Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Choo Choo Goes the Spice Train!

Way back in January I bought a truly excellent international curries cookbook from a book shop in Kokura, but only had the opportunity to make some of the simplest recipes in it on account of the scarcity and sky-high cost of premium Indian/S.E. Asian spices. Not so here in Cali, thankfully! I just now whipped up a delicious Sri Lanka-style curry that I'm about to serve over brown rice (not really the traditional rice to serve curry with, if you go that route) and best of all is how simple it was to prepare. A little coriander here, some turmeric there, enough coconut milk to make an elephant empty its bowels (it's a natural laxative--ask me about the Hawaiian luau and coconut jello story sometime) and you've got a damn tasty, nigh restaurant-grade curry.

One thing I didn't know about curries that this book enlightened me on is that the British sort of invented the idea of "curry and rice". Traditionally, many curries are treated as a soup and eaten as such or they're like thick stews and dry-ish veggie pan fries that get eaten with bread--like chapati and naan--or hands. In many ways the British did to curry and rice what we Americans did to chow mein, namely that they stone cold invented the modern dish and labeled it an exotic foreign delicacy.

And just because we consume industrial-sized quantities of the stuff, I also fashioned up some simple hummus from as scratch as I'm liable to get anytime in the near future. I mean, I didn't grind the tahini out or grow the garbanzos or anything, but in a perfect world filled with plentiful garden space and free kitchen implements I would.


I'm reaching a high level of exasperation with the cat who, in honor of the town bicycle cat from Kusu we used to feed, we've dubbed "Strumpet". She's adorable on the surface, but deep down I think she's got a few shoots of catnip lodged in the grey matter. I am terrified to touch her without knowing the secret ingredient that makes her swipe. I was adjusting a pillow on the couch tonight after having a seat and she had a go at me for that. We have to kick her out when we go to bed just to make sure she doesn't use our cottage as a toilet, but she'll come back minutes later to the rooftop window feet from our head and meow loudly. Such a tactless moocher of a cat...

Strumpet, Class A Moocher


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"I Am Destiny To Do Something GREAT Today!!!"

Just came across a hilarious series of dramatic readings from celebrity tweets. After listening to them you too will wonder why we support these brainless parasites by buying into the media, or even how we allow them people to walk the streets. It's difficult to say which is my favorite, but the Tila Tequila rants are very, umm...what's the dead opposite of lucid?...totally batshit insane. Yeah, that's it. Something you'd expect to come out of the scrambled brain of a serial coke snorter after an ELO marathon at Studio 54.


Monday, September 28, 2009

A Return to Dungeon Crawling Days

It seems I forgot to mention an interesting chance meeting from last Thursday that occurred while I was hovering around the city on my bike, specifically in the Hayes neighborhood. I was there checking out the Timbuk2 messenger bag line--I honestly don't know why, my 3-year-old Chrome bag is damn near unparalleled--when I crept past a cafe to scope it out for a cuppa and saw my former coworker, Jason Thompson, emerge on the phone. We chatted and caught up while I handled some job hunt stuff on my laptop. Jason was always one of the folks at VIZ I could most identify with, mainly because he is an unabashed geek who lets it all show. Case in point: he wants to play D&D on the street and invite the public to come get their D20 on...and I'm going to give him a hand.

After a little brainstorm at the cafe a plan of action was unofficially drawn up. As it stands, on the 24th or 25th of October, he will get dressed in a balaclava, wizards hat and black cape, plop down a card table and DM shade at the chess playing cluster at the Market/Powell intersection and challenge passersby to slog through his dungeon. Since I don't play D&D (honestly, I jumped that stage and went straight into more hardcore tabletop games) I volunteered to film the mad event and make a trophy or some prize to lure the public in. I also came up with the idea to have plants in the crowd, accomplices that will walk around saying "Oh, this looks interesting," or who will loudly jump into the game and hopefully hook a few people who have nothing better to do on a weekend afternoon. I think the biggest challenge will be keeping the dignified old men of the chess cluster from caning Jason.

An interesting weekend it will be.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Venti-Sized Order of Depresso

Holy crap, I found a pair of the most depressing books mankind has ever produced in a free leftovers bin after a Temescal neighborhood garage sale today. Here's a pic, get ready...

Jeez, they're children's books too! Here's a rundown of the most heart-crushing lines in the books.

