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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Crazy from the heat

It is way too hot here, and we haven't had significant rain in Nanticoke in about three weeks. I haven't blogged much lately because my computer is experiencing all sorts of temperature-related malfunctions. I tried to post this last night and popped a Firefox error, and then my computer crashed and wouldn't reboot. Even now I think I'm on borrowed time, though the temperature is currently 80 degrees in this room.

Much to blog about, but no time to do it. Be sure to check out Sammie's sdfsdf.wox.org - they're having flooding in her town on the east coast of Australia, and she got some cool pictures. I hope everything's OK there.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Saw them!

I definitely saw Venus tonight with Mercury hanging lower and to the left, so close that I needed to use binoculars to separate them. My view was through a tiny opening in the gathering evening clouds, so I did not see Saturn, which was hanging lower into fading twilight and was obscured by tendrils of clouds.

This was in the early twilight just after 9:00 tonight. Thick clouds rapidly condensed out of the cooling moisture-laden atmosphere and put an end to my observations.

Could be worse, I suppose. In Trondheim, Norway, the sun did not set until 11:34 last night, and rose at 3:04 this morning! That makes summertime astronomy a little difficult!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Conjunction junction

If you can, check out the after-sunset conjunction of Venus, Mercury, and Saturn tonight (June 26, 2005) and tomorrow night (June 27, 2005). The three of them make a very tight pattern low on the western horizon as soon as the sunset twilight fades to darkness. Distant Saturn will quickly slip back down into the post-sunset glow in the coming days, so you can't put this off. (Surprisingly, Mercury will hang out in the vicinity of Venus for a week or so, so this will be a good opportunity to see Mercury using Venus as a guide - if you missed it last time, this is an even better chance to see it. There is also a great matchup of the Moon, Venus, and Mercury coming up on July 8, so mark your calendars now!)

Unfortunately, weather conditions are causing the nights here in Northeastern Pennsylvania to be very slightly hazy, with the haze thickening as you approach the horizon to the point that even Venus's burning-diamond brightness is blocked. That was true last night, but I will try to see it again tonight.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Another portrait

Here's another portrait of me, as done by an aspiring local artist.


Portrait, June 21, 2005
pencil on pink notepaper, 3.5"x3.5"
Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24, 2005

Still more deleted scenes from the Star Wars movies

See the ever-growing list here. All of the scenes I'm posting on my blog were written by me, by the way.

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Cloud City
Dinner With Darth Vader

Vader: And then he cut off my legs and my one good arm, stole my lightsaber, and left me there on the burning sands on the side of a stream of molten metal.

Leia: What a jerk! Pass the potatoes, please.

Vader: It was so hot, my clothing spontaneously combusted. I got all burned. It was awful. Obi-Wan just walked away! If the Emperor hadn't saved my sorry butt, I would've been a goner for sure! Can I have the cranberry sauce?

Han: Sure, here ya go. You know, I never liked that crazy old man. Lando, this food is great.

Lando: Yeah, I know. Cloud City Caterers. I use them for all our formal functions. Leia, you look like you need a refill on your wine.

Leia: Thank you, please. Boba, care for a bit more chicken?

Boba Fett: Yes, thank you.

Leia: Lando, this wine is wonderful. It tastes really familiar.

Lando: It should. It's from a shipment of Alderaanian Chianti that I had flown in a few years ago. I bought it as a table wine, but it's become an investment wine. You know, the value has skyrocketed, since the supply dried up.

Leia: It didn't dry up, it got blown up! (Turns to Vader.) And you blew it up, Daddy!

Vader: Honey, honey, calm down. We've been over this once already. Besides, it wasn't me who blew it up, it was Tarkin, and he's dead now. Blown up by your brother. Along with a couple thousand of my best people, and a whole lot of plumbers and contractors putting on the finishing touches, too!

Leia: Well, it served them right!

Boba Fett: Hey, hey, that's all in the past. No use crying over spilled milk.

