Friday, October 31, 2008


As I mentioned earlier this week, I had a personal holiday to use up, so I took it today. My wife happened to be off today as well, so we just hung around the house while the kids went to school. It was nice watching a couple of movies without having the kids around. Also I made a pot of chili. It isn't really chili weather, but I had a hankering for it anyway. I'll probably make another pot when (if!) we get our first real cold snap.

Then we went to a Halloween festival at the local Baptist church and the kids went trick-or-treating in the surrounding neighborhood. Three church groups in our small town have Halloween (or Fall) festivals (Baptist, Church of Christ, and Methodist). The Methodists always win as far as sheer elaborateness goes. But they had theirs last night so we didn't go because it was a school night. They moved it to Thursday this year because they knew tonight's football game would wreak havoc on their parking. We at the C of C had ours last Friday, to avoid conflicting with the other two. So far, we are the only ones who run a haunted house, or a spook house, as we always called it when I was a kid. And it's not one of those disgusting "hell houses" that are put on by some (cough) "fundamentalists." It was a real spook house, with scary witches, skeletons, a werewolf, and a friendly angel that got attacked by someone dressed up like Jason (of Friday the 13th). I always enjoy it immensely, because the people who set it up put some real creativity and a lot of work into it. I always find something quite striking and beautiful in it, which sounds strange but I often find beauty in macabre imagery.

Anyway, the photos above and below were captured by cell phone at one of the houses that our kids trick-or-treated.

Creepy, but not in a good way

Cracked has posted their annual list of totally bizarre Halloween costumes from around the world.

Pumpkin mayhem

More unusual pumpkin carvings at Oddee.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I will not take these things for granted

When I think of all the mediocre (and sometimes downright lousy) groups that have achieved enormous popularity, I always wonder why Toad the Wet Sprocket didn't become more famous. I can only conclude that their lyrics aren't stupid enough.

I would put Toad right up at the top of my own personal list of The Greatest Bands of All Time without hesitation. Their lyrics tend toward the sad and sometimes cynical, which is probably why they appeal to me so much. Here is one of my favorites.
One part of me just wants to tell you everything
One part just needs the quiet
And if I'm lonely here, I'm lonely here
And on the telephone
You offer reassurance

I will not take these things for granted

How can I hold the part of me that only you can carry
It needs a strength I haven't found
But if it's frightening, I'll bear the cold
And on the telephone
You offer warm asylum

I'm listening
Flowers in the garden
Laughter in the hall
Children in the park
I will not take these things for granted

To crawl inside the wire and feel something near me
To feel this accepting
That it is lonely here, but not alone
And on the telephone
You offer visions dancing

I'm listening
Music in the bedroom
Laughter in the hall
Dive into the ocean
Singing by the fire
Running through the forest
And standing in the wind
In rolling canyons

I will not take these things for granted

--I Will Not Take These Things for Granted
Toad the Wet Sprocket

Something for Halloween

The Croglin Vampire by Les Edwards

When I was around 10 years old I got a book from the Scholastic Book Club that was a collection of spooky stories that I thought was really good. I don't remember the title, and unfortunately I loaned it to someone in years past and never saw it again. I remember specifically only two stories from it. One was a story about a woman who raised her son from the dead so he could continue working to support her. Unfortunately, the lady he was working for fed him some food with salt in it, and it made him return to his grave. I don't even remember the title to that story. But the other story I remember well, and it was titled "The Ghost of Croglin Grange."

The vampire of Croglin Grange is a real tale, that is, it is part of English folklore and not just a story that a writer made up. However, the version I read used the original folktale as its starting point and the writer created a story that was much more fleshed-out, more dramatized, and of course, more like a short story than a simple recounting of a folktale. At the time that I read it, I didn't know it was supposed to be based on a real folktale. I just thought it was another creepy tale. In the version that I read, the young lady who was victimized by the vampire was awakened from her sleep by the sound of something scratching on her window. It was the vampire, scratching with his long, claw-like fingernails.

One night, not long after reading this tale, a norther blew in. It was the first norther of the season, and late that night, a howling black wind came shrieking through the sandhills. The temperature plummeted. I was awakened by the sound of something scratching at my window.

We lived in the country, far away from anyone else, and we didn't have any lights on at night. It was so dark I couldn't see a thing. But still, something scratched at the window. I was almost paralyzed with fear.

Vampires don't exist, I told myself. But something is scratching at the window, I answered myself back. I have to turn on the light.

But I was too scared to move.

Vampires don't exist.

But there's something scratching at the window.

Skreek. Skreek, skreek.

I finally reached up and pulled the chain on a small reading lamp that hung on the wall over my bed. But the glow cast by the single bulb only created a glare on the double-paned window, and I couldn't see anything outside. I may as well have been staring at a solid wall.

Skreech...skrit skrikch.

Vampires don't exist.

But there's something scratching at the window.

So with those two sentences chasing themselves around in my head, I worked up the nerve to get out of bed and turn on the big light. I still couldn't see anything. If anything, the glare was even worse and I could see nothing outside the window.

Skritch...skeek skreek.

Vampires don't exist.

But there's something scratching at the window.

There was no way I was going back to sleep. My heart was still pounding and adrenaline poured through me. I had to know what it was. I'm being stupid, my ten-year-old mind tried to reason, vampires don't exist.

But there's something scratching at the window.

So I walked through the house to the front door and flipped on the porch light. The noise continued. With my heart about to pound itself out through my ears, I opened the door.

There was no vampire.

But there was something scratching at the window.

A large, old oak tree that had extended a limb through the spring and summer had a single twig on the end of one long branch that, in the heavy gusting northern wind, was bouncing back and forth and scratching against my window.


But it was still making too much noise for me to sleep. While I was trying to figure out what to do with it before I starting freezing, my dad finally awakened and came to see what was going on. He found me there, trying to tie a knot in a small tree limb.

"What are you doing?"

"This limb keeps hitting my window and it's keeping me awake."

He shrugged. "Well, don't stay out here too long without a coat."

And that was that. The next morning I got the saw and snipped off the end of the limb so I wouldn't have to hear it scratching at my window again. I never told anyone about my "vampire" scare, but because of this, the tale of the Croglin vampire has always had a special place in my heart.

Hello, Kalispell!

I got a visit today from Kalispell, Montana. I've actually been there. We had some friends who lived there many years ago, and we spent a couple weeks with them for vacation one summer. Beautiful country. I think if I ever left Texas, Montana is where I'd go. Except I don't know if I could learn to tolerate the winters.

I also made the longest Frisbee throw of my life there. We climbed up on top of a hill behind their house, and with a very strong wind hitting me in the back, I hurled that sucker down the hill. Between the wind and the downgrade, it traveled about 200 yards and whacked into the back of their house. Sweet memories.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: Kalispell was a town we visited for one day while we were there. I think it must have been church-related. Our friends lived in Lewiston. Still, fond memories.

