July 31, 2006

The Opera

Friday night we saw The Merry Widow, as performed by the Ash Lawn Opera Company. We had an excellent time. For those who don't know, our daughter Rachael is working as an Assistant Costumer for the summer season at Ash Lawn.

From the Albemarle County* website, here is a brief synopsis of the story:

In this delightful comic operetta, Anna, the Pontevedrian widow, finds herself in France surrounded by suitors interested in her impressive estate. Her native country, facing bankruptcy, is concerned that she will choose to marry a foreigner, and her money will be lost to the little country. Join us to find out who Anna marries.

The performance was excellent. One of the female leads had a beautiful voice, but not the projection needed for an outdoor venue, especially since no microphones are used. Other than that, the comedy was funny and the singing was wonderful.

As for the costumes, what Rachael (and the other assistant) did for the first act was mostly "dressing up" old prom dresses to turn them into ball gowns. They also made petticoats for the ladies and did alterations for the guy's tuxedos. Their most impressive work for the first act was the lead's ball gown, which they made from scratch. It was elegant and intricate and beautiful.

The second act was where that had all the fun. They created can-can dresses for all the ladies, and Rachael made frilly garters and, as she put it, "added lace to a bunch of granny underwear"

From the information page at the county website:

The Ash Lawn Opera Festival is recognized by Money Magazine as one of the top-20 international warm weather summer opera companies, boasting "first rank talent, full summer programs and lots of nearby culture". Established in 1978, the Festival, a member of Opera America Inc., presents opera and musical theater sung in English and performed in the beautiful Boxwood Gardens of Ash Lawn-Highland, home of President James Monroe.

This area of Virginia is beautiful and full of history. Besides many vinyards and wineries, Monroe's Ash Lawn, Madison's Montpelier, and Jefferson's Montecello are all in the immediate vicinity. These three founders of the United States were neighbors and good friends.

Turning into Ash Lawn, you find yourself travelling a mile long drive underneath the overarching canopies of magnificent oak trees lining the road (I think they were oak). There are tours given of the grounds, and several of the original buildings have been restored. I must mention the gift shop, in that it's the most reasonably priced shop of its kind that I've ever encountered.

The theater grounds open early, and many folks show up early with picnic baskets. The stage is set in a natural amphitheater and is surrounded with tall hedges. I was surprised to learn that the area seats 300 or so, and since there are only eight rows, nobody is far from the stage. The seats themselves are comfortable, cushioned chairs. There is a smaller, emergency "rain stage" and covered pavilion where the show moves to if the weather doesn't cooperate.

Like I said, it was a very enjoyable evening.

*According to Rachael, Albemarle County was for a brief time the largest county in the United States. The original charter for Albemarle lay the western edge of the county at the "island of California". Presumably, someone who could read a map later amended the charter.

Posted by Ted at 05:29 AM | Comments (44) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

July 28, 2006

Crap. Why didn't anyone tell me?

If you click on the sidebar link for the PDA compatible version of Rocket Jones, you now actually get the updated PDA compatible version of Rocket Jones instead of the old and non-updated pages.

Posted by Ted at 06:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

I can see clearly now...

Seen over at Random Nuclear Strikes:

Since 2001, they’ve been screaming ["they" means enviromentalists - RJ] that President Bush is “rolling back the Clean Air Act,” and that the resulting increase in air pollution will kill people by the thousands. Instead, every category of air pollution has fallen during the Bush years, with 2003, 2004, and 2005 showing the lowest levels of harmful ozone and particulates in the air since the monitoring of air pollution began in the 1960s.

I'm not prepared to give President Bush all the credit for this, just like I'm not willing to bash President Clinton on the subject. There's inertia in something like changing the quality of our air, and I think that we all deserve credit for being more aware of pollution and taking better care of the environment in general. Little things add up, and Americans have made a lot of little eco-friendly things a normal part of our lives. Things like changing the type of freon used in air conditioners, using non-aerosol sprays, and developing cleaner cars and fuels. Yay us!

Follow that link above for more links and details.

Posted by Ted at 05:22 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack
Category: Links SciTech

July 27, 2006

Silent Universe - A Review

Before television gained dominance, radio shows entertained with all types of audio theater. I still enjoy recorded shows from "the golden age of radio" like The Shadow and Inner Sanctum (hint: available on CD and cassette, or ask Victor for copies he made when they originally aired).

Nowadays, I'm loving the proliferation of podcasts. Much like blogging gave "journalism" to the masses, podcasting is doing the same for talk radio. And now podcasts are appearing which provide a return to that classic era of radio programming.

Recently I was contacted about doing a Rocket Jones review for a podcast called Silent Universe. Like the classic radio serial format, this science fiction offering features suspense and cliffhangers at the end of each episode. Even better, unlike the old days, you don't have to be glued to the radio to enjoy the shows because you can download Silent Universe to your iPod or other .mp3 player and listen at your leisure.

From the email:

The Silent Universe is a sci-fi adventure drama, with writing that has been compared to the intrigue of TV shows like "24" and "Battlestar Galactica."

"[Space opera] is now commonly used to mean a tale of space adventure whose emphasis is on boldly delineated characters, drama, and especially action."

It's understandable that they're going for the "24" comparison since that is television's premier cliffhanger show. In my mind though, Silent Universe more closely captures the spirit of an old fashioned, rip-roaring space opera. You movie going whippersnappers can think "Star Wars", but Flash Gordon is a classic example (from before *my* time, he added pointedly). That said, there’s an edginess and tension to the Silent Universe episodes that didn’t exist in those early programs.

Silent Universe is set in the not-too-distant future, when humans have spread to the planets of our solar system. Society as a whole hasn't moved much beyond what it is today, in that there are still governments jostling for advantage and using diplomacy, war, and intrigue to gain the upper hand.

"There were those who thought that the dawn of the second space age would unite humanity in a common cause. Dreams of grand utopias fevered the minds of visionaries and futurists, who proclaimed that the stars would save us from ourselves. They couldn't have been more wrong." - from the intro

The story follows Emmeline Kaley, a professional mercenary who finds herself involved with a covert organization after a paying job goes horribly wrong. Things aren’t always what they seem, and allies can’t always be trusted. Through the blur of events, you occasionally get a glimpse of the truth: that someone far more powerful than you has been pulling strings and making events bend to their will.

There's a disclaimer at the start of the podcast for the mature language and themes in the episodes. Despite the humorous slant on free speech, don't let it fool you into believing that everything is one-sided. At one point in the episode, one of the characters makes an impassioned argument for letting the UN handle the situation. The show tries to stay balanced, and the characters are not marching along in idealogical lockstep.

