Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!!

    Here's hoping you stay(ed) up until midnight to greet 2012.  Two of our three dogs will be totally freaking out when the firecrackers start to go off.  My choices are to go to bed around 10:00, knowing I will be awakened by crazed canines in 2 hours or to stay up reading a book, with the lights on and the stereo turned up, in hopes that the dogz won't see and hear to brouhaha.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Funnies

    Indeed.  When have you ever seen Vivaldi worked into a cartoon?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quote for the Day

"A conservative is a man who just sits and thinks, mostly sits."
(Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, born 155 years ago today)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rah, Rah - Phoenix Suns!

    Hooray, hooray!  Basketball season is underway!

    Alas, things do not bode well for our Phoenix Suns, and they've only played one game so far.  But they lost - at home - to New Orleans, whom all the ESPN talking heads are pegging as the bottom-feeder of the NBA-West.

    Methinks we need to pick up this powerful pachyderm and get him into the starting line-up ASAP.  Don't worry about the Salary Cap; he'll play for peanuts.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

    True love, like any other strong and addicting drug, is boring - once the tale of encounter and discovery is told, kisses quickly grow stale and caresses tiresome ... except, of course, to those who share the kisses, who give and take the caresses while every sound and color seems to deepen and brighten around them.  As with any other strong drug, true first love is really only interesting to those who have become its prisoners.

    And, as is true of any strong and addicting drug, true first love in dangerous.

(from Wizard and Glass, by Stephen King)

8½*/10.  The complete review is here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

    Merry Christmas to one and all!  May you find Peace in your life; Peace in the world; and a red Lamborghini underneath the tree tomorrow morning.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Engineering Humor

    I work with lots of Chemical Engineeers.  I can say without any doubt that this is an accurate rendering of how any of them would view a half-filled glass.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What was spilled?

    Okay, I know I'm over-thinking this one, but...

    ... what exactly broke in that crate that flattened Beetle, thus spilling liquid?  The General has the bottle of wine in his hand, and comments that he hopes his wine-glasses aren't broke.  Makes (comic strip) sense, but then there shouldn't be any booze in that package.  We'll assume it isn't Beetle's blood.

    Sloppy cartooning, if you ask me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

    "I knew," said Olivier, "she was not wise - the Empress Maud.  I knew she coud not forget grudges, no matter how sorely she needed to close her eyes to them.  I have seen her strip a man's dignity from him when he came submissive, offering support...

    "Better at making enemies than friends.

    "All the more she needs," he said, "the few she has."

(from The Pilgrim of Hate, by Ellis Peters)

The full review is here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

RIP - Kim Jong-Il

Kim Jong-Il
b.  :  16 February 1941
d.  :  17 December 2011

    Well, I've seen a lot of hate-posts about you, Kim, and I have to say you certainly deserve it.  You were obviously a paranoid-schizo from the get-go, and I suspect people outside North Korea don't know the half of the hell you put your country through during your reign.  Nevertheless, I'll do my best to write something positive about you.  It's a thankless job, but somebody has to do it.

    Let's see now.

    Well, you're the only leader I know of that basically flipped the bird to both the USA and China, and lived to laugh about it.  You made it into Dubnutz's "Axis of Evil", and yet outlasted the chimperor.  You scared the bejeezus out of Japan with your talk of developing nuclear weapons and occasional kidnapping of Japanese citizens for work in your concentration camps.  South Korea lives in dread of you invading them (again), which gives the US an excuse to station massive numbers of troops there.

    The TV showed all sorts of your loyal subjects weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth, but we know of course that it was all staged.  But hey, if I were living there, I'd put on a show of grief too.  It beats being shot to death as a subversive.

    I see you named your youngest son the next ruler, and the few opening opinions of him aren't very nice.  Basically, they're saying he's a chip off the old block.  I would have preferred one of your other sons - the one that was into Heavy Metal.  But hey, I'm just looking for common ground.