Shrouded in the mists

I tried a couple of shots yesterday but the lighting was bad (that is, I used the lighting improperly) and nothing turned out very good. But I thought this one from today was passable. This is from the top end of Galleria Drive at 8:26 this morning, looking NNE into Camp Bullis. There was a mist lying in the hollows and low places this morning that made it quite scenic. There is some great scenery in this area, but it hurts my soul to see what they're doing to the hill country.

It was only recently that I realized they don't let you go in there unless you have a good reason. You can't just go in and drive around to look at all the huge houses. A few famous people live in there, but the really rich ones have their own gated streets inside this huge gated subdivision. Oh yeah, I read George Strait's water meters again today. You can't see his house from the street, though.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Raping, pillaging, and bathing every Saturday

They say that the Norse explorers, far from being obsessed with fighting and drinking, were a largely-peaceful race who were even criticised for being too hygienic.

The university's department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic has published a guide revealing how much of the Vikings' history has been misrepresented.

They did not, in fact, wear horned or winged helmets. And they appear to have been a vain race who were concerned about their appearance.

"It seems that the Vikings may not have been as hairy and dirty as is commonly imagined," the guide says.

"A medieval chronicler, John of Wallingford, talking about the eleventh century, complained that the Danes were too clean - they combed their hair every day, washed every Saturday, and changed their clothes regularly."
Interesting article regarding the allegedly misportrayed Vikings. I had to include the photo at the top because it just cracks me up. I think that one guy (seventh from the left, back row) must be saying, "Dude, I forgot my beard brush!"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lines, signs, and skies

Nothing really interesting to see today, but I thought this picture had some nice contrasting shapes and colors. Did an easy route (651 meters in less than 4 hours) that I had only done parts of before, and in fact I personally resequenced the last subdivision on it a few months ago. Easy week this week. Tomorrow is Crownridge (easy), but Thursday is the Dominion (a major pain). Fortunately, I'm off on Friday because I had a day of "personal holiday" that I have to use or lose. So working the Dominion won't be so bad since I have a three-day weekend to look forward to. This is a view of an empty field with some apartments in the distance from the parking lot of a school not far from the star on the map.

I know it looks like an empty spot where the star is. Apparently mapquest knows the street is there even though it isn't illustrated on the map yet. It's a new subdivision, which is why it needed resequencing. Other people were going in there and reading the meters without bothering to put them in order on the computer. So of course I ended up cleaning up the mess (which is basically the story of my life).

Another good thing about work this week is that I got out of doing Alamo Heights (a colossal pain), because their scheduling conflicted with our dreaded Cycle 5. Since our old lead meter reader retired, I'm the only guy who knows the Crownridge route. Also, there are only three of us who know the Dominion, and one of the other guys is out hurt (hairline fracture in his foot--happened during work). By the way, I do have a minor injury that I've been working with. A compression injury to my left Achilles tendon (the tendon got squished too hard, too far). It doesn't bother me too much, though. Just every now and then when I take a wrong step or I step in a hole and my foot bends too far forward--which is how I hurt it in the first place.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A quiet, shady street

Nothing interesting to see today. I did see some pretty cool Halloween decorations on one house, but I don't like to take direct photos of houses. This is just a quiet neighborhood from the back end Sage Run.

The wind made it a little cold this morning. I had to wear my coat.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Since early voting started, there have been cars parked all around the local city hall from people voting early. Today I was told by someone that he had to stand in line for 2 hours to vote early. I have never heard of such a thing happening around here.

I always wait until Election Day, but where I vote, I have never had to stand in line or wait for anything. A 2-hour wait for early voting here is totally unheard of.

This election is going to make 2000 look like a cakewalk. Here are some of my impressions, for whatever it's worth.

If Obama wins, it will be because of fraud. As far as I'm concerned, his failure to produce a birth certificate that wasn't an obvious forgery means he is not even eligible to be president. I don't think his win will mean immediate violence in reaction (although there may be "celebratory violence"). But there will be violence. Here and there, a slowly-building pressure cooker until something finally pops and a chain reaction starts. The "official" media will remain on his side except for a stalwart few, and everyone who opposes him because of his socialism will be painted as a racist by the media. Have no doubt about it. Eventually anyone who does not overtly show support for him will be considered a racist by association. I don't know if it will be by lapel pins, t-shirts, or something like gang colors or signs, but that is how it will go.

If McCain wins, and I still think he might because I'm sure the MSM is reporting only Obama-favorable news, there will be immediate and widespread violence in many major cities. There will be a lot of places where it simply will not be safe for a white person to go for a period of time. Bet on it.

And God help America.

NOTE: These are only my opinions. Feel free to tell me I'm full of it, because I hope I'm wrong.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Under the interstate

I don't know how anyone can live this close to such a major highway. This is the route that starts at the old Blue Bonnet Potato Chip Company. It covers everything from IH-10 to Woodlawn Lake, between Cincinnati and Woodlawn, plus a little extra at the end. It's a rough route.

Free jazz sampler download

Amazon has a jazz sampler that can be downloaded free "for a limited time." How limited? I don't know. Featured artists are Pat Metheny Group, The Bill Frisell Band, Gary Burton Quintet, Keith Jarret, Chick Corea, Marc Johnson, Dave Holland Quartet, Jan Garbarek, Enrico Rava, and Charles Lloyd Quartet.

Tracks are at 256 kbps, total playing time 1:11. Get it here.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I hate having comment moderation turned on, but I just did it because I've been getting some spammy comments. Just so you know.

An odd set of wheels

Is it a training unicycle? Or is it a sort of pseudo-unicycle for someone who wants to do the unicycle bit but can't quite get the hang of balancing on that one wheel? I bet it still takes practice to ride this thing, even with that extra set of tiny wheels in front. I wonder if it can coast, or if the pedals are fixed. Anyhow, I saw this today in the Cactus Creek and Rimrock area.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A brief riparian interlude

First, a thicket of bamboo on Irola. There are no meters here, it's just a place I had to walk past to do the rest of the street. I don't know who thought it would be a great idea to plant bamboo in San Antonio, but if I had a time machine I think I would go back and find out, and deliver a swift kick to his groin. If you ever had to hack your way through an alley full of bamboo, you'd know how I feel. The Monte Vista Historic District is the worst place in town when it comes to bamboo-choked alleys. I'm glad I don't have to deal with that anymore. Also this is a rough route. If you look at the linked map, it starts/ends way over there at Woodlawn and Ligustrum and goes the other way before it comes back to where the star is.

This was on the split (the extra half-route that I did so I'd be over 600 meters (actually 645). When you're going down a dead-end street and working both sides of the street, you know that something funky is going to happen when you get to the end. Like walking along a creek bank until you get to the next street. This place is right about here.

"Riparian." I love that word. I would have never learned it if it weren't for Hyacinth Bucket (that's "bouquet").

More on that Antarctic mountain range

An Antarctic mountain range that rivals the Alps in elevation will be probed this month by an expedition of scientists using airborne radar and other Information Age tools to virtually "peel away" more than 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) of ice covering the peaks.

One of the mysteries of the mountain range is that current evidence suggests that it "shouldn't be there" at all.

