Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Saturday, December 17, 2011
I first read him when Mother Teresa was at her most popular and he was determined to take her down. From my early perspective, he was the lead spear carrier of the sneer movement: If the Revolution fails, stand back and make snide remarks. Unlike those of his ilk who infest the world of commentary today, he had the intellectual chops to back it up.
He was right about Mother Teresa. She was in love with the idea of poverty. (To change things for the poor in Calcutta would take, well, revolution, although I would make it of the "teach a man to fish" kind.)
In his later years, he became more popular among conservatives due to his pro Iraq War policy. In a way, he reminded me of Charton Heston: A man who stuck by his views regardless of what was trendy.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Had to be in Texas for my first blizzard too, BTW.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Just playing the game all the way to the end doesn't necessarily mean you want to be hit with a torrent of "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial" game trivia, plus a brief history of game consoles.
I couldn't help myself. It had been building up for thirty years.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Anyway, he promptly plugged in a bunch of new equipment... into the same circuit the office lights are on. The ones on a motion detector. HQ keeps calling (on my cell phone, because the store phones are dead) wondering why everything is registering "off". The migrant tech worker has been out a couple of times, standing in a lit office explaining to someone that everything is working on his end.
Fine sport, but it is trouble when your registers go into standby mode every ten minutes if no one is in the back filling out paperwork. Got back from a day off, and discovered that someone has tried to fix it for us:
"CASEY! Oh, he's eighteen? He's immortal."
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Heard "Thriller" on the radio today on the way to work. Guess that means that the Halloween festivities are formally kicking off. I'd much prefer "Werewolves of London", but for some reason, the local stations have made the Jackson classic the official song of the season. It's odd, because out here we are at the intersection of Cowboy St. and Hillbilly Ave. Guess it cuts across all lines. Personally, I can't stand it. The song itself isn't so bad once or twice, but it came out about the time I discovered listening to music on the radio as a standard pastime. I'm one of these people who can listen to one song for hours, but "Thriller" was pushing me over the edge. Even the headbangers I thought were cool had the cassette.
I fear with the trial of Dr. Murray underway, I'll be hearing a lot more of it.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Steve Jobs has passed away. Hopefully one of the notions they will lay to rest with him is the conspiracy that the drug companies have a cure for cancer, but keep it a secret in order to sell expensive drug treatments.
I never owned any Apple products, but one of the first computers I got to use was an Apple. Back in the day, the jr. high library had one, and the administration building had one sitting in it's own room. Everyone knew computers were vital for the future, but at that early date, they just sat around while the faculty wondered "But what does one do with it?" The kids just played the game where you were on one side of a mountain taking turns shooting a cannon at the player on the other side.
I also remember wishing that I had put my can collecting money into Apple stock, because Apple computers were the future. About 1996 I was glad that I hadn't, because I had a copy of "Wired" with a multicolored apple on life support gracing the cover and the title "How to save Apple?" Come 2011 and Apple has more cash than the U.S. government, but it is falling into the old habit of trying to stay king of the hill by suing the pants off of anyone who might be ripping off their "look and feel." Because that worked so well in the past.
I don't know that much about the technical aspects of computers, but I've found the personalities behind them fascinating. Everyone argues about who first invented the microcomputer, but I think it was invented by everybody: the absent minded British inventor, the established business company, the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" type, the investor looking for the next new thing, and the two kids in a garage.
Steve Jobs was more about marketing than engineering, and thats why he had the fame and fortune. The best engineering is useless without someone to sell it, but Jobs didn't appear to be cynical. He seemed to believe in his products, even when they were gasping for life.
I'll remember him best for Pixar. He clued in to what Disney lost years ago and seems incapable of getting back: the notion that parents don't want you to hammer socially conscious ideas into their children's heads. Although Pixar movies never pull the emotional punches, the moral messages are the universal ones, like be fair, stick by your friends, etc. All made gently, gently.
Love him or hate him, it's going to be strange without him around. He was just 56 (should have eaten more Doritos) but he had been there through the whole microcomputer revolution, more often than not blazing the path.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Sad times. The inventor of Doritos has passed away. Apparently they plan on sprinkling Doritos on the grave of Arch West, who invented the stoner snack par excellence back in the early 60's. Even more significant is that people have been pointing out that he was 97 years young at the time of his passing.
I know that one example does not a fact make, but I'm one of those who feels that a lot of what we know about nutrition is wrong. Finding out what is wrong and what isn't, well, that's the problem.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Ok, so NPR put out a list of the most popular sci-fi fantasy books, and people are checking to see how many they read. My tastes must be different, because my read list is pretty slim. In fact, I'm just going to list the ones I've read, with filler to plump up the slack.
The Lord Of The Rings The only book on the list that makes me feel smug just for having read it. I started trying to read it twice before finally plowing through. Reactions are mixed; Tolkien gave generations of geeks a solid foundation for High Fantasy, but as a story I can see why the publishers had their fingers crossed.
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Douglas Adams is my hero. Here you have a man who rose to fame and spent his professional career writing the same story over and over for different formats.
Ender's Game No. Books named after chess moves sound to me like they are too clever to be any good.
