January 31, 2005

Life's Too Short

Recently, Random's thoughts about his girl child's fourth birthday prompted me to muse about the passage of time.

Michele Catalano recently posted some similar thoughts of her own on the subject.

Last night, I found this video of a hilarious (but unaired) XBOX ad that really encapsulates the feeling I've been having recently. (Via New Links).

Posted by JohnL at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) |

Appropriate Heinlein Quote

I found a perfect Heinlein quote for the coming month, to mark the momentous Iraqi elections yesterday:

Democracy is a poor system; the only thing that can be said for it is that it's eight times as good as any other method. Its worst fault is that its leaders reflect their constituents--a low level, but what can you expect?

From Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.

Posted by JohnL at 10:29 PM | Comments (0) |

January 30, 2005

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (Arado Ar 232)

This week's serving is the interesting, but ultimately unsuccessful, German WWII transport aircraft, the Arado Ar 232 Tausendfuessler "Tatzelwurm" (i.e., "Millipede").

It came in two variants, the Ar 232A, which was powered by 2 BMW 801 engines, and the Ar 232 B, powered by 4 BMW-Bramo 323 R-2 engines. The plane had a normal "tricycle" landing gear for landings on well-paved airfields. However, the landing gear could be "broken," to lower the plane onto the 22 belly wheels, from which the plane derived its nickname. This allowed the cargo ramp to be extended at a smaller angle from the rear of the cargo bay. The belly wheels also allowed for additional support when landing on rough surfaces. Amazingly, even when fully loaded with a 16-metric-ton cargo, the plane could take off in 200 meters (shorter with rocket-assisted takeoff).

Here's the "A" in flight:
Ar 232A in Flight.jpg

A nice shot of the "Millipede" landing gear on an "A":

And a different view of the landing gear on a "B":

Posted by JohnL at 10:28 PM | Comments (1) |

They Voted!

I didn't really doubt that the Iraqis would vote in high numbers today, but it's nice to see the people of Iraq put the lie to the "vote and die" meme spread by the MSM and their hack political cartoonists.

Tim Blair seems to have the best roundup of links to positive and negative coverage. I like Scrappleface's take on the event, too.

Some faces of freedom in the extended entry:

Giving the finger to the terrorists (are you as sick as I am of the lame euphemisms like "insurgents" or "militants"?).


For those clue-deprived individuals who think requiring a photo ID to get into a polling location is "vote suppression," take a look at this picture. (Though shot in the face by a terrorist outside a polling station in Mosul, he is expected to survive).

Posted by JohnL at 09:31 PM | Comments (1) |

January 27, 2005

Irony Alert

Recently, a Texas lawmaker introduced a bill that would require Texas school districts to include the body mass index of pupils as part of their regular report cards.

I'm sorry, but parents should know if their kids are fat (or "husky") without the school districts telling them so. And, frankly, Texas schools have a lot more to worry about than the BMI of their students.

As to the irony (pointed out by Texan Munuvian Ilyka): check out the apparent BMI issues of the legislator (legislatrix?) who introduced the bill.

(This lady has also introduced a bill requiring development of lactation education programs for elementary and secondary schools' science curricula. Hello? Why do those kids need to learn about lactation in elementary school?).

Posted by JohnL at 10:28 PM | Comments (3) |

Nostalgia Unlimited

Graham at Point2Point points out this archive of colorful illustrations from the 1940s and 1950s. Looks like the kind of place where Lileks would feel right at home.

Posted by JohnL at 10:14 PM | Comments (0) |

Auschwitz +60

Kathy the Cake Eater has a thoughtful and thought-provoking post on the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz today.

Posted by JohnL at 09:58 PM | Comments (0) |

January 26, 2005

Superbowl Cupcake Recipe

Not entirely safe for work.

Via Dave Barry's blog, here's a recipe for Janet Jackson Breast Cupcakes.

Posted by JohnL at 09:46 PM | Comments (0) |

Happy Australia Day


Today is [was?] Australia Day. Cheers to Alan, Pixy, Yobbo, and other friends down under. I hope you all enjoyed your lamb.

Update: Looks like Random beat me to the punch this morning. While I'm updating, I'll pass this along to Yobbo as an Australia Day gift.

Posted by JohnL at 06:56 PM | Comments (2) |

January 25, 2005

SF Babe Poll (Dr Who Companions)

Thanks to everyone who provided feedback to help nominate this week's candidates. To reward your participation, I am going to change the original terms of the poll a bit. Instead of limiting it to four candidates, this week's poll will be a five-way contest, to accommodate the candidates who received more than one recommendation.

