Sunday, April 30, 2006

Putting life into perspective

When I wonder if I've lived a worthwhile life, I always take cold comfort in the words of piano player, Harvard mathematician and humorist Tom Lehrer.

Lehrer once said (adjusted to my own 43 years) that "When Mozart was my age, he'd been dead for eight years."

Coutesy of "Things Other People Accomplished
When They Were Your Age
" -

At age 43:

Music teacher William Herschel discovered Uranus.

Marie Curie won her second Nobel prize, for the isolation of pure radium.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the youngest man elected to the United States presidency.

Soviet cosmonaut Georgy Timofeyevich Beregovoi was the oldest man ever to join the cosmonaut corps.

Baseball player Nolan Ryan pitched the sixth no-hitter of his career.

Annie Taylor, a widowed school teacher, went over the 160-foot-high Horseshoe Falls in a barrel.

Isabel Peron, a former professional dancer, became the first female chief of state in the Americas when she took over as President of Argentina.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote the poem Kubla Khan.

Sarah Byrd Askew created the first bookmobile.

Here's a trip in the wayback machine for you . . .

I just started watching "Poltergeist" a few minutes ago, and the opening includes the background sound of a "Star Spangled Banner" end-of-broadcast-day television spot.

When's the last time YOU heard and/or saw one of those?

Stephen Colbert's night out with Dubya

If you've watched "The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report" or a couple of automotive repair commercials lately, you've seen Stephen Colbert.

Apparently he had a great night Saturday as one of the presenters at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Colbert Lampoons Bush at White House Correspondents Dinner - President Does Not Seem Amused (April 30, 2006) from

(Colbert) attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is soaring, not sinking,” he said. “If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.”


And if you want to watch the video (it's a hoot): here

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The world turned upside down . . . or at least knocked on its side

To set the scene for this post, the following photos are of Powell Valley High School's prom on April 29, 2006. The school, located just outside Big Stone Gap, Va., rented the former Hotel Norton in Norton, Va. for the prom.

Having taken the photos, and having some experience scanning crowds from covering a prison riot and various other scens of civil unrest or tension, I was able to discern a couple of things:

- For every person in formal wear - male or female - there are roughly three to four parents, friends or family members in, let's say, sit-around-the-house casual.

- This was the prom: not the pre-prom mingling or the post-prom party - the prom.

Proms in this neck of the woods have evolved, or devolved, into sessions in which the proud promgoers literally promenade before a line of parents bearing cameras and making commentary on each couple's fashion choices.

It doesn't seem to jibe with what proms were when I was in high school. Feel free to express your own recollections or opinions.

Reasons not to take up golfing at age 43

1) You're 43 - you're gonna buy a LOT of Tylenol afterward
2) Your 14 year-old son - who's been playing at least one year on the high school golf team - is gonna wax you, bad.
3) Course rules don't allow you a free shot at the cart-driving golfer who decides to pull out on the fairway as you're on your second shot so he/she can shoot his/her ball back onto the fairway two holes back.
4) That palm-frond pattern Hawaiian shirt looked cool two years ago . . .
5) Remember, renting a hand cart for your golf bag was only $1, you blithering idiot!
6) Oops, I almost hit the course's mole-hunting dog . . .
7) Did I mention Tylenol?
8) What happened? I was shooting 180-200 yards at the driving range . . .
9) How did my son skip a ball across a 120-foot water hazard onto dry land?
10) Oh yeah . . . Tylenol!

Government officials and lazy prosecutors beware!

This is great stuff, and I speak from experience. In the last seven years, I've been subpoenaed or threatened with subpoenas three times to testify on stuff that I wrote and that was in print. I don't get paid enough to do my job and that of a bunch of lazy prosecutors while violating my profesional ethics.

Not to mention the time I got federal grand jury duty once and warned the federal magistrate that I may run into conflict of interest because some cases I may have covered. I spent three out of four sessions sitting in the hallway because of, guess what?

