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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Another Monkey's Greatest Hits, Volume 1

Note: Click here for information on the musical group The Monkees. Please note that the band is spelled with two "e"s and no "y".
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I'm still getting a lot of new traffic from people searching for a particular string I've mentioned in previous entries. I've decided to take this opportunity to introduce myself to new visitors and re-introduce myself to repeat visitors. I've also decided to present a list of "Greatest Hits" blog entries from the past eight-and-a-half months.

So, why Another Monkey? The answer is here, at "Another monkey with a blog!".

You can learn a little more about me here and here. "The Scientist" is a pair of stories of me as a little boy and me as a graduate student that will tell you some more stuff about me.

I've done some painting and photography. You can see some of my earliest paintings of a rosebush outside of my house here and here, and a photo of the same rosebush here. Some vacation landscape photos are here - one is called "Sunset through a chain-link fence", the other is "Sunset over bridge into Stone Harbor". All of these images are clickable, and lead to larger-sized images.

Here is an entry on The Rock of Cashel, a castle/fort in Ireland. Here is a photo of The Rock of Cashel, and here is a painting of The Rock of Cashel based on a small area of that photograph.

I have a photo of and entry about the band 3 Brix Shy here. The drummer and one of the guitarists from that band later formed another band with two other people called Blue Sundaze. A cool photo of the band, and links to more photos, can be found here.

Some theological musing can be found in the entry "God is a dancer".

"Look! Up in the sky!" is about satellites visible in the nighttime sky, and includes a link to Jack Horkheimer's site. "Aurora!" is pretty self-explanatory.

I do blog entries about other blogs every once in a while. Camilla Henrikke's Wallflower.nu, Sammie's sdfsdf.wox.org, and Bill's Industrial Blog get discussed here. Fran's Funky Blog-o'-Love and Jen's Virtual Jen are discussed here, where you'll also find some musings on the tone set by various blogs. Even more blogs are discussed here and here.

When the weather permits, my dog Haley and I go for walks around Nanticoke. Stories of my adventures walking with Haley can be found here, here, here, here, and here. "Aurora!" technically falls into this category, too.

Ooh, those political blogs. See all of October 2004 and much of November 2004 for my political blogs. In October I was trying to keep to a two-entry-a-day schedule, trying to drum up support for my candidate. (It didn't work.) The roots of my political blog activity can be seen here . My post-vacation political activity is obvious in my blog entries starting with August 21, 2004. As I live in a hotly contested area of a hotly contested state, all of the major candidates, their wives, running mates, friends, and running mates' wives' friends made campaign stops here. The campaign blogs, including reviews of the debates, go through late August, September, and October 2004. The Red State/Blue State/Purple State map is discussed here.

I tried to write about September 11, 2001 here, but failed. I wound up actually doing it here.

My thoughts on Wal-Mart are here.

Here is a one-sentence blog entry that manages to communicate an entire story.

I am a huge Douglas Adams fan. You can find a bunch of good Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy links here. Here are some thoughts on the "Tertiary Phase" radio show. I'm also a big fan of his and Mark Carwardine's book Last Chance To See, and its tales of the Kakapo, the Northern White Rhinoceros, and other endangered species and people like Richard Lewis, Carl Jones, and others who have dedicated their lives to trying to pull these animals back from the brink of extinction.

A friend of mine and I invented the holiday season of Hallowhog, which stretches from Halloween (October 31) to Groundhog's Day (February 2.) If you haven't sent your Hallowhog cards out yet, you only have a few days left before you're technically early for next Hallowhog!

Finally, the entries which have generated so much traffic: the ones about Cathy Baker and Hee Haw. Here they are, in chronological order:
Hope you found something here worth reading, and I do hope you come back again sometime! Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, January 28, 2005

The Challenger disaster

January 28, 1986. I had completed one semester of college, and now our between-semester break was nearly over. I decided to take advantage of the privilege of the recently-graduated-from-high-school and return to my alma mater to wander the halls.

I left the house sometime in the midmorning for the two-block walk to my old high school. Our three-year-old dog, Kitty, was a highly intelligent, extremely empathic mix with a smooth shiny coat of short black hair and a fairly excitable disposition. When I left the house that day I was leaving her by herself, and she ran into my bedroom to jump halfway onto my dresser, stick her head through the curtains, and see me off.

These were different times. Columbine was still over 13 years in the future; mass murder of students was something that never crossed the minds of members of Generation X.* Some vague security was in place at the high school, but I don't even remember if I had to sign the book of any sort of door warder. (I know such things existed back then because I had logged quite a few study hall periods in my Junior year sitting in a desk by the main doors, reading the Dune series and demanding that any people entering the premises sign in.)