   So Rest In Peace, Kim Jong-Il.  Everyone else thinks you were a dsmented bastard, and they're probably right.  But I keep having this nagging thought that you were just a crafty old devil, and even now you're laughing in your grave about how foolish you made all the political powers of the world look.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Saturday before Xmas Eve

    I knew better than to go out on the streets today - the last Saturday before the Christmas weekend.  But the book and record stores were calling to me like a pair of sirens. and I was looking for certain LP's to give as Xmas gifts.

    I think every automobile in the Phoenix valley was on the road today.  Intersections - all of them - were insanely overloaded.  Ditto for parking lots.

    Fortunately, none of those Xmas shoppers were going to the used-record store.  So that turned out to be a peaceful little haven for an hour or so.  I didn't find the records I was looking for (NIN, Radiohead, Tori Amos), but I frankly wasn't expecting to.  I did find a couple Vangelis albums, plus an old, obscure one by Jorma Kaukonen.  And got three light-classical LP's for free (Mahler, Bach's Greatest Hits, Artur Rubinstein).

    Unfortunately, lots of shoppers were hitting the used-book store.  The store itself was staffed sufficiently to handle the deluge.  The parking lot was not.

    Still, I'm off all next week, and will finish my shopping then.  All I need are stocking-stuffers for both Jason and Liz, and some "surprise" presents for Liz.  If I put my mind to it, I can have everything done by the end of Tuesday.  That way I don't have to venture out next Saturday, which will probably make today's traffic look like a picnic.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Schrodinger's Cat

     I'm uncertain as to whether I agree with Heisenberg's principle.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Demotivational Tuesday

    Good choice, Joyce.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

    "Have you worked in a bar before?" he enquired, clinging to his dignity as a drowning man will cling to the matchstick of proverb.

    Loz shook her beautful head.  "Not behind one," she said, "but we've danced in lots.  We're pole-dancers."

    "You don't look Polish," said Neville.

    Loz looked at Pippa.

    Pippa looked at Loz.

    And both laughed coquettishly.

    Neville clutched at his heart.

(from Knees Up Mother Earth, by Robert Rankin)

The full review is here.

Friday, December 09, 2011


   Yowzah!  I'm on vacation until the Tuesday after Christmas.  In fact, I only work three more days this year - the Tuesday - Wednesday - Thursday of that week.  I have that Friday off too.  Gotta use my vacation days or lose them.

    There is Xmas shopping to do.  That's a two-week ordeal for me, but only cuz I'll find excuses not to start it next week.  Which is really stoopid on my part, since the schools won't be out until the following week.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Happy Birthday, Noam Chomsky!

"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all."

    Noam Chomsky is an activist, a linguist, an intellectual, and is 83 years young today.  His quotes (see above for an example) are pithy, witty, and very relevant to the world today.

    I became aware of him at an early age - but for a strange reason.  I have always done crossword puzzles, and "Noam" would often show up in a grid, with the definition something like "Writer Chomsky".   I'd usually try "Noah" for the answer, and of course it was slightly wrong.  For many years I wondered WTF this Chomsky dude was, and why he had such a strange first name.

    FWIW, "Noam" is actually his middle name.  His real first name is "Avram".

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Urinal

    And just remember, Power always starts with a Pee.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Jim Morrison roolz

    Back in the day, when everybody was debating who the the kewlest - The Beatles or The Stones, my personal opinion was that it was The Doors.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

    "The mike is yours," Dozsa said.  "What have you in mind?"

    "A patterned signal, to show them we wish to communicate.  Why start with mathematics?  They know full well that we know the value of pi.  But if we can recognize their music for what it is, and enjoy the same, faith, they can ours."  Caitlin reached down to the webbing on the side of her chair.  "Well that I thought to bring my sonador."

    She inserted a program and touched the keyboard.  Eine Kleine Nachtmusik tumbled forth.  "They offered us mirth," she explained.  "Let us offer it back."