Advice for paranoid reporters(April 25, 2006) from

A Manhattan Project To Create a Neuralizer: "Nothing can expunge knowledge from a journalist's mind," says attorney Bruce Brown of Baker & Hostetler. After all the documents and notes are destroyed and all the phone calls and e-mails are adequately masked, a subpoenaed reporter's brain will still contain the information the prosecutor wants. If the American Society of Newspaper Editors would only fund the development of a "neuralizer," such as was used in the movie Men in Black, reporters could reliably shed every memory about sources after the story goes to press.

Let's get Bob Woodward to volunteer to go first.


Ooohh, I like this . . .

Just the ticket to deal with those free AOL discs you get in the mail and those malware-loaded Sony music discs

Hammerhead - Lego CD thrower

Now I gotta start buying Legos . . .

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ever heard a Teamster joke?

These are the journalistic equivalent of Helen Keller jokes, which makes them so damned much fun!

Two Teamsters are standing around talking. The first Teamster notices that the second Teamster keeps looking down at a snail near his foot and getting more and more on edge.

Finally, the second Teamster stomps the snail and crushes it into snail dust and slime.

"Hey, whydjya do that?" the first Teamster yells. "That snail wasn't hurtin' any thing."

"The hell you say," the second Teamster yells. "That damned snail's been followin me around all day!"

Ba da da DUM!

- How many Teamsters does it take to unload a tractor-trailer? What damn business is it of YOURS?!!

- How can you tell the Teamsters' kids at the local playground? They're the ones sitting in lawnchairs and eating doughnuts.

- How can you tell when a Teamster's died? The doughnut drops out of his hand.

That felt good. You don't know how good . . .

Sunday, April 23, 2006

And after fretting today over some idiot from Connecticut via Texas . . .

here's our girl, Copper, a 60-pound chow-walker hound mix (go ahead, make the joke - I've done it several times) who's been with us since December 1996 at age 6 weeks. At that time, she looked like a big, goofy toy rabbit with big paws.

Yeah, after a long day wondering how we ended up with a blithering idiot for our president, Copper shows that there is still inteligent, wonderful life on this planet.

The only thing worse than someone saying this with a straight face is . . .

The rest of us allowing it to be said without the criticism and ridicule it always deserved.

Bush warns of 'tough summer' with higher petrol prices(April 22, 2006) from

AUS President George W. Bush has warned rising oil prices will mean a "tough summer" for US consumers as the high cost of gasoline (petrol) showed signs of becoming a big political issue.

But even as more Americans expressed discontent over the price of filling up their gas tanks, Bush suggested there was little his government could do in the short term about the problem.

"We're going to have a tough summer because people are beginning to drive now during tight supply," Bush said as he toured a California facility developing hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Again, at the risk of being accused of being an anti-American, commie-pinko, knee-jerk liberal, whining, naysaying nattering nabob of negativism . . . . isn't our fearless leader using the same arguments arrayed against him in late 2002/early 2003 to get the American public not to lynch him over the crunch of being in a petroleum-based economy?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Another week, another 20-cent hike in gas prices . . .

Soon we'll know what it's like to buy petrol in Great Britain and the Netherlands, oh joy!

Anyway, it's been another fun week, and hopefully I'll have something strange and visually enchanting or otherwise interesting to post this evening.

I've also been conducting a brief conversation with one of the folks who are morbidly fascinated with this blog about the need for duct-tape in a post-modernist nuclear world.

Suffice it to say to any young men out there: if you visit your girlfriend's home and her mom and dad have spread out a sheet of garden plastic and a roll of duct tape, it might be a good time to break off the relationship.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

More on the immigration debate . . .

God love Georgie Anne Geyer too. She and Molly Ivins are pointing out something very important that's being left out of this whole immigration debate . . .

