Sunday, January 27, 2008


I love cool stuff, but I hate a computer desktop cluttered with widgets and I am cheap.

These contradictory impulses are all satisfied by my latest, coolest acquisition: EarthDesk.

I started out with it configured in equirectangular:

But now I am keeping it mostly set to globe:

For extra bling, I added a starfield, taken by the Hubble telescope, behind the globe.

So now my desktop looks like this:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

USA Plunges Into Poverty!

Back during the Cold War, kids, I used to listen to Radio Moscow on the old short wave. They were rather entertaining. (Radio Peking was just sad, constantly listing statistics about the number of trucks produced in the last two quarters.)

Radio Moscow would play lots of great symphonic music and interesting folk music from all over the Soviet Union. But the most entertaining segments were "Moscow Mailbag" (where an announcer read letters from CPUSA members scragging the US and praising the workers paradise of the USSR) and the world news segments on the US.

Radio Moscow of course had nothing good to say about the US. They would breathlessly report crime statistics and news of obscure civil rights trials. Every report of a trial would mispronounce the term "prosecuting" to "persecuting."

Well, Putin's Russia has fallen back into this "no good news" pattern, posting this story with the graphic above:

"USA plunges into poverty"

The number of Washington residents living in poverty is up sharply since 2001, with increases in every county except Garfield, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The agency reported this week that 12 percent of the people in the state were living in poverty in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available. In 2001, just 9.9 percent of the state's population was in poverty.

The state had 732,049 people living in poverty in 2005, compared with 586,456 people in 2001, the bureau said. The federal poverty line in 2005 was $19,350 for a family of four, the AP reports.

That photo, though...I think that's the line up to get the "Halo 3" release.

But then, they also offer this breaking news:

Extraterrestrial beings caught on tape for the first time ever

Extraterrestrial beings have finally been taped on video, the head of the Turkish UFO Center, Haktan Agdogan said.

The ufologist said at a special press conference in Istanbul that a local resident, a watchman from one of cottage townships, managed to film an extraterrestrial spaceship and two aliens. The lucky man, named as Yalcin Yalman, presented his 22-minute video to reporters.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fred's Out


I kicked Fred's campaign a few bucks and talked him up among the small circle of people with whom I feel comfortable talking about politics. You know, just once I wish that my particular fringe candidate would last long enough for me to actually VOTE FOR THEM.


I guess this makes me a Romulan.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I Don't Do Comedy

Other than an occasional wry remark, I don't even try. This is why:

This is like watching Steve Hawking goof on about singularities. I'll stick to commenting about my sad life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Think Twice, Write Once

I haven't been very active on this blog lately. Odd, considering the just-completed Christmas season is ripe with spare time and lots of emotional and memory triggers.

But I am careful about what I write in this venue. I generally don't discuss work, family details, or specifics of my personal associations.

And here is why.
Whether they like it or not; and whether they realize it or not, nearly every person who uses the Internet creates an online reputation which reveals details and conveys an impression independent of the actual truth. I describe some of the issues associated with an online reputation at Pajamas Media. There are companies which will sell you reports describing how you "look" on the Internet. There is now an industry devoted to finding, deleting or modifying information about us on the Internet. Don't believe they can do it? Why, check out their online reputations!
Personal reputation is influenced in unexpected ways. Back in the mid-1980s I worked at a technology company in Oregon. It was a wonderful time, professionally, working in a group with a lot of people who became friends, and a couple of people that did not become friends.

At that time I occasionally wore a floppy velvet hat, somewhat like a large beret. (Please, it wasn't ghay, it was hippie. Except that hippie is kind of ghay.) It was a goof, but I thought that if you had to be known for something, better a bit of a goof than cruelty or boorishness, or any of an uncountable list of bad behaviors. If you can't leave `em laughing, at least leave `em with a smile...

...Until four years later during a market downturn when I badly needed a job. Then, during a job interview, the business owner said, with a sneering voice, "I hear that you like to wear funny hats."


I swallowed my pride and laughed it off--got the job. But the job didn't last. The owner was a big a jerk as he had revealed himself in the interview.