My visit was uneventful. I stopped by to see a few teachers who were running study halls or otherwise not particularly busy. I ran into someone who had graduated with me, whose car was crashed into in the parking lot during his visit. I returned home sometime after noon, turned on the TV, and made lunch.

January 28th was a cold, clear day, as far as I recall, but I didn't understand why a few of the cable channels had the same image displayed on their screens, of what appeared to be an extreme closeup of a snow-covered branch with icicles hanging from it. I switched on MTV and watched some music videos** as I ate lunch. Eventually I got bored and changed the channel, where I saw more pictures of the branch-with-icicles thing. I knew something was up. I switched on CNN (I think) where the anchor was intoning solemnly "and, 74 seconds after liftoff, the space shuttle Challenger exploded."

Oh, my, God.

My next thought was: I forgot there was a launch today.

My next thought after that was: I need to let somebody know.

I picked up the phone and got silence. No dial tone, no nothing. Was the phone dead? Were the circuits overloaded? I tried pressing a few buttons and got tones. So the phone was working. What was going on?

I went into my bedroom. My phone was laying on the floor, off the hook. When my dog had jumped up to watch me leave the house, she had knocked the phone down and off the hook. I hung it up, ran out to the kitchen, picked up the receiver, got dial tone this time, and started making calls.

I probably called my mother at work first. I think she already knew - by this time it was well over an hour since the event. I called my grandmother, who also already knew, and had been trying to call me since she saw it happen live, but kept getting a busy signal.

I spent the rest of the day and much of the night switching between channels, trying to piece together the story, trying to get news, trying to figure out just what had happened. I switched back to MTV every once in a while, where I saw their launching-space-shuttle-and-man-on-the-moon promo a few more times before somebody realized that they had to pull it.*** Around 3:00 in the morning I decided that there would not be very much more being reported overnight, and finally turned in.

The rest is, literally, history.****

There are moments that exist as snapshots of our collective memory. My parents' generation remembers exactly what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was shot on November 23, 1963. Anyone able to read this in 2005 can probably tell you precisely where they were on September 11, 2001. The date of the Challenger disaster is another one of those moments, and one that I will never forget.


*Mainly because we were too lazy to engage in such strenuous activity.

**MTV actually stands for "Music Television", and back in 1986 they still dedicated much of their programming day to what were known as "music videos". These were entertaining short films set to the popular songs of the day, and can still be seen between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00 in the morning two or three times a week.

***I don't think the space shuttle promo was ever used again, although the "moonman" was incorporated into the trophy given at the Video Music Awards each year. (As a sub-footnote, I must note that it's entirely possible that there never was a space shuttle in the promo, and it was in fact one of the Apollo missions that was shown. This would make sense, since the next image was of the moonman raising the MTV flag on the moon.)

****Read, if you can, Appendix F, written by uber-Physicist Richard Feynman.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Cathy Baker, Hee Haw, and how they relate to the Hubble Space Telescope and other endangered species

I continue to get a steady stream of visitors who are doing search engine queries on Cathy Baker, Jimmy Riddle and Jackie Phelps, and other things Hee Haw related. To those visitors I say: Hi there! Thanks for stopping by. I'll tell you what I know about the things you're searching for, but in return, I ask a favor of you. Two favors, actually.

The first is simple. The Hubble Space Telescope is something near and dear to my heart, and as you may have heard, it's in trouble. But you can help. Please go to the Save The Hubble (.org) website and sign the petition. It will only take a minute, and you will help let our government know that the citizens of the U.S. aren't ready to write off the Hubble just yet.

The second is a little more difficult, so I'm leaving the hard work to someone else. Ever since I read Douglas Adams' great book Last Chance To See I have been very much in love with the Northern White Rhinoceros. (And the Kakapo, the Pink Pigeon, the Mauritius Kestrel, and a whole bunch of other animals. It's a great book.) But now the Northern White Rhino, which has been extremely endangered, is on the brink of extinction thanks to intensive poaching. Action is being taken to rescue and relocate what few specimens still survive in the wild, but the people doing these things need your help. Please go to Gareth's Another Chance To See website and see what you can do. Gareth has loads of links to conservation organizations and up-to-date articles on the status of many endangered species, including all of the animals covered in Douglas Adams' book.

Have you done these things? If you have, thank you. If you haven't, please do.