Without further ado, this week's contestants:

Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown (portrayed by Nicola Bryant):

Leela (portrayed by Louise Jameson):

Romana II (portrayed by Lalla Ward):

Rose Tyler (portrayed by Billie Piper) - the newest sidekick, and one whose name seems to be a delightful play on "Tyler Rose," which Texans should recognize (since the town of Tyler, Texas is famous for its roses, which are often sold by drifters and cultists at various traffic intersections):

And last but far from least, Zoe (portrayed by Wendy Padbury):

Update: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Please feel free to make yourselves at home here. Please also check out some of the fine bloggers you may not be familiar with in my blogrolls to the right.

Be sure to check out the Gallery of previous SF Babe poll winners, and be assured that I am keeping track of your recommendations for future candidates. I update the poll weekly, and plan to have some "best of" polls pitting the winners against one another. The permanent link for the poll is http://texasbestgrok.mu.nu/index.php#SFBabePoll. Thanks!

Results (Posted 1 February 2005):

Peri - 62 of 318 votes (19%)
Leela - 107 of 318 votes (34%) WINNER
Romana II - 41 of 318 votes (13%)
Rose - 41 of 318 votes (13%)
Zoe - 67 of 318 votes (21%)

Posted by JohnL at 10:22 PM | Comments (21) |

January 24, 2005

My Blogging Twin

Your Famous Blogger Twin is InstaPundit
Smart, well-informed, a true polymath Don't be surprised if your blogging brings you fame as well!
Who's Your Famous Blogger Twin?

Funny thing is, I can't seem to attract that Instalanche.

Posted by JohnL at 10:00 PM | Comments (3) |

Casting Call

Pixy Misa, the benevolent dictator of Munuviana, wonders who would play the various denizens of Mu.Nu when they make the movie.

I see "Back to the Future"-era Christopher Lloyd as Pixy.

I can see John Goodman as Ted, as suggested by Jen Lars and Ted himself.

And speaking of Jen, I hope she doesn't take offense that I would see the "pre-political-ass" Janeane Garofalo portraying her.

Robert and Steve. Hmm... so many options here. Felix and Oscar? Lenny and Squiggy? Lloyd and Harry? Starsky and Hutch? You get the idea...

Random would be portrayed by the Atticus Finch version of Gregory Peck.

Kathy the Cake Eater (who would be portrayed by Helen Hunt per Robbo) thinks Dennis Quaid would play me, as Texans should play Texans. I like her idea, but there are many Texan actors in addition to Dennis to choose from. So, a quick poll. I'm really interested to see which of the following Texan actors you think would match my online persona, i.e., which of the faces goes with my online "voice":

Dennis Quaid
Owen Wilson
Bill Paxton
Tommy Lee Jones

I look forward to your answers.

Posted by JohnL at 09:55 PM | Comments (13) |

January 23, 2005

Crisis for Conservatives!


I'm sure this particular issue has not received the attention it properly deserves!

Write your congressmen!


I mean it!

Forward this to everyone in your address book!

I really, really mean it! This is so much more important than Kid Rock and Spongebob!

</sarcasm ends>

Via Rand Simberg, with whom I agree 100 percent on this.

I stopped using cursive in eighth grade. For quick notetaking I use a modified (and largely illegible to others) hybrid of print and script. Whenever I have tried to "fancy up" a thank you note by writing it in cursive, it looks like an eighth-grader's messy writing. Much better to print legibly than to adhere to a pointless old tradition.

I do almost all writing (including outlining and drafting, when applicable) on a keyboard these days. I occasionally plot out visual works (slideshows, web pages) with pen and ink, but do all content at the computer.

I say give the kids typing lessons for most of the time spent on cursive, and use just a small amount of time to teach them how to read cursive, which is still a valuable skill (the reading, that is). Let them learn it with calligraphy as an elective for occasional use. Otherwise, pitch it overboard.

Posted by JohnL at 10:44 PM | Comments (1) |

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (Harrier)

This week's serving is the V/STOL (vertical/short takeoff and landing) attack aircraft, the Harrier. The aircraft has an interesting developmental history, with inputs from France (original engine design), West Germany, the UK and US (explained in more detail here):



Posted by JohnL at 10:33 PM | Comments (2) |

January 20, 2005

7 Word Movie Reviews

Nothing much tonight. Lots to write about but no energy. The stress of the week has strangled my muse.

Here's a link to Michele, who came up with the idea of summarizing your favorite movie in exactly seven words -- no more, no less. At last count, she had well over 400 comments (2 by me).

My movie, in seven words:

Jail. Mission. Reunion. Concert. Car Chase. Jail.

Know which one it is?

Posted by JohnL at 09:42 PM | Comments (9) |

January 19, 2005

Der Ring des Niebelungen

Via Crooked Timber, yet another reason (#957?) to love the Internet:

I'm not a huge fan of Wagner, but the Goethe Institute has prepared an interactive multimedia site covering his Ring of the Niebelungen. While aimed at youth, the site is quite rewarding (and presented in German or English).