From Mom and Dad Don't Live Together Any More:

"If I had a whishbone I would wish for us to all live together again. Mommy and Daddy say that will never happen. But I still wish it sometimes."

"Mom, when I grow up, will I get married and then get apart?"

"I love my mommy and my daddy. My mommy and my daddy love me too. Just not together."

From My Mother Lost Her Job Today:

"I go outside and pick some dandelions. Fat ones with long stems. When I come in, I give them to my mom to make her feel better. She sets them on the counter instead of putting them in water. She doesn't even say 'thank you'."

In Mom and Dad, whether intentionally or not, the illustrations of the girl whose life has been torn asunder by her parents' separation show a face devoid of expression, eyes dead and soulless, as if saying to children reading it "This'll be you after mommy runs off with the Schwan's man and daddy starts taking more and more frequent trips to Bangkok. Get used to it, kid."


There's a strange visitor in the house as I type this: a fluffy little cat seemingly suffering from a case of bipolar disorder. Or whatever the equivalent is in felines. We haven't a clue who she belongs to, but she normally hangs out with an orange spotted cat in the area and loves to traverse fences and roofs as her primary avenue of travel. She's been reluctant to enter our house so I gave her some milk in a yogurt top the other day to lure her inside. She left shortly after finishing that time, but tonight is different. I estimate she's been sitting here for upwards of two hours and doesn't want to go, which is starting to be an issue.

The problem is that she's incredibly loud and unpredictable. One moment she's mewing her head off and rubbing against your leg, then the next, when you reach to pet her, she attacks and hisses. Maia's got a few nasty stab wounds while I have a single prick. We haven't a clue what will and won't set her off. I tried to show her the door a while back only to find she didn't care to exit and I'm too afraid to go pick her up and toss her out. I guess it'll have to be a tray of milk on the porch finally to lure her outside.


Friday, September 25, 2009

A Morning Filled With Four Hundred Billion Suns

I don't know which is better, auto-tune or Carl Sagan.


South of the Border (Down Mexico...AHHH! My Spleen!!!)

In my hometown of Castro Valley, occupying prime real estate within the Castro Village shopping center, a Mexican restaurant named Don Jose's dishes out their unique brand of cuisine from South of the Border. It is, to put it succinctly, a terrifying journey into the heart how bad "professionally" prepared food can get. I think it only ever got business because CV residents came in droves to get hammered at its margarita bar, though I've heard the food has improved enough in recent years to warrant a visit as long as one keeps expectations down to Earth. My traumatic last visit some time ago to Don Jose's involved a plate of nachos smothered in very dry, stringy chicken, off-color guacamole and ballpark-quality nacho "cheese". You know, the stuff that comes in an industrial use two gallon tin can. To call it a grotesque perversion of one of my old comfort foods wouldn't be going far enough.

Tito's on E.14th in San Leandro was the only other ostensibly Mexican eatery to ever approach Don Jose's abominable culinary abortions...until yesterday. I haven't typically been eating lunch in SF after my morning shift for KQED's pledge drive thanks simply to the appetite suppressing powers in a cup of Farley's strong stuff, but I knew I'd be tooling around the city until the evening pledge shift began and it seemed reasonable to keep myself fueled until free food came my way. The Mission having its reputation as a Mecca for cheap, tasty Mexican being what it is I felt I would peel away from the norm of El Farrolito or Taqueria Cancun and try something new. Deeper into the neighborhoods east of Mission St. I know, I'd better not say its name lest the owners hire thugs to hunt me for sport. I'll leave it nameless and say that you should avoid the Mexican restaurant on 21st and Treat.

It looked like any other innocuous divey Mission taqueria with its gaudy plastic flowering vines, maps of Guatemala and metal chairs stolen straight from a Catholic church pot luck all parked beneath formica-clad pressboard tables. No cause for alarm, really. I ordered a combo plate featuring beef flautas and settled in with my book, but was distracted when a Mexican builder with extensive tattoos went out to his Ford Econoline van (parked fully on the sidewalk and practically blocking the restaurant's entryway) and gunned the sickly engine full bore. The deafening mechanical clacking of a grossly mistimed engine made my ears bleed while the exhaust shooting into the door simultaneously choked me. This goes on for fifteen seconds or so, but it's OK, everyone in the place is having a great laugh at it.

