Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Links: Oct 30

Game: Obechi - collect the exact number of dots in the exact number of clicks. [link]

Klingon propaganda video.

Footage of a bald eagle hunting young reindeer. [link]

Nifty wall painting. [link]

Art from thin strips of wood. [link]

A NASA PSA starring Felicia Day.

I hesitate to post this video. It's hard to know where to being talking about how horribly, horribly wrong it is. I don't want you thinking that she knows anything about anything. But, you kind of have to hear the lunacy to be able to cope with it when more credible people try to feed you a similar load of crap.

McDonalds pulls out of Iceland. [link]

DAMMIT! I just lost a bunch of links!
One said Spiderman 4 will be out in 2011 and that Curt Connors will finally become The Lizard.

White House website has switched to Linux. [link]

Ok, here's one back. It's ugly urban architecture painted to look like apartments. I saw the DC one before it got painted over. [link]

Internet laws. [link]

Electricity free table saw. Probably only works on soft wood. Still kinda neat.

Scientology member realizes the church is bigoted and quits. [link]

Teeny art. Super teeny. [link]

Nice weekend house. [link]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Solar Decathlon seats

I approached the Solar Decathlon a bit different this time around. I was already familiar with most of the tech from previous Decathlons. This was good because the tour guides did jack all to tell people about them. Also, I was running low on memory so I deleted the outdoor pics and planned to return the following weekend after I had been to work and uploaded everything to my computer. But I didn't make it to work that week or get any new pictures taken. So we'll do what we can with what we have.

For no reason in particular I'm going to start with the chairs.
The top of this stool is made from the seat of old farm machinery. Old tractors usually had padding, but our farm still has old horse drawn planters and springtooths... springteeths... whatever the plural of springtooth is. And, in one of the barns is a pile of seats nearly identical to this.

We were rushed through this house faster than we would have liked. I got this picture to try to puzzle out later. I still haven't figured out how this chair folds up.

These are a coffee table, end tables, and extra seating for guests.

This house has their extra seating doubling as wall decoration. We didn't get to sit in them, but they look like your obese friends will need to use other seating.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book Review: The Last Theorem

I want to start by directing you to the pilot entry in Fredrick Pohl's blog.

Go read "Sir Arthur and I". [link]

I just finished reading the book he's talking about in that entry. "The Last Theorem" is a collaboration between Sir Arthur C Clarke and Fredrick Pohl. It's the last book that Clarke worked on and a brilliant send off for any science fiction author. It has first contact, a war with aliens, a space elevator, minds stored in computers, hydrogen cars, ancient mathematical proofs, EMP bombs, world peace, galactic caretakers, solar sails, lunar Olympics, human powered flight, and everything that prolific writers like Clarke or Pohl might want to get out in the little time they have left.

I also love this book because it's shockingly modern. Part of this is my fault for reading so many books with age yellowed pages. I'm used to talk of fax machines on space ships. They talk of the Boxing Day Tsunami and include Somali pirates in the story.

The story starts in the introductions. Clarke tells about being in the military in WWII and having control of one of the most powerful radars of the time. He fired it at the Moon and hoped for an echo. He didn't get one, but someone out there did see it. Pohl talks about his own mathematical fiddlings in his youth and some tricks he figured out that he'll talk about later in the book. When the proper story begins it's worded in such a way that makes it clear that the story was under way before chapter 1.

The bulk of the story takes place shortly after today on the island nation of Sri Lanka - the adopted home of Sir Clarke for most of his life. A young man by the name of Ranjit has a fascination with Fermat's Last Theorum and pursues his dream of solving it well into college. But then come the pirates, the EMP bomb, the gradual peaceful unifying of various governments, space travel, and aliens sent by the galactic master race to wipe out Earth for having radar and nukes.

If you're a science fiction reader this book is a must have. Not just because of the authors, but because it's a damn good book. If you're not a science fiction reader... well, you can probably pass this up. Ranjit's story is a good story well told, but I can see how it's not everyone's cup of tea. Most of the story is told on Earth and about Ranjit with occasional glimpses about what's to come. It's a good adventure story. But then we get into tech and aliens and whatnot. Mostly hard science, too. Stuff that can be done today or we can expect in the next 25 years.

Of the 1000+ books in my collection this one goes in my to 50.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gandolf and the squirrel

Old picture. Gandolf tries to make friends.

