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October 2000

Tuesday 10-31
Peggy Sue Got Married -- the link's to a site with photos and NoCal location IDs. Been watching the library videotape, and finding it rather intense, emotionally (especially when she's with her grandparents. I'd sure like to visit mine again, like she got to). I didn't really 'get' this movie when it first came out: Nicolas Cage's performance was so off-putting, and my disappointment with Peggy Sue's inabilty to ditch him so great, I dismissed the whole film. I'm used to the guy now, and realize the importance of a repeat viewing, so one can compare the "then" characters with their too-briefly seen "now" versions. (They could've all showed up around Peggy Sue's hospital bed at the end, like in "The Wizard of Oz," but maybe that would've diluted the scene). The story is a powerful realization of the subjective time-travel dream, not just going back as a tourist, but inhabiting one's former self, like the soft porn of "Doing It All Over" I linked to last year.

Dr. Gridlock writes a column in the Washington Post about local driving issues -- he has a tendency to print a lot of fluffy filler, like vanity tag observations & speculations on their meanings; and although it gives writers-in an outlet to complain, positive change for the DC driver seems nearly impossible. Occasionally he reports something unique, like this outrageous tale of a handicapped person being accosted in one of the wheelchair parking spaces:

The stranger pointed at the knee brace and said, "Do you think that is enough of a disability for you to use the handicap parking spaces?"

I said, "Yes, I do. I have an artificial leg."

I barely had time to say this when he came up to me, leaned down and pulled my knee brace down to my ankle. Of course the artificial leg slipped off, and I fell down on top of him, with my mail spilling to the ground.

It's a problem with these highly visible, desirable entitlements -- they bring out the prick in certain already-prone personalities. Does any other type monitor these parking spaces for abuse? Like the larger stall in the public restroom, I use 'em too -- not often, since the penalties are severe, but unlike the stall there's always a lot more handicapped parking spaces available, so why not?

From another advice column letter, this time in the latest Slate "Dear Prudence" column. (She addressed the handicapped restroom stall issue a while back.)

Regarding the letter you got about the neighbor's barking dog, they should do what we did. We found out the phone number of the nitwit neighbor (city directories have this), then when we knew she had gone to work, called her house, and loaded her answering machine with calls that were nothing but barking. She moved very soon thereafter.
    --signed, Worked for Us
I'm sure we just want the dogs to move on.

Sunday 10-29
NASA news:
  • New Image Release from Galileo -- Io, the Jovian moon.
  • Huge Mars .jpeg (252K)
  • The International Space Station is finally happening -- its first occupants arrive this week. From a broadcast email I received at work:

    Expedition One Launch & Docking

    The Expedition One Crew -- Commander Bill Shepherd, Soyuz Commander Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev -- is scheduled for launch at approximately 2:53 AM EST, October 31, atop a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch initiates a two-day flight to the station, culminating in a docking on November 2. Once docked to the new facility, the crewmembers will begin a four-month stay, beginning the permanent occupancy of the international complex. Launch coverage on October 31 will begin at 2 AM EST, anchored from the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev, outside Moscow, and the ISS Flight Control Room at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX.

    A black-and-white camera on the Soyuz should provide live TV of the docking itself. Approximately 90 minutes after docking, the Expedition One crew will open the hatch to Zvezda, but no live TV will be available. A video replay of the historic hatch opening may be provided by the crew on subsequent orbits through Russian ground stations.

    The primary method for distributing mission commentary will be through the human space flight website at http://spaceflight.nasa.gov . Air-to-ground conversations between the crewmembers and flight controllers in Houston and Korolev will be distributed in real time on Mission Audio circuits and as streaming audio on the human space flight website.

    Television will be sporadic during the course of the Expedition One mission, transmitted through either Russian ground stations periodically or by a slow-scan video system available through the ISS early S-band communications system.

    The crew is scheduled to return to Earth on the STS-102 mission to the ISS, scheduled for launch in February 2001 to bring the Expedition Two crew to the station.

    The black&white camera will add some Apollo-era ambiance to the historic event... but doesn't "Expedition One" sound a little pretentious? My impression is the term implies exploration, as "In which Christopher Robin leads an Expotion to the North Pole" -- extended occupancy of an orbiting cylinder doesn't seem to qualify, with a label like that the destination should be Alpha Centauri. Newspaper articles hint at forthcoming culture clashes, a collision between the uptight, mission-controlled astronauts and the more laid-back cosmonauts, who've been known to smuggle wodka into orbit.

