Monday, November 30, 2009

Gravity check

So I'm cruising easily down the K12, the quadruple black diamond run at the exclusive ski resort where our family traditionally spends our Thanksgivings.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the snow was... well, sitting lightly on the mountain side. It was truly bucolic and I basked in the bucolicness as I passed through 20, 30, 40 miles per hour down the mountain.

I was basking all bucolic-like when suddenly I saw out of the corner of my eye a little white snow bunny dart out from behind a tree, right into the path of my slicing skis. It was only my expert skiing ability that saved the delicate rodent creature from certain decapitation, as I executed a triple-axel-reverse-front-gainer to avoid dealing the death blow.

But as bad luck would have it the tip of my ski lightly clipped an overhanging spruce limb, throwing my equilibrium off just enough that I landed slightly askew on my left foot.

The pain was instantaneous as all my weight combined with my downward and frontward momentum transferred and compressed on my left ankle. I heard a sound like the cracking of knuckles, and while I remained upright on my skis, I made the rest of the run down the mountain in severe pain.

Yeah. That sounds pretty good. Pretty heroic and not at all stupid like the actual true story.

You know, the actual true story where I decided not to wake up our six-month-old daughter, instead carrying her to the nursery to sleep. Then, since I was carrying her and unable to see where I was going, I don't realize when I get to the bottom step of the staircase that there is actually one more step to go.

Then I step out to walk down the hall, but there's no floor there and I end up tipping forward, landing on the side of my foot, having it fold under my ankle and hearing that tell-tale knuckle-cracking sound that (I find out three days later) is also the sound of foot bones fracturing.

Yeah, falling down the stairs is totally lame.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: It's like the turkeys mounted a counterattack

In honor of the upcoming heartburn holiday later this week, today's edition of YouTube Tuesday remembers one of the greatest Thanksgiving moments in TV history...

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Bullitt list -- 11.20.09

Today's category: Goin' Rogue

  • Lot's of news on the ladies health care front. First a group appointed by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (Kathleen Sebelius, proprietor) said women don't need to get mammograms until they're 50 (rather than 40) and they don't need to get them as often.

    Next, another group said women don't need to get Pap smears as early nor as often.

    It’s pretty clear to see where this is going. When the Gubmint takes over your health care, they're going to need a way to cut spending. The solution, tell you that you don't need as much health care and then not give it to you. Problem solved.

  • I heard the talking heads on the insipid morning show this morning bemoaning the departure of Oprah Winfrey from the airwaves in 2011.

    The final comment that made me leave the room was when one of the ditsy hosts asked a guest "expert" "How will the audience fill the void left by the departure of Oprah's show?"

    Are you kidding me? Look at the ratings, toots. There is no void left by Oprah's show. Why do you think she's calling it quits to begin with? When you're best ratings come from an interview with Sarah Palin, you're probably doing well if you can keep yourself from taking a flying leap off the Hancock Center.

  • Think the Great Banker Bailout of 2009 was fun? Well, just wait until next year when we all get to bail out the entire state of California.

    The LA Times reported that there's no end in site to CA's budget woe's -- currently in a $21 billion deficit -- even after the latest tax increases and draconian cuts in state services.

    It's okay though. California has a plan. They have enacted stricter energy efficiency standards on televisions sets that will probably increase the price of the TV's and encourage people to buy new HDTVs in Nevada or Arizona or Tijuana.

    So at lease we know the CA legislature has its priorities straight.

  • And here's a final WTF story to end your week on: Peruvian Police have busted a gang that they say was killing people to harvest their body fat.

    Check this out:
    Police say a gang in the Peruvian jungle has been killing people and draining fat from the corpses to sell on the black market for use in cosmetics, although medical experts say they doubt a major market for fat exists.

    Three suspects confessed to killing five people, but the gang may have been involved in dozens more, said Col. Jorge Mejia, chief of Peru's anti-kidnapping police. He said one suspect claimed the gang wasn't the only one doing such killings.
    According to the story, the suspects claim the bottles of liquid human fat they were carrying when they were arrested would fetch $60,000 a gallon on the international market.

    Given that, I'm thinking KU Athletic Director Lew Perkins might want to think twice about firing Coach Mark Mangino. I don't know if they can afford to loose that kind of natural resource.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009


I was doing my dadly duty last week, taking my 7-year-old daughter to a school skating party.

She had missed the previous skating party and was totally jonesing for a skate. She was so eager to go to the party that we were able to hold it over her blackmail-style and get some extra good behavior and chores "or else your not going to get to go skating."

Anyway, we get to the skating rink, put on her skates and let her out on the floor to knock herself out -- not literally of course, she's not a great skater but she only fell two or three times. And with the exception of a quick snack break, she spent pretty much the whole time on shuffling around the skate floor.

Toward the end of the skating party, I was standing on the carpet waiting for her to come out to return the skates. She rolled off the floor and we went over to a bench to change shoes.

She pulls me down to say something into my ear.

"One of those bigger kids out there said the 'F Word'" she said.

I just kind of blinked and I think I may have done a short sigh.

