Showing posts from May, 2013
And now we head back into "hurricane season". Hooray!
Hurricane Day, if you are not familiar with it, is an annual holiday observed all up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States, and westward along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Its celebration is not tied to a specific calendar date, but don't worry about missing it -- the news people will have absolutely nothing else to talk about for about a week beforehand. This joyous occasion was completely unknown to me until I moved out here a couple years ago, and it took a while for me to work out what exactly I was supposed to do about it. I grew up in a wildfire area instead, and it turns out that New Englanders react to giant storms about the same way Sonoran desert rats react to the entire mountain being on fire, which is that unless it is specifically inside your house right now, phoning the babysitter creepily from the upstairs extension, you just go 'meh' and make a mental note not to drive down any…
I recently had a prospective client ask about ghostwriting services. Said client turned out not to want that, but it got me circling in a rut I've gone down before, namely: How exactly do you advertise that you're a ghostwriter? It's like being an assassin -- you're only good at it if no one but your client ever knows you did the work, and your client has every reason not to tell.

I mostly get around the problem on my résumé by listing it under 'research assistant' or 'copyeditor', both of which are kind of true. If I'm doing the source-chasing on my own for someone else's thing, then I am assisting them with research, and if I'm taking notes or just something incoherent and making it human-readable, that is technically the mother of all editing jobs. Plus I find that people are much more willing to give accurate feedback about the speed and accuracy of my work if they know the party at the other end of the telephone line is assuming that &#…
The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - "The Tell-Tale Pigeon Feathers"

The Adventures of Sam Spade - "The Battle of Belvedere Caper"

Box 13 - "Sealed Instructions"
Just dropped in to post something while I had a moment. Not long ago, I mentioned Feynman's Messenger Lectures to someone in conversation. Feynman, in addition to being a bang-up physicist, was also an intensely charismatic man, and an engaging public speaker. People got him in front of a camera more often later in his life, after he'd written his books of memoirs and observations, but he did a lot of speaking earlier in his career as well. He had a tendency to want to explain complicated science to people who had no idea what he was talking about -- although they often did by the time he was done, which is no mean feat when you teach quantum electrodynamics in your professional life.

The BBC kindly turned up to tape a series of physics lectures for laypersons at Cornell, called the Messenger Lectures, with their expensive and characteristically misaligned quad tape apparatuses. These are educational, and so far as I know, free for use under that guideline; they are, of course…
Just a note to all y'all, that I have successfully retrieved my Watson from the airport, and will probably not be blogging loads for a little while. I'm not dead, I'm just Sherpa-ing her around Boston. She also grew up in Arizona; if I just let her loose on the streets of Cambridge, I'm pretty sure we'd never see her again.
I was talking to someone a couple of days ago who asked why the US was involved in so damn many of these Air Crash Investigations things. The obvious answer is that it's a NatGeo series and most of their stuff is produced in the US -- I'm told the episodes with a British-accented narrator are re-dubs for airing in Europe, with or without subtitling. They don't profile a lot of cases that were investigated elsewhere because prior to the Soviet Union disintegrating, we had basically no documentation about what happened in Soviet airspace (to the point where even aircraft we recognized had NATO callsigns, because we didn't always know their proper model designations), and there are still big parts of the world where they don't tell us nutin' about nutin'. The principle reason we know anything about aviation incidents in Iran or China, in fact, is that they've bought a load of Tupolevs and Illushins, and the Russians responsible for supplying parts for thos…
I was at CVS the other day, and a lady near the front door handed me a sample of some sort of fancy "age-defying" cream. I'm not especially interested in it, as it's expensive by CVS standards and contains a lot of unnecessary glop in the base that my face won't appreciate, but I found the ingredients list rather interesting. It's essentially using sunscreen compounds for what Mog and I refer to as "the other use".

[Mog also speaks Japanese, at least to the extent that she didn't die while in Tokyo for a semester. The phrase on English-language instructions that's customarily rendered as "only to be used as directed" has a Japanese-language equivalent that literally translates to "not to be used for the other use". Moggie has taken this as a guiding principle of life, and uses things for the other use whenever possible.]

There are two kinds of sunscreens in the world: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens work by ref…
I've not bothered looking much at the Airbus A380, other than that one time the engine went kerplooie on a Qantas flight. ("Uncontained engine failure" is Engineer for "something broke and chunks of the compressor blades shot out through the engine cowling in all directions". It hit a bunch of important aircraft parts and threw debris into the other engines, but missed the passengers, and the plane landed safely back in Singapore.) I'm unlikely to run into one any time soon, as no US operators have ordered any. Every time I fly, I get stuffed into an A330, the 1998 Toyota Corolla of airliners. They're everywhere and they work, but they're a million years old, they're not all that big, they don't look very glamorous, and you'll never impress your date with one.

I'm kind of sorry now that I didn't. This thing looks fucking astounding.

