Strange Brouhaha

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The best jazz quartet ever

Yeah, the past couple of weeks, I've been kind of into posting videos. But I think they've all been worthwhile. Especially these.

John Coltrane's quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones was, in my opinion, the best jazz quartet ever. I know, I know, it's an easy claim to make, and who's really going to argue, but it's still true.

Here's an incredible version of "My Favorite Things." Note that it's cold enough that you can see their breath--no, that's not cigarette smoke.

Here's "Afro Blue," the song that got me hooked on Coltrane in the first place.

And here's "Alabama," from the same Jazz Casual show as "Afro Blue" above. That's Ralph Gleason talking at the beginning.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Should I or shouldn't I...

This year's National Novel Writing Month starts on November 1st. I'm still trying to decide if I should participate. I didn't have a lot of fun with the last one, and ended up stopping at exactly 50,000 words.

So...should I stay or should I go? To help with the question, here's Living Color covering The Clash.

And just because I want to, here's the Misfits with "Skulls."

And, finally, Lee Ving and Fear with the classic "I Love Livin' In The City."

Four For Friday Grab-Bag

From Belliblog, here's Four For Friday. Sometimes I really like the fact that these questions are so long. Other times, maybe not so much. But these were interesting.

Q1 - Next Tuesday: Instead of going to work next Tuesday, if you could spend the entire day doing something else--any one or two things that you absolutely love doing--what would you do?

Q2 - Telecommunications & Privacy: Earlier this week, San Jose, California-based Pudding Media announced the availability of a new service that allows anyone to place free telephone calls from the Web or a cell phone. However, as many "free" offers turn out to be, there is a catch. Pudding Media uses voice recognition software to monitor your calls, and when certain keywords are spoken, timely news, entertainment, and other offers are displayed on your computer or cell phone screen. For example, if you were talking with a friend about an upcoming movie, you may see links to trailers, reviews and show times for nearby theaters. A sports fan talking about her favorite team may see commentary and game statistics on a computer or handset screen. How likely are you to use this service? Does the ability to make free telephone calls entice you enough to open up your conversations to a computer generated voice recognition software program, or does privacy dictate that you would never use such a service?

Q3 - Architecture: Back in the late-1960s, construction began on a six-building structure at the Coronado Naval Amphibious Base near San Diego, California. Designed by a respected architect, the original blueprint consisted of two central buildings and a single L-shaped 3-story barracks. Eventually, the plan called for the L-shaped building to be repeated three times at 90-degree angles from the central buildings. That's right, the United States Navy constructed a series of buildings that when viewed from above, appears to look like a giant swastika--the official emblem of the Nazi party and the Third Reich. (Don't believe me on this one? Fair enough. Google the words "Coronado" and "swastika" and see for yourself. Trust me, I could not make this stuff up even if I tried.) Now, some 40 years later, after fielding requests from the Anti-Defamation League and at least one member of Congress, the Navy plans to spend nearly $600,000 for landscaping and architectural modifications to obscure the fact that the complex looks like a swastika when viewed from above. How do you feel about this? Is the $600,000 expenditure an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars or is this not an issue that deserves our time and money?

Q4 - Magna Carta: Later this year, Sotheby’s auction house in New York will present for sale The Magna Carta, the royal document revered as the birth certificate of freedom. This iconic manuscript, dated 1297, is the original charter that enshrined the rights of man into English law, and inspired the passion for liberty that flowered in America in the 18th century and continues around the world today. Quite simply, The Magna Carta is widely considered to be the most famous single document in existence. According to Sotheby's, it is estimated to sell for between $20 and $30 million. How do you feel about items such as The Magna Carta being sold? Do you think historical documents of such significance should be banned from ever being bought and sold? If your knee jerk reaction is that there is nothing wrong with the practice, would you change your mind if oh, I don't know, it was the original version of the Declaration of Independence that was up for sale?

Q1. Well, let's see. I would probably want to spend the day finalizing designs for the model spaceship I want to build. The next time I take a vacation, that's probably what I'm going to do. Hurray for being a dork!