Dune It was good until the midpoint. I don't think any writer could maintain that level of byzantine intrigue without the story collapsing, which it did. I think it's popularity stems from incorporating all the things Americans love. Imagine the Middle East controlled by Central European nobility playing by Godfather rules.
1984 Only on the list because a decade of schoolchildren had to read it, based solely on the date. "Just like 1984" is second only to "Just like Hitler" when you want to condemn someone else's political behavior.
Fahrenheit 451 Much better than the above. Movie is a classic too.
The Princess Bride No. Like the movie, though.
The Wheel Of Time Oh hell no. When a series is described by Other Books Displaced or Total Shelf Space, it's too much. Almost bought the video game, but heard that it was hard.
Animal Farm Yeah, just like everyone else. It's superior to 1984, but plays second fiddle.
Neuromancer Didn't really like it that much. People were cyberpunk in the 80's like they are vampyre now. Seemed more of a fad than a novel.
Watchmen Read it a chapter at a time at Hastings. Does that count? Liked the movie too.
Slaughterhouse-Five Saw the movie, and that convinced me not to read the book.
Frankenstein I have not read Frankenstein, nor have I seen any of the original movies.
2001: A Space Odyssey Somehow I found myself in a Russian literature course, and Dr. Smith decided that we should read Nabokov. One day I was walking to class and found Dr. Smith walking next to me. He was a little worried about focusing the semester on Nabokov instead of the usual stuff, and asked how I liked Ada. We had reached class by then, so I grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote Nabokov on the blackboard. "So here is Nabokov. Nabokov intimidated Stanley Kubrick on the set of Lolita." I wrote Kubrick on the board under Nabokov. "Kubrick directed 2001, written by Arthur C. Clarke, who said everytime he talked to Kubrick, he had to go lie down for fifteen minutes." Clarke is under Kubrick. "Clarke is smarter than the grad students, and somewhere in here is Dr. Smith. That I can actually read and understand this book is pretty amazing."
The Martian Chronicles Shows that the fiction is more important than the science.
Watership Down One of the few books on this list that I would consider a classic of literature, not just sci-fi fantasy.
Dragonflight Can't remember. Read some McCaffrey though, and thought it was good.
The Time Machine Had the whole thick H.G. Wells tome. Think Stephen Baxter penned a sequel that I have to read someday.
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea I think this story ranks higher than the rest of Verne's work because of the Disney treatment. Thought Five Weeks in a Balloon was better.
The War Of The Worlds Yes. Seen the movies, seen the TV show, read the book. Fortunate enough to be a classic in print, radio, and silver screen. Enough already.
Ringworld Thought other books by Niven were better. Guess the whole mammoth engineering thing got people's attention.
The Silmarillion I found this book to be a fun and easy read. Get your Cliff Notes first.
The Once And Future King Partly. My problem is that I've never found an Arthurian novel that left me satisfied. Like T.H. White though.
Childhood's End Had my Clarke phase in high school.
Contact Saw the movie. Sagan needed to stay away from fiction.
Stardust Saw the movie, then read the book. The movie was superb; way better than the book.
The Last Unicorn Again, saw the movie. Rankin/Bass may not have the best animation in the world, but they know the elements of a good story.
Conan The Barbarian Read it way back when Frank Frazetta covers were all the rage. Couldn't go to a garage sale without seeing a pile of Conan books. Just recently picked up a collection and started reading it again. Conan really isn't the person that most people, even his fans, seem to think he is: he is always willing to help, and capable of seeing the hidden potential in anyone, even if they can't.
Rendezvous With Rama Clarke likes to flirt with "You can't understand all the mysteries of the universe."
The Mars Trilogy Got through the first one. A book that actually made me mad. If I write a Mars colonization book, it will be about Chris strapping on his jetpack and getting his trillion dollars back from a handful of ingrate scientists. Look, if you want to wander around a frozen rocky wasteland building your perfect hippy commune, load up your Damnation Alley van and head to Baffin Island on your own dime.
Lucifer's Hammer First end of the world book I read.
The Xanth Series Some of them. Started Piers Anthony by reading On a Pale Horse, which remains my favorite Anthony book. Read Xanth because Piers Anthony books were everywhere.
Not on the list:
Isaac Asimov. Never could get into his books. Always liked reading his essays, though. His guides to the Bible and Shakespeare are top notch reference guides.
Terry Pratchett. I've read his books, just none on this list. Guards! Guards! was the first I read, and the end was a little to socialistic for me: the solution to all problems is to hire everyone with endless money provided by the idle rich who don't even know it's gone. Kind of a cheap ending.
Stephen King. Only read Pet Sematary and thought an entire book's worth of material could be carved out of the middle with no effect on the story.
Philip K. Dick. I really must some day.
Starship Troopers I read Armor instead, and played Outwars.
Friday, September 2, 2011
I'd like to congratulate the Asian American Community, Eastern Division, on their elevation to the status of WASP, with all the duties and guilt thereof.
What brings this up is my reading that a "Panda Express" restaurant in San Jose is being sued by the Equal Employment Commission for racism. Apparently, there has been a problem with the Latino employees being forced to do more of the dirty work than the Asian employees.
