May 31, 2005

Silly Song Game

The Llama Butchers unearthed a fun game at Impenetrable Prose and Poesy.

1. Take the lyrics to a favorite song.
2. Go to Babelfish, translate the lyrics into German, then from German to French, and finally from French back into English.
3. Post the results verbatim.
4. Invite friends to guess the song based on the interesting new lyrics.

Here goes:

There is unrest in the forest,
There is disorder with the trees,
For the maples want more sunlight lamp
And the oaks is unaware of to their pleas.

The disturbs with the maples,
(And they' Re quite convinced they' Re right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light.
Drank the oaks can' T help to their feelings
If they like the way they' Re made.
And they wonder why the maples
Can' T Be happy in their shade.

There is disorder in the forest,
And the creatures all cuts fled,
Have the maples scream "Oppression!"
And the oaks just shake to their heads
So the maples formed has union
And demanded equal rights.

"The oaks are just too greedy;
Give We will make them custom light."
Now there' S No more oak oppression,
For they passed has noble law,
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axis, and saw.

Answer (and original lyrics) below the fold:

This actually wasn't too garbled. It's The Trees by Rush:

There is unrest in the forest,
There is trouble with the trees,
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas.

The trouble with the maples,
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light.
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made.
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade.

There is trouble in the forest,
And the creatures all have fled,
As the maples scream "Oppression!"
And the oaks just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights.
"The oaks are just too greedy;
We will make them give us light."
Now there's no more oak oppression,
For they passed a noble law,
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe, and saw.

I think this song is gravely misinterpreted as a simplistic critique of socialism. I think there is a more meaningful subtext, but that is the topic of another post (yet to come).

Posted by JohnL at 11:35 PM | Comments (2) |

May 30, 2005

Happy Memorial Day

Well, we've finished our BBQ brisket and pork rib lunch.

I'm sure a lot of people are eating similarly, enjoying some time outdoors in the late Spring weather, and spending time with family.

While we enjoy the freedom to do these things, let's remember the reason for this holiday.

Happy Memorial Day.

Posted by JohnL at 02:02 PM | Comments (4) |

May 29, 2005

Sunday Aircraft Cheesecake (De Havilland Buffalo)

I apologize for the approximately month-long hiatus in this feature. Let's kick it off again with a bit of an odd duck suggested by Alan Brain.

We start with the conventional, versatile cargo/transport airplane, the De Havilland DHC5 Buffalo. Here is a typical shot of the aircraft:


(Image from

In the 1970s, NASA contracted with Boeing to modify the DHC5 to investigate new technologies for STOL aircraft.

Boeing rebuilt the plane with new avionics, new wings and tail, and a quartet of jet engines mounted above the wing to generate "upper surface blowing" in order to increase lift. The plane made its maiden flight at Boeing's Seattle plant in 1978, then flew to Ames for continued flight tests. The short takeoffs and quiet operations of the aircraft yielded much information for application in both civil and military design. One intriguing series of tests led to a successful landing and takeoff from an aircraft carrier-- the first four-engine jet plane to accomplish this feat.


The result was quite interesting:

TARV02P05_12.jpgC8A Buffalo Augmentor
TARV02P05_09.jpgClose-up of top-mounted jets

Full-sized, restricted, and watermarked photos available here.

Posted by JohnL at 02:19 PM | Comments (0) |

May 27, 2005


If not, you will be after reading what Helen has to say.

Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) |

Fatal Flaw in Fatal Attraction

Pete at A Perfectly Cromulent Blog has been going through the movies on Bravo's list of The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. He posted comments on many (but not all) of the 100 today.

But that's not really what my post is about. Go read Pete's post, if the 100 movies are what you're interested in. Instead, I wanted to talk about something that's always bothered me about #59 on the list, Fatal Attraction. One thing necessary to make a good story is a willing suspension of disbelief. And I never could suspend my disbelief in Fatal Attraction, for the reason so eloquently stated by Pete in his post:

Then again, Adrian Lyne's AIDS allegory makes you think twice about something you shouldn't be doing in the first place. Namely, fooling around on the toothsome Anne Archer with the mannish Glenn Close.

