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February 1 2007
LED Mooninite LEDs in the News: Boston Security Scare triggered by the "promotional item" of today's great image. Todd Vanderlin snagged one two weeks ago and posted the great location shot from under a bridge, in his blog. Contrast with the detailed daylight on-the-bench view showing the its four threatening Duracells. (So thankful to Andy that I already know all about these Mooninites and the ATHF.)
Wikipedia: Boston Mooninite Scare

January 30, 2007
The ever-reliable Jack Shafer in Slate on Newsweek magazine's repeating the myth of the spat-upon Vietnam vet. On the other hand, Newsweek is trying to counter the 'Madrassa Hoax' the right-wing smear machine is perpetrating about Obama.

January 26, 2007
Generation Y and lunar disbelief -- why does Apollo seem like a fantasy to many young Americans? Although the Columbia disaster is mentioned, I'd pin #4 more on the trauma of experiencing the explosive final launch of the Challenger in their classrooms, live. Or maybe that would be Generation X -- whatever.

January 24, 2007
A trio of great photos of the beautiful McNaught comet, visible now in the Southern Hemisphere, even in the daytime: Evening in Chile, at night in Australia and during Sunset in New Zealand.

From a student today I learned that Indian Vegetarian cuisine includes dairy, but garlic and onions are forbidden because they "are not considered conducive for spiritual progress" due to odors (and other factors not yet entirely clear to me). Although I may have the occasional no-meat day, sometimes as frequently as once a week, I'm unquestionably omnivorous. But being vegetarian has always been an admirable goal, especially when it's stated as not eating anything with a face. On the other hand, the strict no-animal-products Vegan diet has always seemed too extreme to me, like the Islamic notion of fasting with its prohibition on even water, during Ramadan, countering any health benefit and making that ritual a kind of flagellantism.

January 21, 2007
The phrase for today is Rodina-Mat, Russian for Mother Motherland. Although it refers to their enormous statues, no better day for me to consider things Ma then today, my mother's 80th birthday. A lot of the following linkage is into Wikipedia, which is admittedly getting kinda lame.

I became aware of the biggest one doing research on Stalingrad recently, then encountered the lesser but still huge statue in Kiev in a photo in a recent New Yorker (part of a current show by the photographer, but I neglected to note his name). Both commemorate the Great Patriotic War, naturally, as does the relatively puny memorial in the former eastern zone of Berlin, which I saw from a distance one rainy afternoon in 1994. That soldier's only 12 meters tall (all heights listed here omit the pedestal) whereas the big Mamayev Kurgan on the Volga is 85m. She reminds me of Franz Kafka's vision of the Statue of Liberty, who brandished a sword instead of the torch. Note that if you scroll down, that last link has a view from the top, reminding me of my 1977 visit to the 18.5m Statue of Bavaria in Munich, where I encountered a pair of Teutonic lads up top who'd never heard of the 46m Statue of Liberty. Wrapping up these figures, the Kiev statue is 62 meters, and this comparative diagram includes the big Jesus which overlooks Rio.

'Nazi' Raccoons on the March in Europe -- the non-native carnivore was released into the wild there on Goering's command, in 1937.

January 19, 2007
Gah, sick again, another cold. Timing couldn't be better, since I have the whole weekend to lay low and recover; but as my last rhinovirus encounter was only three months ago, doesn't seem fair. The infection vector is of course my new classes, I'm in close proximity now to so many people, many of whom have young children. The widest variety occurs Thursdays when I help out with three classes which pass through the computer lab, everybody running the powerful Rosetta Stone program. (There, it's only English, but local libraries have it available in all languages, where I've played around with the Japanese and German variants.) One Beginning ESL teacher requested that I sit with a bashful Chinese woman who I don't think had ever used a PC before, leastwise a mouse. Said teacher, less patient than I, commented in an aside about how it might be a hopeless task, but by the end of the hour she was pointing&clicking like the rest of 'em, which was rather gratifying.

Good "Cult Leader" column in this week's Metro where Steve Palopoli offers up instructions on How to Watch an Old Movie. Says a lot of people just won't watch "olden" movies which was definitely the attitude I'd developed, but then fortunately, my cinematic consciousness was raised about age 21 due to various influences and opportunites I had in college.