Airplanes have to get going pretty fast to get off the ground. The reason liftoff is so loud is th…
I've started watching Air Crash Investigations again. You'd think these things would terrify me, but I find them fascinating. Given the sheer amount of flying people on this planet do, and how improbable the machines they do it in, I find it rather comforting that major incidents are so rare that I've already heard of most of the ones they dug up to put on TV.

If I didn't have such faith in airplanes, living anywhere near Boston would drive me bonkers. Depending on the wind, one of the standard departures doglegs from Logan goes right over Medford. They don't go over alarmingly low -- over populated areas, over FL100, I believe is the general rule set by the FAA, mostly for noise reasons -- but every so often someone executes a go-around in a heavy, and you can see the livery on the plane's underbelly.

I'm also given to understand that one of the reasons the locals are not impressed by Revere Beach is because jets keep whizzing by overhead. Logan has two ru…
The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - "The Disappearing Scientists"

The Adventures of Sam Spade - "Subject: Edith Hamilton"

Box 13 - "Mexican Maze"
"What you need," says one of my friends, "is a patron. In the Renaissance sense."

This is probably true, but unfortunately I was born in the wrong time for it to happen. On the flip-side, I get to wear trousers and have access to medical care more sophisticated than leeches and quicksilver. Overall, I think I've come out ahead.

The idea also makes me quite nervous. Like most other modern women, the closest I've come to having experience with "I'll lay out money so that you can flit about doing awesome things" is exchanging beauty and charm for comestibles, i.e., paying attention to some dude who wants to buy me dinner. If I could actually get anyone to understand that this is what is going on, I'd be fine with it -- modeling is essentially exchanging my presence and ability to not be terrified by cameras for money and/or credit, after all. Modeling, however skeezy people occasionally try to get, is a recognized commercial occupation, and a…
As promised, a photo of what happens when I sleep in cornrow braids, aided and abetted by the fact that it was 88% relative humidity in most of New England on that particular day:

I was not kidding about "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle". Probably doesn't hurt that there's a vintage fox fur stole hung around my neck.
So far, I've got a remarkably good track record of getting along with everyone at the dance studio. As with any communal effort, the place attracts modern hippies like moths to a patchouli-scented candle flame, but even the ones who seem to have no radio contact with Earth make it a point to be very, very nice, and genuinely seem to enjoy meeting those of us who are more technical. There are loads of people who think that yoga is a cure-all for anything that ails you, but they're happy to recommend it  in addition to whatever else you're doing, rather than instead of.

There is just one lady whose name I really must learn so I can avoid taking any more desk shifts with her. Speaking to her is exhausting. She doesn't like TV. She doesn't like modern music. She thinks video games are 'part of the problem' -- what problem this is, she didn't specify, apparently thinking it was self-evident. The internet is foreign to her, and all my portable widgets are loo…

Why I Have Not Been Around Much Lately

A quick rundown:

Thursday: Rat has some kind of lump on his side. It's not bothering him and looks cauliflower-y on the top, so I figure it's a wart. I am proved right when he decides to yank it out by the root. Have you ever done that? It's ugly. Bleeding rats alarm me. Rat was much more put out by being stuck under the tap and rinsed so I could see what was going on.

Friday: Sick rat. Other rat this time. Might be injury, might be illness; no outward signs, other than rat not acting right, so who knows. They are about two years old, which is considered the standard expiration date for domesticated rats, so to speak.

Saturday: Dead rat. Sick one, not lumpy one. It was relatively quick, I spent most of the night holding him on my lap, and I do not want to think about this right now. He has been laid to rest with the usual funerary rites. Remaining rat is more confused than upset, and is easily distracted by me pointing out that he no longer has to share the bowl of peas.

I was in Providence for a catwalk show on Sunday. I find I get treated very differently on my way out for shows than I do on my way back.

When you go out to do a show or a shoot where you're going to be styled by someone else, they tell you to show up "clean-faced and carrying wardrobe". That means no makeup of your own, no product in your hair, and not wearing whatever it is you need to wear for the event in an environment as grubby as public transportation. (Even when the main wardrobe is being provided by someone else, as with catwalk shows, I'm responsible for my own undergarments, and usually shoes.) I usually sally forth in street clothes with my hair jammed into a hat, either carrying a flight bag or hauling a wheeled suitcase, whichever is easier.

(The suitcase went with me to RI -- I have now discovered that there is about 2" difference in seat pitch between Amtrak and the MBTA commuter rail, which makes the difference between riding with my feet stuck …
The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - "The Murder In Wax"

The Adventures of Sam Spade - "The Stopped Watch Caper"

Box 13 - "The Tempest In a Casserole"
Rather than buy bags of designated rat food, I feed my critters a mix of basic human foodstuffs, supplemented by my own leftovers. Their diet should be mostly carbs (i.e., grains), and one of the cheapest ways to do this is to feed the little boogers a lot of oatmeal. I can't stand the stuff, so normally I just buy big canisters of whatever brand of rolled oats is on sale and feed them cold porridge for breakfast, but this week the supermarket happened to have packets of "fruit-and-cream flavored" oatmeal on sale. They like fruit, they like cream, and they like oatmeal, so I figured I'd pick it up and give them sweetened cardboard-sludge every once in a while as a treat.

