What's on my mind.

28 February 2008

Not Really Me

I've been thinking about image lately, not sure why (might have to do with my incredibly desperate need for a haircut), and the Smart Set articles offered some interesting points but all the advice and history doesn't change my complaints. There are several reasons I don't wear make-up or worry about my clothes too much.

One reason I don't wear make-up is I haven't found a foundation I like; Honu-Girl and Sarah have pledged to drag me to the Mac counter and solve that problem. Another reason is I regularly have one or two of the pimples that make-up only makes look worse, so why bother? Another reason, the five minutes I might spend putting on make-up could be spent sleeping; I don't think anyone has a way to get around that. Then there are all the social/emotional/political problems I have with make-up, which can be boiled down to, "why isn't my face good enough?"

Part of the reason I don't much worry about my clothes is because I'm hard to fit. I'm taller than average and so have broader shoulders, longer arms, longer rise, longer legs, longer torso, and longer fingers and feet, than clothing manufacturers seem to think I should. If you want numbers I posted them here.) I do alright with pants; they've caught on that taller women often need a longer rise as well as longer inseam. But blouses just don't fit. I don't know of any "tall women's" stores around here. There was one at Tyson's Corner but I wasn't tall enough for their clothes, at least not in high school, maybe now that I'm not so skinny I could find stuff there (and I traveled several hundred miles to shop). And no one seems to make tall fat women's clothing; I not that fat but I'm bigger than the largest "tall" size in store and catalogs I've seen, at least for tops, if they carry tops in talls. I like mens shirts - no shape, but they reach my wrists and don't pull at the shoulders. Besides dressing to look nice takes effort and thought (and enthusiasm*) that I have a hard time mustering first thing in the morning.

On the flip side of the coin are all the social/emotional/political pressures that boil down to you'll never get a man looking like that.

*An example of how little thought, effort, and enthusiasm for the morning I have: The stubble on my legs can grow so long it bothers me in pants and I will still forget, or run out of time, to shave my legs during a 45 minute shower. (Most weekday morning showers aren't that long, 10-30 minutes.) This isn't uncommon, unless I'm swimming regularly.

Intelligence ∝ 1/Fashion Sense

The other topic that article that caught my attention on The Smart Set was about clothes. It's actually a review of The Meaning of Sunglasses: And a Guide to Almost All Things Fashionable by Hadley Freeman. Jessa Crispin spends a little time telling you what the book is not as well as what it is.

Crispin brings up the Hollywood stereotype that intelligent women are bad dressers, it makes them easy to identify in a B-movie. Then she tears into fashion books and shopping guides. Most fashion books, according to Crispin, advise a woman on how to dress to hide her (preceived) flaws. From what I've seen of makeover shows, that's the standard there, too. She critiques one shopping guide author as sounding too much like a sales clerk on commission, extolling women to buy designer this and designer that, and making shopping too much work, with the persona inventing and planning around one's hormonal cycle. I like tips on how to dress my body to it's best advantage as much as the next person, but I don't need entire chapters on each problem area. I also don't need shopping to become more work than fun. I generally agree with her critique of the fashion advice industry.

Crispin then tells you about how Sunglasses is different from everything else she's read in the genre. The shopping advice is for real women (you know one's that don't wear evening gowns while riding horses bareback with a lovely barebacked man), practical advice even. She makes the shopping advice in the book sound a bit like the kind a best girlfriend would give you. She says she'd rather have Freeman with her in the dressing room, telling her "she's too old for the mini-skirt", rather than the author of that shopping guide telling her "it's fabulous and everyone is wearing them this season". Woman all over, even well dressed ones, need that kind of honesty in the dressing room. Apparently Freeman believes that fashion isn't to please others but to express one's self, or at least shouldn't be.

I'm not sure how someone else tells you to dress to express yourself but I'd like to see. Hopefully the local library will get it.

Made up

I recently discovered The Smart Set (thank you for the link, whoever you are) and they've had a couple of posts that coincided with something I've been thinking about lately. The stories had some interesting points, even if I don't agree. For some reason make-up has been on my mind, I'll tell you about why I don't wear it much in a later post.

