Sunday, September 27, 2009


As a bit of an astronomy buff, I've always wanted to see a really nice fireball roar through the sky. Sure, I've seen dozens if not hundreds of little "shooting star" type meteors, but nothing REALLY big & spectacular.
Well, on Friday night, my luck changed. Leanne & I were driving home from a WFUM staff reunion/farewell party at the White Horse Tavern in Flint. While at a stop light in Burton, we saw a massive bright white fireball falling from ENE toward the east for a duration of about 3-4 seconds.
Being a nerd, I sent a report into the AMS website, which tracks this sort of thing. I found out they got about 30 other reports of the same fireball and that it was seen in Ontario, New York and Pennsylvania. Judging from the reports, and its location in the sky reported from different locations, it looks like the fireball most likely fell over southern Ontario.
So after years of waiting, I finally got to see a fireball. Groovy!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The End of Irony

I went to the bookstore to spend part of what may be one of my final paychecks on "The Greatest Show on Earth" by Richard Dawkins, a book I've long awaited. (I'll probably post a review at some point in the distant future, available reading time being less plentiful than I'd like.)

Anyway, while there, I saw a book entitled "Arguing With Idiots". The author? Glenn Beck.

That's it. Irony is officially dead.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Years ago, I used to love reading the book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” to my daughter. And now, with the release of the animated movie version of that book, it was the perfect opportunity for some daddy-daughter bonding time.

At least I thought so. When I mentioned this to Maddie, her comment was
“That wasn’t daddy-daughter bonding. We were just sitting next to each other watching a movie and eating Skittles!”
“But we were eating the Skittles out of the same bag, right?”
“Whatever, dad.”

Anyway, the movie was funny and the animation was cool. The 3-D didn’t impress me all that much but that’s because I have depth-perception problems and REALITY doesn’t look very 3-D to me, either… so I’m not the best one to ask about that.

The thing I liked most about this movie, though, and something that affected me more since I WAS watching it with my daughter, was the little sub-plot involving weather reporter Sam Sparks. (That’s “Sam” as in “Samantha.” You know… the girl kind of “Sam”. This is relevant. Keep reading.) Without, hopefully, giving away too much of the movie, the gist of this storyline is that Sam is a closet nerd who was teased as a child about her science-loving tendencies. She decided to change her looks and act ditzy in order to fit-in better.

While this may seem a bit contrived, I once knew someone personally – a very attractive young woman – who did the same thing. She would occasionally let things slip out that hinted of a much higher degree of intelligence than she usually displayed. I finally asked her about this and she eventually confided to me that she actually felt she had to “dumb it down” in order to get guys to like her more.

Where did she ever get that idea and what kind of guys did she hang around with?

I’m a guy and I’m here to state loud and clear: NERDY CHICKS RULE!!!! Looks are nice and all that, but as far as I’m concerned it’s brainy nerdy women who are totally awesome!

And I’m glad “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” echoes that theme as well. Sam Sparks does, in fact, embrace her inner nerd and is liberated by the experience.

(Here’s a relevant clip:

This seems to be a welcome (and much overdue, in my opinion) trend in our current culture. It’s becoming cool for women to openly embrace a love of science, technology, critical thinking and learning. Things such as the Skepchick movement are demonstrating that not only can women be attractive and cool in spite of being nerdy; they can actually be attractive and cool BECAUSE they’re nerds!

And I hope in between the Skittles my sarcastic smart-ass daughter picked up on that. I certainly don’t want to force her into science if that’s not what she likes, but I want her to feel free to embrace that option if that IS what she enjoys.

(And speaking of her being a sarcastic smart-ass, I wonder from where she picked up THAT trait?)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pawn Stars: MY Version...

Introduction: my son and I have recently become addicted to the series “Pawn Stars” on the History Channel. It’s quite an entertaining series, but if I ran the world, it would go something more like this:.

An elderly woman walks into the pawn shop carrying an old wooden box.

“So, whatcha got in the box?”
“Perhaps it’s best I show you.”

