Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ike Update

Some Texans still living in tents after Ike - Hurricane Ike- "OAK ISLAND, Texas - Truong Van Cao and two other fishermen share a cramped, muddy tent amid the wreckage of homes, including his own, destroyed when Hurricane Ike stormed across this tiny Southeast Texas town.

Seventy miles to the northeast, Bridge City retirees Ferrel and Jerry Ashby waited a month to get a mobile home from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the storm flooded their house.

On Galveston Island, the bullseye for Ike's arrival, Roshonda Domingeaux and her family have bounced around from shelter to shelter since Ike's 12-foot storm surge destroyed her house."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Marching Band Routine Offends Mental Health Organization - San Antonio News Story - KSAT San Antonio: "SAN ANTONIO -- Instead of showing off their skills with steps and sounds, some people are calling the Churchill High School marching band's recent performance offensive.

The band's performance at the University Interscholastic League's state band competition -- entitled 'Symphonic Schizophrenia' -- included props resembling padded walls and had some band members dressed in strait jackets running around the field in an erratic manner."

Happy Birthday, Daniel Pinkwater!

One of the greats. I highly recommend The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, Fish Whistle, and many, many others.

Gentlemen of the Road -- Michael Chabon

I guess I just don't get Michael Chabon's short novels.  I didn't think much of The Final Solution, and I don't think much of Gentlemen of the Road, either.  I keep hoping Chabon's going to write something again that's as magical for me as Wonder Boys or Kavalier and Klay, but so far he hasn't done it.

Gentlemen of the Road is a pastiche of Moorcock, Leiber, Howard, and others.  The setting is the Silk Road in time of the Khazar Empire (you could look it up).  Amram, a huge African, and Zelikman, a Jew, are the gentlemen of the title, adventurers living by their wits, getting into fights, you know the drill.  They find themselves saddled with Filaq, heir to a throne, but delivering Filaq turns out to be a lot of trouble.  So you get your battles, your captures, your escapes, your re-captures, your re-escapes, etc.  

In other words, it's the kind of thing I like to read now and then.  So what's my problem?  It's the prose and the message.  Chabon wants to be literary, he wants to write a propulsive adventure, and he wants to be a bit jokey, too.  It doesn't work for me.  If Robert E. Howard, say, had written this tale, you can bet it would have moved twice as fast.  And Howard, even though he was getting paid by the word, would have done it in half the space.  He'd have clarified the plot, too, I'll bet.  You'd be better off reading Howard's "Tower of the Elephant" or some other adventure than this.  Well, maybe you wouldn't, but I would.

007's Hottest Cars

With photos.

Ilsa, the Tigress of Siberia

Friday, November 14, 2008

Moon Landing Update

India plants flag on Moon • The Register: "India has become the fourth nation to join the stuff-on-the-Moon club, after the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in lunar orbit successfully launched an impact probe at the lunar surface this afternoon. The 35-kg impactor was blazoned with the Indian flag.

'It will signify the entry of India on Moon,' an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) official said, quoted by the Times of India. The probe drop was described as a 'perfect operation'."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Dallas ISD faulted for using fake Social Security numbers | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Latest News: "Years after being advised by a state agency to stop, the Dallas Independent School District continued to provide foreign citizens with fake Social Security numbers to get them on the payroll quickly."

I'm Glad That's Settled

Tech puts JFK conspiracy theories to rest - "A team of experts assembled by the Discovery Channel has recreated the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Using modern blood spatter analysis, new artificial human body surrogates, and 3-D computer simulations, the team determined that the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository was the most likely origin of the shot that killed the 35th president of the United States."

Forgotten Books: JITTER JOINT -- Howard Swindle

Howard Swindle was a reporter who was nominated for an Edgar for true crime before he turned to fiction. Jitter Joint was his first novel, and it's a good one. Jeb Quinlin is a Dallas homicide cop. He's also an alcoholic, and at the beginning of the novel he's committed to a rehab hospital, the jitter joint of the title. Turns out there's a serial killer in the joint, which sort of complicates life. Quinlin has to get his own life in order and find the killer, no easy task.