Q2. Put me in the "never" camp. I wonder what happens if you say, "Thank God they caught that asshole with the child porn!" Do you get ads for churches? (don't ask if you don't know)? Porn? Day care? Anyway, this idea just sounds so horrifying. It's like something from 1984. Who am I kidding, though--No Such Agency and the rest of the United States Government are already listening in on domestic calls. Okay, seriously, though, presumably one would already need to have phone service in order for something like this to work, and actually paying for phone calls is the least part of our monthly phone bill. This is a stupid idea.

Q3. What boggles my mind about this story is that supposedly nobody ever realized it. Puh-leaze. Are we seriously meant to believe that there was not one sketch made of the entire layout? No model built? Not one person who visualized what the whole thing would look like? For 40 years? If that's the case, then dig up the architect and fire him. Anyway, this is obviously a national embarrassment now, so something needs to be done--but slapping a fresh coat of paint on the Yugo is probably not going to do much. It will always be "the swastika building."

Q4. Are you kidding? I would LOVE to own the Declaration of Independence. I mean, Jesus Christ. There is nothing wrong with the buying and selling of historical documents, mostly because it's safe to assume that a collector of such would take meticulous care of them. A private collector would take much better care of the Magna Carta than would, say, the Bush Administration, which has pissed on it and wiped its collective ass with it.

Five On Friday Is All About Babies

Yes it is. Five on Friday's Baby Talk.

1. Are there any babies in your family or circle of friends? Not as such, although there will be pretty soon. Also, one of The Child's dance teachers just had a baby (allegedly--we'll hear the official word tomorrow, I imagine), and one of my team at work just had a daughter. Well, he didn't, his wife did, but you know what I mean.

2. Are you one of those people who use a high-pitched, sing-song voice when talking to babies and small children? Nope. Don't believe in it. If you're playing, it's one thing, but I think that kids should grow up hearing the way people actually talk.

3. If you were standing in line next to a *very* pregnant stranger at the bank or grocery store, what would you say to her? Not a goddamn thing. I wouldn't say anything to her if she wasn't pregnant; why would I say anything to her if she was?

4. Similarly, what do you say or do near babies in public? I admit it...I smile, make faces and play peek-a-boo. I'm terrible.

5. When walking through a department store, are you the sort of person who can go by the baby clothes without even a glance or do you have to stop to ooh and ahh? The former. The clothes are not interesting to me.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Hump Of The Mind

Yesterday's Wednesday Mind Hump asks that we name our favorite or most used..

1. Kitchen tool. My most used would probably be the dishwasher, since I use it pretty much every day. Favorite, probably my 10" chef's knife. Good for just about any chopping need.

2. Computer/internet tool. I'm really loving my new Logitech cordless mouse. I think it's an MX-620. If we're talking software tool, then probably Eclipse would fit the bill.

3. Relaxation tool. Here is the only relaxation tool I've ever used or needed: Close your eyes. Take a few deep, deep breaths. Picture a beach in vivid detail, as vivid as you possibly can. Water, sand, trees. Warm weather. You're alone on the beach with a plastic shovel and pail. Sit. Take a scoop of sand. Look at the sand. See the tiny individual grains of sand. Pick up one grain of sand. Look at it. Drop it in the bucket: one. Pick up another grain of sand from the shovel. Drop it in the bucket: two. Continue until you're relaxed or asleep. This has proven to be very effective for me over the years--I always had trouble falling asleep in college until I came up with it. It's so ingrained now that I can just say to myself "Beach, Shovel, Sand" and fall asleep. Shoot, even typing it out has started to shut my brain down. It really, really works. The key is in the detail; you really need to concentrate to maintain it.

4. Organizational tool. Sorry, but I'll have to answer Microsoft Outlook. At least at work. Task lists, calendar, e-mail folders...I'm more organized now than I have been in years.

5. "Tool" tool (things you'd buy at a hardware store). Most used, my Craftsman corded drill. This thing has taken a hell of a lot of pounding over the last 17 years, drilling through wood, drywall, and even concrete. It's even been left outside in very humid weather for weeks. It's banged up and beat up, but it never lets me down. My favorite is probably my Dremel motor tool, although I don't use it nearly as much now as I did a few years ago.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bring The Funny, Hawaiian Kine

We had, or had access to, a bunch of local comedy albums when I was growing up. My favorite among them was Rap Reiplinger's "Poi Dog." So much classic material on there, like the Haiku ("Unsuspecting dog/Little does he know/Manong in the shadows"), Date A Tita and the Wendell's Lau Lau bit are still fresh in my head.

