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Y'know, I thought that once I graduated from college, I'd be done with all-nighters.

Completely unrelated, I've been caught in another "I didn't know he was still alive" moment after reading the death notice: Sam Greenlee, author of "The Spook Who Sat by the Door" and co-author of the script of the movie of the same name, died on the 19th.


Pete Special

I've been informed that Pete Special has passed away, probably Monday evening.

He was always a friendly person and a superb performer, whether he was leading his own band, or performing in groups like Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows, Brother Brother, and Sonic Voodoo.

I haven't found an obituary yet. There were a few Youtube links though:


Couldn't find one of him doing "Mozart Street", unfortunately.


Hoping For An Extended Run

From e-mail:

"We are thrilled to share the news that "Citizen Koch" is coming to a theater near you -- it will open at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Friday June 13th 2014 and in theaters across the country throughout June, July and August."

"Citizen Koch" is the documentary that went to Kickstarter after its funding not-so-mysteriously disappeared. The the project was successfully funded on Kickstarter (full disclosure: I was a contributor), and is now being released as a movie.

I'm pretty thrilled too.



I want this, but I don't want to buy a Kindle edition

The Dawkins character is a hoot: foul-mouthed, pompous, so certain of his beliefs that he will dissect a puppy in front of primary schoolchildren if it will disabuse them of the creation "myth" invented by the "dark forces of religion".

   (From the review of When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow in The Guardian, Wednesday 9 April 2014)

Apparently Dan Rhodes couldn't get his publishers interested ("Rhodes apparently decided to take the gamble on the grounds that he has so little money that to sue him would be fruitless, despite being chosen as one of Granta's best young British novelists in 2003."), so he went the self-publishing route. Pity there isn't an alternate e-book edition.


Dear Westinghouse

Really? Is it that hard to design an on/off light bulb socket that doesn't require massive upper body strength?

Yeah, I can handle it (although I'd rather not have to exert that much pressure through my fingertips), but people with physical conditions like arthritis do exist.

(*Grumble*, out to a different hardware store, I guess).


This Explains A Lort

That box of Irish Breakfast tea -- that I am two-thirds through now -- is decaf.


I Like Old Astronomy Books

This doesn't quite fit into that category though:

"A good deal of theorising has been expended in accounting for the absence of all but traces of an atmosphere and water on the moon, which might have been avoided had astronomers not caught up the notion, and stuck to it, that it rotates on its axis once for every revolution that it makes round the earth. ... Any one who chose to take the trouble to study the matter thoroughly, would have easily discovered that the moon can have no rotation of any kind on its axis, and immediately afterwards have found out the reason why nothing beyond traces of air and water were to be seen on the side of it constantly turned towards the earth."

The book is New Theories in Astronomy, by William Stirling, Civil Engineer (1906). I'm looking forward to reading more of it.


The Fourth Catalogue Order

From White Flower Farm (the same time as McClure & Zimmerman):

6 Fraise Des Boise 'Baron Solemacher' (i.e., alpine strawberries)
1 Heuchera 'Rave On' (coral bell)
1 Dianthus 'Candy Floss'
Read more...Collapse )

That's currently it as far as orders go. Some of the plants have already arrived, and a few got planted Sunday. Today it's snowing, but fortunately I only planted the hardy ones, as I am able to read a weather forecast.


My Exact Words Were, "Are You Kidding Me?"

Got a (land line) call today that actually looked like something important (we've been having a lot of issues in Chicago, what with Mayor Emanuel trying to fix the school system by destroying it, among other things).

And indeed, the opening words contained "Mayor Emanuel" and "destroying thousands of jobs".

And then came "... by trying to eliminate plastic bags..."

Yes, I was called to join the cause of preventing the loss of our precious plastic bags. Those lovely delicate creations that grace our streets' gutters and flutter in our tree branches.

I too, will mourn them as they join the great auk and the passenger pigeon. Soon we'll only be able to see them at the Field Museum, and Antiques Roadshow will discuss the finer details of the Dominick's plastic bag versus the classic Krogers'.


The Expert

I'm fortunate that I've never quite had a discussion like this, although I have had a couple of moments of cognitive dissonance that I've had to work through.

Interestingly, this is based on a short story that according to the Youtube "about" text, was originally published on Livejournal, "The Meeting" (in Russian, unfortunately for me).

Next Comes The Packing Problem

Meet Space Station’s Small Satellite Launcher Suite

I'm following the cubesat phenomenon with a mild obsession -- it just seems elegant to me. Between this and the CAT propulsion project, I'm looking forward to a lot more space-based observation and experimentation.


The Third Catalogue Order

From McClure & Zimmerman:

12 Gladiolus Nanus 'Atom'
3 Hymenocallis festalis 'Zawenenberg'
3 Caladium 'Red Flash'
3 Bletilla striata

I mailed the order off about a week and a half ago.

The gladiolus are a hardy variety, which surprised me when I first read the description. Hardy to zone 5? Are you sure these are glads? But I have a group planted in one corner, combined with the crocosmias (they're both the same hue of red, and bloom at about the same time, so it's a really nice composition. Completely accidental on my part), and they've been surviving happily for years now. I'm going to combine this bunch with the non-red crocosmias I ordered earlier, and see how well they do together.

