29 March 2008

Shoveling playlist

If shoveling heavy snow/slush yesterday taught me anything, it's that I need better earbuds if I want to do anything physical while listening to music. It's hard to maintain a shoveling groove when you have to stop, balance your shovel, and take off a glove to put your earbud back in every few minutes.

Any suggestions? Comfortable and will stay in place, sounds good, and low-profile are the attributes I've got in mind. Not too pricey would be good too.

A year ago on TTaT: 6? I'm behind, but it's ok

28 March 2008

Bears in motion, sort of

The story behind the bears is here.

(run time 0:31)

The astute observer will notice that the cub looks at me before catching up with Mama. Yes, I did say hello.

(Other vlogs of TTaT)

A year ago on TTaT: Reduced to reverse

27 March 2008

Enough with the Christmas decorations!

I'll be the first to admit there are still three spiral light trees in my yard. Anyone with those sorts of exterior decorations still out, I get. The ground is still frozen: stakes and anchors aren't coming out without breaking until it's warmer.

I also don't care if you leave lights lining your roof up year-round. They've got to be a pain in the ass to put up. In fact, anything that required a ladder to put up is still tolerable to me. Even on our marginally warm days of late, it's been freakin' windy out.

Christmas wreaths on your front door, however, must go! Really. Now. I'll wait. Just open your front door and lift it off the damn hook. How hard is that? If you want to put up a floral spring wreath in its place, that's fine. Just ditch the evergreen!

Two years ago on TTaT: Little Creatures: Fred's Rescue

26 March 2008

Claire's Bears

My mood tends to be foul and unforgiving when someone awakens me unbidden. This fact is well known in my household. When I heard my doorknob turning that morning, I thought, I already said I'd get up earlier today. I was going to get up in another 20 to 30 minutes anyway. What. Do. You. Think. You're. Doing?, as I fixed my murderous glare on the gingerly widening gap.

When she saw that my eyes were already open, she said the only word which could ensure instantaneous and complete forgiveness: Bears.



"Where?" I threw off the covers and got out of bed.

"In Joy's yard, coming towards ours."

I followed her out into the hall and went into the next room to look. With my adrenaline rush, it was amazing I didn't stub my toes on any of the piles on the floor.

Two Bears! A mother and cub. They were heading towards our yard and at a good clip. When they disappeared behind the shed, I called out, "Camera!" like a surgeon ordering a scalpel and ran to the office for a better view.

She handed me the new digital camera and said, "Do you know how to use this one?"

I'd taken a handful of shots with it once 3 months ago. "Sure." She took another camera and left to get a vantage from the next room.

I set the camera down on the desk, unlocked the window, and pushed up. It didn't budge. The bears were in our yard, and I couldn't get the window open. I didn't even know how cold it was outside; it'd been in the low 30s recently, but I didn't care because I was determined to get clean shots. I was leery of startling the bears with noise, but there was no helping it. I yanked down on the window to break its seal and then gave it a frantic shove up. It opened enough that I could get my hands under it and lift it out of the way. The bears were unperturbed.

I looked for the spring-loaded latches at the base of the screen, but it didn't have any. I couldn't see anything to grab, so I reached up under the glass, found the top of the screen and shoved it up. Fortunately it wasn't stuck. I got my hands under it, and pushed it out of the way. It was a sunny 40 degrees out, so it felt pretty nice.

I picked up the camera, found the on switch. Held it up to my eye, but didn't feel the shutter release. Lowered it, found the button, lifted it up again.

Then I leaned out the window and started snapping shots, afraid that I was going to drop the camera or that all of the shots would be blurred because of my adrenaline.

Mama bear and her cub
This is where you should wait, baby bear
After sniffing around the tree with the cable to lower the bird feeder, Mama bounded towards the house. Even though I was safely hanging out of a 2nd storey window, I was nervous. What if she climbs the stairs to the deck?

Bounding Mama bear
"Where'd he go?" hollered a voice from the next window over.

"She's under the deck." I fought with the zoom lever to get a closer shot of the cub, waiting just where Mama had told her to.

