Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Planet By Any Other Name...

Today at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly in Prague, astronomers decided that the Solar System has eight planets. Pluto is now a "dwarf planet." To be a planet, the assembly ruled, a world must meet three criteria:

(1) It must have enough mass and gravity to gather itself into a ball.

(2) It must orbit the sun.

(3) It must reign supreme in its own orbit, having "cleared the neighborhood" of other competing bodies.

So, e.g., mighty Jupiter, which circles the sun supreme in its own orbit, is a planet--no adjective required. Pluto, on the other hand, shares the outer solar system with thousands of Pluto-like objects. Because it has not "cleared its own neighborhood," it is a dwarf planet.

This is huge! Not only do all school science textbooks need to be rewritten, but it's the first time we have a global concensus on what make a planet. Stripping Pluto of it's "planet" status might seems like a big deal. But consider that we've only known about Pluto for 76 years (discovered in 1930). On the astronmical clock, that's less than a tick of the second hand.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bob Dylan 101: Mr. Tambourine Man

I always thought of "Mr. Tambourine Man" as one of Bob Dylan's earliest songs. I guess that's because when I first heard of Dylan or 'learned' about him in school, that was one of the songs I was told to listen to (along with "The Times They Are A Changing"). For this reason, I never really liked the song. I thought of it as a simplistic tune with some strange political message that escaped me.

I was wrong. Dylan's first album was recorded back in 1962. Though he had been playing "Mr. Tambourine Man" for years earlier, it wasn't actually recorded until his sixth album, Subterranean Homesick Blues, the album where Dylan goes electric (though ironically the best songs are acoustic).

I thought of this song as the typical Dylan song, but it's far from it. Many die-hard Dylan fans hated the song when it first came out. It had no political message or protest theme that marked many of his most famous songs (think "The Times They Are A Changing").

Actually, this song would mark Dylan's switch from topical protest songs to the more intrspective, commercial tunes about personal, emotional subjects (soon after would come "Like A Rolling Stone" on his next album, Highway 61 Revisited). I guess it just goes to show that the telling of history is more important than how it actually happened.

The song is an amazing example of how stream-of-consciousness beat-poetry can be put to music to say something significant and universal yet tell us nothing at all. There is not story or grand message, just a description of feelings and visions.

I've read that it's about "the transcendence of music." Not sure what that means, but I can't think of a better way to describe it. Here are a few verses I find amazing, though they were written to be heard, not read. Reading doesn't do it justice:

Though I know that evenin's empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me
I'm branded on my feet, I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me

Friday, August 11, 2006

Baby Likes Me

Around this time in her development, the baby's hearing is functional. She is no longer scared by sounds loud, unfamiliar sounds (such as car horns or fire alarms). At the same time, she can be comforted by other more familiar sounds she hears regularly. This is one of the first times she is using her memory.

Last night I was talking to the baby, like I was always do. I say things like "Hi Baby" and "I love you, L[ashandah]". I don't plan on being too talkative to the baby, as I know Mommy is much better at gab than Daddy. It feels a little weird talking to a stomach, but I know she's in there and I want her to know my voice before she comes out.

So last night, she started kicking after I spoke. Very exciting! I watched the belly for a little longer to see if she would kick so hard I could see it, but to no avail. (I saw it happen once and am dying to see it again. It may have looked like Alien, but it reminded me more of The Boy in the Bubble. She' not trying to get out, just testing the limits of her environment.

This morning I said bye to Mommy then to Baby. After I left, Baby started kicking again. We think that means baby knows my voice. And by her kicking, that means she likes me. I can't tell you how awesome that feels! When you love something so much before you even get to see it, any kind of "communication" is precious.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Danger of Ultrasounds


Prolonged exposure to ultrasound in the womb causes brain abnormalities in fetal mice, according to researchers. The finding sounds a cautionary note about the frivolous use of ultrasound for such things as keepsake sonograms, even though the study is not directly applicable to humans.

