Archive for April, 2009

An award from Korea

April 19, 2009 Comments off

Sil in Corea left a very nice note in a previous post awarding me the Premio Dardos trophy

means “prize darts” in Italian and is awarded for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary and personal values in the form of creative and original writing.

She listed my blog among some really interesting ones that I am now visiting. Alas, I’m not much of a joiner but I do appreciate the kind words! Thank you Sil.  And you noted that you are on dial-up Internet connection, so I’ll try to put large-file-size photos below the fold or use thumbnails.

And take a look at this note from one of her recent posts, A Little Excitement:

In regard to the little chairman and his rocket, my neighbors think he’s a fool to waste money on it.  My students and I talked about it.  The agreed opinion was that the common people in the North are very unfortunate to be stuck there, the crew in power are scared as well as evil, and eventually the government up there will collapse.  When that happens, the folks in the South want to be ready to pick up the pieces and introduce their northern cousins to the 21st Century.

My thoughts on the little man with the bad hair is that he is the neurotic product of a dysfunctional family.

The actual “Excitement” post is about a power transformer that blew in her neighborhood, and how the neighbors all came out to watch the guy in the pickup truck who arrived to fix it.  The part about North Korea’s missile, is the postscript; less interesting than a neighborhood power outage.  Apparently Kim Jong Il looks scarier from Newt Gingrich’s office than from all the way over in South Korea.

Categories: Uncategorized

The deception of appearances

April 15, 2009 Comments off

I’ve heard that the music industry is driven by how photogenic performers are, as much as by how the music sounds.  But see if this performance by unknown Susan Boyle on a British talent show, doesn’t make you want to stand up and cheer.  And be amazed by the emotional impact of unexpected difference between expectations and reality.

(Embedding is disabled – click the link to hear it.  The video has over forty-eight thousand comments so far, on seven million views.)

Boyle has actually made huge numbers of people aware for the first time of Elaine Paige, the British musical star that she wanted to be as famous as.  That is, in becoming famous herself, she made a famous person more famous. 

In other news, Google has just launched YouTube Orchestra.  Technology is often blamed for lowering culture, but it can just as easily raise it.


Categories: Uncategorized

Answering her question

April 14, 2009 Comments off

Her Windows™ machine is having lots of little problems, so I order a replacement on eBay.  It comes with XP on it, but I’ll wipe the drive, reload XP from scratch, put her favorite software on it, and copy the drive to another drive as a backup.  With some extra ram, total investment will be $150.

I could just rebuild her current machine, but it would be out of commission for a while as I tweak it.  Trust me, no one wants that.  Better to plunk in a replacement.

She asks; “Are we ever going to get to the point where we just go to the store and buy a new computer?

OK, let’s do that.  We’ll plunk down $600 and get a machine with Vista Home on it.  But it also comes with trialware and crapware that I’ll have to figure out how to uninstall.  Then install her favorite software.  Then I get to help her learn to use Vista – oh, joy! – when I’m not all that swooft on Vista myself. Frankly I’m hoping to skip Vista altogether; from my admittedly limited experience, it isn’t exactly Microsoft’s finest moment.

Then the Vista machine has the same short life as the XP machine.  I call it MTBR, or Mean Time Between Rebuilds.  So I spent an extra $450… why?

You may be wondering, “why not start her on Ubuntu?”, which I use on my desktop machine.  Because tech support between husband and wife isn’t exactly marital bliss.  It can even be stressful, in fact, so I’m procrastinating.  But at some point, it’ll be worth it.


Categories: Uncategorized

Delusional statement of the week award

April 12, 2009 Comments off

Occasionally Parade magazine can be very interesting.  This week we learn an amazing fact: the drug war will soon be won.  I sometimes wonder if there is a class in journalism school, where you learn to keep a straight face while your interviewee says something as stupid as this:

“We’ll eventually break the backs of the cartels, but the violence on both sides of the border will not end until that point.”
- Garrison Courtney, chief spokesman for US Drug Enforcement Administration

No you won’t, Garrison.  Black-market violence gains power from the illegality of its object.

In the same issue, we learn that Barbie, the plastic doll with big boobs, made $3.3bn last year.  Susan Meisner, 44, a real person and port-of-entry inspector in Lenore, Idaho, made $30k. Doesn’t that make you feel safer?

Categories: Uncategorized

Looking below the pretty surface

April 12, 2009 Comments off

In a restaurant-menu reading context a friend recently commented to me; “There’s plenty of fish in the sea!”  That was true a couple hundred years ago, but less and less so today:

The fish that once seemed an inexhaustible source of food are now almost everywhere in decline: 90% of large predatory fish (the big ones such as tuna, swordfish and sharks) have gone, according to some scientists. In estuaries and coastal waters, 85% of the large whales have disappeared, and nearly 60% of the small ones. Many of the smaller fish are also in decline. Indeed, most familiar sea creatures, from albatrosses to walruses, from seals to oysters, have suffered huge losses.

