Friday, March 27, 2015

PR Stupidity

Today, I came across this video of Patrick Moore refusing to drink a quart of glyphosate after claiming it was safe to drink:

And aside from the stupidity of the "doctor," I was reminded of the guy (found it, B.T. Collins) from the California Conservation Corps who, in an attempt to get people to accept the safety of malathion, drank a beaker of the stuff.  He got sick, but he did survive.

I wish I could find the picture of him at the press conference after he drank it.  The beaker is empty, and he's got this look on his face like he's going to throw up (and a little bit of, what the hell did I just do).

Monday, March 23, 2015

Learning Tool

So, I've mentioned before that Jennifer is very crafty.  She makes cards, art, and among other things, jewelry.

At the end of last year, she made a meditation mala for someone.  It looks amazing, and I think, better than many you see in shops.

There are 108 beads in the mala plus the Buddha bead and the tassel.  The person who uses it is supposed to say their mantra during meditation 108 times using the beads to keep track.  The mantra is supposed to be said 100 times, and the extra 8 allow for mistakes.

I found it interesting that 108 is actually pretty close to the number of elements in the periodic table, which, as I've mentioned before, I've been trying to memorize.  I only have the first three rows memorized (hydrogen to argon), mostly because the next row doubles the number of elements, and I've had difficulties.  So I decided I needed something to help me learn, and I asked Jennifer to make me a Mendeleev mala.

That's actually a name I just came up with.  I'd asked for a periodic table mala, but I like the alliteration.

So I came up with beads for each group (alkali metals, noble gases, halogens, etc.), and laid them out in atomic number order.  Then I needed an equivalent to a Buddha bead.  Jennifer started going through her collection of beads and pulled out one that reminded me of the first s orbital shell.  Then I thought it needed something else go with it and I came across a necklace that symbolically used the Bohric atomic model.

And finally yesterday, she finished it for me.

And she's said that she's going to hold me to learning the table now.  The problem I discovered is that when I was in college the bottom column of the table wasn't complete yet even with experimental/theoretical elements.  Fortunately I have a couple apps that have a complete table.  But today I learned that even the apps aren't up to date as the above link to the Dynamic Periodic Table has two (flerovium and livermorium) that aren't named in my apps.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Sign

In in my Terry Pratchett tribute/re-read, I have been through Good Omens and the Johnny Maxwell trilogy.

Good Omens is a favorite for the collaboration with Neil Gaiman, for being another book with good memories of when I read it, and also great fun at author signings.  I read the book from the library, and bought the large trade paperback.  Then when I found the first printing at Dark Carnival in Berkeley, I bought it.  Then when Terry and Neil came to Berkeley for signing at the old Cody's Book Store, I brought it in to be signed.  Terry was first (and was happy to have released his book a month before Neil so that it would be on the bestseller list before being knocked off by Neil), and he asked if I knew that Neil would be coming in for a signing soon, and was I going to be there.  I said yes, and he said, "Tell him I said, 'Rabbit."'  When I saw Neil, I said, "Terry says, 'Rabbit.'"  Neil look at me, and said, "What kind?"  Unfortunately I never got to see Terry again, and was not able t o continue the game of long term telephone.

The Johnny Maxwell trilogy is a series of books that may be classified as juvenile, but sometimes those are the best books. They're a thoroughly fun series about an English boy who has very strange things happen to him, and his friends get caught up with it all.  Only You Can Save Mankind was popular enough to be have been made into a radio show, and Johnny and the Dead and Johnny and the Bomb were both made into BBC productions.

Good Omens has also recently been made into a BBC radio show, and a movie is supposedly in development.

All of these books have the characteristic of being engaging books in that I can almost completely lose myself in them on BART to the point that I have sometimes had to rush to be ready for my stop.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tribute Reading

When Robin Williams died, I listened to his old works.  It felt good to hear his voice again, and chuckle, laugh, and giggle at all the bits that marked me as a kid.

