Saturday, August 25, 2007

Adventures & Escapades, Additional Links

Remember my list of potential Adventures & Escapades? Well, additions are a-brewin', but in the meantime here are some recent relevant links:

30. Make a large wall sculpture composed of circuit boards complete with all electronic components (here's a vaguely related article with construction tips).

Those fine folks over at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories just posted about Matt's Awesome Chip Desk whose surface is covered with 434 discarded Itanium CPUs. It's a lovely thing and would go well with . . .

33. Convert an abandoned water tower into a living space. It's been done before!

Over at Boing Boing they've posted about a vertical (luxury) flat in a water tower (many pics here), though the comments directed me to the even cooler Munstead Water Tower.

Yeah, I've got a thing for Alternative Architecture. Check out this hurricane-resistant Monolithic Dome Home in Pensacola, FL!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

High School Internet Meme

Because I woke up when the cat jumped on the bed, because I can't get back to sleep, because I didn't feel like using the time productively.

I'm blaming Sarah for this. You can, too!

"Everybody's doing it!"

Fill this out about your SENIOR year of high school! The longer ago it was, the more fun the answers will be.

1. Who was your best friend?
Probably fellow monster movie/horror fan/Super-8 filmmaker Sam Moyer.

2. What sports did you play?
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I had all the eye/hand coordination of a drunken, epileptic, nearsighted hippopotamus.

3. What kind of car did you drive?
Sometimes Dad allowed me to borrow his 1953 faded-green Buick, but mostly I caught rides with other people.

4. Friday nights where did ya go?
Movies, mostly. The Wayne Theater in Waynesboro, the Dixie, the Visualite, or the Staunton Plaza Center For Shopping in (duh!) Staunton for first-run movies; the North 340 Drive-In or Skyline Drive-In for second-run horror films and trash cinema. Occasionally we'd cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks with spotlights and embarrass all the couples getting drunk and making out. Once in a while a group of us would zip on over to a local apartment complex (Brandon-Ladd) and "decorate" their half-sized, tacky, be-fig-leafed reproduction of Michelangelo's "David."

5. Were you a party animal?
That came later. In high school I occasionally drank alone late at night while watching horror movies and classic comedies (Marx Bros., W. C. Fields) on television after my parents went to bed.

7. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir?
Nope. I'd been in chorus 7th-9th grade but dropped it in high school to take French and Latin. Probably just as well--I've got maybe a half-octave range.

8. Were you a nerd?
More a geek than a nerd. I was science-crazed, played chess, read shitloads of books, but was capable of basic functioning in social situations for brief periods of time. Teachers loved me (unless I decided to prove 'em wrong about something, which was a frequent occurrence); most fellow students thought I was strange.

9. Did you get suspended/expelled?
Nope. I was, to all outward appearances, a pretty good kid. When your mother is part of the local school system, you can't get away with much.

10. Can you sing the fight song?
We didn't have a fight song, but we did have a school song: "In the hills of old Virginia in the lovely Shenandoah/There's a school that reigns supremely, each year we love it more/The skies are bright, the sun shines, the spirit of love is there/There's strength and hope and courage and friends who do and dare/Dear Waynesboro High School, as time goes on/We'll e're be faithful, daughters and sons/We'll float your colors only where there's right/We'll keep your banner spotless and bright." It's so fuckin' scary that a part of my brain retains this crap. And, yes, I can sing it, but you really don't want me to (see 7).

11. Who were your favorite teachers?
Oh, my. There was Howard "Dog" Claiborne (English Lit) and Connie ("Quote, Unquote") Fletcher (Advanced Biology).

12. Where did you sit during lunch?
Usually in the high school auditorium sound & projection booth listening to subversive rock 'n' roll.

13.What was your school's full name?
Waynesboro High School. That's it. Nothing fancy.

14. School mascot?
I don't recall that we actually had one. Our football team was called "The Little Giants" and we had a cartoon logo for them, but no actual mascot.

15. Did you go to Prom?
Nah, I spent my Senior Prom at the other end of the building running sound and lights for some geeky-ass folk singer/storyteller.

16. If you could go back and do it over, would you?
Oh, FUCK no! No way in HELL! I had a few memorable moments, but for the most part I was pretty miserable.

