Thursday, February 25, 2010

Persian Fallow Deer

Here's an entertaining story concerning Mideast politics and the Persian Fallow Deer (Dama dama mesopotamica).

As an added bonus, the Ayatollah calls for torrents of blood.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

An Attempt At Understanding Sports

The top news story on Friday was the press conference of Tiger Woods, who is no longer burning bright in the forests of the night. (At this point I could discuss the disparate levels of media coverage given to the marital indiscretions of Tiger Woods, who is an irrelevant sports figure, versus those of John Edwards, a politician who tried to become leader of the Free World, but that topic is too serious for this blog.) I am not a sports fan, so I don't normally think about someone like Tiger Woods, except when he somehow makes it into the regular news. I don't know much about professional athletes; I can sometimes form some confused ideas as a result.

As a case in point, for a long time, whenever I heard the name Gilbert Arenas, I thought that it referred to the venue in which the Wizards play.

And, moving to the college level of basketball, I often have trouble remembering that Greivis Vasquez wasn't a character in Episode III.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pound Foolish

Sunday I was walking among the underground shops of Crystal City, which is an area in Arlington, Virginia, which has underground shops. As I moved down the corridor, I saw a penny on the floor. Even though pennies are worth almost nothing, I bent down to picture it up, because I have a deep-seated appreciation for free money. When I stood up I saw another penny a few feet in front of me, so I picked that one up too, and congratulated myself on having made a profit of $0.02 on my visit to Crystal City. And then I saw a third penny, a few more feet away. When I went to get that one, I saw a fourth penny.

Some instinct kicked on in my mind: You're being led into a trap!

I stopped picking up pennies at that point. But I counted four more, evenly spread about five feet apart, immediately in front of me. I walked on and found a solitary penny, then went around a corner and ran into a line of three more.

Had a prankster painstakingly laid out a trail of evenly-spaced pennies running through all the corridors of Crystal City, and I found the scattered remnants hours or days later? Was I being observed from afar to see how many coins I picked up? Or had someone walked by with a bag full of money, leaking out one penny at a time at a constant rate?

I have no explanation.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lightning Owls

I am now going to complain about the state of modern music. This act is normally taken as a sign that one has grown old, and should immediately crawl into the nearest nursing home. But I can't help myself. The problem is that I like music that is . . . um . . . musical. And not much popular music right now is musical. Melody, harmony, instrumental proficiency, and basic literacy are mostly dead. Pretty much every song on Top 40 radio is a hip-hop/dance track that goes something like this:

We in the club

Yo, we in the club

We drink Cristal

We in the club

I prefer songs that are made by people who are really good at writing music and playing instruments, who then get together and write music and play instruments, and explore lyrical themes that do not involve being in a club.

A top 40 radio station is willing to have at most one track in its rotation at any given time that isn't hip-hop/dance music. For the last few months the lucky track has been Fireflies by Owl City. (Check it out, if you're not familiar with it.) And it is indeed music that is actually musical, in that it involves actual music. And the fireflies aren't even in a club, although they do have a disco ball, but I can forgive them for that. (If people are still capable of appreciating good music, why do they waste their time listening to bad music?)

When I hear Fireflies, I am irresistibly reminded of the Lightning Seeds song Pure. (Check it out too.) Part of the similarity is, of course, linguistic (fireflies-->lightning bugs-->lightning seeds). And another part is that the earliest version of the Lightning Seeds was a one-man operation, just as Owl City is today. But more than that I think that the two songs are alike musically and thematically. (And now I notice that one of the commenters at the YouTube video thinks so too.)

In researching this post, I was surprised to learn that Pure was released in 1989. I don't recall ever hearing the song before 1993 or so, at which time it seemed to be at the height of its popularity. An Eighties release date does make sense, as Pure's synthpop style stood out as vastly anomalous in the grunge landscape of the Nineties. In any event, once upon a time Pure was all over the radio, and now it has disappeared entirely into the haze of time.

Pure and simple just for you . . .

Friday, February 19, 2010

Blogging Issues III

I read in the Blogger help section that there are certain post formatting issues when using Safari, which I am estimating may be the source of my indenting problem. Therefore I am assembling this post using Firefox.
Indent! Indent! Indent!

UPDATE: Now it's not indenting at all.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Let's Try a Link

I'm using this post to test the hyperlink function. Here's a link to Tetrapod Zoology, a blog that I enjoy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Blogging Issues II

Turning off the "float alignment" hasn't resolved the indenting issue. Also, I had previously written out my posts in the Mac program TextEdit, then pasted them into the blog, which I thought might be another possible source of the problem. But my last post, and this one, were typed directly into the blog posting window. There is still inadequate indenting, but there is a different typeface . . .

Blogging Issues

I noticed that all my previous entries were being listed in Pacific time; fortunately I had an easy time correcting that once I found the proper setting to change.

I have also been having a terrible time finding some combination of tab key and space bar taps that will make the first lines of paragraphs indent more than a single space. The only thing that I found that looked even remotely promising was an option to turn off something called "float alignment". We'll see if that does any good. (There is also an option to edit the raw HTML, but that is beyond my abilities.)

Woe: A Poem

I don't normally write poetry, nor do I even like poetry all that much. But the following poem showed up in my brain in late December or early January:

Woe is me

And woe are we

And woe to them and thou

For who should know

Such times of woe

And who should wonder how?

It does seem to roll off the tongue nicely. For some reason I can imagine my grandfather memorizing something like that circa 1905.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Blizzards of 2010

The Washington area has experienced two abnormally large snow storms in the past week. The official Reagan National Airport totals were 18 inches for the first storm, and 10 inches for the second. Measurements at my locale yielded a few inches more for the first, and significantly less for the second.

Like many other people, I kept track of the snow by watching Channel 4 news, featuring superstar weatherman Bob Ryan. His work will be recognized in a ceremony at the White House later this month in which he will be promoted to Blizzard Wizard—the highest rank bestowable on a civilian meteorologist in the United States.

Another distinctive feature of Channel 4 snow coverage is the Pat Collins man-on-the-street report. Narration for a typical Pat Collins segment runs something like this:

"Public transit is shut down. Cars are stranded in the middle of the street. People are throwing snowballs everywhere. It's anarchy in the UK. But I'm not in the UK. Jim, Doreen . . . [ominously] I'm in Bethesda."

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Blog Begins

Well then, here it is, my new blog. I've been meaning to set it up for a while, but unfortunately I've been feeling really tired. I tried using my holiday season free time for the blog, but I couldn't quite get things together. Now I am taking the opportunity presented by the Washington area's recent freakish snowstorms.

I used to be one of the bloggers on a site called Wandering Army, run by Marc P. Brush. Marc would blog about things like the death of David Foster Wallace, an important literary figure who wore a do-rag. And I would blog about the dream that I had where I saw KISS performing in a shopping mall with two additional members, one of whom banged two metal sheet music stands together in time to the music.

Marc discontinued Wandering Army in the spring of 2009. I hope to put my old Wandering Army posts back online in some form, but right now I'm not sure of the best way to do that.

Unlike Wandering Army, this blog will allow comments (at least until I become convinced that comments are a bad idea, and turn them off).

The name of the blog is Scaly Distractions. "Scaly" calls to mind reptiles and (more specifically) dinosaurs, one of the areas that I hope to cover. Distractions refers to the fact that there will probably never be anything here that is in any way important; I can only hope to offer amusing distractions to the reader.