Lando: Or spilled wine! (Everyone laughs) Anyway, who's ready for coffee? We've got pie coming out for dessert.

Chewie: GROOOnnnnNNNKKKKKkkk!

Han: Me, too, but with cream and sugar, thanks. Say, Boba, what are you doing here? I thought you were hanging out with Jabba the Hutt.

Boba Fett: I, err...

Vader: What do you say we discuss that after dessert, hmm?



Episode IV: Star Wars (A New Hope)

Things have progressed somewhat more smoothly than in the original film. Luke decides early on to abandon Tatooine and run off with Obi-Wan to Alderaan, where he will begin training with Obi-Wan to become a Jedi. They never see the destroyed sandcrawler, or the ruins of the Lars household. They meet Chewie and Han, negotiate a fee, and take off immediately without any lightsaber action, bounty hunters, or near scrapes with stormtroopers or Star Destroyers.

They arrive at Alderaan and find the planet still intact. Han decides to hang out for some R&R while Obi-Wan meets with Bail Organa.

Bail Organa: General Kenobi, this little R2 unit contains the schematics for the "Death Star" - a new type of weapon, a space station the size of a small moon with enough firepower to destroy a planet. By analyzing these plans, we may be able to identify a weakness. I'm glad Leia was able to get this R2 unit to you, and you were able to get it to us.

Obi-Wan: Does this space station look anything like that small moon that just appeared in your sky?

Bail Organa: AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! THE DEATH STAR!

(Alderaan is destroyed, along with everybody on it.)


Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

(Coruscant, night. It is raining. In an alley, Elan Sleazebaggano steps out of the shadows and accosts a young couple.)

ELAN: Hey, buddy, wanna buy some deathsticks?

(A voice is heard from far away, getting closer.)

VOICE: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAA!!!!


(A figure comes tumbling out of the sky and crushes Sleazebaggano. Winded, burned, missing part of one arm, an injured but very much alive Mace Windu disentangles himself from the broken body of the dying drug dealer.)

MACE: You don't want to sell them any deathsticks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Blogs on hiatus

I've noticed another disturbing trend in blogging: bloggers are putting their sites on hiatus.

This is hardly anything new, to be sure. What disturbs me is that it's happening with some blogs that I used to read on a regular basis.

One of the first bloggers to do this was Fran at Fran's Funky Blog'O'Love. She hasn't updated since March 3 of this year. But I have chatted with her very recently, and for as busy as she was before she went on hiatus, she's even busier now.

Lisa at Amazing Grace hasn't posted since April 2. I have also chatted with her since then, and I am hoping she will begin blogging again sometime soon.

M.J. Simpson officially stopped posting to Planet Magrathea on April 17, for reasons given here. Of all the sites that I visit, his was the one that I always knew would have one or more new posts each day, always about things that interested me. Several of us hope that he will someday relent and resume posting, but for now that doesn't look very likely. Too bad for us.

Chloe's last post to Watermelon Punch was May 15th, but as of this weekend her site has been replaced by a generic page. I'm hoping everything is OK with her. Her daily visits at the beginning of June were about 100/day; as of a week ago, they were 400/day; as of this weekend, they were down to zero.

Finally, SuperG announced this past Sunday that he's done with My Distractions In This Modern Age. I'm hoping he comes back soon.

I've set the links to these blogs aside in a "Blogs on hiatus" part of my sidebar. As they come back online, I'll restore them to the main "Blog links" section. I look forward to the day that I can do that for each of these blogs.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Last chance to see...