There are a couple of interesting facets to this podcast. First of all, you can download the mono version for free, or you can pay a couple of bucks for the CD-quality stereo version. You can also subscribe to either version and get each episode as it comes out.

Full Disclosure: I was given a reviewer's access code for the stereo version. Was this a blatant bribe to positively influence me, or merely their way of applying pressure to for-God's-sake use a spell checker? I report. You decide.

Actually, I asked the producer to comp me the access so I could contrast the two audio versions. Spoiled the suspense for you there, didn’t I?

These episodes are performed by professional voice actors, complete with nice sound effects and an original soundtrack to go along with the action.

The initial schedule called for episodes to be released about once a month, and eleven episodes were to make up the first "season". As often happens, schedules go straight into the trash when they meet reality. The first two episodes are available now (and the first, Mission 256, is a double episode). The next is due out next month.

Online, Silent Universe has been generating some buzz:

We've been featured in online publications such as Slice of Sci Fi, Sci Fi Crows Nest, PRweb, Spaceship Radio, PodcastingNews and others.

And now of course, the coveted mention in Rocket Jones.

Here’s another unique and exciting aspect to this project:

We also invite our audience to do more than just listen; we encourage them to discuss the podcast with the production staff on our online forums (honesty is preferred to flattery, though a little flattery never hurt anyone, hehe). We welcome feedback and critiques on episodes, suggestions for future plot ideas, and even spec script submissions for hopeful science fiction writers.

I’ve been to the forums, and they’ve started to build a fan community discussing various aspects of the show. I expect it to grow quite a bit as they work the kinks out of the production process and begin to release new episodes on a more regular basis.

Ok, so that’s all well and good, but I can hear you saying, “Ted, that’s all well and good, but what did *you* think of it?�

More importantly, what did Bub think of it?

da doo ron ron ron, da doo ron ron

Enthralled, I’d say.

The episodes are fast paced and seem logical within the framework of the story. I absolutely love Emmeline’s accent (she claims Scot, but there’s some debate on that in the forums, which bothers me not).

I also like the bad guys so far. They don’t seem evil just for evil’s sake as there is an underlying rationale for their actions. When they act in a way that you personally wouldn’t, there’s a tendency, in my mind at least, to attribute that to cultural differences rather than plot inconsistencies (those crafty Asians).

A few of the characters are already on my “please die soon� list. The two sisters, Ritsu and May, are annoying as hell, which isn’t strictly a bad thing as characters go, but their dialogue doesn’t advance the action and they seem to be there only because the group needed to be bigger.

Unlike others on the forums, I’m not put off by the resident computer geek of the crew. A little over the top, yes, but he’s ok in small doses. Giving him more than a sentence or two at a time though might make me reach for the airlock handle.

My favorite line so far was in the second episode, when Emmeline muttered “bloody bastards� under her breath.

Why those simple words worked so well has to do with my major criticism. In the first episode, many characters used the word “frack� as a futuristic version of the f-bomb. “Frack this� and “you frackin’…� and so on. I’ve since learned that the word might have originated with Battlestar Galactica, but since I was never a fan of that show I don’t remember it myself. In any event, its use here just doesn’t work. Every time someone uses it, the flow of the dialogue stumbles a little bit.

The good news is that episode 2 was almost completely devoid of “frack�, which is why the “bloody bastards� line was such a pleasant surprise. I found myself mentally cringing in scenes where the word "frack" might be used, and it was a welcome improvement to hear more natural-sounding dialogue.

(mental note: new Rocket Jones tagline – “frack� free since 2003)

Hey, since this is audio theater, I should probably mention the sound quality, eh? I first tried the non-stereo version and I’ve got to tell you that the sound quality is very good. As good as it is, it doesn't come close to the exceptional experience of the stereo version. If you get into the story, I think it's worth it to subscribe. The stereo version eliminates the commercials too, although they're not terribly intrusive.

Bottom line: If you like science fiction or suspense stories, especially the old space opera genre (paging E.E. “Doc� Smith!), then you’ll probably enjoy Silent Universe. Even if you don’t, I recommend downloading the free version of the first episode and giving it a listen.

I know I’m hooked. What about you, bub?

give a big ol' Hee-Haw saaaalute!

Thought so.

* The animated Bub graphics were lovingly lifted from I-mockery.com. Hopefully that acknowledgement and link will keep their lawyers off my ass.

Posted by Ted at 08:13 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Cult Flicks Links

Hella Snooty

Tomorrow evening, my wife and I shall attend the opera.

Posted by Ted at 03:27 PM | Comments (4)
Category: Square Pegs

Are we still allowed to do Polish jokes?

You heard about the Polish suicide car bombers?

Ten of 'em crowded into a minivan and blew themselves up when someone walked by.

Posted by Ted at 11:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

Two Disturbing Sculptures

And you just know that I want one of them.

Garden Sculpture (via Two Nervous Dogs, who you should be reading every day (the link is in the sidebar because you've gotten lazy and I want to watch you dance like a puppet on my string. Now hop to and go clicky clicky!!!))

Museum Sculpture.

Maybe frightening is a better word.

Posted by Ted at 05:12 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack
Category: Links

July 25, 2006

No Surprise Here

This morning on the radio news, the reporter starts the story off with this:

Even though no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq...

The story went on to report that about half of Americans polled believe that Saddam had WMD's.

I dunno, maybe it's because we've found 'em. Not the massive stockpiles we thought were there, but enough have been found that could have caused thousands of deaths.

Now the news source is CBS, which makes bias a real possibility (gee, ya think?), but it could also be sloppy writing. Especially since the report ended with:

Five hundred chemical weapon artillery shells were discovered earlier this year.

Maybe it depends on your definition of "mass".

As a followup, I went to their website to look for contact information. I thought that a little feedback was needed, about how such obviously biased half-assed imprecise news reporting didn't reflect well on their credibility.

Wanna advertise with them? Email *here*. Reporting a traffic incident? Use *this* email. And so on, a whole page of contact information.

Oddly, the only contact without an email address is their news director.

Posted by Ted at 05:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

July 24, 2006

This post contains no links to video


Posted by Ted at 03:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

July 23, 2006

Shuttle Video

This is a chance to see a space shuttle launch up close and from a perspective few get to experience. From the last shuttle mission, here's a video taken from one of the external cameras mounted on the shuttle SRBs. Continuous from launch to splashdown, the whole thing is about twelve minutes long, although after about the eight minute mark you just see parachute shroud lines floating on the water.

Posted by Ted at 10:49 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
Category: Space Program

LDRS Video

This year was the silver anniversary of LDRS, which is the annual national launch for high power rocketry. The location changes every year, and this year's event in Amarillo, Texas looks to have been big fun.

