Saturday, December 13, 2014

Very brief review of "Guardians of the Galaxy"




I finally got around to watching "Guardians of the Galaxy" yesterday, because it finally came out on Blu-Ray. I was insufficiently interested in the movie to see it in a theater, even with all the promotional hype and positive press it received… and now I can see why.

It wasn't really bad, like some other movies of recent years ("Prometheus", "Hunger Games", and so forth), but just… eh. I was very surprised at just how not funny it was, after hearing so much about the wonderful humor in it.

There was exactly one thing which roused a bit of interest in me -- the mention and brief depiction of the Celestials from Marvel's "Eternals" comics.

Count me in as one viewer who hopes there is NOT a "Guardians of the Galaxy"/"Avengers" movie crossover. -- PL

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"A Calendar of the Gods"... again




       "Everything old is new again."
I was recently reminded that a project I worked on back in 1977 with my late brother Don -- "A Calendar of the Gods" (hereinafter referred to as CotG) -- which was originally intended to be used for the year 1978, has -- due to the cyclical nature of calendars -- now become useable again. 

Well… not NOW, exactly, but in a couple of years -- in 2017, to be precise. In going through some of my mother's stuff recently, my sister found and gave to me a small pile of the CotGs, still in their manila envelopes with the little logo patch rubber cemented to the outside of the envelopes. (Well, some of them -- due to their age -- had fallen off. I guess rubber cement is not intended to last that long.)

Given that they will shortly be able to used as calendars again, I'm thinking of offering them for sale via eBay. Counting the cover, each calendar contains thirteen drawings by me, with extra graphic designs by Don Laird.  He also researched the various gods and did the text pieces describing them.

This project was the first thing that Don and I did under the auspices of "Saurian Design", the graphic design business I began shortly after graduating from college. It never went anywhere, and -- sadly -- neither did the CotG. I think we sold a handful of them, and the rest of the print run -- which, if memory serves, numbered 150 copies, and was paid for by Don -- went into our respective closets or other appropriate storage areas.

I think there were about half a dozen with my mother's stuff, and if I'm remembering correctly, I think I may have a few dozen more in my files (also known as "boxes of stuff I've lugged with me through multiple moves in three different states"). For anyone interested in publications with rare early Peter Laird artwork, this might be worth a look. I will post again here if this plan sees fruition.

        Below are shots of two sample months, June and February. -- PL


                                          

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sharon Sakai




Sharon and Stan Sakai at Comic-Con 2011 (photo via Fantagraphics)


Yesterday, the Internet delivered some very sad news -- Sharon Sakai, wife of Stan Sakai (creator of "Usagi Yojimbo") had passed away after a long and difficult illness.

I should make a caveat here -- I didn't really know Sharon, and in fact I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I can't recall meeting her, though it is very likely that I did at some point, probably out at the San Diego Comicon, back when I used to go there, and my not remembering has more to do with a sixty year-old's spotty-in-places memory. And although I consider Stan a friend, and I would go so far to say a good one, he and I have not really spent a lot of time together, given that we live on different coasts.

But…

… from what I can piece  together, both from what I know personally (mostly through my dealings with Stan) and everything which had been said online by people who DO know the Sakais, a few concepts seem quite clear:

-- Sharon was a great person, beloved by all who knew her, and

-- Stan is too, and

-- Stan, in these last couple of years when Sharon was struggling to deal with this awful illness, has shown himself to be the kind of person that the rest of us should aspire to be -- steadfast and loving in the most trying of circumstances. I am in awe.

My sincerest condolences to Stan and his family. -- PL

Here's a link to a piece at comicbookresources.com about Sharon's passing:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57345

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Train song




I had decided -- while I was out and about doing errands today -- that it would be worthwhile to try to get my truck inspected, as the sticker was due to expire at the end of this month, which isn't far off (I only noticed this a few days ago). Fortunately, the Honda dealer on King Street wasn't too busy, and it was all done in about forty-five minutes.