17. What do you remember most about graduation?
This homeless hippie couple I'd met in the city park were hanging out near where we were lining up for graduation, recognized me, and gave me a few surreptitious hits off a joint packed with some REALLY STRONG weed. I didn't so much walk up to receive my diploma as I floated.

18. What was your fave class?
Hmmm...that's a toss-up between English Lit and Government (it was so much fun learning about the Constitution while Nixon was enmeshed in the Watergate hearings!).

19. Where were you on senior skip day?
Doing inventory in the parts room of the store where my father worked.

20. Did you have a job your senior year?
Yep, at Freed Company, which sold appliances, motorcycles, tires, parts, and all kinds of miscellaneous junk consumer goods.

21. Where did you go most often for lunch?
See 12 & 28.

22. Have you gained weight since then?
I weighed about 150 lbs. soaking wet my senior year. Yeah, I gained weight...lots...damn it.

23. What did you do after graduation?
Walked home and seriously considered suicide.

24. When did you graduate?
June, 1973.

25. Who was your Senior prom date?
Skipped the prom because (1, see 15) I was working a show in the auditorium and (2), who the HELL was going to go to prom with me?

26. Are you going to your 10 year reunion?
Missed it in 1983 because I was in a treatment facility for alcoholism and drug addiction. From all reports it's a good thing I did--apparently most of my classmates reverted to the assholes they were in high school. I did attend my 20th and had lots of fun scaring my classmates by flirting with their daughters.

28. What was your favorite thing to eat at lunch?
Lunch? Who ate lunch? I was hanging out in the high school auditorium sound booth listening to Alice Cooper, Steppenwolf, and Black Sabbath!

29. Who was your boy/girlfriend?
Ya know, I never dated in high school (I've never been what anyone would call "dating material"), but I had a SLEW of crushes--Diana Taylor, Leslie Snyder (now Prof. of Communications at UConn), Cyndi Breithaupt (now the wife of a former gubernatorial candidate), Debbie Draper, Debbie Clay (later 1st female CEO of a public utility company), Ruth Flory, Judy Wakefield, Cindy Hawkins, Denise Hunt (whose younger brother was named, unfortunately, Michael)--oh, the list goes on and on...

Much later I actually went out with Debbie Draper, Judy Wakefield, Denise Hunt, Leslie Snyder, and Cindy Hawkins.

30. What was your favorite memory your senior year?
The discovery that 500 ml. of diethyl ether had a lovely euphoric effect and could easily wipe out any unpleasant memories for a little while. That, and how nice certain classmates looked in little red halter tops and skimpy denim shorts.

31. Did you like how you looked in your senior picture?
Yeah, it was okay! Wish I looked like that now. Today it's nowhere NEAR as embarrassing as those of my male classmates. White boys with big-ass Afros or greasy, shoulder-length hair...gimme a break!

32. Who will repost this after you?
What, did we suddenly return to high school? Does this look like MySpace?

33. How have you changed since high school?
At the most fundamental level, not at all. I've read a lot more books, I know a lot more...stuff...and have done a lot more...interesting...things (shit, I've even had sex!), but my mind works in pretty much the same way now as it did then. I'm more cynical, less social, and no longer wear bell bottoms that drag the floor. I'm much more likely to say whateverthehell is on my mind at any given moment without worrying about how stupid I might sound and I now revel in my own geekiness.

The Mars Hoax Is Back

It is highly probable in the next few days that you'll be receiving an e-mail (if you haven't already) or seeing some Intarweb entry that goes like this:

"Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting August 27th 2007. It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. This will culminate on Aug. 27 when Mars comes within 34.65M miles of earth. Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am . It will look like the earth has 2 moons. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Share this with your friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will ever see it again!"

Short answer: no.


More balanced, less emotional answer: *sigh*.

Detailed answer (courtesy of Sky & Telescope magazine): "The August Mars Hoax Is Back."

Every August for the past few years I've received variants of this particular factoid from several well-intentioned friends and acquaintances and all I can do is shake my head at the sorry state of American science education. On the other hand, as the above-linked article concludes,

"The Mars chain letter is not a bad thing, it's a good thing! It is an immunization. If you make a fool of yourself by sending it to your friends and family, you may be embarrassed enough not to send them the next e-mail chain letter you get, which may not be so harmless."