All this has happened fairly recently. Cod have been caught off Nova Scotia for centuries, but their systematic slaughter began only after 1852; in terms of their biomass (the aggregate mass of the species), they are now 96% depleted. The killing of turtles in the Caribbean (99% down) started in the 1700s. The hunting of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico (45-99%, depending on the variety) got going only in the 1950s. Troubled Waters, a special report on the Sea

This Economist report, which consists of nine separate articles (see right-hand sidebar),  is sobering reading.  The problem visualizing what’s happening beneath the water is that the surface reflects the sky, and always will.  It could be a complete dead zone (and in some places, is) but above the water, we see… sky.  And thanks to ever more-efficient factory ships, the fish in our supermarkets and restaurants remains quite affordable, for now. 

It isn’t just factory-fishing, or pollution (oh my… read the articles) but the coming problem of ocean acidification.  It hasn’t gotten a lot of press, but if you talk about changing ocean chemistry in response to atmospheric chemistry, it’s one hell of an experiment.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before (and it isn’t in the report) but even public-relations efforts like “Dolphon-safe tuna” aren’t helping.  And if public relations can’t save our environment, we’re doomed.  Aren’t we?


Categories: Uncategorized

Um… gee, I dunno, Dad.  Can we talk about this?

April 12, 2009 Comments off

Full-page ad in this morning’s paper: 

Text (not shown) at bottom of ad:

“That’s what christ did definitively; suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones.  He went through it all, was put to death and then made alive to bring us to God.”
1 Peter 3:18, The Message

…and credit to the Hobby Lobby chain which paid for the ad, presumably in multiple cities – inviting people to call the ministry projects branch of the company if they want to come to know Jesus.  “The Message” is apparently some modern translation/paraphrase of the Bible, but I don’t care for those.  If the KJV was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.


Categories: Uncategorized

A Christian asks; “I’m the bad guy?  How did that happen?”

April 11, 2009 Comments off

I’ve posted excerpts of some correspondance with a Christian Minister at Stupid Evil Bastard.  He’s genuinely puzzled how Christianity ever got a reputation for fostering bigotry and ignorance.  Go help him out!

Categories: Religion

That “Storm is coming” video

April 9, 2009 Comments off

Poor, poor persecuted majority Christians™ in a position of top socio-cultural power; living in a pluralistic society is such a bother, don’t you think? You may have seen that video about the evil homosexual agenda – to interfere with the Lifestyles of the Christian™and Sanctimonious. In the video,  a “rainbow coalition” of “all creeds and colors” support the right to discriminate against gays.  But there are Christians who aren’t in favor of discrimination.

***Dave, to name one, takes that video apart piece by piece: “Dealing with private beliefs and public services”.  Enjoy!


Categories: Uncategorized

Redoubt - the big picture

April 7, 2009 Comments off

Check out Boston Globe’s Big Picture story on Mt. Redoubt in Alaska.  Not only are the photos awesome as always, but the inclusion of amazing satellite volcano images and electron microscope pictures of volcanic ash (hint: try not to inhale) add understanding of scale.

Categories: Nature, observations

Incomplete darkness

April 6, 2009 Comments off

After watching House, I drove to the park to practice on my unicycle.  The skateboard park was deserted, lit by sharp moonlight.  It took me a couple tries to make a successful transit from fence to fence, between the steel ramps where dedicated youths do amazing, profanity-laced tricks by day. 

I could see my breath but soon removed my jacket and cap.  My helmet is well-ventilated and without the thin fleece cap under it, has no insulating properties. 

I can’t steer yet.  Or not intentionally, that I know of.  My eyes adjusted as I struck off into the moonlight and tried not to veer into any shorter paths.  The park was utterly quiet.

Thin clouds moved in from the North, followed by thicker clouds.  Now it was getting really dark.  Shadows changed direction, deepening and aligning with distant sodium-vapor lamps.  I made some longer-than-expected transits, veering into the diagonal space for greater distance.

Concentrating is not the right word; more like meditating.  I can’t explain how anyone stays up on one of those things.  And at once I opened my eyes in the broad space between ramps;  I’d gone ten feet or so with my eyes closed.  Thirty feet to go before reaching the cyclone fence.


Then I made one long, S-shaped transit, pedaling slowly and easily from corner to corner of the skateboard park.  I’m not sure how – was I steering?  Or was it chance? 

In the distance a police car pulled into the park, making their rounds.  Wanting no part of that conversation, I decided it was time to go.  I’ll know next time if I was steering.


  • Next evening: Yep, I was steering, crudely and without intention.  Definite signs of steering this evening.  Much to the good-natured amusement of the skateboard riders in the park.  Of course, they understand practicing difficult moves as well as anyone.
  • @ 4 weeks, I am now learning to steer more deliberately.  Just ordered a more comfortable seat and some grippier pedals.
Categories: Uncategorized