie Choi


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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Moon"

I have a print of a scene like this, painted by Leprin, and I imagined what it would look like by moonlight.



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Mending the deer fence.

Zed left yesterday for three weeks in Canada with his dad's family. Like all his dad's departures (well do I remember them) it started with a hurricane of activity, people rushing back and forth and losing things and finding them again and tossing huge amounts of stuff into their gigantic Suburban - Zed was back here three times over an hour and a half in search of things he needed - and then, two or three hours past the appointed time, the hive swarms into the car (dad, wife, Zed, two younger sons, and dog) and suddenly - silence.

Zed's been with me for several weeks straight and we've been involved in a very important and engaging and time-consuming project of his. He left and silence suddenly filled my house - I could almost hear it get sucked into the space he'd formerly occupied - reminded me of those vacuum-packed wheatgerm jars.

Luckily I had an important project to keep me busy over that first quiet day. A few days ago I spotted two spotted fawns out the window, tearing up and scrunching greenery into their mouths as fast as they could. I squawked with horror - my deer fence was breeched!

It's easier to ease deer out the way they came in when there are two of you - Zed and I left the house from two different doors and the fawns, luckily, loped out the way they came in. We inspected the fence and found a place where a previous repair, imprudently improvised with sisal twin, had rotted away, so I fixed it.

(By the way, if you can't quite envision what I'm talking about, here's a promo picture from Benner's Gardens, the folks from whom I bought the fencing.)


I was feeling pretty optimistic until the next day, when rehearsal with Bob came to a screeching halt because I saw these same two fawns, in the same place, chowing down with the same enthusiasm.

What, after I'd fixed the fissure? No puede ser! (Our telenovela expression of anguish and disbelief - "IT CAN'T BE!!") We went out slowly and saw those little deer turn, wander back through the woods casually, and jump out - right over the top of the fence.

The idea of this fencing system: yes, deer can jump this high (ten feet), but they can't really see the top of the fence so they don't. How appalling that these two little adventurers had learned the secret! My sense of smug security was shattered!

So yesterday, after Zed left, I assembled a good fence-repair kit:
  • Lightweight stepladder
  • Nylon mason's line (two rolls)
  • Nylon cable ties
  • Scissors
  • Surveyor's tape
  • lengths of torn polyester fabric
  • Hammer
  • Two sizes of staples
  • Heavy-duty nylon tension cable

I spent five happy hours in the woods; it wasn't horribly hot and only rained a little bit. I did fall off the ladder once and twisted it into a bit of a pretzel, but even a pretzel-ladder can be propped up to function if you're patient.

It was fun, not being in a hurry. I went methodically along about 500 feet of my fence (not quite a third of it) and looked it over from a deer's point of view. I hitched up places that had sagged, repaired places where branches had fallen and snagged the mesh, replaced the high-tension top line where a tree had busted it, and topped the whole thing off with a nylon line 18 inches higher than the top of the original fence (this is as high as I could reach by standing on the top of the pretzelled ladder) adorned with ribbons of orange surveyor's tape.

I'm sore - from my fall, and from five hours of dragging my kit through the woods - but hopeful.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Elated with a Proper Joy"

Does anybody know the provenance of this song from the Colonial era? Thanks in advance!

Some Folks want Money and some don't - can't chosen men, for fee,
Count out the dollars and half pence that are lodged in Treasury?
And if in one Year's time or less the cash to England's sent
Why none, I'm sure, will ever grieve among our Parliament.

In case there is another war with Frenchmen on the coast
Cape Breton for to take again we easily may boast
Besides, if such a scheme should fail, and peace with us remain,
A famous bridge or some such thing can make the money rain

We may, 'tis true, be rich in Name tho' very poor in Deed
So those who love to talk and sway may take the Dance and lead
Lead on, I say, all vulgar Minds, till they themselves at last
Are cursed by the very tongues who honours heaped so fast.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wisdom via Terry Teachout...

Spotted at About Last Night:

"In one's twenties it is difficult to grasp the pointlessness of envy."

Michael Blakemore, Arguments with England: A Memoir

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Zed does Illustration Friday: "Poem"

Zed's sketch is called: OZYMANDAWHO?. Inspired by Shelley's poem (Ozymandias). Zed says: An attempt to capture the desolation and forgotten-ness of the once-king drowning in sand.