The author, Paula Marantz Cohen, starts out talking about makeup as
an update of the Narcissus myth. One cannot apply it — or at least not well — without looking in a mirror. The self-reflexive gaze required has elements of the lover’s gaze: Eyes and lips are focal points and demand the most attention and care. Thus, applying makeup is a ritual of self-love, a kind of worship at the shrine of the self, though it can also reflect insecurity and even self-loathing.
Not so much a lover's gaze when I put on eye makeup. I hope my lover would be staring deep into my eyes not focusing on exactly how many eyelashes I have and trying to figure out if one can actually get mascara on that innermost tiny one. (Sometimes but it usually involves carefully wiping smudges off my lower lid afterwards.) When applying makeup I'm not taking in my face as a whole (much less gazing at it), at least not when doing anything that takes detail, but rather concentrate on a detail area then "zooming out" to check the overall look.

Cohen gives a brief history of cosmetics. Cleopatra's excesses, Queen Elizabeth's excesses, Louis XIV's excesses, Queen Victoria's disapproval. It's all fashion and some self-consciousness. Monarchs have a great deal of influence over fashion (Louis, IIRC, also like how high heels made his legs look and suddenly everyone was wearing them.) so the makeup preferences of a queen can change what everyone wears. I don't think the general disapproval of makeup in the U.S. in the 19th century was based on the fear that men might make themselves up to look like women and try and trick other men. The whole women are liars and makeup is lying idea is much more plausible to me. I also disagree with most of her discussion on the use of cosmetics to alter skin color. The often arsenic-induced pallor of well off women was a sign that she didn't have to work outside ever and therefore had servants; the healthy (or not so) glow of a suntan implies outdoor activity and vitality (and a sometimes a willingness to spend money to court wrinkles and skin cancer).

I agree that make-up, like all purely aesthetic undertakings, is kind of a form of art. Not up there with painting or music but an attempt to reach an ideal. It is definitely about attempting to reach some artificial beauty ideal. I take offense at the implication that LL Bean shoppers and people who enjoy camping all think wearing makeup is weird. I don't think the time-outs women get from their day to check their makeup is any part of why women are less violent than men; I think relative levels of testosterone is far more important.

The idea of makeup as a mask, however, intrigues me. Makeup as a mask can be good or bad. On the positive side a woman can use makeup as a cue to herself and others as to her mood. Or she can use different makeup for different settings (work vs. going out on the town) and the process of putting on that makeup might set her mood or get her in the right mind set. On the negative side masks are often meant to prevent others from seeing what's really underneath. I admit it's a little bit of a stretch, but what if the message that her face isn't good enough to present to the world might make a woman think she isn't good enough to present to the world, leading her mask who she is and present a mask personality to everyone?

27 February 2008

Love vs. Life?

Another post prompted by Chad - would I choose to meet my soul mate knowing he would die in 5 years or not and avoid the pain of the loss? I'd leave a comment over at UP but this is going to be a bit long, so you, my loyal readers, get my answer instead.

If by meeting him I would somehow cause him to die in 5 years the answer would be no. Like one commenter, the guilt of causing someone's death wouldn't be worth it for me. If we assume that my special someone is doomed anyway then...

Short answer: I don't know.

Long answer: The whole "loved and lost" thing is an iffy proposition for me. I've been there and I'm not sure it was worth it. You may quibble about the ability of college students to really be in love and protest that he obviously wasn't my soul-mate since it didn't work out, but he was the best friend I've ever had and the only man I've been in love with. I often think that not knowing what it was like to be in love would be better than knowing it's been taken away. I'm terrified of being rejected like that again. I don't think I could construe dying as a judgment on my worthiness as a life partner, so that part of the loss wouldn't be there. But knowing how good it was and missing all of that would still be there. I'm not sure it'd be worth it.

26 February 2008

Three sentences

...from page 123 of the book closest to you. Chad has a post about this meme, so I thought what the hell. And then "what is the closest book to me?"

The closest book was a field trip guide but it only has 98 pages. So next (excluding a catalog) gets you:

To change the color to red, click the "Style" Tab and click the red cell of the "Color" palette. The green box will change to red. The small yellow box following the letters GR indicates the track position.

Sorry, it's the PETRA manual. We're in Chapter 5, Cross Section Module. Fascinating, I know. The section might be somewhat useful since it actually tells you how to do something.

