Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tarja Turunen

I'm still going through all my stuff, building up my big "general favorites" list for my phone/mp3 player and I came across one track today that prompted more special interest.  The video below isn't the track that was included on this particular Amazon sampler, but I think it's a good one.

Tarja Turunen is a Finnish classically-trained soprano who used to sing for a symphonic metal band called Nightwish (note:  also need to look them up) but has since gone out on her own.  Here's her official video for "Die Alive," which I like quite a lot.

 And just for kicks, here she is performing with a band who you may recognize.

The first electronic hacker

I found this to be very interesting.
LATE one June afternoon in 1903 a hush fell across an expectant audience in the Royal Institution's celebrated lecture theatre in London. Before the crowd, the physicist John Ambrose Fleming was adjusting arcane apparatus as he prepared to demonstrate an emerging technological wonder: a long-range wireless communication system developed by his boss, the Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. The aim was to showcase publicly for the first time that Morse code messages could be sent wirelessly over long distances. Around 300 miles away, Marconi was preparing to send a signal to London from a clifftop station in Poldhu, Cornwall, UK.
Yet before the demonstration could begin, the apparatus in the lecture theatre began to tap out a message. At first, it spelled out just one word repeated over and over. Then it changed into a facetious poem accusing Marconi of "diddling the public". Their demonstration had been hacked - and this was more than 100 years before the mischief playing out on the internet today. Who was the Royal Institution hacker? How did the cheeky messages get there? And why?
Read the whole thing at New Scientist.

And in hindsight, it seemed a very arrogant and condescening attitude from Marconi to claim "I can tune my instruments so that no other instrument that is not similarly tuned can tap my messages."  Especially since the first spark-gap transmitters blanketed huge swaths of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The work

I have been working on another installment of The Hunter Chronicles, which this time is set at Christmas-time, more or less.  Almost finished but I think it will require some work before I'm ready for it to see the light of day.  Less atmospherics in this one, and more action, along with some long-overdue character development and a glimpse of Hunter's true potential, which I referred to in a previous story but I don't think anyone really caught it.  But then, at the time I didn't want anyone to catch it, yet.  I'm also still looking for a good epigram for it.  Haven't come across anything yet.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

For no particular reason...

"Dancing Bear" by The Mamas and The Papas.  This turned up on the phone today when I was shuffling some tunes, and this has always been a favorite of mine.  I like the sad, minor melody.  I don't know for sure what that low-toned woodwind is that plays through this song, but it sure sounds like a bassoon to me.

The back-up pocket knife

Since I had recently mentioned pocket knives, I thought I would post a photo of my back-up knife.  I got this one from some mail-order military surplus place many years ago and have hardly ever used it.  It's also made by Victorinox (the Swiss Army knife folks) but as you can see it's not a SAK.  This one was made for the German military, I don't know what era, and is a good knife as every Victorinox knife I've ever had is.  A standard blade, plus a saw blade.  The piece of metal lying alongside the saw blade is a metal cover for the saw.  I suppose they put that on there so you don't lose a finger when you use the bottle opener.  My biggest complaint about it is that it doesn't have a Phillips head screwdriver.  Slightly lesser complaints are no tweezer and no toothpick.  I think this is probably the only corkscrew I own.  It came with that lanyard rope that you see in the picture and I never bothered to remove it.  By the way, I used this knife when I was teaching some Cub Scouts how to sharpen a knife for their whittling chips.  Not that it has ever needed sharpening.  It keeps an edge like Mournblade.

And just for kicks, two other tools that are always at my desk.  Just above the knife is my good pipe tool which I use only here at my desk.  Outside I use other, cheaper and easier-to-replace pipe tools.  To the left is a Senior pipe reamer with the drill removed.  The drill is used to clean out the air passage in the shank.

My phone doesn't take really good pictures, but you can click to enlarge if you want to.

Stop-action nightgaunts

Along with a recitation of "Nightgaunts" from Lovecraft's "The Fungi from Yuggoth."  Pretty cool.  My only criticism is that I don't think the nightgaunts "faces" are as smooth and featureless as they should be.

Amusing and informative

The 25 Most Powerful Songs of the Past 25 Years, according to  Interesting.  I would've never guessed #1.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Weekend update

I hope all my legions of readers had a safe and pleasant holiday season, although I guess technically it's not over until after the New Year.

By the way, I don't really think of the official New Year's Day as the beginning of the year.  I know it's the beginning of our customary calendar year, but I have a more pagan outlook on it in that I always think of the year turning over on the winter solstice.

