Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Picture of the Day: Wrong Way!

I'm kicking myself. When Oral Roberts died a few weeks back, I should have posted this for POTD.

Oh, well.

He's still dead (someone must have missed a payment), so I don't feel so bad.

I don't know who to credit it to.

The story is that this sculpture is based on the money-grubbing preacher's own two money-grubbing hands. The "Wrong Way" sign had to do with an access road and if I remember correctly was removed after this picture hit the Web in April of 2007, because unintended honesty can't be allowed, right?

Monday, December 28, 2009

X-mas swag: Seriously?

Enjoy the tackiness in the photo, because as soon as I can get my hands on a spray-can of fabric dye, I'm making that thing go away.

Usually, I'm asked to make a wish-list for x-mas presents. I'll make a list of books, like "Salvation Boulevard" by Larry Beinhart, or something like that. I don't really want much.

This year, no list. Instead, they (my sister and mother) took a shot and picked out...this.

They know I'm an atheist, but neither of them is the proselytizing type, so I don't see it as their way of hinting.

I could take it several ways, though. I could let myself get depressed because they just don't seem to know me, after 42 years. But I'm also amused at the notion of going to Freethinker Meetups or atheist get-togethers wearing the damn thing. They're the only ones who would get the joke.

Pic of the Day: Hey, hey, hey--you two get a room!


Was the kid naughty or nice?

Is this a gift or a punishment?

"Hey, there, muscly-armed paper boy, you wanna Popsicle?"


Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Bush Decade.

As we approach the end of the '00s, there's the question of what name to give this decade. The 1920s ROARED. The 1940's Flew. The Fifities were Nifty.

This one sucked. Time Magazine's calling it the "Decade From Hell." Too wordy.

Yes, it sucked, and mostly because of one man, and his name belongs with his time in office--and like him, this decade is past.

Good riddance to the Bush Decade.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pic of the Day: Hockey Pope!

The Vatican has issued a directive that their boy's likeness and all that goes with it are copyrighted (smirk).

I'm no great respector of authority figures, let alone religious ones, who haven't earned that respect, and given the church's recent foot-dragging in dealing with pedophiles in their midst, that respect ain't happening. Besides: I didn't vote for him.

I call upon anyone with Photoshop (tm), Gimp, Paint(tm), an Etch-a-Sketch (tm), colored markers, sidewalk chalk, spray cans, or whatever: MOCK these arrogant fools. Bring it.

...then spread them all over the Web.

And now: Hockey Pope!

Monday, December 21, 2009

SOTD: Horrible 'O Holy Night' (unknown)

'Tis the season, and if Carrie Underpants gets an xmas album, so should this guy, if only because he can't sing and knows it.

I got this hideous rendition of the song by email a few years ago. I am now punishing everyone else by blogging about it and embedding video!

The opening sounds like a stinking-drunk William Shatner trying to be Tom Jones, then morphs into a severely-beaten Keanu Reeves trying to sing Elvis, then into I don't know what...but I'm in tears and laughing uncontrollably at this point.

Warning: it's bad. It's really, really bad--and you should therefore send the damn thing to everyone you know, because it's damn funny (note that the guy in the video isn't the singer--that guy stayed anonymous)!

If you want the MP3 version (excellent for hand-to-hand combat), there are links to AmazonMP3 and iTunes at the video's YouTube home page.

Song of the Day: You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (Gary Hoey)

This is a live version of the instrumental from Hoey's second xmas album. I tend to keep the studio version in heavy rotation on my iPod for those occasions when I want to scrub the nasty hayseed bootprints out of my mind's ear at work (boss' radio stays on one of those c-word stations).

Gotta say, I like this guy's style. He reminds me a bit of Joe Satriani back in the late '80s or early '90s ("Surfing With the Alien" and "Flying in a Blue Dream") as far as tone goes--bright and clear, as opposed to the dark & chunky Metallica approach.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

When your jaw drops, trip the shutter.

The subject line is a paraphrase from an interview in a photography magazine. Very good advice.

My mouth would still be hanging open if I were Andy Willsheer, a UK photographer who had an out-of-control dragster (driven briefly by Steve Gasperelli, until physics took over) land practically in his lap!

You can see Willsheer in most of the clips here; just at the 7-second mark, he's standing behind a low concrete barrier wall, lower-left.

The man's photos of the encounter are nothing less than astonishing!

The write-up has some details wrong; the car's not going anywhere near "250 miles per hour." I'm guessing under 40, myself.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kit review: Bond. James Bond.

I've mentioned my friend the movie freak a few times; he's a James Bond fan, so this year for his birthday I hunted down and found a 1999 re-issue of the '63 Polar Lights James Bond model kit.

Polar Lights made tons of pop-culture, movie and TV-related kits, such as Dick Tracy, the Beatles (Yellow Submarine era), Sean Connery's James Bond, Dracula, and the Munsters' living room.

The kit's pieces were well-detailed, but the sprue "trees" are a bit thick. It's very easy to cut too close to a part and damage it, which makes for more work later on. Assembly went quickly. None of the parts were warped and needed only minimal cleanup, but I did need to hit the seams with a file to smooth them out.

I hit all the major subassemblies with primer--and that was probably a mistake, since I used filler primer. It went on heavy and helped to obscure some small details.

My next mistake was in painting; it's been several years since my last model and I had some issues with my several-years-old flat paints coming out glossy (especially the Humbrol "flesh tone," which made Bond look like old wood). It took days for the Testors flats to dry out.

Don't use cheap brushes! I kept having to pick bristles out of fresh paint.

The instructions called for the model base to be painted green and the dead tree was to be brown. Very realistic. I left it all primer-gray, then dry-brushed with flat black, brown, tan, green, and olive drab to pick up details. Then I laid down some Woodland Scenics turf in patches.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pic of the Day: GOP Purity Test

Given that the Goposaurs are determined to push out everyone who isn't batshit crazy (and given that even St. Ronnie of Alzheimer's, President Wimp, and President Fratboy couldn't pass the new "purity test"), pretty soon, this is all they'll be able to field for public office.

Ladies & Gents, I present to you...the Pure Republican!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

It's The Most Overblown Time of the Year! (song parody)

I wrote and posted this in the alt.atheism newsgroup in December of 2006, mostly as a reply to a troll calling itself "TRUECHRISTIAN," who posted some smarmy religious cut-n-paste nonsense.

Since this is a season of traditions, I've re-posted it there once a year.

'Tis the Season.


Waltz time

It's the most overblown time of the year
With the christers all preaching and whining and screeching
And full of false cheeeeer...
It's the most overblown tiiime...of the year.

It's the slap-happiest season of all
With those grumpy old f*ckers demanding we succor
Their worshipful thrall
It's the slap-happiest season of all.

The Rightards are claiming that christmas we're maiming,
By saying 'Happy holidays"
These f*cked-up hysterics are partnered with clerics
Who want everything their own way.

It's the most overblown time of the year
They say they're inclusive but then turn abusive
If you're not in their sphere!
It's the most overblown time--
It's the most overblown time--
It's the most overblown time...of the year!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Song of the Day: Damage, Inc. (Metallica)

This final track from the former thrash-metal lords' "Master of Puppets" disc is guaranteed to beat you severely and thus remove any lingering country garbage that's been stuck in your head all day.

Oh, it begins quietly enough, but then it's run down and crushed under Lars Ulrich's punishingly quick drums and a chunky rhythm guitar riff that sounds sickeningly fast but is probably faster.

TAKE THAT!!, Carrie Underpants. I got to hear her new song FIVE times today on the same radio station (no, I couldn't change it or go somewhere else--it was at work). *grumble* I guess it was her; all I know about country is I don't like it, and my brain laps that crap up and tortures me with it at random.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Song of the Day: Foolin' (Def Leppard)

Track 7 on Lep's "Pyromania" album. In some ways it's a typical hair-band power ballad with a clean arpeggio intro and verse that falls before a wall-of-sound chorus.

But this is also a good example of Def Leppard at their best. Their "On Through the Night" disc (for all its good points) sounds muddy compared to "Pyromania." Steve Clark, Pete Willis and Phil Collen's guitars stand out cleanly without dominating the sonic space (compare to Metallica's chunk-chunk-chunk bass-heavy guitar mix). The follow-up, "Hysteria," has comparable guitar sound, but sounds slick and overproduced.

