December 20, 2006

UATW Update

Some of you know that I serve as the webmaster for a friend's Web Magazine called "Up Against The Wall". Well, this issue, add "Anime Reviewer" to my credits, because I posted my reviews of Anime series' "GHOST IN THE SHELL:Stand Alone Complex-2nd Gig" (Longest title for an anime EVAR) and "Tactics". I also had to provide a short "It's Not Just For Kids" intro. Being my first reviews since my crap-tacular stint reviewing music for the UGA Student Paper, I could use some feedback Comments. Thanks.

The Grinch Gap

Last year, the church choir that Melissa and I sing in had a "Winter Festival for the Arts", where we sang and had supper provided for patrons, in a fundraiser for our music library. The director, "Carla-La-La-LAAAA", worked with me on a solo of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" that turned out to be a big hit with the audience.

This year, the choir booked ourselves a Christmas performance gig for a supper club at the Ravinia Hotel run by Carla's in-laws. We had a few new tunes, but I was still part of the program with "Mr. Grinch". But I had a small concern: This was a rather...geriatric crowd. Meaning no one under 65. Some were probably pushing 90, if not actively digging their grave that night. "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" didn't come out until the mid-50's. Would these people even KNOW the Grinch? Most of them probably had stories about "The Great War", and were in the working world before some children's book writer named Dr. Seuss came along.

The program was written, however, so we had to go along with it. So I gave the intro that I had written:

"Good evening. I'll now be performing for you a traditional Christmas aria from Franz Schubert entitled "Du ist unt UberMensch, Herr Grunen". However, because most people here don't actually SPEAK German... including me... We will be using the English translation, which you may find more recognizable."

About five people were laughing, the others were quite perplexed, and probably had never heard it before. So needless to say, when our little schtick of choir members acting as the Grinch's Minions, "stealing" things from the audience got going, some people were not amused. When one of our ladies took a fur from some old lady in an emerald green dress, she clutched her pearls in shock and said something to her husband. Most likely it contained the words "Whipper-Snapper" or possibly "vagabonds".

Apart from that solo, we were well-received, and asked back next year. But I think I'll suggest that we leave the Grinch off the playlist next time.

December 15, 2006

LinkNews Digest [12/15/2006]

Hunter Hits, Eats 7-Legged Hermaphrodite Deer

FOND DU LAC, Wis. -- Rick Lisko hunts deer with a bow, but got his most unusual one driving his truck down his mile-long driveway. The young buck had nub antlers and seven legs. Lisko said it also had both male and female reproductive organs.

"It was definitely a freak of nature," Lisko said. "I guess it's a real rarity." When he looked at the animal, he noticed three- to four-inch appendages growing from the rear legs. Later, he found a smaller appendage growing from one of the front legs.

"It's a pretty weird deer," he said, describing the extra legs as resembling "crab pinchers. It kind of gives you the creeps when you look at it," he said, but he thought he saw the appendages moving, as if they were functional, before the deer was hit.

"And by the way, I did eat it," Lisko said. "It was tasty."(LINK )

25% of 109th Congressional Bills Were Naming Buildings

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite criticism for adjourning last week without acting on several major legislative initiatives, members of Congress can boast significant achievements in at least one area of federal lawmaking -- naming post offices.

Of the 383 pieces of legislation that were signed into law during the two-year 109th Congress, more than one-quarter dealt with naming or renaming federal buildings and structures -- primarily post offices -- after various Americans.

Three post offices were named after entertainers. Ray Charles, the late singer and musician, was honored with a post office in Los Angeles in July 2005 in a bill sponsored by Rep. Diane Watson, D-California Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, authored a law naming another Los Angeles post office after actor and former American Express pitchman Karl Malden.

And in March, Congress passed and the president signed legislation naming a Smithfield, North Carolina, post office after actress Ava Gardner. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-North Carolina.

Several members of the U.S. military killed in Iraq or Afghanistan were honored with post offices, and the late civil rights leader Rosa Parks was honored with a federal building in Detroit, Michigan.

And one of the final actions Congress took before adjourning early Saturday was naming a Delaware bridge after that state's long-time GOP Sen. William Roth.(LINK )

Tunisian Nomads Living in Tatooine Sets

What seemed to be just another pile of desert rocks, gradually, as we approached, took the shape of the rockets, satellites and spheres of the 1976 "Star Wars'" production, the real-life science fiction amid the ancient desert. Breathless and with my heart pounding, I wandered around the abandoned set, looking at the inscriptions "Mike and Lucy were here, 1987" or "Luke, I love you! Jessie, 2001."

