Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy New Year! (c. 1998)

This was my first attempt at CG character modeling and animation, made in 1997. I printed the frames out and gave it to friends as a flipbook. They were thoroughly unimpressed.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Super Cellist can leap large intervals in a single bound

I was a music major in college and studied the cello briefly as part of the curriculum. It is physically wearing; one needs unusually strong fingers to do it right. But to play like this guy you need I-can-stab-you-through-the-heart-with-my-index-finger secret-agent strength fingers. Even the pinky.

You've heard the melody before, it's often borrowed, but Paganini wrote this originally for the violin not the cello, which makes this performance all the more impressive.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

In Spain, they dream of a brown Christmas

I was sure this was some sort of Onion-esque hoax, but no... news reports that statues of a peasant squatting and taking a dump ("El Caganer") have become a popular Christmas decoration in Spain are true. Aside from this traditional model...

...they also come in celebrity and politician styles.

It gets worse:

During the holiday season, pastry shops around Catalonia sell sweets shaped like feces,
(a regular Snickers Bar or Tootsie Roll didn't look bad enough already?)
and on Christmas Eve Catalan children beat a hollow log, called the tio, packed with holiday gifts, singing a song that urges it to defecate presents out the other end.

Troubling, but they put up with Franco for 40 years, too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Redneck Delight (Steam Age)

When I was growing up we had a coffee table book by Lucius Beebe titled "Highball" filled with glorious pictures of steam locomotives. I loved the complicated mechanical nature of them, I loved the dramatic clouds of smoke they put out and most of all I loved the notion of the "cow catcher" on the front. I was always disappointed that the "real" trains I saw going down the tracks in our town looked nothing like the picture book trains.

"Danger Lights" is an old movie that revolves around steam locomotives. It's not great but it has this very peculiar sequence that I can only imagine is the Steam Age equivalent of a monster truck rally. I find the smoke shooting out of these things very impressive, almost alarming.

Item I found while looking up Lucius Beebe:
When a friend complained that if Thomas E. Dewey was elected it would set the country back 50 years, Beebe retorted "And what was wrong with 1898?"

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Rumsfeld: My Worst Day

Recent news item:
(AP) In an emotional farewell at the Pentagon, Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday the worst day of his nearly six years as secretary of defense occurred when he learned of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse.
I guess that would be the day he authorized it, right?

Amusing Rumsfeld clip from Craig Ferguson's show:

Friday, December 01, 2006

Payback in Chinatown

Chinese detective movies aren't remembered as the most culturally sensitive things, which makes this little confrontation in "Phantom of ChinaTown" (1940) all the more interesting.

In this scene detective James Lee Wong is visiting the home of a famous archaeologist to investigate a murder:

Boris Karloff also played Detective Wong in several movies and was criticized for not using a chinese accent. But here we have Keye Luke and he doesn't use a chinese accent either. Perhaps Warner Oland had the exclusive rights to silly chinese accents.

"Phantom of ChinaTown" is a rather modest movie, but interesting for the diplomatic manner in which Luke plays the lead role. It is in the public domain and you can download it at

Footnote: I tried dictating this post with voice recognition software. "The Phantom of ChinaTown " was transcribed as "the Clinton agenda talent". Maybe all those columnists we regard as right-wing nuts just need to go back to manual typing.

Monday, November 27, 2006

American Ozymandias

Our President wants to build a half-billion dollar monument to himself in the form of a library. I say "form" because... what could a George W. Bush Library possibly have in it? The things he should have read but didn't would make a more substantial collection.

"Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." would be a good one. Or any of the numerous intelligence assessments saying Iraq posed no threat, or the ones saying that occupying it would take half a million troops, or maybe his own father's book that warned Iraq was a powder keg of insane sectarian hatred waiting to be lit.

But the planners have already conceded the lack of positive W content. According to this New York Daily News article they intend to create it from scratch:

The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the Institute for Democracy. Patterned after Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Bush's institute will hire conservative scholars and "give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President's policies," one Bush insider said.

Can you imagine George Washington or Abraham Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt paying people to write good things about them?

But Saddam Hussein used to do that.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Florence Foster Jenkins sings!

