Archive for November 19th, 2006
Kevin Kelly points out this helpful resource on the Web: the Cook’s Thesaurus. Search on the ingredient you’re lacking, and it will suggest substitutes.
I didn’t know about these. I’m not a baker, but I have baker readers. Take a look.
is its heavy reliance on stupid politics. I don’t mean just, say, George W. Bush and James Inhofe. I mean, for example the GOP of Texas, who are determined to deliver the Hispanic vote to Democrats for decades to come, as well as charging full-tilt against the US Constitution, pesky document that conservative Texans seem to think that it is.
Via Alert Reader, this video by Lasse Gjertsen, who (in the video) plays drums and piano, though in fact he can play neither. The sounds are the actual audio from the original video tape. He “simply” worked with snippets of the tape until he created this little piece. Amazing.
Read this wonderful little essay by Natalie Angier, who won the Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting as a science writer for The New York Times. She is the author of Natural Obsessions,The Beauty of the Beastly, Woman: An Intimate Geography, and the forthcoming The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science.
You’ll probably enjoy it more if you don’t have supernatural beliefs, since she comes down solidly on the side of science and the natural—more solidly, it turns out, than most scientists, dependent as they are on grants. Sample:
Consider the very different treatments accorded two questions presented to Cornell University’s “Ask an Astronomer” Web site. To the query, “Do most astronomers believe in God, based on the available evidence?” the astronomer Dave Rothstein replies that, in his opinion, “modern science leaves plenty of room for the existence of God . . . places where people who do believe in God can fit their beliefs in the scientific framework without creating any contradictions.” He cites the Big Bang as offering solace to those who want to believe in a Genesis equivalent and the probabilistic realms of quantum mechanics as raising the possibility of “God intervening every time a measurement occurs” before concluding that, ultimately, science can never prove or disprove the existence of a god, and religious belief doesn’t—and shouldn’t—”have anything to do with scientific reasoning.”
How much less velveteen is the response to the reader asking whether astronomers believe in astrology. “No, astronomers do not believe in astrology,” snarls Dave Kornreich. “It is considered to be a ludicrous scam. There is no evidence that it works, and plenty of evidence to the contrary.” Dr. Kornreich ends his dismissal with the assertion that in science “one does not need a reason not to believe in something.” Skepticism is “the default position” and “one requires proof if one is to be convinced of something’s existence.”
In other words, for horoscope fans, the burden of proof is entirely on them, the poor gullible gits; while for the multitudes who believe that, in one way or another, a divine intelligence guides the path of every leaping lepton, there is no demand for evidence, no skepticism to surmount, no need to worry. You, the religious believer, may well find subtle support for your faith in recent discoveries—that is, if you’re willing to upgrade your metaphors and definitions as the latest data demand, seek out new niches of ignorance or ambiguity to fill with the goose down of faith, and accept that, certain passages of the Old Testament notwithstanding, the world is very old, not everything in nature was made in a week, and (can you turn up the mike here, please?) Evolution Happens.
Not Jewish-American Princess, but Just Another Politician—willing to say anything, take any position, to get elected. No principles, no convictions, no beliefs that he will not immediately abandon for the main chance. From ThinkProgress:
Here’s McCain in the San Francisco Chronicle:
“I’d love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.”
That was then. And now? Go see.
And of course we have McCain not liking Jerry Falwell before he suddenly discovered that he liked Jerry Falwell very much.
What a typical GOP putz.
Recently I touted The Reader Over Your Shoulder, by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, as the basis for a perfect course on editing your prose, lacking only a workbook, which I provided (in the post) as a download file.
This morning, thinking again about writing prose, I recalled something I long ago learned: that good prose uses transitive verbs in the active voice, something the British know and Americans don’t,
Transitive verbs have objects: “hit,” “use,” “discover”.
The active voice produces a sentences built from subject-verb-object: “He hit the ball.” Passive voice puts the object of the verb as the subject of the sentence: “The ball was struck sharply,” allowing the actor to vanish.
Americans also like to convert verbs into nouns, since American writing is based on nouns rather than verbs. Americans then try to spruce things up with adjectives and adverbs. The result: limp, dead prose.
Americans have someone “perform an analysis”; the British have someone “analyze (something)”. Americans love the verb “to be” in all its forms; the British like verbs of action.
When you next edit some prose you’ve written, try revising it so that it has as many transitive verbs as possible, used in the active voice. And look at whether any of the nouns you’ve used can better be cast as verbs. Then compare the two passages: the original and the revised.
Seymour Hersh weighs in on the question of whether Bush, flailing around in desperation, will launch an attack on Iran. It’s an awful thought, but Bush (and Cheney) seem perfectly capable of it. They have already demonstrated that, continuing their “stay the course” “strategy” in Iraq, they don’t care what the public thinks. And Bush hates to carry things out, but loves to start them. Condi is and will ever be a lightweight, not a counterbalance. Powell is gone.
The possibilities are not good. One, the military might simply refuse, judging Bush to be (mentally, professionally, clinically) incompetent, triggering a constitutional crisis of the ugliest sort. Two, the attack may be launched, with all the follow-through from the Iranians, Iraqis, and Muslims of the world, against the US, giving Homeland Security, that blundering and short-sighted colossus, something important to do, something of which it’s totally incapable: actually protecting the US.
I’m sure other things might happen, particularly the least expected.
UPDATE: And check out this TV interview with Seymour Hersh.
UPDATE 2: And the American Enterprise Institute, home of the nutcase neo-cons, is already beating the drums to bomb Iran. Neo-cons have trouble learning. More on this tomorrow.
Today I’m making a nice big bean salad, which will serve for several meals. I’ll whip out to Whole Foods to pick up some pitted Saracena olives—I get a quart at a time, since they’re useful in so many things. Maybe some crumbled feta this time. I have the bacon, and I’m going to do that artichoke hearts cooked in bacon fat again. Oh, need to get a couple of avocados, too. And some chicken broth and kamut, for the grain component.
If it’s still in the air, it’s a meteor. Once it hits the ground, it’s a meteorite. I suppose that hitting the car marks the meteor-meteorite transition, so it’s a hard call. The thought occurs in the context of filling out the form for your car-insurance company, and making sure that your policy covers damages by meteors/meteorites.
Sunday is a no-shave day, so I can better enjoy Monday’s shave. And I have an idea that I’m eager to try. Loading a wet brush with shaving cream is a minor irritant: the wet brush tends to skid across the surface of the cream (most of which are stiffish) rather than picking up any cream, and the water from the brush threatens to dilute the cream. Dipping out a bit for the lathering bowl, brush, or cheek is messy and interrupts the flow.
So here’s my idea: beard, freshly washed, is wet. Rub the tips of a dry brush across the shaving cream. The dry brush will, at least in my imagination, rub off an appropriate charge of cream.
Use the brush to massage the cream vigorously into the wet beard. This will produce a lather, though one that’s too dry. Wet the tips of the brush with hot water, and continue to work the lather, wetting the brush as needed until the lather is properly formed and wet. Voilà!
Now, of course, I must try it to see whether it will work. And Monday is a shaving stick day (Mocha Java again), so Tuesday is the earliest possibility. I think I’ll use Taylor’s inestimable Avocado shaving cream.