(from The Avatar, by Poul Anderson)

The complete review is here.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Christmas lights are up!

    I'll let you guess which house is mine.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Creationist Parenting

   Sadly, I have gone to church with parents that have this mentality.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

    The school secretary was like every school secretary that Thorne remembered or had ever imagined.  Maybe they bred them somewhere, taught them how to put their hair in a bun and look down their pointed noses, before sending them out into the world with a pair of big glasses, a fondness for tweed, and something uncomfortable up their backsides.

(from Scaredy Cat, by Mark Billingham)

The complete review is here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Whither Penn State?

    The Penn State scandal hits especially close to home, since I went there my freshman year.  Joe Paterno was the head coach even way back then (1968).  He had a banner year - finishing undefeated and ranked #2 in the country.  But things are now in a royal mess, and getting more sordid with each passing day.  So it's time for some predictions, and I don't make any of these with joy.

Mike McQueary...
    ...will leave Penn State before Christmas.  Half the people in State College are mad because he spoke up; the other half are mad because he didn't speak up.  The governor is bad-mouthing him; and the local police are denying he ever contacted them.  Which will be found to be a lie, told to cover up for Paterno.  Which is sad.  Nevertheless, it's time to leave, dude.

    After a year's sabbatical, McQueary will take an assistant coaching position on the West coast.   At a small school.  Somewhere like Cal State San Luis Obispo.  He will find peace, but will never be a head coach at a top-level program.

The PSU football program...
    ...will fire the entire remaining coaching staff 48 hours after their bowl game.  The game will be on Dec. 30th or 31st, so the axe falls right after the holidays.   Penn State officials will mumble something about "needing a new direction" which for a change will be the truth.  Penn State will score 10 points in said bowl game, but has a 50:50 chance of winning.

    They will hire some no-name coach who's been successful at a small-time college and give him a 4-year contract.  He will be in over his head, have a 6-6 record next year; and will be fired after his second season.  Penn State will then hire some big-name coach.  Maybe Mike Leach, whose legal suits should just about be done by then.

Joe Paterno...
   ...will continue to be an unwanted fly in the ointment.  The lung cancer story will be debunked (WTF is "treatable lung cancer" anyway?).  He will show up for every home game, making sure to get his photo-op, and all the while maintaining he's just another spectator.

    He will pass on quietly in about 2 years (not a bold prediction, considering his age), but of a stroke or a heart attack, not cancer.  Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief,  but a sigh nonetheless.  In about 10 years, the scandal will have faded, and people will remember JoePa for the 43 years of football excellence, and not his self-serving antics in caring more about his legacy than the sodomized boys and the University's integrity.

Jerry Sandusky...
   ...will continue to say he's done nothing wrong, even as more victims come forward.  He will get a new lawyer who will forbid him from doing any more television interviews.

    As his trial nears, he will one day go up into his bedroom, lock the door (or maybe take a drive to a remote spot in the forest), and put a gun in his mouth.  He will never come to trial and never go to prison.

    ...will continue to root for my Nittany Lions, all the while warning people about idolizing other human beings - be they athletes, rock stars, TV evangelists, or college football coaches.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

the case for Abstinence

   Seriously now.  Friends don't let friends vote Republican.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

    Not so.  I put up the outside Christmas lights.  And ate leftovers.  And watched football.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

    Here's hoping you all have lots to eat, loved ones to share it with, and a long afternoon nap.  Oh yeah, here's hoping the Cowboys lose and the Lions win.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Time-Traveling Drabble

    One last reminder that the fourth, and last, part of Brian Greene's  "The Fabric of the Cosmos" airs tonight on PBS's Nova show.  Here in Phoenix, it's on from 9:00 to 10:00.

    Tonight's show deals with MultiversesTime-Travel was dealt with in Part 2.  As you can see, Drabble is a fellow chrono-hopper.  Well, at least he can send messages from one Time-Space coordinate to another.

