Friday, April 30, 2010

It's the weekend!

It's been a long week, although a road trip for work always has that effect. It's been a good week as well - a friend and former co-worker that I haven't seen since 1974 found me via FaceBook. There is an advantage in having a somewhat uncommon first name and surname. . The front lawn and a social commitment beckon tomorrow. But for tonight, it's a matter of a glass or two of good red wine, having pizza delivered, and taking our mutts for a walk. One of whom surely inspired the cartoon above.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Teh Boots!!

These are my brand-new, $40, steel-toed, a$$-kickin', mining industry-approved, made-for-WalMart-by-overseas-children boots. yeah i know, i'm not dressed for work. what can I say? some people just look good in any attire. . P.S. : that's my "Uber Alice" t-shirt. which will probably not survive the next closet-purge by Liz.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

May the fours be with you

Something quick, as today was another field trip to a mine customer. Four hours up; four hours at the mine; four hours to get back to Phoenix. I'm hungry, I'm tired, and I think I'm seeing visions in my pizza.

Monday, April 26, 2010


It's slowly dawning on me. . Awl theze speling errurs caint bee chust cuz duh sine-maikerz r idjits. .
Mebbe dey dew itt deeliburr... delybrrr... dee lib... ummm... awn porpoise soze day ken git peebul two taik pitchers uv dere synes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Fire - Katherine Neville

2008; 441 pages. Sequel to The Eight, which is reviewed here. Genre : Conspiracy Fiction. Overall Rating : 3*/10.
April apparently is "sequel" month for me. Anansi Boys (which follows Gaiman's American Gods). The End of the Beginning (which completes Turtledove's Days of Infamy). And now The Fire, written 20 years after The Eight came out.
My Review in 50 Words or less...
The next round of The Game has begun. Alexandra Solarin, daughter of Cat Velis, is now a central figure. Can she win, as her mother did 30 years earlier? Long on dialogue, but short on action. Not a stand-alone book. Could have been much better.
The conflagration-sized version of this review is here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Perfect Blend

One of the coolest comics today (The New Adventures of Queen Victoria) give a tip of the tiara to one of the coolest comics from my salad days (Pogo). I've got about 2 dozen Pogo books in my collection. some going as far back as the early 50's.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Immigration Hate Law

Governor Jan Brewer, unloved by Arizona Democrats and Republicans alike, signed our recently-passed Immigration Hate Bill today. Essentially, it means anyone Hispanic-looking better be carrying proof that they're an Amiercan citizen at all times, or else they will be stopped on the street for no reason, jailed, and if unable to prove citizenship, deported. . You can read MSNBC's latest post on it here. Once again, Arizona is the #1 laughingstock of the nation. Brewer says she will not tolerate racial profiling by the police, which brought guffaws all around, since we have already have a xenophobic sheriff who's been conducting racially-profiled raids for years. .
John McCain, fighting for his political life against a room-temperature-IQ, ex-sportscaster (and a poor one at that), dittohead Republican challenger, came out in favor of the bill. If you're a Republican in Arizona, you basically win primaries by convincing people that you're dumber and more bigoted than your rivals.
Steve Benson, our pride and joy political cartoonist for the Arizona Republic, has been having a field day with our state idiocies. Two of his recent efforts are above. Right on, Steve! It's nice to see that not every Arizonan has been lobotomized.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

