Sunday, January 30, 2011

That's a lotta ants

The man who invented the ant farm fifty plus years ago has died after selling some 20 million of the little home science units:
Mr. Levine certainly appreciated Pogonomyrmex californicus. “I found out their most amazing feat yet,” he said. “They put three kids through college.”

Friday, January 28, 2011

Never cross Johnny

Carson was also impressed by Mr. Callas, inviting him to appear on the “The Tonight Show” nearly 50 times. Then came the night of Sept. 21, 1982. 
With Mr. Callas bombing, Carson made a whistling-buzzing sound — as if tracing a bomb’s trajectory. In comic desperation, Mr. Callas leaned over and shoved Carson. Carson, almost always amiable on the air, was so annoyed that on the spot, in front of his television audience, he told Mr. Callas that he’d never appear on the show again. Carson kept his word.

My Fitness Routine

Ikon Vodka and Shaker

Vigorous workouts with my martini shaker.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Childhood Idols

Charles Lindbergh, wearing helmet with goggles up, in open cockpit of airplane at Lambert Field, St. Louis, Missouri

The Boy's Own Adventure hero of my childhood was aviator Charles Lindbergh. He wrote two memoirs and Jimmy Stewart made a movie of his flight over the Atlantic. Most people in those days still had not traveled by air, and it was only a few decades since he had made his flight. He had largely retired from public life so his Nazi sympathies were not a big issue. He was just a young flier who figured out how to do something nobody else had, and did it all alone.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Shoulda left Ernest Shepard's drawings alone

From the Writers' Almanac a couple of noteworthy literary birthdays

It's the birthday of the physician and lexicographer Peter Mark Roget, (books by this author) born in London, England (1779). He was 61 years old, and had just retired from his medical practice, when he decided to devote his retirement to publishing a system of classifying words into groups, based on their meanings. And that became the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, published in 1852.
It's the birthday of children's writer A.A. Milne, (books by this author) born in London (1882). He's the author of Winnie-the-Pooh (1926). He wrote, "Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing."

On my desk is a copy of Roget's Thesaurus my mother gave my dad in 1959. I often regret the Disneyfication of Pooh and his comrades. Life's a mixed bag.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jumping the sharktopus

“Sharktopus,” the blood-soaked tale of a hybrid shark-octopus developed as a secret military weapon, was one of Syfy’s biggest hits last year. (The monster goes haywire and terrorizes bikini-clad women along Mexican Riviera beaches; 2.5 million people tuned in.)Roger Corman, known as the King of the B’s for pumping out movies like “The Wasp Woman” and “Humanoids From the Deep,” said he reluctantly agreed to produce the film, which got its start when a Syfy marketing executive, brainstorming ideas for new creatures, came up with the aquatic crossbreed. 
“It’s not easy to take a computer-generated shark that can walk on a beach with octopus legs and make it seem believable,” Mr. Corman said. “My theory is that you can go up to a certain level of insanity and still keep the audience intrigued. Go beyond the insanity barrier, and people turn against you. In my opinion ‘Sharktopus’ breaks that barrier.” The results showed him that “even at my age you can learn something.”
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Time, frozen, still marches ahead

Because it can be run over and over, television has a way of freezing actors in time that, somehow, movies don't.

David Nelson always seemed to be somewhere between high school senior and a young married career guy on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet", which a local station still carries.

Hard to imagine he has died, age 74.

Global Issues that Deserve More Attention

Economic inequality, the linking of food to energy prices, communications in the poor nations, highways in Africa. Just to name a few.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow diary

There were rumors of snow Sunday night and I sat up with one of the housemates to see it start. It finally did, about 1:35 am- insomnia has its pluses- and when I woke up again at 4:00 am the ground was covered.

I woke up again about 7:30 and looked out the window. Piles of the stuff everywhere,. still coming down.

Oh well, no getting out today. So I piled up the pillows, pulled up the covers, and tuned in BBC Radio 7 on the Internet.

Around noon I got up and got organized. Watched the news for a bit- all snow and assassins. No good movies on TCM.

Mid afternoon I bundled up and went for a walk, as I've not been out in snow for several years and it reminded me of childhood snowfalls when it was fun rather than just stuck at home and lonely for some company.

6-8 inches on the ground, drifts even higher. Enterprising drivers compressed snow into the street into a flat compacted sheet of ice. Lots of kids' feet in the snow- a plastic child's swimming pool rests below my bedroom window with racks of where they slid down the hill in it till it got boring, or they got cold and wet, or they got a better offer. Snow is rare here, so it's good that they've had two big snows in three weeks.

I ventured out of the immediate neighborhood for a bit and saw animal and bird tracks. Around the house bird feeders were doing a brisk business. The local gas station manager was out of sorts- he'd gotten to work and gotten the drive cleared- two big piles of snow attested to his enterprise- but most of his staff hadn't made it in. Business seemed slow.  There were young persons on off-road four wheelers fueling up and firing away way to fast what seemed safe conditions to a middle aged man.

Most drivers seemed to be in trucks or SUVs- the kind of people you can decide about- are they actually needing to be somewhere, or just driving around because they can? Or think they can.

My local off-license dealer was, to my surprise and relief, open, though worried about getting up his driveway when he went home. Almost a 45 degree angle, he said. Then he added if he had five more men my size in the truck bed it would be a piece of cake. I want to be of help, I replied, but I don't want to go home with you. Not my type at all. Besides, it looks like you've got more than enough snow in back to weigh you down.

The local grocery was open as well. I bought neither bread nor milk, the odd staples people flock to get when there is a weather panic.

The governor gave state workers two extra hours to get in tomorrow. Schools are generally closed still, and more Christian academies than one could imagine existing report closures in the now-ubiquitous crawlers at the bottom of TV screens.

It began to rain on my way home but I got back before the worst of it. Happily, it didn't last. The hard question is whether it will start up again the these wee hours when it's really cold.

A bag of trash, I decided, will wait a bit before its delivery to the dumpster down the hill. I'm at the age where a slip- piled on old, increasingly arthritic injuries- could leave me lying in the middle of the steep, downhill street, yelling, "I've fallen, and I can't get up!"

Funny how we get cautious as we get old.Thirty years ago I was sledding down an incredibly steep hilly street the dead-ended into a chain link fence. You had to navigate a very hard-right turn just at the end. The gravity effect of the turn was such that after a few days we had to scrap the sled- the right-side runners were bending underneath the carriage.

I didn't do my laundry. I watched some more news. I went to bed. I can't sleep.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

My Stress Level

I'm badgered to death emails and cell phone calls from people who believe they can drop into my life whenever they feel like it and demand that I do things. Prices are going through the roof. TV news is unwatchable, it's so vitriolic. Republicans want to undo health care and financial reform and take us back to the good old days of a collapsing economy and the good news days of 50 million uninsured. I could go on....

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An hour and a half and everything is covered, including the streets.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Somewhere, Sartre is laughing

The manic-depressives at The Gallup Organization have released their annual Global Barometer of Hope and Despair.

No, really.

Among developed nations, the French are the most gloomy.

The report came up on the latest episode of BBC Radio 4's "News Quiz," where one of the panelists explained, "When all you do is riot, shrug, and refuse to work, it'll eventually grind you down."
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Next selection- The Inferno

I thought SC ETV had reached a new low a couple of years ago when The Radio Reader performed an excruciating rendition of a book about the Donner Party, but now it's exceeding that with an extraordinarily depressing memoir by the spoiled kids of a woman who died- at length- of cancer.