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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sort of Gilligan-esque

My mother sends this dispatch based on a phone conversation with my brother, traveling in South America with indeterminate destination and duration:
Davin called today at about 6:45 PM. Davin and Andrew “adventured” their way into the San Blas area of Panama (on the Atlantic side). They got on a cargo ship (trying to save money) to make their way south. The cargo ship broke down and it was towed to an island (small island of about 500 Cuna people) off the coast of Panama near Puerto Obaldia. Then Davin and Andrew wanted to get somewhere where they can get to the mainland. So, some police took them to another island where they could catch a ride to the mainland which is where they are now. Davin was calling from a phone booth on this island! There are 4 regular phone booths housed in a grass hut. They are staying at some family’s house tonight! Tomorrow at 5 AM they are getting a boat ride (in a hollowed out canoe), going along the coast, south – it will take them about 4 hours to reach Playeta, Panama. They hope to find some way to get from Playeta to Turbo, Colombia. Then they want to beat it out of town before nightfall because it is not safe there.

Well, that's rather different from my trip to Peru...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lotsa Matzo

Which is funnier -- the incident that this newspaper article is about, or the fact that the Post put it in the Religion section?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Songs of the Moment (An occasional feature)

A new music edition, seeing as I have gotten four new albums this month, all of them good:

> Modest Mouse - We've Got Everything
> Modest Mouse - Spitting Venom [mp3]
> LCD Soundsystem - Get Innocuous! [mp3]
> LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends [mp3]
> !!! - All My Heroes Are Weirdos
> !!! - Must Be the Moon [mp3]
> Arcade Fire - Keep the Car Running

Really, all these albums are awesome. I wish the new Modest Mouse didn't sound quite so shiny -- I long for the days of The Moon and Antarctica, when the major label production budget let the sound sprawl without pop polish. But I guess I can forgive the more mainstream production since the essential character of the band remains. The presence of Johnny Marr isn't all that obvious; "We've Got Everything" deserves to be a huge hit single.

The LCD Soundsystem record is way better than I expected. You should really grab those mp3s before they disappear (and buy the CD if you like them). I always tend to put LCD and !!! in the same compartment in my brain (not that they're that similar), and LCD usually seemed too antiseptic compared to !!!, but this album doesn't suffer from that. It's downright anthemic. The new !!! album, in any case, is ridiculously funky and catchy, as the linked track attests.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Fashion World

As if any additional confirmation were needed that High Fashion is a world apart from everything else, Susie sent me this hilarious fashion collection slideshow from the New York Times. They get points for breaking out of industry cliches, but lose a larger number of points for making me want to call the Department of Child Welfare.

On a completely different topic, I participated in the intramural badminton tournament today along with Jeff, a classmate who's from China. It was me, one other white guy, a black guy, and a bunch of Asian people. We got beat soundly most of the time, though not to the point of being humiliated. (I also noted that I was the only one sweating profusely.) We won only one game all day -- the singles match I played against the only other white guy. It was really fun, though, I've got to play badminton more often.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

City of Light Bikes

Paris undertakes an ambitious plan to provide public bicycles and become a city where bikes are a mainstream means of transportation. The best thing is, this isn't some naive utopian scheme that is unlikely to succeed -- the company that's been contracted to carry out the plan has had great success in Lyon, where bike use has tripled (including gains among those who aren't using the public bikes). A nice bonus is that they know exactly how much they're being ridden -- 2.5 million miles in 10 months.

I consider it a very good sign that there is a business enterprise organized around providing bike systems for cities, because it indicates that bicycle transportation is becoming more prominent, and having organizations whose economic interests are served by the expansion of cycling is a good way to ensure that it happens. I can imagine some distant future where the entrenched interests of the bicycle-industrial complex start working against the public good, but I'd say that's not really a threat right now...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bike Blender

I salute the people behind this thing. Clearly, I had previously not realized the full potential of my bicycling time.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Itinerant hermano

My brother left a week or so ago for a South American trip of indefinite length -- he and his friend Andrew started in Costa Rica and are traveling south. Here they are on top of Cerro Chirropo, the highest peak in Costa Rica, at sunrise (guess which one is Davin):

Yes, I'm a little jealous. It's possible I'll go meet up with him after finishing school and before starting work, but the odds are against it working out.

Anyway, after a cold and blustery day here yesterday, spring suddenly broke out today. It was quite gorgeous, and I took a big meandering bike ride around the northwest portion of the city. And then I got home to find ants had started swarming the kitchen counter, right on cue...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

YouTube Elders

YouTube member "Elizaisme" commented yesterday on the "Ooh Child" video that I have posted. ("Really nice! I'm glad I hung on to the end to see the circle stuff!") She also became the second subscriber to my videos, which was also kind of nice.

Then, the kicker: Elizaisme is 80 years old! Holy crap! True, her profile also shows that she has watched 28 videos and subscribed to 25 channels, so I shouldn't be too honored that she subscribed to mine, but it's still pretty cool.

