Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

If you spend a fair amount of time at the computer and have a window with a boring view, or no window at all, then a monotone or tiled pattern desktop background can seem like just another piece of blank wall, reinforcing your confinement.  But change your background to The Embarkation of Ulysses, and suddenly you’re no longer staring at a monitor, but looking out onto the sun-crested Aegean, through a port teeming with ships and surrounded by stone towers and marble columns.

The Embarkation of Ulysses - Claude Lorrain, 1646 (1680 x 1050)

Famous works of art make for fantastic backgrounds.  They typically require some resizing and cropping, but the minimal editing is well worth it.  A scene with depth can really open up the workspace.

I like seascapes, myself, so lately I’ve been gravitating towards Claude Lorrain, an artist whose work I stumbled upon, of all places, in an English textbook years ago.

The version above has been modified for WSXGA resolutions (1680 x 1050).

Image: Claude Lorrain via WikiPaintings


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Bike Riding in Autumn

For a change, I thought I’d put some photos up. These are some shots from a ride a few weeks ago, which is why the foliage is only beginning to change. (It’s all orange now.)

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch sits across from a bee.


Monarch Butterfly

He readjusts himself.



Nearby quarry.



Not quite ripe.





Crab Apple

Crab apples were all over the lakeshore.



A couple of Ring-billed Gulls.



They proceed to make a racket.


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I passed a sign reading that very phrase today. I found myself wondering how much money Egg would make selling those 4s.

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I was outside the other day, when a particular sound caught my attention.  I’m by no means an ornithologist, but I know a fair amount about the birds in my area, and I was quite certain of what I was hearing.  I proceeded into the woods, following the sound.  Finally, I spotted it.  There it was, just on the other side of a large, rocky outcropping: the Large-Beaked Encroacher.  It is a species that is now far more common in this area than it used to be.

Its habits are actually quite shocking.  It will move into an area where other animals are already living and, using its strong, thick beak, will tear apart their homes and remain there for a short while.  Then, it will quite suddenly pick up and move somewhere else, leaving other creatures to build homes in the space that it has left behind.

I’ve dimmed a patch on this photo of a Large-Beaked Encroacher so as not to spoil the surprise, which is that you’ve probably seen one before.  If you look closely, you can see what it looks like. You can also click to reveal the clear image.

Large-Beaked Encroacher

Stay out of the forest, you bloody developers.

Image: Originally by David Anstiss via Wikimedia Commons under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0

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SnowmanA stress reliever has to be an activity that can effectively take my mind off of a stressor.  But it can’t be just any activity.  Oft-recommended are such things as taking a walk, listening to music.  Those won’t cut it for me.  My mind cannot be given a single free moment to wander wherever it wishes (which would inevitably be to the stressor).  Walking and listening to music are simply not engaging enough.  While I walk, I can think; while I listen, I can think.  In fact, I could do both at the same time and still think.  No, it has to be an activity that takes more attention and concentration—basically, something that you can’t “tune out” so easily.  That means that the main qualities I’m looking for are fast-paced and/or creative, which is why this weekend, I built a snowman.

It’s been many, many years since I last built a snowman, but I was happy with the outcome.  I wanted it tall, round, and to look the part, which explains the scarf and top hat.  The point is that I gave myself a creative goal so that I could concentrate on getting the result I wanted, which, I suppose, is what stress relief really comes down to: distraction.

If we can find an activity that causes us to effectively—even if temporarily—forget about something that’s bugging us, then we’ve succeeded in finding a stress reliever.

Here are a few other activities that I find work well when trying to free myself from stress.

Mountain biking: fast-paced.
Playing music: creative.
Multiplayer Quake 2: fast-paced.
Watching comedy: distracting.

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The Contents of the Dream

I’ve often heard that when we dream, there are things we dream about that are symbolic or have some kind of meaning.  For example, if a person dreams about being caught in a public place in nothing but his or her undergarments, then it could mean that he or she is nervous about some upcoming real-life event.  I’ve just made that up, of course, but that’s the kind of symbolism I’m referring to.

I’ve always thought (based solely on my own experiences) that symbolism and such things are only heavily involved in dreams that occur repeatedly or during stressful periods in the dreamer’s life, and that standard dreams — the ones that occur on any given stress-free night (or relatively stress-free, anyway) — have meanings with much less depth, i.e. the contents of the dream can be traced to recent experiences from real life, even if the dream has created warped and sometimes twisted reflections of those experiences.

This is how I’ve thought of dreaming for as long as I can remember, or at least since the first time I saw the original Ninja Turtles movie.  When April first meets the turtles and Splinter, she is convinced that she’s dreaming and says “Those guys in the black pajamas, they jumped me.  And that rat . . . I saw you in the parking lot.”  She relates guys in black pajamas (the Foot soldiers) to her muggers from the previous evening, and that rat (Splinter) to the rat she saw scurrying around her feet in a parking lot.

Even though the principle of matching dream contents with real life experiences was first presented to me in the form of a kid’s movie, I always think of it when I match occurrences in my dreams to events from real life.

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