Anyway, Rap was a comic genius and his work stands the test of time. Guys like the unlamented Bu La'ia only wish they were this funny.

Here are some classics from the "Rap's Hawaii" TV special. First, James Kilpatrick Mulhaney Montague Del Rio Okada Jr. III takes a secret taste test.

I like da cracka!

Here's the...well, it's classic!..."Aunty Marialani's Cooking Show."

Jes' right, ah?

The room service sketch! It was much better on the record, but it's good here, too. That's Rap playing both roles.

Russell, you get pen? PEN! PEN, CONFOUND IT, PEN!

Last, here's another number that was much better on the record, but still worthwhile on video. It's the story of one man's love for the head cheerleader at Furtado Memorial High School: Fate Yanagi.

I knew my eggs was headed for that big omelet in the sky. (Yeah, that's "Tell Laura I Love Her.")

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Public Service Announcement

I haven't been watching network television--or rather, I haven't been watching NBC-Universal stations--recently, so I don't know if you know this, but...HEROES RETURNS MONDAY THE 24TH. 9/8c.


That is all.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I would like to have Keith Olbermann's babies

If you haven't seen Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on The Decider and MoveOn, go watch it. Go now. Don't waste time reading this. GO.


No, not Extreme, thank God. It's's Friday Five, and it's about extremes.

1. When were you the coldest you’ve ever been? Hm. Well, walking in downtown Grinnell, Iowa during what was practically a blizzard, wearing no hat and no winter coat (a denim jacket and a thick flannel) would probably have to be up there. I was really cold when I was laying on the ground waiting for the ambulance after my fall earlier this year, but maybe that was just shock. And there was a stretch of days this past winter where it hurt to even contemplate going outside. I can't really say that there's been one standout "coldest" day.

2. When were you the hottest you’ve ever been? Obviously, we had a lot of hot days when I was growing up. If I had to guess, the hottest would probably have been at band camp, since we had to march a lot in the midday sun at the height of summer.

3. When were you the tiredest you’ve ever been? This summer, for the first few weeks after I cracked my spine, because of all the pain. I would get winded walking down the hall at work. Walking down the stairs at home was a chore. I needed half an hour of rest after taking a shower. I was physically and mentally exhausted.

4. When were you the most stressed you’ve ever been? Good stress or bad stress? Working for the School District here was almost always stressful, but usually in a good, productive way. When I got promoted at work this summer, I had a lot of stress--but again, the good, productive kind of stress. Not to flog a dead horse...but the whole thing with my back, actually, was very stressful and I frayed a lot.

5. When were you the dirtiest you’ve ever been? The Posse, as I recall, played football in the mud once. Doesn't get much dirtier than that.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Two words: Musical. Genius.

Here's a great clip of "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life." The guitar is killer.

If you go to the clip's page on YouTube, and you see the comment saying "the lady sucks" assured knowing that that person is on crack. Probably really good crack.

Here's "Living For The City".

Eddie Murphy's routine from "Delirious" about Stevie Wonder. Cussing is involved. Unfortunately, this is not the "HA HA VERY FUNNY, MOTHERFUCKER!" part of the routine. "I have all his albums! I have Music Of My Mind, I have Talking Book! I got Fulfillingness' First...Fulfillingness' First...FUCK IT, YOU KNOW, THE GOOD ONE!"

Finally...I know that "Superstition" is kind of overdone, but this is a hot session.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Roll call

It is, apparently, completely and utterly disgraceful of to attack the honor and integrity of a military officer like The Decider's lackey, General Petraeus. Apparently, an attack on an officer is an attack on all men and women in uniform.

Here's a little roll call. See if you can figure out what these people have in common.

Max Cleland.

John Murtha.

John Kerry.

Jimmy Carter.

Jim Webb.

Al Gore.

Ted Kennedy.

Michael Dukakis.

Walter Mondale.

Kos, from the Daily Kos.

