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Monday, December 26, 2011

Rock, Paper, Scissors

I was reading about the Exploratorium's latest After Dark event -- which focuses on Rock, Paper, Scissors -- and I came across the World RPS Society, an organization dedicated to the promotion of the game.  I definitely have to learn more about the people who run this group: I think it's fascinating.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pirates and the Jolly Roger

As a longtime resident of North Carolina, my interest is piqued whenever I hear or read about Blackbeard, the fearsome pirate who terrorized maritime traffic along the state's Outer Banks.  As a kid, I loved the stories of Blackbeard tying lit fuses in his beard, so when he boarded his victims' ships he would strike even more fear in their hearts.  I also really loved Blackbeard's version of the Jolly Roger: the skeleton stabbing a heart seemed extra diabolical, and frankly, very creative.

And so I was heartened to find the following web posting about the Jolly Roger.  Read it and fear the flag!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Philip Hoare and The Whale

The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the SeaThe Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea by Philip Hoare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was very happy with _The Whale._  Like Herman Melville in _Moby-Dick_, Philip Hoare gives a sweeping view of how whales have affected human society.  He also spends a lot of time cataloging the disturbing details of the whaling industry: I was particularly struck by how whalers would use a whale's blubber to fuel the fires that rendered the rest of the animal's fat.  On whaling ships, whales would cook themselves.

Hoare also has a good ear for lush language.  Listen to him on page 290: "And how to convey that magnitude, that mass of whalish flesh, that cavern of ceiling-high baleen?"  If you like natural history, and are partial to poetic prose, this is the book for you.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wonderful Fountain Pens in Boston

Today I stopped into Bromfield Pen Shop, a store in downtown Boston that sells fountain pens, fountain pen ink, and an assortment of watches and knives. In other words, it's one of my favorite places in the Northeast! The front counter had a large assortment of Viscontis, Pilots, Faber-Castells, Watermans, Pelikans and more. A shelf towards the back of the shop was stocked with a wide variety of Noodler's ink -- I resisted buying the ever-cool Antietam Red, for now -- as well as standards like Waterman, Lamy, and Private Reserve. To top it all off, Bromfield sells Mondaine watches and Victorinox pocket knives. I didn't get to spend a lot of time in this wonderland, but the next time I am near Boston Common, I will be sure to stop in again and perhaps leave with a new bottle of something.

I took the following photos with my cell phone. They aren't great, but they'll have to do for now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Religion and Law

While watching C-SPAN, I came across an audio recording of the Supreme Court proceedings for the Hosanna-Tabor vs. EEOC case. Then, I came across a commentary on the case by Stanley Fish. I tend to agree with most of the justices: there's no way to resolve the case without the federal government getting involved in religious doctrine and definitions. Tough situation... In any case, hooray for jurisprudence!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Alfred Hitchcock and Dick Cavett

A few months ago, PBS re-broadcast Dick Cavett's interview with Alfred Hitchcock, and I was lucky enough to watch it. It was one of the most fascinating interviews I have ever seen, and I think the reason is that I could never tell what Hitchcock was thinking. He would crack jokes, and then only crack the tiniest of wry smiles. Or, more often, his face would show no emotion at all. And, I could never really tell whether he was making fun of himself. But, he has amazing insights into film-making and story-telling. Watch the whole thing on YouTube!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Euclid in the Rainforest -- Book Review

Euclid in the Rainforest: Discovering Universal Truth in Logic and MathEuclid in the Rainforest: Discovering Universal Truth in Logic and Math by Joseph Mazur
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really, really wanted to like this book. The table of contents sounded so interesting: infinity! logic! how math pertains to reality! But, the further I got into the book, the more frustrated I became. Each section -- infinity, logic, and reality -- contains several chapters, but it's never clear to the reader how each chapter relates to the overarching theme. Moreover, each chapter itself seemed just like a collection of math-related stories, one after the other, with no obvious link. (I'm sure there *were* links, but I would have had to work to find them.) Also -- and this may seem like a nit-picking critique -- the weak topic sentences really got in the way of my understanding each paragraph. Topic sentences have to set up the rest of the sentences in a paragraph, giving the reader a kind of road map, but these didn't. Arrrrgh! In my opinion, the book should be rewritten under the watchful eye of a careful editor.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Exploratorium recently won yet another design award. Its Tinkering Studio was recognized by Core77, an online design magazine. The Exploratorium is one of my favorite places in the entire world, fusing science, art, design, and the humanities into a breathtaking amalgam of interesting, cool stuff. You can read more about the design award here. To watch some cool Tinkering Studio goodness, click on the embedded video below:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Amazing Antique Typewriters

Salon's Elizabeth Weingarten has written a story about a fantastic collection of old writing machines. I love the look of these old typewriters: they remind me of steampunk objects. It's also interesting to learn about the ancestors of objects that have become common.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Copper Tea Kettle

This morning I came across this fantastic copper tea kettle. I wonder how much it weighs when it's full....

Conklin Fountain Pens

Wow: I really love the old-timey design of the Conklin pen website. Apparently, Mark Twain -- one of my favorite writers -- used a Conklin crescent filler, a pen with (I think) an internal inflatable bladder. When a writer depresses the button on the barrel, the air in the bladder shoots out, creating a vacuum. Then, ink can be siphoned into the pen. Nice.

