Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jaime Escalante has passed away

The sad news is coming out of California today that Jaime Escalante has died at the age of 79, following a battle with cancer.

Escalante, originally from La Paz, Bolivia, was a teacher of math and physics in his own country for many years before coming to the United States. When he got here he could speak no English, began taking night classes to earn degrees in biology and calculus, and eventually received credentials to begin teaching in California.

And that's where Jaime Escalante's life really began to get interesting. After accepting a position at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, Escalante - appalled at how the school taught very little in the way of higher mathematics - took it upon himself to challenge the students at Garfield to take an advanced placement calculus course. Eventually the students proceeded to blow away darn nearly everybody's expectations of them and with each successive year Garfield High began consistently outpacing most other schools in the state of California. In 1988 Jaime Escalante's story was made into the hit movie Stand and Deliver, with Edward James Olmos playing Escalante.

This dude was everything that the art of teaching is supposed to be about. As some have noted, Escalante took gang members and turned them into aerospace engineers.

Farewell Mr. Escalante. And thank you for sharing your ganas with us.

Another random rumination on religion

For something based on the assumption that all people are imperfect, it's curious that religion makes too many people willing to cause suffering based on the assumption that they are perfectly right about it.

Two INDEPENDENCE DAY sequels?! Awwww hell nawwww!!!

IESB.net is reporting that Twentieth Century Fox is about to commit to two sequels to Independence Day: its 1996 mega-blockbuster about aliens arriving on Earth to wipe out humanity on the Fourth of July. Will Smith is already set to return as Steven Hiller, the hotshot pilot he played in the original.

Do we really need this? For its tenth anniversary in 2006 I posted an extensive write-up about Independence Day. As much as I still love the movie, too much time has gone by since the original. It remains a product of its era and to make sequels to it would make a mockery of that. Well, I think so anyway.

I do think that Independence Day could be rebooted (since that's the route every other movie franchise seems to be going these days). I mean, think about it: who in America wouldn't want to see the White House and Congress blown up once more?

I saw Independence Day seven time in the theaters that summer. Having alien invaders make a smoldering crater out of Washington D.C. all over again would have me coming back at least TWICE as many times just to see that!

"The Package": Post-episode reaction to this week's LOST

First things first: Whoever it was at ABC that thought it would be a "brilliant" idea to put that blood-red V countdown bug in the lower right-hand corner of the screen needs to be dragged out into the street and shot. I've never seen such a nuisance more distracting from what should have been a completely enjoyable experience of watching an episode of Lost.

(It was enough to make me not want to stick around long enough to watch V tonight, if that says anything.)

But as for "The Package" itself...

EXCELLENT episode! Maybe even as good as last week's that gave us Richard's backstory. And so far as the Sun/Jin-centric installments are - which have become some of my favorite - "The Package" may have been one of the best. Good thing too, since this is probably the last Lost episode ever that will focus on our Korean lovebirds.

I'm starting to wonder if the "flashsideways"-es have something to do with what Hurley told Richard last week: that if the Man in Black isn't stopped then "we all go to hell". Last month I posted my theory that the Man in Black could be trying to escape not just into the world but in another world (like Mephisto in the Earth X Marvel Comics trilogy). Perhaps the flashsidewaysies are showing us the universe where the Man in Black is running rampant. How this is going to figure into a storyline with only seven episodes left to wrap up its mythology, I haven't a clue... but the Lost showrunners had better get hopping. After the past three or four episodes though, I'm still confident that they'll deliver.

There were two people that I thought over the past couple of weeks would be behind the door on the submarine. And who we saw being taken off of it was one of them. I wonder if we'll see the other one. Which also reminds me that it was nice to see Room 23 again... and that does make me think that we shall see that other character again soon.

A very, very solid episode. I'll give it a 10 out of 10.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

An open letter to WFMY Channel 2

Dear management and staff of WFMY:

I am a life-long viewer of WFMY. Yours is the station that I have most associated with well-produced television. Growing up our own television was always tuned to one of two channels: the local PBS affiliate for Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and Channel 2. Until the time I was 8 years old I didn't even know that there were other stations that did news, weather and sports. I will always fondly remember Lee Kindard's hosting of The Good Morning Show, Sandra Hughes is one of the all-time most classiest ladies in the history of anything (Lord willing I will finally get a chance to meet her someday) and whenever the weather has taken a turn for the worst or (even better) threatened snow that would cancel the schools, WFMY was there. I still remember people like Arlo Lassen (whatever happened to him anyway?) and whenever I see one of your many talented photojournalists out and about the urge comes over me even to this day to do that "number one" salute with the finger that y'all used to run at the end of each program.

I hope all of this makes it clear just how devoted I am to your station.

So perhaps you'll understand the sentiment when I say that tonight, somewhere in this great wide universe that God created, Charlie Harville is doing a huge facepalm in disbelief.

Why? Because you guys have desecrated the closest thing that the great state of North Carolina has to a High Holy Days.

I'm talking about what happened yesterday afternoon and evening with the severe weather that rolled through the Triad and surrounding area. Yes, there was a lot of damage and destruction. It couldn't be helped. And maybe y'all did what you thought was best to stem the devastation.

But that doesn't change the fact that you broke in before the second half of the Duke and Baylor game of the NCAA Basketball Tournament and showed nothing but weather for the next several hours!

And in North Carolina, that is just about an unforgivable offense. If this had been the finals of the BASS Masters, or the World Series, or even the Super Bowl, this would have been different. But instead you chose to commit a basketball broadcasting blasphemy. HERE of all places! In a state whose motto should be "Play Basketball or Die!"

All the other stations in this area were doing severe weather alerts. The broadcasting footprints of any two of them covers the same area as your market. They had the latest weather updates... but only WFMY had college basketball and even better, Duke college basketball (they are going to the Final Four incidentally, having beaten Baylor 78 to 71... and I had to go to ESPN to find that out).

I'm not going to ask if this would have happened had it been UNC Chapel Hill playing to get into the Final Four. That would just open up another can of worms. Instead I shall leave that particular question as an exercise for the reader.

Look: I think that Eric Chilton, Leigh Brock, Ed Matthews and Grant Gilmore are doing a super excellent job so far as local weather goes. WFMY has always had, and to this day still has, one of the finest meteorological departments of any television station not just in this country, but the world. I have nothing but the utmost respect for your meteorological staff's skill, enthusiasm and terrific on-scream demeanor. And I will still gladly tune in to WFMY for much of my weather forecasting needs.

But this weekend, y'all messed up bigtime.

I'm not asking for y'all to apologize. Just please, bear it in mind next time something like this happens. Even amid something like this, there are lots of people who don't want to be confronted with all of the local stations broadcasting about it, but would rather have an avenue like college basketball in which to escape from their momentary fear. And I am very much sincere about this. There comes a point in any crisis situation when there is too much information and a person needs to be able to take a step back from it. That is what WFMY News 2 could have provided yesterday evening, that literally no other station in this market could have provided at that time.

Just think about what I've said, and consider these thoughts the next time an event like this happens.

Still a faithful viewer,

Chris Knight
Reidville

EDIT 3:30 a.m. EST: WFMY News 2 has addressed its broadcasting decisions yesterday afternoon on its digtriad.com website, citing "hundreds of phone calls and emails from viewers asking why we stayed on the air for so long during the basketball game and prime time programming".

Here's the statement...

The reason is that it is our obligation to keep our viewers, safe during a dangerous situation. When there is a tornado warning, it means there is rotation in a thunderstorm which could reach the ground as a tornado. In this case, the warnings lead to three possible tornadoes and significant damage through our viewing area.

The Federal Communications Commission requires broadcast stations to deliver immediate emergency information during the duration of a warning. Once a warning is lifted, we will return you to regular program or full screen games as the case might be.

Replays of the primetime programs will be available online on Monday. They are usually updated within 24 hours of the initial broadcast of the show. You can find those shows including The Amazing Race and Undercover Boss on the CBS Video Player.

I don't mind saying this: WFMY's statement about this doesn't hold any water.