That fatal flaw undermined my ability to get into this movie at all. I just simply couldn't believe that any man would be stupid enough to cheat on:




Gimme a break.

Posted by JohnL at 10:56 PM | Comments (0) |

May 26, 2005

Movie Meme

I've been doing a lot of these lately, just to keep some sort of writing flowing here. Rhianna tagged me with this one:

1) Total number of films I own on DVD/video:

We currently own 55 DVD titles (give or take). I am counting multiple-DVD sets as a single title (so the Special Edition of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King counts as only 1 "title" rather than 4, for example). I won't count our aging VHS collection, which would add quite a bit more. We subscribe to Netflix, so I usually only buy titles that I want to watch more than once.

2) The last film I bought:

The original Battlestar Galactica series.

3) The last film I watched:

The last "film" I watched was Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. The last "movie" I watched -- on DVD -- was Racing Stripes, tonight.

4) Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order):

When Harry Met Sally (sappy and silly, but very similar to the story of my wife and me: old friends who became lovers and got married)

It's A Wonderful Life (we watch it every Christmas season, along with the original Miracle on 34th Street and the George C. Scott Christmas Carol)

Star Wars (I would love to watch the untainted original version, but even the "special" edition that Lucas monkeyed with in the late 90s retains a fair amount of the original's charm)

Silverado (one of my favorite Westerns of all time, and one of the best ensemble comedy-dramas I can think of)

Toy Story (Pixar at its innocent best; a movie that takes me right back to my eldest child's toddlerhood)

5) Tag 5 people and have them put this in their journal:

I'll take volunteers instead of conscripts this time.

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

Future Rock Musicians

Rob the Llama Butcher recounts a cute "from the mouths of babes" story about his 5-year-old's desire to be a rock star someday.

My second son also would like to be a rock star someday, and I've got pictures to prove it (one below the fold).

Don't worry, Rob, he's only eight, so he probably won't be interested in your daughter and her van full of guitars for another 10 years or so. [This is where I would insert a smiley-wink if Rob believed in emoticons, but he doesn't, so I won't, enjoying the fact that he will now lie awake at night worrying about the designs of 18-year-old rock musicians on his 15 year old daughter]


Posted by JohnL at 09:08 PM | Comments (0) |



Teal is your Lightsaber's color.

The color Teal signifies trustworthiness, devotion and healing. It is also the indication of a spiritual guide and natural teacher.

What Colored Lightsaber Would You Have?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by JohnL at 08:44 PM | Comments (0) |

May 25, 2005

Cool Music Blog

I recently discovered Music thing (thanks, BoingBoing!) Lots of very-cool vintage gear and odd bits of music technology on parade at this site. A random sampling:

Build your own analog synth for around $100.

A psychedelic French modular synthesizer for kids. (Really).

Some first-rate pR0n for synthesists. (Mmm. Electronic cheesecake...)

And lots of other really super-neat stuff.

Posted by JohnL at 11:20 PM | Comments (0) |

Well, Crap.

One of my favorite bloggers is hanging up his spurs.

Timothy Sandefur was one of the first bloggers to link to me, so there is a sentimental side to seeing him quit now.

As a lawyer for a public-interest libertarian foundation, he works to increase liberty in our country; he doesn't just talk about it. But when he does talk about liberty, he does so lucidly and persuasively. Check back through his archives for some of the most clear and concise explanations you can find online of the moral and philosophical foundations of our legal system, of classical liberalism, and of objectivism.

Though Timothy may no longer be blogging on his personal website, keep your eyes peeled for his name. He'll continue to write for Liberty, and I bet his name will crop up from time to time in other areas, as his writing is too good to escape recognition over the long term.

Best wishes, Timothy.

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

All-Time 100 Movies

Lawren at Martinis, Persistence, and a Smile points us to yet another top-100 list of movies (this one in Time magazine).

On a related note, Jeff Goldstein has been assembling the compleat canon of essential 70s movies over the past week or so, too.

