Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Soup’s On!

It’s a soup kind of day ...

From One + Infinity blog.

Java Jive!

Another revealing dissection of ingredients from this month’s Wired magazine column “What’s Inside ...” This time about that beloved cup of joe. Subsensory putrid odors aside, who knew coffee helped fight cavities and is a good source of vitamin B3? Bring on the espresso!

Probability and Success in Sports

Guess I’d better work on my breaking ball ... and who knew soccer players were so smart?! Interesting article on game theory as it applies to sports in this recent Economist article.

Then again, if the sport at hand is Rock, Paper, Scissors, combining cheating and the laws of probability increases the likelihood of success as detailed in this Esquire article from a couple of years ago.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wild Turkeys Couldn’t Drag Me Away

We had another of what has become increasingly frequent visitation to our yard by the local turkey clan today. A year or so ago, wild turkey sightings in our residential neighborhood were not unheard of, but they were far from commonplace. Last spring, we were surprised and delighted to see a family of five turkeys (2 adults and 3 youngsters) parade through our yard. At the time, we joked about hoping they’d be fattened up in time for Thanksgiving.

Since then we’ve seen one or two at time shuffling through the yard every month or so. But today, three now very fully grown turkeys paraded their way out of the woods and across our lawn. They must be getting used to being around people, too. In the past, they would scamper off when you got within about 10 or 15 feet of them. Today, I got within about four feet of them – almost close enough to reach out and touch them. They didn’t flinch. They seemed neither frightened nor aggressive – a good thing since they are now about three feet high with large beaks.

(Later in the day, when relaying this encounter to my second-grader, she reported that she had seen the same three turkeys that morning when they had tried getting on her school bus at a stop down the street. Holly, the bus driver, had to honk her horn and close the bus door, according to my 7-year-old’s account.)

A month ago, the local newspaper’s Speak Out column (you know, the place where all the local crackpots can call in and anonymously leave comments that are then printed in the next week’s edition) featured one resident’s observations on all the wild turkeys now seen around the town. He had a great idea: in these trying economic times, wouldn’t these birds make for good inexpensive meals – a bit gamey maybe, but a free feast nonetheless? Only one problem: How would one go about getting them from the back yard to the dining room table? The caller was sane enough to acknowledge that gun use in residential neighborhoods was probably frowned upon, if not outright illegal; but then he had the revelation that one of these big birds could easily be taken down by simply throwing a sheet over it and then clubbing it with a baseball bat or golf club.

Yes, some of these (theoretical) neighbors of mine are scary.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Resonance of the Past

I was in the car for a brief jaunt this past weekend and listening to NPR. It happened to be Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion. Suddenly, I was stunned to hear the Artaria String Quartet – the string quartet that played at our wedding 19 years ago! – performing on Prairie Home. Apparently, they’ve relocated to St. Paul.

It was a long time ago, but I vaguely recall that they played some Mozart and some Mendelssohn (subsequent archival records check reveals that they played Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E Minor, Op. 44, No. 2; and Mozart’s Divertimento No. 1 in D Major; among other things).

Pretty cool!

The Artaria String Quartet

Get On the Right Track, Baby *

The path is so clear now!

* with a nod to the West Philadelphia Speed Boys.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Empty Lives

Milking metaphors out of the machine. Brings to mind the Graham Parker song, too.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lucinda at Lupo’s

I saw Lucinda Williams for the third time in about 20 years last night. This time it was at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence. It was a frustratingly inconsistent show. The band seemed in disarray and slow to get going. Lucinda can certainly sing the lights out (and that was the undoubtedly the high point throughout), but she was overly reliant on cheat sheets for lyrics (on nearly every song). She and her backing band, Buick 6, didn’t really get cooking until well into the set when someone in the audience did something to piss her off (not sure what, but I think the spectator was put off by the fact that she wasn't doing a purely folk/country show – a very unrealistic expectation, I must say). Lucinda played both acoustic and electric guitars on various tunes, but the best songs were those on which she just sang.

Billed as an overview of her 30 year career, the show drew upon the breadth of her formidable catalog, I just wish she and her bandmates had delivered on the promise of more of those songs. Unlike the other times I’ve seen her in concert, this time I couldn't help but think that maybe it would have been better to just listen to her many fine records.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Government Intervention Isn’t Always Bad

I just got around to reading James Poniewozik’s Time magazine column from a few weeks ago on Ken Burns’ new documentary on America’s National Parks (it’s a very worthwhile read if you haven’t seen it already). Poniewozik’s point is a well-taken one given the current “tea party” temperament regarding government intervention. However, as the columnist points out, the story of the National Parks’ creation and ongoing evolution provides a good juxtaposition to all the hand-wringing about Big Brother and fears of the coming social state that seem so rampant today.

Watching segments of Burns’ marathon ode to the efforts to preserve some of the country’s most stunning natural assets over the last few weeks, I repeatedly found myself struck by the fact that the whole story is one of fight after fight after fight – first to bring each park into existence and then to preserve its integrity once established. In hindsight, given people’s carelessness and the free market’s tendency to foster exploitation, it is truly amazing that we didn’t totally trash the whole continent ... but for a few visionary and determined individuals and the application of federal power to make some good things happen, we surely would have.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not generally pro big government, but Poniewozik is right in pointing out that there are times and places in history when government intervention is the right way to go and, occasionally, the needs of all – the greater good – outweigh those of the few. And sometimes, just sometimes, only big government is able to successfully ensure the interests of all in the face of strong local self-interest and perpetually self-centered business practices.

I wish the free market (i.e., those powerful businesses) could be trusted to do the right thing, but both history and current events make the naivete of that wish very clear. It simply doesn’t happen. In these times of renewed government intervention, it’s food for thought.