The researchers hope to find answers there to some basic questions about the nature of the southernmost continent, including the massive East Antarctic Ice Sheet. For instance, it is unclear how Antarctica came to be ice-covered in the first place and whether that process began millions of years ago in the enigmatic Gamburtsev Mountain range.
Previous news here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I would like to take the time to completely refute this Cracked article: 6 of your favorite things that are secretly making you fat.

#6. Your Caffeine Addiction

Uh, no. I have never had any Starbucks cappofrappolattechino or anything like it. Okay, I once bought a coffee at a Starbucks. It was while I was truck driving, and the only way to get coffee at this one fancy truck stop (probably in California) was to buy it from the Starbucks counter inside the truck stop. You know, at most truck stops, when you buy 150 gallons of deisel at a time, they like to let you have at least one free coffee. But not this one. I ordered a straight black coffee, which the counter drone had apparently never heard of, and it didn't taste anywhere near as good as a free 20-ouncer from Flying J. I drink plain black coffee. As black as midnight on a moonless night, as Agent Cooper would say.

#5. Saving Money

Nope. I don't save money. But seriously, you don't buy food in bulk so you can eat in bulk. You buy it that way so you can break it down into smaller servings yourself. In fact, just today I broke 20 pounds of hamburger down into roughly 1 1/4 pound hunks and put them in the freezer. That'll last for a pretty good while.

#4. Air Conditioning

Doesn't apply to me. For one thing, I don't know how anyone can live with the inside of their house at 72 degrees. I would be suffering from permanent hypothermia. One time (previous job) some guy complained to me that his electric bill was too high. "I keep my thermostat on 68 all the time..." After that I zoned out. Dude, if the afternoon high is hitting 105, your AC is going to run non-stop from noon until midnight, at least. For another thing, I spend most of the day outside, and burn calories like nobody's business, especially in the summer. Sometimes in the summer I eat more junk food than I should just to keep my caloric intake somewhere close to my output. So there.

#3. Your Friends

Again, it doesn't apply to me because I have no friends. But seriously again, I can think of only one person (not counting any relatives) who I think of as a friend, and the only bad influence he might have on me is to make me buy more books than I really need.

#2. Your Mom

I never listened to her that much anyway. But seriously (yet again), my mother taught me a magic word that everyone should be familiar with: leftovers. If you don't eat it all now, you'll eat it again later. Good enough.

#1. Using the Internet

I don't sit and stuff myself while I'm on the internet. I smoke a pipe.

Not bitter, but resolved

I'm an embarrassment to Barack!

I only scored 17 on the Obama Test

I figured out how to score lower than a 17, but I am not bitter. I'm resolved. There's a difference.

via The Real Gun Guys


I haven't posted any work pix in a few days because I haven't found anything that inspired me enough to take even a lousy cell-phone pic (if you really want to see pictures of the garbage-strewn streets of the west side, let me know). But here's a pic of a mascot* I picked up for a little while today on N. San Ignacio. Every time I hit the "capture" button, she looked away from me. I never could get a shot of her face.

This is a bad route. There's one dog that should be secured but never is. I actually had to put down my computer and take the hook in both hands today because that sucker wouldn't back off. A few inches closer, and I'm pretty sure I would have at least broken its jaw. I even took out the Mace and started checking the wind in case it tried to jump me from behind after I got past it. I don't carry that Halt! dog spray, because it's completely worthless. But I do carry real Mace, which is a combination pepper/tear gas, and shoots a stream rather than a spray.

*mascot: a friendly dog that follows you around for a while for no obvious reason

As long as I'm on the subject...

I don't do much gun blogging anymore, not because I don't care about it, but because 1) there are others who are and who always have in the past, done a much better job of it than I ever did, and 2) because there's a very good chance that anything I mention will already have been covered by dozens of other bloggers. Chances are if you read this blog, you already know where I stand and agree with me on the essentials. Most readers of this blog probably also read The War On Guns, and if your blog-reading habits are anything like mine, it's probably one of the first blogs you catch up on every day.

Anyway, I want to say congratulations to David Codrea for getting a columnist gig that will allow him to reach people who are not already members of the choir. Check out his column at Cleveland Gun Rights Examiner.

As an example of what I mean, I was very encouraged by this comment on David's second column:
This is very interesting, and I had no idea these types of lawless, quasi-vigilante events were being perpetrated in Ohio by government. If I understand correctly, the primary job of the police is two-fold: uphold the constitution and enforce the laws. It seems as if they have gotten it totally backwards: they are violating the constitution and inventing arbitrary laws as they go, to the detriment of innocent Ohioans.

This type of lawless behavior by agents of government can never be tolerated. If government sets the example of violating the constitution and the laws, what should be expected of everyone else?
Emphasis mine, because that's the important part. This person had no idea such things were happening. The MSM doesn't report such things with any regularity, and many people still have no idea of even which questions should be asked.

2A Today for the USA

The folks at JPFO have done us all a huge service in producing a 23-minute documentary about the Second Amendment: its origins, its purposes, and its meaning. Best of all:
You have full permission to make copies for personal use, such as sending it to other individuals, blogs, websites and organizations.
A big problem that I have seen with blogging and other internet-focused means of communication is that only those who are already aware of the topic and prone to agree with you search out your topic and read what you've written. This could be a valuable tool in reaching those who simply aren't aware enough of the problem to even know which questions to ask. Fire up those DVD burners. Discs are fairly cheap. Make some copies and start spreading the word.

Download it here. Yes, it's a big download, but even I did it and I'm on dial-up. I just loaded it up in a Star Downloader and went to bed last night. When I woke up this morning, it was waiting for me on my computer. It's available in both *.wmv and *.mov formats, and both formats can be downloaded either in whole or in three parts. If you use a download manager such as Star Downloader (which is what I happen to use, but there are lots of such programs out there), JPFO's server does support resumable downloads.

Just do it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An interesting exercise

A simple flash game to test how well you "eyeball" various shapes and lines. I scored a 5.0. I seem to best at finding the midpoint of a circle, and worst at lining up the parallelograms. Also finding the point of convergence seemed to take more concentration than most of the other things.

via parallax adjustment

Monday, October 20, 2008

The real mountains of madness?

Meanwhile in the real world...
Scientists are undertaking the most ambitious Antarctic expedition ever to try and explain why there is a huge mountain range buried 4km under the surface of the icy continent.

The Gamburtsev mountains contain the oldest ice on Earth and match the Alps in scale. They are one of the 'last frontiers' on the planet and have never been seen.

Danforth, could you stop playing that wretched theramin?

The folks from Cthulhu for President 2008 bring us a short (5-minute) comedic "radio play" version of At the Mountains of Madness which can be downloaded here.

via Calls for Cthulhu

Bigfoot hoax takes a really bizarre turn

Details at Cryptomundo. The two hoaxers are now posting YouTube videos that include pictures of Loren Coleman (of Cryptomundo) with captions falsely claiming that he has been charged with child abuse in Mexico.

Also their website betrays a very poor grasp of basic grammar and spelling. Dolts.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Joe Sixpack/ Joe T. Plumber Announce Candidacy

More political satire from Dan O'Brien.

