Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Welcome To The 21st Century

The P-G's Tony Norman has a good column this morning about our technological future. Tony earns mega-geek bonus points by working in highly relevant references to Rosie the Robot, the Borg, and Cylons.


Been Away Too Long

It occurred to me this morning that I've gone more than a week without posting. Let's see what we have missed during this time:

-- Every damn ThunderJournalist is claiming the Time Humanoid Life Form of the Year Award. Some have better ideas about who deserves it.

-- Danny Bonaduce doesn't back down from wandering street idiots with A/V equipment.

-- Mr. Rogers is not only dead; he's apparently extinct, as well.

I think that covers it. What's next?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cute Little Babies

It seems like many of my waking hours at home these days are spent sitting in front of the television set while feeding my two-month old son his bottle. I like it. Not only am I bonding with my boy, but I am rediscovering television in a big way. My favorite channel (as of this week, anyway) is National Geographic. Every time I turn it on, there is some kind of gripping documentary that is just too interesting not to watch. Like the one about killer baboons who steal babies from villagers' houses. Or the one that shows how baboons are so harmless that a naturalist can walk her little kids through a whole mob of the things and none of them care. That's what you call variety, folks.

Last week I caught a show called "In the Womb" that followed the course of a human pregnancy from the inside via some vivid ultrasound photography. I love stuff like this, and I enjoy sharing it with my kids. (Except for the beginning, where everything is about "penis", "vagina" and "sperm". They're not ready for that yet.) It gives them a better idea of where they came from beyond "in Mummy's belly".

When I found out that a second show called "In the Womb: Animals" was due to be broadcast last night, I made plans for another two hours of "can't miss" television. This was almost beyond fantastic, what with an insider's view of the development of unborn baby dogs, elephants, and dolphins. It was another "call the kids in!" moment of great television, after the scenes of a male dog pumping puppies into his bitch had passed, of course. I learned quite a bit about the three mammals appearing in the show. Did you know that baby dolphins begin to develop, then quickly un-develop, feet while in the womb? It would be kind of interesting if a dolphin ad a birth defect that allowed its legs to develop so that it could walk on dry land. Also kind of creepy. And did you know that dolphins' land ancestors are now believed to have been a type of critter called Pakicetid? If you watch the show, you get to see a brief CGI clip of Pakicetids milling about on a shore.

I'm looking forward to the next installment, which airs just over a month from now. National Geographic returns to the human bring for "In the Womb: Multiples". I do not know how they are going to outdo that one. They might as well quit while they're ahead.

Real Men Carry Their Wallets However They Damn Well Please

Normally I enjoy reading Tom Purcell's columns in the Tribune-Review. He's a funny guy who presents an interesting take on whatever subject he happens to write about. Yesterday he had a few things to say on the subject of manliness. One or two of those things struck a nerve -- almost literally -- with me.

Tom tells us that the practice of carrying one's wallet in the back pocket -- specifically, the right back pocket -- is "hard-wired into male DNA". This is in reaction to a sales campaign for some kind of purse called the "Man-n-Bag". It's for men, you see. The advertising includes a testimonial from a customer whose back pocket wallet had been giving him a misaligned spine.

I know where he's coming from.

Roughly fourteen years ago, a couple of co-workers -- the sort of guys who never mind their own business, and are always eager to point out what they perceive as another person's shortcomings to his face -- started giving me a hard time because of my habit of carrying my wallet in the front right pocket. I had been doing that since I was a child. Not only was it a personal habit, but it is more secure than sticking it behind your ass. Is a pickpocket more likely to get away with slipping something from your back pocket, or sticking his hand down the front of your pants? I didn't feel like going into the details of why I carried my wallet the way I did, and decided to give their way a try just to shut them up.

Peer pressure can be fatal, or at least crippling. Within a few days, I was having trouble walking. I could barely climb in or out of my car. I was sure I was becoming stricken with some physically debilitating ailment that strikes without warning. Another co-worker, someone with experience as a masseur and physical therapist, advised me that the onset of paralysis may be a temporary condition brought about by the new placement of my wallet.

