Sunday, October 31, 2010

Greatest Thing I've Seen All Year ('Til The Election)

  When you combine this with the Jacques Cousteau documentaries of the period with their poetic  "Zee beauty and zee savagery off zee deep" you get a powerful one-two punch that left no doubt that we would soon have suburbs in the deep where the kids would have a pet dolphin and the parents put on wetsuits to go to work doing something...  underwaterish...?

 Not too long after, reality paid a visit and decreed that living underwater would be cold, humid, cramped, dark, and dangerous, the kind of environment humans like to avoid. Still, hope springs eternal so there are people and (short lived) companies and countries (talking to you, Dubai) out there still tinkering away at the idea of making it work.  

 Hey, if Gerry and Sylvia Anderson could do an underwater puppet show and make it awesome over forty years ago, surely someone can do the same in real life! 


Thursday, October 28, 2010


  A floor buffing crew was supposed to come by last night to clean the floors.  The week before Halloween isn't really the best time to do this stuff, but what can you do?  We spent the afternoon picking everything off the floor, then waited.  And waited.  

  So we played hockey.  For Christmas we got a shipment of these hover disk things.  Put in six D  batteries, flip the switch and you have a little hovercraft, perfect for swatting across the floor with brooms. I was kind of surprised it could float with all the weight of the batteries, but it did, but only for about five minutes.  

  Got to work this morning, and the crew was outside in their cleaning van, fast asleep.  They claimed they were delayed...  

  "I have your schedule.  I know which store you were at last."

  Got lost...

 "There is only one road and a big lighted sign."

  I called their company to reschedule, and mused about telling them their crew was probably off drunk.  It wouldn't have done any good, because they replace them with the very same type of people.  I seriously think they drive down skid row and offer a bottle of malt liquor to anyone who wants to climb in the van and go on a road trip.  At least these guys weren't totally scary.  Let's try to keep them!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Follow Me Lads, I've Played Close Combat!

  Back in the late 90's, Atomic Games released a series of strategy games based on WW2.  They were top down, strictly not 3D tactical games highly praised for their gameplay and realism.  I've got the first two which depict Normandy and Operation Market Garden.  If what everyone says is true, I've learned a few things:

I understand why they called it Honey.  When you clue in that it may look like a tank but isn't one, the M3 becomes a zippy little mobile machine gun nest capable of causing much consternation amongst thy foes.  When I get rich, I'm going to buy one.  That, or a Ferret.  (I've got two styles I love:  Retro-Futuristic and Post-Colonial Africa.  Nothing says Afrique Coloniale like a British armored car.)

Forget the trenches; head for a pile of bricks.  It may have been a quark of the game, but if someone was in a pile of rubble, there was no way to dislodge him.  Old Hans, who hadn't held a gun since the Franco-Prussian War, kept the British Army in check while all of his friends ran off the map.

Germans aren't the unstoppable killing machines you see in the movies.  If the odds are against them, they run for it.

The King Tiger is.  Typical morning for King Tiger commander:  Wake at 3:30.  Drink cup of acorn coffee or whatever it was.  Start fueling tank.  3:45  Tell rest of German Army to stay in bed.  4:05  Late Start.  Trundle down to Arnhem.  Check Blackberry on the way.  5:00 Promptly start battle.  Destroy everything that looks British.  5:58  Present rear of tank to PIAT team to give them a sporting chance.  Send loader out to help them cock it.  6:10 Back up over PIAT team.  Return to base with case of Spam for breakfast.

If the 8.8 cm FlaK can see it, it can shoot it.  I understand why the Allies hated it so much.  One minute you are cracking open tanks, next it's the world's biggest sniper rifle.

The Sherman tank isn't so bad.  Unless you bust through a hedge and there is a Tiger on the other side.

No one likes flamethrowers.  Neither to give nor receive.

