Tuesday, October 23, 2007

+ + (double ten)

What does a country that isn't recognized as a country do? Perhaps you are a small island and you were kicked out of the United Nations (with the help of the US) and although you are diplomatic to say the least, no one lets you have a consulate or embassy, so instead you have "Taipei Economic & Cultural Representative Offices." You can't even use the name of your country in the title, because that implies too much! So let's just use the name of the capital city and keep things simple (for now?)

Yes, Taiwan has to walk on eggshells, but at least they took possession of Double Ten Day (October 10th, or in chinese " + + " ) celebrating back in 1911 when Sun Yat Sen worked to establish the People's Republic of China - when the two Chinas were one China, and things were simpler. Chinatown in Chicago had the requisite Taiwanese flags being handed out as party favors fro the parade.

And writing about 10-10 on 10-23? yes well, things get busy. But the dragon dancers were great, the air was just right, everyone seemed pleased about the Middle Kingdom as a modern sort of nation-state. Now that there are two Chinas though, things continue to feel complicated. Perhaps each China should just get one of the Ten's (+), that way they could each claim to have the "Perfect Ten" day, or the more perfect one. or whatever.

The MC for this event was the same as for Chinese New Year parade two years ago, during the Year of the Dog. He was just as rousing and just as strange as last time, like a middle-school principal + soccer coach with almost too much enthusiasm for the crowd, and so in that way kind of the perfect MC.

My father's family is Taiwanese. Of the various kinds of Taiwanese, which one? After all, there are the indigenous people of the island, then the chinese of Fujianese descent who have been there a number of hundreds of years, and then those who came over with Chiang Kai -Shek in 1950, fleeing the Mainland after being defeated by the communists (and the Portuguese and Dutch and the Japanese and and ...and all that too, but that is a whole 'nother thing). Our family is of the second category, and overall has always seemed to feel pretty intent about Taiwan being its own thing, its own place, and I'd agree that would seem pretty ideal.

But really, politics aside, what Ten-Ten celebration would be complete without the Illinois Secretary of State's Tumbling Team? Yes, the
Jesse White Tumbler's were there too, and I have to say, the performance was freaking amazing. Gymnastics is one thing, but doing it over asphalt, and a parade moves along in the middle of crowded city streets is another all together. These kids could FLY. I lost count of how many times some of them spun around. Here is video clip taken above the head of the people in front of my. You can't see the Honorable Jesse White, but that is because he is standing below the tumblers, which are using him as an obstacle to clear.

I loved this year's Ten Ten. To all the Chinas out there, let's be happy you are (some sort of) republic.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Quantifiably Laughing

Technology is the Cutting Edge. There is no doubt about it, we are in the midst of a revolution, as this item taken from the September 7th , 2007 edition ofthe Chicago Shimpo, the city's Japanese community paper reported on.

Apparently this company has perfected -to percentile accuracy- the degree of your smile, as the screen shot below shows (that lady has a "100%" smile! On the other hand the fellow is only clocking in at a 32% smile - hmm, perhaps he woke up on the wrong side of bed?

Omron says that this device can "help take a picture of your best smile, and can also check your smile if you work in the service industry." No sense leaving something this importance to your intuition nor experience folks, not when science has the numbers to back it all up!

One thing that strikes me as odd is that "laughing" and smiling" seem to be used synonymously here - but really is anything as benign as a smile behind every laugh, or vice versa? Laughing at your clients might not got you the commission nor the date you were hoping for...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Addendum to "Up close and personal"

Of course and naturally, there is no way to get more up-close with anything than actually eating it. As for insects, Margaret trumped everyone else this week. Pictured here at Chciago 's best Thai place, Sticky Rice, she is partaking of a fluffy and tasty example of Khai jiaw Khai Mod, or ant larvae omelet.

A Northern Thai specialty we ended up all enjoying quite a bit
, it was like having white-colored capers in you omelet. With a little hot chili sauce on top, it is a nice flavor sensation!

Entomophagy is not so popular in North America, but perhaps this lovely formicine dish may light the fire under the feet of the haute cuisine world? If nothing else, it would certainly would make a lot of ecological sense. Are praying mantises as "spicy" as they look? Do ladybugs taste like Tic-Tacs? there is a way to find out...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Up close and personal

Lately I have been spending quality time with bugs. It's autumn and the season is such for Sundays walking in the tall grass, in hopes of catching (literally and figuratively) some of what's left of the insects, before it whole show shuts down for about 5 months.