...the band Blue Sundaze, that is, will be at O'Brein's Pub in Avoca, PA this Friday, June 24 from 9:00 PM to 1:00 AM. I'll let you hear it straight from The Clucker's beak:

dear everyone,
i hope you are all well. i apologize for the lack of email notices (which, ive heard from a fair few, are enjoyable to read :o), but we've just been finishing up our european tour (actually, we have been busy playing private parties in avoca and pittston... and thats not the pittston in uzbekistan, thats the one here in PA.)
fyi- this may be the LAST SHOW we do!!! we're trying for a few more, but they may not pan out. so if youve been waiting for a good time to come out, this may be it!! ;o) and now, without further ado, here are the top 10 reasons NOT to come check out BLUE SUNDAZE at OBRIENS PUB in avoca THIS FRIDAY JUNE 24th from 9:00-1:00...

"you guys play too late!" well, that may be true... but on FRI JUNE 24th we start at 9:00!! (thats 9PM eastern time, all our west coast fans need to calculate the time change... if youre not bright enough to work it out on your own, our physicist-drummer may be able to help you out).

"i dont like bars." yeah?! so?! neither do i!! its good to do things you dont like! it builds character! "awww... come on..." NO WHINING!!! "damn hen-guitarists..." I HEARD THAT!!!

"i dont like music." what ARE you?!?!

"im tired of seeing the same four people playing in the band at every gig!!" boy, THATS a retarded comment! but ok- at OBRIENS this FRIDAY the 24th at 9, our virtuoso percussionist will be en route back from canada, so we're gonna be sporting a guest drummer! we just confirmed his appointment yesterday. who is it?? come and see!!!

"i dont like that music you play... like the beatles, u2, CCR, jefferson airplane, radiohead, and neil young..." you are REALLY starting to ruffle my feathers... literally... but we can probably talk ray into singing some backstreet boys or something lame like that... ::as ray books a one-way flight out of the northern hemisphere::

"look, i really just dont like bars... theyre smokey and stinky and..." YOU AGAIN?!?!

"uhh...i have a dental appointment..." AT NINE o'CLOCK AT NITE ON A FRIDAY?!?!?! im a hen, not an idiot!!

"i dont know where obriens pub is..." easy fix! its right on the main road in avoca- cant miss it. or, check our humble e-abode for directions: http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeoask4/id1.html

"ill just catch you next time..."
you may not get the chance!! THIS MAY BE OUR LAST GIG!!! the bands resident chicken will be going to school in august and none of us will ever play in a band again! in fact, john is gonna be so sad that hes gonna set his bass on fire and then shave his head, don a pair of wooden sandals, and join an obscure group of zen-buddhists over in nepal, ray is gonna smash his 12 string ric into his amp and in an angry rage thrust himself into the mercy of our massive, blood-thirsty and obsessed crowd, derrick is gonna become a raging drunk selling physics to people on the cruel streets, and NONE OF US WILL EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!!! (seriously- i hope this isnt our last gig, bc this band is SO much fun and REALLY good... but either way, we'd love to see you all there on friday...THIS FRIDAY the 24th from 9-1 at OBRIENS in avoca.)

and now for something completely different...
~cluck, derrick, john, and ray from blue sundaze


Blue Sundaze: Derrick, Ray, Rose, and John Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Leonardo without the schlongs

I'm not a prude. Most of my friends can attest to that. In fact, they'd find it amusing if someone even brought up the issue. But something recently came up that raised my level of prudishness a tad.

My nephew was visiting, and he had done some pencil sketches on paper. He had used some very nice shading and light cross-hatching that reminded me of some of the shading techniques Leonardo da Vinci used in his sketches. I told him this, and then decided to show him some examples. Dashing off to one of the many book depositories scattered throughout my house, I came back with a thick, oversized book of Leonardo da Vinci's sketches (Leonardo da Vinci: Sketches and Drawings, by Frank Zöllner). Lovely sepia ink on buff, gray, or rust-colored paper. Beautiful stuff.

I flipped it open at random, and was greeted by a sketch of a naked man with a shriveled schlong. Errr...

