Thursday, May 31, 2007

Happy Blue Moon, or Not, or...

Sky and Telescope Magazine is Not the Boss of Me!

(special thanks to Wikipedia for providing most of the info for this post)


Really though. Today is a Blue Moon. Enjoy it...if you are in the Western Hemisphere. Moody, Pandabonium and a couple billion of their closest friends will need to wait until June 30th for their Blue Moon.

A Blue Moon is the second full moon in one month. It doesn't happen very often and won't happen again for a little over 2 years.

However, it seems as though the term Blue Moon has a history that we are supposed to worry about now.

According to Wikipedia,

The older meaning of blue moon to name an extra full moon, as was used in the Maine Farmer's Almanac...


In 1948, Sky and Telescope reported this as meaning two full moons in one calendar month. This was reinforced by the radio program Star Date and this is what is now the current usage and meaning of the term.

BUT WAIT!

Sky and Telescope recently posted a funny retraction here;

The trendy definition of "blue Moon" as the second full Moon in a month is a mistake.


Trendy, eh? And WHO made it trendy, eh? Well, it was Sky and Telescope. Nonetheless, we find the original definition is most likely (from Sky and Telescope's SkyTonight.com)

At last we have the "Maine rule" for Blue Moons: Seasonal Moon names are assigned near the spring equinox in accordance with the ecclesiastical rules for determining the dates of Easter and Lent. The beginnings of summer, fall, and winter are determined by the dynamical mean Sun. When a season contains four full Moons, the third is called a Blue Moon.


Wow, what an exciting definition! The 3rd full moon in a 4 full moon quarter. Given that the moon is not guaranteed to be Blue or in any way tied to ancient religions that we can readily determine, I am going to stick with TODAY as a Blue Moon. (or June 30 for my few billion pals on the other side of the planet)

Whew!

So Happy Blue Moon to you.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sound Advice on Church Signs

I am currently reading Roadshow, Landscape with Drums by Neil Peart. He tours via motorcycle throughout the book and likes to report on his favorite "inspirational" sayings he finds on various church signs:

YOU WON'T BE PERSUASIVE
BY BEING ABRASIVE


That is a good reminder for myself as well as anyone out on the Internets.

Friday Flashback: Viking Kittens

I don't remember if I ever mentioned this on my old blog, but it remains an old internet favorite of ours from the early days of homebrew Flash animations:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Warnings to the Left, Warnings to the Right

We hear from Free Republic:

Seems the president wants the option to takeover the entire federal government in case another disaster hits the US. I do not see why the entire federal government needs to be taken over in case one part of the country is hit by a crisis?

Look at this one "(b) "Catastrophic Emergency" means any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions" This could mean anything.

This one right here is really weird "(6) The President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government." Is he saying the same thing that other despots have said when taking over their governments? A republican? I don't get this at all. The Republican Party has come a long way from '94 and I do not like it at all.


From WorldNet Daily:

President Bush, without so much as issuing a press statement, on May 9 signed a directive that granted near dictatorial powers to the office of the president in the event of a national emergency declared by the president.


From GlobalResearch.ca

The Bush administration has released a directive called the National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive. The directive released on May 9th, 2007 has gone almost unnoticed by the mainstream and alternative media. This is understandable considering the huge Ron Paul and immigration news but this story is equally as huge. In this directive, Bush declares that in the event of a “Catastrophic Emergency” the President will be entrusted with leading the activities to ensure constitutional government. The language in this directive would in effect make the President a dictator in the case of such an emergency.


From Huffington Post:

The National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive, signed on May 9, 2007 declares that in the event of a “catastrophic event”, George W. Bush can become what is best described as "a dictator": "The President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government."


So, here you go. Big news from the Right and Left and I am willing to bet money that you didn't see this on your network or cable Telescreens today. Most of you know that I am not a big fan of FreeRepublic or World Net Daily, but I believe what we are seeing here is beginning to transcend which Wing you like to associate yourself with.

Even the most extreme partisans I know (on any side) tend to really enjoy their personal freedoms and those Natural Rights which we have been granted by birth as outlined in both the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. If it is indeed really true that our warriors in uniform are fighting for our freedom, it only follows that we should fight for theirs since they agreed to abridge their own rights to join the armed services.

On the other hand, perhaps debating Senator Edward's haircuts or how many Republican Presidential candidates are divorcees may turn your crank more than keeping your own freedoms and the checks and balances that protect our freedoms. If that is the case, then please, go ahead and bicker amongst yourselves about minutiae.

