Sunday, February 28, 2010

3 Good Things (Good, Betta, Best)

1. Good: this article about linguistic pet peeves.  As someone who has them, I enjoyed it, but I take issue with the author’s use of persons regarding the 5,000 fans.  Yes, the number is specific, but clearly, it is also an estimate, so non-specific at the same time.  More controversy here.
2.  Betta: Introducing our new betta,  Danny. (He’s red.) 

3. Best: This “My Funky Valentine” episode of Modern Family. This is the best new sit-com I’ve seen in a long while, and this episode made me laugh until I could hardly breathe.  Oddly, this is a good thing.  Warning, the husband is often too stupid to be funny, but mostly, even he is worth watching. Give it a minute (or 22), but hurry. This episode is on Hulu for only another three days.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Weekend Wisdom

Borrowed considerations for my weekend of reading and reflection:

To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting. ~Edmund Burke

I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves. ~E.M. Forster

What people seek in thrillers is the spectacle of man’s efficacy: of his ability to fight for his values and to achieve them. What they see is a condensed, simplified pattern, reduced to its essentials: a man fighting for a vital goal—overcoming one obstacle after another—facing terrible dangers and risks—persisting through an excruciating struggle—and winning. ~Ayn Rand

Friday, February 26, 2010

Taking Lives vs. Earning Money

A contract is a legally-enforceable promise or set of promises made by one party to another. A contract is a legally binding agreement concerning a bargain which is essentially commercial in its nature and involves the sale or hire of commodities such as goods services or land. (Wikipedia)
The juxtaposition of the following two approaches to obligations under employment contracts should not be overlooked.  Despite the plain facts and heinous nature of the crimes, Amy Bishop’s employer announced only yesterday that it was beginning the process of terminating Ms. Bishop. Not too long ago, AIG executives (among others) were subjected to the whims of a lynch mob, unconcerned with the facts, indulged, if not incited by the very government charged with protecting the inviolability and enforceability of their individual right to contract.
The freedom of contract may be a complex legal issue; however, superficially at least, it appears that while the crime of taking someone’s life does not automatically negate the sanctity of one's freedom of contract, the non-criminal action of earning lots of money does.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Congregated in a Secular Foxhole

That's where you can find the collection of posts for this week's Objectivist Round Up

The Essence of "Job Creation"

Cartoon by Gary Varvel posted at Café Hayek (via Thrutch, who points out that what the President is knitting would more likely be a single sock or glove.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Visually Unrecorded Life

Until ten days ago – the day, to the best of my recollection, in which I lost my five-year-old point-and-shoot Sony Cyber-shot with its rechargeable AA batteries – I hadn’t realized how dependent I had become on my camera’s ability to record anything I found visually interesting, anywhere, anytime I felt like it.  Oh, how I have since suffered its loss! 
Just today, for example, I wanted to record the three inches of snow/slush combo filling my driveway, the snorting, running, sleeping dog, the molasses design in the baked beans (blech), and the court surrounding the girl who announced, “But Mom, I’m God” – each a little vignette that together make up the visual fabric of my day – nay, my life. Sadly, today, there are no crystals, no snores, no artistic-outlet -starved husband, and no game playing children to put into my external hard drive of memories, and none to share.
At first refusing to acknowledge that I actually lost my camera, I borrowed my daughter’s for our recent weekend excursion.  It was then that I truly appreciated the older, but far better model that was mine (faster, clearer, able to take pictures in low light).  Finally today, I couldn’t take it any longer and broke down admitting that my camera is long gone on the road to someone else’s house.  I just hope they enjoy the pictures of my parents at Judie’s and the mid-century modern furniture reproductions lining the walls of the otherwise empty Marriot reception center at UMass Amherst, because, apparently, I won’t get to enjoy those images.
I am now in the market for a new digital camera.
This is what I want: a good lens, works well in low-light, has at least a 4x optical zoom, powered by rechargeable AA batteries is an excellent convenience, video capabilities, a quick shot trigger, a metal body, and a compact, but not ultra compact size.  That’s not a lot to ask, now is it?  I don’t need bells and whistles, panoramic stitching, burst pictures, in-camera editing, or fancy design modes.  I just want to be able to take decent pictures at the drop of hat for under $200.
I’ve narrowed it down to these three choices: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC W290, the Olympus Stylus 7010, and the Canon Powershot SX 120 IS .  As if deciding between their features weren’t difficult enough, the Sony offers this for a case.  
Living a visually unrecorded life has caused me to examine mine.  And while the jury is still out on whether or not I deserve another decent digital camera as I wasn’t responsible enough to keep the one I did own, I’ve really come to appreciate the joy these instantaneously recordable and accessible snapshots of life bring me.  I am earnestly looking forward to beginning this practice again as soon as I can make a decision on how best to proceed.   
Any potentially helpful digital camera experience and advice is welcomed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Bing is Dead! Long Live the Bing!

