Taiwan: The National Palace Museum Taipei and Some Cabbage

national palace museum

On Thursday we went to the National Palace Museum, which I’ve been hearing about from my Asia-dwelling family members for approximately forever. Located a bit outside of the center of the city in the green and hilly environs of Shilin, it’s one of the biggest collections of Chinese art in the world, with a whopping 696,000 artifacts spanning a (mere) 8,000 years of history.

Treasures fleeing the Japanese in the 1930s.
Treasures fleeing the Japanese in the 1930s.

Why is all this glorious stuff here in Taiwan and not in, say, Beijing? The vast riches of the Chinese empire were stored in the Forbidden City until the Japanese invasion in 1933, when the artifacts were evacuated. Returned to Nanjing after World War II, they changed hands again after Chiang Kai-shek realized that the Communists would defeat him. A total of 2,972 crates of artifacts (roughly 22 percent of the total collection) were shipped to Taiwan, representing some of the finest objects ever produced in the entirety of Chinese history. Considering the incredibly rough period of history these artifacts were evacuated in, it’s a wonder that many of these delicate, small, and exceedingly valuable pieces have survived.

Needless to say, the People’s Republic of China considers the collection to be stolen, although relations appear to be thawing somewhat in this regard — in 2009, China and Taiwan agreed to the first-ever joint exhibition of artifacts. Who knows what will happen in the future?

What matters for the purposes of this brief blog post is that you’d be a real dumbass to visit Taipei without making a visit here, to put it delicately. Prioritize appropriately.

In light of this, my dad and I decided it’d be a good idea to hire a guide for two hours, to give us some grounding in the massive scope of the exhibits and explain what we were looking at. The cost came out to $150 and I’d say it was worth it. Jennifer Tang proved to be a lovely woman with a long background in Chinese painting, and came at the exhibit with an obvious and profound affection for everything we saw — pointing out fine details or providing the background story of how one object or another came to be, and came to enter the imperial collection.

jadeite cabbage

The most famous item here is probably a carved jade cabbage, which is accompanied by another piece of jade that looks remarkably like a piece of roasted meat. These two venerated art objects may sound rather pedestrian, but when you actually push through the crowd to gaze upon these Rocks That Look Like Food, you’ll be more impressed than you anticipated.

The Jadeite Cabbage, which is white at the bottom and tapers to a luxuriant green at the top, has a locust and a katydid concealed amidst the leaves, and was supposed to be a present symbolizing fertility for the Kuang-hsü Emperor’s Consort Chin. It could also be mean to “chastise fatuous officials.” Or it could be a remarkably attractive and valuable representation of a bug-infested vegetable. You make what you want of it .

meat shaped stone

Here is the Meat-Shaped Stone. You thought I was kidding, didn’t you? I knew it was a glorious work of art because it suddenly and irrevocably made me hungry.

Other highlights here include remarkably intricately carved ivory boxes, which allegedly took so long to execute that a single piece might be passed down for three generations (assuming, presumably, that three generations did not produce someone with awful hand-eye coordination). Our guide said that legend has it these fine carvers — working in mediums as tiny as peach-pits — sometimes did their work without even opening their eyes. “They had a very special feel for it,” she said, reverently.

Jade Bixie amulet, of which I now own a paperweight.
Jade Bixie amulet, of which I now own a paperweight.

Ritual jades from the exceedingly antique Xia and Shang dynasties were also very interesting, including facial covers and plugs for funerals. “There was always a chance that the dead would come back,” our guide said.

bamboo spring
Tang Yin’s remarkable renderings of bamboo.

Paintings are of course a major draw here and the exhibits rotate regularly, and the current exhibit features Ming Dynasty master Tang Yin. His contemplative nature paintings are gorgeous, and his life story — a brilliant middle-class academic screwed by the Imperial system, a poet, an artist, and business-man — adds flavor to the works themselves. I was particularly taken with his simple renderings of bamboo, in which he used dark and light washes of ink to portray leaves shaking in a rainstorm.

