Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Watch free unaired pilot for Sarah Silverman comedy

A "failed pilot" doesnot denote quality necessarily but demographic- and business- decisions.

I am not always a fano he style, but I often am, and just wish her style was a little less ntentionally offensive. Some folks like that, but I do not especially.

But, I have not seen this show, so I cannot say.

On Comedy Central's channel's 'Sarah Silverman Program' her character was abnoxious and self-centered to the point she was a very effective anti-hero, I thought.

Karl Barth, noted theologian speaks on the Trinity

I can't find the exact qoute by Barth tonight, but I was told he said:

"Try to understand the Trinity and you will lose your mind; try to deny it, and you will lose you soul"

I thought that was a well-said version of many of my own thoughts on the matter, and applies well to many matters of God concerning predestination, purgatory, and literal Judgement calls.

Here I might add: I think of purgatory, not as a place, but as an instantaneous process of cleansing and firey division of goats from sheep, however that works. And it seems very possible every human being has some measure of goat, which must be torn out. On the other had, it is also possible there are people who are goats and people who are sheep, and there is only one or the other. I don't decide these things, nor do I know. (Oh, and the very idea of instantanous within the concept of eternity is silly.)

Wikipedia says that Barth rejected the label of neo-orthodoxy, and I can well understand why he might, although that is the way he is best known.

I also read on Wikipedia that he was an activist against the Nazis within Germany, which sounds like a very brave thing to have done.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I stopped watching 'The Simpsons' about 2003

Nothing really seems that wildly unexpected really, although sometimes I had to shake my head at the sheer absurdity. Like the whole town moving to the "new" Springfeild. I was actually a bit disappointed nothing really wild happened. For instance, Marge and Homer being divorced for a bunch of seasons, but reading further it was only divorced as a matter of legal paperwork.

I wonder where the movie fits in with all this.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Goodies for today

This is fun to read, if you are familiar with the Wold Newton universe. Also, it may be of general interest for those curious about fan-fiction and copyright issues, etc.

Here is an interview with Charisma Carpenter, and she talks about the Expendables movie and the recent Wonder Woman costume changes.

Charisma Carpenter is a latina? And Vanna White? Cool.
Click on the slide show.
Charisma Carpenter, 42
"She's best known for playing Cordelia Chase—a conceited and popular teenager who reluctantly joins “The Scooby Gang” in Whedon’s hit TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But we’re betting you didn’t know that this talented beauty—who also starred on Whedon's Buffy spinoff, Angel—is Latina! Charisma’s dad might be French and German, but her mom is a mix of Cherokee and Spanish. The actress lived in Rosarito City, Mexico during her teen years."

About Vanna White, 54:

"You know her as the legendary hostess of Wheel of Fortune, but White – whose very last name hints that she’s Caucasian— is actually part-Latina! You see, “White” is not Vanna’s real apellido—it’s the name she took from her stepfather Herbert Stackley White Jr., a former real estate agent in North Myrtle Beach. Not much is known about Vanna’s real father whose name is Miguel Angel Rosich, except that he was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and abandoned the family when she was a child. Fun fact: Rumor has it that one of White's ancestors, whose last name was Barnes, was one of the first mayors of the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico."

Also, I just learned that in Nashville, Tennessee (of all places) there is a concrete recreation of the Greek Parthenon in Athens as it was when in ancient times. That's worth a trip to see.

Just learned about Expendables 3 (in filming, apparently)

The new cast for the third film really caught my eye! Also, the conspicuious abscence of Charisma Carpenter, which I will research when time allows.

The Expendables and The Expendables 2 were action-packed, ultra-violent, bloody films especially notable for their amazing cast, which stated out with Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, and a dazzling host of others, and the precious Charisma Carpenter. Brief cameos were contributed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis.

Expendables 2 brought basically everyone back, plus brought in two big names, Walker, Texas Ranger (Chuck Norris) and martial arts hero Jean-Claude Van Damme. An expanded role was given to Schwarzenegger.

You'll notice that all these "big names" are action stars with a impressive reputation. That is the point. These movies are not anything artful or meaningful. They are impressive, and designed as well oiled cash-engines. They are serving that purpose rather well.

At the time, I complained that they had missed some of the perfect cast members, and Mel Gibson was on that list. Now, he is in this third incarnation, so I have some hope for the others perhaps. They have added Wesley Snipes, which will excite many people. I never thought of Antonio Banderas or Harrison Ford specifically, but they are rather appropriate for the style of the movie and in fact add to the eccentric mix. Kelsey Grammer, on the other hand, I had never imagined in such a movie, except I would imagine he could play an unsympathetic by-the-book aloof lawyer quite well, and perhaps that is his role. Personally, I hope he has a role which stretches the range of his acting skill (I doubt that will happen with the money-fiends sapping the actors' reputations for all they are worth). That would be the only reason (I can see right now)to make this movie worth seeing this in the theater, aside from social reasons.

Two action stars that are shamefully omitted are Samuel L. Jackson and Malcolm McDowell. If either one is brought in for a fourth, or the return of Charisma Carpenter, I will have a new reason to visit the franchise in the theater and pay good money.

Note: I just found this on Kelsey Grammer
I may have to look up the YouTube trailer for Transformers: Age of Extinction
And on Banderas:
And one of the best-all-over finds:

Doing my research on Charisma: still unclear: but I get the feeling she is not in the film.,_Jason/Videos/?vxChannel=&vxClipId=&clip_id=cSffPT9OEtH5k1taOiyjTQ&video_title=The+Expendables+-+Exclusive+Interview+With+Charisma+Carpenter

Monday, September 16, 2013

self-repair YouTubes are amazing

I am back to trying to fix my laptop. What I learned before fixed one problem, but I actually had two problems.

I know a guy who taught himself trigonometry with YouTube instructional videos, and I also new a guy who did a lot of home repairs via YouTube instructions. I am impressed by people who are that resourceful.

The first problem I had was that the laptop screen was fooled into thinking it was closed and therefore dimmed the light to save power, becoming impractical to work on. The direct cause was that a little knob was gummed up and always pressed down into shut-off mode. i had to work it loose, and have to every week or so when the problem reappears.

My new problem is not darkening, or dimming, or blinking per se, but rather a color static of a sort.

I am going to try the advice in video #2. Just like he said in the video, I have been told about the inverter, but don't think that is the problem.

Monday, August 19, 2013

De Camp writes about intelligence among races

As stated in my previous blog post, I have been reading "Ancient Ruins and Archeology" by L. Sprague de Camp, published in 1963. Much of the information is outdated, although the many observations about the way science and archeology and speculation are handled, as well as the comments on human nature at large, and admirable. The prose is coherant and readable. The descriptions evokative. The insights into archeology of the time period (the 60s) is very much worth reading. And history is a discipline that doesn't change too much. It does, and should, but his writings are undoubtably relevant to today.

I want to share a few passages with you. I hope using his quotations is in good form.

In his chapter on the ruins of Zimbabwe and the many ideas around its builders, he says:

All prejudices aside, what do we know about the intelligence of the different races of man? Not much. That is why peopole get so heated about the subject; the less they know, the more pugnacious they are.

Intelligence is a vague term meaning mental power, just as "strength" means physical power. We can often say that one man is more intelligent than another, just as we can often say that one man is stronger than another. But it is hard to measure these qualities exactly. You cannot measure a man's over-all "strength" on any one standard scale. You can measure his seperate physical powers, such as his ability to run, jump, or lift weights. A man who is good at one of these may be poor at another. So "strength" is not one ability but many, which can be combined in any of an infinite number of ways.
The same with intelligence. One man may be a precise accountant, another a shrewd lawyer, and a third a creative artist. But there is no way to compare John's success as a chess player with William's success as a politician to tell which is the more intelligent.

Intelligence tests measure single mental powers, such as the ability to handle words and numbers and to solve simple puzzles. Such tests are useful when given to people of the same cultural group. But these tests do not work with people of strikingly different backgrounds. We cannot expect a tribesman, however gifted, who has never seen a pencil or paper to score well on a written test. On the other hand, a child from a hunting tribe can beat civilized children all hollow in a test that calls for knowledge of animal footprints.

Language, work habits, aims in life, manners, diet, tradition, and experience all affect the way one thinks. And, when we try to test people of different races, we cannot eliminate all these factors. No test has been found that ignores the effects of environment and measures only a man's inherent mental qualities.

Some people, wishing to prove the Caucasiod race superior to the Negroid, point out the backwardness of African Negroes before the coming of the whites. As we have seen, this cultural backwardness can be explained on grounds other than intelligence. The Sahara Desert isolated the small, thinly spread Negroid population from the currents of Old World culture, just as the oceans isolated the Pacific Islanders. Having no contact with European ideas and techniques during the many centuries when European civilization was arising, the Africans could not be expected to develope in a European manner.