Don't be taken in; instead, get up early, grab a pair of binoculars and go watch the lunar eclipse on Tuesday, August 28, should you be in a favorable location.

Snopes article on the Mars Hoax

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Farewell To The Rice Pit

Well, another piece of my childhood gone.

About a gazillion years ago, way back in the nascent hippie days (mid-'Sixties), long before VCRs and DVD players, before video games and XBoxes and Wii, before iPods and iPhones and cable and Tivo, even before cell phones and personal computers and the Intarweb, there was a magic era known as the Golden Age of Hobbies.

Okay, it wasn't magic and it wasn't golden. As pre-sexualized adolescents (remember: this was loooong ago--sex hadn't been invented and dinosaurs ruled the earth along with Top 40 AM radio) we were restless, irritable, discontented, and bored. We had to fill our time with something, so many of us turned to hobbies--amateur radio, model rocketry, relic hunting, coin collecting, stamp collecting, rock collecting, trading card collecting, Little League, Boy Scouts, comic books, 4H, anything to fill the time before we could get down to the serious business of driving cars, drinking beer, dating, and getting into real trouble.

I collected fossils.

Oh, geez, did I collect fossils, Virginia having a slew of nice collecting localities at the time; unfortunately, my mother was not particularly thrilled at the idea of her basement/rec room accumulating a bunch of dirty rocks. She didn't discourage my interests, exactly, but she made it clear that prehistoric sea shells, ancient bones, and small mounds of shark teeth were not part of her decorating scheme. Nor were trips to, let's say, rustic, out-of-the-way places involving dirt, mud, stagnant water, and marginal sanitary conveniences her idea of a way to spend the weekend

But with the help of my friend Rob and his father I was able to collect. In Highland County, in Westmoreland State Park, at Carter's Grove Plantation, and, most especially, in the Rice Pit in Hampton, VA, I managed to dredge up enough fossils to keep my mother in a tizzy for months.

Now, about the Rice Pit--for a science-mad kid who didn't get out much except on parental expeditions to visit elderly relatives, the Rice Pit was damn near close to Nirvana! Here was a Great! Big! Deep! Muddy! Sandy! pit chock full o' neat stuff to collect and treasure, assuming, of course, that marine specimens from the Miocene epoch dieseled your innards. No one cared how dirty we got--getting dirty was part of the fun--and no adults hovered over us monitoring our every move. They were there, but remained in the background. Plus, there was a vicarious thrill, an element of danger, for lurking in the bottom of the pit, they said, were pools of quicksand. The bottom was off-limits and that was about the only rule of the site.

Can you tell this is one of my fondest childhood memories?

I don't know what got me to thinking about the Rice Pit recently, but I had been and when I launched a Google search I found this:

Whatever happened to ... Hampton fossil pit that drew history hunters?

The Virginian-Pilot
© June 25, 2007


For a couple of decades, kids came from schools throughout Hampton Roads to dig for history in a giant hole in the ground.

The Kenneth E. Rice Memorial Museum and Fossil Pit closed about 1989 when owner Madeline Rice decided she was too old and arthritic to keep it going.

Soon, water filled the 70-foot-deep hole, closing the circle on what the Smithsonian Institution once declared one of the richer fossil finds in the world.

The trove was discovered when businessman William Macon Rice was digging up fill dirt in his backyard borrow pit for the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and exposed the complete skeleton of a 60-foot-long whale.

Rice called the Smithsonian, and three scientists showed up the next day. It took them a couple of weeks to exhume the 20-million-year-old fossil, which they took back to the museum.

Other scientists followed and were astounded by the number of marine fossils in the small area, thought to have been a sub aquatic depression that collected whatever fell to the bottom during the millions of years the area was beneath 100 feet of ocean.

The family became entranced by the pit, learning the Latin names and history of the things paleontologists turned up.

Their then-8-year-old son, Kenny, spent most of his spare time in the hole, becoming a self-educated fossil expert. He'd dig them up and trade with archeologists for petrified wood, gems and other fossils.