Joe the Plumber:
Senator Obama thinks of himself as a “Robin Hood” figure, taking money from the greedy, evil corporations and redistributing it to the peasants. Again, as stated in the Times, I resent being called a “peasant.” And if, as some have pointed out, Obama meant that I’m the greedy, evil corporation, I resent that, too. Hell, even if I’m supposed to be Robin Hood in this tricky, poorly-conceived metaphor, I’m still full of resentment. Basically I just don’t want anyone touching my money.
Joe Sixpack:
Folks, I am not Joe Biden or Sarah Palin. I am Joe Sixpack. That is, legally, my name. My dad made me change it when I crashed his car. Something about not deserving the family name. I don’t quite remember. I was pretty blitzed. But ask yourself this: do you want a down-to-earth candidate, or do you want some rich, out-of-touch yuppy who does a good job at feigning down-to-earthness? If it’s the second one, you’ve got two options there.

If it’s the first one, vote for me. I’m Joe Sixpack. I work hard. I eat lunch and whistle at women who walk by. I take the train if I can afford it, but mostly I just wander around. I drink cheap beer out of an empty Jelly jar and I scream at my television when a black quarterback makes a mistakes. I gamble on dog fights. I might have a kid somewhere. Sometimes I just like to get drunk on a set of stairs and put on a hat I found. I’m just like you.

O'Brien seems to be doing some consistently good stuff lately.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Silent Running

Still listening to some 80s songs. This was a song I liked at the time, but a song that seems to have gained a lot of power since 1985.
Take the children and yourself
And hide out in the cellar
By now the fighting will be close at hand
Dont believe the church and state
And everything they tell you
Believe in me, I'm with the high command

Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?
Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?

There's a gun and ammunition
Just inside the doorway
Use it only in emergency
Better you should pray to God
The father and the spirit
Will guide you and protect from up here

Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?
Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?

Swear allegiance to the flag
Whatever flag they offer
Never hint at what you really feel
Teach the children quietly
For some day sons and daughters
Will rise up and fight while we stood still

Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?
Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?

--Silent Running
Mike + the Mechanics


Another pipe by Trever Talbert.

Free download for Americana fans

You can download Todd Snider's full album Peace Queer at his website through October 31.

Go to

Friday, October 17, 2008


Since Bloglines seems to be constipated, I just put several feeds into Thunderbird, and will probably put all my most frequent reads in there as a back up pretty soon. But I noticed that although Bloglines still isn't picking up Blogger's "sticky" posts, Thunderbird does.


I'm feeding the deer while my dad has a weekend off. The big guy there is named Bumps. His last year's antlers would have scored 158 on Boone & Crockett. The little guy next to him is a buck yearling named Joshua. He's about the tamest deer we have, because he's been bottle-fed. My dad ran into another deer-rancher who had a bunch of yearlings in a trailer, evacuating from Hurricane Ike. They started talking and my dad ended up buying Joshua on the spot. I was supposed to bottle-feed him today, but he didn't want to have anything to do with a bottle. I don't know if it was just me, or if he's getting off the bottle. He was scarfing down the deer food with all the adults like nobody's business, so he's definitely not going hungry. And there are a couple of does around, too. Does are numbered. Only bucks get names.

This is the only photo that produced anything recognizable. Something I have learned about deer: they are hard to photograph. Your eye can see them clearly, but their natural camouflage makes them disappear into the brush with a camera. Most of the pictures looked like nothing but shadows and trees.

Bumps is also quite tame, for a white-tail. He'll walk up to about 10-15 feet away from you if you stand still and be quiet. A rack of antlers like his on a living deer that close is an impressive sight.

Another top of the Google

I've been getting so many hits on this search that I had to take a look, and I am indeed #1 on Google: my life my love and my lady.

Double ouch

I haven't linked to Oddee in a while, but here's a pretty good one: the 10 Manliest Ways to Die. I think my favorite is Eleazar Maccabeus, who was crushed to death by a war elephant (although he still managed to kill the elephant).

But then there's #10: Franz Reichelt, who managed to document his own death on film. The video is only 1:36 long, and it wasn't hard to download even on dial-up. I think the most horrifying part is at the very end, when it looks to me like someone is measuring how deep a hole he made when he hit the ground.


The backside of Mission San José.

A big sign near this spot says that this neighborhood was established in 1720. I've always felt the age in this area. It just feels old. Maybe it's the ancient mission looming over everything. There are two meters on either side of that wooden gate in the wall. Actually there are three, but I don't read one of them for some reason. Another one about 50 yards to the left, two more on the side, and two more in the front. I have no idea why this place needs seven meters.

This is my regular cycle 17 which is actually two routes, one of which is almost all foot and only a little motor (the one that crosses the haunted tracks); the other is mostly motor and not so much foot. This one covers long swaths of S. Presa, Roosevelt, Mission Road, S.E. Military, and E. Southcross. That whole mostly empty area around the mission is covered on this route. I was originally hired to replace the woman who had previously been doing this route; the guy who was supposed to train me and another new guy on it didn't know the motor part as well as he should have. So it took us several months to get where we could even finish it. Then one day we finished by noon and suddenly realized that we had it licked. Today we finished at about 1:00, and that was even with me driving another new guy through all the motor part so he could learn it better.

That other "new guy" who started about the same time I did quit a while back, so I've been training another new guy on it, and really training him, not just half-ass training him like I was. Once he gets it learned, we'll be back to finishing it too early and they'll probably try to stick us with extra work.

And then while we were washing the truck I accidentally did this:

That big check mark is where I accidentally blasted my own foot with a pressure washer. I'm glad these boots are worn out and I was going to replace them soon anyway. My foot is just a little sore, but no real harm was done. How did I do it? I was trying to hold a rag down with my foot while I blasted it to get most of the dirt out. Let this be a warning to be careful with those things. I'd be really ticked if this had been a new boot.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cool and breezy

This alley in the Rigsby/New Braunfels area is not as bad as it might look.

This route has less than 100 alley meters out of a total of 559 meters. That's an unusually high amount of meters for a route that's in this condition (that is, not something you can read really fast). This is probably the worst alley. The bad part about it is that for about a two-block stretch, it seems that everyone has piled junk from their yards in the alley. So it's filthy and you have to be careful where you step and what you reach into. The length of this route does tend to make it somewhat grueling during hot weather. It was no big deal today. It works back and forth, all the way from New Braunfels to Clark. I think the photo is from an alley between Highland and Kayton, but I don't remember for sure.

And there was one thing that I didn't take a picture of, although it was notable, because it was pretty disgusting. In front of one house I found several dead rats. Upon closer inspection, I saw that they had all been trapped with glue traps, and of course they were still stuck to the traps. One of them was lying on top of the meter and as I flipped it out of the way I got some of the glue on the tip of my hook. Yeesh. Dead rat glue. A couple of them were quite large. I'd say they could compete with the rats that used to be in our barn, that had a very protein-rich diet of peanut hay and protein meal. Shudder.

In case you're wondering, I always wear gloves.