Some people, on the other hand, assert that all races are exactly equal in intelligence. Although this idea is canonical Marxist dogma and a handy political slogan, it has no scientific basis either.
Few have ever argued that Negroids are inherently more intelligent than Caucasoids. But this concept is just as reasonable as the other two. In fact, one can make a good a priori argument why this might be so: All species are subject to the force of heredity called degenerative mutation pressure. Hence every species tends to deteriorate -- that is, to lose organs and abilities. In a wild state, however, selection naturally eliminates these defectives as they appear.

In civilization, however, people with defects, provided the flaws are not too severe, can live and breed along with the rest. Therefore, civilized races tend to degenerate. Thus the peoples who have been civilized the longest, such as the Near Easterners, the Chinese, and the Europeans, have probably degenerated the most; while those who live the most primitive lives, like Pygmies and Papuans, may prove the soundest of mind and body.

This, too, is mere speculation. If anybody ever devises a test that measures inherent mental powers regardless of culture and environment, it might well uncover mental differences among the races. It is anybody's guess as to which race would score best on which test. Perhaps different races would excel in different mental abilities. From such inconclusive evidence as does exist, our own guess, for whatever it may be worth, is that, while racial differences in intelligence may indeed exist, differences among individuals within any one race are much greater than average differences among races. And, given the right circumstances, men of any living race could have built Zimbabwe.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

what have you read by L. Sprague de Camp?

Funny name, amazing results. He's a writer of fiction (often sci-fi or historical) and non-fiction (usually of the scientific bent, sometimes on the romantic side of science matters).

I have been reading a non-fiction book by him recently on archeological puzzles. I've heard his name for a long time in sci-fi lit circles, but only knew of him particularly as the author of Dragon of the Ishtar Gate, a story somewhat along the lines of Conan the Barbarian, but of a historical not fantasy aspect.

I have been suprised at the sobriety of his "mysteries" books. Most similar non-fiction has a reputation for repeating ill-founded stories of the paranormal. More often than not, de Camp is debunking popular misconceptions and improbable legends.

I started with a collection of short stories about dragons. True to form, his story's dragon was more like a land-crocodile of a fictional mideval land. A cockadrill, as I recall.

I heard he had written a book or two on the Atlantis theme, 'Lost Continents' I beleive but I wasn't interested enough to look it up. That might have been a mistake in light of my improving opinion of him as an author who steers away from needless sensationalism.

They I got a book from the library titled 'Lands Beyond' (published 1952) merely because I admire his co-author, Willy Ley. Although it's only a surmise, Ley didn't seem to have written much of the book, and rightly so de Camp is given the main author credit.

'Lands Beyond' was suprisingly scholarly, and debunked a few of the mainstays of mystery-archeology, such as the origin of knowledge of Mu. Much of the book was a discussion of 'Odessey' and the 'Voyages of Sindbad' and what they tell us of the culture they came from. It also has a well-written chapter of the follies of the search for El Dorado in the South American jungles.

The book I am in currently is titled 'Ancient Ruins and Archeology' (published 1964). I had not heard of the ruins of Ma'rib, nor of Nan Matol. I had never heard Angkor Wat properly described. His description of the ruins of Zimbabwe were also a highlight. The photographs reproduced in this book (some his own, others not) make the book extra interesting. I did not know Zimbabwe had conical towers such as related.

His sober commentary on intelligence among the races, and of the politically-correct coatng of history, and the silliess of so many pseudo-scientists/occultists was a joy to hear.

One of my few critisicms of the books, besides their outdated information (through no fault of their own), is that they take a few certain legendary matters for granted that deserve a mention (at least) of skepticism. Especially the Africa-rounding voyage of Egyptian Pharoah Niku II. Also, they tend to assume an inter-connectedness of contemporary thinkers in history that just isn't realistic at all. The authors both assume that such-and-such writer writes this fact, and so such-and-such later writer built off that information. That's too convenient a idea for the workings of real life.

have you read any movie novelizations? on ST: 8

Usually, I avoid any novelizations I come across, although I may need to revise the particular prejudice.

Recently, I have re-discovered the audio book version of the novelization of the movie Star Trek: Insurrection, written by J.M. Dillard. I would be interested to know the author's contact with the actual script, which it follows quite closely in most respects.

I have been suprised. Although it cannot compete with the movie in visual effects and explosions, I think it's actually better, in my own opinion, than the movie.

It explains things better. Mostly, I think this is matter of the book having fewer content constraints, especially as concerns "running time." I think the script for Insurrection was chopped up at the expernse of backstory and plot due to time constraints. On another level, the medium of film is not conducive to the inner workings of characters' minds. To see thought-processes, motivations, and unedited reactions is priceless to the storyteller.

This makes me think I might should look up the novelizations of ofter unprepossessing movies, Star Trek and otherwise.

There are a few ways that the book is much weaker than the movie experience of Insurrection. The villian played by J. J. Abrams, and the scenes where Picard and Date sing to HMS Pintafore. Neither of these can be replaced anoything other than the movie, and represent other memorable aspects of the movie experience that are generally known the strengths of a movie over a novel.

One huge weakness of the movie is the motivation and inner turmoil of Admiral Dougharty was never seen in the film, and barely even hinted at. Hinted at even so, but not to the extent of the novel, with his revulsion over the assignment and unedited (negative) appraisel of the Son'a.

The novelization also got inside the head of characters of both new races, the Ba'ku abd Son'a. Seeing affairs from their point of view was invaluable is clearly understanding the races. They also hinted at the Ba'ku "Time of Troubles" civil war that lead to the Son'a exile, also at the advanced medical decay of the Son'a (and especially their green fungal skin condition, which was seen onscreen but never explained.)

The film skipped over many parts of the Son'a race introduction. Especially the description from the start of Son'a culture as being one of theives, interested in "Wine, women, and song" a people who value fashion and luxury and even consider "abject hedonism to be a virtue." Later on, we get the idea, but only after we've been trying to figure these guys out for an hour.

One thing that really stood out to me as perhaps changed for the movie was the statements that the Son'a had such a fear of death that is manifested as a paranoia of personal injury taken to the extreme. I imagine to movie goers it would be translated as cowardice, when in fact it is much more complicated. This seems to have been dropped from the actual film, with the villian bodily attacking people at times. I can se elements of that theme still present: the use of drones rather than personnel, and the villian hesitating to fire his weapon in case it set off a explosion. Still, as an original viewer, that motivation was entirely unseen ad even unsuspected.

I just want to say: it is very un-Star-Trek-like for the Enterprise crew to abandon R'uafo to the explosion of his monstrosity. They also seemed very unconcerned for the welfare of the other Son'a they stunned or otherwise encouteded.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness movie review

Actually, if I was blogging chronologically, I really ought to blog my review of Pacific Rim or Monster University first, but I wanted to get this one out-of-the-way ASAP so I can watch and/or read other reviews with my own unadulterated thoughts put down already. Once seen, such things cannot be unseen. That's your deep thought for moment. I really can't wait to see what Mr. Plinkett says about Star Trek 2. His movie reviews are outstanding, although I do not know if Plinkett is one man, many, a fictional person, a pseudonym(s), or what.


I enjoyed all three movies, although my order of the three I mention would be: Pacific Rim, Monster University, Star Trek

I haven't been to many movies this year, or any year lately. All by itself, the fact I made the effort to see it in the theater was a compliment. I did not go to see the previous Star Trek, and it took me awhile (and a change in my thinking) to finally watch it.

The newest Star Trek movies basically got the Lost in Space movie treatment. Or Starsky and Hutch. Or the Beverly Hillbillies. They are not sequels to the original, or even remakes strictly speaking, but nostolgia-driven pop-culture-appealing gimmick-prone inspired-by entertainment-experiences.

To say that a movie with Kirk-Spock-McCoy and phasers and Klingons is good ol' Star Trek again is like saying my original Nintendo Star Trek 30th Anniversary game was right on par with the series in entertainment-genetics. Hey, the game was fun, with Harry Mudd, Saurian brandy, and Romulan birds-of-prey shooting at you (or threatening to). True to the classic series, I even learned to take along a few redshirts whenever bad guys were around.


I enjoyed the movie, but on terms of a fun sci-fi movie. It certainly was not bad. And I have seen some bad sci-fi movies, recently and in the past, so I am grateful for that.

So, in no partcular order, my gripes.
Khan crying, Spock crying, Kirk crying
Khan's defeat was not because of his 20th Century 2-Dimensional thinking, but rather a rather silly mistake (owing to a underestimation of Spock).
Khan was not Indian (tan-skinned), but this is understandable in light of tan-skinned terrorists in movies being a delicate proposition
Scotty not being replaced with an experienced Starfleet engineer (while docked at Earth for goodness sake! This was the most stupid part of the whole movie, except maybe the crying)

My compliments:
Carol Marcus showing up for perhaps more than one movie.
The idea that Khan and Carol Marcus are in this universe suggest boundless gimmick possibilities (wouldn't it be fun if Dax, Harry Mudd, and Gary Seven show up?).
The cameo of Leonard Nimoy's Spock
The unexpectedness of the Kirk-radiation plot twist
The reappearance of the peerless Captain Pike

I expect I will think of more, but let me get this posted.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tartessos-Tarshish-Scheria-Atlantis/ Peacocks

I have been reading Willy Ley's new book, Lands Beyond. Actually, it's a book from the 1950s era co-authored with de Camp, but I prefer to hear Ley's voice in my head, and it's a new book to me. And for the publication date stills has a very "recent news" feel, which is impressive.

