Saturday, December 30, 2006

President Ford

While I was away on vacation, I heard the news that former President Gerald Ford had died at age 93. I thought back to the day, just a few weeks before I started college, when Richard Nixon resigned the presidency and Ford was sworn in as our 38th President.

I always liked Ford. I thought highly of him. He brought a quiet, low-key dignity to the presidency at a time when culturally the nation was close to tearing itself apart. Vietnam and Watergate, compounded by the "cultural revolution" of the 60s... Our culture was in some ways on the ropes. Not that it's ever fully recovered, even to this day. Not that it ever will fully recover, not as long as the generation of the 60s endures. Our culture to this day bears the disfiguring scars of that era: polarization, politicized rage, endless recrimination, and self-loathing cultural deconstruction raised to the level of everyday routine. The center has not held. I can only imagine how much worse it might have been had President Ford not had the courage to do the right thing and pardon Nixon.

Gerald Ford was a decent man, and he performed an important work for the nation simply by being himself. He was the only President since the assassination of Kennedy to escape what has become a cultural and political routine: all of the rest of them, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and now Bush II, have been widely vilified and subjected to character assassination, painted as either a knave or an idiot. Perhaps with one or two of those Presidents the assessment was more or less deserved; as for the rest, like I say, it's become an automatic routine, vilification of the President as kneejerk response.

Ford was the only President in the past 40-plus years to escape that: the worst they ever found to say about him is that he was physically clumsy. And I'm not convinced even that was really true of him.

I must confess that in the fall of 1976 for a time I did some volunteer campaign work for Jimmy Carter. I was young, I was in college. But I saw through Carter with uncanny prescience before Election Day, and ended up casting my first presidential vote, at age 20, for Gerald Ford. It was a very close election: I sometimes wonder how different, and how much better, our world would have been had Ford been elected to a second and full term. On the other hand, perhaps we had to pass through Carter first in order to get to Reagan.

And now Gerald Ford has passed from the scene. Requiescat in pace.

Saddam Hangs

So Saddam Hussein has been hanged. Hanged by the neck until dead.

A tyrant, and a monster among tyrants, has received his just desserts. So seldom does that happen in this world. An evil man has paid the just price for his evil deeds.

Good-bye and good riddance.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Back from Vacation

Yeah, I'm home from vacation. Had a good time over in Wisconsin, if you discount one minor incident of stomach upset. All the family are fine. The wool coat is close to finished, more on that some time soon.

And I still have to unpack this evening. Later.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Good News of a Great Joy

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

 "Glory to God in the highest,
  and on earth peace among men with
    whom he is pleased!"

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shephherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 —Luke 2:1-20


A Christmas Carol

   The shepherds went their hasty way,
      And found the lowly stable-shed
   Where the Virgin-Mother lay:
      And now they checked their eager tread,
For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,
A Mother's song the Virgin-Mother sung.

   They told her how a glorious light,
      Streaming from a heavenly throng,
   Around them shone, suspending night!
      While sweeter than a mother's song,
Blest Angels heralded the Saviour's birth,
Glory to God on high! and Peace on Earth.

   She listened to the tale divine,
      And closer still the Babe she pressed;
   And while she cried, the Babe is mine!
      The milk rushed faster to her breast:
Joy rose within her, like a summer's morn;
Peace, Peace on Earth! the Prince of Peace is born.

   Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,
      Poor, simple, and of low estate!
   That strife should vanish, battle cease,
      O why should this thy soul elate?
Sweet Music's loudest note, the Poet's story,——
Didst thou ne'er love to hear of fame and glory?

   And is not War a youthful king,
      A stately Hero clad in mail?
   Beneath his footsteps laurels spring;
      Him Earth's majestic monarchs hail
Their friend, their playmate! and his bold bright eye
Compels the maiden's love-confessing sigh.

  'Tell this in some more courtly scene,
      To maids and youths in robes of state!
   I am a woman poor and mean,
      And therefore is my soul elate.
War is a ruffian, all with guilt defiled,
That from the agéd father tears his child!

  'A murderous fiend, by fiends adored,
      He kills the sire and starves the son;
   The husband kills, and from her board
      Steals all his widow's toil had won;
Plunders God's world of beauty; rends away
All safety from the night, all comfort from the day.