While the process was happening, I decided to use the time to get a little exercise, and walked down the train tracks behind the dealership toward the center of town. I started walking by a long line of parked, rusty rail cars… and as I was walking past the third or fourth one, I heard this brief metallic low KLONK sound… followed shortly by another… and another… the wheels on the car next to me ever so SSSLLLLOWWWLLLLY started to turn, in tiny increments. I realized the train was starting up, gathering speed very slowly, as an unseen engine somewhere down the tracks ahead of me began pulling on this line of train cars. As they started to have tension put on their various connecting parts, there came a series of KLONKS and CLANKS and so forth, as large metal parts met, all echoing down the line of empty train cars. It was actually kind of beautiful... almost a piece of music. -- PL

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Review of "Snowpiercer"




Some months ago, I started to read of rumors about Chirs Evans -- up-and-coming star of the two "Captain America" movies of recent vintage -- possibly giving up acting. It seemed an odd thing, on the face of it -- he's a very talented young guy, getting famous, and seemingly on the cusp of true stardom.

But tonight I watched "Snowpiercer", a new movie starring Chris Evans, just released on Blu-Ray, and I think I may understand now why he might want to quit the biz… because if he takes on many more roles in junk like this, he just might not be able to deal with the embarrassment in the future. (John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris, also wasted in this movie, do nothing to enhance their reputations… but maybe they each needed to pay off some bills or something.)

"Snowpiercer" is ostensibly a post-apocalyptic science fiction tale about Earth in the not-too-distant future, when the release of some global warming-fighting chemical in the atmosphere has reduced the temperature of the planet to the point where (we are told) ALL LIFE HAS CEASED TO EXIST!!!

Now, that would make for a short movie, right? (Oh, if only…!)

What the text frame which sets up this scenario near the beginning of the movie ACTUALLY means is that all life except for a bunch of people (and, as we come to find out, somehow -- and it's never explained exactly how, and probably for good reason -- some cows and chickens and a whole aquarium full of exotic sea life) on a train has ceased to exist. This train has somehow been running non-stop for close to two decades, on non-maintained tracks with no resupply, through the icy, frozen wilderness which is all that is left of our world, occasionally running at high speed into solid ice barriers and smashing through them with no damage. (Yes, it's "Super Train".)

Chris Evans is the hero whose name I have already forgotten, even though I just finished watching the movie fifteen minutes ago. He's one of the ragtag bunch of losers in the tail section of the train, who are abused by the rich fat cats in the front part of the train and their stormtrooper-like flunkies… and as the movie begins, he's about to lead a rebellion and storm to the head of the train.

What follows is a violent and increasingly absurd -- and not in a good way -- series of battles as the tail-enders make their bloody way toward the head of the train. One gets the feeling that some grand social commentary is being attempted, but the filmmakers simply don't have the skill set with which to accomplish such a thing, and it gets lost amongst the increasingly ridiculous characters, dialogue, settings and action. There was exactly ONE moment which I thought was kind of clever and showed a glimmer of what might have been a really exciting action movie without all the stupid beyond suspension-of-disbelief setup -- a brief fight sequence as the train barrels through a dark tunnel. 

The rest of it is brain-grindingly inane and pointless. Please, if you don't want to have that horrible feeling of "I could have done so many other things with the one hundred and twenty-six minutes I just wasted on this nonsense!", steer clear of "Snowpiercer". -- PL

Friday, October 31, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Meanwhile, back at stately Wayne rumor..."



Comicbookmovie.com is one of my favorite sites for information about upcoming movies based on comic books -- it's one of the sites I go to just about every day. It's generally a well-crafted site, but occasionally some goofy error will show up, such as the one you can see in my screen grab of part of this bit on the highly-anticipated "Batman vs. Superman" movie.




I believe that "the rumored Wayne Rumor" should actually be "the rumored Wayne Manor". Hard to believe this post has been up for almost two days and this obvious mistake hasn't yet been spotted and corrected. -- PL

Friday, September 26, 2014

More turkeys!


As I was coming down our driveway today, I was delighted to see another flock of wild turkeys making their way across our lawn. I took some photos and later counted seventeen of these regal birds in one of the images, so this might be the same group Jeannine saw last week. Here's my favorite shot of the bunch. -- PL


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bear!




I was driving home today around 1:15PM, coming down Route 91 out of Brattleboro, Vermont. Just a few miles south of Brattleboro, on the east side of the divided highway (the side you take to go north) there is a relatively new, spiffy visitor's center. I was coming up on it as I headed south on the opposite side of the highway, and -- as I passed the entrance to the facility -- out of the corner of my eye I saw a large, furry black lump squirming its way under the highway guardrail just a few yards away from that entrance.

A bear!

