Thursday, October 18, 2007

Radiohead's In Rainbows:
Online and Available for Free
(or for Whatever Seems Fair)

Absurdly talented rock band Radiohead is a band unencumbered by a record contract. Thus, they can do great things like offer their new album In Rainbows available for download directly to their users without having to ask anyone's permission.

Since Radiohead gets 100% of the proceeds of the record (instead of the meager slice they'd get from a deal with a record company), they're comfortable letting users download the record and name their own price. Grab it for free if you'd like. I paid £5.00. That seemed fair.

The tracks don't have any accompanying cover art. Make you own art or obtain the Radiohead-blessed art here if you'd like to have something pretty staring back at you when you listen to the track on your music player.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Way to Help the Hungry

I just wanted to plug a charity that one of my friends is working with. Yorkville Common Pantry (YCP) is dedicated to reducing hunger while promoting dignity and self-sufficiency. The largest, nonsectarian, neighborhood-based provider of emergency food in New York City, YCP provides 1¼ million meals annually to all who come seeking relief from hunger. YCP’s 24/7 program is New York City’s only emergency food pantry that never closes.

Those readers of the blog who live or work in New York City know the great number of people who beg for food or money to buy food. They beg on the street and on the subway, and most of us (myself included) ignore them. Donating to organizations like YCP is an efficient way of helping our fellow urbanites most in need. YCP has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, an independent charity evaluator.

You can donate here.

Additionally, YCP is hosting a Junior Event Celebration on November 7, 2007, at the Mercedes Benz Showroom (430 Park Avenue at 55th Street). Highlights include specialty cocktails with Belvedere, hors d’œuvres by On the Marc, Hoffman Auto Showroom Design by Frank Lloyd Wright, and a silent auction including the chance to win a S-class for a night. Tickets are $60 per person ($65 at the door) and can be purchased here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Do You Have Any Jodie Foster From Taxi Driver Costumes?

Disclaimer: In this post, I reveal that I have not seriously shopped for a Halloween costume in over a decade. I also foreshadow the crotchety old father I'll be when my daughter is a preteen.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan likes to opine that he enjoys Halloween for a lot of reasons, "not just because of the candy or that women use Halloween as an excuse to dress up like prostitutes." Of course, Gaffigan's not saying anything original with the prostitute bit. You'd have to live on the moon to avoid noticing that people have started turning to Halloween more and more as a means of expressing or releasing their Ids. This trend doesn't bother me in the least — in my view, a little catharsis can be a good thing.

At least that was the attitude I had when I found myself in the Halloween store on Broadway. Our daycare has a Wizard of Oz theme for Halloween this year, and on a lark we were checking to see if infant wigs exist, and if they do, if a Dorothy infant wig is to be had. (Now, with the benefit of the internet, I learn that yes, there are infant wigs. Sadly, it appears that Dorothy wigs may only be on offer for older children.)

En route to the baby costumes (Man, are there some super baby costumes out there. Want a rhino?), I passed by a Geisha costume... for a 12-year old.

That's right, a Geisha costume.

For a 12-year old.

Let's review:

  • (Modern) Geishas are not (really) prostitutes.

    Want to know more? The discussion page for the Wikipedia entry on Geishas will tell you everything you need to know. (A Wikipedia discussion page is where people debate what content is worthy of inclusion on the site. These people have the time and the inclination talk a topic to death, trust me.)

  • Almost ALL Westerners who have ever heard of Geishas think that they're prostitutes.
So, in summary, your child is not dressing as a prostitute for Halloween. Your child is dressing as a cultural figure that will be almost universally confused for a prostitute by the set of folks who know what a "Geisha" is when your child tells them that's what she's going to be for Halloween.

I see a slim opportunity for cultural exchange here. But mostly I see a chance for other parents to think that your parental judgment is not quite up to snuff.

Things we don't know about climate change.

(Editor's Note: Garfield's post below is part of Sauntering's participation in Blog Action Day, where 15,000 blogs have agreed to address climate change on October 15, 2007.)

With the award of the Nobel Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC, global climate change has officially hit the big time. It's been trendy for a long time, but awarding the Peace Prize signifies an important recognition on the part of the international community: Global climate change isn't just an effect on the planet, its an effect on how human beings interact with one another.

The reason that global climate change will have such an impact on human interactions isn't because its going to get warmer. Warmer conditions would certainly mean trouble for some, the Maldives most notably, but probably a boon for others as warmer climates mean longer growing seasons and a lower dependence on heating oils. Some win, some lose. Nothing new about that.

What's makes climate change a problem is that so many of the consequences are just so uncertain, and human beings have never dealt well with uncertainties. Here are the facts as we know them.

1) We are dumping more carbon dioxide into the air than the earth has seen since the Bartonian, when sea levels were 100 feet taller and the planet was filled with crazy looking mammals (the later is probably unrelated).

2) The mean global temperature is increasing. We moved up 0.6 degrees Celsius in the last century, and, on average, its just going to keep getting hotter.

