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Blatant Poppycock! And Balderdash, Too! March 5, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, ideas, iPad, iPhone, movies, movies & TV, music, web & computers, weird news.
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The NYT business section has one of those articles intended to inflame, further driving home the point of newspapers is to…sell newspapers. Good on them for that, but the ereaders that were supposed to be their salvation haven’t stanched their not-so-slow decline. So, this article is mostly self-serving on their part and not a little “dog in the manger” kind of opinion.

More people get their news (or what passes for it–there is something seriously wrong with journalism when The Onion delivers more pertinent news than the MSM.) from the Internet now. The NYT, especially their dead tree editions, are struggling and such articles as this on how ereaders will promote illiteracy are their reaction. Get their declining readers to nod knowingly, feel superior to those poor illiterate e-ignoramuses and then turn the page feeling good about their intellect.

The basic idea is that having such power as an iPad in your hand will force you to stop reading an ebook and go right to Angry Birds instead. You won’t look at that textbook; you will instead choose online porn (at UNM, there’s not much difference in some departments–the former head of the creative writing dept just lost a lawsuit protesting another professor’s B&D website).

I still read dead tree books while watching TV. How is this different since the god-box (the remote) is at hand, too? Must be I’m illiterate already? Reading at the beach? Yeah, you dig right into those pages to the exclusion of everything else happening around you. The mode of reading has nothing to do with how you respond to distractions around you, but this might be too arcane for the typical dead tree NYT reader to understand as they stare fixedly at their smeary print pages.

If anything, I am reading more since I fired up my iPad 18 months ago. And I’m still loving it. I got my mother a Kindle. Her eyesight’s not as good as it once was. She can still read cranking up the font size, something she cannot do with a print book. She’s still reading as a result.

Consider the NYT opinion piece as Cheyne-Stokes breathing on the part of a dying medium: paper news.

Cracked analysis of paintings

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Learning Charisma March 2, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in ideas, movies, movies & TV, robot rights, weird news, writing.
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No, not Charisma Carpenter, though that would be interesting, but rather that unidentifiable trait that makes a person shine, sparkle (not in the vampire sense) and be the center of attention…even if they aren’t trying.

John Wayne had this star quality. He came onscreen and whatever else was going on didn’t matter. He wasn’t all that good an actor because no matter the role he was always playing John Wayne, unlike actors who act and become chameleons (Dustin Hoffman comes to mind). So there was something about John Wayne that commanded attention. Q: could Dustin Hoffman capture this quality in a character and *act* charismatic?

The answer is that it might be possible. Crafty scientists have made charismatic robot fish that become the leaders of their schools. Tail motion is the key. A stationary robot fish got no attention but when it duplicated the tail flicks of a leader, the real fish followed. It is likely the same thing is possible with humans.

Can it be speaking ability? Hitler enthralled an entire country into war, but John Wayne’s verbal delivery was never all that compelling to me. But I still couldn’t stop watching when he came onscreen even when he didn’t speak. Something about him made him a star. He had charisma. Watching Hitler’s speeches and not understanding German makes me think there is something about body motion, stance, confidence. Is there a human equivalent to the robot fish tail flip? Can we make a robot with human-attracting charisma? I am sure this will make the Japanese perk up, if it is possible since they are world leaders in robotic/human interactions

A while back I did a Magic: The Gathering book, Dark Legacy, that addressed whart made a charismatic leader, at least in part. After all these years, the notion still intrigues me. Rather than 15 minutes of fame, maybe we should all get 15 minutes of charisma?

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Abandoned September 15, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, End of the World, fantasy, ghost towns, history, ideas, sense of wonder, weird news, writing.
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The idea of once thriving towns that succumb to desertion intrigues me on many levels. Who comes in the first place, what drew them, what caused them to leave, what’s left? The what’s left is obviously a draw for others, too. I love Dark Roasted Brew website especially for their series of abandoned places. This one is a Disney island like the one in Disneyland’s Frontierland. Tom Sawyer Island?