"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

Florence Foster Jenkins a was wealthy socialite of the early 20th century with a talent for operatic singing comparable to Ed Wood's talent for movie directing or say, George W. Bush's talent for extemporaneous speaking.

And like them, she could not be deterred from her passion.

She gave annual recitals for her friends and acquaintances that became such draws that her final one at Carnegie Hall was sold-out, standing room only, hundreds turned away at the door, and scalpers getting ten times the face value for tickets.

Descriptions of her always seem cruel... until you actually hear her. Listen to Florence perform Mozart's "Queen of the Night" in the YouTube Clip above.

An appreciation of Florence by "Dr. Laura".

A revealing interview with her frequent accompanist "Cosmé McMoon".

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Third World 2.0

Looks like someone voted down that bridge and road improvement bond issue.

I have to presume that a yak took out a whole bunch of wooden slats in one swoop. They wouldn't just let the boards fall out one by one over several months and not make a move to replace them... would they?

More pics of people making do with less than usual: Lords of the Logistic.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thanking the Outcumbent

Today begins the 2008 Presidential race. Whoever wins has a serious problem on their hands.

That's because since Jimmy Carter's inauguration at least, it's been traditional for the incoming President to make some gesture of thanking the outgoing President for his service. But what will anyone find to thank George W. Bush for? Every act and policy of his has been a thorough disaster. There is absolutely nothing to warmly look back on.

Here's how he could handle it:

44th President: Before I address the many challenges we face, I want to take a moment to thank George W. Bush for his, uh ... uh... hey, did you get that fish tie at Wal-mart? Ha ha ha! My nephew gave me one for Christmas. Those are great!

Let's see, where was I... Oh yes.. My fellow Americans, we face many challenges ahead...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

It was 20 years ago today...

Behold, the juggler!

Twenty years ago this month Eric Graham created the first 3D character animation ever rendered on a personal computer. It was such a surprising leap that Commodore, the manufacturer of the AMIGA 1000 he used, intially didn't believe he had rendered it with one of their machines.

But he did, and when you first saw this demo running on your own AMIGA it was one of those "OMG" moments that made you believe anything was now possible.

Actual ray-traced character animation on a 7MHz computer with only half a meg of memory and not even a hard drive. No multi-million dollar mainframe needed!

Read more about Eric Graham and The Juggler

Monday, October 23, 2006

My Dad Turns 90

My father turns 90 today. See footage from his birthday celebration including attempted cake candle blowing outing:

A rare photo of my dad in his army uniform. Rare because although he was drafted in 1940, the U.S. had not entered the war yet and he was discharged in 1941 at the request of Dupont, to work on military-related projects.

Here's his first patent, a leak-sealing composition. I'm not sure how many patents he's responsible for. A quick patent search comes up with 18; my nephew says he found 35 on another database.

Here's one that looks like it could be from the set of a Frankenstein movie: Synthesis of Acrylates from Alpha-Chloropropionates

My dad grew up in Iowa, where his father was a Lutheran minister. Here he is (on the right) ca. 1924 with one of his Iowa friends:

Friday, October 20, 2006

Invisibility Cloak

Scientists breathlessly announced today the invention of an invisibility cloak that can hide anything placed inside it. Although no pictures were released, it is believed the cloak is based on enemy technology captured during the war in Afghanistan.

Still needed... an invisibility cloak to hide the invisibility cloak.

Actually, the article indicates the cloak only works on microwaves. That will be handy when we need to attack a frozen dinner factory.

In college I had a friend who worked on a frozen dinner assembly line. His job was to ensure the vacu-formed chicken patties were in their proper compartment in the plastic trays. His job title was "meat adjuster".

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Trombones in the news

(Chicago Symphony Orchestra bass trombonist Charlie Vernon.)

The 19th century was a golden age for orchestral trombone writing, but there comes a time in every trombonist's study when he realizes, after several years of looking, that there is no trombone counterpart to the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto or a Beethoven piano concerto. No major composer* ever wrote one.

Part of the problem is that it just isn't regarded as a solo instument capable of nuance.