I could have killed those other guys. The wallet immediately went back to where I had been carrying it, and when one of the two jerks asked why I was doing that again, I informed him that taking his advice was robbing me of the use of my legs. No one ever bothered me about it again.

Now, does it make me any less manly because I choose not to subject myself to sciatica? I think not. Tom Purcell ought to try moving his wallet forward. It's good for your health.

At least he's right about one thing in this column: Purses for men are a bad idea. Even the fanny pack looks good by comparison.

Sometimes You Just Can't Win

Pity the poor Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Let's start exactly one week ago, on Monday, December 4. In the wake of the encounter between President Bush and Senator-elect Jim Webb at the White House a few days ago, the paper -- normally a bastion of irrational psychotic anti-Bush hatred -- printed an editorial criticising Webb for his aggressive, confrontational manner in which he responded to the President's caring inquiry about the newly elected Senator's son, a U.S. serviceman currently on active duty in Iraq. The P-G explicitly accused Jim Webb of ungentlemanliness, discourtesy, and rudeness, while crediting GWB with having asked "a friendly question...a fair and decent inquiry".

As the Letters To The Editor of the past week have shown, the P-G is now reaping what it has sown.

After months and years of lambasting President Bush for the Iraq War, for his foreign policy in general, for his (somewhat questionable for those on the political right) conservatism, and for just about any old thing that occurs to the editorialists, the elder statesman of Pittsburgh's journalistic community has conditioned its loyal readers to regard any and all of the President's words and actions with nothing less than the utmost contempt. Those readers did not appreciate being told that the man they love to hate has done something "fair and decent".

The point of the editorial was that we should adhere to the time-honored principle that we should "respect the office, not the man". The letter writers did not make that distinction. What kind of "what fer!" did they give the paper?

On Tuesday, an outraged correspondent accused the P-G of displaying "Beltway mentality", then went on to imply that the President's daughters are a couple of drunks (has been true in the past) and that supporters of the war are tantamount to supporters of Nazi Germany, and finally concludes by calling the Bush family and pretty much all Republicans "barstool warriors".

On Wednesday, one reader essentially accused the President of trying to kill Jim Webb's son, while another suggested that Webb's behavior demonstrated that he was being "an officer and a gentleman". A third letter enigmatically postulated that "the Post-Gazette's blind fealty to the office of the president is rude and unacceptable" while calling for impeachment. A fourth accused the paper of "slipshod" journalism that endangers our troops because of one little editorial. From a selection of "web-only' (or should it be "Webb-only" at this point?) letters not appearing in the print edition, we find one guy implying that the President was trying to provoke Webb into a fight by being a bully, another guy is applauding Webb for giving us an applied civics lesson, and another applauds the P-G for standing behind the President in the matter.

Hey! How did that one get in there?

You may think that the readers got their points across by the end of Wednesday's letters page. But no -- the final shots came on Saturday morning in the weekly "Issue One" feature devoted to reader feedback on a particular topic. All three of them were on the same side of the issue: the first one took umbrage to the President's taking umbrage to Webb's callousness; the second refers to the 2000 election as the reason that the President does not deserve the respect that the office commands; and the third one thanked the moonbats who saw their letters published earlier in the week.

Well, then. It seems as though the Post-Gazette should consider itself thoroughly spanked. And if the outpouring of reader feedback didn't do the job, then the P-G's resident loony is there to lend a helping hand. Reg Henry is one of the P-G's lead editorial writers, but he must have out of the office on the day that the "Respect the Office" piece was written.

It's so much fun to sit back and watch the moonbats tear into one another like this.

A Second Chance At Greatness

This rules!

In a related development, this was really nice to read, too. Thank you for the words of support, Gary, and I will try to post a little more often for the edification of the traffic that you're sending my way!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

This World Is Indeed Different

I predict that, within five years, the entire internet will consist of bloggers posting YouTube videos. Considering the speed with which things move nowadays, it could be five months.

Why buck the trend? Here's my contribution:

I got confused trying to think of how many science fiction films inspired the look of this video. I'll simplify by saying that it looks like a combination of Coruscant and Robot City. I half expected a red robot who talks like Robin Williams to fall alongside the animated Bruce while Anakin and Obi-Wan whizz past in a flying car.