Monday, October 26, 2009


In Kansas. Come back tomorrow.

Written on Mom's Blackberry.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Link: Oct 23

An artist turns pieces of ugly urban technology into works of art. [link]

NASA's LCROSS probe recited Douglas Adams at the Moon before crashing. [link]

The passage in question.

12 million digit Mersenne prime number found. Not much more to the story than that. [link]

The song "Popcorn" played on mideval instruments.

David (Dr Who) Tennant and Simon (Shawn of the Dead) Pegg to work together on a movie. Does it really matter what the project is? [link]

A blob droid.

At the end of Star Wars Han and Luke were given medals from Princess Leia. The droids and the Wookie were left out despite their equally important contributions. Looks like about 12 years ago Chewbacca was given his medal.

Some time back one of the martian rovers saw a dust devil near the poles. [link]
This picture from orbit shows the results of much greater dust devil activity. See, the soil on Mars is gray, but the dust is red. As dust devils blow away the red dust you get these swirls. [link]
And this picture shows lots and lots of the same thing in the shadow of a mountain range. Just without the color. [link]

There's a movie coming out called "The Box". I'll let you find the trailer yourself. It's based on a story that was also adapted for the 1985 Twilight Zone series. Here's part 1 of that episode.

Part 2

Magpies have funerals. [link]

My Krodie's comic related wing of his library. I feel more justified in adding another shelf to my comic wing. [link]

Robots showing off.

Sometimes you get no videos and sometimes I load you up.
The Mythbusters guys test to see if a bullet fired and dropped at the same time hit the ground at the same time. We know what should happen, but the calibration of the equipment is tricky.

I have a dream of someday seeing an educational and comedic science show starring Dr Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker. I've got outlines for several episodes in my head in one scene where ... OK, read this in your best Kermit voice... "Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm pleased to present to you the Cambridge Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Professor Stephen Hawking! Yeeeeaaaaaah!" You should be waiving your arms in the air as you yell "Yeeeeaaaaaah!".
Now Hawking has retired from that specific role. As of November 1 the job belongs to String Theorist Michael Green. [link]
I suppose it's better this way. I wanted to buy the rights for MC Hawking [link] and have a Muppet version of him and Isaac Newton (the second Cambridge Lucasian Professor of Mathematics).

Along those lines, an explaination of the Theory of Relativity in words of four letters or less. [link]

A garden covering hammock. [link]

Scientist give a fly false memories. [link]

Anvil launching.

Tales of a child re-snatcher. [link]

Artifical black hole. [link]

Galaxy quilts. [link]

Pumpkin sculptures. [link]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jury doodles

These are some of my doodles from while on jury duty.
It started with the two in the upper left. I was noticing that the guy in the top middle had a line that ran straight from his forehead down to the tip of his nose. All, that is, except for a chunk taken out right where his nose met his eyebrows. And that's partially covered by his glasses. Then I did the woman to his left since she was also very angular.
The guy on the right got way too much nose and face. You can see where I marked where it should have been removed.
The guy in the lower left I had trouble with the right lens of his glasses so it looks like it's flapping.
For a video testimony they put the laptop running the video on the stand and pointed the microphone at the speaker.

As you can see in the top middle, I started doing creatures for awhile.
The woman in the top right is pretty good, but she wasn't nearly that freaked out.
The two at the bottom are the same guy.

Nearly everyone got aged more than they deserved. I think it's because the pen likes to make lines so everyone is a little extra wrinkled.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jury duty

I finally finished jury duty yesterday so I can finally talk about it.

The plaintiff was a genius lawyer with a degenerative muscular condition. Few who have it live to see puberty. This one is one of the very few who reach 51. When he was 42, back in 2000, he was leaving the law firm where he had recently made partner when his wheelchair spun around three times and tossed him out. He went to the hospital where he was moved to the ICU because of his delicate medical condition.

His legs were broken in five places, but he hadn't hit his head. In fact, he'd borrowed a phone and called 911 himself. They set the bones and put him in a splint. Four days later his personal orthopedist put on the cast. His O2 levels dropped during the procedure, then again a couple hours later. They intubated him so he could breathe. They weened him off, but he'd gotten pneumonia and early in the morning 12 days after he was admitted he had another O2 level drop and went back on the ventilator.