I don't know if the allegations are true or not. Is the DoJ doing it's job? Probably. Possibly. It's just that the current Department of Justice has such a stink of politicization around it I can't help but feel a charge like this carries an elevation of social status along with it.
Friday, August 26, 2011
There is a place in Texas that goes by the name of "Wichita Falls". I have been to this place called "Wichita Falls" and can report that it is actually (in Texas!!!1!) named after a waterfall, and they do indeed turn it off at night. The name is of course Indian, and Wee-Chee-Tah roughly translates into "The Place Where Mail Never Gets Delivered", for back in the days when you had to wait six to eight weeks for your cardboard submarine to be arrive, it would usually wind up in Wichita, Kansas.
While waiting for the airplane which was supposed to take the sick little girl to Houston to cross Oklahoma, the city fathers decided that something would have to be done to give Wichita Falls some name recognition. They consulted a consultant who told them to do a fest like everybody else in Texas; cowpat throwing, seed spitting, sheep riding, etc. WF said no, they just turn into giant city wide keggers where all the citizens stay at home protecting their stuff. (Where I come from, a street dance means a lot of breaking and entering.) Plus, they didn't want it to be folksy; they wanted something modern. Thus, the Hotter Than Hell Hundred bicycle race was born. It was a big bold leap; I really thought they would go for the world's biggest farmhouse painted on a sawblade record.
It did put Wichita Falls on the map. This year, it may get the coveted "Most Dangerous Race" award, because the heat is statewide and you know the rest: people do stupid things.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Movie remakes are an abomination to Chris. It's a sign of laziness on the part of Hollywood, and it keeps resources away from stories which have needed the silver screen treatment for decades. For those reasons, I wasn't planning on seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but after stumbling across some of the promotional material, I'm curious.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
My ability to predict the next president of the U.S. out of the primary pack has always failed miserably. I was bracing myself for President Hillary Clinton (never thought I'd miss her) when Senator Barack Obama came out of the middle of nowhere (left field, Chicago, William Ayers' living room) to sweep the presidency.
Having said that, I'm going to say that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is going to be the Republican nominee, and unless President Obama has a economic trick up his sleeve, the next President of the United States. Now, there is a lot going against him; the country may not be ready for another Texan in the White House, and a fundamentalist at that. The press will take an automatic disliking to him, and his record has some issues that will be difficult to explain away. (I'm thinking in particular about the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, a man who was most likely innocent.)
Nevertheless, I think Governor Perry will persevere, and here is why: He is a professional politician who has been doing the job for a long long time. I always thought, for example, that Sarah Palin would have made an excellent VP. Her flaw though, is that she was an amateur. Now, that's not a bad thing, especially if you think that fresh uncynical blood is what America needs, but she tended to take personal attacks, well, personally. You can't let them bug you, and she did, visibly, which just encouraged the mob. (She is also a woman. I never would have imagined it, but the left really hates women who don't obey their view of what a woman should think. Witness the actions of "Creepy Uncle" Letterman and flat out disturbing Bill Maher.)
Jobs. Texas creates the jobs. It doesn't matter if they are low paying service jobs. People will just see JOBS. That's the big one. The economy trumps everything.
So that's it. Show that you can keep an economy going in the worst conditions since the Great Depression and be able to deflect some of the most vicious attacks in campaign history with grace and wit and the White House is his for the taking. Easy peasy.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
A front in the Third World's War is quiet for now. After decades of fighting, South Sudan is now independent. The future of Africa's newest country? I'd like to be optimistic, but it's going to be gloomy. Reasons?
- They have oil. This is a curse to all countries that don't have industry and infrastructure, and a lot of trouble to those that do. They think they will pump wealth out of the ground and all problems will be solved. We all know it will be spent on vanity projects and sycophants.
- They have never been a nation before. Yes, there have been some civilizations in the north, but the south has historically been the Outland between Egypt and Abyssinia.
- The flag sucks. Standard Africa colors, standard Africa design. I'm a big believer in unique designs that people can rally behind.
- The people who ran the war are running the government. I saw policemen with armbands identifying them as police. Too bad the armbands had "SPLA Police" on them.
- It's Africa.
Now, there is some good as well.
- John Garang is dead. He was leader of the SPLA for many years until his death in a helicopter crash. Sorry, but Moses can't enter the Promised Land. People who fight the wars are pretty crappy at following the laws later on. If you get your way by shooting people and blowing thing up, that's nearly impossible to undo when peace comes. Sadly, Back Up Leader is filling the shoes nicely.
- Potentially, they are rich, rich, rich. Minerals, fertile land, water... they have it all. But so do a lot of places. If the people who inhabited the Nile ever put a few of their differences aside, it would be the dominant region of the world; they have that much.
- They are (kind of) Christian. If your faith has helped you through decades of a war which has been fought partly because the other side doesn't like your religion, that could be something to unite, especially if the evangelicals have managed to pass on even a little of the Protestant work ethic.
- The White Nile and The Blue Nile by Alan Moorehead are the histories to read for anyone interested in the area. Part of my essential reading series.