Anyway, it says more about the Bibical Tarshish and the historical Tartessos than I was aware of.
I had thought that perhaps the book would deteriorate into self-indulgent fantasy when speaking about mysteries like Atlantis, and I am releived it doesn't.

One of the large ideas put forth is that the Bibical Tarshish and historical Tartessos, long thought one and the same, might also be the city of Scheria from the Odessey and (the inspiration for?) the Atlantis of Plato. This four-way misidentification sounds worth looking into!

Sadly, Tarshish doesn't seem to have a wide consensus on identification, only a slim majority of scholarly opinion. Scheria and Atlantis would be much further remove from scholarly confidence.

While I think the hypotheses of the Indian coast and Britian are rather silly, I am prepared to consider Minoan Crete and Tarsus (of Bibical Paul's birthplace in modern Turkey) and Carthage as good candidates.

Today I also looked up some bits of evidence that come from the Bible's description of Tarshish, or rather it's exports.
I had not known of the green peacock (or jungle peafowl) before (, although I did know of the Congo peacock (which is not closely related). I also did not know that the peacock is a central symbol in Japan, Babylon, and Persia, all places it is not native ( I also did not know the peacock was widely eaten in ancient times, nor did I know the peacock is kosher food (

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Zelda LEGOs!

NPR talks LEGOs

NPR talks LEGOs


AnonymousJuly 2, 2013 at 8:31 AM


AnonymousJuly 2, 2013 at 8:35 AM

LeVar Burton speaks frankly about police in America

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"The Empty Birdcage"

I heard a story in church last Sunday that I wanted to share (as I remember it). I'm not sure if it's accreddited to any writer, but it's more than an anecdote.

A older man was walking down a dusty road in a small town. He was a preacher. Along from the other direction came a young boy of maybe 7 or 8. He boy was carrying something. As the boy came closer, the precher could tell it was an old rusty birdcage, and soon he could even see a few brown unhappy-loooking birds inside.

"What ya got there?" said the man.

"I just caught me some birds out in the feilds here." the boy said proudly. "I trapped 'em. Set bait and all. They wasn't too smart."

"What you catching birds for?"

"Oh, I'm gonna take 'em home and have a real good time. I'm gonna pull out their feathers, and dunk 'em in water to see if they swim, and poke them with my pocket-knife." He brandished his sharp toy in the sun.

"What are you gonna do with them after that?"

"Oh, kill 'em. I got cats around the house that will have some fun, too."

The preacher looked thoughtful. He said, "Well, son, I hate to spoil your fun, but I was wondering if I could buy those birds from you. The whole cage, actually."

The little boy stood wide eyed. "You'd buy these mangy birds? They ain't even pretty. Just feild birds. Good for nothin'. Why'd anybody spend good money on birds like this?"

"Well, I do. How much would you want"

The boy looked rather confused. Scrunched up his nose. Then, he got a crafty look in his eye.

"Twenty bucks, mister" It was pretty clear the boy had picked out a sum he thought was astronomical.

"Okay," said the preacher, and pulled out his wallet. Handing the money to the youngster, he smiled at the boy. The boy set down the cage a bit roughly and hurried off without another word. Maybe he wanted to get home with his bounty before anything happened.

The preacher picked up the cage of frightened and disoriented birds huddled in the bottom. He walked around, and found an alley with a pleasant sunny grassy spot at the end. There was a meduim-sized tree there. The man set the cage down, opened it, and backed away a bit. He had thought about tapping the cage to encourage the birds to leave, and although he decided that wouldn't be wrong, it was still unnecessary to further excite the creatures. The birds were shy at first, but soon one of them tested the open door, perched at the edge, half-in and half-out. After a moment of hesitation, it darted up into the branches. This seemed to give confidence to the other birds, who soon followed.

The preacher smiled quietly, and walked back over to pick up the cage. While he had waited for the birds to realize they were free, he had thought about what to do with it. He had at first thought it was merely junk to be thrown away, but on further reflection decided it might be useful after all. Next Sunday, he'd bring it with him to the pulpit. It'd make a pretty good conversation starter, he thought. And that's the way he thought about his sermons: as conversations. True, the sermons by nature were pretty one-way, but instead of a lecture he tried to make it feel like it was one friend telling a story to another. The best story ever told, he thought to himself.

We can imagine a conversation between God and Satan much like that between the preacher and the boy. There was a trap, and those who were trapped, and also a price.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Acer laptop black/blinking screen -- urgh

I'm gonna try to fix it myself, but not sure if the problem is simple enough for that.
I've already tried what I they call a power drain (removing battery and trying to start up without power)

Next up: RAM stick removal.

There are definately a few things I think I can do BEFORE I give up at take it to a repair person at the flea market.

A lot of these videos suggest trying an external monitor as a test, and using a USB external drive to bring over files downloaded from the Acer website. I don't have fancy stuff like that.

(Come to think of it, maybe I should look on Acer's website before YouTube)

This was a pretty good video
And this show the same things, but more angles from a different guy

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Have you heard of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

It seems to be a uniformed service, and be regulated by military standard (just without the armed part).

I am shocked that I have not heard about them more often. Although very different, in a few ways Coast Guard in the sense they are a not one of the traditional armed services, but are still included in that tribe. I wish I had known about them when I graduated high school. And unlike the Peace Corps, they pay.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

which of these is a vegetable? corn, tomato, mac n cheese, strawberry

which of these is a vegetable? corn, tomato, mac n cheese, or a strawberry?

"Technically," said Marvin P. Pritts, chairman of the department of horticulture at Cornell University.

“The criteria is whether it comes from the reproductive part of a plant or the vegetative part of the plant,” Dr. Pritts said. “If it comes from the reproductive part of the plant, it’s a fruit. If it comes from the vegetative part of the plant, it’s a vegetable.”

Botanically speaking, corn is a caryopsis, or dry fruit — popularly known as a grain.

Dr. Pritts allowed that corn, like a tomato, is eaten like a vegetable, “so to a normal, everyday person, it’s a vegetable.”

I found this funny, and educational:

Technically [a strawberry] is not a fruit but a false fruit. It's not even technically a berry. When you eat a strawberry, you are eating fruits, but the part you are really interested in is the red, fleshy, expanded receptacle. A receptacle is the end of the stem on which the flower (and later the fruit) is borne. The fruits are the little seed-like specks on the surface. Each one of these little things contains a seed surrounded by (and fused to) the ovary wall, making it a fruit.

Mac N Cheese, however, is usually listed among the vegetables at restaurants. Go figure.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

science links
Guiding Glow
Black Death
100 Trillion

Monday, May 20, 2013

Good science a la Hal Clement, 1950s sci-fi

As readers of my blog would know, I am taking an Intro to Biology class via and MIT. It is free, and for self-improvement and education (or job-readiness) rather than course credit.

Lately, they have been discussing evolution (a concept I actually agree with) as demonstrated by shared elements of mammalian genomes (human and chimp and lemur and mouse, for instance). It really bothers me that the scientists seem so inperturbably self-assured over the origins of life, which I hope is even a more powerful comment seeing that I respect and agree with their theories. Where is the healthy skepticism?

I was reminded recently of the author Hal Clement and his excellent books (such as Half Life) and short stories (such as "Proof"). I did think a lot of his higher acclaimed books, such as Mission of Gravity, but they made less of an impression on me.

I found this link reviewing Half Life:

"Clement's references aren't all scientific, and some of them will be quite amusing to Golden Age SF fans. A lot of space is given over to General Order 6 -- an attempt to avoid hastily jumping to conclusions by requiring anyone with a hypothesis to present at least one viable alternative. This is also referred to as the "Aaron Munro instant-certainty syndrome," in reference to John W. Campbell's famous character of the same name."

Here's review of the author:

I also found this quote for Hal Clement online: (I'm shocked this is all I can find)
"Speculation is perfectly all right, but if you stay there you've only founded a superstition. If you test it, you've started a science."
Hal Clement

I need to read his 1993 novel Fossil and his 1950s award-winning short "Uncommon Sense"

Monday, May 6, 2013

Turok's Fate: Deathmate

I'm finding out more things about Turok's days with Valiant Comics.
Actually, I am learning more about the comic book industry in general, Valiant in particular, and Turok as a desired consequence.

Apparently, there was a "comic book speculator boom of the 1990s" hyperbolicly termed an apocalyse of sorts of which Turok (through Valiant Comics) was a part. Back then, Valiant proudly touted it as "the Valiant Era."

