Archive for April, 2005

Bike Month 2005

This post at the Commonspace blog meshes with my recent post. I did not know about Bike Month. I was just excited about my new bike and the great riding opportunities. I rode the Nature Trail, one of the Madison County Transit Trails over on the Ill side, with a couple of friends last weekend. KDHX will have a couple of guests on The Wire Monday at 7:30 PM. The show probably will be available there soon after. The Touring Cyclist, where I bought my bike, will sponsor a St. Louis City Ride Sunday, May 8, 2005.

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Michael M. on April 29th 2005 in General

Ivory-billed woodpecker

The story on Morning Edition about the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in an Arkansas swamp delighted and touched me. It was followed by another story on the future and an interview on its significance. All Things Considered broadcast a commentary. “Woodpecker Thought to Be Extinct Is Sighted in Arkansas” tells the story in The New York Times. It even made a post on Boing Boing.

The actual paper in Science is freely available. Check out the video. Somebody said that the video only truly looked good to experts on the original Morning Edition coverage, and I can understand why. It is just a brief glimpse.

One of the previous searches focused on the lower Pearl River in Louisiana after an LSU student reported seeing a pair. My father was born by the Pearl just up the river into Mississippi. In 2002, a team failed to find one. NPR covered that attempt, too.

I am amazed by how affected I have felt by the rediscovery of a bird. I want to see one even though my better judgment tells me to leave them alone until their numbers are bigger. I remember reading about the ivory-billed woodpecker in science class in elementary or middle school. Among all the topics so foreign, it stood out because its old homeland is mine, too. I have had family there since it was the Old Southwest. Had my forebears known the Lord God bird? I hoped that I might come across one and show that they still exist. I wandered often in the woods although they probably are not old, deep or swampy enough for ivory-billed woodpeckers, but boys daydream.

I hope they come back and learn to eat fire ants.

Update May 3, 2005: I enjoyed this later story in The New York Times.

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Michael M. on April 29th 2005 in General

Mosquitos and Erin Bode

I saw Mosquitos with some disappointment Wednesday. JuJu Stulbach is lovely and animated on stage except for her chain smoking and drug references. Judging from the way she burned through Marlboro Lights, she might get paid to do it, and a little slop in the performance led me to suspect more than references. Her singing was not as clean as it ought to be. She sounded a tad off once in while. When she was on, she was good. Her rendition of “Smile” was great. Most of Mosquitos’ songs have a poppy sound. Chris Root’s singing is nasal. It fit right in with the style and reminded me of They Might Be Giants. Stulbach and Root’s clear affection for one another permeated the show. Sometimes they were sweet, but too much of the band centers on Root’s attempts to impress Stulbach. Although I have offered mostly criticism here, it was a cheap ticket, and I am glad I went.

Jazz at Holmes featured Erin Bode Thursday. She performed rearranged pop songs, jazz standards and originals in a good mix. Her voice is clear and warm. Although she rarely goes for very high notes, she reminded me of Alison Krauss when she did. Her choices included some favorites of mine. I love the Beatles, and she sang a fine “Here, There and Everywhere.” I only wish she had the harmony at the end. The arrangement of “Graceland” was good, too, but the song loses something special without the beautiful slide guitar.

She sang two Brazilian songs! “Corcovado” was the first. In my favorite of the versions I have, the most famous one from Getz/Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto sings the opening in English. Then João Gilberto sings in Portuguese. I wish she had sung some of that song in Portuguese. Later she did sing in Portuguese! There was a João Gilberto song I did not recognize. She sang it well.

Bode has solid control of her voice, but her diction could improve. Although I cannot speak Portuguese, I have heard enough that I think some sounds were missing from her performance. There is a “sh” sound in in many Brazilian songs. I do not know whether it is associated with “ç,” “s,” “ch” or some combination. Sometimes “d” sounds like “j.” The sounds are charming and very beautiful. She did not make them, though. Nevertheless, I was happy with the song and her choice to perform it in Portuguese. Her English diction bothered me in one song. She sang “tree chew” instead of “treat you” on “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You.” I had the habit drummed out of me in junior high school chorus, and from then on, it has bothered me to hear it. It probably is just the stickler in me rearing its nerdy head.

Bode is affable and charming between songs. Besides singing, she speaks well, too, with a voice that is also pleasant and clear, and she avoids meandering and verbal pauses. She lamented not having a joke to tell while one band member tuned his guitar. It was the biggest fault of her audience interaction. She was straightforward with little pretense.

