Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Letter to Barack

I came across the above picture today in my web surfing. Supposedly, outgoing presidents leave notes or a short letter in the desk in the Oval Office of the White House to give little tidbits of private advice to the new incoming president.

Now, I don't really believe this is true - if only because outgoing presidents take their desks and other furniture with them when they leave - but it makes for a bit of humor. This is the letter that Bush supposedly left for Obama.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This is what happens when you abandon journalism and become simply a mouthpiece for the lunitic fringe

EU further asserts its sovereignty over the UK

"EU to ban selling eggs by the dozen: Shopkeepers' fury as they are told all food must be weighed and sold by the kilo"

June 27, 2010 (Mail Online)
British shoppers are to be banned from buying eggs by the dozen under new regulations approved by the European Parliament.

Me: And you won't be able to buy them by the pound either. Metric system, you know.

God I love federalism. Especially your brand. By this time next year you will be singing a special European national anthem and using the Euro. Mark my words.

You are losing your country by degrees. Wake up. Get the hell out the EU now. And help us get out of NATO.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ronnie finds out if there is a hell or not

Well, the death penalty has deterred another killer from killing again. Finally.

I don't claim that justice was done, since it took 25 years to execute him.

Now all that remains is to listen to the world condemn Utah for its barbarism. As for myself, I will think about his victims and their families, and hope for the day when more of these vicious animals are executed in a more timely fashion.

Ah, well; better late than never. He will no longer be a danger to his prison guards, and he has no chance to escape and kill again.

Odd that he chose to die by firing squad. I would rather that they had beheaded him with a Buck knife in front of the rest of his brother murderers on death row, but you can't have everything.

Rot in hell, Ronnie Lee Gardner.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Aging ungracefully

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
—Dylan Thomas

Everybody wants to go to heaven.
Everybody wants to go to heaven.
Everybody wants to go to heaven,
But nobody wants to die.
—The Limeliters

There are two general theories on aging - of why humans get old and die. First is the theory of cumulative damage, and second is the theory of genetic programming; that is, we have an expiration date.

Both of these theories probably presuppose Creationism, or at least presupposes a god (or at least a cosmic puppeteer) who constantly circumvents the "laws" of Evolution: If Darwin were right then surely over millions of years our bodies would have evolved AT LEAST to the point where we had become immune to cellular damage and had evolved, through the simple genetic improvement of "survival of the fittest," RNA capable of replicating itself legibly more than 30-odd times. That is being said tongue-in-cheek. Mostly.

Anyway, all living things would have corrected the genetic defect of dying long ago if Evolution were doing it's job. Certainly over millions of years, right? All it would take is a better system of cell division fer crissake. Not dying would have been job one in "Natural Selection." Yet here we are dead-ending again and again and again with no improvement. Argh.

How did I get so far down this side road. ::backs up::

It's amazing (to me) how much information is out there on the internet about people's theories about (and desire for, I guess) immortality. I read a book a long time ago called "The Outer Space Connection" in which the author expounded on theories to extend life greatly in humans, if not exactly matching the true definition of immortality. That's religion's big attraction too, of course. Wow - that's a whole 'nother book, though.

I have my own opinion about how to make oneself immortal, if one is so inclined, and I don't mean living on through your children. Most of my theories are (as my loyal readers know) pretty hare-brained though, so I won't burden you with it.

How many stories or legends can you think of that you have read about, where the theme is immortality? Not counting science fiction. Ok, counting science fiction. Like the fountain of youth. Or maybe Greek mythology. Wasn't there a Greek goddess of immortality? I guess not, since they were all immoral anyway. Immortal, I mean. Did anyone reading this post name their kid Ponce? Just in case?

Dear Max:
What the heck was the point of this post?

Dear Mr. Thomas:
I'm not sure anymore. I started out with a mission but I forgot. Brain cells are dying.

Well, Max, don't feel bad. We all muse about our mortality as we drown our disappointments in strong drink.

Speak for yourself, Dyl. What is it with Irish poets that seem to only be able to write in pubs?

I was speaking of GOOD writers, Max.

Oh yeah? Well, take this one with you Mr. Death Rager. ::Max begins to sing to the tune of London Bridge is falling down:: "Dylan Thomas has come and gone, come and gone, come and gone. Dylan Thomas has come and gone - his blood turned to words."

