April 28, 2005

Lysander's Answers Are Up

Lysander has posted the answers to his interview questions. He got the wrong answer to 2 out of 3 on number 5, but I'll cut him some slack.

Only Eric remains, but he will be offline for a few days, so look for his questions some time this weekend.

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

April 27, 2005

Obsolete Skillz


You are 'regularly metric verse'. This can take many forms, including heroic couplets, blank verse, and other iambic pentameters, for example. It has not been used much since the nineteenth century; modern poets tend to prefer rhyme without meter, or even poetry with neither rhyme nor meter.

You appreciate the beautiful things in life--the joy of music, the color of leaves falling, the rhythm of a heartbeat. You see life itself as a series of little poems. The result (or is it the cause?) is that you are pensive and often melancholy. You enjoy the company of other people, but they find you unexcitable and depressing. Your problem is that regularly metric verse has been obsolete for a long time.
What obsolete skill are you? brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by JohnL at 10:17 PM | Comments (1) |


I took the readability test (found via Ann Althouse). Here are my results:

Gunning Fog Index 7.49
Flesch Reading Ease 72.29
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 4.70

This means that my blog is written at anywhere between a fifth and eighth grade reading level. I am actually quite proud of that result. My mission here, as in my legal career, is to keep the prose short, sweet, and simple.

I can certainly keep up with pretentious and wordy authors. After all, based on the generalist nature of my college education and subsequent career, I have both a wide and deep vocabulary. Learning how to read and write in Latin and German also blessed me with a working knowledge of truly good grammar.

But none of that is an excuse to "show off" and make my writing unreadable.

How does your blog score?

Posted by JohnL at 10:06 PM | Comments (4) |

Fourth Interview - Lysander

Lysander from Alexandria is our next subject in this interview meme-game-thingy. Review the rules. As a courtesy I'll offer him six questions, but he only needs to answer five. That way he can drop one if he's not comfortable answering it. I'll link his answers when completed.

1. How did you come up with your nickname (Lysander)?

2. Based on your blog name and one of your early posts, you would appear to reside in or around Alexandria, Virginia. What's your favorite place to grab a dinner and drink in Old Town? What's the signature dinner/drink there?

3. Why did you decide to start blogging? Who (if anyone) inspired you to start blogging? Which blogs do you read on a daily (or at least regular) basis?

4. What single rule change would you make, if you could, to make NFL football more exciting?

5. Ardala or Deering? Ginger or Marianne? Eowyn or Arwen?

6. Do you have a hobby that is really important to you? Please tell us about it - how you got into it, how long you've been practicing it, what makes it important, etc.

Thanks for playing along!

Posted by JohnL at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) |

LDH's Answers Are Up

LDH has posted the answers to his interview questions. Go read them now; they are all interesting and entertaining (I particularly like his extended answer to the big music question in number 2).

Lysander and Eric are next. Stay tuned.

Posted by JohnL at 08:40 AM | Comments (0) |

April 26, 2005

SF Babes Weekly Poll (Lusty Lieutenants of Star Trek)

This week's poll offers a choice between two lovely, lusty lieutenants from the original Star Trek:

Lieutenant Marlena Moreau, the ruthless "Captain's woman" in the Bearded Spock universe of Mirror, Mirror (played by Barbara Luna):

And Lieutenant Marla McGivers, who fell hard for genetically-enhanced superman Khan Noonian Singh in Space Seed (portrayed by Madlyn Rhue):

Have fun, and check out the Gallery of previous winners.

Results (Posted 3 May 2005):

Lt. Marlena Moreau - 44 of 68 votes for 65% -- WINNER!
Lt. Marla McGivers - 24 of 68 votes for 35%

Posted by JohnL at 10:30 PM | Comments (3) |

April 25, 2005

Third Interview - LDH

You should know this meme's rules by now. My third subject is the enigmatic "LDH" of the blog Impenetrable Prose and Poesy. And here are the six questions, of which he need answer only five:

1. Your blog name is great. What is the most impenetrable prose or poesy that you have ever encountered?

2. Your profile states that you're a rock/jazz musician. What instrument(s) do you play? How long have you played (per instrument)? What instrument (if any) do you wish you could play? Do you play the same instrument for rock as for jazz?

3. What instrument is most critical to the "rock" sound? What instrument is most critical to the "jazz" sound?

4. What's your favorite kind of food? Which restaurant serves it best?

5. What's the goofiest Halloween costume you've ever worn?

6. What do you think (or know) about the anthropic principle? Do you believe in a creator, and if so what kind?

Thanks for playing along! I'll post a link to your answers when they're ready.

Posted by JohnL at 10:25 PM | Comments (1) |

Gunner's Answers

Gunner has posted a great set of answers to his interview questions.

Check back here soon for questions to LDH, Lysander, and Eric.

Posted by JohnL at 08:48 AM | Comments (0) |

April 24, 2005

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (A-10 Thunderbolt a/k/a "Warthog")

This week, we feature the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt (sometimes known as the "Warthog"). One of my long-time favorites, this craft simultaneously straddles the aesthestics of WWII bombers and modern jets. Though named after the WWII US P-47 fighter, this flying tank-killer is much closer in spirit to the WWII Soviet IL-2/IL-10 Shturmovik.

Here's a nice view of the 30mm gatling gun around which the rest of the plane is built:

And a view of the plane in flight:

Posted by JohnL at 09:44 PM | Comments (5) |

April 22, 2005

Happy Earth Day

Why should we cede a celebration of the earth to dirty hippies, luddite lefties, and their assorted anti-progress fellow-travelers? I love this beautiful planet. The oceans with their rhythmic surf, coral reefs, tide pools, and lightless trenches; the alpine meadows with glaciers, flowers, and deep blue skies; forests of all kinds; and the bustling cities where most of us live. If we are to survive in the long term, I believe we must move out and upward into the solar system and beyond. And as we move out, I know we will look back and remember this lovely cradle of humanity, perhaps hoping to return someday:

EarthriseNarrow.jpgThe Green Hills of Earth

Let the sweet fresh breezes heal me
As they rove around the girth
Of our lovely mother planet
Of the cool, green hills of Earth.