- I think that the "Tolerant Arabs" is a little bit of a myth that the British had a hand in creating when dealing with the peoples of Empire. "Don't worry, [insert religious or ethnic minority here]! You can form a single country with the Muslims. After all, they were tolerant when the Europeans were burning [insert victim of ignorance here], blah, blah, blah... We're off to ride across the sands!"
- When I was posting on a kind of militant (kind of. Heh.) Islamic site, I had hell trying to convince them that Western governments didn't give a crap about Christians around the world, just like Muslim governments were lukewarm to persecuted Muslims, giving the South Sudan as an example.
- Contrary to common knowledge, borders in Africa were not totally drawn on a map in a European conference hall. It takes a big dip in Chad, but there is a rough line crossing Africa from Guinea to the South Sudan that follows the border between tropical and desert. It doesn't cross Ethiopia because that country sits on a massive plateau with a climate all it's own, but Puntland and Somaliland on the other side are also on the climate divide.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Amy Winehouse is dead. Sorry, I guess. Everyone knew it was coming. Sometimes you have to cut 'em loose. I hope we don't have any "Dead before her time" Joplin/Hendrix crap.
On the Second Chances front, why am I suddenly seeing Jason Bateman around? Looking at his bio, he's been working more or less since his Arrested Development days, but I haven't seen a Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog moment of career rebirth. Guess sometimes your star just rises again. (Giving everyone else hopes of a second career wind.)
The "News of the World" phone hacking scandal continues, with hackers claiming to have stolen e-mail from one of Rupert Murdoch's papers. Even some of the posts at left leaning websites are mentioning that "when we do it we are heroes, when they do it they are criminals" attitude to electronically stealing stuff is flat out wrong.
Now if that can only be extended to claims about the latest shooting. The facts are still coming in about the attack in Norway, so it's best to hold off until we know more. You would have thought that after the Giffords shooting people would have learned to shut up and wait. It's almost like people want attacks to take place just so they can use it as ammunition against their political opponents.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
He's changing the battery, of course.
I had a VW that had the battery under the rear seat. It made sense, because the engine was in the back. All you had to do was lift out the straw stuffed seat and there it was. You did not have to REMOVE THE TIRE. I also had to buy a package of those push-in plastic screws because you know half broke while removing the liner. It was actually a pretty easy battery to replace once the tire was off; there was even a helpful "Battery Here" message on the liner.
I wasn't the only one taking photos either. The staff of the parts store had to come out and gawk at the operation, and a few customers had to come by and tell their horror stories as well. It didn't make any sense. I couldn't see any reason why the battery couldn't be under the hood.
This is the second surprise I've had from this car. I'd bought a small freezer and since it wouldn't fit in the trunk, (it's like a Chris cubit tall and deep) the salesman was helping me strap it in. The car manufacturer was helpful enough to foresee my predicament and provide some small recessed loops for you to hook you straps into. Start tightening the strap and the whole thing pops out. Look, glue! The hole left behind was the perfect size to hook a strap to, though.
*I loved the simplicity of the Beetle. To change the motor you needed a wrench, a jack, a pile of railroad ties, and a couple of friends to pick up the rear of the Beetle and throw it over the engine.
Friday, July 15, 2011
The heat has won. The last fruit I picked consisted of three tomatoes and one cucumber. There is no potential fruit on any tomato plant, but they are growing well with abundant watering. I'm going to keep it up in the hopes that in the fall they might produce. The vines are another story. All the watermelons, cantaloupe, and cucumbers would grow overnight but then die back. Despite some huge flowers that suggested I was on the right track, no vine ever stretched more than three or four feet. All it took was one missed watering -about eight hours or so- and they were dead. Not just wilted, crunchy.
It's hurting those on a larger scale too. One farmer told me keeping one alfalfa field going under one of those rolling pivot things cost him $7,000 last month. Others may pay more, but that is a lot of money to me. The cattle that didn't burn in the fires are being trucked to market as fast as they can be loaded. No one can pay to feed and water them.
Prepare to pay more for beef. Any excuse to send prices up will be used.
Friday, July 8, 2011
I'm not old enough to remember the Moon landings, but I remember Skylab well. I was fascinated by the capsules splashing down out in the ocean and all the ships and helicopters making a fuss to go get the astronauts bobbing around at sea. I always thought it an odd way to do things, so I was excited to hear about a new way to get everyone there and back that they were going to call the "Space Shuttle". The concept drawing looked suitably futuristic, featuring a sleek delta winged aircraft with brightly painted tail and space age numbers on the wings. They even got so far as to start building a test model called "Enterprise" (way cool for us geeks) before Congress got cold feet and canceled funding.
If they hadn't, I think things would be very different today. A fleet of fully reusable spacecraft lunching every two weeks would have given us a permanent Moon base and perhaps even a manned mission to Mars. It would have been such a safe method of transport that private funding would have built the first orbiting hotel to serve the growing space tourism industry, perhaps in conjunction with the massive space station doing scientific research, zero gravity manufacturing and building other... stuff... in space.