"Foolin' " was one of the big hits on 1983's "Pyro," which seemed to hang around forever on the charts, offering hit after hit. I hated metal back then--and even I had to have this album!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Song of the Day: When The Walls Came Tumbling Down (Def Leppard)

Track 6 off Lep's "On Through The Night" album.

I'm offering its apocalyptic message in light of the recent premiere of that disaster of a disaster flick, "2012."

I went hunting the lyrics and was reminded that these guys were/are pretty good with words:

A blinding light the sun had died
A new moon took its place
Tidal waves and open graves the fate of the unhuman race
The city's heart no longer beats no pity have I left to lend
A sinner sits reciting Dylan it's now that I welcome the end
Not bad for a hair band, huh?

Effing-up the moment

So I'm watching a rerun of "House" on USA; it's the second half of the story where House was involved in a bad bus crash, slowly gets his memory back, realizes that Cutthroat Bitch (Amber, Wilson's love interest) was on the bus, and the mystery is "Why?"

If you've seen it, you know this moment: Amber is on a bypass machine; the crash destroyed her kidneys, and a chemical in the flu pills she was taking has poisoned her, damaging her organs beyond hope. Wilson is given a chance: bring her out of her coma, have a little time to say goodbye.

Amber wakes up; Wilson's there. The Moment comes when she realizes that she's going to die...

Damned if those pricks didn't ruin the moment: cut to commercial, loud, brash, and jarring, about some new show USA thinks I should watch.

Stuff like that makes me wish for TiVo *grumble*

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Song of the Day: A Glorious Dawn (John Boswell feat. Carl Sagan & Stephen Hawking)

I heard this on the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, podcast #224. Boswell has remixed Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking (mostly in clips from Sagan's "Cosmos" PBS series), passed them through an AutoTune, and made a pretty neat song and its own music video.

Boswell's The Symphony of Science site has the video in YouTube, MPEG, and MP4 formats and the song itself as an MP3. It's also on Boswell's YouTube channel.

There's a sad undertone, however: Sagan himself is long gone. He should be here to see this.

Pic of the Day: Proof of Ent!

Here we have a profile of Treebeard himself. Ironically, this Shepherd of the Forest has seen fit to manifest in...wooden paneling. In a men's restroom.

I'm willing to sell!

Amusing bit: when I hit "Publish Post" I got this ad on the status page:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Picture of the Day Fratboy's Presidency, summarized

Forget all the analysis. Forget the Smirking Fratboy's recent outing as a motivational speaker. Forget about the "ranch" that was sold as soon as Fratboy was out of office.

This should be the summary of George W. Bush's 8 years in office:

This prick is still alive

Because this prick didn't do his job

Good riddance to the Fratboy. Guess it's too bad about the other prick, huh?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Expanding again--Kook Clearinghouse!

Well, actually, it launched October 31. I got bored and tried to do a Google search to find a list of anti-vaccination celebrities.

Couldn't find a damn thing, other than individual references to "Typhoid" Jenny McCarthy, her dork of a boyfriend (husband? meh.) Jim Carrey, and Brent "Data" Spiner.

One would think that since celebs tend to be attention whores, they'd be lined up on the street corners to be on such a list, proudly trumpeting their ignorance.


Well, now there'll be a place to list them. I call it the Kook Clearinghouse.

It won't just be the anti-vaxxers; teabaggers, creationists (and other religious nutjobs), AIDS deniers, moon-hoaxers, 9/11 hoaxers...if it's a kook, I want it here.

Song of the Day: Del Davis Tree Farm (Primus)

Another track from Primus' "Tales From the Punchbowl," and another bit of impressive right-hand pyrotechnics from Les Claypool. As he did with "Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats," Claypool is slapping out a low-string rhythm with his thumb and popping chords with his fingers. Pretty much the coolest damn thing I've ever seen, bass-wise. Granted, I haven't really seen much of this right-hand technique, and I suck at it, so that makes it seem a lot cooler.

I've had this album since maybe mid-1996 and had it on heavy rotation in my tape deck (remember those?)--but I never paid as much attention to the bass lines then as I have since I started "playing" bass in 2004.


Me, I consider barely a beginner. But it's not Claypool who makes me want to put the bass down and quit. That'd be Jaco Pastorius.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Weather Channel's death-spiral: Friday Night at the Movies?!

Fark's sake.

Now I have to add to my rant from a few weeks ago; the creeping stupid that has absorbed the Weather Channel in the last few months (since NBC's takeover) has gotten even more stupid. Bad enough they wasted an entire Saturday evening with crap about Atlantis....

Now they're showing prime-time movies.

Tonight, it's "The Perfect Storm." Get it? It's a "weather" movie, so it belongs on the "weather" channel!


And it's not an isolated thing; it started tonight (October 30) and will continue at least 4 weeks:

"The Perfect Storm
8:00 pm to 10:30 pm, Friday - Friday
10:30 pm to 1:00 am, Friday - Friday

The Weather Channel Presents series brings you popular movies all with a unique weather tie-in! Every Friday night starting at 8p ET."

Gee, I hope the local weather stops at 8 p.m. and starts up again at 1 a.m.

Is NBC TRYING to kill off this channel?

What other movies would they show?

"Sleepless in Seattle" There was rain and fog.

"Twister" Hey, they like tornadoes--every time I surf past, it seems like another "Storm Stories" episode with a house leveled by a tornado is playing. This one will just be hours long and the people will be prettier.

Hell, why not go for Shakespeare's "The Tempest"?

I better not give them ideas.

Here's their list:
The Perfect Storm – Oct. 30 (18-year anniversary of the “perfect storm” on which movie was based)

March of the Penguins – Nov. 6

Misery – Nov. 13 (there's a snowstorm in it; Weak.)

Deep Blue Sea – Nov. 20

Maybe I should smile and shrug, since I don't watch the channel constantly. I pop in for the "Local on the Eights" thing when I know there's rain on the way, just so I can see the 3- and 5-hour Doppler loop and get an idea of how quickly the front's moving in. It's quicker than waiting on my dialup connection for a Web-based loop. What they offer in its place is the standard text-bar with local conditions--but no radar.

Can't interrupt the movie, after all.

Guess it's time for a fast Internet connection.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pic of the Day: Rush-Zep Trifecta Complete! (two-fer!)

So now I've discussed John Rutsey's being heavily influenced by John Bonham's drum riff from "The Immigrant Song" in no less than four songs on "Rush."

I've discussed Alex Lifeson's being influenced in two songs by two Jimmy Page riffs in Zep's "Heartbreaker."

Now, the Zeppelin Influence Trifecta ia complete!! This time, it's fashion rather than music:

Page & Plant:

Lee, Lifeson & Peart, in the mid-'70s--note Geddy's open-to-the-navel shirt:


I hate to say it--Rush being my favorite band and all--but the Zep guys look a lot cooler. The Rush guys look like they're in tryouts for the "Charlie's Angels" drag review.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Song of the Day: Professor Nutbutter's House of Treats (Primus)


I'd forgotten how insane Les Claypool's bassline is in this first track from 1995's "Tales From the Punchbowl."

Most of the fast-driving groove Claypool lays down sounds like slap-and-pop (thumping a string with the side of your thumb--the "slap"--then plucking the same or another string with one of your's all in the wrist). He's got the bass tuned to near-subsonic lows that will make your subwoofer happy and your housemates and neighbors frantic for quiet, but it's never muddy.

Add Larry LaLonde's ever-weird guitar playing and Tim Alexander's solid drumming, then top it off with Claypool's twangy nasal vocals. That's a sound only someone with strange musical tastes could love.

...and there are ALBUMS (well, CD's) full of that in their catalog.

Here's Primus doing the song back in 1995:

Not the best-quality audio or video, but if you watch Claypool's right hand, you can see the slap & pop technique (which I've always been fascinated by). He's playing a 6-string bass as if it's a plain, dinky little guitar, which impresses the hell out of me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Song/Riff of the Day: Heartbreaker (Led Zeppelin)

After a few years of not hearing this song at all (thanks to the lame-ass playlist on my local "rock" station), I've been hearing "Heartbreaker" a few times a week--and mentally hearing a pair of Rush songs that were strongly influenced by it.

Amazingly enough, I'd never heard--or at least paid attention to--"Heartbreaker" [Led Zep II, track 5] before listening to Number Two's copy of the Zep 4-disc Box Set. As soon as this track came up, I thought I was hearing the Rush song, "What You're Doing"--the riffs are very similar, both based on your basic Blues pentatonic.