A day laborer walks into the eatery apparently looking for work. I can't understand him, but he sounds respectful. There's plenty of "seƱor" and "por favor" peppered around. The owner then seems to lay into the man with a vengeance and the laborer slowly turns on his heels and exits, stopping once to look back at the owner with a face filled full of pity and the deepest contempt. Very uncomfortable for me.

And then the star of the show: my food. The flautas were filled with the stringiest, gristliest beef I have every eaten, no hyperbole. The rice tasted like it had soap in it. The beans were fine. The menu indicated a side of sour cream and indeed a little porcelain cup of white gelatinous stuff was brought out, but it wasn't sour cream. It was mayo. What. The. Hell.

Without a word or a hint of a facial expression I paid $8.11 for the meal(?) and left. I must have got through something like fifteen pages of my book. Don't remember a thing about it.

During the KQED evening pledge shift my stomach felt like it wanted to claw its way out of my body and check into the hospital, I felt so bad. The starchy and delicious mac n' cheese we had catered took the edge off somehow, but the feeling of dread among my internal organs didn't abate until around 11PM.

I don't want to be dependent on Yelp to make my culinary decisions for me. What a terrible way to live life, never risking anything and only going with the flow. This may have been one exception, however, as my Yelp search turns up, this place's taco window is rated an unbelievable-to-me 5-stars! There are a couple possibilities: first is that Yelp users can not be trusted, which is entirely possible; and next is that their tacos are brilliant while everything else falls flat, or craters violently. I, for one, will never be returning, thank you very much.


One final bit. I was rudely peering over some dude's shoulder on BART yesterday while he read the op/ed page from...some national newspaper and saw this political 'toon. It pissed me off, needless to say. Having hope is fine, but the nation and indeed the world can't just foist their dreams and wishes onto a single man's shoulders then sit back and expect them to be made reality. From the moment the ballots indicated a win for Obama that's what has happened across the globe, nobody seeming to understand that the man is not a deity or a magician who can gesture away the evils of the world and herald in a golden age. It takes the strength and brains of millions to move such mountains--right now about half of America lacks a shred of the latter. If the artist's intent was to indicate the loss of hope because of the current state of healthcare reform then he's missed the mark. Don't confuse the lunatic attacks on reform by ignorant mouth-breathers with some non-existent loss of hope or effectiveness in the administration. If anything, I for one am losing hope (I mean, moreso than my nominal levels of contempt for the homophobes, racists and chicken fried steak-eating masses) in the intelligence of the American people to participate in politics when they continually rally against their own interests (the current healthcare "debate" being just the tip of that iceberg).

Getcher head out of your ass, America.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

My High School Self Would Never Believe His Future Lifestyle

Let's hope time travel never gets invented and he gets to know the now me lest the info induce a heart attack in the past, causing a time-space paradox now! Or then. Whenever.

OK, I'm writing on batteries and a one-hour-only free internet connection at Farley's, so time is of the essence. Nothing like a deadline to get the fingers ticking away. I'm downright in love with this cafe now and can understand where its reputation springs forth from. Not only does it have the best latte in the land, the ambiance is unmatched: there's a rotating selection of art hanging on every bit of wall real estate; the patrons come from diverse backgrounds and social strata (an afro-sporting, mustachioed cop just got his morning coffee alongside the skate punk); and there's a detective agency directly across the street called "Golden Gun Investigations", just to name a few of the environmental features offered here. The staff also has apparently been secretly keeping track of my shirt and jacket selection this week because I just had a chat with the barista about the meaning of "neko ni shinju" and past phrases on my clothing. Staff chatting with their customers--even the new faces--and building community...that's the stuff this great city is made of.

I've made coming here part of my daily ritual after volunteering at the KQED offices and will be beside myself with sadness when the drive ends tomorrow night. Of course, to get into SF in time for the morning pledge shift means waking at AM 5:30, but you know, I'm actually starting to like it. And this is just the beginning of why my younger self would be incredulous about my activities these days.