"Hymenocallis festalis" I knew more readily as "Peruvian Daffodil" and a under different scientific name after that (it got re-categorized), but it produces a ridiculous (but impressive) frondy flower. It's also the only flower I've had passers-by ask me about, so it's not just me. Not hardy in my area, so I have to dig the bulbs up for the winter, which unfortunately I didn't do in time last year.

The caladium are caladium. I like the read-and-green leaves though, so it's worth the bother of digging them up for the winter.

Bletilla striata is a hardy, terrestrial orchid. It's officially zone 6, but I plant it next to the building, and most of them survive over winter. Given the winter we've just come out of though, I thought replenishing the ranks might be a good idea.


The Last Of The Ice

I'm hoping that the last ice mound will melt away today. The fact that it's raining ought to help, but the ice has been stubborn this year.


Google Flu Flubs


Google Flu Trends Is Wrong. A Lot.

"I know we bang the drum of transparency a lot around here, but if this map is truly meant in service of the public good, Google should at least provide academics a peek under the hood. The better the public understands how this data is gathered and processed, the better we can understand why it provides the results that it does, and how serious those results could be taken."

Yeah... we don't know how good the data is, and we don't know how good the algorithm is, so what are we left with?
The primary elections here are being held the day after St. Patrick's Day.

Okay, granted, the celebrations will be on Saturday, with extended celebrations Friday and Sunday for the celebrators who take their celebration seriously. But I do wonder about lingering side effects.


The Second Catalogue Order

To The Lily Garden:

1 lily Pirouette
5 crocosmia Sharona
5 crocosmia Star of the East
5 crocosmia Vera Cruz

This should be interesting. I have a bunch of very red and only red crocosmias ("Lucifer" and a small version of "Lucifer named "King Crimson"), because the non-red ones didn't seem to be hardy up in my zone.

I'll see how these do. With luck I'll get my act together and take pictures when they actually bloom.

The lily is a multi-flowered pink thing that is listed as having a strong scent (a major plus) and described as blooming in August (also a major plus; getting plants that bloom that late can be tricky).


Decisions, Decisions

Stanley Clark at Space, or Daphne Willis at Martyrs?

Honestly, this is frustrating.


Finally Found Beagle's Opera

This discussion of science fiction and opera (both wished-for and real) got me to try again to see if I could find who was the composer for the adaptation of Peter S. Beagle's story "Come Lady Death".

It's finally out there: David Carlson was the composer. Yea, one less thing to bug me at night.

The Midnight Angel
Libretto by Peter S. Beagle after the story Come, Lady Death by Peter S. Beagle.
1993, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri; also Glimmerglass and Sacramento, 1993

It looks like his first opera, too.


Another Four To Six Inches!

Gad. The problem, of course, is not that the snow isn't being handled, it's just that our options are getting limited. There are just fewer places to put the snow.

My condo has a garage, and like nearly every other garage here, it opens onto the alley. Which is not plowed (some alleys are, but I live on a a fairly long block thanks to a diagonally-running road, and there's just no place to put the snow). So we have somewhat scraped surfaces in front of the garage doors with huge piles of snow next to them. And, of course, the alley itself has two ruts running down it with enough snow to scrape the undercarriage of a (for example) 1997 Saturn.

(I had to drive a couple of weeks ago, and when I came back Sunday before last, it took me forty-one minutes to maneuver the car into the garage.)

Fortunately, driving is something I rarely do here -- public transportation is convenient -- but people whose jobs depend on driving have got to be feeling harassed (I don't mean pizza delivery, although they can't be feeling happy, but people like plumbers who have equipment and heavy materials to transport).

We really need a thaw right now.


The effect of Shelby County v. Holder take hold

From Interactive Map: The War on Voting Rights:

"Section 4 [of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, struck down last year] outlined a formula for identifying jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination. These places included many states in the South and various counties and townships scattered across the country. Under Section 5 of the Act, these places were required to receive “preclearance” from the federal government before making any changes to voting laws. Though the Supreme Court didn’t render an opinion on Section 5, striking down Section 4 rendered it punchless—without a coverage formula, there are no places that require preclearance."

So the laws putting special conditions on voting will be in place for the next Federal elections:



“Elementarno, my dear Watson”

Recently the first three episodes of last year’s Russian Sherlock Holmes, set in Victorian London, have become available in English—”Baker Street 221B,” “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” and “Clowns“—with the rest of the thirteen to be translated soon.

But that's not all!
Compare this version to the earlier Soviet one produced by Lenfilm Sudio from 1979 to 1986, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, a series of five films broken into eleven episodes. Holmes is played by the great Vasily Livanov, who became an Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire for his portrayal of the detective, and Watson the chronicler is played by the handsome Vitaly Solomin.

I didn't feel going through adding the links in the linktastic quoted texts, so I do recommend going to the article and clicking around yourself. I haven't had a chance to go through all the videos myself, so I can't guarantee it that they will be your cup of tea. "Translated", by the way, means that you have to click on the "cc" button to get the subtitles.