One of the fascinating things about the book is the treatment that Quinlin undergoes. There are plenty of books about cops or private-eyes who are recovering alcoholics, but I can't think of another one that goes into such detail about the rehab process. It's hard not to be reminded of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest while reading this book, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Swindle knew what he was talking about. Like Quinlin, he survived an abusive alcoholic father only to fall into alcoholism himself. I met Swindle only once, at a ClueFest in Dallas, shortly before he was diagnosed with the cancer that killed him all too soon. He published one other novel, a good one called Doin' Dirty. There's more about Swindle and his work here. It's well worth a read.

Jitter Joint was made into a movie with a great cast, including Sylvester Stallone. Unfortunately, it was one of those cases where if you didn't know the movie was supposed to be derived from the novel, you'd never guess it by seeing the movie. It's not set in Dallas but in some deserted area of Wyoming with lots of snow and ice. It was never released to theaters in the U. S. It's on DVD, maybe as D-Tox, maybe as Eye See You. Okay, I checked Netflix. Either title will bring up the movie.

Cannibal Women in the Jungle of Death

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Grapevine pastor: Celebrate marriage -- have more sex | Religion | - Houston Chronicle: "Marriage is the only right place for sex, says Ed Young, senior pastor of Grapevine's nondenominational Fellowship Church. So he's encouraging married couples to celebrate by having sex every day for a week starting Sunday."

Anciet Joke Book Translated -- You've Been Getting the Jokes in E-Mails for Years

Dead parrot sketch ancestor traced to fourth century - Yahoo! News: "LONDON (AFP) – A direct ancestor of Monty Python's renowned 'Dead Parrot' sketch has been found in a book of jokes dating back to Greece in the fourth century AD, a publisher said Thursday.

A new English translation of 'Philogelos: The Laugh Addict' contains a joke in which a man complains that a slave he has just bought has died.

'By the gods,' answers the slave's seller, 'when he was with me, he never did any such thing.'"

They Should Check with that British Guy

Pentagon Clears Flying-Car Project for Takeoff | Danger Room from "Pentagon mad-science division Darpa is helping build thought-controlled robotic limbs, artificial pack mules, real-life laser guns and 'kill-proof' soldiers. So it comes as no surprise, really, that the agency is now getting into the flying-car business, too.

Darpa hopes its 'Personal Air Vehicle Technology' project, announced yesterday, will ultimately lead to a working prototype of a military-suitable flying car -- a two- or four-passenger vehicle that can 'drive on roads' one minute and take off like a helicopter the next. The hybrid machine would be perfect for 'urban scouting,' casualty evacuation and commando-delivery missions, the agency believes." Dewey Decimal System Meme

Thanks to Gerard Saylor for the link. Dewey Decimal System Meme: "This will convert your name to a class listed in the Dewey Decimal System. That's right... somewhere between 000 (Generalities) and 999 (Extraterrestrial worlds) you have a place, and through the magic of internet we can find it through random arbitrary letter decoding. Plus this gives me a chance to saw that libraries are freaking awesome and we need more. So there."

Bill Crider's Dewey Decimal Section:

004 Data processing & computer science

000 Computer Science, Information & General Works

Encyclopedias, magazines, journals and books with quotations.

What it says about you:
You are very informative and up to date. You're working on living in the here and now, not the past. You go through a lot of changes. When you make a decision you can be very sure of yourself, maybe even stubborn, but your friends appreciate your honesty and resolve.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

Want to Visit Ancient Rome?

BBC NEWS | Technology | Google Earth revives ancient Rome: "Google has added a new twist to its popular 3D map tool, Google Earth, offering millions of users the chance to visit a virtual ancient Rome.

Google has reconstructed the sprawling city - inhabited by more than one million people as long ago as AD320.

Users can zoom around the map to visit the Forum of Julius Caesar, stand in the centre of the Colosseum or swoop over the Basilica."

