May 2nd, 2008



Man ... this week has been a clusterfuck.

I have been dragging home somewhere between 8 and 9pm, having been gone for 13 hours, and being so tired that I don't even eat dinner. I eventually wake up and get some food and crawl into my office to try to get somethng done. Obviously, I've been falling behind on stuff because tonight my email was AWOL.

It turns out that my hosting service was trying to bill to an old credit card, but I hadn't heard a peep from them that they were having trouble, until I freaked about my e-mail not working and logged into their site to see what the hell was happening. (sigh) They must have been sending notes (if they did send any) to my old AOL account, which I've not checked in literarlly MONTHS.

I guess I should bite the bullet and go over to AOL and plow through 10,000 unread mails.

bleh ...

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Another from the "deep" piles ...

This was published in 1989, and I'm guessing that I bought it soon thereafter ... so it's been sitting around on "to be read" shelves and boxes for nearly 20 years, and I finally grabbed it a week or so back.

Some books age well ... Terry Landau's About Faces: The Evolution of the Human Face, not so much. While the basic threads of the book are certainly still valid and interesting there is all sorts of "gee whiz!" stuff over fancy computer programs and such which would allow for amazing mirroring and morphing of faces ... stuff that almost any kid today could easily do with free software. The book is also heavy with 1980's celebrity faces, which, at this remove, are not as "instantly recognizable" as they were no doubt intended to be at the time ... would you recognize Princess Diana from just the hair? Heck, there are several halfs of "paired faces" that I still don't have a clue about, and I remember the 80's!

Frankly, this book is rather uneven, although I think it's that way due to trying to cover all bases. It begins with the basic evolutionary survey of how hominid skulls developed over time, with reconstructions of how various stages might have looked. It discusses how environment likely developed the various archetypal racial characteristics, and discusses group identity (making one interesting point, that almost all races have a much harder time "individuating" members of other races, while the recognition of differentiating facial detail of members of their own race is quite specific). It then looks at aging processes and moves into the first part of "minimal recognition" patterns. There is an intriguing bit of various reproductions of the Mona Lisa through pixellation filters, from a 3x4 grid on up ... the familiar figure can't be missed at 18x24, and even might be guessed at 9x12. There are also some interesting (although quaint at this point) "line drawing" programs that look at how much distortion can be applied to a picture where it would still be recognizable.

The book keeps swinging between science and art, which makes it a bit of a disjointed read. One chapter may be looking at how faces were presented in painting and sculpture over the ages and the next might have dissection diagrams of facial musculature and micro-photographs of the details of skin surface, while running off into histories of various "pseudosciences" and "social theories" in between. Again, there is a lot of interesting stuff in here (like how even never-sighted people will still have most of the standard facial expressions, without a visual model to mimic), and some "freaky stuff" (you like shrunken heads?), but it sort of comes at one in a rush, without an over-all structure. I'm not saying that it's bad or that you're not going to learn stuff by reading this, just that it feels like a collection of random essays that were gathered together just because they dealt on some level with the face!.

About Faces does seem to be out of print at this point, so if you'd be interested in checking it out, you'll have to go with the new/used market. Lucky for you, the Amazon guys have "good" copies for as little as a penny, "very good" for under a buck, and "like new" for around two bucks (all, of course, with the $3.99 shipping charge). There are even "new" copies to be had (impressive for a larger format paperback that's been kicking around for nearly 20 years!), should you want the pristine book experience.

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Day off for doctor visit ...

OK, so one of the least appealing parts of this long period of unemployment (and current period of "sweat equity") has been that I've had to put off a lot of medical stuff. Sure, I ended up in the hospital a few months back with vertigo, but that was pretty much my only interaction with medical services of any kind for a long, long time. While we did have health insurance (very expensive health insurance), the individual deductibles were so high that anything I went in for was, essentially, going to be out-of-pocket ... so I basically figured the insurance was there in case I got hit by the bus or some such.

Well, with remarkable timing, The Wife's new job's health insurance kicked in yesterday, the very day we would have needed to have paid the other insurance five grand. To celebrate this, I managed to get myself a doctors appointment today. I had a list of about a half-dozen "issues" that I'd been saving up (and I'm currently kicking myself that I didn't get down far enough on that for my cold/flu symptoms), but the main reason for my going in was to follow-up on the blood pressure meds the doc had set me up with following the vertigo episode.

I was amazed to find that I'd lost twenty pounds (and that was with shoes, clothes, wallet, keys, assorted pocket fillings, etc.) and my blood pressure had dropped 20 points (the lower number was now 80, which is "normal"!) ... so I guess those little pills (which cost $2 a pop) are worth it.

I am, unfortunately, likely to need to have some vein surgery to get my legs taken care of, but I had all sorts of stuff that I was "worried about" that he assured me were simply "normal side effects of getting older".

I ended up coming back and taking an (unplanned) 3-hour nap, which should be a good start on a "laying low" weekend which should certainly help with the cold/flu thing.

Yay, good medical insurance!

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