In 2002 the wheelchair company was sued. Normally the wheelchair company would then be able to turn around and sue the hospital. Instead they settled out of court so that the plaintiff got $14 million and the right to sue the hospital for the rest.

That's where we came in. We saw the case against the three organizations representing the nurses, the residents, and the doctors. We had to figure out if any of those three groups were negligent nine years ago and if that negligence caused the further degradation of the plaintiff's condition. Then, and this is rare, we had to figure out if the initial settlement was justified. And if not then was it too much or too little?

So for nineteen days we sat in a courtroom while it was argued whether his degradation was natural progression or a result of the accident. Then whether it was the fault of the hospital or like when a healthy but elderly person breaks a hip and never recovers. There were experts and witnesses and lots of bench time that the cone of silence prevented us from hearing. We heard arguments from life care planners and economists about how much the plaintiff's lost wages and new injuries would cost over his life span. There was a question about how long that would be, but survivors of his condition to this age are so rare that there are no real numbers.

The biggest issue was the plaintiff's brain. He was a genius lawyer. But there's some suspected brain damage due to the low oxygen levels. Mountain climbers function with lower levels, but they're in better shape. Now he's above average, but has diminished capability. Mostly trouble determining new patterns, but some concentration and memory issues. But is that brain damage, depression, medication, pain, the condition, sleep apnea, or what?

We learned that a Pulse Oximeter [link], a devise for reading pulse rate and blood oxygen levels off a finger, can be thrown by fingernail polish, sweat, getting knocked loose (obviously), the body pulling it's blood supply to keep the head and torso running, or just having the blood oxygen level drop below 75%.

We learned that in rare cases where the spine is all fucked up because the muscles won't hold it up, like the plaintiff, that you can intubate the patient by coming up through the neck instead of down the nose or mouth. You can see it practiced on a dummy at this site. But both anesthesiologists involved in doing that said they'd never done it before or since then.

And we got probably the best jury we could hope for. Sure, there was the person whose breath smelled of mothballs. And the guy who spent much of the trial muttering. At one point we started to think he had Tourette's Syndrome. One guy was very surly at the end and didn't want to discuss anything. One person filled four notebooks with notes. We all chipped in to help her shred her notes at the end. We all contributed to a community snack pool. We shared with the court clerk who would come in to joke and laugh with us. She said we were the oddest jury she'd ever seen. But this was also the longest trial that any of the lawyers, the clerks, or even the judge had ever seen.

One of those lawyer, I swear, looked like Serious Cat. [link]

Some people go their whole lives where they almost never get called for jury duty, and when they do they don't get picked. They want to see what it's like and get a good trial. There's another side to that issue. You might get picked and be held for weeks.

Tomorrow: my courtroom doodles.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Brochure: A Bruce story

One more Bruce story. The meeting in question was actually several weeks ago now.

Soon we'll be having a meeting to determine a specific format for our brochure. We call it a brochure, but it's really a 16 page booklet that grew out of what was once a flier.

The brochure needed some updating before a conference Bruce was going to. Bruce is friendly and talkative so we send him off to conferences a lot. He'd spent weeks making what were really rather minor changes. Two days before he has to leave he hands me his "final" version. I make recommendations. Redo the cover, make this line thinner so it matches the others, adjust the spacing, what is this right here?, you change fonts on every page, colors too, why do you put this in every brochure when you know we're always gonna tell you to take it out, etc., etc.

He took it and made the changes. Well done. Bravo.

The next morning, 8 hours before FedEx is to pick everything up, 48 until he had to catch his flight, he e-mails the PDF to all the managers and editors so they can judge it and make changes. Then he hits Print.

He gets e-mails back from one editor with a list of changes. He ignores the list, makes completely different changes, sends out another PDF, and hits Print again. The first batch of brochures gets put in a case for FedEx.

Two more responses come in about the first PDF. He makes half of those changes, sends another PDF, and hits Print. The second batch of brochures gets put in the case for FedEx right on top of the first batch. There's about 25-30 in a batch.

Three more e-mails come in about the first and second PDFs. He hasn't make the changes he said he made and he's adding new errors. He makes more changes, another PDF, Print, pack it up.

In case you're not keeping track, there are now 4 somewhat significantly different brochures. By the end of the day he has 125-150 brochures in the case that FedEx took away.

Bruce gets e-mails. Bruce gets phone calls. Bruce gets sent back to the office on Saturday to do the brochure the way they damn well told him to do it and print off another 200 to stick in his suitcase and take to the show.

