23 August 2007

Close to Mars

    I'm moving to Mars next week, so if you have any boxes...
      Stephen Wright

In the time it took to read that quote, we all moved about 25 miles closer to Mars. That's according to NASA calculations and this article from Space.com. Mars and Earth are closing the gap between them at a rate of 22,000 mph.

By December, Mars will outshine every star in the sky. It will not, of course, be anywhere near the size of the moon, regardless of chain mail that suggests otherwise. Even at its brightest Mars is still a dot of light to the naked eye.

However, it will be very accessible to backyard astronomers. A good pair of binoculars or an amateur telescope will let you see it's disk shape and maybe even some surface details. During its last approach, I was able to spot one of the polar ice caps. I'll be out again this time around.

If you have a telescope you haven't used yet (you know who you are), this is a great time to try it out.

22 August 2007

Sky coming Google Earth

    A galaxy is composed of gas and dust and stars - billions upon billions of stars.
      Carl Sagan

Google Earth is adding a new feature that will allow users to see the heavens. If this new feature, called Sky, is any bit as cool as Google Earth, it will be awesome. I can't wait. The story here.

15 August 2007

Who let the Macarena in the house?

    Girls just want to have fun.
      Cyndi Lauper

I was making dinner last night, and the children put on some music. Not only was it Cyndi Lauper, but my oldest was singing along. She knew all the words. This was a surprise for me, since I didn't know we even owned anything by Cyndi Lauper*.

Turns out this was a mix-CD someone gave us, a collection of "slumber party songs," or something like that. Mostly it's what you'd expect. Glora Estefan's "Conga" and "The Rhythm is Gonna Get You," for example, and "Walkin' on Sunshine" (not the Katrina and the Waves version, unfortunately**). There were some hip selections, like REM's "Stand," and a few unexpected choices, most notably the Frankie Goes to Hollywood standard, "Relax" (maybe it's the song's inclusion in Body Double, but I just never saw this a slumber party material).

Then there was the song I knew must be coming but hoped against. Even with the tell-tale opening riff, there was the faint hope that this would be a parody version or maybe the one from Sesame Street. Alas, no, it was Los del Río's original "Macarena." Luckily it was not the Bayside Boys remix with added English lyrics. My kids don't need to sing along with her cheating on her boyfriend because he was "out of town and his two friends were sooo fine." No thanks.

Wow, don't I sound like the grumpy parent? "Don't want my child listening to that music! Stuff kids listen to these days!" Oh well. Some things can't be helped.

For the record, I didn't make them turn it off or even down. Even when the Rednex dance remix of "Cotton Eyed Joe" came on, though an ice pick in the forehead was sounding pretty good right about then....

*For the record, I don't have anything against her. "True Colors" and "Time After Time" are great songs that I enjoy listening to - just not enough to go out and buy them.

**I always liked this song. There, I've said it.

14 August 2007

Lies and really big fonts

    A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
      Mark Twain

I got one of those e-mails today. You know the ones. The text of the message indented several levels due to incessant forwarding. "FW:" prefaces the subject which, in this instance, is "9/11." You can tell where this is going immediately. It starts out subtly:

It was 1987! At a lecture the other day they were playing an old news video of Lt.Col. Oliver North testifying at the Iran-Contra hearings during the Reagan Administration.

There was Ollie in front of God and country getting the third degree, but what he said was stunning.

DUN DUUNN!! Prepare to awestruck! I'm surprised it didn't say "There was poor Ollie...," but score points for getting "Got and country" in their early. It's important to set the tone. I am reproducing most of the original format of centered italics, but I'll skip the 18 pt. Arial. I think they showed admirable restraint in avoiding bold and underlined. It continues:

He was being drilled by a senator; "Did you not recently spend close to $60,000 for a home security system?"

Ollie replied, "Yes, I did, Sir."

The senator continued, trying to get a laugh out of the audience, "Isn't that just a little excessive?"

"No, sir," continued Ollie.

"No? And why not?" the senator asked.

"Because the lives of my family and I were threatened, sir."

"Threatened? By whom?" the senator questioned.

"By a terrorist, sir" Ollie answered.

"Terrorist? What terrorist could possibly scare you that much?"

Chuckle. What terrorist, indeed? Okay, you know what the answer is going to be. Hung's trained monkey knows what the answer is going to be. The sender, however, wants to make sure you understand that this is big revelation, so they pull out all the stops and reveal in 27 pt.:

"His name is Osama bin Laden, sir" Ollie replied.

Oh. My. God. Are you dumbstruck? Well wait, there's more. After such an earth shattering revelation, you need a little comic relief:

At this point the senator tried to repeat the name, but couldn't pronounce it, which most people back then probably couldn't. A couple of people laughed at the attempt. Then the senator continued. Why are you so afraid of this man?" the senator asked.

"Because, sir, he is the most evil person alive that I know of", Ollie answered.

Hehe. That dumb senator couldn't even pronounce the name. Funny stuff. Heck, most people couldn't pronounce it back then. It's such a tongue twister. Say it three times fast. See how hard that is? But now, the tone becomes grave again. In an interesting stylistic departure, the author chooses this moment to switch Comic Sans MS, but those trusty italics are not abandoned.

"And what do you recommend we do about him?" asked the senator.

"Well, sir, if it was up to me, I would recommend that an assassin team be formed to eliminate him and his men from the face of the earth."

The senator disagreed with this approach, and that was all that was shown of the clip.

Okay, did you get that? Oliver North wanted to assassinate Osama bin Laden in 1987, and was ridiculed for it by the senator questioning him at the time. Hmmm. I wonder if the senator was a democrat or republican.... Well, have no fear, that question will be answered:

By the way, that senator was Al Gore!

Al Gore, ladies and gentlemen! To drive this point home, the color changes to maroon. (I use maroon Comic Sans MS for e-mail - don't know that says about me.) For good measure, Al Gore's name is in 27 pt. I guess that's because it's also hard to pronounce. So there it is: Gore laughed away the threat of bin Laden back in 1987.

I probably don't have to tell you that this is all a load of crap, and Snopes explains in detail how completely false it is. Still, one fabrication just isn't enough for our sender. Hot on the heals of the Al Gore bombshell, we get more:

Terrorist pilot Mohammad Atta blew up a bus in Israel in 1986. The Israelis captured, tried and imprisoned him. As part of the Oslo agreement with the Palestinians in 1993, Israel had to agree to release so-called "political prisoners."

However, the Israelis would not release any with blood on their
hands. The American President at the time, Bill Clinton, and his Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, "insisted" that all prisoners be released.

Thus Mohammad Atta was freed and eventually thanked the US by flying an airplane into Tower One of the World Trade Center.

Here we go. More centered italics. More 18 and 27 pt. fonts. More democrats turning a blind eye to terrorists. I like the little, "Thus..." part at the end. Almost biblical. One would wonder why such a bombshell would go unnoticed. Don't you worry. All the answers are right here:

This was reported by many of the American TV networks at the time that the terrorists were first identified.

It was censored in the US from all later reports.

If you agree that the American public should be made aware of this fact, pass this on.

There it is. The cover-up. The conspiracy. The information you were not meant to know. It's 27 pt. It's maroon. It's italicised. It's bold. It's underlined.

And it's still bullshit. No matter which font you use.

Why the big post? It's not like this is the first e-mail like this I've seen. It's clearly fake, and Snopes is full of similar fabrications. Yet as laughable as it is to me, it wasn't forwarded as a joke. It was forwarded by someone who thinks it's true and sought to tell others. It's bad enough when someone cooks up this garbage, but it's even worse when people receive it with no critical scrutiny whatsoever.

And there's one more thing. Besides scaling down the fonts, I left off the pictures. We've all seen photos of the planes striking and the towers collapsing. I didn't need them here. But I will include this one, from the end of the message:

There's the final insult. The memory of those lost with symbols of peace and love invoked in service of some little jerk's political slimefest.

09 August 2007

Bravo Bourdain

    Colicchio, leave the Bourdaining to the master.
      Stephanie Vander Weide
      a.k.a. Keckler

Bravo decided Bourdain's stand-in blogging for Colicchio was so good, he needed a blog of his own. The combination of his blog and Keckler's TVwoP recaps might be better than the show itself.

No party

    It's going to be a trap. It's not going to be a party... at all. It‘s never a fucking party.
      Jeffrey Sebelia
      Project Runway Season 3 winner

Comments to my last Top Chef post included Rob's opinion that Top Chef is more civilized than Hell's Kitchen. That may be, but last night they were pretty damned evil. The cheftestants are told they'll be getting a night out at a hot Miami club. They spend time getting dressed up, then hop in the awaiting limo that takes them to... an elimination challenge. Cook outside in catering wagons, and serve food to clubgoers after closing time.

Had they Jeffrey Sebelia's wisdom, they'd have known this was coming. As it is, they are stunned. What's worse, in a move reminiscent of POW camp mind games, the Quickfire winner is whisked away in the limo for a one-on-one dinner with guest judge Govind Armstrong at one of his restaurants. Even the nicest of those remaining confess hatred of their fellow cheftestant for this lucky break.

Ah well, what did they expect? After all, it's reality TV. It's never a party.

04 August 2007

Senate caves to Bush. Again.

    One thing I have learned in my time in politics is that if one of the parties is shameless, the other party cannot afford to be spineless.
      Sen. Frank Lautenberg*

What the hell? Recent Senate hearings sought to determine whether the Bush administration strong-armed then Attorney General Ashcroft into authorizing illegal domestic surveilance. One would think they didn't like Bush/Cheney spying on Americans.

So, when Bush demands they vote to expand his powers before going on vacation, what do they do? They give him exactly what he demanded. Wow. That's showing them. You really dealt a decisive blow with that one. Geez!

* Because the vote was last night, it looks like we won't know the roll-call until Monday. I've heard that Lautenberg and Menendez both voted against, but nothing official.
UPDATE: Lautenberg and Menendez both voted Nay.

02 August 2007

On the White Stripes bandwagon

    Everyone knows about it
    From the Queen of England to the hounds of hell
      The White Stripes

Okay, I know I'm arriving late for this party. The White Stripes grammy-winning album Elephant came out in 2003, and I've only just gotten it. Unfortunately, most music I purchase these days is new material by artists already in my collection. That can get kind of stale, so I do try to branch out.

I told Sharon a while back that I've thought about getting something by the White Stripes - I always the songs I hear by them. She oblidged by giving me Elephant and Get Behind Me Satan for my birthday. I totally dig both of them. It's a good thing I have them at work because Sharon would be getting sick of them right about now. That's how much I've been playing them. I am bopping my head at this moment to the "My Doorbell." I see more White Stripes purchases in my future.

Oh yeah, I looked up the video for "The Hardest Button to Button" and now I get the reference in this Simpsons clip: