Saturday, November 29, 2008

More good pictures from National Geographic...

National Geographic has just announced the results of their 2008 International Photography Contest. From over 100,000 submissions, here are some of the winners and honorable mentions. (Click on each image to embiggen...)

Photograph by
These shallow waters are mainly famous for flamingos at Nal Sarovar near Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. The picture shows the reflection of clouds on water.

Photograph by Jose Hernandez
This is a shot of three eagles fighting over a fish in Homer, Alaska, from March 2008. You can see the fish at the top of the image flying by itself, but it was caught in its fall by another eagle.

Photograph by Lori McConnell
This photo was taken in Antigua, Guatemala. On each note is the message, "Te amo, Cristina."

There's lots more to see on their site .

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wild turkey...

I've posted before about how much I love where we live and in honor of Thanksgiving I want to share one more reason with you.

Wild turkeys! Along with coyotes and hawks and every manner of spider and insect, we have families of wild turkeys roaming the neighborhood.

These shots were taken in our yard...I mean, man, I love living here!

And I'll tell you something else, wild turkeys can fly! This contradicts my long held belief that turkeys were flightless birds - something I've believed since the Thanksgiving episode of "WKRP in Cincinnati" when the station staged a marketing stunt that went bad. They hired a helicopter to throw turkeys into the crowd for a Thanksgiving promotion but the turkeys couldn't fly and...well, see for Les Nessman reporting live from the scene:

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. And don't always believe what you see on TV!

Business types call it "synergy"...

Money makes for strange bedfellows.

Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart aren't quite as different as they might first appear. Both have created industries around their names and personalities, they are marketing and selling machines, empire builders and both are savvy media manipulators.

Oh, and both have a prison record!

That's why when Snoop appeared on Martha's TV show, YouTubers around the world were disappointed that there weren't any cringe-inducing moments. As different as these two appear, they have everything in common.

By the way, Snoop mentions that one of the songs on his new album is called "Santa Claus, Go Straight To The Ghetto" but he doesn't give credit to James Brown who was the original artist. The song appears on "James Brown's Funky Christmas"

You can hear clips here . This is a must for your collection.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Business of Honor

I got a little bit exorcised yesterday while writing about the $25 billion auto industry bailout . Got my freak on there.

Last night in bed the adrenaline was still flowing and I was feeling pretty triumphant about my shot across the bow of the barons of the auto industry.

And I was trying to recall something that I couldn't quite put my finger on...something about a similar situation when some executives lied to a congressional committee...

And this morning, with the help of Google, I remembered. In 1994, the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, chaired by Henry Waxman, held a hearing on the regulation of tobacco products.

Seven CEO's from the biggest companies in the tobacco industry were called to testify:

=William Campbell, CEO and President of Philip Morris U.S.A.
=James Johnston, Chairman and CEO of RJ Reynolds Tobacco
=Joseph Taddeo, President of U.S. Tobacco
=Laurence A. Tisch, Chairman and CEO of Lorillard Tobacco Company
=Edward Horrigan, Chairman and CEO of Liggett Group
=Thomas Sandefur, Chairman and CEO of Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company
=Donald Johnston, President and CEO of American Tobacco Company

Under oath, each of these guys was asked flat out: "Yes or no, do you believe nicotine is not addictive?"

And each and every one of these guys said something under oatch that they knew in the hearts to be untrue.

How do you face your kids after pulling something as dishonest and dishonorable as that?

Monday, November 24, 2008

They didn’t even jet-pool!

I have been on the job market for just over a month now and I’m here to tell you that it is an absolutely brutal time to be looking for work.

I’ve been to the big job boards and I can tell you that every job that’s posted is getting hundreds and often thousands of applicants. In fact, I was lucky enough to get a call-back from one employer and I asked him straight up, how many resumes he received for the job I was trying to get.

“Well over a thousand.”

And that’s for one position. Just a single opening. publishes a monthly analysis of online job demand based on a based on a large selection of corporate career Web sites and job boards called “The Monster Employment Index.”

For October 2008, the index dropped 10% marking the lowest level of online job availability since 2005.

And the problem extends to almost all industries in almost every location. In fact, Pittsburgh is the only major market showing an increase in online recruiting activity. Of the 24 industries tracked, only utilities, public administration and “mining and quarrying” showed any gains at all.

So fewer jobs than ever – except for miners and Wichita linemen.

