Monday, December 10, 2007
Lou is going to stop mocking Loueyvillagers sense of what's "not safe" right now for fear of jinxing herself. It would be just her luck to walk out of work in her VERY SAFE neighborhood and get mowed down in a drive-by.
But at least now we have proof that Louisville is indeed safe. The 8th safest city of over 500,000 people. We should make a bigger deal out of it. I think it's interesting to note that most of the top 10 cities are located in places where the weather is so nice that people have better things to do than behave like criminals: Honolulu is #1. Duh. If you live in Honolulu, why risk going to jail where you have to be inside all the time? San Jose, CA; San Diego, CA; San Antonio, TX; Austin, TX. I'd rather live in Alaska than ever live in California or Texas, but I have to admit that if I HAD to live in CA or TX, those would be the four cities I'd move to (under duress). Fort Worth... not so much.
Anyway #8. Right on, Loueyville!!
Sunday, December 2, 2007
First stop: The Mellwood Center's Good Folk Fest. It wasn't til I walked in the door that I realized I'd gone to the GFF last year. I'm a big fan of folk art-- and an occasional folk-artist wannabe (my trip ended with a trip to Artist & Craftsman Supply to refresh my supply of brushes and paint)-- but the problem with folk-art-as-gifts is that folk art is so incredibly subjective. What's cool to me (for example, a seemingly finger-painted and incredibly timely painting of Evel Kneivel jumping a tank of sharks) may not be the taste of my Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn lovinng cousin. That being said, there's a great deal of satisfaction to be had in buying at the GFF. I bought a lovely painted wooden box for a whopping $20, and from the reaction of the artist, you would have thought I was dropping $2000. I just wanted to hug her.
Stop two: I always get turned around leaving the Mellwood, and this time I found myself driving up Brownsboro Road, right past Barbara Lee's Kitchen-- a restaurant that my students have been imploring me to visit for the past few months (somehow it came up that I love diners). And bless their cholesterol-clogged little hearts, but they sure did deliver for me. Barbara Lee's, located at 2410 Brownsboro Road, is open 24 hrs and features just about every diner-staple imaginable. And some unimaginable dishes too. I had a BLT & fried egg sandwich with hashbrowns, and I am a wee bit surprised that I am still alive to type this. But man, it was yummy and cheap-- my whole bill came to less than $7 (they take cash only). Barbara Lee's is a little dark and creepy, and certainly rough around the edges, but what can you expect from a place that has at least five sandwiches on the menu that cost under $4 including fries or hashbrowns? Dark and creepy, yes. Unwelcoming? No. After an elderly couple left five minutes after I got there, I was alone in the joint and the sweet woman behind the counter chatted UK Basketball with me (which I know nothing about and I briefly incurred her wrath when I brought up Tubby Smith. I managed to distract her by talking about the weather.)
Fortfied by my meal-- my friend behind the counter eagle-eyed me until I finished every bite, she looked like she might be the kind to chastise me for not joining the "clean plate club"-- I hopped in the ol' jalopy and decided to go wherever the road would take me. It's been a blue eon since I drove around town for the sake of just driving. And eventually the road lead to the east side of Downtown. That morning I'd read in the newspaper something about the store Scout-- I can't remember what, but I've always liked their logo (I can be such a whore for marketing)-- so I decided to try to hunt it down.
But on the first pass down Market Street, I missed it (or I thought I did-- I actually didn't go far enough), but ended up stopping at Red Tree, which, for some reason, I'd always thought was a restaurant. When it comes to Christmas shopping locally, I always end up spending my hard-earned cash at places with serious charm-- a little flair goes a long way toward putting me in the holiday spirit. Red Tree has charm in spades. Jam-packed with eclectic gifts and furniture, the two-story shop features reasonable-prices in a beautiful and festive atmosphere. I picked up three gifts for three of my hardest-to-shop for relatives for under $70. And the sweet people at Red Tree even wrapped them for me (unfortunately, I realized when I got home that I would probably have to un-wrap them for plane travel-- damned TSA folks).
I eventually did find Scout, which was also oozing with charm and quirk. Unfortunately, try as I might, I couldn't find a damned thing there that I could afford. I'll go back, for sure, but as with some of my favorite shops on Bardstown, I think Scout will remain a browse-only option in the future.
Speaking of Bardstown-- last night was Bardstown Road Aglow! the annual dusk-10pm holiday open house. And this year's Aglow was twice as packed as last year's. I actually had to skip a few shops because of the crowd. These open houses are always a blast, usually featuring free food and wine and sometimes discounts. (Although this year seemed to feature less wine and fewer discounts than last year-- Kudos to Spree who offered hot cocoa with peppermint schnaps; that really warmed the cockles). Why Louisville? and the Book & Music Exchange saw a little of my holiday green, but for the most part I just walked, enjoyed the sights, and browsed. (Note to self: don't wear those high-heeled boots next year, you're still recovering today!)
Friday, November 23, 2007
That being said, I'm hardly the "dirty hippy" that Roommate claims I am. It's still been too long since my last trip to Disney World. I think Martha Stewart has just about perfect taste. I have "consumption crushes" of my own: sigh... Roomba... some day, you will be mine... oh yes, you will be mine!!
