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The Unseen World Around Us April 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in dinosaurs, geocaching, history, ideas, New Mexico, outlaws, science, science fiction, sense of wonder, space, UFOs, writing.
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As you probably know by now, I am fascinated with the idea we go through life and see only a tiny fraction of it. This drew me to geocaching where most people go right by a cache and never know. This is a simple thing. The world–nature–is vastly more intriguing with its diversity and how new things pop up all the time, things we simply have not been attentive enough to see before.

In NM there are cemeteries all over the place, but who is buried int hem? Some terrible outlaw who never achieved the status of Billy the Kid or Blackjack Ketchum? Or just plain folks, putting in their time, working sunrise to sunset and then…dying. Unnoticed, or perhaps noticed only for a very short while by a very few people?

New discoveries in NM caverns possibly give us more powerful antibiotics. Who woulda thunk it? Back in 1986 the Lechuguilla Cave was discovered. It’s the 7th longest cave in the world and the deepest in the continental US. And antibiotic resistant bacteria have been found in it.

Which brings up the point, what antibiotics? Turns out these may be brand new ones. What else may be found here? It is near Roswell. Could those crafty UFOnauts be hiding down there, knowing it is the deepest point they could reach without digging? Are those antibiotics potentially from Out There, brought to Earth by the 1947 saucer crash? Or perhaps your ideas run more to thriller. If there is a bacterium, can it be used as a terror weapon? Only the antibiotic from the cave can save us?

More than 1200 new species of plants and animals have been found in the Amazon since 2000. What might James Cameron find diving into the Marianas Trench? That’s a long way down and hitherto unexplored.

Panspermia might be a way of repopulating lost species on earth. Comets and asteroid impacts can blast away huge chunks of earth (imagine finding those dinosaurs from ’40s and ’50s pulp stories on other planets!) And then return it.

So much of nature out there, unseen.

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A Day in the (Medieval) Sun September 20, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, dinosaurs, history, music, nostalgia, steampunk, Wild West.
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Scott D asked if I wanted to tag along to the Santa Fe Renaissance Faire at Las Golondrinas (look it up–it can mean either swallow or buboes, though I suspect they intended the former meaning because this is along an acequia in a bosque where birds would gather, although this is NM, land of the flea, home of the plague). I’d been a few years back and enjoyed it. This is a miniature version of, say, the AZ Ren Faire, but it suits NM and the setting is much nicer, being in wooded areas and meadows.

The theme is more Spanish than the AZ Ren Faire and the king and queen are always Fernando and Isabella. They had pikesmen and dragons wandered about. The usual entertainment, Clan Tynker from Santa Fe, the Pomegranate troupe of belly dancers, celtic singers with electric lutes, fire jugglers and the like. Food was more local (Roque’s carnitas were, indeed, superior) with more Ren Faire-ish stuff like turkey legs available. Pati Nagel and Chris Krohn were serving up mead and a falconer with several birds held forth on the meadowlands.

I didn’t bother getting dressed in period but Scott asked a question that made me think a while. Which costume event appealed most? Took me a while to come up with an answer. I enjoy the ren faire and even getting gussied up in the clothing, but there are the purists who sneer and tell you it’s “not period.” Spoilsports. I want to have fun without them having fun telling me I suck. The SASS is another one where I feel comfortable in western garb. For some reason, a duster makes me feel bigger than life. But I finally decided steampunk might be best of all because there is no canon, no prescribed (or proscribed) dress and imagination can run wild. The other two center on real eras, steampunk is imaginary. Guess where I live mostly.

Quite a bit of steampunk stuff at this ren faire (also a Marilyn Manson wannabe) and pirates. Arrr, matey.

A day spent wandering about in the sun and enjoying the show. I got no writing done and didn’t even feel guilty about it. Much. Not too much. Well, some.

Santa Fe Ren Faire

Santa Fe Ren Faire Dragon

El Paso Gators in the Moat May 16, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, dinosaurs, history, sense of wonder, Texas, weird news, Wild West.
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A lot has been made of Obama’s talk of a moat filled with alligators. I find it amusing that he made the talk in El Paso, which has a long history of alligators in a pond in the middle of the city. Really.

I lived in El Paso from the mid ‘50s to the early’60s and always got a kick out of seeing the gators in what is now called. Plaza de los Lagartos. The real beasties are long removed to the zoo and replaced with fiber glass replicas (which I find to be horrifyingly awful, but I am not a fan of this style of sculpture. At all.)