Wait a minute. Congress didn't cancel it. We've been stuck with that white brick deathtrap for thirty years now.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Texas executed Humberto Leal Garcia today. It has caused an international furor because Leal, who was born in Mexico and lived in the U.S. since he was two, was not notified that he could contact the Mexican consulate at the time of his arrest, as per treaty.
This is the end result of governments which ignore laws, or rewrite them, or block them in court. The Gov can't obstacle the authorities when they inquire as to the status or origin of those they detain, yet demand those same authorities know where a person is from when they start questioning him for a serious crime. If Mexico were serious about the rights of it's citizens in the U.S., it would at least make a half-hearted attempt to know their whereabouts and inform them of their rights ahead of time. The Americans can't do it for you, especially since Mexico doesn't want it to. Leal should have had a card in his pocket stating that he was a citizen of Mexico and in case of arrest, notify the nearest consulate. If he was afraid that it might give him away, then that would be a clue that he was doing something illegal and he should take steps to fix it.
If you want to be treated like every other American, then be treated like any other American. You can't switch nationalities to save your butt and expect Texas to play along.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Even better if you are a cow. I had no idea that rinderpest was declared extinct in the wild just last week. A close relative of measles, rinderpest was a nasty virus of cattle and buffalo that was frequently fatal and very contagious. If yours was a culture which depended on its cattle, an outbreak of rinderpest could easily spell famine. It was so dreaded that it was blamed for one of the Biblical plagues of Egypt, but modern research suggests it was another lasting gift to the world from those bringers of joy, the Mongols.
I am not very fond of foreign aid. At best it is a good way to pour money down a hole, at worst it enriches tyrants, feeds corruption, and turns whole populations into welfare leeches. I make an exception for disease control. Those dedicated people who research for years in the lab then trek to the most miserable corners of the earth facing hostility and wretched conditions on a decades long task to wipe out what naysayers call an unstoppable enemy are simply the greatest people in the world. You can be proud of what your tax money has accomplished.
And why treat a disease of animals rather that people? Frankly, it's because no herdsman cares if his cattle are autistic or not. Contrast the polio people, who had a gates of Moscow experience in Nigeria when locals decided the vaccine might keep them from having the full brood of ten children.
Anyway, another scourge is gone. A century ago, church bells would be tolling and cannons would be fired off at the news. This 4th, add it to the list of things to be grateful for.
Monday, June 27, 2011
OK, so there is a fire, and it is getting really close to the highway. The trooper selects an overpass about a mile from the fire and blocks it at the exit ramp. It's pretty simple; the road is blocked by fire, you have to exit here and go north to another road. Drivers get impatient so they pull out onto the shoulder and drive up to the exit where they have to wait their turn. Good job, guys. The fire trucks now have to go onto the grass to get to the fire. Some clever motorist sees that if a water truck can drive on the grass, there is no reason why he can not. Firemen now have to cross the incoming lane, bump over to the access road then rejoin the main road after the overpass.
What was a ten minute wait has changed into a half-hour, because the trooper has to direct two lanes, two shoulders, and one grass of traffic into one, and tell each driver that they have to go north. While I'm getting instructions, a woman in the grass lane gets impatient (the trooper is making them wait the longest) drives around us, gets onto the exit, then goes back onto the highway and drives into the fire. To make matters worse, she's not the only one.
I didn't hear of any fatalities that evening on the news, so the firemen must have stopped them and made them turn back. I'll be honest here: the volunteer services are some really great people, but sometimes heroic action brings out the inner Napoleon. This isn't always a bad thing. The trooper, a paid professional state employee, has to be polite to people. The firemen, volunteers, can get all drama queen with those who cross them, to greater effect.
Monday, June 20, 2011
The Chinese sure can make pretty money when they want to, can't they? A peaceful sea with old style junks on one side and a modern steamer on the other, all watched over by a dragon which effortlessly blends into the clouds above, done in dollar green with a businesslike border.
Hang on; what's that guy doing with his hands?
Turns out that it's a 1938 One Yuan Federal Reserve Bank of China note. Among collectors, there is minor controversy as to whether engravers in occupied China inserted ;-) hidden propaganda messages in their banknotes or not. The Chinese must have anticipated such discussions because this one is blindingly obvious. The only point of contention is how the Japanese authorities let this one get by.
Happily, it's reported the engraver made a clean getaway.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I've always disliked the currency of the United States. Apart from the spooky one dollar bill, our money looks dull verging on ugly, and it's only getting worse. No one will accept the presidential $1 coins as change because they look like a crappy cheap token. We always have to take a stack to the bank.
One day though, the dollar will stop it's long and far decline, and the people will need something to reassure them that they can have faith in their money again. I think the best way to do that (apart from having a fiscally responsible government that has cast the Fed out into the wilderness) is to have currency that speaks power, wisdom, and confidence. Best way is to look to the past for inspiration, and the best example of all is the 1896 silver certificates known as the "Educational Series".
The fiver. Best of the lot.