I have, in retrospect, made some incredible lifestyle changes in the past few years. Starting in Japan when I was a student were the decisions to ride to school instead of taking the train, which turned out to be a catalyst for a healthy living ethic I've expanded on. It's my opinion that Americans--really, anybody from an industrialized nation that relies heavily on mechanized transport and industry--must make certain concessions of convenience in order to keep both themselves, their children, their society and their planet healthy. It's not hard, but it does at first run counter to conventional wisdom. I can go on for hours about the benefits of cycling and how there is a bike to fit everyone's needs and comfort zone, but everyone's tired of me blowing that horn so often and vociferously. There's also the Buy Local movement in respect to food and manufactured goods to reduce the energy it takes to transport XYZ product to the consumer. It turns out this is a critical step on the path towards energy independence, and one that hardly anybody--even those in the environmental movement--really think about. Consider it: if you buy an out-of-season strawberry and it has to come from South America, that single piece of fruit may cost hundreds of times its calorie cost in energy before it reaches your mouth. Staggering.

I don't know, maybe I'm the only one who feels guilt about these slights. All I know is that I feel fantastic after riding into Oakland or SF instead of driving, high off of farmer's market produce finds (I really need to visit the Berkeley one more often). Self-righteous? Perhaps. But I'm liking this side of the line just fine and the fringe benefits (for example, riding through 'hoods instead of zooming by in a coach allows one to become an expert on an area without living or even working there) can't be beat.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Imagine You're A Man. Now, Imagine Being Kicked In the Crotch Repeatedly...

...and that's what my ride around SF was like this morning on the way to KQED as I took a more scenic and pothole-strewn route down 3rd Street. It got better when I turned onto 18th and went over Potrero (stopping, as always, at the irresistible Farley's for a cuppa joe), but the damage was done by then and I was a quivering wreck. Why does my bike hurt me so?

Well, turns out it was my fault--a quick fix several months ago for a problem I forgot to properly rectify. I remember the scenario now: I'm rushing to ride to Tsukawaki Elementary School and suddenly my seat's mounting rail clamps come loose for no discernible reason, so I get off to mend it at what looks to be the singular fastening bolt. Only that's only half the function of it, the other half being to adjust the seat angle, nose up and down. That fateful day I was adjusting it nose up. Waaaaaaay up.

I had wondered why my seat suddenly started digging into my crotch, which should have been a big indication something was amiss. But I never took up my hex keys to see if something needed the handyman's touch down there, instead just cursing the San Marco seat and conspiring to get a new one before I broke down altogether and just went a few thousand dollars of recumbent on everyone's asses. Today's punishment for laziness was the last straw and I took a gander after getting home. What has been hurting for hundreds of miles was fixed in five minutes and I simultaneously am proud and hate myself for it.

Kids, don't put off to tomorrow what can be done today. Your soft bits thank you very much.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

It's a Slippery Slope to Eco-Terrorism

I just arrived back at the house from a short-ish jaunt up Grizzly Peak and the ride was all kinds of exciting. First, there is no simple way to go from the flatlands of Berkeley or Oakland into the hills there--they're all going to kick your ass (if you're at my perhaps intermediate level) with approximately 1,400-1,600 feet of climbing in five miles. I chose Claremont today, which takes one from the base of the famous hotel by of the same name winding quickly up the ridge with little to no shade coverage past the halfway point. To rub some salt in, the road also happens to increase in grade from that point on until the Grizzly Peak Boulevard intersection. Bearing right from there takes you to Sibley Regional Park, but I wanted to buzz Tilden today, so left it was.

Grizzly Peak Blvd. is, frankly, a shitty cycling road. Not only does it have very poor pavement pockmarked with plenty of potholes, but there's no shoulder in most places and traffic is a constant, leading to many tense, bar-gripping moments of panic for all but the bravest/stupidest. The payoff comes after a mile or so up the hill in the form of stunning views of the Bay Area: Twin Peaks and Mt. Tam are the only two other vistas that occupy the same class. I stopped at a vista point with an out of place grove of mossy trees and enjoyed the view. For a few minutes at least.

I posted recently about litter and I was dismayed to see that three of these vista points are strewn with trash. Not so dense as to conjure up nightmare images of a landfill on the hill, but enough to make you place your hands firmly in palms and contemplate the basic nature of man. I had worked so hard to get up there I didn't want it spoiled by such thoughts so breathed deep, looked past it and enjoyed the view while I also munched on my confectionery reward--the mind-blowing Trader Joe's PB&J Candy Bar. And then they came.

