Monday, November 30, 2009

Not something I ever expected to see...

A stanza of one of my poems translated into Hungarian. I hope it sounds better to Hungarian ears than it does to an online translator I found.

I've been looking for a good calendar...

Available at

Goats in Trees 2010 Square Wall (Wall Calendar) (Multilingual Edition)

Via Oddee, where you can view 9 other odd calendars.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cthulhu by Lovecraft

Found this while browsing the Facebook graphic archives of The Lovecraft News Network. I had seen this once before somewhere, a long time ago but it was nice to run across it again. I believe this is the only visual rendering that The Man Himself ever gave to Great Cthulhu.

The Bands and Ensembles of the US Armed Forces: Veterans Day Honor

This is a free mp3 album that released this past Veterans Day and which I have only today gotten around to downloading and listening to.

I am not usually given to listening to patriotic music for entertainment, so I doubt if this will go in my main mp3 directory, but it's still a keeper.

Ensembles included are the U.S. Navy Band, U.S. Coast Guard Band, U.S. Marine Band, U.S. Air Force Band of Flight, U.S. Army Strings, U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note, U.S. Army Band, U.S. Navy and Sea Chanters Chorus, and the U.S. Air Force Band & Singing Sergeants.

The only bad points of this album, to me, are tracks number 7 & 10, which are not traditional patriotic pieces but more modern patriotic pop songs which completely fail to stir my soul. But of course ymmv.

Big plus points for introducing me to the stirring and evocative hymn "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," which I have learned is the U.S. Navy Hymn.

I am most impressed by the impeccable tightness and precision achieved by all these bands.

Side note: I looked "Eternal Father" up in the hymnal which we currently use at my home congregation. It has four stanzas, the original two of which (modern stanzas 1 & 4) were written in 1860 by William Whiting. It was set to music the following year by John Bacchus Dykes. In 1937 Robert Nelson Spencer added two more stanzas in between the original two. Although none of the branches of the armed forces are mentioned by name, the pattern of the stanzas is clear: stanza 1 refers to those on the sea, stanza 2 refers to those on the ground, and stanza 3 refers to those in the air. Stanza 4 is all-inclusive to wrap it all up. The hymn as a whole is a prayer song for the armed forces.

Of course I have already begun teaching it to myself but it has some unusual harmony that would probably challenge most amateur congregational singers (among whom I include myself). There is a modulation for a few bars to the 3rd of the scale (from C major to E minor), which is not something that most of us are used to hearing, so it would probably take some practice to get right. Still, I've put it on my learning list.

Just click on Veterans Day Honor to download it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hot sauce review: Habañero Heat Wave

On my last birthday I received a set of hot sauces from the Dat'l Do-It company. I don't eat hot sauces as much as I used to, not because I can't stand to eat them, but because of we say--aftershocks. So far I have opened only one, Habañero Heat Wave.

This is what I would consider a medium-heat sauce, that is, suitable for consumption on food straight out of the bottle. There are other sauces that I would consider suitable only for the novelty or for spiking other sauces that are too mild, such as Vicious Viper or Butt Twister. I use Vicious Viper to spike a relatively mild habañero sauce called El Yucateco that I get at H.E.B., and which I use to make my habañero jerky. A couple of drops of the Viper mixed into a bowl of chili is also a good way to give the chili an extra kick. I have eaten it straight, smeared on a corn chip, but I wouldn't make a habit of it.

So anyway, this post was to comment on Habañero Heat Wave. It has plenty of heat, but when it comes to hot sauces, I am more impressed by flavor than heat. Some people eat hot sauces because they enjoy the heat and seem not to care too much about the flavor, but if a sauce doesn't have good flavor I don't give a toss for the heat.

I must say that the flavor of Habañero Heat Wave does not impress me at all. It's only okay by my standards, but not nearly up to the level of my favorite all-purpose habañero sauce, Sontava XXX.

So if you're a hot sauce lover and you're looking around at new sauces to try, I'd say skip the Habañero Heat Wave. The flavor is simply nothing to recommend.

One last post about CRUdGate

I don't see much point in my going on about the CRU fiasco here, now that I've mentioned it a couple of times in my own tiny and obscure corner of the internet, but here is one last good article that is recommended reading.

CRUdGate* - Why this can't be swept under the carpet at Devil's Kitchen.

P.S. More fudging turns up in New Zealand.