Bear cub waiting for Mama
"There she is. At the base of the stairs," I amended when I caught sight of a bit of Mama's black fur.

The camera beeped ominously as my palm hit a button on the back of it. Damn, what did I just do? The view screen had activated, and I couldn't easily tell how to turn it off, or if I'd done anything else, so I ignored it and hoped that I hadn't switched to macro mode or something else that would ruin my shots.

Mama walked back into the yard, stopping to inspect a sculpture made out of record albums stacked on a spiraling wire. Then she signaled to her cub that it was time to go, and they jogged around the side of the house.

Here's looking at you, bear cub
Time to catch up, bear cub
I ran back to my room, jerked up the blinds and took a few shots through the window as they crossed the street and disappeared into the trees beyond our neighbor's yard.

From first to last of the 33 shots I took, only 3 minutes and 2 seconds elapsed according to the time stamps. Probably less than 6 minutes from the moment I heard my doorknob turn. Felt longer.

A year ago on TTaT: Turkey Invasion

25 March 2008

Holy frijole!

Bear Watch '08 logo
BearWatch '08 was a complete success.

And I can PROVE it!

If only all things in my life came to such fruition in a matter of days.

Gotta jet now, but I'll be back...

24 March 2008

If I knew I wouldn't fail...

"What would you do if you knew you would not fail?" asked Ms. Sizzle a few days ago. Pretty straightforward question, right? My initial response was, "I'm not sure," and boy did that answer bother me.

In her comments, there are a lot of would-be photographers. Oft times, I'd count myself among them, but it just didn't feel like the answer to "What would you do if you knew you would not fail?"

Brushing aside all one's internal No's is the point of asking the question in this manner after all. I reckon that if I knew I wouldn't fail, I'd feel obligated to think big:
Find cures for HIV/AIDS, cancer, heart disease, mental illnesses, Parkinson's, MS, the common cold, you name it...

Implement the Miss America answers: End hunger, poverty, and violence. You know, world peace.

Ending violence would rest heavily on my ability to change people's minds. If I knew I wouldn't fail, I'd convince everyone, starting with the most militant extremists, that focusing on our differences is infinitely less important than making sure everyone has access to clean water, shelter, education, food, and clothing. I'd learn to set aside any remaining biases I have while I was at it. Promoting tolerance would be key.

While I was at it, I'd convince people that science is good: evolution and atheists are no cause for fear or distrust. I'd explain that accepting responsibility for one's actions can provide a potent moral compass whether or not one believes in a higher power.

I'd save tigers and polar bears from extinction.

I'd develop better polution-free renewable energy systems, so the world could stop relying on and fighting over oil.

I'd encourage space exploration, though hopefully by this time I'd have inspired some other people to do the rocket designing.

Throughout this whole list, I would hope to inspire others to work towards solutions themselves, to share their research with one another without monetary or corporate concerns in mind.

And once all this was done, I would go home and be an artist, unconstrained by any particular medium, with enough space to pursue my varied interests: photography, sculpture, furniture, drawing, and writing; and enough money to travel when I felt like it.

You may now appreciate better my inital answer: I'm not sure. I do.

Also, to be fair to Ms. Sizzle's commenters, the context of the question in her post was geared towards work and dating, so it's not surprising the comments tended more to the personal than altruistic. With additional time, that's just where my literal mind led me.

In reality, I grew tired of arguing with people about their deep-seated beliefs a long time ago, since there was rarely any sign that it was fruitful.

Two years ago on TTaT: I'm a little lamb

20 March 2008

BearWatch '08!

BearWatch '08 logo
Day before last, I missed seeing the bear, and I have to say I'm bummed about it. I console myself with the thought that our neighbor didn't call until after the bear headed back into the woods from her yard. I should've picked up, but I knew she wasn't calling for me. That she was calling about a bear did cross my mind, and I did look out, but I should've gone to the next room which has a window facing her back yard.