The Nero Family (not their real names, but what I'll call this unit that seems not to have any morals whatsoever and probably porks barn animals) didn't admire the view for more than thirty-seconds before son and dad began playing the Who Can Chuck the Trash Off Grizzly Peak the Furthest? game. I would like to have confronted them on it, but I thought about it and stopped only because I was wearing cycling cleats that had no grip on the dry and rocky ground, so if we came to blows--and I wouldn't back down on this matter, so it was entirely likely--I'd be hopelessly bowled over. So I instituted Plan B, the plan where I picked up all the garbage I could see in conspicuous sight of the Neros--beer cans, gum wrappers, my candy bar wrapper and some bottlecaps--walked to their car and tossed it in the front seat. Newton's Third Law, or my perversion of it, at least.

From there the downhill bomb past the Lawrence Hall of Sciences was that much more sweet. Don't worry folks, I don't think my next act will be, say, blowing up the O'Shaughnessy Dam or anything.

One last word to the Family Nero before I sign off: send little Nero Junior to fat camp and off the Taco Bell for heaven's sake. It's great he's an honor roll student at Martinez Middle School, but that means jack when he's having his first bypass surgery at the age of seventeen.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Adventure, Huzzah!

It's been a whirlwind of adventure these past 24-hours, diving deep into the brackish waters of unemployment's possibilities. Hey, if ya got the time, use it.

I'm currently writing this from Pirate Cat Radio, a Mission District cafe/pirate radio station (broadcasting under the aegis of a questionable interpretation of FCA regulations) made infamous recently from the publicity fallout after Anthony Bourdain's visit for his No Reservations show. He chatted with the cafe's owner and head DJ, ordered the venerable bacon-maple latte, a liquid dose of Canada, and a legend was born. The morning show that just finished up in the studio featured some douchebag giving "relationship advice" that mostly consisted of techniques for men to bed women 'round the world. That's not too cool, having guests like that on the show, but I was amused to no end when the barista--a woman--opened the studio window and flipped the guest off to his face without a word. The show's over now and they're arguing at the table next to me while I type, it's great.

The reason I'm even here and not doing something in the East Bay is thanks to the current KQED pledge drive that Maia and I are volunteering for. My first shift was yesterday evening, but I find the morning shift suits me better despite starting at A.M. 6:30. The evening shift is quirky--the pledge volunteers were a veritable freak show and callers are cranky after a day's work doing...whatever it is people do for money these days that pisses them off so much (Professional bone marrow donors? Grommet sorter? Dick Cheney's caddy?) Everything's more mellow while the sun's rising though. So now I'm signed up for the morning shifts straight through to next Friday, plus one shift tonight with Maia.

This coffee at PCR is actually my second of the day. I rode over Potrero Hill (a torturous ascent when one fails to bring cleats) to the excellent Farley's, home of what I believe to be the best latte in town. The clientele was a mix of hipster and corporate shill, social slag and socialite. I sat there for about two hours sipping that latte from my new Car Talk mug (won it in the volunteer raffle!) while drawing with the colored pencil set and hardcover sketch book I bought at my favorite Oita art store, Kotobukiya. I'll spend the rest of the day bumming around the city on my bike working off two coffees and a vegan bacon-maple donut seeing if any old college friends want to hang out.

Jesus H. Christ, I need a damn job.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Rightest Stuff

It wouldn't be going nearly far enough to say that Japanese TV programming is some of the least entertaining, most contrived collection of footage and commentary available for mass eyeball and eardrum consumption that this world has ever seen and may ever know (yes, more than even American junk--I'm looking at you, Sex Decoy: Love Stings). Occasionally--very rarely, in fact--something does come along that I genuinely want to see, and that one jewel in the guano pile follows below. Now, I hate all the personalities in this show, but what they're presenting is pretty much the stuff of unadulterated dreams that draw in people like me to Japan as moths to flame.

My absolute favorite ride in this segment has to be the ojiisan (old man, gramps) rocket truck starting at 3:40. At first I just thought he just wanted to putt around town and the countryside living out his unrealized ambitions to be the Japanese Werner von Braun, but no, that thing actually flies! Sorta.

What a great old man. It'll be too bad when a devastating agricultural virus wipes out the entire Japanese rice crop and they have to grind up his carcass for foodstuffs...


