Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's that time of year again

So help me, if I hear or read about "an extra hour of daylight" on Halloween one more time...

We've got 10 1/2 hours of daylight today (at least at my latitude), and it will be 10 1/2 hours of daylight no matter how you slice it. The fact that you're awake to see it does not mean that it wasn't there before.

And while we're at it, if we're really serious about messing with the clocks to save energy, we'd be skewing the available daylight as late into the evening hours as possible around this time of year. Arranging the clocks so the sun sets around 11 p.m. would be ideal. That way, we cut back on the number of hours people have those ginormous, energy-hogging Christmas light displays lit.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Today's Dose of Irony

The nudie bar down the street is holding a costume contest for Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

From the Headlines

Bank of America to Eliminate 3,000 Jobs

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like any of them are the people who keep calling me to try to get me to tack on new "services" and "insurance" to my credit card account.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Non-Recommended Reading

In light (so to speak) of the wildfires currently incinerating parts of California, has an article up, "Why Californians Don't Leave." I'll save you a few minutes of reading. The article lays the blame on our brains' faulty risk assessment. Apparently, we believe that, even though an obvious hazard for major disaster is right outside our doors, we convince ourselves that disaster will never actually befall us personally. Our neighbors, sure, but not us.

Hooey. The real reason we live in disaster-prone places is that we have to live somewhere.

I was born in California: drought, wildfire and earthquake territory. When I was young, we moved briefly to Washington and lived for a few months within view of a very-recently-erupted (at the time) volcano. I spent most of my growing-up years in Oregon, where I got to experience floods and a very memorable earthquake, plus the periodic warnings that the volcanoes may be waking up. Oh, and the nuclear power plant was just on the other side of the hills, although that got shut down eventually. In college, I moved to Nebraska, where the two basic seasons are "blizzard" and "tornado." Now we live in Ohio, where, in addition to the occasional tornado, I'm back to flooding. Though I haven't experienced it yet, I understand earthquakes are not unheard of.

Nowhere on the planet is completely immune to natural and not-so-natural disasters. Some locations are more prone to more predictable disasters than other locations, but every spot has it's own buffet of potential catastrophe. The reason we choose to live in the paths of wildfire, earthquake, drought, and flood is not that we underestimate the threat; we just have an inertial preference for the devil we know.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

All Hail the Emp. Peng.

I upgraded my laptop's operating system to Ubuntu 7.10, Gutsy Gibbon (as a rabid penguinophile, of course I use Linux). I'll blame user stupidity rather than the penguin for the installation problems. Something in the initial download and install failed, leaving me with a computer that would not boot. Worst of all, it was a computer that wouldn't boot and contained all of my recent work. I've learned my lesson and will never go mucking around the operating system without backing up the data again.

I spent the better part of Friday desperate to get the laptop to boot again. I made two live boot disks (for the less geeky readers, a live boot disk allows you to boot the computer from a CD without touching the existing operating system, or in my case, lack of existing operating system). Both of my boot disks failed, owing to human error in the burn process since burning a boot disk is somewhat more complicated than burning a music or data backup CD. I was at the point of considering what I would need to break open the laptop, pull the drive and hitch it to a working computer. As I told one person, "I don't care if the laptop breathes again; I just need my files."

Emp. Peng. to the rescue. He was away overnight for business when this happened, and called 12 hours into my ordeal. Using his new iPhone somewhere near the Appalachians, he found the appropriate Unix command-line code to burn the boot CD properly and walked me through the correct burn process. That got me a functional boot CD, but I still spent the next three hours in a fruitless and increasingly desperate search for my files while Emp. Peng. was on his way home to rescue his penguin in distress.