Now, regarding Cathy Baker and other things Hee Haw...

Here is the official Hee Haw website. It has information on the show, mini-bios of the cast members, and information on the DVD collection.

Here is Risa's Hee Haw website, with tons of links, cast information, and personal reflections. Here is the page about Cathy Baker, the cute-as-a-bug "That's All, Folks!" girl, and here is some great information on the eephin' and hambonin' (or eephing and hamboning, if you prefer to be formal) duet of Jimmy Riddle and Jackie Phelps.

Cathy Baker's bio indicates that she is now a painter (but a different sort of painter than she started out as in her Hee Haw career!) But I do not think that this Cathy Baker is the same as "our" Cathy Baker. Her age seems off, a lot. The Cathy Baker from Hee Haw was allegedly born between 1947 and 1950, which would have made her between 19 and 22 when the show premiered in 1969; this Cathy Baker talks about being 42 years old. Also, "our" Cathy Baker allegedly resides in Virginia, while this one lives in California.

I hope this helps. I am surprised at how many people are searching for information on this stuff. I guess the show left a bigger impression on us than I realized. If you have any information that you would like to share, please leave a comment or send me an email to the address listed in the upper right column of my main page. And thanks again for stopping by!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Tundra time

The biggest snowfall of the season has hit us, and locally it hasn't amounted to much.

Don't get me wrong. I think at some point last night the snow gauge (OK, the wooden stick with inch markings on it and a painted snowman figure at the top with the message "BRR, It's Cold!") probably registered twelve inches of snow, but by this morning it had compacted down to about eight inches of dry powder. The roads are not great, but the snowblower made quick work of the stuff on the sidewalks and the street in front of my house. (As usual, I spent about 15 minutes trying to start it for the first time of the season before I bothered to read the three sentences of instructions printed on the snowblower itself, giving the correct sequence of choke-prime-start. Following these, the snowblower started immediately.) But in terms of hazard, this really doesn't compare to the fast-compacting sandy stuff we had a week before Christmas, or the wet slushy stuff we had two weeks ago that was only too glad to contribute to my basement flooding.

It was very windy today, and this had a few effects. It caused drifting, most seriously over the sidewalks that I invested precious minutes of my time clearing this morning. It made the tiny ice crystals of surface snow go airborne and turned the sky into a sort of gigantic Fresnel lens . (Well, not exactly, but the effect is similar. I have had to park my car a few times while driving West around sunset due to the increased apparent brightness of the sun.) Most interesting, it made the landscape outside look like a frozen tundra, with great billows of snow whipping along across yards and around trees and buildings.

Tomorrow shouldn't present any major problems getting to work, I think. But I should look into getting a new pump to replace the one that burned out last week. After all, this snow's gotta melt sometime...

Friday, January 21, 2005

Bush Eliminates Hubble Servicing Mission

The Hubble Space Telescope, after a rocky start, has been one of the most fantastically successful and longest-lived scientific missions ever run by NASA. But, like any piece of technology, it requires periodic servicing to remain in proper working order. In the wake of the Columbia disaster, a controversial decision was made to send up a robotic servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope instead of a human servicing mission. Outgoing NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe (a Bush political appointee who, despite coming from a bean-counter background rather than a scientific manager background, managed to do a fairly decent job) spoke recently of his confidence that the decision to fly a robotic servicing mission was the correct one.

Well, not no more, as they say. This from NASA Watch:

Hubble Trouble (Again)
Sources:Hubble servicing mission cut from budget, Space.com/CNN

"The White House has eliminated funding for a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope from its 2006 budget request and directed NASA to focus solely on de-orbiting the popular spacecraft at the end of its life, according to government and industry sources."

Statement of Senator Mikulski on Neccessity of Hubble Servicing Mission: "It is essential that we have a safe and reliable servicing mission to Hubble that is consistent with the Gehman Commission and the National Academy of Sciences. I will continue to advocate for this mission: I led the fight to add $300 million to NASA’s budget last year for a Hubble servicing mission, and I plan to lead the fight again this year. This is what the American people expect and deserve."

Update: Just heard on NBC Nightly News 7:00 PM EST: "A senior Administration official confirms an Internet report" that the budget will not contain funds necessary to rescue Hubble Space Telescope.


Goodness, the Bush administration just couldn't wait, could they? Well, science - at least this sort of science - doesn't have much to do with our plans for global conquest - I mean, our plans to bring liberty and democracy to nations throughout the world. Hey, all you people holding your breath waiting for Bush to follow through with his grand scheme to land astronauts on Mars? You might want to do a little reality check.