The study in mice does not mean that use of ultrasound on human fetuses for appropriate diagnostic and medical purposes should be abandoned. Instead, the study warns against its non-medical use. The FDA and the American Institute of Ultrasound Medicine have formally opposed such uses, warning that the effects of repeated ultrasound exposures on human fetuses are not known.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Don't Hassel the Hoff

David Hasselhoff has a new video. I watched the whole thing, and I did not like it. Still, it was strangely amusing, in an overly-egotisical-yet-self-deprecating way. Watch how he relives all the "glory days" of his career. Each one was a big hit, but when all put together they seem very insignificant and dull. It's almost sad, but he seems to be having fun with it.

In any event, I think it's worth a posting. My next post will be about how the Germans are ruining the world of popular music... right beside whatever country Sean Paul came from. "Uh ooooh!!"

Memorable Moments from Westhampton

By 5pm on Saturday, I had done everything I had set out to do for the weekend. It all started with a trip to the supermarket where we buy too much food, followed by a meal of high-end Italian cold cuts and chugging 3 beers in 30 minutes.

Then I go to the beach and play in the water with a 10 and 8-year-old nieces of family friends. The waves are breaking very close to the shore, I invent a new sport I call sit-surfing, where you sit down and let the waves pull you and in and out. The objective is to keep your ass on the sand and your head above water. The weather is perfect, the water warm and clear.

After that, I go in the pool, which is so warm it felt like bath water. Then I read by the pool with Harley and felt truly relaxed. That’s when the drinking starts. My father-in-law is buying drinks for myself, my mother-in-law, their alcoholic friend Lionel, and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend. At Jon’s recommendation, I drInk a concoction of 4 flavored Vodkas (orange, vanilla, citrus, raspberry) topped with cranberry juice. It tastes like fruit punch, though most won’t try it. The comes another drink, then another. That’s when we decide to go for dinner.

Next thing I know, I’m barley sober and driving the yellow Hummer with Neil passed out drunk in the passenger seat, his door covered in vomit. We reach a sushi place. I do Sake Bombs with my brother in-law. I order anything and everything I want, knowing some one else will pick up the tab. Sometimes dreams do come true.

After a night spent on an aero-bed in a 55-degree room, Sunday morning begins with a beer. I make a quick trip to the beach for one last swim in the ocean. The waves are large and deep. I sing “All This Time” over and over while the waves lull me deeper into my stupor. As a surprise wave covered my head, I unwillingly donate my sunglass to the ocean floor. Goodbye, $12 sunglasses.

Later that day, and I’m in Mammy’s room looking at all the clothes Paula bought for my unborn daughter. Very cute stuff. I restring Neil’s guitar, which has been chewed up by the dogs. I help Mammy feed the dogs. One of them throws up; another one eats the undigested food. I am happy I don’t have dogs. I grab a couple more beers before we hit the train home rested and relaxed. I procrastinate at work by writing about this weekend. Time for lunch.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Soda, Pop, Coke... oy vay

An overview of what people call carbonated drinks across the country.

The Best and Worst of Newport, RI.

- hanging out with Harley in the air conditioned suite, then having to leave the air conditioned suite to go on a crappy ghost tour
- "hanging out" with Harley in the back room of the air conditioned suite
- free dessert after finding a piece of tin foil in my bleu cheese bacon burger (I had a vanilla brownie sundae, Harley had fresh fruit and sorbet)
- forgetting to bring more than 1 pair of underwear
- Harley being unable to walk but still buying 2 pairs of shoes
- seeing The Breakers mansion
- spending an hour in traffic to get to Grandma Ruth’s, but then finally getting to see her
- seeing a girl with the same left-should tattoo as Angelina Jolie (how could her mother let that happen!)
- parking on Saturday night and the crap Mexican meal we had
- the Cookies & Cream malted milkshakes, then the explosive gas it gave me
- having to have another Cookies & Cream malted milkshake the following day
- the heat!!
- seeing the John Lennon art exhibit and buying Baby L her first book
- getting the huge dragon tattoo on my chest (hahaha)
- finding a vegetarian friendly Italian restaurant, then liking Harley's vegetarian meal more than my own meat dish
- watching Good Eats in a king size bed, but having Harley roll onto my side and still leaving me no room on a king size bed
- the most talkative Innkeeper in the world
- forgetting about work, then coming back to work Monday morning
- being on vacation with "my girls", knowing that this could be the last one for a long, long time