Saturday, June 29, 2013

Damselfly in Distress

This afternoon, I encountered an ebony jewelwing damselfly in the building in which I work. The poor thing was floundering by one of the large floor-to-ceiling windows near the front entrance, so I decided to give it a helping hand. My co-worker **REDACTED** took a couple of pictures:

The absence of white wingspots indicates that this is a male damselfly... with the indoor lighting, it is impossible to see the bluish, iridescent sides of the abdomen, but they were plainly visible in the light of day, when I released this little guy in the great outdoors. As his diet consists largely of mosquitoes, he'll repay the favor many times over, unless he gets eaten by some critter.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Ahhh... Suburbia!

From the "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?" files, we have a story of a gun hoarder killing himself in Putnam County, about fifty miles north of New York City. The guy, described as a survivalist (weird, I thought survivalism was about, you know, surviving). The guy had so much ordnance that a crew from Fort Drum, up by the Canadian border, had to travel downstate to remove the explosives in as safe a manner as possible.

Thankfully, this guy had the good taste to kill himself in private, rather than going on a murderous rampage. Just the thought of what the guy could have done on a crowded New York City street with all of those explosives is making my toenails curl. One odd little detail in the story is that d00d had a non-functional Saladin armored reconnaissance vehicle in his yard.

Oddly enough, the last time an incident similar to this occurred in that neck of the woods, it involved the son (from a former marriage) of the late husband of a woman I had been working with for about two weeks. Seems the kid broke into her house to steal some guns that he knew his father had left behind. When the police investigated the incident, they found a huge arsenal that my co-worker was unaware of. It was odd, having the name of the nice lady in the cubicle across from mine, a woman I'd only met a couple of weeks before, appear in the paper.

It's odd what sort of horrors can lurk behind innocent-seeming suburban walls.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

CliMEHt Action

I finally got around to listening to President Obama's speech on climate change, a most appropriate activity when there's a tornado watch in one's neighboring state. All-in-all, it was an okay speech, but, like a lot of Obama's proposals, my reaction to it is one big "MEH". There is some evidence that the president's position, like his position on same-sex marriage, has evolved- he's no longer talking about clean coal, except in rare cases:

Today, I'm calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas -- unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there's no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity. And I urge other countries to join this effort.

My big problem with the speech is that the president lends too much credence to the notion that natural gas is a viable "medium term" solution to our energy needs:

Now, even as we’re producing more domestic oil, we’re also producing more cleaner-burning natural gas than any other country on Earth. And, again, sometimes there are disputes about natural gas, but let me say this: We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.
Federally supported technology has helped our businesses drill more effectively and extract more gas. And now, we'll keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we're not seeing methane emissions, and to put people to work modernizing our natural gas infrastructure so that we can power more homes and businesses with cleaner energy.

Of course, natural gas extraction is extremely hazardous to groundwater supplies, a fact that even the mainstream press is beginning to report. At least the president merely views natural gas as a "transition" fuel, though my opinion is that it is a dangerous distraction from the development of real alternatives such as wind and solar power:

The bottom line is natural gas is creating jobs. It's lowering many families' heat and power bills. And it's the transition fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy more of the technology required for the even cleaner energy economy of the future.

At least the president's stated devotion to wind and solar power is admirable:

And that brings me to the second way that we're going to reduce carbon pollution -- by using more clean energy. Over the past four years, we've doubled the electricity that we generate from zero-carbon wind and solar power. And that means jobs -- jobs manufacturing the wind turbines that now generate enough electricity to power nearly 15 million homes; jobs installing the solar panels that now generate more than four times the power at less cost than just a few years ago.
I know some Republicans in Washington dismiss these jobs, but those who do need to call home -- because 75 percent of all wind energy in this country is generated in Republican districts. And that may explain why last year, Republican governors in Kansas and Oklahoma and Iowa -- Iowa, by the way, a state that harnesses almost 25 percent of its electricity from the wind -- helped us in the fight to extend tax credits for wind energy manufacturers and producers. Tens of thousands good jobs were on the line, and those jobs were worth the fight.

