Interesting Articles: Q2 2009

* Wikipedia hoax points to limits of journalists' research (Ars Technica). On journalists' laziness. In related news, this On The Media story, Pulp Fictions, describes some extreme instances of journalists consciously lying, certainly not doing their jobs. (Note: according to the online comments about that piece (1,2), some of the facts about Samuel Johnson in the segment are incorrect or misleading.)

Society & Culture:
* Qapla! (WNYC's On The Media via NPR). A cute, long retrospective on the evolution of and social and cultural statements made by Star Trek.

Politics & Statistics:
* The Devil Is in the Digits (Washington Post). Using statistics to investigate possible election fraud in Iran. It's an intriguing prospect, but I'm not quite sure how I should take these results.

Finance & Statistics:
* What Does Your Credit-Card Company Know About You? (New York Times). On how credit card companies mine their data. (Only the first half of the article is on this subject and worth reading.) While the article only describes how the data is being used to influence how the company manages the relationship with the consumer (e.g., setting credit limits, thinking about risk of bankruptcy, deciding when to call), I can think of many more insights the companies could derive from their data that they're not doing. This is just the tip--although an interesting one--of the iceberg.

* Chemist Shows How RNA Can Be the Starting Point for Life (New York Times). Mostly posted because I think it's cool a chemist got an article in the New York Times.

Evolutionary Biology:
I recently discovered a London-based academic, Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa, who does interesting research in the area of evolutionary biology:

* The best optical illusion I have seen all year (Richard Wiseman blog). Astounding. The title is apt.

Redwood City Indian Family Day

On a blazingly sunny Sunday, July 12, 2009, I rode the Caltrain down to Redwood City for its Indian Family Day. Although I didn't consciously realize it when I decided to attend the festival, it really was called Family Day for a reason. Nearly all the booths were for kids. The activities weren't just limited to the traditional bouncy castle; there were also lots of artsy activities, some nintendo wii's, and two stages of kid's entertainment. I mainly watched entertainment at the main (not-kid's) stage. At one point I wandered off to find lunch, as the one food stand sold such sad-looking Indian food that I decided to skip it.

I took one movie at the event.

While in town, I learned Redwood City's town square is a happening place, with events occurring nearly daily: jazz on Monday, dancing (with lessons) on Tuesday, movies on Thursday, music on Friday, and festivals, plays, art shows, more dancing, and other stuff on weekends.

Hawaiian Festival

On Saturday, July 11, 2009, I drove over to Newark/Fremont for a Hawaiian festival: 'O Ka'ahumanu Wahine Ali'i Ahahui 8th Annual Ho'olaule'a. It turned out to be an unremarkable, though relaxing (perhaps due to the Hawaiian music and dancing), small festival (18 booths) in a small, shaded park. It took less than ten minutes to see everything. Only two booths are worth mentioning: one sold plates painted with pretty Hawaiian scenes; the other sold wine bottles that they'd melted down until they are almost flat, and used them as serving plates for cheese, crackers, nuts, etc. A neat idea.

Aside from the shaved ice and spam musubi, there was only one food booth (from which I bought lunch).

Regardless of the size, the setting was pleasant. Counting lunch, I hung out for 1.5 hours reading and listening to the music.

I took three pictures.

Cleveland: Friend's Wedding and Seeing the City

I spent Saturday, May 23, 2009, through Monday, May 25, 2009, in Cleveland in order to attend the wedding of a friend I'll call M. I won't talk much in this entry about the wedding or the people there. During the weekend, I caught up with a number of distant friends and acquaintances.

Though a short trip, I had enough spare time to spend in Cleveland that I got the feel of the city. Cleveland is a city of churches and hospitals. I say this because these two features distinguish it from other cities: the large campus of the Cleveland Clinic which dominates one part of town, and the countless churches one sees (especially when driving on Euclid Avenue). Also, the city is very green, like many east-coast cities, and thus (outside the small-ish downtown core) is pretty and suburban. For instance, a tour we took brought us by many nice parks (especially along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard), which included some "cultural gardens": Jewish, Italian, Slovakian, Polish, and lots more European groups. Incidentally, as we drove around, I noticed that each bus stop--at least all those along Euclid Avenue--has a historic plaque about the surrounding neighborhood: a nice touch. I also noticed while driving that all the traffic lights take a long time to cycle.

On our tour on Sunday afternoon, we noticed the downtown streets were remarkably empty. I wonder if it's the city or the time of year--Cleveland's population is 500k, of which 140k are students. That makes the city a college town. In late May, perhaps the students are either studying or have already left for the summer?

Saturday Activities
A friend, Do, of mine and I arranged to fly to Cleveland together. This plan, however, was foiled by my bus running close to half an hour late, making me arrive at the airport too late to check into my flight with baggage. Luckily, the airline had another direct flight to Cleveland leaving twenty minutes after the one I was supposed to take! They put me on it on standby and I got a seat. I'm glad it worked out, but still feel bad that Do traded his original seat to get a middle seat next to my assigned seat on the flight which I didn't get to take.

We arrived, met up, and got a rental car to drive out to a M's family's second home for a pre-wedding barbecue. On the way, Do observed, surprisingly, that the bus to the car rental location (not a long ride) passed some random business parks that were closer to the airport than the car rental agency. The home where the pre-wedding barbecue was held, in town called Lake Avon, backed right on Lake Erie. All of us attendees, at some point or another, climbed down to the rocky beach and skipped stones on the lake. The stones were perfect for skipping, though it took me some time to relearn how. The house's backyard, with beautiful large maple trees, had no fence between it and the neighboring house, thus leaving a wide-open space. The weather was perfect: low 70s and sunny. In all, the setting was beautiful, especially when the sun was setting. Absolutely amazing. I wish I took pictures, but Do took many and maybe I can link to them here.

