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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn

15sep2022

cropAt some point during my late teens or early 20s I have a memory of my dad installing a garbage disposal that could handle anything, up to and including corncobs. (As I recall, it made so much noise it wasn't worth the hassle of putting half a dozen of them down it, and I believe corn husks did in fact defeat it.) But we pretty much never had to worry about undigested food waste clogging the drain ever again.

I replicated this wisdom when we redid our kitchen, specifying the most powerful one I could find. But I seldom use it, because by the time we remodeled our kitchen in 2014, it was a truism that garbage disposals wasted huuuuuge amounts of water, were bad for the environment, and besides, I compost as much of our food scraps as is practical.

But garbage disposal technology, like so many other things, has changed, and the received wisdom has shifted in favor; moreover, modern models are much quieter. Nice to know! Bonus linkie, how to open a can without an opener cuz that's the sort of prepper article that endlessly fascinates me works great as a form of procrastination.

And speaking of procrastination, today's entry represents about 20 years’ worth.

14sep2022

cropOoooh, I have a rant about copyright! Haven't had one of those for awhile.

As I was editing this entry, I stumbled across (e.g. saw in that Firefox pocket thingie?) a wapo article about streaming tv with (not quite) the lede:

The critically acclaimed animated show she had worked on extensively was simply deleted, thrown into a black hole of corporate cost-saving measures, along with several titles on HBO Max. The company, she added, even scrubbed every mention of the show from its social media accounts.

She'd just given birth to a biological child; what a shock to discover your creative one had been, effectively, aborted. Or exposed, if the a-word is too emotionally loaded for you. She goes on to say:

“It’s hard because it used to be your show would air and it could go away forever, regardless if it was on cable or network.[...]But at least [with streaming platforms] we’ll be accessible for a long time to come.”

Ha, ha, fooled you! You thought in exchange for less money you'd have a forever legacy, but there's not even any DVDs of these shows. The article pivots to the pain this inflicts on consumers, but my sympathies as an artist were on the creators. AO3, which hosts the HP fanfic I mentioned last week actually has a mechanism in place to preserve abandoned, orphaned works, but the corps who make work for hire and “own” the copyrights can stuff things down an oubliette with no recourse.

I think that's deeply unfair, both to the creatives and the consumers who have allowed themselves to become attached. What to do?

My friend and I were arguing about how to “fix” society on our Sunday bike ride, which is great because I get so emotionally involved I don't notice (nearly as much) how hard I'm pedalling, making it a good workout. He's amazingly patient listening to my utopian schemes, but an achievable iteration would, he said, mean getting rid “shitty jobs”. (He's willing to indulge my fantasizing to a point, but he is an engineer, and wants at least a hint of a real roadmap.)

I brought back that garbage men example where the employees actually a) make a decent wage and b) have a say in the way the company is run. They're actually reasonably happy with their jobs. “Remember,” sez I, “when Google's mantra was ‘Don't be evil’ and people actually wanted to work there? The silicon valley techbros tried to recreate that feeling of agency with free pizza and game rooms, but really, it was having the teamwork and idea of building something cool that they were trying to capture.”

Even what a lot of people nominally think of as crappy work might not be to certain individuals—I remember reading an off-hand comment (in a thread about a-neurotypical people) that why yes, happily grinding through endless spreadsheets “10 hours a day” could indeed be considered a real bennie of autism, both for the employer and the commenter (who was clearly referring to his job) —as long as he didn't have to go to those stupid company-mandated parties and interact with people.

It's all about giving folks some say. (Not only that, ofc. They still need reasonable hours and decent wages and sane working conditions.) Or, put another way, what Joan or John Blow thinks makes a job shitty isn't necessarily what aggravates the actual workers.

So ’tis here. Or, IOW, what responsibility do copyright holders of team made things (such as streaming shows) have to the individuals who've poured in their creative efforts? In this case an implicit contract was broken: less money up front, but the guarantee of staying available in perpetuity (with the attendant opportunity of making money as well as preserving one's legacy off the long-tail residuals).

Copyright is supposed to, first and foremost, foster creative endeavor. If the streaming services can't be bothered to host stuff, especially stuff that s'posed to stay available, then they need to stop being dog-in-the-manger—sell it on DVD or to another service, or something. Or reap the consequences, I guess, of more “piracy”, that emotionally loaded term to make people feel bad because there's literally no other alternative.

Way to go, assholes.

