Monthly Archives: February 2006

MGM Takes on Science!

Not much to report. For the two people who read this blog, I realize that I don’t post very often, but I don’t want this to turn into an exercise in navel gazing. As it is, the darn thing has “musings” in the title, which is what the immortal Peggy Hill calls hers. I see another blogger has the same fear. The blogs I’m talking about are the ones where someone goes on and on like this:

  • I like soup. I think everyone does. Soup is pure comfort food. It’s great in the winter with a hunk of bread and maybe a salad. Who doesn’t like soup?

Not that I disagree with any of that, but there’s enough garbage out there without me adding to it.

So I had set the VCR to tape something and ended up with 75% of Madame Curie by accident. Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon star as the Curies and it’s all about their struggles to isolate and experiment with radium. You gotta love MGM movies. Everything and everyone is always so pretty. Even when Garson and Pidgeon are supposedly sweltering away doing laborious things to pitchblende (there’s a long montage where we see them suffering nobly as they have to extract away all the elements to isolate the radium), Greer Garson is still very much the movie star. There’s her character pretty much working 24/7 (apparently Henry Travers, who plays her father-in-law is minding the kids: little Margaret O’Brien and Gigi Perreau)) and yet she looks positively luminous. You can practically hear Louis B. Mayer demanding that they keep the grime and the dirt to a bare minimum.

This would be why MGM had little interest in film noir and wasn’t terribly successful at it when they tried.

Vocabulary 101

I was talking to a friend about how lately it seems that our society is playing fast and loose with words and their meanings.

Speaking of loose–maybe you’ve noticed, there are far too many people out there who confuse lose with loose. Too entirely different concepts.

Then we have people demanding the dumbing down of vocabulary. Witness the relatively recent call to re-label cochineal and carmine for what they really are.

Which is fine except that I’d like to point out that cochineal as a word has been around since the 1500s and carmine goes back at least to the 1700s. Both of these can be found in most print dictionaries and most online dictionaries as well. I’m all for clear labeling on packaging, but I think this guy is off the mark.

“Why not use a word that people can understand?” said center executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “Sending people scurrying to the dictionary or to Google to figure out what ‘carmine’ or ‘cochineal’ means is just plain sneaky. Call these colorings what they are: insect-based”

It’s not like you’re calling these things H5N1 and expecting that people have a graduate degree to decipher them. I’m not the smartest person in the world and neither of these words turned up in my MLS program, but I was aware of their respective meanings well before these articles came out.

And you know what, if it’s that important to you to know what’s in your food, look it up. Call your public library and they’ll do it for you. Why is it so wrong that you should have to occasionally seek out or possess knowledge? There are plenty of decent dictionaries out there for less than $20 and if you don’t have one, you should get one.

And the point would be…

There I am Sunday morning watching TV and one of those commercials for a kitchen gadget came on. This one is for Pasta Express which promises to cook your pasta in just minutes! As always, this too can be yours for only $19.95.

Well, I’m watching the commercial and I don’t get why anyone would pay $20 for a monofunctional piece of plastic crap. Their instructions are interesting (if you’re watching the commercial “elapsed time 8 minutes” flashes briefly). First of all you have to boil water. Then you pour the water into this cylinder with the pasta and wait 7-10 minutes. Then you upend the thing over the sink and drain the pasta. Let’s review how you make pasta in a pot–the old fashioned way: you boil water. You put the pasta into the pot. You wait 7-10 minutes depending on the cooking time. Then you either pour it into a colander or you lift out the insert from your stock pot and drain.

How exactly is this gadget an improvement?

At the same time, I have something of a soft spot in my heart for these intrepid inventors. Every summer, my family would go to the county fair. My dad used to love going into the building where the vendors would be hawking these gadgets. There they’d be throwing spaghetti sauce on tile samples and mopping it up. There was the man who used a stick blender (back before they were considered an essential kitchen tool) to make whipped cream out of skim milk or peanut butter from a handful of peanuts. I remember how years later I invested in one by Cuisinart and Dad was convinced I’d be taken.

Seen: Busting Out and the 40-Year-Old Virgin. The former is a documentary–I’ll link to the review when that’s up. The latter was a freebee that I wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise. The first half is your typical moronic aging jock movie, but it morphed into something with actual depth by the end.

Librarian pet peeves

Well, one of them anyway.
Like most of my fellow librarians, I am on far too many library listservs. It’s insane the amount of e-mail I get on my work account; it truly is. However, it’s part of the job and you learn to deal with it.

What totally baffles me are the perennial messages from people either trying to unsubscribe from a list–sent to the list, mind you, with a “Please take me off this list”–or who send a message like how do I unsubscribe from this list?” Okay, well, here is my little rant:

  1. These are fairly standard lists and you managed to subscribe on your own. They all have you sending the commands to a different address than the ones you send the posts too.
  2. Remember seeing the instruction e-mail that is always e-mailed when you sent in your request the first time? Save it in an e-mail folder and call it up when you need it.
  3. You’re a librarian–someone who specializes in information–you can’t Google “unsubscribe name-of-list” and call it a day?

Just say no

Another of my ten New Year’s resolutions is to drop one reality TV show from my line up. I have been pretty successful about not adding any new ones on, but I wasn’t at all sure what I would be able to let go.

The front runner was going to be Big Brother which is pure trash with no redeeming values whatsoever (unlike for example, Project Runway where talent is at least part of the larger picture).

Then last night I was watching the premiere of Survivor. They divided the contestants into 4 teams based on gender and age lines. About a half an hour into it, I was done and I do mean done. Same old stuff, different day. The show’s had 12 seasons and it’s gotten utterly predictable. No matter how much they claim it’s something “never seen before,” it’s something we’ve all seen before. I got better things I can do with my time, thank you very much.

The CDC weighs in on the Super Bowl

Who knew? The fine folks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a lovely little tip sheet entitled Having a Super Bowl Party?.

I should mention I wasn’t searching for the Super Bowl, but rather some information for a Public Health BI on Avian Influenza. Which just goes to show you how accidental the research process can be.

Not that the CDC’s web page isn’t an admirable thing. They’ve got some really good advice here–it’s just that unless football fans are limiting their Google searches to .gov domain specific searches super bowl Just searching on; Super bowl party as a term (without “”), the site is the 5th page of Google (with “” it’s on page 4.

However, the CDC is not alone. The USDA is on the action too

Today, I’ll be back to Avian Influenza…