The ending was a little disappointing. After Eddie bit the "head" off of the helicopter, I wanted him to take a bite out of the world.

Furthermore, while I was watching this video on Comcast's "On Demand" service last night, my wife walked in and started dancing around the room with our seven week old son. I don't know which is weirder -- dancing to Iron Maiden, or dancing to Iron Maiden while holding a baby.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

No Stranger To Love

As a college student in the mid-1980s, I spent a lot of time trolling -- and occasionally contributing to -- the Star Trek Usenet newsgroup, which was abuzz with information (including spoilers) about a new series that quickly came to be known as ST:TNG. When the show debuted, most Trekkers didn't recognize any of the actors, except for LeVar Burton. Who were these people? What did they do before 1987? Usenet contributors set about researching the answers to these questions.

Yes, life was hell in the days before IMDB. You had to find this stuff out for yourself.

One night I was watching a tape of a video for a song by the 1986 version of Black Sabbath. The song, "No Stranger To Love", is basically a breakup song from the point of view of a guy who has just been dumped. Something about the woman in the video looked familiar. She looked tough, bitchy, and a little sad. With a haircut, she would look a lot like Tasha Yar from Star Trek. After a couple of viewings, I concluded that it had to be the same actress.

I duly posted my findings to the Star Trek newsgroup. I felt rather proud when one of the group's BMOC types mentioned it in a big post that accumulated numerous TNG actor sightings. It was an established FACT, because it was on the Internet. And I was the one who put it there!

To be honest, it was just speculation on my part, but the Tasha Yar sighting has been confirmed in numerous places, not the least of which is Denise Crosby's official web site. See? I was right all along.

Here's the video, so you can see for yourself.

I think a You Tube commenter put it best when he said, "All the good things: Tony Iommi, '59 Cadillacs & Star Trek. Excellent." Indeed. Life just doesn't get any better than that.

Sleep In The House Of Reason

This morning, I woke up around 2:30 when the baby started crying. I fed him a bottle, changed his diaper, and tucked him back into bed. He could go to sleep, but I couldn't. Time passed...and a little over an hour before my alarm clock was due to buzz, I got tired enough for a nice little cat nap before getting ready to meet the day.

During my brief sleep, I had a dream. A nice, vivid dream. A dream about bloggers. A dream that just cried out for interpretation. And, after a couple of hours with little else to think about, I think I have it figured out.

I, the "me" of the dream, was in a house. The occupants of the house were four guys named Chad, Saint Paul, JB and Atomizer -- collectively known as Fraters Libertas. This isn't the first time that I have dreamed about meeting the Fraters. (The last one involved a party celebrating the birth of Chad's firstborn a couple of years ago. People were lined up around the perimeter of the kind of room that you would find in a funeral parlor. And the Fraters appeared to be drunk.)

Initially, I assumed that the house in this morning's dream was Chad's house, since he does most of the writing at Fraters. He certainly did most of the talking. The other Fraters occasionally walked past and proffered insights into...whatever, I can't really remember what they were talking about. They all seemed to be sober, for what it's worth. But Chad was always by my side, frequently sticking his face in front of mine and going off on whatever topic he saw fit to comment on. He would do it while I was walking around, which was kind of freaky.

The dream ended when I stepped out the back door and found myself in the backyard of the house where I grew up. I walked over to the back of the yard and looked down on the dead end street at the bottom of the hill. Several houses had been demolished, and an Office Depot was under construction in their place. My last thoughts before waking up were, "This is the dumbest place to put any kind of store".

The "Office Depot coda" aside, I believe that this is the most rational dream that has ever played out on the inside of my eyelids. The house was not a home. The house did not represent any true physical structure. The house was a sort of virtual reality meeting place. The house was the Fraters Libertas blog itself. Chad does most of the talking, while the other three hang around waiting for a chance to say something? Sounds like the blog to me.

How interesting, to physically step inside of a blog and experience it as if it were a live conversation. It was fun. I'd like to do it again.