A few days ago, heard about the Chinese last week taking out one of their old weather satellites with a ground-launched missile on the BBC, and finally, NPR reported the story today. In Aviation Week and Space Technology see Chinese Asat Alarms Washington for more details. All the reportage says recon satellites could be targets but don't mention how the ISS and the shuttle would also be in range.

January 15, 2007
MLK Day -- and for the first time, didn't have to work! But unfortunately, I'm not being paid for holidays anymore... Contemplating another trip to Japan, in August (I've never been there in the summertime, and I'll be free for weeks then). The itinerary would be a big triangle between Tokyo, Kanazawa and Niigata prefecture. Education in the language continues; now rather than no-pressure Adult Ed I'm in an undergraduate course at the same community college where I took a few programming classes in the final years of the last century.

January 14, 2007
In today's SJ Mercury News, Revolution in a Bowl concerns Momofuku Ando, the instant ramen he invented, and how it's a Silicon Valley staple among techie folk. On the rare occasions when I eat that stuff I eschew his Cup Noodle in favor of the less-ubiquitous Sapporo Ichiban brand, learning of its superiority in Sarah Dyer's Action Girl comic book.

Max Headroom recently came up in discussion. Coincidentally, a Damn Interesting post about an enigmatic 1987 jamming incident featuring a Max surrogate who briefly appeared one night on two Chicago television channels.

January 11, 2007
In Psychology Today, The Ideological Animal reports on the differences between us and them:
Liberals are messier than conservatives, their rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world. Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books, and their books cover a greater variety of topics.

January 10, 2007
Do you suffer from adultitus?

I now have two classes, and today had interesting brushes with history in each one. My new class is just Conversation which is so easy, just sitting around a table, talking (although I can't resist my pedantic urges, jumping up often to write vocabulary on the board). Hard to believe this introvert's now paid to initiate discussion...but anyway, one of my students is a wacky, extroverted German woman (whose hometown is near to where I broke my leg) who at one point was telling the South Korean guy details of what living through reunification is like. (For one, a 10% tax increase on everyone in the West, which funds infrastructure updates in the East.) My other class is a rerun of the one I taught last term, with a new batch of students. Current ethnic mix is one Indian (who rides her bike to school wearing her sari), five Japanese, a Colombian, five Chinese (including the one male in the group, a young guy with spikey hair who's a busboy in a nearby dim sum restaurant), two Koreans, and four Russians. Last term, one of my Russians was an elderly, semi-annoying lady who'd emmigrated to Israel when that door opened in the early '80s. Now I have a trio like her I think of as The Three Babushkas. Only one of them is annoying in that same way, demanding more of my attention than I care to give -- but today, she was telling me about her memories of the Volga River burning, (I suppose from spilled fuel or burning wreckage) during the Great Patriotic War, as she lived downriver from Stalingrad when the battle there was raging.

You dinosaur internauts reading this with IE have noticed a subtle change in this page's appearance, I hope --the font's no longer too big. This fix was accomplished by adding a table { font-size: 100%; } directive to my style sheet.

January 7, 2007
The movie yesterday haunts me with all manner of new and familiar dystopian visions of the near future. If you want to preserve your optimism, skipping Kunstler's lengthy Forecast For the Year Ahead would be a good idea. On the other hand, Rebecca Solnit's hopeful View From the Grass (a speculative look back from the same year in which "Children of Men" is set) is so optimistic, many would characterize it as a naïve pipe-dream.

January 6, 2007
In his Thursday column Jon Carroll held forth on "Casablanca" and "Children of Men." Coincidentally, I noticed it in a section of discarded newsprint, while waiting for my slice to get crispy at Pizza My Heart, just after viewing the gripping new film.

The Pilot finally weighs in on the "airplane taking off from a conveyor belt" question, and thankfully agrees that no, it couldn't become airborne. Seems like those who conclude otherwise get hung up on the feasibility of a conveyor belt matching the aircraft's speed and acceleration -- agreed, probably not possible; but that's not what the question's about. Note how kottke's in the contrary camp; his blog's where I first got wind of this thought experiment, although he sources The Straight Dope (and surprisingly, it even confuses Cecil).