Ah, the good old days. Half naked deities bringing electricity to America so it can be even more awesome. The rumor is that the notes were short lived because of prudishness over the overexposed goddess, but today the uproar would be over the theme of the $2 certificate, an allegory titled "Science Presenting Steam and Electricity to Commerce and Manufacture". Commerce? On money? Helped by Science? Outrageous!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
The small white object on the road in front of the blue pickup is a two liter Diet Coke bottle. I'm standing halfway to the launch spot. In my career I've had dozens of sodas spew, but none have gone as far and as straight. Must have been a perfect storm of heat, sunlight, impact angle and energy release.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I've had a major problem the last few days with something eating my tomatoes. At first, the suspect was insects or birds, but I was able to find a damaged fruit still leaking juice:
The edges were suspiciously sharp. When rotated ninety degrees the bite pattern became evident:
So what is it that takes one bite out of ripe tomatoes, is never seen and leaves no tracks on dusty ground? There can be only one conclusion: Satan. Satan is in my garden.
I felt diabolical eyes on my back. I slowly turned and snapped a photo:
Seriously, is there anything cats can't tear up?
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
You speak for America.
I have to say the Weekly World News was my favorite tabloid. When everyone else was turning to celebrity gossip or at least pretending to offer useful information, WWN kept up the steady stream of alien encounters, Domesday predictions and crank cures that gave tabloids their good name. They also knew how to bow out gracefully, downsizing to a few pages in the Sun and going online rather than compromise their journalistic integrity. Lohan did what? "Mean Girls"? Anything else worth noting? It took the WWN to point this out to everyone else in the industry.
I really should get the comic book as a sign of solidarity.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Duke Nukem Forever has actually been made and will be in stores this June. It's been in development hell longer than the new Conan movie and will suck just as much.
Duke Nukem 3D was one of those games which came out and "changed everything" in terms of humor and interactivity in games, and the creators were set for another home run when they announced another game in 1997. They wanted something as revolutionary as Duke Nukem 3D, but they kept getting leapfrogged by technology. They would make an announcement about graphics, interactivity, story... and and someone else's game would do it better. So they kept going back to the drawing board.
As a result, Duke Nukem Forever, along with Daikatana, became a running joke in the industrial-gamer complex. I used it to explain the slowly tanking US economy to friends.
1) Daikatana is going to be released real soon.
2) The Government goes ahead and spends the tax money it will get from Daikatana before it is even released.
3) They believe ION Storm (developer) when they say Daikatana will sell a million copies, and Daikatana II will sell two million. They spend accordingly.
4) They praise the wise economic policies of President Bill Clinton which will enable Daikatana III to sell four million copies. They spend accordingly.
5) Someone notices ION Storm isn't doing anything. At all. They just sit around the office eating junk food. Government spends the tax money it will get from the eight million copies of Daikatana IV anyway.
6) Daikatana isn't done yet and the bills are due. Everything starts to collapse.
7) Democrats accuse new President Bush of allowing his cronies at ION Storm to rob millions of dollars. Point out that if President Clinton were here, we would be wondering where to spend the tax revenue from the sale of sixteen million copies of Daikatana V.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
I would like to think that if I knew the world were coming to an end I would do country song worthy stuff, but I know myself, and I would probably go to work then spend the evening looking through RPG resource books. Kind of like what I did yesterday. (After I almost got raptured/ruptured by a semi which crossed my path trying to get to the gas station parking lot, exactly at six. Three cheers for not being worthy!)
I have more sympathy than anything else for those who gave up everything to await The End as foretold by Harold Camping. Times are tough and people, being people, are looking for easy answers, even if they come from a con man who may not be aware that he is one. At least those who ruined their lives gave up their jobs and their money instead of everyone else's.
To make it more clear, many of those who jeered the loudest should look hard at their own crazy religion and their prophets who proclaimed X number of years ago that the Arctic would be ice free in X number of years... and stop giving them MY money when they turn out to be constantly wrong!
Friday, May 20, 2011
First strawberry from a plant that wasn't well established to begin with. Poking around the leaves and there it was. Just one though. The plants which were bought in mid-bloom have slowly been producing, and it looks like there is going to be a bumper crop for June.
Oddly enough, they don't have a classic "strawberry" shape; they are more like two cones put together. I think the mathematical name is lookslikeareddtendron. Too bad the tags blew away in the wind. I've got plants that I have no idea what they are or what they do.
BTW, I'm learning by trial and error what works and what doesn't. Lettuce, for example, likes it cool and turns seriously bitter in the Texas heat.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
I've heard a rumor that the ATF assisted in setting a wildfire in West Texas. Dry conditions, intermittent high winds... yeah, let's set off some explosives. I know boom-boom is fun, but surely there has to be a bacteria out there which will eat your particular chemical if there is a fire ban in effect.
Regardless, if I had done the same, I would be lucky if I got away with picking up trash on the roadside one hour for each acre I burned. These people have far more power than anyone I work for, yet my employers holds everyone to a much higher standard when it comes to responsibility.
Friday, May 13, 2011
There it is in my grubby little farmer hand. After zero rain, fires, burning winds and hail, my very first tomato. I'm cheating, because I bought this one with the tomatoes green on it, but the plants I grew from seed also went into the ground today so it's a process.
