Pinup Lifestyle Contest Entry

The theme for this month’s contest is “Red, White, and Blue.” Harlean (who is a fiction) and I didn’t have a chance to do a shoot specifically for the contest, but she went back into the archives and found a shot from the days of yore and gussied it up for this contest.

If you’d like to vote for us, we’d really appreciate it! The deadline is tonight, but just what time that means is anybody’s guess. Don’t wait another minute!

While you’re there, you have four other votes to spend, and there are some worthy entries. If you insist on voting only for ones that are on theme (olive drab is now part of red, white and blue it seems), that limits your options quite a bit, however, and if disrespecting the flag while trying to appear patriotic bothers you, then options are limited yet more. Even so, there are a few nice pics, so quit wasting you time here and go waste your time over there.

X-Games to the Left, Soccer to the Right

I am surrounded by TV screens, all showing things that resemble sport. In soccer, a Mexican team is playing a Spanish Italian one. I have to say I was pulling for Guadalajara over Seville or wherever Juventus comes from. [Um… Turin, actually.]

I didn’t see the goal, but I did see a few supposedly macho men lying on the grass crying. Not as many as I expected, which just goes to show you how far this league is from earning my respect. Only four episodes of babyism in the second half? That’s progress! I’d like to think the boys from North America spent less time on the soil than the Europeans.

Meanwhile, my left eye and right hemisphere have been absorbing X-Games. I watched an event where kids rolled their bikes down a ridiculous slope, up a ramp, through the air (tricks ensue) and then, if they land, they have a chance to do one more trick. I’d say maybe 30% landed the first flight. Probably less. These kids fell a long, long way, sometimes with a bicycle in the crotch, and when things came to a rest they took a deep breath and walked off, trying as hard as possible to NOT look hurt. A nice departure from the soccer.

And yet. Does the double-front-flip or the backflip-with-the-bike-spin score higher? That’s for the judges to decide. Ultimately most of the events in the X-Games are slightly-more-dangerous figure skating. Contestants do stuff and someone else decides who wins. Interesting, occasionally entertaining, but not satisfying from a sporting point of view.

When does hockey season begin again?

Darn that Science

I’m in a bar right now, trying to get the blog mojo working. On the TV I just saw a commercial that featured some sort of record-breaking car jump. I just couldn’t get excited.

Back in the ’70s the guys doing jumps just put a big motor in their cars, set up a ramp, and took a shot at the other side. Sure there were some estimates of how far they would fly if they were going a certain speed at the top of the ramp, but there was still a seat-of-the-pants feel to it. You started small, you jumped farther and farther, and learned to land on your wheels.

Now, I see a specially-modified car sail through the air and all I see is math. The driver has only to hit the ramp at the right speed and keep level and Bob’s your uncle. [This has always been the case, but ‘the right speed’ was not as exactly-known as it is now, nor was it so easy to hit that speed back in the day. I contend. And now that I think of it, some ramps back then might have doomed the driver no matter the speed.]

Daredeviling, like tennis, has suffered from the advance of technology.

WWEKD?

My New Cube

Welp, it’s official, I’m a salaried employee of Apple. It’s not that big a change from being a contractor; I’ll be doing the same work as before.

While I was traveling my department moved to a new building, so when I got to my new cube for the first time, this is what I saw:

Balloons!

And yes, I do get a discount on stuff, and yes, they assume I’ll be buying for friends and family as well. So if you need a Mac system or an iPod (no iPads at this time), let me know.

3

A Day of Many Miles

The day broke clear and didn’t waste any time warming up. After a not-terribly-satisfying breakfast and a fuel stop, I climbed onto Interstate 40 and headed west, west, west.

I wonder, on that stretch of Interstate between Albuquerque and Winslow, how many people are enticed these days by “The World’s Tallest Teepee” (a rigid, multi-story structure), or “The World’s Longest Map of US Rte 66”, which is painted on a wall of a curio shop. How many people spontaneously decide to buy a hunting knife, or a bit of petrified wood? Not as many these days, I suspect, as cars get ever more comfortable and the excuses to climb out and stretch one’s legs get less enticing.

I certainly wasn’t a candidate to stop this time. I wanted to put some miles behind me, the more the better. As I rolled along somewhere east of Flagstaff I saw a sign that did catch my eye. “Fresh jerky 227 miles ahead.” Bison was listed, and I think elk as well. By my calculations that put the jerky store somewhere around Kingman.

Although I have to say that I’ve never visited the much-hyped ice caves or gone underground on any of the mine tours. One of these days… On I drove, stopping only for fuel and beverages.

I never found the jerky store. By the time I got to Kingman I was occupied with the Big Decision. North, past Hoover Dam, through Las Vegas, and on up to Beatty to cross into California high in the Sierras, or west, through Needles to Barstow, to drive up the central valley.

In favor of north: 1) There’s a new bridge to keep the damn terrorists off the damn dam. I bet it’s pretty cool. 2) two-lane highways. 3) Far, far more scenic. 4) A chance to relive another trip with a buddy and two chihuahuas, getting kicked out of a casino in Vegas, followed by a night in Beatty, and my one and only pass through Trona, CA (a hellish place when it’s windy, which I gather is most of the time).

In favor of west: 1) two less hours driving, even if I didn’t stop for pictures on the north route.

When decision time came, I went west. Note to Gus (I think it was Gus), while your “227 miles to jerky” sign was certainly effective for me, you might consider a second sign, a little closer to the promised land. I’m just sayin’ is all. Or maybe I just missed it.

The last 100 miles of the day as I stretched my drive from Needles to Barstow seemed as long as the entire rest of the trip. There was still plenty of daylight left, but I was ready to stop. Perhaps if my air conditioning worked things would have been different. As I pulled in to the Von’s parking lot to buy large amounts of chilled liquids I reflected that had I chosen north, I’d still have an hour to go, assuming Las Vegas rush hour didn’t add to that.

