Monday, May 17, 2010

Book recommendation number two

Two of my favorite things are history books and natural history museums.  I like creepy, old dead things with informative placards and bad lighting.  If you can kinda smell the weirdness, that's even better.  I finally got to go to The Field Museum in Chicago a few years back.  Awesome.

(Photos are from The Field Museum Website)

From back cover:  "Asma takes us on a wide-ranging tour of natural history museums in New York and Chicago, London and Paris, interviewing curators, scientists, and exhibit designers, and providing a wealth of fascinating observations. We learn how the first museums were little more than high-toned side shows, with such garish exhibits as the pickled head of Peter the Great's lover. In contrast, today's museums are hot-beds of serious science, funding major research in such fields as anthropology and archaeology."

 The title of the first chapter is "Flesh-eating Beetles and Secret Art of Taxidermy" and in it he describes how pieces are prepared for storage and exhibition by letting beetles eat all the leftover meat, etc. from the bones of animals.  And who doesn't want to read about taxidermy?

(Photo taken in Hunterian Museum in London from Atlas Obscura website.  Click on the link if you love this kind of stuff)

Other chapters describe the evolution of taxonomy.  When "cabinets of curiosity" (similar to above, but creepier) ruled the scene, specimens were organized by completely different categories than they are now.  So, all the livers were together in one cabinet, all the beaks in another. And, yes, there were penis cabinets and eyeball cabinets, too.

A few other museums mentioned in the book:

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to visit the Galerie d'anatomie comparee in Paris anytime soon.

(Infant skeletons.  Photo from above link)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I like my new cup...

It all started when our coffee shop closed.  We didn't own it, so not that kind of "our," but we frequented the establishment almost every day.  So, anyway...

The coffee shop closes, leaving me addicted to my iced mochas with nobody around to sell me their caffeine.  Well, there was a Starbucks, but I ain't made of money.

So we gave in, and got an espresso machine like a couple of fancy pants rich folk.

Now, years later, I finally found a reusable cup I like. 

It's easy to clean, dishwasher safe (thank you), BPA free (if you're into that), has a neato straw thingy that you can stir your drinks with when you're making them, and it's 24 ounces.  Take that stupid other cups that aren't 24 ounces!

The only thing I don't like about them, is that you have to make sure the lid is screwed on just right.  Which seems obvious, but if you're in a hurry and don't do it quite right, your drink will dribble out the threads and get you.  Other than that, the lid seems to have a great seal.

I got mine at BBandB so I could use that coupon they always send out.  The were $7.99 each, which is cheaper than most I've found, but I haven't done a thorough nationwide search.

p.s.--If you aren't into coffee, get yourself some Oregon Chai concentrate, chocolate syrup and milk.   
I figure you don't need pictures of the milk and syrup.  You probably don't need a picture of this either, but it looks good, doesn't it?

Follow the chai instructions, but add a nice glob of chocolate to the cup first thing.  And I mean a glob.  Like keep going 'till it's about a half and inch tall.  Then add the chai and stir.  Then add the milk and stir again.  And then ice.  You need ice, too.  I forgot about that.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Identity Theft Prevention

They're having a big 'shred-a-thon' downtown today to help prevent identity theft.  I guess you bring down all your super personal information and bank statements, etc and they take care of it all for you.

We don't have a shredder.  

We have gerbils.

  Would you go digging through gerbil pee soaked bank statements?  Yeah, me neither.  Plus, it's 'green.'  No electricity required.

Shredding rules and gerbil rules are almost exactly the same:

-no staples or paper clips
-no plastic or metal
-no cd's or other disks
-no ink cartridges
-no toxic materials
-no biological matter

Now, I don't want any little gerbils getting hurt here.  Please use common sense if you decide to employ your rodents as soldiers in the war against identity theft.  Inks can be toxic, especially in large quantities!  Give them a rest between jobs...

As you can see, my little guys don't eat the paper.  They just tear it apart to make a fancy mattress with the bits.

(By the way, they are not devouring each other in this picture.  They just snuggle weird.)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Phoenix finally wins.

The World's First Global Musical Instrument Museum.

We were there for 2 hours, and only got through parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. My back started hurting from being on my feet for so long because it's HUGE.

They have audio headsets that sync up to the displays as you get near them. All you have to do is adjust the volume if you need to. I now know that I enjoy the music of Madagascar.

I met some people at work who said the spent the whole day there. Started at one area, went down and had lunch in the cafe midday, then headed back up for the rest of the world.

Gotta look into a membership because it's awesome and they're not even done with it yet!!

Favorite Breakfast Book

I can't sit without reading something.  Sometimes I want to read while I'm watching TV.  I even like to read while I'm eating.  Right now, my breakfast table book is Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities by Alex Marshall.

It's about the subways, sewers, catacombs, shopping malls and everything else we put underground. You get to visit 12 major cities around the world like:

Moscow (subway, secret subway, tunnels, secret tunnels)
Tokyo (subway, rubble from firebombing)
San Francisco ("Muni" trains, earthquake rubble, ships abandoned during goldrush)
Mexico City (subway, Aztec ruins, depleted aquifer causing city to sink).

Strangely, although the Chicago chapter mentions abandoned freight tunnels (and, yes, the subway), there is no mention of what I imagined to be a fairly extensive system of "pork tubes" servicing the region.

It's an easy and fascinating read, so I recommend you hunt it down for yourself. I found it at a used bookstore, so it won't cost you a bazillion dollars.