As is his commitment to providing clean energy solutions to developing nations:

Though all America's carbon pollution fell last year, global carbon pollution rose to a record high. That’s a problem. Developing countries are using more and more energy, and tens of millions of people entering a global middle class naturally want to buy cars and air-conditioners of their own, just like us. Can't blame them for that. And when you have conversations with poor countries, they'll say, well, you went through these stages of development -- why can't we?
But what we also have to recognize is these same countries are also more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than we are. They don’t just have as much to lose, they probably have more to lose.
Developing nations with some of the fastest-rising levels of carbon pollution are going to have to take action to meet this challenge alongside us. They're watching what we do, but we've got to make sure that they're stepping up to the plate as well. We compete for business with them, but we also share a planet. And we have to all shoulder the responsibility for keeping the planet habitable, or we're going to suffer the consequences -- together.
So to help more countries transitioning to cleaner sources of energy and to help them do it faster, we're going to partner with our private sector to apply private sector technological know-how in countries that transition to natural gas. We’ve mobilized billions of dollars in private capital for clean energy projects around the world.

Of course, the president's proposal to use executive orders to reduce carbon emissions is a good thing, and it pisses off Republicans. All-in-all, it was a pretty good speech, but I just can't get overly excited by it- the president's approval of natural gas as a stop-gap solution rankles, and I'm not the only one to be less-than-satisfied. The president's plan, like his healthcare plan, seems just a little too close to a plan proposed by a right-winger who stands to gain millions from its implementation. Just once, I'd love to see President Obama play the socialist firebrand his opponents portray him to be.

Oh, well, I knew power plants fueled by sparkly unicorn poop were too good to be true.

Cross-posted at Rumproast.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Purple Right Hand

Today, I went on a long mulberry walk in the vicinity of Muskrat Cove (PDF link) and filled up four sizable containers, and mah belly, with the delectable fruits. By the time I got home, my right hand was as purple as the robe of a monarch:

It took a bit of scrubbing to get the anthocyanins off, but in the end I had more luck than Lady MacBeth (who was framed). It's funny, I imagine I looked like some kind of weirdo walking through the neighborhood with my hand looking like that, but I would've looked a hundred times scarier if my right hand had been red. Hmmm... sounds like a song or something:

Off topic, but a few days ago, Monsieur McGravitas posted a biography of Rowland S. Howard of The Birthday Party... I've been listening to a lot of Nick Cave's stuff lately. Thanks, SMcG!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Still Fantastic Decades Later

I've put up a couple of posts which mentioned the Irish band In Tua Nua, whose 1988 album The Long Acre is a Bastard favorite. Recently, I found that the band had reformed and had performed at last year's Electric Picnic festival. Here's a version of my personal favorite song by the band, Don't Fear Me Now:

I've always thought that lead singer Leslie Dowdall has one of the finest voices I've ever heard, and she still looks absolutely gorgeous. The band looks like they're having a blast.

Here's the video for a live performance of Seven Into the Sea:

A quick trip in the time machine to watch the band's performance of the Seven Into the Sea for the 1986 Self Aid benefit concert reveals that the band has lost none of their intensity in the intervening decades:

For the record, the band wrote one of the most powerful musical critiques of the religious based war on women (a song which, tragically, still resonates today), the closest thing to an agnostic's hymn... here's the sublime The Innocent and the Honest Ones:

It's good to see the band has reformed, and is performing as spectacularly as ever... here's hoping they decide to tour and hit the NY metro area. I've got to tell my great and good friend J-Co that the band is back together... he'll be even more ecstatic than I am.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

And So It Begins...

As I do every year, I have eagerly welcomed this year's mulberry season. As a matter of fact, I spent a good deal of time this morning scarfing mulberries between tasks on the job. Ginger sat at my feet the entire time, disgusted at the frugivorous frivolities of her hairless primate co-worker. Silly ape, there are juicy birds in the trees! Tragically, the site lost one gorgeous mulberry tree a month ago, when a storm hit. Oddly enough, I don't believe that the wind took the tree down, I think the ground was so saturated that the tree keeled over. One of the most prolific mulberry trees on site produces white mulberries, which fooled even the mighty Steve Brill into thinking they were unripe (one can gauge the ripeness of the white berries by how plump and shiny they look- fat, shiny berries are ripe, though the taste is milder than that of the red or black berries).

Last night, I did something I almost never do, I went shopping for something other than food, booze, or books. I actually spent about twenty bucks on a small blender/travel cup combo. Now, I'm not the sort of guy who drinks "smoothies", but I figure I will start... I live near a failed silkworm ranch, so the vicinity is loaded with mulberry trees. I figure I can freeze a shitton of mulberries and blend them into nutritious beverages (a lot of the nutrition information comes from quackish sites, but there's quite a bit about the berries on the web. Now, anybody out there do the smoothie thing and could provide some pointers? I want to be able to sing this song by the end of the month:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Who Are You and What Have You Done with the Bastard?

