Villagers With Pitchforks

The flaming torches were delayed in transit, sorry.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Voting for Nader? Listen To Your Elders First

Dinah Sanders posts this:
Doris Haddock is the woman who walked across the U.S. from California to Washington D.C. at age 89 - 90 to dramatize the public demand for campaign finance reform. She is now running for the U.S. Senate in her home state of New Hampshire. See her biography and more at As you'll see from the speech below, she remains an intelligent and highly concerned citizen. A motto of her campaign: "Think positive about our future and work like hell."

From Granny D's speech at the Alliance for Democracy
Convention in Boston, Wednesday, July 21, 2004:

On history, and how short the American experiment truly is:
Well, Friends, here we are in a city that has known the struggle of free people against tyranny, their rise above personal self-interest, their rise during the occasions of human emergency to move forward with courage, with intelligence and a long view to the future of the people, and with great energy and a perfect concentration on victory. "We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately" is a phrase spoken in Philadelphia by a man of this city--a phrase that again has personal meaning to us.

We are not so far in time from 1776. My own life extends over 40% the way there.

On coming together:
Two centuries ago, there were probably Americans who didn't quite like part of the Declaration of Independence or who did think George Washington was just the right man to lead the Continental Army, or who thought there should be a few more articles to the Bill of Rights before they would sign on. They were barnacles on that Yankee Clipper that sped despite them toward liberty, and they are now less than footnotes.

On the ballot itself:
And I shall vote for [Kerry] on October 12th. I think all Democrats should vote three weeks early by mailed ballots. That way, there will be a paper record of our votes. You may have suspicions about the voting machines, but I assure you that the Secretaries of State and the town and county clerks of this nation take their jobs very seriously and our paper ballots in their hands will be our best defense against any secretly rigged or otherwise malfunctioning or sabotaged machines--and the Bush Administration can stop talking about putting off the election, for that issue may not be as dead as we hope.

Read it all.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Yet Another Sign of the Apocalypse

Debbie Galant at Barista asks this pressing question:
But when it gets to the point where toddlers need personals, well.... isn't that a sign of the apocolypse?
I'd say so, yes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


I will be playing Uncle Wes in Theater Works' upcoming production of Footloose, the musical based on the 1984 Kevin Bacon movie, through the end of August.

Blogging will almost certainly be affected.


Waiting for a bus in downtown Seattle, I see a disheveled and possibly deranged man with an enormous duffle bag sidling down the sidewalk, stopping to bellow "Are you going to the library?!" at each and every person in turn. Most ignore him until he moves on, but some -- out of compulsive politeness, or because they have somehow mistaken this raving for a sincere query -- begin to reply "No, I'm waiting for my --" at which point the man icuts them short with an impassioned and spittle-intensive "GO TO THE LIBRARY!!!"

I dunno. Call me cynical, but I just don't think Seattle's literacy program is all that effective.

- Matthew Baldwin, Defective Yeti

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Aww is the widdle man scared of a few bumps?

Can somebody explain to me why the driver of a Cadillac Escalade, with almost double the ground clearance of my Honda Element, was so afraid to go over the speed bumps the other day?

This was in a shopping center parking lot. Now it's true that many shopping centers have bad speed bumps: speed bumps which would stop large tanks in their tracks until the brave men and women of the Corps of Engineers came forward and applied a pound of C-4 so the tanks and the convoy could get through and defeat the enemy. But this shopping center has reasonable speed bumps, which can be taken at 5-7 mph with only minor discomfort, even by my passengers with bad backs. The security golf-carts don't even slow down for these bumps.

This Cadillac Escalade was slowing to sub-walking speed, possibly even sub-crawling speed. As nobody was actually crawling around the parking lot this would be hard to judge, but slow pedestrians were passing this Escalade as it slooooowed dooooown to go ooooover the buuuuump.

I dunno. Those Cadillacs have a lot of electronics. Maybe the guy was testing his altimeter.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Will Smith Movie With Robots II

Isaac Asimov's daughter liked it, and that's okay with me.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Sleeping It Off Working Hard

Workload increased yesterday, thus no pitchforks. Hope to reverse trend today.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Why We're Not There Today

Five years ago today:

Procedure to Follow in the Event That Building 245 is Attacked by Vikings

Since the decline of the Carolingian Empire in the 10th century, Building 245 of the NASA Ames Research Center has been subject to periodic raids by Viking marauders. These marauders generally attack in search of gold, religious icons, and other forms of plunder. The NASA Ames Barbarian Affairs Office has established the following procedures for defense against Viking raids:

One of many reasons we're not on the moon today drinking champagne is this little gem.
It got swamped with traffic and was taken down, but I grabbed it. Good satire must be defended.

How I Missed the Moonwalk

Thirty-five years ago today:

In the entire city of Pittsburgh, there was no bigger space enthusiast than me.