(Note: the uExpress link automatically updates to the current Geyer column, so use the archives link to go to the April 13 column - thanks)

Immigration A NEWS ITEM FROM OUR IMMEDIATE FUTURE?(April 13, 2006) from

WASHINGTON -- Here's a news item from my wishful-thinking file:
After three weeks of demonstrations across America by illegal immigrants and others, President George W. Bush on May 1, 2006, gave a speech that was praised across America for its clarity and forthrightness -- and that brought forth renewed hopes for Republican victories in the coming elections. We reprint portions here:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------Dear fellow American citizens, legal immigrants, illegal workers, and friends and colleagues across the world:
It is time for clarity on the crucial question of illegal immigration to our beloved republic. The truth may be painful to some -- it often is -- but we Americans can no longer live in this fairytale world of borderless nations, of men and women here illegally demanding "rights" and of specious economic rationales for illegal behavior. You know what a stickler I am for the correct usages of words, so let's get a few things clear right away.


A great photo album

The U.S. Naval Historical Center's Photographic Section is one of the best kept non-secrets when it comes to historical photographic archives online.

Where else can you browse and see stuff like this?

The Photographic Section has several ways in which photographs are catalogued for access, but browsing the Numerical List of Posted Images can be very rewarding, even with the extra effort of clicking on serial numbers.

Once, I found a photo of a young Gerald Ford playing basketball on an aircraft carrier's hangar deck.

Beauty, even in the threat of fiery death

Does that even count as haiku?

I ran across this website a few months ago thanks to It's a collection of WW II Japanese civil defense posters, leaflets and texts in the National Archives of Japan's website.

Diagram of USAAF B-29 range coverage of the Home Islands from bases in China, Alaska and the South Pacific

Strange to see images so well done, clear and, well, beautiful before remembering this was a country's response to strategic bombing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A shame it probably isn't true . . .

but years ago I'd heard a semi-urban legend about a headline in a 1940's California newspaper.

Supposedly, an asylum inmate managed to escape his cell, rape a nurse and leave the institution's grounds.

The next day's headline: NUT SCREWS AND BOLTS

Brought to you by the guy who's still hoping to a get a patent for the self-threading catheter . . . .

Immigration - I forgot to post this last week

God love Molly Ivins. Read this column on immigration from March 30; it's simple but elegant

(Note: the Creators link automatically updates to the current Ivins column, so use the archives link to go to the March 30 column - thanks)

Immigration 101 for beginners and non-Texans (March 30, 2006) from

AUSTIN, Texas -- Immigration 101 for beginners and non-Texans.

In 1983, I was a judge at the Terlingua Chili Cookoff, and my memory of the events may not be perfect -- for example, for years I've been claiming Jimmy Carter was president at the time, but that's the kind of detail one often loses track of in Terlingua.

Anyway, it was '83 or some year right around there when we held The Fence climbing contest. See, people talked about building The Fence back then, too. The Fence along the Mexican border. To keep Them out.

At the time, the proposal was quite specific -- a 17-foot cyclone fence with bob wire at the top. So a test fence was built at Terlingua, and the First-Ever Terlingua Memorial Over, Under or Through Mexican Fence Climbing Contest took place. Prize: a case of Lone Star beer. Winning time: 30 seconds.[...]

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It's just a shelter that my dad built . . . in case the Reds decide to push the button down . . .

My most sincere apologies to Donald Fagen but, still, what a great song.

Anyway, fresh from the Frontier Editor archives deep under Cheyenne Mountain, Wyoming, here's some excerpts from that seminal 1961 literary work, "Fallout Protection: What to Know and Do About Nuclear Attack." (Dick Cheney and I have an understanding: I keep my collection there and he doesn't let loose with the birdshot and start injuring all the Air Force security police.)

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure and in preparation for our peaceful Islamic Iranian Republic friends . . .

Not telling where I got my copy, but it was in good condition and free.

Beats duct tape and plastic sheeting, but I'm still waiting for those other versions under development . . .

And now for the Popular Mechanics gallery in our collection . . .

The question I still have, though, is just how much pineboard, Quikrete and sand it takes to protect from direct radiation when the device detonates in an airburst about 5,000 feet overhead . . .

And then I wonder just how long the neighbors are going to respect the sanctity of your sandbagged castle . . .

Been a long time since I've seen asbestos-covered anything for sale, unless those white fudge-dipped Oreos are something they shouldn't be . . .

And also be sure to remember to make sure that the big brick building forming part of your lean-to is down-blast from you . . .