January 5, 2007
Greetings, reader. Thanks for stopping by. Apologies for the offerings here being so paltry of late, but I'm weary of blogging, maybe due to a bit of post-holiday let-down.

January 4, 2007
Yahoo!News photo -- the Stormtrooper Legion in the Rose Bowl Parade.

January 1, 2007
New Year's Day used to be for listening to pop radio as they counted down the year's Top 100. Now, at the BBC, 100 Things We Didn't Know Last Year.

December 30, 2006
Marking the unlikely trio of 2006 year-end deaths: James Brown, Gerald Ford and Saddam Hussein, the latter hanged at dawn on the Islamic holy day Eid.

It made some best-of lists, but certainly not mine -- here's 'Appreciating Great Trash's "F" review of Flight 93. Follow along if you want the sort of penetrating, readable movie reviews like you don't find here. My best five of cinema includes the usual unknown titles, seen this year at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley (instead of the usual Stanford Theatre):
  • The Young Girls of Rochefort
  • Little Man, What Now?
  • Ed Norton double feature:
    Down in the Valley (until it was clear Harlan wasn't) and
  • The Illusionist
  • Little Miss Sunshine

The Economist provides a survey of Russian airports.

December 17, 2006
Friday marked the end of my cushy software job, with its easy internet access. Now it's a time of transition, so be warned -- changes are inevitable, after a brief holiday hiatus.

At Slate, a short slide show -- Tiffany the Architect. Also, an update on Hollywood's progress making a film of A Confederacy of Dunces.

December 14, 2006
last class photo Last day of class: the party. Almost all will move on, to be replaced by a new batch of students in January. Sad to see 'em go.

Persephone, Pomegranates, and the source of the Seasons. (Warning: Greek mythology. Found while searching on how to juice a pomegranate.)

Photos: building a Danish offshore wind-farm.

December 12, 2006
Readers the New Yorker cartoons know Roz Chast. She's just a few months younger than I, suppose that's why I can relate, sometimes, to her cultural references. The recent Cartoon Issue had a two-pager called "Turning Japanese" about her journey when an Unknown Force drew her into the manga section of a bookstore. It provoked this question on AskMe for which I scanned in the pertinent panels, and posted 'em in a new page. Inscrutable? You bet.

Ten Bible verses never preached, and the Ten Most Bizarre People on Earth.

December 11, 2006
Ten things code DOESN'T do in real life (that it does in the movies).

Galactus is Coming! -- a collaboration between Stan Lee and Jack Chick.

December 8, 2006
CBS editor apologizes, in Good Riddance To The Gingrichites --
The men who ran the Republican Party in the House of Representatives for the past 12 years were a group of weirdos. Together, they comprised one of the oddest legislative power cliques in our history. And for 12 years, the media didn't call a duck a duck, because that's not something we're supposed to do.
I disagree, Dick -- that's exactly what the Fourth Estate is supposed to do.

The Washington Post reports that Japan Plans to Scrutinize Restaurant Offerings Abroad. At last, a catchy term for the phenomenon of inauthentic Japanese cuisine: Pseudo Sushi.

Fanatics killing off Hitler's special beetle, which only lives in a single cave, in Slovenia.

Photos of shipwrecks on the coast of Mauritania.

Michael Miller provides Ten Tips for Smarter Google Searches.

In the current New Yorker their film reviewer I like, Anthony Lane, holds forth on Walt Disney at length, mentioning Neil Gabler's new book which sounded fascinating when he was promoting it on "Fresh Air" in October.

December 7, 2006
yes, it's me A handsome portrait, altho I wish somebody'd yanked down my shirt, to straighten out the wrinkles. During the mid-class break they were playing with each other's hair and my remaining Persian student was wearing her wig that day. One thing led to another, and then the cell phones appeared, amidst much hilarity and giggling. (Compelled me to master the image-capture features of my own new handy, once I got home.) Back when I had that much, my hair never looked this good!

December 5, 2006
matchbook scan A random scan from a library book of matchbook cover art, published 1990.