3) The world is a terribly complicated place, and we have just about no idea what these changes will mean for our planet. But whatever these changes are, we'd better get used to them, because even if we were all to give up driving right now, there's a general consensus that it will take decades for our planet to process the current glut of gasses in the air.

This uncertainty, I think, is the real problem we're facing. If we knew it was going to get warmer by .06 degrees every decade from here on out, we could plan. As the oceans rise, people would move away from the coast. Farms would move ever northward (or southward if you live down there), and there would be massive-scale efforts to secure the residents of every major city an air conditioner to ward off the rash of heat-related deaths we've seen the past few summers. Or at least this is how it would go in rich countries. Poor countries would be sort of screwed, but I digress. That's someone else’s problem and we have a solution - fences to keep out the flood of migrants...and you'd better believe there would be a flood of migrants as crops to the south begin to fail.

The problem is that we don't know that this is going to happen, at least not everywhere. One of the most surprising findings from both models and actual observations is that some areas may actually get cooler. The gulf stream, that magical river of water that keeps merry old England from feeling the wrath of old man winter like Siberia (which lies on the same latitude) has a real chance of going away if the Artic ice melts, which would pretty much put an end holidays at the beach for most of Western Europe. In the Antarctic, paradoxically, there appear to be areas that are getting cooler, the result, ironically, of the gigantic lack of an important greenhouse gas called "Ozone" right above Antarctica.

The uncertainties seep even into things we feel pretty sure of. One thing that seems certain is that levels of C02 are rising. But it isn't happening as fast as we might expect. The reason is that oceans and plants turn out to be remarkably good at sequestering carbon, at least for now. But they aren't doing it for free. Oceans are able to absorb carbon dioxide through a reaction involving the Carbonate buffer, but at the cost of making the oceans more acidic. This, in turn, is known to affect the ability of organisms to use calcium for building shells and skeletons, leaving us with a lot of sad barnacles, sea urchins, corals, foraminiferans, and coccolithophorids. Never heard of these last two? That's too bad, for you see it is they are producing a fair amount of the oxygen you breath every day. Kind of complex, isn't it? And this is for a system we know a lot about. What don't we know? Pretty much all the rest.

Sadly, we aren't likely to get a better handle on these changes before its too late. Outside of military efforts, less is being spent on scientific research in this country than last year....or the year before...or the year before..... Changes are coming. We'd better start getting used to living with uncertainty.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Internets are better than parents or school

I think I've found my new favorite website:

It's basically a home economics class online done by some wacky brits.
You can learn some useful things like how to make a chicken masala or how to care for your bearded dragon.

But the best section by far? Love and sex. Really. This is how sex ed was supposed to go.
The links, I think, speak to their own utility.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Common Eponyms

An eponym is a word that was once a person's name but has come to have a broader meaning. Most eponyms are obvious — even if you don't know anything about the eponymous individuals, it's still clear that phrases like Benedict Arnold or Ponzi scheme or Achilles' tendon reference individuals (whether real or fictitious).

These proper eponyms don't interest me very much. I do enjoy, however, eponyms where the person's name has become such an utterly common word or phrase that the users of that word or phrase are completely unaware that it was formerly a person's name. I suppose the most typical examples of this kind of common eponym are sandwich (from the Earl of Sandwich) or teddy bear (from Teddy Roosevelt).

In the cumbersome paragraph below, each linked word is an eponym of this common sort:

Somehow, the diesel derrick's silhouette reminded the sideburn-wearing chauvinist of the daguerreotype of a mausoleum he had seen back when he was a mere guppy. "Bloomers or leotards?" his mentor asked. "Neither," the guy said. "I'm boycotting them. I'd rather be pierced by shrapnel, guillotined and lynched than to end up looking like a doily."
Link: Wikipedia List of Eponyms

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Stanford vs. U$C, October 6, 2007
Greatest Las Vegas Upset of All Time

It's been about a year since I last posted anything about Stanford athletics and about three-and-a-half years since I've posted my reaction to a Stanford victory. Sparse discussion of Stanford athletics has something to do with a conscious attempt to avoid reliving college in print, but it's also fueled by Stanford's inability to seriously compete in football or basketball these past few years.

Well, last night Stanford really competed.

In 2003, Forbes magazine estimated that somewhere between $80 to $380 billion is illegally gambled annually on sports in the United States. And although ESPN's website maintains a link to the Las Vegas odds on various sporting events, the network likes to pretend that gambling doesn't exist. Since they largely ignore gambling, here's a statistic about Stanford's 24-23 victory last night over #2 USC that you won't hear repeated ad nauseum on SportsCenter:

(According to the Aspergerians running Wikipedia) Stanford's 24-23 victory over USC was the greatest football upset in the 60-year history of spread betting. Stanford entered the game a 41-point underdog.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Things I Love about Durham. Part I: Weird puppets.

Durham, NC is a strange and wonderful little city. Since moving here three years ago, I've totally fallen in love with the place, not least of all because of the strange folks who live here, work here, and sometime do strange puppet shows out of their garage for, as far as I can tell, no financial benefit whatsoever.

Its things like this that make me love Durham.