The next closest book is, I think, Applied Geophysics, second edition, by Telford, Geldart, and Sheriff. Magnetic Methods, Field examples, page 213:

The minimum of E may be found by the method of Gauss, least squares, steepest descent, or other techniques. Here it was found by a combination of Marquart and Powell algorithms (McGarth and Hood, 1973). [see §2.7.9 for similar gravity procedure.]
Applied Geophysics is shelved with Principles of Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (Boggs), 3-D Structural Geology (Groshong), a binder of a draft of the book Structural Styles, Validation, and Prediction (Groshong) with homework assignments from the class in there, and a draft copy of 3-D Structural Geology in a binder with my homework assignments from the book/course.

22 February 2008

Cool thing from the internet.

I just ran across this map of the world at Strange Maps (Ok, it popped up in my Reader.) Cool idea using musical notation to make a picture. The fourth commenter on Strange Maps has some quibbles with the actual map but I still think it's kind of cool. I like Plakovic's other stuff, too.

I'm not sure the song linked to the picture is suppose to actually be the music written in the art but is the song that inspired the art. Maybe? He writes about how he has strong visual connection to music. He sees it. (I'm not describing it well.) But then the "about" page reads like the linked song is the song he wrote with the art. Without notations to indicate the instruments meant to play the piece, I can't say I know what the song would sound like. And even then, all those years in band and orchestra, I know very little about percussion scores.

Either way about the music it's self, it's kinda cool. And brought to you by the Internet.

21 February 2008

Nifty Photos

Nettie (with her new bike), Honey, and I went to the park Sunday. I decided that Nettie will never make it as an actress unless she learns to smile more convincingly on cue. I tried to get her picture while she was laughing but then she'd freeze in this very fake smile. Oh well, another dream of being related to someone rich and famous* goes down the tubes.

Here are some of my pictures.

Ripples; Nettie and her bike waiting impatiently for me and Honey; Forsythia; Honey deciding if the water was too cold to fetch the stick in.

I think the first log looks a bit like a seal or walrus or a giant snake. The second and third pictures are the same log but from opposite sides. It's hard to see but I think in the second picture the end of it looks like a dog's head (you can't see the "ear" in the picture, but there is one). In the third it still looks likes a head/face but this one more like a dragons, maybe?

This was the sunset I had to drive into. That thing attached to the sun visor is my hand trying to block as much of the sun as possible and still see where I was driving, in the first pic. The second one is the sun through the train trestle. Nettie did a good job while I drove.

This is what we did Monday.

I aired out the house this weekend and it got COLD Sunday night. I joined the animals out in the sun for a while, until I closed the windows and turned the heat back on.

*I am, through my brother's wife, related to someone famous, but I don't think professional flutists are very rich.

18 February 2008

Grumpy Old Me

I'm the one who suggested the "grumpy old man" post for the blog challenge. Inspired by a discussion on what one can get for 25 cents with my little sister. A quarter will get you one of those stale hollow gum balls from the gumball machine stand at the mall. When I was her age I could get a better gum ball for two pennies. (Or maybe I only remember them as better.:)) Does anyone else remember "Where's the Beef" gum? Or the Wendy's ad campaign that name was stolen from?

(Speaking of fast food, anyone out there remember the Roy Rogers? I don't know if they were national or just regional. When they were bought by Hardee's (Where'd you think they Hardee's learned to fry chicken?) the one in Vienna changed thier signage but the interior decor didn't change. They didn't even tke down the portrait of Roy. My friends and I called the Roy-Hardee's.)

Anyway, this isn't what I really meant but, oh well, that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes.

Sometime I wonder if I'm really better on anti-depressants. Sure, I can go to the grocery store or worship at the Wall of Mart (I avoid it like the plaque, but sometimes I have to go.) any day of the week, no psyching up required; I can speak in public without risk of hyperventilating (although I talk so fast it's amazing I don't anyway); I can eat by myself at almost any resturant, but I still perfer to only at certain places; the wall between me and other people isn't a cement-filled cinder block one anymore. There are some other things, too, but that's gives you the idea.