When he was 14, he was driving a tractor to the pit when the machine rolled over the edge and killed him. His father was standing nearby but couldn't save the boy.

Six months later, on Jan. 1, 1967, William Rice opened the fossil museum and pit in honor of his son.

He charged the public a small fee to take their chance at digging up fossils and allowed them to keep whatever they found.

Soon schools brought students on field trips to the pit and museum. Rice usually was right beside them, telling the children the story behind the fossilized seashells or fish bones they found.

William Rice died of a heart attack in 1979, and his wife nearly shut down the pit. She operated it alone for another decade, leading schoolchildren through the museum, then taking them down to the dig.

When she couldn't maintain the pit, she unsuccessfully tried to get the city of Hampton to take it over. Eventually, it filled with water.

She died in 2000, and two years ago, her son William sold the pit, museum and surrounding land to the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, which intends to expand its facility, according to Linda Robinson, principal of the church's school.

"We're going to put a family life center there and are developing plans to expand our playground," she said.

The pit will be left as a lake, she said, a place to attract deer and geese and ducks instead of history hunters.

When Robinson first came to teach at the school, she said, she went with children into the pit as they dug for fossils. Those children, now adults, often return and ask her about the pit, she said.

She hopes some day to be able to direct them to a display that recounts the pit's past. The Rice family gave the church the fossils that were in the museum, she said, and Gloria Dei intends to build an exhibit for them in one of the new facilities.

Eventually the pit filled with water. Gloria Dei Lutheran Church bought the land in 2005.
Tony Germanotta | The Virginian-Pilot

Gone. There, but no longer accessible. At least it wasn't filled and turned into a strip mall; judging from the photo, the area is now quite attractive.

But it's not the same.

Whereupon I Demonstrate How Unimaginative I Can Be

So for various reasons--well, mostly because my immediate supervisor was being completely and utterly insane Thursday and I figured I'd better get away from the area before I said something...actionable--I took Friday off from work.

(It wasn't just me, she really was acting like a first-class, USDA-inspected Grade-A bitch. She managed to piss off co-worker Carolyn B. so much that she almost walked off the job and Carolyn never, ever gets pissed)

And what did I do on my unexpected day off when the weather conditions were beyond hot & humid and approaching hellish? On a day when TCM was running a Vincent Price Marathon?

I washed my dishes. I cleaned the kitchen. I de-soap scummed the bathtub. I stocked up on oatmeal and grits and Ramen noodles. And then my own, personal insanity broke loose:

I did laundry.

Let's think about this a moment, shall we?

I hate, hate, HATE doing laundry. Actually, no, that's not quite the truth; I don't mind doing my laundry as long as I can do it on-premises; unfortunately, my current apartment is the first place I've ever lived without a convenient washer and dryer, which means I'm forced to challenge my mild agoraphobia, pack up my dirty clothes, grab a big-ass box of detergent, round up an infinitude of quarters, figure out what book to take that I won't mind getting soggy (one must have a book), leave the house, lug all this crap to the car, and head off to one of the local washaterias for a couple of hours. There I will be subjected to further heat and humidity, since I've yet to find an air-conditioned laundry, Lite Radio, since they all seem to have single-station sound systems, marginally effective washers and low-temp dryers, since they both contain 0.4 Angstrom quarter-loving black holes which must be fed, and some seriously weird but-not-in-a-fun-way people who will insist upon babbling at me about the radiation...the electric radiation, which is why they killed Kennedy, since a man sitting alone, quietly, with a book, is an affront to God and Nature.

And, of course, I can't leave for any length of time because these same seriously weird but-not-in-a-fun-way people are all too likely unattended laundry--rub it all over their naked, sweaty bodies or sacrifice it to Cernunnos or something.

It doesn't help that my preferred place to wash clothes (because it's really close to home) is sandwiched in a strip mall with (get this!) a liquor store, a health food store, a Blockbuster Video, and some on-again, off-again "integral yoga" joint (what is that, anyway?). Yeah, I'm thrilled by this demographic.

Let's not talk about folding clothes on suspiciously-stained countertops where all sorts of unspeakable things could have occurred.