I bet you figured it out. (I had a little help compiling this list after the first five.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How low can you go, part 38294

Here in Madison a little while ago, there was a horrible, horrible incident just up the street from my office. There had just been a lot of rain, and a power line went down, right into the flooded street. A woman and her baby were electrocuted at a bus stop, just as a bus pulled up. One of the passengers jumped out of the bus and tried to help.

All three died instantly. The woman's son and the bus driver were also jolted, but survived.

I leave it up to you to imagine how horrible that must have been. My imagination is pretty good.

So where does "how low can you go?" come in? Well, the grocery store that sits not too far from the bus stop had a collection box out, solicitng donations for the victims' families. That box was stolen. How big of a dick do you have to be to do something like that?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rita Rudner...Fake Boobs...hmmm.

Here's Unconscious Mutterings for this week. I don't usually do the word association things, because my consciousness is just a little to random. Or maybe not. Anyway, you're just supposed to write down the first thing that comes to mind.

  1. Rita :: Rudner. That was really weird. In fact, this is the whole reason I decided to write down all my responses. When I looked at this week's list, "Rudner" pretty much exploded into my head. I don't even particularly like Rita Rudner. But there it is.

  2. Comedy :: Central. A little more predictable I guess. You know, I remember when all Comedy Central did was show clips of funny scenes from movies. They've come a long way.

  3. Polar :: Lights. Polar Lights is a model company.

  4. Idiots :: Abroad. No clue. I suppose I was thinking of "Innocents Abroad." Mad propz 2 Twain, yo.

  5. Perception :: Engine. No clue. Although there is a

  6. Infected :: Criticism. Huh?

  7. Fake :: Boobs. No pithy comment here.

  8. Relating :: Game. Possibly inspired by "The Dating Game," possibly by the fact that relating to people is kind of like a game, where you have to figure out what people are really trying to say. I'm pretty bad at that. I missed out on some good stuff because I couldn't figure out what people were hinting around.

  9. Distraction :: Bomb. I have no idea. Maybe because The Decider's idea of a Distraction is to Decide to Bomb something. (I realize that I am being partially unfair to The Decider. That's just too damn bad.)

  10. Gamble :: Procter. Pretty obvious. My real first thought was "-ing", but that's kind of dumb.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Internet People

Should I be happy or sad that I recognized (and probably passed along) most of these Internet memes?

The song is pretty peppy.

This is why Jesus invented backyards

Courtesy of Sir F. Crisp, pictures of some dude's backyard pizza oven. We are so doing this for our next house.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lessons learned: cleaning your eyeglasses

My eyeglasses were getting a little dirty this evening, so I grabbed a tissue to clean them off. Didn't help. In fact, made it worse. I cussed. I scrubbed at the damn glasses with my tissue. And scrubbed. And scrubbed. All the while, they're getting streakier and cloudier.

"DAMN IT!" I yelled (in my head; everyone else is asleep).

Then I looked at the tissue box.

Puffs plus.

Yeah. The kind with EVEN MORE lotion.


I got out the actual cleaning cloth and went to work.

Lessons learned: CSS redesign

Over the last couple of days, I converted my father-in-law's Paradise Lost website from its original table-based layout to a CSS-based layout. I'm reasonably happy with the results, and what I ended up with is not that different-looking from where it began, which of course was the whole goal of the project. Well, that and reducing the complexity of the layout, which was really frightening. I ripped out a LOT of code and replaced it with very little.

I feel pretty good about it, even though all I really did was bring it into compliance with a standard that was out six years ago. It's even valid XHTML 1.0, although I decline the opportunity to put the little "validated!" graphics on the pages. Plus, I ran it through browsercam and everything checked out just fine. Which isn't surprising, considering that I'm not really doing anything stressful with CSS.

(One thing I'm not satisfied with is that somehow the ALT-text has disappeared on all of the images, even though it's there in the HTML. And the index navigation page, since it no longer uses imagemaps, no longer has ALT-text for the links. The second one I can fix.)

It even looks good without the stylesheet turned on. Well, not good. But useable.

Anyway, the Weird Experience was this:

In my Web development IDE (Aptana, thank you very much), I was going back and forth between the CSS file and the built-in Internet Explorer preview, making things look right by tweaking here and tweaking there--standard procedure. I didn't even give Firefox a thought. After all, Firefox is more standards-compliant than Internet Explorer, and I'm not doing anything tricky like drawing curves or making fancy menus or anything like that.