[Image is from the Conklin website.]

Waterman Fountain Pen and Amazing Handwriting

The blogger Leigh Reyes recently featured an older Waterman fountain pen equipped with a music nib. Seeing beautiful calligraphy like this makes me want to learn more how to get more out of my fountain pens. I might have to invest in a pen with a more flexible nib, though. Namiki Falcon, anyone?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Anger and Patience

From the Daily Dharma website:

"As a destructive force there is nothing as strong as anger. An instant of anger can destroy all the positive action accumulated over thousands of kalpas through generosity, making offerings to the buddhas, keeping discipline, and so on. So we can say that there is no fault as serious as anger.

Patience, on the other hand, as a discipline which neutralizes anger, which prevents us from succumbing to it, and which appeases the suffering we endure from the heat of the negative emotions, is quite unrivaled. It is therefore of the utmost importance that we resolve to practice patience, and a lot of inspiration can be gained by reflecting on what is wrong with anger and on the advantages of patience."

Wise words.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Long Live Ray Harryhausen!

I absolutely love stop-motion animation. Something about it conveys an otherworldliness that CGI can't match.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Origami Yoda

I've never been especially interested in origami, but now that I have watched some of this tutorial, I may take it up.

I'm also curious about how Fumiaki Kawahata came up with this design. In fact, how does anyone invent a new origami in the first place? I am baffled.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Black Ink

Today, my girlfriend and I spent the afternoon in Black Ink, a store in the Beacon Hill region of Boston filled with miscellany (my favorite) and knick-knacks. From graphite pencils to ceramic tea cups to giant metal paper clips, Black Ink was stocked with a bewildering array of items that took about an hour to sift though. My person favorite was a giant glass jar filled with featureless cotton bags with drawstrings, ready to accept stamps, or pennies, or what have you. I love looking through stores like this.

[Photo taken from the Black Ink website]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Photo Essay of Union Station

Here is an amazing photo essay of Los Angeles's Union Station. I have taken some photos of Union Station myself: the architecture inside is beautiful.

Plan 9 from Outer Space

I am so happy that I found the entire Plan 9 from Outer Space on YouTube. This is supposed to be the worst movie ever made. I have watched about half of it so far. It's definitely bad, but also kind of kitschy. You be the judge.

Oreo Cameos

Have you ever considered replicating women's jewelry using cookies? No? Well, one person has, and the result is extraordinary. I would love to see an art gallery filled with these creations.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sony ICF-38 Portable Radio

About five years ago, I was looking for a small radio to bring to work, so I could listen to music while I typed and such. I did a little research, and found that lots of people on Amazon had ranked the Sony ICF-38 very highly. I bought one from a local Target, and wow: it has performed exceptionally. It has great reception, easy controls, and -- to my surprise -- does not eat batteries. (I used to have a Walkman that needed new batteries if its two AAs were left in over night.) Consider: I have had the same batteries in my ICF-38 for maybe four years, and have not needed to replace them. True, I don't play the radio every day, but still: four years is a long time. I recommend this radio highly.

Linus Bikes

While I have been living in Los Angeles, I have seen several people with Linus bikes. Each time I see one of those bikes, I pause and gawk. The bike has simple, clean lines and swept-back handlebars that make it stand out from the crowd of mountain bikes and fixies. I may have to add a Linus to my stable one day.

Newton as Alchemist

Here's a great webpage from NOVA with information about Newton as alchemist. It has some helpful background information about both Newton and alchemy.

Field Notes Steno Pad

I recently bought a Field Notes steno pad. The weight of the paper is perfect, and the surface is smooth enough for a fountain pen. I also love the rough, brown cover. Ah, Field Notes: you know how to woo me.

Sounds of Los Angeles

Here is a list of some of the more annoying sounds I hear outside my window almost every day:

1) The tamale lady yelling each morning, advertising her wares

2) What seems to be a jungle's worth of pet parrots, screeching and hooting

3) The kid who lives next door, whose laugh seems to just be a loud "ha-ha," like in the Simpsons

4) Frequent car alarms

Felix Chevrolet

Near the University of Southern California is Felix Chevrolet, a car dealership with some of the most amazing signs I have ever seen. I don't know the history of this place, but it's one of my favorite locations in Los Angeles.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Koreatown in Los Angeles

I was recently in a Koreatown grocery store, and took these photos. I am definitely going back!

Friday, February 25, 2011

New Posting!

Sorry I've been gone for so long. I have been swamped with school work, and haven't had much free time. (Actually, I don't know if anyone reads this blog, but, for now, I will assume someone does.) I am now in the second semester of my master's program at the University of Southern California, and have begun networking, and looking for jobs and internships. If anyone out there knows of any science writing internships, let me know. I'm trying to stay positive, and assure myself that I am going to make my way in this career. Positive thinking!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stephen Hawking Lecture at Caltech

Last night, I went to a lecture by Stephen Hawking at Caltech. The lecture was scheduled to start at 8pm, and I arrived at around 6:30. The line was already enormous: people near me in the line estimated that the line contained over 1,000 people. The auditorium filled long before I made it to the entrance, so I ended up watching the lecture from outside the auditorium, on flat-screen monitors. The talk itself was lively, and I am very happy I went.

You can read about the event here.