I should explain that Emp. Peng., computer guru though he may be, doesn't spend a lot of time around Linux. Going Penguin was my thing, and it is so far confined to my laptop here at the Rookery. Emp. Peng. has rarely had the occasion to get into my laptop. Still, when he got home, and found me still distraught over the missing files, he took a crack at my laptop to see if he could track them down. I handed him the laptop that had caused me most of a full day's consternation. Twenty seconds later, he had my files pulled up.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

About Colbert

How bad is it that, if Stephen Colbert is serious, I actually would consider voting for a comedy persona above any of the other candidates? Emp. Peng. explains it as, "You know the level of screw if he's screwing with us."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Well, This Explains It

Next time, I'll look before I call something "inexplicable." The graphic designer responsible for the breast cancer penguin has something of a penguin theme going on. In fact, she's got an entire penguin shop of clothes, mugs, bumper stickers and throw pillows with various penguin designs, thus earning the website,, a shameless commerce plug. Shopping for me just got that much easier.

Inexplicable Penguin Promo

Someone posted the above image to a message board I'm on. First, let me say I'm all in favor of penguins, like you didn't know that. I am also generally opposed to cancer of any kind, so anything we can do to save lives and body parts is a good thing. However, I'm left wondering...why a penguin? Penguins are birds, and as such lack what one would traditionally call "breasts"--except for white meat, but that is really more pectoral muscle than breast. Wouldn't a better choice for a breast cancer awareness mascot be, say, anything from the class mammalia? Y'know, something that comes equipped with mammaries?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Today's Entertainment Thought

One of my favorite blogs, News From ME, posits a hypothesis that the home video market exists for the purpose of seeing how many times they can get him to buy the movie Goldfinger (somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 at last count). Time was, the home entertainment industry would at least go to the trouble of developing a new, supposedly superior, media format to get us to re-purchase movies and shows we already owned. Now, they don't even do that. They just slap new "bonus features" on the DVD, use some foil stamping on the box and call it the Ultimate Collector's Edition.

What they don't seem to realize is that the Ultimate Collectors are the people who have been lining up on Tuesdays during the entire run of the series to get the individual seasons of the TV show on the day they come out. Or, for those of us in the boonies where Tuesday releases hit the stores somewhere around the following Thursday, we pre-order from Amazon and tear the package out of the UPS guy's hands before he can finish scanning it. These Ultimate Collector's Editions are really starting to cheese us off.

I have spent six years collecting the complete series of Stargate SG-1 (seasons 1-8 anyway...the series could have done without seasons 9 and 10) on DVD. I have devoted a full two feet of DVD shelf space to this series, since I couldn't wait for the Thinpak edition that would have taken up less than a foot. I don't remember just how much cash is sunk into this collection, but if one buys all 10 seasons individually at list price, that's only 50 cents shy of $500; even Amazon's discounting only brings the total down to $363.50. We can assume my figure is closer to the latter. I camped out at Comic-Con to get a seat (not a good seat, just a seat) at the SG-1 panel. How does MGM reward this kind of fan loyalty? Tomorrow, they are releasing Stargate: SG-1 The Complete Series box set with all 10 seasons plus four disks of bonus features not found on my individually-compiled set, list price of $329.98 (Amazon pre-order $230.99).

I don't know if these TV studios think that the fans are suckers, but I'm certainly starting to feel like one. I spent more to get less--unless you count packaging volume--than fans-come-lately to the series who waited until the show's run ended before they sunk any cash into the DVDs. Fans have begun to realize that buying the first release of a TV show on home video is a sucker's game. The first release will be followed in a few months by a better edition. If we just wait, we'll be able to get even more of the bonus features that make buying DVDs worth it; were it not for the bonus features and removal of the ads, we would just hook up the DVD recorder to the TiVo. Except here is the Catch-22 of the whole thing: if we buy the first iteration, a better one comes out. If we don't buy the first iteration, the studio decides it's not worth releasing the rest of the series at all, so not only do we not get the better edition, we don't even get Season 2 of the crappy edition.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

TiVo is in My Head!

The latest commercial for TiVo HD shows off the listings search function with the search term "Penguin."

Whale Tale

California is having some trouble disposing of a dead whale's carcass. They towed it 10 miles offshore about a week ago, and it found its way back. So they've towed it out to sea again.

At least they are remembering a lesson from their neighbors to the north: a half ton of dynamite is NOT a good way to solve this problem. This video never gets old.