Blogthings - "Which of the X-Men Are You?"

I was aiming for Jean Grey (the comic book version!), but I guess I'll accept this... :-)

You Are Shadowcat

You're like a little sister to some, but others see you as a sex kitten.

You are well trained in martial arts, a bit of a computer geek, and can totally kick butt.

Powers: the ability to 'phase' through walls and other physical objects

Me and Gandhi sitting in a tree??

More astrological fun and nonsense...

The Relationship Analyst by Top Synergy lets you test your compatibility with tons of famous people. Since there were practically no hotties I appreciate (except maybe Ewan McGregor or Johnny Depp... purely for their acting abilities, mind you!) I decided to check out quirky combos instead. At first, I was really tempted to look up myself and Padre Pio, but - since there's already a lot we can agree on - in the end I chose me and Gandhi.

Yes, that Gandhi. Highlights of the report include:
  • Surprise! Not a whole lot in the "sensual attraction" range. Oh well, I like to think that's just because he preferred celibacy! (Then again, under those circumstances, I probably would too...)
  • Another surprise! Apparently Gandhi wouldn't make a great employee for me... (Must be that non-violent non-cooperation thing.)
  • All in all, while longterm friendship and romance could be in our future, the report recommends that maybe we should just be penpals.
Why not? I already have another philosopher "penpal" who never writes back...

(Maybe I'd have better luck with Nikola Tesla?)

Today's Sidebar Feature: Creative Clutter!

Ah, art in motion! I wonder if I could use a leaf-blower to blow my clutter out of the house and down the street in such an artistic fashion... (Ah, dream on!)

The mini-movie in today's sidebar is a lovely parody of a by-now famous, absolutely visually splendid Sony Bravia commercial (that you simply must see in as high a definition as possible to truly appreciate it). In it (the original, that is), they actually and truly released 250,000 super bouncy balls down a San Francisco street.

How? See the How-To documentary!

Music's nice, though, eh? Enjoy!


Adventures in spring cleaning here at Casa Michelle...

The entire right quadrant of my bedroom by my bedside reading table had become a solid mass of paper. Memos, recipes, health articles, mailings, magazines - still unopened, books, etc. etc. I've been trying to scramble up the face of it all day... (The sherpas spooked midway and turned back without me.)

Excavations have been difficult... complicated by dense strata of detritus. Through hard work, several trash bags, and - not to mention - the force of will (such as it is) not to read every single little thing that I've managed to collect thus far before I throw it out, I believe however that I may have finally reached the level of the late Pleistocene period!

Flotsam and jetsam from my life, as from so many past civilizations. Meaningless now... like linear A.

But the excavations have nevertheless yielded the rare valuable (or funny, or both) artifact. About halfway down the midden, for example, I found the following, and couldn't help but laugh. How appropriate, and yet, how so clearly utterly futile... Enjoy!

Computer gaming by Robin Williams

A hoot! Enjoy!!

planettom: SPORE as played by Robin Williams

Today's Sidebar Feature...

"This video shows a pair of extraordinary gifted swing dancers... set to modern hip-hop with a lot of eerily serendipitous synch-ups between the music and the video. The dancing is nothing short of amazing and set to the contemporary music, it's even nicer. Link "

The dance has been variously identified as the Lindy Hop, the Big Apple, and the Charleston, while the two dancers are Al Minns and Leon James. Enjoy!!

"Terry sez, Contemporary swing dancers sometimes dance 20's Charleston and Balboa to hip hop. Those styles also go great with bhangra. If you're interested in swing dance footage, there's over 30GB of vintage and contemporary swing dancing clips at"

Blogthings - What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Veddy Intterrestingg! (I would never have guessed that I'm more Yankee than Dixie by now...)