Ozymandias
Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled hp and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
.And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my works. Ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Poem"

Zed and I independently and simultaneously decided to do ancient Egyption-based poems. Mine is by archie the cockroach:

time time said old king tut

time time said old king tut
is something i aint
got anything but




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Mike Does Illustration Friday: "Poem"

From a collection of classic Japanese haiku, by Basho:

An old lake
When the frog jumps in
The sound of water



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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Westlin' Winds: free mp3 download

I spent a lot of yesterday trying to figure out what I could overdub on the viola to go with this song:

Westlin' Winds
By Robert Burns.
(Click the link and you can listen to it or save it onto your computer.)

Dick Gaughan recorded the song perfectly a long time ago and Bob recorded this version last Sunday.

(He changed the words a little to take out the "murdering cry" and the "fluttering gory pinions" which are part of shooting birds in the autumn.)

I was so self-conscious about the viola line, I kept fiddling with it to make it sound far away (did not want it to be a bossy part).

This will go on our new wedding sampler called "Hearts' Delight." (We really want to get some more wedding gigs.) As soon as we finish this, we're going back to the murder ballads.

Appreciate any feedback. How is the balance on your speakers? Too much or too little vocal, guitar, viola? Did I overdo it and suck the life out of the viola sound? (I can always go back and replace it.)

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Some (recording) sites I don't want to forget about.

Michael Gilleland, whom I have read with admiration for a long time, wrote of his Laudator Temporis Acti: In case you haven't noticed, this blog is my private file cabinet, and Google is its index... I would continue to blog for myself even with no readers.

It's amazing that, for whatever reason, blogger is free, and therefore I can reasonably hope that, for the indefinite future, when I want to find one of my favorite recipes or jokes or cartoons or internet sites, I'll be able to search my own blog and find it.

Hannah and I have been pretty quiet this summer. She's in love, and has just secured a new job for next year; I've been absorbed in learning how to do good-quality recordings and editing/mastering on my laptop. I find that with my excellent old (30-40 years old) AKG mics, an interface box by M-Audio called Fast Track Pro, Soundforge (I own quite an old version and don't need newer bells and whistles), and the magnificent FREE multitracking/recording program, called Audacity, I can now pretty much do anything I need to do. It's not fast and efficient as a more professional and expensive setup would be **if I knew how to use it** (there is a horrendous and non-intuitive complexity to most of them), but it gets me there.

I told Zed it's like punching holes in notebook paper without a hole-puncher - you can use a knife to make little circle chads, and the pages will eventually go on the rings, but it takes quite a while.

The huge advantage of this home recording setup, besides its being free and right in my living room, is its immediacy. When Zed was going to his internship at WCOM-FM's "Roots Rampage" program the other night I was able to run him off a cd of the brand new song I had overdubbed and mixed just half an hour before and he played it over the air! I listened to it, thought: "That sure needs a lot more work," and revised it later that same night.

When Bob and I work on a new song, we can record a practice version and I can email it to him while he's still sitting there with the guitar in his hand!

Remind me of this when I complain that the world is not what it once was...

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Things you can't find any more (via the New York Times)

Knowing I'm a nostalgic freak, Zed sent me the link to this comment stream, which was, I think, closed after 1403 posts. Things I thought of as I read through the entries are posted below the box, and I made a few comments along the way...

From I Love It, It's Perfect, Now It Changes

Why does PaperMate have to change the exteriors of their ballpoint pens so often? Are human hands evolving quicker than I thought?

Tidal Burst Gatorade, it was turquoise and tasted way better then any other Gatorade, bring it back.

Analog volume controls. I think pretty much anyone who has been forced to listen to music either just a bit too loudly, or a bit too softly because the volume he really wanted to select lay just between your two of his digital volume control button's volume settings knows what I'm talking about.

For teachers and students the centuries old blackboard-chalk combination was much better than the dry erase markers of today.

For several decades now, musicians cannot buy anywhere in the world what once was a standard piece of equipment: the electric (square box) metronome. This solid, reliable successor to the wind up type, (which is still sold!!) has given way to a tiny, tinny, portable battery operated version with all sorts of bells and whistles attached such as a tuning tone.

Thanks to "consumer advocates," mowers have become so "safe" they no longer pose a serious threat to a blade of grass.

Cereal that turns mushy in the bowl. My favorite was Wheaties until they "improved" it to make it stay crispy. I don't need all that crunch first thing in the morning.