I was tempted to slow down and pull over, get my camera out and see if I could get a few decent photos, but figured that by the time I'd safely done that, I'd be pretty far past the bear, and it would probably have already completed its trek across the highway and gone off into the woods (barring its getting hit by one of the many fast-moving vehicles, of course).

So I just slowed down a bit, and kept my eye on it in my rearview mirror. Sure enough, in less than ten seconds the bruin had ambled/run across both sides of the highway and made it safely into the trees.

Pretty cool. -- PL

P.S. The photo illustrating this post is, of course, NOT the one I saw today -- it's a bear I saw on a bicycle ride last August in Northampton.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Seventeen turkeys


Yesterday, as she returned home from a yoga class, Jeannine stopped in our driveway to count seventeen turkeys strutting around on our lawn. When she mentioned this to me as I greeted her at the door, I grabbed my camera and headed outside, thinking the birds might still be there and I might get one or two photos before they melted into the woods.

I did manage to snap a few photos, though true to form they didn't stick around too long, and in their stately yet curiously quick gait were soon lost to sight among the shadows under the trees.




This is a cropped version of one of the better photos, though it is a little blurry -- that's what happens sometimes when I'm trying to quickly get a few shots before the opportunity vanishes. -- PL

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Acts of kindness for our furry friends



A friend's recent Facebook post about an act of kindness which allowed three black bear cubs to escape from a Dumpster ...


... reminded me of something that happened to me a few years ago. I'd gone outside with a bag of trash to toss into our Dumpster, and when I opened the lid, I was startled to see a bedraggled creature moving around inside among the few bags of trash in the Dumpster.

It was a raccoon, which had apparently found its way into our Dumpster by prying up one edge of one of the plastic lids, and had a wonderful time tearing open all of our plastic trash bags in search of edibles, but made a potentially fatal miscalculation -- there was not enough volume of trash inside the Dumpster to allow it to climb out. I'm not sure how long it had been in there -- probably not much more than a day or two -- but it looked absolutely miserable.

I had to help it get out. However, as I understood that handling a wild, dirty and probably pissed-off raccoon is generally not considered a highly recommended activity, I opted for carefully placing the trunk of an old Christmas tree into the Dumpster. It was long enough to reach above the level of the top of the Dumpster, and had plenty of branch stubs to act as paw holds for the raccoon.

Sure enough, about a minute later, from a safe distance, I saw the raccoon's head poke up. 


video



It climbed out onto the edge of the Dumpster, a bit wobbly to be sure, but it made it all the way out, slid off the back, and trundled away into the woods. -- PL


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Choices


I was wasting time on Facebook today (wait... was that redundant?), following random links, and came across the following on someone's wall, with an invitation to agree or disagree:




I'm not this person's Facebook friend, and thus could not post a comment on that wall, so I thought I would put my thoughts here instead.

"I disagree, in the sense that this statement is only true if you take the position that external forces (other people, the weather, diseases, accidents, etc.) and internal forces over which you have little or no control (age, genes, illness [mental and/or physical], etc.) have no effect on the decision making process. No one makes choices in a vacuum.

On a lighter note, I find it kind of amusing that there is no period after "Period". I wonder who made that choice… and why?" -- PL

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rainbow and haywagon, Moody Bridge Road, Hadley, Massachusetts, July 28, 2014


Sometimes, even while driving to the mall...




... beauty can jump up and gently poke you in the eye.  -- PL

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Johnny Winter, 1944-2014




I just saw on CNN.com that Johnny Winter passed away yesterday at the age of seventy. My late brother Don introduced me to Winters' music when I was in high school, I think, and I pretty much wore out the two vinyl Johnny Winter albums I had with me through college. I especially liked "Be Careful With A Fool", which had one of the most amazing lead guitar solos I've ever heard.


Farewell to one of the best guitarists and bluesmen of his generation. -- PL

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An ancient relic


This past weekend, my brother and sister held a tag sale at our late parents' house, clearing out a lot of the stuff our parents had accumulated over the years. There were a few things that we decided to keep as mementos, and one of them that I had picked out some weeks ago almost got sold. But I timed my visit to the tag sale just right, and the person who'd been about to buy it graciously took it out of his pile of stuff, and now it resides in my house.

The item is this:




I created it when I was in college at UMass in Amherst, Massachusetts, roughly forty years ago. In fact, I think I made it using some of the facilities at school, specifically the old wood shop. It was not, however, a school project. I'm not exactly sure where the idea of making a toilet paper holder in the form of a Greek temple came from, but as I said to Jeannine as we were looking at it recently, it may have been -- at least in part -- a sort of sarcastic comment about high art. 