Maybe once upon a time that dog could hunt. But fercryin' out loud: WFMY has three digital channels now, not just one analog signal! If they sincerely believe they've a legal obligation to broadcast breaking weather information, fine... but WHY COULDN'T THEY SIMPLY SHUNT THE NCAA BASKETBALL BROADCAST TO DIGITAL CHANNEL 2-3?!? I mean, they have 2-3 set up, but they aren't using it for anything. Digital channel 2-2 is dedicated to 24 hour continuous weather, and I have to praise WFMY for that 'cuz it really is a convenience to more people than the station realizes.

But to not be prepared for a contingency like this? By not having a choice of options available to its viewers when WFMY not only can do so but already should have done so?

I don't know what's worse now: that WFMY didn't broadcast the Duke/Baylor game, or that it seems to have lacked the creativity that digital broadcasting technology not only allows but in fact demands.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"For all of the loved ones gone."

Ten years ago today, our family lost the nucleus around which we revolved our lives. That was the day that Elsie Roberts, my beloved grandmother - and who was called "Granny" by everyone who knew her - was taken Home.

(Here's the memorial write-up that I did a few years ago on the occasion of what would have been Granny's 100th birthday.)

That was the beginning of a very long and dark period of my life (which might have been pretty dark to begin with). And for quite some time after that I was horribly depressed... and especially about thoughts of death and dying. Granny's passing would be the first of many people that I loved and cared about that passed away within a short period of time.

There isn't a day that's gone by since that afternoon ten years ago, that I haven't thought of Granny. But now at last I can let go, and continue living. Because I know now that the life that we see isn't all that there is. I realize more than ever before that God doesn't create something without purpose or meaning. Especially the good things... and Granny was one of the most good people that I have ever known.

Ten years later... and I wouldn't be saying this if I didn't know from hard-earned experience... but I am at last comforted by the knowledge that God is good and graceful, and that His is the peace that surpasses all understanding. The thought of dying doesn't bother me anymore, because I have accepted that death is not entirely a bad thing. Yes, it is a dire consequence of living in this fallen world. But it is also very much a part of life. Death is an inevitable component of growth, and I'm not talking physically either. I like to think that it's how God gives us an escape from this world after we have at long last exhausted everything else that we could possibly do to learn and grow and experience here.

So on this day, on the tenth anniversary of one of the worst days of my life, I cannot be filled with grief and sadness. Instead I thank God that He gave us Granny. Just as I thank Him that I will see her again in the fullness of time... along with everyone else that I have cared for.

About a year and a half ago this song was used in the commercial for Gears of War 2. I'd never heard it until then, and this past fall I finally looked it up. And when I first listened, really listened to it, I found myself swept up in a lot of emotion about my own grandmother and the blessed hope that she isn't so far away after all. That "forever's not so long".

This is one of the most profoundly moving and beautiful songs that I've heard in recent memory. It really sums up what I've gone through in thinking of Granny and all of the others that have been taken from us. It's given me some comfort, and maybe by sharing it here it can be a comfort to others who are going through similar.

So here is "How It Ends" by DeVotchKa...

Pennsylvania man, publicly drunk, attempts to revive dead possum

A fella named Donald Wolfe has been arrested in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on a public drunkenness charge. Police found him along a highway 65 miles east of Pittsburgh.

The biggest clue that something was terribly amiss was that Wolfe was attempting to restore to life a roadkilled possum, which reportedly had been "dead for quite awhile", with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

I'd love to know what the heck this guy had been drinking...

One of the best-ever arguments against socialism

Last night while going through some older material on my hard drive, I found this Beetle Bailey cartoon from a few years ago. In it Mort Walker - through his character Plato - articulates one of the finest arguments about why socialism is not only a bad thing, but against human nature. And in light of what has transpired here in the United States during the past several days, I thought it would be quiet appropriate to post here...

Kinda sad really: when people like cartoonists show far more enlightenment and wisdom than those we elect to be entrusted with our government.

Oh crap, I missed Earth Hour!

While every other conscientious person on the planet was turning their lights out between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. local time, I was burning through Lord only knows how many BTUs of propane in a gas-powered forge turned up full blast, and then employing some industrial-strength metalworking equipment that uses up lots of electricity in Dad's knifemaking shop.

Because of me, Earth is teetering that much closer to doom! What ever shall I do for penance?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Heh-heh...

Bet some (or maybe most) of y'all thought that I got "disappeared" into the hinterlands after that last post, aye?

Just busy on this end with work for clients, work on my new film project (especially location scouting), some conflict in realms apart from the temporal... y'know, the usual.

All that, and still feeling quite honked-off at the developments of this past week. Grrrrrr.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Don't want Obamacare? Convert to Islam or become Amish

I'm thinkin' that everyone now has a perfectly valid and legal reason to tell President Barack Obama to take his crummy "health care reform" and shove it up his ass.

(Oh yeah, that's right: not even Obama and his cronies want Obamacare. They're exempt from it.)

But within the legislation - which the House just re-approved a short while ago - are provisions for conscientious objection to Obamacare because of religion. The legal language seems tailor-made for the Amish (who use the communal resources of their churches to provide for medical care) and for Muslims, for whom insurance is religious taboo.

Since I'm neither Muslim, or a member of any Christian denomination (I still prefer to call myself a follower of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ), I guess that means that I'm screwed, right? Well, who is anyone in this steaming pile of bullshit (that's the very first time that I've used THAT word in any piece of writing, dear readers!) that is our government to tell me or anybody that my or your religion is invalid or "wrong"?

I now declare myself the Reverend Christopher Knight of the Second Church of What's Happening Now. And Obamacare is against the tenets of my creed, so I must be exempt. And I will be exempt, dammit!

And if you too want to stand up to that cocky bastitch in the White House and that deranged *itch of a House Speaker, feel free to do likewise.

Wanna know the title of the final episode of LOST?

According to showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, the final episode of Lost, set to air two months from now, is...

"The End"

They chose this as the title because they want to make it stark clear that there will be no spinoff series, no movie, no anything. There's supposed to be an official Lost encyclopedia book coming out at some point but so far as the story of Lost goes, this will indeed be THE end.

I like it :-)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Once more with feeling? House to vote AGAIN on healthcare bill tonight

Because of two items in the reconciliation bill - one of which having to do with Pell grants, which alone made people scratch their heads in wonder about why it was in the legislation to begin with - the House of Representatives will be voting once more on Barack Obama's socialized medicine in order to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions.

Considering how in the past few days a number of representatives who voted "aye" for this monstrosity have had bricks thrown through the windows of their offices and one such congressman had a coffin dumped on the lawn of his house, I have to ponder aloud if such "knock-knock, zoom-zoom affirmation" might result in more than a few of them finally "getting the message" that the American people DO NOT WANT this crap!

Commodore 64 is back... and better than ever!

Back in the day a lot of us cut our computin' teeth on the Commodore 64. First appearing on the market in 1982, 14 million Commodore 64s were sold before the line was finally retired twelve years later. My sister had one. How good was it? I would often trade time on my Nintendo Entertainment System for a turn on her Commodore 64 (usually to play games like Aliens, still one of the best video game adaptations of a motion picture that I've ever seen). And for bunches of people, the Commodore 64 was their first entry into what became known as the Internet, via services like CompuServe and America Online.

So if you're one of the old-skool fans of this snazzy lil' system, you'll be excited to know that come June you'll be able to purchase the heavily revamped Commodore 64: packing a wazoo of new features in practically the same classic look. The all-in-one unit (except for the monitor) boasts up to 500 gigabytes of hard drive, 4 gigabytes of RAM. The "64" in C-64 2.0 stands for the Intel 64-bit quad-core processors driving the thing, which will also give the new Commodore 64 the capability for 3D graphics. Also built into the unit are a DVD-RW drive, four USB ports, a touchpad, a gigabit Ethernet port, and a DVI port to hook up to a monitor. It'll also run Windows, Mac OS X and Linux (that alone will guarantee some handsome sales among the geeky set).

I might have to get one of these. 'Twould be a lot of fun just to play a game like Fallout 3 on it :-)

Some friendly advice

To certain "ministers" in this area who frequently visit this blog:

Quit going around harassing decent folks at their homes and their churches. You'll no doubt stay healthy longer for it.

