Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kickin' it

This is, quite possibly, the most awesome photograph ever taken.

Thank you, oh thank you Sorry I Missed Your Party. Thank you for sharing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What I've been listening to lately

Santa Claus was good to me. Knew exactly that this was one of my favorite AC/DC albums, and that I haven't owned it since I got rid of my turntable way back when CDs first came out.

Ah, the memories have come flooding back.

My older brother owned this album when I was just a young buck, and I think it was my first taste of AC/DC (I listened to it on the sly so my brother wouldn't get mad at me for messing up his LPs.) These were my formative years, and Powerage (along with High Voltage and Let There Be Rock, also my brother's albums) gave me a good, solid appreciation for hard crunching rock and roll that was also fun and bawdy. As time went on, I -- and my circle of rocker friends -- continued to jam to AC/DC and all of their subsequent albums until we started to grow up and become responsible members of society. But Powerage has always had a special place in my heart, and it always will.

Thanks, Santa!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Concert -- Aerosmith

February 16, 1988
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Dokken

Remember 1988? That's the year Aerosmith came to town in support of Permanent Vacation ("Dude Looks Like a Lady", "Rag Doll", "Angel", etc.) and Dokken was opening for them after releasing Back for the Attack.

Do you remember? I do, and I'm still grinning.

OK, OK, I wasn't a huge Dokken fan, but the guys in Aerosmith are just fantastic showmen, and Dokken actually did a pretty good job warming up the crowd for their boisterousness. Another great time for all!

Monday, December 27, 2010


How can you tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys? Well, here is one way.

(Guns, Holsters, and Gear, via Instapundit)

Sunday, December 26, 2010


That's really the only word for this:

If it wasn't the fact that thing costs $15, I'd totally buy it for my dog!

Check out the rest of the list at Oddee's 10 Most Weird Dog Toys. (Link somewhat NSFW)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Concert -- Rush

January 21, 1988
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Tommy Shaw

I never got the album associated with this tour, Hold Your Fire, but I'm still a big enough fan of Rush's previous stuff that this was a very enjoyable concert. Rush isn't quite the flash and dazzle of acts like David Lee Roth, but they put on a good show anyway.

I can't really say the same about Tommy Shaw. With Styx, Shaw is great. Most of my favorite songs from Styx are those where Shaw is the lead singer and writer, like "Love in the Midnight", "Too Much Time on My Hands", "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)", "Blue Collar Man", etc. But as a solo performer, I never quite warmed up to his musical offerings, and I'm afraid I was a bit bored with his performance.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What smell reminds you of your grandmother?

Althouse and her commenters get in on the discussion in this post, answering this question: What smells remind you of your grandmother?

Althouse said this about hers:
Mine smelled like: 1. lemonade, watermelon, and chicken & dumplings, and 2. knitting wool and African violets.

And I popped into the comments to say this about my own grandmother, the one that lived long enough for me to remember clearly:
Pencils. The newly-sharpened pencils she would give me to draw with when I came to visit.

I love the smell of pencils.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Concert -- Mötley Crüe

Mötley Crüe
June 26, 1987
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Whitesnake

Another fun, fun show.

This tour was for Mötley Crüe's Girls, Girls, Girls album and Whitesnake's self-titled album, both incredibly popular in their time. And if you've never seen Crüe and Whitesnake together (and if it didn't happen to be the mid 1980s when hard rock and metal were peaking in a rush of fiery fury!), then you've missed out.

I'm sorry.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pomplamoose -- Another Day

Have you seen the Hyundai Christmas television ads? That's a real band in those commercials, and they are called Pomplamoose. And here is one of their real songs.

I kind of like that.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Behold, The Brick of Balance"

I felt a brief surge of fear when I saw this photo.

OSHA be damned.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Concert -- Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden
January 31, 1987
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Vinnie Vincent Invasion

Two words: Great show.

This tour was for the band's Somewhere in Time album (my review of this album is here), and it was a rollicking good show. Iron Maiden has a reputation for putting on great performances, and this one definitely did not disappoint.

Well, except for the opening act.

We got to the concert late, so Vinnie Vincent Invasion was halfway through their set when we arrived. Vinnie Vincent himself was full into his guitar solo when we found our seats, and all I can say is I was very unimpressed. His solo sucked, the songs were lame, and, even though we had shown up late, his set went on for entirely too long. It's too bad, really. I think Maiden could have done better without an opening act that night, because they were great, and having the Invasion come on stage before them just put me in a sour mood right from the start. Thankfully I shed that mood when Maiden took the stage, but I shouldn't have to shake off bad feelings before the headliner starts.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

"First Landing Photos: Secret X-37B Robot Space Plane Lands in Calif."

With a headline like that, how secret can it really be?
Air Force officials hailed the unmanned X-37B space plane's successful landing, though its mission remains shrouded in secrecy because of its classified nature. But Vandenberg's 30th Space Wing did not shy from snapping photos of the X-37B vehicle, known as the Orbital Test Vehicle 1.