Monday, November 21, 2011


    It's the best week of the year to take vacation.  For a mere 3-day "official" vacation investment you get nine days off .  I was busy today doing a bunch of errands.  Thursday's Thanksgiving, and  I'll be busy on Friday putting up Xmas lights.

    But Tuesday and Wednesday, I plan to hop across a couple dimensions and hang out at the castle pictured here.  It's a great place to catch up on your reading, as there is very little moving around.

    And for those of you who are skeptical (yea, even cynical) concerning Dimension-Hopping, be sure to watch the NOVA special called "Fabric of the Cosmos" on PBS on Wednesday night (check local listings).  Dimension-Travel will be one of the topics addressed, albeit, they refer to is as "Multiverses".

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

    "Purgatory?  I've thought of it, but I don't know where it is.  Chronos said I could ride my horse there, but somehow -"

    She pointed.  "Right there."

    Zane looked.  There, across the field, was a modern building complex, somewhat like a university.  "That's Purgatory?"

    "What did you expect - a medieval dungeon guarded by a dragon?"

    "Well - yes.  I mean, the concept of Purgatory -"

    "This is the twentieth century, the golden age of magic and science.  Purgatory moves with the times, as do Heaven and Hell."

(from On A Pale Horse, by Piers Anthony)

The full review is here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chemistry Humor

    Oh, us chemists.  We're such a bunch of wits!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mendelssohn's Greatest Hits

Artist(s)  :  Various
Year  :  Unknown.  Probably late 60's.
Album Info  :  Columbia, Stereo, MS 7516

01. Concerto in E Minor for Violin  (27:25)
02. On Wings of Song  (2:56)
03. Symphony No. 4 in A Major (IV - Saltarello : Presto)  (5:52)
04. Scherzo from Octet for Strings in E-Flat Major  (4:24)
05. May Breezes  (3:55)
06. Spinning Song  (1:34)
07. Spring Song  (2:23)
08. A Midsummer's Night Dream - Scherzo  (4:33)
09. A Midsummer's Night Dream - Wedding March  (4:56)

What's To Like...
    This was a freebie (buy one, get one free) from the local used-record store.   Like most Light Classical vinyl, it was in very good condition.  No skips, just a couple noticeable scratches, and the original plastic still covering the album.

    The "star" of this disc is Track 01, which is the entire first side.  Concerto in E Minor (Op. 64) is also known as Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto" and is just a stunning effort.  It took Mendelssohn 6 years to compose it.  You can see a number of very good performances of it out on YouTube.  But here it is the incomparable Isaac Stern on violin, with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy.  And it is exquisite.

    The whole album is good though.  The most recognizable track is the "Wedding March" (Track 09), but frankly it is a bit lackluster compared to the rest of the selections.  The music is by several artists and orchestras - Andre Kostelanetz, Leonard Bernstein's New York Philharmonic, Rudolf Serkin, and Ormandy.

    Due to the excellent condition of the LP, the conversion to MP3's was uneventful, and I've been playing the sh*t out of it at work and on my MP3-player while reading at night.  The only downside is that the opening solo in the Violin Concerto (actually the motif for the song itself) is stuck in my head.  There are worse fates than that.

    Do yourself a favor and go YouTube "Mendelssohn Violin Concerto".  Felix Mendelssohn was a freakin' genius.  9 Stars (out of 10).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

    "What year were you born, Mister Naylor?"  Should he tell him, Call me Nick?

    "Nineteen fifty-two, sir."

    The Captain smiled and shook his head.  "Nineteen fifty-two!  Good Lord.  Nineteen fifty-two."  He took another sip of his julep, crunched down on a chunk of ice, bared his teeth, which were white.  "I was in Korea shooting Chinese in nineteen-fifty-two."

    "Really," Nick said, unable to think what else to say.

    "Today, the Chinese are my best customers.  There's the twentieth century for you."

    "Seventy percent of adult Chinese males smoke," Nick observed.