  'Then wisely is my soul elate,
      That strife should vanish, battle cease:
   I'm poor and of a low estate,
      The Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Joy rises in me, like a summer's morn:
Peace, Peace on Earth! the Prince of Peace is born.'

 —Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)


Christmas, and I'm on the Road

Well, this morning I'm on the road over into Wisconsin, where I'll be visiting with family the next several days. I may or may not have Internet access over there: if so, my blogging will continue at a reduced holiday pace; if not, I shall resume when I get back.

Friday, December 22, 2006

These Last Days Before Christmas

point blanket capote
It's always seemed to me that, these last few days before Christmas, time slows down and assumes a different pace. Things move as if in slow motion. The world pauses. Christmas vacation has begun.

When I was a kid we would go out and ride our sleds down the hill in our back yard. My sled had originally belonged to my Grandfather, and it dated back to before 1900. In those days we were on easy terms with the past.

We were waiting for Christmas. Waiting for Christmas presents. One year I got Mike Hazard, Secret Agent. Another year I got Major Matt Mason and his Space Station. Oddly enough, I never believed in Santa Claus. We weren't brought up that way.

point blanket capote
The Christmas tree was already beginning by now to shed needles all over the living room rug. In those days we had a real Christmas tree. There were some bulbs on the Christmas tree with fluid-filled glass columns, bubbles would bubble up in the fluid when the bulb was on and it got hot: these dated back to the 1930s, when my Dad was a kid. There were ornaments on the tree, such as a bugle, or a paper castle, which dated back to the 1890s, when my Grandfather was a kid.

My brother and I used to play a game called Journey to Bethlehem. I think it had originally been a greeting card. It folded out into a board game. The idea was, we were journeying to Bethlehem to see baby Jesus. You would draw a card and move to the next square with that symbol on it. The symbols were: blue angel, green shepherd, yellow star, red cup. I'm not quite sure what the cups had to do with it all. Some squares were like "move back two squares" or "lose one turn." This game was always a very special part of Christmas time for me.

In later years, I remember the time when I was living in North Carolina, 1100 miles from family and unable to afford the trip to see them for Christmas. And in these last few days before Christmas, I went out and got myself a gyroscope and a deck of Rook cards to amuse myself with, there alone in my apartment.

point blanket capote
Now this year, once again, time slows down in these last few days before Christmas. I have to pull my sermon together for Sunday, but I don't have much else that I have to do these next few days. I'll have a busy Sunday, and then Christmas morning, Monday, I'll be heading over into Wisconsin to visit my folks for several days.

My insane Christmas project this year involves turning out a wool coat to my own specifications. I got a Witney point blanket, and a couple of patterns which I've been mixing and recombining, from a historical reenactors' outfit. Old fashioned buttons made of horn from another outfit. And llama braid for edging from yet another outfit. All bought online. I've talked my Mom into doing the sewing while I'm over there, and the result ought to be a very usable winter coat, also a reasonably historically correct simulacrum of the coats, or capotes, made from wool point blankets and worn by Indians, French voyageurs, and whatnot, back in the old days up in Canada.

point blanket capote
Also, there's no snow in the forecast. Looks as though, for the first time in many years, we won't be having a white Christmas. Hunh.

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KFC Now Healthier Than Ever

Oh dear. I just heard on the radio this morning that KFC is switching all 5500 of its restaurants to some new, healthier oil. What, is this so they can sell in New York City again? Or is it just a general move to keep ahead of those do-gooders who, having triumphed over Big Tobacco, are now maneuvering on a dozen fronts to save us from the perils of Fast Food?

I shoulda seen this coming way back when KFC changed its name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC— you know, so you wouldn't connect them quite so much with "Fried," as in "Kentucky Fried Chicken"? "Fried," as in, tastes good, like anything that tastes good it's bad for you, fried in tasty death oil?

I declare, by the time this trend plays itself out, vegetarianism will be the law of the land just as no-smoking ordinances are now, and we will all be reduced by federal mandate to a diet of alfalfa sprouts, mung beans, and tofu.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Millennium and the Masons

frank black
Recently I got a tremendous bargain when I picked up all nine seasons of the X-Files on sale. I also picked up Millennium while I was at it— you know, Millennium, the other spooky series that came, along with the X-Files, from the fertile and febrile mind of Chris Carter?