Friday 10-27
The unofficial TRON Web Page has stills from the deleted love scene.

Javascript Lite-Brite -- the tactile sensation of the mouse clickings aren't quite as aesthetically pleasing as pushing the the tinted plastic prongs through the black paper; on the other hand the tedious need to replace that paper is eliminated. Brought to you by the San Francisco Production Group.

Wednesday 10-25
I've decided my choice is Big Al, having come to the conclusion that encouraging the Ralph vote is dangerous -- the election will be too close, the idea of four more years of "dubya" media exposure intolerable. Don "Savage (Love") sums it up:
While it may not be much fun having to choose between the lesser of two evils, that's the choice adult voters are faced with. Ralph Nader is a vanity candidate running a vanity campaign for a Potemkin party, the Greens. And while Al Gore may not be perfect, he's better than Bush. If Nader voters manage to put Bush in the White House next year, some of your fellow citizens (women, queers, the poor) are going to pay a high price for your refusal to grow up and make the real choice you're faced with, which, again, is between Bush and Gore. You may have to grit your teeth when you vote Gore, but that's a small price to keep the environment, the poor, and the English language from the harm George W. will surely do all three.
More details on this issue can be had in a lengthy article in The Nation: Bush or Gore: Does It Matter? (Conclusion: yes, in big ways.)

This weekend I saw "Almost Famous" and I've been trying to write about, but it's difficult -- I keep going off on tangents. I liked the film, and think it'll make a great Y2K/70s-nostalgia yin-yang double feature, when paired with "The Virgin Suicides." In his review Mr. Cranky asks, Is Cameron Crowe trying to tell me that a band like Stillwater would actually sing an Elton John song? That song? And they'd all know the lyrics? Please. Any band on the road would relate to the blues of "Holiday Inn," from the same record; but this stuff was just too lightweight -- those hard rockers would've jeered it off the stereo. Magnolia was responsible for this -- let's hope the sing-along trend fades out fast.

Tuesday 10-24
A must-read: Breathing Life Into Technical Books -- the author writes PL/SQL books for O'Reilly and has begun replacing the standard example's context (employee/department) with something entirely different -- he's asking all the right questions (and getting the typical conservative feedback).
Why is it so difficult for people, especially those in the United States, to hear viewpoints that make them uncomfortable?
Monday 10-23
Frances Farmer, the 5 of Pentacles. She's naturally a member of the Lobotomy Hall of Fame. Sorry, Repo Man fans, it's real people only, no mention of J. Frank Parnell.

Walking around in Tokyo one finds clusters of these posted near public telephones.

Friday 10-20
How do they make crop circles? I want to see like a TV show about this, on PBS.
  Moiré, best of 2000, from the Crop Circle Connector

About the two Ohio kids put in detention for refusing to watch Channel One -- there's a site all about it at www.tvorjail.com. Has names & addresses to direct irate mail towards, and someone's quoted there saying "When the government sends children to a juvenile detention center because they don't want to watch advertising, that is both Orwellian and more than a little sick."

Ralph says
In these schools, students spend the equivalent of about one class week each year watching Channel One, including one full school day just watching ads.
(thanks memepool)

Wednesday 10-18
Mike's Electric Stuff has all manner of interesting pages, including one on Geissler tubes. He's really into the more exotic types of what're called "valves" in his homeland (stateside, they're known as "radio tubes").

And speaking of things electric (from the same place and tasteless like this one from before), check this remarkable news item from Taiwan: Declare war on the cold front! I'm actually looking to buy one of those fancy heaters, but have been so far unable to find one in a nearby shop.

Tuesday 10-17
Went past that house in Los Altos again tonight, driving home from school -- I thought that they were red but now I think they're really orange, not Christmas but Halloween lights. (It's the 'icicle' kind, with a dubious tint -- for the true orange there's really no other option -- they need those classic little blobs of NE-2 neon.)

I've had the usual encounters over the years with material about old, no-longer-used but still there subway stations under New York City -- of course London has the world's oldest subterranean rail system, the "Tube" -- Underground History is well-designed and reveals all, with lots about their many ghost stations.