I'd already talked about some flights made by local rocketeers that I fly with. Now you can check out the video.

Posted by Ted at 10:30 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Category: Links Rocketry

The Japanese are just plain weird

From Mad William Flint, here's a YouTube video of some sort of Japanese prank show with a sadistic, hilarious twist. Make sure you watch long enough to see the "beach" version.

Posted by Ted at 09:07 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack
Category: Links

July 22, 2006

She was a sniper ?!?!?!

Talk about pressure to perform!

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the diminuitive (4 ft 7 in) sex educator, has led an interesting and sometimes tragic life. After World War II she immigrated to Isreal and joined the Haganah (precursor to the Isreali Defense Force:

...she was trained as a sniper and was seriously wounded in action by an exploding shell during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Read the rest, it's not that long.

This isn't totally unrelated, it's a video about the Isreali Air Force and Army. Thanks to Victor, who is guest posting for Annika while she's on vacation.

Posted by Ted at 09:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Rocketing Around the Blogosphere

A collection of cool links that might be of interest to you.

Pop cultchah. We got yer pop cultchah right here.

Do you miss MST3K? If yes, then check out RiffTrax, Mike Nelson's new endevour. You download the soundtrack (it costs $1.99), buy or rent the movie, then watch the movie while listening to the audio on your iPod or other mp3 player. The inaugural flick is Roadhouse:

This is it – the best movie ever made about a world-famous bouncer and his epic struggle with the evil owner of the local J.C. Penney. Patrick Swayze is at his most shirtless as Dalton, a bouncer who is as comfortable quoting Zen aphorisms as he is kicking drunken men in the head.

Be sure to vote for future RiffTrax too! The poll includes such classics as Cocktail, Showgirls, XXX, Sixth Sense, The Matrix and Minority Report.

I might have to start collecting these. Thanks to Captain Ed for the pointer (and good luck with the new implant).

I've written before about the weird synchronicity between the beginning of the movie The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album. Via YouTube, you can get a taste of what I'm talking about. Thanks to JohnL for the pointer.

The computer game Myst took the world by storm, being the best-selling computer game for ten straight years. I've recently been playing a version specifically created for my PDA, and started looking around for some hints online. What I found was, like much of the Myst universe, a hidden treasure trove of information and news about this still-thriving gamer community. There are many sequels to the original, and even rewrites of the originals to take full advantage of new technology, letting you play the game like it was originally conceived, without the limitations of the day. Doing a simple google search will return well over eight and a half million hits! Rather than wade through that, here's a very nice set of useful links to Myst related sites.

Model Railroads. Everyone remembers them, some of us still play with them (N-scale here). The Atlas Model Railroad Company has completely revamped their website and has implemented the coolest online catalog that I've ever seen. If you've done any model railroading beyond a boxed set you got at Christmas, chances are good that you've used Atlas track. Check it out.

For the armchair modelers, Atlas offers this nifty freeware tool called Right Track Software 7.0. This lets you design that railroad empire of your dreams right on your desktop, and it's got an amazing numbers of features available, including the ability to print out parts lists once you've got things set to your satisfaction. Even if you never lay a single piece of actual track, you can spend hours playing with this.

The Connecticut Senate race has gotten interesting. Democratic incumbent Lieberman (former VP nomination) has incurred the wrath of the anti-war crowd by supporting the US war in Iraq. Their response has been to back a challenger, Lamont, who seems to be a one-note candidate: "Iraq is wrong". That candidate is running neck-and-neck with Lieberman, so Lieberman has filed to run as an independent if he loses the democratic primary. All polls show that he'd win handily in that situation, which poses something of a dilemma for state democrats. That's all background to this next bit, though.

MuNu's own Steve, from Hold the Mayo, lives in Connecticut, and he sent a series of questions to the republican candidate, Schlesinger, who will have to face off against whoever wins the democratic primary (and Lieberman, if he runs as an independent). Steve asks good questions, and then poses followups. Great job, and thanks to candidate Alan Schlesinger for taking the time to give solid answers to questions about specific issues. Agree or disagree, you know where this guy stands.

Hey, I went to Las Vegas! Guess what? Derek from Son of Cheese was also there, and in fact our visits overlapped. We didn't know it though (secretive bastard that I am), so we didn't meet face to face. Anyway, go read about *his* Las Vegas times, which also included a Penn & Teller experience, and a whole lot more food than mine did.

Also, over at Dick's Rocket Dungeon, we're treated to a great series from Dick himself about his trip to Vegas. His is even better than mine because he's got pictures of showgirls and exploding buildings! Woohoo!!!

During my last visit, I was lucky enough to witness one of those casino-implosions. If you ever get a chance to see a building demolition, go for it.

And finally, a note about Munu trackbacks. We've turned 'em off system-wide because so far this month, along with the one thousand or so valid trackbacks we've been bombarded with over four million spam trackbacks. Yikes!!! Thanks to our host Pixy Misa, who's been working overtime at this hobby of his to keep us up and running.

Posted by Ted at 11:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Maybe not the most original joke...


"...und mit superior German engineering we can place a small vibrating unit inside which we believe will become very popular. I hope that answers your question, Doctor Johnson."

Posted by Ted at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Square Pegs

July 21, 2006

Blasphemous Fun

My wife and I were at the supermarket this evening, and as we were loading the groceries into our car, a mini-van passed us.

It was hard to miss the giant lettering across the side and rear windows:

"Glory of God Cleaning Services", along with a phone number.

I looked at Liz and said, "We clean like the devil!"

She said, "We'll scrub the hell out of your house!!!"

I said, "Christ Almighty, that sparkles!!!!!"

We chuckled all the way home.

Posted by Ted at 08:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

They say snacking is bad for you

They don't tell you that it's true whether you're the snacker or the snackee.

trust me kid, you want to stick with the soft drinks

Mmmmmm, now I'm hungry.

Posted by Ted at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

The Dungeon on Pooh Corner

Found while innocently bopping around Google.

No, really.

Posted by Ted at 05:30 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Links

I'm frikkin' Emily Post!


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Category: Square Pegs

July 20, 2006


It doesn't have quite the same ring as "Fitzmas", but it amounts to the same thing.

After recent widespread speculation that Barry Bonds would be indicted today for everything except robbing churches in his spare time, he wasn't.

But don't worry, because the prosecution will just call another Grand Jury, and another after that if needed, until they find one that will indict this stain upon humanity and make America safer for... uh... newspaper reporters who write books based on leaked (confidential) Grand Jury testimony.

I think.