Anyway, the take-home message here is, obviously, I don't know what to do with a day off.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mid-Week Blahs

Hot. Too hot to think. Humid. Oppressive.

From the Richmond Times-Disgrace:

Richmond’s temperature hit 104 this afternoon.
The previous record for the day was 100, set in 1977.
Today was the hottest day since Richmond hit 105 on July 6, 1977.
The record high temperature for the date broke today at 2 p.m. when the mercury hit 102 degrees at Richmond International Airport.
At 3 p.m. Richmond's temperature had risen to 103.
And by 4 p.m. it was 104.
The record is 100 and was set in 1977. The normal high for today is 87.

The cat has the right idea--climb atop his Kitty Kondo, which happens to stand directly in the path of some feeble air conditioner outflow, and sleep the day away. As for me, I'm engaging in vivid, sexy fantasies of moving to Alaska, escaping to Iceland, or working in an Antarctic research station.

A couple of quick notes:
According to Bookslut, science fiction writer Howard Waldrop has a blog, at least for now (and if you're not familiar with Howard and, believe me, you want to BE Howard, run NOW! and read his short story, "The Ugly Chickens." No Star Wars/Star Trek crap here, people, just science fiction the way it's s'posed to be).

Interesting and thoughtful essay by Matthew Skala entitled The Terrible Secret of LiveJournal. In case you didn't know, there's been all kinds of controversy surrounding LiveJournal's parent company's (Six Apart) decision to, well, enforce the law with regards to fan fiction (by which I mean slash) and fan art (by which I mean Rule 34). I spotted this on Ceejbot and loved her concise post: "Dear Fandom: Shut up. No, really, just shut up. >>Read mskala's essay and then just shut up." I have to say I couldn't agree more--I have a high tolerance for creepy, but these days Fandom regularly exceeds it. Guess I'm getting old.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Tomorrow Is Sea Serpent Day...

...for some unfathomable reason, but for lovers of the strange, the outre, and the downright weird, August 6th is The Day (see the Cryptomundo post)!

--Dateline: New York. On this day in 1890 wife-killer William Kemmler became the first person to be executed in the electric chair. His last words were "Take it easy and do it properly; I'm in no hurry." They didn't and he had to be shocked a second time with 2000 volts at which point his body caught fire.

--Dateline: Hiroshima, 1945. The Enola Gay drops the first atomic bomb, codenamed Little Boy, ever used as a weapon. Nine years later Japan retaliates by releasing the first of many, many Godzilla movies.

--Dateline: New York again. On this day in 1902 gangster, bootlegger, and numbers runner Dutch Schultz was born. But for his death, Dutch would be nothing more than an obscure footnote in history; however, after a hit man shot him while urinating and as he lay dying in a hospital room, a police stenographer copied down his rambling, surreal, and downright bizarre last words, providing one hell of a writing prompt for such authors as William S. Burroughs, Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson, and others.

--Dateline: Milwaukee. On this day in 1966 science fiction writer Cordwainer Smith died. Smith, whose real name was Paul Linebarger and who happened to be Sun Yat-Sen's godson, wrote some of the Strangest. Science Fiction. Ever.

--Dateline: Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts. On this day in 1817 locals spotted what was described as a huge sea serpent. Coincidentally, also on August 6 in 1848 the crew of the Daedelus spotted a sea serpent off the Atlantic coast of South Africa

But the Big Event, the One that ties all this together, is the birth of Charles Fort in 1874. Fort spent something like thirty years studying newspapers and compiling notes on, well, the strange, the outre, and the downright weird, events and...things...not readily explainable by "Mainstream Science:" mysterious fires and lights, falls of frogs and fish from the sky, strange noises, unusual aerial phenomena (including what were later called UFOs); however, though some claim otherwise, he maintained a certain skepticism--and a significant sense of humor--towards his research:

"Before I looked into the case of Ambrose Small, I was attracted to it by another seeming coincidence. That there could be any meaning in it seemed so preposterous that, as influenced by much experience, I gave it serious thought. About six years before the disappearance of Ambrose Small, Ambrose Bierce had disappeared. Newspapers all over the world had made much of the mystery of Ambrose Bierce. But what could the disappearance of one Ambrose, in Texas, have to do with the disappearance of another Ambrose in Canada? Was somebody collecting Ambroses? There was in these questions an appearance of childishness that attracted my respectful attention."
--Wild Talents

I was fascinated by this stuff as a kid in the 'Sixties, which was virtually unavoidable since the paperback racks of the time were overflowing with anthologies of strange phenomena and UFOs were all the rage. In fact, a lot of my interest in science stemmed from reading about all the bizarre, unexplained stuff going on in the world, so it should come as no surprise that I regard Ol' Charlie as a personal saint.