I used to follow both those TV series with a passion. Millennium was never as popular as the X-Files, and it was canceled after its third season. I always thought that had something to do with the fact that Millennium was quite a dark and brooding show. But then, back in those days, in the late 90s, I was going through a very dark time in life myself, so it sort of fit.

Millennium: the protagonist, Frank Black, was a former FBI agent, now working with a consulting detective outfit known as the Millennium Group. Frank had a special gift, an uncanny ability to see into the minds of killers. He also seemed to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, grim, wearied, bowed but not defeated, determined to carry on against the powers of darkness in a world of gathering gloom and evil, a world on the eve of the millennium.

The first season of Millennium was a rather dark detective show, and little more: as someone has called it, "serial killer of the week."

Second season, Millennium took more of a turn for the fantastic. Frank began to learn that there was far more to the Millennium Group than he had known. Far from being merely a detective outfit, the Millennium Group was a secretive body of initiates, something like the Masons. Its history extended back many hundreds of years, back into the Middle Ages at least, when it had been known as the Order of Knights Chronicler. Now the Millennium Group operated at the heart of a vast and dark conspiracy. Just how dark, Frank realized too late, as the Millennium Group staged a "test," unleashing a genetically engineered plague on the Seattle area, killing dozens of people including Frank's wife.

"It was always about control." Third season found Frank back at the FBI, his hair literally turned white overnight, now trying to warn people about the Millennium Group and its nefarious plans. Of course most people were like, "Frank, well yeah he's a good fellow, but you know he's a bit cracked."

One thing that always struck me about Millennium is that the three seasons of the show trace Frank's initiatic journey, from (1) not knowing what's going on, to (2) gaining some insight into what's going on, and finally to (3) fathoming something of how and why these things are going on. Sort of like the three degrees of Blue Lodge in the Masons: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason; or, in the case of Frank, Master Anti-Mason. This was never stated outright, but the Masonic parallels were certainly played up more and more as the series progressed.

It may sound strange to people who know me, but I always rather identified with Frank Black. And with his dark and brooding temperament. Like I say, the late 90s, when this show was airing, was a very dark time in my own life. Plus, as you may have perceived, the incandescent radioactive-core-meltdown imagination I put on display here in my blog stems from some very dark roots dating back to my childhood. Roots that maintain their hold on me inwardly to this day.

Part of the initiatic journey is entering into the realm of transformation— learning how to take those dark experiences in us, and transform them. Transform them into something profound, bottomless, fathomless. Transform them, and in transforming them, be transformed oneself.

As the old pop song put it, "You will see light in the darkness, you will make some sense of this. When you make your secret journey, you will be a holy man."

Or as Nietzsche more profoundly put it, "Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the Abyss, the Abyss gazes also into you."

Millennium. The "secret journey" of one Frank Black from prentice to journeyman to master anti-anti-hero. The Millennium Group and its deep, dark Masonic schemes. Gazing into the Abyss. It was a TV show that deserved a wider viewership than it ever achieved.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Pray for Coal"

Here's an article entitled Pray for Coal, about the ten most dangerous toys of all time. Those of us old enough to remember will not be surprised that lawn darts, or "Jarts," head up the list. (A friend of my brother's used to be an outright maniac with them Jarts, it's a wonder we never got speared.) I also like the nifty item— from the 1950s, of course— which one of the commenters over there calls the "Johnny Science™ Home Cyclotron"— yes, complete with genuine uranium.

And there's lots more over there, check it out.

Monday, December 18, 2006

When Your Car Is About to Float Out on the Tide Toward Japan

This would've been February 1984. I was living at that time in Washington State, up in the Cascade Mountains. Not far off the Columbia River. About an hour upriver from Portland, Oregon.

Anyhow, one day in February, on my day off, I decided to head down to the coast for the day. I forget if it was a two and a half, three hour drive. Drove down the Washington side of the river, Highway 14. Through Vancouver, USA. Through Longview. And across southwestern Washington, now in terra incognita. I had never been to the Pacific coast before, but I knew I was getting close when I saw an old boat, a seagoing boat, lying abandoned in someone's back yard.