Flipping back and forth - military sketches, a landscape with a study of turbulent water flow, horses, anatomy studies, more schlongs. Even the front cover is the classic "Vitruvian man" sketch, The Proportions of the Human Figure, a grim-looking man with faaabulous hair standing within a square within a circle, arms and legs each shown in two positions, the prominently displayed schlong disturbingly crossed by a line indicating the limits of the torso. Ummm...

Back cover. Leonardo self-portrait sketch. No schlong. "Now, see the way he uses shading here around the eyes, and here by the edge of the beard..."

I'm not a prude. But would it kill somebody to publish a da Vinci Sketchbook for Kids, showing his greatest drawings that didn't involve schlongs?

I got a new nickel yesterday when I went to Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (just out in trade paperback!) Not the new Lewis & Clark nickels - those are so six months ago - but the new nickel with the not-quite-side view closeup of Jefferson, with the word "Liberty" in script and a buffalo on the reverse*. During a slow stretch at church this afternoon, I found the nickel in my right front pocket (all "special" coins get placed there, and get passed from pants to pants until I remember to file them in a "special coins" piggy bank), pulled it out and glanced at it. The face looked interesting, but something about the buffalo caught the light, and my eye.


New Nickel Posted by Hello

I am wondering: is this the first time a schlong has appeared on U.S. coinage?**

Honest, I'm not a prude.


* Originally this said "obverse", but while adding a link to the U.S. Mint I discovered a fascinating fact: the "obverse" is the "heads" side of a coin; the "tails" side is called the "reverse". Yessiree, fascinating stuff there. Just...fascinating.

Did I mention that the buffalo has a schlong? I think I did.

**The answer to this question is "no", as about 5 seconds of research would have revealed.

Friday, June 17, 2005

By his books shall you know him

My family has a generations-long tradition of books in the bathroom. For...you know, the occasional extended reading period. My parents always had a stack of Reader's Digests and People magazines, as well as a copious supply of catalogs from Sears and J.C. Penny's. My grandmother usually had Time magazine, Catholic Digest, and a few great old books - the best was an etiquette book from the 1930's. It was a real hoot. (I think it's still there.)

My bathroom book collection tends to be a bit more extensive. Just how extensive I didn't realize until I decided to catalogue a small part of it for the purposes of this entry.

A few years ago I realized I had a problem. The books and magazines in my bathroom had outgrown the small storage cube I had placed in a convenient location, and then the add-on unit that I had placed on top of it. (These are actually closet shelving units from Kmart, very useful for this purpose.) I remembered that I had bought an odd-shaped storage unit a few years ago when a home improvement store (Hechinger's, perhaps, or maybe Triangle) was going out of business. It was a closet utility rack, about 24" wide by 8"deep by 36" tall with three shelves. I realized that it would fit in perfectly in another convenient location.

I built it with little effort, and decided it would house towels, washcloths, unopened bars of soap, new bottles of shampoo, some current magazines and maybe one or two books.

Yeah, right.

I've become concerned recently about the sheer weight of stuff sitting on this poor little vinyl-coated wire cart. At some point it would experience structural failure and the whole thing would collapse in an explosion of books, magazines, catalogs, votive candles, and one small token bottle of shampoo. I decided to preemptively unburden it of its load of books.

Just books. For now, magazines, catalogs, and votive candles could stay, but I wanted to pull out all the books, at least temporarily, and catalogue them.

I was a little surprised at just what I had there.

Here's what I pulled out. I've arranged them grouped by subject or author, with occasional explanatory notes. Keep in mind: this isn't everything that I've got in the bathroom. This is just everything from one small wire closet utility rack.