Thank you Mason Williams, wherever you are.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Commercial space flights

In a remote stretch of New Mexico desert, a rather bizarre undertaking is slowly taking shape.

Back in 1990, the concept of a commercial spaceport, where regular people could take rides into space, had its beginnings with the vision of several people and $1.4 million in seed money from congress, with the help of then New Mexico senior senator Pete Dominici. In 2006, the NM legislature enacted laws providing for the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport. It is named "Spaceport America." As I write this, the first runway is being paved. The buildings will be constructed this year.

The money for the actual enterprise, as well as the "space ships" is being put up by Virgin Galactic, a company of Sir Richard Branson, Britain's man with the midas touch in air travel and all other things of the Virgin empire. Sir Richard has announced that New Mexico will be Virgin Galactic's world headquarters.

The facility's first launch tenet is UP Aerospace. Virgin Galactic has signed a 20-year lease as the anchor tenet, agreeing to pay $1 million a year for the first five years, plus more based on the number of launches its company makes.

Ok, I realize you are stifling chuckles at the absurdity of commercial space travel, but they have already presold a bunch of tickets at $200,000 a pop. They are scheduled to be open for business late this summer, with weekly launches at first and daily launches expected soon thereafter. Admittedly, the only person so far to be launched into space by a private company (not by these people in New Mexico) was (at his request) the ashes of actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original Star Trek series. Here I need to be honest and admit that particular launch was "unsuccessful" and resulted in the loss of Scotty's ashes, along with the ashes of former astronaut Gordon Cooper and three government satellites. In New Mexico, we are much more reliable and there are honestly many real live people with real actual tickets waiting to go. I myself, though a proud New Mexican, will wait for them to get a couple of successes under their belt. And a drop in prices.
I admit something like this excites me and I don't mind (as a New Mexico taxpayer) forking over money for stuff like this. Much of our money in NM is wasted on far worse things.

Basically, we are talking "low space" launches (meaning non-orbital) at first. Essentially they'll be like the first Mercury mission, more or less. Except that the launch rocket piggybacks on a mother ship (like a 747) to about 50,000 feet and then is jettisoned (like the first experimental shuttle "Enterprise" except this one will be powered.) If you don't have a little basic knowledge of the early American space programs, I am probably not making sense to you.

Don't be so quick to scoff - a lot of weird things have happened in New Mexico you probably don't know about. We'll see. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The author of this blog was driving by the spaceport not too long ago and took the below two pictures. There isn't much to see from the highway and I was not inclined to drive down the long lonely-looking road to the actual facility. All I could see in the distance (second picture) was some small buildings of some sort and a tall antenna. Ah well.

Click to enlarge.

Bottom 2 photos copyright 2010, Tom Osburn

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why people collect things

Lots of people collect things as a hobby. The items people collect are probably as extensive as the number of collectors in the world.

I have often considered why people collect, and have come across very few explanations that are satisfying to me. Mostly, articles on the subject end up simply talking about THINGS one can collect, or talk about profit motives. That doesn't interest me. I am interested in the underlying reason for the gratification of collecting. Obviously there is some sort of gratification if one does it for fun.

Coins, stamps and the like can be "completed", and so I suppose the goal of completing one's collection is gratifying in a sad way. But butterflies or rocks can't be completed, so the joy there must be in accumulating the most examples of variations and varieties.

What about people like me who like BIG things? I like old steam locomotives and ocean liners. These things are hard to collect (and even harder to store, by god) especially if one is a small dog on a limited writer's income. This obstacle is easy enough to overcome by just collecting images of steam locomotives and ocean liners. Photographs, postcards, old advertisements, company propaganda. When I visit museums which contain steam locomotives (Henry Ford was an obsessive collector of things, and his collection ended up in the Henry Ford Museum, even huge locomotives and other mighty things with huge flywheels, like steam dynamos) I use the opportunity to take pictures of them. Mostly, though, I collect picture books of these things.

