Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How linked is your website?

Ever been curious to figure out how connected your website is? No? Well, here is a fine website that shows you anyway. Now, I'm not a programmer, and I don't know the algorithm used to make the pretty picture, but that isn't really necessary. Just type in your website (or any website that starts with "http://") and then look at the fun picture that emerges.

If you are so inclined, you can also check out the artist's art projects (something that I feel is more of a cheap-and-easy way to make money).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Walkable neighborhood?

Do you live in a "walkable" neighborhood (in the US)? Just type in your street address and find out. Now, there are some "bugs" in the system (such as counting some gas stations as grocery stores), but my current address did score one point higher than 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, and previous addresses scored anywhere from 54 to 96.

Painting the flagpole and HP:tDH

This is the first time that I've actually seen this happening. Yes, every once in a while, the university must repaint the flagpole to a pristine white. (Why the U didn't do this before the Fart Fair is a mystery to me.)

Today is looking to be a "nice" day, although 85 F is not my personal idea of "nice." (Let the kvetching start up again!) Of course, some people might say that I should be happy that it isn't in the 90s F. To that I retort that the temperature in town even by tomorrow will be in the 90s F. (What do you think of that?) Of course, I could wait and see if I am vindicated or not. Or (as I choose to do at this time) I can kvetch.

On a completely different note: I finished the last Harry Potter book in the original English. Now, for all of you who still haven't read it, I'm not going to give away any spoilers as to plot. However, I will say that - like the other volumes before this one - the UK version differed from the US version in several ways:
  1. The pages aren't synchronous.
  2. The UK version physically smaller than the US version (much easier to carry around without looking like you are lugging around a copy of the King James).
  3. In the US version, each chapter has a little picture showing a highlight of the upcoming pages.
  4. The UK version has (IMHO) much better cover art than the US versions (and one can choose to purchase either the "Children's" cover version or an "Adult's" cover - there are no content differences between versions).
In looking around online during the last week, I have come across a very funny (yet somewhat long) summary of The Deathly Hallows. If you don't want to know what happens in the book, don't read the summary, dummy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Who is Umlud?

Does Umlud mean anything?

Does it have something to do with the University of Michigan (a.k.a. "UM")?


Is it a name?


"Umlud" is apparently "reloaded" in German (from the word "Umladen"). Does it mean "reloaded"?
Yes, "umlud" means "reloaded" in German. While it is the only definition of my name that I have found on the Internet, it is not the meaning of my name.

Will you tell your readers what your name means?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Up in the bell tower.

One nice thing about Art Fair is the opening of the Burton Bell Tower to the public. I climbed up there for my first look out from the heights. It provided a good opportunity to take a photo of the Natural History Museum, which is not easily photographed from the ground: note the large tree that is near the front of the building.

One of the many things that you might not see about the "UMMZ" is that it has the largest preserved fish collection (diversity and numbers) at a public institution in the country (and possibly the world).

Fart Fair Day 4

Today is a day of Art Fair finals. It is a perfect day for actually having an street art fair. "Perfect" because it is not too hot, it isn't raining, it's a weekend, and all the people waiting for Harry Potter can be relaxed that they have the book in their little hands.

Just after lunch, I took some photos of the crowds in the two places that I took photos for the past three days. As you can see, it is NOT completely crowded (as in, say Hong Kong crowded). There is still a lot of room to walk around in (if it was just possible for people to walk appropriately in a crowd).

I was talking with some friends yesterday, and they all agreed with my assessment of the average Art Fair crowd person/pod of people: once people come to Art Fair, they seem to forget how to walk and pay attention to anything happing around them. As they walk down the aisles of stalls, they move at a snail's pace, aimlessly drifting left or right (if they drove like this, any police officer would pull them over on suspicion of DUI).

People also agreed that there was a major similarity amongst Art Fair attendees, or more specifically, the attendees' mid-sections. (See if you can figure it out for yourselves. Go on, you're bright people.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Fart Fair Day 3 (Harry Potter problems?)

So... I was walking into work this morning and saw people waiting for Harry Potter to be released at midnight tonight. This would not be so big a deal if it wasn't for the fact that this Borders is on Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, right in the heart of one of the country's largest summer street art fairs. By 8:50AM, they were already formed a line almost half a block long. I cannot actually imagine the amount of traffic flow issues that will be caused by backups due to so many HP fans sitting quietly (or not so quietly) in the way of all the people descending on the city with art fair fever. (That so many people coming into town do not know how to operate in crowded conditions is also a grave concern.) The part of me that exults in schadenfreude wants me to be happy with this predicament. However, the part of me that is a HP nerd hopes that all these hard-core fans don't have to suffer the slings and arrows of the thousands of Art Fair maniacs that will descend all around them. (Hopefully Borders will come up with an ingenious method of reserving books to all those who come by - kind of like a waiting ticket that people can pick up during the day to guarantee themselves a place in line in the evening.)