    "That is correct," the Captain said.  "Next time we won't have to shoot so many of them, will we?"

(from Thank You For Smoking by Christopher Buckley)

The full review is here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Poetry is a Hoax

    My appetite for poetry is limited.  Over the last couple years, I've read some Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Lee Masters, and Wilfred Owen.  All of them penned some good stuff.  All of them also penned some stuff that left my head in a daze.

    I think the problem with (serious) poetry is that it is inherently obscure.  If you want to write something straightforward, you do a short story.  But obscurity carries the risk that no one will see through the fog you've deliberately created.  And reading page after page of pea-soup prose gets old fast.

    So I think I'll skip Goat's book of William Wordsworth poems.  And Emily Dickinson.  And especially Robert Frost.  I note in passing I've yet to read any poetry in 2011.  I think I'll ask for a Shel Silverstein book for Christmas.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

    "Captain," she said, stamping her foot, "I shall have you know that this is no mean matter for me.  I am a vegetarian, and eat no meat."

    He turned back.  "Madam," he said, "I care not a whit for your eccentric fancies, and have neither the time nor the patience to oblige them."

    "Eccentric fancies?" she said, coloring.  "I shall have you know that the greatest minds of history were vegetarian, from Ptolemy to Leonardo da Vinci, and I shall have you know further, sir, that you are a common drip-knuckle and a boor."

(from Pirate Latitudes, by Michael Crichton)

The complete review is here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Higgs Boson

    Thanks to Part 1 of  a PBS Nova 4-part special called "The Fabric of the Cosmos", I have a much better understanding of what the Higgs Boson particle is all about.    Part 2 of the series airs tomorrow night, and apparently will focus on the dimension of Time.  If you have even an ounce of techno-geeky blood in you, watching tomorrow's show is essential.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Vote Tomorrow!

    ...unless, like us, you already have.  Here in Mesa, there's only one thing on the ballot - whether or not to recall our local racist, Russell Pearce.  Needless to say, we voted for the alternative - Jerry Lewis.

    Pearce has run a particularly nasty campaign, including funding a phony 3rd recall candidate (to siphon off votes from Lewis), and just out-and-out libelous, hand-painted signs, declaring "Jerry Lewis is scum", etc.  Which is just a tad odd, since this recall election bascally pits a white, moderate, Mormon Republican against a white, bigoted, Mormon Republican.  You'd think Pearce would play "nice-nice" since it's a fellow GOP-head.  Not so.

    In Phoenix, they're voting for mayor in a weird syatem that allows about 15 candidates, but theoretically nobody is of any political party.  Yeah, right.  There are really only two candidates with a chance - one backed by the Democrats; the other by the Republicans.  And everybody knows it.  Needless to say, we endorse Greg Stanton, the Democratic candidate.

    Vote with us or vote against us.  It doesn't matter.  The main thing is - get down to the polls tomorrow and vote!!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

    "The girl Elizabeth ... was preparing to retreat once more to the shelter of the broom-cupboard, when the door at the end of the passage opened and a terrible face looked out at her."

    Bunter appeared to be enjoying the sensation he was producing, and paused.

    "A terrible face," said Wimsey.  "Very well, I've got that.  A terrible face.  Next, please!"

    "The face, as I understand," pursued Bunter, "was enveloped in grave-clothes.  The jaws were closely bound up, the features were hideous and the lips writhed away from the protruding teeth and the apparition was of a ghastly pallor."

    "Look here, Bunter," said Wimsey, "could you not cut out some of the fancy adjectives and say plainly what the face was like?"

    "I had not myself the opportunity of observing the face," said Bunter, reprovingly, "but the impression produced on me by the young woman's observations was that of a dark-haired, clean-shaven man with protruding teeth under the affliction of some form of physical suffering."

    "Oh, it was a man, then?"

    "That was Elizabeth's opinion."