When I was done with the redesign, I uploaded everything to my test server and ran Firefox over it.

It. Looked. HORRIBLE.

The positioning was off. The non-fancy list-based menu buttons had shrunk. Nothing looked the way it should. Even the image positioning (absolute!) was wrong.

I used Firebug to figure out thatI had done the cascades incorrectly, and slowly but surely was able to tweak everything in Firefox to get it to look correct, without affecting Internet Explorer's render too much. (The only standing issue: the images are in a different spot in IE than they are in Firefox, and I have no idea why. They're not really where I want in either case, but the current positions are a good middle ground.)

The lesson learned is something that I ignored when I was doing research on how to convert the tables to CSS. Don't make the same mistake I did: design for Firefox first. I read that advice in several different places. Take it! I estimate that I spent as much time re-tweaking as I did tweaking in the first place, and if I had done it all with Firefox first, it would have turned out okay in the end.

Among the resources I used...

All in all, a pleasant way to spend a few hours. Even if it was a busman's holiday.

It's Wednesday. Here's the Hump.

The Wednesday Mind Hump appealed today.

1. Have you ever been famous for anything? If so, what did you do to become famous? I dunno, I was probably famous for being deranged during my freshman year in college. Does that count? If we're talking about "Local Man Rescues Cat From Sewer," then no, I never have.

2. Have you ever met anyone famous? Sure. I met Senator Inouye once. (My dad's advice: "Just hold out your right hand to shake. He'll take care of the rest.") I met Max Allan Collins, Andrew Vachss and Carl Hiaasen at book signings. (Collins even remembered us the next time around, which was really cool.) Josh and I met Tommy Christ and John Connelly at a Scatterbrain show. There are probably a few others that I'm spacing at the moment. The Wife has a much better pedigree in this area than I do, though.

3. Are you related to anyone famous (anywhere on your family tree)? How famous is famous? We have a cousin who came up through Hollywood as a stuntman and actor and was second banana on a syndicated TV show.

4. Whose 15 minutes of fame should be taken away? Duh--Paris Hilton.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Briefly noted

Just a few quick things today.

  1. As Rachel Maddow pointed out today, the Petraeus testimony was never supposed to be about "Can we end the surge?" but rather about "Can we get out entirely now?" Remember that when you're looking at news stories and headlines that say that we may be able to end the surge. We are not going to get what this country needs, which is to be out of Iraq. Are we really surprised?

  2. Oooh...Karen Allen is going to be in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Marion Ravenwood was the best. I guess the only real problem is that "Raiders" was 26 years ago and this new one is not set in 1970.

  3. I just bought Dawn of War Platinum Edition and have been playing Dawn of War: Dark Crusade. I'm not usually into RTS, but Dark Crusade has been great so far. I think it's about the closest we're ever going to get to playing Warhammer 40K without spending a thousand bucks on models. (Bonus: DoW doesn't require the install disc to be in the drive at runtime, which means that I can play it on my optical-drive-less ThinkPad.)

  4. It's so amazing that Spirit and Opportunity are still going. That's some engineering right there. And the neat thing is that I bet that if the design teams had gone in from the outset to come up with a craft that would last for a nearly four-year mission, it would have ended up a disaster. By the way...the next one needs to record sounds.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Cosmic propinquity!

After my office-supply lust from the previous entry, it was mildly humorous to find out that Friday 5 was about office supplies. All systems go!

1. What’s your favorite small office supply (like something that can fit in your top desk drawer)? Pens. I love pens. I love fountain pens, I love ball-point pens, I love felt-tip pins. I love expensive pens, I love cheap pens. There's just something about ink, I don't know what it is. About the only kind of pen I really don't care for is a gel pen. Leaves me cold.

2. What’s your favorite medium office supply (like something that can fit on your desktop)? Mini organizers--the kind that hold pens and pencils, with little trays for paper clips and binder clips, a space for Post-It notes, a little slot to hold envelopes

3. What’s your favorite large office supply (like a furnishing or a large tool)? Desks.

4. To which specific office supply do you have a particular personal attachment? My Auntie Jeannie gave me a nice Cross ballpoint pen for my high school graduation. It had black enamel and gold trim, and for many, many years I used that pen to do my taxes. I loved that pen. It was the best pen I've ever had. It got lost in one of our moves, or I'd still be using it today. Runner up: The Wife gave me an antique fountain pen as a gift once. It never wrote satisfactorily, but it was still cool.