The opening (verse) riff:



[I'm using the "=" marks as place-holders; for some reason Blogger's computers look at blanks and think, "We need to save some screen space here. I'll just take those out." I don't like having to clutter it up...but oh well]

And here's the opening/signature riff of "What You're Doing"



[...and while I was listening to the song, figuring out the TAB for it, I remembered that I wrote about it before, as one that depends on the "Immigrant Song" drum riff]

Nah, they're not an exact match, but the Zep influence was especially strong on this song.

The next bit--and the next Rush tune--comes in just after the first guitar solo, when the entire band goes off on a little jam:



Jimmy Page leans on this progression for a few bars before going into the second solo.

Alex Lifeson plays it pretty close in "Beneath, Between and Behind," from the second Rush disc 'Fly By Night'. From the verses:



Faster tempo, but the feel is the same, even with the riff stretched over two bars.

This is how you do it, if you're going to rip off a riff! One riff, one song--not the same riff in four songs (see the "Immigrant Song" post).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pic of the Day: Grab a Mop!

Nobel Peace Prize Winner President Obama (heheheheh) told the Goposaurs to stop grumbling and get to work:

And in that spirit, here's something for them to wear while they whistle and work:

It's especially appropriate; so much of the cleanup involves several years' worth of elephant poo.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Captain Stubing of the GOP is "the cow on the tracks"

Michael Steele, the whitest black guy I've ever seen [why else would the goposaurs even have him as a member?], does have a knack for saying the most unbelievably stupid things without a trace of irony.

Fortunately, there's an Internet with people who know how to take teh stooopit and make it serve a purpose:

Why "Captain Stubing"? Why, I'm glad you asked:

Why, because the GOP and "The Love Boat" have so much in common, lately--both had long successful runs and vanished into obscurity. Both featured well-known faces who are no longer what they were.

All Steele needs is a white button-down shirt, white shorts, a cruise ship, and a star to steer her by and he's set for life.

He'd better just stay off the damn tracks; otherwise, he and his merry crew will have more in common with Captain Edward "Stay the course!" Smith and Titanic than with the happy bumblers of an hour-long sitcom.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Creeping Stupid Absorbs Weather Channel

Okay, I've had it with them.

I tolerated their "Storm Stories" crap that ate up an hour and gave us an abbreviated "Local on the Eights" segment at the end of each half hour. I only pop in on The Weather Channel for the Local thing. If they would spend their time explaining how weather works--you know, doing SCIENCE instead of running another clip show of people whose houses got wiped out by [insert weather-induced phenomenon here], maybe I'd be more interested.

I ground my freaking teeth in irritation when they trumpeted that they were re-designing their sets so they could go HD. I've got a regular TV and no interest in upgrading just so I can see bad makeup jobs. Besides, I don't want to look at these people. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE FREAKING WEATHER IS DOING. The name of the channel is kind of a hint. Is there a big thunderstorm brewing? Gee, I don't know! The Weather Channel's telling me about an old man whose log cabin was flattened by an earthquake in 1952, and it's not 29 minutes past the hour!

I wanted to hurt someone when they launched their mega-clip show, "When Weather Changed History." The name alone is freaking stupid. You can't "change" history. The weather CAUSED the problem that led to the Shuttle Challenger to explode. The weather--a hurricane--CAUSED the disaster in Galveston in 1900. The freaking show should be called, "When Weather MADE History." Besides, this stuff it just getting in the way of the local weather.

But the end of it--the capping achievement of suck--began when some moron decided to put Al Roker on for people to wake up to. Fortunately, I don't wake up at 5 a.m., so I miss out on Smilin' Al and the celebrity lovefest. What is this, 'E!'?!

I'm sorry. I was wrong--the true capping achievement of stupidity was this past Saturday night (October 10) when The Weather Channel presented a two-hour woo-fest 'documentary' (produced by NBC): The Quest for Atlantis...Startling New Secrets. The startling secret? Two wasted hours with limited local weather interruptions.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pic of the Day: Pumpkin Puking

Not because it's almost Halloween, but as a note to a friend. I called him this evening and found out he was in the hospital for 11 hours yesterday...and it turns out he's diabetic and dealing with a bit of pneumonia. Docs say he can beat the diabetes--eat reasonably, regular exercise, the usual stuff they tell you. But the pnemonia has been whipping his ass for days.

So this is a "get well soon" post.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Barack Obama

Yeah, I like saying that.

It's partly pride that we have a president who's not such a monumental fuck-up that he took a fourth of his 8 years in vacations, clearing carefully-grown brush for the cameras to see. Obama hasn't lied us into a new war or authorized torture (so far). He hasn't raped the Consitution or gutted environmental protections.

Yeah, those are pretty good things. He's not perfect, and maybe he hasn't earned the prize yet. But he's gained some prestige and "street cred" (what Fratboy referred to with his imbecilic sneer as "political capital") that he'll be able to use on the world stage. Or maybe he HAS earned it, as this Kos diary says. When it's put that way, I'd tend to agree.

There's this idea over at Goddamn Awesome: Demond Tutu got the Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts against Apartheid in South Africa, but it was another 10 years before it was abolished. The Nobel gave him prestige and "street cred" that put more punch behind his efforts.

But the main reason I like to say, "Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Barack Obama" is because it pisses the wingnuts off and MAKES GLENN BECK CRY.

Nice work, President Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Barack Obama!

The goposaur mouthpieces claim that Obama is making this country an international laughingstock; sorry, kids, but that was your Fratboy who did that. Remember, shortly after Fratboy was appointed president, John O'Farrell pointed out in his column--now in a collection of his columns--that the global village had finally found its idiot. They're going to pitch a fit over it.

Let's hope Obama doesn't screw up and decline the Prize. I'm tired of him and the other Dems giving in to goposaur temper tantrums. Screw 'em, Mr. President.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two and the Glock: Rosary Night

Yup, Number Two had a gun. A big-ass Glock (9mm, if I remember right). She kept the thing in her bedside table drawer.

Keep in mind that she is mostly blind.

Keep in mind that she is bipolar.

Keep in mind that her docs are piddling around with her meds. When I first met her, she was on lithium. They changed her to Depakote in late September of '96. These meds weren't working out--and she was pretty much stuck on the down side of the poles.

Keep in mind that on top of all this...she was on Norplant. Interesting little chemical factory, Number Two. She made nitroglycerin seem stable.

Now let's go back to that gun. It was "for protection"; they always are. Her strategy was to be "hear something scary, point gun, shoot."

I took the bullets out of it and hid them after what I call Rosary Night.

It was a few weeks after we got her moved into the trailer. We went to bed as usual; I went to sleep as usual. But at some point I became aware of my hands being moved and something being put therein. I woke up to find Two arranging her rosary in my hands like I was a reclining saint.

She told me to go back to sleep, don't worry, I'm just having trouble sleeping, going to have some tea. She wouldn't explain the rosary and wouldn't let me sit up.

It took me an hour to talk her down and get the story: she was planning to have a last cigarette, then she was going to walk into the woods out behind the trailer, find a spot, and cap herself with the Glock--because she "was happy for the first time in her life, and wanted to end it that way."

I sometimes wonder how much of her depression and such were from all the meds and the Norplant, and how much was from having a shitty life as a kid. She told me that her parents and various former boyfriends had beaten her; her mother threw her into a dresser and broke it. I never laid a hand on her--something I'm still proud of, given how evil she could be when the various chemicals teamed up and something set her off--but I'm pretty sure she was expecting me to unhinge and give her a thump.

Boy, did she get pissed when I hid the bullets, even knowing WHY I did it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Song of the Day: Send the Pain Below (Chevelle)

There's something about a low, low bass line that rings out cleanly rather than rumbling in the mud under the rest of the band or rattling car windows like those damn subwoofer systems. Granted, it takes a decent subwoofer--or at least a system with decent low-range response--to get the full effect. Back around the time it was released, I was doing deliveries in an otherwise crappy Ford Ranger with exactly the sort of stereo to make this song sound great without bothering the neighbors.