Got to southwesternmost Washington, and discovered that it's a peninsula. The Peninsula runs north and south, maybe 15 or 20 miles long, and no more than a mile or two wide, its western edge facing the Pacific Ocean.

Lighthouses. Towns. I drove up and down the Peninsula. Stopped off at a restaurant for lunch, wonderful home cooking, giant juicy hamburgers with a ton of fries, and home-cooked green beans just right, and they had on display inside a glass case a curiosity, a small mummified human head joined seamlessly onto a small alligator's body, so flawless you couldn't even see how it was done, it looked just like real, and you could put coins in a machine, and then put a penny in the slot, and it would take your penny and roll it out long and return it to you, a long penny with a picture of the Alligator Man stamped on the back.

Driving up the street, turn left, now I was on a road which led down to the beach. At road's end, there I sat, in my old muscle car, a bright red 1970 Torino with a 351 Cleveland V8 under the hood. I saw other cars and trucks driving on the sand, driving up and down the beach. Thought I'd give it a try myself.

I started out beyond the pavement, onto the sand, slow and easy. Suddenly I realized I was moving more and more slowly, slow, slowwww... Now I wasn't moving at all. My foot was on the pedal, my rear wheeels were still turning, but I wasn't moving at all. I stepped heavier on the gas— well, that was a mistake. Now wheels turning, no forward motion at all.

I cut the engine, got out and checked. Damn! My rear wheels were sunk into the sand, all the way up to the axle!

My Torino wasn't about to go anywhere. I turned my head and looked west. There the tide was coming in, surf crashing and breaking on the sand, not twenty yards from my front bumper. I had visions of the tide coming in, further and further, and then going out, carrying my car with it. I had lunatic visions of my Torino being carried right out on the tide, toward Japan.

I started trudging back up the street into town. Up this street several blocks, I had noticed, was a service station. Have to get a tow truck. Have them pull my car out of the sand. Greenhorn visitors like me, this must happen all the time around here...

As I walked up the street, I passed a young woman who was sitting there in an old Volkswagen Beetle. She was reading a book, and a big hound dog was sitting there in the seat beside her.

Walking further, now the service station was in sight. And all of a sudden a Volkswagen pulled up beside me from behind. The gal called to me out the window, "Hey, is your car stuck down there on the beach?"

I said yes, sunk up to its rear axles in the sand.

She said, "Jump in." I got into her Volkswagen, she did a U-turn, and we rolled back down the street to the beach, where my Torino was looking rather forlorn.

We got out to inspect. Just so happens right then her boyfriend came tooling down the beach in his pickup truck. You know, the type with big oversized monster tires. He hooked his truck onto my front bumper, and towed me up and free from the sand trap. He also explained to me how to drive on the beach without sinking into the sand— a practical detail which I have since forgotten.

At any rate, after thanking this couple for their help, I got into my Torino, and went driving up and down the beach. Right alongside the Pacific Ocean. No longer did I fear my car being swept out to sea, and floating like a piece of bobbing cork until it washed up, a seaweed-festooned piece of flotsam, on the coast of Japan.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Spam Message of the Month

Received overnight. Somehow it slipped through my spam filter. You know, in its own way this almost makes sense:
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Of course, you know me, I'm always interested in things that almost make sense. "Quench not the smoking flax!"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Santa's Reindeer in Japanese Anime

I would just love to see Santa's reindeer cast as the stars of a Japanese anime series...

war-blitzen antler lightning
Elves rushing into the workshop in terror: "Santa! The Abominable Snowman is attacking! We can't stop him!"

Cut to scene of giant monster, like an ape made out of snow, swiping elves aside and trampling igloo beneath its feet. "Rrrroowwwwwrrrr!"

Cut back to workshop. Santa, with look of grim resolve: "The battle for the fate of the world is being fought here at the North Pole. Unleash the reindeer, they're our only hope!"

Battle scene, Santa's reindeer go forth to fight the Abominable Snowman. A hard-pitched battle ensues. But they're no match for the monster. The reindeer are on the brink of defeat, when suddenly...