The band’s own songs are solid and good although none of them lept out at me. She played in front of a steady jazz drummer, her husband on upright bass and a swing man who switched among keyboard, piano and acoustic guitar. The utility man’s solos were on. The other two blended well, and though fewer, their solos also came in stride. I would enjoy hearing her with them again.

Going back to iTMS, I wish she had performed “In the Pines,” also called “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” Wonderful versions by Nirvana from their Unplugged concert and Leadbelly are favorites of mine. I love playing and singing it, too. I also wish Bode had sung “If It’s Magic.” Classic Albums: Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life, a documentary that aired on PBS, spurred my interest in Stevie Wonder. It follows a reunion of musicians who played on Songs in the Key of Life. I caught it by chance one night, and I stayed up late to soak it up. Dorothy Ashby, the jazz harpist who played on “If It’s Magic,” died in 1986. Wonder recruited her based on the recommendation of a friend. The song is built on the straightforward idea of singing about love without using the word. Hearing the song live would have been a joy. I am sure Bode would have handled it well.

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Michael M. on April 29th 2005 in General, Live, Music

Exsanguine

Far From the Medical Trenches, It’s O.K. to Laugh” was far less funny than I expected. It is the story of a poor man nearly bleeding to death following a stab wound to his heart.

I missed the joke. Is it his poverty? Is it his lack of insurance? Is it his later visit to the hospital? Was it the bad reactions of the other doctors? Was it the wee hour?

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Michael M. on April 26th 2005 in General

Laser flies

This article about flies controlled by laser beams appeared on /. a while back. A post on Boing Boing noted it, too.

Gero Miesenböck is the principal investigator behind the work. The idea is good. Specially altered ion channels were expressed in specific subsets of neurons. These ion channels lead to depolarization and activity only in the presence of the right ligand. To control them, caged ligands are injected. A light flash causes a chemical reaction to uncage the ligand. It allows excitation of specific subsets of neurons. Miesenböck has a strong history of creating and developing optical techniques for neurobiology.

Watch the movies. The fun result to watch is flies flying following a flash of light.

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Michael M. on April 26th 2005 in General

Young, connected and white

I happened to read this review of Kristin Gore’s novel Sammy’s Hill from a year ago at The New York Times. The headline does not reference her directly. She is “Gore’s Daughter.” The lives of the accidentally famous hold some fascination for me. From this distance, Gore seems talented and able to handle the ready-made attention.

Sammy’s Hill is funny because it evokes main character Samantha Joyce and Uncle Sam. Maybe it is not funny for the same reason. I have not read the book. I doubt I would give any fictional character the surname “Joyce,” especially not in a debut.

The book received a huge share of publicity. I found a review and interview, a review, a review with an excerpt, a story on Morning Edition and one on Fresh Air. Is the book good? Is she simply riding coattails? I have no doubt that her connections help, but she has sustained a writing career. She wrote for television, and however good the book is, she managed to deliver it.

Because the novel is set in Washington in current times, many people have tried guessing who is who. Sarah Bianchi seems like the best choice, and she has not been mentioned. This clip from C-SPAN shows her on a panel discussing health care. I wonder how much she influenced the novel. I never saw her name in dissections of Sammy’s Hill. Health policy was an area of expertise of hers and Sammy’s. She has close ties to the Gore family, having roomed with the eldest child and worked for the father. The Gores nicknamed her “Sarah B” because the family already had a Sarah. The New York Times featured her in “Young and ‘Scary Smart’ Policy Aide Earns Gore’s Ear” on September 4, 2000.

This page claims that The New York Times called her “scary smart.” I remembered the article, and I used my access to Lexis-Nexis to check. Al Gore, Jr. called her “scary smart.” The article headline simply used the quote. It is just a matter of facts. Sometimes they get in the way of a good pitch. I could show you if the archive were not closed.

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Michael M. on April 25th 2005 in General

Apollo 13 anniversary

I enjoyed this story about a banquet honoring the engineers of Apollo 13. Ed Smylie must be a funny man.

“I felt like we were home free,” he said. “One thing a Southern boy will never say is, ‘I don’t think duct tape will fix it.'”

I’ll tell you what. He’s not just whistling “Dixie.”

I found it thanks to this article on /.

By chance, the Glynn S. Lunneys came up here recently.

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Michael M. on April 25th 2005 in General

Ancestry

Race is a favorite topic for me here, and there has been a rash of stories lately. The trend of tracing lineage using genetic techniques is booming. If it cost less, I would do it. There are many loose ends in my background. I would expect a variety of European roots, mostly British with dashes of French and Portuguese, and maybe some non-European ones. “DNA Tells Students They Aren’t Who They Thought” covers students whose ancestries suprised them. Some are predictable, such as mixed European and African, even though the proportions did not follow the students’ expectations. It would be fun to know myself.