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Somewhere in the Constellation Detritus

I recall an experience back from my Boy Scout days while hiking in Kings Canyon National Park's Evolution Canyon when I found the used packaging from some vacuum packed camp food crap under a rock, presumably where nobody would ever find it. Wrong, jackasses. At the time I thought to myself "My, is there any corner of this planet mankind won't befoul?" Judging by this experience in the full on wilderness, plus what's going on out in the Pacific Gyre, I'm guessing I wouldn't like the answer to that pressing question.

Littering has to be the simplest conservation faux pas to nip in the bud. It's brainless: don't toss junk on the ground, stick it in your pocket, handbag, backpack, yak skin pouch, etc. Well, now NASA's Earth Observatory website gives us another reason to pull up our socks on this matter, because litterers have taken--actually have been taking--their game to the next level with heaps and heaps of SPACE TRASH!

It's interesting that the truly excellent manga and anime Planetes by Makoto Yukimura is one of the only places I've seen this issue addressed in popular media. That series is the story of a group of orbital garbage collectors in the near future when space development has gone commercial and the presence of debris has reached a level where life in LEO is threatened by it.

But is orbital debris a danger now? No, the stuff's not going to rain down on us and snuff out whoever happens to be standing in just the wrong (or right) spot, and it probably won't even affect the ISS. NASA has, no doubt, taken the debris into account with their placement of the station. However, provided engineers can overcome the technological hurdles that stand between present day vanilla jumbo jets and a future of cost-effective bitchin' suborbital or LEO intercontinental commercial flight, it's not too fanciful to imagine near misses with a communications satellite that went dark in 1978.

Even if you're not a romantic who believes the future of the human race lies beyond this gravity well you have to admit it's still icky to have all that junk circling overhead polluting the Final Frontier. I want to look up and see Infinity, not come away thinking about the Davis Street dumps.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Destiny is a Flip Mino

Who hasn't at some point asked themselves or been asked "If you could have any superpower, what would it be?" The power of flight might beat the rest hands down for awesomeness and practicality, but for entertainment value I might choose token object reading, a.k.a. psychometry--the power to pick up an object and be able to sense the entire history of that object, including who owned it. Imagine the stories even the most innocuous item could tell us of where it's been and who's picked it up. My old Trek 2500 bike, for example, has logged thousands of miles on diverse American roads under my and the previous owner's journeys before being stuffed into the cargo bin of a 737 and heading overseas to Japan and touring Kyushu...then returning to American soil for duty on the streets of Oakland and Berkeley. That bike's traveled more in five years than many people I know.

I got to thinking about this all because of a little object that came into our possession Sunday: the Flip Mino digital video camera. Maia's sister, Karla, lent it to us for use in our 3-minute movie project, and she got it from eBay for $50, but its history goes much deeper than that. The previous owner seems to be a well-to-do gay businessman from Queens, New York who recently broke up with his long-term boyfriend, Scott and is paying a steep emotional price. How exactly do I know this? Well, our man forgot or just plain didn't bother to delete his recordings before hawking the thing online. Maybe it was stolen after its final recording, I don't know. Nearly an hour and a half of footage from (for the sake of easy reference, let's call him "Steve") Steve's emotional post-breakup confessions, to his Asian vacation, back to Queens for a pride parade, hotel room hijinks and finally a trip to Olive Garden where footage ends on Steve and friend eating their whole plate of pasta. Wow!

Amazing to think that this little bargain basement digital video camera has been to NYC, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and SF. Well, we've got our grubby mitts on it now and we plan to put it to good use, thus Exhibit A: our midnight tour northbound on Shattuck...


It's Not An Acid Trip, Just Synaesthesia

A lovely dinner conversation about medical procedures involving the poking and cutting of eyeballs got me thinking today about two science articles I've read in the past few weeks, both dealing with interesting things visible to the naked eye. The first is the accidental discovery by Yale researchers that quantum entanglement effects can take place on a size scale normally reserved for the traditional model of physics and be visible. Here's the article from Wired. If you've never heard of quantum entanglement before, it's a phenomenon that occurs when the quantum states of any two or more separate objects reach parity to the extent that they can not be distinguished as separate anymore, regardless of how much space is between them. It sounds like sci-fi dreamstuff and an unimportant curiosity, but actually, understanding and harnessing this effect will culminate in the next giant leap for mankind's informational technologies, the quantum computer. Once we invent one of those, hello technological singularity and the ensuing cyborg carnage!