If you do not have a guide, it is best to simply wander around and look at what catches your fancy. This is a wonderful place to get totally lost in, and there’s always more to see — an immense scroll here, a massive jade disc there, an exhibit of antique medical textbooks in Chinese tucked into a back gallery, and son on and so forth. There are interpretative signs in English, and many interesting interactive exhibits, as well as an audioguide.

SOME TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS

It is best to come either early or rather late. The middle of the day finds the museum absolutely overrun with tourists, mostly clumping together in sardine-like tour group packs. Someone will be shouting at them and waving a flag around in your face. Avoid at all costs. (There is a brief let-up during the lunch hour). Budget at least 3 hours here, especially when factoring in queuing time if you manage to come here right at the very peak of Milling Tour Group. You can take a taxi here, or you can take the MRT to the Shilin stop and then board a shuttle bus.

There are no photos allowed and no backpacks either, but the nice ladies at the coat-check will keep your things for you unmolested. You can bring your phone in, but expect to be collared by an irate guard if you try to Instagram something — we saw this principle in action.

We liked stopping at the tea-house at the very top of the main gallery, which had a menu of noodles and light dim-sum snacks, and a good view of the little green valley that the museum is set in. It was surprisingly uncrowded around lunchtime.

Finally, the museum shops are excellent and have a pleasing selection of stuff from fine art reproductions to hilariously awesome kitsch, and you should probably know that I absolutely adore ridiculous, mildly personally humiliating souvenir opportunities. Our family now has more key-chains and magnets featuring plastic representations of a jade cabbage than we know what to do with. I also have a t-shirt with the Jadeite cabbage on it, although I picked that up at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. Don’t leave Taiwan without one.

Hobby Lobby: No, Preventing Cheap Access to Contraceptives Won’t Save You Money

The font of all evil.
The font of all evil.

Amidst the explosion of justifiable online rage over the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling, it’s worth remembering one thing: subsidizing birth control saves taxpayers money.

Many supporters of the Supreme Court ruling noisily claim that they’re opposed to insurance-covered contraception because it will cost them money. “But I don’t want to paaaayyy for it!” they say. “Self-actualized adults should pay for their own medical care!”

Cute idea, I suppose, if you never quite outgrew that extravagantly selfish Ayn Rand phase. But this “fiscally conservative” stance happens to be unsupported by fact.

Let’s refer back to a 2011 Brookings Institution study, which found that unintended pregnancies are expensive: really expensive. Researchers found that US taxpayers shell out about $12 billion annually for unintended pregnancies.

And there’s a lot of them: almost half of all US pregnancies are not expected, a proportion that hits 60 percent when one is dealing with teenaged, unmarried, or low income women.

While the numbers are grim, there’s an easy solution: public policy that hits the problem on multiple fronts, including access to inexpensive birth control. Per Brookings: “There is strong evidence that expansions in access to publicly subsidized family planning services can affect rates of contraceptive use and unintended childbearing.”

Ok, but what about those poor, long-suffering insurance companies?

It’s true that it’s less clear if insurance companies themselves save money on providing contraception. Factcheck.org concludes that evidence is distinctly murky either way, eventually concluding that while the President’s contention that contraceptive insurance will pay for itself cannot currently be proven right, it’s also impossible to prove it wrong. 

Most evidence certainly seems to suggest that the up-front costs of providing coverage are minimal. US government data claims adding contraceptions to an insurance coverage planwould only increase premiums by 0.5% annually, while a 2011 study estimated a cost of $26 per enrollee per female.

I believe many of us happily spend that much per week on fast food,  and it’s a particularly low cost to take into account when one contemplates how expensive unplanned pregnancies are for everyone.

Does even that small amount of money sound usurious and cruel to you? I weep, but I will also point out that you probably do pay taxes. Which means that the $12 billion in expenses Brookings documented will come out of your pocket eventually, one way or another.

The source of all this recent, frenzied Internet.
The source of all this recent, frenzied Internet.

What’s more: all kinds of basic preventative care cost insurers money. These would include measures that get a lot less frothy media play, such as basic cancer screening, cholesterol drugs, routine checkups, and other boringly quotidian measures. This is done because a wise collective risk pool prefers to spend a little money now rather than lot of money later. That applies to major health events from heart attacks to — yes — unintended pregnancies.