Well, since this is Japanese anime, you know that of course the reindeer are going to transform into more powerful reindeer, each with its own special powers. My favorite among the reindeer has always been Blitzen...

Blitzen stands there, pawing his hooves in the snow, bowed but not defeated. Suddenly loud rock music cuts in, and a voiceover goes: "Blitzen transforms to..."

Stock Blitzen transformation sequence, used in every episode, shows the reindeer turning into a bigger, more powerful reindeer: "...WAR-BLITZEN!!!"

Now War-Blitzen goes forth to battle the Abominable Snowman once again. He unleashes his special attack: "Antler Lightning!"

Kahh-RACKKK!! CRRRRASSSHHHH! Powerful lightning bolts shoot forth from War-Blitzen's antlers! The Abominable Snowman staggers back! "RRRROWWWWWWWRRR!!"

Rudolph of course will transform into Mega-Rudolph, with a Rednose Laser attack. But Blitzen is still my favorite. Blitzen transforms to War-Blitzen! Antler Lightning!!!

Santa's reindeer, fighting to protect the world, in their own Japanese anime series! Sounds to me like an idea that would thrill ten-year-old boys everywhere.

(Reindeer image courtesy of Google Images; added touches courtesy of The GIMP.)

The Christmas Rush

Well, recent days have been rather hectic, but I'm thinking that the worst of the Christmas rush is behind me, and things are going to start winding down now. Meanwhile, my brain is frazzled, so for today I've served up a rerun from last year. War-Blitzen! You wouldn't believe how many Google Image search hits I've been getting on that one lately, on search terms such as "japanese santa" and "reindeer anime" and "anime santa" and "blitzen the reindeer"...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Radio Luxembourg

If I'd grown up over in the UK, I'd associate the kind of music I love best with the English service of Radio Luxembourg. Classic rock and roll! The Beatles! This is a station that really was part of the history of rock.

As it is, having grown up on this side of the Atlantic, I have to settle for memories of seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show.

Richard Nichols' Radio Luxembourg: The Station of the Stars is worth reading, if you can latch onto a copy. But the other day I discovered something even better: Radio Luxembourg's English service is back, and now you can listen to it online!

"The Legend Is Back!" If you're into the same kind of classic rock I'm into, you'll want to give it a listen!

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Alas, Poor Billfold...

Twenty-five years ago— August 1981— I got a new leather billfold. I was just starting out in seminary. I've worn that billfold in my hip pocket purner every day for a quarter century. It's become shaped and worn. More and more worn in recent years. It's accumulated all sorts of cards and papers and items, things that just pile up, and I couldn't bring myself to weed them out, or at least somehow I never got around to it.

Then, a week or two ago, my old billfold gave way. Some conjunction of leather and fabric deep inside gave out, and suddenly any attempt to fetch a dollar bill made the billfold billow out like an unfolding accordion.

So, time for a new billfold. I was down in Prairie du Chien yesterday, on my day off. Stopped off at Cabela's. And got a new leather billfold, this one of deerskin.

Got home, and was faced with the task of transfering things from the old billfold to the new one. Sorted through all sorts of stuff. Some of it could be discarded, years after the fact. Some of it... well, there are items I decided to keep, for no reason I could defend in a hardboiled court of law.

Red Cross blood donor card, type A positive. Membership card, Republican Party of Wisconsin, still listing my old boyhood home town as my address. Ancient nonpictorial Wisconsin driver's license, 1984. A few long-outdated business cards. These, I decided, could go.

Obvious keepers: current Iowa driver's license. Credit card. AARP membership card. Blue Cross/Blue Shield card. Car insurance card. Iowa voter registration card. Social Security card, which I never acquired until I was 18, back when Nixon was still in the White House.

Then there were the items I kept for reasons unrelated to utility. I mean I just couldn't bear to part with them... Duke University student ID card, on which a younger version of me appears, with a dark beard untinged with grey. University of Wisconsin-Madison student ID card, on which a much younger version of me appears, with long hair, clean shaven, wearing an olive drab shirt from Army Surplus.

