Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Saturday With Randy

Join me on this Saturday. The video is a bit crappy, since my little six-year-old Gateway camera does pretty good on still shots, but video is sorely lacking. But it is better than nothing. Maybe someday I'll get one of those cool HD pocket video cameras.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Google Maps Screw Up

Google Maps has a major screw up. I noticed this when I was looking at Interstate 79 where it crosses from Pennsylvania to West Virginia near Morgantown. Look at this labels Pennsylvania as Tennessee. Tennessee & West Virginia do not even share a border at all. The mighty Google is not infallible after all!

Poor Little Laika

Fifty-two years ago today, November 3, 1957, the evil commies launched poor little Laika to her death by putting her in space with no plan to get her back. She succumbed to heat and stress hours into her space flight. She was the first living thing to be sent into space.

The cage is very small
A tiny silver ball
That makes you a hero
The moment you step inside
The world is watching you
What youre about to do
Will live on forever
Even though youll be dead
And gone
Buckle up
Were about to turn the engines on.


Hello from Sputnik 2
I am receiving you
Thanks for the dog food
Im somewhere above you now
Guess what Malashenkov?
I took the collar off
Im holding my own leash
And walking myself outside
This door
I dont think
I want to be a good dog anymore.

Now Im floating free
And the moons with me
And its bright enough
To light the dark

And its so high up here
And the stars so clear -
Are they close enough?
Will they hear me bark from here?

Moscow to Sputnik 2
I think were losing you
Your life signs are fading
We cant really say that were
Its a shame
There is always something that gets compromised

Now Im floating free
And the moons with me
And its bright enough
To light the dark

And its so high up here
And the stars so clear -
Are they close enough?
Will they hear me bark from here?

Charlotte's Rough Economic Ride May Not Be Over

It has been a year since the implosion of Charlotte-based Wachovia ended up with that banking giant being absorbed into Wells Fargo. Now two more blows may be in the offing. Bank of America, whose name is on everything from their Uptown Charlotte headquarters building to the Carolina Panthers' stadium, is seeking a new CEO. News Talk 1110 WBT is reporting that 98 percent of BoA's business comes from divisions headquartered elsewhere. What's more, the heads of those divisions have no ties to The Queen City. Add to that, the fact that CEO Ken Lewis is stepping down, and it is feared that a new CEO will move the corporate nerve center out of town.

Then today, US Airways CEO, Doug Parker, was in town just a few days after announcing a major downsizing of both routes and personnel. Service is being scaled back, and some cities like Colorado Springs and Wichita, will be eliminated from the airlines flights altogether. There will also be 1000 jobs around the country vaporized by the restructuring. As I have mentioned in the past, US Airways holds a near monopoly on air travel into and out of Charlotte, with other carriers holding a small share of the traffic.

Mecklenburg County has a current official unemployment rate of over 11%. If worst case scenarios become reality for these two major employers, Charlotte and the entire Metrolina region may have an even deeper hole to dig out of. This is a very nice city. It would be a shame to see this occur. As other cities without a great amount of economic diversity, Charlotte's crown as a major banking center may end up being its undoing.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Sky Was Angry, My Friends!

Yesterday afternoon and evening, I was traveling back to Colorado from Charlotte. Even though there was a significant line of bad weather stretching from north to south from the Great Lakes to around Alabama, the plane ride was pretty smooth. This time, I had to change planes in Kansas City. Coming out of Charlotte's Douglas International Airport, there are not many choices than US Airways. This comes from its days as a hub for one of US Airways' predecessor carriers, Piedmont Airlines. So I had a flight on that airline which was a code share with United. At Kansas City International, I had to change over to a real United flight on to Denver.

I used to fly in and out of Kansas City with some regularity back in the late 1980s when I worked for Sprint. I used to like their terminal buildings, which are shaped like the letter "C", and you can get out of the car right next to your gate. No concourses to deal with. But in this post 9/11 world, that proves to be not such a good arrangement. The reason? That is because each airline has their own little area walled off by its gates. This means that in transferring from...oh, let's say US Airways to United have to leave the secure area for the former carrier and then go through the second carrier's security. You have to do the whole routine of shoes off, laptop out, and throw away your water bottle, even though you just got off a flight in a security-sterile environment.

But that wasn't the worst of it. The flight from Kansas City to Denver was one of the three most turbulent flights I have ever had. Not #1, but not far behind. You are totally helpless in that situation. All you can do is ride it out. You can't turn back, you can't get out, and you can only endure. At least I made it home for the weekend. Monday morning it's back to Charlotte. My suitcase full of dirty clothes back in North Carolina also awaits my return to wash them. Still, it should be a very good week ahead. Lots going on at work, and the deadlines continue to loom large.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lexington Barbeque Festival

Today is the 26th Annual Lexington Barbeque Festival in Lexington, North Carolina. It is a huge street festival that takes up about 2o or so blocks of downtown Lexington, the self-proclaimed "Barbeque Capital of the World". Here are a few photos from earlier this afternoon.

First, if you feel the swine flu coming on, you may need one of these shirts.

I never heard of a collard sandwich before. The couple in the picture must have thought I wanted their picture, since they stopped to pose. Then a guy walked in front of them.

1927 Pontiac

1949 Ford in cherry condition

Grill & hood ornament of a Hudson Terraplane auto

General Johnson and The Chairmen of the Board did a great set of Carolina Shag Beach Music

Wish they all could be Carolina girls...NOT!

Amazing sand sculpture of a haunted house

Davidson Covnty Covrt Hovse...faux Latin gives it a real touch of faux class

It is a barbeque festival after let's partake!