You better believe I'm on high alert now. Course my mental image of high alert looks a lot like me smashing my knees into desks or door frames as I scramble to get to a window, but it'd be worth it to see another bear.

(Also, let me just say how much I respect Dave's skillful, daily DaveToons. It took me about five minutes to sketch out this BearWatch logo, but translating that sketch to a computer graphic was like entering a time warp that didn't feel long, but was.)

Two years ago on TTaT: Exposition

19 March 2008

Time to move?

Seems they've finally caught up with me. A summons for jury duty is now sitting on my desk. Blast.

I wonder what happens if I move out of the area before the summons date. Guess I have some reading to do.

Not that I'd move just to avoid jury duty. Moving is just one of those things that feels perpetually possibly imminent since I never expected to be here this long.

Two years ago on TTaT: Was I not already doing this for free?

18 March 2008

Round two

Apparently my quotes were more difficult overall than I'd thought they'd be. I lengthened several of the quotes if you'd care to give it another shot. I'd bet most of you have seen at least five of the as yet unnamed films.

Two years ago on TTaT: Query

17 March 2008

I aim to misbehave.*

From Jen and Ms. Sizzle.

Here’s how it works, should you decide to participate:

* Pick 15 of your favorite movies
* Go to IMDB and find a quote from each movie (or quote them from memory because you are that bad ass)
* Post them on your blog for everyone to guess
* Fill in the film title once it’s been guessed

These are your rules:
* No Googling or using IMDB search functions (Don’t cheat!)
* Leave your answer(s) in the comments

1. "You've got me? Who's got you?" (Superman- guessed by Jenny)
2. "I said, 'Sit down, Pinky.'" "Pinky?" "Yes." "What's that, a name?" "Yes." "Whose?" "The counsel for the defense." "Oh. Is that a 'y' or an 'ie'?" "'Y' for him, 'ie' for me." (Adam's Rib- classic Tracy-Hepburn battle of the sexes)
3. "Once again, we've saved civilization as we know it." "And the good news is they're not going to prosecute. "
From the same movie: "They'll respect you now." "That's a comfort. I was lucky that thing had knees." "That was not his knee... Not everyone keeps their genitals in the same place, Captain." (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country- really, no one? Fine, I'm the biggest geek.)
4. "Is this your first Mediterranean cruise?" "Yes, but don't tell anybody." "Why not?" "'Cause I'm the captain."
From the same movie: "I don't smoke, I only drink champagne when I'm lucky enough to get it, my hair is naturally natural, I live alone... and so do you." "How do you know that?" "Because you're wearing one brown sock and one black sock." "You're right!" "If you lived with anybody, they would've told you." "That's one of the advantages of living alone... nobody tells you anything." (Desk Set- guessed by Cathy)
5. "Without change something sleeps inside us and seldom awakens." (Dune- guessed by Jenny)
6. "And they call it a mine. A mine!" "This is no mine, it's a tomb!" (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring- just in case you thought I was lying about my geek status.)
7. "Put me in your pocket, Mike." (The Philadelphia Story- guessed by Ms. Sizzle)
8. "So you guys are like the underground homo railroad." (But I'm a Cheerleader- goofy and hilarious, with a great soundtrack. Rent it!)
9. "Let your mind go and your body will follow."
From the same movie: "Roland thinks L.A. is a place for the brain-dead. He says, if you turned off the sprinklers, it would turn into a desert. But I think - I don't know, it's not what I expected. It's a place where they've taken a desert and turned it into their dreams. I've seen a lot of L.A. and I think it's also a place of secrets: secret houses, secret lives, secret pleasures. And no one is looking to the outside for verification that what they're doing is all right." (LA Story- Steve Martin goodness)
10. "I wrote a suicide note." "You did?" "Yeah, right after I regained conciousness." (The Royal Tenenbaums- guessed by Alissa)
11. "I don't know who you are or where you came from, but from now on, you do as I tell you, okay?" "Look, your worshipfulness, let's get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person: me." "It's a wonder you're still alive." (Star Wars- guessed by Jen)
12. "Don't think, just throw. Don't think, just throw."
From the same movie: "Well, he fucks like he pitches - sorta all over the place." (Bull Durham- guessed by Ms. Sizzle)
13. "You're not the man I knew ten years ago." "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage." (Raiders of the Lost Ark- guessed by Kapgar)
14. "Now go do your best. 'Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.' Goethe said that. It's not too late for you to become a person of substance, Russell. Please get my son home safely. You know, I'm glad we spoke." (Almost Famous- guessed by Alissa)
15. "You're cuter than I thought. I can see why she likes you." "Who?" "Not too bright, though. "
From the same movie: "What are you waiting for? You're faster than this. Don't think you are, know you are. Come on. Stop trying to hit me and hit me." (The Matrix- guessed by Kilax)