When President Bush or Hilary Clinton or Obama or McCain, etc. takes office with this vaguely worded, but very power hungry document in place, you may yet regret thinking partial birth abortion or stem cells trumped whether or not we even get the right to decide about such luxurious freedoms whichever our new all-powerful top-down fourth branch of government decides about the subject.

For those who want to see the actual document, here it is. You will see that those wacky lefties and righties aren't too far off the mark.

Hat Tips to theologian David Ray Griffin and a certain Egyptian Goddess for pointing me in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Snabulus Virtual Botanical Garden, Part Zillion

On an unsettled and somewhat drizzly day, I took another lunch walk into the Tualatin Hills Nature Park to look for more small treasures...



These are honeysuckle blossoms, but what are they doing here? Is this park some kind of flower dump?



Well, no. Look up. These little rascals are winding themselves up the trees, so as high as 50 feet.



Is it a maple? Nope, it is an herb called thimbleberry. The berries are edible but not the sweetest things in the world.



The flowers on the this salal resembles tiny inverted urns.



Welcome to the jungle? Skunk cabbage grows in the soggy, boggy wetlands in the area. While not as stinky as a skunk, they are pungent and, as you can see, they have luxuriously large foliage. The classic spadix and spathe have not appeared yet.



The vanilla leaf are finally in bloom with their ivory-colored sprig of microflowers.



Blame it on the bleeding hearts, eh? Well, here is a wild bleeding heart. This delicate little beauty hangs around for quite a while which probably explains its cultivation into showier commercial forms.

Well, back to your regularly scheduled debate, YouTube, or Flash game.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Turn That &%$# Thing Off!!!!!!

Yes, ladies and gentlethings, I have been beaned by yet another Selba tag. This time the rules are as follows:

1. Go to http://www.popculturemadness.com/Music/Number-One-Songs-90s.html
2. Pick the year you turned 18
3. Get yourself nostalgic over the songs of the year
4. Write something about how the song(s) affected you
5. Pass it on to 5 more friends

Well, I'm tempted to plead the 5th (of Jack Daniels) on this one since I'm too nice (and Selba's too nice, too) just to ignore it. However, in the interest of maintaining interest, I'll take the plunge. (Deep breath...)

Like so many of the people that appear regularly on this site, I turned 18 in 1983. That was not exactly a very promising year music-wise, at least as far as I was concerned. We'd all thought, with much rejoicing, that disco had died, but it was already reincarnating itself as "techno pop". Meanwhile, a new genre of music known as "new wave" was confronting the longhair and glam of the 70s with even more artful (read "bizarre") styles based mainly on synthesizers and guitars modified with effects to the point of obliteration. It gave rise to all sorts of new war lines among the students at my high school: the "rockers" hated the "wavos", who pretended to like the (techno-pop) "preps", who hated the "punks", who hated the "rockers".

Tellingly, there was actually a lot of blending and genre-crossing among artists famous in those days. There were established rock bands that suddenly went either new wave or techno pop. Sometimes the reverse was true, too. Anyway, there were some interesting groups, but there was also an awful lot of pure crap that was all dolled up, painted, processed, and made even bigger thanks to an all-new medium, MTV. My friends and I tried very hard to resist the trends, but it was a time of change for everyone, especially those of us that were 18.

In 1983 the charts were mainly dominated by Michael Jackson (back when he was still black), Journey, and Duran Duran. There were also an awful lot of "one-hit wonders" plus a whole wad of (mostly British) new wave acts that were sometimes difficult to tell apart, but anyway...songs? Right. Hmm...what to choose...

1. "Every Breath You Take" (The Police) - I was actually kind of a metalhead at the start of the 80s, but The Police was group that I liked. They combined reggae, new wave, and other things in a way that was artful, interesting, and enjoyable. (On the other hand, Sting's solo work just hasn't appealed to me all that much.) Most of their songs were upbeat. However, this gem from the Synchronicity album is an exception. It is quiet, but not too quiet. It is romantic, but not too romantic. At first my friends and I dismissed the song as sappy because of its rather cliche lyrics. However, it definitely grew on me. It is still one of my favorite overall songs, surviving all those eras and changes of taste. Interestingly, my wife and I still have a tradition, started when we were dating, of ending every karaoke outing by singing this song together.