In a comment to my last post, the redoubtable Smut Clyde inquired:

I see no allusion to the sexiness of robots and I call Shenanigans. What have you done with the real BBBB?

Indeed, Monsieur Clyde (if that is his real name) knows that one of the Bastard trademarks is posting a link to the song S.E.X.Y.R.O.B.O.T. by Barcelona's Pinker Tones whenever robots are mentioned. Rest assured, I did not outsource my last blog post to a cadre of orphans working in a letter mill, nor did I have Fred or Ginger write it. To tell the truth, I was totally going to post a link to S.E.X.Y.R.O.B.O.T. in the post, but it was a bit of a rush job (besides getting home after 3AM on Wednesday, work's been pretty hectic these days with a slew of summer fundraisers in the pipeline, so posting has been more difficult than is typical). In order to redeem myself, I figure I need to post a couple of videos for S.E.X.Y.R.O.B.O.T..

Here's a hilarious video for the song:

Here's the performance video for the song:

For a departure, here's a version of S.E.X.Y.R.O.B.O.T. mashed up with their song 24:

For all of you lounge music aficianados, here's the version of S.E.X.Y.R.O.B.O.T. featuring the lovely and talented Virginia Maestro:

The Pinker Tones have extolled the "sexy robot" aesthetic since day one, as the video for their first single stars a francophone Betty Boopbot:

So, how the hell did some dude from Yonkers become such a big fan of Barcelona's most hilarious electronica band? It all started back in the days when I still had cable TV... I was switching channels and came across a gleefully subversive animated video being played on one of the Spanish language networks:

I've been a fan ever since. Now, as for the sexiness of the robots in Dr John Long's lab at Vassar, I will let you make your own determination... Rule 34 is VERY subjective.

NOTE: My co-worker **REDACTED** recently bought a pair of kickass omnidirectional USB-port speakers on e-bay, and magnanimously left them here for me to use. The best thing about working alone on the graveyard shift is being able to blast a song called S.E.X.Y.R.O.B.O.T. at full volume while dancing like a maniac in one's office. The cats are hiding somewhere, but they'll crawl out of the woodwork as soon as their primate co-worker cuts out the nonsense.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Post Lecture Recap: Biorobot (R)evolution

Last night, I traveled down to the beautiful Bell House, in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, for the latest lecture sponsored by the Secret Science Club. This month's lecture featured Dr John Long of Vassar College. Dr Long is a professor of biology and the head of the Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory. His work involves biorobotics, efforts to "evolve" robots in order to learn about life.

Robots are useful for performing dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs, the sort of jobs humans should not have to perform. Mercedes and Lexus have created integrated driving systems that employ radar and ultrasound to increase safety by correcting for driver errors. The innovations of the integrated safety systems were developed as part of a project to develop driverless cars. The Google car is a prime example of a prototypical driverless car. Dr Long also mentioned the use of drones as robotic warriors, and touched on a publicity stunt in the UK in which an octocopter delivered pizzas for Dominos.

Dr Long made especial mention of the Roomba, which transitioned to a discussion of the "android fallacy"- most robots do not look like humans. He contrasted a 1960's image of a house cleaning robot with the 21st century reality of a house-cleaning robot.

The next topic of discussion was about what a robot is. A robot exhibits constructive action and "mental" and physical agency that does not result from a biological source. Robot behavior, actions, and movements are sensor guided decisions. A computer produces the communication between the robot's sensors and its mechanisms, and can also communicate with other computers. Roboticist Rodney Brooks, a proponent of the "actionist" school of robotics, famously opined that we should stop making humanoid robots, and should emulate "simpler" organisms, such as insects. The Roomba, mimics an insect-level intelligence and behaves like a bug. One motto used by Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works was "start simple first", an expression akin to the design principle K.I.S.S.