We had a fairly good Christmas this year, except that there were a few fewer people at my dad's place because so many relatives are getting advanced in age and don't get around much anymore.  As for me personally, I got some money from my mom which I might use to buy a replacement pocket knife.  I somehow managed to lose my favorite knife--a Tinker model Swiss Army knife which my wife gave me for Christmas the year we were married and which I've carried always for the past 18 years.  It can easily be replaced, but there was sentimental value in the original.  I might upgrade to the Super Tinker which is still small enough to be carried in the pocket but which has a couple of extra tools.

I also received a gift card to Best Buy, which I've already spent via their website.  I kind of wanted to indulge in a game or two for myself for the Wii, but was reluctant to spend my own money on such a thing.  I was able to get two pre-owned games for the value of the card plus a couple of extra dollars.  One was Bleach:  Shattered Blade which I've had on my hit list since I got the Wii for the kids last year.  It got high reviews at Amazon and looks pretty interesting, with the ability to unlock extra characters who all have different powers and skills.  Also I'm looking forward to annoying the kids by yelling getsuga tensho! every chance I get.  I'm not sure if Ichigo's getsuga tensho attack is even in the game, but I'm going to yell it anyway.  Also, bankai!

The other game also got very good reviews:  Shiren the Wanderer, which is a "roguelike" fantasy role-playing game and which I found by searching for games that were similar to D&D.  I had to look up "roguelike."  I was aware that there had been a game called Rogue but I had never played it.  It basically means that there is a lot of randomization built in so that nothing is ever exactly the same twice.

Tonight I have been using YouTube to fully explore an album that I had bookmarked some time ago:  Digital Ghosts by Shadow Gallery.  I like it a lot.  They caught my ear because their song "With Honor" was included on a metal sampler that I downloaded from Amazon not long ago.  Progressive metal driven by guitars but with plenty of keyboards too, and good harmony vocals.  This is their most recent album, and the first since their original lead singer died.  So I'll have to go back and listen to some of their older stuff, too.  Here's "With Honor."

On second thought, get into things in cellars

Now that it's nearing the end of the year, I was looking through a list of free samplers at to see what I had overlooked. I found this one from 2009.

Back then I was still using dial-up, and although I did download some stuff, I had to be careful and pick and choose. So the multiple bad reviews of this one was probably the reason I skipped it. Today I looked over those reviews again and downloaded it for a trial listen.

Heh. The reviews cracked me up.  I especially liked the "cautionary tale." The sad thing is: I've heard worse. Not a great deal worse, but somewhat worse, yeah.

Here's the link, in case you want to experience it for yourself.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cleaning out the phone

I thought I'd go ahead and clear out some phone pix that have been building up over the past month or so. Not all of these are work pix, but I'll file it under that category anyway.

This was taken somewhere on the east side on November 16.  I don't remember what street I was on.

This one is from Thanksgiving Day, so I must have been at my father-in-law's house.  I found it fascinating that Original Peanut Squares contains peanuts.

These two pix were from somewhere in the Great Northwest area of the city--probably in that area where all the streets are named Timber something.  I was stunned to see all this red as I was coming up the street and thought a real poinsettia freak must live there.  When I got closer I could see that it was all artificial.  P.S.  You can see the cover of their water meter at the bottom center of the bottom photo.  From November 28.

I took this one because, of all the people in my company of employment who should know that new vehicles in Texas don't have to get inspected for TWO years after purchase, it would be the woman who sends out the emails reminding people that they need to get their truck inspected.  I had taken this so I could send it in an email back to her to show her that my truck doesn't expire for another year, because I was tired of being bothered by her emails.  But then the next day they made paper printout copies of all these emails and handed them to us as if we were all imbeciles who didn't know how to check their emails.  I exploded a little bit, because every now and then I can't tolerate being treated like an idiot anymore (also, I had already notified several people both by email and by direct verbal communication about this).  So I don't think I'll need this photo anymore.

Now why would I take a photo of part of a gas pump at H.E.B?  Take a look at the slightly more close-up bottom photo for a hint.

Hayes Carll - "I'm Grateful for Christmas This Year"

Friday, December 23, 2011

One of these is not like the others

One of these just doesn't belong.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Let me put this very bluntly...

Go to hell, you treasonous bastard.  I'm sure Kim is waiting for you there.