Richard Cohen is a perpetual Washington Post columnist who's irritated me for a long time even while I often enjoy his writing. Now he's shown up in Slate with a fine essay: Is James Bond Responsible for the Iraq War?

It's not new, but in season -- instead of Charlie Brown, here's the Pumpkins in Smashing Peanuts -- the sort of thing Lawrence Lessig is talking about in Free Culture (big .pdf) which is initially confusing because in his intro, the author describes the impact of the Wright Bros' invention as well as Edwin Armstrong's development of FM radio, quoting Lawrence Lessing's 1956 bio of the latter, Man of High Fidelity.

The Cato Institute provides a map of Botched Paramilitary Police Raids, an epidemic of "Isolated Incidents."

December 3, 2006
Hangar One That rainy May day when I first visited Moffett Field in 1997, I couldn't help but make an unauthorized detour to Hangar One -- at the time, it seemed to be unattended, and I managed to find my way inside. Ended up working practically in the structure's shadow for eight years. But they closed off the historic site behind chain-link fencing a couple years ago (since it's allegedly dangerous with chemicals). Here's my final insider photo, snapped at an optimum morning hour when the sun's angle highlights the corrugated siding.

November 28, 2006
My time on the base is winding down fast, after almost a decade; today, I turned in my keys to the friendly guy at the Lock Shop. For an hour in the morning and another in the afternoon, he's available in the little office of the tiny building devoted to his purpose. I never learned his name, but once, late in the last century, he appeared at my office door, asking "These your keys?" As a matter of fact they were and I was glad they finally turned up even though by then I'd replaced the lot. A couple weeks before somehow they'd fallen out of my pocket while I was riding my bicycle home, late one autumn afternoon. An evil person found them and, after removing my Swiss army knife, tossed the rest into the bushes outside the cafeteria. A nicer, more with-it person found them later whereupon Mr Lock Shop eventually matched the US Govt numbers on my office keys to me.

The beautiful night New York.

November 24, 2006
Tino News sign Hoping you&yours having festive holiday weekend. Three things I've learned over the past few days:
  • The kids call my school "Tino" -- found this archaic routered wood sign, labeling a bulletin board outside the cafeteria. Wondered if the nerdiest of their numbers have ever thought of it as "Teen Know" -- somebody must've, in some previous era.
  • Japanese vocab: kaiju. The most famous Kaiju is Godzilla and other well known Kaiju include King Kong, Gamera, and Mothra.
  • Hot Ice -- a recent discovery, water freezes into room-temperature ice when 6 million volts are involved.

At the Only Movie Review Website Aimed Expressly at the WRONG-Thinking, el Santo does one of my favorites, F°451.

November 21, 2006
Get Me Rewrite! Michael Hirschorn on the future of newspapers in the Atlantic.

In Harpers, Good Question, Vietnam compiles questions submitted to some foundation by Vietnamese people.

Debunking the "America is a Christian Nation" myth.

November 19, 2006
Beautiful site by Bertrand Celce, a world traveler and photographer. It's been cool-cloudy here for the past couple days and the weather & times trigger a yearning for Tokyo -- his photos (like Shinjuku Girls) take me there. Also liked the China images, and don't miss DDR in the 1980s.

Better map, with commentary, from the Zompist.

November 16, 2006
2006 US Congressional Election -- updated maps showing red vs. blue at the county district level.

November 12, 2006
Stamps and Coins in the News: Absentee Florida ballot sent with precious stamp (an Inverted Jenny) and a Washington Post article claims $2 bill usage is on the increase, possibly due to the Sacagawea dollar coin (but I prefer the strip-joint angle).

At the Joy of Tech, a worst case scenario.

Ben McGrath on Manhattan Cyclists in the New Yorker. Rev. Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping makes an appearance.

November 9, 2006
At the ever-excellent English Russia, Strange Soviet Buildings.

Russell Davies: How to be Interesting.

November 6, 2006
Love these rides -- Pakistan's Decorated Vehicles.

November 5, 2006
Enter a name at Intelius People Search and see what pops up. It's usually correct. Try YOUR name.

YouTube link of the moment -- I Don't Feel Like Dancing by the Scissor Sisters.

