Saturday, March 29, 2008

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Two-headed calf in Van Alstyne: "VAN ALSTYNE, TX - Its something we definitely don't see everyday...

'Oh its unusual. One in about 50 million I guess. That's what people say but I don't know if they knew what they were talking about or not,' says owner Joe Stephens.

We're talking about a two-headed calf. He was born yesterday and
Stephens says he didn't even notice it at first."


Thanks to Leigh Lundin for the tip.

Amazon changes rules for print-on-demand publishers: "March 28, 2008 (Computerworld) Inc. has told publishers who print books on demand that their titles will no longer be sold directly through Amazon if they don't use the company's printing company, BookSurge.

An article about the new policy appeared on, a weekly newsletter for writers. The owner of the Web site, Angela Hoy, is the co-owner of, a print-on-demand (POD) services company.

Hoy said she uses BookSurge's rival, Lightning Source Inc., in La Vergne, Tenn., which is owned by Ingram Industries Inc., to print the books her company publishes. According to information on the Lightning Source Web site, the company has printed more than 33 million books for more than 4,300 publishers.

Amazon's new policy means that any POD publisher that wants Amazon to sell its books directly will have to use BookSurge, which Amazon purchased in 2005, and not other printers, such as Lightning Source."

And Keep off Our Damn Lawns!

Older Americans wealthier, living longer: report | Reuters: "CHICAGO (Reuters) - Older Americans have more money and are expected to live far longer than prior generations, U.S. government researchers said on Thursday.

They said the average net worth of older Americans -- those 65 or older -- has increased almost 80 percent over the past 20 years.

And those who reach the age of 65 are now expected to live an average of 19 more years, or seven years longer than people who had reached age 65 in the year 1900."

10 Most Prophetic SF Movies?

10 Best Science Fiction Movies Ever – Most Prophetic Sci-Fi Films - Popular Mechanics: "When Arthur C. Clarke died last week at the age of 90, science fiction—hell, science in general—lost one of its greatest, most forward-looking masters. In his honor, PM’s resident geek and sci-fi buff analyzes the most eerily predictive, prescient films of the future. They’re not necessarily the best movies—just the ones that got the science right, or will sometime soon."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

My Way News - 4 Texas Cities Among Top 10 in Growth: "DALLAS (AP) - Four Texas metropolitan areas were among the biggest population gainers as Americans continued their trend of moving to the Sun Belt in 2006 and 2007, according to Census Bureau estimates to be released Thursday.

Dallas-Fort Worth added more than 162,000 residents between July 2006 and July 2007, more than any other metro area. Three other Texas areas - Houston, Austin and San Antonio - also cracked the top 10."

Yet Another List I'm Not On

The 25 Most Valuable Blogs.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Headline of the Day

Nats Stadium: 'It's Going to Spunk Us Up': "WASHINGTON -- Now that the team has seen its new digs at the new stadium, the adrenaline is pumping for the Washington Nationals."

Croc Update (Sunbathing Edition)

Video at link. And if you've been wondering where Donna Shalala was, she's the president of UofM. Who knew? Well, you probably did, but I didn't.

Protected by federal law, crocodiles at the University of Miami elude capture -- Endangered Species, Delray Beach, University of Miami -- South Florida "Coral Gables - On a typical spring afternoon on the leafy campus of the University of Miami, many of the 15,000 students are in class, others are romping around the athletic field, and a few are seeing how close they can get to a 6-foot American crocodile sunbathing with its mouth open.

'They apparently don't realize how dangerous this thing is,' said security guard Roberto Heredia as he warned curious collegians away from the toothy reptile. 'Some people think it's fake.'"


Judy and I are going to the AggieCon this weekend. We first attended in 1979, and we've missed only one since then, the year we went to Austria for spring break. We haven't had an outing in about 10 months, so we're really looking forward to it. If you happen to be around College Station this weekend stop by the Memorial Student Center and say "hey."

Homeland "Security"? I Report, You Decide - Woman Told To Remove Nipple Rings For SoCal Flight: "LOS ANGELES (AP) ― A woman was forced by the Transportation Security Administration to remove her nipple rings before she was allowed to board a flight, an attorney said on Thursday.

'The woman was given a pair of pliers in order to remove the rings in her nipples,' said Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred. 'The rings had been in her nipples for many years.'"

This strikes me as excessively painful, depending on how the rings are removed. Thanks to Todd Mason for the link.