And...Two of a Mind at The Forth Checkraise.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chris Rea - The Road to Hell (1989)

Well I'm standing by a river
But the water doesn't flow
It boils with every poison you can think of
And I'm underneath the streetlight
But the light of joy I know
Scared beyond belief way down in the shadows
And the perverted fear of violence
Chokes the smile on every face
And common sense is ringing out the bell
This ain't no technological breakdown
Oh no, this is the road to hell

When music is the topic and I mention this album, invariably the person with whom I'm speaking has never heard of it.  Never heard of Chris Rea, never heard either of his two radio hits from this album.  And it's a real shame.

In 1989 I was listening to Austin's KGSR quite a lot, which is how I heard of this album and these songs.  I suppose if I had gone as far as Austin I might have found it in a music store there, but in all of Seguin, San Antonio, New Braunfels and San Marcos, there was nary a copy to be found.  Take a look at the top 100 hits of 1989 and what do you see?  Crap.  Pure, unadulterated crap (except maybe for that one R.E.M. song).  Just count how many times you see Milli Vanilli (Milli frikkin' Vanilli) on this list.  When it came to music, 1989 was a terrible, terrible year.*

Of course, it hasn't gotten any better.  Top pop hits continue to suck, but there's a good reason.  It's because even back then, 22 years ago, as Chris Rea tried to tell us, we were already on the road to hell.

Chris Rea plays slide guitar and has a voice full of the warmth and soft roughness of a dirt road in the summertime.  Once you hear it, you will not forget it.  He's from England, and he wrote one of the best Texas songs I've ever heard.

But no radio station in S.A. ever played it, so if you lived here back then, I'm sure you never heard it.  Unless you tweaked your antenna until you could pick up KGSR like I did.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Submitted for your entertainment

Tastefully Offensive, which I discovered recently and has made me laugh a few times. It's where I found this:

This had me laughing for a long time yesterday. Must be the psychopathic streak in me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Must be new to the show

Anyone who has watched Bleach for any amount of time will know the answer to this one.

P.S.  The correct answer to this questions is:  whatareyoukidding?

Friday, December 16, 2011

The customer is always stupid

I was in a neighborhood off Woodlake Parkway today and, just to be clear, it rained quite a lot yesterday.  I got to one point where there was a big puddle in the street, and some guy standing in his yard looking fierce with his arms crossed.  He approached me and demanded:

"Who do I call about this?"  And his arm swept sideways to indicate the street.

"You mean the water?"  I asked.


...(pause)..."It's rain water."

[Honestly, I know sometimes my answers sound dumb, but it's only because I'm so often stunned by preposterous questions.  What I really meant by that was, "gravity dictates that water in the atmosphere is drawn to the earth; gravity further dictates that water on the earth is drawn to the lowest available elevation--once there, when it can't get any lower, it pools."]

"I know it's rain water, but it's just standing there!"

"I don't know," I said.  "Public Works, I guess."  And I went on my way.

I can just imagine the laughter at the City of S.A. when he calls them up and demands they rebuild an entire street just so water won't puddle in front of his house.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I don't call this a pet peeve

Because that makes it sound like something I would enjoy being annoyed by.  I don't enjoy being annoyed by anything, and in fact this is one that always makes me want to slap someone really hard, preferably while wearing a chainmail glove.

From The Telegraph:
An avalanche of more than 100 apples rained down over a main road in Keresley, Coventry on Monday night.
The street was left littered with apples after they pelted car windscreens and bonnets just after rush-hour. 
The bizarre downpour may have been caused by a current of air that lifted the fruit from a garden or orchard, releasing it over the junction of Keresley Road and Kelmscote Road.
Jim Dale, senior meteorologist, from British Weather Services, said: "The weather we have at the moment is very volatile and we probably have more to come. 
"Essentially these events are caused when a vortex of air, kind of like a mini tornado, lifts things off the ground rising up into the atmosphere until the air around it causes them to fall to earth again.
Items falling inexplicably from the sky is my favorite strange phenomena.  Every time--every time--it happens, the first excuse the "experts" come up with is a "vortex" or "mini tornado" or some such thing.

And yet it was only apples.  No leaves, no twigs, no other items that could just as easily have been swept up along with the apples.  Only apples.

Every time I've seen a report of, let's say, falling frogs, it's only frogs.  The excuse is that they were swept up out of their element by atmospheric phenomena, and yet it isn't a rain of frogs and the water they were living in along with a bunch of small fish and other debris.  It's only frogs.

I'm not saying it isn't because of some unknown atmospheric phenomena.  It's just that the intentional blindness of these people to the lameness of their own excuses always stuns me.