Posted by Ted at 05:47 PM | Comments (4)
Category: Square Pegs

Pay attention before it's too la... nevermind

The Top 10 Unintentionally Worst Company URLs.

I mean, where else would you find Pen Island other than www.penisland.net?

Thanks to Zoe Brain for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 05:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Links

And you think *you've* had a bad week?

Imagine being this couple, who made it home to Washington DC after being evacuated from Lebanon, and then were immediately evacuated from their apartment building due to a broken water main.

McCollough, who joked that her bags were already packed, took the evacuation in stride.

They've since been given the all-clear to move back in, but water to the building is still out. As the newscaster on the radio said "at least in DC, nobody is shelling you as you evacuate".

Posted by Ted at 05:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Category: Links

July 19, 2006


Over at Wegg's, I discovered that there is a remake of The Eye in the works, this time starring Jessica Alba.

Here's my review of the original. Highly recommended.

Posted by Ted at 07:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Category: Cult Flicks

Blast from the Past

Someone visited Rocket Jones today from VoodooChild's site, which I linked to long ago. He's been inactive for a couple of years as far as I can tell, and I know he changed locations at least twice that I know of.

Besides being a serious rocker, his place also featured several great links to pinup sites on the net. So, because I'm a boob man instead of losing these valuable historical and interesting sites, I'll collect the live links here for your and mine future reference.

(obviously, these are NSFW)

Cheesecake: The Art of the Pin-Up

Hips, lips, & tits... it's Bettie Page!

Bianca's Boudoir

Domai - tasteful nudes

Dragstrip Groupies

Harlow Art

Hollywood Pinup

The Painted Anvil

The Pin-up Files

Pandemos the SecretMuse

Sex Kitten

Vintage Elegance

World of Pinup

Ok, one last thing. I have visited each of these long enough to verify that they're still there. I haven't spent any time checking everything out, so don't be whining about your free boob-shots not being of sufficient quality. Sheesh, uppity pervs. Who'da thunk it?

Posted by Ted at 05:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Category: Links

July 18, 2006

I hereby deem this cool

I blatantly and shamelessly stole that title from BLUE.

Check this out:

Back in April of 1997, many comic artists participated in a massive swap, in that each of them did the art for a different one. Some were done by friends for each other pairing off, others were done in large "circles".

He's got many of them scanned, and you can see things like the swap between Blondie and Garfield, Dilbert and Family Circus, and chains like On The Fastrack as drawn by Sherman's Lagoon, Sherman's Lagoon as drawn by Baby Blues, Baby Blues as drawn by Herb And Jamaal, Herb And Jamaal as drawn by Broom Hilda, and so on.

Good Cool stuff.

Posted by Ted at 04:50 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Links

July 17, 2006

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas...

My favorite vacation photo, as I jostle elbows with celebrity.

Ted and Pat at the wax museum

Posted by Ted at 08:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

Vegas Baby! (part 3)

Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.

Even if you don't gamble, there's plenty to do in Las Vegas. I'm not talking about things for kids, because as hard as they try to make it family oriented, I don't really think it's all that great a place for a vacation with the kids. You can run through the kiddie stuff in two or three days, including the zoo and the Leid Children's Museum. On the strip, there's the Excalibur which caters to families, and at the other end of the strip is Circus Circus with their "largest indoor amusement park in the world". Other than that, Vegas is pretty much an adult town.

I spent three full days visiting various attractions and museums using my "Power Pass". This little gem got me free admission (well, free after paying for the pass) to a whole heap of cool places, and if I went back next week, I'd get another 3-day pass because there's that much more that I didn't have time to visit. Liz got the 1-day pass, and we spent our anniversary doing things that both of us wanted to see.

I spent one morning visiting the very cool and highly recommended Atomic Testing Museum. Did you know that the US has conducted almost 950 nuclear tests? Not all were for weapon research either, as there were tests done for medical research (as in "nuclear medicine"), for business and industrial research, and of course for pure scientific analysis. One interesting test happened in the 1980's when a tower was erected that was the height of the detonation of the bomb over Hiroshima. At the top of the tower was placed an unshielded nuclear reactor that mimiced the radiation output of that first bomb, and underneath a series of Japanese structures were built using WWII-era construction techniques and materials. The objective was to measure the level of radiation protection provided by the various buildings in order to help Japanese doctors treat the long-term health effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors.

If you look here, every crater is the site of an underground test, where the surface collapsed onto the dome of the chamber where the device was detonated. The engineering and geology behind the test chambers is explained, and the resulting radioactive leftovers from the tests wind up buried hundreds of feet underground in brilliantly conceived and designed self-sealing pits.

The museum wasn't all rah-rah and "go team". All in all it was a fairly balanced look at the testing done in the area, both good points and bad. There was a section on the local indigenous peoples and how the testing affected them (they were forcibly removed by the government when the test range was created) and what the land means to their cultures. This part of the museum was created with the cooperation of the local tribes (Shoshone and one other I can't remember offhand).

You learn the what and the why, but also the how. They put a lot of history out there to experience, and place it in context of the times. Did I say highly recommended? It's worth repeating.

Our hotel, the Luxor, offered free admission to the King Tut Museum and the In Search of the Obelisk ride as part of the Power Pass package. The "ride" was ok, if a little hokey. Most of it is a movie shot with a special technique that makes it look very real to life. It was difficult to distinguish between the actors on the screen and the live people who're part of the show.

The King Tut Museum is a recreation of King Tut's tomb. You get one of those new audio wands that all museums seem to be in love with nowadays, and it tells you interesting things about what you're looking at, which is good. It also tells you when to move along and look at the next thing, which is bad. These were nice because they had a pause button. When they don't, I get fed up quickly and ignore them.

Anyway, the tomb exhibit shows the four rooms of treasures found back in the 1920's by Howard Carter. A lot of details are pointed out, so you really get the significance of what you're looking at, rather than just the jumble of Egyptian stuff. Interesting, but very quick to go through.

Fifth Vegas Tip: Most attractions are not worth the admission price, but they are worth seeing. Either remind yourself that you're on vacation and don't sweat it, or get one of those discount packages.

The Luxor also features an IMAX movie theater (at single ticket prices cheaper than the Air & Space in DC). I plunked down twenty bucks for a three show package and saw "Journey down the Nile", "Magnificent Desolation" in 3D, and "The Sea" in 3D. The first movie was excellent, the second (about the space program, how could it be bad?) was pretty damn good and the IMAX 3D was wonderful (no funky red/green glasses, these used some sort of polarizing effect). The last movie though, gave me a headache. Maybe it was just too much movement for 3D or my glasses didn't fit right or something, but I could've done without the fish. It also got preachy about ecology and conservation, which I'm sure everyone pondered that evening as they wolfed down lobster and crab legs at the buffet.