Yet another illustration of why re-electing this moron was a colossal error. Thanks, 51% of the voters.

It's too late to not elect Bush, but if you give a damn about the amazing stuff coming from Hubble, you should do what you can. Start by going to the Save The Hubble site and signing the petition. Please. Then contact your Senator and make your feelings known. In the face of the Bush Administration it seems like a futile effort - but, dammit, we can't simply give up.

One down, 1460 to go

So now we're one day closer to the end of the second Bush term. Will the country survive? Will the world?

It's amazing how someone who made the word "Liberals" into an obscenity could give a speech whose central theme is "Liberty". Perhaps he's too stupid to realize that there's a connection. More likely, he and his handlers simply don't care about the irony.

I heard that there were some televised images of water cannons being used on protesters. There is a brief mention of it in a Los Angeles Times article reprinted in the local paper, but a Google search is coming up empty. In subfreezing temperatures, a water cannon is a deadly weapon. Why isn't this being more widely reported?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Coronation Day

Bah.

Today is a celebration of the old political maxim about fooling some of the people all of the time. Or fooling enough of the people to put the wrong guy in the White House for a second term.

Inaugurations are always full of big speeches and fine poetry. I remember hearing some great stuff four years ago, even though I knew at the time that it was all bullshit. I'm not even going to bother to tape this. Watching it will just make me sick.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Ice

In the part of the world where I live, there are few things more dangerous or destructive than ice. Tornadoes are rare, and earthquakes rarer still and generally do not rise above the level of conversation pieces. Hurricanes hit us, from time to time, and floods, too; thunderstorms are strong in the summer, and blizzards can dump feet of snow at a time in the winter. But I would gladly take it all over ice.

Ice comes in several forms. There are ice storms which leave the trees sparkling with crystal daggers, waiting to bring down branches with deadly force. There is ice that forms when snow melts and refreezes. There is surface ice that forms when liquid water, or even condensing water vapor, lands on surfaces that are already below freezing. And there is the dreaded Black Ice, a sheet of ice so thin and pure as to appear to be a film of water, if it can be seen at all. Black Ice is usually the cause of falls and traffic accidents.

About ten years ago I had a fall at work. I was younger then, needless to say, and did not think avaricious thoughts at the time. I was glad to be able to think any thoughts at all after what happened.

I was walking out into our parking lot along a sidewalk that no longer exists. There was a water faucet coming out of the side of the building near the sidewalk, and apparently it had a very slow leak. The leak had produced a very obvious sheet of ice across the sidewalk. I approached it, debating whether I should walk around the ice by detouring into the parking lot and around some cars. I decided to take my chances walking carefully across the ice-covered part of the sidewalk.

I was halfway through this zone of near-certain doom when I hit a patch that was smoother than the rest, and suddenly two things happened. The first was that my feet shot out from under me, swinging forward, so that my whole body was falling straight back. The second thing was that I found myself lying unharmed on my back on the sidewalk, gently bringing my head to rest on the ground.

I have a degree in Physics and I spent some time wrestling in High School. I am a fairly sizeable person, both in height and weight, and all of my knowledge told me that for the trajectory of my body and the forces involved my story should have ended with my skull split open at the back and my brains spilled across the sidewalk. Precisely why this had not happened troubled me a bit.

Until the next day, that is. As I walked through the plant towards my office I felt a strange sensation in the muscles of my abdomen, familiar from my days in wrestling. It felt like I had done 100 situps the night before. And then I realized: I had not done 100 situps. I had done one situp, very quickly.

As I had fallen, my body jacknifed in the most critical situp ever. I struck the ground with my ample and well-padded backside, which absorbed most of the impact. My body then dutifully completed the motion and let my back down gently, so that my head touched the ground with no more force than if I were laying it on a pillow.

And I lived. I didn't die. That was the important part.

This wasn't my only encounter with ice. Two years before some friends and I had been in a car accident because of ice, and two years before that I had wiped our several times on ice while commuting on my bicycle through Newark, Delaware. I have learned to hate and fear ice, to avoid it when possible, to be on the lookout for it when such avoidance is impossible.

Ice. Out there. Winter is halfway over, but this is the time of ice.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Cathy Baker and the Hee Haw meme

Most of the hits I've gotten over the past day or so have been Google searches for the string "cathy baker hee haw". I don't know what's odder: the fact that so many people are searching for this, or the fact that they're coming to my site as a result. (I'm currently the 19th most popular site for this string. At least I'm not the most popular site for "whores in Iceland".)