What great speculation that Disney walked away because of brain eating amoeba or real man eating alligators! Those aren’t quite sufficient but they make great story ideas. I turn to mystery rather than sf for those stories, btw.

Or YA. Imagine yourself as a kid who discovers an island like this. It’s all yours to explore. If kicking around an entire ghost town could be cool, this is light years better.

When I was a kid there was a house down the street that had collapsed or was being demolished, though I suspect even then real demolition could take place in a day like it does now, leaving only an empty lot. We’d get down under the main floor and explore. Somewhere along the way a security guard came along to keep us out. Yeah, right. It made for even more fun, exploring this derelict house *and* avoiding the hapless guard. Eventually the house was completely demolished and hauled off to make way for a Circle-K (an early day 7-11). The house was more fun.

Maybe it is the thrill of finding something that makes all this interesting to me. Not sure what “something” might be and in that lies the appeal.

Cats and Dogs August 1, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in cats, weird news.
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Parade Magazine, the Sunday newspaper supplement, is hardly a news magazine. The “spontaneous” questions in their Q&A section always miraculously tie in with some movie or tv release. The World’s Smartest Woman answers questions you could look up using google. The recipe section is typical. Forty-seven new ways to prepare arugula in yogurt and aspic. The “fact” articles tend to be silly.

This week’s was “Which is the Better Pet, Cats or Dogs?” A patently unanswerable question since not once does a question address “are you allergic?” You sneeze when you meet a cat, don’t get a cat. So if you want a pet, a dog is the better choice. And vice versa. But their questions are all slanted to denigrating cats.

Dogs supposedly can understand 137 words. 137? Mighty specific number. Is the dog a genius is he understands 138? An idiot if he can only figure out 136? This reminds me of the statement: 87% of all statistics are made up on the spot. 137? As John Stossel would say, “give me a break.”

According to the article, dogs are thus superior because they understand more words. Not mentioned is that cats can give voice to more than 100 sounds, lots more than a dog can howl. Indicates to me communication cat2cat is far richer than dog2dog.

Dogs are pack animals. Cats aren’t. (Think of a house cat as a small tiger, at least psychologically). If you want a snuffling sycophant sniffing your crotch and licking your face, go with a dog. IOW, you want to be worshiped, dogs are the way to go. Cats couldn’t care less. Unless they want you to feed them.

I am certainly biased in the matter. I don’t like dogs, do have cats. But space filler articles like the one in Parade all too often these days pass as “fact” and even “news.” Bottom line. You want a pet. Don’t depend on Parade to give you a fair appraisal. Got to the pound, look around, and maybe just maybe, you’ll connect with one of the beasties (canine or feline). In the never ending posts of cat pictures, here’s one of my current black cat (a rescue cat going into his 5th yr of ruling my household for me).

X-ray rules!

You Have a Groin Anomaly July 5, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in gummint, weird news.
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My son just returned from an airline flight from Seattle. Along the way, in addition to getting more x-ray exposure than he should have at his age, the TSA decided the x-rays showed “an anomaly in the groin” and carted him off to a room to grope him. He stayed quiet and was allowed to board his plane (barely) but TSA was silent as to the nature of this groinal anomaly.

But I am sure the TSAer enjoyed it. I doubt he even changed his gloves.

Still working like a fiend and no time, no time. I leave you with this YouTube. I remember hearing this on the Bob & Tom Show before the local station dropped them. But the video seems appropriate.

Only in Texas July 3, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in geocaching, history, weird news, Wild West.
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All these (as space filler until I get back to actually doing my own blog) from Mike Thompson.