Let's see... what else...

The Venetian and Bellagio both have museums built into the premises. At the Bellagio was a fine exhibit of and about Ansel Adams, again with the annoying audio wand (completely ignored by me).

The Venetian had a display of Ruebens and Van Dyke oils, amongst other contemporaries. I was given an audio wand for this one, but I lucked out and caught on to a live tour. Unfortunately it didn't last long because although the guide had interesting things to say, her voice made me want to stick pencils through my eardrums. I finished seeing the exhibit sans guide and almost completely without the use of the magic talking stick.

The Venetian also features Madame Tussaud's Celebrity Wax Museum. Unlike any other wax museum I've ever been to, here you are invited to touch and pose with the figures for photos. Mookie saw the one in London and said it's the same way. I wish I'd been forewarned, so I could have taken a sign that said "Noo-Klee-Err" and held it up while posing with President Bush at the podium. Oh well. Spilt milk, eh? They also offer a side-trip through a mini-house of horrors that isn't very scary.

At the Mirage is Seigfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, which was pretty cool. They don't do shows, per se, because this is a research facility that allows folks to watch and help pay the bills. The staff has frequent "interactions" where they feed fish to the dolphins and the dolphins do all kinds of tricks and stunts. You know, just like a show. You can get very close to the action, and there are several underwater windows to see what's going on from below.

The Secret Garden half is full of tropical plants and several large areas full of sleeping lions and tigers and alpaca (!?!?!?!).

Hey, you're a Star Trek-lovin' geek, right? If so, you're in luck! The Las Vegas Hilton features the "Star Trek Experience". It's chock-full of memorabilia from all the various incarnations, and as you go through it you're accompanied by a long-ass timeline that ties events from the whole shebang together. When you're done with the static displays, you get to choose between two exciting adventures, something about the Borg, and something about the Klingons. Your admission gets you into either and both (it's an all-day pass), but I only had time to do the Klingon side. It was hokey but not too bad, and did have some funny bits and actual thrills. In our group were two ladies who had no idea what the hell was going on, so they were cracking jokes about how stupid everything was. I contemplated putting on my earnest face and becoming the "dedicated Trekkie" to explain the error of their ways, but they were pretty funny and I could tell that they were already annoying the real trekkies in the group, which I enjoyed.

My shining moment came at the end when you're offered a chance to buy a photo where your face is placed into a group shot of the Star Trek crew of your choice. When they asked which crew was my favorite, I said "original series" and quicker than you could stomp a Tribble, there I was with Kirk, Spock, Sulu and the rest. Only one problem... I complained bitterly that I was in a red shirt, and there was no way I was buying a picture of me knowing that I was nothing more than "the guy that dies".

That brought some laughs from the other folks, and I noticed that after me everyone picked "next generation" or one of the others.

Before you leave, you can stop in at Quarks bar and restaurant and have a bite to eat. If I have to explain, you wouldn't get it.

So far, everything I've mentioned here was free with my power pass (except for the IMAX movies). Among the other things I could've seen for free was the Las Vegas Zoo, the top of the Stratosphere tower, Elvis-A-Rama, the Liberace Museum, a half-day tour to Hoover Dam, the Museum of Natural History, the Las Vegas Art Museum, "Lost Vegas" Gambling Museum, the Circus Circus amusement park and much much more.

The limiting factor for most of these (besides time) was transportation. I got ripped off by a cab driver who stuck me for eleven bucks for a six dollar ride, and after that I was leery about using them. More than one local warned me about them as well. Almost all of the things I did were on the strip, so you could walk or take the monorail.

Sixth Vegas Tip: Make sure you have plenty of ones and fives on hand for tips and taxis. The scumbag cabbies will claim they can't make change.
Seventh Vegas Tip: There are two monorails on the strip. The first is at the extreme south end and connects Mandalay Bay, Luxor and the Excalibur. These three are all right next door to each other and are also connected by covered walkways. You never need to ride this monorail.

The second monorail starts at the MGM Grand (south end of the strip, across from Excalibur) and goes north. The last two stops are a block east of the strip at the Convention Center and the Hilton. Rides are five dollars, two for nine dollars (up and back), or fifteen bucks for the all day pass. This is a nice system, and worth the money if you don't feel like walking miles up and down the strip in the heat.

Eighth Vegas Tip: From the Hilton, you can grab a shuttle bus to the Freemont District, which is like a mini-strip. This was where all the action was when Vegas was just getting started.
Other things to do include (as Shank mentioned in previous comments) renting a machine gun for some quality time on the target range, learning to drive various high performance vehicles (both racetrack and off-road), and Madalay Bay has a wicked-cool Shark aquarium.

And that's not to mention all the free stuff you can do...

Next time.

Posted by Ted at 04:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

Because rabid animals aren't enough

Every year, after the number of exploding manhole covers eases off a bit, our area goes through a wave of rabid animals, both wild and pets. Oh, and plenty of Lyme-ridden ticks. Can't forget them.

This summer, just for fun we've added mosquitos with West Nile Virus. Confirmed.

Oh joy.

Posted by Ted at 11:41 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

July 16, 2006

You can't rush some things

Translation: I finally got around to swapping in the new style sheet.

Still some tweaking to do.

Posted by Ted at 02:57 PM | Comments (605) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

Vegas Baby! (part 2)

Part 1 is here.

The question was, if you don't gamble, what the hell are you doing in Vegas?

Three words, my friend: Shows. Food. Attractions. Shopping. Sightseeing.

That was more than three words? Yes it was, and it's the perfect demonstration of why I don't gamble. I'm smart enough to know I'm not smart enough to handle the math. And Las Vegas is built on math.

As a quick aside, I love the psychology and social engineering of casinos. One of the easiest table games to understand is the "Big 6" wheel. It's a giant vertical wheel, with dollar amounts on each click. On the table, you place your bets on matching dollar amounts. Maybe half the wheel is populated with ones and pays 1:1 - bet a dollar, win a dollar. A third of what's left on the wheel is twos and pays 2:1, a third of what's left is fives and pays 5:1, and so on with tens and twentys and sometimes the dreaded "0" and "00" like roullette. So you plop your chips down on what you think will come up and they spin the wheel and money is won and lost. Very simple to understand and very fun to play.

This table also features the worst odds in a casino.