5. Which office supply do you consider yourself something of an expert on? I used to have an intrinsic bond with complicated copy machines, but now, I don't know.

Good old Golden Rule days...

Kiki asks about school for today's Friday Fun. I figure that high school is a little more appropriate for these questions than college, so most of my answers will be from that perspective

1. School,…couldn’t wait or dreaded hell? A mixture of both, I suppose. I actually enjoyed the process of Getting Ready For The Year: making a multi-folder, cleaning and organizing, making sure I had everything, and, for college, making sure I could get from Des Moines to Grinnell, getting my room the way I liked it, and so on. There were a lot of things to be excited about, but there were a lot of things not to be excited about.

2. School supplies,… junkie or couldn’t care less? JUNKIE. And I still am. I love cracking open a new notebook, using a new pencil or (drool) pen, breaking the seal on a pack of index cards. Sometimes, office supply catalogs can be better than pr0n.

3. The locker,… organized or a chaotic mess? I never really used my lockers in high school (I was a "carry everything all the time" kid for a long time), so "organized" by default. Plus, they were really small, so there wasn't a lot of room to make a mess.

4. Lunch time,… bring or buy? A little from column A, a little from column B. The food, I would bring (ham sandwich, white bread, with butter--thanks, Dad!). The drink, I would buy.

5. Sports,… jock or not? I was part of football tryouts for a day because Coach Hamada really laid on the pressure, but I came to my senses and realized that I didn't give a damn about playing. I was on the track team for a single meet because I liked Chuckie Nakoa and he taught me the shotput and the discus. I sucked at both and didn't give a damn. I'm not particularly competitive in that way. So...not.

6. Music,… band, chorus, orchestra, or none of the above? If yes, what insturment or part? All three! I was in the color guard mostly because I was pressured into it, but it turned out to be kind of fun. (That's technically not the same as "in band," which I never was, but it was "in marching band.") In choir, I was a tenor. I played the cello for a year and was really no good at it because I never practiced.

7. Report cards,… grounded or rewarded?!I was a middlin' student. Mostly Bs for my entire school career, with a few As and Cs sprinkled here and there. I got a lot of Ds one semester in college, but by that time the punishment was not grounding, but losing a little bit of scholarship money.

8. Reunions,… a good idea, or thanks, but no? Well...up until a little while ago, I would have auto-answered "Thanks, but no." However, this year was our 20th Reunion year, and Michelle kindly "volunteered" to go. Her after-action report was intriguing enough that I'm considering the 25th.

9. School friends,…. still have them or grown apart? I still have the ones who matter the most.

10. Favorite class? Free period. Especially at the end of the day, especially with open campus privileges. As for a serious answer...geez, I don't know. "Papa" Suemori's English class was pretty damn good. Mrs. Cano's drama class, of course. I don't know.

BelliBlog's Four For Friday

Some of today's Four For Friday questions seemed a bit interesting.

Q1 - Lying: Are there any circumstances under which you can see yourself lying to law enforcement officials at either the local or national levels? As much as I really, really want to fight the power and say "Yes," I don't think there are. Probably not even in an Underground Railroad type of situation, so when The Decider starts to round one-eyed left-handers born on Thursday, I may have to wimp out and not hide them in my attic. I just get too nervous.

Q2 - Terrorism: Terrorist monitoring groups here in the U.S. say the al-Qaida terrorist network intends to release a new video recording of Osama bin Muhammad bin 'Awad bin Laden on or before next week's sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks the Pentagon and World Trade Center. If in fact a recording of bin Laden were made available, would you take the time to watch it? No. What does he have to say to me? What point would there be? Besides, I'll hear all about it on the radio, on TV, on the Internets. Seriously--what's the point? By now, I don't even care where the Presidential candidates stand on the "Would you hunt down Osama and kill him?" question; it's a trap, what are they supposed to answer? What is there even to say on the topic that isn't pandering to someone? I've come around to George W. Decider's position on Osama: "I don't give him much thought." I'm sure the Decider's rabid slave-dogs will enjoy the Two Minutes Hate.

