The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Wassail!

New Scientist explains Saccharomyces cerevisiae, better known as brewer's yeast:

While we take yeast's brewing abilities for granted, they are in fact rather surprising. Most organisms that generate energy from sugars to use oxygen to break the molecules down into water and carbon dioxide. The energy this releases is stored in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule that cells use for fuel. In this process, known as aerobic respiration, each glucose molecule yields about 36 molecules of ATP.
S. cerevisiae, however, spurns oxygen. Instead, it converts sugars into ethanol, generating a meagre two molecules of ATP per glucose molecule.

Hoist a glass and enjoy!

Elected to high office

I forgot to mention: this afternoon, I got elected Sergeant-at-Arms of the Rotary Club of Evanston, "Rotary's Home Club."

This means, starting in July, I'm responsible for fund-raising at each meeting (which we accomplish by asking silly questions and then "fining" members $1 each when their table gets the answer wrong) and, in theory at least, removing people from the room if it becomes necessary.

The vision thing

I got contact lenses on Monday. I honestly have no idea why I didn't get them earlier. My vision isn't much clearer than when I had glasses, but, well, I no longer have glasses. It's weird.

Also weird is sticking my finger in my eye twice a day. I don't know how long it will take to get used to that.

That is all.

Fiction: E.M.F.

"Jessica!" Her name, screamed so close in that small place, brings them both back to earth. He pulls out, startled as she jumps and sees the man standing above them. His face is purple, raging; his eyes bulging, bloodshot, manic. The man in the stall knows something is very wrong. As she gasps "Pete!" and moves in her nakedness to placate him, somehow, the man with her dresses hurriedly. "Pete" is motionless for a long moment, eyes unbelieving. But as "Jessica" tries to deny what he's just seen, he stirs. Quick backhand—"Lying slut!"—and she is thrown against the stall, her head making a loud, sickening crack. Her eyes roll back and she slumps into unconsciousness. "Pete" reaches behind him and looks the other man in the eye. "Who are you?" he asks in a surprisingly calm voice. "Alex." "Well, Alex, I just caught you fucking my wife. I don't like that. I'm gonna show you just how much I don't like it." And he pulls a large black gun from behind him. "Say goodbye, mother fucker." Gun starts to find its target, the finger starts to tighten.

But these stalls are not very private, and the walls between leave a big space between them and the floor. And Alex, thin and agile, rolls under the wall as Pete brings out his gun. Under the wall into the bathroom proper and he jumps up to make his escape. Hard to push through all these people but he must, and as Pete roars in anger behind him Alex makes his desperate way outside.

The night is cold and damp, and outside the safety of the club's lights the shadows offer no cover. He dashes away from the club—no time to find a cab—and looks for a place to hide. Pete is right behind and Alex knows that he must find somewhere to dodge him—or someplace to find a weapon to protect himself. His eyes light upon a large abandoned steel factory nearby. Run to it, around to a fire escape, jump up and climb three steps at a time, up to a higher level. Pete loses a moment making the jump. Alex gains precious time, smashes a door window with his elbow, inside the building. The door groans open and he is in, down dark halls in his run.

Pipes cover the walls and ceilings, dripping water or hissing steam; steel doors and safety glass windows; old machinery lying forgotten. A few wires spark as Alex runs past. There is the dull hum of great electrical power, dark foreboding in the cold, moist air.

Down a hall through a steel door to the stairs, down two flights to a large landing. Pete yells from not far enough behind. Alex checks the doors on the landing—impulse prefers one certain door but it's locked. Pete can now see Alex, though Pete is still two flights up. Alex feels the terror rise in his throat and his limbs stiffen for a heartbeat, but the sound of Pete's footsteps clanging on the metal stairs breaks the paralysis. Alex dashes through the only open door he can find on that landing.