Now get this: According to CNN, as of last Friday, the US economy lost 110,000 jobs so far in November – 60,000 last week alone! An economist at Wachovia predicted that we would lose a total of 350,000 jobs in the month of November. First time filings for unemployment insurance increased by half a million last week - the most since 1992.

More job seekers than ever and fewer jobs than ever.

You don’t have to be an economist at Wachovia to understand the brutal mathematics of that equation.

So it is in that mindset that I have been watching the news coverage of this $25 billion bailout for the auto industry. On one hand, adding everyone working in the auto industry to the growing ranks of the jobless is going to make this employment nightmare worse. And I don’t need any more competition for work.

On the other hand, those executives who testified before congress? Fuck those guys. Really, I can’t think of a way to squeeze enough vitriol into a paragraph to capture my repulsion at their smarmy, rotten fucking faces.

For one thing, this bit about them all flying private jets to Washington to testify? What a bunch of fucking arrogant fuckers. They’re crying poor-mouth and trying to take $25 billion (at least! Probably more!) from your kids and my kids and our grand-kids (because that’s how long it’s going to take to pay back this royal fuck-over) and they have the fucking nerve, the unmitigated gall to fly three different private jets from the same airport to Washington to ask for the handout?

Nice blind-spot you fucking fucks.

And do you know what else? Get a load of the money these assholes make. And don’t even begin to tell me that these compensation packages are needed to attract the very best talent available. Need I say it again? These guys need our $25billion Just to keep the doors open for a couple of months! They’ve presided over one fucking disaster after another! And been well compensated! Can you imagine the fucking nerve of these pieces of shit? (Compensation data from

G.R. Wagoner Jr., Chairman & CEO General Motors
2007 total compensation: $14,415,914
(Oh, and according to the Wall Street Journal, “Wagoner got “a 33% raise for 2008 and equity compensation of at least $1.68 million for his performance in 2007, a year for which the auto maker reported a loss of $38.7 billion.”)

Alan Mulally, President & CEO Ford Motor Company
2007 total compensation: $21,670,674

Robert Nardelli, CEO Chrysler
2007 total compensation: $????
(Oh, actually, we’re not really sure because Chrysler is a privately held company. It was reported that he took the job for a $1 annual salary but the way these things are structured, “salary” is just a portion of total compensation so that could be just for show while he rakes millions in stock options and other money deals.

What I can tell you is that he used to be the CEO of Home Depot. Ran it into the ground in fact. When the stock was floundering in 2006, he refused to take questions during a shareholder meeting about his compensation package and was eventually thrown out.

What was that compensation package at Home Depot? Well, according to Fortune magazine he made $38.1 million in 2006. After getting shit-canned in 2007 he got a $210 million golden parachute in cash and stock options that included a $20 million severance payment and retirement benefits of $32 million.

Yeah, he’s working for $1 per year now. WHAT DO YOU THINK I AM, FUCKING STUPID?? )

And you know what else? American cars have sucked since I was a kid. These guys have had their asses kicked up and down the road for 40 years now. They've been beaten pulpy in green technology, the so-called "fit and finish" of American cars blows, they’ve pushed back and cried and bitched at every single mandated increase in fuel economy or cleanliness and they’ve made planned obsolescence an art form.

So fuck those three guys. Maybe we should pitch in to help the industry get on its feet and get competitive and prevent job hemorrhage or maybe we shouldn’t. I don’t know. But if any of those three pieces of shit see one lousy nickel then you and I are the suckers of the century.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quick follow up to my post about astronaut Stephen Bowen...

A few days back I posted about Stephen Bowen who was two years ahead of me in high school and who is now a NASA Mission Specialist working on the International Space Station.

I just came across another cool picture of him working on the ISS during an EVA (that's astronaut talk for "space walk." It stands for "extra-vehicular activity"...) and thought that I would share it.

Thanks to for the image.

1976 was a VERY different time...

"Battle of the Network Stars" was a program on ABC that featured a decathlon-type competition between celebrities from the three major broadcast networks.

For the debut episode in 1976, the team captains were Telly Savalas, star of "Kojak" (CBS), Gabe Kaplan from "Welcome Back, Kotter" (ABC), and Robert Conrad, Pappy Boyington in "Baa Baa Black Sheep" (NBC).

Howard Cosell acts as the announcer when controversy breaks out over the results over a relay race in the clip below.