I really don't remember. But I do recall that making it was both fun and frustrating. The trickiest thing to make was the set of columns. I cut circular pieces out of 3/4 inch pine boards, probably on a jigsaw, and glued them together to make the basic column shapes. Then I employed some wood carving tools to laboriously carve by hand the fluting into each column. It was laborious mostly because I was carving against the grain, while trying to maintain the little flutes between each channel. I was not completely successful, and some of the columns have irregular, nicked flutes. But the result was satisfactory to me. I think it pleased me that these little wooden columns were made in sections, as the original marble ones were, and that I didn't just buy wooden dowels of the appropriate size and carve those, which probably would have been a lot easier.




I also spent a significant amount of time carving the relief in the pediment of this temple. I'm not sure what, if any, particular significance the imagery had. It's suffered a bit over the years, getting chipped in a few spots.




The roof of the temple was also built from seven separate pieces of pine wood, cut roughly into nearly-triangular pieces of similar size, then glued together and sanded down. This roof piece was attached with small brass hinges to two vertical pieces of 3/4 inch pine, which I used instead of more fluted columns because it was easier to attach that way, and probably sturdier as well. 




      A short piece of light-gauge chain was employed to keep the roof of the temple from flopping all the way back when opened.




To hold the roll of toilet paper within the temple, I built a small cradle out of plywood and pine, with holes in it spaced to accommodate a standard size toilet paper roller of the spring-loaded plastic sort.




The base was constructed of plywood, with the top piece being solid and the lower two pieces being frames just large enough to make the temple stairs with sufficient overlap to allow the three levels to be glued together. The columns were attached to the base using screws.

When completed, I brushed on a brown stain to unify (well, as much as I could) the disparate visual elements and types of wood, as well as to protect the piece from water damage, as might be expected for something intended to be used in a bathroom.

However, I don't think it ever saw use in that way. Looking at it now, I see that it is really a bit too cumbersome for its intended use -- you'd really need to have a table next to your toilet to make it practical, and that is not a terribly common feature in most bathrooms. So it ended up as a curiosity on a shelf in my parents' home after I gave it to them for Christmas one year. I wish I could remember at this point what their reaction to such an odd gift was, but I can't. I suspect there may have been more than one eyebrow raised. -- PL

Friday, July 4, 2014

Review of "Maleficent"




On this rainy Fourth of July, Jeannine and I decided to take in a movie, and chose "Maleficent", the new Disney "reimagining" of the tale of "Sleeping Beauty", focusing this time on the villainous sorceress, Maleficent, so wonderfully designed (probably the best name and design for a Disney villain EVER) and brought to animated "life" in the original DIsney cartoon version of "Sleeping Beauty".

This live-action film stars Angelina Jolie in the title role, and while I am generally not a big fan of hers, I have to admit that -- at least as she is made up in this movie, with those cool signature horns -- she does sort of look the part. 

Sadly, but certainly not unexpectedly, that resemblance is probably the most memorable thing in the movie. 

I would love to have been a "fly on the wall" when the story meetings for this movie took place, especially when the people in charge discussed what is a key element -- if not THE key element -- in the movie. I refer to the assault on Maleficent in which her wings are cut off, and the aftermath of this tragedy. Let's imagine how it might have gone…

PRODUCER: Okay, so Stefan cuts off her wings with a cool saw chain -- what a great idea! 

WRITER:  Um… maybe we should show her trying to use her magic to try to regrow her wings after that, or attempting to get a new pair somehow.

DIRECTOR: Nah, nobody will want to see that. Besides, we have more special effects we have to get to.

WRITER:  But she's already displayed her incredible magic powers… wouldn't it make sense for her to at least TRY to use them to repair herself?

PRODUCER: Ah, you think too much. The audience won't care about that -- they just want to see cool stuff!

WRITER: But -- but even after she's lost her wings, she shows that she can do almost anything with her powers. I mean, she's changing a bird into a man into a wolf into a huge fire-breathing dragon --

PRODUCER: Yeah, isn't that dragon cool?! Much better than that old animated one.