Dr Long's lab is concerned with using robotic models in order to understand vertebrate evolution. He gave a brief overview of the milieu in which the vertebrates first evolved. One of the most famous fossil beds from the time prior to the evolution of the vertebrates is the Burgess Shale, which preserves remains of such famous organisms as Hallucigenia and Opabinia (Dr Long showed a slide featuring a painting of a "school" of Opabinia that he was especially pleased with, but I can't find the image online- suffice it to say, I thought it looked like "Opabinia Jesus" addressing his disciples). One of the earliest vertebrate fossils is the genus Haikouichthys, the remains of which were discovered in China. Haikouichthys was approximately 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in length. The fossils are especially good because soft tissues were preserved in the fine-grained sediments. Dr Long gave a very terse, hilarious take on the difference between invertebrates and vertebrates: invertebrates are "CRUNCH, SQUISH" organisms while vertebrates are "SQUISH, CRUNCH" organisms. For a better take on vertebrates, vertebrates have an internal support structured called a notochord and paired sense organs (note- with certain exceptions). One sensory organ characteristic of vertebrates is the lateral line, which senses movements and changes in pressure around an organism. The closest analog that humans have to the lateral line is the inner ear, which plays a role in balance.

Dr Long then proceded to discuss his use of robots to model vertebrate evolution. To model something in order to understand it, one has to model simple things first. To study vertebrate evolution, a biorobot, a model of an animal, needed to be built. The model had a series of assumptions built into it, it had to represent a biological target. For his studies, Dr Long decided to model Drepanaspis, a skillet-shaped 400 million year old jawless fish. The target was "simplified", but the functional needs of the model were similar to those of a living organism, and the basic structures were similar. The resultant skillet-shaped swimming robot was dubbed "Tadro, a portmanteau word composed of "tadpole" and "robot". The autonomous "tadro" had light sensors on the front to model feeding behavior (since the base of the marine food chain is phytoplankton, the "feeding" behavior involved heading toward a light source) and "predator" detecting sensors on the side to mimic the lateral line. Swimming was accomplished by a flexible "tail" filled with a hydrogel which Dr Long drolly noted was not edible. The notochord is an ancestral condition, while the vertebrate spine evolved in order to provide increased stiffness. The stiffness of the tail could be adjusted by adding ring-shaped stiffeners, which function as biomimetic "vertebrae".

A simple definition of evolution is a change in the genetics of a population from one generation to the next- certain organisms have more descendants which survive. It is important to note that populations evolve, not individuals.

In order to model evolution, the tadros shared the tank with a "predatory" robot dubbed a "tadiator" (a portmanteau of "tadro" and "gladiator"). Animals can detect predators and override their feeding behavior in order to escape them (Dr Long contrasted this ability to override feeding behavior with the behavior of Augustus Gloop). The tadros, like fish, were able to stop "eating" and start fleeing, the artificial intelligence was able to switch behavior. When fish need to evade a predator, they use a maneuver known as a fast start, in which the spine forms a "C" shape before bursting into a rapid acceleration. In the lab the "tadiator" acted as an agent of "natural" selection for improved feeding and fleeing in order to determine if "evolving" vertebrae would improve these behaviors. In essence, the robots would transition from having notochords to having vertebral columns.

In the lab, six tadros would share the tank with one tadiator. The tadiator, unlike the tadros, would not "evolve", it only serves to hunt the prey robots. Variation among the robots included size of the tail fin, rigidity of the "notochord" (number of "vertebrae") and sensitivity of the "lateral line". Out of the six tadros, the top three (rated by their ability to stay near the light and to avoid tadiator) were allowed to "breed", their variations would be incorporated into the next generation of robots. The best performing tadro would produce six sets of "genes", while the second would produce four, and the third would produce two. The "genes" would be randomly combined to simulate mating, and the next generation of robots would be altered to conform to the "breeding".

Over the course of several generations, the number of vertebrae "evolved" would stabilize after some fluctuation over the course of the first couple of generations.

Here's a good interview with Dr Long, who recently released a book titled Darwin’s Devices: What Evolving Robots Can Teach Us About the History of Life and the Future of Technology (for the record, I did not buy a copy of the book, having spent my money on beer, but I plan on buying a copy when it comes out in paperback). Here is a video of Dr Long in action, which is a good approximation of Tuesday's lecture (be sure to drink a lot of beer while you watch it. Opabina Jesus makes an appearance at 2:56:

In the course of the Q&A, some bastard in the audience asked Dr Long if he had modeled the exoskeletons of such swimming invertebrates as crustaceans, and if similar genetic factors were involved in the evolution of rigid exoskeletons and rigid endoskeletons (hox genes are involved in the development of both). After the lecture, when said bastard went up to Dr Long to thank him for his excellent lecture, he was pleased to be dubbed "crustacean guy" by Dr Long.