We rot in the moulds of Venus,
We retch at her tainted breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles,
Crawling with unclean death.

. . .

We've tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth:
Take us back again to the homes of men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

-- Robert Heinlein

Posted by JohnL at 12:01 AM | Comments (3) |

April 21, 2005

Electronic Music Studios (London)

If, like me, you have any interest in electronic music, synthesizers, or classic technology, you must visit this site. In particular, check out the history page, which features many interesting links and drool-worthy pictures of old many-knobbed analog synthesizers haloed in patch cords.

This company's best-known synthesizer was the VCS3, used by Pink Floyd on many of their early albums (highlighted most famously in "On the Run" from The Dark Side of the Moon).

The reason I found this site? A delightful posting by Chan today regarding the Doctor Who theme and the until-recently-uncredited contribution of electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire to that theme.

What can I say? Like Chan, I enjoy being a geek.

Posted by JohnL at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) |

Boring But Versatile, That's Me!

I am a d6

Take the quiz at dicepool.com

Posted by JohnL at 10:28 PM | Comments (2) |

Second Interview - Gunner

Gunner at Target Centermass has graciously and fearlessly stepped forward to be my second interview subject. The rules are here. As with Owlish, I'll ask Gunner six questions, even though he only has to answer five so that he can opt not to answer one of them:

1. For anyone new to your blog, why did you choose the name Target Centermass?

2. While a student at Texas A&M, did you get to help build any of the bonfires? Any memorable anecdotes? (For the benefit of any non-Aggie/non-Longhorn/non-Texan readers you might want to give a short explanation about the Aggie bonfire tradition).

3. What do you think about the current long term force "transformation" policy of the DoD, i.e., the "modular" Army based on swappable brigades like the new Stryker brigades? (On that note, what do you think about the Stryker vehicle? Competitor or complement to heavy armor?)

4. What's your favorite Tex-Mex place in the Dallas area? Do you normally order the same thing, or something different each time? Favorite dish/drink?

5. While you were in the Army, what was the most exotic posting you had? Any fun stories related to that specific location?

6. What got you into blogging? If you had to write a mission statement for your blog, whoat would it be? Do you have any conscious role models for or influences in your blogging?

Thanks for playing along. I'll post a link to your answers when you're done.

Posted by JohnL at 08:59 PM | Comments (0) |

April 19, 2005

60,000th Visitor

I rolled the odometer again today. Woohoo!

Looking at the referrer logs, it appears that visitor number 60,000 Googled in here looking for my Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster recipe (look here).

Bless their soul, they stayed for slightly more than 20 minutes. IP address 68.43.201.# with a comcast.net domain. If you are that lucky person, send me an email with contact info and I'll send you an autographed copy of my recipe.

Posted by JohnL at 11:27 PM | Comments (0) |

SF Babes Weekly Poll (The Stepford Wives)

This week's poll visits a classic semi-SF movie from 30 years ago, The Stepford Wives. Watching this movie with my wife, we couldn't help commenting on how ugly the mid-70s were. However, our candidates this week are anything but ugly:

First up is Katharine Ross, playing the housewife/photographer Joanne Eberhart, who misses the sounds of the big city and discovers the deadly secret of Stepford Village too late:

Next up is Texan Paula Prentiss, who portrays the outspoken Bobbie Markowe ("upwardly mobile for Markowitz"):

Finally, everyone's favorite castaway Tina Louise plays the frustrated housewife Charmaine Wimperis:


Results (posted 26 April 2005):

Joanne 21 of 58 votes for 36%
Bobbie 12 of 58 votes for 21%
Charmaine 25 of 58 votes for 43% -- WINNER!

Posted by JohnL at 11:10 PM | Comments (0) |

Owlish's Answers Are Up

Owlish has posted his answers to the interview questions I posed him last night.

Anyone else want to talk about themselves? Four spots for potential interviewees remain open. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Leave me a comment and let me know.

Posted by JohnL at 09:12 PM | Comments (3) |

April 18, 2005

Calculating God

The purest essence of science fiction is a good "what if?" Really good SF does its best to make both the question and answer consistent with real (or extrapolated) science.

What if aliens landed on Earth? And what if, instead of saying "take me to your leader," they said: "Excuse me. I would like to see a paleontologist." And what if, like many scientists, that paleontologist was a devout atheist? And what if the aliens believed that a god created the universe?

That is the setup for the extremely entertaining and thought-provoking Calculating God, by Canadian Robert Sawyer. And, by the "what if" standard, this book makes for some excellent SF reading.

Thomas Jericho, the paleontologist who makes first contact with the spider-like Hollus from Beta Hydri, is an atheist. Hollus explains that he came to Earth with his colleagues (some of whom are aliens from Delta Pavonis II) to investigate mass extinctions as turning points in the evolution of life. During their initial interchange, Hollus reveals that Earth, Beta Hydri, and Delta Pavonis II all experienced mass extinctions at the same points in their histories, even though the three planets were all of very different ages. When Jericho states that he can't think of any reason why evolutionary history should be so similar on multiple worlds, Hollus drops the bomb that sets the story in motion:

"One reason is obvious," said Hollus. . . . "It could be that way because God wished it to be so."

Awkward silence ensues. Jericho is completely taken aback. But over many subsequent conversations, Hollus lays out his case for a creator (essentially, the weak anthropic principle). And Sawyer is kind enough to have his narrator, Jericho, mention the various sources for further study on the anthropic principle. But don't think that god of the aliens resembles the God of most mainstream religions, i.e., some personal wish-granter like a Santa Claus writ large in the sky with the impressive beard and golden throne. Instead, this is God-as-author-of-the-Universe, the Deist god:

"A caring God," repeated Hollus. "I have also heard the phrases 'a loving God,' and 'a compassionate God.'" His eyestalks locked on me. "I think you humans apply too many adjectives to the creator."

"But you're the ones who believe that God has a purpose for us," I said.

"I believe the creator may have a specific reason for wanting a universe that has life in it, and, indeed, as you say, for wanting multiple sentiences to emerge simultaneously. But it seems clear beyond dispute that the creator takes no interest in specific individuals."