There is SO much here that reflects what a different world we live in today compared to 1976. The hair, the sweat-suits, the smoking, the cultural-stereotype jokes (by the way, that's Pat Harrington, Snyder from "One Day At A Time", who makes the "mick" joke)...unbelievable.

How about Bob Conrad?! Livid!! Turns out that the Kaplan upset over Conrad wasn't so much of an upset considering that Kaplan ran track in high school and that Conrad had to put out his cigarette to run the race.

(Tip of the cap to Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy , for posting about this gem!)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Louis CK speaking some truth...

A kid from my high school is on the International Space Station!

My good friend Kurt points out that I haven't made a single comment about the fact that astronaut Stephen Bowen, currently doing repairs on the International Space Station, is from my tiny home town.

He launched on the Space Shuttle Endeavor on Friday, November 14 and will be up there at least through Thanksgiving.

This guy was just two years ahead of me in high school and now he's 300 miles up...doing space walks and everything!

That's him! That's Stephen Bowen!

During one of the space walks, Bowen's partner, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper lost a tool bag while working on a joint that positions the solar arrays. This clip shows the exact moment it happened...

I can't even believe that Stephen Bowen is up there doing that for real! I didn't really know him but it is technically possible that he saw my high school band "Back Alley" play. And while that probably wasn't as thrilling as the moment he walked into the vacuum of space for the first time, it feels kind of cool for me!

Good luck Mission Specialist Bowen!

Hey teachers! Here's a cool thing to do with your kids...

Now that the Mars rover Phoenix has succumbed to dust and bitter cold, it's time to look forward to the next rover mission: The Mars Science Laboratory.

"The Mars Science Laboratory"

(cue the crickets...)

Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue like "Spirit", "Endeavor", "Opportunity" or "Phoenix" does it?

The folks at NASA agree and have partnered with "Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures' movie WALL-E from Pixar Animation Studios" to create a contest to give the "Mars Science Laboratory" a cooler name.

The contest is open to student's 5-18 years old who attend a US school. Students must submit essays explaining why their suggested name for the rover should be chosen. The public will vote on finalists and the winner will be announced in April, 2009.

Disney is contributing prizes for winning essays including a trip to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where the rover is under construction. The grand prize winner will have an opportunity to place a signature on the spacecraft and take part in the history of space exploration.

And take heart. These essays don't have to be philosophical masterpieces. NASA has sponsored these naming contests in the past and the last contest was won by the following:

I used to live in an Orphanage.
It was dark and cold and lonely.
At night, I looked up at the sparkly sky and felt better.
I dreamed I could fly there.
In America, I can make all my dreams come true.....
Thank-you for the "Spirit" and the "Opportunity"
Sofi Collis, age 9

Official information about the contest can be found here here. (

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Don't shout out requests at rock shows...

1001 rules for my unborn son is a blog that offers a daily dose of advice suitable for fathers to pass onto sons.

I am not in complete agreement with every single idea, but I look forward to sharing many with Littlefoil.

Herewith, a sample...

276. Surround yourself with smart people.

270. Stand up to bullies. You only have to do it once.

268. Watch your language at the ballgame.

248. There is never an excuse for stealing someone's cab.

245. Look people in the eye when you thank them. Especially waiters.

236. Don't panic.

234. Thank the bus driver.

231. Keep your passport current.

225. To execute a proper tackle, lower your shoulder, not your head, and remember to wrap up.

218. Help a friend move.

208. Don't salt your food until you've tasted it.

201. Order the local specialty.

194. Have a signature dish, even if it's your only one.

189. Learn to drive a stick shift.

173. Find yourself a good hideout.

161. The keys to throwing a good party are a working stereo, Christmas lights and plenty of ice.

129. Start a band.

46. When caught in a rip-tide, swim parallel to the beach.

36. If you absolutely have to fight, punch first and punch hard.

15. Don't flatten burgers on a grill, it squeezes out all the juices.

9. Stand up for the little guy.

5. Never be afraid to ask out the best looking girl in the room.

Monday, November 17, 2008

This is SO L.A....

Unrepentantly stolen from the BBC.

The Tim Foil Stimulus Package

In light of continued dire financial news as well as the slow-down in new material here at TMUOTF, it is my pleasure to announce that we will not be charging your accounts for content through December 31, 2008.

It is my fervent hope that you will take the savings provided here and inject them back into the economy where they might do some good.