YFKM - License Plate Recall

The state of Virginia recalled an offensive vanity plate today. You say you want to see it? Here it is : .
. Revolting, isn't it? You can read about it here. Now folks, I find the White Supremacists a disgusting bunch of racists. But I'm not prepared to cede to them the numbers "14" and "88". Until this article hit the presses, I don't think any normal person would think twice about those numbers. And if a bunch of skinhead neo-nazis want it to be their own little coded message; well, so what? . I mean, what's next? How many other 2- and 3-digit numbers are we going to ban from vanity plates? Let's see now. I suppose we can outlaw "69", so that drivers don't get the uncontrollable urge to do sexting while they're driving. And "666" will certainly be offenisve to the Fundies. Then again, "777" promotes secular humanism, and "888" will offend Atheists. And to keep the triskaidekaphobiacs happy, "13" has to go. While we're at it, let's ban "42" because it's NOT the answer to life, the universe, and everything else. Have I missed any? . Now letter sequences are a bit more serious. I admit, I would be offended if the DMV issued me a plate with "KKK" on it. We'll skip the sexual triads (you can guess those already). A loyal Democrat might object to "GOP", while a loyal Republican may balk at "JFK". And things like "POT" and "LSD" surely send a subliminal message to try drugs. . While we're on the subject of vanity plates, I have to say that I've never even considered paying extra $$$ to get one. But if I did, the two I'd think about are "XQQQME" and "IMYY4U". The former really is appropriate if you ever saw my driving habits, and the latter is impressive for encompassing five words (six, if you want to really stretch it) in a mere six characters. . FWIW, the best vanity plate that I've ever actually seen was "RUADV8". Wow. Six characters, four words, and a complete, coherent, provocative sentence. How'd they slip that one by the DMV? . And no, the image above has nothing to do with the topic. Sadly, among the hundreds of jpegs stashed on my hard drive, I couldn't find any with a license plate. So you get an optical illusion instead.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Deathday, Mr. Twain

Samuel Clemens
(a.k.a. "Mark Twain")
b. : 30 November 1835
d. : 21 April 1910
. Arguably, one of the two greatest American writers of the 19th Century (the other being Edgar Allan Poe), Samuel Langhorne Clemens passed away exactly 100 years ago today. You can read the Wikipedia article about him here. He came in with Halley's Comet (two weeks after it appeared), and went out with Halley's Comet (one day after its next appearance). Freaky. . His famous novels (Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn) frankly do not impress me. But his overall wit and keen insight do. Kind of a "Will Rogers with 40 more IQ points" guy. . And if you don't agree that he's among the two greatest 19th Century authors, then who else? Nathaniel Hawthorne? Boring. Ralph Waldo Emerson? Even more boring. Herman Melville? All-time boringest. Louisa May Alcott? Only if Nancy Drew is your idea of great literature. . And the picks for greatest 19th Century American poets are even worse.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Brightonomicon - Robert Rankin

2005; 404 pages. The eighth book in the "Brentford Trilogy" series. Yeah, I konw. That's an oxymoron. Awards : Nominated for the British Fantasy Society's "Best Novel" in 2006. Genre : Humor; Fantasy. Overall Rating : 9*/10.
A new author for me, and an excellent find. Kinda "Pratchetty", but he's not a Pratchett wannabe. I've combed the used bookstores for his books, and so far have only found two. B&N and the local library are my next stops.
My review in 50 words or less...
Young Rizla and the incomparable Hugo Rune spoof Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes in a quest to find the Chronovision. There are lost spaniels, alien space crabs, and the last Descendant of Jesus. And running gags and Britishisms. Witty and well-written. Highly recommended.
The pacey-pacey version of this review is found here.
Tomorrow, 21 April, marks the 100th Anniversary of what literary event? Answer in tomorrow's post.

Monday, April 19, 2010

when the lunch hour drags...

Yeah, I surf the 'Net during lunch. And yeah, I visit every day to see what the weather's going to be like for the next ten days. As for the word for such people, if Wikipedia doesn't have an entry about it, I'm sure I can google it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

It All Started With Columbus - Richard Armour

1953 (with updates in 1961 and 1971); 129 pages. Full Title (1971 version) : It All Started With Columbus - A Merry Mangling of American History from Columbus to Nixon. 1971 Price (New) : $1.95. 2009 Price (Used) : $2.00. Genre : Humor. Overall Rating : 7*/10.
I loved this book as a kid. I'd borrow it again-and-again from the local library, just to memorize its puns. This is one of the books that got me reading on my own and going to the library every other week.
My review in 50 words or less...
A tongue-in-cheek recounting of American History. Full of clever wordplay and puns. Cleaner than "G-Rated", despite dealing with topics like slavery, Hitler, Communism, and the Ku Klux Klan. Funny footnotes and rib-tickling tests. Proof that humor doesn't need sex, cussing, and racial stereotypes to make it funny.
The "Remember Richard Armour" version of this review is here.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pride Parade ... and Festival!