The box opens, accompanied by a glowing light of purest white and the sounds of a host of Heavenly Cherubim.

“That’s pretty impressive. What is it?”

The old lady removes an ancient cup and holds it up.

“This is the Holy Grail.”
“The Holy Grail, huh? Where did you get it?”
“Well, you see, that’s a bit of a story. I have an ill granddaughter, little Angelica. She needs an operation to save her life, but it will cost $5,000 and we don’t have that kind of money. So I prayed to the Lord and asked for his help. Later that night, a shaft of light entered my room. An Angel of the Lord appeared before me and said that as a reward for the purity and sincerity of my faith, he would present me with the Holy Grail. The angel told me it is valuable beyond human imagining. But I’m not interested in worldly wealth. I only want my precious Angelica to get better. If you could give me $5,000 in exchange for the Grail, I will be able to pay for her surgery and would consider myself blessed beyond words.”
“What kind of angel was it?”
“What KIND? I don’t know. He just looked like an angel. Wings, halo, unbelievable heavenly beauty. All that.”
“But it was just a regular angel, though. Not an Archangel.”
“I guess not. I don’t really know.”
“Well, you see, that’s going to hurt the value. If you could tie this thing to, say, an Archangel, maybe Gabriel or Michael, that would really help in the collector’s market. A certificate of authenticity would be nice as well.”
“Of course there are specialty collectors who might pay a premium for items related to specific well-known angels. If, say, Moroni would have given it to you, and you could demonstrate its provenance, a collector of Mormon memorabilia might pay more for it. But just a regular angel with no name… it’s just not worth as much. And not only that, until I know this Holy Grail is genuine, I can’t really make an offer. Tell you what, I know a guy who’s an expert on Biblical antiquities. I’ll have him take a look at it. Would that work for you?”
“Well, I suppose so. Can he get here quickly? I really don’t know how much time Angelica has left.”

Suddenly, the interior of the Pawn Shop darkens. A crash of thunder shakes the building.

“THERE WILL BE NO NEED FOR THAT!.” says a huge, ominous disembodied voice.

“Who said that?”

Another terrible crash of thunder shakes the building; knocking a framed Liberace autographed gold record off the wall. The darkness lifts.

“Hey, Mr. I-Am-Sam or whatever your name is, you owe me for that gold record!”
“Not to be impatient, Mr. Pawn Shop Owner, sir. But would you consider that proof enough?”
“Okay, supposing it IS the genuine Holy Grail. I’m not sure I could find a buyer for it in today’s market. Christian holy relics don’t sell like they used to. Back in King Arthur’s time, they’d have given all they had for this Grail thing. Heck, if this was the 13th century, I could probably get half a feudal kingdom for it, but now? The market just isn’t what it once was.”
“What can you give me for it?”
“Ummm… I’ll give you a hundred bucks.”
“A hundred bucks??? But this is the Holy Grail! You just heard God say so personally!”
“How ‘bout one-fifty?”
“Look, even if you don’t care about it being the Holy Grail just look at the cup itself! It’s made of gold and silver and is encrusted with precious jewels! Look at the fine craftsmanship! Certainly that alone should be worth at least $5,000!”
“Naw, in today’s economy there’s not really a market for gold, silver and precious jewels. Besides, it’s pretty beat to hell.”
“Of COURSE it’s beat to hell, it’s 2,000 years old!
“One-seventy-five. Final offer.”.
”Poor Angelica. One seventy five won’t be enough to help her.”
“Well, sorry I couldn’t do business with you.”
“So am I.”

The old lady sighs as she takes the Holy Grail and places it into the box she had brought it in.

