Monday, December 5, 2011

Arab Spring

Thanks to the Very Short List site, I was clued in to the very beautiful portraits that Spanish photographer Miguel Ángel Sánchez  shot in Cairo during Arab spring and I thought I would pass the favor on to you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

pepper spray

Just in case you are one of the few people who haven't seen the nonviolent protesters at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed without cause, you can watch it here. Non-Californians might assume that all of these university campuses are alike and for Davis, read Berkeley, but Davis is an ag school, and in some ways, pretty conservative. They were showing support for other university students at Berkeley. This is what solidarity got them.

I really don't get what the agenda was here. In the days of Bull Connor, it was the press that caught the image of people being bowled over with the intense stream from fire hoses. Today, we don't need the press to capture such moments. Everybody,and I do mean everybody, has a camera. Don't these people know that?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Near Miss

First shot of the asteroid that didn't it us just now...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Free Rice

This one is almost too virtuous to be called a time waster, even if it's a great way to squander time. It's called Free Rice, and you just take a lot of multiple choice questions on vocabulary words, and each one you get right donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food program. Sure, there are probably easier ways to donate money, but none are going to improve your vocabulary as much. It starts out easy but the better you are at it, the harder the words get. Let's just say I have a ways to go before I'd be anything like cheating.

And if you're really good at English, you can always do it in another language...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Islands of Britain, with Martin Clunes

I happened upon this three part documentary by chance, but I'm just loving this tour of the islands of Britain. There are a lot more of them than I ever knew. Clunes is the most delightful of celebrity investigators, and nothing like the uptight doctor on the show that has probably made his name here, Doc Martin.

I think you (and I) can watch Islands of Britain HERE , and probably some other places.   

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The scale of the universe, graphically rendered

Cool site effectively representing the scale of things from very, very large to very, very small.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The World, Occupied

Just read a nice piece in Truthout on the worldwide spread of Occupy Wall Street HERE.

There are some funny or slightly ironic moments in it though...

 “We thought they were going to stay down on Wall Street,” said Sandi Bernard — who is 59 and was visiting from Waldorf, Md. — while wondering if she would have trouble making the 8 p.m. curtain call for “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”

Yes, the link is in the original.

"Brief clashes were reported in London, where the police were out in force with dozens of riot vans, canine units and hundreds of officers. But the gathering, attended by people of all ages, was largely peaceful, with a picnic atmosphere and people streaming in and out of a nearby Starbucks."

Because Starbucks isn't corporate or anything nefarious like that.

"The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, made an appearance when a crowd assembled in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. To loud cheers, Mr. Assange called the protest movement “the culmination of a dream.”"

Sort of a Second Coming, really.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street--some faces begin to emerge from the mass

I'm more observing the Occupy Wall Street movement than taking a stand, although I'm more or less on the same side. But one thing that's interesting to me in the media portrayal of the whole thing is this kind of impression that it's just a kind of cry in the wilderness. You'd never think that there are people out there on the street who have given governance and citizenship a good deal of thought. An informed citizenry, I think they call it. Like this guy:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Want to Play Oxford Fortune Cookie

I am not on Twitter. Not that I'm against it--not even to the degree I'm resistant to Facebook. I just had to draw a line somewhere in this social media driven world.

But if I was to change my mind right now, it would be in order to play Oxford Fortune Cookie. If you decide to give it a go, be sure and report back the results.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Not so little Dorrit, and cool Nonviolent tactics

I don't actually know if anyone reads this blog, but that's all right--all the more reason to put in whatever things I think are great, regardless of audience. I have to say that Rachel Maddow's show was smokin' hot tonight, and I have not one but two videos to share here, provided I can find them.  

The first is about what happened in Iceland when the wife of the president, Dorrit Moussieff,  made an unexpected move when faced with the countries protesters:

The second has to do with how protesters at Occupy Wall Street got around the ban on bullhorns. They used what is being called, "the people's mic", in which the speaker speaks and the crowd around repeats his words so that a larger crowd can hear it. Free speech in action, people.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Book, the Novel--past, present and future

By chance, I've read three oddly related articles in the past couple of weeks.