The Time list is below the fold, and I have bolded the ones I've seen (italicizing the ones I plan to see):

Aguirre: the Wrath of God (1972)

The Apu Trilogy (1955, 1956, 1959)

The Awful Truth (1937)

Baby Face (1933)

Bande à part (1964)

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)

Blade Runner (1982)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Brazil (1985)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Camille (1936)

Casablanca (1942)

Charade (1963)

Children of Paradise (1945)

Chinatown (1974)

Chungking Express (1994)

Citizen Kane (1941)

City Lights (1931)

City of God (2002)

Closely Watched Trains (1966)

The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936)

The Crowd (1928)

Day for Night (1973)

The Decalogue (1989)

Detour (1945)

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

Dodsworth (1936)

Double Indemnity (1944)

Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Drunken Master II (1994)

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

8 1/2 (1963)

The 400 Blows (1959)

Farewell My Concubine (1993)

Finding Nemo (2003)

The Fly (1986)

The Godfather, Parts I and II (1972, 1974)

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

Goodfellas (1990)

A Hard Day's Night (1964)

His Girl Friday (1940)

Ikiru (1952)

In A Lonely Place (1950)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

It's A Gift (1934)

It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Kandahar (2001)

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

King Kong (1933)

The Lady Eve (1941)

The Last Command (1928)

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Léolo (1992)

The Lord of the Rings (2001-03)

The Man With a Camera (1929)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Metropolis (1927)

Miller's Crossing (1990)

Mon oncle d'Amérique (1980)

Mouchette (1967)

Nayakan (1987)

Ninotchka (1939)

Notorious (1946)

Olympia, Parts 1 and 2 (1938)

On the Waterfront (1954)

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Out of the Past (1947)

Persona (1966)

Pinocchio (1940)

Psycho (1960)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Pyaasa (1957)

Raging Bull (1980)

Schindler's List (1993)

The Searchers (1956)

Sherlock, Jr. (1924)

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Singin' in the Rain (1952)

The Singing Detective (1986)

Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

Some Like It Hot (1959)

Star Wars (1977)

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Sunrise (1927)

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Swing Time (1936)

Talk to Her (2002)

Taxi Driver (1976)

Tokyo Story (1953)

A Touch of Zen (1971)

Ugetsu (1953)

Ulysses' Gaze (1995)

Umberto D (1952)

Unforgiven (1992)

White Heat (1949)

Wings of Desire (1987)

Yojimbo (1961)

Posted by JohnL at 12:03 AM | Comments (1) |

May 24, 2005

Sharing the Hate

The Crack Young Staff at The Hatemonger's Quarterly really hit it out of the park with their critique of country music. Excerpt:

As far as we’re concerned, it’s complete rubbish.

All the songs strike us as sub-par nursery rhymes sung with an irksome twang.

There's plenty more where that came from so read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) |

Another Interview

Is there anything any of you have wanted to ask me? Anything you were really curious about, but just never got the chance to bring up politely?

Well now's your chance to get some answers. Jennifer Larson has kindly offered to subject me to one of her famous interviews, and she needs some questions to ask. Please submit them to jenlarson -at- gmail -dot- com no later than 6:00 PM CDT Saturday, May 28.

Unless you identify yourself in the question, I will have no way of identifying you, so feel free to ask anything. I'll do my best to answer any reasonable query.


Posted by JohnL at 09:37 PM | Comments (0) |

May 23, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

I saw Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith tonight with my second son. He's eight years old, and wore his Darth Vader mask/voice changer to the theater. There's a clue to how to enjoy this movie. Check your cynical, thirty-forty-something a$$ at the door.

We had a great time. After one viewing of ROTS, here's how I would order the Star Wars movies, in order of preference:

1. Star Wars
2. The Empire Strikes Back
3. Revenge of the Sith (Wookies instead of Ewoks, thank the Maker!)
4. Return of the Jedi (die Ewoks, die!)
[tie] 6. Attack of the Clones (spaceships with laser cannon all over the place, but no initial air support for the Jedi assault on the droids in the arena?)
[tie] 6. The Phantom Menace (die Jar Jar, die!)