Gator Update (Shunning Edition)

Fort Mill Times | - Leashed alligator shunned after entering SoCal bar - Fort Mill, SC: "HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Ever heard the one about the guy who walked into a bar with an alligator?

That's the joke going around Orange County after a man tried to bring his 3-foot pet alligator into Johnny's Saloon and was shunned.

Police and animal control officers were called to the bar early Saturday morning to retrieve the leashed alligator, said police Sgt. Dave Dierking."

I'm Saving Up for This

Paris to ‘spread virus’ in Sydney on New Year's Eve > Entertainment > "Most punters would think the news Paris Hilton will be here in Sydney on New Year's Eve to spread a virus is a reference to her famous promiscuity.

But far from it. The celebrity silvertail will instead be getting paid to spread the word on new social networking system Bongo Virus.

The Simple Life star will be in town with her rockstar boyfriend Benji Madden who will be DJing the VIP party to launch the brand.

The party will be live streamed around the world – all you’ll need is $US5 to witness the momentous event live online."

Crocs Update (Market Crash Edition)

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Crocs Inc. late Wednesday reported a third-quarter loss of $148 million, or $1.79 a share, battered by inventory write downs on its colorful sandals and restructuring charges to rejuvenate its once high-flying business.

Last Night's Full Moon

Golden Temple Amazons

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


HBO orders fantasy pilot 'Thrones' --The Live Feed: "HBO has given a pilot order to fantasy project 'Game of Thrones.'

The program is based on George R.R. Martin’s bestselling series of novels 'A Song of Fire & Ice' and executive produced by David Benioff ('Troy') and D.B. Weiss ('Halo'). The title “Game of Thrones” is from the first novel in the series.

If greenlit, “Thrones” would represent the rarest of TV genres: a full-fledged fantasy series."

At Last: The Flying Car

The flying car: "To Timbuktu by flying car: it sounds the most unlikely journey on earth; a sci-fi voyage from the pages of Jules Verne. But this is no fantasy. The car really flies. And the journey will become reality early in the new year when two explorers set off from London in a propeller-powered dune buggy heading for the Sahara."

Can You Name the Highest-Grossing Film of 1952?

The answer is here, and it might surprise you.

Paris Hilton Update

Paris slams Kate Middleton as 'mousy' - New Zealand's source for entertainment news, gossip & music, movie & book reviews on "Celebrity socialite Paris Hilton wants to date Prince William - but only when he gets rid of his 'mousy' girlfriend.

The hotel heiress met the future king - who has been dating Kate Middleton for around five years - on a recent night out and admits that despite being in a relationship with Good Charlotte rocker Benji Madden, she would act on her crush if William didn't have a girlfriend."

Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Archaeology Update

Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple? | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine: "Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt has made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time: massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobekli Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it's the site of the world's oldest temple."


Jaden Smith set for 'Karate Kid' redo - Entertainment News, Film News, Media - Variety: "Columbia Pictures is back in the dojo with a new version of the 1984 hit 'The Karate Kid,' which has been refashioned as a star vehicle for Jaden Smith.

The film will be produced by Jerry Weintraub (who launched the original franchise) and Overbrook Entertainment's James Lassiter, Will Smith and Ken Stovitz. Will Smith, who is the 10-year-old actor's father, co-starred alongside Jaden in his feature debut, 'The Pursuit of Happyness,' which Overbrook and Escape Artists produced for Columbia."

Art Update

Thanks to Jeff Meyerson and Mary Ann Melton for the link.

'Leave It to Beaver' actor to show at the Louvre - Yahoo! News: "LOS ANGELES – Eat your heart out, Eddie Haskell.

Tony Dow, best known as the actor who portrayed The Beav's big brother, Wally, in the '50s TV series 'Leave It to Beaver,' will have one of his abstract sculptures on display at the Louvre. Several sculptors from the Karen Lynne Gallery — including Dow — will have their works shown at the historic art museum in Paris as part of the Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts exhibition."