In short, Dr John Long of Vassar College is a hell of a good guy, his lecture was excellent, and you should definitely buy his book provided you haven't spent all of your cash on beer. The presentation was yet another excellent effort on the part of the excellent Secret Science Club. As an added bonus, the third deity in the Secret Science Club pantheon, Michael Crewdson, who co-authored the amazing Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger and the indispensable Wild New York with Margaret Mittelbach, returned to his native Brooklyn from his current Australian home. It's been a while since he's been back, but his return was most triumphant. All told, it was an excellent night, even with the "fast track" construction on the "R Train", which resulted in the bastard not getting home until after 3AM (which partially explains why this post is tardy).

Monday, June 17, 2013

Beautiful Day in Bastardland

It's a glorious June day here in the City of Y______, and I have the day off. I've got some errands to run, but I'll be sure to enjoy myself after I've finished. All told, I'm a happy boy:

Gotta love the Beat Farmers, and the late, great Country Dick Montana- here's a combination of "California Kid" and, hilariously, "Anarchy in the U.K."... I've never heard this before, which makes me even happier:

That being said, I think I shall resume my day of loafing.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Fathers' Day!

Here's wishing a happy Fathers' Day to my three awesome brothers, my great brother-in-law, my excellent cousins, and all of the dads among my readership. I could make a political point about the typical social conservative hypocrisy about fatherhood (so ably skewered here, and how the very individuals who decry the state of fatherhood in the U.S. are the very same persons who promote policies that undercut wages (thus necessitating the two-income families they decry) and lead to higher incarceration rates (which disproportionately effect minority communities). Yeah, these people promote policies which undermine the abilities of men to act as good fathers, and then use the incidence of absentee fathers as a cudgel with which to belabor women.

Enough of all that, here's hoping that the dads out there can enjoy a nice day with the family. Enjoy yourselves, readers of the fatherly persuasion!

Saturday, June 15, 2013


This morning, I was making the rounds of my workplace in order to prepare the site for the day shift. In the course of my walkabout, I startled a black crowned night heron which frequents the site. As soon as the night heron took off, a smaller bird (it looked like a grackle to me, but the distance was considerable) began an aerial chase. The smaller bird relentlessly pursued the heron for a good two minutes, the chase encompassing a distance of perhaps a quarter-mile, taking in the perimeter of a small pond on site.

I knew that songbirds often mob predators such as hawks, and have witnessed such an occurrence on numerous occasions, but I'd never seen a wading bird receive such a mobbing. The chase ended when the heron finally landed on the shore of the pond, and the smaller bird took off.

All told, an excellent show was put on by these two avian adversaries, followed up by a fly-by of my personal favorite on-site bird, our cheeky resident belted kingfisher. Bravo, birdies!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Retro, Rip-Roarin'

Didja ever hear a song which sounds like an artifact of another decade, the product of a time-traveling pop group? Lately, I've been floored by the single "Rip Van Winkle" by Oakland's Shannon and the Clams. Here's a live version of the song, be sure to turn it up to eleven:

What's not to like? We have a rip(heh heh)roaring sound reminiscent of such 60's rockers as The Pleasure Seekers, from an album with a Lovecraftian title, inspired by a beloved "Old New York" story... I'm in bliss, pity the song only lasts two minutes fifteen seconds.

For the record, I am partial to the Arthur Rackham illustrated edition of "Rip Van Winkle". I've always been a fan of Arthur Rackham's work as an illustrator, he wonderfully blends the pretty and the grotesque, the mundane and the eldritch. Here's his take on young Rip's encounter with the Henry Hudson and his enchanted crew:

Rackham also illustrated an edition of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and his creepy little imps almost upstage the big headless guy. Funny how the mind works, I start off with Shannon and the Clams, and end up with Arthur Rackham and the gnomes.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pretty Spooky Coincidence

So... in my blog post for Wednesday, June 12, I brought up the topic of vertical farming, and mentioned Dr Dixon Despommier of Columbia University. While driving to work last night, I was listening to the PBS Newshour, and there was a featured story about vertical farming in Singapore, complete with an appearance by Dr Despommier:

Watch Singapore Looks Skyward to Take Farming in New Directions on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Pretty spooky, eh? Sometimes I give myself the creeps. Now I want to find out more about vertical farming in Singapore, so I'm putting out a call to the go-to guy on all Singaporean matters, Mr Simon Ooh. If the way to call Batman is to use the bat signal, they way to call Mr Ooh would be to use a durian signal... anybody got a big spotlight and a durian-shaped stencil? Postscript: Mr Ooh's birthday was a couple of days ago... happy birthday!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Projected Mid-Century NYC Problems

One of the big local stories is a study on the possible effects of global warming on New York City. The study paints a grim picture for mid-century New York, with a 15% increase in precipitation, much of it in the form of heavy downpours, and an increase in the number of days in which the temperature hits 90 degrees Fahrenheit (about 32 Celsius). Of course, the fact that New York is a sea of pavement and roofs will aggravate the heat island effect. As if that weren't bad enough, the study predicts a sea level rise of 2.5 feet (just under a meter).