I know nothing about any of this until Monday when all the editors come in and complain about Bruce.

So we're gonna develop standards and a new brochure from scratch so at the very least we won't have the violently changing styles from page to page.

Update: The meeting was on the second day of jury duty so I was unable to be there to push. Even stuff that all the designers and managers liked wound up being dropped. But, a layout person we've worked with before called and asked for work. The brochure will be given to her as soon as the text is finalized. Her style will be used from now on.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Movie Review: Paranormal

Friday night I went to see the movie "Paranormal Activity" by myself. I'd never heard of this movie until I looked at the movie listings for the weekend before. Always on the lookout for a GOOD horror movie I found a trailer.

My first reaction: This looks like it's actually scary.
My second reaction: Yummy can't go see this.

Since Yummy wasn't coming over Friday night I went. I was not disappointed.

I should tell you what I look for in horror movies. "Halloween", "Friday the 13th", "Nightmare on Elm Street", "Saw", these movies are crap. "The Ring", "The Others", things that are actually suspenseful and generate fear instead of nausea from the gore or quick and easy scares from things jumping at you, that's what I want in a horror movie.

A good way to judge a scary movie is from the amount of talking during the movie. People talk more when they get scared. It's a defense reaction. There was a lot of talking during this movie.

An engaged to be engaged couple move in together. Soon after strange things start to happen. She explains that she's haunted. It comes and goes. In the 3 years they've been dating it's been away. Now it's back. The boyfriend buys a video camera to watch the house for strange activity in order to prove there's something strange going on and it's not their imagination.

That's where our movie starts. He's running the camera as she comes home.

The story gets spelled out fairly well. We meet the players, tour the house, hear her story, then the camera gets set up in the bedroom and things start to happen. Long, but not too long, shots from the camera on a tripod build suspense as the viewer tries to watch the whole screen at once for a moving shadow or a flutter of the curtain. Little things at first. Deep thumping sounds at two in the morning. A door that moves by itself. Before long... well, it's a haunted house.

I highly recommend this movie, but I recommend even more watching it in small groups.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday links: Oct 16

New nuclear based battery technology. Allegedly safe. Could run for hundreds of years. [link]

A letter from Albert Einstein to the author of 'Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt'. The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. [link]

Pics of 1980 Barack Obama. [link]

Improve Everywhere's massive pack of invisible dogs. [link]

Art made with dead flies. [link]

Good news. Alien races couldn't be more than 1.8 billion years more advanced than us. [link]

Lunatic comments about crashing things into the Moon. [link]

NASA trained 13 women for the Mercury missions in the '60. [link]

Best memo ever. A memo from Matt Stone to the MPAA about some changes to the South Park movie. [link]

NASA's videos of the LCROSS lunar crash.
You don't see the primary impact and follow the probe with the camera right to the end. If you know of a better video, please let me know.

Republican Senator Dr. Bill Frist is right and Bill Maher wrong... on the subject of vaccines.

Dog risks life to safe another dog.

5 Catholic churches closing due to a lack of funds. [link]

The Fun Theory: Turn the stairs into piano keys and more people will take the stairs.

2 year old with genius level IQ. [link]

Smithsonian opening a human origins display in the National Museum of Natural History in March. [link]

7 minute talk about the benefits of vaccines.

Things Barack Obama has made unAmerican. [link]

Al Franken proposes a bill that allows employees of KBR/Haliburton to prosecute when their fellow employees gang rape them. And yet, a bunch of Republicans voted against it.

Wow. Check out this synchronized multi-image projection discussing advanced non-groking jargon speak.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Favorite links from the archives 2

10 more favorite links from my e-mail archives.

I don't care what you say, the research shows that women want tall men. Or, failing that, rich. [link]

"Boot to the Head" with animation. [link]

The Unicorn Museum. Unicorns are mentioned 9 times in the Bible so they must be real. This museum is about them. [link]

Game: Building Houses 2 - a geometry game where you build a shape in 3D space according to how it looks from the top, front, and right side using the least number of pieces. [link]

How to deal with abusive customer service: [link]

Game: How Well Do You Know Your World - click as close to a city or landmark you as you can. [link]

Duct tape used for quick repairs even on the moon. [link]

Fluid that changes color under different magnetic fields. [link]

Google Maps: the movie
Check out the 4 sequels, too.