Port Hazard -- Loren Estleman

A long time ago, 1981 to be exact, I wrote a short essay on Loren Estleman's westerns for 20th Century Western Writers. It wasn't too tough, since at the time Estleman hadn't written that many novels. I believe there were two books in the Page Murdock series then. Little did I know that 27 years later, I'd still be reading books about Page Murdock, the latest being Port Hazard.

The book is set in San Francisco, on the Barbary Coast and in Chinatown, a coincidence since I recently read and reported on Steve Hockensmith's The Black Dove, which also set in Chinatown, though about ten years later than Port Hazard. Naturally, the set-up is a lot different. Murdock isn't an amateur like Hockensmith's would-be detectives. He's a deputy U. S. Marshal, and a real hardcase. This time out, he gets involved with a shadow conspiracy called the Sons of the Confederacy, mainly because they're trying to kill him.

It's nothing personal. They're trying to kill other prominent lawmen, too, as a way of bringing back the Civil War. (Hey, it makes sense to them.) So Judge Hawthorne, for whom Murdock usually patrols Montana Territory, disregards a little thing like jurisdiction and sends Murdock to San Francisco. Murdock takes along a railroad Porter named Beecher to help him out, having noticed that Beecher seems like a steady hand and cool head. Before long, they're shooting it up on the Barbary Coast while living in a hotel that is so seedy it makes a cave look comfortable. Opium dens, murders, vigilantes, and lots more figure into the plot, which is flavored by Estleman's usual tasty prose.

Read this one along with The Black Dove, and you'll feel like you've spent a while in 19th century San Francisco. Both are well worth a look.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Lone Star Rising — The American, A Magazine of Ideas: "How a combination of ambition, entrepreneurship, trade, and tolerance made Houston America’s booming opportunity city."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way Metro | State: "NEW BRAUNFELS -- A middle school principal threatened to kill a group of science teachers if their students did not improve their standardized test scores, according to a complaint filed with the New Braunfels Police Department.

Anita White, who taught at New Braunfels Middle School for 18 years before being transferred this month to the district's Learning Center, said Principal John Burks made the threat in a Jan. 21 meeting with eighth-grade science teachers."

Croc Update (Migration Edition)

New sea crocodile fossil hints at transatlantic migration: "A fossil of a new species of prehistoric crocodile found in Brazil and presented here Wednesday has led scientists to believe the reptile benefited from the extinction of dinosaurs to migrate from across the Atlantic.

Guarinisuchus munizi -- the 'warrior of the seas,' as the crocodile has been dubbed -- is believed to have had its origins in Africa some 200 million years ago.

But the remains of a jaw, skull and vertebra discovered in Palaeocene deposits of northeastern Brazil suggests the species set off for new territory 62 million years ago, according to researchers."

Anna Nicole Smith Update

More passport reviews found at State - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - State Department workers viewed passport applications containing personal information about high-profile Americans, including the late Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith, at least 20 times since January 2007, The Associated Press has learned.

That total is far more than disclosed last week with the news that presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama had been victims of improper snooping."

Trader Horn

I caught this one on TCM the other night, never having seen it before. It was filmed in Africa in 1930, and it shows us Kenya as it will never be again. It holds up more as a travelogue than as an adventure movie, I think. Though there are still some stirring scenes, the middle sags when Trader Horn (Harry Carey) starts pointing out all the wildlife to Peru (Duncan Reynaldo), who at that point is still lugging his guitar along with him. and who's wearing a pith helmet the size of a washtub.

Horn and Peru are on their way to find the White Queen (Edwina Booth) and bring her out of the jungle. As you can see in the photo at the left, they do find her. They have considerable trouble getting her out of the jungle, however.

I imagine some people will find fault with a lot of things in this movie. Booth seems to think, at least part of the time, that she's in a silent. Racism is evident through out, though Horn's attitude toward Rencharo (Mutia Omoolu) is clearly not racist through and through. Lots of bare breasts in the National Geographic style, though Ms. Booth's remain covered. Must have been tough gluing that covering on with spirit gum.

The good news is that there are crocs. Lots and lots of crocs.

I'm glad I watched this, though I do wish that TCM had found a better print. The one they used needed a lot of work done on it.

Croc Update (Horrified Onlookers Edition)

Cop pot shots keep croc from 'idiot' drunk | "A DRUNKEN miner was only seconds away from being attacked by a crocodile in Australia's northern waters when police saved his life by shooting at the reptile.