"And that's the generally held opinion amongst members of your race?" I asked.


Interesting stuff. Overall, the story's thought-provoking premise and rapid pace during the latter last third overcome the few glaring weaknesses:

1. First, the author is bit too enamored with Canada's socialized medical system, and makes that position all too clear.

2. Second, the only representatives of young earth creationism are a couple of murderous yokels from Arkansas (named - I kid you not - Cooter and J.D.). This makes them mere stereotypes, rather than the more common (and realistic) YECs that I encounter on a daily basis. It would have been better intellectually to set up a reasoned dispute between the aliens and a Baptist like Billy Graham rather than the violent confrontation portrayed in the book. (Of course, the violent confrontation made for a more entertaining read).

3. Finally, Sawyer reaches for a grand ending on a scale similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey or Carl Sagan's Contact, and fails to achieve the same level of grandeur. I just couldn't suspend my disbelief in the last chapter to accept the encounter with the Divine as presented.

In all, I would highly recommend this book. Sawyer has a way of tackling controversial issues in an entertaining manner. His earlier Terminal Experiment was a thought experiment posing the question "What if we found hard evidence for a human soul?" and attempting to answer it. And it looks like his next book, Mindscan, examines just what it is that makes us human.

(Cross-posted to GNXP Science Fiction)

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

Interview Questions for Owlish

The rules are here. Only one victim -- er, subject -- has stepped forward so far. Since none of my other readers have volunteered, I thought I would proceed with the questions for an old friend and blogchild of mine, Owlish. As for the rest of you lazy or cowardly readers, witness that my questions are fair. If you would like to be interviewed, let me know in comments. I'll take the first four.

As Random did for me, I'll give Owlish six questions, so that he can opt not to answer one of them.

1. OK. First, the obvious one. I know you've mentioned it before, perhaps in a posting that has long since been archived, but please explain for first-time readers your handle and blogname.

2. Since you live in Galveston (i.e., Hurricane alley), do you have a Bugout box? If so, what's in it? If not, what would you put in one?

3. One of my daily reads, Timothy Sandefur, recently wrote that atheism is the Last Closet: "We come up with clever ways of avoiding the issue or rationalizing things, or we just stay quiet, because it would upset the family and scare away friends if you admitted that you’re an atheist. You call yourself an agnostic or a deist or a freethinker—anything but the A word. You keep going to church. You say all the right words. The family can go on politely thinking you’re still in the fold." What do you think about that statement?

4. I have noted that many people of the medical and related biological persuasions are atheist, while most equivalently-educated engineers, accountants, programmers, and lawyers remain adherents to some faith system. What was your experience in medical school -- were few/some/many/most of your fellow medical students atheists?

5. What is the last piece of music you listened to?

6. What is the last movie you saw to which you had a strong emotional reaction (positive or negative) and why?

Thanks! Check back -- I'll post a link to Owlish's answers when he's done.

Posted by JohnL at 10:30 PM | Comments (1) |

April 17, 2005

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (Rutan Aircraft ARES)

I just recently discovered that Rutan Aircraft Factory (Burt Rutan's pre-Scaled Composites company) designed, built, and flew a ground attack aircraft similar in mission to the USAF's A-10 Warthog, the ARES (Agile Responsive Effective Support). First designed in 1981 as a turboprop in response to an Army request for a low cost battlefield attack aircraft, the ARES was built in 1986 as a turbojet. Similar to the A-10, the ARES is literally built around a gatling gun, in this case the GAU-12/U 25mm gun. Check out the size of the gun port on the fore starboard side of the plane:



Despite meeting all requirements, the plane never found a purchaser and remains a prototype. Find much more information about it at the Scaled Composites website.

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

April 14, 2005

Blog Battles

I own you, Llamabutchers and Ted.

On the other hand, it looks like Random has a slight edge against me.

I could defeat Kathy only through my superior strength.


is a Giant Lizard that has a Massively Swollen Skull.

Strength: 9 Agility: 4 Intelligence: 7

To see if your Giant Battle Monster can
defeat TexasBestGrok, enter your name and choose an attack:

fights TexasBestGrok using

Posted by JohnL at 11:14 PM | Comments (6) |

Amazing LEGO Church and Organ

I love LEGOs. And I love pipe organs. So I absolutely loved this custom LEGO church.

Check out all 35 photos documenting the project here. I've left you a sample of the organ in the extended entry.

(Via The Corner).


Posted by JohnL at 10:25 PM | Comments (1) |

Fear and Loathing in Disneyworld

I wonder if Rob the Llamabutcher is in any of these pictures?

Do these people look like they're having fun?

(Via BoingBoing).

Posted by JohnL at 12:02 AM | Comments (1) |

April 13, 2005

SF Babes Weekly Poll (More Trek Women)

For this week's poll, there's no real unifying theme, just a small selection from the many lovely ladies who appeared in the original Star Trek.

I know there are many, many worthy candidates, so if you don't see your favorite, name her in the comments. But please review earlier polls and the Winners' Gallery before criticizing me for the presence or absence of some candidate or another. The fields of Star Trek are fertile, and we will eventually take the many poll finalists and pit them against one another in a "Sweet 16"-style tournament. Without further ado:

From A Private Little War, the sexy but deceitful healer Nona (portrayed by Nancy Kovack):

From The Omega Glory, the Yang warrior Sirah (portrayed by Irene Kelly):

And from The Paradise Syndrome, Captain Kirk's only wife, Miramanee (played by Sabrina Scharf):

(All pre-cropped images courtesy of AllYourTrekAreBelongTo.us)

Results (Posted 19 April 2005):

Nona 21 of 71 votes for 30%
Sirah 38 of 71 votes for 53% -- WINNER
Miramanee 12 of 71 votes for 17%

Posted by JohnL at 11:23 PM | Comments (4) |

April 12, 2005

No Babes; Birthday Announcement; Connectivity Issues

Comcast is performing some upgrades in the neighborhood, so my connection to the Internet has been very intermittent. When it is there, it's very sluggish. The upshot is that I have to delay updating the SF Babes Poll until later this week.