The pictures are nice, though.

Secrets, secrets, secrets ---- hidden in the open. It does make you think, doesn't it?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Concert -- David Lee Roth

David Lee Roth
Novembver 26, 1986
Frank Erwin Center
Opening act: Cinderella

What a great concert! No matter what you might think about David Lee Roth and Van Halen and their famous divorce or even Roth's music on his own, this guy puts on a damn good show! Or at least he did. Last I heard he was a paramedic.

This was for Roth's Eat 'Em and Smile album, and on stage with him was the smokin' duo of bassist Billy Sheehan and guitarist Steve Vai. Incredible musicians, all having a ball on stage for our entertainment, and it sounded a lot like this (except with better sound).

And Cinderella was decent as well. I never really got into them too much, but they were a worthy opening act for Roth, and I wasn't disappointed.

And now, here's a neat little story about this concert.

When my friends and I went to Austin, we parked someplace downtown that led to us approaching the Frank Erwin Center from the side. (Yes, I know the building is round, but it has a main entrance, and the stage entrance is opposite, and so I consider any gate halfway in between to be a "side" entrance.) The gates weren't open yet, and people were lining up at the doors on that cool evening at least a couple of hours before the show. I remember the weather being comfortable, so it was not a real burden to be waiting outside.

The lines at the main entrance doors were long, but at the side entrance where we were at the line was pretty short. In fact, there coudn't have been more than twenty or thirty people lined up there, so we all began to chat in a very amiable manner. Soon all of us in our little groups were talking like we were friends, even though we had never seen each other before that night. And it was also pretty cool that the side entrance was close to the loading dock, and we could clearly see the roadies unloading last-minute equipment from Roth's tour trucks.

Before long, we got to comparing tickets, asking each other which sections we got and congratulating the ones who had the best seats. I was in Section 42, which was not very close to the stage but gave a great view of the set-up anyway.

As we were showing each other our tickets, there was one girl towards the back who started furrowing her brow, and she looked very interested in what we were doing. She seemed to be waiting alone. She was tall with long, straight blond hair, and she was done up in what were typical mid-1980s rock-hottie duds, including short leather skirt, high heels, stockings, and some kind of flashy blouse.

It wasn't long before this girl leaned forward and said, kind of to everybody, "Hey, your tickets look different from mine."

We looked, and sure enough, the tickets that were sold in Austin looked different from those sold in San Antonio (which, as you can see, had a nice Alamo outline on them). We explained to her that everything was fine, the tickets looked different because they were bought in different cities, but they were all good. And then someone asked her where her seats were, and she replied, "I don't know. I just have this."

And she showed us all a very large, very plastic, very looped-around-her-neck-with-a-lanyard kind of card that said, in prominent letters, STAGE PASS.

We looked at her, and we kind of chuckled. And then one of the other girls there, without trying to sound too condescending, patted her on the arm and said, "Oh, honey, you get special seats. Much better than ours. And you are in the wrong line." When she asked which line she should be in, we all pointed toward the trucks at the loading dock and told her that's where her entrance was. She thanked us, and then she click-clacked off in her heels while we politely waited until she was out of earshot before we started laughing.

I hope she got to see the show. It was pretty good.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

What I'm reading right now

I love this book! It's so well written that it's a breeze to read, even though it deals with imperial politics on a galactic scale. This is probably the fourth time I've read it, and, though I'm only seventy-nine pages in, I'm enjoying it as much as ever.

If you are unfamiliar with the Foundation books, they are a series of novels and short stories written by Isaac Asimov that tell the story the Galactic Empire on a broad timescale. Though there are several independent stories in the series, I am particularly fond of the original Foundation trilogy, which includes Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation.

To give you a little background on what Foundation is about, I will quote liberally from the back cover blurb for this edition:
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire had ruled supreme. Now it was dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, could see into the future--a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that would last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and mankind, Seldon gathered the best minds in the Empire--both scientists and scholars--and brought them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations. He called his sanctuary the Foundation.
Weighty stuff, but, as I said above, it's an easy read. Asimov is a great writer of dialogue, and he even works in wonderful portrayals of facial expressions as part of the dialogue. And, to flesh out that dialogue, he draws physical descriptions of his characters that you can actually see in your head.

One of the things I like to do when I read a work of fiction is to cast the book. As I read the dialogue, I try to picture actual actors in the roles, and it's easier to do this when the author has created compelling characters, as Asimov has done. Already I've cast Adrien Brody as Dr. Lewis Pirenne, the lead scientist and Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Foundation, and I've picked Ron Perlman to fill the role of Salvor Hardin, the Mayor of Terminus City. Years ago when I last read this book I had others in mind for these characters, but the beauty of re-reading it is also recasting the parts to see how the story develops with the new actors in place. As already mentioned, Asimov's writing makes this easy.