*Note: I personally would never use the -gate suffix in describing any incident except in an ironic manner. But that's how everyone else refers to it so I want to write so that everyone knows what I'm talking about.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I almost went two whole days without a post. Unusual. Yesterday my dad's water heater bit the dust, which I don't consider quite a real tragedy since it lived to a ripe old age and is almost as old as I am. Anyhow, I helped him install the new one which was a little more complicated than it should have been because we had to improve on some errors he made when he installed the old one more than 35 years ago.

Spent some time again at my dad's house today for Thanksgiving. I am thankful that he has become just about as politically radical as I have, even though he doesn't often show it. It's nice to have someone at my back when I get set off at some of the larger family gatherings.

I've been feeling a little under the weather again for the last couple of days, but not too bad, so I'm thankful for that. I have a feeling next week is going to be pretty tough, though. Cold weather and rain in store.

And I'm thankful for all you folks who think this blog is worth checking into now and then. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jumpy today...

I was working in a nice, quiet neighborhood today when a tiny terrier-looking dog ran up behind me and yapped. Like my mother sometimes says, "I nearly came unglued." I mean my hair stood up so straight that I almost lost my hat. I started to swing my hook in a reflex I've developed from being jumped from behind by dogs, and managed to swing it a little too high at the last moment so I wouldn't take off that poor little guy's head.

Afterwards, I got to wondering why I was so jumpy. And then it came to me...

I watched Quarantine last night. Man, if we ever have a zombie apocalypse like that, forget about fighting back. It's over.

Lots more coming out of the CRU scandal

Brian Micklethwait has a lot to say about the CRU scandal at Samzidata. Click here:
Many scientists, commenting in recent days on blog postings, have been declaring themselves baffled. Why all the fuss? Is it some kind of big scandal that scientists are - shock - human? They sometimes use less than noble methods in their fights with one another, making their own opinions seems more solidly justified than they really are, their own data seem more precisely in accordance with their theories than they perhaps should, or would in a morally perfect world. And especially in what they thought were private emails to one another. So? That's science. It's a tough old world, and sometimes, yes, they do fight a bit dirty. As do we all. So, why this huge blogo-fuss about pretty nearly damn all?

Why the fuss is because of the vast, globe-spanning policy conclusions that have been plucked from these in themselves rather minor deceptions. The fraud revealed isn't just in the fiddling of some numbers. There is also the faking of that precious scientific consensus that has so dominated public and official thinking about climate and climate policy during the last decade. The world is being sold a gigantic economic and political upheaval, backed by the claim that all this scientific rough-and-tumble, this slightly dodgy infighting, was in fact a blandly uniform scientific consensus. And the "scientists" (who more and more now look like politicos who have barged their way into science) are the engineers of this political fraud, not just the contrivers of the scientific opinions around which they have assembled their bogus consensus.

Bishop Hill provides several tasty tidbits.

Boy On a Bike reveals this beauty:
* the ruling by the Earth Court of Justice of the abolishment of the debt of the poor or developing nations as it is really a form of global tax to be paid annually by the rich or industrialized nations to the developing nations
I would recommend to especially take the time to read all of Micklethwaite's comments at the first link.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Possibly the most awesome money quote I have ever posted

"I was flailing away underwater carrying a dog with a kangaroo ripping into me."

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

From eternal darkness springs cast of angels and jellied jewels (17,000 new deep-ocean species discovered)

Marine marvels found in the darkness of the deep (more on the same topic)

Dumbo of the deep: Discovered in the ocean abyss, the elephant-eared octopod (some cool photos)

Black Acid Prophecy - A Trip Into Unknown Kadath

Found via H.P. Lovecraft and His Legacy is this (legal) free-to-download mp3 album inspired by Lovecraft. Black Acid Prophecy are Paul Allih and Curtis D. Cousins. I don't know exactly which sub-genre this music would fit into, so I'll call it industrial electronic metal. Yeah, that should work.

A Trip Into Unknown Kadath consists of 12 tracks, all named after/inspired by various Lovecraft stories. Some of the tracks have vocals, some are musical soundscapes. Dark and forboding, heavy, lurking...all the kinds of moods you might expect from music based on Lovecraft's works.

Track list:

1. The Doom That Came To Sarnath
2. Lurking Fear
3. Whisperer In The Darkness
4. Herbert West
5. From Beyond
6. Ex Oblivione
7. Cool Air
8. Shadow Over Innsmouth
9. Colour Out of Space
10. The Horror At Red Hook
11. At The Mountains of Madness
12. Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath

The full album plus artwork can be downloaded in one fell zip-file swoop from MegaUpload, or as individual files from Archive-dot-org. All mp3s are encoded at 320 kbps. Total playing time, slightly more than an hour.