The first is on the historical evolution of books and how the codex is the form that lent itself to thenonlinear readingp reading of the novel, while the ebook, not so much.

The second has to do with how one of the first modern novels, if not the first, Don Quixote, shaped the way the Western world saw itself, giving us the ability to believe what we read and not believe it simultaneously.

And finally, a present day chronicler demonstrates what good fiction does .

Not that I needed convincing.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A word from Kimberly Davis on her brother Troy

You can find the petition to spare his life HERE .

Monday, September 12, 2011

Shouldn't We Fix These Bridges?

I know it's Rachel Maddow, but it doesn't really seem like a political question, or, indeed a hard one to answer...

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

One World

The image of earth from space is magnificent. I remember hearing more than one person that I respected positing that being able to see that we all inhabit the same planet would have the effect of making us feel the unity of our life on earth. Sadly, I don't think it has necessarily panned out that way.

Maybe the problem is that the view from space, that image on the Whole Earth Catalog, for instance, doesn't actually show any people. This video from Kiva, the microlending brokerage, showing the interaction between lenders and borrowers paying back is a bit more dynamic. Maybe it will help our understanding.

Intercontinental Ballistic Microfinance from Kiva Microfunds on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I can't remember where I found out about this, but in any case this new font for dyslexics, designed by a dyslexic guy, is pretty cool.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Things You Never Knew You Could Do With a Ukulele--Jake Shimibukuro

Visited my sisters this last week, and one of them has a growing interest in the uke. This is one of the many reasons why. As she said, do watch it all the way through before judging it as merely a nice instrumental arrangement...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Happy World: Burma, the Dictatorship of the Absurd

I found this at Slate Magazine. I've been interested in Burma since the monsoon, but also since reading a really interesting graphic novel called Burma Chronicles, by Guy DeLisle. This documentary is definitely in the same spirit.

Happy World - Burma, the dictatorship of the absurd from Happy World on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' like you've never seen it before

This film came to light through author John McFetridge on Adrian McKinty's Psychopathology of Everyday Life blog. The post was about whether singing was a proper occupation for grown men. After watching this video, I know you'll agree with me--of course they should.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Crowd

I like this article by Louis René Beres on America and the crowd from the Oxford University Press. I don't think things are quite as bad as that, but one should never underestimate my naivete. 

Anthem of summer, circa 1963

This chart topping song takes me right back to childhood, even though Allan Sherman's "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" was about as close as I ever got to summer camp.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Better Book Titles

My friend and former coworker Zack Ruskin is currently featured at this website, where they take famous book titles and make them, uh, better ...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kiva, and Beirut

I posted a version of this to Brian O'Rourke's blog post called Promote Whatever You Want awhile ago, but had some new thoughts on it, so thought I'd repost it here. It couldn't hurt.

I got interested in participating in, an umbrella group for microlending, a year or so ago. The way Kiva works is this. There are a lot of groups out there right now offering loans to some of the poorest people of the world. The loans are small (from our perspective) and through Kiva, you can support them for very little. You pick a person or a group who you'd like to support and shell up a whopping 25 dollars. That's it. (Well, there is a small administrative fee, but you can opt out of that if you want.) Grouped together with a lot of other people with similar intention, suddenly a small loan of a few thousand dollars becomes a possibility to people who would never have a chance with the traditional lending mechanisms.

Once the loan is paid back, the money is yours again. You can reinvest it in a new loan, or take it back.

You can choose the type of group you want to support, the kind of risk you want to take, and so on.

In recent weeks, I've gotten involved with one of the Kiva teams, which I learned about through the Kiva newsletter. Basically, this group emphasizes funding the loans which are about to expire soon, which means they reach the end of a thirty day period without being fully funded. Most of the time, the loans have been predispersed, so it's not like these individual borrowers won't get the loans, but it does nothing good for the viability of the field partners who broker these loans.