Not actual photograph of Bing, but could be his identical twin.

Yesterday, after nearly three years of benevolent neglect, our daughter’s blue betta, Bing, finally succumbed to the ravages of living life in a liter of treated, but unheated water on the bureau in her bedroom.  We had a small but tasteful inland burial at sea moment for the crooner’s namesake, including a death mask photograph taken by my daughter. (Who could have predicted she’d want to have such a thing? My husband – she is just like him.)
Three years is a pretty good lifespan for a betta.  We plan to get another one.  Soon. 
Let's be Frank.  Maybe this one will be different.

Monday, February 22, 2010

On Shoes and Perception

First, there are two things you should know about me: 1) When I get excited my voice jumps up by two or three octaves, and 2) Sometimes, when I laugh with abandon, what I abandon is the integration of my proprioceptors along with sensory awareness of my immediate surroundings. This lack of integration often leads to me hitting my head on whatever is behind, beside, or sometimes, even in front of me.
Back to the shoes.
Today, when my daughter brought in the mail, a packaged Dansko shoebox was among the bills and catalogs. It was addressed to my husband, but this in no way stopped me from examining the box.  My love for my red patent leather Dansko clogs is well known, so when I saw the label claiming that these were women’s shoes, my excitement was only partially diminished by the fact that they were also purported to be one size too big for me and brown. Thinking it was odd for him to buy me shoes, let alone brown shoes and in the wrong size, I called him to ask.
“Did you buy me new shoes?”  This is what I planned to ask, but as the prospect of new Danskos began to tickle my foot bed, my voice became several octaves higher than normal and fairly loud because the automatic gain control on his cell phone blocked out some of my words. I’m guessing I sounded like Minnie Mouse meets Screaming Jet Screamer: “Eep Orp Ork new SH . . . Z????”
After several seconds of confusion, we were able to understand one another and the fact that, sadly, no, he had not purchased any new shoes for me.  Furthermore, he did not remember buying anything from eBay (only later did the return address of the box strike my ew – used shoes sensibilities).  So the next logical guess, of course, is that the box probably contained a bomb.  Nevertheless, having seen many, many spy movies in addition to being a big fan of Naveen Andrews, the bomb diffuser in The English Patient, I was undaunted.  Quite sure I could handle whatever I found in the package, I placed it on the kitchen counter and opened it.
No shoes. No bomb. Only a book: J.J.Gibson’s Ecological Approach to Visual Perception which he bought for himself!
When he got home, my husband tried to make up for not buying me any shoes (hey - it works for us) by saying that if he were to buy me shoes, they would never be these –  but these would be a distinct possibility.
Someday I would not be surprised to discover that my visual perception, love of shoes, and head-banging problem are all related.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

NYC by the Numbers

8,300,000 The approximate population of New York City.
2,000,000 The approximate number of pieces of artwork in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
140 The sold-out capacity of Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on Saturday night. Owing more than a little to the incomparable views, this is the most spectacular intimate setting in which to see live jazz.
43 The number of Craft Restaurant on East 19th St. Don’t blink. You’ll miss it.
40 The number of degrees Fahrenheit at 8:30 in NYC Saturday night
16 The outside seating capacity in front of Blue Smoke. Number of patrons drinking a Bleu Smoke Martini there: 1.  I didn’t make it there before 2010, but at least I made it in 2010!
11 The number of things I had the mad urge to touch but didn’t, including, but not limited to the marble nose and lips of a statue of a child at the Met, several fur coats, and the head of a man in front of us in line.  
10 The number of art pieces we examined in our Met tour “Fashion in Art
9 The number of dishes we ordered at dinner. We split the cheese plate as there was no dedicated cheese boy to guide us.
8 The approximate number of pictures we took of the Gapstow Bridge in Central Park (The bridge I either used or considered using in my Christmas Card this year.)