That's the math part, but I also mentioned the psychology. I once watched several busloads of tourists unload and enter a casino, each with a voucher for ten or twenty bucks in chips as part of their tour package. As they came through the bus entrance, the first thing they saw was the Big 6 table, staffed by two friendly, engaging people who were more than happy to exchange those vouchers for chips. I kid you not, more than half of that "free" gambling money was drained off of an incoming group by that table before the folks ever set foot into the actual casino. Sometimes the percentage was even higher than that, and eighty percent would be a reasonable estimate. And the people had fun, and what the hell, it was "free" money that they were losing. Brilliant.

Aside over.

One of the highlights when you visit Las Vegas is the shows. We'd already gotten tickets to see Penn & Teller, who're most recently noted for their cable TV show Bullshit.

Their Vegas show actually starts an hour earlier than all the billboards state because when the doors open an excellent two-piece combo - piano and upright bass - plays for the first hour. After every song, the piano player asks everyone in the audience to come up on stage and sign this giant envelope which is later used in the show. He's got this perfect breathy MC voice thing going, and the pitch is sly and funny.

"If you don't come up and sign this envelope, you will feel disappointment, and that's a sad, unhappy feeling. Please, because we care about your mental health, bring a friend or loved one up and participate in the Penn & Teller Envelope Signing Experience."

The actual show is very cool and of course, everything has the wicked twisted humor that they're famous for.

You may have heard that after the show Penn & Teller come out into the lobby and talk to the audience and sign autographs. It's true (Teller speaks too). They autographed one of our tickets for Liz, and the other they signed "Happy Birthday Rachael" with a little birthday cake on it. We also bought Rachael this shirt.

We also saw Splash, which has been running since 1968 at the Riviera. They update it every year, and it was more your typical Vegas variety and review show, with dancing (sometimes topless) showgirls (in fact, the tits are trotted out about 45 seconds after the opening notes are sung), comedians and more. We saw those crazy-assed motorcycle riders who do their thing inside the steel mesh ball. They actually had four going at once in there, their helmets almost touching at the center point as they demonstrated the beauty of spatial geometry when combined with internal combustion engines.

A former US Ladies Freestyle ice skating champion did a strip tease on skates, while twirling multiple hula-hoops around various parts of her body. There were ice dancers and acrobats and a guy gymnast (eye candy for the ladies!) who put on an pretty amazing show of his own.

Third Vegas Tip: Do your research! Some shows sell out long in advance, so you've got to get your tickets early. Go to Vegas.Com and look around at the shows listed. There's something for everyone in all price ranges, and discounts abound for the second and third tier shows. We used a "buy one, get one" coupon for Splash, which saved us quite a bit of money.

We also purchased a "value pack" before we left which allowed us to print coupons and special offers for some shows and restaurants. Using the coupon for Splash paid for the package by itself, and we used quite a few others in the stack of possibilities that we'd printed and taken along.

Now a few words about food in Vegas.

Every casino offers a steakhouse, various fine dining choices, a buffet and a cafe. A lot of them have added food courts, like you'd find in a mall.

We don't do fine dining. Liz is a picky eater and not at all adventurous when it comes to food. I'm a barbarian, I can be just as happy with a good meal as a great meal. That said, there's a cuisine and style for everyone on the strip. Once again, do a little research ahead of time on the internet, because after all these years and with the number of Las Vegas entertainment publications, every damn eatery can truthfully claim to be selected as "Best on the Strip", and they all do.

That goes for most of the restaurants too, not just the fine dining.

There are some damn good buffets available in Las Vegas, if you know where and when to go. We visited a few that ranged from mediocre to fair. Disappointing, actually.

Fourth Vegas Tip: For about the same money as the buffets (and get used to it now, eating is going to be pricey), the cafe's in each casino are your best bet.

On our first night in town, after a day of flying and not eating much at all, we were starved. We wound up at the Pyramid Cafe in the Luxor and ordered dinner. Our bill was around forty bucks for the two of us, and we quickly learned that meals for two would run between $35-$50.

But the food... mmmmmmmmmm. I'd ordered the Monte Cristo, which is about the dumbest sandwich ever invented. For those that don't know, it's ham, turkey and swiss, dipped in egg batter and fried, dusted with powdered sugar and served with strawberry jam (but I think raspberry is traditional). Liz ordered some kind of club sandwich that was excellent as well. On the side, I had the best potato salad I've ever eaten in my life. I want my homemade potato salad to be this stuff. I'm pissed because I never went back just for an order of potato salad, it was that good.

At other cafe's, we had Cobb Salads, Chicken Parmesian, an enourmous "appetizer" of nachos with steak and guacamole that overwhelmed a platter bigger than anything in our kitchen, and so on. A slice of cheesecake was big enough for two, covered with sliced fresh strawberrys and real whipped cream. One morning we had breakfast in a deli near Ceasar's Palace, and I had homemade corned beef hash that was excellent. Again, figure around twenty bucks per person and don't sweat it.

One of my "strategies" to combat the heat was to order a soda or beer with my meal, and get a water on the side. And keep the water coming. It was well over 100 degrees there every day (closer to 110 usually), and I did a fair amount of walking outside, so at mealtimes especially I'd rehydrate like crazy.

Bottled water or soda is going to run $2.00 and up. You can occasionally find an enterprising young man on the street who has a cooler of bottled water for a buck a shot. Drinking fountains are few and far between. So even though you're going to have to pay out the nose for water, you can still save a little by doing what I did and drinking mostly water (and lots of it) during mealtimes.

There are food values to be found, if you look and are willing to go a little out of your way for them. Things like $10 steak dinners and jumbo hot dogs for a buck and such. Once again, do your research beforehand, because they're listed online and often you have to ask the waiter for them as they won't be on the menu. Las Vegas McDonalds is priced mostly like McDonalds at home, but I didn't go to Vegas to eat Big Macs.

A new addition since I last visited are Krispy Kreme donut shops in a few of the casinos. Most just take delivery from the main stores and sell for a buck a shot, any kind. The Excalibur has a big shop, with the entire donut making assembly line behind a glass wall so you can see them go from raw dough to finished glazed perfection in minutes. These are good options for a late night sweet tooth or early morning quickie breakfast.

So that covers shows and food. Next time it'll be attractions (or how I spent 90% of my time), shopping and sightseeing.

Posted by Ted at 12:34 PM | Comments (255) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

July 15, 2006

Happy 18th Mookie!

All together now:

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday Dear Rachael,
Don't you dare get tattooed!

Posted by Ted at 03:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
Category: Family matters

Vegas Baby! (part 1)

On July 11th, Liz and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. As a special treat to ourselves, we planned a trip to the neon desert out in Nevada.

I've been to Las Vegas before. Liz has been to Las Vegas before. But we never had been at the same time. I'm going to post this is sections, because I've got plenty to talk about.