I paged through some of the comic strip version in German and found it quite entertaining and interesting. This would definitely be a great resource for anyone seeking greater familiarity with the Ring, with the German language, or both.

Posted by JohnL at 11:51 PM | Comments (1) |

Insightful Commentary


Posted by JohnL at 11:37 PM | Comments (1) |

Flamewarrior Hierarchy

Oh Lord, this is too funny (because it's so true). When I first ventured onto the 'net about 10 years ago, I hung out a lot on USENET (especially alt.music.yes and sci.space.policy). These descriptions could just as easily apply to bloggers as to discussion group members. Hmmm... I think I have an idea for a meme...

Via Utterly Boring.

Posted by JohnL at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) |

Science, Like Nature, Must Also Be Tamed

What a week so far. Science fair at school, and all that that implies. Two sets of petri dishes culturing household germs, cardboard presentation triptychs, color printer issuing reports: Problem - Hypothesis - Materials - Procedure - Results - Conclusion.

Meantime, we have the Cub Scout pinewood derby this weekend, so we are simultaneously engineering what we hope to be winning cars. The boys did all their own cutting, and a fair amount of painting (I've had to pitch in on some coats of paint during my lunch hour to make sure they are adequately done in time for Friday's check-in).

Unfortunately, all of this has been very boy-centric and our girl has been watching a lot of Barbie videos (ugh - better than Bratz, at least) and spending time occupying herself in her room. In fact, today my wife found her dancing - gyrating really - on her bed without a shirt on. When told to put on her shirt, she answered, "that's OK, I'm a boy!"

Ai yai yai. We all NEED the weekend to get here soon so we can get this craziness behind us.

Posted by JohnL at 11:24 PM | Comments (0) |

January 18, 2005

Parents, Be Good Sports

I coach my sons' recreational soccer teams. My daughter (age 5) played soccer for the first time in the Fall in a different rec league. A referee made a good call in one of her games that led to the other team's not getting a goal. At the end of the game, which they tied, the other team's coach was telling his little girls that it was all right, they won anyway, and the score was really one for his team, one for their opponents, and one for the ref.

Five year olds.


Fortunately, most parents, coaches, and refs over the five years that I've been coaching have been very positive. They want the kids to learn to play and to play their best, but only as a means of having fun and getting some exercise. They have not been fanatical about winning or ashamed of losing.

So I'm glad to see that Hockey Canada has assembled a set of wonderful public service announcements to drive home the message that parents should be good sports.

If you've got a fast internet connection, check out the videos here.

The kids are watching. And they repeat what they see and hear.

(link via Bad Jocks).

Posted by JohnL at 09:41 PM | Comments (2) |

January 17, 2005

Dr Who SF Babe Nominations

I only watched Dr Who for a couple of seasons on the local PBS affiliate back in the mid-1980s. Tom Baker is the only doctor I ever saw, and I remember well the episode where he picked up Leela (Louise Jameson) as his sidekick. After doing some research, I'm not sure how best to screen out the contestants for the Dr Who babe poll, so I will leave it to you, dear readers, to help me with nominations.

Here are the rules:

1. This will be a four-way poll.

2. Please submit your top four picks to be included in the poll via comments or email. They must be female (sorry, ladies and differently-inclined gentlemen). If you can remember a particular companion, wonderful. Otherwise, have a browse through this page. I will take the top two vote-getters that are neither Leela nor Rose Tyler (see rule number 3).

3. I will be including Leela and the Doctor's new companion, Rose Tyler (played by Billie Piper), in the final poll notwithstanding stronger showings by other reader-nominated candidates. Sorry, but it's my poll and this is not a true democracy!

4. Nominations will close 12:00 noon Central Standard Time (GMT -6) on Monday, January 24, 2005.

We'll be extending the Spock's Girlfriends poll for another week to allow plenty of time for nominations.

I'm looking forward to reading your suggestions. Thanks!

Posted by JohnL at 09:29 PM | Comments (8) |


At 9:30 this morning, I received my 30,000th visitor (IP address 209.247.222.#) to this blog. Appropriately enough, they entered the page via a Google search for "Markie Post" and exited from the SF Babe category archive.

Other interesting applications of the number 30,000:

Lightning-bolt current averages 30,000 amps

The view from 30,000 feet.

Another view from 30,000 feet.

Yet another view from 30,000 feet.

Still another view from 30,000 feet (my favorite view, by the way).

When I started blogging almost a year and a half ago, I wasn't sure how this would turn out. After the first few months, I never dreamed I would attract more than 100 readers a day. Passing this milestone is a real treat. Even more gratifying has been getting to know my small but regular group of return readers. Thank you all for coming by!

Posted by JohnL at 08:57 PM | Comments (2) |

January 16, 2005

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (Tu-20 "Bear")

Check out the Tupolev Tu-20 "Bear" strategic bomber (sometimes designated Tu-95). Note the four massive turboprop engines, each driving two counter-rotating propellers.



