I Am Buck Rogers

A small anecdote, to celebrate the release of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century – The Complete Epic Series on DVD and this household’s purchase thereof:

Halloween 1984

We, being my mother, brother, and I, lived with my aunt and uncle in St. Charles, Missouri; I don’t know if my mother was working her job at the onion ring factory where she separated onion rings amid the immigrants or whether she had started in government service in the clerical pool at $12,000 a year, but she didn’t have a pile of money to spend on Halloween costumes, nor did she have the time to whip up some of the cardboard costumes for which she had become legend in the housing projects of Milwaukee. So when she got a couple of extra bucks, it was immediately before Halloween, and we hit the Walgreens off of Fifth Street on what must have been October 30.

The costume section had been picked over to the extent that only two costumes for young boys remained, so we got them. The next night, my brother and I tossed coins, drew lots, or perhaps did the traditional simple fight for who would wear which costume. Now, I don’t know if you damn kids even know what passed for costumes in 1984, particularly costumes you could buy at Walgreens. They consisted of a thin plastic mask which covered only your face, secured to the back of your head with a rubber band, and a trashbag-like smock depicting a motif to augment what you were. Not an authentic costume by any means. My brother, the little punk, got Spiderman, so he got red and blue trashbag and a Spiderman-mask red-colored plastic face piece with two dots for the eyes, a slit for the mouth, and two nostril holes located nowhere near his nose.

“Oooh,” said the people who answered the door when trick-or-treating, “It’s Spiderman. And….”

For there I was wearing a trash bag with a guy with a laser pistol and a mask depicting the front 20% of a white helmet with orange bolts and a generic pink male face over my generic pink male face. “I’m Buck Rogers,” I said.

Because, friends, bloggers, and countrymen, it was 1984 and the television show ran in 1979.

It would be the equivalent of dressing like Capt. Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds from television’s Fireflyin 2007. Sure, one sci-fi junkie at one house recognized the outfit–out of an entire subdivision–but that’s before these things were available on DVD and even before the Sci-Fi channel.

I think I was traumatized from the experience, and I can only talk about it now. And now that I have the DVD, I’ve had to relive the experience.

But my kind and beautiful wife, who has agreed to watch the series on DVD with me, is offering her support, and together we will overcome my childhood pain which still haunts my intrapersonal relationships.

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Heather’s Low Geek Threshold

On the other hand, my beautiful wife has a low geek threshold.

Although she’s a software developer who has affinities for gaming systems, Samus Aran, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Lord of the Rings, does reach her geek threshold early.

For example, although “Hey, let’s watch all 32 episodes of Buck Rogers starting right now and not stopping until we’re finished tomorrow” sounds like a good geek idea, she doesn’t think so!

Sorry, honey, I had to warn the other geeks in the audience. I hope we can still have the next Atari Party, though and please don’t throw my full size arcade games out now….

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Book Review: The Balcony by Jean Genet (1958)

I bought a copy of this book at a yard sale a year or so back because I thought I didn’t read enough serious drama. Do you know how much serious drama is enough serious drama? Enough to remember that any serious drama is too much serious drama.

This play takes place in a brothel, where people dress as authority figures such as The Bishop, The Judge, and The General to get their rocks off on the trappings of power. When the revolution comes, the madame of the brothel must act as the Queen and these people must impersonate the actual offices they impersonate–and they like it. Those wacky post-WWII French.

Unfortunately, when drama’s built too heavily on Concept, with bunches of archetypes crowding a sparse stage and spitting out philosophy, I find myself lamenting the hard seat I’m in, and I’m in a recliner. That’s something my old drama professor taught me–that your play has to drag the audience along, and if the audience starts noticing the theatre and its accommodations, you’ve written a bad play. Unfortunately, most modernist and intellectual drama suffers from this when the playwright focuses too much on communicating his ideas and not enough on creating drama.

Give me an Ibsen, a Jonson, or a Shakespeare; a play where something happens to people, and later on, if you want to think about it, you can find some comment on the human condition. Reading this piece by Genet, on the other hand, is like reading an Existentialist op-ed on authority. Sure, I can see the message, but not the entertainment.

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Benefits of Increased Incarceration

CNN reports Library offenders could go to jail:

Keeping library books too long could soon land some readers in jail.

Frustrated librarians want the worst offenders to face criminal charges and up to 90 days behind bars.

“We want to go after some of the people who owe us a lot of money,” said Frederick J. Paffhausen, the library’s system director. “We want to set an example.”