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Once upon a time, ages ago, I had a boyfriend who liked to cook. This was lo those many years ago when I was in high school. David was a pro in the kitchen, even when he was fourteen or fifteen, but his true calling was dessert. All of his recipes are lost to me now (Vinegar candy??? PLEASE, someone enlighten me? So far, the web has been of no use! It involved snow, which we have in KY on occasion.), except one.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
A pretty blonde in a bikini and stilletto heels steps over the ropes and enters the ring. She circles slowly, holding over her head a white sign reading "ROUND..."
...Who knows what round this is at this point, huh?
Last night (11/19) the Original Highlands Neighborhood Association (OHNA) held its November meeting and elections for six of the twelve Board of Directors. Roommate came with me this time; I was glad to have a witness. A full three-quarters of the meeting progressed with civility and sanity. Impressive.
The elections appeared to go off without a hitch. There were 9 candidates for the 6 open seats. Each stood up and spoke for 15-30 seconds about how much they loved their neighborhood and wanted to serve for the greater good. They seemed to come from all walks of life, all segments of our fairly diverse neighborhood. I engaged in the process, did my best to make democracy work for me. But to tell the truth, the process felt palpably inauthentic.
Let's face it, folks. For Lord only knows how long this neighborhood-- or at least the OHNA-- has been a hotbed of controversy surrounding one issue and one issue only: the Historic Preservation District. Only ONE of the nine candidates said anything about his or her position on the issue, and he was not elected to fill an open seat. One of the ringleaders of the anti-district movement ran but kept his mouth shut about the issue. Unless you knew he'd been one of the most-- if not the most-- aggressive campaigners on his side of the issue, he would have just come off as another concerned citizen/business owner. I applaud the man who came straight out and declared his horse in this race. At least he was giving us fair warning: a vote for him was a vote for a voice of anti-district on the Board. The rest of them... who knows???
Both the candidates and the OHNA are at fault for this. Yes, it was a democratic election. But would we stand for a government election where we were just given names and bios for the candidates? The election came down to who seemed the most likeable, who had a job that you admired, who gave you a good vibe. I suppose every one of us should take some of the blame-- somebody should have stood up at the meeting and said it was impossible to make an "informed" vote without information. Maybe it should have been me. Mea culpa, too.
The poo hit the windmill when the litter tzar of the neighborhood stood up and gave some details about clean-ups and then implored the incoming Board to review the OHNA Neighborhood Plan. He said, basically, that it was an important document with specific suggestions and that they should look into starting to implementing those suggestions ASAP.
Commence to poo-flinging.
Who drew up this document? It was done in secret! It's a farce! (repeat this last sentence at least ten times) Who is this 'they' of which you speak? Who paid for it? Where did the money come from? Don't you claim to represent the community!... be quiet... sit down.. closed doors... mismanaged... no one wants this... elite minority... the black helicopters are coming for all of us...
Okay, I made up that last little bit. This time, both sides threw the poo. And it wasn't quite as bad as August's meeting. But I left rattled. Call me sensitive, but the level of hostility shown by those who oppose the plan is just plain discomforting.
Keep in mind: this is different from the Historic Preservation District; this is a wide-sweeping plan for the neighborhood in general. I've read it. You should too. It's here.
Roommate said he left his first meeting feeling pretty hopeful about the neighborhood association, despite the outburst. He said that he felt as though the majority of the people were just shaking their heads in disbelief at the insanity. I felt less optimistic. I can't help but feel that we'll get nothing productive done as long as the inmates have such a presence in (and may now be in charge of-- who knows?) the asylum.
Here's a round-up of things that have been going on in Loueyville since last I wrote....
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Ghost Hunters-- the popular Sci-Fi network-- broadcasts LIVE for 6 hours tonight from Waverly Hills Sanitarium, just outside of Louisville in southwestern Jefferson County.
Waverly Hills, one of the leading tuberculosis centers in America in the 20th century, was the site of some 63,000 deaths.
This is the Ghost Hunters' second visit to Waverly Hills; I happened to catch the first episode before we moved to Loueyville. Spooky stuff, indeed. Ghosts aside, the Sanitarium is moderately dilapidated and cuts a huge and imposing figure in the middle of the woods. Inside, the building is mapped with "death corridors"-- slides through which bodies were transported to the morgue to avoid spreading the disease through the main halls.
According to the Courier-Journal, the Ghost Hunters, it was one of the top places that they've investigated.
Check out the Ghost Hunters Sci-Fi page here, and the actual Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) webpage here.
Personally, I'm hoping for a confirmed sighting... it would really put Louisville on the map with all the Coast-to-Coast with George Noory types. And that's exactly what we need to keep on keeping Louisville weird.
PS. Coast-to-Coast fans-- tonight is the annual "Ghost-to-Ghost" show withe former host Art Bell. Stay safe Art!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Legend has it that Axl Rose wrote the song Paradise City about Louisville. Whether that's true or not, you'd have to ask Axl.
In what can only be called a triumphant example of uber-procrastination, Lou just spent W-A-Y too long on the internet trying to get to the bottom of this rumor.
"Paradise City" was ranked #453 on Rolling Stones' list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and #21 on VH-1's Greatest Metal Songs of All Time.