Two buns on top when you open up, and under the foil, red slaw and barbeque pig! MMMmmmm!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Quintessential Carolina Barbeque Joint

Yesterday, some delicious Carolina barbeque was the lunch pick of the day. Off to find Gary's Barbeque, a quintessential barbeque joint in China Grove, North Carolina. The barbeque pork plate was some slow smoked, chopped pork; a baked potato, the distinctive red Carolina barbeque slaw, a slice of tomato, and three delicious hush puppies. The sauces available were a sweet and smoky sauce of about a ketchup consistency. Very good. There was also a vinegar-based sauce that was very thin by comparison, but oh so tasty. To drink the North Carolina favorite soft drink, Cheerwine, was perfect with the barbeque. Cheerwine tastes something like a cherry Dr Pepper, but not quite. We were too full to order dessert, but our waitress brought out a generous "taste" of their homemade banana pudding.

This is my kind of place. I am not a fan of chain restaurants if I have a local eatery available.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You Want Sweet Tea, Shugah?

I can tell that I am in The South. Since I have been back in Charlotte, I have never seen so many biscuits. Yes, I do love biscuits, but they are in great abundance here, and with most every meal. You want fried food? No problem! As for ordering tea, the default here is "Sweet Tea", and man is it ever sweet. They sugar it up 'til it is very sweet. If I get it, I try to mix unsweetened tea to cut the sweetness down.

Oh yes, speaking of sugar, one must get used to it. The female waitstaff at just about every restaurant will call you "shugah", sweetie, or honey. I do declare, such Southern charm. :-)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina was once my home, but the changes are dramatic since I left 37 years ago. I have always wanted to come back for a visit, but I never dreamed of coming back here to live. Life sure throws some strange curve balls, and we will just have to see how this one plays out.

In any case, The Queen City is quite a lovely place. Unlike the open prairie of Colorado's Front Range, where you can see for miles; Charlotte seems like a forest. Trees everywhere, which seems so strange to me. Since I left, Charlotte became a major banking center, home to Bank of America (formerly NationsBank, formerly NCNB, formerly North Carolina National Bank), and Wachovia (now part of Wells Fargo). Since we taxpayers have had to bail out these big banks, I feel like I own part of these majestic building that stand tall into the North Carolina skies. The top photo shows the base of BoA's headquarters at the main intersection of "Uptown Charlotte", the city's central business district. The streets are Trade & Tryon, and there are interesting statues on each corner facing into the middle of the intersection.

The next picture is a piece of public art that is across from BoA, and is a huge disk-shaped sculpture. Finally we have a directional sign in Uptown, pointing people to various points of interest.

I'm Baaack!

Greetings to all. After a six week long hiatus, I figured I would write a short post before getting back into the swing of things here. I have been, and continue to be quite busy. I am currently working a project for a company in North Carolina, and am under enormous pressure to get a product delivered by the first part of December. So these musings will be from 700 feet above sea level rather than my previous 6000 feet. The difference is amazing. Last night in Douglas County, Colorado, it was snowing and in the teens for a low. Here in the Carolina Piedmont region, it was clear and 77 degrees, a 60 degree spread!

Last night, I had a crazy notion to drive over to the high school where I graduated back in 1971 to watch a football game. Well, it turns out it was their 50-year anniversary homecoming. The poor little school they played had just a few people there, no band, and they got clobbered. Felt kind of sorry for them, but I suppose that is why they were chosen as the opponent for homecoming...gotta have a win for the alumni!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Baptist Pastor Prays for Obama to Die & Go To Hell

There are very disturbing people in America today. Hate groups are on the rise. I thought we had gotten past most of this type of behavior. I am a strong advocate of free speech and the First Amendment, but this type of extremism could lead us to violence by inciting those on the edge of sanity to return us to an era of assassinations like in the 1960s. Even these type of lunatics have rabid followers. This man has very serious issues.

If I may quote from the book this man purports to teach:

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence."

1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NKJV)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cash For Clunkers - A Bad Idea

I will admit that I am not an economist, so those far wiser than me can likely refute some of what I say here. Still, with the CARS program, commonly known as "Cash for Clunkers", ending today, it seems a good time to reflect on this government stimulus plan.

When the government bailout of General Motors and Chrysler Corporation took place, I was skeptical. After all, these are companies that had failed for a variety of reasons, most of them self-inflicted. So while I understood the need to try to save jobs, why reward these firms from the public till, for poor management decisions? We had already bailed out the banks, who turned around and rewarded their executive teams with big bonuses from the emergency taxpayer monies. Now we repeat the bailouts for GM & Chrysler?

Then there is the fact that even if these companies survive in the short term, what will change in the long term? What would they do differently than what they had done to arrive at such a sorry state of affairs? The real problem is people are not buying their products in sufficient quantities to sustain their businesses. With unemployment soaring, even if people want to purchase one of their cars, how can they do so? It is a bigger problem than paying the current bills coming due.

So now we come to the CARS program. I understand the desire of the government to get us all into more fuel efficient automobiles. I also understand the fact that this program creates a short-term spike in demand, which is good for the economy in general, and for the automakers specifically. It also is one stimulus plan that actually addresses the demand side of the equation and does something for the average person. But at what cost?

As a matter of principle, I am opposed to taking tax money from all of us to subsidize the purchase of new cars for a few. Why should any of us pay for our neighbor's new vehicle?

I also believe that the program is flawed in that it doesn't have any requirement that the rebates apply only to cars manufactured in the United States. We need to stimulate the economy at home before sending the tax monies to companies in Japan, Korea, and Europe. Sure, our economies are all interconnected, but for our public tax dollars, let's make sure they go to work at home before sending them with an express ticket to Tokyo.

Another issue is that many of the cars deemed to be "clunkers" are perfectly serviceable autos that are much better than many folks can afford to purchase. It seems extremely wasteful to purposefully destroy a perfectly good car that could help someone get to their job. It would be better if these vehicles were donated to charity rather than ruining their engines and crushing them. Sure, it doesn't get them off the road, but they won't last forever anyway. In the meantime, they could do much good.

And what about the parts market that will be negatively impacted by this destruction? Used replacement parts are one way that families can save money on repairs. Is this right to destroy what may be difficult to locate parts? This can conceivably create price inflation for those parts as a function of a more limited supply.