There’s also the fact that American women themselves seem to have saved an immense amount of money on contraception since Obamacare came into play. A recent IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics study found that women saved $483 million in out of pocket contraceptive costs in 2013 alone.

If one operates under the at-times-controversial notion that sexually active women are legitimate taxpayers like everyone else, that means a very substantial portion of the population is finding subsidized birth control to be wonderfully thrifty.

And the money those women are saving will help them improve their lives, in many ways beyond a less stress-filled sex life. A 2013 Guttmacher study documents the positive improvements women reported in their own lives due to contraceptive access, while there’s profuse evidence from around the world documenting how access to family planning services improves the lives of everyone — women and men included.

Finally, many women use birth control pills for reasons that have nothing to do with being a Big Slutty Slut — myself included. They’re used for painful and disfiguring medical conditions from polycystic ovary syndrome to cystic acne to dangerously heavy menstrual periods.

Here, of course, is where it gets tricky. Many women, per Guttmacher, use the pill for both medical reasons and for its contraceptive capabilities. If you’re a proponent of a small, un-intrusive government, you should agree that I’d rather not have my insurance company monitoring my house or covertly rummaging through my trash for signs of an active sex life.

So, let me ask you again, “fiscally conservative, small government” defenders of Hobby Lobby: why do you want to cost the taxpayer money? Why do you want to potentially invade women’s privacy?

And if you admit that you don’t actually care about the well-documented savings contraceptive access provides, then what really bothers you about birth control pills?

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Tentacles and Photos of Tentacles

 

spotted jellyfish

Between the last post and this one, I’ve graduated with my Masters, finished a thesis about drones (surprise!), and have traveled to the East Coast to see family. This made me embarrassingly remiss about blogging.

Here’s some recent photos from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Myself, my cousin Laura, and my friend Curran all made the trek down there during my graduation weekend, intent on viewing the anticipated glories of the Tentacles special exhibit for ourselves.

Find the lurking baby cuttlefish.
Find the lurking baby cuttlefish.

I’ve had a slightly weird life-long love affair with tentacled creatures of the deep, starting with a childhood in which I had no teddy bears but a remarkably diverse assortment of plush tentacled sea life instead. I was insistent at an early age that Things With Noses Aren’t As Cute, and would become extremely offended if someone dared portray an octopus with a bullshit faux, circular nose. Mostly, I found them fascinating: as intelligent as cats, able to change color at will, and remarkably effective, sneaky predators.

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 1.41.34 AM

My love of cephalopods has persisted into adulthood: I had a giant squid battling a whale on the cake my mom got me for my undergraduate graduation, while my family exchanges clever squid-themed gifts whenever we find ourselves in the same geographic location. Becoming a scuba diver only made me fall more deeply in love: seeing the real thing jetting about the ocean floor, lurking in coral, undulating.

I encountered a cuttlefish in the Philippines last summer — a tiny little job, about the length of my already-small middle finger. It was hovering by a piece of coral and took cranky note of my existence: I had spotted it and begun squealing in glee quietly to myself through a regulator.

Brittle star tentacles.
Brittle star tentacles.

I drew closer and the cuttlefish nonchalantly positioned itself behind the coral, operating under the assumption I wouldn’t be able to see it. This didn’t work, and when I peered at it from the other side, it grew irate, turned black, and blasted a miniscule, delicate spurt of ink into my face.

This is probably the cutest thing that has ever happened to me or will ever happen to me.

Lurking giant octopus.
Lurking giant octopus.

In any case: the Tentacles exhibit was really excellent. A short entry-way with a display of Greek pots with squid on them and popular portrayals of these beasts throughout history, and into the exhibits: giant octopi, bigfin squid, stumpy cuttlefish, chambered nautilus, and many other delightful, odd creatures.

The Aquarium mastered the care and breeding of jellyfish and has used its considerable resources and scientific knowledge to do the same for some rather unusual species of cephalopods: there are critters here you are unlikely to have previously viewed through the smudged glass of some also-ran aquarium.