Incidentally, why are you giving much of your congregation's money to a fornicating sexual deviant? Doesn't sound very much like being a good steward of the Lord's provision, but maybe that's just me.

Neither does it seem very consistent with your alleged piousness when one among you isn't even a married man but is driving around with women's underwear on display in the back seat of his car.

Disciples pigging out: Last Supper portions increased 69% over time

Two researchers have been using computer analysis on 52 of the most famous paintings of the Last Supper - the final meal that Jesus Christ had with His disciples on the night before His death on the cross - and discovered that the size of the portions of food depicted on the table have increased 69% over the past millennium. The biggest amount of super-sizing came after 1500, not long after Leonardo da Vinci did his famous rendition of the Last Supper...

From the article at USA Today...

The researchers used paintings of this event "because it is the most famous supper in history," which artists have been painting for centuries, so the paintings provide information about plate and entree sizes over time, says Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell (University) Food and Brand Lab in Ithaca, N.Y. One possible reason for the increase: Food may have become more available and less expensive, he says.

He did the research with his brother, Craig, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, and a Presbyterian minister.

The three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), which include descriptions of The Last Supper, mention only bread and wine, but many of the paintings have other foods, such as fish, lamb, pork and even eel, says Craig Wansink.

The use of fish in the meals is symbolic because it's an image that is used to represent Christianity, he says. Among the reasons for the symbolism: A number of the disciples were fishermen, and Jesus told them "to be fishers of men," he says. Plus, he says, Jesus performed several miracles with fishes and loaves.

Thanks to Chad Austin for the great find (and Twitter-ing about it. Yes, he really did!)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Later start time decreasing absenteeism in high school students

Don'cha wish we knew this when we were in high school!

(Oh who am I kidding? North Carolina's government is so bass-ackwards on everything, the concept would never even get the chance to fly here...)

Anyway, an experiment being conducted by an Oxford neuroscience professor at Monkseaton High School in North Tyneside in Great Britain has had students starting classes an hour later than usual, at 10 a.m. The remarkable findings of the experiment thus far are that the later class time has caused an 8% drop in general absence and a 27% drop in chronic absenteeism. Furthermore, memory testing done on the students indicate that the best time for learning more difficult lessons is in the afternoon. Researchers believe that teenagers wanting to sleep in is not a matter of laziness, but merely a component of biology adjusting during the adolescent years.

(Or maybe it's just that they're staying up at later hours playing World of Warcraft? :-P)

"Ab Aeterno": Chris has to watch tonight's LOST three times to take it all in!!!

This is what storytelling on television should always strive to be like. Not since Babylon 5 has there perhaps been so much good payoff for all the long hours invested in watching a dramatic series.

We finally, finally got Richard Alpert's backstory in "Ab Aeterno", this week's episode of Lost. And it did not disappoint! I would even say that this was the best character-centric origin story since Ben's episode "The Man Behind the Curtain" in Season 3. Maybe even since "Numbers" all the way back in the first season.

Something I couldn't help but catch: Tenerife was the location of one of the worst airline disasters in history. Was that something intentional on the part of the producers, to have Richard start out his life there? Anyways, what we have is a good man who was caught up in a tragedy composed of complete assholes: first that despicable doctor, then the even more despicable priest, followed by the officers of the Black Rock and then Jacob's adversary. Richard in some ways is the most tragic character we have seen on Lost: a person who longs for absolution from God more than anything else. I like to think that in the final scenes, he knew that he had that at last.

We also now know how the Black Rock came so far inland, and how the statue of Tawaret got demolished... all in one fell swoop! And most of all, we're starting to finally understand what the Island is: nothing less than a prison for the Man in Black and a material battleground between the cosmic battle between good and evil.

I've watched this episode three times so far, and it's still blowing my mind. I have unquestioning faith now in this show: that we are going to get solid answers to all of the big mysteries before the end two months from now.

"Ab Aeterno" gets 10 out of 10 from this viewer!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Trailer for WEIRD: THE AL YANKOVIC STORY

If you see only one biopic this year, see this one. If you see only 27 biopics this year, see Weird: The Al Yankovic Story 27 times!

What is "Chutzpah"?

Because I'm feeling extra cranky tonight (and have for the past 24 hours or so)...

"Chutzpah" is a Yiddish word meaning "shameless audacity". It's an olden Hebrew term that in his book The Joys of Yiddish author Leo Rosten describes as "gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible 'guts,' presumption plus arrogance such as no other word and no other language can do justice to."

So what fits in the category of "chutzpah"?

One example of chutzpah is the child who kills both of his parents, and then throws himself down on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he is an orphan.

Another example of chutzpah is the "evangelist" who routinely rails against a television station for "promoting dancing, R-rated movies" as being somehow sinful behavior, yet is apparently not bothered by the fact that he gives more than a million dollars of his congregation's money to buy airtime at another television station whose general manager not only promotes the same stuff and worse... but is also a bisexual who regularly gets his jollies by enticing viewers to call in and talk about their sex lives (while never mentioning his own). That would be plenty of chutzpah too.

But right now at this moment, what comes most to mind when I think of chutzpah is the revelation that Congress has voted to impose Obamacare on everyone but NOT those who wrote the #@$%-ing law!

From the article at The New Ledger...

For as long as the political fight took over the past year, the abbreviated review process on the health care legislation currently pending on President Obama’s desk is unquestionably going to result in some surprises — as happens with any piece of mashed-up legislation — both for the congressmen who voted for it and for the American people.

One such surprise is found on page 158 of the legislation, which appears to create a carveout for senior staff members in the leadership offices and on congressional committees, essentially exempting those senior Democrat staffers who wrote the bill from being forced to purchase health care plans in the same way as other Americans.

There is much, much more in Ben Domenech's eyeball-popping writeup at the above link, dear readers.

I guess Orwell had it right: some people are more equal than others.

Snack bar in Pompeii reopens for first time since 79 A.D.

The last time that the thermopolium in Pompeii, Italy enjoyed patronage was August 24th, 79 A.D. And then nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted and completely buried the city. The stylish snack bar was evacuated in such a hurry that the tip jar was even left behind.

As of this week and under new management (previous owner Vetutius Placidus having long since retired or worse), the thermopolium of Pompeii has reopened for the first time in 1,921 years, and is reportedly already enjoying a thriving business! The menu for the first day included sugary treats that Roman citizenry were known to enjoy, but from here on out the thermopolium will be serving up a more modern repast.

(And probably a good thing too, 'cuz the "sell by" dates on the potato chips have no doubt long, long since expired.)

Click on the link above for more!

For everyone who's watching LOST (about tonight's episode)...

"Ab Aeterno", this week's episode of Lost, will presumably - at long last - give us the story of Richard Alpert: the man who doesn't age.

And this installment is apparently so important that it will broadcast six minutes longer than most regular episodes.

Bear that in mind and set your DVRs accordingly!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why Republicans WON'T try to repeal health care overhaul

Michael D. Tanner of the Cato Institute has written an essay about the costs of Obamacare, which passed the House last night (and which I nearly reacted to on this blog with a blunt "We are sooo f-cked", before better angels of my nature prevailed).

In his article Tanner makes the following prediction, and I thought it was well worth making note of...

Republicans won't really try to repeal it. Republicans will run this fall on a promise to repeal this deeply unpopular bill, and will likely reap the political advantages of that promise. But in reality there is little chance of their following through. Even if Republicans were to take both houses of Congress, they would still face a presidential veto and a Democratic filibuster.

But more important, once an entitlement is in place, it becomes virtually impossible to take away. The fact that Republicans have been criticizing Obamacare for cutting Medicare shows that they are not really willing to take the heat for cutting people's benefits once they have them — no matter how unaffordable those benefits are. Paul Ryan put forth a serious plan for entitlement reform — and attracted just six co-sponsors at last count. Enough said.

Sadly, I suspect that Tanner will be proven correct about this. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if many Republicans are secretly happy that last night's health care "reform" passed and will soon be signed into law by President Obama.