We made it to our fourth straight Arizona Gay Pride Parade today. In 89°F heat and no clouds in the sky. As usual, the "sisters" had a hug for Liz. . For the first time, we also attended the Gay Pride Festival. It was hot, crowded, and the vendors were charging "gouge" prices for everything. There were lots of strangely-clad people, and lots of making out. Joan Jett will be there tomorrow night for the closing act. The group Berlin will also be playing tomorrow. .
I'm completely knackered from all that sun. I took 238 photos with my new camera over the course of 5 hours, and the batteries held up until we were reviewing the pics. If I get my sh*t together, some of those pics will get posted on a separate blog. Lana would object if I posted them all.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Strip Chess

Today was "medical Friday" at our house. Liz had minor surgery, and I had an ultrasound for my DVT. Both went as planned, although Liz isn't moving much tonight. We shall se if we make the Gay Pride Parade in the morning. . As for the above cartoon, I'm pleasantly surprised that Strip Chess got the second-best "Rare" rating. Indeed, it's geekily kewl to be in the same class as Strip Tennis. And I'm okay with Strip Chess By Mail being nonexistent. That just wouldn't work.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Steel-Toed Boots

Yesterday was a 12-hour workday, involving a long drive for a business visit to a mine about 4 hours north of Phoenix. I remembered to take my hard hat and safety glasses, but their safety program also requires steel-toed boots. Of which I don't have any. . Just what those steel-toed boots protect you from is anybody's guess. If I accidentally drop, say, a 20-pound rock, why is it assumed it will land on my toes, and not on the rest of my foot? . But no matter. If you don't have steel-toed boots, you are given "clackers" to wear. Think "metal galoshes". They're called clackers because they go clack clack clack as you walk. And all the miners try not to snicker as you clack by.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Word is getting out...

Honestly, I didn't even know about this until a friend sent me the photo.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Where the backward people live

To be fair, I don't think you can classify Antarctica as using either system.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why I bought the zoom lens

This was shot from my back porch with the new camera, using the default magnification. . The standard lens of course has some zoom capability. This second shot is at the maximum magnification with that lens. .
Ah, but the zoom lens. It lets you magnify things just a bit more, doncha think?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New Camera

At last the prices of digital cameras with interchangeable lenses have come down far enough to fit my budget. For years they stayed in the $1200-$1500 range. Now you can get a decent one for around $500, give or take a couple hundred.
So today we bought a Canon Rebel XS camera (the one Andre Agassi used to hawk on TV), plus a zoom lens. I spent the evening annoying the dogs with my picture-taking and getting the basics down pat. So far, so kewl.

Friday, April 09, 2010

End of the Beginning - Harry Turtledove

2005; 519 pages. Genre : Alternate History. Overall Rating : 5½*/10.
This is the sequel to Days Of Infamy, which is reviewed here, and which addressed the Alt-Hist question of "What if the Japanese had decided to invade the Hawaiian islands after their successful bombing of Pearl Harbor?"
My review in 50 words or less...
If Japan had invaded and conquered Hawaii in December 1941, what would be her odds of holding it against an American counterattack? How brutal would the occupation be? EOTB begins in early 1943 and addresses these questions. Not much action until halfway through, but then it rocks.
The "what if I wasn't limited to 50 words" version of the review is here.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Arizona Gay Pride Parade - 2010

The 2010 Arizona Gay Pride parade is ten days from now - Saturday, 17 April. predicts 82°F for a high, and zero percent chance of rain. We will be there. Come join us for a fantastic, interactive experience. Below are some pics from last year, which I never did get around to posting. . The theme of the parade, and why I've attended three years in a row. .
A typical spectator. The majority of the crowd seem to be family and friends of gays, and gay couples who finally have an event they can attend without worrying about being harassed for their sexual orientation. .
A lot of the gay bars enter floats in the parade. The amount of effort they put into the float varies. This was one of the better ones. .
There are lots of bikers. And lots of cars, which also run the gamut from no decorations to lots of balloons and streamers and color. .
You have your share of flamers - both in the audience and in the parade. But overall, the parade is geared towards being a family event, suitable even for kids. The aim is to celebrate diversity, not weirdness.
So make plans to attend today. If you don't live in Phoenix, find out when your nearby city has their parade. No one is free until everyone is free.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What's important