As I peered inside one of the impeccably built constructions, I noticed a mattress and a small teapot on the sand floor. In a mere moment, the "owner" of the house was there: an elder Arab man dressed in a typical desert fashion.

Surprisingly, his French was perfect and he explained to me that since he had neither family nor money, he came to live in the movie set. He looks after the place, the real roof of the fake house protects him from the sandstorms, and if a tourist throws him a small coin every once in a while, he can buy some more tea and some food. And he is hardly the only one living in the Lucas-built wonderland in the middle of the Sahara.

The set guardian offered us some Tunisian tea, but it was time to move on, because the sun had already disappeared behind the blurred horizon of the desert and the wind was growing stronger. As we drove off, I couldn't help but think that Anakin Skywalker and company would arrive at their property any minute and start negotiations on saving the universe, or something along those lines. (LINK )

"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" Enters Public Domain

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) is considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. It is so bad, that it is actually fun to watch. The filmmakers were probably too embarrassed to renew the copyright, so it’s now in the public domain.

The story shows how Santa Claus is kidnapped by Martians to cheer up the Martian children. The rumor is that the movie was shot in abandoned aircraft hangars in New Jersey. It is clear that the movie had an extremely low budget, it even has spelling errors in the opening credits (custume designer).

The movie is currently ranked 80 in the list of worst movies ever made. A remake of this classic has been announced, but it will certainly never beat the original. (LINK )

December 11, 2006

LinkNews Digest [12/08/2006]

Zombie Chickens Rise from Mass Graves

PETALUMA (AP) - In this rich agricultural region of Northern California, ranchers have been turning chickens too old to lay eggs into compost at a rate of a half-million hens a year.

To kill the chickens, farmers suffocate them in sealed boxes filled with carbon dioxide, a practice that has drawn the ire of animal rights groups. Afterward, the hens are layered in mounds of sawdust.

But some chickens not properly euthanized have been seen crawling out of the compost piles, earning them the name "zombie chickens" -- and hatching a debate over what else might be done with them and other "spent hens."

A food bank proposed making sausage to feed the poor. A reptile enthusiast suggested using them as food for large exotic pets like pythons and alligators. And an industry group said in the future they could be used as fuel for power plants.

A new European technology that turns dead cows into fuel to generate electricity -- and that could be the fate of spent hens someday, said Rich Matteis, head of the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association. But "that's not something that's going to be available anytime soon," he said. (LINK )

China: Developers Fined for Great Wall Bypass

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese company that had sought to build a highway through the Great Wall paid a fine for damaging the structure Sunday, days after new penalties were enacted to protect China's most famous tourist attraction, state media reported.

Hongji Landbridge Investment Development Inc. paid 500,000 yuan ($63,800) in penalties for deliberately damaging a section of the Great Wall in Inner Mongolia as part of an unauthorized road project, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The company ignored warnings from officials and suggestions on how it could complete the project without damaging the wall, including digging tunnels and building overpasses, Xinhua cited unnamed cultural heritage officials as saying.

Instead, it demolished large sections of the Great Wall along with three ancient villages that were under government protection, it cited Wang Dafang, an official with the regional cultural heritage bureau, as saying.

A regulation specifically protecting the Great Wall went into effect Friday, allowing for fines of up to 500,000 yuan for those who take soil or bricks from it. (LINK )

Teen Girl Charged as Sex Offender AND Victim

Salt Lake City - Utah Supreme Court justices acknowledged Tuesday that they were struggling to wrap their minds around the concept that a 13-year-old girl could be both an offender and a victim for the same act - in this case, having consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend.

The Ogden, Utah, girl was put in this odd position because she was found guilty of violating a state law that prohibits sex with someone under age 14. She also was the victim in the case against her boyfriend, who was found guilty of the same violation by engaging in sexual activity with her.

"The only thing that comes close to this is dueling," said Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins, noting that two people who take 20 paces and then shoot could each be considered both victim and offender.

State authorities filed delinquency petitions in July 2004, alleging that each had committed sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony if committed by an adult.

Swiss Army Knife Hits Critical Mass

How many implements on a Swiss Army Knife would it take before it gets ludicrous? I'd say 85 is well beyond the limit.
Just as you can't be too rich or too thin, I'd always thought, so you can't have too many tools on your Swiss Army knife - but that was before I took delivery of the new Giant Swiss Army knife. Grotesque, if superbly engineered, the Giant weighs nearly a kilogram and features 85 devices in all. Unload this mother into the plastic tray as you walk through security at Heathrow and just see what happens.