In related news, Art Fair is ready to launch itself into the day (again); ready for sun, rain, or tornado as yesterday proved. Mornings are quite nice and still quiet around the white tents of. Of course, just because all the artists are only just starting to open up their stalls at 9AM doesn't mean that the coffee houses aren't selling coffee to students, residents, visitors, and artists. The fact that the entire stretch of State Street in the UM area is closed down means that the coffee shops can have their seating spill out onto the streets.

This makes the city look more like a European city, with a pedestrianized core area, wide sidewalks and lots of cafe tables with people quietly sitting and going about their morning business. There is something fundamentally different from this picture and one that you would take when you go around this area during the rest of the year: seating crammed onto the sidewalk and cars whizzing by, both destroying any feeling of ease and leisure.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fart Fair Day 2 (Evening)

I took these photos whilst I was walking home. Although there was a lot of rain and even a tornado warning earlier in the day, none of the artist stands seemed to be fazed by the impacts of the weather.

The buyers were also apparently unfazed by the weather, and many were looking around for some later shopping, before the stalls close up at 9PM.

I find it funny that so many people think that the Art Fair on Wednesday and Thursday are too crowded! Having traveled to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, Manila, Delhi, Kolkata, London, New York City, and other very crowded cities, I can say that the comment that Art Fair is too crowded is a little misguided. I would say that it is crowded with people who don't know how to deal with crowded situations. If you are in a crowded space:
  • You cannot have your Midwest-required two-foot radius worth of personal space.
  • Don't suddenly stop without first pulling out of the flow of pedestrian traffic.
  • Much like when driving, walk in "lanes" of traffic; if you want to see something off the "other lane," overshoot your goal and backtrack to where you want to ultimately go.
  • Don't get upset so easily that people might inadvertently jostle you.
  • Watch out for children underfoot.
Friday and Saturday will be much more crowded than Wednesday and today. I shudder to think about all those Midwesterners trying to keep a modicum of personal space, while also trying to walk all over the street without paying attention to anyone else (let alone themselves).

Fart Fair Day 2

Today's rains meant an opportunity to take photos of a rarity at Art Fairs: people hustling around in ponchos, raincoats, umbrellas, plastic bags, etc.

Of course, once I got on the streets, many people had been able to get shelter in stores and restaurants. Unfortunately, for many artists, this meant that there was a definite lull in people's buying/viewing of their stuff.

I felt a little sorry for the people who were running all the restaurants and beergardens. In these places of shelter, I doubt that servers were actually bringing more food and beer to people who didn't want to go back out in the rain.

The weather is supposed to be rainy through tonight, so it may continue to be slow for these people for some time... I wonder if the musical entertainers are having problems with all the humidity. (Or if the painters and photographers are also having a problem with all that dampness.)

Ah, well... All this rain will mean that our lab group will probably not be going out to have a fun-filled outing at the myriad art fairs. (All of the myriad art booths makes one wonder time and again, "Is there a difference between art, crafts, and schlock?")

Unhealthy Fish?

I'm sure that many people have heard about the great health benefits eating fish. However, recent studies have also shown medical problems with eating certain fishes and fishes from certain areas of the globe. With increasing understandings of overfishing, global warming, general pollution, stocking pollution, etc., additional concerns of sustainable harvesting and cooking methods need to be understood by more people.

Fish and other seafoods are increasingly being seen as a foodsource for the world's growing population. However, understanding where your food comes from is important. It is important because your fish may becoming endangered, contaminated, or unsustainably grown and harvested. I've recently seen a number of stories written by (who I feel are) credible sources about this topic.
I'm not saying that eating fish is not a good thing, but I am saying that everyone must look at the consequences of choosing what they eat. And in end, remember that eating local and lower on the food chain is better for the environment, and - quite often - better for your health.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fart Fair Morning 1

First day of Art Fair. I'm posting some comparison photos.

I was hoping that it would be not too hot and sticky. It was not terribly hot, but quite warm. It definitely was sticky. Drenched in sweat as I walked in today.

The doors of this building have large signs on them stating: NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS. The war of passive-aggressiveness is ON!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Setting up for Fart Fair (one day to go)

Today, I was unable to take a photo at the same location as yesterday, thanks to the setting-up of the greasy food mall. I have taken the "before" photos of a few locations on State St and Liberty St. Enjoy. (I took these photos with an increasing sense of dread caused by impending Fart Fair.)