Evidence Update

Court weighs nature of lab evidence - "WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case that could have great impact because of prosecutors' widespread reliance on forensic evidence. The justices appeared open to ruling that lab workers must be available for cross-examination when states introduce drug, blood or other forensic reports at trial."

Wanna Get Lucky?

Click here and see if you can.

Maybe I Should Trade In the Cats - Babysitter: Parrot Saved Girl's Life With Warning: "Reporting
Karlyn Tilley
DENVER (CBS4) ― A babysitter's parrot is being credited with helping save the life of a 2-year-old girl who was choking Friday at a Denver area home while the sitter was in the bathroom.

'While I was in the bathroom, Willie (the parrot) started screaming like I'd never heard him scream before and he started flapping his wings,' said Meagan, the babysitter. 'Then he started saying 'mama baby' over and over and over again until I came out and looked at Hannah and Hannah's face was turning blue because she was choking on her pop tart.'

Meagan performed the Heimlich maneuver on Hannah, which stopped the choking."

Thanks to Jeff Segal for the link.

Veteran's Day

Bees Do It, even Great White Sharks Do It

Great white sharks look for girlfriends in underwater singles bar, scientists believe - Telegraph: "Great white sharks travel huge distances and mysteriously spend up to six months gathered at an isolated spot in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii.

Satellite tagging has revealed that male and female sharks make frequent and repetitive dives together, which may be linked to courtship.

The stretch of ocean the sharks make for - from both California and Mexico - is not a particularly rich feeding ground but it may act as a 'singles bar' where they can find a mate."

Stonehenge Update

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Dig pinpoints Stonehenge origins: "Archaeologists have pinpointed the construction of Stonehenge to 2300BC - a key step to discovering how and why the mysterious edifice was built.

The radiocarbon date is said to be the most accurate yet and means the ring's original bluestones were put up 300 years later than previously thought."

Battlestar Galactica

Monday, November 10, 2008

8 SF Novels that Should Be Filmed

I agree with several of these.

Topless Robot - The 8 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books Which Most Desperately Need Movies: "Despite Hollywood’s obvious lack of ideas—see the onslaught of remakes, comic book and toy-based movies and sequels that are clogging your favorite multiplex—it has consistently overlooked some killer opportunities for adaptation among the ranks of classic science fiction and fantasy. These are time-tested, fan-approved intellectual properties, ripe for the plucking."

A Little Quiz

The Bible or The Bard?

Score: 100% (10 out of 10)

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Hospitals look to 'palm readers' to sort same-named | Houston & Texas News | - Houston Chronicle: "One recent day, two patients named Maria Garcia occupied rooms in Harris County Hospital District facilities. Also receiving treatment that day were three women named Maria Hernandez, three named Maria Rodriguez and three sharing the name Maria Martinez.
[. . . .]
To avoid the possibility of mixups, the district has decided it needs to also use unique physical attributes to match people with their medical records. The third identifier would distinguish the thousands of patients who have identical first and last names, including some born on the same day in the same month and year.
[. . . .]
Next year, the district, the county's tax-supported safety net for the medically uninsured, will try out a program that differentiates patients by distinct features of anatomy.

The technology is part of a science called biometrics, measurements related to the human body. Products already on the market include devices that can recognize fingerprints, faces and ears."

Nothing to Lose -- Lee Child

This is one of those books that I found way too long, over 400 pages. Lee Child has always gone in for lots of detail, and this time, for me at least, it almost overwhelms the story. Or maybe it's just that I found the story too slight to support the detail.

Jack Reacher finds himself crossing the thin line (well, okay, not so thin except in the big scheme of things) between Hope and Despair (two towns in Colorado). If you think that's a little heavy-handed, join the club. The two towns live up to their names, all right. Bad things happen in Despair, and the cops there make the blunder of messing with Reacher for no apparent reason. They should have known better because they set in motion the events that bring about a lot of changes in Despair.