I need to go now, but I wanted to put up these links: (this is GOOD stuff)
The Image Story: Part 3 of 4, critiquing the Image side of Deathmate
also failed at finding it on Google...lost to the ether, I guess.

worth a read? dunno yet:

Hey, this guy wasn't in Jurassic Park: Carnotaurus

From my reading, I am given to understand that Carnotaurus (Meat-eating bull-lizard) was roughly contemporary with Tyrannosaurus Rex and Allosaurus, and of similar contour, but was off doing his own thing on the then-island of South America, which much like the Australia of then and now, was an isolated continent giving rise to unique forms.

Actually, also from my own reading, I recall many other examples of the peculiarity of South American fauna, represented even today by the sloths and their xenarthan brethren. You see, South America didn't connect up to North America directly until about the last Ice Age.

Apparently, I am just now learning something many 4-year-olds probably know. There is apparently a year 2000 Disney animated movie that features Carnotaurs fairly heavily. Gonna have to see that sometime.

I am wondering if that's the dinosaur on the Turok animated movie cover.
There is so much genetic and evolutionary hanky-panky in Turok's Lost Land that I don't think it matters much.

Friday, May 3, 2013

CNC Industry Review (GTCC program) (visual) (visual) (Programming multi-axis) (CMM explained) (CNC stands for?)

HAAS machine tools?
use CAM software?
to prepare programs for prototype and production run parts?
on multi-axis (including 5 axis) CNC controlled machines?
provide accurate tool description for “kitting” the job(s)?
preferably using GIBBS Cam?
Must be able to provide flat patterns for sheet metal work?
Proficient with GD&T and have a working knowledge of American National Standards (ANSI Y14.5)?
Operates CNC mill, wire and RAM EDM equipment?
CAM Software (Gibbs Cam and Bob Cad a plus)?
use of calipers, micrometers, gauge blocks, height gauges, etc..
Know Geometric Tolerances, and of DIN and ISO tolerances (Standard and Metric)?
Manual Machining, BPR/Metrology, CNC Turning, and CNC Milling
2 NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) Credentials.
Computer Integrated Machining vs CNC machinist vs CNC programmer vs "CMM/CNC Machinist" vs CMM technician vs CNC Turning Technician?
high volume CMM Inspection?
understanding GD&T inspection, hand gaging, and SPC in a manufacturing environment.
Ability to program CMM’s and a Romer Arm with Pcdmis 2011 mr1 CAD ++ is a plus?
drawing via GD&T, from drawing to CMM, to create a closed-loop process control system?
Proficient in speaking GD&T, specifically ASME Y14.5M and proper interpretation/evaluation, include education of others?
Desired experience in measurement uncertainty analysis, Gage R&R, Gage Design, and MSA?
Program, set-up and operate CNC Turning Centers?
CAD/CAM experience, milling experience a plus?

Explaned terms:
operate programs on a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) at Caterpillar Axle Manufacturing (CAM) facility,
part drawing via GD&T and then translation from drawing to CMM technology to create a closed-loop process control system
Capability Maturity Model (CMM) broadly refers to a process improvement approach that is based on a process model.
CNC means Computer Numerical Control. This means a computer converts the design produced by Computer Aided Design software (CAD), into numbers.

This 18-21 week course includes:

Training in Manual Machining, BPR/Metrology, CNC Turning, and CNC Milling.
2 NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) Credentials.
An innovative Human Resources Development (HRD) component – enhance your job seeking skills with industry-specific training on interviewing, resume writing, communication, and more!
1331 NC Highway 66 S (0.3 mi)

1. Frank Hardee, ABCO Automation, Inc.

2. Shawn Meck, Caterpillar

3. Laverne Hibbett, ConvaTec

4. Barry Burkepile, Grass America

5. Matt Edwards, MSI – Machine Specialties, Inc.

6. Dick Thompson, Progressive Tool & Manufacturing

7. Dave Pinnix, Xceldyne/CV Products

CNC Programmer- Manufactured Parts

Atlantic Aero, Inc.- Kernersville, NC says:

SUMMARY: The main function of the CNC Programmer is to use CAM software to prepare programs for prototype and production run parts on multi-axis (including 5 axis) CNC controlled machines. This person will work with the planning department to provide optimal efficiency for part runs within parameters set by Management in order to have parts programmed and ready to run per established schedules. This is a non-exempt, full time, hourly position.

· Construct programs necessary to produce parts, tools and fixtures from provided drawings and models.
· Provide Set up sketches and tool lists for all part programs.
· Use standard tool list to provide accurate tool description for “kitting” the job(s).
· Provide information as required to purchasing to ensure necessary tools are on hand when part production begins.
· Develop innovative approaches to part machining in conjunction with Production Manager.
· Ensure programs issued with Production Package contain sufficient information to define operations, sequence of operations, and any notes normally associated with program information.
· Edit programs as necessary per Production Manager.
· Complete required paperwork including program records.
· Ensure that personal work station and equipment are cared for and used in a clean and safe manner.
· Operation of CNC machines as schedule demands.
· Follow safety practices, policies and procedures.
· Complete time card with proper codes.
· Assist with cost estimating as required.
· Perform functions of job as safely as possible.
· Active participant in Company drug and alcohol program.
· All other duties as required by the Company.
· Attend status meetings as determined by Manufacturing Manager.


· High School Diploma or G.E.D.
· At least five years CNC programming experience in a manufacturing environment, preferably using GIBBS Cam.
· Experienced at programming a variety of parts including machined parts with complex contours as well as sheet metal parts.
· Must be able to provide flat patterns for sheet metal work in the production package as requested.
· Proficient with GD&T and have a working knowledge of American National Standards (ANSI Y14.5).
· Ability to work to specifications with extremely high attention to detail.
· Ability to work on own with motivation to provide a quality product.
· Understand and follow written and verbal instructions.
· Extremely detail oriented.

Temporary Resourses says:

CNC Machinist
Temporary Resources currently has an opening for a CNC Machinists in the Kernersville Area. The position duties will be as follows:

•Studies specifications such as blueprints, sketches, models or descriptions, and visualizes product to determine materials required and machines needed to fabricate tooling.
•Sets up and operates machine tools such as, but not limited to, lathes, manual mills, grinders, saws, etc.
•Operates CNC mill, wire and RAM EDM equipment
•Creates CNC programs with CAM Software (Gibbs Cam and Bob Cad a plus)
•Verifies conformance of machined parts to specifications through the use of calipers, micrometers, gauge blocks, height gauges, etc..
•Operates from detailed blueprints yet able to conceptualize and fabricate specialty tooling and fixtures.
•Knowledge of metal characteristics and properties including heat-treating.
•Knowledge of Geometric Tolerances.
•Knowledge of DIN and ISO tolerances (Standard and Metric).

Vayu says:
Position needs to be familiar with high volume CMM Inspection. Knowledge of reading complex prints, understanding GD & T inspection, hand gaging, Microsoft Office and SPC in a manufacturing environment. Must be able to setup and operate programs on a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) at Caterpillar Axle Manufacturing (CAM) Winston-Salem facility. This position reports to the Quality Section Manager, but will interface closely with Machining and Supply Chain/Purchasing during execution of dimensional checks on CAM W-S produced parts, interplant parts and Purchased Finished parts. Ability to program CMM’s and a Romer Arm with Pcdmis 2011 mr1 CAD ++ is a plus.

Principle activities include:
1. Experience as CMM technician/operator for large, machined, high-precision parts.
2. Experienced in understanding translation of design intent to part drawing via GD&T and then translation from drawing to CMM technology to create a closed-loop process control system.
3. Proficient in speaking GD&T, specifically ASME Y14.5M and proper interpretation and appropriate evaluation to part and application. This will often include education of others where GD&T application is subjective and creates manufacturability opportunities.
4. Help determine and maintain processing needs to assure fixtures, tooling and methods are provided to meet schedules
5. Able to set up parts on modular fixturing and document the procedures for these set ups
6. Maintain priorities and schedules for the sequence of jobs.
7. Ability to work overtime or any shift as needed
8. Work to maintain safe working conditions and use of equipment to increase efficiency
9. Monitor and improve safety; eliminate any unsafe operations and ensure a safe and clean work environment.
Adheres to established standards, policies and practices relating to quality, cost reduction, safety, ergonomics, affirmative action, etc. in performing assigned duties.

Requires thorough knowledge of CMM operations, equipment and processes, machining operations, plus familiarity with materials and quality objectives. Good human relations skills are required to develop a cooperative work relationship with others inside and outside the department. Prior experience in machining operations for heavy-duty industry applications is desirable. Desired experience in measurement uncertainty analysis, Gage R&R, Gage Design, and MSA.
This Job Description is intended as a general guide to job duties for this position and is intended for the purpose of establishing the specific salary grade. It is expressly not intended to be a comprehensive list of “essential job functions” as that term is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. says:
CNC Turning Technician

Company: Petree & Stoudt Associates, Inc.
Location: High Point Available: Immediately
Job Type: Temporary Temp to Hire
Posted: 4/17/13

CNC turning technician.

Program, set-up and operate CNC Turning Centers.
CAD/CAM experience, milling experience a plus.
Minimum 5 years machine shop experience.
Apply to:

Monday, April 29, 2013

The actual reasons behind sickle-cell anemia

It's week 8 of my MIT Biology course delivered online via, with the lectures by the highly-esteemed Eric S. Lander, director of the Broad Institute, a man largely involved in the recent Human Genome Project.