The next and, in my opinion, more interesting article came courtesy of the BBC and is about time-space synaesthesia. What the hell is that, you ask? Synaesthesia, a.k.a. the most awesome of all neurological disorders, is a condition where the left and right lobes of our brain have an unusually high number of physical connections, resulting in--and here comes the wonderfully bizarre part--any one stimulation of a sensory or cognitive pathway receiving signals from a corresponding pathway on the other side of the brain. Synaesthetes (people with the condition) report widely varied experiences, but just to give you a basic example of what this entails imagine seeing a number, now imagine that number being inextricably linked with a color. Five is green, eight is blue, two is brown and so forth. This can happen with days as well. Wednesday is orange, for example. This is how a grapheme synaesthete sees the world.

There are multiple types of synaesthesia, all with exotic, mind-bending shifts in perception. One type can be triggered by LSD and psylocybin; drop a tab and "see" the music. Others can think of numbers or mathematical formulas and have them appear to hover in the air before them like a heads-up display. There's even a type, gustatory synaesthesia, that associate phonemes with tastes. Imagine hearing the word "doctor" and tasting a hamburger, or "sunset" and getting a mouth full of lemons. Maybe if a word triggered a bad taste this type of synaesthesia could be considered a bad thing, but other than that I can't say any of these conditions could be reasonably called detrimental.

The kind of synaesthesia this BBC article describes, the time-space variety, doesn't mean one can see through time or detect black holes or anything like that, it means that the cognitive concept of time becomes a visual phenomena. These synaesthetes perceive the calendar as an irregularly shaped torus or track along which they can move and see scheduled engagements. These people don't need a PDA to keep track of their lives, they just look around.

I for one think synaesthesia is a damn interesting neurological condition. I just had the thought that if I had a choice to undergo an elective surgery that could create more connection between my left and right brain I would do it in a heartbeat. Especially if I got gustatory synaesthesia, I'm thinking I could eat raw brussel sprouts and just say a magic word to make it taste instead like a Chicago deep dish pizza. And that, folks, is the most petty use of science imaginable.


The Situation As It Stands

After one-and-a-half months back in California I haven't done much with this blog, stymied by just which direction to take it in. I had kicked around the idea of converting it into an easily accessible science blog, but perhaps I should learn some basic HTML and website design before setting off on that course (perhaps bone up on the sciences as well). For now, though, I think I'll use it as a platform to keep track of the interesting tidbits I come across on a daily basis and document the happenings in the Republic of Matt.

First order of business, the new digs! Yes, Maia and I have a new cottage apartment on the north end of Oakland, one block from the Berkeley border. It is, in my unbiased opinion, absolutely, balls-to-the-wall, stupendously friggin' excellent! Physically it's about the size of a studio apartment, so not terribly big, but the use of space is creative and efficient. We have a deep entryway that allows for storage of both my bikes, a large living room we've only utilized part of (if we ever get jobs perhaps the rest will get filled), an office nook from where I'm currently typing, a cozy kitchen and, finally, the sleeping loft. I can't properly explain why, but it's been my lifelong dream to have to climb a ladder to get to bed, don't ask me why.

It takes more than just the interior features of an apartment to attract me though--those mean nothing when your neighborhood is an uninhabitable wasteland. The Bushrod/North Temescal 'hood is far from that though. All within a ten- to fifteen-minute walk are: Berkeley Bowl; four tasty Ethiopian restaurants; an intimate book store; the always-versatile Trader Joe's; several different flavors of cafe; the Rockridge/Elmwood strip; and much more. Oh, I am a kid in a candy store, no locale could be more perfect for my current state of mind.


My friend Brian lent me some non-fiction about the people who made the Apollo program happen and it's ignited my dormant sense of get-up-n'-go. I'm jobless, it sucks, there are seemingly no real employment prospects on the horizon for someone with my education and background and the whole idea's got me in a funk. That needs to end. While out riding today in Piedmont I resolved to make at least one blog entry per day here as a wobbly first step towards building my creative output and work ethic back to the level where someone might, conceivably, wish to hire me. Other steps involve copy editing classes at the UC Berkeley Extension, filling canvases and then our walls with color and getting myself in shape for a bike race with at least seven hours of riding/week.

The only exception to me not posting will be some kind of exceptional time constraint or just plain old lack of physical access to a computer and the net.

Alright, damnit, time to get moving...