What I expect you to see in tomorrow's photos is a large number of people milling and moving slowly between the tents that will be sett up today. On Liberty St. (left), there should be a large number of craft-y types of things being sold, and Borders isn't going to miss the opportunity to sell books in a tent outside their store.

Meanwhile, at the intersection of State Street with North University, you should expect tomorrow to see a number of food tents as Red Hawk and Amer's take advantage of the masses' almost insatiable hunger for (not only art, but) food. The number of people milling around should be slightly less than on Liberty Street, if only because there is less art for sale, and I think that people will take less time to get food than look at art. (Of course, this may well not be the case once socially-induced mass-hunger occurs at around noon, when thousands of people, in a manner that would make Pavlov weak in the knees, match the time on their watches with a need to shove fried food into their mouths.) What this photo means to me is that I will have to bring my own lunch in tomorrow, as I don't want to wait an interminable time for food, nor do I want to have to pay significantly more for an item on the menu, only to find a smaller-than-normal serving arrive to greet me. (And I don't really find the presence of so many people shoving food into their mouths particularly appetizing.)

Sushi Op-Ed at NYT

So... although I'm providing a link to the story at the NY Times, I think that an excerpt is also necessary (for those of you who don't want to read the whole thing.)

Published: July 15, 2007

WITH the depletion of bluefin tuna in our oceans now front-page news, people around the country have been sharing with me their confusions and fears about eating sushi. I think that we — and our fish — would benefit from a new deal for American sushi: a grand pact between chefs and customers to change the way we eat.

Lobbyists for the sushi and fishing industries insist that tuna is essential to sushi, and that controls on harvesting the fish would threaten traditional Japanese culture. But that’s nonsense. ...


[T]he dirty little secret of American sushi is that from the beginning, many Japanese chefs assumed that we could never appreciate the wide-ranging experience the way their Japanese customers did, so they didn’t bother to educate us. Simple sushi took over, featuring the usual suspects: tuna, salmon, boiled shrimp.


What we need isn’t more tuna, but a renaissance in American sushi; to discover for ourselves — and perhaps to remind the Japanese — what sushi is all about. A trip to the neighborhood sushi bar should be a social exchange that celebrates, with a sense of balance and moderation, the wondrous variety of the sea.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

I need a new bicycle helmet.

Okay, so I already DO have a bicycle helmet. However, the "Breathe Air" helmet is amazing. I wonder a few points:
  1. How much of one's peripheral vision is limited by the new helmet?
  2. Will they make a version that can work for people who wear/need glasses?
  3. How stifling will it be? I know it looks like there is a lot of space for aeration, but I have a tendency of overheating...
  4. Will they make a helmet large enough for my melon?
Still, all Star Wars puns aside, this stormtrooperish helmet is supposed to filter out particles that may cause asthma or allergies (a good thing, I suppose), but at an estimated 200 USD after manufacture (a bad thing for now), will I be willing to purchase it?

Shadow Art Fair

Shadow Art Fair in Ypsilanti

Yesterday evening, I went to the Shadow Art Fair at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, MI. As a lead-up to the Ann Arbor [F]Art Fair (see previous posts), this is a chance for smaller purveyors to get a chance to sell stuff. Many of the items that I saw fell more in the "fringe" sort of art and crafts. (What do I mean by "fringe"? Well, you will have to go and check it out next year, but I basically mean t-shirts, stickers, badges, and chotchkies.) Hopefully, this will end up being a larger event in years to come, since I would possibly be more interested in buying stuff if there was greater variety. However, since I don't normally want to acquire more stuff, this may well not be the case, as well.

Friday, July 13, 2007

UM Museum of Art

UMMA and additional construction.

This photo was taken from the LSA Building across the street from the UMMA*. According to the website when I posted this picture, the completion time is still "TBD." It looks like it will be a nice-looking glass structure. (The part of me that feels that form must follow function feels like this is a bad idea in so many ways - from energy use to security - but I am willing to keep an open mind about the addition's functionality.) I'm taking photos of the construction as it progresses, and (if I actually get around to doing it) I'll put up a photo slide show of the "growth" of the addition from ground level (I've decided not to annoy the nice people in the LSA building with daily photo-taking).

*UMMA, in this case, stands for "University of Michigan Museum of Art." It does not refer to the ancient Sumerian city of Umma, or the Arabic word for "community" or "nation": umma/ummah. This means that if you Googled "umma", on July 13, 2007, you would have had to have chosen the fourth option down.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Around Ann Arbor

Over the Fourth of July week, I was able to cycle around and take a number of photos of local buildings. (Many of these photos are stitched together.)