2. "Gimme All Your Lovin" / "Sharp Dressed Man" (ZZ Top) - "Blues, beards, broads, and beer" are the words that best sum up Texas blues/rockers ZZ Top. They had actually been at it since the early 70s, but these two songs from the Eliminator album were what really got me interested in the band, and they are still one of my favorites. The really cool videos, which featured the members of the band as wizards using their powers (not to mention a really hot classic Ford driven by a trio of really hot sluts) to help losers get a life first attracted my attention, but I quickly fell in love with that awesome guitar sound. Interestingly, the Eliminator album was the start of ZZ Top's "techno-blues" era, in which they combined their trademark "southern fried" guitar work with synthesizers, synthdrums, and sequencers. This was to continue (and get into kind of a rut) until their Antenna album, which came out ten years later.

3. "Safety Dance" (Men Without Hats) - This was the only real hit that Men Without Hats managed, though they did put out a few albums. They seemed like a fairly typical British synth/sequencers/guitar/throaty-voiced singer new wave band, but they had a strange sort of appeal to me and some of my friends. "Safety Dance", like most of their songs, was upbeat and cheerful, even naive, but that made it pleasant to listen to. It was also very catchy. Of course, since we were also playing AD&D at the time, the video, which featured the band and a pretty girl dressed in medieval fashion, also struck a chord. My friends and I sang lines from this song a lot...and sometimes even did the "S" pose from the video.

4. "Burning Down The House" (Talking Heads) - As the year 1983 progressed I began breaking away from my hard rock cradle a bit and getting into other musical styles more and more. (The fact that I was playing in a new wave band probably helped!) Almost by accident, I wound up going to a Talking Heads concert...during their "Stop Making Sense" tour! It was my first concert that was wasn't hard rock (or classical), and I knew almost nothing about the band. I was blown away. I still think it was the most impressive concert I've ever seen. David Byrne and co. were (are?) amazing artistic geniuses.

5. "Cum On Feel The Noize" (Quiet Riot) - Maybe this song was another reason why I started shying away from hard rock. Quiet Riot rose to fame bearing the coffin of their FORMER guitarist, Randy Rhodes, who had become a sensation playing for Ozzy Osbourne before his tragic death. For some reason known only to the denizens of hell, Quiet Riot became hip among the (techno-pop??!?) "prep" crowd, and thus were often described as "the band that resurrected heavy metal". Frankly, I couldn't stomach them, and that obnoxious vocalist screeching, "Cum on feel the noi-oize..." at the beginning of the song was a signal for me to shut the radio off as quickly as possible.

I'm passing this tag on to my former schoolmates who tend to hang out here. I'm curious to hear their take on this oh-so-(unfortunately)-unforgettable year...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thanks to Thor

In this edition of Fair Use Free For All, I quote a Wired.com entry in its entirety.



(Image from Jaks View from Vancouver)

May 17, 1970: The Boat Is Seaworthy and, Yes, We Can All Get Along
Tony Long

1970: Thor Heyerdahl sets sail with his crew from Morocco aboard Ra II.

He will attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a boat built of reeds and succeed where the previous expedition aboard Ra I had failed.

Heyerdahl, a Norwegian zoologist, gained international fame for his Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, where he sailed Kon-Tiki, a boat constructed of native woods from the coast of Peru on a 101-day, 4,300-mile voyage to Polynesia. The success of Kon-Tiki supported the claims of Spanish Conquistadors that similarly constructed Incan rafts made the same voyage.

More than a scientist, perhaps, Heyerdahl was humanist. In assembling the crew for the Ra II passage, he took great care to select seafarers of different nationalities, races and religions. If the stated purpose of this voyage was to demonstrate the seaworthiness of buoyant reeds, an equally important goal was to show that a diverse crew could work together and flourish in a confined space.

The voyage of Ra II ended successfully.

Heyerdahl had another reed boat, the Tigris, constructed for a 1978 voyage hoping to prove that trade and migration was possible between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. Five months into that voyage, with the Tigris still seaworthy, he burned his boat in protest at the entrance to the Red Sea, where his progress was blocked by warring nations in the region.

Heyerdahl, who spent his later years working for peace and the environment, died in 2002.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Live Long and Prosper, Bilbo Baggins,LSD Rally Girls

You need to see it to believe it and even then...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Flashback 5/29/2002: Cognitive Distortions

Here is another 5 year old blog entry warning against making bad judgments in the face of the so-called "new normal" of post 9/11 life. It is a bit raggedy and I might have stated a couple of things differently if I wrote it now, but the final conclusion still stands as humanity bumbles its way into an uncertain future.

At the time this was written, there was a lot of heated rhetoric going on between India and Pakistan, so that is the reference to the nuclear powers.