The ground in Holland is really soft.  Don't know how Michael Caine did it.  If I put tanks on the road, they blew up.  Send them cross country, they get stuck.  If you tell them to produce smoke, you don't know if they are actually doing that or burning up the motor trying to get out.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Power Of The Old Ones Weakens

  Jordan is bored, asks "What do you want to talk about?"  I do the whole "Ok, Han Solo vs. Captain Kirk in a fistfight."  No clue whatsoever who the two were.  I'm naturally outraged, so we march over to our geek, computer programmer waiting to go into the Army Sean, and ask him to explain who the two are.  The only thing we got sorted out is that Solo is the helmsman of the Enterprise and they fight with "lighty swords."

  Thinking about it, I shouldn't have been surprised.  It's been a good span of time since Kirk and Solo were on the big screen (the latest Star Trek doesn't count) so we should expect them to start fading from the common memory.  Also, I think William Shatner's tactic of embracing the suck has worked for him, and for the first time in decades he is famous for being Shatner.  I was able to tell Jordan who Kirk was by saying "He was played by the 'Priceline' guy."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hobbit Movie

  Word has come down that the Hobbit has finally wound it's way through development hell and is now on schedule to be made, with Peter Jackson back at the helm.

  I have to come out and say I'm not too sure.  If I had my way, they would take the old Rankin-Bass Hobbit and run it through the Hewlett-Packard to add some much needed frames of animation.  I'd redo some of the songs to remove the excess folksiness, and redraw the wood elves, the cat-toad goblins, and especially Smaug.  

  It's not that I don't trust Jackson.  I could barely contain myself from standing up in the theater and shouting "THAT IS THE SHIRE!" When I saw The Fellowship of the Ring.  It was good, but there was also something lacking.  

  It may have been the source material.  When I finished reading LOTR, I put the final book down and thought "Whew.  That's over."  I got the feeling Tolkien was thinking the same thing.  It started out well; the section between the beginning of the book and I want to kill-O, Tom Bombadil-O was a very richly detailed fantasy road trip.  By the end, it was resembling a freshman college paper: the one where you are halfway done with no end in sight and you are doing your very best to cut corners and bring the whole thing to some sort of finish.

  I never felt that way about "The Hobbit".  It's one of my very favorite books.  It's also a children's book, and I wonder if Peter Jackson can give it a separate look and feel to enable it to be its own movie. 

  Perhaps what is missing is a sense of wonder.  There is a section in "The Hobbit" where the party is stuck in a storm and the giants come out to play, tossing rocks at each other as the rain and lightning rage around them.  It's a great scene which shows off Tolkien's ability to insert myth and mystery into his work, and that sense of the unknown never showed up in the LOTR movies.  It's a shame, because Jackson did action so very well.

   It makes me wonder what John Boorman would have done with the property.  

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wyoming: America's Electrical Industrial Complex

  For some reason, geothermal power hasn't featured as loudly as solar and wind in the national energy debate.  It's probably because you can't display a geothermal system like a flag like you can with your windmill.  All that needs to change, though.  It turns out that the United States is sitting on top of the world's largest collection of geothermal hot spots, of which Yellowstone National Park is the biggest and brightest.

  "Yellowstone is a park!  The geysers are a national treasure!"  They are saying already.  I know; there is a lot of resistance to overcome before we can tap into this energy powerhouse.  That's why I have prepared a small pamphlet.

Did You Know...?

Yellowstone is a frozen wasteland where the temperature dipped to minus sixty-six degrees Fahrenheit?

There is no Kennedy Compound near Yellowstone?

Buffalo can live anywhere in the United States, including Cape Cod?

The wolves of Yellowstone are carriers of lycanthropy?

Geysers are found in all major cities?  They are called "fountains" and won't scald you to death.

The Frost and Fire Giants (Jotun) plot the destruction of humanity from within Yellowstone, which they call Muspelheim?  

Tapping into the Jotun's superweapon for energy pleases the gods and helps stave off Ragnarok?

Iceland's moonscape is the cleanest moonscape in the world because they use geothermal power?