During weeks 6 and 7, there was a bunch of really cool things.

We had a long discussion (a few lectures) about hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs and throughout the body. Well, the only protien worth mentioning under normal circumstances.
Most everyone knows that sickle-cell anemia is caused by defetive hemoglobin, which is sickle-shaped rather than the normal cell shape. But why is it defective? How? And what makes the sickle shape and why?

It turns out the answer is in the molecular biology of the human genome. The lecture explains what particular error makes the gene (that makes hemoglobin) defective, and how that error might occur. It then explains the molecular results of the error, which are simply a misalignment of negative charges. Those negative charges result in a string of hemoglobin proteins, which crystallizes into a rod which then shapes the sickle cell. Thus the visible shape of the diseased cells is a consequence, not a cause, of the disease.

Anyone with anemia should really get to watch these lectures. I really hate that the videos might not be readiy available online.

Another really cool thing I learned was why some viruses are especially awful and hard to get rid of, like HIV. These are called retroviruses, and as I understand it insert their destructive genetic material into the genetic code of the host, becoming an integral part of the cell and pretty much impossible to excise.

And then the lectures go on to explain things I had not learned in high school, but thought I had. I thought it was impossible to have a offspring have a phenotype unknown in their ancestry. Right after high school, I went so far as to explain to a Chinese friend that first generation Chinese children could never have blue eyes because there were no blue eyed genes in the Chinese parents (or even in a marriage between a Chinese and a blue-eyed Caucasian).

Turns out, its not as simple as I had been taught. Yes, what I had been taught was a good foundation, but it didn't address all sorts of genetic hanky-panky that can go on, such as recombinant DND and transposons.

After all this, there was yet more. I was especially intrigued by the "computer logic" of DNA and proteins. Many genetic sequences are like "switches" that turn on or off a specific gene under specific circumstances.

I gotta go watch another lecture.
Jolan tru.

meet the cat-legged armoured-croc-lizard

Here, I'm referring to another Triassic reptile, the aetosaurs, who are contemporaneous with the sheep-lizards and the pig-lizards mentioned before.
And just like the others mentioned, the aeotosaurs are easily confused with the dinosaurs.

To be quite frank, at a quick glance I don't blame anyone for confusing the two.

The aetosaurs are actually archsaurs, the same group as the rhychosaurs (pig-lizards). The archosaurs were a crocodile-like group who are ancestral to both crocodilians and dinosaurs both. Terms such as pseudocrocodiles and paracrocodiles have been mentioned. Sometimes their armor has been likened to the much later ankylosaurs (which I didn't know is grouped closely with stegosaurs, although I see why).

It's not entirely clear that the "armor" was used primarily for defense, nor is their cat-like posture universally accepted. These ideas are widely thought, however.

And since I am talking about Triassic fauna, don't forget the croc-sized salamanders and the early dinosaurs of this era, such aspisanosaurus. I think it's terribly funny that an especially small dinosaur was named 'pisant lizard', but as it turns out it is just a coincidence of the last name of a famous Argentine paleontologist was honored with his own dino.

Cool link about these guys:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

kaiju emotion

It is hard to convey distinct emotion in monsters, but I saw this photo of a diorama recently that did a very good job. Despite the fact that these are "real animals" represented, I think my use here is justified.

Also, I have been impressed with art in the Kill All Monsters webcomic. Heck, the webcomic in general. They appear to have a published form for sale, but at the moment I am broke. And truth be told, I try to restrain my whimsical purchases.

meet the sabre-toothed sheep-lizard

(I'm not kidding)
The dicynodont was another Triassic animal, also known in other geologic eras.
(it goes PERMAIN -> MESOZOIC (Parts 123: Triassic -> Jurassic -> Cretaceous) -> CENOZOIC)

These are hardy fellows, having as a group survived the Permian-Triassic Extinction event, the Jurassic Ecologic Chaos, and the competition with the well-adapted dinosaurs. Their heyday was apparently in the early and middle Triassic, however, when they were as numerous as perhaps 95% of all land animals.

Among other things, the dicynodonts are amazing as a survivor from the early Triassic to the early Cretaceous. They were once though to have all died out in the Triassic for various reasons.

meet the owl-headed pig-lizard

Rhynchosaurs were a group of reptiles that lived about 220 million years ago during the Triassic period. They're not considered dinosaurs, although neither are pterodactyls nor dimetrodons, although popular culture considers them to be such.
My readings recently in a book about dinosaurs has often mentioned the other non-dinosaurs with whom they lived, which is pretty cool to me.

These triassic reptiles are considered to be archosauromorphs, a group ancestral to both crocodilians and dinosaurs. The archosaurs and archosauromorphs are generally crocodile-like, although some such as the rhynchosaurs were plant-eaters.

In this case, the rhynchosaurs are at least "distant cousins" to the dinosaurs. Other prehistoric fauna, such as giant amphibians and therapsids (mammal-like lizards who ruled the Earth before dinosaurs), are not really part of the extended dinosaur relations.

Doing a casual search on Google, I discovered a rather unexpected connection with Dungens and Dragons.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Recipes: Quick-n-cheap $7 Mac-N-Cheese

Quick-n-cheap $7 Mac-n-Cheese:
Dress to impress. I thought this name made a good description of the value, although I am now worried people might think it costs $7 to make. It is actually very very cheap, maybe $1.50 for 4 servings or a meal for myself. But also very important is how elegent and fancy this meal is. Regular Mac-N-Cheese doesn't impress anyone except little children.

All you need is one box of Mac-n-Cheese (Kraft or store brand works).
One half stick butter.
One box Stove Top Stuffing (maybe a store brand works)
Milk, salt, pepper are all optional.

You make the quick Mac-n-Cheese on the stovetope mostly like it says on the box, although use extra water to replace milk, and thus double water (unless you want to use milk, then follow box).

Once made, drain pasta if you need to (depending on how the box diretions are), and then mix in butter, cheese sauce packet.

Up to now you just have made plain old Mac the way the box says. Its ready to eat, but nothing fancy. Here's the fun part. Open up the box of stove top, and shake in pre-flavored crunch and herbs to taste. I would recommend about one fourth of the box and save the rest for later.


Recipe: Fish Pie

I am going to be posting a few recipes, some I have made up myself, some from books, some I've tried with success but written by others. Next I'll post my Quick $7 Mac-n-Cheese, my Easy Supposedly Indian Soup and tried and true broccoli cornbread.

Fish Pie:
1 pound preffered fish
1 pint oysters
2 tablespoons capers
Sprig of thyme
3 Sprigs of parsley
1/4 pound butter
1 tablespoon vinegar
3/4 cup arichoke bottoms
1/2 pound mushrooms
4 hard-boiled eggs
1 1/2 cups mutton gravy
Salt and pepper

Fillet of sole makes a delicious pie. It should be poached in court bullion for eight miinutes and then cut in strips. Add to it the oysters, which have been set on the fire to simmer until the edges curl. [Add] the capers, thyme, parsley, artichoke bottoms, eggs cut in eighths, mushrooms which have been sliced and cooked gently for ten minutes, salt and pepper. Add the vinegar to the gravy and moisten the fish mixture with it. Line a deep dish with pastry and dot with half the butter. Fill with the mixture and add remaining butter. Cover with a top crust of puff paste and bake until a golden brown.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

MySpace repost: "Treating depression"

Sep 30, 2008
Best Kept Secret for Treating Depression

Best Kept Secret for Treating Depression (3 Simple Things)


This is a copy/pasted article from Dr. Mercola's website,'

I thought it was worth repeating.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Every year, 230 million prescriptions for antidepressants are filled, making them one of the most-prescribed drugs in the United States. Despite all of these prescription drugs being taken, more than one in 20 Americans are depressed, according to statistics that came out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this month.

Of them, 80 percent said they have some level of functional impairment, and 27 percent said it is extremely difficult to do everyday tasks like work, getting things done at home or getting along with others because of the condition.

Why are so many people feeling so low, even though antidepressants -- the supposed "cure" for depression -- are so widely available? Because antidepressants are barely effective, and they increase your risk of many serious side effects.

The Antidepressant Illusion

These drugs, which are typically recommended as the first-line treatment for moderate or severe depression, have been found to provide no meaningful benefit.

One investigator from the UK even said she is "not convinced there is such a thing as a drug that will specifically relieve depression and that so-called antidepressants are merely drugs that do other things, such as sedating or stimulating people."

The reason that antidepressants have received so much fanfare to begin with is that their makers did an excellent job of publicizing the things they wanted you to know, while keeping very quiet about the rest.

As Dr. Gordon said:

"The problem is that the drug companies did not publish the unfavorable studies about antidepressants, especially the newest class, the SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) like Prozac or Paxil.