I was in the mood to load up my 80s directory today. There are only 30 songs in it, which I downloaded from f*le-sh*ring (fleshring?) services in the past. Random 10:

1. M -- Pop Muzik (this is the song that everyone thinks was done by Devo, for some reason)
2. Joe Jackson -- Is She Really Going Out With Him
3. Buggles -- Video Killed the Radio Star
4. Hooters -- All You Zombies
5. Gerry Rafferty -- Baker Street (a saxophone song!)
6. Hooters -- Where Do the Children Go
7. Madness -- Our House
8. Pat Benatar -- We Belong
9. Peter Murphy -- Cuts You Up (one of my favorites)
10. Men Without Hats -- Safety Dance

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Water witchery

Interesting article on dowsing in the New York Times:
Phil Stine is not crazy, or possessed, or even that special, he says. He has no idea how he does what he does. From most accounts, he does it very well.

“Phil finds the water,” said Frank Assali, an almond farmer and convert. “No doubt about it.”

Mr. Stine, you see, is a “water witch,” one of a small band of believers for whom the ancient art of dowsing is alive and well.
I was once accused of promoting ignorance and superstition by a story I told about dowsing.  When I was very young and we first moved to this area, my dad became acquainted with an elderly man who was a dowser.  He offered to dowse our property.  As far as I know, he never charged anything, he just did this for anyone who wanted it to be friendly.  The guy who was drilling our water well had already decided on a site.  After a few minutes with his wand, the old dowser said something like, "Yep, there's water down there.  But it ain't no good."  They drilled the well anyway.

He was right.  The water was so full of iron it couldn't be used for anything but watering the cattle, and they probably didn't like it much.  It would turn coffee green.  God help you if you washed your clothes with it.  We had to bring water from my grandmother's house in a nearby town to have water fit for drinking and cooking.  We washed our clothes at her house.  Many years later when I was in high school, and we were doing water hardness experiments in chemistry class, I stopped by the old place and got a jar of water from the well that's still there, although now it isn't used for anything but watering a garden now and then.  When I got to school I went to the science classroom and dropped it off with the teacher.  He taped a label to it that said "Alan" so we would know who it belonged to.  That afternoon during class, he got out the jar and it was orange.  The iron suspended in the water had rusted after being exposed to air.  Our hardness tests were done with some soap.  We would use an eyedropper to drop one drop at a time until a noticeable soap film formed on top of the water.  Most of the other samples formed a film after only 5 or 6 drops.  This stuff got up to 100 drops and it still hadn't formed a film.  The teacher started squirting the whole eyedropper full into it at a time.  It never did form a film.

But anyway, after we had lived there for a few years my dad sold the place to a family friend, who also bought another big section of property behind it.  The elderly dowser came out again and did his trick.  He told our friend where and how deep to drill for good water, and a new well was drilled according to his instructions.  The water from that well is perfect.  The two wells are about 400 yards apart.

So believe it or not, and maybe it was only coincidence.  But that's something strange I've seen with my own eyes.

Rain, shmain

The forecast today was for a 90% chance of rain. So I assumed I would get rained on, and didn't take my phone with me. So here's a shot of what was right across the street from my sooper-seekrit parking place on Urban Loop.

I suppose the forecast was technically correct (which is the best kind of correct), but it didn't rain so's you'd notice unless you were really paying attention.

This is a semi-regular route for me that does the south edge of downtown, so it's rich with photo ops. There's always next time. There's one place where I have to go into two basements of Mexican restaurants that are right next to each other. One basement is used for storage and there are employees there in it all the time. However, the other basement looks like it was left over from the battle of the Alamo or something (it's not far from San Fernando cathedral). It can only be accessed through a locked door in the women's restroom, which opens into a big closet. Then you open a door in the floor of the closet and descend a tiny staircase into the basement, and you have to duck the whole time because it seems to have been built for someone who's only 5 feet tall. They put a couple of token lights in so you can navigate the stairway, but most of it is totally dark and quite creepy. The meters have to be read by flashlight. It's one of my favorite stops.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


For as long as I can remember, 40+ years now, things have disappeared around me, never to be seen again. Sometimes I thought I was going crazy, but eventually I just came to accept that this is an unexplained phenomena. The most dramatic such incident, because my wife noticed it as well (which means I could finally say: see, I told you so. I'm not crazy), involved an electric space heater. Several years before our first child was born, it disappeared. I went through every cubic foot of the old house, emptied every closet, every cabinet, every box. It was gone. It was getting to be some cold weather, and my wife asked me why I hadn't gotten the heater out.

"It's gone," I said.

"What do you mean, gone?"

"Gone. Vanished. Disappeared. It no longer exists on this earth."

"That's crazy. It has to be here somewhere." So she did the same thing I can done, methodically going through the entire house just like I had, while I sat and inwardly laughed at her futile endeavor. Finally she told me, "It's gone."

When we sold the old house, I got to thinking that since we were going to completely empty that house, I would finally discover what ever happened to that heater. We would have to find it.

But we didn't, because it's gone.

A couple of months ago my dad gave my son and I similar, but not identical caps. They were both camouflage, with a picture of a buck deer on the front. My son's had a solid crown, mine had a mesh crown. I hung them on a hat rack in the bedroom, right next to my Alamo cap and my old camo hunting cap. I covered them all with a bandana to keep the dust off them, because I don't wear a cap very often.

And today, my new camo deer cap was gone. All the others are still there. I've spent several hours today going through the entire house, looking through all the drawers, all the closets, all the cabinets. But it's no use, because it's gone.

My wife said, "But there were three camouflage caps hanging there. I just saw them."

"Exactly," I said. "That's because that's where I put them. But it's gone now."

She just shrugged and sat down to watch TV. She knows there's no point even trying to look for it. It's gone.

Purple sky

A twilit golf course behind the Firestone Parkway area off F.M. 78 at 7:40 AM. Overcast was bad today. By the time the sky cleared up, I was getting hot and tired and was focused more on finishing than anything else. I like the purple sky, though.

Cougars in Louisiana

Cryptomundo has the news that they were confirmed by trail cameras. But what is it with state game agencies and their treatment of cougars? They obviously have to live somewhere, but not here...
Although it is illegal to own a cougar in Louisiana, it is possible that there are some illegally held “pets” in the state. Anyone holding a captive cougar in Louisiana must have a permit issued by LDWF, as captive cougars may compromise public safety. LDWF may issue permits to existing owners in the state in order to reduce difficulties associated with determining the validity of reported cougar sightings.
No one said anything about owning a cougar, yet they have to mention it. Just to make sure they put that seed in your mind.
The only species of big cats that occur as black are the jaguar and leopard. Jaguars are native to South America and leopards are native to Africa. Both species can occur as spotted or black, although in both cases the spotted variety is much more common. Although the department receives numerous calls about “black panthers”, there has never been a documented case of a black cougar anywhere in North America.
Once again, no one mentioned black cougars. No one claimed this was a black cougar. So what's the point?