Nabisco "Golden Fruit" cookies–rather like adult poptarts, raisin-filled, slightly crispy wonders that could be toasted and buttered or eaten as is (was). The closest thing now made is imported from Denmark and is easily four times the price and less tasty.

Tomatoes with flavor. Sign says tomato… tastes like potato.

Nabisco marshmallow sandwich cookies. Packed eight to the box, two boxes to the pack. A whole boxful with a glass of milk was more than worth the slight nausea later on.

pine brothers cherry cough drops

What happened to the bench-style front seat for the cars? It seemed that with it, cars were so much roomier.

I shudder whenever I see "new and improved" written on a product that I have found to be great. I think it actually indicates that a cheaper way has been found of producing the item.

Dannon yogurt in the fabulous "Prune Whip" flavor…around for ages and then disappeared in the '70s, I think, when blended yogurts started to take over "fruit on the bottom" types. For years I have told people my aunt had scores of the tubs Prune Whip came in stored in her cabinet. I thought it was Cool Whip in a prune flavor. Zed was amazed to see this entry - he always thought I'd made it up...

Whatever happened to those flat raisin cookies? The ones that had a thin layer of cookie outside the raisins. They were chewy and not sweet. There are no substitute for these cookies.

Halogen Lamps. They were cheap ($20), gave off beautiful colors, lasted forever, and had a dimmer setting. Every college student had them.

I miss the old New York Times. ... It had a very serious and dynamic set of readers' forums where people from around the world could discuss issues such as the Iraqi war, cloning, pedophilic priests, the fall of communism, the rise of Islamism or any number of topical subjects in real time... Apparently it's been replaced by a "post a comment" venue where we get to give opinions on candidates' spouses, chocolate pudding and Maidenform bras.

The original Nomad MP3 player from Creativ labs, I bought one of the first ones and used it for years. Capacity was limited to 128mb but that was enough for me as I tend to listen to the same song on repeat mode for hours.

Authentic wood windows operated by ropes and pulleys. Half the windows in my house were replaced in the '90's (by a former owner) with expensive vinyl for the sake of "energy efficiency/low maintenance." Those windows are now failing and will need replacing–so more money and waste in the landfill–How is this good for the environment?. Meanwhile the original wooden windows (120 years old) operate beautifully and I don't have condensation forming between the glass. Don't get caught caught up with the hype! It's a vicious cycle.

WordPerfect 5.0 . . . the best word processing program ever . . .
versionized out of existence! I LOVED THIS PROGRAM TOO. I never got with the "What You See Is What You Get" program - it was great to see the coding and be able to do some simple coding.

Whatever happened to Puffed Rice? One of my favorite cereals just vanished from the stores! You can still get Puffed Rice at Kroger's, I go to that store specifically to buy it and get ten bags at a time.

Bob Edwards on NPR.

Yahoo TV. It used to be a good place to search for TV schedule. Now Yahoo TV is useless.

Calvin and Hobbes! Without them the world is a darker place.

Fruit that tasted really good. I would have preferred they keep selling us apples with a few flaws rather than genetically modify them so that they look great but have no taste.


Here are some that weren't mentioned that would be on my list:
  • Bras without hardshell padding - the ones they sell these days stand up all by themselves with no body inside them.

  • "The Original Ginsu Knife" (I've had one for more than twenty years, it cost $3.75, it still is wonderfully sharp) has been brought back but it costs $26 or so with shipping and (kiss of death) has been "improved" so I'm afraid to buy one.

  • Chock Full O'Nuts whole wheat donuts - this one was my aunt's favorite, actually, I mention it in her honor.

  • Woolworths cloth sandals - made in China, lasted for hundreds of miles of walking.

  • People on tv who are aging naturally and have NOT had face lifts.

  • Women on tv who have NOT gotten breast implants.

  • Ben and Jerry's Rainforest Crunch ice cream. My ex-husband complained I would dig the goodies out and then it was "Rainforest Silence."

  • The Ricoh Ripro Jr. copier - I have one which is almost 25 years old and still running but every single part of it is deteriorating. Can't get parts. Made incredibly cheap good looking copies on plain paper.


There were a lot of things on the New York Times site I never knew in the first place so I can't miss them - other things I didn't know had disappeared! Living a long time guarantees there will be lots of things you used to like that you can't get any more.

What do you miss?

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mike does Illustration Friday x 2: "Discovery"

Mike says: I'm trying to work quicker and lay out color faster. I'm happy with the bottom half of the picture.