The trips downtown from the far northeast where we lived were always great fun. There was a newsstand to the east of the post office that carried…Ace Doubles! And cheap magic tricks and gag stuff. Better yet, in those days there weren’t bookstores but the big department stores had small book sections. The Popular and especially The White House on the plaza carried such treasures as new Tom Swift Jr books and Hardy Boys, though it was really the former I sought. And, of course, Rick Brant Science Adventure books

$1 per title, hog heaven for a kid like me. And a few blocks to the north of the plaza along Oregon Street was the main library (El Paso had a great library system–Carnegie Grant funded) and across from it was a super used bookstore (in later years).

But in the center of it all was the alligator pond. They decided to move the gators in the ‘60s when a drunk soldier got his hand bitten off. Most of the gators were huge and docile and more like lumpy logs. The smaller, younger ones were…hungry. Fast and hungry.

I was never able to find out for certain why there were gators there but one (probably apocryphal, but who can say?) story is that they were harnessed to ore carts and used to pull them out of the tin mines. In case you didn’t know, these are/were the only tin mines in the US. I spent too much time poking around in these mines as a kid but somehow didn’t die. But the image of a gator wiggling along on its spindly legs, pulling a tin-ore laden cart down a low-roofed shaft is somehow amusing. I suspect the real reason El Paso had alligators in the plaza is more prosaic, but who knows? Maybe they were anticipating the moat along the border.

Luis A. Jimenez, Jr. sculpture

Mythical Anatomies January 23, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in dinosaurs, movies, sci-fi, science fiction, sense of wonder, Wild West.
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Godzilla. Yup, he’s King of the Monsters. I have a sneaking fondness for Gamera, too, since he’s a friend to children. Besides, who else is there who’s a flying telepathic turtle that shoots fire out his ass? They don’t make superheroes like that. Often. But how do these critters spit fire and not incinerate their own guts.

Luckily, there are those with more time on their hands than is healthy who have tackled this weighty problem. Check out these detailed cutaway views of Gamera and others posted at Pink Tentacles.

Godzilla may have originally risen as a cautionary tale about atomic testing, but you really have to stretch disbelief when you shuffle in all the monsters following (including Nick Adams in Monster Zero). Somewhere along the way they became tall tales meant to entertain rather than warn.

We have our own tall tales and one might even say monsters. Babe the Blue Ox and Paul Bunyon have to qualify as just a tad on the monster side of the roster. This is one of the few American creations I can think of with such epic proportions. Most others in the monster vein have been European in origin. And Paul and Babe weren’t monsters in the sense they destroyed Tokyo (even as they saved it from even worse monsters). Most of American tales have been more restrained, at least in size. Think Washington Irving.

Certainly we don’t have anything like this Norwegian monster epic.

November 12, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in death, dinosaurs, ghost towns, gummint, ideas, movies, weird news.
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Pressurized Cheez-whiz

Saw a preview of Skyline last night. Full house. Movie was a throwback to ‘50s bug movies with lots of, uh, homage, to Independence Day. And movies where big monsters stomp fleeing peasants. At least it wasn’t filmed shakycam like the execrable Cloverfield. But when the audience laughs during supposedly tense moments (the humans are fleeing, in slo-mo of course) because it looked completely ludicrous, you know you’ve got problems. The big “aaaaaw” moment came when one of the monsters stomped on a Ferrari. Well, for me that was the most horrific scene. The ending was perfectly logical and utterly silly. Call this a spoiler if you want. Close your eyes if you don’t want to read it. Here it comes: the monsters win. And the audience loses.

At least the people of LA found out what those blue lights in the sky were (even if the real life one was over NYC).

Big “reveal” for the day is that the state of NM is in twice as much fiscal trouble as was revealed, oh, 3 days ago. No surprise since they are still lowballing it by a factor of two. The people in charge know this and aren’t bringing it out all at once, for some reason. It is not better to do slow reveals. Overstate it once (which is hard when you’re looking at actual deficits of $1b in a nothing state like NM) but then if you come in better, you look good. But Gov Bill is not likely to do this since he’ll be lucky to get out of the country unindicted. An ambassadorship to Cuba is looking better all the time. Or maybe there was a reason the spaceport was named after him since this provides a quicker way out of NM?