Paffhausen, who took over as director in October, is asking the Bay County Library Board for permission to seek arrest warrants for offenders who ignore repeated notices.

Now, I know that some of you would expect that I would think this sort of thing is overkill, and that it’s foolish to criminalize more behavior and to make more things punishable by actualy time in jail. Au contraire, but I understand the nuance of the situation. This benefits society by:

  • Making some mousy librarian types feel like Johnny Law, with the power to put those who offend them in the big house.
  • Punishing those who don’t add to the library’s coffers through overdue fines with hard time.
  • Frightening people from actually borrowing books from libraries and perhaps reading them, however slowly; this will free up library resources to do the library’s primary function in the 21st century: to be a publicly-funded Internet cafe that not many people use.
  • Helps balance the incarcerated population, as it’s not going to be 18-24 year old black males that this law throws in the slam.
  • Freeing library resources from fiscal collections, allowing them to focus more on their primary activities: protesting the overweaning government when it makes requests on libraries or on funds it allocates to libraries.

This, of course, these only represent the beginning of the bonanza! There will undoubtedly be conferences and communiques that emphasize the efficacy of this solution which many librarian and library administration will have to attend on the taxpayer dime to wine, dine, and discuss the pogroms.

Also, libtarians, who represent the most impotent and looked-down upon of the academic mindset, will finally have a status-bearing power that professors don’t. You can flunk or expel a student who cheats or plagiarizes, but you cannot sic the police on them with visions of the miscreants face down on cement and roughly cuffed, can you?

It’s a win/win situation. If you’re measuring by the librarian/statist standard.

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The Macintosh Conspiracy

I prefer PCs to Macs because I’ve been weaned on them since I was a whelp, through which as a mangled metaphor you can understand I prefer going to the store for a steak to animal husbandry. So pardon me while I extrapolate on the little things that I’ve uncovered that are undoubtedly some part of an insidious plot to annoy people who try to use both Macintoshes and PCs on a daily basis.

  • In default message boxes, the OK and Cancel buttons are transposed.
    In Windows, the OK button is on the left; in Macintosh, it’s on the right. Crikey, now I have to read the buttons before I just click.

  • The bottom row keys are different.
    On Windows keyboards, it’s CTRL, Windows Key, ALT, Spacebar; on Macintosh, it’s CTRL, ALT, Open Apple (oops, perhaps I have experience on older pre-Macs), Spacebar. It’s just a simple transposition, but for those of us who like to do things like use keyboard shortcuts, it means we hit the wrong keys for the shortcuts 90% of the time on our non-dominant platform (Macintosh for me).

I would wager that someone on one side of the idealogical divide did this consciously. Also, I thank goodness the Linux set doesn’t have its own keyboard yet.

Sure, they’re small things, but when you’re at the keys for ten or more hours a day, it’s a little fleck of sand under your contact lens.

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Book Review: The Lost Coast by Roger L. Simon (1997)

Curses! Although I bought five of Roger L. Simon’s Moses Wine novels in iBooks editions, the release order of the books got me. This book was released as a trade paperback by iBooks second after The Big Fix, so I picked it up second. Ha ha, you guys got me! This is actually a later book, 25 years after the first. Moses Wine is almost fifty, and one of those young children is in college and is accused of murder.

I guess that 25 years is the reason the author got a basic fact wrong regarding the plot of The Big Fix: that the politician was running for the Democrat nomination for President, not for re-election to the Senate. But I digress.

I like this Moses Wine better than his youthful counterpart. He’s no longer smoking hashish every couple of pages. Instead, he starts bawling every couple of pages. Sorry, wailing or sobbing, but same thing. Once again, it’s not someone I want to emulate, because I strive to remain emotionally stunted and repressed.

As I mentioned, the son has been accused of eco-terrorism which resulted in the death of a logger. Moses Wine goes to northern California and finds himself embroiled in a long running battle between eco-terrorists and eco-vigilantes, between Republicans in Congress and those who don’t want to rape Mother Nature on a pool table.

It’s a pretty good book, a quick and engaging read. In his introduction, Simon says he’s going for a more novelistic approach instead of a mystery novel. Well, he’s not as transcendent of genre as Chandler, but he’s not Elizabeth Linington.

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Book Review: The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith (1980)

I bought this book for six bucks, new, during my recent Springfield binge. Its cover announced that it’s the quintessential libertarian science fiction adventure. Hey, I’m a libertarian sort of fellow!