Since tomorrow (April 13) is my birthday (number 37, thank you), I probably won't get to the poll until Thursday.

I won't run a birthday blog-a-thon, but if you feel like clicking on my Google ads tomorrow or ordering something for yourself from Amazon after following one of the Amazon ads in the sidebar, please feel free to do so. I would be curious to see what kind of difference that makes in my cents-a-day earnings.

Posted by JohnL at 09:52 PM | Comments (6) |

Carnival of the Recipes #34

Since I was getting ready to leave town last Friday, I missed that the 34th Carnival of the Recipes had been posted at Aussie Wife. I believe this marks the first time one of our friends from down under has hosted the Carnival.

I like the looks of the "Fire Butter" for Uncle Jack's Fire Steak. I also think I'll have to try Laughing Wolf's Roasted (well, Smoked) Lamb.

Posted by JohnL at 12:38 AM | Comments (0) |

April 11, 2005

Boy Scout Photoblogging

This past weekend, I took my eldest son, C., to Houston with 25 other Boy Scouts and 6 or 7 other adult chaperones. We went to participate in a Boy Scout Camp-in at SpaceCenter Houston. The program is designed to meet the essential elements of the Space Exploration Merit Badge.

In order to make the most out of the 10-hour round-trip drive, we left Plano early and visited the USS Texas and San Jacinto Monument.

(More in the extended entry).

The USS Texas was the last of the Battleships that were explicitly patterned after the HMS Dreadnought. Commissioned in 1914, the Battleship had a long and distinguished career with action in both World Wars of the 20th Century.

A nice view from the starboard side of the ship:


My scout, number-one son, operating the elevation of an AA gun:

Said AA gun:

The San Jacinto Monument as seen from the USS Texas:

This memorial to Texas Independence (can't really say freedom, since we were unfortunately a slaveholding republic), stands, as any proud Texan will inform you, taller than the Washington Monument. Twelve feet taller, to be exact. Tall enough, in any case, to take two pictures to capture it up close:

Remember that April 21 is San Jacinto Day!

Building exploration rovers with LEGOs:

PVC space stations:

And construction-paper rockets (launched with compressed air):

We toured the original mission control building (which guided all of the Gemini and Apollo missions):

And saw the [cancelled] X-38 program's lifting bodies and frames,

...Which were built, in part, by a surprising contractor:

Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

Posted by JohnL at 11:33 PM | Comments (1) |

April 10, 2005

More Aircraft Cheesecake

In case you haven't gotten enough, this page has a great collection of tasty photos from the 2003 Chicago Air and Water Show. My favorites are the B-1 buzzing an apartment building and the "heritage" photo of the P-51 with the A-10. Good stuff.

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

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (Antonov An-225)

Via a post that referenced my earlier cheesecake entry on the German Arado Ar 232 "Millipede," I present the Antonov An-225:

Note the many wheels along the rear bottom of the plane, much like the Arado Ar 232:


To get an idea of just how big this plane is, take a look at how small the Russian Buran shuttle is in comparison:


The Buran is about the same size as the US Shuttle orbiter, which takes up quite a bit more space on the back of a Boeing 747.

(All images courtesy of Lockett Photography Card Catalog).

Posted by JohnL at 09:54 PM | Comments (0) |

Recent Whereabouts

Sorry for the dearth of material recently. I'll have some good stuff soon. Of course, I'll have some new Aircraft Cheesecake posted later tonight.

This weekend, I went to Houston with my eldest son, C. (age 10), to visit the Battleship Texas, San Jacinto Monument, and SpaceCenter Houston. We did a camp-in at the SpaceCenter for Boy Scouts. I'll have a photoblog or two up early in the week.

Posted by JohnL at 09:27 PM | Comments (0) |

April 07, 2005

Another Music List

I fired up iTunes tonight to listen to the latest installment of Lileks' Diner, and left it running while blogging that novella I just put up about shopping centers. As usual, it is set on shuffle, and here are the ten songs that have come up:

1. Aerosmith - Rare live version of Sweet Emotion
2. New Christy Minstrels - A Travelin' Man
3. Ronald Reagan - Operation Coffee Cup (I didn't listen to more than the first few minutes before scanning to the next)
4. Pat Boone - Metallica's Enter the Sandman
5. Red Army Choir - Moscow Nights (a beautiful folk song)
6. Van Halen - The Cradle Will Rock
7. Bad Company - Feel Like Makin' Love
8. Mel Carter - Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
9. Neil Diamond - Cracklin' Rosie
10. Fear Factory/Gary Numan - Cars Remix

Weird. I wonder how my coworkers (or you) would judge me by my iTunes playlist? (Via GeekPress).

Posted by JohnL at 12:31 AM | Comments (1) |

April 06, 2005

Those Sneaky Shopping Malls

I wonder if Virginia Postrel has seen this article in Slate yet (not sure how long the link will be viable).

From the opening sentence, Andrew Blum's article drips with condecension and scorn on commercially-motivated style (all emphases mine):

Like insecure teenagers, malls keep changing their style.

Once you get past his sarcasm, you actually learn that malls are updating their style, adding open-air plazas, sidewalks and street-side parking, and re-dubbing themselves "lifestyle centers." (I've been to one of those centers a few times here in Plano, called Legacy Town Center (or The Shops at Legacy). A near-perfect model of New Urbanist design if there can be one). A good thing, especially for a lefty writer at Slate, no? Well, actually, no:

[W]hile these new malls may appear to be public space, they're not public at all—at least if you want to do anything but shop. They represent a bait-and-switch routine on the part of developers, one that exchanges the public realm for the commercial one.

Got that? The commercial realm is exclusive of the public. It doesn't matter whether the style conforms to all the objectives of the (largely leftist) New Urbanism, it's all just a bait-and-switch routine because the developers want you to spend money in their shops.