But I have always wondered if I was never offered interviews because of some people's big mouths.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Goofy Purchases

Some men, in a vain attempt to recapture their long-lost youth purchase toupees, open-necked shirts, and red convertible sports cars.

I have my hair, like my present wardrobe, and don't have the money for a new car.

I do, however have the money for this:

My goal is to regain the facility that I had in college.

Weep for my wife, as I spend the next few month getting my embrochure back into shape.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Remembering Jeff Meisch

This was a tribute to one of my very best friends. I posted it to forum for old alumni,

Jeff Meisch was my best friend through High School and into my first years of college. We were opposites in many ways but shared the alienation of being outsiders to the popular crowds at school. We were Marching Band geeks. We both had crushes on Joyce Wright (Dery).

We were a Mutt and Jeff team (and Jeff often pointed out that he was, after all, Jeff.) I was tall and thin, Jeff was short and round. While I looked at the world like a wounded puppy dog, Jeff affected and air of sophisticated cynicism. I was Art Carney, Jeff was Jackie Gleason.

Gleason is tremendous; if you’re my age you grew up with Gleason as the TV variety show fellow with the away-we-go schtick. You learned about the Honeymooners later, at which point your appreciation expanded greatly. Gleason had that same skill Roscoe Arbuckle possessed in such amazing quantities: lightness and grace. But Gleason had gravity, too. Modern fat comics haven’t had that skill; Belushi was just amped and revved, which is different from having, uh, inner buoyancy.... John Candy was heavy, period. Chris Farley was an overinflated kickball still bouncing off the walls an hour after it was thrown. Gleason was different. He had – what’s the word? Buoyant innards.
That was Jeff.

I remember summer days when we would hop in his old Ford Econoline van, fill up on $0.35 gas and drive aimlessly all over Southern California -- from Grapevine Hill to the Mexican border, from watching girls in bikinis on Huntington Beach to shooting cans on the high desert with a .357 magnum. We would have wide-ranging conversations that multiplexed from music to metaphysics to what we saw ahead for our lives.

Jeff, a Jack Mormon, introduced me Beefeater's gin and Black Watch cigars. I never did take a shine to gin.

Jeff came up with a brilliant plan to sneak hooch into our Senior Party. The party was a multi-school event to be held in Disneyland. Jeff knew that there would be a shake-down at the gate for contraband that night, so we paid to enter the park the day before, packing several flasks of Beefeater's. We rode the Storybook Land Canal Boats ride and, as it passed near the bank in a secluded spot, stuck the bottles in the shrubbery. The night of the party, we rode the ride and grabbed the flasks. Good times.

When we worked in the pit orchestra for the High School musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Jeff bought a dozen roses to give to Joyce Wright. Knowing how painfully shy I was he decided to torment me by announcing he was going to sign my name to the card. I was stunned, but I knew what to say. "You wouldn't dare." He took it as a challenge and wrote my name. Joyce gave me a kiss.

Jeff was one of the few people I knew at my own wedding. That was the last time I saw him.

It's often said that guys never form friendships as close as ones formed in school years or in the military service. I can attest that this is the case with me. For respiratory health reasons Mrs. Gray and I moved away from Southern California in the early 1970s. With the demands of a new career and family and the tyranny of the immediate, it was very easy to let contacts slip away. Pre-internet it was difficult to re-establish contacts.

But for a couple of years I have been trying to re-establish those ties with family members and friends. So I googled Jeff's name now and again. Last Thursday I came across this site. Once again I scanned the registered members looking for Jeff's name. Then I saw a scan of a program for a 30-year reunion dinner. I browsed the photos, trying to pick out familiar faces. On one of the last pages was a "Memoriam." There on the list of departed classmates was Jeff's name.

I was shocked at how much I was shocked. My cohort is now well into the half-century mark and news of another passing is a more and more frequent occurence. But I was really saddened that I won't be able to catch up with Jeff.

It's Not a Bug, It's a Feature

The headline reads:

Too Much Sugar-Free Gum Linked to Severe Weight Loss

Does this seem like bad news to Wrigley's? I can just see overweight people thinking, "Hey! I didn't know it was that good!"

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