"Well, just don't listen when you hear that," I replied. I was pretty calm. I said it in the same tone you might use when saying "Just remember to wash your face after the dog licks all of the peanut butter off."

You see, I'd done this quick calculation in my mind. I don't want to fly off the handle and make "The F Word" seem like it's this big magical mystery word. I don't want to encourage her to say the word by banning her from uttering it. It's human nature to want to do something that someone tells you you can do.

I didn't want to turn "The F Word" into some kind of forbidden fruit.

But I also want to let her know that I do not approve of her using that word at her age.

But later, when we got home, I know she was still curious. Out of earshot of her Supermodel Mother, she came and whispered in my ear once again...

"Do you know what the F Word is," she asked, as if she were privy to secret information that I didn't have. "Do you want me to tell it to you?"

"No" I said. "I don't want to hear it and I don't want you to say it."

I don't think the issue is over. I'm sure she heard it at school. In subsequent conversations, she implied that one of the boys (Boys... sheesh... don't even get me started!) in her class had been saying it.

Well, I guess first grade is when you start learning these things...

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

YouTube Tuesday: Fear and Loathing in the Major Leagues

No real theme to today's edition of YouTube Tuesday. It's just that I ran across this amazingly entertaining story of the role of LSD in a major league pitcher's no-hitter back in the '70s.

Here's what the YouTube description has to say:
In celebration of the greatest athletic achievement by a man on a psychedelic journey, No Mas and artist James Blagden proudly present the animated tale of Dock Ellis' legendary LSD no-hitter. In the past few years weve heard all too much about performance enhancing drugs from greenies to tetrahydrogestrinone, and not enough about performance inhibiting drugs. If our evaluation of the records of athletes like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones, and Barry Bonds needs to be revised downwards with an asterisk, we submit that that Dock Ellis record deserves a giant exclamation point. Of the 263 no-hitters ever thrown in the Big Leagues, we can only guess how many were aided by steroids, but we can say without question that only one was ever thrown on acid.
Check it...

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview with a giant

One of the most anticipated (by me) movie premiers in years is John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road -- now set to debut on Nov. 25.

I'm going to assume that the book is widely enough known that I don't need to give a synopsis of the story line. The film has been in post-production/pre-release for a what seems like forever. I think it was originally supposed to be released last year at about this time.

In case you haven't seen it yet, here's the trailer which shows why this movie is sure to be the feel-good hit of the Christmas season:

Looks charming, no?

Anyway, McCarthy himself has the reputation of being a reclusive genius. So when Friday's Wall Street Journal interview with him popped up on my feed reader, I was eager to see what he had to say.

And he didn't disappoint.

I don't want to swagger jack the WSJ so I'll encourage you to go read the interview for yourself, especially if your a huge McCarthy fan. He did seem to have some tacit condemnation for the vast amount of what we call "user generated content." I don't know how aware McCarthy is of blogging and social media, but the quote below was in reference to the amount of content put out by Hollywood:
Well, I don't know what of our culture is going to survive, or if we survive. If you look at the Greek plays, they're really good. And there's just a handful of them. Well, how good would they be if there were 2,500 of them? But that's the future looking back at us. Anything you can think of, there's going to be millions of them. Just the sheer number of things will devalue them. I don't care whether it's art, literature, poetry or drama, whatever. The sheer volume of it will wash it out. I mean, if you had thousands of Greek plays to read, would they be that good? I don't think so.
And there's also this insight on the nature of mankind. It says a lot about the perspective from which a lot of his writing comes.
I don't think goodness is something that you learn. If you're left adrift in the world to learn goodness from it, you would be in trouble. But people tell me from time to time that my son John is just a wonderful kid. I tell people that he is so morally superior to me that I feel foolish correcting him about things, but I've got to do something--I'm his father. There's not much you can do to try to make a child into something that he's not. But whatever he is, you can sure destroy it. Just be mean and cruel and you can destroy the best person.
Like I said, there's lots more great stuff in the interview, so go check it out.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Science for sale

A few weeks ago, my Supermodel Wife and I were skulking around Parkville when we stumbled into what may be the coolest store in the KC Metro area.

Now before I go on I know that there are certain people out there who will assume that when I say it's a "cool" store that it's stocked with skinny jeans and brand new retro-looking T-shirts and pumps club-mix music through the store speakers.

Or that it's got racks full of pretentious expensive wines and a full-court walk-in humidor with a Scotch tasting stand in between (although, that would be extremely cool).

No. When I say cool, I mean the 2009 definition of cool. You know, where things that we would have been called nerdy back in high school is actually cool now. This is good news for me since I was kind of nerdy back in high school but superhellacool now.

Anyway, the store is called HMS Beagle and it's chock full of sciencey stuff. The store is named after the famous ship on which Charles Darwin made his scientific voyages that lead to his theories on natural selection and evolution.

The owners bill it as the "ultimate science store" -- and after losing track of time while browsing there, I can't argue with that claim.