If you've never read Foundation, I highly recommend it, even if you are not a big fan of science fiction. It's not long, it's not difficult, and it doesn't bog you down in the science aspect of the fiction. It's fun. And then read the sequel, Foundation and Empire, which has one of the most interesting characters in all the worlds of sci-fi: the Mule.

I can't wait.

Review of Foundation and Empire here.
Review of Second Foundation here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen

A very funny man has just passed away.
LOS ANGELES - Leslie Nielsen, who traded in his dramatic persona for inspired bumbling as a hapless doctor in "Airplane!" and the accident-prone detective Frank Drebin in "The Naked Gun" comedies, died on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84.

The Canadian-born actor died from complications from pneumonia at a hospital near his home at 5:34 p.m., surrounded by his wife, Barbaree, and friends, his agent John S. Kelly said in a statement.

Nielsen was known most recently as a comic personality, but he had a very serious start as a dramatic actor.
His first film for [MGM] was auspicious — as the space ship commander in the science fiction classic "Forbidden Planet." He found his best dramatic role as the captain of an overturned ocean liner in the 1972 disaster movie, "The Poseidon Adventure."

He became known as a serious actor, although behind the camera he was a prankster. That was an aspect of his personality never exploited, however, until "Airplane!" was released in 1980 and became a huge hit.

I liked Nielsen as both a serious actor and a funny actor, but his best work was on television in the short-lived "Police Squad!" Man, I loved that show. If you aren't familiar with it, it was the show that spawned the Naked Gun series of movies. And if you've never seen it, try to get ahold of a DVD copy and watch the episodes (there are only six). That was a TV series that was definitely underappreciated at the time.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Concert -- Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne
May 8, 1986
Frank Erwin Center
Opening act: Metallica

Ozzy's album at the time: The Ultimate Sin.
Metallica's album at the time: Master of Puppets.
Greatness of the show: Way up there!

I had to go to Austin to see this show because at the time Ozzy -- due to a few problems involving a dress, urination, and the Alamo Cenotaph -- was officially banned from performing in San Antonio.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Some things I am thankful for



The U.S. military.


Rock and roll.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Respecting the hell out of your rockers

I've liked the band Queensrÿche for a long time, and I love the fact that they are supporters of the military, but my respect for them has just gone up a few notches.
Armed forces supporters Queensryche were the victims of a bomb attack during their recent visit to war-torn Iraq, however frontman Geoff Tate insists making the trip was the least the band could do.

The prog metal outfit played a series of shows for military personnel. While in northern Iraq they were forced to take cover when a battle exploded around them, and although none of them were killed, they were left injured and shaken by the experience.
(from Collecting Vinyl Records, via Blogonomicon)

Rock on! And stay safe!

Restricting Venezuelan speech

There shouldn't be any doubt that Hugo Chavez is an oppressive tyrant, but in case there is, keep this in mind:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has forbidden the use of his “name, image and figure” on any kind public building, as well as for use in “political, social and community organizations” and any old advertising campaigns.

The law announced today indicates that the image or name of Hugo Chávez can only be used with previous and explicit consent from the head of state and only for “political and social activities, or pro-Chávez propaganda in posters, banners and/or flyers.” [emphases added]

(from Hispanically Speaking News)

Political dissent? Fine, as long as you don't speak the actual name of, you know, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Unless you get permission.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Concert -- Dio

November 14, 1985
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Rough Cutt

This show was the tour for Ronnie James Dio's Sacred Heart album, but I really went to hear the stuff from the previous two albums, Holy Diver and The Last in Line. Dio turned in a smacking performance, but I was once again left to wondering exactly how headline groups chose their opening acts. Dice? Paper slips in a hat? Ouija board?

I mean, really ---- Rough Cutt?

Oh, oh I see. Then I read this on Rough Cutt's page at the site of all truth and knowing:
Dio’s wife Wendy Dio was the group’s manager, and Dio himself helped write one of the band’s songs.
Well, if it works for them, it works for them. It didn't do much as an opening act, though.

And here's one more tidbit about this concert: This was the first major show to be held in the Convention Center Arena after the city banned smoking in that venue. Talk about an event! One of the hallmarks of a show in the Arena was the hundreds of lighters being lit after the house lights went down, and those lighters weren't sparking up just to make pretty little flames. They were lighting hundreds of cigarettes and hand-rolled cigarettes, if you know what I mean. A rock show in the Arena was nothing without clouds of audience-produced smoke.

So I went to this show curious to see how the officials would handle the ban. And, man, did they ever come down hard on the smokers! I watched each person in uniform, and as soon as a rocker would light up a Camel they would swoop down and pull those poor schmoes out of the crowd. And I think they were throwing them out of the Arena altogether.