The first day was an odd series of minor annoyances that edged right to the brink of pissing me off, and then somehow, someone would manage to completely defuse my temper. Our daughter Robyn stayed at the house for the week, taking care of the dogs (Fred went to a bunny-sitter because Robyn's allergies won't let her deal with him) and she dropped us off at the airport.

Outside the terminal, you check your bags before you even go in, and it costs $2.00 a bag. I don't know what the deal is, but the line for that was way shorter than the ones inside, so I consider it two bucks well spent. On top of that, the guy gave us the goofiest directions I'd ever heard for what we should do once in the terminal. I asked him to repeat them twice, because he had a helluva accent, and they just didn't make sense. Lucky for us, I listened to the guy and we found ourselves checked in after another brief wait in some out of the way desk with an almost non-existent line.

By the time we got to our gate, Liz was hobbling pretty badly because of her hip. I let the airline desk folks know so that we got to slide in near the beginning because Liz was slow. On top of that, one of the stewardesses got our info so that there would be a wheelchair waiting for us in Vegas. Good deal.

The flight was a non-stop, from Ted, which is United's economy service, on an Airbus 319. I'll tell you now, I'd fly them again, the folks were great in every way. They also did something I'd never seen before. Once we took off and got to cruising altitude, the Captain came on the intercom and announced a game that everyone could play. Pretty silly, I know. Except that the prize was a pair of tickets to see the Blue Man Group, which runs a couple hundred bucks. The game was simple, the Captain gave some clues to consider, and everyone wrote down their guess as to how much our aircraft weighed at takeoff (pounds and ounces). Some of the clues were pretty specific, like:

"We loaded 1,655 gallons of fuel."
"Fuel weighs about 6.71 pounds per gallon."
"Total baggage weight was 1,280 pounds."

Some were a little less specific:

"There are 151 passengers on the flight."
"There are 7 crew members on this flight."

And then the real curve ball:

"A typical short-hop plane that holds 50 people weighs about 120,000 pounds at take off."
"A 747 weighs about 830,000 pounds at take off."

All those numbers are more or less pulled out of thin air, I don't remember specifics. So everyone calculated and guessed and turned their cards into the flight crew. Just before landing, someone way up front was named the winner, missing the real weight by less than 70 pounds I think.

When we got to the Vegas airport, there was no chair waiting. The ground staff claimed they never got the word, and the air crew called BS. After 10 minutes I asked the ground staff to call again, and again 10 minutes later. By now I'm doing a slow simmer, and after 30 minutes on the ground and not seeing the promised wheelchair we decided that we'd just walk to the baggage claim and our shuttle bus to the hotel. As we made our way slowly along, one of the stewardesses from our flight caught up to us and got pissed because the chair never showed up. She snagged someone from the airport staff and made him call directly and let them know where we were. Me, I'm appreciating all the assistance, but would more appreciate some actual results. Liz's hip is just hurting badly. We waited another few minutes and I saw a lady pushing an empty wheelchair go by. I called her over and asked if she was looking for us, but nope. I told her what was going on and she let her supervisor know that she was going to give us a hand. This lady was a joy, and twenty minutes later we'd collected our bag and were sitting at the front of the line for the shuttle bus.

We stayed at the Luxor, the giant pyramidal Egyptian-themed hotel on the strip. Once inside, our first stop was the bell desk to pick up Liz's scooter. We rented a power-chair for the week, because it would make things so much easier for her. It was supposed to be waiting for us at the hotel. When they claimed they didn't have any record of it Liz was trying to calm me down while not losing her own cool. After a short wait, they found the scooter, under the correct name. Turns out the bell clerk had given the wrong name to the people who fetch the chairs which is why they couldn't find it.

First Vegas Tip: If you have any kind of mobility problem, rent an electric wheelchair or scooter. This will be the best spent money during your stay because you'll be doing a *lot* of walking, and there's no point in being miserable while getting around.

At check in, there was a line which was long but moving along nicely. Before we knew it, the floor manager was taking down ropes and signalling Liz to come on through. We were given a little perk because of Liz and the chair and headed right towards the next available clerk.

A word about the Luxor. The lobby is magnificent, with enourmous "stone" obelisks and sphinxes and other statues. Very "Egyptian". I was very much looking forward to our room in the pyramid, with the slanted window wall looking out over the city. One drawback was that the Luxor rooms only have showers, not bathtubs. Very big showers. We figured we'd ask for a shower stool for Liz and call it problem solved. Instead, the check in clerk offered us a free upgrade to the a "handicap equipped" room with a bath and shower, plus it's bigger too (more room for the scooter to get around in). The downside was that the upgrade was in one of the towers. That seemed well worth it to me, trading the slanted window for the tub for Liz. Once in the room though, we quickly discovered that there wasn't a tub, just a built-in shower stool and lots of handicapped bars all over the bathroom. That's ok though, because it was still a big room with a nice view.

Second Vegas Tip: Relax and enjoy the cheesiness. I had been to the lobby and casino areas of the Luxor before. All of the various casinos on the Vegas strip are pretty much alike, but the lobby and shopping areas are where each resort expresses it's "theme". The lobby area of the Luxor is stunning, and I guess I expected the hotel areas to be done up in understated colonial elegance from early-20th century Egypt. Instead you get everything except Tut-on-black-velvet in the rooms.

An hour later, I was trying to figure out what this one handle on Liz's chair did, because it was just hanging there at an odd angle. It came off in my hand, and Liz called the wheelchair place to find out what to do. It turned out to be the locking mechanism for the seat and was supposed to keep it from rotating freely, and had nothing to do with the mobility. I later found another piece of the handle mechanism on the floor of the room. When everyone understood what the problem was, it was agreed all around that the chair was usable as is. Liz and I just wanted to make sure that they were notified so that there wouldn't be any later problems. Once again my temper was defused by common sense and folks who cared about making things right.

I won't talk about the gambling, because I don't gamble. Liz did, mostly the slots, but I personally didn't spend a single cent on games of chance. That's just me.

So if you don't gamble, what the hell are you doing in Vegas? I'll cover that in part 2.

Posted by Ted at 02:30 PM | Comments (8)
Category: Square Pegs

July 08, 2006

See you in a week


Posted by Ted at 09:01 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

July 07, 2006

Where the heck did I leave that thing?

Real-time tracking of the Space Shuttle and the ISS.

Posted by Ted at 04:47 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Space Program

July 04, 2006

Local Boys Done Good

Every year, our rocketry club NOVAAR does a high power rocketry demonstration at a big 4th of July show at Great Meadow. This is what the club does as payment for the use of the facility all year round. The club loves doing it, the crowd loves the rockets, and the Great Meadow folks love it all.