As usual, Jesus and Mo cuts through the BS and gets right to the heart of the matter. . Pope Benny isn't concerned about the damage done to the hundreds of molested boys and girls. Nor is he concerned about the spirituality of the priests. This is about power, and the Vatican expects all Catholics to blindly accept its malarkey that Ratzinger never knew anything about the cover-ups and molestations, despite documents to the contrary. . Ironically, as Mo points out, even as the Vatican does its heavy-handed shtick, you can see its power ebbing away. When you act like a self-righteous jerk, people inherently start losing their respect for you, and (more importantly) thinking for themselves. . And people thinking for themselves is the bane of organized religion, no matter which brand you subscribe to.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman

2005; 387 pages. Awards : NY Times Best Seller (2005); Locus Award, British Fantasy Society Award; Mythopoeic Award (all 2006). Gaiman declined to allow it to be nominated for a Hugo Award (which seems a bit strange). Genre : Contemporary Fantasy. Overall Rating : 9½ */10.
Gaiman's follow-up to American Gods, and IMHO opinion, every bit as good. I need to read more of his stuff. Liz read Coraline, and would only say that it was "weird".
My review in 50 words or less...
Fat Charlie learns two things at his estranged father's funeral. First, dad was a god (Anansi). Second, he has a brother (Spider). The brothers are total opposites, and when they meet, Gaimanesque insanity erupts. Wonderfully written, with fascinating characters and a well-crafted ending. An excellent book.
The absatively!! version of the review is here.

Monday, April 05, 2010

They've always been here.

I'd check under my bed for Commies tonight, but it sits on a box frame.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds - 2009
Starring : Brad Pitt; Christopher Waltz
Genre : Historical Fantasy
Time : 153 minutes; MPAA Rating : R
Overall Rating : 5½*/10
. Led by a cowboy-sounding, Nazi-hating sergeant (Aldo Raine, played by Brad Pitt), a group of American mostly-Jewish commandos is wreaking havoc in WW2 German-occupied France when an opportunity arises to take out a slew of Germany's upper-echelon baddies. Including, it turns out, Hitler himself. Meanwhile, a young Jewish woman, whose family was brutally massacred by an evil Gestapo officer, is also plotting her revenge. . What's To Like... If you yearn for the return of spaghetti westerns, this will fill your bill. I could almost hear the Good-Bad-&-Ugly theme-song playing in my head during the opening act. There's lots of gore and a decent amount of action. There's no romance; this is a "Manly Man Man" movie. . The UE is the best I've seen in years. Christopher Waltz plays the shrewd, sadistic "Landa", who's earned his nickname "The Jew Hunter". He won the 2009 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and it is well-deserved. He shines here, while Pitt is reduced to almost a cameo role. . There's also a lot of French, German, and Italian spoken in the dialogue, which means about 3/4 of the movie is subtitled. I'm used to that, and hearing full-speed French again was a treat for me. But if you don't like subtitles, YMMV. . The plot has some decent twists, including an unexpected ending. Not all the good guys live; not all the bad guys die. Finally, John Travolta isn't in the film, and that's always a plus. . So why only Five-and-a-Half Stars? This is a Quentin Tarantino film, and I am not a big fan of his. The violence is gratuitous (did I really need to see a graphic scalping?), there's too much meaningless dialogue (let's all play "Who Am I?"), the story is disjointed (although he addresses this by splitting the movie into 5 separate acts), and if the story had a message, I didn't grasp it. . Inglourious Besterds is better than QT's Pulp Fiction (one of the worst movies of all time), but not as good as his two Kill Bill flicks. The plusses pretty much balance out the minuses, and the twists and non-stereotypical characters (there are even a couple heroic Nazi soldiers) add a half-star to an average rating. It's worth watching - but only once.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Secret to Time-Traveling

For a small fee, I'll teach you how to do this.