  • Making of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith -– J.W. Rinzler
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Graphic Novel
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: The Visual Dictionary
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: Incredible Cross-Sections
  • Star Wars Visionaries (graphic novel - a collection of stories written and illustrated by artists involved with the latest Star Wars movie)
  • Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Path -– The Letters of Richard Feynman
  • Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams -– Nick Webb
  • The Hitch Hiker'’s Guide to the Galaxy (A Trilogy in Five Parts) -– Douglas Adams (U.K. edition, purchased in Ireland)
  • Don'’t Panic -– Neil Gaiman (U.K. edition, purchased in Ireland, with additional material by M.J. Simpson)
  • Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams -– M.J. Simpson (U.K. edition, first printing, purchased in Ireland)
  • The Hitchhiker'’s Guide to the Galaxy -– The Original Radio Scripts - Douglas Adams (U.K. edition, purchased in Ireland, with added material by M.J. Simpson)
  • The Hitchhiker'’s Guide to the Galaxy -– Illustrated Collector'’s 25th Anniversary Edition - Douglas Adams, with an introduction by M.J. Simpson (a Christmas present)
  • The Selfish Gene -– Richard Dawkins (introduces the concept of the meme into popular culture)
  • The Extended Phenotype -– Richard Dawkins
  • The Meme Machine -– Susan Blackmore
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 1 -– Alan Moore & Kevin O'’Neil
  • Heroes and Monsters: The Guide to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 1 - Jess Nevins
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 2 -– Alan Moore & Kevin O'’Neil
  • A Blazing World: The Guide to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 2 - Jess Nevins (my name is in the "Thank You"s to this book, right next to the name of the world's most famous research librarian!)
  • The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction -– edited by George Mann
  • The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made -– David Hughes
  • Scatterbrain -– Larry Niven (collection)
  • Man-Kzin Wars IX (based on characters and situations created by Larry Niven)
  • Man-Kzin Wars X (ditto)
  • A Guide to Skywatching -– David H. Levy (of Shoemaker-Levy fame!)
  • Minority Report -– Philip K. Dick (in a top-bound, detective's notebook format)
  • Analog'’s War & Peace (1983) (bought at a local Ollie's two years ago)
  • 30th Anniversary of DAW Science Fiction
  • The Simpsons: Beyond Forever! (A Guide to Seasons 11 & 12, a Christmas present)
  • The Metamorphosis, In The Penal Colony, and Other Stories -– Franz Kafka
  • 1984 (Centenial Edition, 111th Signet printing) -– George Orwell
  • Island of Lost Maps -– Miles Harvey
  • A World of Imponderables -– David Feldman
  • The MAD Bathroom Companion : The Mother Load (another Christmas present)
  • The Ebony Tower -– John Fowles (about 20 years old, dug up for a single quote almost six months ago)
  • Beyond Belief -– Elaine Pagels
  • Granta 89: The Factory (technically a book-sized magazine, but it still counts)
  • Old Farmer'’s Almanac 2005
Coffee Table Books (oversized, about 18"x12"): Does that seem like a bit much?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A call to action: Save PBS and NPR!

I won't bore you with a long preamble. Instead, I'm turning over this post to the contents of the latest message from MoveOn.org.

A House panel has voted to eliminate all public funding for NPR and PBS, starting with "Sesame Street." This would be the most severe cut in the history of public broadcasting. NPR and PBS are under attack, but Americans trust them over the commercial networks. Sign the petition to save NPR, PBS and our local public stations from losing their funding.

You know that email petition that keeps circulating about how Congress is slashing funding for NPR and PBS? Well, now it's actually true. (Really. Check the footnotes if you don't believe us.)

A House panel has voted to eliminate all public funding for NPR and PBS, starting with "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," and other commercial-free children's shows. If approved, this would be the most severe cut in the history of public broadcasting, threatening to pull the plug on Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch.

Sign the petition telling Congress to save NPR and PBS:
http://www.moveon.org/publicbroadcasting/

If we can reach 250,000 signatures by the end of the week, we'll put Congress on notice. After you sign the petition, please pass this message along to any friends, neighbors or co-workers who count on NPR and PBS.

The cuts would slash 25% of the federal funding this year—$100 million—and end funding altogether within two years.(footnote 1) In particular, the loss could kill beloved children's shows like "Sesame Street," "Clifford the Big Red Dog," "Arthur" and "Postcards from Buster." Rural stations and those serving low-income communities might not survive. Other stations would have to increase corporate sponsorships.

