Monthly Archives: August 2008

Saturday Smile

I have got to have one of these t-shirts! I’ve had a copy of that cartoon on my refrigerator for a couple of years. It still cracks me up.

(I promise this is not going to be the weekly Rubes spot.)

A Quick Review

I finished reading Requiem For the Sun, the fourth book in Elizabeth Haydon’s Symphony of Ages series and the best one since the first, Rhapsody I got a little impatient with large parts of the second and third books (still good but not as good as the first) so I was not in a big hurry to continue. It’s been several years since I read the first three books.

I’ve said before that I don’t read a lot of fantasy. That’s because I’m wary of getting one of the hero’s quest type stories in which nothing much happens for chapter after chapter or even book after book except for a group of humble adventurers walking around in the woods occasionally seeing strange things and talking to wizards. This series is nothing like that. There is magic – magic swords, demons, dragons etc. – but there is always something going on. There’s adventure, violence, humor, romance, even a little politics and a lot of interesting characters. As you might guess from the titles, music is also an important part of the story and there’s a connection between music and magic, which makes perfect sense to me. This is really an awesome series and I won’t wait so long to read the next installment.

If you haven’t read any of these books and you’re considering getting into the series you do need to start at the beginning. None that I’ve read so far leave you hanging at the end; each is a more or less self-contained story but there’s also a continuing story arc and there are a lot of things that will be confusing if you don’t read the series in order.

Elizabeth Haydon website

Uh Oh…

McCain has picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. I had a feeling he was going to pick a woman but I had no idea it would be the governor of Alaska. To be honest, five minutes ago I didn’t know the governor of Alaska is a woman.

I suppose Palin is qualified in at least one area. One of the main functions of the vice president is to serve as the an object of riducule. (Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney) Just a month ago Palin said that she doesn’t even know what the VP does. Yep. sounds like she’s qualified.

I worry a little that some of those disappointed Hillary supporters will start swooning over the possibility of the “the first woman Vice President”. And I worry about the guys a little bit too. Being a woman myself, I’m probably not the best judge of such things but it seems to me that she’s at least fairly attractive – unusually attractive for someone who’s running for Vice President. Would some guys vote for McCain just because his running mate is nice to look at? Wouldn’t surprise me.

I can only think of two things to say about this developement: 1. Please don’t fall for it! and 2. Let’s start making fun of her now.

Friday Morning and This is All I’ve Got

There might not be any “Quotes From Here and There” this week. It’s in my drafts and I opened it so I could post it. Normally there would already be at least four quotes in it but, to my surprise, there’s only one. Oops. Well, I could scramble trying to find a few more good quotes or I could just save it for next week. I don’t know yet which I will do. It depends on how much time I have to waste later. I already have my “Sunday Sententia” but I need to hurry up and look for a “Saturday Smile”. And then there’s all the “real life” stuff I need to do today.

I had what you could probably call a “senior moment” yesterday but I’m going to blame it on the media. On the news they were talking about Hurricane Gustav, which appears to be headed for New Orleans, and worries that it might disrupt the Republican Convention. And it wasn’t just once; they’ve been going on and on about it for a couple of days, tying the hurricane and the convention together. Now I knew that the convention is going to be in Minnesota but somehow, hearing New Orleans, Hurricane Gustav, and Republican Convention in the same breath over and over again I got it into my head that the convention was in New Orleans. You know, with America’s increasingly aging population they ought to be more careful about that sort of thing. There’s no telling what kind of confusion they might cause.

The Audacity of Enthusiam

I don’t do politics very often but once in a while I have to give in to the urge to get down into the mud pit. As we get closer to November the campaign gets harder to ignore and more annoying. I think both of the candidates have been behaving themselves in as civilized a manner as can be expected in a presidential campaign. Still, this is politics. It’s inevitable that there will be cheap shots, exaggerations and misleading statements on both sides – and even more from supporters.

I’m not going to try to change anyone’s mind – well, at least I’m not expecting to change anyone’s mind so I’m not going to put a lot of effort into trying to convince you that you should agree with me. I’m just telling you what I think. That’s all. And what I think is that the Mythbusters should be president and vice president. Just kidding, of course. I’m planning to vote for Obama.

