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 attitude...my 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!"

Friday, June 12, 2009

Meteorite Boy

A 14-year-old German boy had an extremely rare event happen to him. Gerrit Blank was struck by a meteorite! The space rock was travelling at 30,000 miles per hour, and hit his hand before creating a crater in the ground a foot across.

The Telegraph reports that the boy said:

"At first I just saw a large ball of light, and then I suddenly felt a pain in my hand. Then a split second after that there was an enormous bang like a crash of thunder."

The young man went on . . .

"The noise that came after the flash of light was so loud that my ears were ringing for hours afterwards. When it hit me it knocked me flying and then was still going fast enough to bury itself into the road."

Obviously Gerrit's scar will give him a lifelong reminder of a close encounter with the extraterrestrial rock.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hail & High Water

Two hours ago, it was a beautiful sunny day. But all of a sudden, the sky got dark as night, sirens started going off, and marble-sized hail pelted us for about 30 minutes. I have never heard such a noise as the roof was being pounded and the wind and lightning was running rampant. It turns out that multiple funnel clouds are dropping all around us, and we are under a tornado warning.

It got so noisy and loud that Molly the Dog and I went to the basement for a few minutes during the worst of it. Here's hoping that this won't cause problems with my mother-in-law's flight in to Denver from Pittsburgh this afternoon.

I don't ever get scared of storms, but all the noise of this one did get my pulse racing a bit! I also hope the roof is okay. I suppose we shall find out.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Working on the B&O Railroad

The lovely spouse comes from a long line of railroad workers. Her father and paternal grandfather both were lifetime employees of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. As it turns out, her dad's maternal grandfather was also a railroad man.

In looking through some of the old photos we have, are a couple of pictures taken trackside along the B&O. These are in the railroad yard in Grafton, West Virginia in the late 19th or early 20th Century.

In both cases, the man on the right is the Lovely Spouse's great grandpa. I have no idea who the other man is. The B&O Railroad played an important part in the economy of the state of West Virginia, as it hauled the state's major natural resource, coal. I know railroad labor is very hard work, but if given the choice between that or working in a coal mine, I would definitely opt for the railroad.

In the second picture, the car on the left has a huge crane attached to it. Apparently it is used to load and unload the flat car to its right. It is also interesting that the flat car appears to be made of wood.

It is very interesting to look at old photos like this. It brings to life the people who came before us. We can see in their faces that although they lived in a very different time, they are not much different than we are. They worked to provide for their families, strugged to keep it all together, and although the technology of the age was not what we have today, we are not really different than they were.

It is too bad that photography is less than 200 years old. Wouldn't it be interesting to see pictures from the medival period, or perhaps from the Roman Empire or the Ming Dynasty? As usual, you may click on the photos to "biggify" them.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


WTBO sign overlooking the city of Cumberland, Maryland

Hollywood has its iconic sign on a hill overlooking the town. So too, does Cumberland, Maryland. In Cumberland's instance, the sign is on the grounds of radio station WTBO. That station, as I have mentioned before, is the first commercial radio job I had back in 1973. At night, the sign's neon face sequentially lights up each letter.

I took this photo on a trip through Cumberland in 1995. Downtown is situated in the distance just out of the shot to the left. The view here is facing to the north. The tallest mountain in the distance is on the north side of town, and is named Wills Mountain, most of which is situated in the state of Pennsylvania, but which does come into Maryland at Cumberland. At the Maryland end of Wills Mountain is a pass; through the mountains where the old National Pike ran through the Appalachians. It is known as The Narrows, and the road today is US 40.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Chattanooga 1966

Here is yet another old photo I came across today. I took this with a cheap little box camera using 620 Kodacolor film. The photo has seen better days since it was damaged in a flood, but at least it is still viewable. What you see here is the view from Point Park on Lookout Mountain near Rock City. You are looking basically toward the north at the Tennessee River and the city of Chattanooga.

The freeway making the big, sweeping "S" curve along the river is Interstate 24. The interchange in the center of the picture is where US 27 peels away and heads north.

This picture was taken back in 1966, so that would make me 13 years old at the time. Hard to believe my oldest grandson is about to turn 14 this week!

Camping at Lake Livingston - 1970s Style

While shuffling through some old photographs, I found a stack from the late 1970s that brought back memories of a very fun time. My buddy, Dempsey, and I took several days off and went camping. We borrowed my dad's canvas tent (yep, a lot heavier than today's nylon tents), loaded up some pots and pans, sleeping bags, food, and fishing gear, and spent several days at Wolf Creek Park on the shores of Lake Livingston in southeast Texas near the town of Cold Spring.