Best that I can tell from the internets, Axl Rose, a Midwest boy from Lafayette, Indiana, has refrained from ever pegging down a true Paradise City. He's said that "the verses are more about being in the jungle; the chorus is like being back in the Midwest or somewhere." In my investigations, it's only been in the comments of websites like songfacts.com and answers.com that well meaning boosters of the city have set forth the idea that Paradise City is Loueyville.
On songfacts.com, Kelly from Louisville writes:
this great song is about louisville, kentucky... only tha greatest city on thisYes, our grass is green and, as far as I can tell, our girls are pretty and Loueyville is only four hours away from Lafayette, Indiana. But that's ALL the evidence that I can dig up on this urban legend.
damn planet. Axl was a sensible guy, apparently. I named my dog after him.
Still think the shirt is cute though! $17.
When the Red Sox won the Series in 2004, my four uncles went to my grandfather's grave the next day and adorned it with a commemorative T-shirt, cap, issue of the Boston Globe, and most memorably a note that just said: "They finally did it, Dad!"
By the way, Lou has been on vacation... sorry for the radio silence.
Monday, October 1, 2007
Gene Expression Changes Related to Endocrine Function and Decline in Reproduction in Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas) after Dietary Methylmercury Exposure
Just thought I'd share.
By the way, I was searching for the cover article of the current issue of Rolling Stone, called "Growing up Gonzo: Portrait of Hunter S. Thompson as a Young Man."
More on that to come...
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Saturday's Scene always has been the place for reviews of restaurants and music. Now we've also got the best fashions, housewares and bargains.
Friday, September 28, 2007
A few days ago, the crack TSA folks at Logan International Airport in Boston arrested at gunpoint a 19 year old MIT student for coming to the airport to pick up her boyfriend while wearing a t-shirt with a blinking computer panel on it. Note that she was not trying to get on a plane, just trying to pick up her man; she was, in fact, outside the terminal.
Star Simpson had come to the airport before school. She'd worn the shirt to show off her talents with circuitry because it was Career Day. On the back of the shirt it read: "Socket to Me" and "Course VI," MIT shorthand for the electrical engineering/comp sci combined major-- so basically her resume. She's an electronics expert, and she's even received a Congressional citation for her work in robotics. Did I mention that she is 19?
While she was standing outside the terminal, Simpson was approached by an armed trooper who was later joined by another trooper armed with a submachine gun. State Police Major Scott Pare, the airport's commanding officer said after she was arrested, "She’s lucky to be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."
In response to folks who insisted that the troopers did the right thing and that we should all feel lucky to have these hyper-vigilant security guys on the public payroll, Will Femia says in his Clicked column: "I might feel luckier if I thought they had the ability to recognize an actual bomb and not just freak out over everything that looks like a red wire/blue wire suspense scene from a Die Hard movie. God forbid another Shoey Shoebomber strolls through while everyone is dazzled by blinking lights."
In Loueyville news, Roommate has returned from nearly three weeks away and on Monday I helped him take back his rental car to the Louisville International Airport (SDF). I told him I'd wait in the passenger pick-up area (too cheap to pay the $1 parking fee), and if the security dudes came by and asked me to move on, I'd just keep "making the loop" until Roommate was ready.
Venerable Old Jalopy has been giving me some headaches lately. And while I idled in park right outside of baggage claim, Jalopy decided to act up. When Roommate finally showed up after 15 minutes or so (no security telling me to move on), I went to slip the shift into drive... and couldn't. He started up just fine, but no budging the shift from park.
Start it up-- mash the break-- try to shift. Nope. Over and over.
After some time, Roommate reasoned that if he disconnected the battery, the car may "reset" and forget that it hated me. So as I'm making phone calls to various VW help lines, Roommate is using my big Roadside Assistance Tool Kit to fiddle around with wires and plugs under the hood.
Finally, after three different calls to three different Volkswagen entities, a kind woman at the roadside assistance center informed me that, essentially, Jalopy has a “cheat code” to bypass whatever weird virus is causing his refusal to shift out of park. (Why is my car like an xBox game??) After two tries, Jalopy concedes, and we hit the road around an hour or so after I’d arrived at SDF.
I’m not complaining, necessarily; in my fragile, annoyed, and panicky state the last thing I needed was to be harassed by the Airport Fuzz. At Louis Armstrong International in New Orleans, even before 9/11, if you so much as shifted your car into park while you were waiting for an arriving passenger, you’d be visited by airport security and treated to a rap on the window and the admonition to “move along.”
A Louisville International? Bupkus.
Should it concern me that in the hour or so that the Jalopy vs. Lou & Roommate war raged on in the arrivals lane, a casual observer would have noted:
- A visibly disturbed woman behaving erratically.
- Aforementioned visibly disturbed woman speaking with animated frustration on her cell phone.
- The accomplice to the woman removing a black box from the trunk of the car; a box, that when opened, revealed a tangle of wires and tools.
- The accomplice tinkering around under the hood of the car and sparks flying on one occasion.
Methinks yes. It should concern me.