One interesting approach to mitigating both the urban heat island effect and the problem of excess runoff is creating green roofs, roofs "carpeted" with vegetation. New York City has a number of green roofs, most notably the roof of Parks' Department Five Borough Administrative Building on Randall's Island. While not as radical a plan as Dixon Despommier's Vertical Farm, the green roof is a good baby step toward sustainable buildings. As a parenthetical note, Dixon Despommier gave a Secret Science Club lecture before I started this blog... I heartily apologize for not realizing that I had a responsibility to a readership back then. Here's a video of Dr Despommier speaking about vertical farms:

Tragically, a good subset of the public still believes that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by greedy scientists who are out to rip off a poor, beleaguered fossil fuel industry. This subset of the public has been bamboozled by the same predators who fought against anti-smoking efforts... the most gullible people in the world misled by the worst people in the world. The fact that Michael Bloomberg has crusaded against both smoking and global warming makes him a particular enemy of the mouth breathers. Unfortunately, these people vote in numbers just large enough to prevent any possible solutions from being implemented. Instead of duty now for the future, we have same as it ever was.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kissin' Kittehs

If you want all-cats-all-the-time, you'd be hard-pressed to beat J. Prestonian's blog. I occasionally do cat posts, as I have three interesting little beasties in my life. Anyway, the following picture, taken by my co-worker **REDACTED** is so sweet, you're going to need an insulin shot:

Awww... the brother/sister team of Fred and Ginger sure look cute when they're "kissing" each other, don't they? My two-legged co-worker caught them at just the right time. High five, old chum, the cute quotient of this picture is off the charts!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Combing Through the Archives of an Alternate Universe

Thunder's comment on my last post inspired me to do some gazoogling, and I found a blog which is going to do a track-by-track dissection of the entire Ramones' oeuvre, including rarities and demos. The blog has its genesis in a post by the same author on his other blog which posits an "alternate universe" debut album by the Ramones. For a taste of what could have been, here's the demo version of Judy is a Punk:

The album version features Mickey Leigh (Joey Ramone's brother) singing "OOO-OOO-OO-OOO" during the bridge:

Here's a live version, for great justice the sake of completeness:

Here's the demo of Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World complete with the lyrics which caused Sire Records' Seymour Stein's toenails to curl:

The album version has slightly "tamed" lyrics:

If you are a Ramones fan, you owe it to yourself to check out thes two blogs, but be forewarned, they are a bit of a "time sink"... you didn't need to read the news, though.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

One Final Push

The site rental which has occupied much of my worktime is coming to an end this weekend. The head honcho of the project informed me that the work is supposed to come to an end around 2 or 3AM, so they should be out of here by 5AM. It'll be a lot more quiet around here as things return to normal, and I will be able to spend more quality time with mah preshus kittehs (Moses remains in the building in which he works as a mouser, while Fred and Ginger typically squeeze out one of the windows in their building and roam the grounds).

Of course, there are a couple of upcoming summer fundraisers which will go on into the evening hours, but generally speaking, I am able to lock up the building at 5:30 or 6PM and have the place to myself for hours.

NOTE: Just found out that Arturo Vega, who designed the now-ubiquitous Ramones logo passed away this afternoon. For this sad occasion, how about one of the Ramone's sad, "downtempo" numbers? Here's the appropriate Here Today, Gone Tomorrow:

Friday, June 7, 2013

Preventive Measures

This weekend, the area is under a flash-flood advisory as the remnants of tropical storm Andrea move up the eastern seaboard. Just over two weeks ago, we had a fast moving thunderstorm that flooded the basement of my primary workplace. Today, though, the day shift worked their tailfeathers off, running an auger through the drain in the stairwells on one either side of the building and sandbagging the area downslope from my hastily-dug drainage trench... I actually took a photograph of the "problem area", but my phone reception here is crap, so the message to my e-mail never went through- I'll have to resend the picture later. A little preparation beforehand can do wonders when it comes to mitigating the effects of a storm. The last storm caught us blindsided, and the one guy typically onsite who was familiar with the operation of the pump happened to be working at another location... Murphy was an optimist.