I wonder if this is just a demonstration of the influence of the Hee Haw infomercial. Even typing in "hee haw infomercial" gives 875 hits as of this writing. I wonder if this sort of thing is used as a measurement of advertising effectiveness?

By the way, here is the official Hee Haw site, and here is the biopage for the cute-as-a-bug Cathy Baker.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Flood day

For the first time in a long time, I am taking a day off from work on account of weather. Not snow, not ice, but...rain. Or rather, the aftermath of that rain.

Leaving work yesterday was weird. Temperatures were in the low 60's (Fahrenheit - that's around 16-17 degrees Celsius) and the air smelled of fish. This was the warm, moist breath of the Pineapple Express, the storm system that blew in from the Pacific and caused so much devastation in California earlier in the week. Overnight the rain came down fast and hard. And this morning water started to bubble up in my basement.

The water in my basement always follows a specific pattern. First the southeast corner, then the southwest corner. Then along the southern and southeastern walls, which are several feet underground...by the time it gets to the northern wall, you'd better be heading for higher ground.

This morning started off with a little water in the southeastern corner, and none in the southwestern. OK, I thought, I would eat breakfast, take a shower, and if the water hadn't receded yet, I would pump out whatever was there before I headed to work.

After breakfast there was more than half an inch of water in the southeast corner, and almost as much in the southwest. I set up my two pumps and began pumping...and pumping...and pumping. By then the rain had turned to wet snow, but the ground is still supersaturated, so the water keeps pouring into my basement. Still, having seen the death and destruction that this system has caused, and having seen the death and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami three weeks ago, I've got nothing to complain about.

I'm now cycling the pumps on and off, to see if the water level has stopped rising. If I get to a point that the water recedes on its own, I'll grab a shower and head into work. Odds are that's not gonna happen in the next few hours, but we'll see.

UPDATE: The water started to recede at about 7:00 at night. By this point I had burned out one of my pumps, so I had to finish things off with a shop-vac. (I think it's burned out. It makes a high-pitched whining sound instead of the more cacaphonous sound it used to make. And it doesn't have any suction, even with both the inlet and outlet hoses removed.) When the water recedes all the way, I'll have to wash everything down with bleach. Yay.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Making myself sad

A few weeks ago I was taking a shower and thinking about the sorry state this nation is in, and I tried to cheer myself up with the thought that we were now on the downward slide of the Bush term in office (until the next Bush decides to buy, lie, cheat, and steal his or her way into the White House.) Suddenly I realized: The second Bush term hadn't even started yet. We weren't even at the halfway point. And this realization made me sad.

Coronation Day* is next week, and already the stratospherically wealthy are lining up to celebrate their complete victory over the American people. I'm beginning to think that if you can't beat 'em, you should profit from 'em, and I'm trying to dream up business opportunities that would help to redistribute the wealth of the nation in a a manner beneficial to the nation - like, say, draining some funds from the wealthy Republicans and donating them to non-Republican candidates who have a fighting chance of winning Congressional and Presidential elections. I'm thinking something along the lines of the "star registry" companies, which have managed to convince people to exchange their hard-earned cash for a certificate that is essentially meaningless. Hmmm...for a nominal fee of, say, $10,000, you too can be listed in my registry of "America's Most Influential People"...

Such schemes aside, it's not too early to begin thinking about the next elections. The major loss for the Democrats - and the nation - was not the loss of the Presidency. No, it was the shift of the Congress even deeper into the pit of Republicanism**. I have always mused that if Gore had won (or rather, if Gore's win had been officially acknowledged) in 2000, we would have seen non-stop impeachment hearings and obstructionism from the Republican-dominated Congress - and possibly a coup in the days following September 11, 2001, the blame for which would have been laid squarely on Gore's shoulders. If Kerry had won in 2004 it would have been the same but worse, as this Congress is far more radical and far less experienced than the ones we have been graced with these past few sessions.

So radical and so rancorous is this new Congress that it seems to be turning upon itself and its idiot God-King, like a mythical snake gone mad and swallowing its own tail in its writhings. Or, perhaps, more like a cartoon vacuum cleaner sucking up itself, and like that vacuum cleaner it will consume itself entirely and be gone.

But we can't count on it. So even as we watch the bitter spectacle of Coronation Day, we must hold onto the glimmer of hope: we still technically live in a Democracy, and the next elections are always just around the corner. Even when the end of George W. Bush's reign is still more than four years away.