Your Linguistic Profile::
60% General American English
25% Yankee
10% Dixie
0% Midwestern
0% Upper Midwestern

This week's "Science in the News": Lying and the Irrational Fear of Loss

More along the lines of the recent "neuroeconomic" studies of dread and "temporal myopia"... Fascinating! - Why We Lie: "Many animals engage in deception, or deliberately misleading another, but only humans are wired to deceive both themselves and others, researchers say. People are so engaged in managing how others perceive them that they are often unable to separate truth from fiction in their own minds..." (more)

Seed: Monkeys and Humans Are Both Irrational: "A group of Yale researchers studying the origin of irrational decision-making found that choosing impractically isn't a behavior exhibited only by humans. Our evolutionary cousins, capuchin monkeys, exhibit the same tendency with respect to loss aversion, or the tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses rather than acquiring gains..." (more)

First signs of summer at Land's End

After New England Sees Worst Floods in 70 Years, we finally had a day of sun for the first time in what seems like weeks. To celebrate, we went on our annual pilgrimage to the Maine coast to commemorate the incipient onset of summer.

It's a beautiful drive to Bailey Island. From Brunswick, Maine, take Route 24 south about 13 miles. Just 2.4 miles long, barely a half-mile wide at its widest point, and with only about 500 year-round residents, Bailey Island is the epitome of the rugged beauty of the Maine coast.

No real tourist attractions to see... just stacked lobster traps, piled up lobster buoys, and scattered lobster boats. But it's the prettiest scenery I've seen in this state, and since there's no shortage of that here - trust me - that's really saying something!

Still, this humble finger of land jutting out into Casco Bay, composed really of a chain of three smaller islands - Great Island, Orr's and Bailey - actually boasts more than one claim to fame.

Turns out that Harriet Beecher Stowe, of Uncle Tom's Cabin fame, wrote The Pearl of Orr's Island: A Story of the Coast of Maine in 1862, apparently one of the earliest examples of Maine "local color" fiction. According to the Orr's Island Campground official site,

"Orr's Island is named for two brothers--Joseph and Clement Orr--who came from Ireland... Joseph Orr built his homestead in 1756 on the land that is now occupied by Orr's Island Campground. The home is said to be the oldest on the island. His home, which still stands, was made famous in a book... by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Mrs. Stowe visited the area while her husband was a professor at Bowdoin College in nearby Brunswick, Maine. She created a tale of the islands using fictional characters living in real homes."

In addition, the islands also feature an important architectural landmark! Built in 1927-28, the Cribstone Bridge between Orr's and Bailey Islands features a "cob pile" form of construction and - as the tablet at the bridge claims - "this 1,150 foot bridge is an exceptional engineering solution to meet unusual conditions and is the only one of its type in the world. Open split Maine granite cribwork permits free flow of swift tidal currents, boat traffic, withstands saltwater exposure and ice floes." What's more, the bridge is composed of thousands of tons of 12-foot granite slabs, held together by the sheer force of gravity! It is rightfully counted in the National Registry of Historic Places, as an official National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and is even featured in Structurae, an international database of significant structures, a testament to Mainers' classic and seemingly paradoxical "intricate simplicity"!

It's such a lovely drive that we'll likely wind up returning a couple more times to "Land's End" on Bailey Island whenever the good weather finally manages to take hold. Maybe we'll see you there...

NSF urged to stop supporting social science research!

Yikes! I think it can be a slippery slope when anybody starts prioritizing learning and study... But how exactly can one decide that societies are less important to study scientifically than, say, rocks or tubeworms??

News of the Week- U.S. SCIENCE POLICY: Senate Panel Chair Asks Why NSF Funds Social Sciences

Blogthings - What Temperment Are You?

You Have a Melancholic Temperament

Introspective and reflective, you think about everything and anything.

You are a soft-hearted daydreamer. You long for your ideal life.

You love silence and solitude. Everyday life is usually too chaotic for you.

Given enough time alone, it's easy for you to find inner peace.

You tend to be spiritual, having found your own meaning of life.

Wise and patient, you can help people through difficult times.

At your worst, you brood and sulk. Your negative thoughts can trap you.

You are reserved and withdrawn. This makes it hard to connect to others.

You tend to over think small things, making decisions difficult. > Verbal Intelligence Test

Of course, this doesn't really measure intelligence as much as education, but it's still kinda fun (and a challenge!) nonetheless... > Verbal Intelligence Test:

"Sir Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin, first popularized the notion of measurable intelligence in the late 1800s. Charles Spearman later discovered that all mental abilities tend to correlate together when statistically analyzed. He called this G. Modern researchers tend to agree that there are two kinds of intelligence, crystallized intelligence (learned knowledge) and fluid intelligence (abstract processing ability). Verbal tests tend to measure crystallized intelligence more. While fluid intelligence peaks between the ages of 18-21, dropping after that, crystallized intelligence can increase as you get older and does not degrade (usually) until fairly late in life. According to a number of studies, the correlation between vocabulary and general iq is around .8 (a very high correlation).