But, curiously enough, that new rule seemed to apply just to the cigarette smokers. Because when the lights went down for Dio, I smelled just as much sweet leaf as ever. And I didn't see a single head get the boot.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Rocket Loaded With Solar Sail and Satellites Blasts Off From Alaska"

This is all kinds of good news.
A rocket carrying seven different satellites, including one that will attempt to deploy a small solar sail into orbit, successfully blasted off from an island in Alaska tonight (Nov. 19).

The Minotaur 4 rocket launched at 8:24 EST (0124 Nov. 20 GMT) from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation's Kodiak Launch Complex. The rocket's many different payloads will attempt to demonstrate several new space technologies, including novel command and control frameworks and satellite propulsion systems — all while keeping costs down.

"This provides a low-cost, rideshare capability," Mark Boudreaux of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., told reporters last week. Boudreaux is project manager of FASTSAT, one of the satellites that launched today.

Built by the Virginia-based company Orbital Sciences, Corp., the Minotaur 4 rocket is expected to deliver all seven satellites, which carry a total of 16 separate experiments among them, to an orbit about 404 miles (650 kilometers) above Earth. The $170 million mission, STP-S26, is part of the Air Force's Space Test Program.

That's some good science going on, there. And did you even know there was a launch facility in Alaska? Florida and California, sure -- but Alaska? I can't believe I've never heard of it before now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Concert -- KISS

January 30, 1985
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Queensrÿche

In my previous post, I said this: I was beginning to think that these headline acts just didn't know how to pick an opening act worth anything.

This concert proved me wrong. The guys in KISS are legends, and they are professionals. And they definitely know how to pick an opening act.

This concert was part of the tour supporting their Animalize album, and the show was fantastic. And Queensrÿche, their star still ascending, wowed the crowd with their polished licks, piercing vocals, and professional mien, demonstrating the goodness yet to come for the band. They were a great opening act for KISS, and no one in their right mind at that concert came away disappointed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Concert -- Deep Purple

Deep Purple
January 20, 1985
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Giuffria

This was the tour supporting Deep Purple's highly successfully (and very tasty) Perfect Strangers album. An awesome concert that was filled with smoke, lasers, classic DP, and raucous new music, and the re-formed group really made the arena shake that cold winter night with their rough rock 'n' roll.

So, I wondered afterward, what the hell was this? Giuffria? Really? In no way did their musical style fit the tone of the evening.

I was beginning to get disillusioned with my favorite bands. I was beginning to think that these headline acts just didn't know how to pick an opening act worth anything.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Celebrating 235 years

I know, it's already been said out in the blogosphere, but please allow me to chime in: Happy Birthday, U.S. Marine Corps.

Carry on.

Image credit: Cpl. Daniel H. Woodall
Image found here. Original caption: "
Lance Cpl. Jonathan Jessee, combat engineer, Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 3, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), scans the area during a foot patrol in Trakh Nawa, Afghanistan, Oct. 27. Jessee, a 20-year-old native of Newcastle, Calif., and approximately 40 other Marines with CLB-3 constructed a bridge in the area after the previous one had been burned down."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Concert -- Billy Squier

Billy Squier
October 14, 1984
Convention Center Arena
Opening Act: Fastway

Though Billy Squier's star faded quickly after this point, he was still putting on a hell of a good show, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

We had seats on the floor, though Section C was toward the back. But it didn't matter. Fastway blew as an opening act (does anyone remember any other song besides "Say What You Will"?), so we were able to walk around just about anywhere on the floor. And when Billy Squier took the stage, we were close. No one was bothering with ticket checks at that point, so we just moved up through the crowd to get as close as we could. Eh, he's not as heavy as many of the other bands I like, but it was the first time I was right next to the stage for a major act, and it was pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Concert -- Ratt and Twisted Sister

Ratt, Twisted Sister
July 26, 1984
Convention Center Arena
Opening Act: Mama's Boys

This was a fun show. Ratt was the newest, hottest thing in hair metal in those days, and Twisted Sister was a bunch of made-up dudes that looked horrible and didn't take themselves too seriously at the time. They made for an upbeat and humorous double bill, and the only real downside of the concert was the opening act.

Mama's Boys.

Yeah, I remember hearing about them at the time, but I don't really remember them at all today. Anybody else?

Sticking up out of the rings

Did you know Saturn was beautiful and inspiring? If you didn't, then take a close look at this picture:


Do you want to know what that stuff is? That's Saturn's ring material jutting upward from the plane of the rings themselves. Jutting almost two miles out from the rings, that is.

Alan Boyle explains:
In addition to the self-excited oscillations, Cassini's scientists noticed disturbances in two regions on the B ring's outer edge, including spiky vertical structures that rise as much as 1.6 miles (3.5 kilometers) above the ring plane. One of the perturbed regions, measuring 12,000 miles (20,000 kilometers) in length, can be seen rolling around the edge of the B ring about halfway through this video clip.