Reacher beats people up (five or six at a time), proves he's still irresistible to women, and reaches a lot of conclusions that I wouldn't have been able to. I guess it all makes sense, but I didn't care all that much by the time I finally got to the end. You may find you love it, but I don't think it'll make my Top Ten for the year.

Miriam Makeba, R. I. P.

Miriam Makeba, Singer, Dies at 76 - Obituary (Obit) - "LONDON — Miriam Makeba, a South African singer whose voice stirred hopes of freedom among millions in her own country though her music was formally banned by the apartheid authorities she struggled against, died overnight after performing at a concert in Italy on Sunday. She was 76."

I Think I Deserve a Little More Respect Around Here From Now On

The 5 Most Scientifically Plausible Sci-Fi Movies

The 5 Most Scientifically Plausible Sci-Fi Movies - Photo Gallery on Yahoo! Movies: "Great science fiction isn't just about gooey aliens and gee-whiz technologies like teleporters. Unlike, say, the ever-popular fantasy genre, sci-fi is often grounded in the human condition and based on plausible-if speculative-science. Of course, some science fiction films are more plausible than others: Would the Galactic Empire really have enough manpower to build (and then rebuild) the Death Star in the 'Star Wars' films? While legions of sci-fi nerds debate that question, here's are [Blog Editors Note: He means "our"] flicks that stand out."

Thanks to Doc Quatermass for the link.

At the Mountains of Madness

Octopuses had Antarctic ancestor: marine census | Environment | Reuters: "OSLO (Reuters) - Many octopuses evolved from a common ancestor that lived off Antarctica more than 30 million years ago, according to a 'Census of Marine Life' that is seeking to map the oceans from microbes to whales."


Sunday, November 09, 2008

But Haven't We All Done This at One Time or Another?

Councilman Arrested for Peeing on Crowd | NBC New York: "A Jersey City councilman has reportedly been arrested for urinating on a crowd of concertgoers from the balcony of a Washington D.C. nightclub.

The New York Daily News reports in Sunday's editions that two-term Jersey City councilman Steve Lipski has been charged with simple assault."

I'd Never Know the Difference

BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | E-mail error ends up on road sign: "When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed.

Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: 'I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated'.

So that was what went up under the English version which barred lorries from a road near a supermarket.

'When they're proofing signs, they should really use someone who speaks Welsh,' said journalist Dylan Iorwerth."

Thanks to Art Scott for the link.

Four from Planet 5 -- Murray Leinster

A classic set up that will be familiar to lots of readers of people who've seen SF movies: an Antarctic base, the landing of a ship, the presence of aliens. Except they aren't aliens. They're human children. Where did they come from? That's just one of the mysteries in this novel. [Spoiler: It turns out that the title's misleading.]

Murray Leinster was real pro. He works in scientific problems and solutions, political commentary and commentary on the media (both almost as accurate now as they were when this book was published 40 years ago), a love story, a poignant story of loss and separation, and some other stuff as well. The story moves along in Leinster's serviceable prose (maybe a little adverb heavy for today's readers, with things like "he said vexedly"), and it's great fun to see how all the problems get solved, or it is if you like old-fashioned SF, which I do. I hadn't read this in many, many years, and it was fun to visit it again.

Paris Hilton's Film Savaged By Critics - Starpulse Entertainment News Blog

Paris Hilton's Film Savaged By Critics - Starpulse Entertainment News Blog: "Paris HiltonParis Hilton's new movie has been savaged by critics, who fear director Darren Lynn Bousman's toughest job was editing the socialite out of his film.

The Saw films director had admitted he had reservations about signing Hilton up for his movie, but insists she was a pleasure to work with. But critics state she isn't a pleasure to watch on screen in Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Los Angeles Times critic Mark Olsen writes, 'The film is bad - not good-bad, tacky-bad or fun-bad, just plain awful and nearly unwatchable.'

And he's even more scathing of Hilton's performance in the bizarre cosmetic surgery horror musical."