Go to
Enter "Find Chuck Norris"
Hit I'm Feeling Lucky

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book Review: Mordred

I picked up "Mordred" by Nancy Springer at a library sale. I'm glad I didn't pay for it. That's all the review you really need, but I'll go on.

Mordred is the son that King Arthur had with the sister he didn't know about. He's also the guy who delivers the near fatal blow to Arthur in the big blowout that wipes out pretty much everyone associated with Camelot. This book intrigued me because it's supposed to tell his side of the story. And it does. It's just not very interesting or engaging.

It tells of Merlin's prophecy of how Mordred would kill Arthur, how Mordred was found in a basket in a river and raised for several years by a fisherman and his wife, was discovered and brought to be raised by a rebel king, became a knight of the Round Table, spent his life fighting the assumption that he's evil because he was born of incest, sought the word "son" from Arthur, and tried to battle against what everyone said was his fate.

The book ends rather suddenly when Mordred gives his soul to the one person he trusts, King Arthur, so that he can stop feeling the pain of his life and just accept that he must one day kill Arthur.

It has promise as a story. If they make a Camelot TV series with several seasons to work with it might be worth an episode or two. But this author was not the one to tell this story.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mah shows

Awhile back I announced the fall TV season schedule. I've been adding links to that page to make it easier to watch online. Alas, if you don't have to follow the schedule you forget when the shows air and get all mixed up. So I'm subjecting you to my new and improved list.

This is when the stuff is supposed to come online, not when it airs.

The Simpsons (Fox), 8:00 PM/ET [link]
The Cleveland Show (Fox), 8:30 PM/ET [link]
Family Guy (Fox), 9:00 PM/ET [link]
American Dad (Fox), 9:30 PM/ET [link]

Heroes (NBC), 8:00 PM/ET [link]


Eastwick (ABC), 10:00 PM/ET [link]

Flash Forward (ABC), 8:00 PM/ET [link]
Supernatural (The CW), 9:00 PM/ET [link]
Fringe (Fox), 9:00 PM/ET [link]

Smallville (The CW), 8:00 PM/ET [link]
Dollhouse (Fox), 9:00 PM/ET [link]
Stargate Universe (SyFy), 9:00 PM/ET [link]


Friday, October 09, 2009

Friday links: October 9

I've got a whole lot more open tabs in my browser that I haven't gotten to. This is more than sufficient.

Can you tell Helvetica from Ariel? Prove it. I got 18 out of 20. [link]

Making shelves from shelf mushrooms. [link]

Dark Horse comics' ghost stories for animals available online. [link]

Paper airplane plans. [link 1 link 2]

Complete Bloom County comic collection coming. [link]

Along those same lines, what happened to Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes. [link]

My neighbor has an awesome new bike. [link]

Speakers inside these boxes vibrate. The differing air pressure makes the spoons dance and sing.

Network of satellites designed to detect ripples in space is ready to go. [link]

An urn made from a Sparc workstation. [link]

Good way to break a camera lens. Take a picture of a Delta 4-Heavy rocket launch[link]

Superhero drinks. [link]

A comic to stuff in business return envelopes. [link]

Weirdest cafe ever. [link]

Cat that messes with it's owner. [link]

App that changes sketches into photos by automatically Photoshopping images off the internet. Just watch the video. [link]

Telomeres are a protective cap on the end of chromosomes. Kinda like aglets on the end of your shoe laces. But as the chromosomes divide the telomeres get shorter and shorter. Shortening telomeres is thought to be one of the reasons we age. It may also be why Dolly, the cloned sheep, died young. Since she was a clone her telomeres were the age of the donor. Anyway, the people who discovered telomeres won a Nobel Prize this year. [link]

I saw a guy in Paul Simon's band playing one of these many years ago. It's based on the same principles that make wine glasses sing. But the glass is leaded so musicians who play these have to get their blood checked regularly.

Years ago Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine traveled the world looking for endangered animals. They made a radio program for the BBC and wrote a book, both called "Last Chance to See". I highly recommend the audio book.
Now Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine have done a TV program by the same name. In this video you see an endangered parrot called a kakapo try to mate with Mark's head.