This is why I've become more ‘pro-government’ (or socialist, or progressive, or whatever): some one needs to rein in these profit driven corps and government entities seem to be the only entities with the clout to standardize the encoding (so's you don't need half a dozen devices, as noted later in the article to optimize for the various providers who are clearly trying to silo you into their hardware) and provide some way for folks to access stuff—as, frex, the rules that allow song covers or fair use. Those options really need to be strengthened for the health of our culture held in common, so that corps can't just unilaterally delete things—because while they may provide the cash to produce this stuff, it's all of us who actually create it and lend it meaning, and without that, they'd have nothing to make money on.

I mean, copyright used to be for 14 years. If shows are being cancelled the same day they premiere, perhaps we ought to go back to that. Or mebbe something even shorter, the horror.

Oh, yeah, flowers. If you actually read down this far, you deserve a reward:)

13sep2022

cropToday's daylily is a lovely deep golden yellow that I've enjoyed in my garden for over two decades.

The pizza my parents far and away preferred when I was a wee thing was Buddy's on Six Mile some half a century ago; the current, most authentic version is a little hole in the wall in Hazel Park called Luis’ Pizza, but ‘Detroit style pizza’ has slowly been gaining recognition—now to the point that I understand you can get it at Costco!

The wizard, knowing my fondness for this childhood treat, sent me a link for making as I was finishing up this page, so here ’tis: make your own Detroit style pizza. You do not however, have to coat the poor thing with pepperoni even though everyone seems really fixated on these over-salted grease cups. I like mine vegetarian just fine, so feel free to sub in bell pepper strips, onion, black olives or mushrooms as the desire strikes you—it will be less greasy and I think the veges make a nicer contrast, honestly.

Since today seems to be recipe day, here's some other links I stumbled across that looked interesting (though you'll unfortunately need a wapo login to access them, I think): 3 sheet pan easy clean up meals: feta, bell pepper & tomatoes; sub seitan in for honey garlic chicken sheet pan; tofu, bok choi & peanut sauce.

Or you can look at flower pix:)

12sep2022

cropThe last two weeks featured a series of 5 pages of fauna; this time the plan is for flora, specifically daylilies. I love them, (not just because my favourite flower photo of all time happens to feature them, though that certainly doesn't hurt) but because they have such dramatic and attractive form (particularly the stems and leaves, compared to say, true lilies) and they come in lots'n’lots of colours and varieties.

Since (rather unusually for me) this lot of flowers was shot in full sun, today's linkie is a photographic hack for building an authentic looking artificial sunlit window, complete with blue sky—via bb–on the cheap. It seems like waaaaaaaaay too much work to me, but would be perfect for someone trying to shoot a video requiring this effect—one of the things that endlessly aggravated me about old British TV series was how artificial the lighting was—it just plainly screamed “fake!” and jerked me right out of the story.

I s'pose I could put in a bunch of linkies about QEII dying and all the changes that's gonna portend as well...but my sympathies, such as they are, (outside of that always due to any circle of friends and family who've lost a beloved member) tend to reside with the formerly colonized countries who have difficult feelings over the monarchy, and wish the UK would just dump that tradition already...to be frank, it's the pomp as represented by fashion (clothes, jewelry, braids, knots, ribbons, lace...) that gets my attention.

But, one doesn't actually need to spend all that money on an outdated institution for that.

Or 9/11. Remember that? We were never gonna forget ’n’ all? Yeah. Right. Ahem.

Buuuuut, I'm trying to be upbeat, here. Have a pretty flower.

10sep2022

cropWell, okay then, I guess we'll finally get the page I planned for two fridays ago (& the point of the latest 5 page series) today.

My BTW Fri friend asked how I planned to spend my weekend, and I replied that while I certainly ought to be stringing jewelry, making beads or getting the garden ready for winter for the benefit of critturs such as the ones featured today, most likely what I would actually be doing is things like watching 3 hour long deconstructions of mediocre video games I will never ever play and reading 500,000 word Harry Potter fanfics(1). Cuz, on the whole, I prefer well-written HP fanfic to the canon, and have, ever since I discovered it.

“Oh?” sez he, “well in that case let me recommend this English-language fanfic of a Chinese boys’ love novel that's been very successfully adapted into both anime and live action—my wife insisted upon my watching them, to the point of making a spreadsheet of all the various appellations of the characters’ names—called The Untamed because while the original novel is good, it's also full of non-con/rape between the protags, and my wife likes the fanfic even better.”