The two disturbed areas -- known as Region A and Region B -- are not thought to be caused by the natural oscillations or by a previously known pattern linked to Mimas. Instead, the best explanation is that the regions contain moonlets measuring as much as a half-mile (1 kilometer) wide, or even wider.

Besides the Mars rovers, that Cassini spacecraft has got to be the best return for the investment our space program has produced to date. It sure gives our scientists a lot to look at and discover.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Concert -- Judas Priest

Judas Priest
April 28, 1984
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Great White

Another great show. This was the tour supporting the Defenders of the Faith album, which is one of JP's best, featuring such metal gems as "Freewheel Burning," "Love Bites," "Some Heads are Gonna Roll," and "The Sentinel." Every song absolutely rocks, and the live show was a faithful rendering of the album's sound. It's a show I will never forget.

This was also the first time I had heard Great White. They were a new band back then, and, if I remember correctly, they did a good job opening for Priest. Since this concert, Great White achieved success and fame (especially with the platinum albums Once Bitten ... and ... Twice Shy), and it's neat that I got a chance to see them live before they hit it big.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Concert -- Black Sabbath

I used to go to see quite a few concerts back in the 1980s and 90s. Hey, I was young with few responsibilities, no dependents, and a bit of disposable income. But today you can reverse all those, and then you'll see why I don't go see live music much any more.

But the other day, I chanced upon a stack of old ticket stubs, and the memories came rushing over me. Of course, the stubs I saved were ones that could actually identify which concert I had attended, not the generic ones that are marked "Admit One". I used to go to clubs and smaller venues to see a lot of acts as well, and these places often used the generic types of tickets. But the arena shows had better tickets, and I saved as many as I could to preserve the memories.

Please indulge me as I share a few with you.

Black Sabbath
February 4, 1984
Convention Center Arena
Opening act: Girlschool

There it is, the first big concert I went to. I was young, and I was impressionable, so when the lights went down, the crosses were lit, and the sounds blasted forth, I was duly impressed. And this wasn't even one of Black Sabbath's better tours (or albums). Ian Gillan from Deep Purple made this his one and only tour with Sabbath, and actually I thought he was pretty good as their vocalist. Though he was no Dio, he still did a bang-up job on the "Heaven and Hell" song. I came away wanting much more.

Except for the opening act. Really, Girlschool? The font of all information that is called Wikipedia doesn't even mention this band as being part of the tour, and, given that this concert was in the last days of the tour, perhaps they were a last minute replacement that wasn't given much thought at the time. I know I sure haven't given them much thought since. To this day I can't remember a song of theirs.

Other than that, a very good concert. As I said, I was young and eager to rock, and this just whetted my appetite.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Moon Crater Has More Water Than Parts of Earth"

More good news from the water-in-space department:
A frigid crater at the moon's south pole is jam-packed with water ice, with some spots wetter than Earth's Sahara desert, boosting hopes for future lunar bases.

That's the picture painted by six new studies that analyzed the intentional moon crash of a NASA spacecraft on Oct. 9, 2009. The agency's LCROSS probe was looking for signs of water when it smashed into Cabeus crater at the moon's south pole last year, and the spacecraft found plenty of it, as scientists announced last year.


Water ice makes up about 5.6 percent of the total mass on the floor of Cabeus — making the crater about twice as wet as Sahara Desert soil, according to LCROSS mission principal investigator Tony Colaprete.

"That is a surprise," said Colaprete, who works at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "And it has a lot of ramifications in terms of our understanding of water and other volatiles on the moon."
(from Mike Wall on

It wasn't a showy crash, but that impact last year is resulting in some good science. Well done.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Iron Maiden + harp

= an unexpected gem of coolness from some guy in Brazil: "The Trooper," like you've never heard before.


ADDED: You know, this video is something that I think would really have been unexpected back in the day. When I was just getting into heavy metal back in the early 1980s, I already had an appreciation for some classical music. As time went on, I kept headbanging, but I also fully immersed myself into classical music, and I even learned a couple of instruments (classical guitar and some piano). I used to think that I was a little unusual in my fondness for both musical styles, but nowadays -- especially given this guy's get-up in the video -- not so much.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Oh crap!

More at Oddee. (That link is definitely NSFW!)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why I think MSNBC sucks

Because of this:

Seriously, that layout is so bad it's almost unreadable. Sprinkling the text with pop-up links (the underlined words) is bad enough to make me want to curse the webmaster, but interspersing the article's body with line-long links in different fonts of different sizes and all bolded and set off with little cutesy icons to draw your attention to them rather than to the text that is supposed to be the main focus of why you are at that page to begin with!! ---- why, it's enough to make me swear off forever. Thanks, marketing-dude- who-thought-this-was-a-good-way-to-keep-readers. Thanks a bunch.