Should make for some quite suitable background music if you're playing some Call of Cthulhu, or just good listening when you're in the mood for some Lovecraftian music.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Not Cthulhu but...

...still quite horrifying, I'd say.

To post a small-res version here would be an injustice, so go over to Martin Rajmund's site for all the details and click the link for high resolution.

10 more albums #66

Various artists - Love in the 50's (2004, CD)
Various artists - 20th Century Masters: The Best of Bluegrass (The Millennium Collection) (2002, CD)
Donna Fargo - Good Old Country (2000, CD)
Don Gibson - Good Old Country (2000, CD)
Patty Loveless - When Fallen Angels Fly (1994, CD)
Various artists - Real Hot Jazz (1982, mp3)
Jimmy Smith - Straight Life (1961, CD)
Various artists - Anti Sampler, Fall (2009, mp3 download)
Various artists - Brushfire Records Fall Sampler (2009, mp3 download)
Various artists - Anti Fall Sampler (2009, mp3 download)

Love in the 50's is something my wife bought, as are many of these. A collection of pop songs from the 50s that included both more established as well as up-and-coming artists, and I deleted more than half the collection. The big score on this one is Sarah Vaughan singing "Misty," which is one of my favorite songs, regardless of artist or genre.

The Best of Bluegrass is another from the Millennium Collection series and was purchased from Not a spotless collection, but pretty good. My only minor gripes are with Ricky Skaggs on the first track (which is okay) and Vince Gill on the last track (which doesn't even sound like bluegrass to me). In between are more traditional bluegrass artists: Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, The Osborne Brothers, The Stanley Brothers and a couple of others. Has "Rocky Top" by The Osborne Brothers so that's a big plus. I always liked that song a lot when I was a kid, except when I was a kid I thought it was a woman singing it. The dude had a high voice.

The two Good Old Country albums are apparently part of a series of more "classic" country singers. I think the "greatest hits" tape I had of Donna Fargo when I was a kid was better than this CD. This one had one spoken-word piece which I deleted. Don Gibson was one of the true greats of country music who seems to me to be too-often overlooked. This disc has a lot of good songs on it, most notably "Sea of Heartbreak" which has been covered a multitude of times by other, often lesser artists. P.S. The first time I ever heard "Johnny B. Goode," it was sung by Donna Fargo (but it's not on this disc).

Patty Loveless was another of my wife's purchases. I'm not sure I'm going to keep it. It doesn't really do anything for me.

Real Hot Jazz is another of those very early digitally-recorded CDs from the very early years of the compact disc. It is out of print and I received an mp3 CD of it in trade for an mp3 CD of my out-of-print First Class Jazz. It's a great collection. Artists include Don Menza's 80s Big Band, Jack Sheldon's Late Show All-Stars, John Dentz Reunion Band and Freddie Hubbard.

Then we have yet another album by the great jazz organist Jimmy Smith. One more for the collection.

The last three are all free mp3 downloads from

CMJ09 turned out to be pretty good. I give it 7 out of 16 for notable artists and an overall score of 2.4, which is pretty good for these samplers. It's a mix of various kinds of indie/alt rock with one reggae track thrown in. Notable artists/group are: The Antlers, The Depreciation Guild, La Strada, The Generationals, Still Flyin', The Two Man Gentleman Band and The Budos Band. This collection has The Antlers' "Two," which I recently posted the video of.

The Brushfire sampler isn't quite as good. I gave it a 2.2 overall with only one notable artist: Zee Avi. She has a great voice. One track, "Peace, Love and Happiness" by G. Love and Special Sauce, I would have given a 2 but had to minus 1 for stupid lyrics.

The Anti sampler is another pretty good one, 7 out of 16 for notable artists and an overall score of 2.5. A wide sampling of various musical styles from the Anti label. Notable artists/groups: The Swell Season, Alec Ounsworth, Dead Man's Bones, Joe Henry, Booker T., Frank Turner, Jason Lytle. The Booker T. piece, "Hey Ya," is an instrumental that is funky, jazzy rock all rolled into one. Nice.

Total album count: 670.

It's dead, Jim

Global warming, that is. Of course the fanatics will still be flogging it since it gives them an excuse to exert control over others, so...if this turns out to be factual, and it looks like it will, be prepared to disseminate this information every chance you get.

From Andrew Bolt:
Hackers have broken into the data base of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit - one of the world’s leading alarmist centres - and put the files they stole on the Internet, on the grounds that the science is too important to be kept under wraps.

The ethics of this are dubious, to say the least. But the files suggest, on a very preliminary glance, some other very dubious practices, too, and a lot of collusion - sometimes called “peer review”. Or even conspiracy.