Obama supporters are often accused of being starry-eyed acolytes of a secular messiah. Sure, that might be an accurate description of some but certainly not the majority anymore than the majority of Republicans are radical fundies who want to turn the US into a theocracy. (They aren’t, are they?) Enthusiasm is not necessarily a sign of blind hero worship. Enthusiasm is a good thing. We need enthusiasm. Only sour old cynics hate and mistrust enthusiasm. Of course, a little cynicism is healthy but too much cynicism is like too much salt and I think someone loosened the top on America’s salt shaker several years ago.

But McCain supporters don’t see it that way of course. They think, how dare anyone be enthusiastic about that guy?! They must be idiots. They’re naive, being taken in by a big show. He’s a communist. He’s not even a “real American.” [rude noise] I won’t even get into all the ridiculous rumors and deliberate smears. If you believe some of that stuff you probably wouldn’t trust Snopes either so it’s pointless to tell you to go read it.

If you plan to vote for McCain, fine. That’s your right. But respect the rights and the intelligence of the people who disagree with you and give the people who are undecided a chance to make up their minds based on facts and issues not false rumors and exaggerations.

I don’t disagree with McCain on everything and I don’t agree with Obama on everything. We all have to weigh the issues that are important to us and make a judgement on how honest we believe the candidates are being and make our decision based on incomplete information. In a way that sort of makes us all idiots no matter who we vote for. Fortunately, the American system always saves us from ourselves. No matter who is president his powers are limited and we will not be stuck with him for fifty years as in some other countries.

Here are a couple of my most important issues: 1. The Supreme Court – I absolutely do not want another Republican to get the chance to nominate any more supreme court judges anytime soon – say, for the next eight years. 2. The Economy – I don’t think any president can totally fix the economy. The president is not the thousands of investors pushing the stock market this way and that and he is not the millions of consumers making purchases based on both needs and feelings. But the president’s actions can have a big influence and I simply do not trust McCain to do the right things for the economy. McCain is very wealthy, always has been wealthy and will take care of his wealthy friends first, all the while sincerely believing that what’s good for the wealthy is good for all Americans. I have nothing against the wealthy; I’d like to be one of them myself but they really don’t understand how life is for the rest of us.

Those are not the only issues I have in mind, just two of the big ones. There are many sites where you can compare the candidates position on the issues. (example: here, here, here, here) You can read those for yourself and decide. Often the candidates’ actual positions are hardly anything like what the other side says they are.

I started this over a week ago and then didn’t even look at it for several days. I had things to say about the Saddleback Church Forum but that’s old news now and this is getting too long anyway. I read the transcript and watched some of it on Youtube. Briefly, I think both candidates were basically honest about their positions on various issues but both also slanted their answers to appeal to the conservative audience. McCain, being a more experienced politician, did a better job of slanting. He told the audience what they wanted to hear in the way that they wanted to hear it and therefore came off as “plain spoken” but to me he just sounded like a slick politician.

The big news this week is the Convention. I haven’t been watching much of it. I watched Senator Clinton’s speech (excellent!) and part of the roll call vote. (silly) Is it just me or do political conventions remind anyone else of high school pep rallies? I actually would like to watch more of it but other people at my house probably do not and I’m not sure I want to sit through all the silliness and the seemingly endless blathering of the commentators while waiting for the speeches I want to hear. There’s always Youtube.

A Little TV History

The Test Card Gallery – TV test patterns from around the world. Do any TV stations still have test patterns? They used to show these things for a few minutes just before coming on the air in the morning and before going off the air at night.

Yes boys and girls, there was once a time when TV stations did not stay on the air all night. Most stations also played the national anthem before sign-off too and there was at least one that had a guy reciting the poem High Flight while showing images of jets. Ah the good old days. I am grateful to my mother for occasionally allowing me to stay up late enough to see that.

You can see a lot more test patterns in this two minute Youtube video. The one I remember from when I was a kid (before the color bars) was similar to the famous Indian head test pattern but it didn’t have the Indian and there were other differences but I remember the big circle in the middle, the four smaller circles in the corners and some other lines or symbols or something.

A Few (mostly) Artsy Links

Dimensions – I might try to get through that. Is it weird to be fascinated with something you’re no good at? (via Bifurcated Rivets)

The Stone of Madness – something else to make you glad you were born in the 20th century

Juxtapoz.com – an art and culture magazine. Take a look at the reader art

Sacred Destinations – religious art and sacred places. (via Monster Brains where there are a couple of examples of the art.)

TV Cozy – nice and clever cover for a flat panel TV. You could make your own if you’re even minimally crafty.