Power plants will provide jobs for homeless bears who currently have to eat out of trash cans?

Technical problems associated with geothermal energy are easier to overcome than making the sun shine in a storm or having the wind blow at a constant speed?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why You Want Three Witnesses

  Found an empty binoculars carton sitting on top of the dog food.  I had just walked past, so I knew the theft had been within the last few minutes.  I wasted no time in hurrying back to the camera system, where I spent a few minutes reviewing the film from the electronics aisle.  There they were.  A big kid standing with his back to the camera blocking the view while his pint sized accomplice grabbed the merchandise.  I jotted down the time, then went about my duties.  (They were long gone.)  

  Next day, I told the manager all about it and we examine the footage.  Can't find anything.  4:20, Camera 6, black t-shirt says my handwritten note.  Nothing.  Go back to 4:00 and up to 4:40, still nothing.  Manager says, "What about that one in the black t-shirt?"  At 4:47.  

  At least I got the number and gender correct. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Will They Still Want It If They Can't Spend It?

  On one of the progressive websites this Sunday was a post about the battle over taxing the rich.  It was for it of course, and it made two arguments over why soaking the rich was a good idea.  The post was directed at those who thought that high taxes would be a discouragement to innovation, and the first argument was that taxes on the wealthy were much higher in the past than now, yet the country was still prosperous.  I can see the merit in that reasoning, but it was a different world back in the 50's.  Back then, if you were inventing microchips, no one would have imagined going to India to make them.  You could charge high taxes because there was no other place to go.

  The second argument makes sense, yet has a certain creepy vibe about it.  The reasoning goes that inventive people are going to invent anyway, so you can take as much as you want and they will keep on inventing because they are driven to do so.  Talk about parasites!

  About the same time I was reading that, Melinda Gates was on "60 Minutes" talking about the Gates Foundation.  Despite the billions of dollars to spend, it looked like the Gates were being pretty careful to make sure every penny was being spent wisely.  

  Put the two together, and you have my idea for future tax policy.  On one hand "fair share" is either the same amount of money everyone else gets taxed, or the same percent.  Nothing else is fair.  On the other, income inequality is a very real problem for nations.  We are also broke and need the money.  My compromise that leaves no one very happy is for the super rich to pay as much tax as everyone else.  Then they have to pay a rich people tax.  Get this though:  They get to decide how the money is spent!   

  There would have to be a few simple rules, like no spending it in a way that directly profits the payer, or ganging up to send the money to one place.  The rich could send all of their money to the General Fund, or micromanage it as much as they want.  Politicians would have a fit, but I can see government getting back to the basics while leaving the fluffy feel good stuff to the richer taxpayers.

  Hey, it's an idea.

Friday, October 1, 2010

We'll Get Good Pictures Of The Fire

  Back in the pre-computer age, the powers that be decided that the office should have a motion sensor.  Pennies a day could be saved by having the lights, fan, and adding machine shut off if no one was there.  Computers arrive and we have a big problem.  Since the office outlets are on the motion sensor, we have to sneak an extension cord over to one of the other two outlets in the back room: the hot water heater or the AC unit.  We already toasted the AC plug once by adding the fridge and microwave; they've stood idle ever since an electrician shouted "WHO THE HELL DID THIS?"

  So we get a new camera system.  The old was pretty useless; the new suggests that corporate may be taking the shoplifting plague seriously.  Anyway, the techs install the system, show us how to use it then take to the road, happy in the thought that no one is watching the watchers.  We admire the system for a few minutes then wander up front to the monitor which hangs from the ceiling warning everyone we now have improved surveillance.     NO SIGNAL says the blue screen.  They plugged it in to the office circuit.  We spent the rest of the morning throwing extension cords through the girders, climbing up to find them and calling out "Ok, pull on that one!"

  P.S.-  The manager saw some kids kneeling by the battery display and ran up to tell them we had a new camera system.  They laughed out loud and sauntered out.  It's just a bump in the road, even to amateurs.