I'm working on a more descriptive review, together with some "final thoughts" on the whole series of movies, and will post that at GNXP Science Fiction when ready, hopefully later this week.

In the meantime, go see the movie, and don't take any politics into the theater with you; they're just not there. Instead, take an eight-year old and have fun watching the cool spaceships and lightsaber battles. Start your birthday and Christmas lists with all the LEGO sets you want to get. Lighten up...

P.S. The movie previews have me looking forward to the summer lineup: Serenity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Batman Begins all look promising. And The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe looks like a sure hit next Christmas.

Update: Owlish reminds me in comments of The Fantastic Four, which also looks to be quite entertaining (they showed the trailer, I just didn't retain it).

Update 2: Despite my general dislike of Tom Cruise, I have to say that the trailer convinced me to see Spielberg's version of War of the Worlds, too.

Posted by JohnL at 11:51 PM | Comments (6) |

Sofia Sideshow Returns

JKrank, proprietor of Sofia Sideshow, is back and blogging after a 3-month hiatus. He has returned to Bulgaria (where he works in film). He's a great writer, and I love his "day-in-the-life" stories from a former Soviet satellite. I may never travel there, but get to vicariously experience it from the comfort of my computer terminal. Go check him out.

Posted by JohnL at 11:30 PM | Comments (0) |

Book Meme From Robbo

Rob tagged me with a book meme that is very similar to one I did a couple of months ago. Some of the answers have changed over time, so here are the questions:

1. Total Number of Books I've Owned. Hundreds; likely more than a thousand.

2. Last Book I Bought: An unabridged (and heavily annotated but untranslated) version of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

3. Last Book I Read: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I started reading it out loud to my second son (first son listens in more than half the time, too), but got to a really good part and read it straight through to the end. J.K. Rowling could really use some vigorous editing, but she knows how to tell a compelling story despite the florid prose. I've also been enjoying quite a bit of short-form SF while plowing my way through a several-month backlog of Analog magazines. Does the Victoria's Secret catalog count? I just leafed through the latest one while taking out the recycling...

4. Five Books That Mean A lot to Me: I won't cheat on this one. Five books that made a remarkable imprint on my thinking - five key mileposts in my intellectual and moral development, if you will (in order of first reading):

  1. The Bible
  2. (It makes its way onto a lot of these kinds of lists; it is usually one of the first great works of literature that kids in the West are introduced to - even if it's not usually taught as literature).
  3. Cosmos by Carl Sagan (which first began to loosen my mind from the shackles of fundamentalism)
  4. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (could just as easily be Anthem or Atlas Shrugged, since I read all three in the same two-month period during the summer after ninth grade)

  5. Job: A Comedy of Justice by Heinlein. (I had read many other of his books, but this one really matched my personal spiritual journey - a major part of my coming-of-age)

  6. Goedel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter (difficult to describe, but made me look at music, math, logic, and language in an entirely new way; as I did in the earlier meme I heartily encourage Rob to add this to his "short list" of books to read.)

5. Tag five people and have them do this on their blog. I usually don't tag others, but I would be interested in seeing the answers of:

Lysander (this should help him get a new post up for the month of May)
Timothy Sandefur


Posted by JohnL at 10:55 PM | Comments (1) |

May 22, 2005

Meme From Gunner

So Gunner tagged me with a meme thing. Here's the deal:

List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over.

1. Reality TV. I've never watched it. The ads alone depress my IQ by about 20 points.

2. Opera. I'm classically-trained, and am well-educated in all kinds of music. But I've never gotten opera. The overtures are fine, but as soon as they start singing, I feel my hackles rise just like with Country and Western or Rap. The only opera I can stand is Bugs Bunny (What's Opera Doc, found here) or Queen's A Night at the Opera.