Fort's legacy lives on in the British magazine Fortean Times.

Monday, August 6, 2007

I Was Bad

See, I was going to be frugal, I really was; I had it all planned and everything and knew that by delaying gratification for just a few days I would save enough money on one book purchase to buy another (there's always another, in case you hadn't noticed).

But then the toilet started that running constantly thing it does every couple of years, a simple fix requiring nothing more elaborate than a new tank ball, approximately $2.00, which meant a quick run to Home Depot, which meant I had to drive by Barnes & Noble and it was a hot day and the image of a cool, refreshing, caffeinated frozen beverage tantalized me and I figured well, I'll stop by for a short one, no harm in that, I don't have to buy any books, all I want is a Slurpee for grown-ups and then I'll be on my way, but as long as I'm here I may as well check out the new arrivals, you know, in case anything good has slipped by me and, well, you know how it is...

I came home with two books.

Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis, which I mentioned earlier, and The Flight of the Phoenix by Elleston Trevor, which was strictly an impulse buy.

I don't need to explain Crooked Little Vein; hey, it's WARREN FUCKIN' ELLIS, he who is, currently, the Coolest Damn Drunken Writer In The Whole Damn Universe:

"Apparently nothing happened that entire week outside of Lindsay Lohan--who I’m told is an actress, though I’ve never seen anything she’s been in--evidently necking a crate of Thunderbird and leaping into a truck filled with cocaine and dead babies in an attempt to run down and/or deliver vigilante justice to her ex-assistant and her mother. Or something. The rolling half-hour 'special' that replaced anything that appeared to be actual news dissected this thing so many ways that, really, I have no idea what happened the fateful night that Ms Lohan cracked the crust of stale, blood-flecked coke off her crotch and said to her soon-to-be-ex-assistant while snorting cough medicine up into her forebrain, 'shove your arm up there, girl. I want to come on your elbow.' Because the very rich are not like you and me."
--The Sunday Hangover 006

But The Flight of the Phoenix? Well, therein lies a tale.

The movie version with Jimmy Stewart pops up on American Movie Classics (AMC for short or, as I used to call it, "the Ancient Movie Channel") fairly frequently, but I've never taken the time to watch it figuring it was going to be yet another completely predictable "tense, character-driven study of men in adversity." Then Friday while I was lazing away the evening, cursing the heat overwhelming my poor little air conditioner and wondering what the cost of living is like in Alaska, F/X broadcast the Dennis Quaid version and I left it on while I did other things, catching bits and pieces here and there until...until...I hit the plot twist.

Which in and of itself was cool, but what I found even cooler was the character, Elliot, who introduced the plot twist--he seemed decidedly Aspergian, which always catches my attention.

So, of course, I had to have the book--just to see.

Man, oh man, do I need adult supervision.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Bug-Out Baggery

Or simply, Further Preparedness Notes.

Today I made another trip to Hull Street Outlet to pick up a few more just in case items and hoped that this time I wouldn't receive...the look. Fortunately, the gear I had in mind was harmless enough:

--one of those plasticized, grommeted, green/silver tarps in 9' x 11', which is a great all-around utility item. Not only will it keep bird poop off the car windshield, but it makes a great ground cloth for tents, sleeping bags, and lying on hillsides watching the Perseid meteor shower with Christina Ricci and Scarlett Johansson (yeah, that'll happen!) In a pinch (and with a little ingenuity) it can be used to construct an emergency shelter.

--a U. S. Army intermediate weight sleeping bag (mummy configuration, allegedly good to 15 deg. F), cover, and rubberized sack for storage. I debated getting the "extreme cold weather" version, but figured additional blankets and warm clothing trumped the inherent problems of down fill (once wet, down is damned hard to dry in the field and clammy sleeping is not high on my list of fun things to do).