7 The number of hours we spent gallivanting around town in the evening.
6 The number of staircases we went up and down trying desperately to find our way out of the modern art wing of the Met.
5 The number of hours spent walking through the Met looking at and for artwork in the morning.
4 The number of people at our table to see the fantastic Ann Hampton Callaway.  Yes – we had to mingle.
3 The number of hours spent at Craft. First drink of the evening: La Petite Mort.  Really. Would you have passed that up? Let’s just say . . . I’ve had better.  I can’t say that for the French mache salad with artichokes and truffle oil vinaigrette though.  That was the most satisfying damn salad I’ve ever had.
2 The number of people in my party and number of hours we spent strolling through Central Park.  All right, stroll is generous.  I always walk like I’m in a hurry. I’d like to think it’s one of my more charming quirks.

1 The number of complete days spent in NYC.
0 The number of Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware” on display at the Met. It’s in conservancy until 2011. Bummer.

I love New York City.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Vampiric Technician

I kept seeing this book cover as a tiny advertising image on the sidebar of a web page.  Every time I saw it, without fail, I was unsettled by what I saw.  The elements of the cover that I could discern, the woman’s exposed back, her right arm above her head, and the big hand pushing her forward added up to a disturbing situation. I had to check it out.


Seeing the book’s title and the intense stare and left hand placement of the open-shirted vampire has lessened my agitation and cured me of my mistaken interpretation. 

Sure.  The woman is about to have her blood sucked out by a vampire and become one of the undead for eternity, but at least I know she's not there for a mammogram.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Unsullied in Boston

Good stuff in today's Boston Globe:  The Museum of Fine Arts has installed its first painting in the new American Wing (scheduled to open in November).

The article presents a few of the conservation efforts undertaken in order to unwrap and ready Thomas Sully's The Passage of the Delaware for its new place of honor in the new American Wing.  The brief video below shows the large-scale efforts to get it in place.

It's an interesting exercise to compare and contrast two artists' interpretation of the same scene in history, as well as the history of the two paintings themselves. 

Thomas Sully's "The Passage of the Delaware" 1819

Emanuel Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware" 1851

Leutze's painting (Metropolitan Museum of Art) has become an iconic image of Washington whereas Sully's was never given a proper viewing venue.

Until now.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Objectivist Round Up #136

Once again, I’m really happy to be hosting the Objectivist Round Up. This blog carnival is a collection of posts written by individuals who are advocates of Objectivism: the philosophy developed and defined by Ayn Rand.

If you are new to Ayn Rand and would like to discover more about her philosophy, I recommend you read her two great novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. If you know her novels, I recommend her non-fiction starting with The Virtue of Selfishness, and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. The Ayn Rand Institute and the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights provide relevant information and commentary.

Following, in the order in which they were received, are the posts for this 136th Objectivist Round Up.

Burgess Laughlin presents A writer's working library? posted at Making Progress, saying, “Among a writer's resources are several distinct kinds of books that help writers do their jobs. This article identifies five kinds for one writer, offers examples from his library, and invites others' suggestions. Behind this article stands an unstated but nevertheless evident love of books.”

Rachel Miner presents Couple Time posted at The Playful Spirit, saying, “Some tips on the sitter side of things along with a special take on date nights that my husband and I have come to relish. The key idea is to share an improving action that makes the date a growth experience. We were certainly unusual taking flute lessons together in our twenties!”

Rational Jenn presents Atlanta Objectivist Society posted at Rational Jenn, saying, “Our new community Objectivist group is officially up and running! Hope to see you at a Social event soon! :o).”

Trey Givens presents The Multiverse: You Can't Get There from Here posted at Trey Givens, saying, “This week, I caught up on a bunch of posts I had started but never finished. This was one of them. It's a discussion about why I find a particular version of the multiverse theory flawed. Thrilling, I know! But I included a music video, so you'll love it.”

Jim Woods presents In Defense of Lincoln posted at Words by Woods, saying, “In response to an attack upon President Lincoln in 'honor' of his birthday, this post examines Libertarian attacks on President Lincoln through a dialogue between a Confederate Apologist and a Unionist.”

Jim May presents Wide as an Ocean, Shallow as a Puddle: Epistemological Primitivism IV posted at The New Clarion, saying, “I build upon Paul Marshall's excellent critique of Anthony Daniel's criticism of Ayn Rand, to show how his criticisms of Daniels expose the key weakness of conservatism per se.”