Bears a certain resemblance to a basement in a certain movie about a big burrowing worm . . .

We've got provisions and lots of beer . . .

The key word is survival in the New Frontieeeeerrrrr . . . .

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Clarification on Monster Rabbit . . .

I picked this up while reading yesterday's post on rather large, garden-pillaging rabbits, but it may not have been all that clear: the rabbit pictured was not the actual giant rabbit but merely an example of how big rabbits can get before turning into free-agent produce distributors.

An example of responsible bloggng in action . . . .

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Sounds like a job for the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch . . .

Nothing like a rabbit that can hold its own. Looks like something out of "Watership Down." Maybe this is the real reason that Dubya wanted to develop nuclear bunker penetrators. What a great concept for a Bugs Bunny cartoon . . . . .

German rabbit breeder Karl Szmolinsky presents his giant male breeding rabbit 'Robert'(April 7, 2006) from

Bigs bunny: monster rabbit devours English veggie plots (April 8, 2006) from

LONDON (AFP) - In a tale reminiscent of the last Wallace and Gromit movie, furious villagers in northeast England have hired armed guards to protect their beloved communal vegetable gardens from a suspected monster rabbit.

In the journalism world, this is the equivalent of a capital crime . . .

I ran across this Friday. While it was pretty damned galling and unspeakable, it's hard for me, in my line of work, to say it's impossible.

The billionaire, the Post and the $220G shakedown - Page Six writer wanted $$$ to stop inaccurate coverage (April 7, 2006) from

A New York Post Page Six staffer solicited $220,000 from a high-profile billionaire in return for a year's "protection" against inaccurate and unflattering items about him in the gossip page, the Daily News has learned.

In two 90-minute meetings, characterized by a shocking breach of ethics, Jared Paul Stern, a fixture on the city's gossip scene who also edited Page Six The Magazine, asked for a series of payments from Ron Burkle, the managing partner of Yucaipa Cos., a conglomerate with interests in supermarkets, celebrity clothing lines, and media.

No, I don't condone it. There's zero excuse or reason for it. In fact, if I'd been in the position of having to deal with it, I'd have been pretty brutal in my actions.

I'm thankful that I've never personally been in proximity to such behavior, and I'd rather gut myself than even think of engaging in anything with the faintest whiff of such a stench.

While there will be plenty of people ready to cite this as another example of the rot in the "mainstream media," I'd reply that it shows why the rest of us keep doing it cleaner and better and ethically.

Friday, April 07, 2006

And speaking of amateur imperialists . . . .


WASHINGTON -- My first reaction, when I heard that the Voice of America is going to abolish most of its English-language programs to the world, was how downright stupid such a move is.
Since President Eisenhower founded organizations like the Voice after World War II as instruments to defend the United States by broadcasting fair and accurate news to the world, the Voice has been an inexpensive treasure house to the nation. It has influenced countless leaders, often when they were young, standing in the fields and back alleys of dictatorships and autocracies for whom the very word "news" is subversive.


Excuse me, but hasn't anybody noticed that George W. Bush appears to be a criminal suspect?

This is not a Republican/Democrat spat issue, so everyone wake up and get the message:

Scooter Libby has implicated George W. Bush in authorizing a leak of classified information.

Not a release of declassified information. Classified information. Leaked by an administration staffer after collusion by the President and the Vice President.

Wasn't it enough for any rational person when Bush admitted publicly that he violated federal law by ordering domestic wiretaps and electronic surveillance without even going through established and somewhat fast and loose foreign intelligence surveillance courts?

Lest any conservatives out there say that I'm just picking on Bush because he's a Republican, stow that crap right now.

At least Nixon, as fundamentally scummy as Bush is, had some talent for foreign policy.

And please, don't come back with the line that Bush is a wartime leader. The only thing worse than imperialism is imperialism by amateurs.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ever wake up and feel like you're in medieval times?

Before I ramble on, I'll say now that I have no reason to attack anyone for having religious beliefs.

My problem is a world in which religion is increasingly crowding out the most basic rational thought and even proven scientific principles.