Love the sun?
Sun City, Texas 78628
Sunrise, Texas 76661
Sunset, Texas 76270
Sundown, Texas 79372
Sunray, Texas 79086
Sunny Side, Texas 77423

Want something to eat?
Bacon, Texas 76301
Noodle, Texas 79536
Oatmeal, Texas 78605
Turkey, Texas 79261
Trout, Texas 75789
Sugar Land, Texas 77479
Salty, Texas 76567
Rice, Texas 75155
Pearland, Texas 77581
Orange, Texas 77630
And top it off with:
Sweetwater, Texas 79556

Why travel to other cities? Texas has them all!
Detroit, Texas 75436
Cleveland, Texas 75436
Colorado City, Texas 79512
Denver City, Texas 79323
Klondike, Texas 75448
Pittsburg, Texas 75686
Newark, Texas 76071
Nevada, Texas 75173
Memphis, Texas 79245
Miami, Texas 79059
Boston, Texas 75570
Santa Fe, Texas 77517
Tennessee Colony, Texas 75861
Reno, Texas 75462
Pasadena, Texas 77506
Columbus, Texas 78934
Just Texas
Pep, Texas 79353
Smiley, Texas 78159
Paradise, Texas 76073
Rainbow, Texas 76077
Sweet Home, Texas 77987
Comfort, Texas 78013
Friendship, Texas 76530

Feel like traveling outside the country?
Athens, Texas 75751
Canadian, Texas 79014
China, Texas 77613
Dublin, Texas 76446
Egypt, Texas 77436
Ireland, Texas 76538
Italy, Texas 76538
Turkey, Texas 79261
London, Texas 76854
New London, Texas 75682
Paris, Texas 75460
Palestine, Texas 75801

No need to travel to Washington DC
Whitehouse, Texas 75791

We even have a city named after our planet!
Earth, Texas 79031

We have a city named after our state:
Texas City, Texas 77590

Exhausted?
Energy, Texas 76452

Cold?
Blanket, Texas 76432
Winters, Texas 79567

Like to read about History?
Santa Anna, Texas 76878
Goliad, Texas 77963
Alamo, Texas 78516
Gun Barrel City, Texas 75156
Robert Lee, Texas 76945

Need Office Supplies?
Staples, Texas 78670

Want to go into outer space?
Venus, Texas 76084
Mars, Texas 79062

You guessed it. It’s on the state line.
Texline, Texas 79087

For the kids…
Kermit, Texas 79745
Elmo, Texas 75118
Nemo, Texas 76070
Tarzan, Texas 79783
Winnie, Texas 77665
Sylvester, Texas 79560

Other city names in Texas, to make you smile……
Frognot, Texas 75424
Bigfoot, Texas 78005
Hogeye, Texas 75423
Cactus, Texas 79013
Notrees, Texas 79759
Best, Texas 76932
Veribest, Texas 76886
Kickapoo, Texas 75763
Dime Box, Texas 77853
Old Dime Box, Texas 77853
Telephone, Texas 75488
Telegraph, Texas 76883
Whiteface, Texas 79379
Twitty, Texas 79079

And our favorites…
Cut and Shoot, Texas 77303
Gun Barrel City, Texas 75147
Ding Dong, Texas
West, Texas (it’s in Central Texas)
and, of course,
Mule Shoe, Texas 79347

Lone Star Flag

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

Factoids April 24, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in gummint, ideas, sense of wonder, UFOs, web & computers, weird news, westerns, writing.
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Write what you know. That tired old dictum has been around forever, and it’s not really true. Well, in a sense it is because you cannot write about something you either don’t know or can’t think up. But I don’t know what it’s like on Mars. Nobody does, unless their name’s Opportunity or Spirit. Or what a real space alien is like (and I doubt they are tiny gray critters, but what do I *know*? I can make up better stuff than that.) Fiction out to be built from the wellspring of your imagination and not only what you know know.

Mixing weird little factoids into your fiction can be fun, though, and they are usually stranger than anything you can contrive. In the past week I’ve come across a few truly bizarre ones. I have no idea if I will ever use them in a story but they are curious to downright weird.

BLEVE is such an example. Passed along Saturday by a firefighter from the other side of the mountain. Video for Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, something you probably want to be far away from. Note in the video they say a 6 ton tank truck was blown over three-quarters of a mile. Let’s hear it for shipping propane and LNG on our highways.