November 3, 2006
Primary and early e-voting problems point to a gathering storm. Read it & weep. Also, at the BBC, 'Only 50 years left' for sea fish. Optimistic response: It's not too late to reverse the trend. As if. In more cheery news, NASA management reversed an earlier decision this week and announced a new repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, rather than letting it die. To commemorate, its top 100 photos.

The USPS issued a set of DC Superhero stamps this year, but it didn't really concern me. Next year, however, they're doing a set for Marvel and that's rather exciting -- it includes three Spideys, and two of the Silver Surfer! Also an early Fantistic Four cover featuring the FantastiCar, which is rumored to appear in their next movie, along with the Surfer plus the wedding of Reed and Sue (even as Sue just left Reed in the fascinating Civil War ongoing in the contemporary Marvel universe).

Wonderful Astounding-Analog cover archive. My father has had a subscription to this magazine for decades, and I'd save his discarded issues during my early-60s Sci-Fi awakening, years before I could manage actually reading their content. Favorites among those covers included the Sandworm and first image of Arrakis from when the serialization of Frank Herbert's Dune began in 1963; as well as Harry Harrison's Time-Machined Saga.

More about that enormous slide installation at the Tate Modern, in London.

October 31, 2006
Japanese (Jack-o-) Lanterns in Palo Alto Here we are, at the black & orange harbinger of the red & green holiday season. Next year they're tampering with Daylight Savings again, shifting the switch back to Standard Time to the weekend after Halloween. DST Incidents and Anecdotes hails this as a good thing, kids trick-or-treating before sunset, but c'mon -- where's the fun in that? Today's photo shows some Japanese chochin lanterns tinted for the season and hanging from a tree, outside a Palo Alto residence.

Retrocrush has a show-and-tell of the worst Halloween costumes of all time, the cheap store-bought kind.

A very amusing impersonation staged by the pranksters at Improv Everywhere -- when Chekov gave a reading at the Union Square Barnes & Noble.

October 29, 2006
Headline: GAO chief warns that economic disaster looms. Also, on the Financial Page of the New Yorker: Safe as Houses?
The idea that housing prices have nowhere to go but up is, in other words, a statistical illusion.

Brad Reed in The American Prospect --
As the midterm elections approach, many conservatives are feeling betrayed by one of their most important allies in the war on terror: Battlestar Galactica.
Although I remain cable-free, I am familiar with this show's reincarnation (or at least, the first two seasons) due to Andy keeping me up-to-date with videotapes -- thanks, Bro! Among other rabid right-wingers the article quotes Jim Lileks, whose Bleats I greatly enjoyed until he was unhinged by 9-11 -- the guy's been incoherent ever since.

October 27, 2006
On the House posts a rant about the proliferation of flat-screen TVs in restaurants. This scourge infected my favorite local noodle house (also during the World Cup) and it's not so much a visual problem for me as an audio. And unfortuanately, the placement of the infernal device isn't within surepticious range of my TV-B-Gone.

A couple more good rants, on things political: Tuesday's Jon Carroll column, and a fresh and wide-ranging Salon interview with the noted amazon Camille Paglia, who's been absent from my screen in recent years. Finally, Letter From Here ponders an October surprise as Halloween nightmare. Does sound like they're preparing for something, perhaps a symbolic raid on a uranium processing facility.

Moving on to things technological, Miguel Carrasco describes the Ten Biggest Computer Flops of all time and at Damn Interesting, the Last Great Steam Car.

October 25, 2006
my first ESL class As promised, here's a photo of my class. (It's a thumbnail, of course -- click for bigery.) The students come and go but almost everyone showed up today; my roster's currently about 30 and the ethnic numbers here total four Japanese, two Russians (although one of those migrated to Israel many years ago), one Mexican (Alberto, in the middle), one each from Chile, Ethiopia, India and Iran; four Koreans and the rest Chinese. The J- and K-Girls are flashing their traditional peace-sign for the camera. (Why they do? Some answers here.)

Shuttle launch photos taken from a WB-57 high-altitude research plane.

Cover story in the current Wired -- Battle of the New Atheism by Gary Wolf.