The first picture is me and my fishing pole in front of the tent. The second picture is Dempsey washing the dishes. As I recall, we made some kind of a silly bet, and the loser had to wash the pots and dishes from our next meal. I cannot remember what the bet was about, but there may have been a card game involved. I decided to capture the result on film for posterity's sake.

We had a great time, fishing and hiking during the daylight hours, and sitting by the campfire, or playing cards by the light of the Coleman lantern during the evening.

The third photo is one of me, about 30 years younger than I am now. I appear to be sitting by the campfire, watching over a pot of beans or chili. In the background, you can see Lake Livingston.

I also recall that had we been dependent on our success as fishermen, Dempsey and I would have likely starved to death. If we caught any fish at all, they were way too small to feed us, so they got tossed back in the lake.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Politics and Technology

Regular readers of this blog know I am a big fan of the free Linux operating system, and open source software in general. One of the best Linux distributions out there is the Linux Mint project. It is based on the excellent Ubuntu Linux, but includes some of the niceties, such as multimedia codecs, right from the "get go".

Therefore, I was dismayed to read at Extreme Tech that one of the Mint developers, Clement Lefebvre, made a highly political post regarding the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. In it, he asked those who support the Israeli government to not use Linux Mint, nor contribute to the project. Initially, the post was made on the official Linux Mint blog, but has since been moved to Lefebvre's personal blog.

This is unfortunate, because whatever one's position on geopolitics, Linux has always been developed in the spirit of open, non-political cooperation. Also, Lefebvre is not the only developer, and should never have made such a statement.

Still, Mint is a great distro. I hope this episode doesn't cause it to fall by the wayside. Clement, you are out of line on this, and should retract the tying of Mint to your political views. You are certainly entitled to them, but despite your statements to the contrary, you did bond Mint and your politics with your statement about who should not use the product. Open source is open to all. You have erred, and erred greatly. Hopefully, you will retract this misguided statement, apologize, and put it behind you.

Tornado Outbreak!

Funnel cloud forming in the eastern edge of Centennial, Colorado

Today was a very nice day through the morning and early afternoon, but just after 2:00 P.M. this afternoon, a line of severe weather suddenly moved in. There are several confirmed tornadoes in the area. One of them was formed right outside the back of my son's house in Centennial. He took these photos as he watched the funnel descend into a full-blown tornado. While the extent of damage is yet unknown, the tornado is confirmed to have touched down about three blocks from my son's house. KUSA television is reporting that the Southlands shopping center in extreme south Aurora has been hit, which is approximately 2 miles from my son's home, and about 8 miles NNE of where I live. Southlands is near the NE corner of E-470 and Smoky Hill Road. The tornado is moving to the southeast and entering Elbert County.

There are also confirmed tornadoes north of Denver at the town of Thornton. KUSA is reporting a tractor-trailer rig on I-70 at Watkins was picked up into the air and thrown into a ditch. Hail up to the size of eggs has been reported around the area as well.

Another view of the tornado forming near E-470 & Smoky Hill Road.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Elk in Estes Park

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a couple of photos I took up in Estes Park, Colorado. NBC News had a nice story on the elk that inhabit the town and its environs. Here is the video below:

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Defendant Did Not Speak in His Own Defense

There is a sad, but odd story out of Queens, New York this week. The New York Daily News reports that while the body of a 59-year-old man sat dead in his van, the city continued to place parking tickets on the vehicle over a period of several weeks.

The daughter of the deceased is asking how this could happen. That seems like a reasonable question to me. The window was slightly open, so you would think that a decomposing corpse would have drawn some olfactory attention. The body was so far gone that the only thing left was skeletal remains and the heart.

The photo is not the actual vehicle in this incident, but is here for illustrative purposes only.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A New Toy Yoda

Okay, I know this isn't new, but it did strike me as funny. The Hooters waitress in the picture thought she won a new car. She doesn't look very happy with her prize...a brand new toy Yoda!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

How the States Got Their Shapes

I have always been fascinated by maps and geography. When I found the book How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein in my local book store, I thumbed through it and though it was worth the purchasing. So I bought the book and brought it home to read.

It is a very interesting read, while being something you can take on in pieces as the mood hits you. It is chock full of historical side notes and maps that explain how the 50 United States ended up with their unique shapes. It is not a heavily-footnoted, scholarly work, but rather in the tone of a Reader's Digest publication, suitable for all ages.

I enjoyed the book very much, and it covers many trivial matters that shaped our nation. Examples are the arc on the Delaware / Pennsylvania border, the notches along the Tennessee / Kentucky frontier, and the Missouri boot heel. But I have one major quibble. The one anomaly I had hoped would finally be explained to my satisfaction was totally ignored.