Last week, I decided it was time to re-read Terry Pratchett.  I'm going to save the Discworld for last.  I'm going to read his other work first starting with the best collaboration I've ever read: Good Omens.

Neil hasn't been able to write anything about his friend of thirty years, but apparently he had an appearance last week that turned into a remembrance of Sir Terry.

And there's been an article out about Neil's daughter Rhianna as well.

Adn then there's this from the Daily Telegraph:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sir Terry - Rest in Peace

I just read that Terry Pratchett passed away this morning.

I remember reading the first five books of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series in college.  Before he passed, Pratchett ended up writing a total of 40 books in the series plus supplements, and the doesn't include his other series: The Bromeliad, the Johnny series, and the Long Earth series.

I have regularly re-read his books to recapture the feelings from when I first read them as well as to find things int eh stories that I missed previously.  Pratchett was so intelligent that he would hide items and history from our world in the Discworld while giving it just a twist.

My favorite was the Dwarven throne, the Scone of Stone.  Dwarves use bread in a violent manner creating weapons from them.  The durability of the Dwarf Bread had them create their throne out of their bread.

It was probably five years after reading about it in The Fifth Elephant, that I read about the Stone of Scone which was the Scottish coronation stone.

And he did this all of the time.  As well as planting the seeds of his future books inside others.  Or mining his previous stories for ideas.

All of his work enthralls me, and he will be sorely missed.

Morning Perfume

So, I've been riding my bike to work exclusively now for almost two years.  And aside from the occasional out of town assignment, I've been faithful.  However, this is the first winter-to-spring that I've been riding through my local neighborhood.

The past couple weeks I've been fortunate enough to be treated to waves of jasmine scent as I work my way towards Market.  And the last week or so that has been mixed with the smell of citrus.

Now I need to find out what kind of tree it is, because it's not one that fruits.  We used to have some growing outside of our place in Pacheco.  They smell amazing, but apparently my Google-Fu is weak this morning, because I'm not finding anything based on my description.

Friday, March 06, 2015

75 Years of Superman

Now comes the big one.

Again, my first memory of Superman is from the Super Friends cartoon, and he's always been my favorite (aside from having a Robin costume because it seemed more logical as a kid to be a sidekick).

But my first Superman comic?  That's really hard to remember.  And after some research (thank you Grand Comics Database) it was Action Comics #443.

Reading the synopsis, I remember the story of Superman confusing Brainiac by hypnotizing the world into reversing their knowledge of Clark Kent and Superman.  Looking back it's pretty strange (as a lot of that period stories were).

It was a small introduction, and I actually had the Superman #283 from the same month.

Which again was a throwing people off the secret identity trail.  I think.  The second story with Mr. Mxyzptlk was more memorable with the imp bringing the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial to life.

But it was from these humble beginnings (again thanks to my Dad's friend and his drug store) that my comic collection eventually grew.

75 Years of Batman

My first memory of Batman is tied up in both the Super Friends cartoon and what has come to be called the Batman '66 television show.

But my first comic book?  After some web searching, it was Batman #260 (a 100-page special).

I remember a story where the Joker has poisoned Batman who will die laughing.  And things just keep getting worse as the Joker tells horrible punning jokes.  The Joker is freeing inmates from Arkham, and Batman comes up against Two-Face who has a gun stolen from a guard.  This was my first encounter with Two-Face as he wasn't used in the TV show.  Two-Face flips his coin and it comes up heads, so he doesn't shoot Batman (who is on the floor laughing painfully), and allows Batman to lock him back up in his cell.

Looking at the cover, I can vaguely remember the story with the Riddler, but the rest are a blank to me.

75 Years of The Flash

I should probably think back and try to do this for Superman and Batman, but I just had this idea today after reading DC Comics' post on Google+.

So this was my first Flash comic book, The Flash #231.

I got this book from a friend of my dad who ran a drugstore and gave me a bunch of books that hadn't sold.