Of course, you can say anything you want on the internets, and Elizaisme might not really be 80. But I kinda think she is. And I really hope I'm still that with it when I'm 80.

(Also, I love the fact that someone who's 80 has this video saved as one of her favorites.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Bird Mobsters

This Washington Post article about possible evolutionary roots of human behavior contains this rather astonishing example from the animal world:
It all began, he says, when ecologists started removing the eggs of cowbirds from the nests of warblers. Cowbirds leave their eggs in the nests of dozens of other birds. It has long been a mystery why birds such as warblers allow the eggs to hatch and why the hosts then feed the young cowbirds -- sometimes at the expense of their own offspring.

Hoover and colleague Scott Robinson found that when they removed cowbird eggs from the warbler nests, those nests mysteriously got trashed. Turns out that the cowbirds, much like members of the mob, were keeping a close eye on the nests in which they had laid their eggs. If anything bad happened to the eggs, the cowbirds would return and destroy the nest.

Hoover found that, much like the way the mafia operates, the cowbirds begin with detailed surveillance of their potential targets...
"Nice nest you got here...lots of dryer lint, real nice warm place to hatch kids. It'd sure be a shame if somebody with a really sharp beak like mine came in and pecked it to bits, wouldn't it?"

Spring Break in the Smokies

I'm back in Baltimore after a great Spring Break trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina/Tennessee.

Alex came down here from NYC on Friday, which was the first time he'd visited since I moved from Minneapolis. We had a spring break "martini party" at my house on Saturday instigated by Femi, which was fun and relatively low-key. On Sunday Alex and I drove down to Chapel Hill to meet up with Matt and Risa...it was quite relaxing staying at their house on either end of the camping trip. (Minus the episode where Alex awoke to find their hamster had escaped and was running around on his leg.)

We camped Monday through Wednesday nights at Big Creek campground at the northeast edge of the park (and the only campground you can drive to that does not allow RVs). It's pretty, lying next to the eponymous large creek. We took hikes each day: The first day we hiked up to the Mount Cammerer fire tower, which was pretty strenuous (~15 miles RT, more than 3000 feet up) but worth it. The second day we took it easy and hiked up Big Creek a bit and hung out along the creek. Partly on Stephen's recommendation at the martini party (he grew up in Tennessee), we drove to a trailhead on our way out of the park for a fairly substantial hike to Charlie's Bunion. It's a pretty spectacular spot, and thanks to our late start, we had it to ourselves. And it only drizzled on us on the hike back, instead of pouring, as it looked like it would.

I've posted a set of photos from the trip on Flickr.

Along with the outdoors activity, I also got to go 10-pin bowling (141 and 125, in case you're interested) and play Beetle Battle with Alex, two things I haven't really gotten to do since moving to Baltimore.

Now, back to work on my thesis, which needs to be wrapped up by the April 6 library deadline. After that I'm home-free. And the new Modest Mouse album comes out on Tuesday!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Yesterday I treated myself to two albums that came out this week -- !!!'s Myth Takes and Arcade Fire's Neon Bible. They're both really good, going by the first couple listens.

I'm listening to Neon Bible (pictured above) right now, and when "(Antichrist Television Blues)" came on, I was like, "Whoa, this sounds a lot like Springsteen." Take a listen [mp3] for yourself.

A quick Google search shows that it's so hilariously obvious that I was far from the only one who noticed. I wonder if it's intentional? Isn't that parenthetical song title thing something The Boss has done?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sackful of Dinosaurs

I went home to visit my parents this weekend, which was nice. The motivating force for going this weekend in particular was that it allowed me to pick up some camping gear. I was also able to take home a sack of dinosaurs:

Always a plus.

Mom cooked a couple things I particularly like, we took a couple walks, very relaxing in general. Dad and I went to see Breach (based on the story of a mole in the FBI), which was surprisingly good. This woman's cell phone rang during the movie, and she proceeded to answer it, and then talk on it for a few minutes! Man, some weaker people might get all sheepish if their phone rang in the theater, but thankfully this woman was strong enough not to feel any shame whatsoever.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to my spring break trip next week. Alex will be down here on Friday, and then on Sunday we'll be driving down to Matt and Risa's in Chapel Hill for a camping excursion to the Smokies.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Songs of the Moment (An occasional feature)

Love Is All - Busy Doing Nothing [mp3]
RJD2 - 2 More Dead [streaming]
Wolf Parade - Grounds For Divorce
TV On the Radio - Wolf Like Me [YouTube]
Death Cab for Cutie - Song For Kelly Huckaby [mp3]
Desaparecidos - Survival of the Fittest

Thursday, March 01, 2007


In case you forgot, I would like to remind you that lemurs are awesome.

For evidence, see:
Gray Gentle Lemur
Pygmy Slow Loris
Lesser Bushbaby

When I grow up, I want to be a noted lemur advocate, just like John Cleese.

A simple request

Via Andrew Sullivan, a dispatch from the Scooter Libby jury.

Hey guys, could you get me some yellow highlighters while you're at it?