They're hard to photograph. Had to outsource to Wikipedia.
Flamboyant cuttlefish are hard to photograph. Had to outsource to Wikipedia.

My favorite by far was the flamboyant cuttlefish, a flip-phone sized creature that is colored in orchid-like purples and yellows. In severe contradiction to the floral beauty of its exterior, the flamboyant cuttlefish is the Pug of the ocean: it trundles slowly and with seemingly great exertion to wherever it is going, on two inward turned tentacles. They look unlikely in that adorably awkward way so favored by human onlookers, and as we observed, that pathos-laden lack of grace applies to hunting: they don’t seem to be that hot at it.

As we looked into the aquarium, a clear plastic tube appeared and emitted a few dozen tiny pink shrimp: lunch time. The shrimp found their way to the yellow sand of the bottom and we crowded around in anticipation. But the cuttlefish did not gracefully devour them.

Gorgeous chambered nautilus.
Gorgeous chambered nautilus.

They trundled. They trundled towards the shrimp with staunch, lugubrious intent. A cuttlefish feeds by jerking a tentacle out from its center mass of tentacles towards the prey, and then yanking the hapless victim back into its (hidden) beak – the effect is rather like a frog.

Unfortunately, the flamboyant cuttlefish kept missing. They would jerk out a tentacle, and miss the shrimp by a few centimeters, and the shrimp would fail to notice and jet away. The cuttlefish looked frustrated, and the shrimp looked almost pleased, if it’s possible for a shrimp to be pleased.

moody giant octopus

One shrimp actually hopped onto the back of one of the more hopeless cuttlefish, after evading a particular miserable attempt at tentacle-grabbing. The cuttlefish immediately became alarmed: it shifted from magenta to a deep, blackish purple — angry colors, the species equivalent of yelling “Oh Shit.”

The shrimp hung on, and the cuttlefish tried backing up, propelling itself with little ineffectual squirts of water. The shrimp hung on. Another ferocious backwards puff, and the shrimp finally became dislodged. The cuttlefish reared up, positioning its tentacles in a savage, cobra-like display, rippling with black and purple and white. Surely it would learn. Surely it would submit.

The cuttlefish came closer, and the shrimp hopped on its back again.

cuttlefish couple

More great exhibits awaited: graceful bigfin squid with giant eyes, lugubrious giant squid, steampunk animated displays explaining what it’s *like* to be an octopus. We even got to watch cuttlefish have weirdly rough sex, preceded by an aggressive, ink-filled slugfest between at least a dozen combatants.

You must go see this exhibit. It is more entertaining than anything on television, or at least equivalent to YouTube.

Here’s a gallery of my other photos:

 

 

Bottega – Yountville, California

bottega kitchen

Bottega Napa Valley
6525 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

My family takes a bi-monthly or so road trip from Sacramento to Napa to go to restaurants and buy wine, which really translates into “spending a day pleasantly making fabulously wealthy people even more fabulously wealthy, sort of a wealthy-people vicious cycle of overeating.” If you detect a mild, self-loathing tone creeping into my food-blogging, you may be diagnosing something lurking below my soul. Not that I’m passing up the wine and cheese.

Anyway.

We had been meaning to try Celebrity Chef (TM) Michael Chiarello’s Yountville outlet for some time now. I’ve been vaguely aware of Chiarello for years, ever since he played the slightly menacing, goomba-esque presence on Top Chef, and roughly after his rustic lifestyle catalogs begin arriving in regular shoals in my parent’s mail-box.

An exceedingly clever businessman, the California native parlayed high-end Italian cooking into television shows, a winery, regular appearances in the media, a line of furniture, and God knows what else — picture a much gruffer looking Martha Stewart, although I know Chiarello has never been to prison. We made a lunch reservation at Bottega.

The restaurant is dark inside and full of brass and amber accents, creating a late-night feeling even when it’s high noon outside and getting progressively hotter. An open-style kitchen allows diners to watch the kitchen team move in a fast paced frenzy, slinging huge metal pots with preternaturally strong wrists. The warm color given off by the flames of the oven, interplaying wit the cold steel of the fixtures, lit them all in a delicate, Renaissance-like tone. It was good viewing.