Horrified onlookers watched from the shore outside the Alyangula Recreation Club on Groote Eylandt as the determined crocodile closed in on the man shortly before 11am (CST) today."

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for the link.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bob Elliott!

One of America's great funnymen turns 85 today. You can send a birthday greeting to him at Be sure to include your snail mail address in the e-mail.

Thanks to Art Scott for the reminder.


I like the cats who live here, but would I really want a picture of them in the arms of Jesus after they're gone?

The Crimespree Awards

They're posted here.

Richard Widmark, R. I. P.

I remember him fondly from many, many movies. Madigan remains a favorite. And I can't resist adding a little personal story here. Long ago I had a good friend named Pat Rawlings. He loved to tell about the time he was in O'Hare Airport (O'Hara, as he called it) and saw a big crowd of people. He couldn't figure out what was going on, so he went over. He still couldn't figure it out. All he could see was what appeared to be a circle of people, some of them talking, but most of them listening. A flight was called, and when the crowd broke up, Pat saw that they'd all been gathered around Richard Widmark, who, Pat said, "couldn't have been more than five feet tall. You couldn't even see him in the crowd." I suspect Widmark was taller than that, but you'd never have convinced Pat.

Richard Widmark, Actor, Dies at 93 - New York Times: "Richard Widmark, who created a villain in his first movie role who was so repellent and frightening that the actor became a star overnight, died Monday at his home in Roxbury, Conn. He was 93."

Set the TiVo!

April 3 is the date. Thanks to jj solari for the tip.

Paris Hilton: My Name Is Earl! | My Name is Earl, Paris Hilton : Just Jared: "Paris Hilton is set to appear as herself on an upcoming episode of NBC’s My Name is Earl.

The 27-year-old hotel heiress will appear in a dream sequence taking place in Earl’s fevered unconscious mind.

“When we wrote the role of Paris Hilton in the script, we weren’t exactly sure who to go with for the role,” said Greg Garcia, the show’s executive producer. “But after an exhausting search we finally settled on a relatively unknown actress by the name of Paris Hilton. I can’t wait to see what she does with the role and I can’t wait for America to discover her.”"

Childhood's End -- Arthur C. Clarke

I hadn't read this book in more than 50 years, but having fond memories of it, I thought I'd read it again to commemorate Clarke's passing. Turns out that it's not heavy on character development; it's one of those novels where the idea is just about everything.

The idea is that aliens show up in the sky. Their science is far in advance of ours, and they more or less take over the Earth, without ever coming down to it or allowing themselves to be seen. Clarke devotes a lot of the first third of the book to describing the changes that take place under the Overlords, as they're called. In the second third, which takes place fifty years after the first, the Overlords reveal themselves, but not their real purpose. And in the final third, we discover what that the Overlords, though they're guiding Earth, can never have for themselves the transcendent powers that are revealed in the novel's end, which is also the end of humanity's childhood.

BIG SPOILER: It's also the end of humanity, not just humanity's childhood. END OF BIG SPOILER

In spite of the fact that most of the books characters are pretty much cardboard, the last few chapters still retained the power to move me, and I can see why I have such fond memories of the novel. It's exactly the kind of thing that would have inspired me to write a lot of very bad teenage poetry
. The ending, and indeed the whole book, was the kind of thing that opened up my mind to things I'd never thought about before, the kind of things that made me love SF in the first place.

Clarke tosses out a couple of ideas in one sentence that I probably overlooked fifty years ago, a couple of reasons for humanity's golden age: "The first was a completely reliable oral contraceptive; the seconed was an equally infallible method -- as certain as fingerprinting, and based on a very detailed analysis of the blood -- of identifying the father of any child." Those things were probably being discussed at the time (1953) of the books publication, but they'd have been completely new to me. I'm glad I picked this one up again.

Wolverine Update

Photos at link.

It's true: wolverine is thriving near Tahoe: "Two more photographs of a wolverine lurking in the Tahoe National Forest were released Monday, extinguishing all doubt that the elusive predator exists in the wilds of California.

The wolverine pictures, taken from remote digital cameras by U.S. Forest Service researchers, mean the muscular carnivore with the almond-colored stripe has either avoided detection for three-quarters of a century or returned to the state after an epic journey."

D.B. Cooper Update

Feds check parachute for D.B. Cooper link - Breaking News Updates from Portland and Oregon - The Oregonian - "AMBOY, Wash. - There could be a major break in the biggest crime mystery in Northwest history.

