darthfar: (Default)
So I'm back from vacation. And, being the veritable garden of infection that I was, I have also probably managed to spread whatever it was that my respiratory tract was harbouring to... oh, between a few tens to a few hundred people. [chuckle]

Snippety snip  )

The lion dance performance. Pretty nifty, for anyone who's never seen it before. Unfortunately, I filmed this on the 1st floor walkway, so the drumming is muted; it was either that, or film it on the ground floor for better audio... and capture only the tops of people's heads. ;)



More on acquisitions )

[NOTE: I've just discovered, thanks to Wikipedia, that Dick Winters passed away on the 2nd of January this year. :-(( There'll be a tribute painting at some point, if I can fit it in my schedule.]
darthfar: (Default)
1. There's a Corpse Under My Mattress

Everyone's heard that gruesome urban legend about some vacationing couple/other holiday makers finding a highly aromatic, putrefying ex-person under their hotel bed. Well, some of those stories are actually true... and I just found out that my mother's friend knew one of the women who found one of said ex-people lurking under the mattress. Said woman was part of a group of insurance salespeople who went up to our local highlands for a convention/workshop; because they had to pay their own way for accommodations, six of them wound up sharing a hotel room, which necessitated the urgent rearrangement of the beds as everybody wanted dibs on the soft upper mattress rather than the harder support. At which point they found a (thankfully, I suppose) very fresh, deceased female playing sandwich meat to the double bread layer of bedding...

I'm only mentioning this because my mother and her friends (including the one who knew the insurance lady) went up to said highlands resort on vacation last week. Because the story had circulated among them, the two only women who *didn't* go to burn their money at the casino were far too frightened to go to sleep until their roommates had returned. Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. If they're afraid that *their* beds might harbour grinning corpses, why didn't they check under them when they first arrived at the hotel? wouldn't it have been better to *know* for sure that nothing was lurking under your bed, rather than to spend the night in trepidation, and letting your imagination run havoc? And what's so bad about sharing the bed with a corpse? I mean, I suppose it would be a little unhygienic - and probably olfactorily unpleasant - to be bedmates with something that's cooled down to room temperature and is now being systematically broken back down to its elements by microorganisms, not to mention slightly uncomfortable if you have The Princess and the Pea constitution... but it's not as if said ex-person is going to rise again and hurt you? It's not going to do anything; it's not even going to have the courtesy of talking to you (and if you do manage to have a conversation with it, there is probably something the matter with you). It's just actively being... Not.

Heh, people. [grin]


2. Angering the King of Gods

I'll say this much about learning a new thing (be it a new language or musical instrument or technique): you learn so much faster when you're thrown right into the deep end, rather than when you're left to paddle about in shallow waters. I've literally been forced to learn the French horn at breakneck speed since the end of August last year because... nobody else slowed down to give me time to catch up. And last night, I had the 1st horn part for Gustav Holst's Jupiter from The Planets dropped into my lap - a piece that I found already found challenging for the trombone, and I've had years' experience playing that instrument. And which I had to sight-read, never mind that (1) my brain still remembered all the trombone parts, (2) there were *high* notes that I'd never had to tackle before (and never mind all the strange ones, because my brain still works at concert pitch), and (3) OMG SOLI SOLI SOLI. So it did come as a pleasant surprise that I did not manage to completely mess up the piece after all. (And strangely enough, I find that I do much better sighting fast pieces with whole strings of notes, rather than very slow ones with only a smattering of notes. Go figure). Of course, I do have this very sweet new Holton Farkas MDC mouthpiece that I ordered from Hickey's:




which is a dream to play because it's new and plated with silver and so nicely padded at the rim, and works so well when wet. (Compare that to the original mouthpiece that came with the horn, which was so old the finish had come off in places, leaving the rim uneven and abrasive... and furthermore contained nickel, which I was badly allergic to).

I'm no longer so miserable playing this wretched instrument. Even if it *is* disgusting to empty.


3. More Books for the Shelf!

A couple of new reads that I'm very happy with:



Modern space operas are so hard to find, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this collection of short stories by former research astronomer Alastair Reynolds at the local bookstore. Even better, it comes under the heading of hard science fiction (hard, as in the opposite of soft - being science/technology-heavy rather than revolving around socioeconomics/politics) - the last hard SF book I read being Peter Watts' Blindsight  (and which I loved because it was so cold and unemotional). Multiple-universe theory, dark matter, artificial intelligence, cyberpunk, and sprinklings of general physics and astronomy? LOVE. I need to get my hands on his novels now.

A bit of trivia: The short story Beyond the Aquila Rift is hauntingly reminiscent of the mass relay technology in the Mass Effect games. Only, of course, Reynolds' story came first. [grin] <3

And this:



Which arrived at the beginning of the week. ^_______^

Oh god, I cannot tell you how long I have searched for this book. (Okay, so it was ever since I was old enough to realise that the Disney cartoon my granddad and I watched a bazillion times was a bastardised version of a much bigger, darker story that hadn't a happy ending). After years of combing secondhand bookstores, I finally found copies at a couple of online stores... which were expensive enough (given that only two editions were ever published - I think -: the 1967 hardcover, and the 1971 paperback) that I spent a further two years trying to decide if I was willing to part with that much money for an old book. (During which time I also conveniently acquired a credit card). As you can tell, I was. I paid an obscene amount of dosh for this 1st edition - though I would've paid even more if this hadn't been an ex library copy, even though it's in near-mint condition, as you can tell. (If this had been a library book *here*, it would be hideously mangled! And after I carefully removed the original plastic wrapping and rewrapped it in new plastic - a ritual I *always* carry out with old books, because it makes them truly *mine* - it was about as good as new). But it is so worth it. I just wish my granddad were still around - I think he'd have liked to read the original version.

[hugs the book]

And, just because I'm the curious sort, just two days ago I went back to the online stores where I found listings for this book to check the prices again - and found that they'd gone up even farther.[ As much as USD150 for the paperback!! Holy mother of gizkas.]
darthfar: (Default)
Perhaps the strangest book I've read this year:



Review here )

-------------

Want to know more about quorum sensing, or what happens after death? Check out these articles:

Small Talk in the Microbial World
The Processes of Death and Decomposition



[Yes, I wrote those as a student.]
darthfar: (Default)
So I've been doing a little work on Amazon's Mechanical Turk (a friend introduced me to it a week ago). Most of the jobs pay peanuts (and rather a lot of companies tend to treat MTurk as a goddamn virtual sweatshop), but (1) the jobs are mostly easy as pie (seriously? beta-testing a website and getting paid USD4 for ten minutes' work is totally worth it), (2) I don't actually need the money (it's just a grand way of killing boredom *and* getting paid for it), and (3) I only take the higher pay-per-time ones I find. And mind you, I've found a couple of pretty decent paying ones.

And late last night, I hit the goddamn motherlode. Almost two thousand hits by one company, to do translations of short sentences. The pay is measly - ten cents a question - but, considering (1) it's in a language next to nobody knows at MTurk, (2) there's almost nobody doing it (by my estimates, there is *one* other person at it, maybe two, if they're pathetically slow), and (3) I can do one sentence in ten to twenty seconds (including reading time), I'm doing pretty well. And I'm getting the language workout of my life, which is a hell lot of fun.

Although I suppose I'm going to have to figure out just what to do with the dough. Haha.

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