Artist Julie Heffernan – fantastic surreal paintings. I’d love to see these in person, or at least in screen-filling size online. (via Fantasmaphile)

Artist Parviz Payghamy – very colorful modern pastoral paintings (via Rashomon)

A Bigger Future

At Dark Roasted Blend:

Whatever happened to the future? It’s still around, of course, mostly in Europe and Japan, but over the years the Fantastic World of Tomorrow’s gotten … cheaper, simpler, and — most tragically of all — the future’s gotten too damned small.

Luckily there are a few visionaries left who aren’t frightened of a future that doesn’t fit in your pocket, a tomorrow with a vast scope, a monstrously dramatic scale, a time of awe-inspiring dimensions: they’ve dared to look over the horizon and visualize a truly big tomorrow.

That’s the introduction to an image-filled post about Paolo Soleri, the “Father of the Arcology”. Ever since I first heard of them I’ve been strangely fascinated with arcologies. Strange, because I wouldn’t want to live in one myself. When I was a kid I thought living in a giant tower that had everything you would ever need seemed like a fun lifestyle but now I want my own private space with plenty of distance between me and the neighbors. However, there are a lot of people who don’t mind – who even enjoy – living crowed together with other people and if all those people lived in arcologies there’d be more room for the rest of us.

Breakfast Adventures

I have made a great discovery. Believe it or not, I have discovered a Kashi brand cereal that is actually edible.

I’m not a big fan of cold cereal in general. Those I do like are mostly crunchy-fruity-nutty “natural” type cereals with few if any flakes. I often try new ones on the chance that I might find something unusually good. I think it was sometime last year that I tried Kashi Go Lean Crunch. It is not crunchy; it is hard – so hard that it is almost inedible by anyone other than that guy with the metal teeth in the James Bond movie (Moonraker?) and it doesn’t taste anywhere near good enough to risk breaking a tooth on. If you did a blind taste test comparing a bowl of Kashi Go Lean Crunch with a bowl of hardwood mulch and the tester asked you, “Which one is a real breakfast cereal?” you would say, “You’re kidding! One of those is supposed to be a breakfast cereal?”

I also tried some kind of Kashi hot cereal this past winter. No mulch in that one but it didn’t taste any better so I swore off Kashi cereals. Until I saw the Kashi Cocoa Beach cereal. I first noticed it about two weeks ago and passed it up, thinking it would probably be nothing but chocolate flavored mulch. But, well, it’s chocolate. Next time I went to the store I took a closer look. The box has a little window in the front so you can see the cereal inside. It looks like normal granola, coated with chocolate flavor and pieces of almond and flakes of coconut. It at least looked edible so I decided to take a chance on it.

It was the right decision. This is one of the greatest inventions in cereal history. Okay, honestly, it’s not all that great but it is very good. Crunchy and textured, not hard. Sweet but not excessively sweet. Finally, a chocolate cereal for grown-ups. I suppose I’m going to have to stop making fun of Kashi every time I see one of their commercials.

I Like August

I want to believe in the National Weather Service

People worried about the high cost of keeping warm this winter will draw little comfort from the Farmers’ Almanac, which predicts below-average temperatures for most of the U.S.

[...]

The almanac is at odds with the National Weather Service, whose trends-based outlook calls for warmer than normal weather this winter over much of the country, including Alaska, said Ed O’Lenic, chief of the operations branch at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

[sigh] Even warmer than normal will likely be too cold to suit me. August is going too fast.

In and Out

We’ve been having connectivity problems lately. For anyone who’s interested here’s my one sentence review of Wild Blue: Do not sign up with Wild Blue unless you have no other choice for high-speed Internet service in your area! I think it’s okay now but frequent disconnections make me nervous – make me not want to start anything. Fortunately WordPress has a nice draft saving feature so I won’t lose any long posts. I do have a half finished post that I need to get back to but since I could connect hardly at all for about three days I’ve sort of lost momentum on that and if I finish it it probably won’t be quite like I originally intended it to be.

Speaking of losing momentum, I really need to get back to sewing. Unfortunately, or fortunately – I don’t know which because I can’t decide whether I appreciate having the excuse – the table is a bit of a mess right now with electronics, though it does look better than it did yesterday. I also need to clean house and go to the store and do some ironing and do a few things outside so those are my excuses if end up not posting much today.