(Source. Yes, I was reading a story about the Liberace museum closing. What can I say? Liberace was flamboyant, but he was kind of cool, too. And it's sad that his museum closed the way it did.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Water Ice Common on Asteroids, Discovery Suggests"

This is very good news for anyone who thinks we have a shot at a serious presence among the stars.
Scientists have discovered water ice on an asteroid for the second time, suggesting that it is more common on space rocks in our solar system than previously thought.

Two research teams have found evidence of water ice and organic molecules on the asteroid 65 Cybele, just six months after discovering the same stuff on a different space rock — asteroid 24 Themis — for the first time. The results suggest that asteroids may have delivered much of these essential materials for life to the early Earth, the researchers said.

"This discovery suggests that this region of our solar system contains more water ice than anticipated," said Humberto Campins, of the University of Central Florida, in a statement. "And it supports the theory that asteroids may have hit Earth and brought our planet its water and the building blocks for life to form and evolve here."
Let's just hope there's a substantial amount of water in the asteroids. And then let's get up there and mine the heck out of them.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Another musical observation

Here's something else I found in my misfit CD bin.

That's Steelheart, another short-lived glam metal band. And this, their first and self-titled album, is from 1990. Though they are in the same time period and classification of music as Shark Island, I actually enjoyed Steelheart much more. Still do, as a matter of fact. Sure, their sound is typical late 80s/early 90s hair-band fare, kind of schmatlzy and close to corny, but it has a bit of a hard edge to it, too. And, after listening to this album again, I found myself thinking this belongs in the close-at-hand rack, not the misfit bin.

And I got this free! I know this for sure because of that hole in the lower right corner of the cover. That means this copy was a radio promo, and I probably got it at some club event, though I don't remember when or where.

But, on to my observation. A hallmark of hair bands from the time (besides the hair, of course) is the flashy wardrobes. The duds were sometimes simple and sometimes complicated, but they always carried an air of exaggerated style, marked glitz, and careful selection, and you got the sense that each outfit was as carefully planned as a costume.

Witness Steelheart:

Knowing how carefully such artists put together their performance gear, it struck me as a little odd to see this ring prominently displayed on the finger of the guy on the left.

That's drummer John Fowler, and he was sending some kind of message with that ring, but I don't know what it is. Generally music in the Western world is characterized by its expressive nature, and with rock music many times rebellion or subversion serves as a theme. And the Soviet Union was hardly the bastion of musical expression beyond what was sanctioned by the establishment. It seems odd that any rocker from America would actually support the Soviet ideal of officially-approved music.

So, I think Fowler had to have been one of two things back in 1990: He was either very naïve in thinking Soviet communism was a happy conduit of artistic values (though it would not surprise me a bit if he was a liberal, as many musicians are), or he was being wryly ironic in displaying the symbol of a system that, even then, was obviously well on its way toward collapse.

What do you think? Naïvete or irony? Should I belittle Fowler or give him credit for a subtle commentary on global politics?

While you discuss it, I think I will put this CD in the drive and take myself back twenty years.

ADDED: Well, guess what I found out? After looking at the back cover of the CD, I found out that this album's executive producer was none other than this guy:

That's right. Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson helped craft Steelheart's sound. No wonder I like them better than Shark Island.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Random musical observation

The other day I was going through a bin filled with CDs I don't really listen to anymore. (And, to be honest, there are a few that I never really listened to when I got them!) While I was rummaging -- just to see what was in there, I came across this:

Do you remember that band? That's Shark Island, a little flash-in-the-pan, late 80s hair band that was popular for about all of 13 seconds. But they did make one song for this album, Law of the Order, that I really liked back then and that I still like now called "Paris Calling." That song got a little airplay, and the band got a little fame, but the magic didn't last and Shark Island faded away. They faded even though the singer, Richard Black, got together with people from other outfits to form a nonce band of glam-hair supergroupness called Contraband. Yes, they faded, and no one missed them.

So, "Paris Calling" and the band's cover version of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" were the only two songs I ripped off Law of the Order, and then the thing went into my bin of misfit CDs. To tell you the truth, I don't even know where I got this CD. I'm pretty sure I didn't buy it. Back in the 80s and 90s I used to get all kinds of weird CDs for free from friends who didn't want them or just thought I would be interested.

But Law of the Order isn't really weird; it just isn't good. I even listened to the whole thing again yesterday just to give it another chance, and I found that my opinion has not changed over the years. It is a weak album.


Law of the Order does contain one incredible bit of awesomeness that I never noticed back then, and I'm glad I took the time now to look over the liner notes so that I could notice it. That cool bit is from the band's publicity photos, and here it is, the glam shot of the guitarist, Spencer Sercombe.

Dude totally looks like Val Kilmer's brother.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What I've been listening to lately

... among other things.