It isn't the proverbial bed of roses for those taking advantage of the program either. In hard economic times, how many people who have their cars already paid for, will rush out to buy a new one under this program, only to lose their jobs and be left without any car at all. Even if they don't become unemployed, a big downside to this is that instead of having a perfectly good auto with no payments and lots of good miles left in them, people now have locked themselves into a new monthly payment.

Then there is the fact that while the program was running, there was an expected spike in demand. But this is just a temporary spike. If someone was going to buy, they would likely do it during the program, and not wait until it expires. Artificially induced demand dries up once the stimulus for the demand ceases to exist. Will people also hold back on purchases waiting for an encore of the program?

Overall, I have come to the conclusion that this is a misguided program that likely began with good intentions, but the net result is not worth the cost.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

How Long Would YOU Survive?

How long could you survive after punching a bear in the balls?

Created by The Oatmeal

Microwave-Free Zone

The title of this post in no way means I believe there is anywhere not being bombarded by radio frequencies. The entire universe is awash in radio waves in a variety of lengths from natural sources. Here on earth, radio waves do everything from track our airplanes to hooking us to the Internet via wi-fi. No, instead I am speaking of cooking with a microwave oven. Or not.

The Lovely Spouse and I moved into this house about 16 months ago. There was not a built-in microwave oven, unlike the past places we have lived for years. We have actually had a microwave oven in our homes since the early 1980s. So our initial thought was to buy one. At first we thought of buying a counter top oven, but then considered that maybe we should just purchase one to mount under the counter over the stove. In the meantime, as we wrestled with this dilemma, we continued to cook, and found out that we were doing okay for now, so the purchase could wait. As time moved on, we realized two things. One, we were doing fine without one; and two, the food we prepared by more conventional means was better!

With the Lovely Spouse, it became a contest to see how long could we hold out buying a microwave oven. As it turns out, indefinitely. And then there's the quality of the food. Meat reheated in a microwave tends to get overdone and dry. Potatoes don't have the same consistency as conventional oven-baked ones. As I am writing this, I am eating some delicious tamales I bought frozen. In the past, I would have popped them in to the microwave for about 3 minutes and eaten them. Instead, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil, topped it with a covered steamer with the tamales inside for about 25 minutes. I can attest, the steaming produces a moist, tasty and hot product; whereas microwaving them would have made them hot, but less evenly heated and much drier.

There are many times that we would have used the microwave in the past that we now use the toaster oven. Quick and efficient! Between that applicance, the stove and the regular oven, we are doing great. One of my sons was over shortly after we moved in, and he asked? "Where's your microwave?" In my best hillbilly voice, I replied, "Don't got one!". His reply was priceless. "How do you cook?" What he was trying to do was heat some water. We introduced him to the good old tea kettle.

Are there times I miss having a microwave oven? Sure. But only occasionally. Most of the time, I don't care anymore. The food is tastier, and it doesn't take long to fix either. If you preplan just a little bit, you will enjoy flavorful, moist meals with little fuss. Now the question is do we go even further with the retro lifestyle? Do we dump satellite TV for over the air broadcasts? Do we kill the cell phones and just use the home line? In these hard economic times, maybe this is all part of a simpler, more frugal lifestyle.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Intelligent Political Discourse in America - R.I.P.

I have to wonder, has some members of the Republican Congressional Delegation been taking some really bad drugs lately? Nutty right-wing conspiracy theories seem to me to be at an all time high. Some of the ideas being tossed about on the Internet make the whole business about President Obama's birth certificate look rational by comparison (and no, I believe that one is pretty insane too). Now we have Congressmen picking up the conspiracies and telling their constituents via town hall meetings and appearances on right-wing talk radio, that the Democrat's health care reform proposal will cause the government to talk to the elderly about how they want to die; and that the plan will end in the government putting seniors to death. Then the talk radio loonies throw about comparisons to Hitler and Mao (Godwin's Law anyone?).

Is this the way American political dialog should be conducted? I think not. If these Republicans could come up with a viable plan of their own, they could talk about that. But no, they would rather continue to purvey fear upon our senior citizens, and everyone else too. What is sad is that so many buy it. I never thought I would see this country on such a downward slide so as to reach this low point in political discourse.

Rachel Maddow on MSNBC has examples in the clip below.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Little GUI That Could

A look back at a piece of computing history. Audio player and transcript below.

Back in 1990, the world of personal computing was divided into two camps; IBM Personal Computers and their clones running the ubiquitous MS-DOS, and Apple's Macintosh and its Graphical User Interface, or GUI. Text-based DOS ruled the business world, while the Mac had established a beach head in the graphic design, desktop publishing, and educational markets. But it was becoming clear that the future was a graphical one. Microsoft, the purveyor of MS-DOS had made early attempts with an environment called Windows that ran on top of DOS, but it was not very useful at that stage, and very few programs required it.

There were other attempts to bring DOS into the graphical world. Digital Research had tried to get its GEM Desktop accepted, but it gained very little traction in the marketplace. Part of that was because of an infringement lawsuit against Digital Research filed by Apple. Yet just when Microsoft was about to release its first really usable version of Windows, version 3.0, another program hit the shelves, that was in many ways superior to the Microsoft product. That program was called GeoWorks Ensemble.

GeoWorks was created by a small company named Berkeley Softworks, that had created GUIs for other computing platforms, such as the Commodore 64 home computer. GeoWorks was written in assembly language, making it extremely fast and responsive, even when running on an Intel 80286 chip. Like Windows, it still needed MS-DOS underneath its pretty shell, but it claimed several advances that Windows didn't yet have. These include filenames longer than the eight-plus-three format that DOS required, scalable typefaces, WYSIWYG desktop publishing, and a scalable interface. For neophytes, GeoWorks had a basic, iconic interface option, somewhat akin to the modern iPhone screen. For more advanced users there were two steps up, that resemble modern GUI design.

So why are we not all using GeoWorks 9.0 today? I see at least three reasons. First, although Geoworks was sold with several great applications, such as GeoWrite, GeoDraw, and GeoDex, it initially lacked a spreadsheet application. At at time where Lotus 1-2-3 had set the bar for financial modelling, a spreadsheet was a must. Secondly, the developer's kit for GeoWorks was prohibitively expensive, dissuading software coders from developing for the platform. Finally, it was a pure case of being outmarketed. With the DOS cash cow, Microsoft could easily bury the smaller firm in an avalanche of advertising and public relations noise.