*Bonus quote: name the movie the post title comes from. (Serenity- Joss Whedon goodness, anyone? It has one of the best fight scenes ever.)

Two years ago on TTaT: What goes up, Chips and Dr Pepper, Love rekindled

16 March 2008

Ten for ten of thirty

So I'm ten days into my 30 day workout challenge, and I've got to say it's getting harder, not easier. The past few days I really haven't felt like it, which seems pathetic given it's only a 20 minute commitment. Last night, I slinked my way to the outermost boundary of what qualifies as working out just so I wouldn't have to add more days to the experiment. At least the deterrent is effective.

It's grey and snowing; all I want to do is take a nap for three days.

A year ago on TTaT: Hope?; CW execs, you don't know a great thing; And now for more winter

14 March 2008

Ah, Spring Driving

I don't know about where you live, but the potholes here are getting quite deep and wide. Alas, it's still too early to pave over them since it was snowing just yesterday. It's like a game: how fast can you drive while missing potholes and oncoming traffic without looking drunk?

I'm getting fairly good at it, save for those larger-than-car-sized depressions which are cropping up more and more. Still makes me cringe any time I do hit one though. How 'bout you?

A year ago on TTaT: Surreal weather, New Words and Old Words

11 March 2008

I'd hire Miss Pettigrew

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day is a thoroughly enjoyable romantic comedy set in 1939 London. Frances McDormand is a delight to watch as always. The production design, sets, and costumes are exquisite.

The movie is a lot of fun. Undoubtedly not suited to everyone's tastes, but if you like the screwball comedies of the actual 1930s and early 40s, you should enjoy the fresh addition to the genre of Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day.

A year ago on TTaT: I was suspicious..., The other Hepburn

10 March 2008

Four for four

The workout challenge/experiment is going well so far. You may recall that I said if I miss a day for any reason, I'll add 3 more consecutive days to the challenge, and that if I blow off more than one day in a row, the number of make-up days will increase by 1 for each consecutive day missed.

Then, I gave the following examples:
If I'm sick three days in a row, I'll add 9 days to the challenge (3+3+3).
If I blow off three days in a row, I'll add 12 days to the challenge (3+4+5).

Since I'm still a long way from 30, I started wondering how many make-up days I was saving myself by sticking to the plan. In the worst case scenario, I would've missed all 30 days by never actually starting.

y=x+2 where x is the last consecutive day missed and y is the number of makeup days for that day. So by working out the first four days in a row, I've saved myself from missing 30, 29, 28, and 27 consecutive days. That means I've saved myself from:

(30+2)+(29+2)+(28+2)+(27+2)= 32+31+30+29 = 122 makeup days, or 4 extra months.

That's worth being stoked about.

Relying on examples to explain how makeup days would be calculated, however, felt lame, so I started working out a formula for it. My break through came hours before I intended to get up this morning, and it inspired me enough that I couldn't get back to sleep until I'd figured it out.

I recalled the story about the student who was disrupting his math class. To keep him occupied and quiet, his teacher told him to add up all the numbers between 1 and 100. He finished in about five minutes because he recognized that 1+100=101, 2+99=101, 3+98=101, and so on, up to 50+51=101. Since there were 50 pairs of numbers, all he had to do was multiply 50*101 to get the answer, 5050.