WRITER: Well… it just doesn't make sense that she doesn't even make a single attempt to use her amazing magical powers to heal herself -- there's not even a passing mention of her trying to. And if you want to argue that it's impossible, for some reason, for her to do so, like maybe fairies only ever get one set of wings in their lives, aren't we missing a great opportunity for emotion and drama and pathos here? I mean, we could show her desperately trying to regrow her wings, trying every magic spell she can think of, but failing, misshapen stumps growing and falling apart, failing, tears running down her razor-sharp cheekbones as she realizes to her utter horror that it's just not possible -- 

DIRECTOR: Nah, that'll take too long. We've got a whole bunch of scenes of fairies throwing mud and flour at each other to fit in this flick, remember…

WRITER: Oh, yeah. Never mind.

The movie was entirely what I expected -- a "clever" idea which really wasn't all that clever to begin with, dressed up in the kind of nearly-flawless special effects finery which is possible these days when buckets of money are hurled at a project. Heart and soul are virtually nonexistent. The plot progresses in a kind of by-the-numbers, phone-it-in manner, as we are asked to believe all manner of illogical actions and results for the sake of being able to lurch from one plot point to the next. It all ends with a "true love's kiss" which is almost exactly like the one in "Frozen", and just about as contrived and forced as that one was as well… and finally "the kingdoms are united". Huh? How'd that happen?

It makes me want to watch the original "Sleeping Beauty" again, as a mental palate cleanser. -- PL

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sometimes you can just do nothing...




... and beauty will happen, all on its own. -- PL

Monday, June 2, 2014

Leonard who...?


I saw a story online last week* about someone selling a "Star Trek" themed house for a lot of money -- $35 million, apparently. It turned out that the whole of this "Star Trek space mansion"  (as it was described in the header of the piece) was not "Star Trek"-themed, but the owner had installed a media room/home theater which was patterned after the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise from "Star Trek: The Next Generation". I have to admit, it looked pretty cool.

There was also a sizable collection of "Star Trek" stuff in the house, and as the camera briefly panned over some of the items, my eye was caught by something odd. I wasn't sure if I'd seen it right, as it seemed so ridiculous, so I scrolled back and forth in the video until I could pause it at the right moment.

As you can see in this screen grab, it was a display of what were labeled as Spock ears from the original "Star Trek" TV series, as worn by someone named "Leonard Nemoy".




"Nemoy"?




Wait… you go to all this trouble and expense to outfit your house with all this cool "Star Trek" stuff… and you misspell the last name of one of the key original cast members?

I'm not sure why "Ears" is capitalized either, but that's a minor point.

Maybe the seller should knock a few bucks off the asking price for this "Star Trek mansion" due to this goofy misspelling… unless the ears don't come with the house -- in which case... never mind.  -- PL



*Here''s the link to the story:

http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2014/05/28/pkg-star-trek-mansion-for-sale.wptv&video_referrer=

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A brief review of "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (the movie)



Just saw the new "X-Men" movie directed by Brian SInger, and I left the theater with a smile on my face. There is a lot to like about this movie, beginning with the fact that it reboots the continuity of the "X-Men" films in such a way as to obliterate the missteps of the past, starting with the second "X-Men" movie. I'm curious to see where the franchise goes now.

It's not a perfect movie, and it has at least two giant, gaping logic holes that occurred to me as I was watching it -- one more of a important detail which was overlooked, the other more daunting because the entire plot of the movie depends on your uncritical acceptance of this concept.

I am going to avoid revealing these "spoilers"  here, for those who don't want to know these things, by putting them in what has been referred to on various websites as "Invisitext" -- basically, text in white which does not show up unless selected.

Part of the plot -- and a part which directly leads to perhaps the most delightful and imaginative sequence in the movie (newly-introduced super-fast mutant Quicksilver's handling of some trigger-happy guards) -- involves supervillain Magneto being held in a metal-free prison deep beneath the Pentagon. It is specifically stated that one of the reasons -- besides all of the plastic, wood and other non-metal building materials used to construct this area -- it is also made of concrete.

Well, as we all know, and as we are gruesomely reminded later on in the film in one of the most brutal scenes, concrete in modern buildings isn't just concrete -- it is also rebar, the steel reinforcing rods around which concrete is poured to make it stronger. GIven that the Pentagon was constructed long before anyone knew about Magneto, it seems likely -- highly likely -- that its concrete parts would have been made with integrated steel rebar. If so, Magneto could have used these at any time to break out of his prison.