A warning, of course. We can only say with a 90 per cent confidence interval that these emails are real.

(ALTERNATIVE link to the files. And another link.)

Later...(same link as above):
8.15 PM UPDATE: The Hadley University of East Anglia CRU director admits the emails seem to be genuine:

The director of Britain’s leading Climate Research Unit, Phil Jones, has told Investigate magazine’s TGIF Edition tonight ..."It was a hacker. We were aware of this about three or four days ago that someone had hacked into our system and taken and copied loads of data files and emails."…

TGIF asked Jones about the controversial email discussing “hiding the decline”, and Jones explained what he was trying to say….

So the 1079 emails and 72 documents seem indeed evidence of a scandal involving most of the most prominent scientists pushing the man-made warming theory - a scandal that is one of the greatest in modern science. I’ve been adding some of the most astonishing in updates below - emails suggesting conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more. If it is as it now seems, never again will “peer review” be used to shout down sceptics.

This is clearly not the work of some hacker, but of an insider who’s now blown the whistle.

Not surprising, then, that Steve McIntyre reports:

Earlier today, CRU cancelled all existing passwords. Actions speaking loudly.

More commentary and a roundup of links at Samizdata.

Sorry about the weird formatting. Something was not totally kosher in the copy & paste.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Night Video: The Raveonettes - "Dead Sound"

The Raveonettes are rapidly moving upward in my favorite groups list. I'm going to have to buy a couple of their CDs pretty soon. Here's another one from them, dark, spooky and sorrowful.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I am giddy with delight

Untold eons ago, in internet relative terms, there was this website called The Gallery of the Absurd. Sometime in the mid-to-late 90s I came across it one Saturday--this was before either of the kids were born--while my wife was at work, and I sat here (actually there, in the old house) drinking Carlos Rossi red sangria and laughing hilariously for hours. Hours. Well, all good things must come to an end and eventually the guy who had put it together moved on to other things...

Having just caught up on all my blog reading and not being quite finished with my pipe, I decided to pass the time as usual...Scroogling my own name to see what turned up.

I do this fairly often, so I was surprised to see a new link turn up in the search results.

The Gallery of the Absurd is back, or has been back for a while, in blog form. And Derek has re-posted some of his old archives from the old site, which is how I found it because I had submitted a couple of things.

Boy, I can't wait to catch up.

P.S. And he's also still posting annoying J. Crew models.

P.P.S. And scary clowns.

When capitalism goes unregulated...*

Buy it at Amazon.

*It's satire, son, satire!

Juvenile coelecanths photographed for the first time

Details at Cryptomundo.

Pumpkin Fluff recipe

This is a recipe that a co-worker gave me and which is very easy and quick to make. It's always a big hit. NOTE: according to the woman who gave it to me, this is a Weight Watchers approved recipe. Of course you can also use the non-lite versions of the ingredients if you want to make it really rich.

1 can pumpkin (15 ounces)
1 tub Cool Whip (12 ounces, sugar free)
1 small box vanilla pudding (4 serving size, sugar free)
Pumpkin pie spice to taste

Combine all ingredients in a big bowl and mix with your electric mixer. Chill 2 hours.

You can use this to fill a graham cracker pie crust or--my favorite method--just leave in the bowl and use as a dip with graham crackers.

Weight Watchers stats: 1 cup of fluff equals one point (whatever that means) not including the graham crackers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Justice rides a Segway

I saw this guy patrolling the parking lot of the H.E.B. at the old McCreless Mall site and it just cracked me up. Like an elderly Captain America who can't handle a bike anymore.

It's closer than you think

Dork Tower comments on the "2012" hysteria.

(An extra joke is almost concealed in his post title).

Monday, November 16, 2009

A.A. Milne quote

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.
Don't I know it.


I was going to post a work pic today but the glare from the sun was too harsh and it didn't come out, so the sign couldn't be read. But what the heck, this is something I've wanted to complain about in a public forum for a long time so here goes.

The sign which I attempted to photograph is at the intersection of Iowa and S. Mesquite streets. It says that the block numbers for that part of Iowa are 600 to the east and 500 to the west.

It's wrong. It should say that the block numbers are 500 to the east and 400 to the west.

Based on my experience over the past several years--and particularly when I had a job delivering final cutoff notices for the local electric & gas utility--I can say with some confidence that a good 1/3 of these block number signs are wrong. They are either: 1) on the wrong block, 2) facing the wrong direction, or 3) both.

This is probably not something that most people will ever notice, unless you have a job that entails knowing exactly where you are at all times.

