September 28, 2005

Feminization of Modern Man

Virginia Postrel points to an interesting critique of an article in the Washington Post about the "growing trend" of macho Japanese men supposedly getting in touch with their feminine sides. Here are some representative excerpts from the original article:

Gender roles have been undergoing a redefinition in recent years as women enter the workforce as never before and men embrace less confining views of masculinity....

The market for male aesthetics has grown fourfold in the past seven years to $400 million annually, including day spas for slimming treatments, facials, manicures and painful sessions of eyebrow plucking. The largest such chain -- Dandy House -- has doubled in size since 2000, with 60 locations across the country.

Skin treatments have become particularly popular for bridegrooms, while many men are opting for costly electrolysis procedures for permanent removal of unsightly facial hair....

On busy Tokyo subways these days, it is not unusual to see men fishing for packs of Virginia Slims cigarettes in European-style male purses. They have many models to choose from at Isetan Men's -- the successful 10-story department store in chic west Tokyo that opened two years ago and is now the cathedral of masculine vanity....

Perhaps most inexplicably, male thugs in the yakuza -- or Japanese mafia -- are now known to wear pink women's sandals and floral-patterned shirts while prowling the streets late at night....

In an email to Ms. Postrel, I noted that the same article could have been written about American men a couple of years ago (remember "metrosexual"?) In any case, the trend of "feminization" - to the extent it exists - is not unique to Japan.

I think it is a reflection of our post-industrial culture. There are not many jobs left that require men to be stereotypically male all day. Most of us sit at a desk all day reading and typing. As a result, many of us have smooth hands and skin, and carry an extra bit of weight around.

Throw us back 100 years and most of us would be lost. How many of today's typical men could do the heavy manual labor performed by farm and factory workers of the early 20th century? Even a manufacturing worker today is more of a computer operator, pushing buttons to operate the robotic assembly line.

Just some random thoughts. And, on a humorous note, I have found definitive evidence of the feminization of a well-known "man" in Japan (click on the extended entry link):


(Image found here).

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September 27, 2005

RIP, Marta Bohn-Meyer


Test pilot Marta Bohn-Meyer died last week in a crash of an aerobatic plane in Oklahoma.

Sadly ironic that she would die in a little single-engine prop plane after a career that included flying one of NASA's SR-71s at three times the speed of sound in high altitude tests at Dryden Flight Research Center in California.


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Hitching a Lift

Ted points us to some good news on the successful test of some space elevator precursor technology.

More SF coming true.

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September 26, 2005

Carnival of Music #16

Where does the time go? Has it really been four months since we started the Carnival of Music?

Please check out Professor Spiegelberg's poetic entry this week.

I have updated the main carnival page, addressing the questions of just what is a blog carnival and what does one have to do to host. Check it out, and submit your links to musical posts and your offers to host here.

Thanks for your support!

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September 21, 2005


I just finished watching the original pilot episode of Firefly (entitled "Serenity") on the first DVD (via Netflix).

How gratifying to see a Science Fiction series about which all the superlatives are true.

Much more later...

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September 20, 2005

Texas Kraut Recipes

A significant number of the "Anglos" that settled in Texas in the early 19th century were, in fact, Teutons and Slavs. And until the current generation, one could readily encounter German dialects being spoken in small towns in the Texas hill country. (In my sophomore year of college, my German class took a field trip to Fredericksburg, where we struggled to understand the dialect of a 70-something museum guide whose German was anything but Hochdeutsch).

In honor of Oktoberfest (excellent Oktoberfest picture here, btw), here's a site with numerous recipes incorporating sauerkraut, including a couple that might work here in Texas: Surprise Chili and Salsa Ole.

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There Once Was A Man From Nantucket...

Professor Chris Hall has a funny collection of limericks over at his blog, Spacecraft.

(Think Lewinsky and Kaczynski).

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Political Test

Absolutely no surprise here:

You are a

Social Liberal
(73% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(88% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

(Via Eric, with whose answers I'm sure I differed only in my reluctance to use "strongly" too much).

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Froehliches Oktoberfest


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September 18, 2005

Gratuitous Domestic Blogging

WARNING! Rampant narcissistic self-blogging ahead! Proceed with caution or skip altogether.

The work week can't start soon enough.

I can't even remember what we did yesterday we've been so busy. And that was with one kid out of town with the Boy Scouts.