That still open question (at least in my mind) is one that I have not even found an answer to yet using Google. The issue is the fact that the eastern border of New Mexico has a notch at northernmost part where the state shares a border with the Oklahoma panhandle. You see, the NM/OK border is at 103 degrees west longitude. But most of the eastern border of New Mexico is shared with Texas, and is situated a couple of miles or so west of the 103rd meridian! Stein doesn't address this anomaly at all!

Now my suspicion is that it has something to do with the borders negotiated by Texas with the US government when it agreed to become part of the United States. But I would love to know the story behind this border zig and zag. This map from Google shows this border. If you know why this is, please feel free to let me know.

All that said, Stein's book is still highly recommended. And if you wonder why Case Western Reserve University in Ohio is named that, the book covers that as well. Just say that it has to do with when Cleveland would have been located in Connecticut!


I am a man of simple tastes. I enjoy a wide variety of food, but sometimes it's the fairly simple things that hit the spot. Today, I decided to fire up the propane grill and heat up a couple of hot link sausages. I steamed some whole wheat buns for them, made some onion dip for my potato chips, added a bunch of grapes and a Coca-Cola and enjoyed a delicious lunch.

I remember when I was a boy, my dad telling me that my eyes had gotten bigger than my stomach, when I took more food than I could eat. That was the case today, as I just couldn't finish off the second sausage. It was good all the same.

Merciful Shopkeep

A store keeper in Shirley, New York showed extreme compassion for the man who tried to rob him. The robber came in wielding a baseball bat, but when Mohammad Sohail pulled out a gun, the man began to cry and plead for mercy. He told Sohail that he had no money and was just trying to feed his family. Sohail gave the man $40 and a loaf of bread with the condition that he never rob again. He also doesn't plan to press charges if police find the robber.

While the robbery was wrong, this is just another tale of hardship from the economic disaster we are dealing with. For the full story, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Sauce for the Goose?

Remember all the wailing and crying from the GOP about giving President Bush's judicial nominees "an up or down vote"? Well, wouldn't you know it. A group of conservative luminaries are asking the Republican Senators to filibuster President Obama's nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. What a bunch of hypocrites! The shoe is on the other foot now, and it doesn't feel so good to them!

Houston Freeway Videos

Freeway Jim, mentioned in my last post, also has a great video of driving through a few of the terrific stack interchanges in Houston (another of my favorite places). Below is his video, again courtesy of YouTube:

And below is Jim's downtown Houston freeway tour. The building to the left of the freeway at 2:20 into the video is where I worked at Houston Traffic Central, a radio traffic reporting service that provided reports to most of the radio stations in town back in the late 1970s. The shorter building just to the left of it was where I worked at KULF, AM 790. The radio station was in the penthouse suite. This particular section of road is I-45, and is locally known as the Pierce Elevated, since it runs above and beside Pierce Street.

Great Freeway, Great Video

It has been a little while since I have been able to post anything the least bit roadgeeky. Today while noodling around on the web, I came across a YouTube road geek who calls himself Freeway Jim. One of his videos is a trip westbound on Interstate 68 from its eastern terminus at I-70 in Hancock, Maryland; through to Cumberland. I have photos I took along this stretch of road last year posted here. However, Jim's sped up video gives you an idea of what it is like to travel through the beautiful scenery along this stretch of highway in rural western Maryland.

When I lived in Cumberland, I didn't have much in the way of money or possessions, but it was some of the best years of my life. This part of the country will always be a special place for me.

Below is Jim's video courtesy of YouTube:

Yet another YouTube citizen has a nice, real time video of I-68 Eastbound from about the point where Jim's video ends. It starts in the western part of LaVale and goes through the city of Cumberland. I have included it below. Items of note:

As the video begins, you are eastbound on I-68 on the side of a mountain. Just off screen to the left, on top of the mountain, is Sacred Heart Hospital. That is where my oldest son was born back in 1975.

At 0:17 on the video, the Exit 42 ramp is a long and very steep one that trucks should not take. You cannot really get a sense of how steep it is from the video. This is the exit to US 220. If you turn left at the bottom of the ramp, you are routed onto Greene Street into the city of Cumberland. If you turn right, it is McMullen Highway (both are US 220) and head southwest through Potomac Park, Bowling Green, Cresaptown, and on to Keyser, West Virginia.

At 1:46, the camera pans to the right across the Potomac River. Those houses are in Ridgeley, West Virginia.

At 1:35, you can see the road sign warning about the sharp turn at Moose Curve, which is visible in the distance. It is so named because of the Moose Lodge that was at the side of the road there.

At 1:55 TO 2:04, you are actually in Moose Curve. The old Moose Lodge is the red brick building right in front of the camera.

The radio station playing on the car radio is WKGO (GO 106). That was the first commercial station I ever was on the air at. It is the FM affiliate of WTBO (AM). My first job in radio was to be a DJ at WTBO, and I had to come in early to do local breaks on a college basketball game that was on WKGO.