This track is off Chevelle's 2002 disc "Wonder What's Next," and I don't remember it getting a great deal of airplay--not nearly as much as the first single, 'The Red,' which is a rare song in that it grabbed me instantly the first time I heard it. 'Pain' didn't grab me at first, but over a few weeks or months in 2004, I started listening more and more for that bass line.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Two's Apartment: The Mess

Imagine a little 1-bedroom apartment, maybe 300 square feet--living room, bedroom, bathroom, a narrow kitchen. I don't know how much her rent was, but I hope it was cheap, given the size of the place.

Just her and her long-haired cat.

She had recently thrown out her last boyfriend, excuse the mess please.

The Mess. Wow. Let me just say that while I can still be angry at this woman 13 years after getting away from her and her crazy mood swings, I still don't hate her. I still feel sorry for her, because of The Mess. I'm doing this post to try to show her in a more sympathetic light.

Remember that Two is legally blind--maybe 5% of "normal" vision, and even then everything is upside down. She lived in this place with The Mess for months before I ever met her. She can't cook, and given The Mess (in a minute, in a minute!), I'm guessing she's not big on cleaning, either.

As you enter the apartment, there's a short hallway--maybe 6 feet long--with a closet on the right. Straight ahead to the living room, maybe 10 by 10. Couch, two foam fold-up chair beds, TV, her rocking chair. Bedroom's maybe 8x10. Bed, dresser...and The Mess.

I didn't really understand how big The Mess was until we were moving her out, the last of August 1996--barely 3 weeks after I met her. She wanted to move to a 14' x 80' trailer on a lot about 15 miles outside of town.

So it's moving day and I grab some big trash bags, thinking I'll just toss in what looks like a pile of dirty laundry. I end up filling more than 10 of those buggers, and I discover that The Mess has some treats, like a box of Cracker Jack! Cleverly hidden throughout this mound of clothes, bedding, and towels are hairballs and turds from Two's cat. Nice.

When I got all this stuff bagged, I had to get it to my car, parked at the roadside. Nice, long hike, several times, and then my little '83 Citation was as overstuffed as one of those damn bags. Then I cleaned the place up and left.

What? No help? Nope. Her relatives showed up, grabbed a whole mess of stuff in one trip, and vanished. They didn't come back to help. They were waiting at the trailer--"Where have you been?" Nice.

Unloading The Mess was much easier; I just threw the bags up on the front porch, then moved it all into one of the spare bedrooms. I swear, it all multiplied at some point--now it was several feet deep in one corner of the room!

I had plans to wash all that stuff, but in the 3 months I was there, I hardly made a dent, even doing laundry several times a week.

I wonder if she ever managed to sort it out.

*sniff* My baby's growing up!

The X-11 just rolled the odometer to 99,900.0...and she keeps breaking her previous record of consecutive days without breaking down. Previous was 28; as of today it's 45.

She keeps this up, there's an oil change. And a wash.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Movie: Long Goodbye, The (1973)

Rating: 1
Year: 1973
Genre: Detective
Watch again? Nope, nope, nope. It's not okay with me.

Scorethefilm and I watched this last night. About the only things it's got in common with Raymond Chandler's original is:

1) Phillip Marlowe is the name of the main character.
2) Marlowe is a detective.
3) Marlowe lives in California.
4) Marlowe drives a 1940's car, convertible.

For this Elliot Gould vehicle, the screenwriter (Liegh Brackett) moved Marlowe to 1973 Los Angeles, put him in what's GOT to be an expensive apartment (across the way from a small army of yoga chicks who walk around topless), gave him a finicky Morris the Cat (apparently the actual cat), and gave him a tag line: "It's okay with me."

Marlowe gives a pal a ride down to Tijuana. Cops are waiting for him when he gets back home, and they take him downtown. He's released after 3 days to find that his pal has killed himself in remorse for murdering his wife.

Phone call. A woman in Malibu wants to hire him--$50 a day plus expenses--to find her boozer husband. He finds hubby--an amateur Hemmingway look-alike, brings him home.

The local mobster shows up at Marlowe's, wants the money Marlowe's dead pal was supposed to take to Mexico City.

Then things fail to get interesting. This flick disappointed at every turn, really. Gould doesn't carry the character well (we were expecting maybe Humphrey Bogart?), and out of the supporting cast only Sterling "Drunk Hubby" Hayden is really on the set and working. Everyone else was phoning it in long-distance.

There were a couple of surprises that livened things up: first, there's a young Arnold Schwarzenneger as a heavy for the mobster; second--and this would be a spoiler if the movie wasn't so bad--Marlowe just shoots his pal after figuring out the guy faked his death.

If you're looking for any Robert Altman magic, go find "M*A*S*H."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pic of the Day: The President.

In the face of Joe "You lie!" Wilson's heckling during his September 9th, 2009 speech before Congress, President Obama was particularly presidential even as his heckler's behavior was particularly inexcusable.

He simply stared the childish idiot down the way a grownup does. Hold it a beat and move on.

Of course, Wilson apologized the way a child does--after being MADE to.

Republicans. *sigh*

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remembering 9-11: invasion of the goposaurs!

I make no secret of my atheism; nor do I go out of my way to make it the main topic in this Blog. I'm a regular in the newsgroup alt.atheism (aka "a.a."), where I take rather bloodthirsty pleasure in simply insulting the invading hordes of religious imbeciles bent on conversion or irritation.

When I first joined a.a., I waded in and started swinging, and my favorite target for invective was the invincibly dishonest "Pastor Frank." He's the one who gave me the name I post by: Dr. Smartass.

Then there was georgann, an entirely different species of religious whack-job. She's some sort of graphic artist, and she's put together some funky diagram that she says proves that Jesus is coming back really really soon, and he'll put his throne atop the Great Pyramid at Giza. The capstone was left off for that purpose by the Egyptians! Even THEY knew thousands of years before he was born that he'd die and come back!

Couple of crazies, good for punching bags, but otherwise uninteresting.

Until September 11, 2001.

Both of them took the events of that day as their cue to set all us atheists straight and bring us in. georgann's effort was especially tacky (link goes to the Google Groups archive of the entire thread). She got double-barreled fury from most of the regulars, including me.

I kept the posts from that thread so I could look at them every now and then. I'm always surprised that my swipe at her and her fellow asshole was so good. I don't think I could manage it these days:

Georgann and Pastor Frank should both be taken by the scruff of their necks
and dragged all the way to New York City. They should be made to move rubble,
look into the faces of the dead, slip on their blood, feel their remains with
their own bare hands. As I understand it, there are not many whole
bodies...but a lot of body parts. Not surprising, when a fragile human
traveling at more than 200 miles per hour in a little aluminum tube slams into
a large concrete-and-steel structure. They should see the hundreds of
volunteers working themselves past exhaustion, facing the very real
possibility of being crushed by still-falling debris, working till their hands
bleed, falling over from heat exhaustion, breathing smoke and concrete dust
and asbestos particles.

Look into their eyes and talk about your fucking gods.

Tell them your god did it to signal the coming of the end of the world.

Tell them it happened because they weren't christian enough.

Tell them it was because they didn't believe.

And then they should be taken north, to where families and friends of missing
people are gathered. There, they can look every one of those people in the eye
and talk their shit to them.

Assuming they survive this experience, they'll be taken from there to the
Pentagon to repeat the process--move rubble, look the hundreds of dead in the
eyes, slip on their blood, preach to their survivors.

From there, it's off to Pennsylvania. Same thing there.

For you two miserable children of perdition--for both of you and all the other
theists reading this who prefer to talk your shit instead of expressing some
fucking human decency, some pain at the loss, some sympathy for the dead and
those who are working to find survivors...if you can do those things and still
preach your don't deserve to live.

I would add some people to this; not just those two idiots, but also to the scumbags from President Fratboy on down who shat all over the legacy of September 11th, using it to garner political power, using it to frighten people into voting for them, using it to take us to a meaningless war in Iraq. Six months after going all John Wayne and announcing that we wanted Osama bin Ladin dead or alive, President Fratboy told a reporter that he didn't know where bin Ladin was--and he didn't care.


No, going to Iraq was more important. George Bush and the GOP shat 9-11 into meaninglessness. And we still don't have bin Ladin. We have 5,000-plus dead soldiers, thousands more injured, hundreds of thousands or more dead Iraqis.