Taste? Actually very good. Tangy but not acidic. The skin is a bit thick from the dry conditions, but it is not a distraction from the overall texture which is neither oversoft burst nor fleshy with the horrible granular innards you get at the supermarket. If you don't like tomatoes, and I know a lot of people don't, you might try one off your own plant. Trust me, they are totally different when you grab them and eat them before the lifeforce drains out.
Monday, May 9, 2011
I'd like to meet the person who unleashed this particular virus on the world:
"I can steal you identity and close you bank accounts."
"Yeah, well I can put steel or lead through your heart. Better for you if we did it before breakfast."
Friday, May 6, 2011
Word has come down that the last combat veteran of World War One, Claude Stanley Choules has died at the age of one hundred ten. It's probably asking too much, but it seems a shame that he couldn't have made it long enough to see the hundred year anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War.
Reading about it is very odd to me, because I'm old enough to remember when there were lots of First World War veterans still around. I don't think it was ever a common stock character, but Grandpa up in his room having flashbacks and appearing in greatcoat and gas mask is something I remember from more than one TV show. (Possibly. I may have seen it just once, but the comic/horror effect caused it to multiply.)
When the centennial does roll around in 2014, let's hope the powers that be give it serious reflection, because we are still dealing with its aftershocks all these years later.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Well, it looks like the first wedding of the century has gone off without any problems. I guess all the protesters stayed home, and the terrorists, being political beasts, knew the only thing that might anger the inhabitants of Yob Isle would be an attack on the Royal Family.
So that brings up the question: Based solely on what you have learned by reading in the checkout line while waiting for the lady ahead of you to finish writing her check and fumble for her drivers license, which member of the Royal Family would you give a gun to in a fight?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Kudos to the individual who collected these priceless treasures in his basement until the computer age allowed them to be shared with the whole world.
I guess by the late 1950's they were desperate for an animal, any animal that hadn't been featured on the cover a half dozen times. Pangolins though. I mean, really? That is one animal that just wants to go about its business without hurting anyone until a tourist decides a photograph of little Johnny riding it is just the thing to show the folks back home.
Still, I'm sure the Termite-People were grateful.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I did about ten minutes research after coming upon this painting and learned that it graced the cover of Men's Life in September of 1956 and the artist was Wil Hulsey, whose works are apparently popular amongst those who collect such things. The actual story was a bit more mundane, concerning a farmer's struggle to keep his ducks from being killed. (Perhaps not. Like a classical scholar trying to piece together a Greek play from papyrus fragments and quotes from other contemporary authors, I'm too tight to buy a digital copy of the story and must use nuggets from bloggers who have. Consequently, I think the story features a barn on fire from an errant shotgun blast and the farmer rolling on the ground choking the life out of a weasel.)
I also learned that I'm way late for this party. "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" struck the kitsch chord as far back as 1970 when it inspired an album cover for Frank Zappa, and it has popped up on the internet on a regular basis as #1 in the manly men magazine cover countdown contest.
One of the great blessings of the internet: you are never alone, and there are more people out there who like the things you like than you ever suspected. Of course the down side is that you are not that original either.
Friday, April 8, 2011
After the wind blew away my plants, I promptly started a new tray of seedlings. After they sprouted, I began to wonder what I could do to help protect them from the next calamity. This morning, I went to work with the back seat full of plant trays.
I felt clever as I choose my parking and correct amount of window to leave down, but after coming back home and unloading them, I'm thinking it's more like the cleverness of a murderer who gets the brainspark to eat the evidence.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
The latest from Fukushima is that it could be one hundred years until the fuel rods can be removed from the reactor. This of course depends on If. If those experts who are not there really know what they are talking about. If reporters are not looking for a worst case.
Keep in mind that when we talk about long term disasters connected to energy supply, a one hundred year wait for a fuel rod to cool just really isn't very long if you compare it to some of the thousands of burning coal coal seams and mines worldwide, some of which have been on fire continuously for hundreds of years. There are even a few which were ancient long before those bristlecone pines everyone is so excited about sprouted.
There are even coal fires in the United States. We have as many as two hundred, and a coal fire has led to the evacuation of the entire (sans a few old crusties) town of Centralia, Pennsylvania.
So if a worst case scenario happens, it shouldn't be poo-pooed, but it should be kept in perspective.
My bad. Go ahead and let everyone panic, then forget it like they always do.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
I know I don't follow gun issues as closely as I should, but am I wrong to assume that the ATF is populated with individuals who think they are in a cop action movie?
Oh, and why is there a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms anyway? That makes as much sense as having a Bureau of Coal, Petroleum and Citrus Fruit.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
We were a little behind on our price changes last week, so I spent some time printing up fresh shelf labels. I have to say that for the first time I was shocked at the jump in the cost of basic foodstuffs like flour and cooking oil. I usually just pay whatever, because you have to have them anyway. This time though, I marched over to the garden section when I clocked out and bought a small selection of seeds and dirts.
My luck with plants is spotty at best, but with the price of vegetables as they are I'll count myself ahead if I can get one sorry tomato seedling to produce.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
I had no clue that the band GTR even existed. Back in the 80's I had the arbitrary idea that the progressive rock bands were, like, you know, too commercialized and not true to the music. ( Then of course GnR goes and decides they need a full orchestra backing them up.)