Business card of a close friend who died from cancer in 1995. "Volcano Flights, Trout Lake, WA," fellow who took me on a flight in a single-engine plane over Mt. St. Helens in 1984. National Geographic Society, life membership card. Card of the Stated Clerk of Blackhawk Presbytery, addressed on the back to John Knox Presbytery: "Please ordain Paul on our behalf (scribbled signature) Pres of Blackhawk 6/18/85."

Paycheck stub and office key deposit receipt from back when I was a teaching assistant in math at the UW-Madison. And, frizzled and worn, my draft registration card, "classified 1H," dated June 1974.

I've worn these items in my hip pocket almost every day now, some of them for 25 years, some of them for 30 years and more. You don't easily part with such memorabilia when you've worn it that close to you daily for so many years. Not even when, after a quarter century, you change over to a new billfold.

DSL Back Up to Speed at Last

On the morning of Wednesday November 15, my DSL slowed to a crawl. I mean, like molasses. I mean, like sub-dialup speeds. This is nothing new with our small local mom & pop Internet Service Provider, alias Well, they usually have these problems ironed out within a day or two, and at any rate I was quite busy, so I just suffered with it and went about my business.

Only Stupid-ISP didn't fix the problem. Six days later, things were still slow as molasses. Two weeks later, still the same. And it wasn't just me, I have neighbors on DSL who were experiencing the exact same problems as me. It took a minute or more to load even the simplest webpage.

I phoned Stupid-ISP. Their help person was courteous and genuinely trying to be helpful, but I don't think they were quite convinced there was really any problem; and if there was, they thought it must be in my computer.

More time went by. Almost three weeks of molasses-DSL. Last Tuesday I called Stupid-ISP again. Got a different help person, I think he was technically more astute; at any rate, he didn't blanch when I mentioned my computer is running under Linux. Convinced him that, yes, there is a problem. At any rate, Stupid-ISP was supposed to call me back and set up an appointment for a service call.

Yesterday morning, going on four weeks after the problem arose, my DSL connection was still running like molasses on a subzero January morning. Then I took off and was gone a good chunk of the day. When I got home, mid-afternoon, I discovered that my connection was running at normal speed again. For the first time in almost a month.

They musta fixed something. Out there. Me, I was just sitting there like a slaphappy fool, loading Slashdot, Fox News, ABC News, CBS News, the Weather Underground, Sports Illustrated, and other fairly heavy duty sites. Each of them now loads within seconds. I'd almost forgotten what it was like for sites to load this fast.

Unfortunately, in these parts there is no realistic alternative to Stupid-ISP. But at least things are now running normally again. Until next time.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Nietzsche Family Circus

nietzsche family circus
Here's a site which generates "Nietzsche Family Circus" cartoons— putting a random Family Circus cartoon together with a random quote from the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

nietzsche family circus
You can generate more Nietzsche Family Circus cartoons right here.

(h/t Steven)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Our Lions Club had a Santa Breakfast in town this morning. Pancakes, sausage, applesauce, with coffee and milk. I got there about 7:30, and ate before the kids started arriving to see the special guest at the Santa Breakfast, who was of course none other than Santa Claus.

Somehow I vanished right before Santa made his appearance. Santa Claus went "ho, ho, ho," and I daresay he did seem to be a heavyset fellow, fiftyish, with a grey beard and a bass voice. I can report that many of the kids asked Santa for dolls, guns, baseballs, doll clothes, skateboards, toy dinosaurs, CD players, Butter Scotch Pony, and assorted video games. Santa also had bags of candy to give to the kids.

Of course parents had to take pictures of their kids with Santa.

Shortly after Santa made his exit, I reappeared, and absconded with one of the last bags of candy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Circular Slide Rule

pickett circular slide rule
Regular readers of this blog (all five of them) will know that, Selective Luddite™ that I am, I'm a fanatic about slide rules. I keep a slide rule on my desk, and often use it in preference to a calculator. My interest in slide rules dates back to my high school days, in the early 70s, when they were still teaching us in math class how to use slide rules. I got a few slide rules when I was in high school, and I still have a couple of them, including the slide rule pictured here: a Pickett circular slide rule, model 109ES.