Because the very massive public outcry against this legislation is a huge carrot that a lot - if not most - of the Republicans in or running for high office will be using to lure Americans into "vote for us!" Oh, I'm fairly sure (not positive, but have a gut feeling) that the Republicans will take control of the House and Senate come November. But if there is any effort to repeal Obamacare it will only be a token gesture. There will be some bills passed in Congress, and Obama will veto them all (I doubt there'll be a supermajority in Congress to override that). And then we won't hear anything about it again because the Republicans in general will boo-hoo about "it's too hard for us to fight the veto". And of course they will use that to justify that we the people merely need to elect more Republicans.

And nothing will change.

Fercryingoutloud, the GOP had the White House and both houses of Congress for six years. Did government decrease in size at all during that period?! Hell no it didn't! On the Republicans' watch it increased more than any other time in living memory, until last night. If anyone seriously believes that things will be any different the next time the Republicans "have the power", I've some oceanfront property in Nebraska to sell.

The Republicans have been promising to revoke the "right" to abortion for three and a half decades. They haven't done it yet. I'm not entertaining any optimism that they will be more rigorous in ridding us of this latest embiggening of big government.

So let me wrap this up by writing what I perhaps should have said last night, because there are times when a writer has done his absolute best to articulate his sentiments to the fullest but can sincerely go no further without violating the mores of polite society...

We are sooooo fucked.

God help us.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"So this is how liberty dies..."

"With thunderous applause."

Volcano erupts at Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland

From The Reykjavík Grapevine ...
Volcano Erupts Under Eyjafjallajökull

21.3.2010
Words by Haukur S. Magnússon

A volcanic eruption has just begun under the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. This has been verified by local authorities in neighbouring Hvolsvöllur. Vísir reports that farms in the Fljótshlíð area and by Markarhlíð are already being evacuated. Locals in the area have confirmed that they are viewing flames and a steady stream of lava from the glacier.

Eyjafjallajökull is an active central volcano. There is reportedly no recorded history of catastrophic eruptions in the area. The volcano last erupted 189 years ago and apparently caused a lot of ash fall in the area. Although speculation on the subject is pretty much useless (especially since your loving team of Grapevine reporters isn't really comprised of geologists or anything, although we scored pretty well in the subject in high school), folks are saying that besides the ash fall the greatest danger lies in glacier bursts or runs stemming from all that hot hot heat melting the glacier. There might be a bunch of water flooding the area pretty soon.

ANYWAY, this is all moot speculation. What we know at the moment is that a volcanic eruption is indeed occurring under the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, and that lava is really, really hot.

More on this as it develops. Hey, we might even be able to get you some pictures. Stay tuned.

I found this to be postworthy for three reasons. One, it seems that lately there's been a lot of geological activity all over the planet. Two, this kind of thing fascinates me.

But third and foremost, I thought it would be pretty neat to use the word "Eyjafjallajökull" on a blog entry :-)

Obamacare "health care reform" may be voted on today in the House

Obamacare should be sufficient proof that our federal government is "deem 'n pass"-essed.

I demand that Nancy Pelosi give me a lifetime supply of short-sleeve shirts. After all, the Constitution guarantees a "right to bare arms".

Obamacare is going to be a violation of the separation of church and state, because it violates my religious freedom on grounds that I believe that having insurance is a form of gambling.

Okay, seriously...

This will be the absolutely worst legislation passed in Congress in American history, if President Obama gets to sign it.

And incidentally, there is enormously strong historical evidence that socialized medicine would not be the first time that the politicians in Washington have screwed us over with "deem and pass".

(Hint: Google about "Philander Knox").

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More random wit and wisdom of Chris Knight...

Religion is how people run from God. Politics is how people run from sanity.

(With grateful acknowledgment to Charlotte Butler Wright, who came up with the first part and has it on her Facebook page. And I've witnessed the second part more times than I care to count.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

A textbook education in ignorance

A few days ago my friend and fellow blogger Matthew Federico addressed the situation with history education in the state of Texas. In case you missed that bit of news, last week the Texas State Board of Education voted 10 to 5 to make drastic changes to the history, social studies and economics curricula being taught in that state's schools.

The vote occurred along split partisan lines. The ten Republicans on the board voted for the curriculum changes and the five Democrats opposed it. The results have been both hailed and condemned as giving the teaching materials a "conservative" and "right-leaning" slant, as opposed to what some construe is a "liberal" one.

The reason this is going to be a big deal for the rest of the country is because Texas is one of the biggest consumers in the highly lucrative business of school textbooks. So if textbook publishers have to produce for the Texas market, those same learning materials will likely be adopted in other states.

Matthew wrote on his blog about how this smacks too much of political propaganda. And, he would be correct.

But what troubles me especially about this - and it's taken me a few days to really feel ready to articulate my thoughts on it - is that the Texas State Board of Education is perpetuating a terrible ignorance... and it has nothing to do with the ideological flavor of the textbooks that they will be using. I would be just as bothered by the board's actions if it had purposefully chosen an admittedly left-leaning curriculum.

The ten members of the board who voted for these changes demonstrated no wisdom or foresight by wielding their power in order to literally ensconce Newt Gingrich and the Moral Majority in the history books, or to remove entirely any mention of Thomas Jefferson as a leading intellectual guiding light of early America (huh?!). And it's even troubling that the board deliberately chose to remove Ross Perot's 1992 run for President from historical discussion (the 1994 "Contract with America" however did make it in).

Is it Republican/"conservative" propaganda? Hell yes it is. And it would be just as wrong if it were Democrat/"liberal" propaganda. The examination and deliberation of history should never be defined by and along partisan lines. History is a broad tapestry, and to selectively pull this thread or that one out of it is to cheapen and make worthless the work entire.

But that still isn't what is particularly frustrating me about what the Texas State Board of Education has chosen to do. No, what irks me the most is that in spite of its sworn duty and very title, the board has chosen not to educate young minds, but to rather instill unquestioning obedience to the status quo and a paradigm fast approaching obsolescence.

Education is supposed to be a thing that transforms a person into an enlightened individual. The intended result of education should be a person capable of wise choice, rational mind, and liberty to pursue the exercise of personal conscience. In short: education is that which most empowers one to be free... including the freedom to question The Way Things Are.

The Texas State Board of Education, however, has chosen to compel the millions of children in its charge to accept The Way Things Are without question. And I would say that regardless of which ideology the curricula was being slanted toward. The Texas State Board of Education however has taken an education of ignorance to an entire new level of brazenness. The board - along with all other school boards in the United States - should be doing its damndest to encourage its students to not think in terms of "conservative and liberal". That is a dichotomy as false as anything could possibly be. It is also one that I am increasingly seeing is being challenged and questioned by a growing number of people.

But it's not freedom of mind that the Republicans of Texas' state school board have shown they are interested in by this course of action. Rather, they have demonstrated that they want, in their own way, to continue propping up the two-party puppet show that is destroying America.

Well, America isn't going to be saved for our children by the party faithful of either the Democrats or the Republicans. If America is going to have any future at all, it's going to come by the hard work, tireless efforts and even sacrifice of those who refused to abide by The Way Things Are.

The Texas State Board of Education had an opportunity to lead the way in this country by an infusion of fresh blood. Instead it chose to continue a condition of terminal anemia.

Perhaps there is a country in history that has thrived on a determined education in ignorance and apathy. But if there is one, it's not coming to the mind of this writer. And I doubt that Texas, as a state, is going to prove to be any different.

Want a new house? This new gadget will PRINT you out one

3-D printing is starting to become quite a commercially viable technology. And now a smart-thinkin' dude named Enrico Dini has raised the game bigtime with the D-Shape printer: a large-scale printer that consumes sand and along with magnesium-based glue, can churn out furniture, sculpture... and even entire buildings!

Dini suggests that in the future, his technique could be used to quickly establish a base on the Moon by supplying it with native lunar dust and building required structures from there, instead of hauling material from Earth.

Hit here for more about the D-Shape printer, which will probably be pretty cheap when it comes to market... but the cost of the ink cartridges will be insane! :-P

Mapping Christianity in North America

Click the image below to drastically embiggen this map of Christian denominational distribution across the United States, Canada and Mexico courtesy of the cartographical geniuses at Floatingsheep...