He enters a large room in the shape of a "T"; his door is at the right side of the T's top bar. It is 60 feet to the opposite wall down a 15-foot-wide "hall;" the room's extension ahead to his left is maybe 25 feet across and 40 feet deep. There are pipes of varying sizes running along the walls and ceiling, dripping water and hissing steam like the rest. The extension to his left, as he scampers further in, contains some steel lockers in the center and to the right of the room-several lockers are bashed in, as though football players have attacked them. There are showers far ahead to the left, shrouded in darkness, urinals to his immediate left, and toilets between them. But the toilets have only partial walls between them and no doors or walls in front for privacy. That missing section is propped against the lockers and partially draped with grey workcloth. Other cloth sections hang around the room, moving slowly in a silent breeze. The far end of the extension is dark but the red flickering of an "EXIT" sign barely shows another steel door with a large safety-glass window, a panic bar to open it from this side, and a large padlock preventing that panic bar from ever working again.

Alex runs to the side of the room opposite from his entrance, past old broken metal folding chairs, dead fluorescent bulbs, coat racks still with a few ragged coats, safety glasses and hard hats, and shelves of discarded tools and assorted junk. But the door he reaches—its window a tiny safety-glass peephole—is also locked securely. Alex is trapped in this place.

He darts back to the open area again—hears Pete's footsteps almost at the entrance. There must be somewhere to hide, and quickly, or some weapon to find, or some way to elude Pete. But even in desperation Alex can find nothing—this is it, the chase will end in this room. All is lost. Alex sinks into the shadows of the farthest toilet stall, awaiting the inevitable. His thoughts fade to his damning tryst with "Jessica" in the club. He never knew she was married! Revelation too late, far too late. The experience comes back now, strong, flooding his mind against what's coming...

Picks her up on the dance floor-a little smaller than he's used to, but so hot! Such a beautiful, elegant face. Such a beautiful body! "Jessica," she calls herself. "I'm Alex," he replies. And it starts. She keeps right up with him, dancing with no inhibitions, clinging to him like wet clothing. The music slows and swells, he leans down for a quick, furtive kiss. Her lips open and her hands dig in-the kiss locks and tongues meet in the hammering of blood and lust. The world disappears as hands slide and grope; the primal, hungry kiss. He finds a breast with his right hand and her moan sends steam across his chest. Knead, knead, gnaw on her face; this cannot continue on the dance floor. He breaks off to maneuver them into the bathroom—doesn't matter which one—and into a private stall. Back to the feeding frenzy. Clothes melt away, his mouth slides down to the breast—suckle like a baby, nibble around the nipple—his hands stroke her ass. Her back arches, her teeth grind; she starts to shake. He leans her back against the door and she lowers herself a little. Her hands cup his balls and tickle them; his breath catches and he clamps down on that breast. She grabs his shaft and slides from scrotum to head, back, up, back; tug and tug and tug to swollen erection. He spreads her soft, dark legs and finds the hole under her mound with two fingers. Her hands move harder, more violently; he grabs and fondles and teases her insides. Juices come quickly, he can barely hold her-or hold himself back. No more waiting—frantic, hungry kisses and licking; he grabs her ass and lifts her up and to him. Her legs wrap around the small of his back as he slides into her-so hot, so tight, so wet. Oh yes! Yes! Pump away, grunts, flesh slapping, moans, devour each other. (No notice of the man peeking over the stall, of the fury burning his eyes as Pete recognizes his beautiful wife fucking another man.) Alex, his eyes closed, can see the light, the rush of Paradise roaring towards him. The light, so strong! The sounds, so loud! He groans to welcome it...Ecstasy, mother fucker!


Bang.


Silence.


All is dark.

Copyright ©1992 Sean Pearson

Antigone Rising at the Bitter End

Note: This article was linted on 14 July 2013. It originally ran 10 July 1998.

Antigone Rising after Bryant Park A couple of friends called up on June 1st because Sarah McLachlan was playing Bryant Park that evening for free. We got there a little later than I expected, so as we shuffled slowly through the crowd, McLachlan's first opening band started. We couldn't see them; we didn't know their name ( Antigone Rising ); but we heard them quite well. By the time McLachlan thanked them we had actually squeezed out a postage-stamp sized patch of grass half a mile from the stage.

Within a week two thirds of us had copies of their debut CD, She's Gone a Little Mad , and I began digging through the Internet to find out when they would play again. I found them just two blocks away last night when they played at The Bitter End on Bleecker Street.