They got "bananas and cream" today . They are adamant that this is not their beloved cold porridge. Don't get me wrong, they demolished it -- they just had to sniff it a lot first. They have a point. Given the smell of it, I'd say it's not "bananas and cream" so much a…
The Kindle subscription feeds are up!

Unsolicited Advice (Kindle content from this blog)
De Re Connexionibus (Brain teasers, observational exercises, and other Sherlocky lessons)

Also, for anyone who happens to be at the RI Tattoo Convention taking place this weekend, I'll be walking in the fashion show on the 12th, for Suki Jones of Suki's Dareware. Dunno what I'm wearing yet, but I guarantee it'll be interesting. Suki is the lady who produced these:

The top one got me trailed around the studio by multiple photographers. I think I had four of them trying to take pictures of it / me, at one point.
Right. Here's the deal.

I spend a lot of time on this blog. Probably a lot of time I ought to be spending on other things, but I like this blog more than I like the other things in question. I don't know if it's the equivalent of a full-time job, but it's at least a part-time job. This is a lot of time and effort I'm investing, is what I'm saying here.

I would like to not have to reduce this time in order to do something much more boring that makes me money. I can justify keeping up my approximately-daily posting schedule if this turkey makes me something. So, I have set up a Kindle subscription feed. You do not need a physical Kindle to read it; any Kindle reader will do, including the phone versions. Kindles are bad at things that involve speedy thinking or high refresh rates, so not all of the articles will be booted to the Kindle feed -- Amazon automatically removes videos and the like, so any post that would be incomprehensible without them is just not get…
One of the other desk attendants laughed at me when I told her that Ye Interesting Person set off my Genius Kid Detector. I wish I could explain better how that worked. I can usually pinpoint the look or comment that set it off the first time, but explaining why that set it off is much more difficult. I have an imperfect record of setting out my case without using words like "timey-wimey ball".

I also told her that something he'd done tipped me off to the fact that he'd taken a lot of math. She told me she thought I was reading too much into it. Nuts to that -- I'm right on that stuff orders of magnitude more often than I'm wrong.

Inductive reasoning about other brains is fun stuff. It relies on having a vast store of patterns, both of behavior and of the characteristic thinking styles that go with a wide variety of specializations, to compare and contrast. It also impresses the hell out of everybody, except the other people who have worked out the same trick…
The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - "The Iron Box"

The Adventures of Sam Spade - "The Love Letter Caper"

Box 13 - "Dan And The Wonderful Lamp"
Unsolicited advice for the week: If you assume that people talk to you for any reason other than they want to talk to you, you will drive yourself insane.

One of the other desk attendants at the dance studio spent the last half hour of her shift telling me an extensive tale of her interactions with this guy, which were a classic example of overthinking absolutely everything. She likes him, they spend a lot of time together, she once accidentally went on a five-hour date with him, and apparently they've hooked up. She is uncertain whether he wants anything to happen.

I spent the entire conversation wanting to take her by the shoulders and shout, HE LIKES YOU HE LIKES YOU HE LIKES YOU, GO BANG HIM UNTIL YOU RUN OUT OF CONDOMS, STOP TO BUY MORE, AND THEN CONTINUE. She spent the entire conversation spinning reasons why he might be answering her text messages for hours on end even though he didn't want to.

I don't know, without the invention of alcoholic beverages and the resul…
Speaking of warm weather and sunscreen, today I ventured forth into Cambridge wearing this outfit:

I think it's adorable. The same sort of belly-baring idea was also popular when I was a teenager, but I wouldn't have worn it then. It was not a problem with my body -- I've basically always looked like this -- or with the environment -- the good ol' boys had better things to harass me about at the time -- but rather, with the specifics of what seems to be two very similar looks. Details, sometimes, make all the difference when you're dealing with fashion trends.

(I cannot state too strongly, incidentally, that if you and a particular look do not get along well, it's not because you are shaped wrong. It's because there's some detail about that particular style that's not making you look like you want to. The flipside of this is that you should never, ever wear an outfit that you feel uncomfortable in, if you can possibly help it. If you're constant…
The weather is getting warmer and sunnier even in Massachusetts, so it's time again for me to shill one of the weirdest fortuitous finds I've made at the local drugstore.

Being as I am about two shades up from typing paper, and I hate sunburns, I am a big fan of sunscreen. Unfortunately, being as I am about two shades up from typing paper, that also means that any bump, speckle, blemish and zit shows up like a tiny neon bulb, and most inexpensive sunscreens are in some kind of crap petroleum base that makes me break out like crazy. I can use most anything on my arms, legs, and neckline, but for my face, I normally need some kind of complicated expensive hypoallergenic substance made from unicorns and magic. Often I just give up and put my faith in the titanium dioxide in my foundation, and a collection of hats.

(All petroleum-based things do this to me. The only two moisturizers I know of that don't are Cetaphil and Clean & Clear salicylic acid facial moisturizer, both…