Comment from a NYTimes article:
When he won a competition, one critic wrote that a trombone on the concert podium was like an “accordion in church,” Mr. Lindberg said. A London impresario told Mr. Lindberg’s manager he would go to hear a trombone concerto only when “heavily drunk.”

Today's composers are pretty much midgets compared to those of the romantic era, so don't expect any breathtaking developments in this area, but there is some activity. Four trombone concertos are premiering over this coming season:
The premieres suggest that an instrument that has rarely been invited into the spotlight has finally hit the big time. They also shed light on how solo commissions come about, through a mixture of friendship, personal ambition, dedication to the instrument and, sometimes, sheer ’bone luck.

Link to whole article: In the Back, by the Tuba, a Star Is Born

*Actually, Rimsky-Korsakov, a major composer by any measure (Scheherezade, Russian Easter Overture, Flight of the Bumble Bee), did write a trombone concerto. It should have a sticker on the front that says: "WARNING - Don't get your hopes up. Complete disappointment."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rocket Man!

Check out this guy flying a jet pack in a video on

Oh, yeah, the jet pack is kinda cool too.

Friday, October 06, 2006

NYC Taxi Tip

When friends or family are visiting New York City I remind them to use only official, medallion-bearing yellow cabs. There are many unfortunate stories of so-called "gypsy" cabs driving their passengers to dangerous locations and then demanding more money in return for being taken safely to their destination.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Farting Preacher

When I'm feeling down, I know I can always turn to televangelist Rev. Robert Tilton to lift my sprits.

It's hard to explain how big Robert Tilton was here in Dallas in the 80's and early 90's. He seemed to be on the air 24/7, people spoke of him as if he were a great and decent man, and when there was some religious issue in the news, local TV news would actually seek him out for the "Christian" point of view. They were eager to play along with him and never spoke of the obvious fact that he was just vacuuming money in from suckers.

But there was an alternative perspective... the Pastor Gas tapes. Created by I-don't-know-who and circulated on nth generation VHS dubs. You can see two above.

Eventually Robert Tilton fell in a big way, but for a while he was an icon of the greed-gilded-with-righteousness that was Dallas back then.

Footnote: One saturday, back in the early '90's, I got a last minute call to a gig in an ensemble for an Easter Sunday church service. During a lull in the rehearsal some of the other musicians were talking about what they'd been up to and it turned out that all the brass players (except for me) had at one time or another been in the orchestra at Robert Tilton's mega-church in Farmer's Branch... and been fired from it. Usually for asking for a raise.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Congressional Pages

A new exhibit for the museum of lame pick-up lines:

(52 year-old Congressman to 17 year-old page) "I am just finished riding my bike on a 25 mile journey now heading to the gym..."

Note to middle-aged men everywhere: No 17 year-old is going to be impressed by you chugging out 25 miles on a bicycle, especially since he just got his drivers license and intends not to be caught dead on a bicycle for the rest of his life.

But Hooray! After 23 years of careful storage we can bring this joke out again...
#1: Did you hear Representative Foley was banned from the Library of Congress?

#2: No, why?

#1: He kept bending over the pages.

Of course, this has been a problem since the time of the ancient Greeks and will continue to be as long as status-hungry parents keep sending their children to live under the eye of older men who imagine they aren't getting as much as they think they should be getting:

I'm seeing this deliberation.

"Oh, Clarisse... it seems Blake Jr. has been invited to assume a position as a "page" with a group of middle-aged men in Washington DC. Although the job pays nothing, he will be expected to be at their service whenever they call him."

"Hot damn! That was fast! I just sent his head shots out last week. The Smiths will turn green with envy when they hear this. Especially since George Smith mentioned that he had been a page when he was in high school."

"And listen to this Clarisse... as proof of their high moral standard, this group of middle-aged men points to their recent passage of a bill legalizing sexual assault, humiliation and abuse in the treatment of foreign prisoners. We can't miss this opportunity to have men like these shaping our son's ethics and judgement!"

"That's right, Blake! Hmmm... I wonder why the Smiths didn't have their boy apply for this?"