Thing is I still feel alone in a crowd; the wall is still there; most of the time I'd rather go to lunch by myself than with just my boss because there wouldn't be anyone else to talk, other times I go to lunch with the group and feel alone; I still don't know how to meet people; I still watch stupid made-for-TV rom/coms and get depressed because I don't have any writers on my side...

It's never bothered me to be by myself. Occasionally nw I want to be around people but if I go out I'm very aware that I'm alone and end up feeling worse. Used to be, I wouldn't have even considered going out. Before the meds I was numb most of the time and shoved my emotions in the closet only to have burst out everyonce in while. Now I don't know that I feel anything most of the time. Except when I feel crappy and fragile, and shit tumbles out anyway. I still wonder what it'd be like if the wall between me and others was real, something everyone could see, acknowledge, and then move around instead of just in my head.

Sometimes I wonder if this is really better. Am I really better?

14 February 2008

See we work hard around here.

Well not so much last Tuesday. Last Tuesday a photographer and crew showed up to take our pictures. Or Honu-Girl, our boss, Richard E., and I thought so. Turned out they really just wanted pictures of Richard.

Richard works for Southern Company (parent company of AL Power, GA Power, MS Power...) and is the lead person from there on a couple of carbon capture/storage projects they are partnered with us on. Someone up in SoCo management decided that one of the stories in this years shareholder's report would be about those efforts. And they need pictures of us.

Richard thought they wanted pictures of us doing actual work. No, they wanted a "hero shot". (I was very disappointed to learn this did not mean Masa Oka, Milo Ventimiglia, or Zachary Quinto would be joining us.:D) So they set him up in the warehouse kneeling in front of some pieces of core. He knelt there for about two hours, with some standing in between. He got make-up. He got bright lights shown on him. He had serious face until the photographer told him to smile a little. They added our boss into the last set of photos. He didn't get make-up (I don't think they had enough to cover the top of his head.) and he stood, to make him about the same height as Richard kneeling. Finally they did take a group picture for both projects.

Anyway, Honu-Girl and I had fun watching the process although we were starving by the time it was over and slightly punchy. ("Raise that up a little" made us giggle like kindergarteners. You had to be there.)

Here's a few pictures of the production.

The photographer's assistants didn't seem to understand why it was so important to keep those boxes of rocks in order.

Completely unrelated but...I took this picture driving home one evening. Yes, while moving; no, I didn't compose the shot I just pointed the camera in the general direction and pushed the button. I got lucky.

08 February 2008

Thank You!

I've been procrastinating majorly on part of a project because, partly, it was going to be a big pain in the ass. So I finally decided I better get to work on it or face the possibility of not having a glowing performance review in June (Although it's kind of embarrassing how wonderful an employee I sound like on paper.) and had thought of one possible way to avoid moving large quantities of paper from the other building to the Sed. lab, looking at each strip of paper, manually type in measurements two different places, and then import that data into a modeling program. Rinse and repeat about 200 times. (I'm measuring coal thickness from well logs.) Not a highly mentally taxing activity but a pain.

My idea didn't pan out.

Then Honu-girl showed me a way to do the measuring in the modeling program and it does all the figurin' for me and will store the data in the places I designate. This particular program isn't perfect - some bits could be better, needs some others, some are just awkward to use.... (once or twice I've wanted to go up to the programmers and slap 'em silly) but this particular tool/window has been a godsend for me. (and I haven't run up against any annoying quirks, yet.)

Thank you, Honu-Girl. You are wonderful. You saved me.


I don't think I can capture my Honey's voice as well as Chad seems to have Emmy's (could be one reason he's writing a book explain physics to his dog and I'm not) but here's a sampling to watch she says to me.

After coming back in first thing in the morning and curling up on the couch: "You're going to work aren't you?"

A few minutes later, from same perch: "Please don't go to work. I'll be so lonely."

When I get home, sometimes: "MOMMY, MOMMY, MOMMY! I've missed you soooooo much. Pet me, please, please, PLEEEEEESE. Rub my ears, rub my ears...oooooh, that's the spot....."

Later while watching T.V.: A half groan half sigh with big stretch followed by "you wouldn't believe the day I had. After you left I had to get off the couch and walk all the way to the kitchen to eat. Then I went up the stair to nap on the bed, later I got down and napped on the dirty clothes, then I went downstairs to get a drink and all the way back up the stairs to the dirty clothes pile. Mid-afternoon it became clear that I needed to move back up to the bed (it was trying to float away) so I had to get up, walk across the room and JUMP up onto the bed. I'm exhausted, when's bed time?"