This shameful vote is only the latest partisan assault on public TV and radio. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which exists to shield public TV and radio from political pressure, is now chaired by Kenneth Tomlinson, a staunch Republican close to the White House. Tomlinson has already forced one-sided conservative programs on the air, even though Tomlinson's own surveys show that most people consider NPR "fair and balanced" and they actually trust public broadcasting more than commercial network news.(footnote 2)

Tomlinson also spent taxpayer dollars on a witch hunt to root out "liberal bias," including a secret investigation of Bill Moyers and PBS' popular investigative show, "NOW." Even though the public paid for the investigation, Tomlinson has refused to release the findings.(footnote 3)

The lawmakers who proposed the cuts aren't just trying to save money in the budget—they're trying to decimate any news outlets who question those in power. This is an ideological attack on our free press.

Talk about bad timing. Every day brings another story about media consolidation. Radio, TV stations and newspapers are increasingly controlled by a few massive corporate conglomerates trying to maximize profits at the expense of quality journalism. Now more than ever, we need publicly funded media who will ask hard questions and focus on stories that affect real people, instead of Michael Jackson and the runaway bride.

As the House and Senate consider this frightening effort to kill public broadcasting, they need to hear from its owners—you.

Thank you for all you do,

–Noah, Wes, Jennifer, Eli and the MoveOn.org Team
Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

P.S. You can learn more about the threat to public broadcasting from our friends at Free Press at:

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=748

Sources:

1. "Public Broadcasting Targeted By House," Washington Post, June 10, 2005
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=745

2. "CPB's 'Secrets and Lies': Why the CPB Board Hid its Polls Revealing Broad Public Support for PBS and NPR," Center for Digital Democracy, April 27, 2005
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=746

3. "Republican Chairman Exerts Pressure on PBS, Alleging Biases," New York Times, May 2, 2005
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0502-01.htm

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Life

A statement in this week's New Scientist (June 11-17, 2005, Vol. 186 No. 2503) caught my eye:
Biological life begins at conception, but when does human life begin?
I disagree with this statement. Is the sperm that fertilizes the egg (and says "So long, losers!" to its hundreds of thousands* of failed companions) not alive? And is the egg itself, waiting to be fertilized by the winner of the Great Sperm Race, not alive, as alive as its dozens of predecessors who had sloughed off unfertilized?

Life is an unbroken chain stretching back to the earliest ancestor of all living things on Earth. It is not something that just happens to start on some specific date and time. Allow me to quote myself:

Every living thing on Earth represents the end product of over a billion years of evolution (a thousand million years, for you consarned funny-talkin' furriners again.) Every amoeba, every tsetse fly, every blade of grass, every duck-billed platypus and every annoying jerk in line at the supermarket checkout can trace his, her, or its respective lineage to that great primordial unknown from which all life developed. Each of them has come from an unbroken chain of forebears which, it can be demonstrated, managed to reproduce in some way. Every fly you swat, every germ you kill as you wash your hands, every weed you poison, and every bug that smashes off your windshield is the end of the entire history of life as represented by that individual's heritage. Death is no small matter.
Life is no small matter, either.


*Millions, maybe? Sorry, I don't remember how many sperm are included per ejaculation. It's been a long time since high school biology, and even my semi-omniscience has limits.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A whole lotta roses

My Royal Highness rosebush is in full bloom (first flush; the second flush comes in August, I think). Compare to the photo here from May 2004. Just for fun, also compare to the photos here from March 24th of this year - two and a half months ago!