That big green chunk of geography represents overwhelmingly Baptist populations. The "thin red line" stretching roughly from northern Virginia across to the Midwest is primarily Methodist. Mormons are chiefly located across Utah and the western states. Lutherans have their stronghold around the Great Lakes. Catholics are heavily settled in New England. And if you examine the map further you can find places populated by the Amish, Presbyterians, Seventh-Day Adventists, Orthodox and Anglicans.

Pretty neat!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Google accuses Viacom of secretly uploading its own videos to YouTube (WOW!!!)

This is gonna be a helluva fun thing to watch. I'm getting the popcorn ready even now...

Media conglomermonster Viacom - which has tied up the video hosting service in litigation for the past three years over "copyright infringement" - is now said to have been secretly uploading its own videos to the Google-owned website!

From the statement on the official YouTube blog, pertaining to court documents made public earlier today...

Because content owners large and small use YouTube in so many different ways, determining a particular copyright holder’s preference or a particular uploader’s authority over a given video on YouTube is difficult at best. And in this case, it was made even harder by Viacom’s own practices.

For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately "roughed up" the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko's to upload clips from computers that couldn't be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt "very strongly" that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.

Viacom's efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site. As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.

Given Viacom’s own actions, there is no way YouTube could ever have known which Viacom content was and was not authorized to be on the site. But Viacom thinks YouTube should somehow have figured it out. The legal rule that Viacom seeks would require YouTube -- and every Web platform -- to investigate and police all content users upload, and would subject those web sites to crushing liability if they get it wrong.

Good. Lord.

If true, Viacom's actions are about the most boneheaded legal maneuver pertaining to digital entertainment that I can think of since Universal tried to sue Nintendo for using Donkey Kong to infringe on King Kong when Universal didn't own King Kong to begin with. That case became a huge victory for Nintendo and helped propel it to being the corporate giant that it is today. Might this allegation - if found to be true - prove to be a similar boon for YouTube? Yeah, I think it's possible.

Click here for more about this story, and the learned minds that are Slashdot readers are already contributing their trademark colorful thoughts to the matter.

EDIT 6:48 p.m. EST: Do not think for one moment that I am NOT hysterically giggling about this turn of events, for reasons that should be more than obvious :-)

NATIONAL POLICE GAZETTE returns and brings back tales of ribaldry most foul!

Way, waaay back in 1845 began publication of National Police Gazette. In many aspects it was the forerunner of such uniquely American journalistic institutions as The National Enquirer, Howard Stern and... maybe blogs like this one! National Police Gazette had a long and illustrious run (and quite an illustrated one as you can see from the image on the left) up until 1977.

And today it's making a comeback, courtesy of Steven Westlake and his alter-ego, "proprietor William A. Mays". Westlake has propelled National Police Gazette into the 21st century via the Internet and it is a scream of a good read! Aim here for the National Police Gazette website. And the website Ragazine has posted an in-depth interview with Westlake that provides even more history about this groundbreaking publication and its return.

Ten unbelievably awesome low-pass flybys

This clip begins with that scene from Top Gun where Tom Cruise buzzes the control tower. And it then proceeds to assault your senses (and possibly good sense) with ten low-altitude flybys that Hollywood probably wouldn't dare do without 'spensive computer graphics. But these are real. And #3 on this list had me literally grabbing at my own head, it's so scary! That dude on the ground has some brass ones...

Okay, #3 is maybe all the more amazing for me 'cuz the pilot is flying upside-down. And I once saw a plane crash at an air show. It was in 1996 here in Rockingham County, and the dude in the cockpit was doing a low-altitude maneuver upside-down over the runway. It happened right in front of where we were sitting and it looked horrific. But he got out with just a few scratches and I heard that the plane was even flyable again not long afterward. But when we're looking at a multi-million dollar piece of military hardware doing the same thing... yah, gotta admire the cajones there!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Consolation for the UNC Chapel Hill fans

For what it's worth, I had this thought today:

The Tarheels now finally have the opportunity to achieve something they've never earned before...

A National Invitational Tournament championship banner hanging from the rafters of the Dean Dome! :-P

"Recon": Post-episode reaction to tonight's LOST

Last week's episode of Lost, "Dr. Linus", I've watched again five or six times from the DVR and it keeps getting better and better.

So maybe that's affecting me somewhat, but I thought that "Recon", tonight's installment, was a bit of a step down. That's bothersome because there are only about ten hours or so left of this show's run to tie up all the loose ends. But I'll maintain faith in showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof: Lost has surprised the bejeebers out of us before. It's only fitting that it keeps doing it up 'til the grand finale.

Anyhoo, "Recon" wasn't the best of the Sawyer-centric episodes, but I found it fascinating all the same, and the flashsideways-es have finally begun to grow on me. We've seen Sawyer the con-man who was on Oceanic 815 when it crashed. "Recon" gave us Detective James Ford: the "Sawyer" that would have come about from the road not taken. I've long been intrigued by the notion of Schrodinger's cat. Well, that's the same kind of thing that I got out of "Recon" tonight: James "Sawyer" Ford is like a particle that you can't predict. He told Charlotte that he could have been a crook or a cop and he chose cop... but what made him be one in the "main" universe and be another in the alternate timeline?

What indeed? The thing that most comes to mind is choice: that most capricious of qualities.

And the more I think about it, "Recon" was an episode about choices and whether we have them. Does Sayid believe he has a choice? Does Claire, who seems to have chosen to put aside her hatred of Kate?

I couldn't help but notice that Kate didn't touch the fake Locke's hand when he extended it. Last week Richard told Jack and Hurley that his immortality was because Jacob had touched him long ago. Does the "Man in Black" possess a similar characteristic? Did Kate avoid something by not making physical contact with him?

Gonna have to watch this one again. In the meantime, I'll give "Recon" a 7.5 out of 10.

And in seven days apparently comes the episode that I thought we'd never see: Richard Alpert and his story. Dare we hope for a flashback to the Black Rock?!

I just opened my 2010 census form

And something that I noticed: the first question is the only one that is required by the Constitution. It asks how many people live at a given location. That first question is also in a highlighted box away from the others.

Beginning with question #5, the form starts asking for explicit details about each person living at the location. The exact working is "Please provide information..."

The way I see it, you only have to answer the one question that is constitutional (for purposes of congressional apportionment). Everything else on the form is merely a request for optional information.

In other words, simply put "1" or "2" or "4" or whatever, and send the census form back without putting down any more information than what the government is supposed to collect.

Although if you wish to have some fun with it, I suppose one could put down "Klingon" as their race.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Google Fiber follies

The nearby town of Greensboro has already been competing hard to be the "test bed" city for the Google Fiber ultra-high speed Internet. Now Winston-Salem has entered the race. All over the country medium-sized cities are doing things like changing their names to "Google" and other stunts so as to win the bid.

Ummmm... why?

Even if Google Fiber is 100 times faster than regular broadband, what good will it be? Within the winning city the Internet might work at blazing-hot speed, but the "normal" speed of the outside world will be a debilitating bottleneck. At least until Google Fiber gets rolled out sufficiently enough to take on a bulk of the data traffic.

It's like trying to win a contest for an SR-71 Blackbird without having a runway to launch it from. No doubt that it'll look real purty sitting in your backyard, but what's the use if you can't even fly the thing?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Peter Graves has passed away

The sad news is breaking this hour that Peter Graves has passed away at the age of 84.

Graves had a long run on Mission: Impossible, and appeared in Stalag 17. The most recent thing that I remember him being in was Seventh Heaven, when he played that preacher guy's father.

But a lot of people from my generation are going to know him best as Captain Ouver, the airline captain in the classic 1980 slapstick comedy Airplane!

So before you go looking for it, I've done the work for you. Here is Graves as Captain Ouver, asking Joey such things as "You ever seen a grown man naked?"

Farewell Mr. Graves, and thanks for the many thrills and laughs.

This is the greatest news headline in the history of anything...

From the Popular Science website:

Gold Nanoparticles and Lasers Kill the Brain Parasite That Causes "Crazy Cat Lady" Syndrome

Truly, we are living in the age of medical miracles!