And this is also for the scumbags who are still shitting all over 9-11, the ones who screech that we must NEVER FORGET!!, like Glenn Beck, who in 2005 was fed up with the families of 9-11 victims, wanted them to shut up. Now he's embracing it again and using the imagery of that dark day to further his own agenda, to stir up those insane teabaggers and birthers and deathers who adore him. His new evil is called the 9-12 project ( going to link directly to it). It's just another things for teabaggers to do, screeching their standard idiocies, demanding secession from the evil United States (funny how they take federal aid money, isn't it?), trying to incite revolution.

None of them learned a damn thing from September 11th--but then, they weren't even there.

Here's someone who remembers 9-12 and after--our government telling the people of Manhattan not to worry about breathing the air (without mentioning that asbestos and dioxin were well above 'safe' levels), the flag-waving idiots (with flags made in Taiwan and China) and their nationalistic fervor (including country singers who proudly admit they don't know the difference between Iraq and Iran), and this country losing its freaking mind. If the Glenn Becks, teabaggers, birthers and other insane right-wingers have their way, this country will never regain its sanity.

A few months ago, one of the crazies was screeshing about "re-education camps" for her and her fellow crazies. I'm starting to think that it wouldn't be a bad thing.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Song of the Day: Rock of Ages (Def Leppard)

One of the staples of Top-40 rock in the mid-80s, and still one of my favorite songs after all this time. It's the 7th track on Def Lep's "Pyromania" album--their best work overall.

When I went into Basic Training in 1986, I carried the entire album around in my head. When we were marched to a mandatory chorale performance in November of that year, I cued up my mental record player and probably started with "Rock of Ages."

Phil Collen and Steve "Steamin' " Clark trade guitar duties. I've never learned enough about the band to know which of them is playing the solo, but I saw Collen play it in a live gig. Let's just say it was him.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The X passes a milestone...!

It's been 28 days since I got it back on the road. That's the previous record--28 days after I got the new carb and distributor installed, the car quit and wouldn't start. Took me 6 weeks of testing, tinkering, and replacing stuff to figure out that it was just a buck's worth of rubber fuel hose. Before all that, the best performance I got was 2-3 days between fixing an engine problem and having to fix it again.

So now...every day she runs will be a new record.

Can she break 29?

How to Drive a Model T

Amazing how cars have evolved.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Symbol for Democrats

I can't be the only Dem who's getting fed the hell up with spineless leftie office-holders, can I?

Here they are, the party in power, and they seem determined to keep talking nice-nice to everyone and yapping about bipartisanship with obstructionist Goposaurs.

These are the same people who sat on their thumbs and gave President Fratboy everything he wanted. These are the same people who steadfastly refused to do the right thing, taking impeachment "off the table" and not bothering with investigations. They're all about healing and moving on as a nation. Remember how John Kerry told us to play nice that first Wednesday in November of '04? It was his "playing nice" that got us 4 more years of Fratboy. He whipped his own ass!

Wanna bet they screw up the health care reform by just giving in and letting the Pubbies and those crap-sack "blue dogs" have their way?

With that in mind, they need to get rid of that donkey. Too willful, too stubborn. No, they need to go with this:

I specifically wanted non-stinging jellyfish, since I needed a symbol that's only slightly more aggressive than instant mashed potatoes, yet still has no backbone.

I could have gone with stinging jellyfish, if only to call them a bunch of spineless pricks...but I'm only willing to go with that if they start showing some fire--and those who've got the fire need to start getting those who don't fired up. I want them throwing elbows and body-checking the right-wing mouthpieces, but what I get is pre-time-machine George McFly:

They need a new motto: "Yeah, We'll mess this up, too."

Really, guys, I'm already at a point where I'll never vote Goposaur--but you people act like you're trying to make Dems unelectable as well.

Since both parties suck, maybe that's not a bad thing, letting them die off.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The most horrific thirty seconds.

This morning on the Garland Robinette talk show (WWL out of New Orleans), he opened up the 11:00 hour with a discussion of the CIA guys who might be facing investigation for *ahem* "harsh interrogation" of alleged terrorists during the Texas Fratboy's administration.

He mentioned that he'd done research, because he wanted to hear both sides of the argument. He mentioned that there's a list of stuff the "interrogators" are allowed to do, including locking an "interviewee" in a box for up to 8 hours, blowing smoke in their faces, threatening them with guns (but not actually SHOOTING them), threatening them with power drills (but not actually DRILLING them). He didn't mention the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, where a prisoner is tossed on a plane and flown somewhere to face harsher "interrogation" at non-American hands. He mentioned waterboarding. But he seemed to go out of his way to make all this seem mild, unimportant.

He then tried to equate all this with a 30-second audio clip of an American civilian being decapitated with a knife by some assholes in Iraq. I did a brief search for the clip, then gave up and looked for the link to the show.

Here it is. The clip is about 15-20 minutes in.

But be warned. It's not pretty, it's not funny, and it is horrific.

But it's not the same thing. Yes, torture is torture--but that man isn't being "interrogated" by the Iraqi CIA, on behalf of the Iraqi government. He's being butchered. It's not pretend, it's not "make him think he's about to die." It is a terrorist act--otherwise, why record it? Why distribute it? The recording itself in intended to put fear into the listener--"We are killing him, and we will kill you this way."

That's not the same thing as water-boarding, or uncomfortable "stress positions," or smoke in the face. It's not the same as our own government violating national and international laws and the Geneva Conventions.

But even more disturbing are the sheep who called in afterward, still toeing the party line of a dirtbag who's no longer in office, their voices hoarse from whatever "U-S-A!!!! U-S-A!!!!" cheerleading teabagger shagfest they just got home from. The majority of callers were gung-ho that the ends justify the means, and that torture--oh, sorry, "harsh interrogation"--is ay-okay as long as it gets the right results. We're at WAR!!!!, and those poor CIA boys were just following orders! We don't need them Geneva things, them Eye-Rakkies killed 'Merkins! Don't you 'member a little thing cawlled NINE-ELEVEN?!?!?


Fat lot of good "just following orders" did those poor German and Japanese boys as a defense in the aftermath of World War 2. See, we strung up German and Japanese guys who "just followed orders" and tortured--sorry, "harshly interrogated"--prisoners. Waterboarders got executed. But when Americans do it, it's ay-okay?

Bullshit. I don't accept that. This crap went on for the remainder of his show, and then bubbled over to take up all three hours of "Spud" McConnell's show.

Oh, and Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11th events. If you're going to go all bloodthirsty and torture every swarthy asshole in robes, why not start with the assholes who did it? Why not start the hunt in Saudi?

For that matter, where the hell is Bin Ladin? Ol' Sheriff Fratboy was gonna bring him in...then he decided it'd be easier to go after Saddam. Lazy bastard.

Another of Garland's arguments was that "We're at war, we have two wars, Social Security is in a shambles, the economy is tanking, shouldn't we be worrying about important stuff like that?"

Oh, sure. Allow criminals to go free because the economy is tanking. Does that apply to all criminals, or just the government-sponsored ones?

We've ended up doing all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons--and going after the CIA spooks now is probably too little, too late. Obama's first act on January 21 should have been to get them all--the ones who GAVE those orders, not just those who followed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pic of the Day: Tori

This is the only clear pic I could find of the car I spent so much time driving around for a decade. It doesn't seem fair that I've got a couple dozen shots from the last few days I had the car, but almost nothing from the "good times," especially when her "big sister"--the little silver monster--is the most-photographed car I've ever owned.

It helps that I've got a digital camera.

Why a Citation?

Back in early 1996, I couldn't have picked a Citation out of a lineup. I know I'd seen them, and I remembered the jingle from the commercials, the way the singers accentuated the name--"Chevy Ci-TAAAAAAAYYYY-tion!"

And here it is on youTube--the 1980 introduction.

Wow. What a hideous song. It reeks of marketers trying to get the disco demographic. Yuck.

But the interior space? Hell yes it's got interior space. More about that in a moment. It's January, 1996. My '76 Impala has died, I'm riding a 10-speed bike around Tallahassee, and I need wheels. My parents found an '83 Citation, shelled out the $1200 for it, and brought it to me.

Love at first sight. It was mostly white, but years of neglect (and crappy GM paint) had garnered rusty spots on every horizontal surface. I didn't care. She was fun to drive, got great mileage (about 22 in the city, close to 30 on the highway), and even looked happy. I pretty much had to give her a name as soon as I set eyes on her: Tori (because of Tori Amos, not Tori Spelling; I liked the name and her music).