And finally...
The department receives many calls reporting sightings of cougars throughout Louisiana. The vast majority of these reports cannot be verified due to the very nature of a sighting. These animals can move through an area and leave little or no evidence to be found. Many of the calls are found to be cases of mistaken identity. Dog tracks make up the majority of the evidence submitted by those reporting cougar sightings. Other animals commonly mistaken for cougars are bobcats and house cats, usually seen from a distance or in varying shades of light.

The significant lack of physical evidence leads the department to conclude that Louisiana does not have an established, breeding population of cougars. In states that have verified small populations of cougars, physical evidence can readily be found in the form of tracks, cached deer kills, scat and road kills. The recent occurrences of cougars in Louisiana may be young animals dispersing from existing populations in west Texas. An expanding population in west Texas can produce dispersing individual cougars that move into suitable habitat in Louisiana. Young males are known to disperse from their birthplace and travel hundreds of miles seeking their own territories.
Yes, I mistake the common house cat for a cougar pretty much all the time, since I'm no animal expert and therefore a complete idiot.

Michigan blamed it on the Dakotas. And now Louisiana blames it on Texas. But no one wants to admit that cougars are pretty much everywhere.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pipe smoker humor and garter snakes

I put a poll over at the The Briar Files regarding a tobacco I have been smoking lately called 1792 Flake.
This is a full strength, mellow tobacco comprising a blend of dark fired Tanzanian leaf. It is Gawith's best-selling premium grade flake. It starts as 7 lbs. of hand stripped leaf and goes through a steaming process prior to being pressed. The cake, having been prepared, is wrapped in a select leaf and packed by hand into a 12 inch square. This cake is pressed and left for a minimum of two hours. Then, the pressed cake is placed into a steam press where it is baked at full heat for two to three hours. The baked cake has then taken on 1792's characteristic rich, dark color. It's hardening occurs during cooling. Once the process of cutting the flake and adding a tonquin flavor is carried out, hand wrapping and packing finalizes 1792, making it ready for rubbing into your pipe. Also sold as Cob Flake in Europe.
The way the description is written, it's almost as if they said, "Oh yeah and by the way we put tonquin flavor in it." What does tonquin taste like? Well, it tastes like tonquin (a.k.a the tonka bean). Alas! I am almost out and will have to order more soon. Once I developed a taste for it, there was no stopping me.

But I have been greatly amused that so far 8 out of 13 respondents have chosen "Blasphemous scents from outside the spectrum of mortal sensation, of which no man may breathe the noisome vapours and still remain wholly sane."

I don't really have anything else to blog about today. I got rained on briefly this morning, and since it was raining I left my phone in my truck and didn't try to take any work pix. More rain is threatened all week, so I might not take any pictures for several days.

I bought gas today for $2.69 at the Valero at I-10 and Foster Rd. The Flying J and the TA both had it for $2.71, and the Petro and Pilot at I-10 and Ackerman both had it for $2.69 also. About $39 for a fill-up. It's been a while since that happened. A Chevron station near here is selling it for $2.49, but only if you use a Chevron credit card, which I unfortunately do not have. For any other form of payment, it's $2.79.

I did see the biggest one of these I've ever seen so far:

That's the speckled, or checkered garter snake. I've never seen one out here where I live, but these are by far the most common snake to find in meter boxes. I didn't see its full length, but it must have been a good inch-and-a-half thick in the center of its body. So far I haven't found any venomous snakes while working (not in this job, anyway), just a lot of these, and one coachwhip and one that I think was a bullsnake but I'm not sure. Also one striped garter snake just a few days ago.

One time on my previous job I found a coral snake sprawled out underneath a gas meter.

The most common question I get asked about my job is "do you see many snakes?" Apparently most people are scared sh*tless of snakes. I guess I've probably had more exposure to snakes than the average person, or the average resident of San Antonio, anyway.

Other animals I have encountered: toads. Lots of toads. Totally freakin' ungodly quantities of toads. And I would by far rather come across snakes than toads. One frog. You don't usually find frogs in meter boxes because they prefer wetter areas, but if it's been leaking long enough it might get a frog in it. Roaches by the million. Rats. Mice. And one gopher, at least I'm pretty sure it was a gopher. Cats. One possum so far. Oh, and spotted geckos--lots of those, too. They tend to panic and head for the nearest dark place, which is often my pants leg.

Most recent random 10 on Winamp:

John Coltrane -- Out of this World
Lee Ritenour and Larry Carlton -- L.A. Underground
Brasilia -- A Chamada Do Rio
Pat Metheny -- The Truth Will Always Be
Billie Holiday -- No Good Man
Billie Holiday -- This is Heaven to Me
Pat Metheny Group -- The Search
Pat Metheny -- See the World
Jimmy Smith -- Back at the Chicken Shack
Pat Metheny -- Always and Forever

Pat Metheny is another one that I really like, although some might argue that he doesn't do "real" jazz (but fusion, if you really have to make that distinction). I have several more lined up in my queue that should be arriving in the coming months.

I have only one Billie Holiday collection, a two-CD set that covers everything she recorded during her time at Decca (from 1944 to 1950). This includes out-takes and some studio chatter, which I'm not really interested in but it looked like a good way to start at the time. Also I have a few other random tracks of hers on various compilations. I can't stand too much Billie Holiday at one time. I have to take her in small doses. But I suppose I'll talk more about that when I get into the jazz section of my digital collection.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

That's some tuning fork!

It might take a special combination of ham radio/music nerd to think this is funny.

Seen on ebay.

P.S. My printing isn't really that bad, but I wrote it with my off hand on a trackpad, so...

Sunday lyrics

Some beautiful lyrics for your Sunday morning. A true modern hymn.
My life goes on in endless song
Above earths lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear its music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble in their fear
And hear their death knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging,
When friends by shame are undefiled
How can I keep from singing?

--Eithne Ní Bhraonáin
1991, Shepherd Moons

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Jack o' the Lantern

Trying to get away from the Saturday Cthulhu for a little while, at least until after Halloween. So here's a scary-looking character.

It's a pipe.

Made by pipe artist Trever Talbert.


Daniel O'Brien of Cracked takes a look at two possible futures, and writes some interesting satire.

Friday, October 10, 2008

And since it's Friday I had to wash the truck when I finished

Another terrible picture from today's work. It's the worst route I have. I made a special request for them to send me out alone so no one else would get stuck out there with me waiting for me to finish. An all-motor route that covers Perrin Beitel, Nacogdoches, Thousand Oaks, and that whole big area. It takes me nearly 7 hours to read 385 meters. The guy who usually does it can do it in about 5 1/2. I don't know how he can do it so fast.

This photo is of a spot on the back side of Nacogdoches Road where most people don't go by accident. There are two meters back there in that brush, and if you make one wrong step it's twisted ankle time, or worse. One time I spooked a homeless guy back there, and as he lumbered away I thought, wow, he walks just like that Bigfoot in that old film. By the way I don't know what those meters service. The address of the place is on Bulverde Road, but the meters are all the way in the back on another road and I can't see what's on the other side of the creek. I forgot to mention the creek. The meters are on a creek bank.