(Thanks to Shane Thacker for spotting this.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Go see SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET at Weaver Academy this week!

If you're anywhere around Greensboro this next week, consider checking out Weaver Academy's production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I attended the performance tonight and it was riveting! It was definitely a show that was a cut above most that I have seen. In fact, I'm feeling hungry for more!

(Awright, that's enough of the puns...)

Anyway, the students at Weaver have put together a very good show and I'm glad for the opportunity to have been able to catch this. Sweeney Todd plays again on March 18th, 19th and 20th at Weaver Academy, located at 300 South Spring Street in Greensboro. Showtime is at 7 and tickets are $12. The only thing I regret to inform my readers about is that complimentary meat pie is not served during the performance... but don't let that stop y'all from enjoying it as well! :-)

IRS harasses carwash for delinquent taxes of FOUR CENTS

A few days ago two "dark-suited IRS agents" - described by Aaron Zeff as "deadly serious, very aggressive, very condescending" - arrived at Harv's Metro Car Wash in Sacramento, California: a business establishment owned by Mr. Zeff.

So what was the Internal Revenue Service doing at Harv's Metro Car Wash, you may ask?

Here's the story from the Sacramento Bee...

The letter that was hand-delivered to Zeff's on-site manager showed the amount of money owed to the feds was ... 4 cents.

Inexplicably, penalties and taxes accruing on the debt – stemming from the 2006 tax year – were listed as $202.31, leaving Harv's with an obligation of $202.35.

Zeff, who also owns local parking lots and is the president of the Midtown Business Association, finds the situation a bit comical.

"It's hilarious," he says, "that two people hopped in a car and came down here for just 4 cents. I think (the IRS) may have a problem with priorities."

Taking into account the gas that was burned for transport to and from the carwash, the salaries of the two IRS agents, the official paperwork describing the delinquent taxes (Lord only knows how much that is) and other expenses, it wouldn't surprise me if the United States federal government spent $400 in the pursuit of $0.04 from Mr. Zeff.

President Obama wants to "overhaul" No Child Left Behind

Ahhhhh geez, not this sh-t again.

As if making an admittedly imperfect health care system even more broken isn't enough, President Barack Obama now wants to "restructure" No Child Left Behind.

When the hell are we ever going to get a President that is going to be content to simply govern wisely, instead of being fixated on putting his imprint on everything?

So now Obama is determined to "improve" No Child Left Behind: one of the biggest blunders of the all-too-blunderful misadministration of George W. Bush.

Pssst... hey, Obama. Wanna do something for once that will make a lot of people sing your praises? Then don't "overhaul" No Child Left Behind, but instead scrap the whole damned thing entirely!!!

If Obama did that one thing, then I might entertain the notion of casting a vote for him in 2012.

Would he do that? Probably not. Far too many of our elected officials are fools to egotism rather than followers of wisdom, and the chief executive of the land is no different.

Friday, March 12, 2010

THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS premieres tomorrow at SXSW!

A friendly reminder for those of you lucky enough to be attending South By Southwest (SXSW) 2010 in Austin, Texas (which begins today) that Alexandre O. Philippe's much-anticipated documentary The People vs. George Lucas will have its world premiere tomorrow night!

Man oh man, wish I could be going to this thing (I will be attending a production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street this weekend though :-). The People vs. George Lucas has already started garnering some high-profile attention and it's prolly gonna skyrocket after tomorrow night.

Here's the latest trailer for it. And yes: that is Melody Hallman Daniel from our own film Forcery that you see at 44 seconds into it!

Alexandre has told me that he wound up using Forcery quite a bit in The People vs. George Lucas. So, I am delighted that I got to make a bit of contribution to what will no doubt be a most excellent movie :-)

Anyhoo, if you're at SXSW 2010, check it out!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

UNC Chapel Hill loses 62-58 to Georgia Tech tonight! Tarheels out of ACC Tournament, aren't going to NCAA Tournament and probably WON'T be in the NIT either!!!

There is absolutely no reason for making this entry, other than because Lord only knows when the next time will be that I get to do a post like this one :-P

Most weirdest Star Wars-related post I've EVER made

There is a girl who can discern different Star Wars characters while blindfolded by putting them in her mouth and sucking on them.

I never want to have to write a summary sentence like that again.

Sophia Heesch, a teenager from Germany, was recently on a TV show in that country called Wetten, dass...? (translated into English it's "Wanna Bet...?") demonstrating her... talent. Sophia, without looking at it, can be given a Star Wars LEGO minifigure and just from sucking on it and feeling with her tongue, can tell whether the minifig is Han Solo or Yoda, and even more unusual characters like the ASP Droid.

Here is the clip of Sophia showing off her amazing powers!

Wetten, dass...? is a German game show, so apparently Sophia won some money. Remember that next time you yell at your kids for putting toys in their mouths :-P

Betty White to host SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on May 8th

Read all about it here.

If you joined one of the many Facebook groups that have sprung up to get this to happen in the past month, give yourself a pat on the back.

Maybe this is what it takes to get something done in the world today: just start up a Facebook group, like "Let's See if this African Dung Beetle can get more fans than Glenn Beck!"

(For the record, I've not once listened to Glenn Beck or watched him on television, and only know what he looks like from the covers of his books.)

Sorta like that "electronic town hall" that Ross Perot suggested back in 1992. Who'da thunk that he was foreseeing Facebook? :-)

Pics of the fake Intel Core i7 processor

Earlier this week came one of the more bizarre stories that I've heard about relating to personal computers, when popular online retailer NewEgg announced that a number of the new Intel Core i7 CPUs that it had shipped turned out to be counterfeit! Yeah, a bogus microprocessor. And I joined no doubt a sizable portion of people scratching our collective head and asking "What the...?!"

So if you're wondering what a non-functioning imitation Intel Core i7-920 processor looks like, the staff at Gearlog got their hands on one of boxes that came from NewEgg (which has already ended it supply relationship with IPEX, where the fake CPUs originated). See that CPU fan? That's really a piece of mere molded plastic!

If you think that's something, click on the link for plenty more photos. Including a close-up of the alleged microprocessor.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

As of this evening...

I have officially begun production of my first real film project in more than three years.

And it feels great!

What's happened since Schrodinger's Bedroom in 2007? A heapin' helpin' of real life stuff, most of which I ain't even begun to intimate at on this blog. Yah, last summer we destroyed Burlington, North Carolina with giant monsters and it was a hoot. But I've been dying to do something that will engage my creative juices for more than a weekend's worth of work :-)

And there have been a lot of ideas that I want to follow through on (including Keys, the script for which has been done for quite some time now) but I'm holding off on those for the time being, for various reasons.

This one though, feels just right. For me as a person, and also as a filmmaker for the much-needed jumpstart/kick in the pants that I need.

This is probably the craziest project that I've worked on yet.

Lord willing we'll start filming later this spring. The title role has already been cast (it ain't me, and it's no one who's done a KWerky Productions film with us before). But there'll be plenty of room for involvement. So if you're in North Carolina or Virginia or thereabouts and if you can act or come up with music (especially music) or have some firearms that you can loan us, write us at kwerkyproductions@gmail.com and tell us what ya got!

Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" + BATTLESTAR GALACTICA = Awesome!

This one's going out to all of y'all who are fans of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. A dude named Katamaran78 on YouTube has created this amazing video using clips from the show and the song "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys. The result? A spectacular shot-for-shot Galactica-style interpretation of Spike Jonez's classic music video.

Here 'tis...

There are bunches of "Sabotage" mash-ups floating around, but this one is probably the best that I've seen yet (and I never even really watched Battlestar Galactica... but this video is making me want to check it out :-)

Why is the United States Department of Education buying shotguns?

Click here for the official purchase order for 27 Remington shotguns, deliverable to the Department of Education.

And here's the full text, in case it goes down the proverbial "memory hole" (or if you're too lazy to hit the link)...