Joseph Kellard presents Channeling Ted Kaczynski posted at The American Individualist, saying, “If you’re motivated to read, firsthand, what passes for intellectual leadership in America today, then I have a telling essay for you.”

Rory presents In which Rory lays down the laws of Philosophy essay writing posted at Mind To Matter.

Edward Cline presents Obama the Pseudo-Narcissist posted at The Rule of Reason, saying, “The hallmark of a tyrant or dictator is selflessness, requiring an endless quest to keep reality and perceived enemies at bay, which requires accumulating power over reality — by creating nothing, but becoming a parasite of other men's achievements — by way of power over others — they somehow know the secret of life, and their approval and obedience are necessary to the selfless man‘s survival and sense of security.”

Tod presents Working for Love or Money posted at A Blog by Tod, saying, “Which is the better motivator for your work -- love or money?”

Paul Hsieh presents Ten Small-Scale Reforms for Pre-Existing Conditions posted at We Stand FIRM, saying, “The problem of patients with ‘pre-existing conditions’ will not be solved by new government controls. Instead, we need free-market reforms.”

Diana Hsieh presents A Critical Account of Anthony Daniels on Ayn Rand posted at NoodleFood, saying, “A fantastic essay by Paul Marshall on Anthony Daniels' recent attack on Ayn Rand.”

Cogito presents SEE: Why start an Objectivist Campus Club, and Precision in Language posted at Cogito's Thoughts.

Gideon Reich presents Capitalism Unbound posted at Armchair Intellectual, saying, “A recommendation of Andrew Bernstein's latest book.”

Ari Armstrong presents What Are the Implications of 'Personhood?' posted at Free Colorado, saying, “Why defining a fertilized egg as a person is a very bad idea.”

John Drake presents Translating 5 year goals into action posted at Try Reason!, saying, “Continuing my series of posts on 5 year goals - I share some tips I use to ensure my daily activities enable my long-range goals.”

Andrew Dalton presents Like flies on a turd posted at Witch Doctor Repellent, saying, “This is how government-run education empowers committed irrationalists (in this case, Christian fundamentalists) to indoctrinate millions of children.”

Jason Stotts presents Achilles and Patroclus posted at Erosophia, saying, “A small rant about anachronistically changing history to meet your own conceptions of what is right. Case in point: were Achilles and Patroclus lovers?”

Earl Parson presents Creatures of Prometheus posted at Creatures of Prometheus, saying, “This is my first post at my new blog, where I describe the name and theme of the blog. This post is mostly about Beethoven and Greek mythology, but Ayn Rand makes a pretty nice cameo appearance.”

Kelly Elmore presents Why Our Lives Should Not Be Child-Centered posted at Reepicheep's Coracle, saying, “How to be selfish and loving without driving you, your children, or anyone else crazy”


Hypothyroidism Update posted at Reepicheep's Coracle, saying, “An update on my visit to the endocrinologist and my thyroid treatment.”

Stephen Bourque presents The Separation of Education and State posted at One Reality, saying, “The free market cannot guarantee that schools will teach objective history and science. But what the free market does guarantee is that objective facts will not be silenced or smothered by force.”

Doug Reich presents Boom-Bust Index (Part 1,2, and 3) posted at The Rational Capitalist, saying, “In this series of posts, I attempt to show that today's crisis is a classic instance of the boom-bust cycle, that bad epistemology (namely positivism and/or empiricism) renders modern economists incapable of understanding the crisis, and by reviewing 19th century monetary history, show how government intervention and ‘misintervention’ caused panics and volatility, ultimately concluding that a 100% reserve gold standard and completely free banking system is the solution.”

Sandi Trixx presents On the Census posted at Sandi Trixx, saying, “The only question permitted by the Constitution: How many people live here?”

Daniel presents Baby Book Review: Goodnight Moon posted at The Nearby Pen, saying, “This short review names the reason why Goodnight Moon is such a popular and wonderful bedtime story for children.”

That’s it for this week. Enjoy!