According to the KOIN (6) website: The FBI in Seattle has begun analysis of a long-buried parachute - the same type used by skyjacker D.B. Cooper when he jumped from an Northwest Orient Airlines 727 with a 25 pound money bag containing $200,000 dollars ransom on Thanksgiving eve 1971.

The children of a Clark County contractor found the parachute buried in a field that their father has recently plowed for a road. The chute is white and conical shaped, dirty and deteriorated. Seattle Agent Larry Carr will clean it and search for a label, which could match the chute to a companion reserve chute left behind by Cooper in the plane."

The Real and the Unreal

Many photos at the link.

Advertising Vs Reality - A Product Comparison Project | "A German website,, has conducted a study of 100 different products by comparing the look of the products as shown by the packaging with the actual contents inside the boxes."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

15 Great Movies You Didn't Know were Science Fiction

That's what they think. I, however, knew most of these were SF from the start.

DC Comic Pulp Heroes Cover Gallery

Super Punch: DC Comic Pulp Heroes Cover Gallery: "Back in 1997, DC Comics featured painted pulp-style covers on all of its annuals and called the event 'Pulp Heroes.' I wish this had become an annual event. I've done my best to gather an image of every issue in the series, along with links to the cover artist's site."

Zombie Strippers -- the Trailer

Gator Update (Doggin' It Edition)

Gator Pulls Pet Dog Into Pond By Ear - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando: "Gizmo, a 7-pound gray Maltese-toy poodle mix, escaped through a hole in the porch screen at his home in Lutz on Sunday and ran down to the pond behind the house. In a matter of moments, the dog began to yelp.

Its owner saw an alligator grab the dog by the ear and pull him under the water. But Gizmo was able to break away even as the alligator clamped down on one of the dog's back thighs.

The alligator eventually let go and sank beneath the surface of the water."

38 Movie Remakes Coming Up

I doubt that all of these will be made, and of course the real question is, why bother?

Yet Another List I'm Not On

Digital Edge Blog - Newspaper Association of America: Advancing Newspaper Media for the 21st Century: "The following is data from Nielsen Online on the top 30 sites in the “News” category based on February 2008 traffic. This data takes into account U.S. home and work Internet usage, and it shows both unique visitors to each brand or channel and sessions per person. For more information about the sourcing of this data, please visit"

So Young, So Wicked -- Jonathan Craig

Juri Nummelin has touted this one, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm happy to say that it lives up to his recommendation.

Steve Garrity, a mob hit man, is assigned to go to a small town and kill Leda Noland, who's only fifteen. He doesn't want the job, but he's not given any options. He's not told why he has to kill her, either, but he's told it has to look like an accident. He's given only a short time to go to the town, set up a cover, and make the hit. As you've probably guessed already, things do not go as planned.

There's some really good stuff in this one. Garrity, whose a musician (an excellent pianist), is an unusual hit man, recruited after he kills a man in revenge for sleeping with his wife. He finds that he's good at the job, and there's a fine scene in a restaurant when he's bantering with a waitress who's trying to pick him up. Garrity's thoughts of how he's going to murder Leda are intercut with the conversation.

As I mentioned in my review of Alley Girl, I like Craig's procedurals narrated by a cop named Pete Selby. But after reading this book and Alley Girl, I'm convinced that Craig's noir standalones are worthy of rediscovery. Check 'em out.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Congratulations to McKenna Jordan & David Thompson!

McKenna Jordan & David Thompson - 3/24/2008 - Publishers Weekly: "Talk about being married to your job: on September 6, when McKenna Jordan, 26, and David Thompson, 36, say “I do” at the Dryburgh Abbey in Scotland, they will cement a bond that already has them spending most days and nights together. Jordan and Thompson are manager and assistant manager, respectively, of mystery bookstore Murder by the Book in Houston, Tex., where they regularly cohost some 150 author events a year. And on January 1, 2009, they will take over as co-owners of the bookstore. “Technically,” says Thompson, “McKenna is the one buying the store, so I’ll be working for her.”"

Hat tip to Sarah Weinman.

Arthur Lyons, R. I. P.

Details at The Rap Sheet. This is sad news indeed. I liked the Jacob Asch novels a lot, and in fact, I still have my paperback copies of most, if not all, of them.

Everybody's on YouTube

YouTube clip wins Austrian monks record deal - Telegraph: "For centuries their biggest claim to fame has been a relic of the True Cross, but now Austrian monks are poised for modern-day celebrity after winning a recording contract through YouTube.