October 23, 2006
Top 10 Advertising Tricks in Tokyo's train stations. Many of these are new to me -- I've been away too long! Also, Old Tokyo -- Vintage Images of the Capital City. (Many of these photos are tinted.)

October 20, 2006
Hot Rod tabulates the Top 40 Car Movies. I'd add "Badlands" for Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek in the '59 Cadillac, driving across the prairie.

Jen links to a video of Slade, in concert, worth it just for the fashions. Can't explain why I acquired Sladest in 1974 -- never heard their music on the radio (even though they were huge in Britain, at the time), but I ended up playing the record lots, although my buddies couldn't relate. (But then, they often found my musical tastes a bit extreme.) The LP was long gone by the time Quiet Riot had a hit stateside covering Cum Feel the Noize ten years later, when I advised my sister how it wasn't their song, but lacked any proof. Finally, here it is, on YouTube. Listen and Obey.

Keith Olbermann: Beginning of the End of America. IMO we've been ending for decades... but if you can avoid the media, things don't seem bad at all.

October 17, 2006
California Trees in the News:
Coast Redwoods (a new tallest was just discovered, and named "Hyperion") and Palms ("vanishing" from LA). I think the latter's a kind of ignorant article -- it discusses a fungus attacking the Date Palms, which are the more full-bodied type with the thatched trunks. But the more common LA palm, which way out-number the Date, are the tall, slender Washingtonia Palms (which remind fans of The Lorax of Truffula Trees).

Also in the news, from the BBC: Human species 'may split in two'.

October 16, 2006
From today's news, an announcement by an unnamed director of national intelligence:
"Analysis of air samples collected on October 11, 2006, detected radioactive debris which confirms that North Korea conducted an underground nuclear explosion."
But was there fission? If not, this detonation would definitely qualify as a 'dirty bomb' -- hence, a "nuclear" explosion. Seeking detailed data for comparisons (especially with those tests performed by the former atomic club newbie, Pakistan) the Nuclear Forces Guide has all the numbers.

Beware Empires in Decline, a short essay by Michael Klare.

Yesterday, I linked to a new page of Firefox tips and proselytizing where I blithely claim of no more difficulties with sites refusing that browser and insisting on Microsoft's IE. This Page Requires Internet Explorer - Worst Offenders has a long list of comments, submissions for this category, interesting to both Firefox afficienados as well as the Apple folk. Banks seem to get the most mentions (making it obvious that I'm a late adaptor who doesn't pay bills online).

October 15, 2006
From the Burke Museum of the Universty of Washington -- Myths, Misconceptions, and Superstitions about Spiders.

Some new products:
Tiles coated with titanium dioxide, a pollution-fighting technology that is activated by ambient daylight. The One-Click Butter Cutter -- brilliant! For swimming fun, the Inflatable Iceberg. An Instant Building for emergencies. And for those who want to live on the road but can't afford an RV, Jay Baldwin Design presents the amazingly spacious Quickup Camper shell for your pickup truck.

One more, from a list of Firefox extensions for geeks -- Copy URL, a great timesaver for a by-hand HTML coder, like myself. You folks still using the IE browser, don't know how you can stand it -- at the library recently I did a bit of web-surfing with it, and the Flash ads are as out-of-control as the animated-GIF banners used to be. And I find the lack of tabs incredibly frustrating (although I hear this feature will be available in IE7). Since you might be unaware of what I'm babbling about here, check the upper right corner of this window. Is the lower-case, blue "e" up there? Then you're using Microsoft's Internet Explorer, the browser used by the vast (though shrinking) majority of web-surfers. Just put together a new page describing how I utilize the benefits of the Firefox browser, how you can upgrade (probably even at work, where you might think you can't) and why.