Next week’s Round Up will be hosted at The Secular Foxhole. Submit your posts using the carnival submission form.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day Two: Best in Show – Rest in Snow

I’m not sure if it was a lack of dog-inspired snack foods, staying up late the night before, or expending all of our extra energy shoveling, but last night’s conclusion of the 134th WKC Dog Show was pretty uninspiring to me and mine.  Hell – before it was over, I lost my other two judges (one dragging herself to bed during the final judging).  This lack of enthusiasm may impact next year’s plans to attend live.
Be that as it may, here are the results:
The variety of retrievers, spaniels, and setters is sort of amazing.  We all liked the Pointer, the Vizsla, and the Weimaraner, which clearly displays our penchant for dogs whose muscles can be seen. 
Pointer, WKC Best of Breed photo
But I surprised myself by also liking the English Cocker Spaniel and the English Springer Spaniel.  Our youngest judge fell in love with the shiny black of the flat-coated Retriever.

The Dobie, hands down, was our favorite. 
Doberman Pinscher, WKC Best of Breed photo
You really just can’t ignore the intensity of that dog’s stack.  However, I found her left ear bend when she trotted a little disconcerting. I guess that’s not a mark against the standards because she won the group!  I also really liked the Mastiff and the Alaskan Malamute, while the youngest went with the Samoyed.  [I just can’t bring myself to pronounce that “Sam’ – ee – ed”.  I knew one over thirty years ago as a “Sa- moy’ – id”.  Oy.  It’s taking me quite some time to adjust.]
Following the Doberman Pinscher, the judge placed the Boxer (nice mask), the Portuguese Water Dog (weird trim) and the Alaskan Malamute (another stunning mask).
[Side note: I loved this judge, Mrs. Kimberly Meredith-Cavanna, who celebrated the show and the importance of it in her life by dressing to the nines, including but not limited to a train on her skirt, and looking fabulous!] 

This is usually my favorite group, but I didn’t find a lot to love last night.  I got bored with their wiry little faces and the little English looking goatees, which usually charm me, started to irritate me. This was not a good sign.
Nevertheless, I managed to pick out a few favorites.  The Airedale, the Bull Terrier, of course, (white this time, though), and a new favorite, the Glen of Imaal Terrier.  My fading-fast co-judges mumbled something about the American Staffordshire and the Manchester, but since they were rather incoherent at that point, I can’t be positive if they liked them, hated them, or thought they looked like someone we knew.  The judge chose the Scotty to win the group followed by the Smooth Fox Terrier, the Norwich Terrier, and the Airedale.

Best in Show
The Scottish Terrier, Sadie.
WKC Best in Show Photograph
Anticlimactic, I know.  And I have to wonder why. 
Was it the lack of a superstar (still my favorite – Rufus – I think it’s the Roman nose)? A missing judge?  Or was it my lack of preparation?
I have to say that the most enjoyment I get from the dog show is from knowing the history behind the breeds. I didn’t do any homework this year and I felt a little as if I were unprepared for class. 
Another thing that I made note of is that I don’t remember so many random markings on the dogs.  Even the Kuvasz, the Great Pyrenees, and the Bedlington Terrier, dogs I normally think of as solid white, were all sporting a little tan in areas around the head.  Most of the multi-colored dogs had random, rather than distinct markings.  Is it the Panda-effect (cue Boston Terrier)? I want to see dogs with clear markings, not camouflage (unless of course, it is for camouflage).
Rather than providing excitement in its own right, this year’s show provided another data point regarding dog development and the status of the species among men (and, no less important to me, in my home).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