Hmmm. I'm confused -- are developers just supposed to create these little New Urban oases without any thought of commerce? Does Blum's tone mean that he thinks the big sprawling suburban mall is better than this kind of development? Hold that thought -- next he goes on a walking tour of a few lifestyle centers and manages to get in a very subtle dig at Starbucks:

Parking my rented Chevy in front of a big-box emporium called Barbeques Galore, I walked through the arched portals that decorate the marketplace entrance. Inside, there were restaurants and stores lining a winding and narrow outdoor pedestrian street that opened up onto a series of little plazas. Padded wicker chairs were strewn about in a studied, casual way, and a huge fieldstone fireplace had benches built into it for those cool desert nights. This was a delightful place for a Frappuccino....

[At another lifestyle center], it immediately felt like a real, bustling neighborhood. The sidewalks were shaded from the sun by flowered trellises, and the streets narrowed at the corners to give pedestrians an implied right of way. An urban plaza with a good café and a band shell provided a central gathering place.

Blum seems uncomfortable with the success of this kind of development, but fortunately he recognizes and acknowledges the irony of commercial developers implementing New Urbanism:

This is civic life in America, circa 2005, and it's spreading....

[Old-fashioned indoor malls] turn their backs to their surroundings and concentrate activity in and on themselves. By contrast, lifestyle centers gesture toward their environments....

More incredibly, lifestyle centers do all the things that urban planners have promoted for years as ways of counteracting sprawl: squeeze more into less space, combine a mix of activities, and employ a fine-grained street grid to create a public realm—a "sidewalk ballet," in Jane Jacobs' alluring phrase. The irony is almost too perfect: Malls are now being designed to resemble the downtown commercial districts they replaced. What sweet vindication for urban sophisticates!

But now we get to the core of his concern, the fact that these developments are privately-owned, "carefully insulated from the messiness of public life," in his words. Blum has issues with the lifestyle centers' codes of conduct:

The list of forbidden activities includes "non-commercial expressive activity"—not to mention "excessive staring" and "taking photos, video or audio recording of any store, product, employee, customer or officer." "Photos of shopping party with shopping center décor, as a backdrop," however, are permitted.

Finally, his thesis, buried at the end:

There's something a bit unhealthy about faux public places designed to attract rich people and make them feel comfortable. (At least the traditional mall didn't try to hide the fact that it was a shopping center.) The lifestyle center is a bizarre outgrowth of the suburban mentality: People want public space, even if making that space private is the only way to get it.

There's so much wrong with that, I just don't know where to start.

Would it be healthy instead to create faux public places to attract poor people and make them comfortable? Or is it OK to create "authentic" public places to attract rich people? Are New Urbanist developments only to be allowed in the central business district of an existing city? Would it be OK if the money to develop these lifestyle centers was public money rather than private?

Well, go read it yourself. Some people are just impossible to please.

Posted by JohnL at 11:36 PM | Comments (0) |

April 05, 2005

One Year in MuNuviana

Today is my one year anniversary here at the mu.nu domain.

First, a big "thank you" to Pixy Misa for putting together this crazy collection of diverse bloggers.

Second, a question for my users: over the past year, this site has grown more graphics-intensive. If you are on dialup, is this site slow to load? Please let me know in the comments or by email what kind of delays you might be experiencing. If the pages load quickly enough, I won't hide too many things in the extended entries. But if there are noticeable load delays, I will try to make the main page smaller and thus quicker to load.

Thanks, as always, to those of you who regularly stop by to visit. If you are a new visitor (as a result of the Carnival of Recipes and various -lanches that came with it or otherwise), please check back through my archives to get a feel for the place and come back to visit again soon.

Posted by JohnL at 11:16 PM | Comments (7) |

Art of Industrial Design

Virginia Postrel points to a fascinating site that mines old patents for examples of striking industrial design. They have a "what's new" blog, too, which I have added to the "Between Planets" section of the blogroll.

I also found a mother lode of incredible early aircraft designs via the site.

Some examples in the extended entry:




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

SF Babes Weekly Poll (Farscape)

This week's poll continues to highlight some of the lesser-known SF actresses who have starred in more obscure SF series -- in this case, Farscape.

Claudia Black portrays Aeryn Sun, a tough former soldier of the Peacekeeper corps:

Tammy McIntosh plays the part of Joolushko Tunai Fenta Hovalis (or, more simply, "Jool"), an intelligent but fiery scientist:

Raelee Hill's character is Sikozu Svala Shanti Sugaysi Shanu, a member of the Kalish species who can walk on walls and ceilings:

Finally, Gigi Edgley portrays Chiana, a sarcastic survivor:

Results (Posted 13 April 2005):

Claudia Black (as Aeryn Sun) 34 of 86 votes for 40% (WINNER)
Tammy McIntosh (as Jool) 4 of 86 votes for 5%
Raelee Hill (as Sikozu) 26 of 86 votes for 30%
Gigi Edgley (as Chiana) 22 of 86 votes for 25%

Posted by JohnL at 09:34 PM | Comments (14) |

My Interview

When I saw that Random Pensees was promulgating an interview meme, I knew I had to volunteer (even though he had already received the requisite five volunteers). Random is one of the more erudite and interesting bloggers I read. You should read him daily, as I do.

So, to see his questions for me and my answers, look in the Extended Entry. And since this is something of a meme, please leave me a comment saying "interview me." The first five of you requesting that will be my next interviewees. I will then ask you five questions. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. (Write your own questions or borrow some.) And they'll ask five friends, and so on, and so on...

I know I only needed to answer five, but I liked all six questions.

1. You are on the desert island. What three books would you have to have and what would you want to be able to drink while reading them?

Let's agree that my native intelligence, common sense, and camping experience will obviate the need for any sort of Survival/How To books. Let's also stipulate that said character traits will ensure a steady supply of fresh water.

I would want books that are not only entertaining, but remain engaging after multiple readings. These are the top three on my personal list that meet those criteria:

As to my drink of choice? Probably Guinness Stout or Shiner Bock beer. Guinness tastes better than Shiner at warmer temps, so I would probably go with that.