3. Blackberries. Most lawyers I know have now decided to put an electronic collar around their necks so that their owners (er, clients) can yank their leash and reach them anywhere and anytime. I loathe these things. The connected world is really groovy, but I like clear boundaries, and I set them. I end up making less than high-powered law-firm partners, but I have a life.

4. Disney.
Apart from Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, and anything Pixar, I just can't get the charm of Disney. It's like a creepy cult or something.

5. Golf. I'm OK at the game, but just don't get the big deal.

I won't tag anyone, but please trackback if you choose to play along.

Posted by JohnL at 09:54 PM | Comments (6) |

My Three-Day Weekend

Please indulge me as I wax Lileksian tonight.

I took Friday off last week, to celebrate the kids' last day of school and to get some more work done on the house. We have now listed it, and our realtor will (we hope!) start showing people through on Tuesday. Keep your fingers crossed, and make whatever imprecations(*) entreaties to a higher power (as you feel appropriate) that we be successful in selling and buying in the right order and at the right time.

Boring domestic stuff below the fold.

What I did over the last three days:

Hung, taped, bedded, and textured sheetrock in the garage. Wired a new GFCI outlet for the sprinkler system through the same garage sheetrock. (Had to tap into the circuit through the attic, which was well over 100 degrees (38 Celsius).

Finished a half-done cement pathway from my driveway to my storage shed. (8 x 40 lb. bags of concrete mix in 100-degree weather. Fun.) (For you metric types out there, 40 lbs is slightly more than 18 kilos).

Replaced various doorknobs in the house to match the other updated ones.

Cleaned and restained (with Minwax wipe-on/wipe-off stain) cabinetry in the Master and kids' bathrooms.

Caulked bathtub and counters where necessary.

Painted hallway and kids' walls where stained with fingerprints. (Basically from floor to eye level).

Put down 20 bags of cedar mulch (after weeding the flower beds).

Put down 10 bags of landscapers' mix to fill in holes dug by the dog and to "dress up" the ground around the kids' play fort in the backyard.

Trimmed all shrubs. Mowed, weed-ate, and edged the lawn (in 100+ degree weather again - more fun!)

In the middle of all this, I managed to take my second son to a Rough Riders baseball game and fireworks show on Friday night, and went to his baseball game on Saturday afternoon. (Want to guess the temperature?)

All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy....

Update: (*)<Inigo Montoya voice>You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.</Inigo Montoya voice>

Posted by JohnL at 09:38 PM | Comments (0) |

Strengthening The Good, Again

It has been awhile since the STG network has had a new microcharity to highlight. In honor of the first anniversary of the network, STG is promoting the original charity, Susan Tom and the Tom Family Education Trust.

Read more about it here.

Posted by JohnL at 09:14 PM | Comments (2) |

May 18, 2005

Chaos on the Home Front

You may have noticed a lack of regular posting around here recently. Or not.

The reason?

We are listing our house for sale tomorrow. We have our eyes on another house in the neighborhood with more space for the family and are currently negotiating the purchase contract. The larger house has been on the market for about 6 months, and we have been making some final updates to our house during the same period of time and praying that the other one will come down in price. (It has finally come down to the range of price-per-square-foot that is appropriate for our area).

The work around here has really peaked, with me replacing our deck and staining it this past weekend, landscaping during lunch hours, re-sheetrocking the hole in our garage wall where the previous owners had driven their car, and generally making the house sale-ready. (We need to sell to afford the larger house).

So I'm not making any promises about posting regularly anytime soon.

I do promise to update if anything exciting happens regarding the buying/selling.

Posted by JohnL at 11:17 PM | Comments (3) |

Random Name Generator

Here's some mindless fun: a variety of name generators to translate your name (or alias) into something else.

Posted by JohnL at 11:07 PM | Comments (1) |

May 16, 2005

Random Star Wars Pictures

A couple of Stormtrooper pics that have grabbed my fancy recently:

Happy Trooper (via Wizbang):


Female Trooper (via Michele Catalano):


I just got an idea for a theme costume for my wife and me next Halloween...