On the other hand, although references are frequent in books about prototype automobile designs like Cars Detroit Never Built up until now I've never seen a good source on the GM Motoramas of the 1950s, where their dream cars were displayed -- this Fabulous History even offers a videotape.

Monday 10-16
This site's great -- Retro Future:
...a concept based on a simple question: what happened to all that futuristic stuff which was supposed to change our lives by the year 2000?
Check the archive page for pointers to all the previous features, like Living Underwater.

The IMDb has become an essential tool, consulted at least after every film seen; some call up the CDDB for reference, and now there's the CNDB, the Celebrity Nudity Database.

Saturday 10-14
This Feed article about Akihabara covers a lot of ground; amidst the usual overwhelmed reaction to Tokyo's "Electric Town" market district are many interesting details, celphones in Japan are now as cheap as ¥10 (that's a dime but I guess it's just like here, where the phone is sometimes free, they get payment via the service fees), they're using 'em for (a lot of trivial) email and people pay for an ever-changing supply of new wallpapers for the phones' tiny screens, a lot of people, so some of those suppliers are doing very well.

Yesterday's paper had a special "In Depth" Pacfic Rim section featuring Japan, with an article I found especially interesting about those huge crows I've seen mornings, scavenging the garbage Tokyo merchants set out the night before. Says they're "jungle crows" and the problem's getting worse, now they're attacking cyclists and small children. Couldn't locate this stuff on the website, their links expire really quick anyway; but this India Times story from August covers the same territory. Another article described the new John Lennon museum outside Tokyo, on the occasion of its opening Monday -- some fans may find its Yoko-centric viewpoint offensive --

the focus on Ono as an inspiration is unlikely to sit comfortably with lovers of the Beatles elsewhere in the world.
...but I'm intrigued, adding this to the list for the next trip, which may happen as soon as January. This page from the museum's site shows the location and also what it looks like from the outside (a big new building, the museum must be just a small part of).

With another Bush in the news those whispers about the family's links to Hitler's Germany are becoming audible again. The Bush Nazi Connection is a page at a Libertarian Party site, which will immediately disqualify the information's authenticity to some and reenforce it to others, but it's a good starting point to become familiar with the players, like grampa Prescott Bush and George Herbert Walker, generous supporter of the NSDAP and 'dubya's namesake. Plus: read up more about those weird Yale "Bonesmen" here. (Like his dad, the shrub is a member.)

Thursday 10-12
GettingIt quotes a new British study to answer in the affirmative:
Are potheads better drivers?

The latest issue of Discover has several projections of twenties for the year 2020: "20 Ways the World Could End," "20 Things That Will Be Obsolete in 20 years," and my favorite, Twenty things that won't change in the next twenty years. Says we'll still have pencils -- a good thing, too, since that's what's in my shirt pocket, don't like pens, need that eraser.

Ask Dr. Cheese!

Wednesday 10-11
6:18PM -- First of the season's Christmas lights sighted, trimming a house in Los Altos.
Tuesday 10-10
Christianity Meme wishes to expose Christianity for what it really is -- a mind virus that controls human behavior to facilitate its own survival.

Sunday's Chronicle featured an excellent editorial by Chalmers Johnson, When Might Makes Wrong -- Americans are bold. We are brash. And to the rest of the world, we are clueless.

Friday 10-6
The Museum of Unnatural Mystery has a Tower of Babel page which says it was blue. Interesting stuff about the Seven Wonders and many other Mysteries, with images reflecting contemporary speculations on the appearance with some 3D angle in there somewhere.

The Gen-X Guide to Disneyland includes some insider info extracted from former and/or friendly "Cast Members."

Wednesday 10-4
Geoff took this amazing picture up on Half Dome last weekend, in Yosemite. All the little people on the final ascent cables remind me of the opening shots of the conquistadors' procession through the jungle in Aguirre: The Wrath of God, or maybe a vision from Powaqqatsi.

Speaking of the Amazon, from the latest of Camille Paglia's periodic, erudite rants:

European art films were an enormous part of my education outside the classroom, and it is tragic that they have dropped so far off the radar screen for today's American students, marooned in their sterile mall culture.
Couldn't agree more; my sentiments exactly.

Tuesday 10-3
Ready for SLC? Planning for the next olympics has already begun -- check its three mascots, Powder, Copper, and Coal -- they're impossibly jolly.

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