Over the years, GeoWorks was sold twice...first to NewDeal Software, and then to BreadBox. But development remains stuck at least a decade in the past, and the niche markets that have been identified for the product have failed to respond.

How great it would be to see someone buy the rights who really cares about GeoWorks. It could be given modernized graphics, drivers for new hardware, support for OpenType, and perhaps even run on top of the Linux kernel. After all, Google's new operating system, Chrome, will use that kernel as its basis, and Linux is a solid base. Then perhaps we would see some real competition!

Still, that will remain only a dream. I doubt there is any chance of that becoming reality. But for those of us who found GeoWorks a viable, and advanced operating environment, it will always remain the little GUI that could!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Walk Around Downtown Parker, Colorado

Here is a short walking tour around the downtown area of Parker, Colorado; known as Old Town Parker.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Think Apple invented the iPod in the 90s? Think again. A British visionary inventor came up with a startlingly accurate view of the 1979! Kane Kramer invented the idea when flash memory was prohibitively expensive and could only hold 3 minutes of audio. Check out his web site HERE.

What Next? Disco Balls to Return?

The band, Cheap Trick, is releasing a new collection of tunes all these years after they were topping the charts. But they are really pulling a trick with this. The album, entitled The Latest, is being released not only on Compact Disc, but also on vinyl LP, and yes...even on 8-track cartridge!

Get yours HERE.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Food Oddities & Miracle Cheetos

Here are some odd and miraculous food items I found in my kitchen. I did make one narration mistake...Rodney King's beating was not associated with the O.J. Simpson trial, but I am too lazy to redo the soundtrack.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Nine Gadgets contributor Winda Benedetti did a feature HERE about

We, too, possess the heart of an early adopter but the wallet and wary sensibility of a cautious consumer.

Winda Benedetti, contributor

iPhone 3G S

Flip UltraHD

GeForce 3D Vision Kit

Squeezebox Boom

Kindle 2

Roomba 562 Pet

Dream Cat Venus

Transport bed

Touch Watch Phone

Death by Chocolate

A man who worked in a chocolate factory that makes raw chocolate to be used by other candy companies, died when he fell into a vat of melting chocolate. This story out of Camden, New Jersey. Twenty-nine-year-old Vincent Smith had only worked at the factory for a few weeks. Story HERE.

The City of Brotherly Hate

Let me check my calendar...okay it says 2009. So why do some folks in Philadelphia think it is 1959? I might have expected a story like this fifty years ago, but not now. A day camp for kids paid The Valley Swim Club $1900 to allow their campers to swim there. The club is private, but advertises open membership. When the kids arrived, pandemonium broke out. What was the issue? The kids from the camp were mostly African-American.

One of the campers quoted a woman at the club:

"I heard this lady, she was like, 'Uh, what are all these black kids doing here?' She's like, 'I'm scared they might do something to my child,'" said camper Dymire Baylor.

Reports are that when the black children got in the pool, all the Caucasian kids immediately left. Horace Gibson, a parent of one of the day camp kids said:

"The pool attendants came and told the black children that they did not allow minorities in the club and needed the children to leave immediately."

The day after this happened, the camp was told their money would be refunded and they could not come back. The Valley Swim Club's president, John Duesler, said that the concern is that the kids would "change the complexion...and the atmosphere of the club".

Yes blatant racism is alive and well in America, and it is not only in the South. And what a sad thing for these children to have experienced. For the full story as reported by Philly's NBC 10, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Google OS

Will Google have the muscle to do what OS/2 and BeOS failed to accomplish? The search giant has announced it will soon be releasing a new operating system based on the company's Chrome browser.

Personally, I would love to see more widespread choice. Although Google is touting the new OS as a Windows alternative for netbooks, can its wider deployment be far behind? Now if Apple can be persuaded to release OSX into the wild, we could see some real competitive choices. Windows, OSX, Google OS, Linux, wow! Let the OS wars begin!

Monday, July 06, 2009

King of the Wild Frontier

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that when I was a small kid, I loved cowboy hats and my Davy Crockett faux-coonskin cap. In the old photos my sis has scanned was this one of me wearing that very cap. Needless to say, I was a big fan of Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.

In my 1950s childhood mind, I probably had quite a few adventures emulating the bravery of Davy as portrayed by Fess Parker in living black & white on our television screen. Of course I was not alone. Davy was a pop phenomenon in those days. After all, he "kilt him a bar when he was only three".

One of my toys from those days is still in my possession. It was a plastic squeak toy of a child dressed out as Davy. This may be the only toy I still have from my childhood, and frankly I am surprised it is still around. The second picture is it, and you can also see the chewed up end of Davy's rifle. I recall that it was a really pleasant feeling to chew that thing, not thinking about the damage it was doing to the toy. Maybe I was like a dog with a squeak toy, chewing and squeaking it as much as I could.

So there we have it. A story of a boy, a toy, and a frontier hero who died at the Alamo.

Heard of Jackson Hole? Here's Jackson Tree

It isn't uncommon to read stories about the Virgin Mary appearing in water stains under a freeway or on a grilled cheese sandwich. Or perhaps a cheese puff that someone thinks looks like Jesus. Now with the recent death of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson has begun making appearances.

A family in Stockton, California says that Jacko has appeared on a stump where their birch tree had a branch removed. As Skeptic magazine publisher and author Michael Shermer has pointed out, we are pattern seeking animals. This is why we see shapes in clouds and constellations in our night sky. Despite that, I am sure there are people who worship MJ to the point that they will hang on to this as a sign of some sort. I just wonder...when they pruned the tree, did they remove Jackson's nose?

Yep...I'm bad.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

It's Independence Day!

Happy 233rd birthday, USA!!

1939 Pontiac

I found out that my sister has scanned some old family photos that I never knew even existed, some of which I am very glad to discover. Here is one of them.