Enterprise sounds

First read the comic so you know what sound I'm talking about.

Then download the sound here.

Vintage gun ad: Santa with a Stevens (1903)

Thanks to Brer via email.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Treasure found on Wake Island

12/5/2011 - WAKE ISLAND AIRFIELD, Alaska -- In a tale straight from an adventure book, personnel stationed at Wake Island Airfield in the mid-Pacific recently stumbled upon a vinyl record collection with an estimated value between $90,000 and $250,000.
 The 611th Air Support Group's Detachment 1 is now making a comprehensive effort to preserve the nearly 9,000 vintage vinyl records and ship them to their rightful owner, the American Forces Radio and Television Network in Alexandria, Va., according to Master Sgt. Jean-Guy Fleury, infrastructure superintendent, who took over the project from the former Detachment 1 commander, Maj. Aaron Wilt.
 No digging was required to access this treasure, as the records were cataloged and neatly organized on shelves in a small room on the second floor of the Wake Island Airfield base operations building. The door was conspicuously stenciled with the name of the radio station, KEAD, and a restricted area warning, which kept most people out.
 "That's a locked room normally, but people in my department have known the records were there for years," said Colin Bradley, communications superintendent with Chugach Federal Solutions, Inc. CFSI is the contractor that currently manages operations on Wake Island with the oversight of Air Force quality assurance personnel.
 "Because of the completeness of the collection, I assumed it was quite valuable. I have not run across a collection that well preserved or that intact in my career. It's a little time capsule," he said.
 The collection includes a variety of vinyl albums and records specially made for military audiences and distributed monthly by the American Forces Radio and Television Network, as well as some commercially available records.
"In 1942, the American Forces Radio Service was started to get American music out to the troops overseas," said Larry Sichter, American Forces Network Broadcast Center Affiliate Relations Division chief. "Some of the radio productions were original, like GI Jill and Command Performance, and have significant value."

Very interesting.  Read the whole thing.

I'll never have to buy another pair of blue jeans again

I just want to say thank you to all the S.A. rate payers for supplying me with enough blue jeans to last me the rest of my life.

I have five pair that I wear on a regular weekly rotation, so they're faded, slightly torn, etc.  One more pair that I wear rarely, only when I work a Saturday.  A few more that I keep aside for "special" occasions when I want to wear nice, new-looking jeans, and 10 pair in the closet that I've never touched.  I get measured for another 5 pair this week.

In the 4+ years I've worked there, I've worn out about 10 pair.  Some of them were old jeans from before I started this job.

I thought I had kept the dog attack jeans from my previous job, just to show people what they looked like after a German Shepherd had mangled them, but I must have thrown those away.  Or maybe my wife did.  She might have gotten tired of seeing a pair of ripped up jeans with my blood stains still on them carefully folded and put up on the closet shelf.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

They planned on buying one of those "goats in trees" calendars, probably

I'm number 1!

GunXSword opening theme

GunXSword, or perhaps more conventionally for English, Gun/Sword, is a mecha anime that is similar to Trigun in that it mixes science fiction elements with a setting resembling the American Old West.  It's the story of a man named Van who is wandering the world on a quest of vengeance, looking for the man who killed his wife.  His primary companion is a young girl named Wendy who is searching for her long-lost brother.  I usually tend to avoid the mecha genre, but so far I've seen the first 17 episodes and the giant robot fights have been held to a fair minimum and I've been enjoying it.

This is another anime in which a powerful hero (or anti-hero) character is accompanied by a much younger and relatively powerless companion.  This is a theme which is used fairly often, in my experience, for example it is also used in Claymore and Samurai Champloo.

Another similarity this show has with Trigun is that the opening theme is not an abbreviated version of a previously existing song.  This opening theme was composed specifically for GunXSword and is simply titled "GunXSword."  The graphics on this version are not great, but it's the only one I could find that wasn't just a slide show collection set to the theme music. Keeping in my that this story is western-themed, I think you should easily be able to hear where some of the inspiration for it came from. The composer is Kōtarō Nakagawa, who has created music for numerous anime and video games.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Claymore opening theme: Raison d'ê·tre by Nightmare

Claymore is an anime series about incredibly hot woman/monster hybrids who go around killing human-eating monsters with very large swords.  It's is particularly about a single woman/monster hybrid named Clare who's on a quest for vengeance against an especially powerful monster that killed a friend of hers.  That's all you really need to know about it.  Sure, there are many more details to fill out the story, but that should be enough to get you interested.  If not, then fine.  The opening theme is another hard guitar-driven piece by the band Nightmare.  Here's a "clean" opening (all credits removed).  Note:  I can't get this video to finish on my computer, it stops just before the end.  I had to download it to be able to view the whole thing, but you should still get the idea.