It was a crash course introduction to the Rogues Gallery for me, and also a great example of just how fast the Flash is.  The second story in the book with Green Lantern also introduced me to Aaron Burr years before the famous Got Milk commercial.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Tools and the Talent - Conclusion

So, yesterday, I found a local bike shop: Rivendell Bicycle Works.  Now it turns out that the majority of their business is online, but they still had two inner tubes for me and a patch kit.

I decided to keep one fresh tube at work and one at home, and then did some patch work on the existing tube.  It's really a simple process if you follow all the instructions.  Letting the glue dry a bit before application is key.

And it's all holding.  The ride to BART yesterday was fine, and this morning has all gone well.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Tools and the Talent - Part Two

So, the first rule of bicycle flat repair is always check the tire to make sure that whatever may have caused the first flat is out of the tire.

When I got to Walnut Creek today and I was riding down the ramp to cross the street, the bike fishtailed a bit.  It did this in a way that reminded me of hauling rock in dad's pickup truck my year at home between undergrad and grad school.  I was hauling pea gravel a half-yard at a time to fill up the bed for the new hot tub my parents had bought.  And half yard was about all that the truck could handle.  When I took a turn, I could feel the center of the wheels slide out.  It required very slow travel.

So I've jsut taken the rear bike wheel off again, and through careful feeling and flexing of the tire, I found a nice piece of glass that with pressure was poking a hole in the inner tube.

I guess I'll walk over to one of the downtown WC bike shops, and get me a new inner tube.  Maybe a couple.  And a patch kit.

Friday, February 27, 2015

RIP - Leonard Nimoy - UPDATED

You will be missed, sir.

Here is the NY Times article.

---  UPDATE ---

And a fitting farewell posted on another site that I feel needs to be borrowed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Readership Spike


So in a day I get a few readers.  After a new post, I get 30 or more.  But on Monday, I got 616 hits.  That quickly put me over 50,000 pageviews of all time, but I just have to wonder, why?

I mean it weird.  Its like someone, in one day, read my archives or something.

Because it's not like a single page garnered any coordinate spike of interest.  And I've kind of lost my international following.  The only country that really is lit up this week is the USA.

I guess while I may have some sort of draw, I don't have the international draw that John does.  He's talked about previous big readerships from Russia and other places.

The Tools and the Talent

So this morning when I bumped onto the sidewalk at the BART station and I was walking to the gate, my bike started acting like it didn't want to roll.

As I walked, I checked the brakes and the shifters, and everything seemed all right on that end.  Finally I just carried it until I got to my chosen door location, and looked it over.

Somehow, my rear tire spear (axle) had come out of it's mounting on one side, so the tire was rubbing against the frame.

And that's why you always carry tools when you bike.  The train was due in a couple minutes so I shucked off my helmet, vest, and gloves, and reached into my pack for my allen wrench.  I almost immediately grabbed it and laid it in my helmet.

The trains are pretty empty at 6:15, so I got my spot with a seat, and quickly loosened the spear, re-positioned it, and tightened it up.

Everything's back to normal.

I'm not a Boy Scout, but I do my best to be prepared.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

It's Just Not Done

So, today I found myself struggling a bit with using what I feel is the correct word.  I discovered that popular culture has limited me on the words that I feel comfortable using.

I do not like to use the word "assume".  Essentially this goes back to an old episode of "The Odd Couple" when Felix is on the offensive in court.  The man he's up against states that he assumed that something had happened.  Felix latches on to it and writes the word "ASSUME" on a chalkboard.  He then circles three parts of it saying, "When you assume, you make and ASS out of U and ME."  This was one of the funniest things I had heard at that time, and it really stuck with me.

Then of curse there is Yoda.  A geek never "tries" to do anything.  For as the master says, "No!  Try not.  Do or do not.  There is no try."

Sean Connery fans would never do their best.  "Losers always complain about doing their best.  Winners go home and fuck the prom queen."

When a person asks how you think they did, you don't tell them " That'll do," because likely in the back of their mind they'll hear, "...pig." at the end of it.

And what is the best way to acknowledge a request made by someone you love?