This photo was taken in 1955, and is my mother and I with our old 1939 Pontiac. I am sure of the year, as Mom is obviously pregnant with my oldest sister. This car is one of my very earliest memories. I vividly recall sitting in the back seat. I loved peering out of the second backseat window, the one in the very back that is smaller than the others. Another thing interesting about this car is that the back doors are hinged in the rear and open in the opposite direction from the front doors.

In this picture, I am wearing one of my two favorite types of head gear during those times...a cowboy hat. The other was my Davy Crockett faux-coonskin cap.

I am not exactly sure of the locale of this picture, and I will need to ask my parents, but I suspect this was at the married student housing at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where my dad was completing his Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Below is an ad for this car when it was first offered to the public by General Motors. Wouldn't it be nice to have one of these now?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A July Thundershower

We have been in a very unusual weather pattern for Colorado, where we have had beautiful mornings and early afternoons, followed by severe weather in the late afternoon. This has gone on for about three weeks, and has even included tornadoes, as indicated in an earlier post here. We also had about $13,000 in damage to the house, including the roof, all from hail. We are working to get that repaired, but it is a long process.

This afternoon's storm was a nice thunderstorm, not so severe, but gave us a good downpour and a lot of rolling thunder. I grabbed the trusty Olympus LS-10, and picked up a few seconds of sound. Below is some of it, and you can hear the rainfall, the thunder, and a neighbor's windchime. Enjoy!

Edited to add: This is the first audio file I have placed on this blog using a different host. I had been using for hosting audio files and creating an embedded player. This one is using the Internet Archive at They can host text, audio, video, and many other types of multimedia files. Their embedded player you see above has a volume control which is lacking on PodBean's. The Internet Archive also creates not only an embeddable player, but it allows you to choose a license for your files. The original file I uploaded was MP3 format, but they also create other versions automatically. My file resulted in not only the MP3, but also Ogg Vorbis, ZIP, M3U, and metadata files. It is totally free, and I highly recommend it. There is nothing wrong with PodBean, but I am liking the Internet Archive a lot!

The Wright Stuff

Tuesday, I posted about the Air New Zealand in flight safety video featuring crew members in nothing but a smile and body paint. (Well, the captain did also have a hat). Well, now we have another "naked on the airplane" story in the news.

Fifty-year-old Keith Wright, a man from the Bronx who is apparently bipolar, decided to strip naked on a US Airways flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles. He refused to keep a blanket on that was put on him by a flight attendant. Ultimately, two Los Angeles law enforcement personnel on the flight wrestled him down and the flight was diverted to Albuquerque, where Wright will likely be given a psychiatric evaluation.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Win 7 Beta Going Down For The Count

It's July 1, and those of you running the Windows 7 Beta may have noticed your machine shutting down every two hours. This is not a is Microsoft's way to get you to move over to the Release Candidate Code. Better do it quickly! It gets more severe starting August 1.

The RC will begin its shutdown routines on March 1, 2010. The commercial release of the OS will be October 22, 2009, so you should be in good shape. That is plenty of time to get the final product. One note isn't an easy upgrade from beta to RC. A clean install is recommended (unless you had the foresight to run the beta in a virtual machine, that is).

104 KRBE Hit List

Like every other type of business, radio stations have tried to find ways to market themselves to their communities. Often, these efforts involve bumper stickers, contests, and billboards. Another method used over the years by Top-40 stations has been by publishing a playlist. I have seen these in forms of brochures, but here is one I had totally forgotten about.

Houston's 104.1 FM, KRBE used to publish their playlist on record sleves for 45 rpm singles. Here is one from May 2, 1978. There were some great songs on the top 40 that week, and it is hard to believe that it has been 31 years since these were current. At least it is to me. But then again, I am old!

Just take a look at some of these. Songs like Dust in the Wind, Baker Street, and Runnin' on Empty are there. But most noticeable is the fact that songs from the megahit movie, Saturday Night Fever dominated this chart of the disco fever era. I count at least four from that soundtrack. And take a look at #4. Thank You for Being a Friend by Andrew Gold went on to become the theme song for the television sitcom, The Golden Girls. The show's theme was a cover version by Cynthia Fee. There is also a song in the Top 40 from the movie Grease. You're The One That I Want by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John came in at #9 that week.

On the back among other things, is a list of the disc jockeys who spun those hits on KRBE. As always, you can click on the images to get larger versions.

Karl Malden - #8

The bad week to be a celebrity continues with the death of Oscar-winning actor, Karl Malden. Known for his role in A Streetcar Named Desire, and for a two-decade run as spokeman for American Express, Malden also starred in the TV Series, The Streets of San Francisco. He was 97.

Baloney Detection Kit

The late astronomer Carl Sagan wrote an excellent book about science entitled The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. One chapter of that book was laying out what Sagan called a Baloney Detection Kit. The idea is that there are reliable ways to test claims that will allow us to detect spurious and fallacious arguments, and use science to get at the truth of a theory or hypothesis.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation recently produced a video featuring Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, where Shermer takes Sagan's idea of a Baloney Detection Kit and lays out the concept for wider distribution. This video is almost 15 minutes long, but well worth the watching, given all of the claims and counter claims flying about these days.

The video is below, You can also download an MP3 audio file of this HERE (6.7 MB); or download a video Quicktime file HERE (122.4 MB).

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Interesting Record #3

Here is an interesting find. It is a record by the artist who came to be known as Frankie Valli, lead man for The Four Seasons. At the time this record came out, it was Frankie Vally with a "y", and not even a single season in sight. In fact, Frankie also had records under Frankie Valley, The Four Lovers, The Travelers, Frankie Valle & The Romans, and The Wonder Who among others.

This particular disc came out in 1959, and while a pleasant sounding couple of tunes, it doesn't have that distinctive Four Seasons sound.

As you can see from the photo, this is a DJ sample copy intended for airplay on the radio.