October 13, 2006
A flickr set documenting a group's hike out to the Bridge to Nowhere in the Angeles Forest. (Most of the Bridge photos are on the second page.) Upon reflection, I'm amazed I found the thing, whenever that was (around 1990) and wish I'd taken along my camera. My visit was just after a minor earthquake, which had knocked down fresh rocks I'd encounter, littering the trail (where there was a trail!) -- so glad I missed their falling. And since the route involves fording a creek at least a dozen times each way, a good pair of hiking boots was ruined by this trek. Although of smaller scale, this bridge is quite similar in design to the Bixby Bridge on Highway 1 in Big Sur. You'll have no trouble finding online info about that one, but I've searched in vain previously for Bridge to Nowhere linkage, so I'll post a little more detail here, an excerpt from an April 1989 Los Angeles Herald Examiner clipping stored in my bulging California file:
This bridge, erected in 1936, served the East Fork Road until March 1938 when a massive debris flow, launched by one of the heaviest rains ever recorded in Southern California, roared down the canyon. This unimaginably powerful flood completely obliterated, wholesale, miles of highway above and below the Narrows, yet, incredibly left the bridge unscathed and unattached.
On one end, it's hard to picture a road at all -- it butts up against a mountainous slope.

The Halloween season is upon us, a time I've grown to dislike in my dotage, mostly for aesthetic reasons. (As it's also one of the best times to travel, I often arrange to be abroad during the festivities; not this year, unfortunately.) Many can't relate to my displeasure, just as I don't understand the loathing some feel for certain fonts, like Lauren and her list of the Seven Worst.

October 11, 2006
Tower Closing sign My early years here in Silicon Valley during the Internet boom were spent within walking distance of a branch of Tower Records. I considered myself fortunate to be so close, and shopped there often. But then I discovered Amoeba up in the City (as well as the superb CD and video selection at the local library) and gradually stopped spending money at Tower -- visits to the latter instead involving extended browsing of the books and magazines. The past few times, the place has resembled a ghost town, and the writing's been on the wall for a while now -- here, the ultimate result, the death throes of a great American business writ large on a hand-held sign on el Camino. Another local business is booming, however -- they were in the news yesterday for paying billions of dollars (!) to purchase YouTube. I've only been to Google once, and never inside -- that time, we were scoping out the territory at lunch since a co-worker had an interview there the next day. Here's a slideshow: Life inside the Googleplex.

Despite all the media hysteria, I'm skeptical about the success of the North Korean bomb test -- by all accounts, it was too small. Less than a kiloton? Oh, be real. Before Trinity in 1945, they blew up a thousand pounds of dynamite nearby, as a benchmark, creating the unit for measuring atomic bomb force. The blast of the Trinity device (the first Plutonium 'implosion' bomb) was estimated at 20 kilotons, whereas the Uranium 'gun' bomb dropped on Hiroshima only yielded 15. (Of course these first bombs were minute in comparison with what came later.) So I agree with US intelligence sources which speculate that the North Korean explosion was a large conventional blast intended to trigger a plutonium device, which failed to detonate. (Curiously, I've so far only read of this assessment at the far-right media mouthpieces of Fox News and the Washington Times.) To see a photo of a multple kiloton non-nuclaer explosion, check the Wikipedia entry on the June 1985 Minor Scale test.

Two new visions of Art, in London: Walk on water describes an installation in a flooded church, and the one at the Tate sounds like fun: five giant slides visitors can ride down.

October 9, 2006
Two glass links:
Ever heard of Canary Glass? I've seen samples in antique stores -- it's a kind of yellowish-green. Also known as Vaseline glass -- that's a collector's site, with a banner of a neon sign photo. But nowhere do they identify the neon; I guess it's up to me. It used to be known as Airplane Green, which is what you get when you put the standard 'clear blue' mixture of Neon and Argon gas (with some Mercury vapor) into a tube made with this colored glass -- glass tinted by the addition of Uranium (which is why this glass is now a collector's item). If no metal's added to glass, its color is that default beer-bottle brown, but Lead makes it clear, Gold makes it red, Copper, green, and Cobalt, blue. If you know me well, you're familiar with my cobalt glass fixation -- here's a source which sells rough-cut boulders of the stuff, by the pound. (There's a quarter-ton minimum.)

Geoff summoned me up to the City yesterday to attend the recent Burning Man DeCom in the industrial Dogpatch district, which was fun (except for the volume and density of the music). Marlene attended the real deal again, and I rather like her Lamplighters photo -- it's medieval, other-worldly. Many more great pictures in her report; don't miss the Belgians' Waffle.

An animated GIF of cats worth spreading around, just for laffs. Or maybe not.

