May 26, 2004
That's My Dawg

KJ Productions is going on vacation. Back next week.

Obligatory Chicago dining landmark photo follows:

Much has been written about the food, and while I would not hesitate to dwell on the merits of their milkshakes, I was more interested in the thankless job of the parking lot facilitator, whom we observed in action. He was always smiling and seemed to genuinely enjoy the job, much of which consisted in bawling mind-boggling driving directions such as "Brown Chevy, please back up onto the sidewalk!" The key, I guess, is good humor, so that no one tries to run you down.

Also related: Gallery of Huge Beings.

Posted at 06:36 PM
May 24, 2004

E. has a nice clip of what the cicadas sounded like in Southern Indiana this weekend.

This is the second batch of 17-year cicadas I've witnessed, but I don't remember quite this degree of noise and mess. The phenomenon is pretty well controlled downtown and on campus, but out at the house, surrounded by grass and tall trees, we were almost shouting over the noise.

And the bugs? They rise from the ground like tiny ugly hummingbirds, so many I could see them from across the street. In their way, they are lovely, but they're also laughably uncoordinated. Several flew right into my hair, not an experience I'm eager to repeat. And this one skidded drunkenly off the roof of the car and held onto the wiper for quite a distance.

Postscript: Arrived home on Sunday and within 15 minutes found a cicada lying on our kitchen floor. The cat batted it sloppily for a while, until I felt sorry for it and put it outside. When I looked later, it was gone.

Posted at 07:15 PM
May 18, 2004
Maps and Legends

The Guardian features photos of people lost in London here.

For the next three weeks, Weekend will publish extracts from Field Studies, starting today with this series of pictures of people who are lost in London. See how - as they consult their maps - they turn slightly inwards, to face a wall or a doorway.

The photographer has his own site, and he seeks models! (Yikes.)(He's not to be confused with this guy, however.) Here's one of my faves from his site.

The article also includes this fascinating tidbit about London mapmaking:

The people in Stephen's photographs have a woman called Phyllis Pearsall to thank if their A-Zs prove helpful to them. Before she came along, most London maps were designed thematically, rather than practically. There were maps pointing out cholera and plague hot spots, and so on. But Pearsall changed all that. Throughout the mid-1930s, she woke up at 5am and walked for 18 miles a day, drawing maps of her route along the way. A buyer for WH Smith was beguiled by her work, and the A-Z was born.

Posted at 08:33 PM
May 17, 2004
Plain English

I am no scientist, but life as the wife of a technology enthusiast* has taught me a thing or two about communicating things in simple language. For instance, at dinner with my parents, who are usually indifferent to technology, I have been known to whisper "explain what that means" or "make it easier" to E. as he gamely tries to explain his job, or the Internet, to them.

With many members of the public, you can't talk about packets, or code, or metatags. You have to put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn't understand. I always remember how I was introduced to the editing system in college, by a fellow editor who began: "The computer is like a big filing cabinet..." Laugh if you will, but I understood, and I still remember it.

So I liked this story, which talks to scientists who are apparently just waking up to the fact that the public doesn't understand what they're talking about. Like this Harvard astronomy professor:

Snowballs and buses are his metaphors of choice. He says his groundbreaking research on the expansion of the universe--it involves charting the relative dimness of light traveling through space--can be understood by picturing snowballs (subbing for photons) smacking a moving bus (a galaxy).

"If the bus is driving by but speeding up, the snowball barely clunks it," [he says]..."If it's slowing down, the snowball hits with a thud."

(via E-Media Tidbits)

*We don't say "geek." This could damage his self-esteem and no one wants that!

Posted at 06:21 PM
May 13, 2004
Waits and William

I was in a Tom Waits* kind of mood** today, and by chance stumbled across this Marianne Faithfull article about her role in the just-revived Black Rider, written by everyone's underground hero, William Burroughs, and music by Waits:

I first read Burroughs when I was very young, and didn't understand it all. What I did understand - and continued to recognise in all his books, and through his life - was his incredible lyrical quality. His work is almost like poetry. That lyrical beauty really steps up to the parapet in The Black Rider. The rhymes are spell-like: "That's the way the rocket crashes, that's the way the whip lashes, that's the way the potato mashes."

*This site has TW lyrics with footnotes (e.g., "what is a creampuff?").

**Granted, it was more of a "The Piano Has Been Drinking" kind of mood than a Black Rider mood, but seems like any theater related to that song would have terrible Billy Joel overtones.

Posted at 06:58 PM
May 10, 2004
Walking and Chalking

Meanwhile, in other neighborhood news, the Latin Kings are tagging again. Here's the side of our building, thoughtfully marked in chalk for easy...erasing.

This picture is not nearly as interesting as the LK-and-other-graffiti-related photographs here.

(Not pictured: nervous neighborhood real estate agent, chewing nails and muttering "But this place is gentrified now!")

Posted at 07:41 PM
May 09, 2004
KJ Gardens

On the spur of the moment, E. and I have created KJ Gardens, a blog for our garden-related activities. Please stop by and point me to the places to go, sites to see, and things to do in the gardening sphere. We kick things off with a rollicking weekend's container planting.

Posted at 07:24 PM
May 05, 2004
First Courses

E.'s birthday found us dining in style last night. Although I am not usually one of those people who takes pictures of their food in public, there's always a first time, and that was last night.

The red snapper and king prawn had olives, which made me happy. It got me thinking, though, how much this prawn looks like a giant bug (legs included). Not that there's anything wrong with that. (Please do not send me hate mail if you are a prawn enthusiast or, indeed, a prawn.)

E.'s duck breast featured turnips, which made him happy. It was described as "laquered" but they didn't say laquered with what.

Service: attentive (and mercifully turned a blind eye to my food photography antics). Our fellow diners: mostly older wealthy couples in a unisex uniform of expensive-looking turtlenecks and dress pants. Atmosphere: mostly serene, with a bizarre interlude of piped-in '70s music (e.g., "Peaceful Easy Feeling" which made us look around fearfully, in case Don Henley had slithered in).

E.'s (unidentified) dessert looked nice on a blue plate. In fact, almost anything is nice on a blue plate, isn't it? Discuss.

And a chocolate tart with pears and ice cream beats a cheese course any day, at least in my book.


Posted at 06:48 PM
May 03, 2004
Punctuate Me

Everybody I know is talking about Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a book that apparently encourages people to mark up signs that misuse punctuation. This is the sort of thing that would keep people in my neighborhood busy for a long time. (I still haven't forgotten the mattress shop on Irving Park that vacated its premises and left behind a sign: "Move to West Diversey." Load up the truck, we're all going along!)

Even the NYT is in on the fun:
But thanks to Lynne Truss's best seller, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves," which implores readers to "be a nuisance . . . and if possible use a bright red pen" whenever they spot errant apostrophes, if this hard-working immigrant makes a sign for "carrot's," some fussbudget will now be emboldened to correct his punctuation, even though the sign's meaning is perfectly obvious.

Posted at 08:44 PM
May 01, 2004

Don't miss Gary Benchley over at TMN. Here's a part of his account of a blogger party:

Para told me the biggest blog in New York is called, and it's about magazines. To me, this is really sad. It's like if you put together a band with the sole purpose of singing songs about the music industry. Unfortunately the Gawker guy was not going to be there that night (that would be like Bono showing up at CMJ Musicfest). Para was kind of nervous about meeting all the bloggers; apparently it was a big deal to be invited to one of these things, and she had actually gotten an Evite, not just read about the party somewhere. She was acting like someone with a backstage pass to the Pixies reunion.

Posted at 07:30 AM