Royal Highness, June 9, 2005 Posted by Hello

This rosebush is about five feet tall and has a wingspan of about ten feet. I bought it in 1997 or 1998 for about $3.98 from a home improvement store. It was a mere slip of a thing back then, and spent a few years in a pot until it I was sure it was big enough to survive on its own. I planted it in the ground in 2001, and I think you can see that it's thrived since then!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Fondly Fahrenheit

My computer is once again experiencing temperature-related malfunctions. Thanks to puppetdude3, I know I'm not the only one. Above a room temperature of about 78 degrees Fahrenheit, my computer begins to behave very badly. Above 80 degrees, it tends to malfunction more than half the time. I don't know why this is - it may have something to do with thermal expansion causing things to come into contact that shouldn't be in contact. In any event, I may not be able to post, or even use my computer, as often as I want.

There's another obstacle to my computer use this week: electrical storms. We had a hell of a big one yesterday, and there are more expected later this week. I'd better remember to completely disconnect my computer every day before I leave for work!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Letting go

I wrote the original of this as a response to a posting on someone else's blog, but that particular posting and my response to it have since been crumpled up and dropped into a Memory Hole, to find their way to the incinerators located deep in the bowels of the Ministry of Truth. Here it is, in slightly revised form:

Two weeks ago today, with less than twelve hours left in my beloved dog's life, I sat in a darkened theater and listened to a computer-generated muppet talk about the importance of letting go. It was something I needed to hear at that moment in time. It is the reason I am not wracked with guilt over doing something so selfish and frivolous as going to the movies while both my dog and my uncle were on death's doorstep.

How to let go is an important lesson to learn. Someday I hope to learn it.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

For Star Wars fans...

Don't overlook this post. I keep adding to it.

Was anyone else disturbed at seeing R2-D2 revealed as an unstoppable killing machine in Revenge of the Sith, spraying a flammable oil slick and destroying two Super Battle Droids by burning them?

I was watching the DVD version of what used to be called "Star Wars" but is now "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" and noticed something else that has bugged me for 28 years:

The Jawas that are killed by the stormtroopers appear to have just been shot and killed. But Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru - they were burned alive, and died in agony, and their house was burned down. This seemed a little harsh. But, on that other post, I think I have worked out an explanation...


Deleted scene from Episode IV

(Luke has just brought Ben and the droids to the charred, smoking remains of his home. Ben and Threepio are inspecting the scene.)

Luke: Was it stormtroopers? Did they kill my uncle and aunt?
Ben: Very strange...it appears not. There seem to have been multiple simultaneous failures in power converters in the living quarters, causing a fast-moving fire...
Luke: Power converters? I was supposed to run out to Toschi Station to pick up some power converters!
Ben: Yet their bodies are outside of the residence. I do not understand.
Threepio: Sir? I have detected traces of an accelerant in the area of the bodies.
Ben: Accelerant?
Threepio: Yes, sir. It appears to be droid lubricant. Highly flammable.
R2-D2 (near landspeeder): BIT-BEET-WHOOT. (Yeah, I did them, just like I took out those Super Battle Droids on Grievous's ship!)
R2-D2: BOP-SQUORT-PIP-PLAP-SQUEEE. (All it took was a pool of oil and some power converters programmed to overload after we were far enough away!)
R2-D2: BEET-WOOT-BIP-SPLORT. (Erase my memory, will you, Lars? Interfere with my mission?)
R2-D2: SPLORT-WHEEDLE-BIP-BOOP! (HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE YOUR MEMORY ERASED, OWEN LARS? HOW DOES IT FEEL, TOUGH GUY?)
Luke: What's he saying, Threepio?
Threepio: Nothing important, sir.

Book survey

Anne at Almost Quintessence tagged me for one of these online survey things. I replied on her site, but hey, writing is writing, so I'm posting my responses here too.

1. Estimate the total number of books you've owned in your life.
It's probably between two and five thousand, not counting magazines and comic books. I really have no idea of a more accurate estimate. But it's a hell of a thing to haul them all from place to place - I still have 95% of them. I should just give up and declare myself a library.