The pencil pressure in the last frame let me scribble the black over and keep white lines. A fond memory from kindergarten.


Just a pattern that happens to look like the number eight. What I discovered after looking at it is that the same shade of yellow looks different next to red or green.




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Blackbeard does Illustration Friday: "Discovery"

Blackbeard is Zed's half brother. He says of this picture: "I was trying to make something that really showed realistic exploring in the mountains, but as I started getting farther through the project, I sort of fell into a half-color half-black-and-white theme, like the comics."

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Zed does Illustration Friday: "Discovery"


Zed says: "Our intrepid explorer discovered this peg-legged creature in the Land of ViceGrippia."


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Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Discovery"

This is the boat on a 41-cent stamp called "The Settlement of Jamestown." My discovery while doing this was: I should have painted the whole sky before I painted the boat! Trying to paint blue around the boat was an idiotic idea.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

What a relief! One less decision to make.

Extracts from
Toilet-paper dispenser is stingy with the sheets
By Brian Tracey, MSNBC

A toilet-paper dispenser that limits the issue of tissues...

A year in the works, the electronic dispenser is being rolled out to the masses by Kimberly-Clark Corp. The company believes most people will be satisfied with just five sheets — and use 20 percent less toilet paper in the process.

"Most people will take the amount given," says Richard Thorne, director of the company's washroom business. Waxing philosophical, he adds, "People generally in life will take what you give them."

Kimberly-Clark turned to focus groups and years of internal research to determine just how much is right.

Americans typically use twice as much toilet paper as Europeans — as much as an arm's length each pull, Thorne says.


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Hannah: Returns

Hi all,

Sorry for my prolonged absence. I was trying to get myself re-employed, which took up a lot of my spare time and tapped out most of my witty anecdotes. I have now succeeded in re-employment and can do other fun things, not to say that running around in a suit in 95 degree weather in New York City trying to act like a grownup isn't fun.

Okay, one story - I was about to head out to an interview and threw a book into my bag in case they had me waiting for a few minutes. Then I stopped and picked the book out again. I've been working on "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer, which is basically several hundred pages about how bad Mormon fundamentalist polygamists are. While the book is probably inoffensive, I didn't want to risk being thought religiously intolerant while applying for jobs at liberal Jewish organizations. So I put the book back and picked up something else that had been leant to me by the Urban Caballero - something about music, that I'd been meaning to start for days.

The Urban Caballero looked up. "I'm not sure you really want to do that either," he said. And I looked down again, and lo and behold, it was a book about Wagner, with a big old illustration of the raging anti-Semite himself on the cover. Why am I all of a sudden so buried in books about the religiously intolerant?

I settled for "The Working Poor," which might run the risk of making me look a little too goody-goody, but it's still better than Wagner. Sigh. You never know what crazy stuff people will judge you on.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

MIke does Illustration Friday: "Geeky"

Mike writes: This project started with a dream of my efforts to control a little dachshund, then I added half of Frank Stella's picture, "The Marriage of Reason and Squalor" and learned a good geeky term "leet". Great Fun.

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Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Geeky"

I started out to do my own take on "The Bob Principle" (see the original below) which is very geeky, but by the time I was finished it had wandered off in a different direction.




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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Pictures from today's Eno Festival.

I picked up Menticia and her sister today (had to kind of shake them out of bed) and we headed out to the Festival for the Eno. This year's mascot is the chipmunk, as featured in this sand sculpture.

I gave them a tour of the whole park and then set them loose to wander on their own. They were struck (not particularly favorably) by a big boisterous bunch of boomer belly dancers and reported that somebody in the crowd was yelling: "You go, granny!"


For local musicians this is the place to see the folks you haven't seen all year. Each year we get a little older but we're still above ground!


The Fourth of July weekend is always very hot in North Carolina. One year it was so hot at the Eno that the hide glue holding Bob's instruments together started to melt and he had to have all the braces reglued.


So today, as usual, was very hot. This caused me some embarrassment in our last number - my clavicle and chin were so sweaty the violin slipped a few inches and I missed a measure or two. Bob looked at me in horror but I hitched it back up and finished the tune with him.

These pictures were taken by mo pair (he does not capitalize his name), a singer-songwriter from Austin Texas who is couchsurfing at my house. He's on his way to Quebec, playing wherever he can. He was gonna go walk around Chapel Hill today but I dragged him to the Eno instead, saying "for you to come all this way and be here, fortuitously, the weekend of this festival and NOT GO TO IT would be like me being in (looked down at his Kerrville Folk Festival t-shirt) whatever town the Kerrville Folk Festival is in and passing it up in favor of feeding pigeons."