Wednesday, May 29, 2002, 11:00 pm

Cognitive Distortions

There is a phrase that is used by counselors and psychologists: Cognitive Distortions. According to Brooklin Baker, "Liau, Barriga, and Gibbs (1998) define cognitive distortions as inaccurate or rationalizing attitudes, thoughts, or beliefs concerning one's own or others' social behavior." Cognitive distortion intensifies during times of grief. Whether it is the passing of the loved one or the shock of a national tragedy such as September 11, it is easy to let our emotions distort reality.

Economic writer Scott Burns used 10 signs from “Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy” by David D. Burns, MD to describe how cognitive distortions affected our view of the economy. Here are the 10 signs with examples to show how we think of terrorism and politics after 9/11:

* All-or-Nothing Thinking (You are either with us or with the terrorists.)
* Overgeneralization (Peaceniks are irrelevant now.)
* Mental Filters (Jimmy Carter is just trying to get attention)
* Disqualifying the Positive (A nuclear bomb attack by extremists is inevitable)
* Jumping to Conclusions (Most Arabs are crazy. They are trying to kill us.)
* Magnification or Minimization (An all-out War on Terrorism is the only answer.)
* Emotional Reasoning (I am so sad; New York will never be the same again.)
* Should Statements (We should have finished the job in Iraq.)
* Labeling or Mislabeling (My flag makes me a patriot. Those who do not are traitors.)
* Personalization. (I wanted peace. No wonder there is terrorism.)

Grief is a difficult process. However, the time has come to progress into our future. We gradually realize that our reactions have repercussions as well as the actions that precipitated them. What is the reality? Where are we to go?

We must choose whether to jump at every warning or to adapt to the new possibilities of danger. We must choose whether to stoke the fires of aggression in the world with our own aggression and money or to withdraw our resources until peace returns. In our anger, it all seemed so simple. Bomb the s**t out of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The result is a lower level of security, two countries on the brink of nuclear war, and dictators throughout the world shouting "Terrorism!" at any conflict. Our media has chosen to sit back and accept information that is false rather than uncover the sometimes ugly truth.

We acted on our distortions of reality. We wanted to relive World War II and escape the labyrinthine complexities of life in today's world. We can't escape to peace and we can't escape to war. We can only accept what is real and move forward.

It is real that our oil addiction creates what the founding fathers called "entangling alliances." It is real that we make deals with non-democratic states to make our democracy more prosperous. It is real that the land on which we live is straining and we use stop-gap technological measures to maintain production.

There are ways to simplify these complexities and live within reality. However, we will need to shed our cognitive distortions to achieve them. Hopefully we will do so before the reality we are trying to avoid imposes itself upon us.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

We Don't Want Any More Bloody Lupines!!!

After the last post, I feared we might be mistaken for Slashdot, so I took a few pictures while on my lunch time walk at the Nature Park.



Oregon Wild Iris, also known simply as Flag



Our own little wild strawberry blooms. They are good if you like a hard little knot of seeds. Along the northern Oregon Coast, you can get some small, but quite tasty wild strawberries.



Fringe cups. There are actually several species of this delicate little saxifrage. The flowers are green with just a tinge of red of the very tips of the sepals/petals.



This little beauty is the Inside Out Flower, whose petals are bent backwards appearing to lay bare the outside of the flower parts as the inside. Very pretty, small blooms are scarcely 1 cm diameter.



I believe this is Candy Flower. It makes an attractive forest ground cover.



A few mushrooms are hanging on out there.



Here are the "title track" lupines. The title of the post comes from the "Dennis Moore" comedy sketch by Monty Python. The main character, Dennis Moore, steals lupines from the rich and gives them to the poor who become less than thankful as time goes on. Lupines are legumes and they pull nitrogen from the atmosphere and add it to the soil, so in addition to being a comedic prop, lupines are also important to the restoration of the soil.

Nonetheless, I think it is important to mention... OS/2! OS/2! OS/2! OS/2! OS/2!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue




Something Old and Blue is IBM's venerable operating system OS/2
Something New and Borrowed is the code in OpenSUSE Linux (more on that later)

I am proud to say that I am writing this post from OS/2. I am even happier to say that I am writing it in the latest version of Firefox without needing the old trickery I once did to get anything "advanced" done in that operating system. Why bother messing with this old meager competition to Windows whose best days were in the 20th century? The answer? Because Microsoft made it easy for me. As Moody can tell you, this is Irony with a capital "I".

In the early 90s, IBM and Microsoft had a split in direction. With the advent of the slick-looking Macintosh screens, it was clear that a graphical user interface was needed to compete in the brave new world of personal computing. IBM chose to stay with OS/2 and Microsoft decided to move on and create Windows. Until Windows 2000 came out, OS/2 was clearly a more stable and reliable operating system and Microsoft prevailed not because of better functionality, but rather from better marketing and, more importantly, from nurturing their developers with easy-to-use tools and a cooperative and inexpensive means to make Windows software. IBM felt that their better OS would stand on its own without thousands of programmers dreaming up ways of using the power of the personal computer. They were dead wrong of course. Only uber-geeks like yours truly and those I could evangelize into coming with me (Moody and my Dad) really used OS/2. The rest of IBM's installations were relegated to ATMs (many of which are still in use) and corporate desktops.

Windows 2000 was the operating system that finally led me to abandon OS/2 on my home PC. Windows XP was not much more than some minor software updates. Windows Vista looks like it was written for the music and movie industry rather than the people buying it, so I don't see much reason to upgrade.

As a result, I've been stuck in Windows 2000 and getting kind of bored. Enter Microsoft Virtual PC 2007. For reasons I am not too sure of, Microsoft has decided to give away this piece of software. Virtual PC allows a computer to run a virtual copy of an Intel-based PC inside of itself. Virtual hard drives are created, so incompatible file systems can reside on the computer. For an ubergeek like me, this represents on opportunity to expand my horizons on one computer without needing more PCs to run other operating systems. I've installed OS/2 and OpenSUSE Linux on my little Windows PC. The interesting and cool thing is that Microsoft actually developed OS/2 device drivers to make the OS/2 desktop integrate easier and better with the main Windows desktop. If you had told me a few years ago that Microsoft would make this concession to a former enemy, I would have laughed in your general direction...and I would have been wrong.

In OS/2, I went through my archive and scrounged up several of my old programs (which I spent thousands of dollars on) and now I can use them any time. Graphics programs were of special interest and, all together, their capabilities may exceed Photoshop and they definitely have unique filters etc. The games are fun too. Mahjongg was worth the install in and of itself. IBM did a great job on the tile art. That is really saying something as it took a few dozen patches with many, many reboots to bring OS/2 version 4 from its state in 1996 to a level where it could run the latest Firefox.

More importantly, I found myself enjoying computing more than I have in a long time. I am amazed at what I remember and also what I forgot in the years since I used OS/2. Although IBM killed OS/2 off a few years ago, the OS lives on as eComStation which is maintained by Serenity Systems. The price is a bit steep at $259 new, so I think I'll stick with what I got.



Why stick with one OS when you can virtualize more? I also installed OpenSUSE Linux as a virtual machine. This will allow me to learn more of what places like Google, eBay, and other major web designers use to create their software. It is surprising how many server and web apps are Linux-based rather than Microsoft-based. Also, the wages for those jobs runs higher, so I thought I should get up to speed on Apache, MySQL, the Linux languages and so forth.

The best part about Linux is that it is FREE. The worst part is that several segments of the interface still expect you to know all the geeky stuff to make it work right. I know some geeky, but not always enough geeky to do what I want in Linux. However, with learning comes comfort and ease of use so I will give it a try.

We've been rearranging here at El Rancho Snabuloso and I dragged our low-functioning Flower Power iMac from its perch and hooked it up. It actually works fine, but the screen is very fuzzy and difficult to use. Being an all-in-one unit, changing out the monitor is either impossible or hideously expensive, so I set it up as a workstation with can be controlled with a VNC remote client. So that means I can have up to FOUR operating systems sitting on my desktops at any given moment.

Me likey.

Whatever your operating system is, I hope it works well for you.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day in the Park!


Snabby and I got up early to get to the Rose Garden by 5:30 am. It wasn't as cold as last year, (thank goodness!), but it was cloudy & overcast, so there wasn't a nice clear sunrise. In the twilight, the day started off w/a lone Bagpiper at first light, then a little later the haunting Abbot's Bromley Horn Dance. Then it all got lively with some audience-participation Morris Dancing lead by the Bridgetown Morris Men.

Then we had a procession of traditional English dances by several local groups. This first one is from the North of England, by Iron Mountain Sword.



Among the dancing troupes is Wild Rose Garland, and here's a pic of these ladies in action! (They also provide the May Pole for this function as well).


There was also Renegade Rose Morris which has alot of women and children in their ranks, (the picture shows a stick dance)


Alot of fun was had by all, (though the public gathering was a bit smaller than last year-fine by me as it was easier to see the dancers!). I think I enjoyed best that all the music was done by and for the participants - no electronic amplification! )There was an Irish drum, hammered dulcimer, fiddles, squeeze boxes, a harp, guitars, and piccolo). I hope to bring in the next May Day dancing at the sunrise again!