The second thing -- and this one is a much bigger problem -- is the idea that Bolivar Trask's robot Sentinels are enhanced by the use of Mystique's shape-shifting abilities through some sort of manipulation of her DNA. This nonsensical idea reminded me of some of the light-on-the-science science fiction concepts from the early days of the computer age, when a "computer virus" might lead to some humans catching that virus.
Really quite ridiculous -- I mean, think about it for a moment. How do you change the abilities of an inorganic robot by mixing in some organic DNA? It makes no sense. And yet if you don't buy this idea, the whole movie pretty much falls apart.
It's unfortunate that they went in this direction, because the use of this goofy idea isn't even necessary. The Sentinels could have easily been made as threatening and as overwhelming a force without becoming, essentially, mutants.
Hey -- that just made me realize ANOTHER huge lapse of logic: If the Sentinels have become, as I just mentioned, for all intents and purposes mutants because of the infusion into their being of Mystique's mutant DNA, why don't they all turn on each other? Isn't their whole reason for being to locate, hunt down and destroy mutants? I guess that would have shortened the movie considerably.

There are probably a few more problems of this nature which will become clear on repeated viewings. 

I do plan to see it again -- even with the aforementioned issues, it was a fun movie to watch. And the cast did a great job with the material given to them. -- PL

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lazy, stupid misuse of great words #2: countless

I've already done one of these for the word "countless", but the lazy, stupid abuse of this wonderful word seems to be popping up a lot these days... or maybe I am just noticing it, for some reason.

A few days ago, shortly after I'd posted about how much I enjoy National Public Radio, I was driving in my truck and heard a music review on NPR about some musician -- I think he was a Brazilian in his seventies -- and the reviewer was enthusing about how this musician had "recorded countless albums".

Really.

"Countless albums"?

It's such a mind-bogglingly stupid misuse of "countless" that it makes my head hurt.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the musician in question is seventy-five years old. Let's also posit that he is an amazing prodigy who has recorded ten albums per year since he was twenty years old (obviously a ludicrous number, but bear with me). That's ten albums per year over the course of fifty-five years. Basic arithmetic gives us, then, a total of five hundred and fifty albums. I can count that high... can't you? Five hundred and fifty is so staggeringly, brain-bendingly not even close to "countless" that it takes my breath away.

There is no way -- not even REMOTELY -- that this musician, or any other, could have "recorded countless albums". -- PL

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

WEFEing #2


I am a little reluctant to file the following under "WEFEing" (short for "Witless Exaggeration For Effect"), as it actually does contain a certain amount of wit, but I am going to include it here because other than that dash of wit, it does suffer from the same silly use of language that a typical example of WEFEing does.

I love National Public Radio -- it offers so much in the way of news and information and opinion, in an unhurried way which is so different from most other media. I mostly listen to it in my truck, or sometimes when I am working at home.

But it is not without its faults, small though they may be. One such tiny fault is contained within a short promo for NPR that I have been hearing on the local NPR station (WFCR in Amherst) often in recent months. It is this line, apparently from a Terry Gross interview with one Charles Fishman, author of a book titled "The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water". The line in question goes like this:

"Every drink of water you take, every pot of coffee you make is dinosaur pee."

Every time I hear this, it drives me a little crazy… because undeniably clever as it is in making the important point about how water is recycled ad infinitum, it is literally NOT TRUE. Yes, while that drink of water you just had may have, in whole or in part, once, many many many millions of years ago, been for a short time the urine of a dinosaur, it no longer IS. The ongoing cycles of purification through evaporation and condensation and/or filtering through the soil changed that dinosaur pee to just water.

See, that snappy line wouldn't have quite the ear-grabbing, attention-getting, gross-out effect if it read this way instead:

"Every drink of water you take, every pot of coffee you make was once dinosaur pee."

Of course, the less-snappy version of the line DOES have the virtue of actually being TRUE. -- PL

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What the -- ?!


This was the view outside our bedroom window this morning.




I thought it was spring already! -- PL

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fighter jets over Northampton



While bicycling around Northampton with my friend Rick a couple of days ago, we kept hearing the thunder of fighter jets passing overhead -- unusual for this area. We stopped to get coffee at Smith College*, and, while sitting outside enjoying the warmish spring weather, heard the jets passing overhead once again. 

I whipped out my little Pentax camera and managed to get a shot of the planes -- four of them -- as they roared overhead in a tight formation. I've NEVER seen that here before.