Remington Shotguns
Solicitation Number: EDOOIG-10-000004
Agency: Department of Education
Office: Contracts & Acquisitions Management
Location: Contracts (All ED Components)

Synopsis:
Added: Mar 08, 2010 10:39 am

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) intends to purchase twenty-seven (27) REMINGTON BRAND MODEL 870 POLICE 12/14P MOD GRWC XS4 KXCS SF. RAMAC #24587 GAUGE: 12 BARREL: 14" - PARKERIZED CHOKE: MODIFIED SIGHTS: GHOST RING REAR WILSON COMBAT; FRONT - XS CONTOUR BEAD SIGHT STOCK: KNOXX REDUCE RECOIL ADJUSTABLE STOCK FORE-END: SPEEDFEED SPORT-SOLID - 14" LOP are designated as the only shotguns authorized for ED based on compatibility with ED existing shotgun inventory, certified armor and combat training and protocol, maintenance, and parts.
The required date of delivery is March 22, 2010.
Interested sources must submit detailed technical capabilities and any other information that demonstrates their ability to meet the requirements above, no later than March 12, 2010 at 12 PM, E.S.T. Any quotes must be submitted electronically to the attention of Holly.Le@ed.gov, Contract Specialist (Contract Operations Group), with a concurrent copy to Sherese.Lewis@ed.gov, Contracting Officer (Contract Operations Group).
The following clauses are applicable to this requirement:

52-212-1 Instruction to Offerors - Commercial Items
52.212-2 Evaluation - Commercial Items
52.212-3 Offeror Representations and Certifications - Commercial Items
52.212-4 Contract Terms and Conditions - Commercial Items
52.212-5 Contract Terms and Conditions Required Implementing Statutes or Executive Orders - Commercial Items

In accordance with 52.212-2, the fill-in applicable to this requirement is below:
52.212-2 Evaluation-Commercial Items.
As prescribed in 12.301(c), the Contracting Officer may insert a provision substantially as follows:
Evaluation-Commercial Items (Jan 1999)
(a) The Government will award a contract resulting from this solicitation to the responsible offeror whose offer conforming to the solicitation will be most advantageous to the Government, price and other factors considered. The following factors shall be used to evaluate offers:
(i) Technical Capability
(ii) Price
In accordance with 52.212-5, the following clauses are applicable to this requirement:
52.225-1 Buy American Act - Supplies (February 2009)
52.232-33, Payment by Electronic Funds Transfer-Central

New equipment only; no remanufactured products. No partial shipments
Offer must be good for 30 calendar days after submission.
Offerors must have current Central Contractor Registration (CCR) at the time offer is submitted. Information can be found at www.ccr.gov.
This is a combined synopsis/solicitation for commercial items in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 12, Acquisition of Commercial Items. The Government will award a commercial item purchase order to the offeror with the most advantageous offer to the government. All offerors must submit their best price and delivery capabilities.

Place of Delivery:
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Inspector General
c/o: Gary Pawlak, Special Agent
500 West Madison Street - Suite 1414
Chicago, IL 60661

Contracting Office Address:
550 12th Street, SW, 7th Floor
Washington, District of Columbia 20202

Okay so... anyone wanna speculate as to what this is about?

Pelosi sez: Pass healthcare bill "so that you can find out what is in it"

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made the following startling comment yesterday morning during her address at the 2010 Legislative Conference for National Association of Counties...
"You've heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don't know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it's about diet, not diabetes. It's going to be very, very exciting.

"But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy. Furthermore, we believe that health care reform, again I said at the beginning of my remarks, that we sent the three pillars that the President's economic stabilization and job creation initiatives were education and innovation—innovation begins in the classroom—clean energy and climate, addressing the climate issues in an innovative way to keep us number one and competitive in the world with the new technology, and the third, first among equals I may say, is health care, health insurance reform. Health insurance reform is about jobs. This legislation alone will create 4 million jobs, about 400,000 jobs very soon."

I chose to quote a good portion of Pelosi's remarks, lest anyone accuse me of taking her out of context. You can read the full text of her speech here.

And look! Video!

What the #@$& is Pelosi saying?! Good Lord, is this woman thinking at all?! What the #@$& kind of "transparency" is that supposed to be?! "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it"?!

Hell, there could be anything in that monstrosity.

And brazenly adding that this is to avoid "the fog of the controversy"?! Mrs. Pelosi, if it weren't for that "controversy" then people like you would be able to get away with damned near whatever you wanted to do. What you call "controversy" is all too often the final tenuous precaution against a nation sliding full-bore into tyranny.

This woman has no business being anywhere in the government of a democratically-elected constitutional republic... let alone as the head speaker of its primary representative legislative body.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

"Dr. Linus": Post-episode reaction to tonight's LOST

So all this past week I've been inwardly bemoaning how this show needs to ratchet things up with ten regular episodes left before the series finale.

And then showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse bring us "Dr. Linus" (an episode directed by Mario Van Peebles, by the way), which was totally off the chain already for 59 minutes and then in the last 30 seconds...

Charles Widmore has returned.

That can't possibly be a good thing. Looks like that hella war for the Island is about to kick off bigtime.

Best. Season Six. Episode. Yet.

Which is what I had expected, since it was pretty obvious from the title that this was going to be a Ben-centric installment of Lost. The episodes focusing on Michael Emerson's character Benjamin Linus have been some of the strongest of the show's entire run. I wasn't disappointed at all. And in fact, this might have been the best of the Ben-intensive episodes. Certainly one of the best overall.

Other highlights: possibly the revelation of why Richard can't age (which we got before watching the most explosive game of chicken ever). The reason why Frank wasn't flying Oceanic 815. And even a hilarious wink toward the Nikki and Paulo fiasco.

But the highlight of this episode was the continuing evolution of Benjamin Linus from a cold-blooded schemer toward becoming a repentant human being longing for redemption. And on that note I thought that the "flashsideways" for this episode was the best of the season by far.

If the rest of the season can measure up to this one, then we are in for some of the greatest television ever.

I'll give "Dr. Linus" a 9.3 out of 10.

EDIT 10:31 p.m. EST: Am re-watching this episode and totally forgot about Ben's history lesson in the "X" timeline about Napoleon's exile on Elba. That's gotta be a big hint about the Man in Black's own nature and history. And the exchange between Ben and Locke in the teachers lounge? Pure Lost subtlety.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The first TRON LEGACY trailer has arrived!

Yowza!!!


Zap here to see the first trailer for Tron Legacy.

And December 17th can not get here fast enough. This is already looking like it's gonna be one of the greatest sequels ever.

More late night theologicalizing

Something that may or may not make it into the eventual publication of "The Chris Knight Dictionary" (working title)...
Salvation: (noun) That which can not be earned, can not be achieved, but nonetheless must be desired in order to acquire.
Comments, as always, are more than welcome.

HTML 5 is coming... and what's arriving with it

Not since I first began finagling with web pages in 1995 have I been so intrigued in a markup specification like the forthcoming HTML 5. Among other things it aims to get rid of embedded Flash video and similar presentations with a simple video tag.

(Meh. Don't particularly care for that one just yet. I don't really see what the problem is with Flash, other than it won't work on iPhone and other mobile devices but that's an issue of Flash's interactivity colliding with touch-screens.)

Anyhoo, Neil McAllister has an in-depth essay about HTML 5 and what we can expect from it at the InfoWorld site. Well worth reading even if you're just a casual tinkerer with HTML.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Saw THE CRAZIES this weekend

Whilst out and about yesterday I got to see The Crazies, which opened a little over a week ago.

The Crazies was a movie that wasn't quite what I was expecting, but was far better than I had anticipated. I haven't seen the 1973 original directed by George Romero (who also produced this remake) but from what I understand the premise is the same: a military cargo plane crashes near a small town and begins leaking something into the water supply. The "something" in question happens to be a virus engineered for biological warfare. Needless to say, this can't end well for the people of Ogden Marsh, Iowa. Usually decent-minded folks begin going mad with homicidal tendencies. And then like what usually happens in tales like this, the military comes in to mop-up the mess and try to contain the infection before it spreads out into the wider world.