Iguanas have the same internal structure as a chicken. I find this questionable but the source was impeccable. Iguanas have teeth and chickens don’t. Unless they are vampire chickens, of course. Hey, it could happen. Twilight has to go somewhere for a new plot, right?

Rolls Royce has an electric model for only $3m. It’ll go a fabulous 125 miles on an 8 hr charge using a 3 phase 220 line. (Is anyone else worried about having their electric bills go skyhigh thanks to electric car users? How many coal-fired generating plants spewing radon and soot will it take to power a fleet of electrics? Ones that don’t spontaneously catch fire? How many pounds of REE does it take to build this behemoth? It takes 25 lbs for a Priapus hybrid now. And will they use roads without paying taxes for it? (I noticed that some states are thinking about this since there won’t be gasoline taxes to build or maintain roads used by the sizzling little electrics.)

The Army Medical Museum collected skulls as part of a phrenology study. Captain Jack of Modoc War fame ended up there. Or at least his head did.

And Easter is undergoing the same changes as Christmas (hardly a factoid) but this is a wonderful convolution. Easter eggs are now politically correct spring spheres. Think of how hard that is for a chicken to lay. Spherical eggs? Ouch.

Happy Easter to those of you who indulge in biting the ears off chocolate bunnies and other traditional activities.

Speculating on Things Lincoln April 17, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, history, weird news, writing.
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A new friend via FB, David, has some fabulous stuff to share about Abraham Lincoln. So much of this triggered the “isn’t that cool?” response in me that I had to pass it on. First off, I never knew that Lincoln wrote a mystery–and had it published. “The Trailor Murder Mystery” saw the light of published day April 15, 1846. He knew firsthand about the situation since he defended the Trailor brothers (it seems ironic that he was never paid for their defense but made a few dollars writing about the trial). The title was put on the story in 1952 when Ellery Queen Magazine reprinted it.

How many other presidents have (intentionally) written fiction? Let’s change that a bit more to genre fiction. Any sf writers? Lincoln was apparently a fan of Poe. Has any president written horror? Would you vote for anyone if it came out they wrote paranormal romance books under a pseudonym?

The other tidbit from David is a short video on places and things surrounding Lincoln’s assassination.
The item here that leaped out at me was that Lincoln had a Confederate $5 bill in his wallet. What’s the story behind that? The newspaper clippings are of interest. Why would a president carry clippings around? A different era, I know, but in his wallet? Things such as the clipping about the Emancipation Proclamation would better be on display in the White House, wouldn’t you think? Or were they and these were somehow more personal for him?

History isn’t about dates. It’s about the people and the strange, mysterious stuff they do and get involved with. (Was there a secret note written with invisible ink on that $5 bill? Conspiracy! Or warning?)

And here’s a bit of silliness.

What Do We Really Know? April 1, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in education, ideas, nostalgia, pranks, Second Life, weird news, writing.
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The name for that, something Greek like epistemology (not to be confused with episiotomy), gets to heart of a day like today, April Fool’s Day. In the past hoaxes have been great fun and today would garner life in prison sentences. Poe’s Great Moon Hoax comes to mind and yet the so called news outlets have no trouble passing off equally irrational things and doing so because “the public has a right to know.” The world has changed, mostly in a decreasing sense of humor.

Here is a great list of April Fool’s Day jokes. I was especially taken with #7 because it was perpetrated by a CESE member. The obvious way to make such things work is to have just a tad of “sure, that could happen” mixed in.

The harmonic convergence ought to be listed but the planetary alignment reducing gravity enough so you could float around the room certainly qualifies as how you can convince yourself of anything.

Some were scams like the Cardiff Giant but Nessie dead body washed up on the shore is of a kind.

I’m not sure UFOs or the chupacabras fall into the hoax category as much as delusions, as in willingness to suspend disbelief in spite of all evidence. But they make for good stories. Bigfoot, too, zipper or not. What fascinates me most about the chupacabra is how recently it came into being. What’s next? What can be next? Therein lies the task for the inventive writer.

Somewhere PT Barnum is laughing at us