And the reason the loans aren't the most popular has nothing to do with whether they're good enough. It's that they aren't 'sexy' enough. The collectives, and particularly collectives of women get funded pretty sharpish. Nothing against that, of course. But men, and particularly lone men in the Middle East, don't. So lately, most of my loans have gone to small shopkeepers and the like in Lebanon. A fellow team member reminded us that twenty years ago, Beirut, the 'Paris of the East' was in ruins after the war, and urged us to help those who lost everything and had to start from scratch. She included a link to this You Tube by the Lebanese singer Fayrous, which shows pictures of Beirut today. The one that came up after, at least for me, has the same song, but shows what the place was like after all the bombing. The lyrics follow.

To Beirut

A greeting from my heart to Beirut
kisses to the sea and to the houses
to a rock, which is like an old sailors face
She is made from the peoples soul..from wine
She is from his sweata bread and Jasmins
So how does her taste become? A taste of fire and smoke

Glory from the ashes to Beirut
My city has turned out her lamp
From the blood of a child carried upon her hand
She shut her door, and became alone in the sky
Alone with the night
You are mine, you are mine
Ah Hug me you are mine
You are my flag, tomorrow stone
And a travels waves
The wounds of my people have blossomed
And mothers tear
You are mine, you are mine
Ah hug me

But you can fund whoever you want. Lately, Kiva is starting to get involved in funding small borrowers in the U.S. as well. Anyway, check it out. What's the worst that can happen?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Santa Cruz--street music scene

Sometimes posting here is just a tad too easy. My web service provider  posted a link to this twitter video:

Thirteen year old tabla virtuoso

which in turn led to this one:

The Dusty Porch Orchestra

The kid was playing not fifty yards from the front of our store, and the string band is right outside the New Leaf market. I passed these last on my way to the bus this very evening. The videos are courtesy one Andrew Mueller, who I do not happen to know.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Requiem for a dream

Rachel Maddow had a segment analyzing the history and ultimate failure to pass The Dream Act, which was supposed to help people who came into this country as kids but through no fault of their own are illegal aliens. Sometimes this kind of stuff is kind of abstract, so she followed it with this segment of an outstanding individual who had been caught in this same dilemma:

I think the parallels to the more traditional coming out story were strong and well used to illustrate the point, and both Maddow and her guest, Jose Antonio Vargas had some reason to understand that. The website that they mention is   Define America .

Friday, June 24, 2011

Brazil--Where the Nuts Come From

That's not an aspersion on Brazil, that's a line from the famous comedy, Charlie's Aunt. And even though it's going to hurt my own chances of winning a trip there, I thought I'd put up a mention of this great contest the Union of Concerned Scientists are hosting. Take a look at their Climate  Hot Map (on their site, not this one) and then answer the questions here

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Khan Academy

Although I haven't really gotten on to watching The Colbert Report the way so many have, I did just watch several in a row last night, and came across this fascinating project. Salman Khan, who is one of those Ivy League smarties who ended up on Wall Street in hedge funds, began by offering his young relatives some short YouTubes on subjects he had already mastered, like physics and chemistry. The YouTubes spiraled, and Khan went on to make short segments on a variety of other topics, until there are currently 2100 such segments. The videos are all free and packed with content, have been funded by Bill Gates' foundation, and are already making their way as supplementary materials into school curricula.

So if there's maybe a subject or two that you slacked off on at school, here's your second chance. You will find the Khan Academy here.

And here's Colbert's interview with Khan:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Santa Cruz Boardwalk this past weekend

What can I say? I'm a sucker for flash mobs, and now one has hit my home turf...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Michael Shermer's Baloney Detection Kit

In trying to learn a bit more about the word 'quantum' today, I came across the video, which should stand us all in good stead, I think.