*This would normally be considered Inauguration Day, but word on the street is that the preparations are so elaborate and opulent that the event will be far more like a coronation. Somehow it seems fitting for, to paraphrase Don Henley, "this tired dumb man that we (and by we, I mean they) elected King..."

** Not to be confused with The Pit of Republicans, a level of Hell not yet constructed when Dante dropped by for a visit. It is located directly below Satan's bowels.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Why I should not watch television at 2:30 in the morning

I went to see Blue Sundaze perform at the Lift Inn in Lenoxville, PA this past Saturday. The Lift Inn, it turns out, is almost exactly 50 miles from my house, so I was glad that the show was scheduled from 9:00 PM to 1:00 AM.

Their performance was great, as expected. The crowd took a while to warm up, but by the end of the night they were shouting out requests to the band. They tried out a few new songs, and flawlessly faked a couple by Credence Clearwater Revival. I believe that the guy who shouted "The chick is GOOD!" two and a half years ago during 3 Brix Shy's only show at the Lift Inn was also in attendance.

The drive back was tense but wasn't too bad. There was water in spots on the highway but no ice, although I kept myself at a level of maximum anxiety while scanning the road ahead, and I had a half-liter bottle of water and a nutrition bar to keep me going. My trip was broken up by a stop at an all-night supermarket to get a few half-gallon containers of milk.

I got home sometime after two and decided to head for bed, but found myself too keyed-up to fall asleep. Well, I wasn't planning anything more complicated the next day (well, later the same day) than undecorating the outside of the house and possibly making a quick run to look for a birthday present for my cousin, so I decided to see what could possibly be on TV at that hour.

Mostly nothing, but two things caught my attention. One was the Cartoon Network's broadcast of Ghost In The Shell, which looked as good as my friend has always said it is. The other was a total surprise...

It was an hour-long infomercial for the Hee Haw DVD collection, hosted by a post-Botox Roy Clark. (Maybe it's just traditional plastic surgery that has caused him to look like he is staring into a 100 m.p.h. wind.) I was transfixed. I saw things that had me laughing to the point of tears. I was remembering watching Hee Haw 30 years ago, every Saturday night just before The Lawrence Welk Show. I realized several things:

1. Hee Haw was a lot funnier than I remembered.
2. Hee Haw resembles an American version of The Benny Hill show, with everything that implies.
3. Cathy Baker was one of the first women I was infatuated with. She was the pretty blonde with short straight hair in the overalls who did a lot of the interstitial stuff and hung out with the bloodhound in the group scenes. Her resemblance to Cybill Shepherd may explain my later fondness for that actress.
4. Jimmy Riddle and Jackie Phelps' "Eephin' and Hambonin' " routine was damned funny. This is where one slapped percussion on his own body while the other made a series of spastic gasping and hiccuping sounds. Somebody at work was able to reproduce this pretty accurately when I reminded him of it.
5. Grandpa Jones was actually six years younger than my own grandparents, but he seemed much older.
6. I am very susceptible to the power of suggestion at 2:30 in the morning.

Hee Haw burned itself into my brain. Suddenly it went from something I hadn't thought about in years to something I couldn't stop thinking about. Must buy discs...my parents would enjoy these discs...must find out how to buy... It took me a good bit of research on Sunday to find out who Cathy Baker and Jimmie Riddle and Jackie Phelps were. I found myself talking about it at work on Monday, and on my blog on Tuesday...the Hee Haw meme had latched onto me and was - is - using me as a tool of its reproduction.

It's a good thing the discs are from Time-Life. My company used to be owned by Time Warner, so I know what a ripoff most Time-Life DVD collections are. So maybe I'll just bide my time, and wait for the price to go down...and when it does, Hee Haw shall be mine!

Hmmm...I wonder how many late-night infomercials the Bush campaign ran?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Undecorating Day

Russian Christmas has passed, and the weather outside isn't too horrible, so now there really isn't any plausible excuse for leaving up the Christmas decorations outside. (The indoor ones may stay up for a few more weeks; usually they're all down by the end of January.)

It took a lot less time than I expected to pull the cheap glass ornaments off the two evergreens that flank my front steps (hint for using glass ornaments outdoors: they need to be drained of all the water that has filled them over the past few weeks), disconnect all of the strands of lights and put each one in its own personal plastic grocery bag (with groups of lights having their plastic bags grouped together into larger plastic bags), remove the small spike-based pre-lit Christmas trees from their flower pots, pull up the outdoor power taps (a great convenience and one of those items, like miniature CD-Rs and CD clock radios, that I was able to locate by logically deducing that it should exist), and drag in the outdoor extension cords. And like that, poof, all external signs of Christmas are gone. Mostly, anyway.