(from The Five Red Herrings, by Dorothy L. Sayers)

The full review is here.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Vincent's on Camelback

    We'll be dining at Vincent's on Camelback tonight, to celebrate our anniversary.   Schnazzeee.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Demotivational Friday

    Words would simply not do this picture any justice.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A final word about my Texas Rangers

     It's a bummer, of course, that the Texas Rangers came oh-so-close to winning their very first World Series (one pitch away, on two occasions, in Game 6) , only to have Fate snatch it away and give it to Tony LaRussa as a going-away present.  I can't think of a World Series game with more drama in it, save possibly Bill Mazeroski's home run in Game 7 of the 61' series between the Yankees and the Pirates.

     But instead of crying in our beer, let's not lose sight of the fact that this was the Rangers' greatest season ever; and that things certainly look bright for 2012.  Yes, we may lose C.J. Wilson to free-agency if some pitching-starved team opts to over-pay him.  But he bleeds Ranger blue, and even if he does depart, the money that gets freed up may enable Texas to acquire some other top-tier pitcher.

    The dugout chemistry was great in 2011, and Ron Washington again proved to be a wizard at getting his players to put the team first, and over-achieve individually.  Ownership is supportive; the offense is just fine; and for a change, the pitching is deep and capable.

    So congratulations to the Texas Rangers on a superb 2011 season!  You won the AL West; and you thumped two sizzling hot teams - Tampa Bay and Detroit in the playoffs.

    FWIW, I bear no grudge against LaRussa's Cardinals - theirs was a great story, coming from nowhere to qualify as a wildcard team, then taking out the mighty Phillies and Brewers to gain a berth in the World Series.  You defied the odds as well, St. Louis, and I tip my hat to you.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

    "(N)ow that you have saved my life, you are, by the law of my people, responsible for me, and I for you.  Where you go, I must also go."

    "Oh," he said.  "That's not that bad, is it?"

    "I would rather spend my days chained to a vile wolf or a stinking pig or a marsh-goblin," she told him flatly.

(from Stardust, by Neil Gaiman)

The full review is here.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why Tea-Baggers shouldn't Chrono-Hop

    It takes a certain IQ level to Time Travel responsibly.  Otherwise you just screw things up worse than they already are.  It's kinda like being a Federation starship commander.  You're safe with Jean-Luc Picard.  You're iffy with James T. Kirk.  You're hosed with Beavis & Butthead.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why chopsticks?

    There's a lot of truth to this.  Some years back, I spent 10 days on a business trip in mainland China.  We were in the Hangzhou region, and on the road a lot.  The little restaurants we ate at did not have knives, forks, or spoons.  So I had to make do with chopsticks.

    I suck at using chopsticks.  I lost about 10 pounds on that trip.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Childhood Home

    Oh my.  I simply have to visit Google Earth more often.  They've added some fantastic features, including "Street View".  So I can now revisit my childhood home, back in Lenhartsville, Pennsylvania and see how it's changed in the half-century since we left it.

    First of all : no, that door in the middle of the wall is not photoshopped.  Until recently (meaning 1993, when I last had a chance the house in person), there were porches for each of the three floors, and that door opened out onto the second-story one.

     Second, we actually shared the house with another family.  We lived in what amounts to the left-four windows' worth of space.  They lived in the right-three.  There was also a basement, which means there was lots of room and lots of rooms.  The stones in the facing have either been redone or repainted.  I remember them as various shades of gray.

   The side yard has changed extensively since my childhood.  When we lived there, there were two huge maple trees along the left-hand fence.  And in front of the fence, we had a christmas-type tree that was about 5' tall; which had rocketed to about 30' tall when I was there in '93.  We had a backyard patio, which I remember my dad making by laying a sh*tload of hexagon-shaped cement pieces.  And that shed in the back yard is new.

    Still, the yard looks quite nice, and the structure itself hasn't changed too much.  It's good to see it still standing.  No one knows how old it is, but it was a hotel during the Civil War.