Eight years old, a voracious reader, I could quote chapter and verse on the entire Apollo Project, the astronauts, mission control, the mission to the moon - even the benefits that we would see from the space program.

While most of the advanced engineering was a little hazy - what was this 'specific impulse' stuff anyway? - I knew the basics of how We Were Going To The Moon.

So here it was: July 20, 1969. The Day.

They were up there on the moon, I was in my living room surrounded by press clippings, PR, technical specs, models - you name it; if it was about Apollo 11, I was reviewing it.

And in the plans for getting off the moon, I found it. The Fatal Flaw.

The Lunar Module only had one engine. One small engine to get my heroes off the moon. If that engine failed, the astronauts would be Marooned Forever.

Marooned Forever. Pretty scary, for an eight-year-old.

But surely they tested the engine. I mean, I knew about the early unmanned Apollo missions, the expensive full-scale tests of the Saturn V and the spacecraft. Surely they tested everything.

Marooned Forever. I dug through all my Apollo materials.

Making sure.

I couldn't find anything about the ascent engine. But it worked on Apollo 10. Their ascent engine worked. Surely it'd be okay.

Marooned Forever. It kept echoing through my head, all day and into the evening.

So there they were, my heroes, on the moon. On the Moon! And all I could worry about was them getting off the moon. It would be years before I learned about hypergolic fuels and high-pressure nitrogen. When I did, I marvelled at the sheer elegant simplicity of the Lunar Module's engines.

Marooned Forever. No TV from the surface yet. There was Walter Cronkite, even then the God of the News. Amazed and reassuring. The mission was going perfectly. The astronauts were too keyed up to sleep, so they'd be walking on the moon sooner than they planned. They'd sleep later, but they were getting ready now.

Marooned Forever.

Marooned Forever. The enormity of it frightened this eight-year-old.

Marooned Forever. I couldn't bear it any more. I said a prayer for the astronauts and went to bed. I was too afraid for them.

So I missed the moon walk.

Me, the biggest, youngest space supporter in Pittsburgh.

How dare you, sir!

Via There Is No Cat, this tale of Presidential contempt:

So I went to protest Dubya today, as he was visiting my humble little burg of East Lampeter, PA.

Adam came over and with my and Matt's help, created two banners. They read:




Well, of course those banners weren't getting near the site of the speech. So:

A friendly Kerry supporter named Mr. Shenk let us use his front yard to display our banners. Now comes the good part. After waiting around for about 45 minutes, the motorcade passed by us again. A few police cars, followed by a van or two, drove by. Then, a Bush/Cheney bus passed, followed by a second one going slower. At the front of this second bus was The W himself, waving cheerily at his supporters on the other side of the highway. Adam, Brendan, and I rose our banner (the More Trees, Less Bush one) and he turned to wave to our side of the road. His smile faded, and he raised his left arm in our direction. And then, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States of America, extended his middle finger.

Read that last sentence again.
I got flipped off by George W. Bush.

A ponytailed man standing next to us confirmed the event, saying, "I do believe the President of the U.S. just gave you boys the finger."

Read it all. Alas, the picture posted there isn't incriminating - I spent an hour or so attempting digital picture wizardry in order to look in the windows of the bus, but the only person we can see on the bus in that picture is the driver.

I am very forgiving of such hysterics on the House and Senate floor, or even in private in the White House because let's face it, government is a high-stress office job and sometimes you gotta vent.

However: An elected official "giving the finger" directly to registered voters has completely forgotten who's in charge here.

I am outraged. I fear for my country. The thought of what that jackass can do in the period between losing the election and the inauguration of his successors terrifies me.

The terrorists have won, haven't they?

Monday, July 19, 2004

A Quote

This one should go into The Rules:

Men should not be allowed to venture into an electronics store by themselves, because once inside we lose our minds.

- The Parrothead

Because it's true. There should be interventions right outside Fry's.

SF Fans with Pitchforks

And torches. And petitions.

I went to see that new Will Smith thriller over the weekend.

I expected a Will Smith thriller with robots and a couple of characters with the same names as Asimov characters, and that's what I got. The first half of the movie seemed to have some promise. The second half of the movie had a couple of good moments. Shame about the plot, though.

NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday had a segment about this thriller, in which Harlan Ellison mentions his own modest contribution to the effort: possibly the best screenplay adaptation of Asimov ever. Which was not used at all - except that the opening of the movie looks exactly like the beginning of Ellison's screenplay for a few seconds.

Harlan Ellison's adaptation was written in the seventies, rewritten, rejected, resurrected for a project which never got past pre-production.

Eventually Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine (edited by Gardner Dozois at the time) published it as a serial. This was popular enough that the screenplay was published in a beautifully illustrated book.