I wish I could remember the name of this guy and his exact quote, but a paraphrase of it goes: you can't look at a sunrise or sunset and not believe in God.

And this has an inherent truth: something started all of this. But that something also introduced randomness and messiness into a perfect earth. Why do we have leap year? Why did the tsunami throw off the earth's rotation by a fraction of a second a year?

But at the same time, I hear it from a lot of people in my community: God is punishing society for homesexuality/genetic engineering/secular humanism/insert your wordly behavior of choice.

And I hear it just as often: the King James Bible is the absolute, literal word and law of God.

No, the King James Bible was a government committee project that somehow managed to include some worthwhile thoughts and some beautiful turns of phrases. But it's still a translation and interpretation of many previous translations and interpretations of ancient writings. Who knows how much has been added, lost or twisted in the intervening centuries?

Even though it's a movie quote, I think Spencer Tracy's line in "Inherit the Wind" still has merit: "It's a book, a good book, but not the only book."

Never write a blog entry less than 10 minutes after waking up . . . .

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Once more, from the 'Star Trek' book of reality . . .

Remember Scotty trying to trade the formula for transparent aluminum in one of the Star Trek movies?

Air Force testing new transparent armor from

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFPN) -- Engineers here are testing a new kind of transparent armor -- stronger and lighter than traditional materials -- that could stop armor-piercing weapons from penetrating vehicle windows.

The Air Force Research Laboratory's materials and manufacturing directorate is testing aluminum oxynitride -- ALONtm -- as a replacement for the traditional multi-layered glass transparencies now used in existing ground and air armored vehicles. [...]

I shudder to think what would have happened with an Electric Light Orchestra mp3 . . .

'Playing The Clash made me a terror suspect' from

A mobile phone salesman was hauled off a plane and questioned for three hours as a terror suspect - because he listened to songs by The Clash and Led Zeppelin.

Harraj Mann, 24, played the punk anthem London Calling and classic rock track Immigrant Song in a taxi before a flight to London.

The lyrics to both tracks made the driver fear his passenger was a terrorist.


Another example that 'Star Trek' is fast becoming more fact than fiction . . . .

This is really cool, in a truly fundamental way . . . .

Professor Predicts Human Time Travel This Century from

With a brilliant idea and equations based on Einstein’s relativity theories, Ronald Mallett from the University of Connecticut has devised an experiment to observe a time traveling neutron in a circulating light beam. While his team still needs funding for the project, Mallett calculates that the possibility of time travel using this method could be verified within a decade.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The decline and fall of consumerism . . . .

When I was a wee one (or relatively wee), the most socially uncomfortable commercials I remembered were:

- bras/girdles
- very vague feminine hygiene products (except for that g**d****d Brenda Vaccaro ad)

Now, I'm certainly no prude but, in the space of a couple of days, I've been reminded of the supposed enlightenment and openess of our modern society by

- a tampon commercial where the user demonstrates her newfound freedom by stripping to her skivvies and diving off a fishing pier
- a hemmorhoid relief commercial featuring the larger size of its pre-treated wipes
- a KY Jelly commercial with a couple - the man's eyes light up when the woman explains how KY can be used anywhere.

Kind of makes one miss liquor and cigarette commercials . . .

Sunday, April 02, 2006

On 'mainstream media' . . . . .

As a blogger and a newspaper editor, just about everything I'm about to write this evening will probably cut me both ways . . . .

First, thanks to qrswave for his post on my photography and my comments about blogging and self importance.

Part of the reason I started this blog (besides being a safe outlet for psychotic episodes) was to encourage discussion on various topics.

I try to take a look from both sides of the fence. Many corporate media entities have been looking at this miasma of declining circulation, the impact of the Internet, and the rise of 'citizen journalism' (ie. blogs, chat, e-mail, camera phones and other web-based communication).

While digital cameras and USB-capable recorders are touted as "force multipliers" for news staffers, those staffers still have to collect and write news in addition to collecting sound and images for a growing emphasis on Net-based news media.