And once again I make the resolution to put away all this stuff in a neat, orderly, and well-labeled manner. Of course, part of the fun and creativity of Christmas decorating is coming up with a different scheme each year - partially because you're trying to do something new each year, but mostly because you did such a slapdash put-away job eleven months previously that you simply can't figure out where the hell everything is!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

A semi-successful recovery

I've been able to recover nearly all of the e-mail that I lost in some mysterious way earlier this week. All that I'm missing now are any messages received between 11/22/2004 and 12/28/2004. Unfortunately, I believe I received quite a few messages during this period, which stretches from the week before Thanksgiving to the days after Christmas. Oh, well, it could have been much worse. From now on I will manually back up my e-mail as often as possible - not relying on the little message that says "Backing up Personal Filing Cabinets" whenever I close AOL anymore.

Blue Sundaze photos

I just found out that some of my photos from the October 30th Blue Sundaze show are posted on their drummer's website. As I mentioned way back when, the photos are actually taken with their bassist's digital camera. We were all pretty happy with these photos, which once again were taken without a flash!


Blue Sundaze Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Idiotic comments after a tragedy

One of the greatest natural disasters* in a long time has been visited upon one of the poorer areas of the planet. People, groups, and governments from all over the world have moved into action to supply funds, material support, and logistical and transportation aid to try to ensure that the suffering in the aftermath of this tragedy is minimized, and that the recovery is sooner rather than later.

But there are also a great many people who are quite happy with the tsunami. "I know it sounds terrible", one of them said to me, "but I can't help but wonder how many Communists got wiped out by the tsunami." Yes, we know evil Godless Commies are likely to be the ones eking out a living as subsistence fishers along the coasts of the Indian Ocean. And hey, wouldn't this world be a much better place if every Communist were swept out to sea?

"I don't think we should give one penny to them. They're all terrorists down there." This was from one of the kindest, most generous people I know and work with, whose major personality flaw is that she is a staunch Bush supporter. (See almost exactly the same comments from conservative darling / right-wing wacko Michael Savage here.)

Another person at work simply feels the need to mock any individual or group efforts to participate in tsunami relief efforts. And, as he is a bit of a Bible-thumper, I did feel the need to tell him that this was a very un-Christian sort of position to take. "The Christian position," he retorted, "is that this is just God's way of getting rid of terrorists. Why should we interfere?" This was from someone who is always trying to tweak my nose, politically speaking. But he wasn't entirely joking. (You can read almost exactly the same comments from conservative darling / right-wing wacko Michael Savage here, which is the same link as the previous one. Hmmm, I think I've figured out which "conservative talk-show host" the people I'm working with are listening to.)

Others who fancy themselves as morally righteous have simply chosen to stand mute in the face of this disaster, or to try to sum it up in the theological equivalent of "shit happens."

Yeah, I guess it's in circumstances like this where you see where people's "moral values" really are. Some people want to do what they can to help. Some people say "screw 'em, let 'em all die." And some people choose to remain uninvolved. Glad I'm on the side of the good guys. Too bad the bad guys won the last election.

* This should read "One of the greatest instantaneous natural disasters." There are many other sustained natural disasters - droughts, AIDS, malaria, famines - that are killing larger numbers of people over longer periods of time.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A big shot with his name in a book

I asked my friends to get me a copy of Jess Nevins' new book A Blazing World: The Unofficial Companion to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume Two for Christmas.

A little background, especially for those of you who have only heard of the League as a so-so movie from 2003. Before it was a movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (or LOEG, as I will refer to it henceforth) was originally a comic book written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill involving various characters from 19th-century literature thrown together in the service of the British crown. Mina Harker, Alan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and Griffin (the Invisible Man) are coerced by the portly Campion Bond, acting on behalf of the mysterious "M", into searching for a stolen batch of Cavorite, the anti-gravity substance from H.G. Wells' The First Men In The Moon. They find it in the clutches of a sinister Chinaman (who is never quite identified, for legal reasons, as Dr. Fu Manchu), who plans to use it to power an airship that he will use to destroy London. Snatching the precious Cavorite from him, they are later horrified to learn that "M" has his own nefarious plans for it, and is in fact none other than...

