Archive for July, 2005

Inventor of the Telephone?

Alexander Graham Bell and Antonio Meucci
Who’s the inventor of the telephone? My friend Marco, quite the proud Italian, clued me into this caveat to the usual Graham Bell drivel. By an act of the US congress in 2002 the true inventor of the telephone is in fact Antonio Meucci an American imigrant from Florence. Of course the Italians really play up the story, and considering Bell’s contraversial views it is not hard to root along with them.

Let’s settle this in a fair way. Which do you think has a handsomer beard?


Parasites Like Us

Sorry about the lack of updates, I am a horrible blog-human. Here is a post I wrote way back at the end of May but never posted. The issue of the heat was painfully relevant once again this weekend (for the third time this summer, young though it is)…

With the hot hot heat of a Genevois May upon us, I’ve been laying low in the cool darkness of my room for much of the weekend. If you had popped your head in you might have found me reclined on my bed with a sprig of mint between my teeth, the leaves bruised and smelling sweat and tangy of its rum and tonic marinade. At other times the beverage was instead a cool tea swirled languorously in my Japanese ceramics. And yes, the rumors are true, cherries forming the majority of a kilo did go missing, but the case is still open: No, officer, I don’t know anything about that pile of pits in the corner. … No, I can’t say that I noticed any sticky-lipped characters passing through. … Me? I’ve just been sitting here reading my book, minding my own business. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful, my memory seems to have faded with the brisk breezes of winter.

What little evidence this eye-witness can provide is that the book in question was outstanding. I began reading Parasites Like Us a couple weeks ago, but until now I have only progressed in fits (a few pages before bed and such). This weekend, though, the remainder of the book was swallowed up whole with a big eye-watering glug. Parasites is the first novel by an author who greatly impressed me with his short story collection, Emporium. The novel is an eloquent account of the final days of humanity as we now know it, told to the readers of a new world born from the handful of survivors. The narrator is a professor of anthropology who, before precipitating the apocalypse, is mostly consumed with the taming of his two graduate students and his own stubborn sense of loss. It is introspective, grizzly, and observant. It does, as advertised, feature flaming pigs.

I found it notable that the author of Parasites, Adam Johnson, in his short blog (see the June 28, 2005 entry), mentioned the other book I just finished reading, Ryan Harty’s Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona. It is an intense series of short stories, poignant slices of lives in transition or desperate for it, and a great example of short story telling. It packs in far more loneliness and desperation than is ever found in Parasites’ apocalypse (which is an oddly matter-of-fact, and even uplifting, tale of an apocolypse). The title is plain, it is a recollection of some of the saddest moments that the sprawling suburbia of the desert southwest might plausibly muster. The sadness, though, is less Where the Red Fern Grows and more the sort that lingers in the background during those indefinite periods of transition between life’s meaningful milepost like jobs, friends, or lovers. Solid resolution is sandwiched between desperation for purpose. Time passes, lives change, so why does everything seem to stay the same? It is as if they characters are waiting for something, and yet they can’t imagine what. Will that something come tomorrow or was it twenty years ago? The emptiness and desperation is compelling because it is subtle and real. Dramatic things happen, and they have to be acknowledged; but, we can’t spend our lives weeping in a corner, we move on. So the question becomes, when and where to? Maybe we aren’t far away. In summary, here is an appropriate quote

Everything suddenly looked so odd it was hard to believe it had looked normal at one time, and that made him feel better. It was almost possible to imagine a time when the last several days might seem strange and far away, too, when he might look back on them with a kind of detached wonder. But he didn’t want to let them pass too quickly. There was a pleasure to what he felt, along with the pain, and he understood that to let it go would be to suggest the worst of life—that it was transitory and random, quick to forget.

I highly recommend the book.


Phase I is now Phase Done

In celebration of the end of the first phase of US muon chamber integration and commissioning there was a barbeque held at the CERN picnic area today (it’s “building 6529″ on the Prevessin site, behind the H-8 test beam building). What a beautiful day it was! We had good turnout, and fun seemed to be had by all. A volleyball was batted around (kicking the volleyball is only allowed after 8:30pm!). Fat was chewed around the grill. Jeremy complained bitterly about the white wine and then drank four more cups of it. Quite possibly there was the suggestion of frolicking, though I couldn’t be bothered to notice with all that watermelon needing to be consumed. I hear there was plenty of meat left over for further grilling, but we took care of the red wine and deserts quite easily; too easily, I’d say. Oh, dessert, how fleeting you are! What ATLAS needs is more Phases to complete. Phase I.1 could be wine and cheese, Phase I.2 could be enchiladas and margaritas, Phase I.3 could be handmade pesto and pasta, Phase I.4 could be roast turkey and pie, and so on, and so on, and so on… I swear I tightened down at least 25 phases worth of screws while working on those chambers in 184 last year.

Note: you can click on the picture for a larger version. I hope to have even more online in the gallery very soon. I know I have been horribly delinquint regarding the web site; but, there is hope. In fact, if it was not for the picnic today (we lingered ’til dark), I would have got a few weeks worth of pictures, including Rome, online tonight. So, be watching for new stuff tomorrow night.


Flying Carpet

I love maps and their hacks. I love travel. And I even love carpet. (I’m really sorry, hardwood floors, I never meant to lead you on like that.) That is why I would have to carefully cross-shred and incinerate my map lovers of America chapter 42.284N 83.744W card if I were not to absolutely love the “Flying Carpet” (found on Engadget).

Of course my platinum-elite Carpet of the Month card will remain intact and safely in my pocket no matter what, because that’s just good value.


Haute Horlogerie

I’ve been thinking about watches recently. Spending so much time in Switzerland it was bound to happen. Because of a mention in a recent New York Times article, I recently became intrigued with the T-touch series of Tissot watches. This lead Jeremy and I to discover the unremarkable in style but gradiose in name, T-Lord. Tissot has gotten a little full of themselves, I’d say. Nevertheless, they do have a few decent watches that I would consider buying if I was looking to spend half a grand on a watch. For Swiss watches Tissot isn’t far from affordable, meaning the prices scale goes roughly Casio → Swatch → Tissot → everthing else in the shop windows of Geneva.

But, where the T-Lord is all talk, the Opus V is 100% action, multiple axes of rotation action. I can never have enough axes of rotation. This is the watch I would buy if money was no object and my wrist was man enough. The limited production (100 in total) and absolutely no reference to price leads me to believe that the Opus V is for people of a much higher station in life, a station so high their piss is just a warm spring drizzle to me.

Oh well, I can always go out back and fry ants with my watch. That should make a me feel pretty good about myself in addition to keeping me informed enough to be home in time for Dukes of Hazard, and isn’t that all these watches are really about?

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