2. What's your opinion on the designated hitter? Ruined baseball or extended the careers of some great players?

You know, I wish I had an opinion on this. I've never really been much of a baseball fan. I grew up in Dallas in the 1970s and 80s, so the Cowboys were it. The local "major league" baseball team, the Rangers, is a glorified minor-league team that can't play well enough to justify the $200 million stadium extorted out of the local taxpayers. It's more than an hour drive through excruciating traffic to get to their ballpark, and after spending $20 to get a crappy hot dog, watery beer, and stale peanuts, I'm usually too aggravated to worry about such esoteric questions as the DH rule. I do have a lot more fun closer to home watching the local minor league team play at a much more modest (but IMHO, nicer) ballpark, where tickets and concessions are both much more affordable.

I guess anything that can make baseball more exciting is good in my book, and the DH rule seems to do that. So I'll say I'm in favor of it.

3. What is the most iconic song to come out of the 1980's?

For me? It was, without a doubt, Tom Sawyer by Rush. In fact, the entire album Moving Pictures was my personal soundtrack for the 80s. The synthesizers, lush production, and tight arrangements all signaled the end of the 70s and represented the best of the 80s sound. I am biased toward that rock group, though, as any regular reader of my blog would quickly ascertain, so here are some (more typically 80s-sounding) worthy runners-up:

4. What did you want to be when you were growing up? Did you become it? Are you ok with not becoming it? If you did become it, has it been all you hoped?

I wanted to be a military pilot with the hope of becoming an astronaut. I obviously did not become one, as a result of lousy genes (nearsightedness from both parents) and strong dissuasion from a military career by my parents. I still wish sometimes that I had pursued a career in the military. With my record and grades in high school, I would have been a shoe-in for appointment to a military academy, and could probably have found a fulfilling career - pilot or not - in the Navy or Air Force (the two services I was interested in).

I don't regret the path I ended up taking, though I had trouble seeing a path along the way. "Lawyer" was not something I ever dreamed or aspired to be. But I am now in a dream of a legal job, with varied and interesting work and potential for advancement. Though it pays quite a bit less than a law firm job, it pays well and I have more time to be with my family, as it is only 10 minutes from my home. Texas is still a very affordable place to live, so I make a comfortable living, my wife doesn't have to work, and I have time for other interests and pursuits. That makes me quite rich, by most measures.

5. Describe the best performance you've ever given and tell me why it was the best. Was it the crowd? The technical aspects? What made it great?

The best performance I have ever given was of the Chorale movement of Louis Vierne's Second Organ Symphony during an organ lesson at UT. The "crowd" consisted of my professor and me. It was technically near-perfect, but something else happened that is very hard to describe, though I'll try. But first, an aside for context.

Organ is a physically demanding instrument to master. I was taught using a French technique which begins in a very mechanistic, non-musical way. You essentially have to "program" your body to perform the many amazing motions it takes to play a piece properly. You begin with a very slow tempo, as slow as it takes to play all voices (hands and feet) in time without having to stress out about what the next notes are. Unlike piano, where pianists usually practice each hand separately and then together, I rarely practiced hands and feet separately. Instead, I would go weeks at tediously slow paces and gradually speed up. For the first time in my life, I really learned what patience meant, as it would take months just to learn notes and motions; musicality and emotion were secondary concerns.

Back to the story, having spent months getting the Vierne up to speed, I performed it in a way that still brings chills to me today. I was so well prepared and so "open" to the music, that I sat back in a detached, almost Zen-like, state and watched my body perform the motions without effort. I was on a smaller practice instrument in the lesson studio (not a concert hall), so the sound was very intimate and immediate. Though I was detached, I still was able to respond and direct my body. It was the synthesis of being both observer and participant in the perfect performance that sticks with me. Not to sound mystical, but I have only felt the direct touch of something Divine a very few times in my life -- and that brief period of musical communion with something very, very powerful counts as one of them. During the next two years pursuing a performance degree, I never topped that one performance, though I came close to it a couple times with some other pieces.

6. Describe your perfect, self-indulgent, guilty escape from work/family day. Even if it is just a fantasy.

Heh. In a few years, I would want to take a ride into space with Branson's Virgin Galactic space liner. Failing that, if I could get time alone with my wife in the Rocky Mountains for a few days to hike, bike, eat, and spend some quality time together, I would consider myself well-indulged.

Posted by JohnL at 12:33 PM | Comments (5) |

April 04, 2005

In Prog We Trust

Via Gravity Lens, a great article in The Grauniad about the dinosaurs that everyone loves (or at least loved) to hate: prog rockers.

I used to be very heavily into Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes (in all its sundry incarnations), Genesis (especially the obscure early stuff), the Moody Blues, and early King Crimson. I credit prog (especially and almost exclusively Emerson Lake and Palmer) with stimulating in me a deep appreciation for both classical and jazz music. I first learned of Bartok, Ginastera, Copland, and Janacek from Keith Emerson's arrangements of their pieces.

If you like progressive rock or want to sample some, there is a cool web radio station named Aural Moon. You can pick up a stream at their site, and they are listed under the Radio section of iTunes, too.

Posted by JohnL at 10:45 PM | Comments (1) |

Another New Blog

I know I've been posting a lot of these recently, but I've been noting several new incoming pings from blogs I'm not familiar with.

The subject of this post is David Veksler, author of the blog Truth, Justice, and the American Way. He's been blogging about a year and a half longer than I, so I'm surprised I haven't crossed paths with him online before. I can forgive that he's an Aggie (heck, some of my best friends are Aggies). He's definitely a Texan -- though born in Ukraine, his attitudes are all Texan. He believes in freedom and the power of the market. He self-identifies as an Objectivist, so I hope he won't mind if I put him in the libertarian/classical liberal section of my blogroll (i.e., The Moon is a Harsh Mistress).

Thanks for the kind words about my blog, David!

Posted by JohnL at 10:25 PM | Comments (0) |

Teach Your Children Well

Email received from my wife Friday afternoon, reproduced in its entirety here (names abbreviated to protect the innocent):

Subject: Star Wars

D. [8 y.o. son] spent 30 minutes in his room with E. [5 y.o. daughter], teaching her about Star Wars with his ships and your action figures. Now they are watching Return of the Jedi, D.'s choice since E. would like the Teddy Bears.