After making more wrong turns than I can remember from looking at these signs, I quit paying attention to them except as a rough guide for an approximate idea of where I might be on any given street. If you really want to know which block you're on, you have to look at the house/building addresses.

If you don't believe me, just start paying attention to them as you drive around. I'm quite certain that you will eventually be dumbfounded at how inept the city of S.A. is at the seemingly simple task of putting up street signs.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lovecraft's enlistment papers

I've been browsing through a site I recently discovered called H.P. Lovecraft and His Legacy, which is more about Lovecraft the person rather than about what he wrote. Lots of stuff about HPL himself and Lovecraft-era Providence, RI. A recent post shows Lovecraft's enlistment papers from June 5, 1917.


Friday, November 13, 2009

A slightly surreal and quite hilarious moment

I was on a two-man route today so we got to use a company truck. It's Friday, so that meant we had to wash the truck. We finished early, and there's a silly rule that we can't return to the office until 11:30, no matter how early we finish, so rather than wait for the prescribed time and then wash the truck at the yard, we went to a public car wash and shelled out a couple of dollars to get it done. I had always thought it was quite obvious that we are both blue-eyed eastern(ish) European-ancestry types. Well, suddenly a trucker who was lost stopped on the street and came running over to us to ask directions. This happens fairly often, because when people see us in our work shirts they always think we know where everything is. Anyway, the guy comes running up and the first thing he says is...

"Hey, you guys habla Inglés?"

And I answered...


Friday night video: The Antlers - "Two"

This song was part of a sampler I recently downloaded from Amazon. The music leans toward the sad and wistful, the lyrics are dark, disturbing and tragic. These are already good reasons for me to include it here, but this song has a good example of a musical phenomenon that has always interested me and tugs at my soul: suspended notes. This might also be referred to as "drones," but I don't like to use that word because of the negative connotations it holds for many; "drone" is often equated with "boring."

I will probably not be able to adequately put into words what I'm getting at, but I'll try. A suspended note when used properly adds its own kind of depth to the music: the sweetness of the harmony when the surrounding chord structure fits the note, and the tension of an out-of-place note when the surrounding chords do not fit with that note. The given note remains the same, but its color changes as the chords around it change.

In this song, listen for the distorted guitar in the background that holds the same note throughout almost the entire song. I believe the song is in the key of A, and the note we're listening for is an E, the fifth of the scale (or a "So") in this key.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Song ratings

In the past I started posting some song "ratings" on the free Amazon sampler downloads. I thought I might extend this rating system into other albums as well. The ratings I use were entirely made up by myself, and are pretty much arbitrary on how the song strikes me. This is largely based on my gut reaction to the piece, and seldom has anything to do with the proficiency of the musicians or the technicality of the music. Each song gets its own rating and the overall album score is simply the average of all the individual song ratings. It's a six-point system.

0 - "Bad." Originally this meant that I hated the song so much that I just deleted it. I have since changed this because I don't want to delete all of them even if they are really bad. Sometimes I keep it because I don't want to have an incomplete album. Sometimes I keep it as a future reference for the kinds of songs I really hate. If I heard such a song on the radio I would immediately change the station.

1 - "Meh." Nothing to recommend it, but it isn't entirely offensive, either. One of these would probably make me change the radio station, or at least turn it down a little.

2 - "Okay." Just a run-of-the-mill song that is just fine as background music but which I wouldn't go out of my way for.

3 - "Nice." With a rating of 3, a song is beginning to get into the better categories. Any song of 3 or higher would prompt me to further investigate the artist and likely buy their album. A 3 song would likely make me turn up the radio and probably try to sing along with it if possible, but would probably not effect me much emotionally.

4 - "Good." These are songs that I really like, songs that I will always try to sing along with if I hear them on the radio, and songs that have an emotional impact on me. I may not be able to describe exactly the kind of emotional impact, but I can feel it in my soul.

5 - "Great." It's almost impossible for a song to get a 5 rating. These are songs that, for one reason or another, have a deep emotional impact on me, or songs that trigger strong memories. The biggest difference between a 5 song and a 4 song are the depth of emotion they trigger.

Because of the nature of this "system," it is very unlikely that pieces without lyrics can score very high, and almost completely impossible for any instrumental song to get a 5. It's a very rare non-lyrical composition that can give me that "hit in the gut" feeling, but it has happened.

I'm working on building a list of "favorites," which I consider songs that I would rate a 3 or higher, and a list of "favorite favorites," which will be a list of 5's or possibly 4's and 5's.