We were seated quickly, thanks to our reservations, and began paging through the immense wine list and the rather interesting cocktail menu. Mindful of our planned itinerary of paying people well over $10 a pop to take small swigs of their fermented grape juice, we stuck with the non-boozey stuff — the ginger lemonade was surprisingly delicious.

The menu, true to form, is a combination of California local ingredients and contemporary Italian cooking, with ingredients like sea urchin and nettles bumping shoulders with ricotta gnocchi and grilled skirt steak.

bottega brussel salad

The shaved brussel sprouts salad was tucked into a small pyramid (and I do mean rather small) but had a delightfully spring-y taste, evading the uncomfortable chewiness of less worthy raw brussel sprouts preparations. The combination of egg, almond, pecorino cheese and Meyer lemon gave the dish an earthy, season-appropriate richness. I want to try to emulate this at home.

bottega meat balls

Meatballs, polpettas, whatever — these were excellent, composed of extremely tender grilled shortrib meat that fell apart with silky intensity when poked with a spoon. They were served with a hummus-like puree made from sunchoke, a somewhat under-adored vegetable. This is the kind of thing you would imagine yourself ordering in a simplified form at an Italian estate after slaying a slag sometime in 1723, or at least these are the fantasies with which I sustain my life. I should build more slaying into my routine.

bottega minestrone

Minestrone featured tender green chard, flatleaf spinach, nettles, and wild vineyard mustard, served in a prosciutto broth with potato and a slab of bread. Tasty, earthy, and violently rich in nutrients, this nevertheless struck me as not fancy enough for the setting — the sort of thing I’d probably be able to whip up some simulacra of in an afternoon in between bouts of pretending to write. You’re paying Napa restaurant prices — in my mind, you might as well try something that involves obnoxious procedure and cutting tiny things into even tinier things, thanks to the efforts of some poor prep cook who is perennially being shouted at for breathing.

bottega duck

I ordered the duck three ways because I have always been highly susceptible to duck. I will say right now this was a monumentally enormous restaurant dish, the sort of thing that you look at and think “Did they make some kind of mistake?”

But no, this is half a duck — the breast is roasted until tender and juicy, the leg prepared in a tender confit, and the liver (presumably deriving from a different duck) smeared on a sidebar crostini. Accents were watercress and a strawberry compote garnish, although these serve somewhat as afterthoughts for the duckfat-dripping main event. I managed to finish it. It might have been poorly advised. I did leave a small piece of pate on the crostini, which I looked at with both embarrassment and dog-like lust as it was taken away at the end of the meal. (This is probably a metaphor for something). This is not delicate or particularly sophisticated food, but you will be absolutely good on the duck front for a long while to come.

bottega corn

Less deliciously egregious was a pasta made with corn meal and mushrooms. It sounded rather interesting on paper but was too sweet in practice, producing a rather cloying effect. I don’t like overly sweet cornbread, and I resent it in my pasta as well.

cavatelli shrimp

Cavatelli was served with a sea urchin sauce and hefty head-on prawns. A delicate white bowl was provided for the little remnant crustacean skulls. It was almost as if they knew us. The sauce was delicate, had a bit of saffron in it, and had that delightfully buttery and of-the-sea essence that defines all fine seafood pastas. Would order again. Definitely the most refined dish of the meal.

No dessert. Both because we’re not really into that, and because I had just eaten half a duck with accompaniments. The existential shame was already complete.

The sizing of the portions is smallish but not quite on point if you’re hoping to do a true Italian-style meal, with a small starter, a pasta course, and a main dish — judging by the quantity of the duck, this would induce almost instant gout and possible death. I am not sure if this is a bad thing.

Inexplicably, there is no pizza oven here. There is a large wood-burning oven, but I remain unsure what it is for. Maybe creating rustic clay pots.

Would I return again? Yes. Celebrity chef foolishness aside, the food was good and the menu items interesting, and I’d like to poke around what they’ve got on offer to a greater extent.

