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.