Geographic Society Is Seeking a Genealogy of Humankind” covers the broader effort to establish a human family tree, and “Global DNA Project to Study Human Ancestry” at /. points to “DNA project to trace human steps.” Researchers are going for a large family tree for us. They will find a web.

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Michael M. on April 25th 2005 in General

Mosquitos this Wednesday

Mosquitos will play this Wednesday at Blueberry Hill. The group has a Brazilian lead singer named JuJu and two Americans. Brazil has been a favorite topic. I heard about the show on KDHX, my favorite station and the sponsor of the show. Based on what I heard on the radio and at the iTunes Music Store, I expect good music. “Boombox” is very catchy. I liked the videos on the site, too. The price is low. If you live in Saint Louis, go!

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Michael M. on April 25th 2005 in General, Live, Music

Jasper Rine’s stolen laptop

Jasper Rine got his computer ganked. Somebody stole it from a class at Berkeley. This post on Boing Boing leads to photage of his attempt to have the thief come forward. I did not realize that he lied ridiculously throughout his tirade until I read the comments at Engadget. Many of his claims are preposterous. He must have some wicked pr0n on it.

Now he has become a laughing stock. Another post led me to a comic strip making fun of him. He has a history as an object of fun. A silly college band was named after him.

The thief did a bad thing. I hope justice is served and Rine gets his computer, but one ought to meet a wrong with an attempt to right it. Instead, Rine went for lies and dirty scare tactics. “Lies make baby Jesus cry.” I wonder what on that laptop is worth Rine’s credibility. The irony of undermining his standing by touting himself amazes me. Dramatists should be jealous. Treating his students as if he were an elementary school teacher speaking just before recess is less than impressive, too.

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Michael M. on April 24th 2005 in General

Bug pictures

An Insect’s View has wonderful photographs of insects. I have had an interest in entomology for a long time. Boing Boing pointed me to the site.

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Michael M. on April 24th 2005 in General

Fire good

I enjoyed this excellent article about how to make fire using chocolate and a Coke can to create a highly reflective focusing mirror. A post on Boing Boing directed me to it.

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Michael M. on April 24th 2005 in General

STL cycling

A post on another Saint Louis blog reminded me of some cycling frustrations I have encountered. I would have gone to the Mangrove more often. I could not find anywhere to secure my bicycle. It went out of business. I doubt my ice cream purchases could have sustained it, but I would like more businesses and whole business districts to concern themselves with friendliness to cyclists.

Progress is coming. The Saint Louis Regional Bicycle Federation has led it. There are several cycling organizations around here. I have enjoyed several Trailnet rides with friends, and the guides to local courses have helped me find new places to explore. A Bike St. Louis route passes just two blocks from me. It currently amounts only to a few signs and no special lanes or paths here although it is better in other parts of the city. The Confluence Greenway is a project to link many trails in the region. It already is good, and it ought to become fantastic as it progresses. Besides the efforts at creating paths, I have had good experiences using less popular streets for biking although the many cul de sacs and private neighborhoods can pose problems. I am adding the Missouri Bicycle Federation at Bobber‘s suggestion. It acts at the state level where many laws governing biking are made.

My old mountain bike finally died. The gears, the chain and the brakes are all shot. I checked into fixing it a couple of weeks ago, and it would cost less to buy a new, better mountain bike than it would to fix it.

Monday, I got a new bicycle. I had to wait two weeks after ordering it. The deal was good, though. The bike is great, but I have to adjust to it. It is lighter and stiffer than I am used to. Even though I do not struggle too much with getting tired at soccer and frisbee, I am out of shape for biking. The last couple evenings have been hard at times. It probably is the difference between sprinting, which I enjoy, and more sustained activity. The weather has been terrific, and the spring return of flowers and foliage is beautiful. I am happy to have the new bike for exploring it.

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Michael M. on April 19th 2005 in General

Complementary radio edit

Someone had the hilarious idea to edit Straight Outta Compton, the excellent N.W.A. album, to leave only the bad words. I first found “Straight Outta Compton” and another song thanks to Waxy Links. Today I got the whole album thanks to a post at Boing Boing. The results are hilarious. It it the dream of many a third grader and me.

Waxy Linksmention of “Bo Rhap” the classic Queen song, also grabbed my attention.