After the Pratie Head set, I fed Menticia and her sister (we had French crepes, Greek souvlaki, Polish sausage, and good old American ribbon fries); we marvelled over the lovely crafts, took in a bit more music, then I drove them home and am currently collapsed, enjoying A/C.

mo is still at the Eno, he's going to come back here via the Zedmobile after Zed finishes his volunteer stint cutting up and serving a boatload of watermelons (ie, the melons are chilling in a canoe full of ice stationed next to his booth).

.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Why we like to play for parties.

Bob and I want to get more wedding and party gigs, we've decided this is the life. You show up on time and that's half the battle - it's not your problem whether there's an audience or not, you can't take it personally - you don't have to sell your music or give introductions - everybody is in a good mood and disposed to enjoy the tunes - the food is usually good - we can practice stuff we're just learning - in sum, in some ways better than a concert.

Tonight we played and sang Scottish music for a 40th wedding anniversary. It was held at a huge house with a lovely back yard on a lake. I guess because this was a fairly Scottish crowd, there were a lot of strawberry blonds of all ages.

Approximately a dozen dogs were also in attendance, ranging in size from a huge puffy round one (Hannah used to call these 'table dogs' because they're so broad in the beam you can balance things on them) to little bitty ones being carried around by toddlers. One dog was wearing a ruffled taffeta outfit. There was also a horse, which had been washed for the occasion.

One guest looked familiar, but it took me a few minutes to remember who he was: Robert (Ricky) Weiss, Artistic Director of the Carolina Ballet. I'd met him a couple times when Terry Teachout came to town and took me to his productions.

Ricky told me Terry once sprained his thumb in this very backyard playing volleyball. (It was hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea of Terry playing volleyball, but then I remembered that at my house he picked up a paintbrush and knew how to use it. He's a man of many abilities.)

After we'd played an hour of Scottish music, we decided to play a Polish waltz we'd brought along. To our astonishment, a Polish couple suddenly materialized out of the crowd, and the husband said: "This was my mother's favorite song," and he sang along as we played.

The party finished with cake and champagne. Our hosts brought us both, and told us we were great and played exactly what they'd hoped for. Hah!

Tomorrow we'll be at the Festival for the Eno at 12:15. The musician following us on the Grove Stage is John McCutcheon, famous around my house because I've cued up the first track on his "Howjadoo" cd, a perfect birthday song, just after cutting every single birthday cake baked in my house during the past 23 years. "Rubber Blubber Whale," on the same cd, is one of my favorite songs of all time.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Nobody ever died using Dixie cups and a string.

Extracts from
Man Killed By Exploding Mobile Phone
Wednesday July 04, 2007


Welder Xiao Jinpeng was working at the Yingpan Iron Ore Dressing Plant in the western province of Gansu.

According to a local official, the Motorola phone in Mr Jinpeng's chest pocket suddenly exploded.

He died at a nearby hospital after emergency treatment failed.

Motorola said it was "highly unlikely" that one of the company's products was to blame - and suggested the dead man might have been using a fake phone or battery.

The force of the explosion broke his ribs, and fragments of bone pierced his heart.


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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My wonderful trip to the Orange County Landfill

While Judy was on her solo bike trip across eastern Colorado and Kansas she lent me her truck. I had an ecstatic visit to the dump with Zed, who can't understand why I enjoyed it so much. I'm not going to try and justify my glee, nor am I going to parse my ability to compartmentalize and thus temporarily disregard the bumpersticker that warns dolefully, "Don't throw anything away, there IS no away" - I'll just say it was beyond enjoyable to get a bunch of rusty/useless things off my property - including a rug the kids and I bought for $10 about seven years ago from a college kid (imagine how bad a rug has to be if a college kid is unloading it) and installed in the studio to protect the floor from Hannah's riotous dance parties (which were so spectacular they featured a disco ball).