For all you VW Bug drivers, the cheat code is: Press the break 5 times, and on the fifth time hold it down. Turn the key ¼ turn and drag the gear shift to some phantom place between Neutral and Drive (this is hard to do). Then turn the key all the way and shift immediately into Drive. It works. It’s just hard.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
So I would like to extend a big, enthusiastic, Loueyville YOU GO GIRL! to Tamara Ikenberg of the Courier-Journal who was, according to this MSNBC.com article singled out for derision by O'Reilly for reporting on his recent bout with foot-in-mouth. I don't think he mentioned her by name (next time, Tamara! it's good to have goals!!), but he did mention the "Louisville Journal" as one of the many media outlets that have slandered him. Apparently everyone has taken out of context his words about the surprisingly good table manners and lack of "craziness" of the black guests at Sylvia's restaurant in NYC.
For the context, visit Media Matters (whom O'Reilly has likened to the Ku Klux Klan-- that's so cool!).
He's kinda funny looking, but he can hang in my area code whenever he wants.
Shop WhyLouisville's Brody Bargain Sale where you can get the 502-fleur de lis shirt for just $10 bucks! What a bargain! The store is located at 1609 1/2 Bardstown Road.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
In the introduction, it's mentioned that Kaku has been recently named one of the 100 smartest people in NYC. When he starts to speak, he says that Madonna is also on the list, so we shouldn't be too impressed.
When Kaku, who looks like a cross between Mr. Miyagi and a lion, took the stage for his sold-out speech, called "Parallel Worlds, Higher Dimensions, Time Warps, and More," Kaku, a theoretical physicist from the City University of New York, was greeted like a rock star. And he handled the crowd like a seasoned politician, preceding his remarks with a joke and sprinkling jokes and one-liners throughout. To paraphrase his first joke:
A theoretical physicist, a priest, and a lawyer are set to be executed by
guillotine. The priest is first. He's asked for his last words and he says that
faith will save him, and sure enough the guillotine falls and it stops just
inches from his neck. The crowd is amazed and he is set free. The lawyer is next
and his last words are "Justice will have Her way!" And again, the guillotine
stops just inches from his neck, and he's set free. The theoretical physicist
takes his place on the guillotine and says, "You know, the rope is hung up on
that pulley over there..."
When Kaku was a teenager, he built an atom-smasher in his garage whose magnetic pull was strong enough to pull out the fillings of anyone nearby. I have no idea what that means, but it's frigging impressive. Next year, an atom smasher with a 27km circumference will be activated just outside of Geneva. According to Kaku, this atom smasher will be so powerful that it will give us further insight into the Big Bang, and be able to, somehow create what he calls "tiny universes."
Kaku is a devotee of string theory and the idea that there are many more dimensions than we perceive in our lives on earth. He compared our lives to the lives of carp in a pond. They perceive forward and backward and left and right, but they only understand "up" to a certain point-- pull a carp UP out of the water and he is seeing the world from a dimension that was unimaginable to him while he was IN the water.
Picasso and Dali painted using the fourth dimension as a mode. Picasso's portraits relayed all dimensions of a person at once-- which is why said portraits look hopelessly messy to us; he tried to convey the idea of seeing all dimensions simultaneously. Dali, an endlessly more "realistic" painter than Picasso, still allowed for the dimension of "time" to be present in his artwork. The melting clocks. His hyper-cube Crucifixions.
He talked about Civilizations and how we are a type 0 civilization that is moving toward being a type I. Type 0 refers to a civilization that controls the power of particular geo-political regions. Type I controls the power of an entire planet. Type II controls the power of an entire star (solar system, I guess?). Type III controls the power of an entire galaxy. We are moving from 0 to I though the ubiquitousness of the internet, the burgeoning prevalence of English as a language, and the sway that Western culture has over the world. (I'm not sure I buy that... but whatever). Kaku says that earth will be a type I civilization in 100 years.
Kaku also discussed how all this science parlays quite nicely into spirituality. String theory suggests a beginning-- as in Genesis-- but also a timelessness-- as in the Buddhist belief in Nirvana.
Our civilization is threatened by both global warming and the death of the sun-- both problems could be solved by finding a wormhole that would allow us to pass from one plane to another. Like Alice in Wonderland, he said, a novel that dealt with bendy time and space.
For more information visit his website.
Friday, September 21, 2007
For those of you who haven't been paying attention to the comments on the blog, there's a raging debate about my OHNA entries going on.
This is entry #1.
This is entry #2.
I started to post the following in the "comments" section, but I changed my mind and decided to make it an independent post.
The picture at the left is a photo of my grandparents' home in Connecticut. My grandfather died a few years ago and my grandmother died a little more than a year ago. My mom and her sister inherited the house, and despite my passionate protests and very vocal expressions of heartbreak, they're selling it. This is relevant to the post, I promise.
Anyway, for those of you who have been keeping track, I am in favor of the Highlands neighborhood pursuing a historic district designation. Those who oppose the historic district designation have-- at least on this blog-- contended that those who favor the designation just don't understand the issue.
I feel like I understand the issue. I may be a newcomer to this particular debate, but I have personal experience with historic neighborhoods. Here was the comment-- a response to an anonymous commenter-- that I was going to make and decided to turn into a traditional blog entry.
Lordy. Can't we all just accept that there are two sides to this issue? And the two sides are not people who have the RIGHT idea and people who don't know what they're talking about?
Anon, since the beginning I have accepted the fact that you've done your research and come to Conclusion X. Please accept that I have ALSO done my research and come to Conclusion Y. I don't need to be "converted." I just want the Xs and Ys to come to a democratic solution where majority-- a REAL majority, a measured and CONCLUSIVE majority- makes the decision.