And the fans had hope.

Will Smith is a bit of a SF fan, and he is one of the executive producers of the current movie. I'm sure they read the Ellison screenplay - okay, I hope they read it - and decided that Ellison's lead character, reporter Robert Bratenahl, just wasn't going to be a good Will Smith character. So they commissioned their own script, and off they went.

I'll be the first to tell you that Asimov stories are hard to translate to movies. But the deed can be done. Want proof? Go rent Bicentennial Man, which is a thoughtful combination of two Asimov stories: Bicentennial Man and The Positronic Man.

And I still want to see Ellison's screenplay done sometime. It needs to be done.

Note: I always abbreviate Science Fiction as SF. I may be in trouble if I ever do a post on Science Fiction in San Francisco, but I'll burn that bridge when I get there.

Important Sanity Note

In the Blogger interface, hit Save as Draft before hitting your browser's back button.

I just lost a half-hour's work on today's post. Back later. Grr.

Friday, July 16, 2004

On this day in history, we punted

Thirty-five years ago today, Apollo 11 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Within six hours, it was on its way to the first manned landing on the moon.

People have decried "throwing all of that money away on space", and it just doesn't wash with me. Every cent we spent going to the moon stayed on Earth. Most of it stayed in the USA.

The real waste is this: If we were to need to build a Saturn V rocket right now (incoming asteroid!), we can't just pull the plans out and build it. Many of the plans don't exist any more. There are still Saturn V rockets in existence, but they are all museum pieces. None of them are flight-worthy, or even complete. Only one is being restored, and that restoration is to museum quality, which is not the same as flight-ready. So not only would we have to rebuild the tooling and the launch pads - which is reasonable - we'd have to re-invent much of the rocket from basic principles and the knowledge that we've done it before.

I don't mind doing things for political reasons. Politics is human nature. But I bitterly resent hard-won knowledge being thrown away like that.

Mr Kerry: What's your position on Ringworld?

I shouldn't borrow from BoingBoing (I should dig up my own dirt, so that others may borrow from me), but this is too good to pass up:

This year's World Science Fiction Convention is in Boston, and accordingly, the URL for the con is By a funny coincidence, the Democratic National Convention is also in Boston, and its URL is The inevitable confusion is quite humorous -- the organisers of the WorldCon have compiled a list of ways in which the WorldCon is unlike the DNC:
# We're not $10 million over budget. We don't even have a $10 million budget.
# Our promises for the future are supposed to be fiction.
# You don't have to donate thousands of dollars to us (though we wouldn't complain)—we'll give you a high-level appointment to work for us for free!
# The media will not outnumber the attendees.
# Thoats and banthas are more interesting animals than donkeys and elephants.
# The folks wandering around with walkie-talkies are likely to be helpful and friendly.
# The slogans on our buttons are actually funny, and many of them are about cats.
# No one will be kissing babies except their immediate families and friends.
# When we talk about "skull and bones" it's probably in a discussion about paleontology.
# When we sling mud, it's probably in a workshop on making alien pottery.

Read the whole list. Come back for updates.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Oh, drat, I made a clean spot.

This NPR story is about Moose.

Moose makes graffiti.

Non-permanent graffiti. No paint is used.

Moose, whose real name is Paul Curtis, tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that he got the idea when he saw that people had written their names with their fingers on dirty tunnel walls in his hometown of Leeds. Moose does some freehand drawing, but also uses the grid from wall tiles to create perfect shapes and letters.

The tools are simple: A shoe brush, water and elbow grease, he says.

British authorities aren't sure what to make of the artist who is creating graffiti by cleaning the grime of urban life. The Leeds City Council has been considering what to do with Moose. "I'm waiting for the kind of Monty Python court case where exhibit A is a pot of cleaning fluid and exhibit B is a pair of my old socks," he jokes.

Cleaning up Britain, one tile at a time. Go, Moose!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Back, My Preciousss.

I'm back from over hill and dale and across the Water. Also British Columbia, where I stopped briefly to pick up the first four Harry Potter books in the original Canadian. Also got sneered at by a US Border Patrol agent who thought I was bringing cheap Canadian pharmaceuticals into America. Actually I was taking expensive American pharmaceuticals to Canada (and back). So there!!!


Silly lawsuits are such easy targets that they usually fall well below my radar. But not always. The Register has found a doozy:

As was explained so coherently to the owner of, Tarrant Costelloe, in a letter from the lawyers representing all three parties, Addleshaw Goddard: "The SHIRE name is well-known in the UK and elsewhere, to readers of the Lord of the Rings books (and others) and the goodwill in the name has been achieved through sales of such books.

"The incorporation of the SHIRE name into a domain name by you is a misrepresentation to the public that the domain is connected to the Lord of the Rings books and/or films. In particular, the registration by you of the domain name constitutes a representation to persons who consult the Whois register that you are connected to or associated with the name registered and thus the owner of licensee of the goodwill in the name, which of course you are not."