Posted by JohnL at 11:00 PM | Comments (3) |

May 10, 2005

SF Babes Weekly Poll (Odd Women Out)

This week's poll is yet another variation on the Star Trek theme.

Though the odd-numbered Trek films are commonly considered inferior to the even-numbered ones (at least for the first 6 or so), they did feature some striking ladies.

From Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Lieutenant Ilia (portrayed by Persis Khambatta):

From Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the other Lieutenant Saavik (portrayed by Robin Curtis):

And finally from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Romulan Caithlin Dar (portrayed by Cynthia Gouw):

(P.S. I'm taking nominations for future poll candidates and themes. I'm also thinking about giving the poll a summer hiatus, since it takes about an hour or two to put each one together. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Thanks!)

Results (Posted 17 May 2005):

Ilia: 16 of 57 votes for 28%
Saavik: 16 of 57 votes for 28%
Dar: 25 of 57 votes for 44% -- WINNER!

Posted by JohnL at 10:02 PM | Comments (5) |

Dork Factor 12

The Japanese word otaku is used casually among the anime subset of SciFi as a synonym for "geek." I bet few know the word really carries a much stronger negative connotation than geek (or nerd or dweeb or dork), meaning a seriously unhealthy obsession with a hobby.

Unhealthy is the operative word here.

Though it's been 15 years or so since I played the game, D&D still comes to mind occasionally. And I suppose it makes me a real otaku that I thought about what my real-life D&D character traits would be while lying in a 103.2 F fever dream this weekend:

S: 12
I: 17
W: 14
D: 11
C: 4
Ch: 13

Don't even know my best character class based on that anymore. Wizard or Cleric, probably, as both involve fast talk, just like lawyering.

Be sure to note the low constitution score. I swear, this year has not been a good year for my health. First the colitis incident a couple of months ago, and now I've been laid up since Friday with some sort of nasty virus. High fever, aches and pains, constricted chest. Saw the doctor yesterday and she told me to keep doing what I was already doing: take Mucinex (my new best friend), alternate Advil and Tylenol to manage the fever, drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. She also gave me a Z-Pack in case there was a secondary infection that didn't present itself in the exam. Today I finally feel mostly human, as my fever never got above 99. I plan to go back to work tomorrow, for at least long enough not to take another PTO day (that's what really burns me -- I've now wasted a week of paid time off on illness this year. Grrr.)

That accounts for the slow bloggage around here. Thanks for your patience and continued support.

Posted by JohnL at 08:58 PM | Comments (5) |

May 05, 2005

Searching for Stories?

Are you looking for some news sources to provide fodder for your blog?

Graham at Point2Point has assembled a helpful list.

Posted by JohnL at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) |

Feliz Cinco de Mayo, Y'All

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Hoist a Dos Equis and eat some good Mexican food.

Cinco de mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day, as some in the blogosphere seem to believe. Instead it celebrates Mexico's surprise defeat of a French expeditionary force in 1862. From the Wikipedia article:

The battle between the French and Mexican armies occurred on May 5 when Zaragoza's ill-equipped militia of 4,500 men encountered the better armed French force. However, Zaragoza's small and nimble cavalry units were able to prevent French dragoons from taking the field and overwhelming the Mexican infantry. With the dragoons removed from the main attack, the Mexicans routed the remaining French soldiers with a combination of their tenacity, inhospitable terrain, and a stampede of cattle set off by local peasants. The invasion was stopped and crushed.

I really love that bit about the stampede of cattle helping to do in the bad guys, which reminds me of one of my favorite Westerns.

Unfortunately for the Mexicans, the French returned in greater numbers and won a rare victory in 1864, installing Archduke Maximillian of Austria as Emperor of Mexico. His reign ended three years later as all good tyrants' reigns should end: in front of a firing squad. His wife, understandably, went mad.

So even if you're not into sharing a fun excuse to celebrate our nation's considerable Hispanic heritage, you can at least celebrate a French defeat, right?

Posted by JohnL at 09:18 PM | Comments (0) |

May 04, 2005

General Motors = Twentieth Century Motors?