I don't really like quantifying music like this, but I figured if I'm going to blog about music, I have to come up with some way to give a rating that I can remember and be consistent about and most everyone else can more or less understand.

Telegram from the Secretary of the Navy to All Naval Stations Regarding Mars, 08/22/1924

All the details here.

The unofficial city dump

What a neighborhood. I first read this route last month, when this street was still open enough to drive through. Not anymore. This is a view of Jenull Ave. from its intersection with Giddings.

There is nothing on the entire street except for one unidentified building with a high chain-link and barb-wire fence and hazard warning signs on the doors (something official, but no signs to say what the heck it is) right on the corner where I was standing. If you click the link and zoom in one level so you can read the smaller street names, neither is there anything on Hamel or Monsoon (I walked right past them and barely even noticed there were "streets" there) and barely anything on Giddings. A good one-third of the houses on Rotary are vacant. It's one of those places that is quiet...too quiet. There are so few meters in that little neighborhood and so much of what we call "dead walking" (walking a long distance without reading any meters) that at one point I read only 35 meters in 30 minutes. Terrible.

So if you ever need a place to dump your garbage or possibly a dead you go.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Road kill

I didn't take a picture of it, but today I came across a very nice buck with a perfect 8-point rack dead on the road on Wurzbach Parkway eastbound just before you get to Thousand Oaks (actually at a little dead end road called Tool Yard). He tried to cross the road in the wrong place. What a shame, and what a waste.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Unknown snake update

Back in May I posted a work pic of a snake that I couldn't identify. Recently a friend of mine who is quite knowledgeable in herpetological matters was hired as a temp and when I told him about it he immediately identified it from my vague description.

It is the Texas patchnose snake. And in the last few weeks I have seen several more.

From Beyond

'Something may come through' dimensional 'doors' at LHC • The Register
A top boffin at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) says that the titanic machine may possibly create or discover previously unimagined scientific phenomena, or "unknown unknowns" - for instance "an extra dimension".

"Out of this door might come something, or we might send something through it," said Sergio Bertolucci, who is Director for Research and Scientific Computing at CERN, briefing reporters including the Reg at CERN HQ earlier this week.
In the words of Crawford Tillinghast:
"What do we know," he had said, "of the world and the universe about us? Our means of receiving impressions are absurdly few, and our notions of surrounding objects infinitely narrow. We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with wider, stronger, or different range of senses might not only see very differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be detected with the senses we have. I have always believed that such strange, inaccessible worlds exist at our very elbows, and now I believe I have found a way to break down the barriers. I am not joking. Within twenty-four hours that machine near the table will generate waves acting on unrecognized sense organs that exist in us as atrophied or rudimentary vestiges. Those waves will open up to us many vistas unknown to man and several unknown to anything we consider organic life. We shall see that at which dogs howl in the dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight. We shall see these things, and other things which no breathing creature has yet seen. We shall overleap time, space, and dimensions, and without bodily motion peer to the bottom of creation."
P.S. boffin: British slang. a scientist or technical expert

Monday, November 09, 2009

Important reading

And I ask, whose paranoid are you?: On Ground Report - Just as it was sent.

Information from someone on the ground at Fort Hood as the mass murder was happening. Read it.

A fundemental misunderstanding of "free market"

BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Free market flawed, says survey
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new BBC poll has found widespread dissatisfaction with free-market capitalism.

In the global poll for the BBC World Service, only 11% of those questioned across 27 countries said that it was working well.

Most thought regulation and reform of the capitalist system were necessary.

There were also sharp divisions around the world on whether the end of the Soviet Union was a good thing.
In a world where governments (and unions) continue to dictate how much employees may be paid, who companies are allowed to trade with and where they may trade, and collecting permission fees (a.k.a. "taxes") for their ability to operate, someone please tell me exactly where this fabled free market is and how I can get there.


X-ray machine voted most important invention in Science Museum poll - Times Online:
Russell Reynolds had only one wish when in 1896 at the age of 15 he learnt of the discovery of X-rays: to possess his own X-ray machine.

The Westminster schoolboy enlisted the help of his father, John Reynolds, a GP, and set about building one. Within a year the machine was finished, and it is now displayed in the Science Museum in London.

Yesterday Reynolds’s pioneering spirit gained further recognition as the X-ray machine was voted the most important invention in the history of science. In a museum poll nearly 50,000 people voted on ten inventions and discoveries, which included penicillin, the Pilot ACE computer and Stephenson’s Rocket. The X-ray machine was a clear winner, with 9,581 votes.
Although I am not a scientist and therefore am probably wrong [smirk], I would allow that the x-ray machine is the greatest scientific invention of the 19th century.  However, my opinion is still that the greatest scientific invention of all time is the transistor.  Just remember how many great inventions that are in common use today would not have been possible without it.