Air New Zealand - The Bare Essentials

You know how boring the safety announcements are when you board a commercial flight. After all, if you don't know how to fasten a seat belt and how to find a door out, you likely shouldn't be flying alone anyway. Still Air New Zealand is trying to get you to pay closer attention to their pre-flight safety video, so some of their employees went all out to get you to notice. Yep...that's nothing but body paint!

Interesting Record #2

This record is one of the first records I procured in my collection. I got this one as a premium by sending in box tops from Kellogg's Corn Flakes, back in 1965. I would have been 12 years old at the time.

This record actually contains three songs. The side Doin' The Flake is obviously a promotion for corn flakes, and introduces a dance called..what else...The Flake.

The other side has two songs on it The first is the hit single This Diamond Ring, followed by a second track entitled Little Miss Go-Go.

Gary Lewis is the son of comedian Jerry Lewis, but the group didn't promote this fact when they got a gig playing at Disneyland. When producer Snuff Garrett heard the group, he felt that featuring that fact and calling the group "Gary Lewis and The Playboys" rather than just "The Playboys" would help sell records. Garrett wanted this to hit, so he also brought in studio musicians on the lead tracks, relegating the band to playing only backup on the recording. Notable of these session players were drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Joe Osborn, Tommy Allsup on guitar, and Leon Russell playing the keyboards. By the time Garrett was done adding another vocalist and overdubbing Gary singing, little was left of the original band, but it did produce a hit. With that, the group was on their way to producing other hit records.

As you can see, the label shows lots of wear over the years. You can also see where I put my initials on the label in permanent marker all those years ago. This premium originally came with a custom sleeve, something that has long since gone by the wayside.

Interesting Record #1

In browsing through some of the old records I have sitting around in boxes, I have found some of interest for one reason or another. Let's start off with this one.

This particular record, Alvin's Harmonica, reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959. It was the second record issued under the artist name of David Seville and The Chipmunks. Of course David, along with Alvin, Theodore, and Simon, were all the voice of Ross Bagdasarian. The first with this artist credit was The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late).

Bagdasarian played around with speeding up tape recordings to build the tracks for each chipmunk, and hit it big with the resulting novelty records. He also had a huge #1 hit in 1958 without the Chipmunk credit, singing as David Seville. That record, Witch Doctor, was his first experiment with speeded up voices on a commercial recording.

This record also has something I like. That is silver ink printed on a dark colored label. Something about that combination is just pleasing to me.

Robot's Job Sent Offshore

Outsourcing of American jobs is now beginning to put US robots out of work, according to parody news source, The Onion.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Card Catalogs

I have written in the past about cultural artifacts that have disappeared from the scene over my lifetime. Today, I thought about another one that escaped while we weren't looking. I was recording the movie Awakenings, and did a spot check on it. The scene I saw was Robin Williams in a library, searching through a card catalog. I suspect many younger folks today would not know what this is. One of the first things we were taught in the elementary school library was how to use the card catalog, along with the Dewey Decimal System to classify books.

Now replaced by the much more versatile and manageable computer database, the once ubiquitous card catalog has come and gone. I don't know of any library that still uses one, although I would not be surprised if some very small libraries do so.

There was something edifying about the feel of the file drawers, and their collection of data cards inside, typed by a librarian and placed in the correct sequence in the catalog. The procedure was to take a piece of scrap paper and jot down the title and the Dewey Decimal Number, and then proceed to the shelves to find the particular book of interest. It was a skill so critical that it was reinforced in high school as part of the exercise of researching and writing term papers.

So even as we gain new technologies, let's not forget what came before. The sample card here is actually a product of computer technology. I created it at the Catalog Card Generator.

Gale Storm Makes Seven

Seems that my counts of recent celebrity deaths was one off, since I had forgotten about the death of actor David Carradine in Thailand. So adding that one brings us to six, and now we have actress Gale Storm who died yesterday to raise the recent celeb deaths count to seven.

Gale was born Josephine Cottle, and achieved stardom in the cowboy movies, including some with Roy Rogers. Later moving to television, she co-starred in the program My Little Margie, and later The Gale Storm Show. Margie started as a CBS summer replacement for I Love Lucy, and quickly found a following. The show moved to NBC where it had a successful run.

Gale Storm was 87 years old.

And Fred Makes Five

The deaths of celebrities continue to mount. Comedian Fred Travalena succumbed to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at his home in Encino, California. Coincidentally, Travalena appeared in the premiere episode of a 1991 sitcom titled Good Sports, which starred the late Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal. Fawcett, of course, died last Thursday after a lengthy struggle with cancer.

Fred Travalena was 66 years old.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Denver International Airport

Today was one of comings and goings to Denver International Airport for the family. The lovely spouse and I took my mother-in-law to the airport for her flight back home after a two-week visit in Colorado. In addition, my middle son and daughter-in-law returned from a honeymoon trip to San Francisco.

Of all the major airports around the country, Denver's is one of my favorites. It is new, modern, and easy to get around in. Locals refer to it by it's initials...D-I-A...even though its airport code is DEN, same as the old Stapleton International used to be. Situated out on the high plains northeast of the main part of the city, Denver International is easily seen for miles. The unique suspended peaks of the tent-like roof over the main terminal echo the majestic Rocky Mountains west of the airport.

D-I-A has not been without controversy. A project championed by former mayor (and later Secretary of Transportation) Federico Peña, the airport was known for its automated, state-of-the-art baggage handling system that cost gazillions of dollars and never worked right. That system was finally scrapped in the last year or so and replaced by the "tug and cart" system used at every other airport. The automated system was famous for losing and/or mutilating luggage in its care. Today D-I-A operates with great efficiency.

While it is much better equipped to handle adverse weather conditions that can occur on Colorado's prairie, no airport is "weatherproof". That lesson was learned a few years ago when a major blizzard blocked Peña Boulevard, the main freeway for access and egress to and from the airport. While people were trapped in their cars and snow plows were unable to keep the airport open, we saw what the priorities were. Somehow a cadre of snowplows were able to get the Denver Broncos busses to D-I-A so that Denver's NFL players could make it to their game.