Over the years that little car went everywhere I wanted to go with few breakdowns and fewer mechanical issues. We weathered hurricanes, drove through a flooded Tallahassee after a day-long deluge that followed a months-long drought, got Number Two to church and work on time. When I was depressed and thinking of ending my life, the car gave me something to focus on other than myself. There was always some little thing I could fix or tweak. I liked thinking that the car needed me--and in a way, it did, for maintenance. But I needed it, too--needed that focus, that little piece of the real world, to keep me going.

Her biggest trip was in 1999, when I had to move out of my Tallahassee apartment. I had nowhere else to go, so I moved back to Pensacola. I didn't think I could afford a truck, so I used the Citation.

This is where that "interior space" comes into play. I quickly found that I could put a pattern of 3, then 2, then 2 milk crates in back, with the back seat folded down, and lay up 7 more on those. I used crates for bookshelves (hasn't everyone?). But I quickly realized that I had more books, magazines and papers than crates to put them in. I pulled everything out, unbolted the rear seat, and started pouring books, magazines, papers, and miscellaneous small stuff into the back of the car.

When I was done, it filled the rear compartment from floorboards to just below the top of the seat back. Then I filled up the front seat and made the run. I logged close to 1600 miles, I think, just running back and forth 200 miles at a time.

In Pensacola, we went even further. Fort Pickens is only 30 minutes away. We went to Tampa in '99 for a Tori Amos concert, and I saw Fort DeSoto. I made several trips to Forts Gaines and Morgan over in Alabama, strapped a kayak to the roof and wandered to a river or bayou to explore or just sit and float with the current. She always got me there--and always brought me home.

I always intended to do the body work. But the rusty spots grew, the small leaks around the windshield grew larger. And the gas mileage started to fall; there were some irritating drivability issues by the time I parked her for the last time and started driving a '92 Tracker. That was supposed to be a temporary thing--I'd drive the Tracker and fix up Tori, bring her back to factory condition, make her better. Good intentions, yes...but there never seemed to be time or ambition.

I'd always intended.... But she sat under a tarp for nearly three years until one of the County's code-enforcement dicks gave me 2 weeks to get rid of her. I pulled a few parts off, thinking that I'd have another Citation as soon as I could get the money together. I kept a set of keys; they hang from the X-11's rear view mirror now.

I made arrangements. On September 29, 2008, a flatbed wrecker came for her.

She was gone.

I was left with $100 and an empty spot in the yard.

Yeah, it's just a car, just an inanimate machine, but a year later I still miss her.

Movie: Watchmen (2009)

Rating: 4
Year: 2009
Genre: Fantasy/Superhero
See Again? Yes

Our Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror Meetup group watched the new BlueRay release of this film last night.
The "director's cut" is 186 (3:06) minutes long, versus the theater release time of 162 (2:42). The extra 24 minutes gave us a little side-story, but not something I couldn't live without. It made an already long movie feel longer.

The story: it's an alternate 1985. Tricky Dick Nixon is in his third term as President. Masked superheroes have been outlawed. The Watchmen disbanded, retired, and melted into the populace.

One of them--The Comedian--is murdered, thrown from his high-rise apartment. One of his former teammates suits up to find the killer and warn the others: Rorschach, who reminds me of Sam Spade with a white ski mask under his fedora, but with Wolverine's manners.

Casting was mostly good.
I really liked Jackie Earl Haley's "Rorschach"--but I couldn't say whether his "Christian-Bale-As-Batman" voice was done as a nod to Bale's superhero or not. I'll have to see it a few more times. He does get the single coolest line in the entire movie. After being locked up for a murder he didn't commit, he gets into a brief fight with an inmate, then announces to the others: "None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with you! You're locked up in here with me!"

Patrick Wilson's "Dan/NiteOwl II" was fun. He's the "Batman" of the team--lots of money, lots of wonderful toys, lives alone. No butler. The in-joke with this guy is that his costume includes goggles that give him night-vision and such--but in his mild-mannered persona he has to wear glasses.

Malin Ackerman (Laurie/Silk Spectre II) is the obligatory vinyl-clad hottie heroine, and she pulls this off reasonably well, aside from some clumsy hero-landings and poses. I kept expecting to see a "Clairol" (tm) placement in some of the fight scenes, where her hair flows like something out of a hair-care commercial.

Billy Crudup appears only briefly as John Osterman; the vast majority of screen time is given to his computer-generated heroic ego, Dr. Manhattan, of the glowing blue skin and the glowing blue todger. Thumbs up from three out of three women in the Meetup! A subtle but VERY effective effect with Dr. Manhattan was the interactive lighting when he got near enough to cast light on a person or thing. In a medium where explosions don't cast light or shadows (or interact with their surroundings), this is a neat effect.

On the downside, I wasn't impressed with the age makeup on Carla Gugino's Sally/Silk Spectre (she's Laurie's mother, and handed the name down to her kid). She didn't look as much like an older version of herself as Lea Thompson did in "Back to the Future." Her lower face was puffy-looking--but it could be because this was in BlueRay, which is much less forgiving of weak makeup effects than a regular DVD just because we can see so many little details.

By the same token, the Nixon makeup on Robert Wisden was iffy and fake-looking. They got the nose right, and the overall look was good, but he suffered from the same puffy-face syndrome as Gugino.

I could have done without the "Knotheads" side-story of the extended version. This is a gang of various ethnicities, each with a samurai-style topknot, and they kill the original NiteOwl (Stephen McHattie). This just leads to a fight in a bar where the current NiteOwl (Patrick Wilson) beats the stuffing out of one of the gang members after learning of his mentor's death. Meh.

Still, not that many negatives. I have yet to read any of the original comics or books, so I can't say how closely they're followed, but I liked it.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

So, what's an X-11?

Back in 1974, GM decided they were going to need to make smaller cars. To replace the aging Nova (which didn't change much stylistically from 1973 to 1979), they came up with a front-engine, front-wheel-drive platform called the X-Body (the Nova and its GM sisters were called X-Bodies, too, but they're not the same platform).

Four of the five GM companies would get this new car:
Chevrolet: Citation
Buick: Skylark
Pontiac: Phoenix
Oldsmobile: Omega

Funny that Cadillac didn't get an X-car; instead, they re-badged the smaller Cavalier, gave it some tacky fake chrome and wood, and called it the Cimmaron. Bleah.

The X-cars debuted in 1979 for the 1980 model year. The Citation came in a notchback coupe, hatchback coupe, and hatchback four-door. For engines, there was the 2.5-liter (151 cubic inches) "Iron Duke" inline four or the 2.8-liter (173 cubes) V6. For transaxles, you got either a 4-speed stick or 3-speed automatic. They were built to give pretty good interior room and good gas mileage for the day.

Then there was the X-11. These little monsters had a warmed-up version of the 2.8 V-6--a more aggressive cam, bigger valves, larger exhaust, a double-height air filter, and functional cowl-induction hood. Underneath, the car got lowered a couple of inches, got a stiffer suspension, and got some bracing at the back corners of the engine cradle that made a grocery-getter into a race-winner.

Chevy's engineers built the X-11 as a race car first and foremost, competing in SSB/SCCA ("Showroom Stock 'B' "class, Sports Car Club of America) races. The rules required that the cars had to be available for sale, so Chevy made it happen with the 1981 model year (the 1980 version was just a stock Citation with some decals and other trim items, but without the higher-output engine). Essentially, the car as built and sold--and now in my parking spot--is the racer. With some safety modifications, I could theoretically take my little silver monster out to an SCCA SSB event and race it.

Nope. Not this one. I've wanted an X-11 since the late 1990s, and even if the resale's only a couple grand, the car means a lot to me. Especially this car, since the County code bastards made me get rid of its predecessor, a plain-jane 1983 Citation. More about that one later.

John Heinrichy's the man to thank for X-11's; here's a Hot Rod Magazine writeup about him, with a few pics of a racing X. The man's an auto engineer, race driver, and all-around cool guy who (as of the writing of the article) is GM's director of high-perf vehicle operations. He's also third in the SCCA's all-time winners list. I can respect that!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pic of the Day: Saturn V at Michoud

This is what a '92 Tracker looks like when it's parked in front of the biggest, baddest, coolest rocket ever.

That's S-IC #15, the last one built at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, where it's on permanent display. If you follow the map link, click on "Satellite" view and move the view slightly down and left so you can see the facility's main gate (Michoud Facility Rd.). From there you can zoom in on the rocket stage itself.