And so what you have is drug companies only publishing positive studies, doctors only reading about positive studies, patients believing the drug companies and, of course, their doctors -- and it's kind of like the Emperor's New Clothes. Everybody's been kind of wrapped up in an illusion when in fact over the last couple of years people have been taking a new look at all the unpublished studies.

And when you put together the unpublished studies and the published studies, what you find out is that antidepressant drugs are little, if any better, than placebos (that is, sugar pills) in relieving symptoms of depression."

For a drug that only works as well as a sugar pill, antidepressants have steep risks. Among them:

• An increased risk of diabetes
• A negative effect on your immune system
• An increased risk of suicide and violent behavior

Now, the purpose of the interview with Dr. Gordon, and of my newsletter and Web site as a whole, is to get the word out that there are ways to overcome depression that have nothing to do with padding the pockets of the drug companies, and putting yourself at risk of serious side effects while you're at it.

There are safe, natural ways to overcome depression, and they are all well within your reach.

Exercise is One of the BEST Treatments for Depression

Sometimes the solution to what ails you is so obvious that you can't see it until it hits you right on the head. Well, consider yourself hit. If you have depression, or even if you just feel down from time to time, exercise is a MUST (it's a must for everyone, really).

"What we're finding in the research on physical exercise is, the physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed. And that's even better for older people, very interesting, even more important for older people," Dr. Gordon says.

"And physical exercise changes the level of serotonin in your brain. It changes, increases their levels of "feel good" hormones, the endorphins. And also -- and these are amazing studies -- it can increase the number of cells in your brain, in the region of the brain, called the hippocampus," he continues.

"These studies have been first done on animals, and it's very important because sometimes in depression, there are fewer of those cells in the hippocampus, but you can actually change your brain with exercise. So it's got to be part of everybody's treatment, everybody's plan."

If you're not sure how to use exercise like a drug, including the correct variety, intensity, and frequency, this past article will help you get started.

And please don't delay. Many Americans have an exercise deficiency, but this problem is easily remedied if you look at exercise as a crucial part of getting healthier and happier.

The Other Key Factors to Overcoming Depression

Depression is a very serious condition, but there's an important point I want to make: depression is not a "disease." Instead, it's a sign that your body and your life are out of balance.

This is so important to remember, because as soon as you start to view depression as an "illness," you think you need to take a drug to fix it. In reality, all you need to do is return the balance to your life, and one of the key ways to doing this is addressing stress.

"Most of the research that I've been reading recently indicates that stress is the most important common factor in producing depression of all kinds and in turn affecting neurotransmitters," Dr. Gordon says.

So, along with exercise, you need to have a method of stress relief that works for you. You may like meditation, yoga or going for a hike in nature, and all of these are great to use, but I also suggest using a system that can help you address emotional issues that you may not even realize are there. For this, my favorite is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). However, if you have depression or serious stress, I believe it would be best to consult with a mental health professional who is also an EFT practitioner to guide you.

So, we have stress relief and exercise, but there is still another factor: your diet. Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to be happy, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental health.

At the same time, you need to supplement with a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, like krill oil, and also make sure you're getting enough sunlight exposure to have healthy vitamin D levels (also crucial for treating depression).

These three primary things -- exercise, addressing emotional stress, and eating right -- will make you feel at the top of your game. Whether you want to overcome depression, feel happier, or just want to stay healthy, these are the lifestyle changes that will get you there.

MySpace repost x2: "Books Dante's Inferno & Moby Dick"

Aug 31, 2009
The Pleasure Gardens of Hell (reading Dante's Inferno)

Although Dante's Inferno doesn't quite use the exact words pleasure garden, that's definately the idea that comes across. It talks about "sweet brooks" bubbling along, and "green meadows" in a certain part of Hell. A level reserved for the "virtuous pagans" especially the great thinkers and heros of the Roman world (and assumedly others of a similar nature). Despite all their comforts, these damned are indeed officially listed as suffering "piteously" but none of that anguish was in evidence to this reader. They lived in a dome (my word) of light and warmth and pleasantness. A Citadel in the book. The commentaries say that the bright garden represents the power of Human Reason, even within Hell.

To me, this is very disagreeable. Even accepting that this is fiction, it's a very strange concept. In part, I guess Dante couldn't bear to assign his personal ideal personages from the ancient world (Virgil and Aeneis) to a suffering eternity. Moreover, he ascribes far too much power to Human Reason, and/or God's respect thereof. I am personally confused about how God will ultimately treat so-called "virtuous pagans," but I have no doubt in my mind that the power of Human Reason doesn't have that kind of influence.

On the other hand, why am I taking this so seriously? Who was Dante to speak for the whole of Catholicism in the 1300s? Today, many many novels and movies have their protagonist somehow encounter the afterlife. I certainly wouldn't want contemporary theology judged according to "Bruce Almighty".

I would definately like to seek out some good commetaries on Dante, especially Catholic reaction near that time. Maybe I can find a friendly college student with access to JSTOR....

I'm only about a fourth into the Inferno, which is only the first third of Dante's Comedia (Divine Comedy). I will have to keep eveyone updated.

If you've noticed, my reading record closely coresponds to the various upsets in my life. This is less due to stress releif than the extra time on my hands.

Aug 26, 2009
currently just finished 'Moby Dick'

Wow, I've been very busy lately. I clearly haven't blogged in a very long time. And I STILL haven't read Ashenden!

Since my last blog, quite a few things have happened, professionally and literarily (is that even a word?)

I will make a further blog about my hurried exodus from Tulsa, and other life changed events, but in the meantime, I've learned....

The Borg are now planning annihilation, not just assimilation. (ST:Destiny)

The White Whale is better left alone; and Pip jumped again (I finished 'Moby Dick', and learned that to Melville, the whale is a fish, albeit a very strange one. I, for one, do not have the presumption to argue with Melville about whales)

The mighty sirrush is a mystery of natural history worth my attention (I happened upon the wonderful author Willy Ley, a most amazing amatuer naturalist and [I kid you not] rocket scientist)

A P2C2E solves all problems [so does rubbing your eye with your elbow]. (currently reading Salman Rushdie's children's book Haroun and the Sea of Stories)

Onward! I am on the heavy lookout for Willy Ley's Salamanders and Other Wonders, and I'm eager to find ST: Soul Key.

MySpace repost: "Ashenden by Maugham"

Oct 24, 2009
Ashenden by W. Somerset Maugham

I am told the author's last name is pronounced as a single syllable, "Maum." If anyone knows better, please let me know.

I feel a measure of satisfaction over completing this book, not because it was arduous, or especially hard to come by, or historically revealing, but because I had procrastinated over a year by simply being otherwise occupied. Either work or other activities or other reading got in the way. And I have been looking forward to reading Ashenden since I first read about it. Maugham is a good author. I like his writing style and cadence and word choice(s). Another point of attraction is that my used copy off eBay is from the 1950s! Antique yellowed musty hardbacks carry a certain respectable aire to them, especially when in good condition.

I found Maugham in a collection of critically acclaimed English-language short stories, and looked him up at my local library, finding The Razor's Edge, one of his better known books.

Ashenden isn't too effective as a novel, despite my enthusiastic opinion of his writing style. It has a weak beginning, no climax, and no end. It reads like a collection of short stories, which may or may not have a normal story flow. Unlike 'stream of consciousness' or disjointed rambling books like Max Havelaar, I don't really see a method to the madness. Perhaps that's just my own limitation as a reader, but I am disinclined to think so.

I am currently reading The Horror and Fantasy Tales of Rudyard Kipling, a book I was excited to find at my local library, and which is the subject of my next blog (I am planning to write today).

I recently finished the newest-ish DS9 Relaunch Star Trek book, Soul Key by SD Perry. Star Trek is my light reading to relax between more taxing tomes (hey, that rhymed! Wait, that wasn't a rhyme, that was alliteration: oh, fooey; does it really matter?). I just ordered off Amazon Star Trek: Destiny: Book 1: Gods of Night and Salamanders and Other Wonders by Willy Ley. Their arrival and criticism is forthcoming.

MySpace repost: "SciFi/Horror of Rudyard Kiping"

Oct 24, 2009
currently reading Horror and Fantasy of Kipling

Well, to give the full title of the collection, The Horror and Fantasy Tales of Rudyard Kipling, including, "The Phantom Rickshaw", "With The Night Mail", "At the End of the Passage", "The Strange Ride of Morrowbia Jukes", and "Mark of the Beast".

Yes, this is the same Kipling who wrote the Jungle Book, which is quite different from the Disney animated film.

And yes, Kipling is well-renowned as a rascist and an imperialist ( I haven't made an informed opinion myself, and poor Kipling can't defend himself. Attacking the character of the deceased seems cowardly to me). I agree with other critics that that alone should not be held against his writing. His stories should be weighed according to their own merit.

Anyway, I was most interested in a single story, "With the Night Mail", subtitled "A Story of 2000 AD". I was rather suprised to learn that Rudyard Kipling wrote some sci-fi.

I have read it, although I have yet to read the other "tales" and it was an interesting read. Speculative as expected, rather than science-based, it nonetheless earns the title science fiction. Instead of a 'space opera' though it was a 'stratosphere opera'.