Of course, I'm not out of the soup, but my relief will bear the brunt of the storm, which is supposed to peak here around 1AM (I'm a little nervous about flooded roads on the way home, because most of the local highways were built along watercourses, and are rendered impassible whenever there's a major rainfall). To compound an uncommonly rough worknight, the customers renting the site indicated that they will probably be here until 4 or 5AM, which (judging from a month's worth of experience) translates to 7AM. Their last day on site is tomorrow, so things will be peaceful and quiet soon.

UPDATE: This is the picture of the back of the building- you can see the two week old remnants of my hastily dug furrow, and the line of sandbags which was placed to keep water from flooding the basement:

For the record, the basement remained as dry as a bone, even though we received a month's worth of rain over the course of the last twelve hours. At no time, though, was the rainfall as violent as it was during the brief thunderstorm two and a half weeks ago.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

No Cicadas Yet

The 2013 brood of the 17-year cicada has been getting quite a bit of coverage in the various news media. I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords, or I would if they would only arrive in the City of Y______.

For the record, I have only eaten two cicadas in my life. The first time I ate a cicada, I had been drinking copious amounts of beer at a friend's parents' house. Before leaving, I noticed a cicada on the screen of the kitchen door and mused, "I read that these things are edible." My friend, knowing me well, replied, "Oh, shit, you're really going to..." Before he could finish, I had grabbed the thing, which commenced to make a racket... which I stilled by biting its head off. If I had to describe the sensation of eating a cicada, I'd liken it to eating a celery-flavored M&M- crunchy candy shell and a "green" tasting interior. It was not bad at all. The second time I ate a cicada was in my own backyard. A bunch of my brother Vincenzo's classmates were staying at the family homestead, and we were cooking out on the patio. One of my brother's friends, a kid from Minnesota, had never encountered a cicada, so he was a bit put off at the sight of a bug the size of his thumb flying around. He said, "What the hell is that thing?" I told him, "It's a cicada, a big noisy bug that's not bad eating." With that, I caught the cicada, stuck it on a fork, grilled it, and ate it. My brother's friend turned as green as the cicada. Again, copious amounts of beer had been consumed. Now, regarding cicadas, I have to say, they're not bad, but I wouldn't bust my hump trying to catch enough to make a meal of. If I can grab one or two out of the billions that will be swarming, I would probably relive my entomophagous endeavors, but I'm not going to knock myself out chasing cicadas. For those of you who are cringing, and saying "How could you eat a bug like that?" I have this to say- if a shrimp crawled out from under your radiator, you'd smash it, but since it was pulled out of the ocean, you'd pay $16.99/lb for it? Really, a shrimp is just a sea bug... think of the cicada as a tree shrimp and munch away!

I have a wonderful co-worker, a soft-spoken, well-educated woman from Argentina who is not too keen on bugs, but her two awesome daughters are the sort of nerdy tomboys who are budding entomologists. Those girls love bugs, and mom is able to suppress her squeamishness really well for their sake. Of course, the two are kids after my own heart, and I am an enabler... I gave the girls a plant with a mantis ootheca and mom put it outside their house so they could watch for the emergence of the baby mantises. I also staked out a few milkweed plants for the girls so they can keep an eye out for monarch caterpillars. The girls and I are bug buddies, so to speak. While the girls were keenly looking forward to the impending cicada invasion, mom wasn't sharing their enthusiasm. I tried to mollify her dubious feelings about the bugs by telling her, "Well, they're as big as your thumb, they're green on top and white on the bottom, and they are extremely noisy... just think of them as flying frogs and you won't be quite so freaked out."

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Shake Spear

Working the graveyard shift, I figured I'd do some research for an involved post about botany, a super-geeky plant post which has some bearing on current events. My ambition was pretty much shattered in the four o'clock hour when I saw a Sysco truck pull into the parking lot, which necessitated a sprint across the property (for the record, I typically run a tab... I figured long ago that I'm the type of person who'd rather stand and fight than run). The food vendor who is feeding the people renting our property came in a lot earlier than is typical. There go my dreams of a quiet dawn, spent chasing down links about plant biology. I will get a free breakfast out of the deal, though...