The S-IC was just the first stage of the massive Saturn V launch vehicle. It makes up nearly half of the 365-foot total height of the rocket: 138 feet long, 33 feet in diameter. Each of those engine bells is about 14 feet wide at the mouth!

Michoud will soon produce its final External Tank for the Space Shuttle. Supposedly, the facility will be used for the Orion Command Module and Ares rocket system (the Shuttle's replacements--together they're a sort of Apollo II), but those don't seem to be moving along very well.

Song of the Day: Higher (Creed)

Not because I like the song, but because I really really hate it.

I never would have given it much thought, if not for the first dozen or so times I heard it.

It was August, 1999, and I was sleeping on a friend's couch somewhere near Tampa/St. Pete, Florida. She moved around a few times even after that, but this time was a second-floor apartment. I was visiting from Pensacola. She and I stayed up until the wee hours, talking, and I finally got to sleep around 5:30.

Somewhere around 7, her daughter's girlfriend wandered out to the living room and started up the computer. I was only mildly disturbed from sleep by this. Things quieted down, the click of keys, the ticka-ticka of mouse buttons, and I fall back into sleWhen dreaming I'm guided through another world Time and time again--

I should have thrown the couch at her. She played that gawddamn song nearly every waking moment during the week I was there, and I made sure to get enough sleep overnight so this wouldn't be a problem anymore.

Sucks that this band has re-formed and have had the bloody-minded nerve to push out another album. I wonder if it's going to be the same holy-roller hypocracy from their singer as before?

Didja know: Creed is what Pearl Jam would sound like if they SUCKED.

Arguing with Number Two

This would have been sometime in early September, 1996. I'd just gotten Number Two moved into her new home, a 14'x 80' trailer in a nice neighborhood--but inconveniently located 15 miles outside of Tallahassee.

This trailer's heating and air conditioning system had some crazy two-thermostat setup on it--one for heat, one for air. Two's landlord had explained it to her, and we decided to try it out. Within 10 minutes, she was shouting her fool head off at me. Then she stormed off to her room (just a few feet away). Her dramatic exit was spoiled, however: you can't really slam a door in a trailer. They don't make the right sound.

I've always heard that people don't always argue about what they're REALLY arguing about, so whatever this was about, Two wasn't arguing about thermostats. I was, because I didn't know what else I was supposed to be arguing about. The ins and outs of relationship politics will always remain a maze to me.

I camped out in the living room on a neat little fold-out chair. There were two bathrooms, so I didn't need to bother Two as she pouted in her den, waiting for me to come to my senses, realize that she was withholding sex, and come to her with apologies seeping from my tear ducts.

Yeah, that doesn't happen with me.

I'd rather be right than pretend to be happy, and dammit, she didn't know what the hell she was talking about with the thermostats! Yes, I really did think that was what it was all about. No, I never found out what it was REALLY about.

So I camped out in the living room, happily reading or writing, and not concerned that sex was being withheld, since sex has never been a high priority for me. From Wednesday evening until Saturday afternoon, I enjoyed the silence. Then she ruined it all by coming to me and apologizing tearfully. Oh, great, now I gotta have sex again *grumble*. Even then--we'd been together maybe 6 weeks--sex was becoming an obligation, something to do because then she'd shut up about it.

Still, I made my point rather clearly: I wouldn't play along with the "withholding" game. She never tried it again.

It might have been right about then that I realized that I needed to get my own place and get out of there--but that took another 3 months.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pic of the Day: X-11 two-fer

Hard to believe it's been 7 months since I got this car.

First, what it looked like as delivered.

Then, same car, today.

I'm so proud!

1981 Chevy Citation X-11 hatchback coupe

--High-output 2.8L V-6 (larger valves, bigger cam, 2" exhaust)
--F-41 suspension package (2" drop, stiffer springs)
--X-11 trim package (decals, emblems, sport steering wheel, rear spoiler)
--Muncie 4-speed manual (different gearing from stock)
--Cowl induction hood, air cleaner (functional!)
--14" x 6" aluminum wheels, 215/60R14 tires
--Heavy-duty radiator (3 rows)
--Sport gauge cluster (speedo, fuel, oil, temp, volts) plus tachometer
--Color-keyed bumpers (painted to match body color)
--Bumper "rub strips" (black)
--Bumper guards (black)

--Black velour interior
--Power windows
--Power door locks
--Power brakes
--Power steering
--Cruise control
--Center console
--Tilt steering column
--Air conditioning
--Bucket seats
--AM/FM stereo, 4 speakers
--Power radio antenna
--Courtesy lights
--Rear-compartment light
--Space-saver spare (in factory condition!)
--Underhood light
--Rear-compartment trim panels
--Rear-compartment carpeting

At this point, everything works except the tach, power antenna (stuck "up"), air conditioner, and the heater. When I first got to work on things, the car was practically arthritic--the door locks were gummed up, the window lift systems were broken, half the light bulbs were burned out, the sunroof leaked (still does), and quite a bit more.

One very cool detail for me is that the car was built about a month after the April 12, 1981 maiden launch of space shuttle Columbia. With that in mind, I'm considering some modifications to commemorate Columbia.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


The car totally punk'd me.

Remember, I thought I was just out of gas? Then I decided that the fuel pump had gone out? After 6 weeks of my lazy self working a few hours each Sunday afternoon, I finally figured out the problem.

Fuel hoses.

I'd replaced them in January, but they'd deteriorated--thanks to a power steering fluid leak--to the point where the "suction" line was drawing air. No gas, no running engine. How simple. Car's laughing her ass off at me.

Took her on a 70-mile "trial run," the closest thing to a road-trip I've done so far since getting the car in January of '09. She's come a long way from the pitiful-looking, filthy little car that barely had enough power to drag itself off the trailer on delivery day. The engine was so out of tune and tired that it sounded like a diesel.

She's a long way from restored...but she's solid and strong and coming into her own, now. The trial run was flawless, the engine growling along with ease. The only disappointment is in fuel economy: about 18.6 mpg, burning just under 4 gallons in that 70 miles.

Helicopter parents suck.

I'd never heard this term until a few months ago when I came across Greg Williams' cartoon illustrating the Wikipedia article's title (more stuff here).

I work with such a person. The Helimom's one of those cell phone-dependent people who simply cannot do without the convenience of being able to monitor her children's bowel movements from the inconvenience of work (what's that? No cell phones allowed at work? I wonder what that means?). If she could wipe for them via text message, she would, no matter that both kids seem reasonably functional. Two arms, two legs, all that stuff.

Her son is the main one she hovers over, and the rest of us get reports throughout the day on the boy's progress in school. We even learn whether he got a "red," "yellow," or "green" for the day. She doesn't understand why he gets into fights (but the rest of us see him taking after his helimommy, poor kid).

None of us cares, but this doesn't keep her from broadcasting right into a conversation. The Helimom's like that. All conversations must be about her when she is present.

And now we know that the boy's beginning football this year. I wouldn't have bothered to write about Helimom or her kid, but she pissed me off whining about his first day at practice, when the coach did something she didn't approve of--and since she was right there (and didn't need to call him to bitch him out), she went and bitched him out in front of alllllll the other kids and parents, explaining to him that her son is special and should be treated as such. I don't even remember what it was that was so damn special about the kid.

Of course, Helimom can't grasp the concept that the coach knows his job, and he's in charge on the field, and she just needs to be tied down to the bleachers and sat on by some non-heliparents.


Student gets important lesson!

I can't really say I'm "teaching guitar" to a friend of mine; about all I've done is help her find out a pretty steel-string acoustic at the local flea market, then help her pick out a beginner's instruction book.

Well, I gave her some picks, too. That counts for something, I hope. I haven't been following her progress like a proper teacher should. Weekly lessons? Hah! Lesson plans, exercises, and photocopied scales? Uh, no. I'm lazy. Get home from work, fall into my computer chair, and switch the thinker off. I'm surprised I've made it this far into a post!

It's been about 7 weeks. She's doing reasonably well, but I just had to take away an excuse: "My hands are too small!"

I held up my hand and had her go palm-to-palm: our hands are the same size!


Song of the Day: Rock 'n' Roll Train (AC/DC)

This is the opening track of AC/DC's latest disc, "Black Ice."

Yeah, it's another one of those 4- or 5-chord songs, like all the other 4- or 5-chord songs they wrote, heavy on the A, D and G Major chords.