No Saturday overtime this week. This was my "hard week," when all the routes are pretty tough. I'm taking a break. Next week will be a piece of cake compared to this one.

Check this out...

See that guy on the right?  The one who looks like he would sue his own sister?

I used to sling pizza with that guy.  And while we were slinging pizza, between the two of us, we could pretty much quote the entire "alien blancmanges" episode of Monty Python.

Way to go, Kenny.  It looks like I'll actually be buying a DVD of a National Lampoon movie (if it's available in this area, that is).

Damn your lemon curd tart!

Should've used corn cobs

For Cowboy Blob's caption/p-shop contest.

UPDATE: 2nd place!


Marino, Italy:
It transpired that instead of connecting the wine to the 17th century fountain, plumbers had hooked the pipes from the local vineyard into Marino's domestic water supply.

One resident said, 'I was in the kitchen to fill a bucket with water. I immediately noticed a sweet smell from the tap and recognised instantly it was wine. Word quickly spread and everyone filled up bottles and plastic containers with the wine.'

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Word of the day

Noctilucent: Luminous at night.

Story at
Noctilucent clouds, also known as night-shining clouds, were first described in 1885, two years after the massive eruption of Krakatoa sent up a plume of ash and debris up to 80 km into Earth's atmosphere. The eruption affected global climate and weather for years and it also may have produced the first noctilucent clouds.

The effects of Krakatoa eventually faded, but the unusual electric blue clouds remain, nestled into a thin layer of Earth's mesosphere. The clouds, which are visible during the deep twilight, are most often observed during the summer months at latitudes from 50 to 70 degrees north and south, although in recent years they have been seen as far south as Utah and Colorado. Noctilucent clouds are a summertime phenomenon as, paradoxically, the atmosphere at 85 km altitude is coldest in summer, promoting the formation of the ice grains that make up the clouds.

It was 25 years ago that researchers at Poker Flat, Alaska, first noticed that the clouds were highly reflective to radar. This unusual property has long puzzled scientists and Caltech's Paul M. Bellan believes he may now have an explanation. He hypothesizes that the ice grains in noctilucent clouds are coated with a thin film of metal, made of sodium and iron; and the metal film causes radar waves to reflect off ripples in the cloud in a manner analogous to how X-rays reflect from a crystal lattice.
Anyone have an idea if this would also propagate VHF or UHF radio communications? I mean, if we can bounce signals off the northern lights...

Work pix

Since I got the good sheath for my cellphone a couple of weeks ago, I've been carrying my phone all the time in hopes that I can get an interesting photo now and then. It doesn't take very good pictures, and I'm no photographer. But hey, I got nothing else. The above sunrise photo was taken this past Tuesday at 8:18 AM (I do like the way the phone date & time stamps pictures) in the Roseheart subdivision off Bulverde Road.

I had my bad alley route today and I tried to take some pix, but I was getting such a ferocious glare from the sun that they all look like something from that Easy Rider acid-trip montage.

My phone takes good pix if I have lots of sunlight and it's an object that I can frame from about 3 feet away, which will be perfect if I ever find another dead iguana.

Jazz today. Next randomized 10:

1. Jimmy Smith -- Messy Bessie
2. Bennie Braxton -- Bennie Bossa
3. Jimmy Smith & Taj Mahal -- C.C. Rider
4. Jimmy Smith -- Tuition Blues
5. Cornell Dupree -- Bop 'n' Blues
6. Jaco Pastorius -- Kuru/Speak Like a Child
7. Dave Brubeck -- Travelin' Blues
8. Marcus Miller -- The Blues
9. Joey Calderazzo -- Secrets
10. Pat Metheny -- Old Folks

Yes, my jazz collection is a little Jimmy Smith-heavy, and looks like it will get even heavier.

Anna Magdalena

Forensics casts doubt on music of Bach:
The new analysis of his work – by Australian forensic anthropologist Martin Jarvis of Charles Darwin University in Darwin – involved comparing documents written by Bach’s second wife, Anna Magdalena, with musical notation written by Bach and others who copied his work.

“My forensic work reveals that our current understanding of Anna Magdalena's role in the life and musical output of Johann Sebastian Bach cannot be correct," Jarvis told Cosmos Online.

"I believe there is evidence that shows that Anna Magdalena was at the very least a composition student of Bach, and more probably his assistant composer,” he said.
I touched on this more than two years ago, but the article that I linked to then is no longer there.  At that time this was mere suspicion; no one had actually done any forensic work yet.

I've always thought it odd that J.S. would call one of his notebooks "little notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach."  Why would he name is notebook after his wife?  Wouldn't it make more sense for such a notebook to belong to Anna herself?

Here's a related post at my other blog, which some of you may remember if you've been reading this blog long enough.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

No cougars in Michigan

Or so insists the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Okay then, Ms. Smarty-Pants, what was it?

via Cryptomundo

Oh fudge

Blogrolling was hacked, it seems. I killed the tab before the page finished loading. Just a self-preservation reflex.

Also Bloglines is whacked. No new posts today. Reading blogs "manually" is a drag.

On the other hand, Back at the Chicken Shack arrived today. The CD has one bonus track. Sweet!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Possible mammoth fossil tooth found in Ike debris

Via Cryptomundo:
Dorothy Sisk and Jim Westgate discovered the fossil tooth in the front yard of Sisk’s home in Caplen, Texas, on the devastated Bolivar Peninsula. If the fossil is from a Columbian mammoth, then it is evidence of the species which was common in North America until around 10,000 years ago. It is expected to be sent to the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin.
Photo at the link.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Saturday night ramble

Well, I seem to be feeling about the same as BobG. I never watch debates. They are just as effective as talk shows: no one's mind is changed about anything, and in fact, each side comes out feeling stronger in their own convictions than they did going in. Also I have an inherent distrust of all politicians and I believe they are all crooks to some extent, regardless of the letter that goes after their names.

I don't have anything to say about the bailout, either. It was unconstitutional, and wrong. But then most actions of our "government" are unconstitutional and wrong, so why should this be any different?

I worked some pleasant optional overtime this morning, reading a route on Ridge Country off of Wetmore. It's a quiet neighborhood, the houses are small and crammed in close together and the meters are arranged in an obvious pattern so it goes fast. 517 meters in about 2 1/2 hours. I'm still trying to put aside some extra money to buy a new handheld radio. For every Saturday I work overtime, I give myself an allowance of $25 for fun stuff (ammo, books, music, pipe tobacco, etc.).

I downloaded another free mp3 from Amazon, an instrumental called "Archipelago" from Quantic. It was listed in the dance genre or something like that, but it's a nice piece that combines some groove with some ambience. I like it, and might have to check out more of his stuff. Quantic is just one guy who does electronics plus a wind instrument or two.