The Pistolero told me I should check it Death Magnetic, so I did. (Sorry, I haven't gotten around to The Warning, yet.) And my first few listens have left me pleased. Of course, I've already heard "Cyanide" on the radio, but so far I'm really digging "Broken, Beat & Scarred," "All Nightmare Long," "My Apocalypse" (some really good thrash, there), and "Suicide & Redemption."

The last in that list of tracks is an instrumental song, and it's a shame that metal acts don't do more of them. Iron Maiden had some really good instrumentals on their earlier albums, and Metallica has done a good job with the wordless tracks on their albums. But I just wish there were more.

Overall, I'm looking forward to listening to this some more.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Unplugging nothing

Have you seen MTV's "Unplugged" lately? I haven't, not in a while, but tonight I happened to catch a little of the show on Palladia, and Lenny Kravitz was featured.

And did you know that the definition of unplugged has apparently evolved to mean no effects on your guitar? Really. Kravitz's set up included an electric bass with stacks, a fully-miked drum kit, an electric organ, and an electric guitar running clean. Everything plugged in, except with no effects.

But unplugged in spirit, I guess.

Meh. I guess I shouldn't be that surprised, given that MTV stopped being Music Television a long time ago. But, still I was, a little.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hands in space

You know about the dangers of being an astronaut, right? Decompression, lack of gravity and its effects on health, cosmic radiation, atmospheric re-entry, and so on. But did you know that the hands take quite a beating, too?

It's true. In fact, if you are an astronaut who goes on space walks often, you might even be at risk for losing your fingernails.
National Geographic reports that the design of astronauts’ space suit gloves can lead to hand and finger injuries, including an icky condition called fingernail delamination in which the nail completely detaches from the nailbed. While missing nails do grow back in time, if the nail falls off in the middle of a spacewalk it can snag inside the glove, and moisture inside the glove can lead to bacterial or fungal infections in the exposed nailbed. MIT astronautics professor Dava Newman told National Geographic that astronauts take this medical prospect seriously. ...

The problem begins when the astronaut’s space suit is pressurized for a spacewalk (more technically called an extravehicular activity, or EVA), which makes the flexible fabric of the gloves hard and stiff. Newman decided to determine how these rigid gloves could make fingernails fall off, and found to her surprise that fingernail delamination was not linked to the length of astronauts’ fingers, which would cause more contact between the nails and the glove. Instead, astronauts with wide hands reported losing the most nails on the job. Her study, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, focused on measurements of the metacarpophalangeal joint, where the fingers meet the palm.
Be careful up in the cold blackness, walkers among the stars. And make sure you trim your nails before going outside.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Mosaic afternoon

Found, somewhere along the River Walk:

San Antonio, rendered in colored pieces of tile.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Saturn equinox

An absolutely stunning image of Saturn, most unlike the rest.

Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. Read more about it here.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Sauron? Is that you?

Courtesy BBSO

Nope. Just a sunspot. reports:
A new photo of a sunspot on the surface of the sun taken by a telescope in California is the most detailed seen in visible light, scientists say.

The sunspot snapshot was obtained by the New Solar Telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory in Big Bear Lake, Calif., operated by the New Jersey Institute of Technology.


The telescope is touted to be the worlds' largest ground-based solar instrument and was completed last year, NJIT officials said in a statement.

The new sunspot photo is the "first light" target for the observatory's new advanced optics system during a solar photography session on July 1-2. It has a resolution of about 50 miles (80 km) and is the best yet taken by a ground-based telescope, observatory officials said.
The best "yet". Hopefully much more to come.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


From xkcd.

I know how he feels. We don't want to leave anyone behind.

Not even trying on the fortune cookie front

Of course it goes without saying that, if you're trying to learn how to speak anything from the Chinese family of languages, you're doing it wrong if you're relying on fortune cookie slips for your vocabulary. And it should also go without saying that, if you are the one writing these little helpful nuggets of word wisdom, you should probably eschew phonetic borrowings. They are no help at all.

Reminds me of the Spanish translation for "baseball".

Friday, August 27, 2010

Façade afternoon

Function is life. The rest is just details.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier

If you've stopped by this blog more than once before (and thank you for doing so, if you have!), you'll know that I am a huge Iron Maiden fan, and I have been enjoying their music for nearly thirty years now. So it delights me to see that my favorite band is still cranking out the metal tunes even today.

Yes, that's the latest release from Maiden, and I bought it the day it came out, August 17, 2010. Since it's called The Final Frontier, I suppose this might be the last studio album the band puts out before they all retire for good. So, I'd better enjoy the hell out of it, right? No worries.

Let's start with the cover art. Here, Eddie has apparently been genetically combined with an alien species, and he's suffered some kind of damage because his cranium has been opened to space. (It doesn't seem to bother him, though.) He holds a key of some kind, and he looks over the freeze-dried carcasses of another type of alien in their ruined space vessel. Striking visuals, and very colorful in contrast to the bleakness of Maiden's previous album.

