“For you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. It’s an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once. For the next many years (we hope) these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the billions of deft, cooperative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally underappreciated state known as existence.
Why atoms take this trouble is a bit of a puzzle. Being you is not a gratifying experience at the atomic level. For all their devoted attention, your atoms don’t actually care about you – indeed, don’t even know that you are there. They don’t even know that they are there. They are mindless particles, after all, and not even themselves alive. (It is a slightly arresting notion that if you were to pick yourself apart with tweezers, one atom at a time, you would produce a mound of fine atomic dust, none of which had ever been alive but all of which had once been you.) Yet somehow for the period of your existence they will answer to a single overarching impulse: to keep you you.
The bad news is that atoms are fickle and their time of devotion is fleeting – fleeting indeed. Even a long human life adds up to only about 650,000 hours. And when that modest milestone flashes past, or at some other point thereabouts, for reasons unknown your atoms will shut you down, silently disassemble, and go off to be other things. And that’s it for you.
Still, you may rejoice that it happens at all. Generally speaking in the universe it doesn’t, so far as we can tell. This is decidedly odd because the atoms that so liberally and congenially flock together to form living things on Earth are exactly the same atoms that decline to do it elsewhere. Whatever else it may be, at the level of chemistry life is curiously mundane: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, a little calcium, a dash of sulfur, a light dusting of other very ordinary elements – nothing you wouldn’t find in any ordinary drugstore – and that’s all you need. The only thing special about the atoms that make you is that they make you. That is of course the miracle of life.”
– Bill Bryson A Short History of Nearly Everything
All I wanted to do was take some XviD rips of some TV show DVDs and put them on my iPod Nano.
I knew the files would need to be re-encoded, so I downloaded the latest version of Handbrake, since I hadn’t reinstalled it since I reformatted my computer. I installed it, queued up the files with the “iPod” preset, and let it do its thing. Within 20 minutes, the conversion was done. Hooray!
I went to iTunes and clicked File > Add File to Library and added the shiny new mp4 files to my library. Hooray!
I then clicked on “Movies”, highlighted the new files, right-clicked and chose “Get Info”. I clicked the “Options” tab and changed the “Media Kind:” to “TV Show”. iTunes moved the files from”Movies” to “TV Shows” Hooray!
Since the files had no metadata (and were just sitting there in the main “TV Shows” window), I clicked on each one and added the name of the show, episode title and season\episode numbers to each one. Hooray!
This season’s Mad Men had an episode called “The Beautiful Girls”. As I do in all my Mad Men recaps, I tried to get the names of all the songs used in this episode. However, I just couldn’t seem to get any information about one song in particular (for those in the know, it was in the second scene with Peggy and Abe at the bar, after the Swedish girls showed up at Joan’s apartment).
I wasn’t alone, either. As you can see from the comments section of the recap, folks were interested in finding out what the name of the song was. I emailed the Lipp Sisters, who didn’t know. They forwarded my question to Karl, their music expert, who also didn’t know. Other Mad Men fan sites were mystified too.
Well, thanks to a jimcofer.com reader, I can now say that the mystery has been solved! Reader Robert Earle was somehow able to contact the producers of the show, who told him that the song is called “Lonely Girl”, by obscure 60s artist Jay Ramsey. The song appears on an album called Cult Hits of the 1960’s, Vol. 2, which is available as a download from iTunes here and Amazon here.
A couple of interesting stories from the art world today:
– Henry VIII owned at least 55 houses that we know of. They range from modest hunting lodges to gigantic palaces like Hampton Court. But Henry’s grandest property – by far – was Nonsuch Palace (even the name, “none such”, tells you that there was no other property like it anywhere in England). Amazingly, the palace no longer stands; Charles II gave it to his mistress, the Countess of Castlemaine, who had it torn down in 1682 so she could sell the building materials to pay off gambling debts. More amazingly, although the building was considered the greatest house in England, only one known image of it exists:
This watercolor, painted by Georg Hoefnagel in 1568, is not only one of the first watercolors ever painted in England, historians consider it the only reputable likeness of the palace. And it can be yours! It’s going up for auction next month, where it’s expected to fetch £1.2 million. The palace itself was said to “only” cost around £24,000… although that’s around $165,501,000 when adjusted for inflation and converted to dollars!
– Can you spot Chinese artist Liu Bolin in this picture?
What you’re seeing isn’t a camera or photoshop trick. Bolin studies a scene, then carefully paints his own body and has an assistant photograph him. Bolin got the idea for this because he’s often felt like an outsider in Chinese society. His art allows him to “blend in” with whatever’s around. Check out this article for several more amazing shots!
My recent post about the TSA hasn’t generated a lot of comments on the site, but it sure has generated a lot of hits, especially from people who posted links on Facebook. I thought I’d take a few minutes today to clarify a few things and give you folks some additional links.
First of all, although most of you agreed that the TSA has crossed the line, it occurred to me that some of you might actually agree with their policies. After all, the old saying goes, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide, right? Well, allow me to introduce you to the concept of Israelification.
Israel has been dealing with terrorists far longer than the US has, and has been far more successful than the US in dealing with airport security. Back in the 1960s, Israel instituted pat-downs and other procedures at their airports similar to what the US has today… and the Israeli public freaked. In the linked article, Israeli security expert Rafi Sela, says:
“Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don’t take shit from anybody. When the security agency in Israel started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for – not for hours – but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, ‘We’re not going to do this. You’re going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.”
By simply refusing to put up with the status quo, the Israelis came up with a much more efficient and less intrusive system. And there’s no reason why it can’t work here.
“He stood appalled, judging himself with the thoroughness of God, while the action of mercy covered his pride like a flame and consumed it. He had never thought himself a great sinner before but he saw now his true depravity had been hidden from him lest it cause him despair. He realized that he was forgiven for sins from the beginning of time, when he had conceived in his own heart the sin of Adam, until the present, when he had denied poor Nelson. He saw that some sin was too monstrous for him to claim as his own, and since God loved in proportion as He forgave, he felt ready at that instant to enter Paradise.”