Today started at 8:00AM with getting the other two kiddoes ready for church. Sunday school at 9:45 and church at 11:00. Second son received his third grade bible from the church. Made it to the neighborhood pool at noon to learn how to clean the pool and operate the pumps. Straight from there to a two-hour soccer practice in the 100 degree heat. Home to mow the lawn, change the air conditioning filter in the attic, and adjust the sprinkler heads. Dinner, then bed for the kids. And now, at 9:38, my first break of the day. But I have to take the dog for a quick walk before the rerun of Friday's Battlestar Galactica comes on at 10:00.

I am beat.

Update: Oops. BSG isn't on until tomorrow. Tonight was South Park.

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September 16, 2005

Quick Movie Recommendation

My wife and I just finished watching The Aviator.

Very good movie. Excellent cinematography, screenplay, and acting. I'm not sure what my expectations really were going in, but this far exceeded them.

Now I want to go learn more about the real history of Howard Hughes. What a larger-than-life person. Texan, naturally. Many scenes in this movie recalled scenes from Ayn Rand's Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

I loved seeing Hughes put Kate Hepburn (portrayed by the lovely Cate Blanchett) in her place: "you're only a movie star!" Also worth the price of admission just to see Hughes put the senator (Alan Alda) in his place at the committee hearings toward the end. And note that Alec Baldwin did a great job playing the sleazy Pan Am boss.

(Geeky Aside: I remember a few years ago on the Star Wars fan sites there was a nasty rumor that Leonardo diCaprio would be playing Anakin Skywalker. You know what? He would have been excellent in that role. Watching his descent into OCD madness in this movie was a good example of how he could have portrayed the fall of Anakin.)

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September 15, 2005

Wintermute Playlist

Thought I'd put this up while we're on the subject of Neuromancer.

William Gibson's coinage of the word "cyberspace" and his ultra-hip future-pop-culture style led to the description of a lot of fiction in the 80s and 90s as "cyberpunk." There was even a temporary streak of some musical acts that were described as cyberpunk. Most of it noise, which didn't tolerate multiple listenings.

I recently put together a play list of some familiar and not-so-familiar songs, which created a Neuromancer-y vibe for me. I dubbed this playlist "Wintermute" in iTunes. None of these are cyberpunk, though I might call a couple "cybergoth." I think the CD makes for a good walking soundtrack (playing time: almost exactly 1:15).

Presentation Format: Song - Artist - Album (Notes)

There are probably hundreds of other combinations of songs that would evoke the cool, grungy, electronic, trippy world of Neuromancer, so let me know what your playlist would be...

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Cyberspace - The Reality

Life imitates art. Or, art anticipates life. Or something like that.

First, a picture:


Next, a [lengthy] quote from the 1984 book, Neuromancer by William Gibson:

"The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games," said the voice-over, "in early graphics programs and military experimentation with cranial jacks." On the Sony, a two-dimensional space war faded behind a forest of mathematically generated ferns, demonstrating the special possibilities of logarithmic spirals; cold blue military footage burned through, lab animals wired into test systems, helmets feeding into fire control circuits of tanks and war planes. "Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts . . . A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding . . . ."


And in the bloodlit dark behind his eyes, silver phosphenes boiling in from the edge of space, hypnagogic images jerking past like film compiled from random frames. Symbols, figures, faces, a blurred, fragmented mandala of visual information.

Please, he prayed, now--

A gray disk, the color of Chiba sky.


Disk beginning to rotate, faster, becoming a sphere of paler gray. Expanding--

And flowed, flowered for him, fluid neon origami trick, the unfolding of his distanceless home, his country, transparent 3D chessboard extending to infinity. Inner eye opening to the stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority burning beyond the green cubes of Mitsubishi Bank of America, and high and very far away he saw the spiral arms of military systems, forever beyond his reach.

Finally, the explanation. (Via BoingBoing).

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Treu oder Falsch

I found this "polygraph" meme at Robert's place. Funny thing is, I could have almost incorporated all of his answers by reference.

Here are the true/false questions with my answers and commentary:

1. I'm at my best in the early morning. False - At least, not until I've consumed my "breakfast" (see number 2). I believe that the world is run by a vicious and evil conspiracy of morning people. Why should they set the rules, just because they're the first ones out of bed?? What sadist on the Plano school board determined that 7:45 is a good time for kids to start school?

2. I start each day with a healthy breakfast. - False - Rob had a great answer here, though with the recent news about coffee and antioxidants, I would argue that my 3-4 cups of coffee for breakfast are actually good for me. I am a two-meal-a-day person, with a nighttime snack/dessert usually around 11:00.