Congratulations, you obtained a very high score... Your overall percentile is 99% which means you scored higher than 99% of the people who have taken this test..."

Maiming at the chocolate factory

Great commentary, as usual, by Tom...

From me: "Yikes! I wonder if the oompa loompas pushed her..." Click the following to access the sent link: Baby's Hand Severed at Chocolate Factory - Yahoo! News

From Tom: "It seemed like every family vacation from age 7 to 14 involved a side trip to tour some stay-on-the-yellow-line-or-you'll-get-dismembered factory. The Kellogg's plant, and a Ford plant, somewhere around Detroit, were the most memorable. I remember the Kellogg's plant had these rotating ovens like cement mixers for the corn flakes. Car plants: Very clanky and sparky. Also the Hershey plant in Pensylvania. Breweries in Wisconsin seemed safer, and smelled good. At some level I think I'm still expecting to be impaled on a forklift which then goes out-of-control through a smelter."

You mean something like this? (I don't know if this was honestly intended to be a German safety video with a sense of humor, or if it was just supposed to be funny and never meant at all to be in any way educational... See what you think! As the refering page says, "Starts out slow, but give it time. Knowledge of German not necessary.")

How to Park like a Man and Shower Like a Woman?

Graduation at the college brought - as usual - an absolute free-for-all for parking. My good friend claims that he was actually directed to park like this! He then went out for lunch with some former students... and - in the meantime - the college emptied out, leaving his car seemingly beached like a whale on the lawn. I guess when you think about it, the "no parking" sign was actually directed to the pavement instead... (and, hey, there's no sign that says "Keep off the Grass"!)

So, while I know about the supposed "mitigating circumstances,"his parking job was so funny that I posted it on the "Bad Parking" photo pool at Flickr anyway!

That's when my good friend threatened to send me the meme on women parking. Yeah, bud... bring it on! ;-)

In the meantime, here's a version of a classic that my best woman friend - who is also a complete bath fiend - sent me long ago about male/female shower habits!

(Even if I am an "anthrophile" feminist at heart, I can't help it... It may be just a bit derogatory, but I find really good gender humor pretty damn funny!!)

Carpe Futurum - Dread and Temporal Myopia!

Fascinating studies published on the web this past week...

Together, they suggest that human beings would prefer less pleasure and/or more pain in the short term, rather than wait for more pleasure and/or less pain at some later point in the future. From the budding field of "neuroeconomics," this "temporal myopia" or fear of "dread" may explain everything from addictive behaviors to poor time management to overdependence on credit. As one article says, "Perhaps over time our minds will evolve to truly appreciate that it is important to seize the day, but not at the expense of tomorrow."

I wouldn't hold my breath... but I guess that's rather the point, isn't it?? ;-)

"Sample the Genius of Leonardo da Vinci"

"This summer's most talked about movie, "The Da Vinci Code," hits theaters on May 19, 2006. If you are interested in learning more about the life and art of the great Leonardo da Vinci, Dover offers a complete selection of eclectic works on the Renaissance master, from clip art collections and postcards to stained glass coloring books."

See Inside Dover's Leonardo da Vinci Collection

LOVELINES: From Love to Hate in Words & Pictures

This is wonderful! It's art... it's zeitgeist... It's two great tastes that go great together!!

Oddly enough, though, while I'm a big advocate of "Eats Shoots and Leaves" even in blogs, there's something rather sweet and honest about the lack of punctuation here... See what you think! Enjoy!!


"Lovelines is an exploration of human desire.

Through large scale blog analysis, Lovelines illuminates the topography of the emotional landscape between love and hate, as experienced by countless normal humans keeping personal online journals.

Using a data collection engine created by the artists for their recent collaboration, We Feel Fine, Lovelines examines thousands of blogs every few minutes to find expressions of love and hate, posted by all manner of people. When it can, Lovelines identifies and saves the age, gender, and geographical location of the person who wrote the post, and then presents that information along with the post. The entries range from frivolous to profound, offering a glimpse into the hearts and minds of people blogging about their wants and needs.