I do not have "ignorance of fact." I've read the same documents that you have; I just came to a different conclusion. A preservation district suits my own personal interests and fits in with my greater understanding of community. As I mentioned in one post or another, I am willing to abide by certain provisos. I don't see this as "sacrificing rights." I see this as agreeing to enter into a pact with my neighbors to preserve this beautiful, historic neighborhood.
I grew up in such a place. There was a neighborhood in my hometown where 90% of the homes were built in the 1600s and 1700s. It is, indeed, like visiting a museum. The preservation of these homes was for the public benefit (so few places left you can see true colonial architecture), but also to the benefit of the homeowners (property values are obscene). In this neighborhood, there are only a dozen or so "approved" exterior paint colors. You can't add onto a home unless the addition cannot be viewed from the road or the ocean. By car or by boat, a visitor to the town was supposed to "see" the historic footprint of the village. If a homeowner wishes to buck these provisos, it is a very long, very complicated, and very unforgiving appeal process.
In contrast, in the same town but a different neighborhood, my grandparents owned a house that once was also historic (although late 1800's and early 1900's architecture). They bought their home in the 70's and since then the homes around them have been bought by NY and NJ "summer residents" who have torn down the adorable cottages and rebuilt hideous (in my opinion) modern monstrosities. My grandparents are now dead and my family has put the cottage on the market and they are desperate to find a buyer who won't level the home and build a McMansion. And, frankly, it's just not going to happen. It will be sold (in fact, it's in negotiations as I write) and be torn down and a new home will be erected in its place. And a piece of history will be forever lost.
So, I GET this issue. And I get that you, Anon, claim to get this. You've read the same things that I've read and you've just decided that restrictions placed upon historically designated areas don't suit you and your lifestyle. That your plans for your home and your neighborhood do not match mine. Fine. I'm not going to tell you that if you talk to me or to Mr. Riddick that either of us will be able to bring you over to our side of the issue.
Listen, the Highlands ain't a colonial whaling village or my grandparents' summer cottage neighborhood, but the homes here are precious, beautiful, and unique-- I'm appalled that anyone would say that a historic home, however ratty, should be torn down and not rehabilitated. That's just my own experience and my own priorities. But can we just agree to disagree and move forward knowing that there are two equally educated and equally heartfelt positions? Maybe never the twain shall meet...
But that's okay.
Anyway, seeing as though there is nothing I can do to stop the sale of my grandparents' home-- 3 br, 1.5 bath, one block from Long Island Sound, water views from the porch-- drop me an email if you're interested in purchasing it. So far, three buyers have already fallen through. But don't you dare email me if you're planning to tear down this sweet little house to build a goliath. This is the home where I first learned to read. This is the home where my dying father had his last vacation. This is the home that my grandparents retired too-- their dream home. This is the home where I spent my summers fishing for crabs all day and reading all night. This is the home where both of my grandparents spent their last days.
Because the neighborhood has become one of elite summer homes and rental properties, this home's empirical history has no value in the real estate market anymore. This devaluation could have been halted had the neighborhood protected itself years ago. Now the house is just a plot of land with a disposable cottage. But not to me.
My 101 year old Louisville home is not disposable. It is a concrete representation of the history of this remarkable city. I have no emotional history in this place, like I do in my grandparents' home, but I sure intended to make my own history here.
As a result, it looks like poo.
Sorry, folks. I think this is going to be an omlette situation. Going to have to break the egg and start from scratch. (That was a very poor metaphor-- it's Friday. Forgive.)
If any of you fair readers know of good (free) web design programs that don't require a knowledge of HTML, let me know. I'd say that my web design program was a piece of crap, if I didn't have a sneaking suspicion that the piece of crap may be me.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
McLurkin's speech was entitled: "Dances with Robots-- The Story of one Engineer, 112 Little Robots, and the Toys, Insects, and Star Wars Movies that Made it all Possible."
First of all, the man worked at iRobot for years, the people who invented the Roomba-- a machine I've become obsessed with and yet do not own. I just can't fathom spending $200+ (I really want the Scooba because of my plethora of hardwood floors) on something that I'm just too plain lazy to do... but holy cow, if I ever win the lottery...
Anyway, back to the event: McLurkin works on distributive algorithms for swarm robots. In pedestrian terms, that means that he teaches a bunch of robots to work together to solve problems. An article in our local Velocity Weekly about McLurkin gave me a heads up on his research. He explained one of the practical applications of studying robot swarms as follows, using robot swarms to help with post-earthquake rescue missions:
that's a job that humans are either too big or too weak to perform. So (we could
have) a bunch of cockroach-sized robots that can look for signs of life and then
relay their findings to maybe rat-sized robots. They would analyze the structure
and figure out the right way to remove the debris, and then they relay their
instructions to a bunch of brontosaurus-sized robots who would then do the hard
work and heavy lifting.
During his presentation, he gave two small-scale exhibitions of what a couple dozen mini-robots could do. Programs that made them follow the leader compelled the mini-robots to sing "Hi-ho-hi-ho It's Off to Work we Go;" those that made them disperse across a plane called for them to sing "Into the Wild Blue Yonder." These tiny, stapler-sized robots had not just a command of obedience, but also, dare I say personality (albeit McLurkin's?). At the end of the presentation, they aligned in groups to perform a melodic and accurate marching band rendition of the Star Wars theme song.
