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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Linguistic song cycle texts

"Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo."

"That that is, is. That that is not, is not. Is that it? It is. That that that is that that is not is not that that is that that is is not true is not true."

"James, while John had had "had", had had "had had"; "had had" had had a better effect on the teacher."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Annual V-day reminder in honor of my dad - please have your prostate checked

On February 14, 2006, my dad died from prostate cancer after a battle that lasted only a year from diagnosis. He was fifty-six years old. His death was even more difficult for me to understand because it could have been prevented if he had had his prostate checked regularly and the cancer had been found sooner.

Experts recommend that men receive annual screening for prostate cancer after age 40. I say, heck, start when you're 35. According to the American Cancer Society:
About 1 man in 6 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime ... Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer. About 1 man in 35 will die of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer accounts for about 10% of cancer-related deaths in men.

If you catch it early enough, your chances of being cured are excellent. If you don't catch it early ... well, that's why I write these reminders.

Please. If you're over 35, get checked. Please.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Egypt photos in one convenient blog post, and Female Genital Mutilation

From December 22 to January 7, Matt and I went to Egypt. Please insert all the adjectives you'd normally associate with fulfilling lifelong-dream nerd-vacations.

Pictures = a couple hundred thousand words:

Travelling to Egypt and shots of around Cairo, where we spent most of our time.

We stayed at the Museum View Hotel and made good friends with the awesome guys who run the place.

Pyramids etc in Memphis, Giza and Saqqara.

While exploring Saqqara, I found some rather creepy bones in a shallow grave in the sand dunes.

Luxor, including the Valley of the Kings and Karnak.

The White Desert, which I believe to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Cairo is full of cats, and being a terrible catfag, I took a whole set of pictures of them.

Matt's pictures, taken with a better eye and a better camera.


(If you know what the song is here, please tell me.)

Terrible Cairo traffic:

Simultaneic call to prayer:

Before I move onto a more serious subject, let me insist that I loved our time in Egypt. We spent three days at the Egyptian Museum (each "day" was really only a few hours - my brain kept overloading), and I finally put to rest the rage I described in this blog entry, written after visiting the King Tut exhibition at the Franklin Institute (here I am putting the rage to rest). I could have stayed in the country for weeks longer and still not seen everything I wanted to see. I honestly believe the world would be a better place if everyone had an Egyptian sense of humor.

However. On my first night in Cairo, while reading a guide book, I discovered a fact that reverberated inside my skull for the rest of the trip, and even now, when I talk about our time in Egypt, I try to find a way to worm it into conversation, because everyone I've spoken to has found this equally shocking.
Over 90% of women in Egypt have undergone female genital mutilation.
Over 90% of women in Egypt have undergone female genital mutilation.
Over 90% of women in Egypt have undergone female genital mutilation.
Over 90% of women in Egypt have undergone female genital mutilation.
Over 90% of women in Egypt have undergone female genital mutilation.

Let me put this another way. Around 97% of Egyptian women have their clitorises cut off at some point between birth and marriage.

Clitoris. Cut. Off.

In fact, according to the female genital mutilation wiki, FGM is more prevalent in Egypt than anywhere else in the world. We all assume that FGM is a problem further south in Africa, or only among very conservative/backward societies, but this isn't the case at all.

Why is this done? Apparently it stops women from being too sexual. Your wife will be less likely to stray if she gets less pleasure from sex. It's also considered a cosmetic improvement, and there's a widespread belief that men find uncircumcised genitalia revolting. There are also (of course, incorrect) beliefs that there are some kind of health benefits in the practice, and that the clitoris causes pain if left unchecked.

Maybe this makes me an awful western tourist with a disgusting lack of cultural relativism, but sometimes when we were walking around the city, I would suddenly focus on all the women around me and realize that the likelihood of any of them ever having an orgasm in their entire lives was close to zero. It made me sad and sick to my stomach.

Around 80% of women in Egypt approve of the practice. FGM is technically outlawed in Egypt, but it hasn't seemed to help. Here's the UNICEF page on Egyptian FGM.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


I'm finally recovering my near-vision after visiting the optometrist. It's been nearly ten years since I last visited, shortly after getting LASIK in 2000, to check that, indeed, I had been given perfect vision by the power of Grayskull lasers and a tiny circular saw. More than perfect; I'd been living with such amazing eyesight for the last decade, I'd forgotten what it's like to be a flawed mere human, and the onset of a very slight myopia drove me to book an appointment.

During my visit, I was administered those annoying pupil dilation drops. It's been so long since I last had them; when I stumbled blindly out into the painful sunlight, I was suddenly shot backwards through time to 1997. I had volunteered to be a patient at the UNSW optometry school clinic. The student who examined my retinae was either incompetent or had a crush on me, because he took an incomprehensibly long time shining bright lights in my eyes. My cheeks were streaming with tears. I remember thinking he was cute, and wishing he would just ask me out and get it over with. Afterward, I walked across campus with one eye shut and the other squinted to a slit, and attempted a three-hour histology prac.

PRO TIP: do not attempt a three-hour histology prac when your chemically dilated pupils make you sensitive to bright light and unable to focus near-distance.

During the halftime break, I went outside and bummed a cigarette off some guy, Jason, who looked about as fed up with the class as I did. We chatted for a while. I think that was the first time I'd ever spoken to him properly.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Help us bring the Gonzales Cantata to New York

For those of you who weren't aware, or haven't scrolled down yet, last year, my composition the Gonzales Cantata was giving an incredibly successful staging in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. The performances received some wonderful media attention, including a spot on The Rachel Maddow Show:

(After this segment aired, "Gonzales cantata" was the most searched term for three hours according Google Trends.)

The Cantata's second public performance is slated to take place at the prestigious Bard Conservatory in New York this April. As you know, the economy isn't in a particularly great place at the moment, and it was not possible to get as much grant funding as we would have liked for this performance, so we're turning to you for help.

We've started a campaign on the Kickstarter website - CLICK HERE! - and we're looking to raise $3,500. Kickstarter campaigns work on an all-or-nothing basis ' if we don't raise $3,500, none of the pledges will go through, and you'll be charged nothing. If we do reach our goal, you'll be charged for whatever you'd like to pledge on March 25th.

Please help support this project by contributing as little as $5 to our campaign. Every little bit helps! If you donate more, there are some great gifts available to you, such as CDs, tshirts, and a signed copy of the score. The payments are securely and instantly processed through Amazon. If all goes well, we're hoping to bring this production south to Manhattan, and your contribution will really help!

If you can't spare anything, I absolutely understand - but please consider taking a couple of seconds to spread the word by spreading the word to others you think might be interested.

In unrelated news, I hear Google is turning off FTP support for Blogger. Dammit. I'll probably have to do some awful tweaking to get the same functionality out of Custom Domains. But maybe it will inspire me to pay more attention to my poor neglected blog.