Reading Random today, I was reminded how the blogworld recently noted, and analyzed, General Motors' decline.

The Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins, quoted by Virginia Postrel, provided this damning (to me) assessment of GM:

GM's boss should be the media's darling, running his company to provide job security and health care for its workers first, second and third. Wonder why GM invests just enough in new product to keep the game going, not enough to make its cars really sought after? Because the extra capital that would have to be invested goes instead to doling out gold-plated health care -- no copays, no deductibles -- to workers and to plumping up their pension fund, which two years ago required the largest corporate debt offering in history to top off....

Has anyone else here read Atlas Shrugged? Remember the Twentieth Century Motor Company, where the book's hero was originally employed? Remember how that company met its end?

"Were you familiar with the production of that factory? With the kind of work they were doing--or planning?"

"Certainly. I took a personal interest in all my investments. I went to inspect that factory very often. They were doing exceedingly well. They were accomplishing wonders. The workers' housing conditions were the best in the country. I saw lace curtains at every window and flowers on the window sills. Every home had a plot of ground for a garden. They had built a new schoolhouse for the children."

"Did you know anything about the work of the factory's research laboratory?"

"Yes, yes, they had a wonderful research laboratory, very advanced, very dynamic, with forward vision and great plans."

"Do you . . . remember hearing anything about . . . any plans to produce a new type of motor?"

"Motor? What motor, Miss Taggart? I had no time for details. My objective was social progress, universal prosperity, human brotherhood and love. Love, Miss Taggart. That is the key to everything. If men learned to love one another, it would solve all their problems."

It seems that GM might have gotten its priorities mixed up, much like Twentieth Century Motors. Let's hope they can find a way out of the trap their workers' union and social conscience have led them into.

Posted by JohnL at 10:39 PM | Comments (0) |

IP Rights

Yesterday I was leafing through my new issue of IP Law & Business at the office and was happy to see some coverage of a CopyNight gathering in New York city. It's unusual for an industry magazine to acknowledge the existence of another side of the debate about intellectual property rights and the public domain.

Unfortunately, the article's author (or editor?) chose to run only one quote from an attendee regarding technologies like Grokster:

"Why can't it be like in headshops? ... You know, you can sell a bong but like not explicitly for weed."

No bias there, hmm?

The rest of the article was somewhat more balanced, exploring the parallels of the free-culture movement to environmentalism. But it didn't really delve into any of the really interesting strands in the current debate over technologies that enable widespread duplication and sharing of copyrighted materials.

If you want to better understand the contours of the debate over IP rights, avoid IP Law & Business and check out Timothy Sandefur's article from yesterday instead.

Posted by JohnL at 10:08 PM | Comments (0) |

SF Babes Poll Quote-of-the-Month

I get a few regular commenters, whose input I really value (please keep it up, folks!). But I really love getting comments from readers I didn't even know I have (ahem), and "BadLiberal" left this great gem in the comments of last week's SF Babe Poll pitting Lt. Marlena Moreau against Lt. Marla McGivers:

You've gotta be f'-in kidding.

One [sic] the one hand we have a woman who's slept her way to the top while incinerating entire planets, and on the other we have a woman who gets all googly eyed over fine Corinthian leather.

Lt. Moreau walks away with this one. Probably after leaving McGivers at the bottom of a convenient river.

Very nice generational joke there about "fine Corinthian leather" -- most people much younger than I wouldn't catch the reference. I couldn't have agreed more with the other sentiments and was quite pleased with the outcome of the poll. (And for what it's worth, note well that I included McGivers at the request of another so-far-one-time commenter, "Ishy.")

A neat thing that's showing up in some of the polls is how the personality attributes of the characters influence certain voters more than just surface appearances. That's how I usually vote and also why I try to make the poll pics purely of the characters "in character." The Gallery is where I sometimes feature more flattering pictures of the actresses "out of character."