When we visited, for instance, there was an electrolysis contraption set up on the counter separating hydrogen and oxygen from water. In addition to all of the chemistry gear, there's paraphernalia related to electronics and robotics, astrology, entomology, palaeontology and geology.

It's amazing the kind of stuff they have there. Cases full of fossils -- some of it found around the region. I got a real kick out of showing my wife some of the samples of coprolite.

We visited with one of the store owners, John Kuhns, for a few minutes. He told us about all of the science clubs the store sponsors for youth and adults and about their frequent fossil hunting trips.

After a few minutes, he pushed a flashing LED-laden circuit board across the counter to me and pushed a button. As the sequence of LEDs flashed in a pattern, he asked me if I knew what it was doing.

After a few seconds, I realized that it was counting up in binary, which gave me an opening to share one of my favorite nerd jokes with him...
There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bullitt list -- 11.12.09

Today's category: Face value

  • Is it just me or does Major Nidal Malik Hasan look a lot like Andre Agassi. Not the young Andre Agassi with the long flowing locks and day-glow orange Nike sneakers, but the old, bald strung-out-on-meth Andre Agassi.
    And how much does it suck to be a person of Middle Eastern descent in the United States these days. My cube neighbor, Musheer, threw his hands up incredulously when this story came out. "Oh great! This is just what we need!." I feel for you, brother.

  • As you know, the House of Misrepresentatives passed a healthcare reform bill last weekend. Some people will consider this bill the "change" promised by the Obama Syndicate lo those many months ago. Those people will be wrong. Our government has been wasting money on Federally financed "entitlements" for decades. Nothing new here, just more of the same. Doctors and pharmaceutical company executives should be happy, though.

    Oh, and if any of the congress critters bothered to actually read the entire (roughly 2,000 pages) health care bill before they voted for it, I'll eat XO's Kangol.

  • I saw the report from the Center for Responsive Politics that showed there are 237 millionaires in Congress. That's nearly half of the Congress (44 percent to be exact), as compared to 1 percent of the general public who are millionaires. Anyone still believe you are represented in Washington?

    The same report showed that of the 10 richest millionaires, 8 are Democrats. There's nothing wrong with being rich, but those of you who like to play in the partisan politics game should now realize how meaningless the term "rich Republicans" is. As I've been saying for a long time, there's no real difference between Republicans and Democrats.
  • Telegraph UK reported yesterday that, based on applications to (really, there's a website called Does anyone even want to argue that our culture has completely waned at this point?), the British are the ugliest people in the world.

    This is incredibly offensive. Are we really so shallow as to judge an entire nationality on such superficial criteria? Really?

  • I've never had to knock on wood, but I know someone who has which makes me wonder if I could. It makes me wonder if I've never had to knock on wood. And I'm glad I haven't yet, because I'm sure it isn't good. That's the impression that I get.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Harnessing the God particle

Looking for something to break me out of a bloggy funk, I landed on the story of the ill-fated Large Hadron Collider.

By now I'm sure you've heard that mankind's latest, greatest, most expensive attempt to find the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything was scuttled once again last week when a crust of bread fell on it.

Uncle Nick breaks it down like this:
A widdle birdie dropped a piece of bread on the Doomsday Machine - the one that 'everyone' is worried will create a black hole centered where Earth used to be and extend outward for 5 light years - and shut that sucker down.

All I can say is if there is a Supreme Entity That Oversees All, it sure is an ironist of the first order. And with timing? Oh, snap!
Personally, I kind of appreciate the cosmic poetry of the situation. This machine is designed to allow physicists to find one of the most elusive subatomic particles yet, the Higgs boson. This particle is so elusive, in fact, that it has never been found. It's only theorized at this point.

What I find interesting is that according to the leading theory of the origin of the Universe, the matter that makes up the bread and the matter that makes up the LHC at one point, a split second before the Big Bang, were occupying the exact same place in space-time. And now, a bird brought them back together and it nearly destroyed one of them (not that matter can be created or destroyed -- except through the will of the Supreme Ironist).

I guess it's not really here nor there (as much as any of us are here or there -- you know, on the quantum level), but can you imagine the incredibly long odds at work here, the vast improbability of having a bird fly by this particular place at this particular time with a particularly sized piece of bread in its beak and dropping it with the accuracy of Luke Skywalker bullseyeing womp rats in his T-16 back home into this air vent that, just incidentally, was enough to cause the whole damn production to shut down?


These long odds led a couple of fairly credible scientists to posit the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Higgs boson doesn't want to be found.

According to this New York Times article, there's a chance that the LHC's many problems are a result of sabotage from the supercollider's own future.
A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one...

“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”
Can you imagine the technical leap forward our species will make if we can isolate and harness this so-called "God particle"? Forget about the energy crisis, say hello to interstellar travel. Hell, it might even mean the development of the Infinite Improbability Drive.

I mean, it's an achievement that would be matched only by the discovery of a way to fix Kansas City Missouri's school system.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Random Photo XX: Indian summer

Temperatures last weekend were almost unbearably pleasant. We spent a lot of time outside soaking up the last of the fall colors.

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