For example, you might want to contribute to the Tim Foil Pneumonia Fund which raises money to pay for the “no generic alternative available” antibiotic that I am currently taking. Any left-over money will go towards the “no generic alternative available” cough syrup which I take every night. It doesn’t help too much with the coughing but the dreams, man, the dreams are incredible.

Or, you might want to make a contribution to the nice folks over at Wikipedia who provided me with this comforting list of famous people who have died from pneumonia:

Fred Astaire – Actor/Singer/Dancer
Jim Backus – Played Thurston Howell III and Mr. MaGoo
Christian Brando – Son of Marlon
Charles Bronson – Bad-Ass
Frank Gorshin – The Riddler
Jim Henson – Puppeteer
Stonewall Jackson – Confederate General
Bernie Mac – still-warm comedian
Charles Nelson Reilly – Match Game raconteur
Lawrence Welk – favorite of grandmothers everywhere
Billy Wilder – “Some Like It Hot” director

Sometimes there’s just too damn much information on the internet.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Proposition 8

Aside from Obama’s historic and exciting win last week, the other big issue from the election is the fallout from the passage of Proposition 8 in California which calls for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in the state.

In light of the massive funding provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, protesters have been picketing Mormon churches and calling for boycotts of the state of Utah whose population is 67% Mormon.

But put aside for a moment the issue of using tax-exempt church funds to discriminate against U.S. citizens.

Are there any non-religious reasons to ban same-sex marriages? Protecting the sanctity of the institution of marriage is an easily refuted argument. Protecting society from moral decay turns on religious conviction itself. In the run-up to last weeks election, it was argued by religious supporters of Proposition 8 that churches would be forced to marry same-sex couples, a dishonest claim in the first place and clearly a religious objection anyway. I have yet to hear a non-religious argument that is realistic and logical.

(If you can think of one, please post it in the comments section. I am always willing to change my mind in the face of good evidence.)

The only reason to ban same-sex marriage is religious conviction.

On November 4, Michael Shermer, in his post on Skepticblog explored the single biblical passage that forms the foundation of the religious case against homosexuality and also illuminated several other prohibitions of behavioral “abominations.” (All biblical passages cited within are from the Revised Standard Version.)

The crucial passage regarding homosexuality is Leviticus 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

If you’re going to be using the bible to establish what is right and just and what the law of the land will be, that’s pretty clear. Shermer points out however that “tucked into in Leviticus and Deuteronomy are several other passages that we rightly ignore as pre-civil rights, pre-enlightenment and pre-scientific medieval thinking.” For example:

Deuteronomy 22:5: “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”
Wear a suit and be an abomination.

Deuteronomy 21:18–21: “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
Get lippy with your parents? Death penalty.

Deuteronomy 22:13–21: “If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and then spurns her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings an evil name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her the tokens of virginity,’ then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the tokens of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate.”
This means that in the event that a guy gets married, has sex with his new wife and claims that she is not a virgin, then the wife’s mother and father should present to the elders of the city proof of her virginity – the hymen and the blood on the sheet from her sexual encounter with her husband. If the father and mother are able to provide this proof, then they

“…shall spread the garment before the elders of the city. Then the elders of that city shall take the man [the husband] and whip him; and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver, and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought an evil name upon a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife.”
But if the father and mother can not offer the elders of the city proof of their daughter’s virginity…

“But if the thing is true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has wrought folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you.”
There are many more examples throughout the bible including Exodus 21, which outlines the rules for the proper handling of slaves. Of course, not every ethical concept in the bible is quite so antiquated and violent – “Thou shalt not kill” seems like a good guideline - but the question becomes which dictates to adhere to? Which ones to incorporate into the law of our land? Which ones to use to deny freedom and rights to others?

Clearly, we ignore many rules laid out in the bible. We no longer endorse slavery, or the death penalty for disobedient children, non-virginal women, and adulterers. So why the obsession with Leviticus 18:22?

Ultimately, no one should be required to hold anything sacred. I am not required to hold sacred the idea that Muhammad is God’s messenger. I am not beholden to maintain a kosher diet or keep holy the Sabbath.

You are free to hold the Lord’s name sacred and not to take it in vain. But god damn it, I am not required to do the same.

Proposition 8 however, requires all Californian’s to hold sacred this biblical tenet – that homosexuality is an abomination.

And so Californians have agreed to live under biblical law and deny civil rights and liberties to a minority. Way to go California, way to go.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Please accept this drawing of a spider as payment...