All the company wants is for Mr Costelloe to realise his mistake and hand over the domain on which he has run an email business since September 2003.

Umm. Guys. Get a linguist:

Well, it would be impossible to argue with the legal letter's initial assertion: "shire" is extremely well known in the UK. In fact, it has been well known since around 600AD - not long after the Romans had wandered off. "Shire" in fact stems from the Saxon word "schyran", meaning to shear or divide. It has been used to divide up land for over a thousand years and a majority of counties that still exist in the UK today possess the suffix "shire" (see at the bottom). It was also the origin of the word "sheriff", stemming from "shire-reeve".

Read. Boggle. Question: Do the British courts posess more common sense than the American courts?

- via BoingBoing

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Away Again

I'm taking a long weekend and invading British Columbia via Seattle.

See you Tuesday.

Voice Of America You-Know-Who

From NPR's Morning Edition today:

Almost half of the employees of the government news service the Voice of America have petitioned Congress. They are protesting what they say are cuts in the amount and variety of VOA news programming, and pressure from the Bush administration to politicize and slant coverage in favor of U.S. policies. NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports.

I need say no more, except to point out I'm outraged.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Put a stake through it , Yves

An article in the Guardian asks:

Is this the end for the kings and queens of haute couture?

I, for one, certainly hope so.

When Yves Saint Laurent retired his business partner, Pierre Berge, predicted that haute couture, the most expensive and exclusive tier of fashion, where dresses are handmade and cost upwards of £10,000, would die without him. His words, dismissed at the time as sour grapes, now seem prophetic.

In this democratic era, haute couture is nothing more than an archaic throwback to the excesses of Napoleonic times. The author proves my point for me:

Old-fashioned is perhaps the politest way to describe haute couture. Many prefer archaic.

Announcing his decision to quit, the designer Emanuel Ungaro, a great couturier who trained under Cristobal Balenciaga, declared that haute couture "no longer answers, as before, to the tastes of contemporary women".

Price tags are at least 10 times that of Bond Street designer labels; each piece requires a number of fittings and takes several months to make. No change to traditional dressmaking methods is countenanced - zips, for example, are banned. There are, at a generous estimate, only 300 women in the world who buy couture clothes, and few of those are young.

But wait! There may be a ray of hope for these elitist snobs:

Donald Potard, president of Jean-Paul Gaultier, has tentatively suggested a way to modernise and so rescue haute couture. Mr Potard has floated the idea of a halfway house between couture and ready-to-wear - outfits would be displayed in stores (which haute couture is not) but then be made to order, albeit with one fitting rather than three or four.

A similar "hybrid" idea is being considered at the house of Emanuel Ungaro.

This is not a solution that will please the purists but it may be the only way to keep couture alive.

Put a stake through it, Yves.

And you, Jess Cartner-Morley, fashion editor of the Guardian: Learn something useful. You're going to need a real skill.

Maybe golf will be next.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

A good weekend...

A good weekend is when you remember where you work but forget what you do.

A great weekend is when you have to think a bit to even remember where you work.

I had a great weekend.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Thursday, December 13, 2001

Sometime in prehistory, or at least during my tenure at my former employer, I posted this story on Alien Wine Connoisseur, which I still own but haven't updated in ages out of sheer sloth - I need to rewrite the front-end or link it to Blogger or something.

Anyway, if you follow the link in that article, you come to a very funny Accordion Guy piece.

I'll wait here while you read it.

So things are still a little slow here at (Large Company Willing to Employ Me) and I hadn't read that message in a while, and I was reading The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century anyway, so I searched for the time-traveller article again. Writing that good should be savored.

This is old news to some, but Wired found the spammer last fall. He sent me some spam earlier this year - it's long since deleted by now - and I thought he was just a copy-cat.

I'm spending the weekend at this year's Western Regional Science Fiction Convention, and it just seemed appropriate somehow. See y'all Tuesday.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Canada Day

For someone in Arizona, I write about Canada a lot, huh?

Anyway: Today is Canada Day, the day when a traveller needing a few essentials before noon in downtown Vancouver is out of luck, because downtown Vancouver is on a Sunday/Holiday schedule.

As I discovered last year.

This year, I'll be in Vancouver the 11th, which is an actual Sunday. But I won't have a morning bus to catch this time. Maybe a morning ferry, but it's not a top priority. I had this insane idea that catching a ferry to Nanaimo, driving to Victoria, shopping, catching a second ferry back to Tsawassen and driving to Seattle all in the same day would be fun. I am reconsidering.

All I'll really need is a good book store.

H'mm... There's a Chapters not far from where I plan to stay the previous night. That should do.