In the picture above she's saying "oh, Mom's paying attention to me instead of the stupid rock. Gotta be cute, maybe we'll go to the park."

06 February 2008


Mons Olympus on Mars (color indicating elevation)

Mons Olympus is 27 kilometers high (3 times higher than Mount Everest, 2.6 times taller than Mauna Kea). The caldera complex (the red area in the center) is 3 up to kilometers deep.(thanks Wikipedia) In short, it's huge. And awesome. And really cool Martian geology.

The ESA can get 10m/pixel resolution on Mars. Most of digital elevation models (DEMs) of Alabama are 30m/pixel. Why do we have better elevation data of Mars than Alabama?

Why is Mars and the Moon better imaged and more studied than our own ocean floors.

Is it really because there might be Martians out there while deep sea creatures, as weird and wonderful as they might be, are still Earthlings?

Can I make a terrain model and fly around Mars now, please?

When can I do the same for the ocean?

04 February 2008

Why Science?

To expand on my comment left here: Film strips like that are why when my mom (already possessing her MRS & MOM degrees) thought her choices were to be a nurse or a teacher. One year of teaching high school and she went back to school to find out what other possibilities existed and ended up ABD in ed. pysch. If she'd realized when she started (and her first hubby'd been ok with it) that a mom could be a scientist too to begin with who knows what she could have done. I suspect it would been still have been in Pyschology.

But then she probably wouldn't have met my father and I wouldn't exist. That would've been bad.

Oldies but Goodies?

I don't know what my favorite song was in 6th grade. I remember a lot for when I was 11 but what I listened to isn't in there. I listened to the classic rock radio stations (105.9WCXR and DC101, I can remember that, go fig. I think this was before Mom banned us from listening to the DC101 morning guy.) and didn't own a Debbie Gibson album. I'm sure I listened to tons of Led Zeppelin because this was during my brother's LZ phase.

Sometime in 6th - 8th grade, I heard Songs from the Woods by Jethro Tull during 105.9's midnight classics (or whatever) where they'd play an entire album through. I loved it, still do. But I don't think I have a favorite song or even a favorite album. Why narrow it down to one?

50.5 year run, broken

Matt had made it 50 1/2 years without a broken bone, but that streak of good luck is over now. I have a feeling it wasn't for lack of trying that him from breaking bones in the past. The boy had a black eye when he took first communion. (First confession may have gone like this: "Father forgiven me for I have sinned.This is my first confession...I put frog in my sister's bed...Sassed my mom...I got in a fight, yesterday...No sir, I wasn't trying to get all my naughtiness out before I officially knew the difference...")

So here he is out ice skating with his fifth meta-carpal of his right hand broken. It's hard to see but his pinky and ring fingers are in a soft cast/splint.

If I understood correctly he was cleaning up the downstairs, went to move some boxes, and something that was on top of the boxes (didn't catch what, we were talking across another conversation) fell on his hand. Definitely broken.

Here's some more pictures from the day.
Skating and Sunset

01 February 2008

Smashing the Lab

I've now watched two episodes of Discovery's new show "Smash Lab"*, the premiere and last week's (i think). The premise of the show, as far as I can tell, is these four people get together and try to invent something (or adapt an existing technology) to solve a problem, usually with much destruction of cars, house, etc. As Honu-Girl's husband described it "they're trying to be "Mythbusters" without any of the actual science." I love "Mythbusters" (partly because of the science, ok mostly because of it) and think "Smash Lab" could be good but Jamie and Adam may have to be come overhaul it. Allow me to explain. (It's my blog after all, how ya' gonna stop me?)

In the first episode they are trying to build a better median divider based on the arrestor beds at the end of airport runways. (They had a really nice video of a plane driving over/in one.) Some of the problems they encountered were due, no doubt, to budget and time constraints. And the nature of the material means that there isn't much one can do with scaled-down tests.
But I still have problems with their methods. First of all they decide to split up and try two entirely different methods. One group tests adding a 3-foot thick layer of the concrete foam in front of a standard barrier; the other decides that building an EMAS-type bed for the median would be the way to go. This divided their efforts and it felt to me like the producers, at least, were trying to make it seem like a competition.