--a Condor 3-Days Assault Pack, which is Condor's tacti-cool name for some of their intermediate-sized backpacks. Sure, it's probably not practical for serious backpacking or anything, but I think it'll work well on the rare occasions I go camping and especially as a Bug-Out Bag. Prior to today the only backpack/rucksack I own is a Boy Scout Yucca Pack purchased in 1966 or so and its failings are legendary, though the young Indiana Jones/River Phoenix carried one in Last Crusade.

--a Coleman Sportster II Dual Fuel Stove--"dual fuel" as in Coleman Fuel (aka "white gas") or unleaded gasoline. Not that I go camping all that frequently, but I have found that more and more places are banning open air fires, so it's a nice thing to have. For emergency purposes, well, let me tell you--one winter the gas lines in my neighborhood froze, which I didn't know was even possible, and I spent about three days wishing for some way to heat food and water--your meal choices are somewhat limited without a stove and as for shaving with cold water...well, let's just say it was an experience I'd prefer not to repeat. Incidentally, this particular stove can be found at Wal*Mart for significantly less than Coleman's list price or even's (and Amazon's reviews are encouraging).

Now, if I can just find a few people willing to try a Bug-Out Campout...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Books To Lust For

I mentioned earlier that I'm nowhere near as excited about the most recent Harry Potter release as the rest of the reading public, but I certainly got a hoot out of these Dork Tower feeds!

What I am pumped about is (1) Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis. Check out the Bookslut review:

"Really, though, everything is weird to Warren Ellis, who makes a visit to a Texas steakhouse seem as grotesque as Godzilla bukkake."

Greatest. Review Line. EVER!

And then there's (2) Spook Country by William Gibson, due to be released August 7th. Boing Boing already has nice things to say, not the least of which is "the cast of characters in this book is gigantic and deeply weird."

See a pattern emerging?

Yeah, there's a trip to my local Barnes & Noble in my very near future.

P. S. Dual Bookslut review here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

"It's Too Darned Hot!"

Ack! It's hot. Oh, so hot. And humid. Oh, so humid. Pretty typical for Richmond this time of year.

I shouldn't complain; we've had a fairly mild summer to date, but these last few days--yecch! All I want to do is fill the bathtub with cold water, climb in, and stay there till fall. Even Sid the Cat, who's normally pretty stoic when it comes to the heat, has taken to perching atop his Kitty Condo directly in front of the only air conditioner I have (or can have, because of the aging circuitry in my apartment--people, I STILL HAVE FUSES instead of circuit breakers) and giving me that "Somehow, this is your fault!" look.

And with summer heat comes summer thunderstorms, which you'd think would cool things down a bit--warm air mass collides with cold front, rain, coolness, comfort--but, NO! 'Round these parts the hot concrete and asphalt re-heat the air, turning the rain into instant humidity, and then, to add insult to injury, the various lightning strikes almost guarantee a power failure somewhere.

This afternoon the power failure was on MY block--a LOUD-ASS clap of thunder immediately followed by an EXPLOSION in the alley, which meant, once again, the local transformer had blown its top (it does this on a regular basis). No air conditioning, no fans, immediate darkness, and one freaked-out kitty, who, by the way, would like you to know he wasn't really scared, but, rather, was seriously concerned about my well-being, hence his astounding leap across the room and into my lap--he wanted in this crisis situation.

He did NOT appreciate my laughter.

Well, even on the brightest of days my apartment is pretty dark (I don't like the heat and I'm not all that fond of sunlight, either) and stumbling around the clutter (and avoiding Sid's tail, a difficult task as he insisted on walking between my legs--you know, to keep me from being scared) is not my idea of a good time. Fortunately, I had my trusty emergency Coleman Pack-Away Personal-Size Lantern nearby, which puts out simply oodles of krypton-powered light and makes litter box and food bowl location a non-problem. After all, these are the important things and once those were resolved Sid had no issues with my abandoning him for a couple of hours to open a Super-Secret Support Group meeting. In fact, he was curled up by the lamp and blithely ignoring me as I walked out the door.

He's a brave little kitty.