I will follow with further analyses of the more straight-forward psychological and suspense stories at my next blogging. I've never really read horror at all and I'm distinctly repulsed by horror movies, so we'll have to see.

Until next time...

MySpace repost x2: "Star Trek Destiny"

Nov 18, 2009
dissatisfied with my Destiny

Well, the Destiny trilogy is turning out to be rather disappointing. The first two books were better, I think, or rather they are all equally good but are ... disappointing in hindsight. That's all just my personal opinion, by the way.


I am sick of the Caeliar. Sick of Erika Hernandez. Sick of the Borg being blown away too quickly. Sick of nobody significant dying. Sick of the way the author seems to have read waaaay to many comic books. Maybe that's one of the downsides of a trilogy: if there is a weak point it starts to seem intermidable. Or when something is fun and interesting, it's like ice cream, too much of a good thing gives you a belly ache.

I will grant the author, David Mack, a few bravos. His rendering has been pretty lively overall, and the confluence of the various story threads is quite complex. He brought in a few Zaldans, and mentioned Rhandaar, all of which is good. (Where are my Betelguisians?) His interplay of Federation President Bacco's politics was a lot of fun for me.

On to some of my gripes:
1) I don't think the Hirogen should have blood. I didn't see it in Voyager (that I recall) and that was even when they were hacked up and shot by bullets.
2)Why give his new race, the Takarans, such powers, and such a lengthy treatment? I personally think all those regenerative and anatomical traits properly belong to the Hirogen. Such time was spent on the treatment that could have been better spent on further developing one of the other many races. (okay, I partially rescind my gripe: I just googled Memory Alpha and learned Jo'Bril from TNG was our first intro to this species. Mack was indeed fleshing out a known species whose regenerative hardiness had been established, although I still think he overdid it. And his downplay of the Hirogen still irks me terribly)
3) When Mack uses an Andorian female as a main character, leading a stike team against the Borg, IN THE DARK, he doesn't play up their special senses, which are very well established within the post-Nemesis books. Specifically, Andorians should be able to sense a body presence even within the dark and energy dampening feild.

Okay, I have plenty of others, but let me get on with this.

Just for curiosity sake, let me list the major superpowers recognized by Bacco's Presidency: Klingons, Romulan Star Empire, Imperial Romulan State, Gorn, Breen, Tholian, Ferengi, Talarians, [Tzenkethi], and Cardassians. (The reason I list Tzenkethi in brackets is because, in the book, they never actually showed up. To someone not familiar with the books, the dual representation of the Romulans may present a suprise, as well as the Gorn. IN THE BOOKS, the Gorn Hegemony gained a bit of recognition starting with an ally during the Dominion War. I still prefer the term Gorn Star Kingdom, as used is the Starfleet Academy video game, but that's neither here nor there. The double Romulans come in after a lot of chaos and civil war and rebellion following the whole Shinzon insurgency, which is more from the books than the canon, but is rather implied by Nemesis.) The Talarians are a suprise to me (other than their single appearance in TNG, I know of no other entries).

I encourage speculation: what other species were worthy of inclusion, in your opinion, in a simple imaginary "dream team" of sorts (well, team is a stretch, considering the hostilitiy of the various superpowers). I vote for the Jarada, myself.

Let me just say, in my opinion, I hate using the word "nation" to descibe these, as is current in most if not all recent books. Calling them all empires is innaccurate, and calling the states sounds a bit diminutitve. I would prefer the term "sovereignities" although that is rather clumsy.

P.S. I just checked Memory Beta (11/18/09), a wiki site for non-canon Trek, and it says: "At present the TrekLit universe has entered a period of major upheaval with the aftermath of Star Trek: Destiny and the alternate reality of the new Star Trek movie." Yup, that pretty much sums up the current state of affairs.

P.P.S. Oh, I updated the Memory Alpha wiki site for Zaldans, Rhaandarites, and I think there was something else. What can I say, I'm a bit obsessive.

10:43 AMLike •


Nov 8, 2009
AMBASSADOR Garak? The ways of Destiny are mysterious

I am currently in the middle of reading Star Trek: Destiny: Book 2: Mere Mortals (what kind of laughable ostentation for a title!). This is a novel set approximately 16 months after the last Star Trek movie, Nemesis.

I am enjoying this trilogy immensely. I finished Book 1: Gods of Night just last week, and I have Book 3: Lost Souls on order from Amazon. I should be a bit clearer; it is a little more than just a trilogy. The arch starts with the book by Christopher L Bennett entitled Greater Than the Sum (or perhaps even father back to Before Dishonor, which I haven't read). Then, from what I've read, the arch continues with KRAD's A Singular Destiny which I may decline reading. Maybe not, if I hear good things. And with KRAD (Keith R.A. DeCandido), it's hard to imagine him not writing a book worth reading.

I have my comments, but I would refrain from too many spoilers. I apoligize for my lapse in protocol concerning Garak, but my grim amusement at the prospect of that unexpected development deserved an immediate response.

Oh, for anyone reading this series, I strongly recommend that you don't read the flashbacks until after you conclude the series. Although I can understand the publisher's reasons for putting it all together, in retrospect the narrative would flow faster AND be more interesting/mysterious if the flashbacks (only in the Destiny trilogy proper) are not explained until afterward, rather than unfolding as they do. If a prospective reader does this, please please let me know how this works out for you. The flashbacks are easily identified by year headings (such as 2381, etc. BTW, the 2300s are non-flashback years, to be read first)

I was really pleased to read a passage where parallax was casually mentioned without any definition to insult my intelligence. That was cool. They are definitely continuing their programme to beef up the Trek novels from their popular conception as "teen novels."

Oh, on the Cardassian novel, Never Ending Sacrifice: I'm not making any plans on reading it. I didn't like the author's previous contribution to the Relaunch, and it sounds like a perifery subject and I won't miss too much to...erm, sacrifice. How about you?

9:36 AMLike •

MySpace repost: "Discovered Science Writer Willy Ley"

My Willy Ley "Discovery" - Dec 2, 2009

I have to tell you about an author I have found recently. Willy Ley was a science writer in the '50s and '60s and thereabouts, and very well known in his day as a "rocket man".
He wrote on quite a few other nonfiction subjects, including zoology, archeology, and chemisty. Zoology is how I originally fell upon him, but I am enjoying Dr. Ley's writing so much that I have followed him into realms of science I never would have thought of a pleasure reading.
Currently, I am reading his book titled "The Discovery of the Elements." That's what I was refereing to. The origins of chemisty never occured to me as something I would be reading for fun. This is a book for the novice reader.
Yes, I'm sure a lot of his work is dated, but much of it is the history of science and/or biographical, and that isn't as susceptible to ephemerality (haha, I don't think I've ever had cause to use that word before!).
If you've never read Willy Ley (which I suspect) please consider looking up his "Discovery of the Elements" book. It was at my tiny local library. I realize you may be too busy to read every random book that friends recommend (most people are and I know I am). So, just leaf though and read one page out of the middle. I think you'll see what I mean.
He has a quality that I really, really admire in a scientist. He isn't so "puffed up" about his own surety. I don't see the self-righteous ego that I have almost come to expect. He has a cross European-American background, and that makes his writing the more informative and entertaining. He has a talent for branching into anecdote and tangent without making it so lengthy it seems like the subject has changed. This book, and indeed all his books I've seen, are written in a way that the novice can understand.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Science: Who Mendel really was

As you might know, I am taking a science class thruough from MIT Biology professor and acclaimed geneticist E. Lander.

This week, after looking at proteins and enyzmes and molecules, we came to genetics, which is a perfect time to discuss Mendel. It was a really great lecture, and I loved hearing all these biographical tidbits I had not run across before.

I really, really hope I am not in violation of either the academic code nor copyright anything.