Well, as I was saying, this is a comic book, but a comic book packed to bursting with literary references both obvious and obscure. It's the sort of thing you would more thoroughly enjoy if you had a guide of some sort to point out the bits you would never get on your own. And research librarian Jess Nevins has set out to be this guide, taking it upon himself to decipher all of the allusions and references and to lay them bare for those of us who don't do literary research for a living.

His annotations for the first volume of the LOEG were already being compiled into book form, Heroes & Monsters, by the time I was introduced to the Moore and O'Neill book. But not long afterwards a second volume of the adventures of the League was published. This time around, our intrepid heroes find themselves facing off against invaders from Mars, who arrive in cylinders but soon begin tearing about the countryside in mechanical tripods, firing heat rays and spreading black death clouds wherever they go.

This time Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill had recognized Jess Nevins as a worthy adversary, and decided to try to stump him with extremely obscure references. Jess doesn't create the annotations entirely on his own; he credits "divers hands" with assistance. I made some small contribution by noting that the hardcover compilation of Volume Two included a dedication (in Martian) which, when viewed in a mirror (as Jess's site had indicated was the proper way to decode Martian text), could be seen to contain a message for Jess Nevins.


Martian dedication mirror image Posted by Hello

Unfortunately, I couldn't translate much else, except for "Gullivar" in the top line, possibly "observe" or "obscure" in the third line, and maybe "officer" in the fourth and sixth lines. (This turns out to be "Lofficier", as explained in Jess Nevins' book.) When I reported this to Jess, I did express some concern that this was perhaps not a dedication but rather some sort of threat ("Listen, boyo, quit telling everybody the answers, or Alan and I will come around your house late at night and...")

How cool to get your name in somebody else's book, I thought. Imagine my surprise a few days after Christmas when I began looking over A Blazing World and saw my own name in the Acknowledgements, right on page 8! Along with about 350 other names, of course. But there, right alongside mine, was the name of the most famous reference librarian in the world! (If the words "famous reference librarian" don't seem to go together, see if you can give the question to this answer: "Most reference librarians earn a living by knowing how to answer questions, but he found fame and fortune by knowing the questions to the answers.") I'm assuming this is the same (person of this name) that we all grew to sort-of know on (name of place we know this person from.) After all, who is in a better position to help a reference librarian than another reference librarian?

So now I, too, am a big shot with his name in a book! Go and buy a copy of A Blazing World and see for yourself!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Aw, crap

I lost all of my saved incoming mail on for my primary AOL screen name from the time I started using AOL through last Monday.

I'm not sure what happened. All of my sent mail is still there, so it wasn't an overall failure of the Filing Cabinet function that saves the e-mail on my system. The saved incoming mail is still there for other screen names, too, so it definitely wasn't a general failure. Also, the "organize" and "backup" files for this screen name are still about the same size as the saved copies from one and two months ago. This leads me to believe that maybe the mail is still there, just not currently visible.

I'll probably contact AOL and see if they can help me with this. It's not a huge disaster, in the grand scheme of things, and certainly not as bad as, say, losing everybody's addresses. Still, it's a little sad to think that everything anyone has ever sent to databoyecho has just poofed out of existence.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Now my journeys are at an end

For the moment, anyhow. Ohio was Tuesday the 28th through Thursday the 30th; the Poconos were yesterday, and today was New Jersey. And I'm feeling pretty beat.

Ohio was the hardest, physically and emotionally. Driving for six hours at the posted speed limit (as far as you know) is exhausting, even though I was basically just sitting there and keeping the car straight along I-80.

Why is travel so exhausting? I like Douglas Adams' theory (expressed by Oolon Colluphid) that "every being in the Universe is tied to his birthplace by tiny invisible force tendrils composed of little quantum packets of guilt." These tendrils exert a force that grows stronger the farther you are from your birthplace. This might explain it, but I also think that something primitive in your brain intuitively understands distance traveled and works out how long it should have taken to travel that distance at "natural" speeds; you experience a level of fatigue that in some way corresponds to this imagined length of travel. This is why it is tiring to even travel as a passenger in a car, or a bus, or an airplane. (Airplane travel is tiring even without the security pantomime that you are forced to endure for the sake of appearances.)

Next week I may be traveling to Maryland, a trip that is long overdue. And my friends in New York should not assume that I am too weary to swing by their way sometime. But I think that tomorrow, the last day of my holiday break, I will just spend some time resting at home. And maybe start undecorating.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Happy New Year 2005!

Haley is trying to hide under me as all the idiots in the neighborhood fire off their illegal fireworks. Could be worse, I suppose. Could be morons firing guns into the air.

Stay safe, everybody! And lets all hope 2005 is better than 2004.