Also, they sell black truffle potato chips in the store next door. You want to get those. Eat them slowly while you read Piketty and contemplate what has brought you to this place.

 

Korean Food at Myung Dong Tofu Cabin – San Mateo, California

Myung Dong Tofu Cabin
2968 S Norfolk St, San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 525-1484
Website

tofu cabin pork stew
Pork and kimchi stew.

I love California strip malls. Well, allow me modify that: strip malls of a particular variety and tone. The sort I’m talking about aren’t populated with dollar stores and sporting goods marts. The sort of strip mall I like functions as a small oasis of excellent Asian food, where multiple Asian restaurants cluster together, seemingly for protection — the equivalent of small natural bastions of biodiversity.

The excellent Myung Dong Tofu Cabin sits in one of these Asian food gallerias, next to a Chinese bakery and a pho shop. Owned and operated by a small crew of middle-aged women, the delightfully named Tofu Cabin specializes in Korean home-cooking, with a couple of DIY BBQ tables for those feeling fancy.

At this home-cooking — the heart and soul of Korean cuisine, if you ask me – this place absolutely excels. With lower prices by a buck or two than the other Korean restaurants I’ve found in the Peninsula, I believe I’ve found my new standby.

pork bbq myung dong
Spicy BBQ pork.

I’m usually a bit ambivalent to SoonDooBoo, perhaps because it’s often rather uninspired. The soondooboo here was a molten, flavorful, slightly creamy brew, with bits of beef. They took us seriously when we said “spicy.” My sinuses were rendered as open as the Panama Canal.  Pork BBQ was the right kind of greasy and exceedingly prolific in the full portion, with a potent dose of red pepper and sliced jalapeno. It was particularly good in a fresh lettuce wrap with some kimchi and a bit of hot sauce.

Seafood dolsot bibimbap was also excellent, served in a very large black stone cauldron, and filled with shrimp and squid. I was less impressed with the kimchi ji gae (pork and kimchi stew), which definitely featured far more kimchi than it did slices of pork belly.

banchan tofu cabin

The banchan selection is fresh, if slightly austere, and by austere I think I actually mean “healthy.” (Where’s my mayonnaise drenched noodle salad?) Sweet black beans are a rare site on these spreads in recent years. Still, where’s the tiny fish with equally tiny eyeballs? They defined my childhood. The kimchi is excellent. A Korean restaurant rises and falls upon the virtue of its kimchi.

Service is friendly and homey, and the food comes out pleasingly quickly. Free green tea and the correct kind of purple rice. I’ll be back, probably over and over and over. Korean food has a peculiar addictive quality for me, a Proustian madeline.

Internet Hunting and Gathering – May 6th and 7th

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 2.30.30 AM

As my friend and I observed last week at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco, hipsters never really change. Jerome Young’s painting appears to be channeling the same sort of people who regularly show up at prog rock festivals, or at least the kind of people who attended Tulane with me and went to the same parties I did.

Anywho, as far as the Internet goes…

The Children’s Illustrated Clausewitz

This is both expressive and rather surprisingly useful. (Yes, I’ve read Clausewitz – but I didn’t know I could just do THIS…)

Long a Survivor in Syria, a Dutch Priest is Slain – New York Times

“I don’t see Muslims or Christians, I see, above all, human beings,” he said, who “hunger to lead a normal life.” As the only priest left in the Old City to help the people there with their suffering, he said, “how can I leave? This is impossible.”‘

Do You Know Why You Hate Gluten?

The consensus seems to be “I have no idea whatsoever, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.” After all, who wouldn’t like an excuse to gently terrorize an underpaid waitress at Denny’s?

Journalists Angered by Repeated Violence During Demonstration Coverage – VOA Cambodia

It’s getting more dangerous for journalists in Cambodia, as recent government responses to protests in Freedom Park have demonstrated.

Farley Mowat, Canadian Writer and Wildlife Advocate, Dies at 92 – New York Times

I loved Farley Mowat’s work in elementary and middle school. Lyrical and beautiful. RIP.