The first serious problem I had was with their baseline crash. They all start out by doing a test of what happens when a car crosses the median at 60 mph and strikes on coming traffic at about a 30 degree angle (I may be misremembering the angle). Obviously it would be a huge logistical nightmare to have the oncoming traffic moving so those 6 cars are parked and only the median-crossing car is moving. They use accelerometers to measure the force of the impact. My problem at this point is that there is a huge difference in the energies involved in a wreck between one party moving and both parties moving. In their test the relative speed of cars is 60 mph; assuming in real life that the cars would be moving on the other side of the highway, the actual relative velocity would be almost 120 mph. I understand it isn't realistic to do a test under those conditions but I think they should have explained that a real crash would be different because those other cars are moving. They also spent more time than necessary talking about how the stationary cars had been moved and banged up in the test crash; more than necessary , IMHO, because again that is determined by the momentum of the vehicles as they enter the crash and their crash wasn't completely realistic. A nod at the differences between their crash and reality would have satisfied me.

My second big problem with the episode is that the first group testing the augmented Jersey barriers didn't run a test with the car just hitting the barrier. They went from no barrier to one with extra concrete in front of it, with no way of knowing what effect the barrier its self had on the situation. It was somewhat amusing that they succeeded in basically making a ramp for the car to jump the barrier, though. The other group's method was basically sound, I think, and with more time and/or money to try out more consistency of concrete they may have built a successful arrestor bed. They did, however, fail to think about the problems of pouring that much concrete, keeping it contained, and keeping the consistency uniform. I can forgive that, not many people have experience pouring a 60' x 30' x 2' bed of concrete foam.

The second episode I watched was them attempting to make an airbag for the front of a train to help reduce the force of impact of the engine with a car at 25 mph (That speed chosen because, apparently, at collisions at 25 mph and above fatalities become much more likely.) After a test crash (car parked on track) two go off in search of appropriate material for the airbags, two work out how to move the car off the track. The search for airbag material, how to fill it quicky using compressed gas (they didn't want to use the chemical reaction used in car airbags?) My main problem with the episode was the lack of true scale models. The two testing different ways to move the car to the side (a wedge, flipper, and pivot) tested them using a foot powered cart on a track and a club chair. A true scale test might have helped in final design and would have alerted them to the problem of how to fold the airbags up out of the way and hold them there. It might also have shown them that the pressure relief valves weren't big enough before the afternoon before the full-scale test. I understand that once they were at the site to set up they didn't have time to go back to the lab and think about these issues. I understand that sometimes you don't have the leeway to reschedule things (like the use of a track spur, train, stunt driver for the train...). The fact that they had to jerry-rig the valves and worked into the night on holding the airbags in place is a sign of poor planning.

Finally after the full-scale test they decide it was a failure and move on. One of the main reasons they decide it was a failure was because the car ended up flipping. It appears to flip because it hit a small embankment not directly because of anything wrong with the airbag system. There was an issue with the pressure relief valves blowing too late to be most effective, but that is hardly surprising considering the work around they came up with.

After all that rambling, the point is: I'm disappointed. It could be good. But the idea that one can successfully invent something using found materials for preliminary tests, no scale testing, and only one attempt at a solution is ridiculous. It might work if one is inventing a new cheese slicer, but one will never solve big problems that way. The show isn't a good example of how something is invented and it could be. But that might not have as many explosions.

*no link to "Smash Lab" because the site is blank. Apparently they haven't invented it yet, or maybe it was a "failure" because they screwed up and then couldn't go back and edit the code.

Too cute.

This morning when I finally got downstairs Honey was just going down the porch steps as Irish got to the top. I watched as she leisurely walked to the middle of the yard and sat down. Irish followed her out there, walked up to her, meowed loudly at Honey, looked like she was going to wind around her legs, and then sat down right in front of her. I was to cure for words. Irish, supreme ruler of her sisters, was following Honey, a mer dog, around looking for love. Awww.

(Sorry it's so dark, I must have accidentally had some weird setting on the camera.)