I can not vouch for the authenticity of this email exchange (which I have unrepentantly stolen from but I can vouch for its entertainment value.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Wednesday 8 Oct 2008 12.19pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Overdue account

Dear David,

Our records indicate that your account is overdue by the amount of $233.95. If you have already made this payment please contact us within the next 7 days to confirm payment has been applied to your account and is no longer outstanding.

Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Wednesday 8 Oct 2008 12.37pm
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Overdue account

Dear Jane,

I do not have any money so am sending you this drawing I did of a spider instead. I value the drawing at $233.95 so trust that this settles the matter.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 10.07am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Overdue account

Dear David,

Thankyou for contacting us. Unfortunately we are unable to accept drawings as payment and your account remains in arrears of $233.95. Please contact us within the next 7 days to confirm payment has been applied to your account and is no longer outstanding.

Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 10.32am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Overdue account

Dear Jane,

Can I have my drawing of a spider back then please.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 11.42am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Overdue account

Dear David,

You emailed the drawing to me. Do you want me to email it back to you?

Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 11.56am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Overdue account

Dear Jane,

Yes please.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 12.14pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Overdue account


From: David Thorne
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 09.22am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Whose spider is that?

Dear Jane,

Are you sure this drawing of a spider is the one I sent you? This spider only has seven legs and I do not feel I would have made such an elementary mistake when I drew it.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 11.03am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Whose spider is that?

Dear David,

Yes it is the same drawing. I copied and pasted it from the email you sent me on the 8th. David your account is still overdue by the amount of $233.95. Please make this payment as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 11.05am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Automated Out of Office Response

Thank you for contacting me. I am currently away on leave, traveling through time and will be returning last week.

Regards, David.

From: David Thorne
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 11.08am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?

Hello, I am back and have read through your emails and accept that despite missing a leg, that drawing of a spider may indeed be the one I sent you. I realise with hindsight that it is possible you rejected the drawing of a spider due to this obvious limb ommission but did not point it out in an effort to avoid hurting my feelings. As such, I am sending you a revised drawing with the correct number of legs as full payment for any amount outstanding. I trust this will bring the matter to a conclusion.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Monday 13 Oct 2008 2.51pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?

Dear David,

As I have stated, we do not accept drawings in lei of money for accounts outstanding. We accept cheque, bank cheque, money order or cash. Please make a payment this week to avoid incurring any additional fees.

Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 13 Oct 2008 3.17pm
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?

I understand and will definately make a payment this week if I remember. As you have not accepted my second drawing as payment, please return the drawing to me as soon as possible. It was silly of me to assume I could provide you with something of completely no value whatsoever, waste your time and then attach such a large amount to it.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Tuesday 14 Oct 2008 11.18am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Real quick...a gorgeous picture of The Golden Gate Bridge

Unrepentantly stolen from National Geographic's Traveler Magazine. (Click to embiggen.)

Chaaaaang! It’s been a hard days night…

The opening chord of The Beatles' "Hard Days Night" is one of the most famous in rock and roll and as it turns out, it’s a total mysery.

Bedroom musicians have been trying to figure it out for 40 years. Dominic Pedler, author of the “The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles” summarizes 21 different interpretations of the chord – just a small selection of the guesses that he found doing his research.

One of those guesses, G7sus4, known as the “buskers choice” was discredited by George Harrison himself in 2001. Harrison, in a 2001 online chat said that he played “an F with a G on top” on his 12 string Rickenbacker 360/12.

But if you grab your 12 string and give it a try you’ll hear that it’s not quite right. Not quite complete.

It’s missing the faint sound of the ride cymbal and the snare drum that Ringo added, the D note that McCartney added on his Hofner bass and the c5 that Lennon was playing on his six string.

But get your friends together with vintage instruments and try to recreate it and it’s still not quite right.

Enter Jason Brown, a mathematician from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Brown with his Ibanez guitar - which was NOT used on the original recording.

Brown applied a a mathematical calculation known as Fourier transform to solve the riddle. The process allowed him to break the sound into distinct frequencies using computer software to find out exactly which notes were on the record.

Using this technique he identified an additional chord, played on the piano by producer George Martin that included an F note – a note impossible to play in combination with all of the other notes being played by the guitar.