Game: Blob Wars [link]

You Doctor Who fans know who K9 is. Companion to The 4th Doctor and gift to Sarah Jane (and a few others). Apparently the character, but not the look, belong to a former Dr. Who writer. And he's permitting the character to be used in a new Australian show. Since the BBC owns the look they had to redesign him. Follow the link to see the trailer for the new show. [link]

Disney's version of the Wilhelm Scream. [link]

Golden Age of Video.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I generally try to avoid political topics (religious topics are a different matter) but today I want to rant about the war in Afghanistan.

You all know what happened on September 11, 2001. Heck, the anniversary just passed was the first one where I wasn't greeted in the morning with "The weather on this, the Nth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, will be..." That was the day that a group of people lacking the technological sophistication to change a light bulb (no, seriously) were declared tactical geniuses who masterminded a scheme to hijack three planes at the same time. For a couple of days the media and government went on about how brilliant these people were while I yelled back at the TV that it could have been The Trenchcoat Mafia for all the skill it'd take to pull this off.

Almost immediately we started hearing from the White House and from Fox News that it must have been the henchmen of Saddam Hussein. They had no actual evidence, then or ever, but they repeated this lie all the same. Eventually, actual intelligence agencies leaked the truth. The terrorists were mostly Saudi Arabian born and raised people who were operating out of Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.

You may recall that back in the 80's the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and were met with resistance. We sent money, arms, and training to help support the native insurrection. With time they won and drove the Soviets out. We immediately turned our backs on Afghanistan. Billions in arms, but not a dime to help build a school or dig a clean well. It fell into chaos and was eventually pulled out by the Muslim fundamentalist group known as The Taliban. They banned TV and radio. They banned kites. They made women wear burkas and forbade them holding jobs or going to school. They blew up giant Buddhist statues since graven images violate Islamic law. Bush even gave them a few billion dollars to eliminate the opium production. Which, to their credit, they did.

There had been other calls to go to war with Afghanistan. Mostly by women's rights groups. Some from archeology buffs. But no matter how much we did (or didn't) want to invade we had one huge problem - Afghanistan is land locked. We'd have to have permission to fly through someone's air space or use their country as a military base. We couldn't get that for the lame reasons we had.

Meanwhile, back in 2001, The public raised enough of a stink that the government was forced to launch an invasion of Afghanistan. The government didn't want to, but they had little choice. And what AlQaeda had done was awful enough that there wasn't a country in the world that was gonna deny us our war. Most of the world offered up their own military to help us. So we launched a rather puny war that was won in short order.

All this time the Bush Administration was beating the drums of war for Iraq. They were no kind of threat. They hadn't done anything against us that was close to war worthy in... well, ever. But George wanted to prove something to his daddy. Daddy was former head of the CIA, a war hero, a Yale graduate, former Vice-President, and a legitimately elected President. Surely a coke addled, "recovering" alcoholic, Texas public college reject, draft dodger, and deserter who proved repeatedly that he couldn't find oil in Texas or win an election without the Supreme Court canceling the vote counting MUST know more about foreign affairs than a man like that.

Anyone paying attention knew that every claim was a complete fiction, but facts have little place when people are angry. George Jr got his war. And George learned the hard way that everything his father knew was spot on. Daddy knew what would happen if Saddam fell. So did every military strategist in the Pentagon. Donald Rumsfeld's name was used as the punchline of jokes around there.

So, we had a full commitment to a war in which there were no good guys and we were one in a long line of bad guys.

And, we had a slack ass commitment to a war in which we were unquestionably the good guys.

In one war we were seen as the occupying army who destroyed the economy, the power grid, the roads, the buildings, etc. We proved that Osama Bin Laden was right about everything he said about America. He predicted it all and was right. Saddam had kept out Al Qaeda. He was brutal about it. Any sign of terrorism in Iraq was met with nerve gas or worse. But it was peaceful and reasonably prosperous if you're not a religious extremists.

In the other war we were seen as the liberating heroes. They knew what oppression was really about. They may not like America as a concept, but as a liberating force we were awesome and welcome. Schools opened. Women could choose their wardrobe and walk unescorted once again. TVs and radios were pulled from their hiding places under the floorboards (again, really). And kites flew once more.

But, our interest was elsewhere. People who had flocked to the Army in the hundreds to fight the terrorist threat were pulled and sent to occupy Iraq. Their service was rewarded with brand new titanium limbs and/or brain damage. On the plus side, most of the Taliban and AlQaeda fighters in Afghanistan had gone to Iraq, too.