In any case, once most of the bugs were worked out, Denver International has turned out to be a great airport. A guard at the airport told me today there are plans for future expansion to add a second main terminal just like the existing one, along with three more concourses. Even during a recession, D-I-A managed to add 2.8 percent to its traffic and have a 2 percent revenue gain in 2008. It is a major hub for both Frontier and United Airlines, as well as a major presence for Southwest since its return to the city a couple of years ago.

The only bad incident in the airport's history so far was last December, when a Continental jet bound for Houston ran off of a runway while trying to take off. Luckily it missed a fire station beside the runway and all passengers and crew escaped from the broken and charred wreckage alive.

And Billy Makes Four

Holey Moley, it has been a bad few days for celebrities. First Ed McMahon dies, then Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson, and now TV Pitchman Billy Mays goes to bed feeling ill and doesn't wake up. Even though Billy's TV pitches are very annoying, I have been enjoying his new show Pitchmen on the Discovery Channel. The program showed a side of Billy you don't get on the ads. He seemed to be a genuinely nice guy and family man, who helped inventors get exposure for their products.

Mays was scheduled for a 3rd hip replacement on Monday, and had been on the road quite a bit. His last Twitter post was about the hard landing when a tire blew out on his plane yesterday. He had been to Los Angeles to appear on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien last Tuesday, followed by some work with his clients on the east coast.

Billy Mays was 50 years old.

Limited-Time Offer on Windows 7

On October 22, 2009, Microsoft will make the new version of their Windows operating system available. Named simply Windows 7, the new OS is the successor to the much maligned Windows Vista. Supposedly, this new Windows, while based on Vista, fixes many of the complaints people have about the current version.

I hope so. My current laptop machine came preloaded with Vista, which took forever to boot to a useable system. I ended up replacing it with Linux (first PCLinuxOS, then Fedora 10), which gets me to a useable desktop in well under a minute. It is doubtful that I will migrate back to Windows with the release of version 7, as I find Linux more flexible, secure, and complete. Plus, I can get an application to do anything I need from the Fedora repositories. As I am not flush with cash, free software is a big help. Besides, I find most free and open source programs are as good as their commercially-available counterparts, so why waste money?

Still, that doesn't make Windows a bad OS. I know lots of Linux fans tend to disparage the dominant OS, but I do not. I simply like Linux better. Still, if you plan to upgrade your Windows system, now is the time to do so. Microsoft announced on Friday that they are offering a deep discount for pre-orders placed within a 15-day window (no pun intended). Until July 11, Microsoft is offering Windows 7 Home Premium for $49.99, and Windows 7 Professional for $99.99. These will ultimately sell for $119.99 and $199.99 respectively.

Of course, Microsoft is also repeating its past policy of offering purchasers of new computers a free upgrade to the next version if they buy between now and the release of the new version.

So here's the recommendations for those of you running Windows. If you are using Vista, this is a worthy upgrade. Take advantage of this offer if you can. If you are running XP and have the hardware to run the new Windows 7, then it is also worthwhile. But if you have an older computer, be sure to run the Windows Upgrade Advisor, as both Vista and Win 7 run best on newer, high-end hardware. If you decide the time is right for a new PC, then you should get the free upgrade offer with your purchase.

If I wasn't dealing with a deductible for the thousands of dollars in hail damage we got at my house, I would be tempted to buy the special price upgrade just for future use.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kodachrome No More

A while back, I wrote about the demise of Polaroid instant photography film. Now another photographic film iconic brand is going down the tubes. Kodak has announced it is ceasing production of Kodachrome.

The fact of the matter is that Kodachrome constitutes less than one percent of Kodak's still picture film, and a photo processor in Kansas is the only place in the world that still develops it.

Still, Kodachrome retains a place in American culture. It was Kodachrome movie film that was used by Abraham Zapruder when he captured the only motion picture of the assassination of President Kennedy in Dealey Plaza. And of course, in the 1973 hit song, Paul Simon pleaded, "Mama don't take my Kodachrome away."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pepperoni Rolls

In northern West Virginia, the Italian-American bakers in the area have been making a favorite regional treat for years. It is a bit of mountaineer, and a bit of Italy in every bite. I'm talking about the pepperoni roll.

This taste treat has become so popular that every store from convenience markets to the local WalMart stores carry them. They come packaged individually and in bags of a dozen. The meat may be slices or sticks. But whatever the variation, they are an easy to handle meal or snack. Coal miners carry several in their lunch pails with great regularity.

I became acquainted with this delicacy when visiting the lovely spouse's family in Grafton, WV. Just a few miles away in Fairmont is where the pepperoni roll is said to have originated. Often, the LS and I lament that this is such a regional delicacy that we can't buy them here in Colorado. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to try my hand at making them until recently. In any case, I was noodling around on the Internet and found the Pepperoni Roll web site. That site has a history of the pepperoni roll and the various bakers that make them. It also happens to have a page of recipes. The one that appeared to me to be very authentic was one from a guy named Tim.

So this morning, I decided to make a batch of them. Oh my goodness, are they fantastic! These are just like you get back in West Virginia. They can be eaten warm or cold. You can dip them in tomato sauce, or have them plain. I think I may make a batch with some pepper cheese in them with the pepperoni.

The bread has just a touch of sweetness, which goes well with the spicy pepperonis inside, although I think the next batch I will cut the sugar by about a third. I also had another thought. When I lived in Houston, there are kolache shops on every corner. Kolaches are very similar to pepperoni rolls, except they have either a little smoky link inside, or made flat with a fruit topping, similar to a danish pastry. I think this dough would make great kolaches too!

I'm on a roll!!

Edited to add Tim's recipe from The Pepperoni Roll website. It doesn't say, but it only took 10-12 minutes to bake these. I used a cookie sheet with baking parchment.

Tim's Pepperoni Rolls
Makes about a dozen rolls, although I always double the recipe (just use twice as much of everything, except one package of yeast is fine.)