An hour before the performance the line stretched dangerously close to Terra Blues, so close that Terra Blues' bouncers threatened us with garden hoses to get us to stop blocking their entrance. As it turned out, I waited in line with a group of rhythm guitarist Kristen Henderson's friends, who during the performance sang along with the band and seemed to know every song within the first three chords. They weren't the only ones. The house seemed packed with the Antigone Rising Fan Club, and their enthusiasm infected everyone else.

Cathy HendersonThe fans seemed perplexed by the group's setup at first. Only Henderson, her sister (lead guitarist Cathy Henderson), and newly-recruited lead singer Agona Hardison took the stage, leaving bass guitarist Teri Avella and singer Suzanne Obolsky sipping beer back in the house. Kristen explained that because the stage set for them at Lilith Fair (they perform Thursday July 16th [1998] at 3:30pm on the Levi's Village Stage) is "a cinder block" has no room for their drums or amps, they decided to go all-acoustic, and I were the guinea pigs for the "new" sound.

That means we didn't hear Avella at all, and Obolsky stepped up only for Kristen's "Bitter Song," just to remind everyone why she's vital to the group's sound. Obolsky's voice blended perfectly with Kristen Henderson's, even if her outfit did not. That's not a criticism, by the way; even Kristen made fun of her for coming straight from her day job.

What about their music? Antigone Rising reminds us of Indigo Girls, but more melodic, and less angry. They're probably sick of the comparison, but their music owes a lot to Amy Ray and Emily Saliers: listen to the echoing vocal lines and flowing parallel thirds on Cathy's "Lonely Tonight," for example.

It's refreshing when a local band masters concepts like three-part harmony and 6/8 time and outstanding when they bring it all together with perfectly-blended voices and competent playing. They're not writing fugues, but few bands ever do, and just as few ever master the more esoteric elements of harmony and voice-leading that for now are just over Antigone Rising's horizons. But it's unfair to compare Antigone Rising to an average garage band, because they're way beyond being a garage band.

Just listen to Kristen's "Someone Said." Most weekend bands have trouble counting to four, but here's a group with an alternating 5/4-6/8 groove that fits the angst-filled lyrics perfectly. Kristen's writing has a slightly different sound than her sister's, balancing it, giving the group the kind of depth required to go all the way. She's the George of the group, if you will. (Fortunately they don't have a Ringo: all of Antigone Rising have bona-fide talent.)

And listen to former lead singer Penelope Kokines and Cathy's "Turn to Me," which opens their CD. Great energy, great hook ("Have we been here far too long now?/Don't you tell me that we're wrong/Turn around...turn to me"). I realize after ten seconds that the group should get something more than a $7 cover at a local bar. They should get something that starts with a C and rhymes with Contract.

Sure, they have some bits that don't quite work, but so did Sarah McLachlan on her first album. They're not professionals, they just love performing. The music will improve as the band keep playing together. Bands either grow in complexity and musicality or they disappear, and Antigone Rising seems positioned squarely in the first camp. It's easy to hear why McLachlan tagged them for her June 1st performance, and why I will eagerly wait for Antigone Rising's next gig.

Photographs Copyright ©1998 Antigone Rising. Used by permission.

Quotes: The Wisdom of Mayor Barry

Actual public utterances of former Washington mayor Marion Barry:

"I promise you a police car on every sidewalk."

"If you take out the killings, Washington actually has a very, very low crime rate."

"First, it was not a strip bar, it was an erotic club. And second, what can I say? I'm a night owl."

"Bitch set me up."

"I am clearly more popular than Reagan. I am in my third term. Where's Reagan? Gone after two! Defeated by George Bush and Michael Dukakis, no less."

"The laws in this city are clearly racist. All laws are racist. The law of gravity is racist."

"People have criticized me because my security detail is larger than the President's. But you must ask yourself: are there more people who want to kill me than who want to kill the President? I can assure you there are."

"The brave men who died in Vietnam, more than 100% of which were black, were the ultimate sacrifice."