Lovelines presents a stark white screen, bounded on the bottom by a slider running from “Love” to “Hate”, with a draggable heart that becomes scratched out to the point of illegibility as the heart approaches “Hate”. As the slider is pulled through Love, Like, Want, Indifference, Dislike, and Hate, words and pictures appear above to represent the chosen state of desire or despair.

Lovelines is structured around three movements: “Words”, “Pictures”, and “Superlatives”. Words and Pictures iteratively present individual examples of human desire, while Superlatives provides a daily zeitgeist of the most loved, wanted, liked, and hated things. Interactive timelines represent the changing magnitude of love and hate over time, and allow navigation into the past.

The artists were invited to make this piece by Oral Fixation Mints, a breath mint company devoted to “making everyday objects beautiful”, of which Jonathan Harris is a co-founder. We realize that the heart of all fixations is the desire to own, possess, and consume. Great desires imitate the physics of giant pendulums: the higher they rise, the deeper they fall. In this sense, love is inextricably tied to hate, desire to despair. Lovelines walks the line between these two extremes, painting pictures of the shifting landscape of desire.

Constructed entirely from found artifacts – words and pictures posted to blogs – Lovelines draws its identity from a world of strangers, brought together by shared degrees of desire.

Make It - A Collapsible Wine Box Oven!!


"The impluse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life."
-Agnes Reppelier, American Essayist

Ah, summer... when travel beckons!

Can't exactly afford to live it up at the Ritz, but don't want to renounce, say, a freshly-baked birthday cake on your travels? Try making a Wine Box Oven!

I found this webpage years ago (it apparently first appeared on a scouting chat group in 1994), and then it disappeared from the internet some years later. It's back, but I thought I'd now better reproduce it here too, just to be sure to save what seems like a fantastic idea for posterity!!

So, here is the legendary "Bill Spofford's Collapsible Wine-Box Oven"! If any of these instructions seem unclear, try checking out the original link above... it's complete with how-to ASCII diagrams! Enjoy!!


I designed this several years ago
and "dedicate it to the public domain"

With this oven, you can bake virtually anything on a camping trip that you can bake at home -- pies, cookies, cakes, muffins, biscuits, lasagna, ziti, pizza, you name it!

The only limitation is the size you make the oven and possibly the weight of what you want to bake.

The basic parts of the oven are: Two identical flaps for the top, bottom, back, and door and two identical end pieces to complete the box. The dimensions can be adjusted depending on what you want to be able to cook and what size grill you can find to go in the inside. I will discuss the grill size later.

The flaps are best constructed from a box that is at least 12 inches high and 12 or more inches on a side. Cut the box so that the corner is the folding edge and each side of the flap is at least 12 inches deep by up to 22 inches long. One flap will become the bottom and back of the oven, with the other becoming the top and door...

The end pieces are the hardest to construct. Visualize that the end pieces will have small folded edges over three sides (about 3/4 inches wide) to attach to the flaps. The forth side will be straight to allow the door to fit flush with that edge. The end piece fits with the folds out toward the edges of the flaps and are connected to the flaps with medium size black paper clips -- one each on the bottom and back and two on the top. The folds will add about 1/4 in to the size making the inside about 11.5 x 11.75 in. Overall size is about 12.25 x 13.25. I try to cut this piece from another box and use a corner fold and a flap fold as two of the edge folds, so that I only have to fold the cardboard on one other side...

As you will be heating with charcoal briquettes, you will need some air holes. Cut an approximate 2 in square in one of the corners with two folded edges (these are the rear part of the end pieces). Because the two end pieces are reversed when the oven is assembled, the air hole is cut in the same corner for both ends. When assembled, one will be at the bottom and the other at the top.