Posted by JohnL at 10:04 PM | Comments (0) |

January 14, 2005

Surf City, Titan

It looks like the Huygens probe may have landed on or near a beach on Saturn's frigid moon Titan, based on these initial raw images.

I look forward to seeing the rest of the images, especially after they have been processed.

Posted by JohnL at 09:01 PM | Comments (0) |

January 13, 2005

Time Stand Still

RP's girl child just celebrated her fourth birthday. To celebrate, she has moved out of diapers. RP found this milestone a poignant occasion. RP, as she's your first child, you need to know that this is just the beginning of many poignant moments. As you know, we have three kids, and our youngest is a year-and-a-half older than your girl child.

Diapers are nothin'. In fact, we were doing backflips when our youngest was finally out of diapers/pull-ups. Instead, just wait to experience going through the Hefty bag full of stuffed animals collected by all your kids over the years, deciding which ones go to Goodwill, and which ones get to stay in the attic for future grandkids. You'll watch that scene in Toy Story 2 where Jessie gets dropped off by her girl with a whole new perspective.

Or wait until your child starts getting uncomfortable being seen with you in public (my oldest followed me at a distance of 10 feet through Fry's Electronics a couple of months ago). Sure, it's a necessary part of maturing, starting to establish one's independence, but it's tough.

My middle child, an 8-year-old boy (all boy!) reached up to hold my hand tonight in the parking lot as we walked into the grocery store. He still does that every now and then. And every time he does it, I wonder is this the last time??

Two weeks ago my little girl asked me to take her training wheels off so she can learn to ride a "2-wheeler," as our kids put it. She'll be the third child I've taught (and she's learning much faster than the two boys ahead of her did). As I was running backwards down the sidewalk with my hands positioned under her handlebars helping steady her when she needed it, I realized this is the last time I'll be teaching one of my children to do this.

It hit me really hard -- She's my baby, but she's not talking like one any more. She's growing up into a graceful, beautiful, smart, charming girl. Watching her play soccer for the first time this year made me realize just how big she's gotten. When did that happen??! When did her brothers get so tall? If the oldest is approaching the teen years, that means middle age is close behind for me, and after that ... ? -- Not ready to go there yet.

I can understand why only children get so easily spoiled, as every moment becomes a potential poignant moment. But when you have more than one, you kind of get spoiled yourself knowing there'll be another chance, another way to relive the moment. But after you've lived the moment with the last one, what next?

Driving lessons, I suppose, coming up in five years for the oldest child (which is about how long ago he was learning to ride the bike without training wheels).

It always seems lowbrow to quote rock lyrics to make a point, but there was a Rush song I didn't like very much when it came out, but now I completely identify with it. Focus especially on the last two verses:

Time Stand Still

I turn my back to the wind
To catch my breath,
Before I start off again
Driven on,
Without a moment to spend
To pass an evening
With a drink and a friend

I let my skin get too thin
I’d like to pause,
No matter what I pretend
Like some pilgrim --
Who learns to transcend --
Learns to live
As if each step was the end

Time stand still --
I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
See more of the people
And the places that surround me now

Freeze this moment
A little bit longer
Make each sensation
A little bit stronger
Experience slips away...

I turn my face to the sun
Close my eyes,
Let my defences down --
All those wounds
That I can't get unwound

I let my past go too fast
No time to pause --
If I could slow it all down
Like some captain,
Whose ship runs aground --
I can wait until the tide
Comes around

Make each impression
A little bit stronger
Freeze this motion
A little bit longer
The innocence slips away...

Summer's going fast --
Nights growing colder
Children growing up --
Old friends growing older
Experience slips away...

I think I'll excuse myself to go get a beer and read a book now, if you don't mind...

Posted by JohnL at 10:41 PM | Comments (4) |

Why I Love The Internet, Reason #956

This guy has done what I (and probably every other guy in my high school chemistry class) wanted to do when we learned about elemental Sodium's behavior when it comes into contact with water.

The site has multiple videos of the various explosions these guys created with three and a half pounds of the metal, but this one's my favorite (4.7MB).


(Via BoingBoing)

Posted by JohnL at 10:19 PM | Comments (0) |

Bumper Sticker "Wisdom"

I saw this slogan on the bumper of a car this morning: Some Things Exist Whether Or Not You Believe In Them. It was black with an eldritch white script. Made me think of something a neo-pagan or wiccan would sport.

I usually don't parse bumper stickers too closely, but this one really got the neuronic flywheel spinning. I'm sure it was meant to assert a reality beyond this one, whether or not you believe in it. But if you take it literally, it really describes nothing mystical at all.

I mean, the Internet exists, whether or not I believe in it.

And that table exists, whether or not I believe in it.