I don't go. Crowds, traffic, heat. I spend a quiet 4th with the family at home.

Meanwhile, down in Amarillo, Texas, at the annual LDRS launch...

As of today, between Virginia and North Carolina flyers, we have burned over 261,900 Ns of propellant! *

The Phoenix Project was a complete success. 20,000’ flight on a Q13,500.

SpinalTap complete success. 22,011’ on a P9911.

Mike McBurnett showed how to earn his L3 with a near 10,000’ flight on a M1297.

Mike Showalter flew his Patriot Missile on a baby N2400.

Ben Russell flew Ringworm on a N2300.

Ron Rickwald flew the Block 3 Standard Arm on a full O.

Dave Morey and Dave Hash placed 1st and 2nd , respectively, in the Bowling Ball flight duration contest.

Check the ROCKETS magazine [online site] for current photo coverage.

We still have one more day to go!

Needles to say, LDRS is rockin’!!


When you're out to impress the rest of the country, this is the way to do it.

*261,900 Newtons equals 58,877.5 pounds of force. Yowza!

Posted by Ted at 09:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Category: Rocketry

Another good reason not to blow your fingers off

Get your mind out of the gutter. I'm talking about poker chip tricks! Sorted by difficulty, with complete descriptions and video showing you how to do each trick.

Posted by Ted at 03:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Wish I were wrong

But I don't think I am (naughtyness in the extended entry).


Posted by Ted at 10:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

July 03, 2006

Remember that big-ass tree?

I'm talking about that maple in my backyard. I've had a love/hate relationship with that tree for years. It tried to neuter me, I scalped it halfway up. It's a beautiful tree that totally screws up my yard by where it's at and its massive and shallow root system. Filthy thing too, raining shit down - leaves and/or monkey balls (spiny seed pods) - all year round. Because of this tree, I can't grow much beyond mossy dirt and hostas.

Last night, we had a pop-up thunderstorm sit right over us for a good hour. The sky looked like God's own disco with the strobe effect, and plenty of visible lightning from my front door. Once the torrential rains started in, I watched a couple of huge trees across the street to see if they were going to come down. The wind was impressive. They survived, but my backyard maple got topped.

We discovered it this morning. About 30' of the very top came pretty much straight down into our backyard. The very tips landed across the fence, but not enough to do any damage (thank heavens).

I've already been out toe survey the damage. It's cut up into manageable pieces and dragged out into the back meadow, ready to end up down by the creek.

I like this. Now, if the next storm can take another 30' off, I can call the tree removal company and all they'll need to do is the bare trunk and stump. Yay!

Posted by Ted at 08:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

Steven Wright once said

"When I die, I'm donating my body to science fiction."

A while back I saw a television program about something that makes such perfect sense, but is so utterly revolting, that you want to retch and say 'doh!' at the same time.

There's a forensics research lab in Tennesee where they study human remains. I'm not talking about sterile anatomy and such, although some of that is done. This facility takes donated bodies and examines them as they decompose within the framework of an outdoor crime scene. In other words, they bury them in shallow graves, or cover them with leaves, or toss them into small streams, or wrap them loosely in a tarp. And leave them there. Then they watch and take notes. And by doing this under controlled conditions, law enforcement can better determine the facts when partially or wholly decomposed bodies are discovered.

Fascinating stuff, but not for the squeamish. The website is user-friendly, meaning it doesn't look like a documentary of "The Making of 'Jason the SlasherCamp Chainsaw Cannibal'". It's all rather polite actually. Positively mature.

Posted by Ted at 08:12 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
Category: Links SciTech

July 02, 2006

Cleaning Day

I started going through a bunch of old papers this weekend, throwing most of them out (I'm a major packrat), when I came across my printed archives from the old blogspot version of Rocket Jones. A lot of the original stuff didn't get imported from there because, frankly, it sucked (worse than now). But there were some good posts too, so I'm going to occasionally repost some of them again here.

I'm not going to make a big deal out of it, no announcement about repost or anything, so just enjoy the deja vu if you'd seen it before way back when.

Posted by Ted at 09:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Square Pegs

Makes one long for the days of William Hung

David the Hasselhof.

From Grant, who is now on my short list of people to punch for inflicting personal mental pain and anguish, or will be, when I stop laughing.

Posted by Ted at 06:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Category: Links

Funny but too true

Seen over at Babble-on, a most excellent place to while away some time.

What do you get when you put 50 lesbians and 50 politicians in a room together?

100 people who don't do dick.

At least 50 lesbians would be interesting to watch.

Posted by Ted at 10:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: Links

If I had a billboard

I would hope I had half the balls this guy has (this one is pretty mild).


The URL is given right there. Check out the archive of signs that this guy puts up in front of his business.

Posted by Ted at 10:01 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Category: Links

July 01, 2006

They would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those pesky kids

A month or so ago I crunched the screen on my trusty iPAQ. Having become rather dependent on the beastie, I let the family talk me into buying myself a new one (they ain't cheap).

I selected a very nice model with a hardcover to prevent a replay of the screen crunch and then managed to salvage 95% of the software and data on my old PDA.

But something odd was happening. The new device would completely run out of battery power overnight while just sitting on the desk. In two hours, untouched in my briefcase, it would drain up to 60% of the battery power. Problem was, it wasn't consistent, and the randomness was making me a little crazy. I could've taken it back for exchange, and at one point talked to them about just getting a new battery. But it just didn't *feel* like a battery problem. I was also hesitant to hand it over again because I'd spent quite a bit of time reloading software and setting options to make it work exactly the way I wanted it to.

Gradually I started to recognize a pattern and confirmed it a week ago. For some reason, ActiveSync would fire up on its own as if it were on a timer to check email and do other tasks, and it would sit there and run like hell, accomplishing nothing while sucking the life out of the battery. I could go in and end the task, but a short while later it would be sitting there running again.

Today I found the answer. On a bulletin board was a note about a bug in Windows Mobile5 that causes the exact problems I was seeing. There was a workaround included (no patch available yet), and after implementing it (it's not terribly kludgy) I've been monitoring the battery status to see if the problem is solved. So far, so good.

Now, this isn't entirely Microsoft's fault. I gather from my reading that HP (and Dell too) both implemented Windows Mobile5 in kind of an odd way which caused this to be a problem. There are all kinds of detailed explanations out there to be found with a couple of google searches, but my mainframe mind couldn't grasp all the concepts and terminology. We're talking real geek-speak.

Anyway, tentative thanks to those folks who actually know how this crap works at the nuts-and-bolts level. Keep your fingers crossed.

Posted by Ted at 06:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Category: SciTech
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