Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

But I still state unhesitatingly, that for pure, vacillating stupidity, for superb incompetence to command, for ignorance combined with bad judgement - in short, for the true talent for catastrophe - Elphy Bey stood alone. Others abide our question, but Elphy outshines them all as the greatest military idiot of our own and any other day. .
Only he could have permitted the First Afghan War and let it develop to such ruinous defeat. It was not easy: he started with a good army, a secure position, some excellent officers, a disorganized enemy, and repeated opportunities to save the situation. But Elphy, with the touch of true genius, swept aside these obstacles with unerring precision, and out of order wrought complete chaos. We shall not, with luck, look upon his like again.
(from Flashman, by George MacDonald Fraser)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Furniture Marauders

Yeah, we have some of these monsters in our house. Most notable, the two posts at the foot of our bed, which can, and have, nailed Liz and me. The couch in the living room has assaulted our toes, and the chandelier in the dining room attacks anyone 6'1" or taller.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

About Wisconsin

Yes, I'm middle management. Nevertheless, I am a strong supporter of Labor Unions. And after watching Wisconsin Republicans try to blatantly screw them out of existence, I support them even more. Methinks the teabaggers have over-reached this time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

Like most scavengers, Joshua thought he knew the Laymil well enough to build up a working image. In his mind they weren't so much different from humans. Weird shape, trisymmetric: three arms, three legs, three stumpy serpentlike sensor heads, standing slightly shorter than a man. Strange biochemistry: there were three sexes, one female egg-carrier, two male sperm-carriers. But essentially human in basic motivation; they ate and shitted, and had kids, and built machines, and put together a technological civilization, probably even cursed their boss and went for a drink after work.
(from The Reality Dysfunction, by Peter F. Hamilton)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My newest invention

Cool, huh? Actually, it's from the great online comic strip Toothpaste for Dinner.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Acid Commercial

from Country Joe and The Fish. i have no idea which acid this refers to, and I'm a chemist. Nitric maybe? more likely Sulfuric. but it has a catchy tune.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


With all due respect to the Demotivational poster, a Cinnabun is my standard airport breakfast whenever I'm flying out of Sky Harbor on a business trip. Plus a coke. A diet coke, specifically. And because it's "diet", it cancels out the calories in the cinnabun. Really. Us scientists are experts on things like this.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

Shakespeare and Milton may have done their best to spread acquaintance with the English tongue among the less favoured inhabitants of Europe. Newton and Darwin may have rendered their language a necessity among educated and thoughtful foreigners. . (...) . But the man who has spread the knowledge of English from Cape St. Vincent to the Ural mountains is the Englishman who, unable or unwilling to learn a single word of any language but his own, travels purse in hand into every corner of the Continent. One may be shocked at his ignorance, annoyed at his stupidity, angry at his presumption. But the practical fact remains: he it is that is anglicizing Europe. For him the Swiss peasant tramps through the snow to attend the English class open in every village. For him the coachman and the guard, the chambermaid and the laundress pore over their English grammars and colloquial phrase-books. For him the foreign shopkeeper and merchant send their sons and daughters in their thousands to study in every English town. For him it is that every foreign hotel- and restaurant-keeper adds to his advertisement: "Only those with fair knowledge of English need apply." . (from Three Men on the Bummel, 1900, by Jerome K. Jerome) . Coincidental fact : In today's Arizona Republic, there was a article titled "Speaking 2 Languages could delay Alzheimer's". Subtitle : "Study: Monolingual patients had earlier signs".

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Yeah, I'm a chess geek...

... so I found this Baby Blues strip to be hilarious.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Readers without Borders

So long, Borders Bookstore. We've had a long and fruitful relationship, but I see you're filing for bankruptcy and closing 1/3 of your stores, including my "home store" here in Mesa, pictured below. The MSNBC article on your demise is here. . I'm gonna miss you. Yes, I think Barnes & Noble has a better (and wider) selection of books, but you had the more obscure ones, which always seemed to be what I was seeking out. Your choice of magazines was much better than B&N's. Once upon a time, your music CD selection was fantastic, but I can see why you had to slim it down. Almost every French and Spanish music CD I own came from you, and you were the only local place where I could find music from groups such as the Strawbs, Renaissance, Loreena McKennitt, and Tom Paxton. . Saturday, I will visit you and use all the Borders gift cards I got for Xmas. Gotta use them before your inventory gets too picked over. Lord knows, I don't need any more books. Last count on my TBR shelf showed about 80 there, and I've been slogging through a couple of thousand-pagers since the holidays, so the pile has not dwindled much so far in 2011. . I'm OCD, but I will learn to visit B&N regularly. Their store is actually closer to my house, but still, to quote Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Adventure, we fear change. At least you're not going fully out-of-business. For now.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

"They will have a nice, neat, pedantic definition of sapience, tailored especially to exclude the Fuzzies, and they will present it in court and try to get it accepted, and it's up to us to guess in advance what that will be, and have a refutation of it ready, and also a definition of our own."
"Their definition will have to include Khooghras. Gerd, do the Khooghras bury their dead?"
"Hell, no; they eat them. But you have to give them this, they cook them first."
(from Little Fuzzy, by H. Beam Piper)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Goose Creek Symphony concert

We saw Goose Creek Symphony on Saturday and they were AWESOME. This time, we even got to sit, which wasn't true for the two previous concerts we went to at The Rhythm Room. The trick is to get there 20-30 minutes before the doors open, which in turn open an hour before the concert starts. . Between this pic and the third one, you can see all seven members of the band. A pair of drummers; a fantastic fiddle player (requisite for any bluegrass band); and four guitars (two lead, one bass, and one acoustic). And yes, that's Yoko Ono sitting right in front of us. . They played for two hours. It was a nice mix of their well-known but older stuff, and their newer songs. I snagged me two of their newer CD's (I've already converted the four LP's from their heyday in the 70's); and a tie-dyed GCS t-shirt. .
The audience was almost entirely 50-somethings. All the guys seemed to have pony-tails which made me jealous. The place was packed.
Coming to The Rhythm Room next month are Savoy Brown (a superb blues-rock band) and Al Stewart ("Year of the Cat", "Time Passages", etc.). Unfortunately, both are on weeknights, which lessens the chances of me going.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Whither Egypt?