I fully expected this to be an Ayn Rand novel with some sci-fi verve, and that’s what it was. Basically, a cop from the dystopian future of 1987 (this book was originally published in 1980, so it’s an extrapolation of Jimmy Carter’s America) breaks on through to the other side–where the other side is a Libertarian paradise where George Washington didn’t put down the Whiskey Rebellion under his statist jackboot and the Hamiltonians were run out of the country. Unfortunately, the cop’s statist pursuers, well, pursue him and join up with the Hamiltonians in America and bring gasp! nuclear weapons.

So we don’t have the bounty of Galt’s speech with its pages of long paragraphs, but we do get a lot of shorter lectures from the enlightened libertarians. At the beginning of the book, it’s okay because the action isn’t overwhelmed, but at the end, when the book should be reaching climax, it cuts right to the talking. So, ultimately the book drags, but it’s another interesting dystopian future piece written twenty years ago (much like A Death of Honor).

Still, it was an enjoyable and easy read, fortunately for me; I also bought the sequel, The American Zone and would really hate to let it slip into the pile of books I’ve owned, but haven’t read, for over a decade. Unfortunately, that segment of my library is growing every year. Honest, Dr. Block, one day I will read that textbook I was required for my Literary Criticism class.

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Toronto Star Misses Hockey

What the (obscenity deleted) is the Toronto Star thinking to entertain the question Should Canada indict Bush?

When U.S. President George W. Bush arrives in Ottawa — probably later this year — should he be welcomed? Or should he be charged with war crimes?

It’s an interesting question. On the face of it, Bush seems a perfect candidate for prosecution under Canada’s Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

This act was passed in 2000 to bring Canada’s ineffectual laws in line with the rules of the new International Criminal Court. While never tested, it lays out sweeping categories under which a foreign leader like Bush could face arrest.

In particular, it holds that anyone who commits a war crime, even outside Canada, may be prosecuted by our courts. What is a war crime? According to the statute, it is any conduct defined as such by “customary international law” or by conventions that Canada has adopted.

Holy faltering hockey league, but I’m volunteering for the invasion force to liberate Bush should some Canadian try to make a statement by doing this. Crikey on a cracker, but doesn’t this Walkom fellow understand that the local bar’s softball team in the J’s summer social league could successfully trump the entire Canadian military? I mean, no matter how well the six Canadians remaining in the Canadian military can fight, they’re still outnumbered because, remember, in softball there are ten players on the field. Even if the Canadian military calls up the reserves composed of out-of-work NHL players, we’ll call up the gas station’s softball team!

Canadian winter be damned! I’m from Wisconsin. Bring it.

It’s amazing that anyone would take these sorts of sentiments seriously. I don’t, otherwise I wouldn’t be so glib.

But Thomas Hokkum is no Gordon Sinclair.

(Link seen on Little Green Footballs.)

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Perspective in the Geek World

Dale Franks at Q and O sees that Sun is just giving Solaris away these days, and he rightfully sneers:

Solaris isn’t some mystically wonderful operating system chock full of Sun’s proprietary goodness. It’s just freakin’ UNIX for cripe’s sake. They’ve been giving away a free UNIX-based operating system for years, anyway. It’s called Linux, and despite all its hype, it’s still where it was five years ago: restricted to the hard-core, geek community. Ask 10 average computer users what Linux is, and 9 of ’em will tell you it’s the blanket-toting Great Pumpkin kid from Peanuts. In fact, if Sun is giving away Solaris, I suspect it’s far more likely that they’re doing so because Linux is eating into their user base, and there’s a whole UNIX-based open source community that’s starting to eat their lunch.

Microsoft, on the other hand, owns the desktop. Look, the desktop OS is about as perfect an example of a natural monopoly that you can find. If you have a business–and this is more true the larger the business is–you can’t have twelve different operating systems running concurrently. If you do, your corporate IT division has to puff up like a tick just to support all the different configuration, software, and hardware tics that will result. So will your training section, because every time a typist/clerk has to move from the UNIX/StarOffice system to Windows/Office 200X system, you’ve gotta put them through a whole new training cycle to learn all the new stuff.

I’ve linked to Dale Franks’ posts before because he’s a geek with perspective. Software’s but a tool, and its silly factions of technology partisans make as much sense as contractors continuing to argue Bosch versus Black and Decker. Who, outside of those partisans and some salespeople, cares?