October 6, 2006
logo of The Prisoner TV show I've been back in The Village, engaged in a periodic review of the old videotapes. For in-depth criticism and analysis, see Anorak's Guide to "The Prisoner."

Was fortunate in catching the recent American RadioWorks program, Japan's Pop Power. The associated web page has bonus imagery replete with a chibi-style manga version of host Ray Suarez. It's not all fun and games in Akihabara, however -- Youths arrested for 'otaku hunting' is a local news article from last week.

In the Atlantic Monthly, a long essay by Matthew Crawford on the decline of Shop, and why that's a problem -- Shop Class as Soulcraft. He goes on to show how thinking was removed from blue-collar and now white-collar jobs, turning professionals into clerks -- very interesting.

Do You Know What Lives In Your Eyelashes? We don't like it, but there they are.

October 3, 2006
Gah... was kept awake in the night due to an ominous scratchy in my throat, and then today, development of a runny nose -- think I'm coming down with something. To boost my immune system I just sautéed up some fresh garlic and shitake mushrooms, which may help ward off the illness. I can't be sick now -- I don't know how to arrange a substitute yet!

Milestone: Received my first teaching paycheck today. I've been paid to tutor previously, but until this 'gig' all of my former standing-up-in-front classroom experience has been strictly volunteer.

Lecturing about comparative and superlative adjectives yesterday, writing Bad, Worse and Worst on the board, I almost began describing the sight of Michael Jackson's "Bad" in a display next to Weird Al Yankovic's "Even Worse" but didn't since the explanation would take too long and even then, they wouldn't all get it. Weird Al is still in good form, however, and made my weekend, his hilarious new 'White and Nerdy' video.

Willamette Weekly reviewer pans the "Too Much Coffee Man" opera (but everybody else seemed to like it).

October 2, 2006
It's been unusually cool here in the Valley -- this year we didn't experience the usual mid-September heat wave. The last few days have been positively autumnal.

The Ten Ugliest, most embarrassing Fashion Trends of the past 25 Years.

September 29, 2006
Valuca's Strange Clouds -- mostly Lenticular but also some Wave, Mammatus and a Nacreous. (Just one huge page of beautiful photos.)

Smoker's Style's Manners Graphic Gallery is a series of 41 peculiar cartoon-diagrams from a Japanese campaign to educate inconsiderate cigarette smokers, in both English and nihongo.

Scalzi echoes my sentiments about the "enemy combatent" bill: On Moral Cowardice. Greg Saunders profiles the worst Democrats who voted for it (many with no apparent political need to cave).

September 27, 2006
At DamnInteresting, the Battle of Los Angeles, February 26, 1942. Orange? Well, of course. It's LA.

At Editor & Publisher, Greg Mitchell on the shrub, Gracie Allen, and the Supreme Being's punctuation. More about the comma: Dog Whistle Politics.

September 25, 2006
Bet you didn't know Jesus is buried in Japan. Or maybe it's his brother -- the story's kinda murky, and not all that old.

Willie Nelson's stash. Also, Growing pains by Brian Whitaker. And that new commercial, Pete's Couch.

If you've ever read Doctor No you might recall how he changed his appearance, gaining height somehow by having his spine stretched, on some modern-day rack. This was probably a figment of Ian Fleming's imagination but a new technique is now available, to achieve that result: Chinese leg extension surgery.

September 23, 2006 - Equinox
The Battle of Kurukshetra -- photos on the beach, taken the morning after a Hindu festival in Bombay, which featured floating statues of the gods, discarded afterwards.

Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth, Tales of the Rat Fink.

Swapped out the damaged trunk-lid of the Tercel today (slightly but terminally mangled previously in a backing-up blunder). Acquiring auto parts at the junkyard used to be a DIY affair, an expedition into a wasteland of twisted, picked-over wreckage; but now, the Internet provides. The amazing car-part.com connected me with a provider down in lower San Jose. That site has the most remarkable pull-down option menus, containing all of any given car's components in one scrolled list. The detailed, sortable search results remind me of the used book interface at abebooks.com. The party it directed me to was a salvage yard, an amazing place, all those scavanged components organized in a vast collection.

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