Her car exists, whether or not I believe in it.

You get the idea. I guess you could just say that existence exists, whether or not you believe in it.

Posted by JohnL at 10:03 PM | Comments (0) |

TBG 2004 Condensed Version

Here's a meme that's infected Munuviana big time (I traced it back to here). Simply list the first line from the first post of each month of 2004. I'm introducing a mutation here, since some of these make no sense unless the post title is included. Titles in italics, first sentences plaintext:

January: Happy New Year - I have been enjoying time off with my family*.

February: Just Say No - Strategy Page has a video demonstrating the effects of LSD on British troops in a test that appears to have been conducted in the early 1960s.*

March: Sad News - Lawyer, historian, and former librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin passed away on Sunday at the age of 89 from pneumonia. *

April: Ia! Ia! Sanrio Fhtagn! - Hello Cthulu, via Ambient Irony. *

May: Bob Moog Documentary - Here's a DVD I'll be looking forward to later this year. *

June: Sleestak Art - I loved the old (70s) Land of the Lost show. *

July: Life's Highway - I've recently gotten off the highway (from Breckenridge, Colorado to Plano, Texas) so I think it appropriate to kick off blogging again with this puzzling little diversion found at the Llama Butchers: *

August: My Ten Books - Got this idea from Chan, who read about it at normblog. *

September: I'm a Liberal Democrat. . . -. . . In Australia, that is, according to this quiz. *

October: Debate Wrapup - Lileks is on fire this morning. *

November: Endorsement and Prediction - For what it's worth, I am endorsing President Bush and the Republican Party this year. *

December: Awful Cosmetic Makeover - Via Naked Villainy, a frightening picture of Paris Hilton at The Mirthful Ones. *

Posted by JohnL at 08:50 PM | Comments (0) |

January 12, 2005

Hanging Out at the Corner

I swung by the Corner tonight, not a typical surfing destination for me. I found a couple of really good posts, though:

First, I am not a John Derbyshire fan, as he [usually] perfectly embodies the stereotype of the pessimistic, luddite conservative. However, you have to give him credit for this brilliant posting on the "Intelligent Design" movement.

Then, there's a link to this story that makes me ashamed to be a lawyer.

(While we're on this topic, here's one of my favorite lawyer jokes:

Q: Do you know the problem with lawyer jokes?
A: Lawyers don't think they're funny and no-one else thinks they're jokes).

Posted by JohnL at 11:16 PM | Comments (0) |

MWOC Project

OK. I have a couple of regular features now: the Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake postings and the Weekly SF Babe Poll.

I originally got into this blogging thing to stretch my authorial (writerly?) muscles, but I haven't done nearly as much original writing as I had planned. I've heard that any writer needs to write a million words of crap (MWOC) before getting published.

Now, I'm in a good position in my legal career, and I'm not really looking to change anything. However, I would love to write something other than contracts and get paid for it someday.

Query: should the words on this blog count toward the proverbial MWOC? I'm thinking about yet another feature: the MWOC feature, which would contain my fictional offering with a word count and a running tally of the number of words written (with a countdown from the million-word goal).

What do you think? Little Miss Attila and Pixy have talked about maybe having a Munuvian writers' group. I wonder if this would be a way to kick that idea off.

Posted by JohnL at 11:06 PM | Comments (1) |

Health Insecurity

When I saw President Clinton hold up a mock "Health Security" card during his 1995 State of the Union address, I had what I thought was a brilliant flash for a science fiction story of some kind. I imagined a future in which the Health Security card became a regular part of commercial life in the same way that our Social Security numbers have become a part of our everyday credit approval process. Since it was described as a "smart card" with medical records embedded on it, I imagined a world in which people weren't allowed to buy ice cream, butter, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. because their card indicated they were a health risk to the cash register.

Well, it looks like someone else has had a similar idea, even though a different political party is now in power.

Posted by JohnL at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) |


Today's Geekpress contained a link to this fascinating article explaining how to write English like Chinese (Hanzi or Kanji).

I've been beating my head against Kanji and the Kana alphabets of Japan for the past few years. This article really enlightened me on the radical-root system for listing Chinese characters. Check it out.

Posted by JohnL at 10:47 PM | Comments (0) |

January 11, 2005


Via the Llamabutchers:

1. Go To Mapquest.com.
2. Click on "Directions."
3. Enter your current address and the address of your childhood home (or at least the town if you don't remember the exact address).
4. Put the time and distance in a post like this.
5. Repost the instructions to the meme in your own blog.

Here are my results:

Total Est. Time: 24 minutes Total Est. Distance: 16.77 miles

Posted by JohnL at 11:00 PM | Comments (0) |

SF Babe Poll (Spock's Girlfriends)

This week's poll returns us to the universe of the original Star Trek series, featuring two repeat candidates -- T'Pring and Nurse Chapel -- along with three new contenders. All of these ladies had some sort of romantic encounter (even if rebuffed in a couple of instances) with Commender Spock at some point during the three-season run of the original series.