But let's not be snobbish. They know how to get an infectious riff out of the few chords they use--just look at "Highway to Hell," "Back in Black," "Whole Lotta Rosie," "Hell's Bells," and "For Those About to Rock." Or look at the numbers: 200 MILLION albums sold worldwide. I can play those chords, but I ain't sold a thing.

Brothers Angus and Malcolm Young have a guitar sound that's easily in my top-five--those chords ring clear and bright, Angus' vibrato is a joy to hear, and Brian Johnson's still got the pipes after nearly 30 years of screamin' the hits.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Riff of the Day: Low (Cracker)

Time for a non-Rush riff. This is the intro/verse guitar part.

It's a neat little two-bar strum, good for working on string-skipping with the right hand:



~ vibrato
h hammer-on
p pull-off

Most of the work in the riff is on the right (picking) hand; keep it going in a steady 16th-note strum and focus on keeping it loose. Keep in mind that you're not hitting strings on every stroke and let the two open strings ring cleanly.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Riff of the Day: Vital Signs (Rush)

This is the final cut on Rush's 'Moving Pictures' disc and a high point for Geddy Lee's bass tone.

The verse bass riff is one of the toughest to play if your left hand is weak. You need a solid, strong pinkie on this one, unless you cheat by stretching your ring finger to hit the 8th-fret notes:

___Cm _____Ab________Cm
___e e e e e e e e___e e e e e e e e

This is a good one for building strength and dexterity in that left hand. Hold your index finger across all four strings at the 5th fret (you can cheat by just fretting across the D and G strings, but you'll strengthen that finger by working it harder). Your middle and pinkie fingers do all the work.

Pic of the Day: Dinosaur Creation Land

A few years ago, evolution-denier Kent "Gawd Sez I Don't Hafta Pay No Taxes!" Hovind got 10 years in prison for not paying taxes for his employees--nearly half a million bucks' worth of taxes.

On July 30, a court ruled that nine properties that Jailbird Hovind's little "creation" museum, Dinosaur Adventure Land, can be seized by the Feds to be sold to pay off what the tax-cheatin', creation-preachin' Hovind owes. I'd link to the story itself, but the Pensacola News Urinal only keeps them up a few days--then charges you for access to older stories. Here's the Pharyngula Science Blog link instead.

Here are a few pics of the "theme park"--beginning with an aerial view as captured in Google Earth, then a few shots of the frontage on Palafox Street. I've got a DVD capture from a dying camcorder I took with me on a visit, and I'm hoping to get some usable pics from that as well.

As a bonus, there's a pic for his loving supporters to pin up: FREE KENT!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

And something GOOD happened on this day...

...On July 29, 1974, Neil Peart joined Rush.

I didn't want to focus just on the darkness.

Song of the Day: Afterimage (Rush)

Second track on their "Grace Under Pressure" album. This song usually comes to mind when I want to mark the passing of someone; it's appropriate, since Neil Peart wrote the lyrics in reaction to the death of close friend Robbie Whelan. It's a bittersweet song, with flashes from Peart's memories of his friend, and it fits well with the overall dark timbre of the album.

With that in mind, I dedicate this one to Jim Barrett and Dr. John Britton. (Updated to include video link)

Remembering a Good Man: Jim Barrett

On this day in 1994, Paul Hill walked up to a pickup truck in the driveway of a Pensacola clinic and killed Jim Barrett and Dr. John Britton with a shotgun.

I stood in a parking lot across the street with some of the other clinic escorts (Jim was one of ours) for a few hours. The bodies were laid out and covered with sheets while the crime scene guys did their thing.

I never met Dr. Britton; he was one of the volunteers who stepped up when David Gunn was murdered barely a year before.

Jim was a good guy, a sort of grandfather figure. He's buried at Arlington:

I'm gonna hoist a drink in his honor sometime today and hope that someday crazy religious douchebags will no longer exist.

And for the rest of us, if you know a guy like Jim, buy him a drink.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Riff of the Day: "Rush," John Rutsey, and John Bonham

Time for a little comparison of John Bonham's massive drumbeat in Led Zep's "The Immigrant Song" versus a few songs from the debut self-titled Rush album.

I've been listening to "Rush" for maybe 20 years. I think I found it in the bargain bin at a truck stop. I really didn't like it at first, given that my first Rush album was "Moving Pictures." It's easily the most un-Rush-like of all their works. A big part of their sound and style comes from drummer/lyricist Neil Peart, who introduced fantasy, science and science fiction, literature, mythology and psychology as themes for songs and entire albums. Through Peart, Rush quickly got a rep as the "thinking man's rock band."

"Rush," on the other hand, had a guy named John Rutsey as the drummer. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson shared lyric- and songwriting duties on such songs as "Need Some Love":

I'm runnin' here, I'm runnin' there, I'm lookin' for a girl
'Cause there's nothin' I need there's nothin' I want more in the whole wide world
Well, I need it quick and I need it now, before I start to fade away
That's why I'm searching, that's why I'm lookin' each and every day.

Oo, I need some love! I said I need some love!
Oo, yes I need some love...this feelin' I can't rise above!
Yeah, yeah!

Well I been hustlin' here, I been hustlin' there, I been searchin' for about a week
And I started feelin' this strange sensation--my knees have started gettin' weak!
Well I need what keeps a young man alive--I'm sayin' I need it now
I'm gonna get my message across to you somewhere and somehow!

If this had been my intro to them, I probably wouldn't have gone any further. The guitar and bass chops are solid and as impressive as anything from their later efforts, but I tend to prefer something less hormonal in my lyrics. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, it's "Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll"--but sex and drugs are way overrated. Actually, so is most Rock 'n' Roll, now that I think of it.

Years went by, interest waned, until a couple of years ago when I was listening-without-listening to the album on my iPod. I heard something in Rutsey's drumming that I hadn't paid attention to before: in several songs, he's playing an almost complete lift of Bonham's drum track from the main verse part of Zep's "Immigrant Song."

"Immigrant Song"

h_h |||
snr |.---q---.---q---|.---q---.---q---|
kck |||

A period is a rest--for clarity, I'm just leaving it at that.

The first song I noticed Rutsey's "lifting" in was:

"Before and After" (track 6)--main verses

h_h |e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-|e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-|
snr |.---q---.---q---|.---q---.---q---|
kck |||

He's slowed it down and it playing a straight-8th on the high-hat, but there's that Bonham bass drum thumping out from the back of the stage!

...then I heard it in this one:
"What You're Doing" (track 5)--main verses

h_h |e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-|e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-|
snr |.---q---.---q---|.---q---.---q---|
kck |||

Again, Rutsey's playing it note-for-note on everything but the high-hat, just like the previous song (Bonham was running a 16th-note pattern with a skip).

Then I noticed it one night while I was learning the bass line for a really good Bluesy song:

"Here Again" (track 4)
slow, triplet 16ths

h_h |e--e--e--e--e--e--e--e--|e--e--e--e--e--e--e--e--|
snr |.-----q-----.-----q-----|.-----q-----.-----q-----|
kck |||

Hope I got that right. Music notation isn't my first language, and if things go very far past straight 8th notes I get lost. Kind of funny, me wanting to put little riffs up for review.

Anyway, for this one, Rutsey slowed the pattern down almost to a crawl, but now he's running triplet 16ths (blues, eh?) and giving the Bonham bass a little swing. I'd really rather he'd kept this one and done something different for the other two songs.

So here I am, listening to the album while I put this writeup together, and damned if I don't hear the Bonham beat again as the main riff in the verses and choruses of the final cut, "Working Man". I've never noticed that until now! It's slowed down almost as much as for "Here Again," but played straight like in the other two examples.

Sheesh. Almost the entire second half of the CD:
Finding My Way
Need Some Love
Take a Friend
* Here Again
* What You're Doing
In The Mood
* Before & After
* Working Man

...but the cassette version was arranged this way:

Finding My Way
* What You're Doing
In The Mood
* Working Man

* Before and After
Need Some Love
Take a Friend
* Here Again

Much more spread-out, much less obvious. This riff's the foundation for the entire Zep song--the guitar and bass follow the bass drum. Very distinctive, and something that shouldn't be lifted for more than one song on an album--and even then, not for the whole freaking SONG. Rutsey was a competent drummer; I'm disappointed--and amused--that he did four out of eight this way.