I have also figured out why I have the occasional dream about Fraters Libertas. The only opportunity I have had to meet any of these guys was during my visit to Keegan's Pub back in August 2005. They weren't there. I did not get to meet them. Perhaps I shall someday; until that time comes, I will be content to see them in my dreams.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006


Learned Foot conducted a poll the other day to determine which Iron Maiden CD he should listen to that afternoon. The poll lasted all of about, what, maybe two hours? And I missed it. Damn.

Doesn't matter. I would have had trouble choosing, myself. All of the options were winners. Foot even live-blogged the voters' choice. I look forward to a whole series of such Maiden liveblogs.

KAR's mascot dropped by to compliment Iron Maiden's mascot on his style.

My Body Rests, But My Mind Refuses To Sleep

The other morning, I had to get up in the middle of night to deal with, shall we say, baby-related issues. During the two-hour period between going back to bed and being startled to attention by my shrieking alarm clock, I dozed off and had a rather curious dream. Like most dreams, I only remember bit and pieces of this one. Something about Pittsburgh Pirates broadcasting teams from the late 1970s - early 1980s.

At one point, the dream took a rather odd turn. A family of three was traveling in their car. It took a moment, but I recognized it as the Mitchell family from the "Dennis the Menace" comic strip. Dennis and his mom, Alice, listened silently as the dad, Henry, ranted about idiots who piss him off. He must have pulled over, climbed out of the car, and set up a chalkboard near the side of the road to illustrate his point. This point is that there are three words for stupid people. He wrote each work on the board, spelling them out with hyphens between each letter. The first one I cannot remember, but I think it started with "M". The second was another "M" word, "M-O-R-O-N". And, "there's another name for these people -- JUSTIN! J-U-S-T-I-N!"

Now let me just say that I currently have no association, positive or negative, with anyone named Justin. I don't know why that name crept into my dream as Dennis the Menace's dad's preferred term for stupid people. I'll be days trying to figure that one out.

A few hours later, after I had awakened, my family was in the church social hall after Sunday School getting ready to go up to the sanctuary. My kids, especially the boys, like to run around like loonies, trying to burn off some of their early morning energy. We tell them to knock it off, we try to call them back, corral them, and even hang on to them like prisoners because we know that if we let go, they'll be back out there running around again. My biggest fear is that they are going to run into an old lady, or someone carrying a baby, and we'll be in serious trouble. Well. My oldest (9 year old) son was running around, not listening to our pleas to slow down. He was too busy watching the kids who were chasing him to watch where he was going. BONK. Straight into a big metal door! I laughed. I couldn't help myself! The door did my job for me. You can bet he stopped running after that. What a Justin!

In the afternoon, my wife was doing some long-overdue yardwork, for which she recruited some of the kids to help out. My younger daughter, age 4, got too close to someone using a rake and got bonked. She had a good cry, but ten minutes later she was back to normal, as if nothing had happened. Classic kid recovery. While this was happening, I was upstairs napping in order to make up for the lost sleep from the previous night. The only reason I knew anything about it is because I was awakened by the ringing of the telephone. "This is Allegheny 9-1-1. Someone just called from that number to report an emergency." I was a little stunned to hear this, so I ran downstairs to make sure everything was okay. My wife knew nothing about a 9-1-1 call, and the kids all looked active and happy. I ran back to the phone, told the dispatcher that there was no problem, suggested that one of the kids must have been playing with the phone, and apologized for the waste of time and resources.

Later on, when the yardwork was done and everyone was back inside, I asked each of my ambulatory sons if he had made any phone calls that day. Both denied having done so. Shortly, while the younger of the two (age 7) was distracted, I asked him why he made that phone call. "Because my sister was hurt and I wanted to tell the police", he replied. Gotcha! What a Justin! We are currently reviewing 9-1-1 notifications procedures with the boy.

In the evening, I made a shopping trip in order to stock up on groceries and household items. One item that we are in dire need of is vinyl shower curtains. Our current curtains are wearing out, and one in fact has developed a large hole right in the middle. I bought a ton of stuff at the store...and forgot to pick up shower curtains. I didn't realize it until I stepped into the shower this morning and saw the big hole staring me right in the face.

As you might expect, I feel like a big Justin in charge of a family full of Justins.