Posted by JohnL at 09:43 PM | Comments (3) |

Random Star Wars Links, Part 1

Only two-and-a-half weeks to go before Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith hits theaters. So let's jump on the Sandcrawler bandwagon and build some hype:

Do you have questions? Read the script to find the answers. It actually reads like a well-paced movie with some fantastic action scenes and only a small amount of franchise-appropriate cheesy dialogue.

Challenge yourself with some obsessive fan trivia, while perusing a serious SF analysis of the screwed up values reflected in the Campbellian (non-Enlightenment) universe of Star Wars.

Of course, you have your outfit picked out for opening night, don't you? (Just make sure it's bathroom-capable!)

The Dark Side's not your style? Then try this, Rebel scum.

More links to follow as we draw closer to opening day...

Posted by JohnL at 08:52 PM | Comments (3) |

Eric's Answers Are Up

Well, Eric helped us finish this interview meme with an outstanding set of answers. I'll have to try to track down the wine in his answer to number 6.

Thanks to Owlish, Gunner, LDH, Lysander, and Eric for playing along!

Posted by JohnL at 06:32 PM | Comments (0) |

I Said Homophone, not Homophobe

Do you read You really should. It requires a 10-second commitment per day to take in a picture depicting a humorously incorrect or inappropriate use of the English language.

In the extended entry, you'll see a recent posting (from April 29 -- I copied the pic, since I couldn't figure out where it would end up in the site's long-term archives), which plays on the juvenile pronunciation of the seventh planet's name.


Caption: Caution: sailors have been at sea too long.

Posted by JohnL at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |

May 03, 2005

Abandoned Japanese Buildings

Via Bryan's Basement, an interesting link to many pictures of abandoned Japanese buildings. Bryan made exactly the comment I would have, expressing surprise that these sites had not been rebuilt or recycled in some way, given the scarcity of land in Japan.

My favorite was this abandoned amusement park (at least I think that's what it is), including the creepy Gulliver lying before Mt. Fuji (see in extended entry).


Posted by JohnL at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) |

SF Babes Weekly Poll (Is There A Point To This?)

Don't let the existentialist title fool you. There is a point to all of this. Oh yes, there is. A few points, in fact.

This week's poll was inspired by Rob at the Llamabutchers (see post here), who urged a write-in campaign for pointy-eared previous poll loser Lieutenant Saavik (of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan):

Interesting idea, I thought, to run another previous "loser": the sometimes pointy-hatted Princess Ardala (of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) (who only "won" her earlier poll against Colonel Deering thanks to the machinations of a corrupt poll author):

Vote early and often (and for Ardala, of course).


Results (Posted 10 May 2005):

Princess Ardala: 41 of 69 votes for 59% -- WINNER!
Lieutenant Saavik: 28 of 69 votes for 41%

Posted by JohnL at 11:02 PM | Comments (7) |

Ponderous Prowess at English

No surprises here:

Your English Skills:

Grammar: 100%

Punctuation: 100%

Spelling: 100%

Vocabulary: 100%

Does Your English Cut the Mustard?

Via the Llamabutchers.

(Rob, were you really an English major? I'd ask for my money back if I were you ;-)

Posted by JohnL at 07:54 PM | Comments (4) |

Fifth and Final Interview (Eric)

Gunner has already asked Eric some good questions at his blog, so I have to think a bit differently here for the final interview. You all should be acquainted with the rules by now. Without further ado:

1. My standard first question: for readers new to your blog, explain your blog-name.

2. Which fictional Sci Fi universe would you rather live in, and explain why: Star Wars or Star Trek?

3. (Shamelessly stolen from my interview of Gunner): 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 do you think about Heinlein's controversial premise in Starship Troopers, namely, that the voting franchise should be available only to those citizens who had performed military (or conscientious-objector-alternative) service?

5. What single amendment would you make to the US Constitution, assuming that it would be ratified (make it a single-issue amendment, not an omnibus provision)? Feel free to suggest a text, or just describe your goal.

6. What California wine (or winery) delivers the best value (good quality at a reasonable price)? (Winery, vintage, varietal, and price, if possible).

I'll link to his answers when posted.

Posted by JohnL at 07:41 PM | Comments (2) |