Assemble the pieces so that you can check the dimensions and understand how it goes together. Lay one flap down oriented so that the fold will allow the back piece to be raised, then lay one end piece with the door edge along the front of the flap, with the end of one folded edge even with the edge of the flap. Put one of the medium paper clips on the edge, securing the two pieces together. Do the same for the other side. Now, raise both end pieces, then the back of the flap. Secure the edges of the back to the end piece folds with the paper clips. Place the other flap so that one part forms the top and the other a door that is raised. Secure the top to the end pieces with two paper clips each. The results should be a box with the ends indented. The door can be held shut by placing a rock in front of it or placing a twig with a small, short branch coming out under the oven and turning the small branch up to hold the door.

The resulting box needs a grill to hold the cooking pans, just like your oven at home. You will notice that the inside dimensions are about 1.5 inches less than the width of the oven. The grill will be held by some hangers made from coat-hanger wire and will need some clearance from all sides -- about 1 inch from each end and 1/2 inch from the back and door. This allows for some warping over time.

Once you have a grill (for a 12 x 12 x 12 in oven, I use square baking drying racks), you need to make hangers. These are made by bending coat-hanger wire or other heavy, stiff wire to make a hook to go over the top edges of the end pieces, hang down about half way on the inside, then another 90 degree bend to support the grill and a loop to make sure it doesn't slide off. Make four of these, two for each side. When using them, put two on each side about 1/4 of the way from each end before adding the top flap. The paper clips will keep them from moving very much. The bottom of the hanger should be just long enough to hold the edge of the grill without much play. If you make them too long, the grill will be very unsteady and the grill may fall (just when you are ready to eat)!

Disassemble and cover each piece of cardboard with heavy weight aluminum foil. You can tape the ends of the foil to keep it tight with duct tape, just be sure you have the tape on the OUTSIDE. On the end pieces, you will need to cut diagonally and fold the foil toward the outside at the two corners.

Charcoal briquettes are used for the heat source. For a small oven, each fully lit briquette is equal to about 50 degrees of heat. For a 400 degree oven, this will be 8 briquettes. For larger ovens, you will need to add additional briquettes to get the same heat. I have a 13 x 13 x 22 oven that takes 12 or 14 briquettes to cook most dishes. This size also takes a 12 x 17 inch cookie sheet -- great for pizza! To keep the briquettes from burning up the cardboard, I place a small drying rack in the bottom and use a small aluminum plate on the drying rack to hold the briquettes. For the large oven, I use two racks and two plates. Old aluminum foil pie plates work well, just remember to replace them when they start to melt or get holes in them. You can also place about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil in the bottom and put the briquettes on the soil. This dirties the oven and you may have to replace the foil more often.

As long as the inside aluminum foil is not torn, these ovens can be taken apart and used many times. When the foil tears, just cover that piece again - no need to remove the old. Because the oven is collapsible, they are easy to carry. I fold the two flaps closed and put three paper clips on each to keep them flat.

Place the grill hangers on the outside of one of the end pieces, orient the other end piece the same way and place it on top. Use two paper clips to hold the end pieces together, one in the air hold and one on the door edge. This keeps the pieces from being lost.

Be careful when placing or removing food from the oven. Remember that all of the parts are very hot and the grill may not be very sturdy! Use hot gloves or pads when adding or taking out pans and check the hangers to make sure you don't mis-align them and cause the grill to fall. Also, do not place hot dishes on top of the oven directly against the aluminum foil -- any tape you used will melt and the cardboard may char. An extra grill or drying rack on the top is very useful, but twigs will also work.

A 12 x 12 x 12 in oven will hold the frying pan from the patrol cook kit (without the handle). This is a good size for dump cake. Just remember to only use cooking utensils which will not melt! With proper care, the oven will last several years. Not bad for a few hours of time to make something that will enhance your camping eating experiences dramatically!

Where Foodies Love to Eat... Mainers in Venice!

I was going through some back issues of magazines when I discovered the following review of what just happened to be a common restaurant we eat at in our neighborhood in Venice (called Via Garibaldi and pictured at left, with a cruise ship making the tricky turn out of the Grand Canal just off the waterfront), from a restauranteur who just happens to be a fellow Portland-Mainer...

I guess it's a small world after all... Or, as the Italians would say, "All the world's a village!"