Someone Ate This

This is an entire website devoted to horrifying images of food that people 1. created, 2. consumed and 3. thought it would be a good idea to share with the entire world. The psychology on display here is deeply unsettling. Good for a laugh, do not look at before lunch.

And a rather trenchant observation on the relative priorities of Boko Haram from my friend Dan Trombly:

Drone Journalism Survey and a Sacramento River Video

stanford kit drone

If you’ve spent any time at all around me in recent months, you are probably aware I’m really, really interested in UAVs — often called “drones.” I did a brief story on consumer-level UAV technology for school, realized how unfathomably cool they were, and joined the Stanford University UAV club.

Now, I own a Phantom 1 with a camera gimbal and am hoping to build my own. I’m also planning on going overseas with a couple of camera UAVs and putting them through their paces on the Southeast Asia correspondence beat. One way or another.

Now, you can help me out by filling out a survey I’ve put together for my digital entrepreneurship class at Stanford. I’m interested in figuring out a way to put together a NGO or a small business using UAVs to gather both images and data, and your input would be most helpful.

Find the survey here.

Here’s a quick and dirty video of the Sacramento River in spring near my parents house in Carmichael. Why Paganini? Why not Paganini?

 

Internet Hunting and Gathering – May 4th and 5th

This weekend at Half Moon Bay.
This weekend at Half Moon Bay.

A quiet weekend in California, whereupon I mostly fixed and flew my Phantom 1 a bit. Next step is adding an Ardupilot APM. Planning to learn how to do 3D mapping with Autodesk. My hobbies are very chic.

In recent Interesting Internet News…

Boko Haram ‘to sell’ Nigeria girls abducted from Chibok – BBC News

The truly horrifying saga of these girls continues. Make no mistake: they are not “child brides.” They are child slaves, sold for $12 a head.

Disaster in the age of McMansions: America’s dangerous addiction to suburban sprawl – Salon

A fascinating look at the history and probably downfall of the suburbs. Millennials who spent their overprotected childhoods with their asses firmly welded to the backseat of a minivan: don’t you all rush out to buy massive homes in the burbs’ at ONCE.

40 Maps That Explain the Middle East – Vox

This explainer exemplifies what’s wrong with the Vox model: 7th-grade level writing and analysis that is (inexplicably) aimed to a well-educated and well-informed audience. You can do much better than this, folks — although I’m glad someone has informed me in my woeful ignorance that “The Phoenicians… were pretty awesome.”

DustDuino: A plan to crowdsource environmental reporting with low-cost dust sensors – Mental Munition Factory

Check out the DustDuino project, which aims to crowdsource enviromental reporting on air pollution with the assistance of desk-top dust sensors.

Rough Justice in Southern Thailand – UCA News

Not nearly enough international attention has been paid to the ongoing sectarian conflict in Thailand’s south. Southeast Asian Muslims are treated as second class citizens here, too.

The Thankless Work of a Fixer – CJR

Shamefully, many foreign correspondents don’t bother to credit the fixers who help them get the story out. We all need to get better about this.

The Man Behind the Vampire Squid: An Interview with Matt Taibbi – Mother Jones

Love him or hate him, Taibbi is interesting. And coined the phrase “vampire squid” which does make me like him.

A video displaying that curious anthropological oddity of  a bunch of white, straight guys apologizing.

The Ultimate Guide to Shutting Down Conservative Anti-Piketty Hysteria – Salon

One wonders how many have actually read our society’s most recently-popular doorstep book. (I in fact have – there’s a Kindle edition, you fools, there’s NO excuse!)

Painting Things With the Galaxy Note 8

The Galaxy Note 8 doesn’t spring to mind as a potent art tool, but with its Wacom enabled stylus, I’ve been incredibly impressed. Excellent control and flow.

I’m using Autodesk, which is a very useful art tool. Still growing accustomed to its features. Now, need to find out just how big I can push these images if I want to print them or use them on something other than the Internet.

Painting below dashed off over the course of a few classes. I like bitey things.

bitey painting

Another sketch. Love the layering abilities of Autodesk.

naked lady autodesk sketch

Revisiting the Communist dogs I used to draw during my high school years, when I had very normal interests.

soviet dogs