Perhaps I’ve stumbled upon the secret of open-source addiction amongst the geek community–not only do the developers get to write it, but they get to sell it, too, but they’re not very good salespeople.

Or maybe that’s not an insight after all.

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I Want My ADA

No, please, it is a mental illness, making me a protected class completely unfireable in the workplace and able to seek special accommodation from the rest of you:

Animal hoarders are not necessarily mentally ill, said Gail Steketee, a psychologist at Boston University. “The best bet is to call it a wellintentioned behavior gone awry.”

Steketee is one of dozens of scientists who volunteer with the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium in Boston, a group formed in 1997 to study the problem. There is no known treatment, she said.

Animal hoarding, a term coined five years ago, is defined as collecting more animals than can be cared for, combined with a failure to realize the squalid conditions are hurting both the homeowner and the animals.

Someone fund another study, and keep going until I get to collect Social Security for having large numbers of cats.

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Hockey Whoopass Jamboree Update

Well, I guess the Milwaukee Admirals, my hometown AHL hockey team, had to lose sometime. As required by the rules of the Hockey Whoopass Jamboree, as this fellow feels that the Houston Aeros are a worthy team even though they come from a place where the snow doesn’t shine and as the Milwaukee Admirals have lost to said Houston Aeros 5-2, I must post the team’s logo here:

Story: Aeros shut down Admirals’ streak: Houston ends regulation run.

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Fortunately for Law and Order, It’s Soon To Be a Federal Offense

Voters in Columbia, Missouri have apparently passed referenda decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana: Voters cut marijuana penalties:

Decriminalization means if you’re caught in the city with a small amount of marijuana, “you don’t get arrested, you don’t go to jail, and you don’t get a record,” according to Dan Viets, a Columbia defense attorney who helped spearhead the effort to pass the propositions. He’s also defended clients against marijuana charges here for 18 years.

Fortunately, though, the United States Congress will undoubtedly move quickly to make it a Federal crime to possess a joint to cover situations such as this where residents of a particular area try to determine their own standards of behavior.

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New Government Seizure

Here’s an interesting story: U.S. orders airlines to turn over passenger data:

The government on Friday ordered airlines to submit personal information about all passengers who flew within the United States during June so it can test a new system designed to identify potential terrorists.

The records sought include the names, addresses and itineraries of passengers who traveled on 72 carriers, including AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and UAL Corp.’s United Airlines, the Transportation Security Administration said.

You know, about 500 people complained during open comment period about how this invades their privacy, or how it invades the privacy of people who flew during this period, but it also violates the property rights of the airlines that collected that data. Instead of being compensated for the information they’ve collected, the TSA (hereafter to be known by the acronym TAY-za) just says, “Stand and Deliver!” without subpoena or judicial process.

It’s a continuation of a dangerous precedent that starts with eminent domain and what’s next? Source code for applications so that Homeland Security can audit it? The contents of an author’s first draft manuscript to ensure it’s not incitement of some sort? Your grandmother’s brownie recipe to make sure it lacks hashish?

But the government continues to find new and innovative ways to get private property from us, ainna?

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The Safety of More Cameras

Here’s a heartening story for those who like security cameras: Apparent kidnapping videotaped by California mall camera; woman put in trunk of car:

Two men were caught on a mall’s security camera as they chased a woman through a parking lot, then grabbed and stuffed her into the trunk of a car, authorities said.

Shoppers nearby seemed to notice the incident Sunday night, but none attemped to stop it.

Police on Thursday were still trying to determine the identities of the woman, who appeared to be in her 20s, and two men seen on the tape made at Corona Discount Mall about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Remember, the camera doesn’t make the victim less dead or less in-the-trunk-of-the-car; it gives the authorities, safely seated at a desk before a monitor, clues to who did it.

Now, class, how would this scenario played out differently if the woman had been carrying a gun?

To add fun to the story:

“It’s very discouraging right now and it’s really difficult for us, because we don’t know who the victim is,” he told KCAL-TV. “And it’s obvious that some kind of crime occurred.”

The department had received several calls from witnesses and others in recent days, but had no solid leads, Officer Jesse Jurado said. He said investigators had not yet ruled out the possibility that the incident was a hoax.

Because the camera caught it so clearly, the authorities think it might have been a hoax. So instead of using the camera to determine if the shooting were justified as self defense or not, the discouraged authorities are confused. Was it the crime of kidnapping, or the crime of confusing the authorities and making fun of their cameras?

I guess they’ll know when they find the body.

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