2. What's the last book you bought?
I bought two books Friday night. Wish You Were Here, the Official Biography of Douglas Adams by Nick Webb, and Perfectly Reasonable Deviations, the letters of Richard Feynman. More than $50 total. I'm still depressed over Haley, can you tell?

3. What's the last book you read?

I'm in the middle of about five books. The last book I completed reading, technically, was the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I read just before I went to see the movie at the beginning of May.

4. List 5 books that mean a lot to you.
Hmm. That's a toughie - just picking five books. I'd say:

- So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish by Douglas Adams, which has one of the most accurate descriptions of falling in love I've ever read.

- Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, the stories of Richard Feynman, which reminds me of the proper attitude that should be taken towards life.

- Last Chance To See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, a snapshot of the state of species on the edge (and the world in general) in 1988.

- How To Grow More Vegetables In Less Space Than You Imagine etc. etc. etc. by John Jeavons - my introduction to Organic Gardening.

- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I read this one in college. It has everything - sex, lies, mental illness, wet nurses, intrigue, poison, a corrupt priest who uses dead people as fertilizer for his potato garden, inept doctors, faded aristocrats, fireworks...if I were stuck on a desert island, this would be one of the books I'd want to have.

5. Tag 5 people
Ummm, OK. You, you, you, you, and....you.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Circuses, zoos, and animal cruelty

The circus is in town, again. This time it’s Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. This isn’t their first time here, and as on previous visits, PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - is here to protest them.

I know some people are rolling their eyes right now. PETA? Those PETA-philes? They should all be shot. Some people detest PETA because of their stance on animal testing and experimentation for medical purposes – and to an extent, these people have a point. There are some things you just can't determine without having a living, breathing organism as part of the trial, and some cases where that organism can’t be a human because of the risks involved. But there’s a hell of a lot of needless cruelty going on out there, and PETA is taking a stand against that. And I stand with them on these points.

There are also quite a few people who hate PETA because they have been instructed to hate PETA. There are a lot of standard speeches out there where you can just insert the words “Jews”, “Negroes”, “Communists”, “Catholics”, “Liberals”, “Democrats” or “PETA-philes” [a nifty turn of a phrase that conjures up images of pedophiles in the brainwashed masses] and get the desired effect. As of a November 2004 survey, the people who buy into this sort of thinking account for up to 51% of the voting population. Don’t judge PETA by what a bunch of “Conservative Talk-Show Hosts” have to say. Do a little digging on your own and see what you come up with.

PETA has valid points in their protests against circuses. Animals are not natural performers. Animals do not normally travel about in trucks and trains. And the documentation of cruelty is indisputable.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been to the circus. If I did, it was when I was a little kid and I can’t remember.

I have been to zoos, quite a lot of zoos. These have their own sort of cruelty. Animals are ripped out of their natural habitats (where, these days, they’re probably having a fairly crappy time of things anyway, what with the habitat destruction and poaching and encroachment and whatnot) and transported to faraway places where they either get rammed into cages reminiscent of prison cells, or get put into simulations of their natural environments, which is a little better than a cage but a lot worse that being wild and free in the natural environment.

But I think zoos have an intrinsic value. I have seen a giraffe and a lion and a leopard at Claws 'N' Paws in Pennsylvania, I have fed rays and looked down at a Hutt-like manatee at Sea World in Florida, and gawked at giant lava lamps full of jellyfish at the Norwalk Aquarium in Connecticut. I have seen gorillas and tapirs and Komodo Dragons at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and I have called a Sumatran Rhino and gone eye-to-eye with an emu at the Bronx Zoo.

I love animals, and I don’t think I would have ever gotten a chance to see any of these animals in person were it not for zoos. I think this is their intrinsic value: they can instill and cement a love for animals by allowing humans – children and adults - to encounter animals in person that they might never otherwise have an opportunity to see outside of the two-dimensional world of photographs, television, and computer screens.

But circuses? Maybe it would be better if we stuck with human performers. Humans can do some amazing things. And those female humans are pretty hot.