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Michael M. on April 19th 2005 in General, Music, Recorded

Speaking American

I found a blog meme about American regional dialects here. Regional lingustic variation is a subject of personal interest. I do not know how the program reached its classification. It would be much cooler if it were adaptive based on the choices and the geography of the respondents. I suppose it got me right.

Your Linguistic Profile:

65% General American English
35% Dixie
0% Midwestern
0% Upper Midwestern
0% Yankee
What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

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Michael M. on April 19th 2005 in General

Copy copy copy

Becker Library at the Washington University Medical School hosted a symposium today on libraries and publishing. Glynn S. Lunney, Jr., a law professor at Tulane spoke generally about copyright. After covering some basics, he addressed audience questions. His cracked wise about Disney and the seemingly endless extensions to protect Mickey Mouse. I want to see all the funny creative works based on Mickey Mouse that could be produced if the character were allowed to pass into the public domain, but that Disney never will produce or authorize. Lunney filed an amicus brief in MGM v. Grokster. Barbara Cohen, an editor at the Public Library of Science, spoke about the movement toward open access journals. PLoS relies on Creative Commons for licensing. /. had a post on the growth of open scientific journals. Closed publishing clashes badly with the facts that so much research is publicly funded and that it is intended to benefit the general population.

As found in my searching, Lunney must be the son of one of the Apollo 13 heroes, Flight Director Glynn S. Lunney.

The symposium makes for a good starting point for several recent happenings. This post at Barlow Farms led me to Koleman Strumpf’s site. Strumpf is an economist who found little effect on music sales by file sharing. The Nightline appearance video is good although the ABC coverage is clueless. Jeff Tweedy contradicted many goofy assumptions directly. He ought to be on the Saint Louis Walk of Fame.

I also caught this article on IBM‘s plans to free its patents. /. has a post on IBM’s changing outlook. I hope it leads to good outcomes.

Who Owns Culture? took place at the New York Public Library back on April 7. There is a post on Kottke about it, and there is one on Larry Lessig‘s blog. He has another earlier one and another later one. The New York Times carried a surprisingly good article on it. I normally expect Times articles to reflect the paper’s backward approach to archiving. Lessig and commenters on his blog point out, however, inaccuracies in the story that I cannot spot having not attended the event along with basic problems with the lack of any discussion about the real content of the forum.

This post on Boing Boing points to a discussion of copyright that happened at Cornell this Thursday. Another post followed with links to torrents for videos of the debate.

On the distribution front, Google Video and Internet TV appeared recently. I found out about them at Waxy Links among other places.

Also notable is this article on /. about Trent Reznor‘s decision to release a GarageBand file of his new album. I have considered creating and releasing GarageBand modifications for existing songs. There are a couple of songs that I wish had an additional harmony track. I thought that maybe I could release just the track with instructions for how to add it to the existing recording. Rather than releasing remixes, could someone legally release lists of cuts and additional tracks, essentially source code, for modifying existing music to create remixed versions? I have wondered how scriptable GarageBand is without actually investigating.

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Michael M. on April 19th 2005 in General

Joking for real

This Boing Boing post leads to jokes with realistic punchlines. There are some hilarious ones.

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Michael M. on April 19th 2005 in General

Brush with fame

I saw Michael Bland Saturday while visiting Louisville for a wedding. I learned about him from a post over at Barlow Farms. He was getting onto an elevator I had just exited, and I said, “Hey, man, you play drums for Paul Westerberg!” He said that he was staying there and playing the Westerberg show last night. I told him that I wished I could make it, but I was there for a wedding. I mentioned that I had missed the show in Columbia, and he said, “Columbia rocks!” I decided not to hassle him anymore, and the elevator doors closed. Bland has played with several big acts, including Soul Asylum and Prince. He seemed very friendly and cool.

I think I saw Westerberg late that night in the lobby, but I had been enough of a starstruck fan for one day.

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Michael M. on April 17th 2005 in General, Music

Scale

I have blogged Powers of Ten previously. This Studio 360 show mentioned it recently. Kurt Andersen is a new nexus here.

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Michael M. on April 12th 2005 in General, Movies

Monster demonstration

The New York Times Magazine has a lengthy piece exploring the use of chimeras in scientific research. I am, among other things, a developmental neurobiologist. Transgenes here and there do not bother me. Frankly, part human chimeras, to the extent that they have human quality brains, horrify me. I see a significant gap between us and the rest of the animals, and I want it kept big. Say no to demihumans.

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Michael M. on April 12th 2005 in General

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.