Now that my long, ambitious post has been put on hold for the time being, I figured I'd put up a "housekeeping" post. A quick glance at my blogroll will reveal that there have been several additions in the past couple of months. The two latest additions to the blogroll are both Sadlynaughts who use tumblr, which is what all the cool kids are using these days. Without further ado, let me present the blog of Shakezula, who won my admiration with her trenchant comments, and won my love with her contribution to the oeuvre of Objectivist Morrissey:

The boy with the thorn in his side,
I hope his health care is denied

The second addition to the blogroll is talented artist and hat-wearing dandy Spearhafoc, whose renditions of the alien menageries of late 19th century and early to mid 20th century science fiction authors rival those of Wayne Barlowe. His tumblr reminds me of the awesome yog-blogsoth art blog. Anybody who loves to draw monsters and aliens is alright in my book.

I love it when the "neighborhood" grows- my blogroll members have been instrumental in my continuing blogging efforts, and I am more than happy to add to the mix of personalities.

Monday, June 3, 2013

They Gave Their Lives for Science

In the midst of the deadly tornadoes that have hit the Midwest in the last couple of months, I was particularly struck by the deaths of Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, and Carl Young- three accomplished storm chasers. While the exploits of tornado chasers may seem like a most macho endeavor, the scientists who participate in it are working to better understand dangerous weather events, in the hope of mitigating their lethal effects. The fact that two members of the same family died compounds the tragedy, I can't imagine how wife and mother Kathy Samaras must feel in light of her loss.

I have worked in the teeth of some pretty bad storms, but have never felt that my life was in danger... I have nothing but admiration for those brave individuals who are willing to put their asses on the line seeking to increase human knowledge and to reduce human suffering. Me? It could be said that I've put my liver on the line for science, but I've never faced risks remotely like those these brave researchers did.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bumper Crop

Last Friday, I came home from work around a quarter to one in the morning, and I found the eldest of my three upstairs neighbors hanging out on the front stoop. She told me that she was planning to borrow a friend's weed-whacker to hit the plants in front of the house. A few weeks ago, I planted some sunflower seeds, and a couple of the plants are doing pretty well. Even more significantly, there was a ton of lambs' quarters plants in the small patch of dirt in front of the house. The conversation took a bit of a weird turn...

"**REDACTED**, I put in some sunflower seeds a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't mention it, because I figured it would be a nice surprise to have some ten foot tall sunflowers in front of the house. Also, about that other weeds... uh, I'm going to eat them. They are a lot like spinach, so I'm planning on making a meal of them."

The head of the household is a Monaghan girl, in the 'States for twenty-four years. The youngest neighbor is her daughter, who is a sweet, good-natured high schooler. I have to confess, I don't know if the "middle" neighbor is a daughter/sister, sister/aunt, or niece/cousin... there's a definite family resemblance, but she has a more pronounced accent than the other two. I've been cordial with them since they moved in about nine months ago, but figured the last thing three women (one of them a minor) needed was an overbearing male neighbor. Also, my work schedule is bizarre, so I'd always joke with them about being the "ghost who haunts downstairs". I always make sure the snow is shoveled, and put the garbage cans out by the curb, so I've been a friendly ghost. Last winter, the youngest one won my approval by helping me shovel the sidewalk and driveway of our elderly next-door neighbors.

I was shooting the breeze with my neighbor for a good forty-five minutes before she had to turn in, having a traditional office job. We learned more about each other last week than we had the previous nine months (I hadn't known that she learned about the apartment from the neighborhood "deputy mayor" across the street). We've always gotten along well, but now we're genuinely buds. I can't joke about being the "ghost that haunts downstairs" anymore... now I'm the amiable eccentric who eats the weeds in front of the house. Friday afternoon, I harvested a bumper crop.

POSTSCRIPT: The lambs' quarters are going to be parboiled with some stinging nettles, then pureed with some onion and mixed with eggs and feta cheese for a spanakopita-like pastry. The upstairs neighbors and I are going to join forces in a yard beautification effort. Spring is pretty damn good.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

In Keeping with our June Tradition

June 1st marks my sister's birthday. As is tradition, I always wish my sister a happy birthday on the first. My sister always played the "snark-merchant" role in our family- she was the one who nicknamed by older brother "Sweetums" and my baby brother "Gomez". On one memorable occasion, many years ago, she fielded a phone call for me and shouted, "One of your mutant friends is on the phone" without covering the phone mouthpiece. Good times... good times...

She's mellowed considerably over the years, but she can still sling a barb if she has to. Happy birthday, sis. Love, your mutant brother.