Gee, Post Awful lost $8.5b last year. All because they got turned down for a 2 cent increase in first class mail. (Yeah, right).

Lots of competition out east between Tucumcari and Santa Rosa for the Route 66 Museum. This still doesn’t address the problems of small town NM in attracting $ and staying alive. This is hardly an end-destination attraction. People won’t come from China to a Rt 66 Museum unless it can somehow be tied into the Silk Road. Somehow I don’t think Samarkand and Santa Rosa will get mentioned in the same breath. How hard would it be for a town to put in a server farm and have, say, an annual digital art competition? How big would the prize have to be to attract worldwide attention?

Burned up the keyboard yesterday. NaNoWriMo came in at 6300.

No Milk Today August 17, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in dinosaurs, education, inventions, nostalgia.
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OK, I admit it. I like Herman’s Hermits. Did then, still do. No idea why. Peter Noone was kinda goofy but always cheerful. Maybe that was why. Even a song like “No Milk Today” didn’t come out as wrist-cutting, gun to head trigger pulling, suicidal. The song was on the radio as I was channel hopping at a red light and it got me to thinking about how only a very few would understand the song or the title.

No Milk Today? Back in the day, and I remember this from the ‘50s, milk and other dairy stuff was delivered to your door. There was an aluminum cooler about the size of a couple half gallons of milk on the doorstep. You left prepaid coupons, the milkman left, well, milk. And eggs and cheese. I don’t remember ever having ice cream left since the insulation wasn’t that good in the box. So the song is about Herman’s gf (ok, back then, wife) leaving him and him not needing that extras milk and the neighbors would see and what a scandal that would be. Times have changed.

Every year Beloit College publishes its Mindset survey.
This is a look at what incoming college frosh know and don’t know, what was never known and what’s been shoved down the memory hole. I gotta wonder about the #31, though. The first computer they touched was an Apple ][? I’d gotten rid of my ][e 10 yrs prior to this class of ‘14 being born. My son’s always had a laptop around, not to mention Internet. And I guess I was napping when #48 came along. Someone got married in space? What about the honeymoon? In space, too? #50 is weird, too. Toothpaste tubes stand on their caps? I have obviously missed the great advance in science of the 21st century.

What I did not miss is wonderful innovation like this. Hospital wall paint that kills staph bacteria. Using CN filled with a natural antibiotic. Wow. We may be #11 in the world and sinking fast when it comes to math and science, but now and then something stands out.

“Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Luvly Daughter”

Snailing It Along August 2, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in dinosaurs, gummint, ideas, web & computers.
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Increasingly irrelevant, the US Mule Mail finds itself in a deep debt crisis. The answer, of course, is to raise the postage rate. Making the problem worse. Since the gummint runs it, they can’t lay off workers, change the way they do business (one suggestion to make extra money was to put in vending machines–my idea of a real destination. Vend out a candy bar while waiting in line with twenty of my bestest buddies as the lone clerk struggles along.)

Obvious answers cannot be implements as they would be in a private company. Consolidation of under performing post awfuls is out of the question. One suggestion is to cut out Saturday delivery. Since they don’t seem to deliver most days from the sudden glut of mail I get on individual days, going to every other day delivery would work for me.

Having to deliver to every mailbox in the farthest rural area is killing them. Stop the delivery and make the rurales come to the post offal to pick up their mail. Most of it is grocery flyers and other junk mail, anyway.

But the real problem is that the gummint runs it. Ever wonder what postal regs look like? I don’t. I have to deal with the tax code, being an official US Gummint Taxpayer. The post awful has become increasingly irrelevant as the use of email has increased. Fax and FedEx and UPS could probably take up the slack. Online billing and banking is common now. How much do we really need the black hole for tax money that is the post office?

Less and less.

What got me thinking was a now former member of Slanapa said he had to drop some fanac due to retirement/decrease in money. Slanapa still mails. There’s Slannet but for some reason the online aspect isn’t used for more than a snark or two. Cap’n Bob Napier might have cracked the facade in the group so admission that what was started in 1969 (by yhos) is outmoded. He might just be bored with the group or have other reasons, but the physical mailing ought to be eliminated as a concern.

The post office ought to be put out of its (and taxpayers’) misery. Along with GM, AIG and all the banks run by the gummint.