My next step was to develop a formula that would provide the sum
of any series of Numbers starting with one. I came up with two equations, one for a series ending in an even number and another for those ending with an odd number:

The total sum of a series of numbers where the final number, n, is even:for even n, (n+1)n/2
The total sum of a series of numbers where the final number, n, is odd:for odd n, n(n/2+1/2)
Then it was just a matter of adapting those formulae for a sequence that begins with 3 instead of 1. In the following equations, n is the number of consecutive workout days blown off.

When n is even,equation for even number of consecutive days skipped
When n is odd,equation for odd number of consecutive days skipped
Plugging 30 into the even equation shows that if I'd never started, I would've had 525 days to make up.

A year ago on TTaT: Quattro

08 March 2008

More Ghost in the Shell, not less!

[adult swim], you wound me. Didn't you read my post three days ago? Maybe a smidge of feminist theory followed by a discussion of body image in Ghost in the Shell turned you off before you could read how much I love this scifi anime cop show.

Ghost in the Shell 4 days a week kept me happy, so why did you change the schedule the day after my post so that it only airs once a week, and at 1:30 AM instead of 1:00 AM?

Were you hurt because I've been using the library to catch up on episodes I missed from season 1? It's true that when I read the schedule change, my first thought was to request the rest of season 2 from the library. Turns out they don't own the last 3 DVDs for that season. You knew that didn't you?
? In the Venn diagram of life, you're more likely to CRAVE SPECTACULAR, INTELLIGENT action than comedy (10 pts.)
A year ago on TTaT: I miss my basketball court

07 March 2008

Now that it's tomorrow

I started thinking about issuing myself a 30 day challenge last night, but saying that I was going to start tomorrow felt sketchy and lame, so here were are with day 1 completed.

The challenge:
30 consecutive days during which I work out for at least 20 minutes a day.

The 20 minutes should be all in one block and will not include the few minutes of stretching I do most every day. If I work out longer than that, great, but it won't count towards any other day. That said, the workout can be anything: walking, stationary biking, yoga, DDR, weight lifting...

However, where DDR is concerned, any time gaps between songs do not count towards the 20 minutes. Also, I should devote more time to levels of songs I find difficult once I've warmed up because:
...we like to practice what we know, stretching out in the warm bath of familiarity rather than stretching our skills. Those who overcome that tendency are the real high performers.
Today, I tried the next level of difficulty up on a few songs I know well. My ability to understand and execute step patterns including syncopation has really come a long way since I first tried the game. I still messed up a lot, but I could mostly tell what I was supposed to be doing; I was a lot closer to being able to play those songs reasonably well than I'd anticipated. That's an encouraging start. Besides, risking failure is good for me, even if failing a DDR song doesn't actually matter.

Weighing in at the start of the challenge crossed my mind so I might get a sense of progress, but since there is someone with a stomach flu between me and the scale, I'll pass. Just completing the days is what counts here.

Being around someone sick did make me leery of starting a daily commitment just now as rationalization is a forte of mine. So, if I miss a day for any reason, I'll add 3 more consecutive days to the challenge. If I miss more than one day in a row for any reason other than being sick, the number of make-up days will increase by 1 for each consecutive day missed.

E.g., If I'm sick three days in a row, I'll add 9 days to the challenge (3+3+3).
If I blow off three days in a row, I'll add 12 days to the challenge (3+4+5).

Gah, I better just do this every day.

If anyone else would like to try this or another 30 day challenge, let me know in the comments so we can encourage each other. You could challenge yourself to anything for a month: read an hour a day, don't watch TV, eat vegetarian, quit smoking. What habit would you like to try on (or break) for a month? Remember, when the month's up, you're free to continue the challenge, revise it, or quit it altogether.

A year ago on TTaT: While I'm undecided

06 March 2008

Just like the title says

19. The Transportation of Place by Andrea Robbins & Max Becher (3/5)

The New York City skyline in Las Vegas, Nevada; German-influenced architecture and clothing in Namibia; Native American reenactments in Germany; Bavaria in Leavenworth, Washington; the home of spaghetti westerns, Almería, Spain; Wall Street in Cuba; St. Pierre and Miquelon, little pieces of France off the coast of Newfoundland; and several other transported places.