"So people knew somehow there was something very important about the
information that was transmitted, and you couldn't help but notice familial
So for thousands of years, people wondered about familial resemblance.
Folks being folks would make up explanations for it.
The ancient Greeks were very big on philosophizing, not so much on doing
And so they had all sorts of philosophical explanations for this,
that particles from all over the body would come together
into the seminal fluid.
Sort of some kind of pulling operation and collecting information from the
body that would somehow go into the seminal fluid.
Most of the Greek theories were relatively sexist because it was the
male that was transmitting the information, and the female was
permissive to all of that.
Indeed at some point, people could later, many hundreds of years later,
looked at microscopes and even thought they could see little people in the
head of the sperm, little homunculi.
It's amazing what you can convince yourself you can see.
Broadly speaking, since heredity didn't follow incredibly simple laws,
the general view was somehow information was
combined from both parents.
Eventually the female parent ends up getting involved in this too, even if
not in the early Greek theories.
Information was combined from both parents and blended in some way, and
it was kind of mushy beyond that, exactly what that meant, by blending
So today, what we're going to do is talk about the origins of a real
understanding of heredity.
But it's important to know that for 2,000 or more years, people were just
completely confused about this thing.
And to understand that, we need to know the origins of Mendel.
Now, in biochemistry, we started by meeting Buchner.
Buchner, I bet most of you have never heard of before.
Amazing biochemist, you haven't heard of him before.
So my job with Buchner was to teach you about him and
what his problem was.
With Mendel I have exactly the opposite problem.
You've all heard of Mendel.
You learned about Mendel in high school, and probably kindergarten, and
things like that with the peas and the big As and the little As.
And everybody's been exposed to Mendel.
And I have to unteach you about Mendel first.
Mendel, I've got to say, I'm a geneticist.
Mendel is one of my real heroes.
Mendel is not who you think he is.
You think, it's always told that Mendel is this lone monk off in a
monastery in Brno in what is today the present Czech Republic.
And you're wondering, what is a monk doing performing scientific
experiments in the city of Brno in the middle of the Habsburg Empire?
And like, what's going on, cooking these peas for his fellow monks for
long periods of time?
You have to understand the origins of Mendel.
The origins of Mendel go back to the age of exploration.
They go back to the 1500s, when Europe sends out ships across the world.
And people come back with all sorts of strange new plants and animals.
And people begin cultivating them, and breeding them, and people get very
interested in breeding experiments, in part because of all these new
varieties, new species that are coming in from the new world.
Then there's another incredibly powerful reason why people care about
breeding at this time, and that is economics.
Europe goes from being lots of isolated little villages, not really
communicating much with each other, to building road networks.
To building commerce across cities and villages, and countries.
And it becomes more and more economically viable, economically
rewarding to make a better apple.
If you made a better apple in your own little village, you might sell it to a
few other people.
But in fact, if you could make better plants and better animals, and you had
an economic distribution system, you could get returns on investment for
improving agriculture.
So there was a powerful positive force of economics at work there as well.
So people begin to start thinking about these things.
In England, there's a lot of work on breeding better and better fruit trees
and better sheep.
A guy called Blakewell produces the Dishley sheep, which
produces great meat.
And he becomes very famous for his sheep breeding skills.
Now, on the continent of Europe, sheep were not about meat.
That wasn't what you really wanted the sheep for.
What the European continent wanted sheep for was wool.
Everybody knew that the Spanish had the best wool sheep.
Spanish sheep produced the best wool.
But of course people who are growing sheep for wool across Europe, they
wanted Spanish sheep.
And so they imported Spanish sheep, but the Spanish sheep didn't do so
well in some of these other environments.
And so people began crossing the Spanish sheep with the local sheep to
make sheep that still had good wool, but somehow survived better in the
local environments.
And there was breeding going on in France, and going on in Germany.
But the place that perhaps cared most about wool, you might imagine, was the
center of the textile industry, which was Moravia in the Habsburg Empire.
And the capital of Moravia then was Brno.
They cared a lot about wool.
And so people in this area, in the city of Brno, began to organize
scientific societies and discussion groups to talk about, how could we
make breeding better?
More scientific?
There was a guy called Andre, Carl Andre in 1806, organized the Moravian
Society for the Improvement of Agriculture, Natural Science, and the
Knowledge of the Country.
And he drew up a whole program of scientific development, emphasizing
the importance of basic and applied research in the natural sciences.
And in one of these kind of over the top civic booster kind of speeches, he
writes in his program that the significance of this kind of work on
better breeding may someday be as important as the work of Copernicus
and Newton.
And that some day the world may be as grateful to some son of Brno as they
are to Newton and to Copernicus.
Pretty kind of florid, over the top kind of prose.
But Andre lays out this whole program there, and he gets other people
interested in it.
And this guy, Hempel, five years later, begins writing about these
things and making programs.
And he says, look, we've got to understand the laws of hybridization
and how they really work.
And we're going to have--
he says we're going to need really scientific people to do it.
He says--
he even tries to characterize the kind of folk we're going to need.
He says, "we're going to need a researcher with a profound knowledge
of botany and sharply defined powers of observation who might with untiring
and stubborn patience grasp the subtleties of the experiments, take a
firm command with them and provide a clear explanation," he writes in 1820.
Well, around this time, Andre had organized a group called the
Enological and Pomological Society.
The Enological and Pomological Society, right around this time there,
very interested in plant breeding.
It has its first president, who's the president of it for about the first
seven years.
When he dies, a new person takes over, CF Napp takes over the Enological and
Pomological Society.
Now, that's not a full time job, doing this.
He has a full time job.
His full time job is he's the abbot of the Augustinian Monastery in Brno.
And he begins to decide to have his monastery work on breeding.
So he goes off looking for scientifically trained monks.
Looking for months with backgrounds in math and physics.
He's looking for MIT kind of monks.
And so he's off looking for these people, and who does he find?
STUDENT: Mendel.
Mendel is no accident.
Mendel is the result of economic forces and scientific forces, and
civic planning and an understanding of scientific research that culminates in
this monk that you think is this isolated guy standing in his garden in
the monastery.
He's the product of a biotech incubator.
This was a biotech incubator going on in the middle of Moravia.
That's Mendel."

Link to an English translation of Mendel's original paper!

Good science - 1908 early geneticist

I am really enjoying hearing about the history of science in my EdX class I am taking.
My grades and performance isn't too impressive, but I am taking the class for fun, not credit. Although if I pass I will value the certificate they offer.

But today's lecture on early genetics had a passage that really impressed me, and I love hearing scientists speak about good science.

I'm not sure this is approved for me to post (off a YouTube video lecture), but I am going to anyway, and hope I don't receive consequences.

PROFESSOR: Section 2.
Fruit Flies and the Linkage.
To explain what resolves this, I have to tell you about one more person.
There's another really interesting person, a guy called Thomas Hunt
Morgan, who spends decades as a naturalist and an embryologist.
And he studies all sorts of different kinds of critters.
And he's fascinated by everything in the natural world.
And he has one of these labs where he kind of works on everything.
All sorts of crazy things are going on.
And when this whole Mendelism stuff comes back, he's interested in the
Mendelism stuff too.
But he is really an experimentalist.
He doesn't go in for this high-faluting theory.
Morgan is not a theory guy.
He's a data guy.
He's very suspicious of all this talk of factors and things like that.
In fact, Morgan begins to do genetics work in his lab, not to study
Mendelism, but to study evolution.
He starts crossing fruit flies together.
He starts about 1908, crossing fruit flies together in the hope that he's
going to discover evolution happening in the lab, new forms coming up.
We know it's going to be new mutants.
But that's not what he was looking for originally.
He's looking for these kinds of new forms.
And I know that in 1908, when he was beginning to do this work, he was no
believer in this whole chromosome business.
I actually found an article he wrote in 1909 that tells you what kind of a
skeptic he was.
He says "In the modern tradition of Mendelism, facts are being transformed
into factors at a rapid rate.
If one factor will not explain the facts, then two factors are invoked.
If two factors prove insufficient, now three will sometimes work.
The superior juggling sometimes necessary to account for the result
may blind us, if taken too naively, to the commonplace that the results are
so excellently explained, because the explanation was invented to explain
them." Just like what we talked about.
That was exactly what was bothering him.
"We work backward from the facts to the factors and then presto, explain
the facts by the very factors that we invented to explain them." That is a
good skeptical scientist.
He says I love your high-faluting theory over there, but
I'm not buying it.
And he's off making fruit flies.

Here a great link provided by the class. This is an excerpt of a Nobel speech in 1907 by Eduard Buchner.

Monday, March 18, 2013

JHW: HR Blacklisting: The Future

In my Job Hunt Woes series, I saw this and just had to share:

The future is here, and it's really dark, and probably getting darker. Legal protection is no protection at all when it comes to things like this.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

having fun: Intro to Biology, Dinosaurs, and more

These last few days are being fun, including an MIT Biology class I signed up for FREE online (, a book on dinosaurs that has proven to be suprisingly stimulating, and a discovery in cooking.

The MIT Bio class just started this week, and so nothing heavy yet. I signed up just for kicks. It has already proven kick-worthy. It has taken a lesson from the history of science, the discovery and description of enzymes (via study of the yeast fermentation puzzle of the 1890s) and climaxing in the scientist Buchner's Nobel lecture in 1907, available online.

For many people, I suppose that isn't much of a climax. For me, it's pretty cool. I love these sorts of "history of science" stories.

Next, I have been reading "Ultimate Dinosaur" edited by Byron Preiss and Robert Silverberg, and written by several respectable authors. I was suprised and pleased to find that this book is both fiction and non-fiction, written by several respectable authors, and well-crafted in a manner that is clear which is which. It is a collection of essays and short stories, alternating genres in a manner easy on the reader. I was also pleased it had subject matter for a more mature reflection. You see, the cover seemed to suggest a kid's book. The fiction writers write fiction, and the scientists write science. What a refreshing book.

Okay, in my cooking, I love it when I find a quick recipe that actually is quick and easy and cheap. A cheap box of mac 'n cheese, cooked in 12 minutes, using the butter it calls for, with or without milk, and the Stove Top stuffing stirred in right before serving. Easy, but very good!