Later in the evening, after the grown-ups left, us young-uns danced on the porch.

On the way to our hotel, we saw something cool from the highway and decided to stop and take pictures.

Sunday Activities
I took more pictures on Sunday.

Do and I had most of the day to kill before the wedding. To do so, we first walked to the Cleveland Museum of Art, passing the greenhouse that is the Cleveland Botanical Garden on the way. We were surprised by how decent the museum was and ended up spending nearly two hours there. We probably would've rated the museum even more highly (and have spent more time there) had its regular-collection wing with 19th century European art (including impressionism) and modern art been open. (From what we could see, the rooms looked set-up and good, but were scheduled to open a few weeks later. Why couldn't M have scheduled her wedding better? ;) ) In fact, the whole museum was undergoing long-term renovation and expansion. Neither really seemed necessary to me; the museum and its collection already look to be in pretty good shape.

We browsed the regular collection, containing American art (all years) and European art (up until the 1800s), then spent a good chunk of time in the museum's impressive "armor court." Filled with old armor and weapons, it was the coolest section of the museum. For more details on what I thought and liked in the museum, see the pictures and their captions.

We saw a special exhibit of photography by Lee Friedlander. Frankly, I didn't see the art in his work. The nature pictures look messy, jumbled, more documentary than anything. The pictures of architecture, people, and objects weren't much better. I'd find occasional ones I liked, but they're accidental. As one person quoted in the exhibit said, "What was new about Friedlander's work was ... his talent for turning familiar photographic errors into beguiling puns and puzzles." I say there's a reason certain things are commonly considered errors. Friedlander would understand my complaint about these cluttered images; he himself described one painting: "I only wanted Uncle Vern standing by his new car (a Hudson) on a clear day. I got him and the car. I also got a bit of Aunt Mary's laundry and Beau Jack, the dog, peeing on a fence, and a row of potted tuberous begonias on the porch and seventy-eight trees and a million pebbles in the driveway and more. It's a generous medium, photography."

We also visited a special exhibit of statues from the Central African savanna.

After the museum, we headed downtown to take a Lolly the Trolley tour of Cleveland in order to efficiently get an impression of the city. The picture-worthy places are described in the pictures. Here are some comments about what we saw that I didn't photography: many buildings downtown are made with big, solid bricks. The tour started by driving by piles of rocks used for concrete, passed buildings devoted to utilities and other industries, then passed on Jay Avenue by the brick houses in the "Ohio City" neighborhood. We saw the location of the West Side Market and its adjacent green market. We drove by the many museums in University Circle. (The Museum of Art is one of these. We'd already seen this area pretty well on foot.) We also passed near playhouse square, with its respectable count of seven theaters. The restaurant district (the warehouse district), by the way, seems to be on East 6th Street. It's relatively small.

Some neat facts about Cleveland:

  • It seems most of Cleveland's cultural institutions were financed by wealthy donors, not the government.
  • Some people with mansions on Euclid Avenue specified in their will that their houses should be torn down after their death. Other mansions were razed for other reasons. Not many exist any longer.
  • The Cleveland Indians baseball team sold out its home game 455 times in a row.
I liked that the tour guide tried to emphasize local businesses, pointing out, for instance, a gourmet shop, a pita place, a place that makes burgers with fries on the burger, various restaurants, and a few immigrant grocery stores carrying imported food (e.g., Italian, German). Also, he mentioned the Cleveland Federal Reserve's Money Museum, which could be interesting.

As for the wedding, I don't have much to say. The ceremony, some of which was in Polish, was held in Amasa Stone Chapel, a pretty church on the Case Western campus. After the wedding there was food and dancing--M and many of her friends and family can dance--at Severance Hall, and, naturally, a post-party (in this case at our hotel).

Do took many more pictures than I did, but put only a small selection of them online. His selection consists mostly of photos of the wedding, a complement to my photos because I generally didn't take any pictures at the wedding.

Burlingame Farmers Market & Green Fair

On Sunday, May 17, 2009, I inadvertently attended a fair. Having missed the San Mateo farmers market due to my previous day's activities, I decided to go to the Burlingame farmers market. I jogged there, grabbed a banana walnut muffin for breakfast, and began re-exploring the market. (My last and only previous visit was ages ago.) I soon discovered the annual Burlingame Green Fair was happening this day, immediately adjacent to the market.

The farmers market hadn't changed much since my last visit. Like last time, there was some high-end jewelry and art, neither of which do I normally see at farmers markets. Overall, the market was about a third the size of San Mateo's. About half the vendors at this market are also at the San Mateo market, though often with smaller selections. The market was a bit too small for my liking. For instance, I wanted to pick up tomatoes and potatoes for one recipe, but there were no tomato vendors. (There's usually one or two in San Mateo this time of year.) There were also no organic potato vendors. These things should be a staple.

The green fair, which extended on both sides of the street for one long block, was mostly green building and green landscaping companies. (There were two dozen booths of these types!) Given that I don't own a house or a lawn, these didn't interest me much. Seven booths at the fair, sold, among other wares, reusable, fashionable handbags. There were also a surprising number of booths selling hair and skin creams. The two neatest things I saw at the fair were someone who makes bags and wallets out of used capri sun containers, and someone who makes teddy bears from "vintage" fabrics.

The fair had one stage. While I was there, performers demonstrated yoga. There were mats set up in front of the stage so others could participate. People did.

I got two useful things from the fair. One, from the government organization promoting public transportation, I got a county bike map. (I'd been hunting for a map for ages, but the libraries that were supposed to carry it have always been out of stock.) Two, from the organization that manages the county's recycling programs, I finally got a suggestion on what to do with the "green waste" that is my dead bonsai. (Again, I don't live in a house so don't get regular green waste pickup.)