Actually, I think this page program can be saved. Just send ugly kids to be pages. The fat ones, the ones with greasy hair, the ones with zits the size of an eyeball. We've known since the computer age that those are the real thinkers, the real idea people.

But I suppose clear thinking and ideas aren't what congressmen are hunting for.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Torturing POWs. Now and Then.

If you had to choose (if you really had to) would you rather be a prisoner of the Americans in "the war on terror", where you'll be tortured, brutalized, sodomized, humiliated, and left with no hope of ever being released, even if you're innocent...

... or would you rather be held by the Germans in WWII, where you'll put on a fully staged production of the hit Broadway play "The Man Who Came to Dinner"?

This picture comes from a British website devoted to RAF veterans' memories of WWII.

Here's what I find disorienting:

-This is not a "staged" propaganda pic, this event actually happened along with several other theater productions.

-This is not like a secret radio hidden under a floorboard. One does not smuggle an upright piano, an electric bass, trombones, trumpets, saxophones, and a whole string section back into camp from the daytime work detail in your "body cavities". This had to have happened with the full knowledge and assistance of the camp Kommandant.

-The women you see on stage are men in drag. Go look at the pic of the jazz band they put together and you'll see men as the "girl singers". And according to an account on that site, they were pretty good at it.

-The Germans used to call Britain "The land without music". (There was even a poster in the 1930's touting Germany as "The land WITH music.") But those Brits must have had some musical currents running in their daily lives if they could pull this sort of talent just from downed bomber crews.

-What a strange moral compass the Nazis had. On the one hand, their British and American captives tended to get approximate "Geneva Convention" treatment. POWs from the Soviet Union, if not immediately killed, were sent to horrifying slave labor camps.

-And where is our moral compass pointing, with our treatment of prisoners heading toward the savage end of the scale rather than the humane end?

I'm sure that being in a POW camp is unpleasant, no matter who your captors are; but isn't it disappointing that this comparison can even be made today? For at least 150 years America has promoted itself as the gold standard of decency and justice. Who will ever trust us again?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's Fashion Week!

It's Fashion Week and designers around the world are unleashing their new creations.

During Fashion Week, the model shortage is so severe that even a model whose eyeball has to be mechanically held in place is called up from the reserves.

Hey Lady, you've got some toilet paper stuck to your... oh never mind.

Sadly, one model's career ended when she was swallowed whole by an evening gown and never seen again.

I don't think there's enough kleenex in all of New York City to plump those things up.

The legendary Ralph Lauren. Designs his own clothes and apparently... changes his own oil.

Ok, that was totally unnecessary. I mean the shirt.

Fashion Week continues below!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's Fashion Week 2 !

Tucked inside, there's a small strip of paper that says "You may go on a long journey."

Fashion Designers Manuel Cuevas Sr. and Jr. To be a fashion designer you need an eye for color and form. You do not need to use that eye on the mirror at home or the bathroom scale.

A can of "Off!" could have prevented those mosquito bites entirely.

Professional Modeling School. For the person who wants to put weird crap on their eyes and lick bugs... or just look like someone who does.

Outfits for girls who want to get Michael Jackson's attention.

Backstage technicians scramble to avert disaster when a model's head comes loose.

Hey lady! You've got some toilet paper stuck to your... damn, fooled again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tiny, tiny, monkeys!

"Hey, Bob... I'm wearing him down... just a couple more days... and we'll be outta here"

Thursday, September 14, 2006

So long Ann Richards

I'm disappointed to hear that Ann Richards, Texas' second female Governor (after "Ma" Ferguson), has died. She was always witty, even without writers to back her up.

Trying to test her commitment to Texas' death penalty, someone asked her what she'd do if the legislature passed a bill outlawing it. "I'd faint", she replied.

Richards was elected Governor in 1990 but defeated for re-election by George W. Bush in 1994. A recurring feature of all George W. Bush campaigns is the floating of an unsubstantiated charge aimed at disgracing his opponent.
-In 2004 it was that John Kerry had faked his injuries in Vietnam.
-In 2000 it was that John McCain was gay, a traitor and/or had a mixed race baby.
-In 1994 it was that Ann Richards was a cocaine-addicted lesbian.