The songs: Stylistically, they cover a lot of ground. There's much that sounds like old, familiar, comfy Iron Maiden, and then there's some that goes off in different directions, even challenging the expectations of long-time fans like me. For example, "Satellite 15 ... The Final Frontier" (which is really two songs in one) sounds like nothing I've heard before, and it's a very interesting way to start the album off.

Thematically, the songs are all over the place. They deal with space travel and exploration ("Satellite 15 ... The Final Frontier" and "Coming Home"), war and religion ("Mother of Mercy" and "Starblind"), legends ("Isle of Avalon" and "The Man Who Would Be King"), old-time sea-faring adventures ("The Talisman"), fear ("When the Wild Wind Blows"), historical mysticism ("The Alchemist"), and even scam artists ("El Dorado").

And you know what? There's a lot here to like. Steve Harris and crew may be getting old, but they aren't slowing down. And they certainly haven't lost any of their creativity. It's a good listen, from start to finish, and I have the feeling I'm just at the beginning of my enjoyment of this album.

Monday, August 23, 2010

State quarter designer -- in Texas

Hey, guess what I found out? One of the designers of the state quarters lives just up the road from San Antonio in New Braunfels!
NEW BRAUNFELS — You may not know who artist Susan Gamble is, but chances are you have one of her drawings.

And you're carrying it in your pocket.

Gamble, who lives in New Braunfels, is one of five master designers in the country whose renderings are used as artwork on coins for the U.S. Mint.

She drew the leaping salmon in front of Mount Rainier for the Washington state quarter, the grizzly bear catching a salmon for the Alaska state quarter and the scissor-tailed flycatcher soaring over Indian blanket wildflowers for the Oklahoma state quarter.

(from the Express-News)

That's right. These are her designs:

And here are the reviews I gave them:

Washington - 2 - Mediocre
Oklahoma - 2 - Mediocre
Alaska - 2 - Mediocre

I know these are just my personal opinions, but I hope Ms. Gamble stumbles across this blog sometime and takes a moment to read my reviews. Yes, they are just the views of a regular guy who carries these coins around every day, but they might prove useful to her in any future artwork she develops. Or maybe not.

Of course, what really boggles my mind is that Ms. Gamble -- and only a few other artists -- are the ones who got to determine what went on all fifty of the state quarters. I really and truly thought the states themselves had some say in these designs, but apparently not!

And why not?

Why would the U.S. Mint rely on just a few people to design all these coins that are supposed to be representative of the states they, well, represent? Convenience? Probably so, but I wonder now if any of the states' residents actually got a chance to voice their opinions on the state quarters. If not, I'm a bit disappointed in the whole program.

P.S.: Whoever designed the Texas quarter, you did good, though, even if you didn't check with any Texans first! I gave it a 5 - Best!

Using the wrong metaphor

At St. Philip's College in San Antonio, economic shortfalls have forced the school to insist on larger class sizes in order to consolidate resources. As such, some of the smaller classes have been canceled. Students, who are often working-class and looking for a trade education, are understandably upset, as KSAT-12 reports:
Michelle Monsees, a welding student, said the consolidation of classes could affect her ability to take care of her kids.

"How am I supposed to take a class at night when I have kids to be watching?" she asked.

Another student pointed to his class schedule, "Here's four classes I needed to finish out the semester (of) which two ... are going to be canceled," said Nick Ramon.
They have a right to be frustrated, but what caught my eye in this story is the response of St. Philip's Vice President of Academic Affairs Ruth Dalrymple. She said, in considering options,
"We have a number of students who are trying to jumble working and family and classes and we'll take a look at that as well," she said.
It's hard enough to juggle work, family, and school, but I suppose it's also possible some of the students are going one step further in the difficulty department and are consciously trying to mix all these things together into confused messes.

But I could be wrong.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Quote of the day

"The jet, as well as being an ambassador of death for the enemies of humanity, has a main message of peace and friendship."

Though I kind of
like the idea of an "ambassador of death" for all those pesky alien invaders, somehow I don't think that's what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meant by this. And I'd be interested to know what kind of friendship this device brings.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What I bought today

Oh, yes. Happy me! New Maiden, just released.

Give me a couple of weeks or so. I'll have a review ready. But I need to soak it in first.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Showing off stabby things

The Pistolero is showing off his cool knife. It's nice.

Here's mine.

It's a Buck, a brand I've always been partial to. But I don't use this particular knife very much.

Why not? you say. Well, take a closer look.

Yep, that's George Strait's mug on that blade. A special edition knife, this is. So, since it's very nice, and I don't want to subject poor George's face to any mundane nastiness, I just can't bring myself to use it like a regular blade. As such, it usually just sits inside its special sheath.

Do you have any special knives that you can't bring yourself to use?