Me and my entomology class - as well as associate enthusiasts - have been enjoying getting up close and personal with the insects. This includes:

1 -gently cajoling them into containers so not to damage their delicate wings,

2- avoiding the business end of the bigger wasps how who love to sting you in return for their captivity,

3- marveling at their colorful colors and shapely shapes, like alien brocades that move as micro-machines

4- and of course being bitten by mosquitoes.

Being this physically engaged with wild animals is actually pretty rare for most of us, and in the moment, as small as the critter is, it is amazing nevertheless. Birds at the feeder or squirrels in our trash - sure - but in so many ways they are almost domesticated, aren't they? Sure Jon in the photo here is Playing It Up the moment as Christa takes his picture - but how funny it is that he has almost the the exact same expression later in a surreptitiously taken photo of him as we gazes at a wasp he caught. Making contact matters. It isn't the same thing as going to the zoo or petting your cat.

That said, I was taken aback by a photo I recently saw on Reuters website, right below.

It isn't drowning, no. Nor is it a mannequin turned upside down from a shop in a Midwest town during recent flooding. Rather it is a man "noodling."

Let me translate this for you: a person is diving under the murky waters of the river to stick their hand in a submerged log and wiggling their fingers in hopes that a catfish will swallow it. (Or some small variation on this). Once they've swalloed your arm, you've got yourself a meal, with no reel hook or line necessary.

How intense is that?? And just how big would these fish have to be for them to swallow your hand. I fished for catfish - or "hornpout" - all through my childhood in a small pond by my house, but those creatures were about one foot long at most. These catfish on the other hand, are a whole other magnitude of thing altogether. Some photos of this fish caught by this technique tell the story just plain, fine and clear:

Right. so...right. That is just what it is. Naturally YouTube has a videos of this phenomenon.

This video is particularly surreal, but the end moment justifies the wait.

On a related kind of sort of note, the worlds tallest man, a Mr. Xishun Bao (7'9") made news last year for doing something remarkable, and tangentially related to his tallness. He saved a dolphins life by reaching his uber-long one meter (3 foot) arm down its throat into its stomach to pull out some plastic shards making the dolphin ill. Who at China's
Fushun Aquarium came up with this idea? Had they ever been noodling? Of course, you need to see the video of this too.

Granted, and please readers be clear - DOLPHINS ARE NOT FISH. Nevertheless it is hard not to make the connection.

No insect my students are wrassling these days* are big enough to swallow a limb, and for this semester I'd prefer to keep it that way.

*If we were collecting back in the Carboniferous period 300 million yers ago, they story might be different.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


I don't know how you might even pronounce their name, and am not sure how exactly I came across them recently, but OOIOO makes some really wonderful music+image casseroles.

From their song Uma

also Umo

and too Grow Sound Tree

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Image Naivete"

Tired of being so naive? Perhaps reveling in your naivete?
Either way, this upcoming conference looks extremely interesting:

Second international conference on Image Science in Goettweig

Topics include -

(New visualization techniques in Nano-, Bio-, Neurosciences, Architecture, Photography, Digital Collections Management, etc.)

(in the Arts, Sciences and Humanities, Politics, Advertising, Comics, Diagrams & Models, Visual Music, etc.)

(Global economy, Tagging, Micromovies, Flickr, Second Life, You Tube, Google Earth etc.)

Deadline for proposals: October 21st


Thanks to Anne for this 411.

Incidentally - what do you get when you type "Naive" into Google Image? Here is one thing:

This may confirm either -
1) context is indeed everything, or
2) there is no such things as a visual non sequitur. Daschunds are so funny that they are *always* relevant.

The original source of the images can be found here

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Science Literacy, The Internet and HIV deniers

A fascinating article just came out in the Public Library of Science about the various movements that deny HIV is the cause of AIDS that are finding new audiences the internet ( HIV Denial in the Internet Era)

Seemingly working from the position of underdogs fighting mainstream scientific authority, denial groups undermine the importance of basic health measure that can help keep all of us from catching or transmitting HIV and other infectious diseases.

No doubt the treatment of those with AIDS is in need of constant improvement, but denial of its known cause as a means to promote alternative treatments is unethical. It is denial of what the scientific community has spent so much time and resources trying to understand.