The good thing about music tastes, or any artistic favorings, is that you can never run out. I'm still finding great games that have "Made for Windows 95!" on the packaging.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Oops. Just a very mild dust storm blowing through. It now seems like the Japanese reactors are not going to turn in to Chernobyl+Three Mile Island times a zillion. The disappointment is almost palpable. I don't know if this ever happened in the past, but the desire for bad things to happen so your particular point or view will be justified and your enemies put in their place is a phenomenon that I've seen really ramp up in the last ten years or so.
I'm kind of surprised the green types haven't jumped on the idea of ocean fallout as a good thing. After all, it would buy the bluefin tuna a few more years if the fear of radiation kept some out of the fish market.
I didn't know that tuna were apex predators and that squid were a mainstay of their diet. I knew vaguely that squid were increasing their numbers to the point that the oceans in the pretty close future (about the time the polar icecaps melt, so take it with a grain of salt) are going to be squidville.
So there we have it. The mighty atom teaming up with the persecuted tuna to defend the surface dwellers against the cephalopodic menace. Take that Winnie the Windmill. All you have done is chop up about a billion birds.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
I saw the video of the bully getting body slammed by his victim today. Contrary to my own expectations, I actually feel sorry for the bully. I mean, the kid followed all the rules: He didn't pick on anyone smaller or younger than himself, and he walked off his asswhooping without the cowardly blubbering we are told to expect from bullies who get their just desserts.
Everyone gets their fifteen minutes of fame, and this kid is now famous world wide. As the bad guy. Twelve years old. Much like a lauded child actor, I see a lot of alcohol and drug abuse in his future.
I love it when experts tell us that TV and movies might make kids violent. The first anti-bullying movie I saw was My Bodyguard, and I think The Karate Kid was the last with a lot in between. You know, I don't think any of them made any sort of difference in schoolyard bullying.
By the way, I would have aimed the little snot at the curb.
I happen to agree with the President in regards to Libya. Doing nothing is a sound strategy, and if you waffle long enough, many problems will resolve themselves. Of course, knowing when to waffle and when to "Do Something!" is the hallmark of a good politician. My concern with the President's policy is that it is not being made out of sound political judgment, but rather paralysis from discovering that one of the flamboyant rogue types so beloved of a certain class here in the U.S. isn't as popular with his own people as made out.
Khadaffi is popular enough to make Libya a civil war. Problem with a civil war is that if you jump in on one side, it makes the other side your enemy. Problem with Islam at this point in history is that if Gadhafi manages to bring down an American plane he will suddenly be the new Saladin taking a whack at the Crusaders. Even the anti-Kadaffy forces will declare themselves proud before they go back to demanding more aircraft patrols. Silly? Remember that a Kosovar in Germany just shot Americans on their way to Afghanistan.
I feel sorry for all those Libyan diplomats who defected early on. I doubt they did anything out of courage and just thought Quadafi's ouster was a slam dunk. Probably wishing they sat in the corner and mumbled vague neutralness right now.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
I've stopped posing my lawn jockey for this season at least, so that gives me some time to reflect on these latest history changing events from the all important viewpoint of the retail worker.
Egypt. Wow. Who would have thought that was coming? Big question now is who will be Pharaoh. My guess is on the Muslim Brotherhood. Like every other revolution, everybody is going to be handing out candy between dances, but then they will discover a degree in Islamic Studies doesn't pay the bills. Cue the repression.
What is so interesting about this is that it's all been done before not so long ago in Egypt. No one wants to remember that Mubarak was Sadat's vice president, and Sadat was Nasser's. Of course, Nasser came to power in the '52 revolution in which the people of Egypt were very much on the side of the plotters. In fact, when Nasser offered to resign for losing the '67 war with Israel, street demonstrations demanded that he not. It's your mess, Egyptians. You put them there.
Yes, we "propped them up" in the sense that we pay a big fat bribe every year for peace. That's what makes watching Egypt fun: Egypt starts, or a least provokes wars with Israel that it loses, and in return we pay them a heap of money, make sure they get every inch of land back and have them sign a treaty not to do it again.
Probably too early to make predictions, but a lot of people are thinking the Copts are going to have a pretty rough time in the future. Non-Islamic peoples in Arab lands have traditionally taken the nationalistic route, and the Copts have carried the Pan-Arab spear as high as anyone else. Those days are probably over. The various -isms of the past century have had their chance to change the Arab World and have failed. Islam is the only man in the arena, and with everyone else long gone, the Copts are beginning to see the crosshairs slowly being trained on them. You can only dhimmi up for so long before you start to realize that the kicks are not stopping.
Of course it is possible that nothing will happen and the Muslim Brotherhood will prove tolerant. I hope so, because things might get grim. It would be nice to think the States would welcome fleeing Christians, but my amateur study of the Middle East suggests that the West is pretty apathetic towards religious minorities.
One last thing: I wonder how many museums are looking at their Egyptian collections and saying "Told you it was preserving, not looting!"