McLurkin cited bees and ants (he has a huge ant farm at home) as inspiring his research into distributed algorithms. Essentiallly it is the act of dividing a big math/physics/science problem among a huge group of problem-solvers. It's hard to program one robot, he said, but he's facing the challenge of programming hundreds if not thousands of robots. Robot swarm technology could be the future of planetary exploration or even nano-bio technology.
My photos of his demonstration came out badly. So I went to his website to grab a photo. He showed this photo during his presentation saying: "Like all good engineers I was hatched from a cardboard box." It made me laugh. Ahhh Geek humor
It’s worth noting that, bored, two nights before Karen Walker’s event, I watched the last two episodes of last year’s “America’s Top Model” back-to-back. I’d never seen it before. Actually, I watched the first episode and during the second episode when my favorite, Renee was disqualified for looking “too old,” (SERIOUSLY? She’s 20 years old!! She can’t even drink!! Yes, she’s a mom, but holy cow…) I let TiVo do its thing and only watched to see who won (thank goodness it wasn’t Natasha—what did they see in her? Jaslene was a godawful choice too—if she weighed 90 lbs, I’d be surprised, but she was better than the plastic-y Natasha).
I bring this up because after Karen Walker’s talk was over, a journalist who works for Wired Magazine asked her about the growing sentiment in the fashion world that runway models shouldn’t be too thin. And she totally flubbed the answer. I was nuts about her until she was forced to face that issue and the best that she could come up with was: “we hire models that make the clothes look good.” I thought it was a daring question—frankly one of the best audience questions I heard during the Idea Festival (where many questions were posed by people who’d clearly not been listening or by folks who had agendas). During her speech, a montage of her fashion shows played on screens behind her, and what made me nuts about her was the fact that she designed clothes that even I would be interested in wearing. But those clothes that I—short and less-than-svelte—could wear were on decidedly scrawny girls.
Karen Walker got her start eighteen years ago with $70 by designing a shirt and consigning it at a local boutique in New Zealand. Now she’s showing her collections at NY’s Fashion Week and at Fashion Weeks in London and Paris and Milan. She has a line of eyewear, jewelry, paint colors, and a lifestyle line. And her speech focused on the Karen Walker brand, and how despite the volatile nature of the fashion industry, she’s managed to build her brand and stay true to her vision. She was, in short, (and despite my feelings about her lack of answer to the model question) an ideal model for any entrepreneur.
Her speech outlined, basically, her secrets to success. The eight points were:
- Embrace volatility. Diversify; build your brand so it represents more than one thing, but don’t dilute your brand by offering it up to sub-quality knockoffs. In the 80’s and 90’s Gucci licensed its name to more than 200 different vendors and designers and lost control of its image. Brand-building is all about control.
- Ignore the rules; try not to learn them in the first place. She cited the NZ slang term “number eight wire” as being critical for her creativity. The term refers to a type of fencing wire that was readily available in colonial NZ, when it was cut off from most of the world—a sort of duct-tape like wire that allowed New Zealanders to cobble together all sorts of thing McGuyver-like. Make do with what you have, she said. It never occurred to her that she should have a design degree, she said, or a business degree before starting a business. Just go with what you have.
- Everything Inspires. This is a quote from Paul Smith, a British designer. And to illustrate this idea, she showed a slideshow of the random things that had inspired her last ten collections—everything from the eyewear of dictators around the world to Alice in Wonderland to B-movies from the 50’s.
- Look for the scary stuff. All design should make you border-line uncomfortable.
- Know your style. Coupled with the “scary stuff” she said this meant knowing “the right amount of wrong.”
- Know your customers. Walker has never done market research. She said to cater to the “same singular voices in everything you do.” She calls her market “PLU”—“people like us.” Her designs have been worn by celebrities as diverse as Bjork, Madonna, and Claire Danes, and she says she doesn’t design for a market, but designs what she likes and people who are like her will like what she does.
- Surround yourself with people who support you. A few years ago, she approached the makers of 42 degrees below vodka to cosponsor an event; they liked her designs so much they put her on the board. It’s since been sold to Bacardi (I think) and the mutual love-fest propelled both their brands.
- Brand building is like building coral. It’s slow and tedious and over the short-term, it’s hard to see. But take a step back and the growth is very clear.
Loueyville SE: IdeaFestival 2007-- Thursday Night "Taste of Innovation" and "It Never Got Weird Enough for Me"
Leave it to me, however, to have preferred the booze to all else—Woodford Reserve’s Liquid Bourbon Ball was a drink that I will no doubt add to my repertoire—seems like a great winter drink. You can find the recipe here.
The silent auction quickly mounted beyond my price-range, but there were still good deals to be had if you had $500+.
The Hunter Thompson documentary “Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride” aired first on the Starz! Network and was part of the IF After Dark series in an event called “It Never Got Weird Enough for Me.” The movie, narrated by Nick Nolte, and all but stolen by Gary Busey in all his addled-wackiness, featured the highlights of Thompson’s life from his childhood in Louisville to his suicide at Owl Creek Ranch in 2005.