We speculated about what they might be doing -- Practicing for an air show? Getting ready to fight the Russians? Just having fun? -- but conceded that we really had no clue.

As we finished our coffee break and got back on the bikes to head back to Mirage Studios, the planes appeared overhead once more, this time with one of the pilots "waggling" his plane's wings. -- PL

         (*When I first typed this up, I inadvertently left the "m" out of "Smith", resulting in "Sith College", which made me -- as a "Star Wars" fan -- chuckle.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WEFEing

     In yet another example of what I think I will start to call a "WEFE" (Witless Exaggeration For Effect") or perhaps "WEFEing", I note the following in an article titled "Gut Check" by Joseph Hooper in the March 6, 2014 edition of the Valley Advocate, a free once-weekly newspaper distributed in the Hampshire County area of Massachusetts. Here's the stupid exaggeration in question:

"But not until the recent advent of genomic sequencing that can read the DNA of our cells did biologists appreciate just how many of them [microbial cells] there were within us: for every one human cell in our body, there are ten microbial cells.
"The idea that we're more microbe than mammal is as or more profound than the theory of evolution," says anthropologist Jeff Leach, one of the founders of the American Gut Project, which is devoted to genetically mapping the microbiome."

When I first read this, I was immediately struck by what seemed to me to be it's essential wrongness -- that is to say, it seemed to me fairly obvious that the bulk of a human body, no matter how many microbial cells versus human cells there are, is made up of human cells. In other words, if one were to weigh or calculate relative volume, human cells would surpass microbial cells.
My gut (no pun intended) told me that it was likely that individual microbial cells were smaller than individual human cells, and a little searching on the Internet turned up the proof of my intuition:

  "All the bacteria living inside you would fill a half-gallon jug; there are 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells, according to Carolyn Bohach, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho (U.I.), along with other estimates from scientific studies. (Despite their vast numbers, bacteria don't take up that much space because bacteria are far smaller than human cells.) "

[from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-humans-carry-more-bacterial-cells-than-human-ones/]

To assert that "we're more microbe than mammal" because there are more individual microbial cells than human cells in our bodies is akin to saying that because an average human being has more hairs (somewhere around 100,000) than muscles (somewhat less than 1000),  an average human being is more hair than muscle. Obviously, this is ridiculous… and just one more example of the distressing tendency towards ludicrous exaggeration in our society.

  To me, it points to a real lack of confidence in what one is trying to say -- that one needs to exaggerate so profoundly to make what one is saying seem worthy enough. -- PL

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day!

What a delight to find these waiting for me on a snowy Valentine's Day morning...


.... freshly-baked cranberry-apricot muffins!

The temptation to eat them all is nearly overwhelming, but I will be good and only have two for breakfast, to fortify myself before cranking up the snowblower and doing battle with the drifts.

Thanks to my Valentine, Jeannine! xoxoxo -- PL

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sixty...







… doesn't look a whole lot different than fifty-nine.

Or does it? 

Which is which? -- PL

Saturday, January 18, 2014

In the UMass greenhouse on a winter day

There's nothing quite like visiting a warm, steamy greenhouse on a cold winter day. You step through the door and it's like you have been instantly teleported to another latitude.

So it was for me when, while strolling around the University of Massachusetts campus, I happened across a greenhouse which was open to the public. My glasses immediately fogged up when I walked through the door, but once I wiped them off, I had a lovely time wandering through the place and looking at a wide variety of plants.

None of the photos I took of the various plants that caught my eye came out all that great, and I want to go back and shoot some better ones, perhaps with my Nikon. But I did manage to capture some images of the center of the greenhouse, which features a little pond with carp swimming in it, and a small bridge over the pond. I put them together into this vertical panorama. -- PL


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Flying pigs


These chirp instead of oink, but they certainly "pigged out" on winterberries.

A few days ago, Jeannine alerted me to a photo op -- a horde (well, a small horde… hordelet?) of hungry birds had descended on her winterberry bushes. It was pretty cold outside, and I'd only gotten up a few minutes prior and was not yet of a mind to face those frigid temperatures, so instead of going outside to take better shots, I stayed in the kitchen and took these through a window. 










(And I also thought if I went outside for that better vantage, the birds might be startled and fly away, which would ruin the whole point of the exercise.)




I didn't time it exactly, but I'd say it took them no more than an hour or two to strip the bushes completely clean of their red bounty, as you can see in the last image. -- PL