As for "fairly," that argument has been going on for as long as there have been newspapers . . . and radio and television outlets and networks, and Internet-based media outlets. Bias is everywhere, folks, and as a newspaper editor, all I can do is my level best to ensure that all sides in a situation get a fair hearing so their respective arguments rise and fall on their own merits.

And being in the dual role of editorial page editor, I have to do my level best to rationally analyze and argue for or against positions and present those opinions in a fair and proper context.

As for blogging, ultimately I feel it's a god thing for media. As for reliability and accuracy, I still feel that the quality of blogging is as variable as is the quality of "mainstream media" in the eyes of the bloggers.

When trained reporters and bloggers exercise diligence in getting the story accurately and in a fair context, everyone benefits.

But too often, in my personal experience, some bloggers and e-mail processors end up playing that old children's game where the kids line up and one person starts by whispering a message into the next kid's ear. As the process is repeated, the message often gets so garbled that all meaning, context and accuracy are lost.

Thus, I still feel that a professional, well-trained and well-staffed "mainstream media" is vital to any hope of a democratic society. And quality bloggers, in my view, are also critical to that ideal.

If you look how pamphleteers and underground newspapers have played a role in our history and in the overthrow of many a repressive society, I think you'll understand my feelings about blogging.

It must be spring . . . . I had to mow

Despite who's occupying the White House and the Naval Observatory (or unknown, secure National Command authority decentralized location), this weekend was actually pretty pleasant. It did a world of good to be able to blow oil and condensate through the lawn mower and chop down the growth.

Lazy Sunday, so it's time for a . . . . photo exhibit!

Welcome back to whatever time it is today on the Eastern Seaboard.

I was reading one of our Commonwealth's political bloggers this morning as he bemoaned how blogs were becoming too centered on their creators' opinions and sense of self-importance.

The very fact that someone would create a blog immediately brings that person's sense of self-imprtance along as carry-on baggage, so why worry about it?

Anyway, I was looking through my own archive of unpublished, non-corporate photography and figured why not have a little Sunday morning art show.

Here's a quick exhibit of Southwest Virginia images for your viewing pleasure . . . .

U.S. Route 23 above Powell Valley, Wise County, Va. 2002

The former Robert E. Lee Motel, U.S. Highway 11W, Washington County, Va., 2003

Doe and fawn, Breaks Interstate Park, Dickenson County, Va., 2003

A Pitts S-2 in a hammerhead stall over Tazewell County Airport, Tazewell County, Va., 2005

Town of Coeburn after March flooding, Wise County, Va., 2002

Big Cherry Mountain reservoir spillway, Big Stone Gap, Va. 2002

Big Stone Gap, from Wallens Ridge, Wise County, Va., 2003

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Immigration . . . .

As a fast food manager in my pre-journalism life, I've been watching this week's immigration debate crescendo with more than mild interest.

In the late 1980's, I can remember the stern admonitions from Marriott human relations reps that we managers needed to make sure that we had copies of green cards for any alien applicants/employees lest INS inspectors levy stiff fines and we have to sell more Double R-Bar burgers to make up for the loss.

Fast forward to 2006.

Now we have a presidential administration citing corporate America's desperation for people to fill the jobs that Americans won't take.

And we have another segment of conservatives who counter with the argument that we're opening the gates to the barbarians.

And we have yet another segment of society arguing that we should treat our fellow man with compassion and not as border-crossing, welfare-stealing illegals.

And . . . . another segment argues that those illegals who have been here for years should be given a chance at applying for citizenship after paying fines and back taxes.

And then there's the Mexican government taking basically the position that we should act as a relief valve for Mexico's socio-economic problems.

Who's right?

A little revolution now and then . . . .

Went to see "V for Vendetta" last night. Not a bad little allegory, and it brought to mind how some movies manage to bring forward a non-American character who reminds us of our own heritage.

The quote originally was from Thomas Jefferson, but who could resist Sean Connery as a Soviet submarine captain obseving: "A little revolution now and then is a good thing."

the perfect synthesis between Gray's Anatomy and the Rolling Stones

And I don't mean the TV show . . .

With the growing trend of t-shirts with 'classical' images, this would make a great Rolling Stones concert tee.