The Giant is supposed to feature every blade that has ever been incorporated into Swiss Army knives as made by Wenger, one of the two firms that make them . "We've sold 20 to retailers so far, and we can't get them in fast enough," says Garry Woodhouse of Whitby and Co, sole importer of Wenger knives into Britain. "They're assembled by hand in Switzerland, and I'm told that the man doing it is working his fingers to the bone."

This might explain why my version of the Giant seems to have its tools arranged in a different order from the listing on the Wenger website, so that I am in danger of mistaking the reamer for the golf-club face cleaner, or committing the faux pas of attempting to use the fish-hook disgorger to tighten my bicycle spokes. And I admit that I just can't find some of the devices that I know are definitely in there: the mysterious "special key", for example, or the elusive "12/20 gauge choke tube tool".

None the less, I have successfully employed the cigar cutter, the flashlight, the laser pointer with 300ft range, the mineral crystal magnifying glass (rather beautiful, the way such an apparently delicate instrument is honed at its end into yet another screwdriver), the tyre-tread gauge measurer and the corkscrew. It took a mere four minutes to remove the cork with the Giant, incidentally - a matter of holding the bottle between my feet, leaving both hands free to revolve the cumbrous contraption.

The Giant is a real product, available for the very real price of 495 Pounds, but it is aimed at completists and collectors. One gadget website correspondent has balefully written, "I envision this monstrosity being presented as a rare 'salesman's sample' on 2310's version of The Antiques Roadshow." Wenger admit that its practicality is limited, and that its purpose is partly to promote the company .(LINK )

Christmas Feature: Santa's Evil Toys

Suicide Bomber Big Wheel (LINK )

December 07, 2006

Save Troops in Iraq with Silly String

AP Reports:
STRATFORD, N.J. - In an age of multimillion-dollar high-tech weapons systems, sometimes it's the simplest ideas that can save lives. Which is why a New Jersey mother is organizing a drive to send cans of Silly String to Iraq.

American troops use the stuff to detect trip wires around bombs, as Marcelle Shriver learned from her son, a soldier in Iraq.

Before entering a building, troops squirt the plastic goo, which can shoot strands about 10 to 12 feet, across the room. If it falls to the ground, no trip wires. If it hangs in the air, they know they have a problem. The wires are otherwise nearly invisible.

Now, 1,000 cans of the neon-colored plastic goop are packed into Shriver's one-car garage in this town outside Philadelphia, ready to be shipped to the Middle East thanks to two churches and a pilot who heard about the drive.

"If I turn on the TV and see a soldier with a can of this on his vest, that would make this all worth it," said Shriver, 57, an office manager.

December 05, 2006

Wil Wheaton's ST:TNG Memories

For those of you who haven't read Wil Wheaton's Blog, Here's the latest.

If you remember the late 80's silliniess that was Star Trek: The Next Generation, you'll appreciate Wil's insight in this plot synopsis of "Justice":
After dropping some human colonists off in the Strnad solar system, the Enterprise notices a rather nice Class M planet in the nearby Rubicun system, called Rubicun III. Picard sends an away team down to the surface to find out if it's a good place for some shore leave, and they return with some very good news: it's clean, it's beautiful, it's populated with friendly humanoids . . . and they really like to do the nasty.

"At the drop of a hat," according to Geordi.

"Any hat," Tasha says, knowingly.

Picard sends a second, larger team down to the planet to see exactly how many hats they're going to need. Because every responsible Starfleet parent would want to send their children down to the galaxy's longest running planetary orgy, he orders Wesley Crusher to see if the planet is a good place for kids to hang out.

After beaming down to the planet, the away team quickly learn three important facts:

1. The planet's inhabitants, called the Edo, like to jog everywhere.
2. They are all beautiful blond models, possibly descended from some sort of Maxim/FHM breeding program in the late 22nd century.
3. The entire planet is clothed in about 6 yards of fabric.


The Joy of Child-Rearing

I was dropping Matthew off at Pre-K this morning when the Director of the Child Development Center said good morning to us. She is 40-ish woman with the perma-smile and high voice that all Early Childhood Education majors seem to learn.

Matthew smiled at her and said "Want to show you something" He proceeded to lift up his shirt and point to his nipple. "I've got small ones," He began, "And YOU got big ones, and DADDY'S got big ones" he finished, pointing to our chests in turn.

God bless her, the lady didn't even blink. She just smiled gently and said "Yes, it's the magical growth of our bodies." Matthew seemed pleased, and walked off to class. The director walked off as well, not making eye contact with me.