Some of our founding fathers worried that the common people might be deceived by lies and trickery in election campaigns. I guess they'd have a big "told ya so" for us now.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Yet another pain-in-the-ass cell phone user

X-ray of man in El Salvador found to have a cell phone up his rear.

I can only surmise that something has gone terribly wrong in the manufacturer's Korean to English to Spanish computer translation of the user manual instructions on "How to end a call."

Monday, September 11, 2006

What have I learned?

I have two very distinct memories of 9/11. The first was logging on to the internet that morning to begin work and seeing a red-letter headline on AOL, "World Trade Center Tower collapses." Astonishing and disorienting news.

The second was turning on the TV and seeing a replay of the jet hitting the second tower and Katie Couric saying "I can only imagine the horror of the people on that plane."

Those are the big two that stick with me.

Over the next few weeks public figures seemed like they couldn't open their mouths without using the phrase "cowardly attack". I guess that's an attempt to salvage some pride after having been outsmarted by people we thought were beneath us.

Certainly a clever attack. For just a little walking around money some guys on tourist visas goaded us into ruining thousands of lives, evaporating every last bit of respect the world may have had for us and wasting half a trillion dollars we couldn't afford on ventures that have only weakened us and strengthened our adversaries.

These outcomes will haunt us for decades.

What have I learned? I see now that the biggest boon for a weak leader is to find someone his country can hate. Nothing seems to unify a country behind a leader as well as having an enemy to blame for their problems. All good sense, reason and caution go out the window as people become afraid to be seen as unpatriotic.

Mere tragedy, like a natural catastrophe, isn't enough to mobilize a country. We need someone on the other side to oppose.

I guess that isn't such a staggering lesson; it's like a broken record playing through history, right? But now that I've lived through it, I understand it.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ah... verb tense trouble!

From the NY Times today:

Mr. Cheney, who predicted in May 2005 that the insurgency was in its “last throes,” said on NBC-TV that there was no question “that the insurgency has gone on longer and been more difficult than I had anticipated. I’ll be the first to admit that.

Of course, he's really just about the last person to admit that.

But this is consistent with essential pattern we've seen:

1) first, boast and lie
2) then, implement plan based on boasts and lies
3) when that doesn't work, assert time travel powers to negate boasts and lies.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Boob Tube

The American television network CBS thinks making Katie Couric their new anchor is a smart move even as they worry that she's not attractive enough.

The french are way ahead of us in female news anchor technology. Get a load of this, boys, and remember to reel your tongue back in when you're done:

Video of French female news anchor

And get a load of the outfits she wears to deliver... the news.

But for my money, the best female news anchor was Linda Ellerbee. She anchored a very late night newscast (1 AM!) on NBC in the 80's. While not glamorous she was smart, witty, clever, insightful... completely wrong for network news.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Design horror

At the following link you can down load a pdf of a book that is "A guide for young designers: what to expect in those first months in your first job."

Brace yourself. Don your protective goggles.

The color scheme, the fonts, the layout, the illustrations, even the spacing between lines... they're all incomprehensibly awful choices. It's as if every page was designed to dissuade anyone from reading it.

This is by a designer? His pet sea monkey maybe?

I wonder how many awards it has already won.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The speech writers have left the building

Here's a brief excerpt from George Bush's Labor Day Speech (AP)

If politicians like Al Gore or John Kerry had given a speech that just consisted of a series of obvious statements, with repetition of each point to make it all doubly obvious, they'd be attacked for being "patronizing". Probably because people regarded them as too intelligent and somehow separate from the common man.

But when George Bush gives such a speech, that doesn't happen. Everyone knows that, even with his Ivy League education, this is both barrels. No one entertains hopes for thoughtful insights or inspiring oratory.

How far we have fallen from Presidents like Lincoln, or Teddy Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan who said something quotable almost every time they opened their mouths.

I worry that the two most memorable Presidential quotes of our time are going to be "I did not have sex with that woman... Miss Lewinski." and "Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice... uh... uh..."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The RIDGID TOOLS Girls of 1953

I understand the convention of pretty girls on a calendar.
I understand the double entendre of the company name.
I understand the suggestive poses with the oversize tools...