Personally, I think there are limits to the scientific mindset, but I think we need to at least have its methodology in mind before we claim to shatter them.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Around the World

I admit I got this off the twitter feed from my internet service provider. A photographer takes pictures of the earth from space. You can see it all in a slideshow, but you may as well start here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Songs of Innocence and Experience--Pete Townshend

I never was very with it musically. So I didn't catch on to The Who on their first go round--it remained for my youngest sister to give me the heads up. She and her friend actually went to England on a Who tour of their own devising. But thanks to her, I caught on to this early version of a song I liked.

It was purely by chance that many years later, I caught on to the same song after  Pete Townshend had processed it through succeeding years of experience and rendered it thus.

I like them both.

Very much.

Thank you, Pete. And thank  you, Jules of the World.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Century of Disasters

I liked this new piece on Slate stemming from the current crop of disasters, which seemed exceptionally balanced in its approach.

In the same way that the 20th century was the century of world wars, genocide, and grinding ideological conflict, the 21st will be the century of natural disasters and technological crises and unholy combinations of the two. It'll be the century when the things that we count on to go right will, for whatever reason, go wrong.

Gloomy, but admit it--weren't you already beginning to suspect it? Read on if you want to put the whole situation into some kind of larger perspective.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hat Trick

Haven't had a game up here for awhile, so...

How's your aim?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Baby belugas

I don't usually feature ads, even for nonprofit organizations, but following my deep sea theme, I thought some people might enjoy seeing these baby whales--while they still can...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Inside a Fish's Head

I got this from the Care2 website, but turns out that it's out of the aquarium just the other side of the bay from me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"A Constant Palimpsest of the Day Before"

The Guardian posted this little film about video artist Mark Wallinger and his project of making a cinema/camera obscura overlooking a channel with a whole lot of history...

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Pierley/Redford Dissociative Affect Test, or Just Another Personality Test.

Another Very Short List find. Here's what they say:

"But the pictures are pretty, and weirdly disturbing, and so you find yourself clicking through all 20 questions. When you’re done, you get a short, specific thumbnail sketch of your personality type. That’s where the real fun begins: What did those questions mean, and add up to? And how did they get so far under your skin? You can take the test multiple times, clicking quickly and intuitively, or slowing way down to puzzle out the “correct” answers. Either way, you’ll end up wondering: Is it a pretty parlor trick? Or a real window into your deeper, darker self?"

Start HERE...

Friday, April 8, 2011

John Rafman's The Nine Eyes of Google Streetview

After my rather text heavy last post, this one may come as a kind of antidote. Learned of this through the so very often intriguing Very Short List. I'm taking you right to the images, but you'll find plenty about them if you click on the weird contraption at the top of the page...

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Thanks to the meditative post at Reader's Almanac (the blog of the Library of America)about Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener, I was led further afield to a piece by Ben Kafka about Bartleby and also some other copyists in the work of Flaubert at Lapham's Quarterly. The print version is a beautifully illustrated journal which each quarter takes up a new theme, usually carried down through the ages. This time around it is "Work", and the journal is worth finding for the many angles it pursues the basic idea from. This thoughtful piece about the nature of paperwork, which occupies so many of us can be read on line, where it is presented in its entirety.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Scriptfrenzy, 2011

Okay, just a quick note to mention that April is among other things, the month that Scriptfrenzy hits town. Write a hundred pages in April. There are all kinds of scripts and all kinds of formats you can do this in. At the very least ,check out the plot machine. It's fun.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What to do in an emergency--or maybe not

I don't actually know who reads this blog apart from a couple of people who have probably already seen it over on Adrian McKinty's blog, but because it is so incredibly great, I'll post this feat of heroism here anyway. It's pretty darn inspiring.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why Can't We Go Straight?

File this under life's little mysteries...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Parasitic mind control

Yesterday, somewhat typically, I walked in a bit late to this weekly discussion group I go to. It's usually pretty free form, so I didn't know if we would be talking about Japan, or Wisconsin or Libya this week. But instead we had a biologist from up at the university speaking and as I came in, he was talking about parasitic mind control and other ways that bacteria and other parasites use their hosts as servants of their own survival ends. One way they do this is parasitic mind control. The following is an example which he told us to google. So I did.