3. I'm always sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. - False - What Robbo said: "Actually, it's more like five. (See answers to Questions 1 and 7.)" I blog, play piano, or watch movies/cable at night when everyone else in the house has retired.

4. I enjoy my job. -True - Lawyering is sometimes a pain, but my current job as an in-house generalist for a high-tech company has to be a dream gig to beat all dream gigs in the legal field.

5. I get along with most everyone. -True - I am normally an introverted personality type, but I can put on a good mask and pretend to like people. Once I get comfortable with a group, I am usually seen as a nice guy.

6. I'm looking forward to the new season of tv shows this year. Mostly False - I don't really look forward to much except for the remainder of the new Battlestar Galactica, South Park (which I can finally see now that we have cable) , and the new season of Desperate Housewives (even though I'm sure it will jump the shark within the first couple of episodes of the season).

7. I make sure I take some time for myself every day. True - I try to spend 3 to 4 hours a night to myself, reading, writing, playing Xbox, or watching a movie.

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September 14, 2005

Riding the Train Downtown

The Maximum Leader muses on the merits of mass transit.

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September 13, 2005

"There is Always a Buyer" (Velocinomics 101)

I meant to link this hilarious real estate economics lesson from Velociman a few weeks ago.

After winning a small real estate matter in justice court many moons ago, I took out my client representatives (both were apartment managers) for lunch, and they had fun telling me the weird stuff that their tenants did. Nothing quite like V-man's story, though.

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Carnival of Music #15

Jolly good, I say. Jolly good. Mind the soccer hooligans as you make your way to this week's cricket-themed Carnival of Music at The Rambler.

I was most moved by Helen's account of her visit to Auschwitz.

We need hosts for future carnivals. I would love to see some new faces here. The carnival has grown nicely, and is a good way to showcase both your blog and other bloggers. If you author or run across a post about music that you would like to see in a future carnival submit it here. Likewise, if you would like to host a future carnival, please volunteer here.


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9-11 Memorial

I've been not-very-motivated to blog recently. A number of factors contribute. Perhaps more later.

But before we get too far past September 11, I wanted to note how I observed the date. Our church choir performed Memorial by Rene Clausen. Our sanctuary choir was accompanied by full orchestra, and I played the Glockenspiel and Chimes via the organ console (using sampled sounds).

If you haven't heard this piece, it is a powerful recreation of that awful day 4 years ago. Modern, but tonal with numerous lush romantic gestures and chillingly visual representations of the attacks. It was a perfect way to mark the occasion.

You can purchase a recording of the piece here.

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September 08, 2005

I'm OK, Are You?

Virginia Postrel highlights this website, which helps Hurricane Katrina survivors let their loved ones know they're OK.

As Virginia points out, this is particularly important in cities like mine (in the greater Dallas area), where many evacuees are settling in. If you are local, have time to get to a refugee center, and have a laptop and wireless connectivity, this might be one way to help out the Katrina victims.

On the subject of local relief efforts, our church, like many in the area, has opened its doors to evacuees. We are putting up at least 60 survivors in our fellowship/recreation building. Both of my younger children have also received a couple of new classmates in their public elementary school.

I am proud of the actions of my fellow citizens here in Texas, whose generosity is so incredibly evident in both the quantity and quality of voluntary assistance being given to our neighbors.

Posted by JohnL at 09:54 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

September 06, 2005

Heinlein Meme - Human or Insect?

Eric came up with a great Heinlein-themed idea. First, list Heinlein's examples of the accomplishments that distinguish a [generalist] human from a [specialist] insect. Then identify the ones he has actually done. He solicited comments, but I thought this would make a great "meme" game.

First, the original Heinlein:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

I have taken the list, as broken out by Eric, and bolded the items I have actually done (with explanatory notes in most cases).

I'm gonna tag Robert, The Maximum Leader, Chan, Lynn, and Ted with this one but relieve them of any expectation to pass it along further, unless they want to.

Posted by JohnL at 09:53 PM | Comments (5) | | TrackBack

September 05, 2005

Carnival of Music #14

Like the recapitulation of themes in the last movement of a symphony, Owlish has addressed the dearth of voluntary submissions to this week's Carnival of Music by picking musical posts from the many previous hosts of the Carnival.

The Rambler is hosting next week, and is promising an "ecumenical" carnival, so get your submissions on a wide variety of music to the Carnival's "drop box." We need more hosts, so please volunteer!

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September 02, 2005

Heinlein Quote of the Month (September 2005)

When a place gets crowded enough to require ID's, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere.

- Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love.

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