... but what's with the red, sore-looking knees?

You can see the rest of famous pinup artist George Petty's calendar art at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, a fabulous site that posts rarely seen artwork and documents from the golden age. Most of it without any sore knees at all.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Home Depot, Iraqi style...

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Hours after British troops handed over a military base to Iraqi forces, hundreds of Iraqis -- some with their faces covered and wielding guns -- looted it, police and army officials told CNN Friday.

The base, Abu Camp Naji, is in the southern city of Amara in Maysan province.

The looters took materials such as doors, window frames, corrugated roofing and metal pipes and loaded them onto trucks.

Save your receipt, Achmed, I hear the return policy is brutal.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Joan Collins emerges from crypt intact

OK, I realize it takes makeup, hairspray, dental veneers, special padding, scalp retractors, titanium plates, kevlar webbing, carbon-fiber supports, some tile grout and half a roll of duct tape to make this happen, but by golly... she's 73!

Now, that's amazing.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Maynard Ferguson Dead

For about 10 nanoseconds in the 70's Maynard Ferguson was big. Bigger than the BeeGees, bigger than Farrah Fawcett even. He had a huge hit with a disco version of the Rocky theme "Gonna Fly Now" featuring his screaming trumpet high-notes. And just as every teenage girl adopted "Farrah hair", every teenage trumpet player adopted the "Maynard Pose", seen above. The object was to make playing the trumpet appear like one of the labors of Hercules.

For a while he made the trumpet seem as cool as the guitar and those of us who played something else in the junior high band could only dream that a messiah would come along for our instrument too.

I saw Ferguson live at a high school band festival our band went to. I recall being impressed by his flute player who could play two notes at once. But although he was really a jazz player, his one hit had left him with a base of fans who only wanted to hear him screech out high notes on "Gonna Fly Now".

I also recall seeing him on Tom Snyder's old Tomorrow program in the early 80's. The band he had with him looked like it might be in violation of child labor laws. As the camera panned across them during a number, they had that terrified "what's the count?" look musicians get when they can't remember if they've counted 32 measures of rest or 42 or 52 or 22 or...

UPDATE: link to some video of Maynard Ferguson performing
Them be high notes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fifth-Column Mouse

Monday was Friz Freleng's (possibly) 100th birthday and we're supposed to blog about one of his cartoons.

Fifth-Column Mouse is a WWII-era propaganda cartoon about the lurking threat that collaborators and enemy sympathizers pose on the home front. It's a cat and mouse cartoon, but the thing that struck me most about it was this was the first time I had ever heard "double-talk".

Since then I've spotted it in several other movies from the 1940's. A guy will start out speaking normal english and gradually drift into a collection of syllables that have the rhythm and flow of normal speech but mean nothing. I dont' know who invented it but it was very disorienting the first time I heard it.

Hey... what did that mouse just say?

Fifth-Column Mouse is a great cartoon; it makes you nostalgic for the time when wars had clear good guys and bad guys and a definite end. It was on a VHS collection of wartime cartoons once, I'm not sure about the DVD status.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Apologies to America

The MSNBC segment below is a typically superficial look at our President.

But there was one interesting note: the notion that George W. Bush had appeared much more able as Governor of Texas.

Is that why he came so close to winning the 2000 election? Because people believed he had successful executive experience behind him?

Note to fellow Americans: do not vote for someone because they were "good" at being Governor of Texas. Here in Texas the Governorship is practically an honorary position. Unlike most states where the governor appoints the people in the executive branch below him, in Texas those positions are filled by direct election. They owe nothing to the Governor and spend most of their time serving their own interests. If the Gov has plans, they need neither listen nor obey.

A Governor of Texas may or may not be a fine and effective person but it doesn't really matter either way. The Governor of Puerto Rico exercises more power.

The real authority in Texas is the Lieutenant Governor (elected separately from the Governor) who actively presides over the state senate and controls all committee appointments. No bill can even get considered in the Texas senate without the Lt. Gov's backing.