I believe this falls into the "seinen" category of anime, that is, oriented more toward adults and older adolescents, without the comical facial expressions often used in shonen anime such as Bleach and Trigun.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

More anime notes

There's a new Fullmetal Alchemist movie:  The Sacred Star of Milos.  Trailer:

Since the story was pretty much finished--thoroughly and completely finished--unless they jump forward several years and make a new story about Ed's & Al's kids, I don't know where in the timeline this could possibly take place.  But what the hey.

Also I read that there may be a Bleach live-action movie in the works, but it doesn't really excite me.  They couldn't possibly do justice to that series in a two-hour movie.  There's just too much "filler" (digression, arguments, flashbacks, counter-arguments, two-episode-long "life flashing before his eyes" death scenes, whatever).  And they'll never find people who look just like the anime characters.  I'd just be thinking "who are these imposters?" the whole time.

Had mandatory overtime today.  Got rained on quite a bit, which always puts me in a bad mood.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Another great article about introverts

Great article here:  10 Myths About Introverts.  #4 is especially one of the truest truths I've ever seen.  Next time someone asks me why I hate people, I'm going to say, "I don't.  I'm just over-sensitive to dopamine.  So **** off."

A few anime notes

Several months ago, Netflix lost streaming rights to a bunch of anime shows that were all distributed by a certain American distributor.  There were only two affected shows that I had in my queue, and I had never watched one of them, but the other was a favorite of mine and I noticed when it suddenly disappeared--we had just watched the first episode so my son could see it because I knew he'd like it.

Apparently the streaming rights have been reestablished because when I got home today, the shows were back in my queue.  So...Netflix now has Trigun again.

In other anime news, I read that someone is making a live-action Akira.  I got into the anime thing late, so I've never seen Akira.  For such a legendary movie, it sure is hard to find.

I've caught up on Bleach lately, watching the subtitled versions on Crunchyroll.  Finished up on episode #349 (which is about 100 episodes in the future of what they're currently airing on Adult Swim) and now I'll just wait a couple of months until they add more episodes.

I kind of wish Netflix would have Tokko on their streaming service.  I'd like to see the versions that were not butchered for broadcast on Sci-Fi.  They do have it on DVD.  I might get the discs sometime when I don't have anything else I'd rather see.

Other than Bleach, I've lately been watching Claymore and GunXSword, both via Netflix.  Claymore is a sort of human/monster hybrids going around killing demonic monsters with swords story (as is, by the way, Tokko).  GunXSword is, I guess, technically mecha (hardy har har--technically mecha?  get it?) which usually doesn't interest me, but in this one the human stories take greater precedence over the giant robot fights, so it's worth it.

Here's Bleach opening #15, which is the opening for the current series I've been watching. Sounds like a cool song, but unfortunately I haven't been able to find a full version of it yet. For some reason, every video of this one on YouTube is reversed. This opening shows all of Ichigo's family (his father and his two sisters--their mother died about 10 years before the series begins) followed by his high school friends, then follows that with a new group of humans-with-special-powers who he encounters.  The song is by Scandal, a Japanese all-woman band.

I did just notice that one of Ichigo's friends--Sado (Chad)--is conspicuously absent from his other friends.  However, he does appear briefly later on.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A couple of haunting tales

In audiobook form.  First, Snow, Glass, Apples is a twisted take on the Snow White story by Neil Gaiman.  If the voice of the narrator sounds familiar, it's because it's Bebe Neuwirth, who most people are probably familiar with as Lilith from Cheers.  Told from the point of view of the (allegedly) evil stepmother.

Next is "Murder Mysteries," also by Gaiman (part 1 and part 2).  This tale-within-a-tale is especially engrossing and leaves the reader (listener) with a sensation of haunting disturbance.

Both of these audio versions were from Seeing Ear Theatre, a project of the Sci-Fi channel to produce SF audiobooks.  This project has since folded (probably about the time they started showing frikkin' wrestling on "Syfy"*) but of course all the files are still floating around the internet in various places.

It goes in quotes on this blog, and I will use it only derogatorily until they change their name to something that doesn't look like urban slang for venereal disease.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Zoidberg R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn