Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's Coming...


Warm-up:
The Chicago Blackhawks have to hope they fare better outdoors against the Detroit Red Wings than they're doing indoors.

The Wings made it 3-for-3 against Chicago this season with a 4-0 victory over the Hawks at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday night — the opener of a home-and-home series that concludes on New Year's Day at Wrigley Field with the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. The loss snapped the Hawks' franchise-record winning streak at nine games and ended their 11-game streak with at least one point in regulation.

It was the second time in less than two weeks that
Detroit shut out a red-hot team. The Red Wings and Conklin defeated the San Jose Sharks , who have the NHL's best record, 6-0 at Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 18.
Well… there’s good news and bad news lurking in the blurb above. The good news (for Wings fans) is Detroit continues to win against the league’s hottest teams, and win decisively. The bad news? It’s a bit of stretch to think the Wings will make it four in a row over Chicago… but it ain’t beyond the pale.
Tomorrow’s game actually counts for something beyond spectacle:
Beyond the excitement generated by the Winter Classic, this home-and-home set between the two clubs is very significant in the standings. Detroit currently leads the Central Division by four points (ed: that would be six points now) over the Blackhawks. "We’ve come a long way, but we still want to catch the Wings," Sharp said. "It’s going to take a big effort these next two games."
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville admitted the club’s goals have been altered as the season progresses. "We’ve been chasing them," Quenneville said. "We’ve been in a different pack all season long, but now we’ve positioned ourselves in a different place. Both are meaningful games and there’s a lot of excitement around here. Our mindset is to be one of the eight. That’s our objective - to be a playoff team. There’s about 13 teams fighting for the last six spots, so we wanted to get ourselves ahead of that race. Maybe now we’re pushing ahead and can strive for a higher goal."
On the Detroit side, the Wings also recognize how essential these two games will be in the overall picture. "It’s a really important two games and it’s going to be fun," Detroit defenceman Andreas Lilja said. "They are playing the best hockey they’ve ever played. I’m looking forward to two really hard games."
Babcock is impressed by what he’s seen from Chicago. "You watch the last two games in particular and they’ve dominated," he said, adding he’s thrilled to be part of a reborn Detroit-Chicago rivalry. "It’s great that it’s back. I thought it got going last year when they beat us quite frequently early in the year. Things have really picked up for their franchise, both on and off the ice. It’s one of those franchises in the league like Toronto, like Montreal, like Detroit, obviously, like New York (Rangers) and like Boston, that you want to be doing really good, because it makes your league better."
Tomorrow… 1300 hrs EST, on NBC… in HD. Be there. Or be square.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Hour...

… came early today (at approx 1330 hrs), and one is simply glad it arrived at all… given as how it’s late December. To put it another way… although 70-degree days in December ain’t unknown here on The High Plains of New Mexico, they are somewhat rare. So, one takes advantage when one can. And I most certainly did… take advantage.
Happy Hour was a mundane sort of affair. I sat outside and had not one but two cigars, accompanied by a couple o' three brewskis (of course). I spent the first hour in relative solitude, listening to the cries of the mourning doves and enjoying the (relative) silence here in Beautiful La Hacienda Trailer Park, today being a work-day for most. That got old fairly quickly… and by the time I opened my second beer I tuned my very expensive radio (aka my peesee) to Pandora’s Santana station and proceeded to kick out the jams. Much better. Excellent, in fact.
I spent most of my time looking up, watching the fast-movers etch brilliant white vapor trails across the robin’s-egg-blue skies. Well… let’s be accurate. If we’re gonna use the vernacular we should use it properly: I was watching trash-haulers, not fast-movers. There IS a difference, “trash-haulers” being transports and “fast-movers” a synonym for fighters. We don’t see too many fast-movers in these parts of late.
Anyhoo. The winds aloft must have been pretty brisk today, as the vapor trails disappeared almost as quickly as they were created. Here are three pics… taken in a span of about five minutes, give or take a minute or three:
I found it interesting that the west-bound traffic outnumbered the east-bound traffic by a ratio of about six-to-one. Here’s a pic of one of the east-bound aircraft as it streaked across the sky.
I amused myself wondering what the occupants of those big-ass aluminum tubes were doing at the exact moment I looked up. Watching a movie? Napping? Reading a book? On their third drink? Looking out the window and wondering just who the Hell would live in country as desolate as this? The mind does wander… and I imagined myself in one of those tubes west-bound, headed home after vacation, or after the conclusion of a job, or on leave... whatever. That might well have been me... in another time, long ago and far away.

Back-Story

Several of you Gentle Readers mentioned the fact that you and your chilluns go to the “NORAD Tracks Santa” site every Christmas Eve. I came across this back-story of how Google got involved with the effort and the history is pretty cool, both from a techie perspective and in a general, human interest sort of way. Excerpts:

When I look back on four years of tracking Old St. Nick on Christmas Eve, I can't help but smile. The Santa tracker has really come a long way. I always thought NORAD's Santa Tracker was a great holiday tradition, but I felt like it could have been even better if people could visualize exactly where Santa was on Christmas Eve. So in 2004, shortly after Keyhole was acquired by Google, we followed Santa in the "Keyhole Earth Viewer" — Google Earth's original name — and we called it the "Keyhole Santa Radar." The audience was relatively small since Keyhole was still a for-pay service at that point, and we hosted everything on a single machine shared with the Keyhole Community BBS server. We probably should have had three separate servers to host the Santa tracker — that first year, we had only a portion of a single machine. That night, about 25,000 people kept tabs on Santa and, needless to say, wreaked some havoc on our servers!

[…]

In 2007, Google became NORAD's official Santa Tracking technology partner and hosted www.noradsanta.org. In addition to tracking Santa in Google Earth, we added a Google Maps tracker and integrated YouTube videos into the journey as well. Now, we had Santa on the map and on "Santa Cam" arriving in several different locations around the world, with commentary in six different languages. The heavy traffic — several millions of users — put Google's infrastructure to the test, but with some heroic work by our system reliability engineers, the Santa Tracker worked continuously.

Great good stuff, this. I think you’ll like it.

(The image is an album cover from an album titled “NORAD Tracks Santa” which is apparently available for download (here)… although I didn’t try.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Be Still My Beating Heart...

In today's mail...

Yeah, I knew it was junk-mail before I opened it... yet still. One can dream, eh?

There were most definitely better things in the mail today... and LOTS of 'em, too. I've mentioned this before, but I only check snail-mail about every two weeks or so. I should check more often during the holidays, coz my box was literally stuffed. Here's one of the best items:

That's Lou's Christmas card above. She takes the "small" paintings she does every year and turns them into Christmas cards... I count myself among the VERY fortunate recipients of her creations. She's a very talented woman, as you can tell. Last year's card is here, if you'd like more. (as always and ever, click for larger)

Potpourri

So… here we are, three days into the latest outbreak of violence between the Israelis and Palestinians. And the Usual Suspects are all up in arms over “Israeli aggression.” I really don’t have much to say on this subject, other than to voice my support for Israel, yet again.

It takes a tremendous amount of chutzpah on the part of Arabs to ignore months and months of unprovoked assaults by Hamas in the form of rockets launched indiscriminately into Israel from Gaza… without regard for small details such as targeting… in any way, shape, or form. Like Popeye, Israel finally had “all they’s can take, and they can takes no more.” And their response, in stark contrast to Hamas, has focused on military targets.

Good hunting, IDF. Get some.

―:☺:―

Really Stupid Shit… Yesterday’s First Annual “Good Riddance Day,” held in New York City.

... and Todd Zarnock says goodbye to a list of things including drugs, women and shoplifting.
Credits: Watts/News Published: 12/29/2007 04:00:00

I know there are primitive societies in this wide, wide world that have similar sacrificial rituals… but here? In NYC? Who’d a thunk it? Well, on second thought… this did happen in New Yawk. Nuff said.

There's video here... and note the de rigeur Bush-Bashing. Dang. What will the moonbats do after January 20th, eh?

―:☺:―

Also in the NYC Daily Newscelebrity smokers… with photos of people generally unknown to me and suitably snarky comment. Example:

Whatcha got there, Salma Hayek?

The "Ugly Betty" star is the latest closet celebrity smoker to be exposed after she was spotted puffing away on American Spirits this weekend in Beverly Hills alongside her 1-year-old daughter, Valentina.

Cameras caught the secret smoker outside Neiman Marcus as she lit up while her mom and tiny tot waited.

Hayek told Marie Claire last year that she got hooked on cigarettes while filming "Frida" - and subsequently quit last April.

"It's the s---iest vice you could possibly pick," she said. "I've tried to quit before. But this time I'm done with it. I've changed."

But the 42-year-old isn't the only star who tries to keep her nicotine addiction under wraps

Well, now. Young Salma has good taste, if nothing else. American Spirit was my brand before I gave ‘em up, three years ago next month. But… what IS it with our fascination with “celebrity smokers,” anyway? I’m not immune from this phenomenon, ya know, what with having put up at least three posts over the course of the last year about The One’s habit. Speaking of…

But Mr Obama has admitted to "falling off the wagon" in the course of the campaign. The media has been judgmental. "Obama clearly relishes this opportunity to defeat bigotry and reframe the expectations of young people, especially African-Americans," the San Jose Mercury-News editorialised. "And yet, he smokes." He can set things right, the paper wrote, but only "if he makes a very public show of quitting".

It is less than self-evident why Mr Obama's forgoing the cigarette he sneaks every few weeks should be a matter of national importance. There is no consistent relationship between smoking and performance of official duties. It is true, according to the historian Michael Oren, that Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli chief of staff, was taken to hospital with nicotine poisoning at the height of the six-day war, but he was on 100 a day. Cigars buoyed Churchill in the second world war. Whether or not smoking makes you think more clearly, the former German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, who celebrated his 90th birthday last week, must count as one of the sharpest thinkers and heaviest smokers among world leaders of the last half-century.

That’s an excerpt from The Financial Times (UK), from an article titled “No smoke without ire,” which goes on to address the “tricky constitutional question” of whether or not Mr. Obama’s personal quarters in the White House are part and parcel of a no-smoking federal building. That IS a most weighty issue, dontcha think?

As far as Mr. Rabin is concerned… 100 ciggies a day? That’s five packs a day or one cigarette every 15 minutes, assuming the man was awake 24 hours a day. Or, in other words, ol’ Yitzhak never put ‘em out… he literally had to light one off the other, non-stop. And I thought I smoked a lot, at a pack and a half a day. Heh.

―:☺:―

Today’s Random Thought: As one grows older one begins to realize there are worse things in a relationship than your average mother-in-law. Such as: your girlfriend’s children. More specifically, your girlfriend’s adult children.

I’m not throwing stones at any one (or more) individual(s), mind you. Just sayin’.

―:☺:―

Along the same lines as the item above, kinda-sorta… excerpts from an e-mail conversation with a good friend yesterday (certain terms have been redacted to preserve EIP’s PG-13 rating):

My Friend: As you know I check your blog daily and frankly sometimes I have concerns for you because I am, after all, your friend and thus retain that right. I do suggest you get laid though because you exemplify the worst case of a man needing (redacted) that I've ever seen. I suspect that one or two of your "blog buddies" would be more than happy to help you out. That being said, Merry Christmas old friend and of course happy New Year which I will celebrate with you at the stroke of midnight with a couple of fingers of my favorite 15 year old single malt.

Me: |I do suggest you get laid though because you exemplify the worst case of a man needing (redacted) that I've ever seen.

Oh... c'mon! I'm not that bad! Think of all those guys in prison. OTOH, they're probably having all the sex they want (and MORE than they want, in some cases), but it's NOT the sort of experience I care to learn. As a s'matter of fact, the thought of (redacted) rarely even crosses my mind. There are some bennies to achieving Old Age, not the least of which is the Bigger Head taking control over the Little Head. There was a time in life when I'd be prowling the streets upon finding myself without a steady source. No more. The thought of entanglements is more than enough to discourage what little interest I have in that certain physical activity. OK, some of the foregoing is bullshit, plain and simple. But... that said... I'd fix it, were I in dire need. There are MANY women "looking" these days, even for us Ol Farts. Maybe even especially us Ol Farts... as we tend to die off earlier than our female counterparts.

My friend’s observation concerns me and I view it not unlike a medical diagnosis. As such, I believe I need a second opinion (and not “You’re ugly, too!”). Do I appear to be a man in severe need, Gentle Reader? I don’t think so, but then again… we oftentimes don’t see ourselves as others see us.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

It's All Relative


The title is in reference to winter weather… yours, mine, and that found elsewhere. Speaking of “elsewhere”… you may find the following interesting, Gentle Reader. Or not. But here it is:

Baby It’s Cold Outside…

……as one of my favorite Christmas songs goes, but we can’t say we weren’t warned. Like our up to the minute 24 hour news channels, we were bombarded with warnings, alerts, and pager updates for days prior to the arrival of an Arctic Clipper last week. Let me tell you, we’ve seen worse. I understand we were one of the more fortunate ones, though, because we received very little snow. We did, however, get the 30 below on the thermometer and 52 below wind chill temperatures so we didn’t go completely unscathed and after five days we just went above zero for about a minute today. Like I said, we’ve seen worse, but it seemed unusual enough to fill air time on the national news. It is funny to hear and read others reactions to our weather which we know is just part of our way of life here in “the North Country”.

I was invited to join the Fortuna Air Force Station group site (ed: I added this link) on the internet some time ago and have watched with interest the many comments and memories this weather has conjured up for these once young service men and women who I’m quite sure wondered, at times, if they hadn’t been shipped to Siberia rather than northwest North Dakota . Apparently our current winter has nothing on the winter of 1961-62. Here are a few quotes recently posted on the Fortuna Air Force Station site in regards to that memorable winter:

“In the winter of 61-62 it got down to -52, colder than I saw it in Alaska -30. Louis Able who worked in the power plant left for his home in Westby at 2400, at 0200 his wife called and informed us he hadn't made it home. I got the GSA 1 ton and called Sgt Melcher in Westby, Melcher headed east found him just before we got to his car (Mercury Marauder convertible) Able only had his field jacket with him. He never could follow orders. We had our parka and snow pants and a comforter we were to take with us when we went off base. We were supposed to take food and gas too. It was probably the same in later years.”
Don Luther
EPPT 61-62

That’s from the Westby Border News… in Westby, Montana… and there’s more about the weather at the quoted piece’s title link. Long-time readers may remember I lived up in Westby once upon a time, for about seven or eight months (prior to that I lived in Plentywood for a couple o’ few months, which is about 30 miles west of Westby). And yeah: I was firmly convinced that Siberia has NOTHING on Westby and environs when it comes to “cold.” I have never experienced cold like I experienced up there… before or since.

And I hope I never, ever experience it again.

The pic is a re-re-run and is my absolute favorite Fortuna photo. But it wasn't always like this... summers were a lot o' fun (scroll to the very bottom of the linked page).

Time Waster

View tweets from around the world in real-time here, on a Google-map. Updated about every 15 seconds, as near as I can tell.

h/t: brityank, via Twitter.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Lil Christmas History of a Different Sort

Via an old Tweet from Lileks... "Christmas Under Fire (1941)." The vid is of historical interest to perhaps a few of you Gentle Readers and is nine and half minutes long. I found it tremendously interesting; YMMV.





Here's the info blurb on the vid:
Despite the Blitz, it's 'business as usual' as England prepares for Christmas in this propaganda film intended for US audiences. It's a Christmas of holly and barbed wire, guns and tinsel, yet the British, we are told, are determined to make it as cheerful as possible.
"England is fighting for her life", asserts the American narrator, but it is admiration rather than pity that the film seeks to evoke. The filmmakers achieve this with emotions bigger than most 10-minute films could contain, as we watch plucky Londoners creating a subterranean Christmas on Underground platforms and the choristers of King's College sing their hearts out. While no doubt intended to encourage US support in the War, 'Christmas Under Fire' ultimately offers a portrait of a nation "unbeaten, unconquered and unafraid". (Poppy Simpson)
I can just imagine watching this in a darkened theater... with dread. The war, for us, wasn't even three weeks old at Christmas in 1941. The Brits had endured it for two years at the time... and they were literally getting their asses kicked.

We should thank our lucky stars and the brave men and women who answered the call back then. It was the darkest of days...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day

If Santa didn’t bring you everything you wanted yesterday… there’s a reason. Blame our illustrious Congress critters:

Billions for Detroit and the financial industry… but nuthin’ for St. Nick. Go figure.

h/t: Barry.

―:☺:―

Today is Boxing Day in the Ol’ British Empire. I always… without fail… think of this on December 26th

I did recall, in great detail, the year we spent Christmas night on a British Airways flight from Detroit to London. Our flight left sometime around six or seven in the evening on Christmas Day, and we were at the airport a good three hours before that. There were three of us: TSMP, our great good friend Kim, and myself. It was Kim’s first trip outside the US, and she was as excited as is humanly possible. The flight was nearly empty because, who, after all, travels on Christmas Day? Just us bargain hunters. TSMP and Kim stayed awake most of the flight. I, on the other hand, found an empty row and slept. Don’t you just love empty airplanes on transatlantic flights? It doesn’t happen a lot these days, from what I read.

We arrived at Heathrow around 0700 and were completely through customs and baggage claim in about an hour. The Captain, although he was either a Buck Sergeant or a Staff Sergeant stationed at RAF Lakenheath at the time, met us at Arrivals. We loaded up the luggage and piled into his ratty old British Ford Cortina with the broken heater and leaky floor and did the patented B&P nickel tour of London for Kim’s benefit.

Sidebar: I use the term “B&P nickel tour” in a very personal sense. TSMP and I lived in London from 1980 - 1983 and we had a LOT of visitors. After the first wave of visitors had come and gone we developed our own little two-hour driving tour of London that hit all the high spots: Buckingham Palace, Westminster, Piccadilly Circus, Tower Bridge, et al. We also threw in a few of our favorite places. It was great fun reliving that tour!

So. After the tour we grabbed lunch and went to the hotel for a little nap before our evening out. And thus began the ten-day England Christmas Tour of 1990-something. I don’t remember the exact year, actually. But I sure remember that trip…one of my BEST Christmases (and New Year’s), ever.

The Best Thing about our arrival in London on Boxing Day was the heretofore unmentioned party we went to that evening. TSMP, SN1, Good Friend Kim, and I went to my Brit Buddy Rob’s place, where we partied into the wee small hours. The most interesting thing about that party was that Rob and I picked up exactly where we’d left off more than ten years earlier. It was as if we’d seen each other only yesterday. It’s like that with great, good friends.

So… a visit from The Ghost of Christmas Past. Which ain’t all bad, Gentle Reader.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

He's On His Way!


NORAD does it's annual Santa tracking exercise... here. The Fat Man has already done all of Asia and a LOT of Europe... video at the link! (The AP has a nice story on the history of NORAD's Santa Trackers here.)



Woo-Hoo!

Dang Me

Now that the Obamas are vacationing in Hawaii I’ve noticed I’ve gotten well over 40 hits (or so) in the past 24 hours for “Obama on the beach.” And they click through to this… amazingly enough:

Now That's A Line!

Via Gerard20 More Photos Taken at Exactly the Right Angle. Like the one above…Obama on the beach. They’re all pretty danged cool.

Go figure. I’m thinking anyone interested in beach photos of The One wouldn’t be prone to click through on this. Imagine my surprise.

―:☺:―

Ear-worm. And it’s ALL Barry’s fault. From comments on his site:

Today's rhetorical question: How could I live this long without ever hearing "shellout falter?" That's a masterful turn of a phrase if ever there was one!


Buck, my reaction exactly, but I'm not surprised that it sprang from the mind of Roger Miller, who is a lyrical genius.

Even the silly stuff -- *especially* the silly stuff -- I love. If you catch me whistling to myself at the office, it's often something like "You Can't Rollerskate In A Buffalo Herd."


GravatarAgreed on the silly stuff. "Dang Me" came out when I was in USAF tech school... and imagine, if you will, 20 or 30 drunken young airmen joining in on the chorus and warbling "high from the highest treeeee... woman would ya weep for me? Doo-doo-dee-doot-a-looie..." (from memory, that, but ya get the idea, I'm sure). Miller was the soundtrack for a lot of great times back then.


GravatarOK... it's been about an hour now and I can't get that danged song out of my head. Aiiieee!

Misery loves company. So… join me and sing along, Gentle Reader.

Heh.

Work

No. No, it ISN'T. Not EVEN. We digress before we've even begun.

Blog-Bud Morgan tags us with an interesting sort of meme, to wit:
It’s simple. Just list all the jobs you’ve had in your life, in order. Don’t bust your brain: no durations or details are necessary, and feel free to omit anything that you feel might tend to incriminate you. I’m just curious. And when you’re done, tag another five bloggers you’re curious about.
Famous last words: “Don’t bust your brain.” Heh. This meme is not designed for the semi-elderly or folks that are otherwise memory-challenged... and God Forbid if you should be both. Obviously. But… here goes, as best as I can remember. Unpaid positions are so indicated, in parens.
Dish-washer, vacuum cleaner operator, maker of beds, babysitter… all for a pittance of an “allowance.”
Mower of lawns, leaf-raker, snow-shoveler, car washer… same salary as above.
Paper boy.
Apricot picker.
Landscaper’s apprentice… dispenser of grass seed, wheelbarrow operator, dump truck driver.
College student.
Cook @ Mickey Dee’s.
Basic trainee.
Trade school student. (in a manner of speaking)
Kitchen help… potato peeler, dishwasher, floor mopper, aka “KP.”
Latrine cleaner.
Buffer operator, First Class.
Close-order drill specialist. (the result of many punitive hours on the drill pad)
Radar repairman.
Gofer.
Antenna climber.
Grocery bagger (part time).
Bean field weed picker and other assorted dirty agricultural jobs Americans won’t do (part time).
Tire buster (part time and the only job I’ve ever been fired from).
Radar technician.
Surveillance systems technician. (aka electronic spook enabler on the periphery of the Evil Empire)
Motorcycle racer wannabee. (amateur, but I worked damned hard at it)
Radar technician, part deux.
Maintenance control center dispatcher.
Distributor/purveyor of herbal remedies. (part time)
Suicide prevention center counselor. (part time, volunteer)
Surveillance systems technician, part deux.
Deejay. (volunteer, part time)
Radar technician, yet again. (These positions were many and varied, thus multiple entries)
Engineering/installations team chief (radar).
Bar back.
Brothel inspector, various locations in SE Asia.
Maintenance quality control inspector. (not at ALL related to the entry immediately above. Wait. Check that. Related, but not in the way you might think. You’d be amazed at the wide variety of fuck-ups I encountered.)
Plans and programs manager. (NCOIC).
Classified materials custodian. (Have you ever held your breath for three years straight, Gentle Reader?)
Public affairs NCO, news release writer, photographer.
Editor, “The Visiting Fireman’s Guide to the Best Pubs Around RAF Uxbridge and Vicinity.”
Researcher for the above publication.
Motorcycle safety instructor. (part time, volunteer)
Proxy parent. (volunteer)
Staff weenie.
College student, part deux. (on the VA dole)
Small scale farmer… or maybe large scale gardener. (kinda like Chance)
Telecommunications specialist.
Technical writer.
Proposal writer.
Proposal team leader/manager.
Telecommunications engineer.
Software development/service management/service reporting manager.
Lamaze coach. (At age 52… Aiiieeee!)
Vagabond, two-lane blacktop edition. Coast to coast and border to border.
Staff weenie, operations policies and procedures.
IT operations manager.
Retiree. (BEST job I’ve EVER had)
Blogger (we use the term quite loosely).
And there ya have it… a checkered career, if there ever was one.
Tag-ees? I’ll wimp out here and say “play if ya wanna.” But I’d be VERY curious to see lists compiled by Lou, Jay, Doc, Phlegmmy, and Christina (Once again: no pressure. Play if’n ya wanna.). Daphne has already been tagged by Gerard (veddy eeen-ter-ess-teeng, his list) and I hope she plays.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fail!

Well... I tried to get some windshield video of tumbleweeds for ya, Gentle Reader. But I had "issues." The grab-shot camera's battery has seen better days... and although the battery meter indicated a full charge when I checked it before leaving the house... it lied. Which totally pisses me right off. I thought I shot four video sequences between here and Cannon Airplane Patch, but only two survived... one of which was truncated (and thus unusable, for all intents and purposes) for a reason known only to the Camera Gods, which were NOT smiling upon me today.

Here's the best of the two survivors:



(sigh) I thought I had good video on the return trip... but it all disappeared somewhere into the ether. I suppose I'll have to buy another danged battery for the camera, but at $50 a pop (or so) it won't be anytime soon. I just don't use the "little camera" all that much these days.

Christmas Spirit


I feel like I owe ya, Gentle Reader, after yesterday's Humbug post. So... to make amends, here's a wonderful lil bit o' Christmas Cheer for ya.

H/T: Blog-Bud Andy. And if that doesn't do it for ya, there's a NEW version of "snowglobe" to play with. Be sure to listen to the song before ya shake the globe. It's pretty good.

You can buy the candles in the pic here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Apropos of Nothing...

Enter the confessional... and begin. "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned..." (I've never actually been in a confessional for its intended purpose but I have seen movies, so I think that's the way one begins). I had an e-mail conversation with a great good friend this morning who shares my current attitude toward the holidays (by that I mean the time period beginning with Thanksgiving and ending on New Years, which includes Christmas; I'm NOT being Politically Correct). To wit:

I hate the holidays. There are no other words for it. "Strong dislike" doesn't qualify. Nor does "ambivalent." Nope... the holidays just drag me down. As I told my friend today:
I swear to the Diety At Hand that being alone at Christmas is my very own personal "new tradition." I'm beginning to take a sort of perverse pride in this, although there are precious few I'd share the thought with... you being The One and Only at this point in time. Most folks just wouldn't "get it." At least I think that's the case.
So... there it is: out on the street for all the world to see. And I have to ask... do you "get it," Gentle Reader? Or do you think I'm a modern-day grinch?

Winter Classic

OK... Videos from the NHL tend to hose the blog, at least they did last year during the play-offs when I was posting a vid from the NHL nearly every day. We had us some complaints, we did. But Hope Springs Eternal, Gentle Reader, and I've been meaning to put something... anything... up about the Winter Classic for some time now. Let's give it another shot:



This short lil vid is supposed to illustrate the Detroit-Chicago rivalry... which is pretty lame, as far as rivalries go. Granted there USED to be one helluva rivalry between the two teams, as both are members of The Original Six and have been playing each other since 1942. I can remember some great games back in the '80s... when Chelios played for Chicago and was THE Guy I Loved To Hate, bar none (Well... except for Claude Lemieux, but we won't go there. That was the '90s, anyway.). Chelly's been in Detroit for nearly ten years now and is one of my favorite players. Funny how that works, eh? But we digress...

The Winter Classic will be played at 1300 hrs (ET) at Wrigley Field in Chicago on New Years Day. I dunno which Bowl Game will take it in the shorts here at El Casa Móvil De Pennington, but I will NOT miss the Winter Classic. From The Wiki:
The largest crowd to ever watch an NHL game was during the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic when 71,000 people watched the Pittsburgh Penguins battle the Buffalo Sabres. The game was held at Ralph Wilson Stadium, which is the Buffalo Bills home stadium in Orchard Park, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, on January 1, 2008. This was the first NHL game held outdoors in the United States.
The Sabres and the Pens game was one for the ages. I'm thinking this year's game will only be better, especially since Chicago actually has a competitive team now. They were a LOOOONG time in the hockey wilderness, Gentle Reader.

This is where I'll be on New Years Day... for a couple of three hours, anyhoo. Wanna join me?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's Winter

Happy Winter Solstice! We entered winter at 1204Z today, and that would be 0504 hrs MST. I was still sound asleep at that time, meaning it was already winter when I awoke. It sure feels like winter, too. To wit:
Our high here on The High Plains of New Mexico will be all of 33 degrees today… if the forecast comes to pass.
But… back to the solstice. I checked the Beeb’s web site this morning to see if there were any photos from the solstice festivities at Stonehenge this year… but alas, no. I did find a slideshow of 11 photos from the 2006 event, though. It seems like our modern-day Druids are less in touch with the firmament than their ancestors. There’s a series of wry little notes at the linked site that say…
Unlike the Summer Solstice.... the Winter Solstice is a bit of a moveable feast..
...which last year saw 60 plus revellers turn up at the stones 24 hours early...
...mistakenly believing that the winter solstice always falls on December 21.
It doesn't... so to avoid any pagan pink faces...
...this is to confirm that Stonehenge will be open for Winter Solstice on Saturday 22nd December, 2007, from 7:30 am to 9:00am.
Heh. Musta been a bit of embarrassment, that.
―:☺:―
Also from Auntie… Let Them Eat Cake Caviar! Quote:
Beluga caviar seized by Italian customs officers is to be distributed to poor people in Milan as a Christmas gift.
About 40kg (88lb) of caviar was confiscated in November after two couriers travelling from Poland were stopped with the hidden cargo.
Newspaper Corriere Della Sera says the caviar had an estimated value of $550,000 (£370,000).
Tests showed the caviar to be edible, so it is to be given to canteens, hospices and shelters for the poor.
Beluga caviar is the most expensive variety of the delicacy.
Countries have tried to crack down on illegal trading of caviar after more than 600 tonnes of it were traded in the EU between 1998 and 2004.
I was shocked at how the price of beluga has gone up. You can’t buy it in the US any longer… unless you live in states where it’s directly imported… which, in the case of my google search, consist solely of California and New Jersey. You’ll pay handsomely for the privilege, too: $145.00 per ounce. That’s approximately ten times the price I paid for the caviar I bought in Moscow in 1994 (or so) and brought back to the US.
Dang.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Small World Redux

Here's yet another re-run, kinda-sorta. This past August I put this up:

Peter Parks, Sea water with mixed zooplankton and needle eye (20X) Fifth Place, 2007

About the image you see directly above… I was perusing the archives for a bit last evening and came across a post I put up last July that directed you to the “Nikon International Small World Competition,” which is an annual micro-photography contest sponsored (strangely enough) by Nikon. And I got to wondering if they’d updated their site this year. The answer is “yes.” And, as usual, there are some amazing images on display in the galleries, which go all the way back to 1977. This site could be a serious time waster if you’re into photography, only your time wouldn’t really be wasted at all. You could consider the time spent here as inspiration. Or education. Or simply an excuse to revel in the beauty of a world most of us never see. Good stuff, this.

Nikon announced the 2008 winners of the competition this past October (or thereabouts), and the NYT ran ten of the photographs along with audio commentary by the photographers on some of the images. The Nikon site has a comprehensive look at the official winners (as chosen by Nikon's judges), plus a "People's Choice" gallery. I particularly enjoyed the NYT's commentary, though. Here's the 2008 sixth-place photo:

Klaus Bolte, Chrysolina fastuosa (Micro leaf beetle) on a pin head (40X)

This is also one of the "annotated" photos at the NYT link. And, as noted above, there are galleries of every year's past winners at the Nikon site. Marvelous stuff.

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Laura-Love

From the AP... captioned thusly: "The President and First Lady unveil their portraits at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. (Dec. 19)" Laura goes first (1:35)...



I like both portraits. But as you might expect, Gentle Reader, I like Mrs. Bush's more.

Feeling Yore Pain

So... while we on The High Plains of New Mexico are dealing with high winds, tumbleweeds, and moderate temps much of America (and not a few of my daily reads, although I'm still in the process of making the rounds and haven't yet begun to visit everyone) is dealing with snow and/or ice... and lots of it.

So... tuning up my best Bubba-voice... "I feel yore pain. Really, I do." (How was that, Gentle Reader?) Here are a couple o' few pics from my snowy past...



The above were shot in Ra-cha-cha, New Yawk. We got something like two feet in that storm. Shit Stuff happens in New Mexico, too. Just last year, as a s'matter of fact:


Soooo... if'n you're part of the impending episode of "The Ice Man Cometh," or if you're recovering from same, I really DO feel yore pain. I'm more than glad I'm not experiencing it, though. (insert smiley-face thingie here)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tumbleweeds

I’m not one of those guys who takes his camera with him everywhere he goes. But I sure wish I would have had my camera with me today (the small grab-shot one that also shoots video). Why, you ask? Coz it’s another one of those days here on The High Plains of New Mexico… which is to say steady wind of 30+ mph and gusts to 60 mph, if you believe The WX Channel. And I do, Gentle Reader… I most certainly DO.

I’ve been putting off the bi-weekly commissary run for a lot longer than I should and this morning I finally decided to get off the dime and head out to the base. I knew we were in for some wind today, but the forecast said it wasn’t gonna hit us until 1300 hrs or thereabouts. Well, my timing sucked. I really, truly intended on getting gone early on this morning but as Fate would have it (read as: I dallied waaay too long over coffee) I didn’t hit the road until 1130. And the front blew in early.

Oh, Goodie.

But… about the camera. Windshield video would have amazed and mystified you, Gentle Reader, had I had the presence of mind to take the camera along with me on the run out to the base and back. The tumbleweeds were just amazing today… literally hundreds of the danged things traveling across the highway at incredible speeds and getting some astounding air from time to time… like 20 feet or more. And there are literally thousands of the danged things stuck in the perimeter fence that encircles Cannon Airplane Patch. About which… I (ahem) shot the breeze briefly with one of the guys here in Beautiful La Hacienda Trailer Park when I got home and he told me the t-weeds were SO bad they took down a length of the perimeter fence out at the base earlier today. I can believe it. The t-weeds are so thick at some points in the fence that you literally can NOT see through them. That’s a lot of tumbleweeds.

I also thought about going back out after I got home with the express intention of shooting a little bit of video for ya… but I didn’t. It’s just not nice out there at the moment.

A couple of shots of the t-weeds (a) along the back fence and (b) piled up next to my car-hauler. As always, click for larger.


Update: Kris, in comments, sez there's something romantic about tumbleweeds. Indeed. Here's a lil sumthin from my childhood on the subject:

How romantic is that, eh? I'd say "a lot." That's The Sons of the Pioneers singin' and playin' fer yew. They were BIG once upon a time.

My Kinda Lights...

My Buddy Ed In Florida sends along the following:

My wife nagged and nagged at me to put up the Christmas lights.
Well, I finally got them up and NOW she won't talk to me!
Merry Christmas Everyone!

Heh. That's MY kinda decorating.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yet ANOTHER Reason...

…to dump IE and get Firefox. From The Guardian (UK):

Microsoft is releasing a patch for the flaw in its Internet Explorer browser, which has already lead to the infection of more than 2m computers worldwide. The patch should be available on the Microsoft Update website at 6pm GMT today (ed: that would be 1100 hrs MST).

The flaw, which lets hackers gain access to computers and steal personal data, was spotted last week in IE7. It was subsequently found in earlier versions of Microsoft's browser, IE5 and IE6, and the company has put together a patch for all versions of its browser.

Because IE is used by seven out of every 10 computers in the world, the flaw was potentially very serious and security experts went so far as to suggest that users dump IE and use another browser, such as Firefox.

Yup. And you won’t miss a single thrilling installment posted here at EIP if you switch to Firefox, too. (One should never miss an opportunity to toot one’s own horn, ya know. It’s The American Way.)

Thanks... But NO Thanks!

You can’t make this stuff up. To wit:

Still can't think what to get him for Christmas? Socks don't seem to cut it any more? Fret no longer because Burger King is here to help.

The mass purveyor of grilled meat is offering, for a limited time, something even better than their usual piles of beef patties. This week, American men were given the chance to smell like their favourite meat snack with the launch of Flame, Burger King's contribution to the perfume market.

The company describes Flame as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat".

Then again, one wonders why I had to hear about this in a British newspaper. Why haven’t I seen this advertised on my teevee? Or elsewhere in American media? But then again… I know it’s real. I’ve been to the web site. (Which is kinda cool, I must admit.)

In the Mood...


... for a good Christmas story? Well, how about a great Christmas story? You should go read my Blog-Bud Jim's post today, then.

You will be moved. Guaranteed.