Saturday, June 26, 2010

Strolling Towards the Boulevard

Grove Avenue, Richmond, VA, Saturday, 26/Jun/10, between N. Thompson and Boulevard, about 3:00 p. m. when the temperature and humidity were both approaching 100. Because I'm an idiot. As usual, click to embiggen.

A fossilized bacteriophage! One of several on the 3400 block of Grove Ave.

Temple Beth-El, 3330 Grove Ave.

Near the Confederate Memorial Chapel, 2900 Grove Ave.

Cannon outside the Confederate Memorial Chapel.
The inscription reads, "One of the guns used in the defence of Fort Sumter."

Another view (duh!).

The mandatory, pretentiously art-y shot, Confederate Memorial Chapel grounds.

No particular story here. I've got two Facebook friends who would appreciate the inherent humor of a "fossilized 'phage" (yeah, we're paleo-/bio- geeks. Sod off) so in a sudden burst of inspiration and energy I grabbed my camera and headed east on Grove and wound up playing tourist, snapping pics all the way to the Boulevard. We won't talk about how many gallons of sweat I lost on this little expedition; let's just say no one stood close to me in line at the 7-11 when I purchased a Diet Peach Snapple.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Alone & Unsupervised With Access to a Computer 2

Great Moments in Science & Technology #2
Electroplating the dead (1891)
"Dr. Varlot, a surgeon in a major hospital in Paris, has developed a method of covering the body of a deceased person with a layer of metal in order to preserve it for eternity. The drawing illustrates how this is done with the cadaver of a child. The body is first made electrically conductive by atomising nitrate of silver on to it. To free the silver in this solution, the object is placed under a glass dome from which the air is evacuated and exposed to the vapours of white phosphorous dissolved in carbon disulphide. Having been made conductive, the body is immersed in a galvanic bath of sulphate of copper, thus causing a 1 millimetre thick layer of metallic copper to be deposited on the skin. The result is a brilliant red copper finish of exceptional strength and durability."

Sadly, not a joke. See Victorian Inventions by Leonard De Vries and Dear Dead Days compiled by Charles Addams (where I first encountered this image).

Alone And Unsupervised With Access to a Computer

Great Moments in Science & Technology #1
Fig. 1. Messrs. Ruska & Knoll demonstrate the working prototype
of their electric-powered personal gratification device circa 1947.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

For the Man Who Has Everything

Yeah, I know; it's a little late to be making Fathers' Day gift suggestions, but still... check this out:

That's the Tuff-Writer Frontline Series Tactical Pen in Stealth Black, a pen of which no less a luminary than Warren Ellis has said,

"It is designed to be basically The Toughest Pen In The World, and also A Pen That Can Kill People. It functions in the harshest environments in the world, can keep writing under any conditions including a future flooded London, is made out of aerospace-grade metal and hard-anodised to military specification. It is also, I have to say, an incredibly nice pen to write with. This will be my book-signing pen of choice. It’s smooth, well-balanced, easy to use, and can lance the gizzards of uppity fanboys in a single strike. I figure a pen weapons-tested by SWAT rangemasters and martial artists should control a signing line fairly well. You can and should visit these fine people at"

"You will have to pry my Tactical Defense Pen out of my cold dead ink-stained hand."

--"Do Anything--Thoughts on Comics and Things" 001 (June 2, 2009)

Plus, it looks DAMN cool.

I mean, suppose you're sitting in your executive suite and are attacked by Office Pirates?

Or, even worse (according to the MPAA), Video Pirates?*

Whatcha gonna do? Well, with a Tuff-Writer pen one can now have a take-anywhere "defensive implement" and isn't your dad's life worth a mere $79.95 ($95.95 in a Midnight Black "sanitized" version)?

Of course it is.

*After seeing this bit in Amazon Women on the Moon (thanks, JSaM!) I have never been able to see the FBI warning in a movie, video, or DVD and not think, "Ohhh, I'm so scared."

Addendum: I actually own a couple of fancy-ass, way-too-damn-expensive pens (Rotring, Waterman), partly because I love simple, elegant tools, but since my handwriting (cursive or otherwise) is, well, beyond atrocious (really, it's awful. Just... just awful) and I'm too lazy to do anything about it, even I am unable to rationalize such a purchase for myself. Hear that, Tuff-Writer people? Send me a free sample and let me start off your new ad campaign, "The Defensive Pen for the (un)Common Man."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Momentary Mystery

Or, "Yes, I Need A Life; Shut Up Already!"

This afternoon I was coming back from dropping off a DVD at the Redbox in front of my local Walgreens (okay, it was Up if you must know) and as I took my usual shortcut between the twin apartment buildings across the alley from my place I noticed this:

"Well, who the hell messed up the bricks?" I wondered. But they weren't messed up; these were reflections caused by the setting sun. "That is so cool!" I thought. "Camera time!"

(solar Jeebus fish?)

"So what, exactly, is casting these way-cool reflections?" Drawing upon my vast knowledge of (non-calculus-based, passed by the skin-of-my-teeth) college physics I did a 180 and checked the wall opposite. A row of second-story windows was blazing with sunlight (I had my Lumix set on "Intelligent Auto" because, well, I'm lame like that, so all sorts of magical exposure compensation has removed the glare), but look at 'em:

WTF? There was nothing, nothing in any of the windows to explain the patterns I was seeing.

It's a mystery.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Robot Dreams

So I was cruisin' through a couple of the blogs I read on an occasional basis (Morbid Anatomy, io9) the other day and ran across this in both of 'em:

"Yasutaro Mitsui poses with his own steel humanoid, Tokyo, Japan, in 1932."

This, of course, sent me off on one of my obsessive Web Quests because, you know, giant robots! Apparently, Japan has a long and intimate association with robots/mechanical men quite apart from that of the Western world where they are seen as monsters or servants--see Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots (non-Amazon review here).

Being a typical Monster Kid of the '60s pretty much meant I was Robot Mad as well and my parents, bless 'em, indulged me as best they could. One Christmas they got me this:

(from Robots Inc)
(from Robots Inc)

Gosh-golly-gee, this was a GREAT toy! And when he took on my vast collection of Army Men, well, you can imagine what happened:

A couple of years later my parents and I went to see The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (a fun movie which stands up surprisingly well today) where I was surprised and delighted to see my Robot Buddy on the big screen:

Sadly, I no longer own Chief Robot/Mystery Moon Man; once I was older and had left home he suffered the fate of many of my toys--Mom gave him away.

But I could once again! Aaron's Tin Toy Arcade has a reproduction for a mere $69.95.

I'm so tempted...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Okay, 'Fess Up...

Which one of you reprobates sent me black, shiny, satin-y underpants (for my birthday, I'm assuming)? C'mon, I know it's one of you. Something like this but by some company named Merona:

At least whoever it was had the decency NOT to send me THIS:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Back to the Grind, But First (and Last)...

And so ends my little birthday mini-staycation, not with a whimper, but a bang. After a brief rain and another rainbow (though not as spectacular as June 3rd's), I was treated to his spectacular sunset while watering the garden:

Thanks for all the birthday wishes!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Phantom of the Library

This is where I spent much of my preadolescence--the Waynesboro Public Library:

Fun Facts to Know and Tell:
"Founded in 1912 by the Philathea* Class of the First Baptist Church (pic), Waynesboro's library was the third Virginia Library to take advantage of the state law permitting the establishment of tax-supported public libraries. The first librarian was Virginia Leftwich, the mother of Ruth Graham (Mrs. Billy Graham)."

For a small Southern factory town we had a surprisingly good library (and it became even better over the years). The basement was devoted to children's books and ran the gamut from the old (as in early 20th Century) and forgotten series of our parent's time to the most recent Caldecott and Newbery Medal winners plus some slightly trashier stuff: The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Heinlein's juveniles, the "Lucky Starr" series by Isaac Asimov (writing as Paul French), and so forth and so on.

But the Good Stuff was upstairs where the adult books were shelved (no, not those kinds of adult books, you guttersnipes) and I, being a typical Monster Kid of the Sixties, ran around looking for anything that might tie in with whatever I knew from Shock Theater and Famous Monsters of Filmland.**

I was not disappointed.

One example stands out: The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.

That's the 1920 French edition which our library did not have, but is so unspeakably cool I had to include it. What the WPL had was the 1911 1st edition (!) English printing:

Yeah, a pretty boring cover except for the "Phantom at the Masquerade as the 'Red Death'" embossing. Inside, however, were five color plates by (almost forgotten) illustrator Andre Castaigne:

Stolen... uh... I mean... appropriated--yeah, that's it--appropriated from here.

According to long-time pal JSaM the book, for whatever reason, theft or otherwise, is no longer on the shelves.*** I've thought about buying myself a copy for nostalgia's sake but to date the lowest price I've seen for a nice one is $1500.

Yeah, this is why I love the Intarwebs--no matter how dim or obscure my memory I can usually track down something to revive it for no more than the cost of a monthly connection.

*Defined by the 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary as "an international, interdenominational organization of Bible classes of young women," sort of a Ladies' Auxiliary to the church or, as my mother affectionately referred to such groups, "the Baptist Mafia" (not to be confused with this).

**When I wasn't gobbling up everything in the Science, Nature, and Technology sections. Which reminds me--recent epiphany--the WPL had an astounding number of hardcore science books, especially the various Scientific American offprint collections, and what I later realized was an immense science fiction collection. I took this for granted at the time, but years later I realized exactly how unusual this was for a small town library. My guess is that since Waynesboro was home to a number of industrial plants (DuPont, General Electric, Crompton/Shenandoah, Virginia Metalcrafters, etc.) and, therefore, had a sizable population of engineers and Ph.D.s, the library made sure these people would be happy, especially when donation time came around.

***Nor is the 1st edition of of Ray Bradbury's first published book, Dark Carnival. If this was stolen and sold someone made a small fortune.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Walk Through Carytown

This just in: I leave modesty and humility by the roadside to mention my rainbow pic (and those by a few others) got a shout-out from my friend Anne in her Parental Rites blog! See "The Lovers, the Dreamers and Me."

And since we're on the subject of pictures allow me to post a few from today's stroll through Carytown (my birthday present to myself was two days off from work):

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What I Got For My Birthday:

A rainbow!
(really, I didn't need anything else)

Taken about 7:30 p. m. across the street from my apartment.