In Afghanistan we were trying to rebuild, but having trouble. Every time we announced a new school had been opened it was blown up. Poppy crops returned in strength. How well they do depends on how much of the irrigation system is controlled by the government. We rebuilt highways that hadn't seen a road crew since the 70's. Those roads are now filled with Taliban and AlQaeda checkpoints that shake down the people traveling those roads. We've eliminated most of AlQaeda in Afghanistan. Largely because they're in Pakistan now. Most of the fighting in the country is against the remnants of the Taliban.

What I'm saying is that the Taliban took control because we abandoned them in the first place. The existing government can't stand on it's own. It's propped up by the few remaining foreign military forces. If we leave the Taliban will move back in with AlQaeda right behind them. And we won't be able to get back in.

This is the war we should have been fighting for the last eight years. It's only going this poorly because we haven't been fighting it. We need to stay. We need to fight this war like we actually want, if not peace and prosperity for these people, to avoid a new den of terrorists.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Exerpts from old conversations - part 3

I'm running very low on my collection of throw away posts.

More great lines from old e-mails.

McDonalds and Burger King? Their stuff tastes like sin. They taste like Dorian Grey's portrait looks. Jesus died to forgive hamburgers like that. Then his brothers and sisters died when Jesus wasn't enough. His cousins got smacked around a bit, too.

ME: So where in the human body is the En Gland located?
WS: Behind the En Garde.

The Mexican and Jap are natural enemies unless raised together from cubs. If you take one of each from their natural habitat and put them in a jar and shake it they'll almost always fight.

Is there anything quite as odd as pulling down your pants on that first day you're wearing new underwear?
"HOLY CRA... oh, right."

ME: I've got a stabbing headache. You know, the kind where you want to stab the next person who comes to you to fix their moronic fuckups.
JW: Well, I'm feeling punchy today so don't do anything to make me punch you.

The creepy voice telling you to "GET OUT!" is that of the building inspector.

I was thinking, we should have a rollout party for the [new textbook]. I want to get a cake shaped like a champagne bottle. That way we can say "Here, [cow-irker], you get the bottleneck."

Wimbledon: It may be the most exciting tennis of the year, but it's still tennis.

There's nothing like mom's apple pie... unless your mother's a tribal Mongolian, at which point there's nothing like mom's yak spleen casserole.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Movie Review: Zombieland

"Zombieland" opened this past weekend. It's the latest zombie movie and it's a comedy. It's not like "Shawn of the Dead" which was a romantic/zombie/comedy. Ok, I guess that "Zombieland" would technically fall under the same classification, but it's not the same.

"Shawn" was terribly British.
"Zombieland" is terribly Fratish.

By this I mean that we sat down and felt the atmosphere of a frat house settle around us as the seats filled. Lots of college aged males coming in groups and talking loudly. From what I'd seen of the trailers this seemed appropriate. As the movie progressed it seemed even more appropriate.

The movie starts with your basic zombie movie premise. The dead have risen and killed off most of the population... who then rose from the dead to help kill off the population. The main character and narrator is an unlikely survivor. He's a video game playing recluse with a long list of rules that he explains to us as the movie goes on. He meets up with Woody Harrelson who is his opposite in every way. He's a loud, crass, live in the moment, gun slinging Twinkie™ lover. So, naturally, they decide to travel together. Then they meet a couple of girls and, after a bit, travel with them.

Together they head for an amusement park in California that is rumored to be zombie free. While in the neighborhood they have an extremely contrived, a bit awkward, but still funny stay at Bill Murray's mansion.

I enjoyed the movie and laughed a lot. Not sure if I want it on DVD. It's a movie that's really best watched with a group of friends. Kinda like how "Saturday Night Live" is funnier with a group than it is when watched alone.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Index - A Bruce story

There was this book that was written 50 years ago. Only 3 copies were produced. All type written on onion skin paper with photos glued to the pages. I had scanned in every picture and every page of text. Someone else had rekeyed the book with a few errors. Bruce was given the job of laying out the new version. He was picked for this task because there was no set style for this book. If he messed up there was no standard to compare to, so it's not really a screw up.

You'll recall the original Bruce story where I kept telling him to go back in to InDesign. It was this book he was working on back then. This woman had sat next to him for probably half the time he'd spent on this book. Mostly it was to keep him on track, but it was also, partially to help him make changes. But she'd gotten tired of her job. It was no longer what she'd been hired to do and wasn't what she wanted to do.

