Nutational movement

April 5th, 2005 § Four comments § permalink

Plants in Motion is a collection of time-lapse videos showing how plants move and respond to stimuli. I recommend watching the collection of nastic movements, especially the morning glory and sensitive plant. The flower development page is also worthwhile, particularly the passion flower, which is startlingly beautiful as it unfurls.

Increasingly bizarre metaphors

March 30th, 2005 § Three comments § permalink

In a conversation with a friend, I just found myself describing Diet Coke as “the teat of wakefulness at which I suckle frequently.”

Have I graduated yet?

Has any duck been doing you dirt?

March 27th, 2005 § Four comments § permalink

I didn’t have much time for fun during spring break—or “spring work,” as I’ve been calling it—but I did manage to reread McTeague, one of my favorite novels. It’s filled with evocative descriptions of San Francisco in the 1890s, such as this one of Polk Street:

It was one of those cross streets peculiar to Western cities, situated in the heart of the residence quarter, but occupied by small tradespeople who lived in the rooms above their shops. There were corner drug stores with huge jars of red, yellow, and green liquids in their windows, very brave and gay; stationers’ stores, where illustrated weeklies were tacked upon bulletin boards; barber shops with cigar stands in their vestibules; sad-looking plumbers’ offices; cheap restaurants, in whose windows one saw piles of unopened oysters weighted down by cubes of ice, and china pigs and cows knee deep in layers of white beans. At one end of the street McTeague could see the huge power-house of the cable line. Immediately opposite him was a great market; while farther on, over the chimney stacks of the intervening houses, the glass roof of some huge public baths glittered like crystal in the afternoon sun. Underneath him the branch post-office was opening its doors, as was its custom between two and three o’clock on Sunday afternoons. An acrid odor of ink rose upward to him. Occasionally a cable car passed, trundling heavily, with a strident whirring of jostled glass windows.

On week days the street was very lively. It woke to its work about seven o’clock, at the time when the newsboys made their appearance together with the day laborers. The laborers went trudging past in a straggling file—plumbers’ apprentices, their pockets stuffed with sections of lead pipe, tweezers, and pliers; carpenters, carrying nothing but their little pasteboard lunch baskets painted to imitate leather; gangs of street workers, their overalls soiled with yellow clay, their picks and long-handled shovels over their shoulders; plasterers, spotted with lime from head to foot. This little army of workers, tramping steadily in one direction, met and mingled with other toilers of a different description—conductors and “swing men” of the cable company going on duty; heavy-eyed night clerks from the drug stores on their way home to sleep; roundsmen returning to the precinct police station to make their night report, and Chinese market gardeners teetering past under their heavy baskets. The cable cars began to fill up; all along the street could be seen the shopkeepers taking down their shutters.

Between seven and eight the street breakfasted. Now and then a waiter from one of the cheap restaurants crossed from one sidewalk to the other, balancing on one palm a tray covered with a napkin. Everywhere was the smell of coffee and of frying steaks. A little later, following in the path of the day laborers, came the clerks and shop girls, dressed with a certain cheap smartness, always in a hurry, glancing apprehensively at the power-house clock. Their employers followed an hour or so later—on the cable cars for the most part whiskered gentlemen with huge stomachs, reading the morning papers with great gravity; bank cashiers and insurance clerks with flowers in their buttonholes.

At the same time the school children invaded the street, filling the air with a clamor of shrill voices, stopping at the stationers’ shops, or idling a moment in the doorways of the candy stores. For over half an hour they held possession of the sidewalks, then suddenly disappeared, leaving behind one or two stragglers who hurried along with great strides of their little thin legs, very anxious and preoccupied.

The description continues through nightfall, if you’d like to keep reading.

The awful beauty of debris

February 25th, 2005 § One comment § permalink

Our consumerism holds an anesthetizing kind of mob mentality; collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences… So perhaps my photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-reflection. It may not be the most comfortable terrain, but I have heard it said that in risking self-awareness, at least we know we are awake.

—Chris Jordan

Photos, and more photos.

Cookery from the future

February 3rd, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

A Chicago chef is making sushi out of flavored paper, and he has ambitious plans to create pill-size entrees and bake inside-out bread (with the crust in the middle) using a laser. It’s like a 1950s vision of 2005 come to life! We must be due for hovercars any day now.

And is it just me, or does the article’s headline, “When the Sous-Chef Is an Inkjet,” sound like a Siouxsie and the Banshees lyric?

When the sous-chef is an inkjet
And every plate can levitate
When the sous-chef is an inkjet
Make a fishy roll by remote control

Yeah, it’s probably just me.

At least they’re not Rammstein fans

February 2nd, 2005 § Five comments § permalink

My upstairs neighbors enjoy playing country music and classic rock at rather loud volumes—not constantly, mind you, and not wall-shakingly loud; it’s a moderate, perhaps twice-weekly indulgence. A few months ago, they spent a happy Sunday morning listening to “Sweet Home Alabama” on endless repeat. Today, they’re rockin’ to Queen’s greatest hits. Apparently my neighbors are the champions of the world, in spite of their being under some sort of pressure.

In unrelated news, I was planning to write a list of the alleged nominees for Best Pornographic Picture at the 2005 Academy Awards. I quickly realized, though, that I was unlikely to top my first entry, A Very Long Engorgement.

Stop the elevator

February 1st, 2005 § One comment § permalink

Behold the NIMBY-ism of tomorrow, today: Williamsburg doesn’t need a space elevator!

Old and new

January 27th, 2005 § Three comments § permalink

More rephotography: Chicago Then and Now.

Nothing new under the sun

January 21st, 2005 § Six comments § permalink

One of the sloppier papers I wrote as an undergraduate, which ostensibly examined Isaiah Berlin’s conception of free will, contained the following passage:

Sartre’s view is like that of the man who decides to prove the old adage, “No two snowflakes are alike.” With great enthusiasm, he travels to New York during a snowy winter and stands outside in the cold, catching as many flakes as he can on specially chilled microscope slides. At the end of a day’s work, he heads into his super-cooled lab with the slides, diligently cataloging and archiving each snowflake. He repeats this process every winter for twenty years.

This week, about five and a half years later, I learned of Wilson Bentley, who spent several decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries photographing New England’s snowflakes. A newspaper article from 1922 described his methods:

It is indeed a delicate task to “catch” one’s snowflake and get it in position to be photographed. Mr. Bentley has a tray consisting of a board painted black with wire handles on either end, on which he collects the flakes: this he carries carefully by the handles with mittened hands, in order to keep off all animal heat: and to keep his hands warm too, no doubt: into his cold, unheated workroom. With a splint of wood, he painstakingly picks up the snowflake and places it on the slide of his microscope, being particularly careful that it is unbroken and perfectly flat so that all parts reflect the light equally.

(Incidentally, Christie, if the title didn’t make you giggle, try thinking back to our college days and reading it out loud a couple of times.)

Lentil soup

January 9th, 2005 § One comment § permalink

For those of you who have complained about the lack of recipes lately, may I recommend the delicious lentil soup that I fixed a few evenings ago? It’s the tastiest non-Indian lentil dish that I’ve cooked.

My local market doesn’t carry porcini powder, so I just threw some dried porcini mushrooms in the coffee grinder. I imagine you could do the same with the fennel if you can only find the whole seeds.

Where am I?

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