I know I've done my job well to pass the SF torch to another generation.

Posted by JohnL at 06:18 PM | Comments (3) |

April 03, 2005

New (To Me) Blog

OK, this guy is new to me, even though he has been blogging for almost a year. I discovered his blog thanks to his link to the recent Carnival of Recipes held here.

He has quite an array of interests, including Retrocomputing. Plus, anyone who unironically praises the late-1970s Buck Rogers gets brownie points in my book.

Go check out his blog. I've parked him "Between Planets" on my blogroll for now.

Posted by JohnL at 10:48 PM | Comments (0) |

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (F-18 Hornet)

The F-18 Hornet is simply one of the most beautiful airplanes currently flying:




(Images found here and here).

Posted by JohnL at 10:26 PM | Comments (1) |

April 02, 2005

Talking to Lawyers

Talking to lawyers -- about as fun as talking to dentists, or used car salesmen, right?

Seriously, though, you may find yourself needing legal advice someday. And Timothy Sandefur has prepared an excellent list to help you get the best value out of your lawyer.

Number 1 on his list is one of the hardest to get across. What seems important to the client is not necessarily legally important. The challenge for the lawyer is to explain why certain things are not legally relevant, even though they seem very important to the client. (Unfortunately, the law is often not "fair" and the client can feel a sense of injustice that the things that are important to them won't be heard in court).

Number 10 (don't call every day, but do call) is also equally important for both the lawyer and client to observe.

Go read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 09:25 PM | Comments (0) |

April 01, 2005

Carnival of the Recipes #33

Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends. We're so glad you could attend! Come inside, come inside!

Introducing the "Karn Evil" of the Recipes 33. We've a sight to make you drool, so keep it cool, keep it cool...

Nothing uses up alcohol faster than political argument.
-- Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Oddybobo at Bobo Blogger presents Another Tight Sweater for the Blog Warriors. Kahlua, Frangelico, Amaretto, whipped cream. Yum.SaurianBrandy.jpg

On a much less refined note, I must offer up my own Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster recipe. Drink at your own risk.

I never thought of making my own root beer. But Michele at Meanderings passes along a recipe for Marge's Root Beer too easy to pass up.

Peter the Wizard at Down For Repairs was too late to get a recipe in, but offers some helpful advice on finding the right wine to accompany your food.

How about rousing your lazy carcass and finding a little snack for lunch? Say about four thousand calories each.
-- Lazarus Long in Heinlein's Time Enough For Love

Pickled Eggs.jpg
Mostly Cajun provides a recipe to help us keep those leftover Easter eggs from going to waste: Pickled eggs. (Just what kind of "Cajun" would even consider this heretical notion of making the hot peppers "optional" in this recipe??!) Elizabeth at Harelipfrog tried this recipe and has pictures documenting the preparation of the eggs.

Donna at PajamaPundits has a recipe for Butterflied Party Franks that she suggests be dubbed Space Cadet Franks to fit the Heinlein theme around here. OK. Space Cadet Franks they are. Space Cadet.jpg

My blogchild Owlish passes along this recipe for Caviar Dip. Looks downright sinful.

The Glittering Eye offers a Spinach Souffle in 3's, which would make a really good brunch dish.

Bothenook at A Geezer's Corner offers this appetizer that makes my arteries feel harder just reading it: Bacon Wrapped, Pecan Stuffed Dates. <homer voice>Mmmm. Bacon.</homer voice>

Like a perfect dinner, a revolution has to be "cooked" so that everything comes out even.
-- Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Ted at Rocket Jones, who kindly sponsored my membership in the Munuvian clan, gives us two choices of Tamales this week -- Chorizo Apricot and Poblano Jack. He has made the recipes almost idiot-proof, even offering diagrams on how to put the tamales together in the corn husks:
I'm a multi-generation native Texan who loves tamales, but I've never tried to make them myself. Now I have no excuse but to do so.

Ith is organizing a Gathering of the Blogs around Tartan Day on April 6. As a proud owner of Scots blood (about 75%), I would love to participate, but I'm doing this Carnival instead. I guess I'll have to try some of her Bonnie Prince Charlie Chicken instead.

Shrimps.jpgAllan found a recipe for Southwestern Stir-Fried Shrimp that is low in fat and calories, but not in flavor. Cumin, bell peppers, and lime will keep this one interesting, though I suspect I would increase the Cayenne pepper from 1/8 to 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon to get the heat where I like it.

Sissy Willis made a Crown Roast of Pork with Apple and Sausage Stuffing and Gravy for Easter dinner. Check out her variation on Sweet Potato Casserole, below.

VW offers up an easy and yummy recipe for Garden Chicken and Stuffing. Looks like quick and easy comfort food for the whole family.

One of the joys of cooking is learning presentation techniques. Caltechgirl at Not Exactly Rocket Science gets creative with her Meatloaf Cake recipe, which I would love to make just to see the looks on my kids' faces.

Chris Byrne - The AnarchAngel presents Recipes for REAL men - Volume 2, featuring "MusclecarBonara," a very rich-looking sauce for pasta.

Newwavegurly at The mental pukings of a pop culture junkie sends along another savory pasta recipe: Quick Shrimp Marsala.

Shawn at Everything and Nothing provides this delicious-looking recipe for a Mediterranean Vegetable-Cheese Pie, perfect for the warmer months ahead. I couldn't decide whether to put this under side dishes or entrees, but it had so many yummy things in it, I thought it could go here.

Joan, guestblogging at Booklore, passes along a recipe for homemade Macaroni and Cheese. This looks really rich.

Rory at What not to do in Asia presents What not to cook - Olive and Kimchi Omelet. Add a Bloody Mary and this would be a great hangover remedy.

Elisson at Blog d'Elisson presents Daffy, Donald, and Me, a complete spread featuring roast duck.

Feisty Christina simplifies Shrimp Etouffee for the masses. Secret ingredient: cream of celery soup. Be sure to check out her cake recipe down below, too.

BJ at Quite Early One Morning presents a devilish bastardization of two Italian pasta dishes to create Le Frutta del Diavolo del Mare. This looks really good, folks.