We had a digression about how both English language fanfic and conventionally based romances went through that possibly? necessary but nevertheless deeply off-putting phase (starting back in 70s) before returning to this theme of liking fanfic better than the original. (Presumably the reason the US is ahead of China in terms of this literary understanding of consent is because our censorship laws—Comstock, anyone?—were lifted sooner. The depiction of porn and gay sex is still illegal there, though evidently the popularity of The Untamed, or, if you want a more literal translation, The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation and the like is causing things to loosen up.) Not to mention the irritation of dinging the fanfic author for potatoes when the original author herself put them in her alternative-fantasy world!

In the case of All the Young Dudes evidently what really rocketed it to fame was people reading it on podcasts to the point that it's now penetrated the wider cultural milieu—in my case, as a series of articles on Firefox's pocket—which honestly makes me very happy, because I figured the canon author's transphobia had basically destroyed the HP fanfic community..

Ofc, if I finish this epic, then I s'pose I will have to finally read The Shoebox Project, also a Marauders’ Era story from Lupin's POV, which is still f2tE's fave, & which they've been trying to get me to read for well over a decade.

(1)Oh, and I guess spending several hours rewriting this intro...really the frogs are far more interesting than my ramblings: Enjoy!

6sep2022

cropWell, my plans for blogging (rather like the Artemis space launch) got somewhat derailed last week. There just seem to be endless ways I can screw up the site (forgetting to put leading slashes on new directory names, frex) —the giraffe page from last time should be fixed now. I hope, anyway...

So I finally got to read Ed Yong's I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life. I don't know whether title is a nod to Stephen Jay Gould's wonderful (heh) old column on for Natural History, for which I still have a great deal of regard, not least because it was there I really came to understand that evolution is not a progression, or the original Darwin—or perhaps both; but the teal-deer summary of Multitudes is that it's a well-written overview for the science-reading lay public of our current understanding of animals in general, and humans in particular, as endosymbiotic "colonies" of organisms.

I did remember vaguely that mitochrondria started out as bacteria, but I'd forgotten (or never realized) that the engulfing cells were likely from the Archaen domain (if I'd ever known: domains hadn't really been invented back when I was studying biology in school, and we had instead this shifting, awkward numbers of kingdoms—animals, plants, bacteria, fungi and cyanobacteria? Anyway, it's a lot tidier now!)

Other factoids that stood out is that 1:10 human to micro-organism ratio I just quoted is wrong—nobody actually knows for sure, but current estimates evidently are something like 30 trillion human-DNA cells in the average person versus 39 trillion others. Also, and unsurprisingly, the interactions between our bacteria (& viruses, and fungi, which I guess are technically closer to animals than plants?) are far more complex than ‘gut flora good, germs bad’: a lot of our problems, say with gut issues, have to do with balancing the numbers; thus, Yong promotes a ‘managing a garden (of single celled organisms)’ metaphor over the ‘war on germs’ which is impractical at best and deadly at worst.

We—or rather our millions-of-years-evolved physiology—do a reasonably good job of managing this stuff on average, as most people are reasonably healthy most of the time. Hacking those exceptions is what medicine is all about, and it's still a very inexact science, which is why we don't have very good treatments for things like cancer and mental illness. But even the strictly bacteriological can go wrong (not to mention stupidities like indiscriminate abuse of anti-biotics, which are becoming ever less effective as a result.)

It was more than a bit shocking to read about how those good-for-you live cultures in yoghurt proved fatal when administered in hospital to some folks with compromised immune systems. (Talk about weeds being plants in the wrong place...!) In fact, if you've ever wondered why roughage is so good for you, it's (at least partially) because you don't really want your gut bacteria leaking into the rest of your body cavity, and one way the body protects itself from escapees is by lining gastro-intestinal tube with mucus; alas, if there isn't enough roughage for the gut flora to eat, they start eating the mucus, which causes holes. Whoops!

Anyway, it's an engaging book, and I recommend it. (If this recce seems lukewarm, that's on me—I tend to prefer books with a deeper dive on a slightly narrower topic, such as Danielle Whittaker's splendid (& under-rated) The Secret Perfume of Birds: Uncovering the Science of Avian Scent (which I need to re-read and review for real) or Richard Prum's The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World – and Us).

In other horrifying news my spouse was telling me about some sporulating soil bacterium that survives the typical rice preparation; it evidently takes awhile to grow, so it passes through the gut (as harmless spores) if you eat the rice right away, but left out, grows and produces toxins that persist even reheating kills the bacteria. Joy. I didn't know about this. —Also why you need to keep your flour dry, I guess (spores need warmth and water).

And on that cheery note, we're back to zebras.