1 1/2 cups water, barely warm to the touch
1/3 cup sugar
1 package yeast
1 teaspoonful salt
1/4 cup dry powdered milk
4 cups flour
Thin-sliced packaged pepperoni, about four ounces (paper thin is best)

Dissolve sugar, yeast, salt, and powdered milk in the warm water. Stir in the flour, using extra flour or water as needed to make a soft dough that isn't too sticky. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for a couple of minutes. Shape into a ball and let raise in a bowl for 30 minutes to an hour, covered with a towel. Volume should double.

Turn the raised dough back onto the floured board, and cut it into 12 pieces (I use a scraper/cutter, but a knife works fine.) Take each piece, flatten it lightly on the board with your hand, and place 4-5 slices of pepperoni in the middle, overlapping but not stacked. Roll it up like a jelly roll, and then primp it with your fingers to seal the ends into an oval, with no pepperoni sticking out. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Melt a tablespoonful of margarine and beat in an egg and two teaspoonfuls of sugar. Brush rolls lightly with this glaze. You don't need to let the rolls raise further.

Bake rolls at 400 degrees until golden brown. Brush immediately and lightly with melted margarine so they soften up nicely.

You can read Tim's page HERE.

No-Stab Knives

Is this really necessary? In the UK, knives are being sold to deter people from stabbing one another. John Cornock, an industrial designer, invented these utensils that are claimed to make it "almost impossible" to stab someone to death with them. Maybe. But couldn't someone still cut you up with the sharp edge?

These are expected to sell at a price point of around £40-50. If you are really concerned about someone in your household stabbing you to death with your kitchen knives, maybe you should rethink your choice of housemates.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bad Time for Continental Airlines

Houston-based Continental Airlines just can't seem to catch a break lately. Pilot error crashes a commuter partner plane in Buffalo, killing all on board; three children sent to wrong cities in the last week or so, and now a pilot died today during the flight of a Boeing 777 with 247 passengers on board. The flight originated in Brussels. A backup pilot took over on the flight deck for Captain Craig Lenell, who quietly died of a heart attack during the flight. Lenell, who was 60 years old, had been with the airline for 32 years.

The plane landed safely at Newark.

The Best Laid Plans of Maus & Men . . .

From the You Can't Make This Stuff Up Department comes this story from Stuttgart, Germany. It seems that 29-year-old Demetrius Soupolos and his wife, a former beauty queen, badly wanted a child. Despite their best efforts, Mr. & Mrs. Soupolos could not conceive.

After medical examinations, the doctor determined that poor Demetrius was sterile. Their neighbor, Frank Maus, had two kids and a resemblance to Demetrius, so the couple hired Maus to impregnate Traute Soupolos. The agreement was three attempts a week for six months in exchange for Maus being paid 2000 Euros. After a while, Mrs. Maus began to complain, but Frank assured her it was "just for the money".

After six months and 72 attempts at impregnation, all with no success, Demetrius insisted his friend get a medical exam. The test results showed that Maus was also incapable of fathering children. This resulted in Mrs. Maus confessing that the couple's two kids were not fathered by Frank.

Now, poor Demetrius is suing Frank to get his money back. Frank says he never promised a successful impregnation, but only that he would try his hardest (note: I am trying hard myself to resist the obvious joke here).

Dumb Criminals in Colorado

Two Denver-area young women may need to reconsider if a life of crime is a good career move for them. It appears that they do not have the brain power to be a success in that field of endeavor.

KUSA-DT reports that the two teens went into a used-clothing consignment shop in the Denver suburb of Lone Tree and started tossing clothes into a basket on the floor. They then took off in a waiting getaway truck.

Now you first have to consider if it is worth it to steal used clothes. Why not hit the nearby Park Meadows Mall which has Macy's & Nordstrom? But the next part is what should make these girls reconsider their career choice. It turns out that one of them gave the store owner her name and cell phone number on a form to have the store sell some of her used clothing. Police merely had to give her a call.

CLICK HERE to view the KUSA report.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No Fun Allowed!

The administration at Bonny Eagle High School in Maine denied a graduating senior his diploma. What did the young hoodlum do to have such a thing happen. After all, he was in his cap and gown, attending the graduation ceremony with his classmates, and was called up on the stage to receive the diploma that culminated his achievement. What disruptive misbehavior would result in such a penalty.

He blew his mom a kiss. That's it!

The school administration says he broke the rules, so was sent back to his seat without the coveted certificate. They said that they don't want to have a repeat of the infamous silly string incident that disrupted the ceremony a while back. "Four years ago we had some issues with silly string and beach balls," said sourpuss Superintendent of Schools, Suzanne Lukas.

Bill Maher on President Obama

Bill Maher made some critical commentary on President Obama on his HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher. As much as I wish I could disagree, I do not. President Obama has a rare chance to bring real reform to health care, and instead he is leaving the crooked insurance companies as part of the solution. He has the chance to reform the fraud in the banking industry, but it has become business as usual for the banking giants. The spending of tax dollars to incentivize people to trade in their gas guzzling old cars for new, more efficient models, and reinvigorate demand for new automobiles has no provision to limit the program to American-made vehicles.

I agree with Maher that this is NOT what I voted for. I have been willing to give the President the chance to get things going before being overly critical. The ridiculous right is doing a great job of that. However, there is no guarantee that his party will retain its strong majority in the Congress after the elections next year. As the old adage goes, "it's time to make hay while the sun shines". NOW is the time to enact the key components of the platform he ran on. Forget bipartisanship. As Maher points out, maybe Obama needs to get a little of Bush's way or no way.

Mr. President, don't forget what you promised...change we can believe in. We put you in office to effect that change. If you prove to just be another overpromising and underdelivering politician, you had better enjoy your job, as you could be a one-term president. You have the goodwill of most of the country. You have proven to be the hardest working man to get the job in a long time. But working hard isn't enough. You have to remember why you are there.

Unlike loudmouth Rush Limbaugh, I and most people want to see you succeed. It's time to quit compromising away your platform, when you don't have to. Perhaps instead of getting some Bush attitude, you should channel Larry the Cable Guy and just "Git 'Er Done!"