The Transportation of Place is a book of color photographs of places (and sometimes people) that have roots elsewhere. Each series of photos is preceded by an informative blurb explaining how the displacement originally occurred. There are a couple of essays in the back about the photographers and their work, but I just skimmed those since there wasn't much new information offered. What an artist has to say about her own work, I'm interested in; what someone else has to say about it, not so much.

Two years ago on TTaT: New rule, please

05 March 2008

The cyborg with the thigh-highs

Depictions of women in anime tend to remind me of everything I've ever read about the male gaze, however, as long as the women are strong characters, I can look past their sexist trappings.

Enter Major Motoko Kusanagi of the near future scifi cop story Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. At the beginning of the series, she spends a lot of time dressed in a strapless push-up unitard with thigh-highs even when she's fighting criminals or conducting official investigations.

When she takes the jacket off, the one-piece is also strapless and backless. Heck, in the original movie, she had to be naked for her thermo-optical camouflage to work. That's about as objectified as you can get, but technically, her body is an object.

The Major was in a terrible crash when she was a kid necessitating the placement of her brain into a prosthetic body. As she matured, her brain was placed in older looking bodies up to the model pictured above. If I were going to pick a body for myself, I'd pick one with a rockin' bod too, although I probably wouldn't show it off as much. Then again, why not? What's to be self-conscious about when someone else designed and manufactured your body, when it can be replaced if damaged or by whim (assuming you have enough money)? Being so strong and agile that almost no one can beat you in a fight doesn't hurt either. (Think Trinity from The Matrix, much inspired by Ghost in the Shell.)

Motoko never went through physical puberty, so asserting her femaleness by showing off her body makes sense to me for her character. Still, I confess that I was pleased to see her wearing more as the series progressed. Pants instead of thigh-highs, huzzah!

On the surface, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a cop show with mysteries to solve, but underneath, among other things, it's about the advantages and pitfalls of incorporating technology directly into people. So smart, excellent, and beautifully made I'd buy it right now if the DVDs weren't so expensive. ($99 just for season one! I wonder if our DVD exports cost as much in Japan.) The library and [adult swim] it is for now. Damn, I love this show.

A year ago on TTaT: Clash of the Foreign Tongues

04 March 2008

Go figure

In the course of saving copies of my favorite posts from last year (Yes, I'm woefully behind on updating my Pride of TTaT page.), I encountered the series Let The Pictures Do The Talking: A Road Trip. I never got around to interlinking them back then, so I started doing it now, only to discover I never finished the series which is amusing considering this.

Pretty sure all the scanning, image resizing, and post formatting got to me. Also explains why that moleskine is still on my desk after 8 months. Finishing the series is now on my mental to-do list, though I could swear I've posted photos of Las Vegas from that trip here before. Anyone recall?

If you'd like to catch up or jog your memory in the meantime, the first four parts of Let The Pictures Do The Talking: A Road Trip are here:

A year ago on TTaT: Another wizard named Harry

01 March 2008


As is often the case when my head's screwed up from a weather change, I felt nauseated after breakfast, so I sat down and entered something of a "don't hurl" meditation. After a few minutes when the nausea no longer felt imminent, I clicked on the tv. Starting with channel two, I surfed up until I hit twelve, a PBS station.

It was towards the end of the show, but The Brain Fitness Program had me hooked.

Basically the idea of neuroplasticity is that the brain can retain high functionality no matter your age as long as you continue to learn new skills. If your mind has been slipping due to disuse or subject to injury, you can improve it and doing so will improve your outlook.

Fascinating show. It's coming on again later, so I'm taping it. Considering my grandmother's late years, retention of cognition is something my dad and I are both interested in.

To see if The Brain Fitness Program is airing on your local PBS station, visit PBS and type in your zipcode to get your affiliate's schedule.

A year ago on TTaT: Tre, Film is better..., One of those days