I noticed as I drove across the street to the California Inn (an excellent choice), that there was a little strip-mall bar nearby called Molly’s Pub. I showered and packed a laptop and book (in case this wasn’t a laptop sort of place), and tromped over to Molly’s. It wasn’t a laptop sort of place at all; in fact it wasn’t a book sort of place either. So I bellied up to the bar, had a large beer in a mason jar, and watched the Dodger game with glazed eyes, which kept me entertained. (For a while I sat next to a guy who used to be the mascot for the Dodgers; I was rooting for the other team on general principles. It was all good-natured, though.)

I ordered a second beer, which arrived just as the cougars showed up. My long hair kept them away for a while, but by the end of my beer I’m not sure how many sentences I had started with “My girlfriend…” It was time to quit that congenial place and catch some sleep, to dream of jerky missed and the road not taken.

2

Sometimes You See it Coming

Sometimes you see it coming, a special type of melancholy that means it’s time to find the heart of the story. It’s the time to write the scenes that reveal the souls of the participants, and give them the power to change the world.

Even in a comedy characters strive to relieve sadness, to end loneliness. When you touch the sadness, you find the character, from Ann Boleyn to Zapp Brannigan. And even Deek, the stoner mom’s-basement-dweller dropout from life. What’s he hiding from? It’s time to find out. I’m in that place.

1

Andromeda Breakthrough

Our story opens with a British military officer being awakened by the Super-Mega-Holy-Shit alarm, the alarm that (our officer reflects) most people thought would only happen at the outbreak of World War III. He gets on the phone and is told that it is not WWIII after all (phew), but his men are needed pronto at the secret base nearby.

They rush to the scene (more or less) where the soldiers are told to wait while the officer goes and has tea spiked with rum (“of course”) and talks about what happened. Apparently the fog is too thick to mount a search for a pair of unarmed civilians. So they don’t even walk around the perimeter of the base. Meanwhile, the officers chat away and drink rum. Maybe that holy-shit alarm wasn’t really necessary.

And so we begin Andromeda Breakthrough by Fred Hoyle and Hohn Elliot.

Quick aside, here – I didn’t think I’d get so long-winded writing about pulp fiction. Of course it’s not well-written, of course there’s a conversation in which a deal is made that turns out to also have also been made by the same parties some time in the past. They’ve even kidnapped people together! So, no real need to go into detail in my little book report. But I did anyway. You don’t have to thank me, it’s what I do. Sometimes it’s so I can avoid the same mistakes, and sometimes the writing is genuinely funny. Anyway, back to the setup…

It turns out the computer at the secret facility has been destroyed, and it also turns out that the computer is like none other on Earth. The instructions on how to build it came from space. Once built, the computer gave them instructions on how to build a weird chick, and with her help it began passing on instructions on how to make all kinds of ground-breaking stuff. Interesting theme #1: what are the motives of the race from Andromeda who sent the information?

Apparently even having built it once, the Brits are unable to make another one, and their dreams of being the world’s dominant power are shattered. Also, the weather is going to hell.

SCIENCE-FICTION AT ITS FANTASTIC BEST, the cover proclaims. Happily for the rest of the genre that’s not really true. The story was first published in 1964, and while there is fun to he had over dated references and offhand sexism, it’s not those things that sink this story. It’s bad writing. Yet, there are a few bits that are prescient, and even a message for the scientific community (which the scientists in the story manage to forget at the end).

Just for giggles, let’s take a look at the bad guys, shall we? There’s a small oil-rich nation on the Persian Gulf, but they’re really just the puppets of a multinational corporation with ties everywhere. The name of that company: Intel. I just looked it up and the Intel we know was founded in 1968, four years after this book was published. If I was head of AMD, Intel’s rival, I might fund a movie version of this book just on general principles.

The top Intel honcho we meet is a beautiful and competent woman (though of course she’s not afraid to use her body to get ahead). Her second in command is an ex-Nazi. The authors go out of their way to make him a nicer-than-usual ex-Nazi, but his glimmers of conscience don’t stop him from murdering people.

Opposite them we have a dashing scientist over whom girls swoon (“Don’t trouble your head about it”, he actually says to a female), a weird-but-pretty manufactured girl, a plain-looking (and therefore asexual) female scientist who manufactured the girl, and a few others. Most people in this story are frightfully decent, and as we all know decent people are able to judge the character of anyone they meet at a glance. We know this because the writers don’t trouble us with what our friends actually observe, but take us straight to the conclusion. He looked like a good guy.

A phrase that stuck with me: “jerked slowly”. There are plenty more where that came from.

The authors really don’t show us the world through the characters’ eyes at all. We just jump from head to head in each scene, reading what each participant thinks. When they think at all. Good lord, a guy helps commit treason and by the end he’s forgiven due to his being an effective bureaucrat. Good guys escape their captors regularly. Scientists create unknown organisms, built using instructions from an alien race whose motives are questionable, and pour the samples down the drain. This little behavior almost destroys humanity and earns the careless scientists a severe tongue-lashing from a minor character. No other repercussions seem forthcoming.

Not all the nice people make it to the end of the story, which is good. The Arabs are, in general, fine, wise folk (The French and German people don’t come off so well). The writers made an earnest attempt to put female characters in positions of power, and if they sometimes undermined themselves, hey, it was 1964. Much of the story portrays an effort to fix the climate—which the good guys broke—events that resonated with me as I read it during a heat wave. So, there’s a lot to say for this story. I just wish a better writer had tackled it.

Note: if you use the above link to buy this book (or a Kindle, or a new car), I get a kickback.