"What right does Congress have to go around making laws just because they deem it necessary?"

"People blame me because these water mains break, but I ask you, if the water mains didn't break, would it be my responsibility to fix them then? Would it!?!"

"I am a great mayor; I am an upstanding Christian man; I am an intelligent man; I am a deeply educated man; I am a humble man."

Submitted by reader C.K.

Essay: Mississippi River mathematics

Life on the Mississippi

Chapter 17: Cut-offs

[I now have] an opportunity of introducing one of the Mississippi's oddest peculiarities--that of shortening its length from time to time. If you will throw a long, pliant apple-paring over your shoulder, it will pretty fairly shape itself into an average section of the Mississippi River, that is, the nine or ten hundred miles stretching from Cairo, Ill., southward to New Orleans, the same being wonderfully crooked, with a brief straight bit here and there at wide intervals. The two-hundred-mile stretch from Cairo northward to St. Louis is by no means so crooked, that being a rocky country which the river cannot cut much.

The water cuts the alluvial banks of the "lower" river into deep horseshoe curves; so deep, indeed, that in some places if you were to get ashore at one extremity of the horseshoe and walk across the neck, half or three-quarters of a mile, you could sit down and rest a couple of hours while your steamer was coming around the long elbow at a speed of ten miles an hour to .take you on board again When the river is rising fast, some scoundrel whose plantation is back in the country, and therefore of inferior value, has only to watch his chance, cut a little gutter across the narrow neck of land some dark night, and turn the water into it, and in a wonderfully short time a miracle has happened: to wit, the whole Mississippi has taken possession of that little ditch, and placed the countryman's plantation on its bank (quadrupling its value), and that other party's formerly valuable plantation finds itself away out yonder on a big island; the old watercourse around it will soon shoal up, boats cannot approach within ten miles of it, and down goes its value to a fourth of its former worth. Watches are kept on those narrow necks at needful times, and if a man happens to be caught cutting a ditch across them, the chances are all against his ever having another opportunity to cut a ditch.

Pray observe some of the effects of this ditching business. Once there was a neck opposite Port Hudson, Louisiana, which was only half a mile across in its narrowest place. You could walk across there in fifteen minutes; but if you made the journey around the cape on a raft, you traveled thirty-five miles to accomplish the same thing. In 1722 the river darted through that neck, deserted its old bed, and thus shortened itself thirty-five miles. In the same way it shortened itself twenty-five miles at Black Hawk Point in 1699. Below Red River Landing, Raccourci cut-off was made forty or fifty years ago (I think). This shortened the river twenty-eight miles. In our day, if you travel by river from the southernmost of these three cut-offs to the northernmost, you go only seventy miles. To do the same thing a hundred and seventy-six years ago, one had to go a hundred and fifty-eight miles--a shortening of eighty-eight miles in that trifling distance. At some forgotten time in the past, cut-offs were made above Vidalia, Louisiana, at Island 92, at Island 84, and at Hale's Point. These shortened the river, in the aggregate, seventy-seven miles.

Since my own day on the Mississippi, cut-offs have been made at Hurricane Island, at Island 100, at Napoleon, Arkansas, at Walnut Bend, and at Council Bend, These shortened the river, in the aggregate, sixty-seven miles. In my own time a cut-off was made at American Bend, which shortened the river ten miles or more.

Therefore the Mississippi between Cairo and New Orleans was twelve hundred and fifteen miles long, one hundred and seventy-six years ago. It was eleven hundred and eighty after the cut-off of 1722. It was one thousand and forty after the American Bend cut-off. It has lost sixty-seven miles since. Consequently, its length is only nine hundred and seventy-three miles at present. Now, if I wanted to be one of those ponderous scientific people, and "let on" to prove what had occurred in the remote past by what had occurred in a given time in the recent past, or what will occur in the far future by what has occurred in late years, what an opportunity is here! Geology never had such a chance, nor such exact data to argue from! Nor "development of species," either! Glacial epochs are great things, but they are vague-vague. Please observe:

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Siluian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesome returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

First published in 1882 by Samuel Clemens. Copyright in the public domain.