So the mystery is solved. That classic single pulse of sound was accomplished like this:

George Harrison was playing the following notes on his 12 string guitar: a2, a3, d3, d4, g3, g4, c4, and another c4; Paul McCartney played a d3 on his bass; producer George Martin was playing d3, f3, d5, g5, and e6 on the piano, while Lennon played a loud c5 on his six-string guitar.

A PDF detailing Brown’s work can be found here .

Part III of Hardcore History's "Punic Nightmares" has been posted...

Just in case you took me up on my recommendation of the Hardcore History podcast and, in particular, the series titled "Punic Nightmares", I wanted to let you know that Part III is now posted and available for download.

I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet but I'm really excited about finding the time.

This line links to my original post on the subject.

This line links to my post about having second thoughts about my recommendation but then deciding to stand behind it anyway.

This line links to the Hardcore History website.

This line links to the Punic Nightmares podcasts. Just scroll down and you'll see all three parts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Bad Day to Die

Michael Crichton died unexpectedly on Tuesday at the age of 66 of cancer.

Because of the election, it almost escaped my notice but when I was a kid, I loved Michael Crichton. The first Crichton novel I read was “The Terminal Man” and it was one of those deals where you discover a novelist and then read every book you can find. For me, that meant all of the Crichton novels in our school library – “Congo,” “The Andromeda Strain” and “The Great Train Robbery.”

He made me feel smart. His genre has been referred to as “speculative science fiction” and his gift was explaining “sciency” concepts in a simple way and presenting it in the setting of a thriller. Microbes from outer space wiping out the human race? I can see how that might happen. Electrodes planted inside the brain to control violent criminals? Seems reasonable.

When “Sphere” came out I was a junior at college and was disappointed. But when Jurassic Park was released in 1990 I was the very first person to check it out of my branch of the Memphis Public Library.

It was clearly the pinnacle of the genre. The whole dinosaur-DNA-from-mosquitoes-trapped-in-amber was so…plausible. It made such reasonable sense and it was simple.

He never matched Jurassic Park. His later stuff was more right wing political screed than speculative science fiction. His early work always explored the dangers of science run amok but in the end he was just kind of hysterical.

Still, I have fond memories of those days and those books and I’m grateful that he helped forge an interest in science and reading that lives in me still.

Great Photography Blog

The Boston Globe has a photography blog called “The Big Picture” which is totally awesome. Subtitled “News Stories in Photographs”, it collects high resolution images from photographers around the world.

In the words of Alan Taylor who compiles it:
Inspired by publications like Life Magazine (of old), National Geographic, and
online experiences like's Picture Stories galleries and Brian Storm's
MediaStorm, The Big Picture is intended to highlight high-quality, amazing
imagery - with a focus on current events, lesser-known stories and, well, just
about anything that comes across the wire that looks really interesting.

The subject matter varies wildly. You might see astronomy, sports, politics, conflict, history, daily life…but the common thread is outstanding photography.

Today he’s posted a bunch of images from Obama’s presidential campaign including the picture above from a rally before 75,000 attendees in May, 2008 in Portland, Oregon. By the way, that's about half as many as attended his victory celebration at Grant Park in Chicago on election night.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's been a long day - and I got to go home early...

5:37pm, 54 degrees, cloudy
0 Votes
0 %
0 Electoral Votes

0 Votes
0 %
0 Electoral Votes

OK. Yeah. Still no precincts reporting know, look elsewhere for that!

But the crowds and the energy have returned. The A'Dolescents for O'Connell were singing at the top of their lungs..."Vote O'Connell!" (to the tune of "I Want Candy".)

All of the candidates were there, shaking hands, slapping backs and kissing babies.

Thanks for coming out! Hey Freddie! Good to see you! Thanks for voting! Margaret, what a day we have! Thanks for your support!

It was all movement.

Voters trying to get in and out and home for dinner and bath-time with the kids...candidates counting down the hours until the polls close...2 hours and 23 minutes to go...sign holders shifting their weight from foot to foot...mittened hands rubbing together to keep warm...

I have always watched the national political conventions and marveled at the unparalleled geekery of those in attendance. I wonder how on earth people - grown people, some in nice clothing and impressive suits - could get so excited about a guy like George W. Bush. Or even John Kerry. I mean, you and I both know more impressive people.

It's just so weird to see conventioneers put aside their inhibitions and their serious, work-a-day demeanor to gush like little children over these candidates who mostly don't inspire me at all.