Q3 - Carded: A few years ago, the state of Maine's Legislature passed a law that requires store clerks to verify the identification of anyone who appears to be under the age of 27 when attempting to purchase tobacco or alcohol. Earlier this week, a 65-year-old woman who went into a Farmington, Maine supermarket to buy wine was turned away because she did not have any ID with her. When the woman asked if her elderly friend could buy the wine for her, she was told no because that would be considered "third-party" purchasing, which is illegal in Maine. If you were working the checkout line when the 65-year-old woman attempted to purchase a bottle of wine, would you have turned her away? Is my job on the line? Then abso-frickin-lutely, unless she's gray-haired and shuffling along in her walker and looking like Aunt May from old-school Spider-Man comics. Then again, I suck at estimating ages. By the way, my answer is the way it is because I heard that the store policy was to card anyone who appeared to be under 45.

Q4 - Cars: If you could modify one thing about your current car (and no, junking it and starting over would not be an option), how would you make it be different? Hmm...for the Ford, I'd want a stereo with an iPod jack. For the car I drive to work, my father-in-law's early-90s BMW, I'd want a satellite radio. In the realm of fantasy, I'd modify the BMW to never break down ever again.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Designing a spaceship

I was sitting at my workbench this weekend matting some pictures for framing, and I realized that I was sitting at my workbench, relatively pain-free. That means, among other things, that I can sit at my workbench and contemplate model-building again.

Today's spaceship design question, which is fodder for my brain as I try to come up with a cool-looking design to build, is this: why would you put the part of the ship with all of the important officers in it on the outside?

We're talking about the bridge on a capital ship, of course. Think of some famous starship designs: the USS Enterprise, Star Destroyers, the Galactica, the Rodger Young. They all have their command bridges in an exposed location, sometimes separated from space only by an unspecified thickness of transparent material. In some cases, like the Star Destroyers and all Federation starships, the bridge is pretty much a big fat target sitting right out in the open, exposed.


Two obvious answers: first, it looks cool; and second, designers are influenced by naval vessels rather than trying to design something that might actually see space and combat.

A third reason might be that, at least in the case of the Federation starships, there's a misconception that we have to design ships that look like and act like fighters. I always thought I wanted to see a Star Trek space battle, until I actually saw one in Star Trek: The Meeting Generation and realized that we had special effects people who think that hundreds of thousands of tons of steel can turn on a dime.

I think the first reason is pretty sound. After all, you want something that looks cool, and what looks cooler than having that command section sticking out prominently, exposed, giving the ship commander a view of his ship?

That really just ties in with the second reason. You have ships that are influenced to a greater or lesser extent by existing Earth naval vessels--the Yamato and the Arcadia being two prime examples of "greater". Thing is, there's a reason that Earth naval vessels have their bridges placed prominently: so they can SEE. The bridge of a cruise ship is a huge, glassed-in affair that allows the captain and crew to see the sea.

Spaceships don't need that. A spaceship bridge can be a hardened bunker in the middle of a ship, with the best shielding and ventilation and what have you. Cameras can do all the seeing (as on the Enterprise, for example). You can even have a huge wraparound display in a starship bridge. There's just no need to have it outside.

So that's my current phallic bridge, or more room for guns?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I'd buy this

Bruce Hornsby is a hell of a piano player. Jack DeJohnette is a great drummer. Christian McBride is a great bassist. Put them all together and I'd buy the record without having to hear it first. Even if it has an Ornette Coleman number on it. (I'm not a big Ornette fan...I can never get what the dude is trying to say. I recognize the talent. I just don't get it.)

This tickled me

Ever since we've lived here, and presumably a great deal longer, one of the countless little strip malls near our place has housed an utterly ignorable branch of Family Christian Bookstore. They moved recently (and their new location had an inordinately large number of people outside of it a while ago...all just sitting there, maybe they were eating...but that's another story), but one of their signs is still up at their old location:

Anyway, what tickled me, really, was seeing what's going into the space...

It's sort of like a Cheeseburger in Paradise opening in a space formerly occupied by a kosher deli, or a subliterate moron occupying the White House right after a Rhodes scholar.