I used to make a habit of carrying a disposable camera with me everywhere I went; now that cell phones with cameras are ubiquitous, I no longer do so, but I still snap pictures of things that interest me as I wander through life. Sometimes, like the scribbles on the notepad beside my bed, these are indecipherable upon review. Mostly, however, my phone-tographs succeed in capturing whatever transient thought or impression had me excited at that moment. These I share on this page. If you enjoy it, please take a minute to check out this postcard printing link.
Christie has a cutting board with a built-in pouring channel at the end, which helps to get all the chopped-up bits into the bowl without spillage. An attentive detail.
The new molecular biology building (MBB) on the UT-Austin campus sports some cacti as landscaping. This one, I think, is spineless prickly pear, or Opuntia ellisiana.
Unknown flower blooming outside Vivo on Manor Road in Austin, TX.
I don't think it's working.
The science of chemistry is canonically divided into four disciplines: Organic, Inorganic, Physical, and Analytical. These correspond nicely with the four Houses at Hogwart's: Organic is Slytherin (makes potions, evil professors, jerky students), Inorganic is Ravenclaw (intelligent but obscure), Physical is Gryffindor (good-hearted and kind), and Analytical is Hufflepuff (detail-oriented, blustery). This allegory proved quite evocative as chalkboard graffiti in the Physical Chemistry lab I teach. Over the course of several months it was marked up, disputed, illustrated, and annotated by various passers-by. Most who disagreed with my assignments tended to have a simple-minded view of both chemistry and Harry Potter: Physical Chemistry is "bad," Gryffindor is "the best," etc. My choices refrain from such value judgements: I myself, after all, identify as an organic chemist.
I saw this handmade table at a local flea market. It has legs made of discarded camshafts from automobile engines.
This is one of the chairs that are standard issue for Chipotle restaurants. I really like the minimalist/modernist plywood-and-rebar look.
Years ago, ca. 1998, I predicted that cell phones with cameras would become valuable in the future as self-defense devices. Think about it: You're walking alone through a parking lot at night on the wrong side of the tracks, and you encounter a strung-out-looking indigent person. Instead of pulling out a weapon, you produce a cell-phone camera and snap his picture. The camera automatically date-, time-, and position-stamps the photograph and uploads it to a remote server. Now (hopefully) he realizes that there's an indestructible record of his face at that time in that place, and that if anything should, ah, "happen" to you, the phone's owner, it'll be no problem for the police to track him down afterwards. And if he turns out to be harmless, you haven't done anything more offensive than snap his picture.
This one-piece table-and-benches unit recently appeared chained to the columns outside the Flawn Academic Center (FAC) on the UT-Austin campus. I like it because it shows what can be done with just a pipe bender and some imagination.
Is this biomemetic design or heavy kitsch? On one level, this floor lamp I saw at Lowes is disgusting. A lamp that looks like a palm tree is so Vegas circa 1971. Gag me with a lawn dart. HOWEVER, I must admit even my stringy heart takes a certain delight in the fact that the lamps themselves hang like fruit below the leaves, which, as in a real tree, provide useful shade. It reminds me of an exhibit I saw at the New York Guggenheim reprising Nam Jun Paik's work: There was an entire "turn" of the museum's spiral that had been decorated with live tropical plants, giving the effect of a jungle trail. Amongst the foliage, bare TV tubes had been hung like succulent fruit. They were showing footage of an interview with minimalist composer John Cage, in which he described certain sounds that came to him while meditating in an anechoic chamber at MIT. Heavy psychedalia.
I don't know what the name of this plant is; these photos were taken on the west highway embankment at the intersection of IH-35 and Oltorf in Austin, TX. The plant appears to be a vine and caught my attention because of the prominent, pitcher-shaped "design" of the leaves, which doubtlessly serves to funnel rainwater back toward the stem. It struck me as an interesting dry-climate adaptation. Anybody who can identify it properly should e-mail me; I'll send you something nice.
Exigency dictated the storage of this striking yellow ladder--which is too tall to store either horizontally or vertically in the given space--along the diagonal, and beauty was the unintended consequence. I think I like this image partly because it reminds me of one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, which I now deeply regret not having had the presence of mind to photograph. During the recent construction of UT's Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay Building (SEA) on the northwest corner of Dean Keaton and Speedway, in Austin, TX, while the exterior of the building was being finished, a large, bright blue portable-ladder truck was parked at the bottom right of the southern exposure, with the extended ladder reaching diagonally up all the way to the upper left of the building's face. To shield the workers from the bright sun, a large rainbow-colored parasol had been opened and affixed above the basket at the upper end. I only caught a glimpse of this image, driving by, but it has remained with me ever since.
A chance thunderhead formation takes on a rather eerie mushroom-cloud aspect. From my vantage point in the Hill Country it looked unnervingly like downtown Austin had been nuked.
I think it was my friend Valerie Ward who first suggested to me the idea that old couches should be filled with dirt and planted with flowers. Here's a variation on that theme: An old futon frame has been abandoned by a curb in Austin's West Campus district, and as the weeds and dandelions have grown in amongst it, has accidentally produced a rather prosaic scene in the midst of all the offensive litter.
A spineless prickly-pear in a garden outside the San Jose hotel on S. Congress, in Austin, TX. I was attracted to the unusual chalice-shaped fruit buds.
Here's a nice gameboard I saw on display at TerraToys in Austin, TX. The surface is made of black and white squares of leather sewn together. Each square has a truncated hardwood stella attached to its rear surface, allowing the board to be rolled into a cylinder, with the playing surface on the exterior, along either of its two axes. A board in the rolled-up configuration is shown in the background.
This image is close to my heart because it shows the first chemistry-related graffiti I've ever seen besides my own Kekule's ouroboros. The molecule depicted is toluene, which is just a benzene ring with a single methyl substituent. Toluene is popular in some circles as a recreational inhalant, and it is almost certainly this usage which informs its appearance as graffiti. The designer's amateur status is given away by the superscript 3 in the methyl group ("CH3"); among real chemists, empirical formulae are always written using subscripts, as in "CH3".
Old beer bottles inverted and buried to edge a flowerbed at a restaurant in east Austin.
This poem is my girlfriend Jennifer's. It appears in a mural she helped paint on a wall in an alley beside the Hole in the Wall bar on Guadalupe St. in Austin, TX.
This bas-relief appears above and immediately west of the main door on the north side of the Experimental Science building (ESB) on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. A kind of armorial bearing for the discipline of zoology, it shows a microscope with a GIANT FREAKING BUG on the stage. It reminds me of the "prehistoric microscopes" Far Side cartoon, and every time I walk by I have to suppress the urge to shout, "It's a bug, dammit!" Assuming an average-sized microscope, the specimen, which appears to be hymenopteran, is about seven inches long, making it three times larger than the queen of Vespa mandarinia, the largest wasp species known. Somebody's been tampering in God's domain.
Since I was a kid, my Dad has been in the habit of referring to any strong chemical composition as "panther piss," as in, e.g. "Help me clean the driveway with this panther piss," or perhaps, "Gimme another shot of that panther piss; it's been a long day." As it turns out, in my recent PhD lab work, which involves the urinanalytical detection of idiosyncratic drug responses, I've actually been called upon to handle the real thing. You're looking at about 50 mL of authentic, grade-A panther piss. I've also had to handle fox, wolf, coyote, and bobcat urines. Get yours now at www.predatorpee.com. I highly recommend the sampler pack.