“Hey, that’s an interesting box. Where’d you get it?”
“Oh, this? It was just an old box I had in the garage. After the angel gave me the Grail I figured I should box it up to protect it a bit. My great grandfather used to work for Coca-Cola in the early 1900’s. This is one of their old shipping boxes.”
“Really? Those are highly collectible! In fact, this appears to be a rare Coca-Cola shipping carton that was used only in Vermont for a few months during 1907. It’s a collector’s dream! And you usually don’t see them in this fine a condition!”
“Really? It’s been just sitting around the house for ages. I never really thought anything about it.”
“I’ll tell you what; I’ll buy the Grail for $3,500 if you include the box.”
“But the surgery costs $5,000. Think of poor Angelica!”
“Think of the fact that I have to make a profit! Okay, $4,000.”
“Well, I suppose I could sell my car for the other $1,000. Okay, for Angelica, I’ll do it!”

The pawn shop guy pays the old lady $4,000 in crisp one hundred dollar bills. She leaves.

“Hey, Chumley! Put this Coke box on the display shelf!”
“Sure. Say, there’s an old cup inside it, What do you want me to do with it?”
“Uh… just put it on my desk. I can use it to hold paper clips.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Theology of Scribblenauts

Today, my darling kidlets got "Scribblenauts", the latest game out there for the Nintendo DS. Even after having it explained to me, I'm still not entirely certain what the object of the game is. What I do know, however, and what I think is actually quite cool, is you can type in the name of just about any object you can think of and it will show up on the DS screen.
And I do mean just about anything. Type in "horse" and a horse appears in the game. Type in "flamethrower" and, sure enough, your character will be holding a flamethrower. There are apparently tens of thousands of things you can type into existence.
In fact, if you type in "God", a robed figure with a long white beard appears.
The rumor was that someone using a preview copy of Scribblenauts invoked the deity, and then typed "polar bear". The result? The polar bear ate God. (Hmmm... THERE'S a sentence you don't see everyday!)
Anyway, my son tried the same thing upon getting his copy of Scribblenauts, but in his case, God simply smote the polar bear without even breaking a divine sweat.
I left my son to his amusements when, a few minutes later, he ran to the patio where I was sitting and exclaimed excitedly, "Dad! I killed God!" (Again, another sentence you don't hear on a daily basis.)

"How? TWO polar bears?"
"No. That didn't work. God kept killing them. So I typed 'cannon' and fired it at point blank range!"

Ah! There's nothing to make a father more proud than to have his son committing Virtual Deicide!

I can hardly wait to hear what kind of Holy Shit is going to hit the proverbial fan when the religious right loonies hear about THIS sort of thing! If they thought Harry Potter was bad, in THIS game you can try to drench God in Sulfuric Acid if you're so inclined.

It's obvious that Nintendo, the company that licensed this game, is Japanese, and reflects that culture's more laid-back approach to things divine. If Scribblenauts were made by God-fearin' gun totin' American Judeo-Christians, you either wouldn't be able to invoke God at all, or - if you could - he would simply smite everything in sight. Game over. And while that might more accurately reflect the prevailing Western notion of God, the game would certainly get boring rather quickly.

And let's face it... the thought of an epic battle between God and a T-Rex IS pretty awesome!!!

Today's Math Lesson...

Q: What's 3.14159 x 8?

A: Octopi

[Insert rimshot here.]

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Couldn't Resist!

30 minutes of free time and an available computer are a dangerous combination. The above creation is how I spent my lunch hour. Now THIS is the kind of motivational poster that would be in a COOL workplace!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

They Didn't Understand Andy Kaufman, Either

Today was fun.

It was my sister-in-law's birthday. Per the typical social convention, we got her a card.

And per my usual modus operandi (that's Latin for "the way I roll") I proceeded to put something on the outside of the envelope that would reflect my - uh - to put in charitably - "unconventional" sense of humor.

This time, my darling yet similarly warped daughter was nearby willing to help. Between the two of us, we produced what we knew instinctively was a masterpiece!

You can imagine my pride when, looking at the finished product, she proclaimed "This is the best envelope EVER!!!" That's my girl!

Sadly, though, it seems we were the only ones tuned into the appropriate mental wavelength to get the cosmic, transcendant overtones of this work of comic greatness. Nobody else shared our enthusiasm.

Oh well, for what it's worth, the envelope in all its greatness is posted above. (Click to embiggen.) Maybe some enlightened soul out there will understand...