Summer fun

Not this one!

Particularly in the Midwest, when vacation comes, people head for water. Since we’re meeting Midwesterners for a spot of holiday, we’re doing that, too. And enjoying it from a houseboat!

Color My World

Sometimes when I browse the paintings at a gallery or museum, I like to look closeup, and be immersed in the color. Me, I don’t paint or watercolor, or any of that (no talent), but I do enjoy periodically taking a tiny piece of color-shapes, divorced from their overall context, as my visual world.

Getting High!

Rarely, we face a conjunction of the stars that result in a back-to-back series of social engagements; usually our life is far more low key. Not this weekend!

Friends arrived from southwest of here yesterday afternoon, and we partied until the wee hours (mine, anyway!), and got up and laughed and told even more stories this morning. Obligations, sadly, took them away around mid-day.

Then, the next shift arrived, about an hour later, from east of here. Being stuck in Little A-Town, they wanted to do Big City stuff, so we hied off to the High Museum to check out the current exhibits mostly, and 1.5 galleries of permanent exhibits. Many galleries were closed for the latest upgrade, but we had pretty much taken in all our brains could absorb by the time we wandered back to the parking garage….

To refortify ourselves, we dined (first time for all) at Pacific Kitchen, an unalloyed success! Yum.

Visual poetry

Some images are pure visual poetry. This one’s close.

Killer Tree

Once upon a time in a well-established urban neighborhood in the urban Southeast (aka Midtown Atlanta), there was a Killer Tree. Of course, the tree looked perfectly normal when it was a little tree, way back when the houses and streets and sidewalks were being built. It also looked like a normal tree when it was a young tree, and even as it reached middle age. It grew tall and robust, and its branches reached high and needed no pruning. The Killer Tree, in its younger days, gloried in providing shade for the house below it, for the cars that parked along the street below it, and for the children who played in the yard it shaded.

One day, however, the Killer Tree awoke from its stupor of normality and began to contemplate its situation. The Killer Tree discovered that it could not move and could not find out what was beyond its viewscape. The Killer Tree found this very frustrating.

And, lacking any other means of showing its frustration, the Killer Tree dropped a branch.

And that is the story of how the Killer Tree earned its name.

Double rant

Rant #1

Julia Moskin, in today’s NYTimes, discusses “ice-structuring protein�? in an article on innovation (har!) in ice cream making. The key fact about this manipulation of this food is buried down near the end:

Products produced with the new technologies are less affected by partial thawing than traditional ice creams, which become dry, sticky and hard in fluctuating temperatures.

And why is this in play? Because manufacturers want to ship their product (it’s not ice cream if you ask me!) to Asia—and curb the potential for degradation as it’s transferred along the way (aka reduce “cold-chain issues�?).

Ick. Count me out!

Rant #2

In his new book, Conservatives without Conscience (2006), John Dean describes a series of “authoritarian conservatives�? who recently have held prominent political positions in the US (he begins with J. Edgar Hoover). One characteristic they share, he notes, is the tendency to act inconsistently and amorally. Tendency, heck, they flat out do it.

With his laserlike mind, [Bill] Frist makes Bush and Cheny look like filament bulbs near burnout…. Frist is Richard Nixon with Bill Clinton’s brains, and Nixon was no mental slouch. (p. 152)

Frist, in his first book on his experiences as a heart surgeon, Dean says, describes the bind he found himself in while doing heart research on laboratory cats at Harvard Medical School. Basically, Frist would test the medicines on the cats, then dissect their hearts to gauge their effects. At some point, he

ran out of cats. “Desperate, obsessed with my work, I visited the various animal shelters in the Boston suburbs, collecting cats, taking them home, treating them as pets for a few days, then carting them off to the lab to die in the interest of science….” (p. 154)

Whew, there’s a major lapse of ethics. Dean doesn’t mince words—he calls Frist a “serial cat killer “(p. 155), and notes that Frist could have been prosecuted for cruelty to animals, and probably for fraud in obtaining them from the shelters.

Watch your blood pressure!

Dean’s book is a good library read, however, and probably not worth buying. One flip through the pages speed-reading and you will get the gist of it. The details will only get your blood boiling. On the other hand, if that engages you in the political process (getting you to the polls at minimum), maybe it is worth buying!

Quote of the day

…an individual dimension of social status…maybe only situationally and not generally relevant.

p. 110 in White, Joyce C. (1995), “Incorporating Heterarchy into Theory on Socio-Political Development: The Case from Southeast Asia,” in Heterarchy and the Analysis of Complex Societies, Archaeological Papers, no. 6. Edited by Robert M. Ehrenreich, Carole L. Crumley, and Janet E. Levy, pp. 101–23. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association.

Algal lake

Low clouds scattered the sunlight this morning, and Lake Clara Meer has taken on a summer algal decoration, which resembles marbled endpapers.

Apparently, installation of two pumps under the apron (aka pier) at the south end of the lake was supposed to eliminate this situation, but, walah! (as I read on a menu once), it returns!

I can happily report that the extreme heat wave is currently leaving us alone here, although most of the rest of North America and Europe are suffering.

Nevertheless, perhaps as a response to the heat, our backyard azalea is now in its second coming (reblooming). I lost count of how many blooming cycles it accomplished last year; I’ll have to be more attentive this year!

Bias recognition

Sometimes there’s no way to know the backstory. Saturday morning about 9.

The tendency to see bias in the news—now the raison d’etre of much of the blogosphere—is such a reliable indicator of partisan thinking that researchers coined a term, “hostile media effect,�? to describe the sincere belief among partisans that news reports are painting them in the worst possible light.

—writes Shankar Vedantam in today’s WashPost. Later Vedantam notes that two researchers working separately found fundamental differences between partisans, offering further insights when paired with observations I have noted previously regarding authoritarian conservatives.

Ross and Perloff both found that what partisans worry about the most is the impact of the news on neutral observers. But the data suggest such worry is misplaced. Neutral observers are better than partisans at seeing flaws and virtues on both sides. Partisans, it turns out, are particularly susceptible to the general human belief that other people are susceptible to propaganda.

Over in the NYT, Robert Pear notes that even the fairly conservative ABA is worried about certain behaviors of the current administration:

The American Bar Association said Sunday that President Bush was flouting the Constitution and undermining the rule of law by claiming the power to disregard selected provisions of bills that he signed.

Sounds like a combo of the authoritarianism and partisan paranoia that’s near-toxic for most of us residing in this republic—hell, maybe even across the globe….

Ginko biloba

These are the fruit, and perhaps the only unappealing part of the tree, if they are decaying in your lawn where you can smell them (just ask Diane). Ginko trees are either male or female, so be careful when you head for your favorite landscaping store!

I love the name—doesn’t it roll off the tongue?—although only some of the leaves are bisected—some have more sections; some are singles….

Crepe myrtles

Rain last night changed the whole feel of the out-of-doors, although promised cells this afternoon have been missing us here in Virginia-Highland. All the plants seem quite happy to have their roots watered, and seem to have been awaiting the precip during our entire trek.

In the South, crepe myrtles sorta fit the landscape category that lilacs do in the Midwest—upright woody shrubs that are bedecked with color during “their time.�? They offer blooms throughout the hottest part of the summer, and cheery shades of pink at that!, but the rain brought down lots of the wee buds (not to be confused with Weebits—thank you, Gillian!).

Crepe myrtles also play a role in the lore of jcb and me, since we kept looking for them the day we met. But that’s another story for another time….

On another note, I’ve added another recipe to “Food Fun,�? this time Oatmeal Bread, for machines. Mostly, jcb has been making the modified version, with extra whole grain goodness, noted at the bottom.