In September of 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, I stopped in my exile at a writer’s retreat in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The guest teacher was Tom Corcoran, the writer of the Alex Rutledge mysteries, and he’d just returned from Thompson’s memorial service which had been largely funded by Johnny Depp and during which Thompson’s ashes were blasted out of a two-thumb-fist-topped cannon. Tom’s stories of the event (scroll down to 9-8-05 “Flip Flop” entry) were a nice, brief diversion. I half expected to see him in the movie. I did not expect to see my staid, distinguished, bow-tie-wearing real estate agent (actually, the brother of my real estate agent who stood in for her at my closing) as one of Thompson’s childhood friends.
The University of Louisville is currently trying to get its hands on the Thompson archives. From what I understand, there’s been some double-dealing and weirdness associated with that acquisition, as highlighted by an audience member who directed a question at Thompson’s son, Juan, during the panel discussion. I’ll try to remember to look into that.
The panel featured Juan Thompson, the director Tom Thurman, the writer Tom Marksbury, and childhood friend Ralston Steenrod (not my real estate agent). The film was interesting enough for me to consider moving on to a Thompson read-fest after I finish my Harry Potter read-fest. The panel discussion wasn’t particularly illuminating, although it’s worth noting that Marksbury seemed a bit bitter that the Starz! Network tried to make the film “more about Johnny Depp and Sean Penn” than about Thompson
At the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, there’s that wonderful moment when, after witnessing the Whos’ selflessness and love in the face of adversity, the Grinch is reformed. And his little red heart grows and grows (three sizes) and finally bursts the cartoon x-ray screen.
This weekend my cartoon brain (symbolized by a lightbulb or maybe a complicated drawing of gears and bolts) exploded. Or perhaps I should phrase that in the passive voice: my cartoon brain was exploded by the 2007 Idea Festival, a three days of events here in Louisville featuring some of the Biggest Brains from all over the world.
I was like a little kid when I got the email from the Courier-Journal a week or so ago telling me that I’d won a drawing for a free all-access pass to the Idea Festival. I’d (surprise, surprise) put off getting tickets to the events, many of which were free, so long that most of them had sold out. Not to mention that the keynote event, a night with Ray Bradbury, was out of my price range at $75 a pop. I quickly emailed them back and said I wanted a ticket for every event on Saturday, and every event after school on Thursday and Friday. And then I spent the remaining days before the opening of Idea Festival in giggly, nerdy, woo-hoo anticipation of the Festival.
That Louisville is the host of this event (this is its second year in Louisville; it spent its three incarnations in Lexington) is extraordinary. You’d expect this kind of gathering of diverse, cutting-edge thinkers in a “world class” city like NYC, LA, or Chicago. The Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation (a 20 year old institution) nurtured this event and Idea Festival founder Chris Kimmel has grown the event so that this year there were more than 15,000 tickets sold. Most events took place at the Kentucky International Convention Center which looks like crap from the outside, but is well appointed inside.
This year’s title sponsors, the Geek Squad, were ubiquitous in their pocket-protectored, penguin-Beetle driving, cheeky “Agent #”-named glory. Karen Walker, New Zealand fashion designer focused her speech not on “The Meaning of Fashion,” as was advertised, but on the importance of “branding.” I tell you, Geek Squad has it down for their audience. Perhaps not the true techno-geeks, but the wanna-bes like me. (Nice to note that the web page homepage features a photo of a female geek. Seemed like there weren’t many She-Geeks in attendance. Geek Squad had a Geek Squad Beetle on display in the lobby of the convention center—wish I had a picture—and on it you were supposed to post sticky notes with your Big Ideas. I stopped myself from posting “Hire more Girl Geeks!”)
Before I get into individual events, my general thoughts:
- I wish it had been longer. I wish I had taken a day off to do all the Thursday or Friday events. I probably could have gotten a “professional day off” to do it. But come Saturday night, I was genuinely sad to not have any more Ideas to enjoy.
- IdeaFestival sponsored a Middle School Science show on Friday. I didn’t get to attend. I did see a total of six of my students at the Fest, but I wish more had taken advantage of it. Wouldn’t it be great to somehow get more kids involved? I might keep that in the back of my head for next year.
- Events like Ray Bradbury and Dan Gediman and Nicholas Kristoff (who I missed) did a great job opening up the event to Humanities folks; more should have been there. Even the most science-y presenters like Michio Kaku and James McLurkin made their far-out science understandable to the pedestrians.
- I wish I’d bought an Apple laptop when I had to buy a new laptop last summer. Again, it’s that stupid branding thing again, but there were so many anti-PC jokes among the presenters that I felt like a grandma. On a purely practical level (probably the ONLY practical level), my website would have made me happier—Apples web design tools are great. Sorry that the website has gone kablooey, by the way. I’m working on it. I just wanted to be one of the cool kids in on the “in jokes.” No doubt some of the Apple-centricity of the event was because Steve Wozniak was one of the guest speakers.
On to the individual events! (Note: it will probably take me a couple of days to post all of the events, so bear with me!)
Monday, September 10, 2007
Anyway, one of the comment-ers on my OHNA entry asked if I'd read the Historic Preservation Ordinance, and in fact I have. It's long. It's boring. It's full of legalese. But I urge everyone who has taken or is planning to take a position on the Ordinance to read it in its entirety here. This debate is too important and has gotten too ugly for people to blindly take sides without understanding the issue.