I always conclude that they're either deluded, outright stupid or full of shit and I write them off. And with them I guess I sub-conciously wrote off every political dork who actually gets dirty and works for these campaigns. Suckers.

But the people I saw today were putting in their time. Standing on "old man" feet and holding signs with arthritic hands. Shaking hands, helping people get in and out of cars, sharing coffee and snacks.

Even crazy Bob Parkis who was raving about the black hole of money that would be our local library was out there all day long.


So good for them. There's a lot about the system to complain about - a lot of it legitimate. I have always only seen the process bringing out the worst in people but today I saw it bring out some of the best.

I'm feeling pretty good right now. Only Sarah Palin could ruin my mood...

Everything seems congenial so far...

3:25pm, 63 degrees, cloudy
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OK. So the idea of tallying the votes as we go through the day has been kind of a bust since no precincts anywhere are reporting yet.

It appears that some of Mr. O'Brien's supporters have lost faith...

There's not too much news to report this afternoon. A slight uptick in traffic perhaps and I detect a bit of fatigue from some of the supporters but I expect and after-work injection of energy so stay tuned!

The Committee to Support Lunch

12:10pm, 63 degrees, mostly sunny
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It appears slow but steady here at the official TMUOTF polling place but the national media are reporting very strong turnout all along the Eastern Seaboard.

You never really hear anyone refer to the "Western Seaboard" do you?

Anyway, no violent confrontations but I did overhear two interesting things while walking around. The first came from a young guy who walked out of the building and announced to no one in particular "Yeah! I'm psyched! I just voted SIX times for Obama!"

I think he was trying to be provocative though I'm not sure who he meant to be provoking. Sadly, no one took the bait.

At another point, I was eavesdropping on two older women who were clearly getting reacquainted after a long time.

"How is that precious little dog of yours?" asked the first.

"Killed by a coyote." said the second.

Which reminds me that there are three ballot questions for Massachusetts residents to vote on this year.

"Question 3" would ban dog racing. The state has two tracks where you can bet on the doggies and it's one of those cruelty to animals vs. jobs thing.

"Question 1" would cut the Massachusetts income tax rate from 5.3% to 2.65%. It's one of those "if they can't control waste on Beacon Hill then we'll just shut off the spigot" vs. "What about my kid's school and holy shit look at that pothole" things.

"Question 2" would replace criminal penalties for the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana with civil penalties - in other words, you pay a fine but you don't go to jail and get a criminal record. It's one of those "why prevent kids from getting student loans or government jobs for a small transgression" vs. "Drugs! Drugs! Drugs!" things.

TMUOTF supports Questions 2 and 3 and is against Question 1. (I'm Tim Foil and I approved this sentence.)

A lonely pro-lifer. Or maybe not lonely, but alone.

A'Dolescents for O'Connell.

Bob Parkis of the Marshfield Taxpayers Union was handing out flyers about cutting spending on wasteful projects such as the town library.

More election reportage as the day goes on!

The Official TMUOTF Polling Place

I keep hearing that this is the most important election in our lifetime. In hindsight, it sure seems like we underestimated how damn important 2000 and 2004 were.

I thought that I might pop into my polling place a couple of times throughout the course of the day to see what’s happening as this thing unfolds. I'll also add CNN's vote counts at the time of each visit to see if there is a discernible shift in moods as the day unfolds.

Let's begin, shall we?

9:00am, 54 degrees, mostly sunny
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At 6:45am, Jillfoil reported that the line extended out the door. I showed up at about 9am and it took me about six minutes to vote.

I was expecting to see battle lines drawn between the McCain and Obama supporters. Maybe a line of police separating them as the fanatics went bullhorn to bullhorn…

Instead, almost all of the signs and supporters were focused on local races. Whatever the opposite of a battleground state is, Massachusetts is it. We have 12 electoral votes and there isn’t any question that Obama is going to get them. I guess that means that all of the action is in the local races.

Best eyebrows of the day...and we're retiring the award.

It does make you feel kinda good about this process doesn't it?

One of the few supporters with a presidential sign.

Waiting for the coffee to kick in...

Too bad. I was hoping for more nut-jobs. But wait! What's that? On my way out I catch a glimpse of a new arrival on the scene. What's that? A kook? A nut job? Maybe even scarier...a "values voter"...

Anyway, more to follow as the day unfolds. Keep your fingers crossed that the kook quotient goes up!


Littlefoil's first-ever trick-or-treat.