Crickets can't swim well and normally don't like water. But when invaded by this worm, which is large enough to take up most of their inner body, they find themselves compelled to leap into water against their own needs. This is why:

The cricket presumably dies, and the worm goes on to breed anew. Ah, our natural world...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Another recommendation from the always intriguing Very Short List.

You could call Mitoza a game, but it's not really that, especially if you expect to win. I'm not entirely sure that there isn't a winning combination, but it hardly matters. Check it out. You'll see what I mean.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

One more thing you can't do with your Kindle

(Thanks to Cory Doctorow via Voice of Reason at Chicklit Forums for passing this along...)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cezanne's Card Players

A very good short slideshow on Cezanne's card players can be found on Slate today.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Revenge of the anti-Foodie

I just happened to catch a B.R. Myers rant against Foodie culture in the Atlantic today. Now, I'd be the first to admit that I am not classy enough to be a Foodie, but I've certainly known some and profited by that knowledge over the years in the form of a lot of great meals. But I did enjoy Myers' take on all this. As is usually the case with his rants and manifestos, he goes too far, but I have to say I didn't mind him taking Michael Pollan and Alice Waters down a peg or two. Too popular for their own good around these parts...

Myers is a great seer througher of things, and if you haven't read him, you should really take a look .

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Welcome to Missisauga

My sister sent this to me:

I don't know whether this does more credit to women, Canadians, octogenarians, or the fiscally responsible. I salute you all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fab Feb Film Fest

Let's face it, February is going to suck. After these glorious January weeks on the West Coast, February is bound to be wet and miserable again, and it will probably be worse where you are. Sure, you've got Valentine's Day, for all of you who like chocolate, and for the few left in the work force who aren't in the service sector, you've got those February holiday weekends. (Go buy something at your neighborhood independent bookstore, or independent anything. Oh, yeah--we'll be open.) But really, what better use of bad weather and a few extra hours than to write a story?

If you think the prospect sounds interesting, as I do, check out At the Bijou. From what I can tell the requirements are pretty liberal, and from my last couple of months of entering these kinds of things, it is all pretty darn fun.

Uh, could anyone give me my prompt?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Up to the Mountain

My friend Susan was hoping to play this piece by Patty Griffin at work today in honor of Martin Luther King, but technical difficulties prevailed. I came home and listened to the You Tube piece, and thought I'd share it. Of course, MLK day is almost over by now, but in a sense this is the kind of thing that it's never to late to listen to.

The sound isn't synced to the image apparently, but just shut your eyes if that bothers you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Judge not, lest...

As a public service, I thought I'd pass along this link that Slate magazine mentioned today. It is the essay the Susan Klebold wrote about her son Dylan, who was one of the Columbine shooters. She wrote it for Oprah's magazine, after declining many interviews. It is eloquent and haunting. We hope that the parents of deranged and violent people will indicate that they in some way are to blame. Certainly they are sometimes the reason. But as seems true here, this is not always and perhaps not even often the case:  

"His adolescence was less joyful than his childhood. As he grew, he became extremely shy and uncomfortable when he was the center of attention, and would hide or act silly if we tried to take his picture. By junior high, it was evident that he no longer liked school; worse, his passion for learning was gone. In high school, he held a job and participated as a sound technician in school productions, but his grades were only fair. He hung out with friends, slept late when he could, spent time in his room, talked on the phone, and played video games on a computer he built. In his junior year, he stunned us by hacking into the school's computer system with a friend (a violation for which he was expelled), but the low point of that year was his arrest. After the arrest, we kept him away from Eric for several weeks, and as time passed he seemed to distance himself from Eric of his own accord. I took this as a good sign."

Apart from the violent outcome, this could well be a lot of teenagers that I know.

For the Slate piece, and the link through, click here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Puddly Awards

Much as it may hurt my own chances, I can't resist mentioning Powell Books Puddly Awards. Vote for your favorite book and you could win some serious book credit. Find out about it here.