30 April 2008


    A podcast for people who ponder the puzzles of life.
      Robert Krulwich

According to his NPR bio, Robert Krulwich is "a correspondent for NPR's Science Desk, reporting on the intersections of science and technology with culture, politics and religion. His specialty is explaining complex news — economics, technology, science — in a style that is clear, compelling and entertaining." He also teams up with with Jad Abumrad on one of my favorite NPR shows, Radio Lab.

I was psyched to find out he has his own podcast. Hmmm.... Krulwich on Science is basically a podcast of all his segments that show up on various NPR shows. He says in his bio that he likes "talking about 'invisible ideas' and trying to find a way to explain what you've learned so people can grasp it," and that's exactly what you'll find in this podcast.

If you get a chance, check it out. I think my favorite so far is the segment about yawning, and what triggers a yawn. (Hint: 55% of you might be yawning right now.)

25 April 2008

The old McCain, he ain't what he used to be.

    My friends, this is a defining issue...
      John McCain
    ...until you get the nomination.
      Keith Olbermann

Gone is the John McCain of 2000, that's for damn sure.

This is what I was thinking as I read this Washington Post story about McCain's recent tax policy reversals. It is not really surprising. He became a cheerleader for Bush's failed foreign policy, so why not do the same with fiscal policies?

It is just one more sign of his last-chance, stop-at-nothing bid for the presidency. Clearly he wants it badly, and he'll do whatever he thinks it takes. Hell, he has even welcomed the masterminds of the 2000 smear campaign against him.

None of this surprises me, not anymore. I knew McCain had no shame whatsoever since February. That's when he voted against a bill that would require American interrogators (including those in the CIA) to follow the Amry Field Manual. Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow discussed this at the time:

As late as November 2007 McCain argued that torture is a "defining issue" for America and that the Army Field Manual should be standard. So much for that.

McCain has abandoned so many "defining issues" that one wonders if anything is sacred. I seems like the maverick image is nothing more than a convenient facade, cast aside once it outlived its usefulness.

24 April 2008

What I'm listenning to (and reading)

    We take you now to Grovers Mill, New Jersey.
      The War of the Worlds
      by H. G. Wells
      as performed by
      Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air

I had been anticipating the new season of Radio Lab for months, and I am loving it now that it's here. An early standout is the War of the Worlds episode, which was performed live. I've heard the Orsen Wells story many times, but I had never heard what happened when a radio station in the Equadorian city of Quito decided to do their own production in 1949.

I'm also catching up on episodes of This American Life that have been accumulating on my iPod. The episode "Nice Work If You Can Get It" includes an excellent piece with John Hodgman telling the story of his rise to fame.

As for audiobooks, I've just finished the third in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and I'm really starting to enjoy them. The first two were read by Tim Curry, but the rest are read by the author. Sometimes an author isn't the best person to read their own work, but in this case I think it's an improvement.

Also read well by the author is Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders, his second short fiction collection. I expect people will have varying opinitons about each of the stories and poems, but I you'll find it hard to dislike "A Study in Emerald." If you don't have time to pick up the whole book, this story is available online here. In fact, if you've only listened to it, you should check out the PDF just for the illustrations and format.

Knowing little beforehand, I listened to Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton. If you've read Everything is Illuminated, you would be inclined to classify Groff as a female Jonathan Safran Foer. That's not really accurate, but comparisons are difficult to escape completely. I'm also pretty sure that if I'd read more James Fenimore Cooper, I would have caught several references and in-jokes in the book. That said, I enjoyed the story, especially the final chapters.

An actual book that I'm actually reading is Tolkein's The Children if Hurin. I've been reading a chapter here an there, and I'm almost done. The chapters stand somewhat on their own, being true chapters in the lives of the characters. Each chapter mostly resolves it's own smaller story arc, so it lends fairly well to this casual style of reading. It's certainly not a pager-turner, nor is is inteded to be. At the same time, I am reading the Lord of the Rings with my oldest. Every now and then I come accross a name from The Children if Hurin, which takes place thousands of years before LotR, so it is sort of like reading ancient history.

By the way, reading LotR again is great fun for me. I really look forward to each night when we read. Having read it so many times already, and reading it aloud, I am noticing many subtlies and tidbits I'd either missed or forgotten. It's nice to know you still find new things in even the most familiar old favorites.

23 April 2008

Topic for future therapy sessions

    Hurry little children
    Run this way
    I have got a beast at bay
      Gnarls Barkley*

There's a little thing we do at home, mostly after dinner and especially when the kids are antsy. We tell them to run in circles around our house. Our floor pattern is one of those where you can go in a circle from kitchen to foyer to living room to dining room and back to kitchen again. (If it were a Kill Doctor Lucky board, this would be where you pile up cards, but this isn't a post about board games.)

This week we are pet-sitting, so we have extra dogs. One dog is named Tawney, a pleasant small mutt of 11-12 years whose visits we always enjoy. The other Angie, a young energetic Border Collie. She likes to chase things and would prefer to be active 23 hours of a given day. This is not the kind of energy level we expect from our own dogs. We now have to fight with Darkman for space on the couch, and I'm pretty sure Shadow's activity won't change much even after she recovers from ankle surgery.

So, as I was saying, we tell the children to run in circles and burn off some excess energy. We did this a couple nights ago, but now we had Angie to join the chase. As might have been predicted, this did not go over well with our youngest. There was whining and fussing. How did we respond, good parents that we are? We told her to run faster, of course.

"But Angie's chasing me me," we were told.

"Run faster so she doesn't catch you," we responded.

Now let me be clear, this is not a snarling, one step away from mauling, Kujo wannabee dog. Angie wanted to play, which to be honest is what she wants to do all the time (even, say 4 AM). My children have played with her often, and they were certainly in no danger at this point. Yet even so, I could already picture my therapist's office somewhere in my child's future, where she would be recalling this incident....

"...And I'll never forget it. They kept telling me to run... run faster... run, run, run! I don't know why they wanted me to run. The dog was chased me and all they did was tell me to run. And the were laughing. Laughing! How could they be laughing?" At this point my now grown child breaks down. The therapist offers the tissue box, and she circles the word "laughing" in her notes.

Of course, the dogs were sent outside to chase one another or (more likely) bark under the fence at the neighbor's dogs. We explained everything was fine, there was nothing to be afraid of, Angie was just playing, yadda yadda yadda, and all was right with the world again.

Except for the screaming night terrors.

*Yeah, that is two GB quotes in a row, from the same song no less. It's just stuck in my brain....

22 April 2008

Yeah, still the same

    When you see me coming run
    Before you see what I’m running from
    No time for question asking time is passing by
      Gnarls Barkley

I have no specific reasons for not blogging - just haven't. Maybe I just needed to overcome the inertia. If this doesn't get you going, I'm not sure what will. The first single from the new Gnarls Barkley album:

P.S. To ivorybillchick, don, and rob s.: Thanks. It's nice to know you're missed.