Michael Jennings at Samizdata has posted a riveting photo-essay on his trip to Chernobyl and the USSR. Recommended reading.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

It's very, very quiet

Both kids are at a slumber party. My wife is studying her information pack for becoming a new Girl Scout leader. It's pipe time.

Even though I haven't ripped any records lately, I have a big backlog of stuff that I could post about, but I haven't felt like doing any critical listening lately. Sometimes making even brief notes and rating songs is just too much effort and I need to just let the music play and not think about it too much. Also I have been downloading free stuff from Amazon like mad.

I got all those Mojo Nixon albums they had, but had to partly pay for the last one because they went back to being not-free before I could finish. We finish paying for my truck in a few more months; that will be an extra $391 per month that we won't have to worry about and since I just put a new engine in the truck I hope for it to last for several more years. I've begun looking into options for a high-, or at least higher-speed, connection.

Work has been fairly easy lately, mostly because of the cooler weather. Also we are at full staff plus several temps for the first time since I got hired, and many of the 2-person motor routes lately have had three people on them because we are actually ahead of schedule, which seems quite strange to me. We just went past cycle 5 and are coming in to cycle 10 without having to work on a Saturday, which is a first during my time there.

I have nothing much to say about the atrocity of this past week. It was an act of terror, nothing less, despite what the MSM has to say about it. There are a multitude of blogs covering it, but in case you haven't yet seen it, be sure and read this twist at Atlas Shrugs.

Also, mainstream "journalists" would do well to read a dictionary now and then. There is a big difference between a tragedy and an atrocity. A flood, an earthquake, perhaps a car wreck is a tragedy. The Fort Hood shooting was an atrocity.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Friday night video

This one has embedding disabled, so you'll just have to click through to watch it, but I recommend it. All those great vintage toys!

I was going through my "misc singles" folder again recently to see if anything jumped out at me, and this one did so I looked up the video. I also really like the song and have added the album to my queue at

Owl City - "Fireflies"
You would not believe your eyes
If ten million fireflies
Lit up the world as I fell asleep

'Cause they'd fill the open air
And leave teardrops everywhere
You'd think me rude
But I would just stand and stare

I'd like to make myself believe
That planet Earth turns slowly
It's hard to say that I'd rather stay
Awake when I'm asleep
'Cause everything is never as it seems

'Cause I'd get a thousand hugs
From ten thousand lightning bugs
As they tried to teach me how to dance

A fox trot above my head
A sock hop beneath my bed
A disco ball is just hanging by a thread

I'd like to make myself believe
That planet earth turns slowly
It's hard to say that I'd rather stay
Awake when I'm asleep
'Cause everything is never as it seems
When I fall asleep

Leave my door open just a crack
(Please take me away from here)
'Cause I feel like such an insomniac
(Please take me away from here)
Why do I tire of counting sheep
(Please take me away from here)
When I'm far too tired to fall asleep

To ten million fireflies
I'm weird 'cause I hate goodbyes
I got misty eyes as they said farewell

But I'll know where several are
If my dreams get real bizarre
'Cause I saved a few and I keep them in a jar

I'd like to make myself believe
That planet Earth turns slowly
It's hard to say that I'd rather stay
Awake when I'm asleep
'Cause everything is never as it seems
When I fall asleep

I'd like to make myself believe
That planet Earth turns slowly
It's hard to say that I'd rather stay
Awake when I'm asleep
'Cause everything is never as it seems
When I fall asleep

I'd like to make myself believe
That planet earth turns slowly
It's hard to say that I'd rather stay
Awake when I'm asleep
Because my dreams are bursting at the seams

What the?!

Just checking my work email from home, and found this message. Other's names blurred out of respect for their privacy, whoever they are. There is a 118 Gayle Ave. in S.A., but I have never read that route. Also I have never turned off anyone's water. That's not my job. I can't help but think that sometimes our system is so convoluted that occasionally it generates emails all on its own. It just hasn't gained the required consciousness necessary to create true communication.

I wonder what would happen if I sent back a receipt.

Raising the flag

A few pix of the Cub Scouts raising the flag for tonight's football game. This is the first time they've ever raised it to half-staff, as far as I know.

My son is the one holding the bottom corner of the U.S. flag in the middle picture.


You know how sometimes you come across a website that has some kind of information with further links and you just keep following link after link after link until suddenly realize quite a long time has passed?