134th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show – Day One

Right off the bat, let me tell you that David Frei did not keep us in suspense long. He talked about the Norwegian “Boo’ hoond” within the first four minutes of the show.   One mystery solved.
Secondly, there were some minor announcer errors which I’ve never noticed in the past. One technical glitch, labeling the American Foxhound as a Basenji, disrupted my otherwise normal delight in the hound group.  Other than that, it appears a good time was had by all.
While my family, predictably, went with the 13” Beagle, I was leaning toward the Greyhound, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and the Whippet as paragons of their breeds.  The Whippet, Chanel, impressed me because of her very strange coat (apparently within breed standards).  She looked a little like she was wearing a coat of thin white granite with narrow black veining.
Gneiss coat, Chanel!
WKC Group Judging Photo
The judge called Chanel the winner, followed by the Greyhound, the Scottish Deerhound, and the PVGB.
As we own a toy breed, a Pug, we watched this group eagerly, only to realize that none of us had any use for the toy breeds.  This does not reflect well on our furry little companion.  More likely, the realization is related to the fact that we do have a Pug and – most of the time – we like our dog and wouldn’t trade her adorable looks and kooky antics for any of the frou-frou smashed-faced nervous little ankle-biters we saw.  Except maybe the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, (at whom I dare you to look without squealing in delight, or at least crinkling up your nose at his sheer cuteness) who looks like he might require a little bit of grooming work, but is overall quite adorable. 
Winners: Toy Poodle, the possessed hassock, the Shih Tzu, and the Papillon.   
The mere convening of this group cracks me up.  What the hell do these dogs do?  The Toys are obviously companion animals, the Hounds, hunters, the Sporting dogs are hunters, or help hunters, but what on earth does Non-Sporting imply?  It’s like being part of an atheist group.  The only thing it tells about them is what they are not. 
That said, we loved the Frenchie (French Bulldog), and he won the group, followed by the Chinese Shar-Pei (eh), Bulldog (loved her), and the Miniature Poodle (more eh).
This was our favorite group of the night.  Again, all of the Belgian dogs, the Malinois, the Sheepdog, and the Tervuren, impressed me with their sturdy good looks and apparent temperaments.  This time, even my husband admitted an admiration for the Malinois, but he was rooting for the Norwegian Buhund (I think that’s because he was right about the pronunciation of the name, but I’ll allow that we all love that happy Spitz look).   My money, however, was on the Smooth Collie.  It was obvious she wasn’t a crowd favorite, but I thought she was beautiful and strong looking.
It’s a good thing my wager took place in my mind, because the trotting, knotted rug of organized mats, the Puli, won the group.  You really should check out this thing in motion.
Happily, the Belgian Sheepdog scored a second place, with the Bearded Collie (Beardie) and German Shepherd following.

That’s it for now.  As I write, they are judging the remaining three groups for tonight’s big finale!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Judgment Day

It's finally here - day one of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show 2010.

So many dogs.. .

So hard to believe they're all the same species!

Here are three interesting articles regarding dog genetics.

The first, from PBS, is about how the evolution of the dog from wolves may have occured from a few females over 100,000 years ago.  The last two paragraphs fascinated me.
How and when this domestication happened has been a matter of speculation. It was thought until very recently that dogs were wild until about 12,000 years ago. But DNA analysis published in 1997 suggests a date of about 130,000 years ago for the transformation of wolves to dogs. This means that wolves began to adapt to human society long before humans settled down and began practicing agriculture.
This earlier timing casts doubt on the long-held myth that humans domesticated dogs to serve as guards or companions to assist them. Rather, say some experts, dogs may have exploited a niche they discovered in early human society and got humans to take them in out of the cold.
The second (via NoodleFood), from the Oxford Journals of Molecular Biology and Evolution, refutes that suggestion and gives osteological evidence that all modern dogs are descendants from hundreds of domesticated wolves at the same time in China between 7,000 and 16,000 years ago. However, even this article suggests something quite interesting about domestication of wolves.
Possibly, the transition in behavior from carnivore to omnivore was an early step in the domestication process, perhaps in an initial "self-domestication" process (Crockford 2000) in which wolves approached human camp sites in search of food left overs.
And finally, this news story from the Boston Globe, about how examining the dog genome may hold the key to understanding human diseases. 
Because of careful breeding, dogs are more inbred and less genetically diverse than humans. They also happen to naturally develop diseases that are in many cases similar to human forms of the disease, such as the compulsive disorder, epilepsy, cancer, and phobias.

That means that fewer spots in the genome need to be studied to find variations that could cause a disease, and some of the genes that cause complex diseases may be easier to find in dogs than in humans.

Tune in tonight at 8:00 PM to catch the Group Judging.  If you're busy, don't worry, I'll post the highlights tomorrow.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

prə-nŭn′sē-ā′ shən

Why is "primer" pronounced like "primmer" when associated with elementary texts, but like "pry-mer" for all other applications of the word? This particular oddity of the English language bothers me immensely. While my ears are less sensitive to it than the use of "off-ten", it seems as pretentious. But why?

of·ten (ô′fən, ŏf′ən, ôf′tən, ŏf′-)
Many times; frequently.

[Middle English, alteration (probably influenced by selden, seldom), of oft from Old English; see upo in Indo-European roots.]

: During the 15th century English experienced a widespread lossof certain consonant sounds within consonant clusters, as the (d) in handsome and handkerchief, the (p) in consumption and raspberry, and the (t) in chestnut and often. In this way the consonant clusters were simplified and made easier to articulate. With the rise of public education and literacy and, consequently, people's awareness of spelling in the 19th century, sounds that had become silent sometimes were restored, as is the case with the t in often, which is now frequently pronounced. In other similar words, such as soften and listen, the t generally remains silent.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2002, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Well, there goes that theory that "off-ten" is just a pretentious way to pronounce often - still, I can't bring myself to speak it.