Farewell, Mubarek! I for one liked your final ruse - vowing on TV to stay on, then ducking away while everyone raged about your speech. . So now what's in store for Egypt? And the rest of the Arab world, for that matter. Wingnut Glenn Beck says the Islamo-Communists are about to establish a giant kingdom stretching from Pakistan to Morocco. So, Glenny-Poo, the image above is for you. It should be noted, however, that even fellow Wingnut Bill Kristol found Beck's scree too idiotic to take seriously. . The short answer to "Whither Egypt" is - wherever the military decides. But the longer answer lies in whether the underlying issue that brought about these protests is addressed.
And that issue is : the redistribution of the wealth-&-power in Egypt. This applies to the rest of the Arab world as well. An elite few sit at the top; and everyone else is consigned to poverty and starvation. As long as that bleak future is inevitable for 90% of the population; turmoil, resentment, and seething despair will reamin. And grow.
Of course, when you are used to living in a plush mansion, with all the money you can dream of, and with almost complete power over the ragtag masses; you might have some hesitation about allowing genuine reform to occur. For you, "redistribution" can only mean less power, less money.
But consider the alternatives, o ye of the Elite Few! You can squelch or emasculate the current Democracy Movement. But only for a time. You have the guns, but they have the numbers. The generals share in the money and power, but the soldiers come from impoverished families. You can allow an orderly reform now, or you can wait for a violent revolution in a couple years. Share the wealth now, or be strung up on a lamppost later.
Choose wisely, Egypt.

Friday, February 11, 2011

RIF Reminder

A bit stereotyped, but the message is still good. Reading Is Fun. I finished a 1000-page book last week (Infinite Jest) and am currently working through an 1100-page one (The Reality Dysfunction). I'm also reading a shorter book (Three Men on a Bummel) during my lunch hour at work. . But any kind of reading, and any kind of book is time well-spent. Liz likes harlequin romance books. No problem. Diff'rent strokes fo' diff'rent fokes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Craigslist and Cell-Phones for Dummies

Excuse me, Mr. Christopher Lee, Republican congressman from New York. We need to talk about cell-phones and CraigsList, particularly if you plan to start up an affair. . Sending beefcake pics of yourself via your phone is called "leaving a trail". Which could be embarrassing to try to explain to your wife and son. It's also a stoopid way to try to start up an affair, especially since you haven't even met the woman with whom you are flirting. Craigslist is not exactly the most discreet of resources. . Seriously, are you so f**king ignorant about this stuff?? It's almost as if you wanted to get caught. WTF were you thinking? .
Yeah. Family Values Party, my butt. What a bunch of f**king hypocrites. You can read the MSNBC article on this here.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

"Katherine, I will tell you a story about feeling so bad and saving a life. I do not know you but we are drunk together now, and will you hear the story?"
"It's not about Hitting Bottom ingesting any Substance and trying to Surrender, is it?"
"My people, we do not hit the bottoms of women. I am, shall we say, Swiss."
(from Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Helen Mirren - Then and Now

As I was watching the movie "Red" a couple weeks ago (reviewed here), I kept thinking that I had seen the female lead, Helen Mirren, somewhere before. . I had. It turns out that many years ago, she played Morgana in that most excellent flick, Excalibur. She has aged gracefully well, hasn't she? .

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Book Excerpt for the Day

"Shall we see her?"
"We? My dear Russell, I am the husband of an emancipated woman who, although she may not yet vote in an election, is at least allowed to see her own friends without male chaperonage."
"Don't be an ass, Holmes. She obviously wants to see both of us..."
(from "A Letter Of Mary" by Laurie R. King)

Friday, February 04, 2011

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Ode To Winter

Poor, poor, pitiful us! It got down to 27°F last night, and it will be just as cold tonight. Too bad the nearest precipitation is about 500 miles away. . BTW, Ms. McIntyre also wrote a poem called "Summer". You can pretty much guess how it goes.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

You call that a storm??

Well yeah, I do. A freakin' continent-wide storm. It kinda reminds me of the picture below, which is from a year ago.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Quote for the Day

"Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens; but take away Americans' jobs, 4o1K's, even their houses, and they pretty much roll over. Tell British students that their tuition is about to go up and they take to the streets; American students just amp up their doses of Prozac... . "During the Depression of 1892 to 1896, unemployed workers marched to Washington by the thousands in what was then the largest mass protest this country had seen. In 1932, even more jobless people - 25,000 - staged what was, at that time, the largest march on Washington, demanding public works jobs and a hike in the inheritance tax. From the 60's to the 80's, Americans marched again and again - peacefully, nonviolently and by the hundreds of thousands - for civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, economic justice and against wars." (Barbara Ehrenreich) . Having marched in the streets of Tempe and "liberated" one of the fountains at ASU (in the name of the Viet Cong) in my salad days, I have to ask the same question. We're being cowed by the gun-rights crazies, buggered by the banks, and raped by the racist Right. . Since when do we need a permit to demonstrate? Since when do the authorities tell us where we can march? . Take a lesson from the Egyptians. We have the right to protest, and if we unite in a cause, we will prevail. So get out there and demonstrate against something. Racism. Bank foreclosures. Wall Street greed. Lousy Phoenix sports teams. Power to the People!