Let It Snow… March 20, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in dinosaurs, science, sense of wonder, weird news, westerns, writing.
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First day of spring, a foot of snow closed the road from Ab. to Tucumcari. I went out to the Conspiracy Brew meeting this morning and it was snowing. Global warming? Nay, Fimbul winter! It’s almost noon and has only warmed up to 31. That’s Fahrenheit, of course. And yes, it is still snowing.

I hope the roads are clear in a week when I’m off to Phoenix (they weren’t this morning–road from Gallup to the AZ border was closed due to snow)

But there are pretty things in the world revolving around snow and things icy. I saw that a solid black penguin had been discovered. Really black tie kind of guy, I suppose. But this is kinda cool in a lot of ways. A blood-red waterfall in the Antarctic. The reason? This is water from a 2 million year old trapped lake with microorganisms from that era. But the red comes from the iron in the hyper-saline water. The instant it hits air, it rusts. The little bug critters are anaerobic and live off sulfur. Real otherworld stuff here.

Time to hit the keys. Within 20 pps of finishing the western. Not as close as I would have liked but close enough to finish today. Then to mss critiques and tomorrow, alas, taxes. I am allocating the entire day for that. Maybe tomorrow and Monday. All I can hope is that I won’t be due a refund from the state since the new budget has already failed, after only 2 weeks, by the tune of $100m. No money in the state piggy bank. At all. And the drain got wider thanks to the way the special session tried to raise taxes on things that nobody really has to pay taxes on, if they are clever (eg, the 75cent/pack sin tax on cigarettes. The rez smoke shops don’t have to pay it–they either increase market share by not raising their prices or increase their profits by raising almost that much–either way, the tax increase does nothing for the state.)

Who is this John Galt fellow they keep talking about? Oh, yeah.

Punch that key, brand that book…rawhide!

Look At That February 2, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in dinosaurs, fantasy, movies, robot rights, sci-fi, science fiction, sense of wonder.
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Posters

Lovely posters, pulp style and art deco and style I can’t even describe. The one I find myself being most morose over is the Blade Runner poster. One of my favorite movies (of any genre), it just doesn’t work for me. Too messy, too intent on cramming everything in. On the other hand, the Krull poster (not one of my favorite movies, those Francesca Annis looks fabulous in it) looks more like the Alien poster. Doesn’t tell you a thing about the movie, which might well be intentional.

I have to wonder how effective a lobby poster is generating interest in a movie. A trailer can spark all kinds of interest but it is usually 2-3 minutes worth of sampling from the movie itself, although clever trailer editors can include stuff not in the movie. But then, trailers can also tell you “the butler did it” and otherwise ruin suspense if you are waiting for the dramatic scene already given away. Some of the posters are wonderful art for terrible movies. The Starship Troopers poster is an example. Hideously bad movie, worse adaptation of the book, but it is an eerie poster.

Right now, the creepiest poster out there is the Alice in Wonderland poster with Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. It sorta…scares…me. I’d wanted to see the movie before, but with the trailer showing an almost as creepy Cheshire cat, this is a definite.

Bottom line: which of these posters would you hang on your wall? I have a Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow poster framed and hung. I used to have the original Star Wars poster. Such might be dismissed as mere commercial art but that ignores the point that some of it is good art. Period. I always enjoy walking around the theater looking at the posters, which might be as close as I get to an art museum in any given year.

All the Colors of A … January 30, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in dinosaurs, science.
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dinosaur.

This is amazing stuff. By looking at the melanosomes scientists have figured out this particular dino had a ring tail with alternating dark and reddish-orange bands. A ginger boy dinosaur? Wonder if it could quaff a pint of Guinness and sing bawdy ballads while doing a river dance? Or, considering the location of this dino, whatever it is they dance in the Gobi? The idea that speculation is possible without having found the actual colored tail fascinates me.

How much of this is guesswork and how much is actual? How do you ever do an experiment to know? Biology stuff is mostly a mystery to me when it comes to DNA and figuring out what’s what is less visible than dark matter. Considering that it has hardly been 60 years since Watson & Crick, progress has been astounding. Some of that has to be attributed to computers, of course, but the migration of talent from the physical sciences is probably a bigger factor.

I also saw but can’t find now an article that feathers developed before flight, probably as a mating gimmick rather than for insulation or flapping about.

What a pillow that would make. A dinosaur feather pillow. And it would have to have stripes in dark and reddish-orange, of course.