George W. Bush was never Lt. Governor here. His previous leadership experience was being the son of George H.W. Bush and and being a minority owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team.

I apologize to the nation for not making this clear earlier.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Snacks on a plane

Tip for travelers: When you get your in-flight yogurt, check to see if the foil lid is bulging up or down. Maybe it's the cabin pressure, maybe it sat on "the tarmac" in the sun all day, but if it's bulging up, yogurt is going to come spraying out when you peel the top back.

Don't peel the edge facing you; peel the edge facing the passenger next to you.

"Tarmac" is an odd word. I don't think I ever heard anyone speak it until some TV reporter used it in decribing where a body landed after being pushed out of a plane by a hijacker. Now I can just about count on overhearing "the tarmac" every time I go to the airport.

But it seems to be a misnomer. Tarmac is not a location at an airport. Tarmac is an early method of paving with tar and gravel, and very few airports employ any tarmac in their construction.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Idea for new ride at Disneyworld

I used to think flying into Chicago's Midway Airport was scary. Stuck in the middle of the city, it has absolutely no undeveloped buffer around it. Even though there was a surprisingly steep dive to the runway on approach you were still skimming so low over peoples' houses that you could look down on their backyard picnic and tell whether they were having hamburgers or hot dogs.

But to paraphrase Al Jolsen... "that ain't nothin'" compared to a regularly scheduled airline flight into Baghdad International Airport. Time reporter Aparisim Ghosh explains:

...Sister Benedetta smiles politely when I joke that many of our fellow passengers will be calling to their maker when the plane begins its hellish descent. To avoid being shot down by Iraqi insurgents, the pilot must stay at 30,000 ft. until the plane is directly over Baghdad airport, then bank into a spiraling dive, straightening up just yards from the runway. If you're looking out the window, it can feel as if the plane is in a free fall from which it can't possibly pull out.


During one especially difficult landing in 2004, a retired American cop wouldn't stop screaming "Oh, God! Oh, God!" I finally had to slap him on the face--on instructions from the flight attendant. Another time the man in the window seat was a muscular, heavily tattooed Polynesian ex-commando who spent an hour telling me of his life as a mercenary in a succession of South Pacific island nations--stories that often ended with his punching, stabbing or shooting somebody. When the Fokker began its steep descent, he began whimpering to Jesus and grabbing my forearm so tight, I felt my palm go cold from lack of circulation.

You can read his whole article, Life in Hell: A Baghdad Diary on Time's website. From reading it one can't help but conclude that we've taken a bad but stable situation and converted it into a far worse and more unstable catastrophe.

Obviously a catastrophe for the 100,000+ innocent dead, and a catastrophe for those still living through it, and (self-centered american here) a catastrophe for our country's standing in the world. We've been dealing dirty in the arab/islamic world for decades but I can't imagine them ever forgiving us for this.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Forever Forty-Seven

If my boyfriend Monte were still here I'm sure we'd still be having fun but I'm sure he'd be horrified at turning 54 today.

I'd probably just put 49 candles on his car cake.

Monte and I spent alot of time working on cars. One day we were working on his 1962 Cadillac. Without warning... POOF!... the whole top surface of the engine looks like a barbecue grill after you toss a match onto the lighter fluid.

Monte ran to the garage, then ran back carrying an aerosol can with no markings on it at all (of which he had many). He starts spraying it all over the engine and the fire goes out.

"I'm glad I picked the right can," he gasped, "I wasn't sure this was the fire extinguisher."

So the cadillac coupe lived to drive another day...

...until it caught fire again, just in time for the insurance money to finance the downpayment on a house.

There was another unlabeled can in Monte's garage that seemed like magic. It was something his father (a former FAA pilot) had acquired from he-wouldn't-say-where. If you've never struggled with rusted bolts in painfully inconvenient spots on 40 year-old cars this will be meaningless to you, but you could spray this stuff on anything, and no matter how solidly rusted in place it might be, it would come loose.

Banned for brain cancer-causing fumes? Salvaged from a wrecked alien starship? I don't know, but we never found anything else like it and we were heart-broken when it ran out.