It's like running a gauntlet to achieve successful unloading at the dump. Not just anybody can dump. It's almost as hard as getting a passport or a replacement social security card.
  • First you have to pass the test to be considered worthy to get a dump ticket - reputable citizens of our county can dump household items for free, but only under very strict and narrow provisions;

  • Then you have to pass under the eagle eye of the guy who sits next to the scale. Woe to you if you haven't tarped your load sufficiently - the guys ahead of us in line had to pull over, unload all their trash, dig out a tarp from someplace, and start all over. Also, you are also subject to "random spot inspections" to see if you are trying to dump disallowed items. Finally

  • After wending your way over twisting dirt roads to the one tiny slope where dumping is permitted, you have to dump while the on-site sentry/enforcer watches every single thing you eject. He would, I'm sure, have insisted we put something BACK in the truck if it weren't deemed worthy.

Then we got back in line at the weigh station and paid for a load of mulch. As you saw above, there is lots of mulch, no danger of running out. I was delirious with distress to see that our truck was too small to hold the entire scoop - some spilled on the ground.

I thought about asking the guy to save it there and I'd come back for the rest, but I knew he'd think I was a crackpot.


We drug it home and I unloaded the first load and it was all so much fun I went back and got another scoop (minus the same tragic overflow) and then Zed unloaded that one.

And then I washed the truck, out in the yard, and then I did this painting of it (my second still-life) and then we took it back to Judy's house and went out to dinner. What a satisfactory situation.


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If these idiots would just take the bus.


I wish there were more busses to take - my closest bus is an hour+ walk away.

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A NEW new lightbulb that lasts forever?

Extracts from
Everlasting light
An environmentally friendly bulb that may never need changing

From economist.com, June 19th 2007

The traditional incandescent lightbulb is a dud. It wastes electricity, radiating 95% of the energy it consumes as heat rather than light. Its life is also relatively short, culminating in a dull pop as its filament fractures.

Now a team of researchers has devised a lightbulb that is not only much more energy efficient. It also lasts, in effect, forever — that is, it is expected to last longer than the devices into which it is inserted.

The trick to a longer life, for lightbulbs at least, is to ensure that the lamp has no electrodes. [Electrodes wear out.]

[The new system] uses microwaves to transform electricity into light... The light is bright, and the process is energy efficient. Indeed, while traditional lightbulbs emit just 5% of their power as light, and fluorescent tubes about 15%, the Ceravision lamp has an efficiency greater than 50%.

Because the lamp has no filament, the scientists who developed it think it will last for thousands of hours of use—in other words, decades.

Another environmental advantage of the system is that it does not have to use mercury. The metal is highly toxic and is found in most of the bulbs used today, including the energy-saving bulb, fluorescent tubes and the high-pressure bulbs used in projectors.

Its developers reckon it should be cheap to make.

With lighting accounting for some 20% of electricity use worldwide, switching to a more efficient system could save not only energy but also on emissions of carbon.


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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Twisted"

I tried to modernize the "Book of Kells" type illumination which you'll see below. As I made the, uh, beings fatter and fatter, the 'tails' didn't really look like tails any more.


Note the original size of this illustration. It was copied by George Blain for his book, "Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction."


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Mike does Illustration Friday: "Twisted"


Click for larger view. Mike, who is now a docent at the local lemur center, writes: "These began as mouse lemurs but ended as sportive lumurs with long legs. I have more illustrations at SciAnimation.com."

NOTE: If you're coming from Illustration Friday, I got the thumbnails mixed up. Mike's is Zed's and vice versa. Sorry!

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Zed does Illustration Friday: "Twisted"

I'm glad Zed joined us at the table today. NOTE: If you're coming from Illustration Friday, I got the thumbnails mixed up. Mike's is Zed's and vice versa. Sorry!


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More giant cheese

Yes, it's another giant cheese. 700 pounds of cheddar carved into a replica of Mount Rushmore by Troy Landwehr, who was, as you may be able to guess by close inspection of this publicity photo, commissioned by Cheez-It snack crackers.

Previous giant cheeses at Pratie Place: the Mammoth Cheese of Ontario: made for the 1893 World Expo, it took 207,200 pounds of milk, one day's milk from 10,000 cows. It was six feet high and 28 feet in circumference.When the cheese was fully packed, its shipping weight was 26,000 pounds (13 tons). (Click the link to see a picture of what's left.)

Also, Jefferson's Cheese: "The finished cheese was ungainly: more than four feet in diameter, thirteen feet in circumference, weighing 1,235 pounds, it would have sunk into muddy spring roads. Therefore it was decided to make delivery in winter, by sled and boat. ... 'By the time it reached Baltimore, the ripening cheese, now nearly six months removed from the cows, was strong enough to walk the remaining distance to Washington.'"

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