Where Foodies Love to Eat:
SAM HAYWARD (Co-owner and chef of Fore Street in Portland, Maine)

Venice - "Everywhere my wife and I went in Venice we asked our servers where they eat. They all had the same answer: Al Nuovo Galeon, in the Castello neighborhood. There's a piazza outside, and moms running back and forth with mouthfuls of scampi to watch the kids. They'll bring you a huge platter of seafood with spider crab, shrimp, octopus, squid, sea bass, and a couple other things. It's all glistening and served with mild olive oil. They'll give you a hard time if you order anything complex like risotto. 1308 Via Garibaldi, 011-39/041-520-4656, seafood platter $54. "

The risotto part is not quite true, though... When you order a laborious, expensive seafood risotto, they just want to make sure that more than one person at the table's going to be eating it, so order it for 2 persons or more! And enjoy!!

Quote of the Day

"Sacred cows make the best hamburger." - Mark Twain


MooTube is my new favorite site! It's cows. Attached to webcams.

That's right! A CowCam!!

It almost forces you to get Zen, seeing the world from a cow's point of view.

What do you see? Grass. Lots and lots of grass. And the occasional random bit of other cows. Rather relaxing, really...

Try it! You'll see... It's "moo-colic"!!

Newsflash: "Film shows Venetian galley's story"

"Monks sank the galley in the early 1300s along with a Venetian transport vessel in the hope that this would fortify the island's banks and stop its gradual slide into the lagoon .The plan did not work. The island was abandoned, used as a cemetery for victims of the Black Plague of 1348 and swallowed up by the lagoon a few decades later. However, by filling the galley with sand and mud to sink it, the monks' doomed feat of engineering kept the ship in perfect condition for over six centuries ..." (More at - News in English - Film shows Venetian galley's story)

Ride a Scooter in Italy!

Today's mini-film feature in the sidebar is a "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" through the heart of Naples on a vespa scooter!

When I saw the latest Vespa ad campaign today, I got all nostalgic for an old Vespa commercial from the 60s that I once saw repeated on tv in Italy... in which the girls on the back of all the Italian boys' scooters were riding side-saddle. (Like at right... no kidding!) Didn't find it yet, but I did find this video instead!!

At first glance, it seems an amateur version of the great French short, "Rendezvous." But it starts with an opening screen for the "Road Safety Class"...

Is this the famous Road Safety Class taught on the U.S. base there in Naples?? I've heard great stories about it... Like when an earnest young American G.I. asked the Neapolitan instructor about whether it was legal to make a right turn after stopping at a red light, and the napolitano responded, "Why on earth would you stop at a red light?!" The law-abiding Americans were thoroughly scandalized!!

However, everybody knows that everyone runs red lights in Naples, and therefore you should stop on the green! :-)

Fear not about driving in Italy, though... Neapolitans are famous for being far more adventurous (and creative!) in their driving than even the average Italian (about which you can read more, if you're interested, in Driving in Italy - and Loving It...)

Anyway, while this video is no where near as hair-raising as a real ride through Napoli can be... you do at least get a sense of what they consider perfectly viable 2-way streets! Enjoy!!

Blogthings - Do You Have a Type A Personality?

I'm not sure I'd completely agree on several counts, but it's not bad to at least think nonetheless...

You Have A Type A- Personality

You are one of the most balanced people around.

Motivated and focused, you are good at getting what you want.

You rule at success, but success doesn't rule you.

When it's playtime, you really know how to kick back.

Whether it's hanging out with friends or doing something you love!

You live life to the fullest - encorporating the best of both worlds

Another bad film of Venice?!

And today's winner of the worst film depiction of Venice since "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" is (drum roll please!)... Casanova!

My favorite scene must have been the getaway by horsedrawn carriage, together with the soldiers who take off in hot pursuit. The authorities could have just bided their time, however... In less than 30 seconds, they would have run into a stepped bridge or short underpassage. (There's not much use for a horsedrawn carriage in an island city without roads!!)

Was there any shred of historical accuracy in the entire film??

Totally cool! - Venice in Lego

The latest web exhibition of Venice in art... Again, the detail work is amazing!!

From The Presurfer... (ta-daa!!) Venice in Lego!

(Do yourself a favor and turn off the sound though... the site inexplicably clucks.)

The "Am I Angry?" Quiz

Well, not exactly a scientifically accurate test, but kinda fun nonetheless... Try Am I Angry? for yourself! :-)