I think what makes The Crazies stand out most to me in terms of modern-day cinematic retelling is that this is a film that doesn't use the opportunity to pour on the extra gory. Director Breck Eisner took the road less traveled and made The Crazies a story about survival against the odds, instead of focusing too much time on the nastier things that the virus is causing these people to do. I liked that. It's not something that is often seen in modern horror movies but I appreciated it greatly.

By the way, don't leave just yet as the movie ends. There's one more bit of The Crazies that plays during the credits that you won't wanna miss.

Iceland citizens vote no on government bailout of failed bank

I don't get it: why don't those Icelanders take on the extra $3.5 billion in debt that would have been incurred by their politicians bailing out the British and Dutch for the failure of Landsbanki, by borrowing more money and creating massive inflation of the currency?

I mean, that's what we do here in the United States, ain't it?!

Seriously though: nice to see some fiscal sanity in this world. Maybe our Icelandic friends could consider exporting some of that here.

Mash down here for more of the story. Worth keeping an eye on as no doubt the European Community is going to be looking to retaliate against Iceland for its gumption.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Score tonight: Duke 82, UNC 50

It was like watching the old "Four Corners" play that the Tarheels were notorious for before the institution of the shot clock... but with the Tarheels losing!

Look, I'm not all that much of a sports fanatic, but something is seriously off-kilter in this state so far as basketball goes.

As one friend put it a few weeks ago, it's pretty sad when the best team in North Carolina right now is the Bobcats :-P

It's Steven Glaspie and three bestselling Star Wars authors!

This morning good friend and fellow Eagle Scout Steven Glaspie (who needs to update his blog sometime: something about being too busy with his sweet lass of a girlfriend lately...) and I went to StellarCon 34 in High Point. 'Twas Steven's very first sci-fi convention. Well, he didn't know as much going in but I'd already heard that three of his favorite Star Wars writers were going to be there. I've met with Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston quite a few times over the years (including an interview I got to with Zahn for TheForce.net years ago) and had some photos with each of them already. But for Steven, it was an entirely new experience! So I got a pic of all of them together...


(left to right: Michael Stackpole, Steven Glaspie, Timothy Zahn, Aaron Allston)

Allston, Stackpole and Zahn did a panel discussion for an hour and a half this morning that we got to attend, and Steven and I both came away very thankful and appreciative of what these three writers shared with everyone.

Okay Steven, feel free to put that pic on your blog. Or do something to update it, bro! :-P

THE WICKER MAN featuring Jim Henson's Muppets

I would pay to see Muppet Studios make a real project out of this...

Cartoonist Paul O'Connell has created this OUTRAGEOUSLY smart mash-up of animated felt and pagan ritual: a homage to both the Muppets and the classic 1973 horror movie The Wicker Man. I honked out loud with laughter at Kermit playing Sergeant Howie, but it's Gonzo taking Christopher Lee's place as Lord Summerisle that really fixes this spoof into your gray matter.

Click on the above link for more.

Security Theatre: Full-body scanners begin to be deployed (and how to possibly foil those using them)

Eleven airports - most of them in the Midwest and California but also Charlotte-Douglas International here in North Carolina - will be the first in the country to receive the full-body scanners that create a virtually naked image of the person being examined and leave nothing to the imagination.

The Transportation Security Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security over it, claims that the images created by these machines are not stored in any way.

Does anybody possessing more than the minimum neurons for a working ganglia honestly believe anything that this asshat excuse for a government tells us anymore?

This is simply more "security theatre": measures that make it look like our government is sincerely doing something to deter "the terrists" but in reality is just a multi-billion dollar puppet show.

If the government was serious about both stopping terrorism and serving its people, domestic airports would adopt the tactics of those in Israel. I'm told by many people that the average time between arriving at the terminal at Ben Gurion International Airport and then coming to the gate for departure is around 15 to 25 minutes... with no shoes being removed and certainly no full-body scans! And Israel has a helluva lot fewer problems with airborne terrorism as a result (like, none at all).

What are the Israelis doing that we Americans aren't? From the moment a passenger arrives at the ticket counter onward, he or she is being observed by airport staff. That pretty lady behind the counter who's pleasantly asking you about your trip and your business? She's actually watching how you react to her questions. Israeli airport personnel are fully trained to watch for nervousness, hesitancy, and a lot of other indications that I could only speculate about. If there's enough reason to deem a person to be of interest as a potential threat, that person is discreetly taken aside and questioned without disrupting service to any other passengers.

It's a very simple system and it works brilliantly! And if the United States government had any sense it would adopt a similar plan for our own air travel.

I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen though. Nor do I plan on partaking in any air travel if it can at all be avoided.

But in the even that do have to travel by plane, I intend to purchase several packs of these things. Allegedly they're supposed to really work in defeating the peculiar wavelengths of the full-body scanners. So my scheme is to get several of them and assemble some makeshift undergarments that will not only shield me from the radiation of the scanners, but will also display the letters "F U" across what would otherwise be my bare behind.

Don't think that I wouldn't do it, either!

Friday, March 05, 2010

1992 prison training video... starring Michael Emerson!

Right about the same time that Benjamin Linus was helping the Island's indigenous natives by betraying his fellow DHARMA Initiative members in the Purge, the man who would one day portray him on Lost was getting some acting work under his belt. Like this strange training video intended for correctional facilities.

Here is Michael Emerson as prison counselor "Mr. Andrews". And I think you'll agree: even at this early stage in his career, we can see Ben Linus peeking out from behind those eyes of Emerson...

I'm sure that with some clever editing Mr. Higgins could be replaced with Michael screaming and ranting "WAAAAAAALT!!!" :-P

Physicists create "negatively-strange antihypermatter"

Someday in our foreseeable future, our children will be learning about chemistry with a periodic table that looks something like this...

...no thanks to researchers conducting experiments with the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

According to this article at The Register (which reads disturbingly too much like a quantum physics essay written by Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange) the "topflight international reverse-alchemy boffins say they have managed to transmute gold into an entirely new form of 'negatively strange' antihypernucleic antimatter, ultra-bizarre stuff which cannot possibly occur naturally - except perhaps inside the cores of collapsed stars."

In layman's terms it's a new form of matter whose strangeness is less than zero but probably not too boring.

I'm currently hopped-up on allergy medicine, and I still have no idea what the hell all of that means.

CBS SUNDAY MORNING this week to spotlight Neil Gaiman!

Neil Gaiman, in the opinion of a very many people, is one of the greatest and most masterful writers of our modern age. Lately I've found myself re-reading his classic Sandman series and found myself enjoying it just as much today as I did when I first discovered it years ago... if not more so.

Well if you also appreciate Gaiman's work, you'll be pleased to know that according to his Twitter page, Neil Gaiman will be the focus of a segment this weekend on CBS Sunday Morning...

Looks like the CBS Sunday Morning profile of me goes out this Sunday. In the morning. Barring natural disasters or breaking news of course.
Very cool! I'm a way longtime viewer of CBS Sunday Morning and have always enjoyed its stories and unique pace. Somehow, a feature on Neil Gaiman seems just perfect.

(By the way, have I ever told y'all that I can do a spot-on impersonation of late creator of CBS Sunday Morning Charles Kuralt? Maybe I should post that as a YouTube clip sometime :-)

CBS Sunday Morning comes on at 9 a.m. EST, but check yer local listings to be sure and set those DVRs!

This came to mind while working on stuff this morning

God will take us just as we are... and He won't stop working to make us more than we were.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A clarification of policy

I don't do predictions about politics. Politics is too predictable.

Found: The meaning of life!

Longtime friend and filmmaking collaborator "Weird" Ed Woody found the following and sent it this way. I don't know who came up with it, but it's hilarious! 'Twas screaming to be shared with y'all :-)
The Meaning of Life Explained

On the first day, God created the dog and said, "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years." The dog said, "That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?" So God agreed...

On the second day, God created the monkey and said, "Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span." The monkey said, "Monkey tricks for twenty years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?" And God agreed...

On the third day, God created the cow and said, "You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years." The cow said, "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I'll give back the other forty?" And God agreed again...

On the fourth day, God created humans and said, "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years." But the human said, "Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back? That makes eighty, okay?"

"Okay," said God. "You asked for it."

So that is why for our first twenty years, we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years, we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.