We're down to the index. The original book had an index, but the layout was radically altered. I mean we were using the front AND back of each page for one thing. We needed to correct the page numbers in the index. In our weekly staff meeting the boss asks Bruce how long it'll take him to complete the index. He says it'll take him 3 weeks. I break into a coughing fit.

After the meeting I sit down next to Bruce at his desk. "Sounds like you could use some help with the index. You drive." I picked up a print out of the uncorrected index and a bound print out of my old scans and we started. I picked out any word in pages 1-100, looked it up in the old copy, gave him a few keywords to search for, he took the new page number and put it in the new index. Three days later we were done. Two and a half weeks under what it would have taken him and a day and a half less than it would have taken me.

The boss was annoyed that I'd had so little faith in her pet employee that I jumped in to help and proved that three weeks was way too long for this job to take. When she complained to my direct supervisor my supervisor laughed in her face.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday links: October 2

Bridge of recycled plastic is strong enough to support a tank. [link]

What you get when you electrify film. [link]

Piss on you, too! When urine enters the atmosphere. [link]

20 strange moment in TV news history. [link]

Making of "The Godfather" was rough. [link]

The Spiderman lizard. [link]

Twitter and blogging enhance reading and writing skills instead of, as more commonly thought, degrading them. [link]

Gene Roddenbury's Mac for sale. [link]

When you have largely atheist countries where the churches are going out of business and selling their property you get awesome bookstores like this. [link]

Pictoral Webster's Dictionary. [link]

Comic strip making software. Take the tour. [link]

British government advertising watchdog bans ad promoting bad science. [link]
We need a similar agency.

Homeopathic medicine isn't medicine. If your kid dies because you "treat" it with homeopathic you go to prison like these people. [link]

Guy was able to listen in on Apollo 11 communications with homemade equipment. [link]

Robotic pancake picker.

I need a reason to get one of these old diving suits. Maybe I can put a light in the head and call it a lamp. [link]

The Bronte sisters wrote in super teenie script. Like this. [link]

Videos of thieves getting their asses handed to them. [link]

The Chump Tree.

Lizard that uses own ribs as weapons. [link]

Art by fire. There's samples and a video of how it's made. [link]

Thursday, October 01, 2009

CMYK - A Bruce story

I'm a busy man at work. The editors all refuse to work with Bruce. I typically have two or three books that I'm working on at the same time because they refuse to work with him anymore. Really. One turned in her resignation when she found out he was laying out her book. The boss finally relented and gave it to me.

Even so, a few months back he was given the images for an upcoming book to redraw (if line art) and resize. I rolled my eyes and continued my work. I really didn't have time to do the art right now and he might even get some of it right. Maybe.

I've done books with him where he did the art and I did the layout. I ask you, how many times should you have to send something back to a person before it's correct? Once? Maybe twice? How about a dozen times? No drawing was sent back less than six times. Most were ten to twelve times. And I wasn't unclear with the problems. I circled each problem in red and then discussed them with Bruce.

Sometimes he'd make a black line CMYK so it was black, but with 4 layers of ink it was fuzzy and raised enough that I could tell what the picture was blindfolded. No, really, I blindfolded one of the editors and handed her printouts of the pictures to see if she could tell what the drawing was supposed to be.

The pictures were never sized right (either 1 column or 2). The fonts were the wrong size and the wrong font. Often he'd change things that were right so they became wrong, but that's true of everything he does.

The editor for this book asked for printouts of the images for this book the other day. He printed five before getting distracted. When he finally gave them to her, the following week, there was a lot missing. He insisted that he never got them, but she had records of the exact date and time she sent them to him, the names of the files, and the folder they were in on his computer. Sure enough, there they were. Both the ones he'd done and the ones he didn't do.

What's saddest about this story is that he used to be able to do this. He'd done graphics work at the Pentagon. He did chapters and drawings here for years. Not the best or the fastest, but certainly passable.

Something else I never made clear is that he's got 22 years on me. He's been tested for Alzheimers, Parkinsons, ADD, and Epilepsy but keeps coming up negative. He was on ADD meds for awhile but they just made him fall asleep at his desk.

Now I have to decide if I'm gonna correct his work when it comes to me or keep sending it back until HE does it right.