Way back in the 80s there used to be this station in S.A. called KLLS, I think it was. It was a "soft rock" station or something like that. Anyway, late on Saturday night (from 10-midnight) they started carrying this new show called Musical Starstreams. I became a regular listener for just that show. Later on, KLLS switched to a country music format (which they remain to this day, I think) and dropped Starstreams. But then later on there was another station, I don't remember the callsign but it was on 106.7, that played "smooth jazz." Which basically means elevator music with saxophones and far too much Kenny G for any sane human to bear. But they started carrying Starstreams too, and I was able to hear it again. Unfortunately, the only station in S.A. that carries it now is a low-power college station that I can't pick up out here in the sticks (KSYM, 90.1). Several years ago, they would make their entire 2-hour program available for download from their website. Eventually the music nazis cracked down on them, but before that happened I managed to download several programs, which I burned to CDs for permanent safe storage. At one time I had begun breaking them into individual tracks, but lost most of them in the computer crash of a few years ago. For the past couple of weeks I've been doing that again. Fortunately Starstreams keeps their entire playlist archive available on their website, all the way back to the very first show.

I listen to and enjoy a lot of different kinds of music, but when I first heard the stuff they played on that show I thought, "This is what I've been searching for my whole life..." Anyway, it was an excellent starting point for exposure to a great many artists that I would never have heard of otherwise, and now with the magic of the internet I've been able to track down other sources, because you just don't find this kind of stuff at your typical music store around here.

And my digitally remastered CD of Jimmy Smith's Back at the Chicken Shack should be arriving in the mail any day now. The month after that should bring Signals, which will complete my Rush-on-CD collection.

I will try to get back into more music blogging in the future. I don't know if it's worth reading about, but I enjoy writing about it. So tonight I'm in an ambient mood, and here are the next ten.

Gabrielle Roth & The Mirrors -- Flow
Opera to Relax -- From Life 2 Life
Skin to Skin -- Daimon
Trial of the Bow -- Father of the Flower
Worldbeat -- Winters Lake, Solace
Akumu -- Chimera
Auriavizia -- Rainbow Drops
Christopher Franke -- Purple Waves
Chris Armstrong -- Starless II
Loreena McKennitt -- The Mystic's Dream

And usually on Saturday night I try to post some graphics in a Lovecraftian vein. Today I went a-googling with a few choice search terms and eventually found this photo called Danse Macabre by Walter Kimmel at the Westchester Photographic Society.

Suitable for the season, I think. Except for the obvious road, it reminds me of some creek bottoms I have wandered through, where the water has stood often and long enough to kill out all the small underbrush. The scarred hollow on this tree almost looks like a mouth, doesn't it?
...and the old bee-keeper told me that sometimes the boughs whisper to one another in the night wind, saying over and over again. "Oida! Oida! -I know! I know!"
--H.P. Lovecraft, The Tree

Practicing for humans

Horrific mass animal killing at Australian zoo:
SYDNEY, Australia - A 7-year-old boy broke into a popular Outback zoo, fed a string of animals to the resident crocodile and bashed several lizards to death with a rock, the zoo's director said today.

The 30-minute rampage, caught on the zoo's security camera, happened early Wednesday after the boy jumped a security fence at the Alice Springs Reptile Center in central Australia, said zoo director Rex Neindorf.

The child then went on a killing spree, bashing three lizards to death with a rock, including the zoo's beloved, 20-year-old goanna, which he then fed to "Terry," an 11-foot, 440-pound saltwater crocodile, said Neindorf.

The boy also fed several live animals to Terry by throwing them over the two fences surrounding the crocodile's enclosure, at one point climbing over the outer fence to get closer to the giant reptile.

In the footage, the boy's face remains largely blank, Neindorf said, adding: "It was like he was playing a game."

By the time he was done, 13 animals worth around $5,500 had been killed, including a turtle, bearded dragon and thorny devil lizards, Neindorf said. Although none were considered rare, some are difficult to replace, he said.

"We're horrified that anyone can do this and saddened by the age of the child," Neindorf said.

Alice Springs police said they are unable to press charges against the boy because of his age. Children under age 10 can't be charged with criminal offenses in the Northern Territory. His name was not released because of his age.

Neindorf said he plans to sue the boy's parents.

The boy's small size is probably the reason he didn't trip the zoo's security system, which relies on sensors to detect intruders, Neindorf said.

"I just want people to learn that they can't let their children go and run amok," Neindorf said. "If we can't put the blame onto the child, then someone has to accept the responsibility."
Society is to blame. Or global warming. Or Bush. Watch his parents try to pass the blame on to someone else.

That kid needs to be taken out of that family immediately, but it's probably too late. I will be surprised if he isn't killing humans--or at least trying to--within 5 years.

More at The Copycat Effect.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Taste the Horror

Skittles commercials have, for a long time, been sometimes amusing, often odd, many times downright irritating. But am I the only one who thinks that lately they've taken a decided turn toward the macabre?

By the way, I can't stand those things.

And they know how to do research at the UNM

The 2008 Ignobel Awards have been awarded:
NUTRITION PRIZE. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.


LITERATURE PRIZE. David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK, for his lovingly written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."
Lots more at the link.

A good point

Seen at Atlas Blogged:
It just occurred to me that if McCain is elected, Sarah Palin would be the President of the Senate, where she would preside over Barak Obama, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton.

For sheer entertainment purposes, I don't see how I can vote against that scenario.
Double heh.

Not with a roar, but a murmur

A strangely quiet beginning to the latest sunspot cycle:
But many of the other competing predictions — more than 50 over all — pointed to a quieter-than-average cycle. “They do kind of go all over the map,” said Douglas Biesecker, a physicist at the Space Weather Prediction Center who led an international panel that reviewed predictions.

The solar wind is another piece of the puzzle. David J. McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and one of the researchers who analyzed data from the Ulysses Sun-watching spacecraft, said that the strength of the solar wind seemed to be in a long-term decline. The pressure exerted by the solar wind particles during the current minimum is about a quarter weaker than during the last solar minimum, Dr. McComas said.

Dr. McComas said scientists were still trying to figure out how all the data fits together.

“There are a number of researchers who predict the next solar cycle,” he said. “There are also a number of investment counselors who predict the future of the stock market.”

Thursday, October 02, 2008

So I'm not the only one who sees a Nyarlathotep connection...

From the Unspeakable Vault (of Doom).

Ballista for sale

Yes, this is for real. We are selling a full-size Roman siege catapult (or ballista), which we believe to be the only one of its kind (for at least 2000 years).

The catapult was recreated by a team of experts, following all known records, as accurately as possible – and then successfully fired. It was created for the BBC, for a programme called Building the Impossible, in 2002. It was built by the timber-frame team at Carpenter Oak & Woodland.

The ballista weighs approx 12 tons so postage or even buyer collection is not an option. Fully built, it is approx 7.5 metres tall and 8.5 metres long.

Originally, this cost over £120,000 to build – so we are only looking for serious bidders.

Our reserve price of £25,000 includes the cost of essential repairs to bring it back to a condition where it could be displayed, and includes delivery to any mainland UK destination.

Please note: if erecting is required at the buyer’s site, it will cost an additional £17,500 to the purchase price. It is essential that the site has adequate space for the crane and space for setting up. This will not fit in your average garden!!
At eBay. Starting bid £25,000. Auction ends October 10. More pictures and a video at the link.