This really is something of an oddity. The advantage of a circular slide rule, of course, is that you can never run "off the end" of a scale. Also, it's much more compact: only 4 inches in diameter, my circular slide rule has scales more detailed than those on a standard 10-inch slide rule.

pickett circular slide rule
The front has EI, CI, C, D, A, and K scales. The back has L, DI, and D scales, plus half a dozen sine and/or tangent scales. Looking back, I wish I'd thought to buy a slide rule with log-log scales on it: somehow that idea never occurred to me in high school.

Then I went with calculators, which were just coming out and becoming affordable around that time, and for many years I was an apostate from the world of slide rules. Then I began rediscovering those slipsticks, at second-hand stores and antique stores and garage sales. Over the past 10 or 12 years I've built up something of a slide rule collection. But I've never run across another circular slide rule like that one I got back in high school.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Frostite-Z

Last night I had a dream that I was walking along the highway out on the edge of some town. And there were two fast food joints out there along the highway, the A&W and the Dairy Queen.

And then I noticed that actually there was a third fast food joint on the highway, and it was called the Frostite-Z.

And I almost would've missed the Frostite-Z, because it was standing off the highway a bit, right alongside a machine shop, and in fact it was back behind a high chainlink fence. And I looked to see if there was some way to get back behind this fence, but on first inspection I couldn't see any. And I wondered how much business this place could be getting, if you had to go back through a machine shop to get to it.

And the Frostite-Z was a small wood-frame building, scarcely 12 feet by 12, with a sign up on its sloping shingled roof: FROSTITE-Z. And there was an old wooden screen door in front, the kind that opens with the creeeeeeeek of a rusty door spring. And there were wood-framed wire window screens around the front and side, like you'd see on the windows of an old, old house.

And I looked inside the Frostite-Z, through the window screens, and it looked to me like you could only fit about three or four customers in there in front of the counter before the place would be full. And there were signs hung up inside, 7-Up, and a menu with little plastic letters pressed into a signboard back up behind the counter. And the building was lit up within by yellow light from the ceiling, like those yellow light bulbs that aren't supposed to attract insects, only you knew just to look that the Frostite-Z would have flies buzzing around inside, and a general atmosphere of dinginess, and grease on the walls.

And I was still trying to figure how to get through the chainlink fence, how to get to the Frostite-Z without going through the machine shop. And I wondered how such a greasy spoon fast-food joint could possibly stay open or make any money in such an inaccessible spot, back behind a chainlink fence where you could walk right by and almost miss that it was even there.

And then I woke up.


Monday, December 04, 2006


Well, I was planning to get my Christmas tree set up yesterday afternoon. But instead I lay down and slept most of the afternoon, a good 3 hours. Then, on top of that, I slept another 10 hours last night. Are we talking fatigue here, or what?

Feeling semi-rested this morning. Seeing as Monday is my day off, I'm just going to take it easy today. Hope to set up the Christmas tree. But I'm not pushing myself. Just get rested up is priority #1.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"...It Is Thundering..."

I'm afraid this flash video reminds me all too much of the sort of stuff that is cycling through my imagination all the time.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

The X-Files on DVD

The X-Files is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. You would not believe how I used to pace the floor back and forth, back and forth, counting down the minutes until that show would come on the air. Season premieres, I was keyed up all evening like an excited nut waiting for the show to begin, waiting for last season's cliffhanger to be resolved.

Nevertheless, I have so far put off buying The X-Files on DVD, under the general impression that they are hideously overpriced. Instead I have made do with a pile of old tapes, grainy and sometimes nigh indecipherable video signal, an incomplete grab bag of various X-Files episodes recorded years back off Channel 25 up in La Crosse. You know, "Fox 25," which would blow a gizmo in their transmitter and then limp along for months with a poor, snowy, grainy picture as they transmitted at reduced power until a replacement part arrived on a slow boat from China.

Well, last night my friend Greg sent me an email, letting me know that our favorite discount DVD site is holding a 2-for-1 sale on a whole pile of DVDs, including all nine seasons of The X-Files. I checked it out, and sure enough! So I went and ordered The X-Files, at an average cost of only $18.29 per season, and that's with season 1 of Millennium thrown in for free on top of it all.

Oh yeah, the discount site, that's DeepDiscountDVD. Sale runs till December 15.