The monks from the Holy Cross monastery near Vienna used the internet video sharing site to audition for Universal Music, which is recording an album of Gregorian Chants."

Croc Update (Vietnam Edition)

Vietnam latest news - Thanh Nien Daily: "Several crocodile breeders in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Chanh District are selling off their animals at low prices, fearing the crocodiles will soon die from exposure to severely contaminated water.

Like other breeders in the area, Tran Hoang Dung, head of the Minh Huy crocodile farm, said his animals had begun dying in the last few months while others had red, cloudy eyes."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

The Associated Press: Sex Offender Running for Mayor in Texas: "WILMER, Texas (AP) — A registered sex offender running for mayor of his small town says he hopes voters can overlook his 2004 arrest in which he was caught in a police sting trying to arrange sex with a 15-year-old girl on the Internet.

Brian Sliter said late Friday he accepts responsibility for his arrest and has received counseling that has helped 'turn my life around.'"

I Can Take It or Leave It Alone

Internet addiction 'should be recognised as a clinical disorder', psychiatrist claims | the Daily Mail: "Internet addiction is a serious public health problem and should be officially recognised as a clinical disorder, a psychiatrist claims.

Dr Jerald Block says there are four main telltale symptoms which include: Losing all track of time or neglecting basics such as eating or sleeping; cravings and feelings of withdrawal, including anger, tension or depression, when a computer cannot be accessed; an increased need for better computer equipment and software; and negative effects such as arguments, lying, fatigue, social isolation and poor achievement."

Mr. Monk in Outer Space -- Lee Goldberg

I've never seen so much as a single scene from the Monk television series. So why do I enjoy Lee Goldberg's books about the character so much? Well, let's see. They're funny, they're well-written, they're carefully plotted, and they're poignant. They probably have other good qualities, too, but those should do for starters.

In this one, Monk is called on to solve a murder (or murders) connected with a convention of Earthers, that is, people passionately devoted to a canceled '70s TV series called Beyond Earth, to which, of course any resemblance of any other TV series, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Goldberg has a lot of fun with the Earthers (they don't like being called Earthies), but it's not mean-spirited fun, as we (and Monk) discover as the book goes along. In fact, it leads to Monk's having a breakthrough moment.

As usual, Natalie Teeger's narration is just the right vehicle for the story, and Natalie has a few insights about herself that parallel Monk's breakthrough. Ambrose plays a crucial role, and Monk's relationship with his brother makes a big advance.

You say you don't read tie-in novels? You should give the Monk books a try and find out what you've been missing.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Message in a Bottle

The Associated Press: 1986 Message in Bottle Drifts 1,735 Mi.: "SEATTLE (AP) — Merle Brandell and his black lab Slapsey were beachcombing along the Bering Sea when he spied a plastic bottle among the Japanese glass floats he often finds along the shore of his tiny Alaskan fishing village.

He walked over and saw an envelope tucked inside. After slicing the bottle open, Brandell found a message from an elementary school student in a suburb of Seattle. The fact that the letter traveled 1,735 miles without any help from the U.S. postal service is unusual, but that's only the beginning of the mystery."

Arthur C Clarke, One More Time

While thumbing through some of my paperbacks, I ran across an afterword in a reprint edition of Childhood's End that closes with this comment by Clarke, from 1966: "I intend to go to the Moon when the tourist service starts; and I hope (but hardly expect) to go to Mars. . . ." Those were more hopeful times.

Shoot 'Em Up

Okay, this movie is preposterous. It starts out a mile or so over the top and then builds from there, sort of a live-action WB cartoon. No wonder I liked it.

Clive Owen plays Bugs Bunny. Really, with the carrots and everything. Except in this case, Bugs is better with a pistol than usual, and he sure does use those carrots to good advantage. The body count is astronomical, and the stunts are outrageous. Even the sex scene is outrageous, one of the best ever.

Is there a plot? Sure. Owen (they call him Mr. Smith in the movie, but we know better) saves a pregnant woman from a few dozen killers, delivers her child, and then becomes it surrogate father. Dozens, nay, hundreds more killers come after them. Why? Watch the movie, and you'll find out.

Paul Giamatti is the leader of the killers, and he's clearly having a fine time. Monica Bellucci plays the hooker with a heart of gold. I don't know who plays the kid.

Obviously some people aren't going to find the humor in a movie like this. I, on the other hand, laughed all the way through. You probably know where you stand on that kind of thing, but I thought I'd better warn you.

Easter Lore

From the "eggs-pert."