"As you wish."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Long Way

Television is fluid.  The things we watch come and go.  Sometimes they linger and leave a mark.  Sometimes it's not the show, but the producer's vanity card.

Nobody who watched TV in the 80s can hear "Sit, Ubu, sit... Good dog." and not bark (at least in their head).  And of course the MTM kitty meowing.

The favorite of ours now is Chuck Lorre Productions.  They are great little bits of personal philosophy and/or humor after some of our favorite shows.

A couple weeks ago, #482 came up and I took a picture of it.  I imported the picture into Word, printed it as a PDF and had Acrobat run an OCR on it.  I copy, pasted, and edited it up, and now have a nice word document of it.

Then when I thought to write this blog, I thought I'd link to any sort of page Chuck Lorre might have.

As you can see by clicking the above link, he has all of his vanity cards available to read.

But nothing acquired easy is as appreciated, right?  So anyway, here's #482:

The things I have spent my life depending on are undependable.   Because they are things.   And things  re, by their very nature, subject  to change.  This applies to people as well.  People change.  People leave. Inevitably we all leave.  The world, therefore , is essentially an unstable, uncertain environment.  That's why I choose to believe in, and depend on, an unchanging, eternal, omnipresent non-thing.  I prefer not to call it God, because the very word tends to thing things up.  So I try not to call it.  I try to experience it.  Easy to do looking out at the ocean.  Hard to do looking up at the ocean.  Easy to do when you look at a baby.  Hard to do if the baby is next to you on a long plane flight.  Easy to do when you look at a pretty girl.  Hard to do if you were once married to her.  Clearly what blocks me from transcendence is judgment.  If I were able to suspend having an opinion on drowning, other peoples' baby’s vomit, and alimony, if I could simply see these things as they area - actions devoid of meaning until I give them meaning - I could experience some semblance of union with the infinite sublime.  I'd instantaneously transition from neurotic sitcom writer to one seriously badass guru dude.  People would travel great distances to ask me for guidance with their personal problems.  I'd wisely tell them "It is what it is."  They’d judge this as being ridiculously inadequate advice and punch me.  But I'd be okay with it because I'm, you know, exalted.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Many Miles


I like long weekends for the extra free time it gives me to take long rides.  This weekend I racked up over 70 miles.

I did two rides to Craneway Pavilion in Richmond.  The weather was nearly perfect: warm, and almost completely still air.  Sunday was nicer with a little cooler temperatures.

Monday, I decided to do the Oakland Bay Bridge again.  It's a nice challenge, but I needed more time out, so I took the split at the gate afterwards and headed into Oakland.  This branch took me into the Port of Oakland, and I ended back up at the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park.


Now, I now it's not a race, but sometimes it's just the fact that there's someone in front of me that I have to ride that much harder to get in front of them.


A corollary to the above is that some songs are dangerous on an iPod while your'e riding.  The soundtrack to the new Tron is a good pace music but just makes me want to go fast.  Speed Racer is very dangerous.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Tales of Reading

So recently I've read a few books that were about the making of entertainment.

John Cleese's autobiography was tons of fun with both the tales of him growing up, and also his lessons on just what humor is.  At least his interpretation on what he thinks humor is.

Then I read the first two books in the These are the Voyages series which are an episode by episode account of the writing, casting, and filming of "Star Trek" the original series.  The stories in this one are really fascinating whether about Shatner and Nimoy, the back and forth with the network and Roddenberry, or even the growth of D.C. Fontana from secretary to science fiction writer.

But the jewel of books was As You Wish by Cary Elwes.  Written from the man cast as the Man in Black's perspective of his journey to becoming Westley, it also has accounts from interviews from the rest of the surviving cast, Rob Reiner, William Goldman, and Andrew Scheinman, as well as an afterward by Norman Lear.  I'm jsut going to have to watch the movie again.  The stories of how everything happened and what happened behind the scenes just rekindles my interest in the movie.  And Elwes' style of writing is as easy to hear in his voice as John Cleese was.