The new School of Public Health building arching over Washington Heights. On the right is Mary Markley Hall.

Observatory Lodge is currently being renovated. It will house the Department of Kinesiology.

University of Michigan's Detroit Observatory (it's just called the "Detroit" Observatory, and isn't actually in the city bearing that name).

The brand-spankin' new UM Hospital's Cardiac Unit

On North University looking at State Street.

Grizzly Peak (four shop fronts), Cafe Zola (two shop fronts). Yes, the fact that Grizzly Peak is now four shop fronts big means that the Del Rio is no longer. (Sorry.)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Religion and science: philosophical incompatibility?

To investigate my first query a little further, can a religion's sacred beliefs (e.g., salamanders cause earthquakes) philosophically accept the mundane findings of the scientific (there is no correlation between earthquakes and the movement of salamenders)? If you can find a way to do so without all the historic contortions that, say, the Church used to justify the movements of planets under the Church-stated "Truth" of geocentrism leading up to the trials of Galileo, then I commend you. However, I would say that you cannot do so without either denying to some significant part the mundane scientific evidence (i.e., by saying that only certain motions of salamanders cause earthquakes, and that the scientific observations did not take this variable into account) or possibly severely modifying sacred religious doctrine(i.e., by saying that while salamanders have caused earthquakes in the past, maybe they are incapable of doing so anymore).

I think that the way science informs us of the world is philosophically incompatible with the way through which religion informs us of the world. Scientific explanations and religious explanations are as different as two lines skewed from each other. They will not intersect. They are not parallel. However, they are both lines, with a set of coordinates that tell the "truth" of each line's condition. (To all you mathematicians out there, this is an analogy, and is not - by any means - perfect.) You cannot use (imho) scientific explanations to justify religious understandings. Similarly, you cannot use religious understandings to make scientific explanations. Using the previous example, the physical movement of any one salamander can be accurately described by science, however science cannot describe why salamanders choose to cause earthquakes. Similarly, having the religious understanding that salamanders cause earthquakes does not mean that you have any idea or ability to accurately describe any one salamander's physical movements.

Of course, you (the individual) can choose to believe whatever you want. You can even choose to fervently hold a religious belief in the face of scientific evidence running contrary to that belief. You might even be a person who believes what your religion tells you is "true" and also accept what scientific observation tell you is "true" without having a philosophical conundrum. This does not negate my stated position in the previous paragraphs. My statements above are that science (as a philosophy; a way of thinking/viewing the world) is fundamentally different than religion (as a philosophy). However, you can choose to believe two different things are "true", but each based on different philosophies of "truth."

Science-based research of world religions

One interesting thing that I have always considered, having grown up and traveled all over the world, was the lengths to which religious scientists go to scientifically prove the fundamental truths of their own religion. Since religion-based research bases its starting premises on articles of faith, the questions being asked may seem ludicrous, nonsensical, or meaningless to one that is “outside” that faith.

For example, would the average American scientist (who is heavily seated in a Christian social landscape) take seriously the work done in Japan to see if the movements of salamanders actually do cause earthquakes? What about looking for geological evidence of a stone bridge connecting India with Sri Lanka, created by the Monkey King Hanuman as it is written in the Mahabharata? What about Indian scientists conducting investigations to find the healing properties of the Ganges River? What about the intrinsic "memory" of water? I know the list stretches much longer than this, and makes me wonder a couple things:

1) Are sacred religious beliefs (of any religion) and mundane/material scientific understandings (of any branch of science) philosophically compatible?

2) Are scientists who pursue scientific research on doctrines of faith doing a service or disservice to others of their religion (since a scientific discovery disproving a religious certainty could not easily be met with objectivity)?

Based on my own understanding of the accuracy of scriveners in ancient times (poor); the great temptation of using turning translation to ideological ends (high); and the changing meaning of words through time (high), I wonder how scientifically useful it is to try and use any holy book as a reliable scientific compass against which to set future research goals. Similarly, I wonder how religiously valid the contention that any branch of science can fulfill the role of religion in humans while still remaining philosophically true to its scientific basis.

I could go on to discuss the different understandings of the material (mundane) world espoused by different branches of science, but that would be another, long-winded (and possibly very contentious) post, so I will not go down that road at this time.

Monday, July 02, 2007

What the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell says.

So... what does it mean when the CEO of Shell says this? Should I be skeptical? Should I be hopeful?

I suppose we will have to wait and see...