The final resting place of the chair Lincoln was sitting in at the theater when he was offed, and (coincidentally?) the limousine Kennedy was riding in when HE was offed are also in Henry's magnificent collection, the latter collected on his behalf, apparently, long after his death. Henry Ford also collected houses and buildings and had them transported to and reconstructed at his Greenfield Village, out behind his museum in Dearborn. Churches. Edison's laboratory. Ford's childhood home. An ancient carousel in a building. A glockenspiel Henry apparently got a kick out of watching. The bicycle workshop of the Wright Brothers of airplane fame, brung on up from Dayton. Henry liked a lot of things. Most collectors don't have as much money as Henry Ford had, though.

Psychologists say part of the urge to collect is the desire to stimulate pleasant memories. I don't know. That doesn't explain why some people collect war memorabilia. If you collect souvenirs and brochures from past vacations, I suppose the reason might be to stimulate past pleasant memories. If the trip were pleasant.

Some people collect ticket stubs, autographs, old musical instruments, postcards, vials of dirt. I once read about some guy who claimed to have a vial of dirt from every state. Well, jesus god, you know. How does one prove that, I'm thinking.

Some people collect sea shells. My mother used to collect stones. She didn't collect them because they were an example of this or that geological variety, or because she was completing a set. She collected them because they were pretty to her in some way. That is as good an explanation as I've found: collect because the object brings you joy.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Polishing sarcastic

Same sarcasm, different target.

I like to read the questions and answers on Yahoo! and elsewhere on the internet. It is all I can do to restrain myself from giving sarcastic answers like I would do if I were Dear Abby. The only thing stopping me is you have to sign up to comment. Screw that.

I don't know what answers the experts gave to the following questions. Doesn't matter. Only my personal sarcasm really matters.

How many Rocket Scientists does it take to paint a house? A thousand. One to hold the paint brush and 999 to turn the house. Bwahahahahahah!

Just kidding. Now where was I?

(Note: the following were actual questions by people who, presumably, had driver's licenses.)

1. "What does it mean when the battery indicator light illuminates?"

Professor Max: It is just a reminder to stop and pick up bread on your way home. Be sure and turn your  car off while you are in the store.

2. "Can my engine overheat by switching to synthetic oil?"

Professor Max: Why the hell do you want your engine to overheat?

3. "Where can I find a scribe tool?"

Professor Max: You mean a scribe who is a tool? Say, keep up with the dumb questions and you will be pulling one out of your nose.

4. "Is the A/C covered under my powertrain warranty?"

Professor Max: Is your air conditioner part of your powertrain? Yes, both your A/C and your cigarette lighter are covered under your powertrain warranty. Tell them Max said so.

5. "How much air pressure is right for a minivan?"

Professor Max: It depends. Are you going to use the van for deep-sea diving? Do you want your ears to bleed? If you mean tires, then the pressure should be around 300 PSI. Be sure to put your face really close to the tire as you put the air in.

6. "I took my 2002 Mercedes to a back alley mechanic and he put the same water pump on and didn't change the transmission fluid. Do you think I can get my money back? (I didn't get a receipt.)"

Professor Max: Soitenly. Send me $100 and I will take care of the problem for you.

7. "My serpentine belt was screeching and sliding around..." "I gave him a Playstation 2 and an X-Box and he knocked $100 off the water pump he didn't replace." "I need some advice..." "Bottom line, am I screwed?"

Professor Max: You're the same dumbass with the Mercedes, right? No, everything will be just fine. Send me another $100 and I will handle this for you as well.

8. "Gasoline is slowly dripping from the tank. Will it last the weekend?"

Professor max: Is this that Mercedes guy again? It will last until about 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday. But you must drive continuously between now and then. You can stop the leak by pouring ten pounds of sugar into the gas tank, in case you didn't know that.

9. "How do you take out the distributor on a 1990 Ford F-150? Do you just pull it straight up or what?"

Professor Max: Not to be patronizing, but if you have to ask how to take out a distributor, you shouldn't be taking out a distributor. Sigh. Yes, just pull it straight up. Be sure to remove the retaining bolt first, though, or lifting it straight up could be more difficult than you think. Good luck on getting your truck started again after you put it back in.

10. "When should I replace my Nissan Sentra timing chain?"

Professor Max: You mean what time of day? Actually, since this Nissan uses a timing belt... ah, never mind. Generally you begin by removing the headlight on the driver's side. Then you drain the gas tank. Do you have a cell phone? Good. Call the Nissan dealership and have them come pick up your car and fix it for you.


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