Another thing that bothers me regarding pronunciation is that some new dictionaries do not use the standard symbols of phonetic pronunciation. Long "a" is no longer represented by "ā", but by "ay" or some such. When did that happen?

In doing a little research about the phonetic marks of old, I found the mother lode of phonetic information. It's a University of Iowa website called Phonetics: The Sounds of English and Spanish (it has German, too).

It has a cutaway computer model representing the position of the teeth, tongue, and lips for all sounds made, as well as a head-on video of someone's mouth making the same sounds. It's very, very cool.  And I'm giving you fair warning that it's so cool, you may spend hours there, particularly if you are a pronunciation geek.  

Still. I wonder where all my pronunciation keys are from days past. It appears that everything is moving toward the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) which is much more comprehensive, but also more complex than the simple pronunciation marks of yesterday.

I guess I was hoping for something more like this:

That's what we called "short A" back in the old days.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

“It’s Blu Kote, not Clear Coat”

I knew there was Gentian violet in the formula. Yet, somehow, I was not moved to put down newspaper when spraying the feet of one of my chickens who apparently had become the victim of something (most likely another chicken).

Now I have this lovely modern art exhibit permanently installed in my mud room – until I repaint.
Upon finding me laughing at my own stupidity while attempting to clean it up, my husband noted the titular truism and then said, “I’m just glad I didn’t do it.”

And the chicken? She is getting personalized attention, exotic spa treatments (her name is Barbie), and should be recooperated fully by Monday. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

25 Modern Romantic Movies

Just in time for Valentine’s Day. Your mileage may vary.

Top of the Heap

Lost Love
(not lost hope)

(movies made and remade, both wonderfully, in which food prep takes center stage)

Some You May Have Missed
(as Romances)

(lesser known gems)

Teen Romantic Comedies
(worth watching)

Comments, questions, and complaints welcomed. 
Fabulous romantic movies I’ve missed, requested.

These titles represent what I could remember, and with the exception of the first four, not necessarily what I hold as the best romantic movies.  
*I do count these among the best.
+Disturbing and dark in places.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

But in this case, I think a link is worth more.

Guess who's hosting the Objectivist Round Up this week? That's right: Titanic Deck Chairs. Go there, relax, and enjoy. Don't worry about the icebergs.  They've all melted due to global warming.

Okay. Now guess who's hosting next week?

Oui. C'est moi. Don't be late.

Theft Actually

In searching for my favorite romantic movies to list for Valentine's Day, I came across this bit of film propaganda involving Richard Curtis and Bill Nighy.  While the idea of a Tobin tax is not new, I am disgusted at the full court press by celebrities in pushing this envy-driven socialist agenda. 
Is their involvement a symptom of their reckless morality, or is it because when times get tough, more people go to the movies as a means of escape and so their star power rises?  It makes me wonder: more than recession proof, is the entertainment industry recession fed? More on that another day perhaps.

The article which led me to this video states that a proposed %0.05 tax on all financial transactions would be a painless way for banks to compensate society for causing the global financial crisis
The campaign has already lived up to its outlaw image. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the question "Do you want to be part of the world's biggest bank job?" was projected onto the Bank of England. From tomorrow, campaigners will ask Facebook networkers to don green Robin Hood style facemasks as a show of support.
Beside encouraging mob rule, what the proponents of such a tax seem to willfully misunderstand is that, unlike taxation, bankers did not use force to get their money (the government used force to give them your money), banking and financial services is one of the most highly regulated industries (a large, if not the largest component in bank failures), and it is likely that any losses in revenue will be passed onto the financial services consumer.   
So how exactly will this gross expropriation and redistribution of funds, this legalized theft actually, help us avoid such a financial crisis in the future? How will it contribute to the long-term interest of anyone? How will it encourage appreciation for capitalism and the free market through which men have developed tremendous advances in technology and wealth?
This is unprincipled thinking whipped up by misplaced blame with a bit of nasty satisfaction from vigilante justice thrown in.
 [T]he economist James Tobin always thought a far higher tax would be needed to throw "sand in the wheels" of finance.

I may just have to remove Love Actually from my list of best romantic movies.