Quotes From Here and There

Never underestimate the power of mess.here

I am no longer surprised to find petrified wood in the groves of academe.there

I seldom find much of worth in the views of any expert, yet I do find worth in a diverse group of experts.here

Some of you might scoff at what I consider “hot”, but the glorious thing about Seattle is that the entire city seems willing to join me in whining and wilting whenever the temperature breaks 80 (that’s 25 of your Earth units).there

Random Linkage

The flaw in AI research. Interesting. (via Bifurcated Rivets)

Elect geeks – sounds l ike a good idea to me.

Murals, Odessa, Ukraine – I especially like the first one. I have a bit of a thing for ladybugs.

Early Visual Media – via Fed By Birds, where you can see some wonderful examples

Dalek wheelchair

Majik Cafe – wild modern decor

How Shall I Tell My Daughter, 1954 – My apologies for the TMI topic but this is a sort of interesting bit of cultural history and a nice set of somber, “oh no life is so awful” mother-daughter paintings.

Oops – Just a small oops, I think. No one will remember it in November.

Patterns of Reflection – Awesome! (via Neatorama)

25 Most Colorful Lakes on Earth – beautiful scenic photos (also via Neatorama; sometimes you can’t link just one)

Keyboard waffle maker

Kindertrauma – things that scared you when you were a kid. Some of those pictures scare me now. (via Seven Deadly Sinners)

Alex Hawley – large format analog photography. Nice.

Spacebattles.com – 3-D sci-fi movies and more

How It Should Have Ended – alternate endings for popular movies

Great View, No Yard

5 Tiny private islands. Owning “my own private island” has never really been one of my dreams and even if it was I definitely would not want any of these. (via Neatorama)

Since we’re dreaming I’d rather have my own square mile right here in the middle of the continent, mostly wooded, house in the exact center of it, nice big, luxurious house but not insanely huge. Porch or deck must be at least half as big as the rest of the house. What about you? You’ve just inherited a fortune or won the lottery or something like that and you can have anything you want. What’s your dream property?

The Latest Planet-Saving Car

I know at least one person who will probably be excited about this. Oh what the heck; I think it’s cool too but I don’t have much hope for it. Or, actually, I don’t have much hope for hydrogen. Most people won’t buy hydrogen powered cars until there are a lot of hydrogen refueling stations and there will not be a lot of hydrogen refueling stations until there are a lot of hydrogen powered cars on the road. (And, by the way, doesn’t hydrogen tend to explode rather easily?) This car is dual fuel though so they might sell a few and those few people can drive around looking cool and burning huge amounts of gasoline while waiting for those hydrogen stations to appear and as a bonus they get Green points for driving something that at least can run on an alternative fuel.

More Blogs

My apologies if I’ve linked to some of these before. It’s quite a collection this time and some have been in my bookmarks for weeks, at least.

The Drawn Cutlass – various interesting stuff: news, science, odds and ends

Street Anatomy – anatomical art, all sorts of unexpected stuff related to anatomy.

It’s All a Bit Poor – life, culture and general bloggy ramblings; nice

An American Front Porch – various odds and ends; quotes, frequent podcasts, videos, links, etc.

Ontogeny – science, insects, biodiversity and related science topics; lots of great photos. From Norman, Oklahoma.

Nag on the Lake – culture and other fun stuff; lots of photos and videos.

Land-O-Links – five new links every day

Found By Pat – lots of fascinating stuff found on the Web

Mandelrot – This one’s in Spanish so I don’t really know what it’s about but there are lots interesting pictures and some of the links (like Frostfirezoo.com) are in English. (I really need to learn to read Spanish. Those two years in high school were a total waste.)

What I Learned Today – interesting, sometimes odd, news items

Missoula Public Library – the Missoula Public Library blog; library news and other literature related posts

LP Cover Lover – great, odd and sometimes amusing record covers

The Automata/Automaton Blog – automatons and mechanical toys

Torque Control – science fiction news and reviews

Olympic Coverage

An Olympic Rant:

I’m getting rather steamed up about the complete silence by the perky staff on the Today Show about the fact that China is an authoritarian government that has a spotty record on human rights and lacks free elections and a free press. Instead, we getting dreamy montages of the Chinese culture and loving descriptions of the Bird Nest stadium. All that is fine. But right after they show a reporter wolfing down roasted bugs in the markets of Beijing, they should also mention that China has denied visas to athletes who have dared protest China’s position on Darfur.

I have been thinking about that too, although I can’t say I’m really steamed. Yet. I don’t want NBC to get kicked out of China and I don’t want politics with my Olympics anyway but I do hope that when the Games are over NBC will do the right thing and tell the other side of the story.

Via Megan McArdle and Instapundit