That being said, I hope readers who turned to the blog for the OHNA entry will read for the fun stuff too. Sure, every once in a while I lapse into "left wing kook" mode, but mostly I eschew politics in favor of exploring all the fantastic things this city has to offer, like cornhole, giant tomatoes, and BirdZerk!
Friday, September 7, 2007
Randal Myler and Dan Wheetman culled some thirty songs from the wealth of music
inspired and created by the Americans of Appalachia. Folk music, which includes
traditionals, blues and bluegrass, has been in renaissance in recent years
thanks to the success of movies like O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the release
of several compilations including “Kentucky Mountain Music.” Like most folk
music, every song in Fire on the Mountain tells three stories—the story in the
song, the story behind its creation and the story the performer wants to share.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Roommate lived in Knoxville for seven or eight years, so he knows football towns too. When we moved here last summer and football season started, we both thought it was so nice that Louisville seemed like a rare football town. A town where football stars and coaches take their place among the pantheon of local sports stars. A town where rooting for the football team appeared to be more of a matter of civic pride than single-minded obsession. And we partook of that civic pride with gusto, cheering the Cardinals on to the Orange Bowl enthusiastically.
Or maybe, last season, fresh to the city, we were all too willing to overlook the signs of hysteria. This season, though, with the newness of our new home somewhat rubbed off, Louisville fandom (to me, I can't speak for Roommate) seems to have drunk some serious Kool-aid.
Despite the fact that 90% of my blog entries are seriously biased, I felt obliged to label this an editorial because I know what I am about to say is the product of my current pouty, pissy mood. Abandon all hope, ye who read further... you're about to enter the realm of Lou's hypocritical, poor loser, bitchiness...
Roommate left yesterday for a business trip preceded by a camping vacation in the wilds of Connecticut (there be wilds in Connecticut?), so I thought what better way to celebrate my home-aloneness than to watch the NFL kickoff Saints vs. Colts game in the social comfort of one of our local drinking establishments? Roommate is a Colts fan and I, of course, am a Saints fan; in our 5+ years as companions, we've always enjoyed a good row during these games.
So I set off on the circuit of my favorite local bars and found not one, not two, but the first three bars I stopped at had every TV turned to the Louisville Cardinals game. At the second place I stopped at, the bar I have probably clocked the most hours at since coming to this city, I asked the bartender-- who knows me-- if she couldn't possibly turn the tiny TV in the corner to the Saints game. And she said, "Sorry honey, all the TVs work off the same box"-- which is totally not true. As I said, I've been in there a blue million times...
The 4th bar I stopped at-- Buffalo Wild Wings on Bardstown-- has a TV for every three patrons, and yet the Saints vs Colts game was only on one-- a tiny TV in the corner. Seemed good enough for me until I realized that I was hooting and hollering when the rest of the bar was silent.
It seems relevant to mention the fact that the Cardinals were playing an unranked team, and at half time were only up by three... a pretty abysmal showing. And despite the fact that they're working under a new coach (popularly dubbed "Coach K," much to the disgust of my Roommate who asserts that there is only one Coach K in college athletics-- and in his defense, can we seriously not pronounce the name Kragthorpe??), local sports pontificators are balls-afire about the fact that we could go "all the way." Sure they beat Middle Tennessee by 16 in a 58-42 game, but is giving up 42 points the mark of a team that could go "all the way"?
As I said, these are the teary, beery, sour grapes opinions of a woman whose team just lost by 31 points. But do all these college fans put their NFL allegiances aside, especially those to a team from just a little over 100 miles away, until Cardinal season is over? They didn't seem to last year.
To the credit of the Louisvillagers, as I made my way from bar to bar, wearing my Saints baseball cap, I was stopped THREE times and told: "Go Saints! America's Team!" America's team? Really? Once, I could have understood, but three times? When I was a kid the Cowboys were America's team. Who were America's team between the two? Hey, I'm not complaining, especially because America's team just lost by 31 points. Small victories.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Saturday, August 25, 2007
This exciting and prestigious event, held annually in conjunction with the
Kentucky State Fair, crowns world champion Saddlebreds in different divisions
each year. The show attracts people from all across the country and the world
including more than 2,000 horses competing for over $1 million in awards.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
If we hit 100 tomorrow, that will make six 100+ degree days during a single month, which would tie a record set in 1936. And we'd still have a week left.
As I switched the laundry and unloaded the dishwasher, I spent around 15 minutes listening to our local NPR station-- an interview with our mayor, Jerry Abramson. Is it just me, or am I truly jaded at this point? But do any of you get the cold sweats whenever you start to dwell on a politician that you think is a really good person? I know, I'm from New Orleans; I can't be expected to take my local politicians at face value...
He made jokes about the heat. Promised that in a week or ten days we'd be free from the misery-- if his office had anything to say about it. Also clarified that the heat-related death that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry might not have been as heat-related as the media set forth. Talked about the new arena plans and suggested that he was not 100% on board with the design-- he's hoping for a public ice-skating rink and reflection pool in the plaza. Also talked about his visit to NYC, and how effective it was when it came to recruiting potential business to the city. Frankly, his visit sounded much more productive than any of the visits that the NOLA mayor Nagin had in the months following Katrina.
I just liked the guy. And that, in and of itself made me feel very... uncomfortable.