Soups and Stews
"What would you say to a Kansas City cut, rare, with baked potato, Tycho sauce, green salad, coffee ... and a drink first?"
"I think so too, but we'll be lucky, this hour in this hole, to get algae soup and burgers."

-- Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

clam chowder.jpg
Jeff at Trub (pronounced Troob) passes along his recipe for New England Clam Chowder. Mmm. Soup is good food.

Here's some Nordic Stew from El Capitan. It looked like the contents of a cirrhotic liver patient's bedpan, but it smelled wonderful. Caveat: most things taste and smell better when camping, much less while, ahem, in a chemically-altered brainstate.

More stews, this time of the Ethiopian variety, from fellow Dallasite Kevin the Technogypsy. He offers recipes for both Vegetable Stew and Chickpea Stew here.

Amanda the Aussie Wife submits a spicy recipe for Thai Style Chicken Soup. I would probably use a dried red chili or two as garnish, but I like things insanely hot. Your mileage may vary.

Punctilious at Like News But Tasty prepares a Fine Soup from the Easter dinner Cornish hens. Two meals for the price of one!

Be at Bebere.com gives us another spicy soup perfect for warming any lingering chills in this early Spring (and for keeping any of our friends Down Under warm as their calendar moves toward Winter): Caldo Verde (Portuguese Kale Soup).

Sandwiches, Sides, Salads, and Sauces
That'll be three beers--Coors--and three sirloin steaks, one rare, one medium rare, one medium. With the usual garbage. Baked potato, fried promises, whatever. The usual limp salad. Hot rolls. All the usual. Dessert later. Coffee.
Steve the Truck Driver in Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice

Kris at Anywhere But Here "hearts" avocados, and so do I, so this recipe for Avocado and Cheese Sandwiches looks like a keeper.avocado.gif

Jay at Accidental Verbosity shares a recipe for the crockpot: Barbecue Shredded Beef. He uses London Broil; I have used Brisket in a very similar way to make shredded Barbecue sandwiches. A great recipe for when you're too busy to fire up the grill or smoker and make "real" BBQ.

One of Marybeth's Random Thoughts is a simple sandwich recipe: Silver Morning Sandwiches. She suggests rye or wheat bread, but I bet pumpernickel would work really well with the Russian dressing and slaw.

FrazzledDad figured out a way to make a decent Shortcut Mole (generically, a complex sauce or gravy used in Mexican cooking). Jim uses apricot in the sauce, so this might make a real nice complement to Ted's Chorizo Apricot tamales, above.

I've never much liked sweet potato casseroles at holiday dinners, but I may have to change my mind after looking at Sissy Willis' Easter creation: Pureed Baked Sweet Potatoes topped with Peeps. If nothing else, the presentation was perfect for the holiday. Great job!

Though I'm a third-generation Texan (second-generation native) and my wife is a relative of Sam Houston, I've never been able to acquire a taste for grits. Too "southern" and not "Texan" enough for my taste. David at Third World County has a recipe that may change my mind, however: Chilis and Cheese Grits. He suggests (but hasn't tried) substituting chorizo for the bacon. Sounds perfect, and I may just have to try them that way.

Triticale - The Wheat/Rye Guy has created a Peach Salsa that might possibly impress a Texan. Apparently the recipe burned the tender palates of some Wisconsin salsa judges, but I wouldn't give them much credibility. Let a panel of Texans judge this one. Kidding aside, I bet this would really complement Ted's Chorizo Apricot Tamales (above).

Deborah at Eat Your History has put together a really great-looking Mediterranean Orzo and Roasted Vegetable Salad.

Son, crying in your drink is bad enough; crying into a hot fudge sundae is disgusting.
-- Jerry in Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice

The Thomas at Food for the Thomas submits this made-from-scratch angel food cake recipe: Aunt Lil's Sunshine Cake.

Fellow Texan Prochein Amy forwards her mother-in-law's recipe for Chocolate Dream Cake. This is my kind of dessert!

Munuvian Jordana at Curmudgeonry offers her recipe for Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yum.

Feisty Christina helps us finish things off with Gooey Cake, a simple but delicious-looking recipe.

It has been my pleasure to host this Karn Evil. I have had a great time reviewing your recipes, and can't wait to try them all out. Please feel free to drop by my blog anytime.

Update: Where are my manners? Thanks, Beth, for giving me the opportunity to host this week! Everyone can view earlier Recipe Carnivals here.

Posted by JohnL at 01:05 AM | Comments (11) |

Of Naked Emperors and Modern Art

I am not much of an expert on the modern visual arts. I trained in college as a performing musician (classical organ), so I feel much more comfortable discussing musical aesthetics.

When it comes to the visual arts, I like representational paintings, abstract sculptures, and modern architecture. But I don't like any art that needs a written explanation of its "concept" (this includes music, too, btw).

That's why I laughed out loud when I saw this Peter Bagge cartoon in my print version of Reason last year.

Bagge is a polarizing comic artist; you either love or hate his strips. In this sense, he is like many modern artists. On page 2 of this strip, he says what I have long thought about contemporary "fine" art:

My feelings toward the contemporary fine art world have always been a mix of bemusement, resentment, and contempt. 95% of what they're hyping is pure crap yet if you dare to say as much out loud you'll be looked upon as a clueless Philistine.

He points out that much of modern art criticism discounts the value of "craftsmanship," since those "self-appointed arbiters of taste feel compelled to denigrate anything that the average shmuck can recognize as quality work."

This issue exists in all arts, not just the contemporary ones. 2Blowhards touched on this with their brief acknowledgement of Julia Childs' passing last year:

By knocking the snobbery out of French cooking and bringing her own enthusiasm and her wonderfully eccentric character into living rooms, she made class and taste accessible and attractive to millions. The food revolution that has transformed middle- and highbrow American eating owes no one a greater debt.

I'm glad that technology and a prosperous economy allow more and more of us normal people to not only enjoy, but learn and practice arts that were once the sole province of artisans and artists or their wealthy patrons.

Posted by JohnL at 12:35 AM | Comments (2) |