I just discovered what in my opinion is such a site, except that with this one you may actually learn something useful rather than just reading up on irrelevant bits of pop culture.

Check out Instructables.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

NSA coming to San Antonio

SA Current - NEWS+FEATURES: The panopticon economy:
Surrounded by barbwire fencing, the anonymous yet massive building on West Military Drive near San Antonio’s Loop 410 freeway looms mysteriously with no identifying signs of any kind. Surveillance is tight, with security cameras surrounding the under-construction building. Readers are advised not to take any photos unless you care to be detained for at least a 45-minute interrogation by the National Security Agency, as this reporter was.

There’s a strangely blurry line during such an interrogation. After viewing the five photos I’d taken of the NSA’s new Texas Cryptology Center, the NSA officer asked if I would delete them. When I asked if he was ordering me to do so, he said no; he was asking as a personal favor. I declined and was eventually released.

America’s top spy agency has taken over the former Sony microchip plant and is transforming it into a new data-mining headquarters — oddly positioned directly across the street from a 24-hour Walmart — where billions of electronic communications will be sifted in the agency’s mission to identify terrorist threats.

“No longer able to store all the intercepted phone calls and e-mail in its secret city, the agency has now built a new data warehouse in San Antonio, Texas,” writes author James Bamford in the Shadow Factory, his third book about the NSA. “Costing, with renovations, upwards of $130 million, the 470,000-square-foot facility will be almost the size of the Alamodome. Considering how much data can now be squeezed onto a small flash drive, the new NSA building may eventually be able to hold all the information in the world.”
I recommend reading this whole thing. Not only for information about this thing coming to S.A., but for a reminder of how our Fourth Amendment has been completely and effectively nullified in the interest of the almighty dollar. Here's another spooky little snippet:
The new NSA facility is just a few miles from Microsoft’s data center of the same size. Bamford says that under current law, NSA could gain access to Microsoft’s stored data without even a warrant, but merely a fiber-optic cable.
Further important reading is at New American.
No longer able to store all the intercepted phone calls and e-mail in its Ft. Meade, Maryland, headquarters, the NSA is engaging in its own housing boom. How much data will these giant, multibillion dollar new facilities hold? According to James Bamford of the New York Review of Books, the facility in Utah alone could hold data that will be measured in Yottabytes. Never heard of Yottabytes? You're not alone. Most computers sold at stores still measure their storage at gigabytes, or billions of bits of data. A few store a terrabyte of information, or one trillion bits of information. That's 1,000,000,000,000 pieces of information. Yottabytes is the highest number that has yet been named in computer information. The number is septillions of billions of bits of data, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bits of data.
Personal side note: I had to read the meter at the Microsoft place a couple of times. It's just outside the front gate right next to the security shack. I was having trouble finding it (because it was originally on the wrong route), and was told that the place belonged to Microsoft. That didn't help at all, because there is no identifying signage of any kind that would indicate what the place is.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The internet ghost town

The Mystery of Argleton, the 'Google' town that only exists online:
The town appears on Google Maps in the middle of fields close to the M58 motorway, just south of Ormskirk.

Its 'presence' means that online businesses that use data from the software have detected it and automatically treated it as a real town in the L39 postcode area.

An internet search for the town now brings up a series of home, job and dating listings for people and places "in Argleton", as well as websites which help people find its nearest chiropractor and even plan jogging or hiking routes through it. The businesses, people and services listed are real, but are actually based elsewhere in the same postcode area.

Texas CHL holder uses weapon in self defense

Strange in San Antonio has the scoop.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Odd vintage ad

Hard to tell at first glance, but this is an ad for a car: the Ford Zephyr. From 1953.

via Vintage Scans

Just in case you don't already hate DST as much as you should

Unhealthy time change:
Although daylight-saving time was sold politically as an energy-conservation measure, it does no such thing. Studies conducted in Indiana prior to 2006, when that state operated under three different time regimes, show either no difference in energy consumption or a small increase in power usage during the months after clocks were moved one hour ahead.

The annual ritual of springing forward and falling back thus possibly produces no energy savings and may be counterproductive. It also requires those who live in places where daylight-saving time is observed to waste time twice a year adjusting their clocks and watches.

Yet the costs of switching between daylight-saving and standard time go far beyond the hassles of "losing" an hour in the springtime and "gaining" it back in the fall.

I am not a doctor and I do not play one on TV, but the medical profession - as Dr. Osvaldo Bustos of George Washington University's School of Medicine pointed out to me recently - has known for years that shifting time forward or backward has negative, and possibly deadly, health consequences.
Read it all for full details.