First up, the Romulan Commander (portrayed by Joanne Linville) from The Enterprise Incident:

T'Pring (portrayed by Arlene Martel) in Amok Time:

Nurse Chapel (portrayed by Majel Barrett) in The Naked Time:

Zarabeth (portrayed by Mariette Hartley) in All Our Yesterdays:

Leila Kolomi (portrayed by Jill Ireland), from This Side of Paradise:

Be sure to check out the Gallery for last week's winner.

Results (Posted 25 January 2005):

Romulan Commander - 11 of 86 votes (13%)
T'Pring - 13 of 86 votes (15%)
Nurse Chapel - 3 of 86 votes (3%)
Zarabeth - 30 of 86 votes (35%) (WINNER)
Leila Kolomi - 29 of 86 votes (34%)

Posted by JohnL at 09:07 PM | Comments (3) |

January 10, 2005

Music List

Chan and Don are doing it, so I might as well throw my hat in the ring, too, on the top-ten greatest rock/pop songs of all time. I toyed with the idea of listing my 10 subjective favorites and then offering an objective list, but soon realized the "objective" list would be nothing more than a lawyered-up subjective list with appeals to authority.

Without further ado, and in order of preference:

1. The Ocean, Led Zeppelin (Houses of the Holy). Most such lists include Stairway to Heaven, but this song completely blows just about every other Zeppelin song away. Killer riff rock with a nod to doo-wop at the end. How much better can rock get?

2. Tom Sawyer, Rush (Moving Pictures). A defining moment: the 70s are over. Welcome to the 80s. Searing synthesizer filter-sweep destined for future sampling. Great lines: "Though his mind is not for rent/To any god or government/Always hopeful yet discontent/He knows changes aren't permanent/But change is."

3. Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix (Are You Experienced?). Like "The Ocean," the opening riff of this song is simply legendary.

4. A Day in the Life, The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band). Incredible orchestration for a pop song. The E-chord on the three grand pianos at the end is but the cherry on this mega-ice-cream sundae.

5. South Side of the Sky, Yes (Fragile). This song doesn't merely kick in after the soft, melodic interlude -- it kicks ass.

6. Tarkus, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (Tarkus). The apotheosis of prog rock. The best version of this is the live one on Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends, Ladies and Gentlemen... A 20-minute-long SF-flavored epic with killer keyboards and drums.

7. Nights in White Satin, The Moody Blues (Days of Future Passed). Was ever a better make-out song written?

8. Back in Black, AC/DC (Back in Black). No comment necessary. Really.

9. Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty (City to City). Everyone knows the sax riff, and I bet most everyone plays "air guitar" during the sweet guitar solo.

10. Plush, Stone Temple Pilots (Core). One test of a great rock song is how good it sounds "unplugged." This song passes that test, and nicely represents the sound of the early 90s.

Update: This meme originated (this time around, at least) with Norman Geras, whom both Chan and Don cited. Submit your choices to Norman by January 16.

Posted by JohnL at 10:35 PM | Comments (2) |

January 09, 2005

Heinlein on Legal Advice

I'm reading Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein. This little exchange between a ship's commanding officer (Brisby) and his paymaster/legal officer ("Pay") reminded me of some clients I've had:

Brisby scowled. "Pay, you aren't working for me to tell me I can't do things."

"Yes, sir."

"You're here to tell me how I can do what I'm going to do anyhow. So start digging through your books and find out how. Legally. And free."

"Aye aye, sir."

I'm sure most of my lawyer readers can relate.

Posted by JohnL at 10:18 PM | Comments (1) |

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (Blohm und Voss BV 141)

This week's cheesecake is a bit of an ugly duckling. Perhaps one of the most asymmetrical military aircraft ever flown, the Blohm und Voss B.V. 141:



Posted by JohnL at 09:23 PM | Comments (5) |

January 08, 2005

Album Cover Art

Cheesecake, electric organs -- what more could you ask for? All this and more from this great gallery of album covers (mostly from the late-50s to early 60s, judging by their look). It doesn't have Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass's Whipped Cream and Other Delights, which was the raciest-looking album in my parents' collection, but I won't hold that against them.

(Via J-Walk, via RocketJones).

Posted by JohnL at 09:05 PM | Comments (0) |

Martini Boy Returneth

One of my favorite libertarian bloggers, Stephen Green, is back. He took an extended vacation from blogging over the holidays.

I wouldn't have posted much, either, if I had been assembling an Imperial Star Destroyer out of more than 3000 LEGOs.

He fisks Krugman a new one, too.

Posted by JohnL at 08:43 PM | Comments (0) |

January 06, 2005

Was Tolkien A Conservative?

