Archive for February, 2005

Bone Rings

Yes, you heard right, some lucky couple is getting a pair of bone rings made from their own bone! I’m holding out for a splean anklet.

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Brake Popsicles

Reid, John, and I are trapped at home for the moment. It seems as if our parking break froze up during the night. I shouldn’t be surprised, yesterday it snowed and then as evening fell it got very cold. The ground is more iced up than I have seen happen here in one night. Matt is on his way to rescue us, but now that were back in the warm house I wouldn’t mind if he takes his time.

Update: Instead of Matt, Zhengguo came and got us. Now we will need to arrange a ride home…

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Meat Popsicles

robot snowman
It occurs to me that if you are going to be so unwise as to invade Russian in the wintertime then you would be wise to do it with a robot assisted snowman army lead by clowns. (Nothing motivates me to turn and run more than clowns.) Maybe this is why the Russians are keeping such technology to themselves.

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Google Needs Employees of Bayesian Proportions

I’m in the last of the “Telling the Truth with Statistics” lectures at CERN right now, and the professor just mentioned something interesting about Google. Doing the search “bayesian” on Google gives only one sponsored link and it is from Google itself saying “We can’t hire smart people fast enough!”.

Update: James says he sees three sponsored links. I wonder what the difference is, maybe that he is in the US?

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Heteronyms

After hearing Pascale mispronouce “Closer” for the twentieth time I stopped snickering and started to think about those crazy words that are spelled the same but have different meanings associated with different pronounciations. They are called heteronyms (check out the link for an interesting additional definition). Each one typifies the vagueries of pronounciation rules in a way that deeply offends my precision-based aesthetics. I am outraged that such words exist! (At least that is my formal statement, off the record I might admit to a little thrill.) Strangely, homophones, the words that sound the same but are written differently, don’t bother me as much, and yet it is my impression that they get more play in popular culture. Life and language are so unfair.

Here are a few of my favorite heteronyms. Usually one meaning/pronounciation is more common and it is fun to try to quickly recall the other. There are a few heteronyms for which one meaning/pronounciation obviously comes directly from another language (such as “resume”); they don’t impress me in the slightest.

closer polish tear bass invalid
intimate number lead object pussy

(I didn’t think of all of these myself, once again the internet is my friend.)

Further reading: a Google search for heteronyms gives some good results. The top hit right now comes from a dermatoligist at the Univ. of Michigan: The Heteronym Homepage.

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Closer, The Anniversary Party, Garden State

I ended up doing a lot of movie watching this weekend. At the moment I think my favorite was the first, Garden State. Miriam, Pascale’s flatmate, pulled it out after we returned from a walk around Geneva. It was enjoyed with the usual Lebanese dinner goo (but tasty goo, it is) and chocolate fondant. For a first try at it, Pascale did a good job with the fondant; not everything she bakes comes out hyper-dense! Garden State isn’t a bad little stew of epilepsy, side-cars, infinite-abysses, and indirect-matricide. Besides it’s got that funny/serious guy from that hilarious show and that cute girl from those unfortunate movies; so, there’s that. I guess we have that.

After deciding we didn’t have enough wild and crazies in us to brave the Brazilian party down in Geneva, Pascale and I traded in Miriam for Reid and John and slipped a Region 2 DVD of The Anniversary Party into Pascale’s Region 2 DVD player. Of course this was not before swearing loudly at satan’s spawn and the rest of the sulfurus-smelling corporate media for bringing us DVD region coding. This because moments before my Region 1 copies of Rushmore and The Butterfly Effect had been very rudely rejected by Pascale’s disgustingly compliant DVD player.

Anniversary Party was hectic and disfunctional. My major complaints are two fold

  • There is a disproportionate number of movies about actors and books about authors. This movie was about both. For a movie that seems to explore real human problems and complexities, the fundamentals are a little too distant from my reality.
  • Alan Cumming’s mullet and wife-beater might have been hip and “ironic” for a few moments in a few elite circles, but are these really moments and circles that deserve cinematic exploration? I don’t want to be subjected to that retro-class fashion crap for half a movie, even if it is the most integral element of the character.

By the way, did you know Alan Cummings has his own fragrance, discussion of which made up the bulk of his recent Daily Show interview.

Finally, the third movie was Closer with Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts, and Clive Owen (and not much else). We saw it at a theater in Geneva on Sunday. Pascale had been talking about catching it for weeks. It’s a crazy mixed up love quadrangle with some very “frank” dialog and a string of semi-twists that hinge on what seem to me to be mostly irrational behavior. For the first third I didn’t think much of the movie, for the second third I warmed to it and was genuinely curious to see how it will wrap up, but by the last third it had all gone too far. I will refrain from more detail so my spoiler doesn’t bump any of the precariously balanced levers in this emotional Rube Goldberg device. In summary, I enjoyed the movie to a degree, but it wasn’t all that. It’s not as if I was crying in the aile or throwing money at the screen by the end. Plus, did I mention Natalie Portman is pretty cute? Yes, I did. So, there’s that; I guess we have that.

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Pascale’s Sit-in a Success


I’m very proud to report that Pascale’s on the Pont du Mont Blanc was a big success. At least this is in terms of turnout and enthusiasim; I doubt Syria’s 14,000 troops heard word and are running home as we speak. I’m not what the actual number of people was, but the crowd filled up the area in front of the flower-clock and later at least 1/3 of the Mont Blanc bridge sidewalk. Many of the people came far better prepared than Pascale with full sized flags and at least one large sign. Pictures will go into my gallery soon.

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Startling New Layout

Don’t freak out! I repeat, don’t freak out! I just upgraded this blog to WordPress 1.5 and for now I’m using the default layout. When I get a chance I will bring back a few of the missing bits like the pictures and the calendar of upcoming events, as well as tweak the layout.

Update: … and I will probably upgrade my galleries soon, as well. Maybe tonight, if Geneva isn’t consumed by revolution.

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Long Live Lebanon!


My friend Pascale from Lebanon has very bothered by the recent bombing in Beirut in which former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed. Since 1976 Lebanon has been occupied by Syrian troops, ostentiably for “peacekeeping” purposes. Not surprisingly, the large influence that Syria holds in the much smaller country of Lebanon (which is 18 times smaller in area, and 5 times smalle in population according to the CIA World Factbook) is not welcomed by many Lebanese. The assassinated prime minister was in support of a much reduced Syrian influence.

So, last week Pascale was possessed to email a long list of Lebanese living in and around Geneva and propose a peaceful sit-in on the Pont du Mont Blanc in the center of Geneva in support of a fully independent Lebanon. It seems a few of the Lebanese took a liking to the idea and Friday Pascale spent the day fielding calls from the Geneva police as well as the United Nations. It is all quite exciting. A number of us will be heading into Geneva with Pascale to support her in her rabble-rousing (and of course I’ll be taking pictures). Let’s hope it goes well.

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Exploratorium on CERN


I recently discovered the Exploratorium site which has a wonderful section on CERN, among a group of other institutions exploring “the origins of matter, the universe, and life itself”. They have many interviews with scientists, slides shows, interactive panoramas, links to actual data, and the usual introductory physics cartoons. I especially liked the “Visiting CERN:” section at the bottom center of the page. It links to a selection of themed Flash slideshows with some great pictures from CERN. Plus, you absolutely must try the Accelerate the Particle game.

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