Rob the Llamabutcher tries to figure out whether Tolkien is the property of liberals or conservatives. Certainly a lot of hippies and counterculture types usually thought of as "liberals" loved Tolkien's fantasies. Conservatives love the struggle (and triumph) of good over evil.

I posted a lengthy comment there, and reproduce it below the fold:

Timothy Sandefur has had an interesting string of posts about the philosophical differences between libertarians (i.e., classical liberals) and conservatives (Start here and scroll down for about a week).

One problem in using the terms "liberal" and "conservative" is that they have been burdened with political baggage inconsistent with their strict and classical meanings.

I think Tolkien was a classical conservative. He liked social order and was skeptical of industrialism and how it disrupts an idyllic pastoral life (Shire=England). Much of his epic works had to do with preserving the best of the past in the face of change and destruction. All conservative ideas.

The reason so many leftists (think the 1960s hippies) liked him is that they themselves are "conservatives."

Posted by JohnL at 10:48 PM | Comments (6) |

Book Meme

A cool book meme (from Lintefiniel Musing aka Jen Speaks, via the Llamabutchers). Remove the names of the authors you don't have currently on your bookshelves and bold the ones you've added.

1. Michael Crichton
2. Neal Stephenson
3. Tom Clancy
4. Robert Heinlein
5. CS Lewis
6. JRR Tolkien
7. Ayn Rand
8. Larry Niven
9. Yann Martel
10. David James Duncan

Posted by JohnL at 10:36 PM | Comments (2) |

Jacko the Whacko

Everything you wanted to know (and some stuff you didn't) about the Michael Jackson creepy pedophile allegations.

Posted by JohnL at 10:19 PM | Comments (0) |

A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Ray and Roast

I'm no fan of country music. And that is a significant understatement.

Yesterday's Achewood rang (twanged?) true with me.

Posted by JohnL at 10:15 PM | Comments (0) |

January 05, 2005

Space Links

I've been pruning and revising the blogroll. Since these aren't really blogs, I'm moving them to here, so they'll be readily accessible from my archives.

Posted by JohnL at 07:09 PM | Comments (0) |

January 04, 2005

New to Blogroll

I don't always announce changes to my blogroll, but I've [re]-discovered a great and relatively new blogger, whom I first noticed as a commenter at the currently-but-hopefully-only-temporarily-dormant Vodkapundit.

His name is Frank Martin (blog name: Varifrank) and just scanning through his website I immediately found a couple of great posts:

In this one, a bully gets his comeuppance.

In this one, some Euroweenies get their comeuppance. (Note: my kids know of Gail Halvorsen thanks to Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot).

Go check him out.

Posted by JohnL at 10:56 PM | Comments (2) |

Meat Puppetry

For those of you who don't follow Neal Stephenson or SF, The Baroque Cycle is an ambitious trilogy of 900-plus page novels, all set during the height of the Enlightenment in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. I have just finished reading Quicksilver, the first volume, which Stephenson painstakingly wrote in longhand on cotton parchment with a fountain pen (to get into the historical mindframe).

There are no significant spoilers here, but if you haven't read any of it yet and are sensitive to learning any details ahead of time, don't read any further. The rest of this is below the fold:

Stephenson's tremendous amount of research is reflected in his obsessive attention to detail and frequent excursions from the main storyline to share some explanation of the workings of the Royal Society, the Amsterdam and London Stock Exchanges, the etymology of the word "bank" as it pertains to a place that deals in money, etc. For readers unfamiliar with Stephenson's style, these discursions will make you love him or hate him. I liked them in Cryptonomicon, and they continued to delight me here.

Throughout the first book, Stephenson acquaints us with some of the original and early members of the Royal Society and walks us through details of some of their experiments. On the 139th page of the paperback version of Quicksilver, we learn of an experiment conducted by John Wilkins and Robert Hooke to learn how the human mouth forms phonemes:

...Charles Comstock was rousted from bed and ordered to dissect the corpse, as a lesson in anatomy (and as a way of getting rid of it). Meanwhile, Hooke and Wilkins connected the head's windpipe to a large set of fireplace-bellows, so that they could blow air through his voice-box. Daniel was detailed to saw off the top of the skull and get rid of the brains so that he could reach in through the back and get hold of the soft palate, tongue, and other meaty bits responsible for making sounds. With Daniel thus acting as a sort of meat puppeteer, and Hooke manipulating the lips and nostrils, and Wilkins plying the bellows, they were able to make the head speak...."

Though I wasn't much of a fan of theirs, the old eighties alterna-punk band "The Meat Puppets" came immediately to mind as I read that, and I wondered whether this was a hidden tribute to them. After exhaustive Googling, I couldn't find a plausible direct link between Stephenson and that band, but I did learn of the etymology of the phrase "meat puppet," which seems to have been invented by William Gibson in his groundbreaking Neuromancer (in reference to Molly's original profession as a sense-blocked prostitute).

Now, Neuromancer came out about the same time as The Meat Puppets debuted in 1980 -- could there be a link? Hmmm.

In any case, based on interviews, Stephenson is clearly aware of Gibson, and I can't help thinking this may have been a deeply embedded tribute by him to the father of cyberpunk. Although this book will provide many rewarding nuggets like this for obsessive geeks to research, it should also appeal even to those with just a casual interest in history, as it makes this exciting time of intellectual ferment come to life.

Highly recommended.

Posted by JohnL at 09:33 PM | Comments (2) |

SF Babes Poll (Firefly)

I've never seen a single episode of Firefly, but the synopsis at Amazon of this short-lived SF series is impressive. Old West and SF: a killer combination. Star Trek was originally pitched as "Wagon Train" in space. Battlestar Galactica featured Starbuck in an episode versus a gunslinging Cylon.

I think I'll be checking Firefly out soon. In the meantime, reviewing the many websites devoted to this show, it's apparent that Firefly provides some outstanding competitors in this week's poll:

First up is Gina Torres portraying Zoe Warren, a soldier:

Next is Jewel Staite portraying Kaylee Frye, engineer:

Texan Summer Glau, portrays River Tam, a psychic:

Finally, the beautiful Brazilian Morena Baccarin portrays Inara Serra, a professional "companion" (wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more...):

Update: The SF Babe poll is on my main page and updated weekly. Click "Main" above and vote, or go here. You can click the SFBabe category link in the left column on the main page to see previous polls, and check out the Gallery of previous winners.

Results (Posted 11 January 2005):
Zoe -- 11 of 57 votes for 19%
Kaylee -- 23 of 57 votes for 40% (WINNER)
River -- 1 of 57 votes for 2%
Inara -- 22 of 57 votes for 39%

Posted by JohnL at 09:14 PM | Comments (7) |

January 03, 2005

Martha's Prison Diaries

In case you haven't been following them, Jeff Goldstein has been posting a hilarious series of fictitious diary entries of Martha Stewart in prison.

Think Caged Heat meets Martha Stewart Living.

Jeff is also suffering a motivation crisis (see the comments to this post). I know how he feels sometimes. If you don't read him regularly, you should. His is the type of clever humor for which the Internet is ideally suited. Check out his site, and show him some appreciation.

Posted by JohnL at 11:04 PM | Comments (0) |

Religion Article Delayed

I have to apologize that my earlier-promised essay on religion has stalled. I thank everyone who replied to the poll, but I'm encountering one of the great frustrations with blogging: I keep finding that others are already writing on the same subject matter and stimulating some great commentary. At this point, I don't know what I can add.

I'll provide my answers to my poll, along with some general commentary soon. In the meantime, check out Naked Villainy, Bill, Rand Simberg, John Scalzi, and Timothy Sandefur (and guests) for some thought-provoking material.

Posted by JohnL at 09:58 PM | Comments (0) |

First Steps Out of the Cradle

The early space visionary and scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky famously stated: "The earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever."

James Muncy describes two important political baby-steps out of the cradle: the Congressional funding of the President's Vision for Space Exploration and the passage of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act.

I would argue that the latter, together with the successful flights of SpaceShipOne to win the X-prize, represents a much larger step than pouring yet more money into NASA, new "vision" or not.

Posted by JohnL at 09:53 PM | Comments (2) |

Asteroid Threat Downgraded

Though I've updated my earlier entry, it's worth noting here that, upon additional analysis, Asteroid 2004 MN4 does not present as great a risk as initially thought. The riskiest orbit now appears due in the year 2051, again on my birthday, but that orbit only ranks a zero on the Torino impact risk scale and a minus 1.93 on the Palermo.

Posted by JohnL at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) |

January 02, 2005

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (P/F-82 Twin Mustang)

This week's entry is the F-82 Twin Mustang, essentially two P-51 bodies sharing a single wing:



Images found here and here.

Posted by JohnL at 11:17 PM | Comments (0) |

January 01, 2005

Hook 'Em, Horns!

Now THAT was a football game!

Awesome Rose Bowl. Texas beats Michigan, 38-37 on a last-second field goal.

I wonder how many of the other BCS games will come close to being as entertaining as this one was.

Posted by JohnL at 07:51 PM | Comments (8) |

Tsunami Assistance

One of the first challenges facing us in this new year is to help those suffering in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Head over to the Command Post to find out what you can do to help.

Posted by JohnL at 12:14 AM | Comments (0) |

Happy New Year!

I hope that the year 2005 is as blessed and prosperous for you as 2004 has been for my family.

Happy New Year.

Posted by JohnL at 12:11 AM | Comments (0) |