"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Shaking our tree.

- 04 Oct 1957 - SPUTNIK!!!

This little dingbat scared the Hell out of many of us then ...
from citizenship typepad.com

Nothing but a polished metal sphere of 585 mm (23 inches) diameter with a mass of 83.6 kilograms (184 lb) and carrying only a radio transmitter, it definitely got our attention.

THEY got there FIRST! Oh, Man!!!

You see, this was the thrilling days of yesteryear when the Soviet Union was ruled by Nikita "We will bury you" Khrushchev who, just the year before, had sent columns of tanks into Hungary to crush a rebellion there (just his way of stating "THAT is a NO-NO!").

The days of "Duck and cover" drills in public schools (not at all insane; if a nuke hit several miles away instead of on top of you, that could make the difference between surviving versus being shredded by glass blown in by the shock wave if all you did was just stand there and gawk at the explosion. Nukes are powerful, but not infinitely powerful. They can be survived, and have been. See reports of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for hard evidence. (Although, in an essay on civil defense, Robert A. Heinlein advocated situational awareness (paying attention to what's going on in the world) and summed up surviving the bomb in seven words: "Don't be there, when it goes off!" ))

That innocent looking thing was placed into orbit by ...
from on6wj-sputnik.blogspot.com

... the R-7 launcher (for a long time referred to as T-3), which evolved from an ICBM whose primary purpose was to transport a thermonuclear bomb from Point A (somewhere in the Soviet Union) to Point B (somewhere in the USA).

The local newspapers ...
San Antonio Light, 05 Oct 1957 - from newspaperarchive.com

... published times of when to see it in the morning or evening, when it would be brightly lit by the sun.

To read or hear about the Soviets (listening to the radio when they were stomping on the rebellion in Hungary was heart-wrenching) while they were on the other side of the world was bad enough, but a bit abstract.

To walk out into your back yard and actually see this bright little silver dot in the sky slowly moving overhead, and realizing there they are;  well, that's a whole 'nother story.

(Originally published  1239 CST,  03 OCT 2012)
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Friday, September 08, 2017

I have been BLESSED, ...

... with SO MANY FRIENDS. :-)

Thank you;  ALL of you.
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Friday, July 28, 2017

First surgery - results ...

On Wednesday morning, 26 JUL 2017, I took a taxi to the Michael DeBakey Veterans Hospital for a 7 AM appointment with the eye-sugeon.

This was for surgery to my left eye (the worst one), to remove the cataracts, and to insert a tube to help with drainage (to reduce pressure in the eye).

Because I would need some attention for the next 24 hours, and there was NO ONE to provide it, I stayed overnight. Had to sleep with an eye-patch taped on, to avoid injury to the eye.

When the patch was removed, I really couldn't see ANY difference in vision with that eye. The surgeon had warned me that could be the case, but felt the surgery was necessary.

When asked if I felt any pain or irritation, I mentioned feeling something between my eye and the lower eyelid. He said I was probably feeling some of the stitching. STITCHING on an EYEBALL!!!  Trying to IMAGINE that.  Perhaps I SHOULDN'T. :-)

He gave me a steel patch (with holes like a pepper shaker) ...

... to tape over my left eye before going to bed. This will be for a week.

He also gave me still MORE eye drops. I've been taking three types of drops, to control the pressure in both eyes.  I'll continue with those, but NOW for the right eye only.  The left gets three NEW types, for the next four weeks, to control any inflammation resulting from the surgery. SIX types to keep track of.  Does THAT sound like FUN?  :-)

I see him again, on Thursday, 03 AUG 2017, for a follow-up check.

They tell me it could be six to eight weeks before surgery to the right eye. Dr. Morris (the eye surgeon) is confident of more improvement with THAT eye, as its optic nerve damage is far less.

We shall see. :-)
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Saturday, July 01, 2017

Selfie taken in 2009

I STILL look like this (or WOULD, with a decent haircut);  someone who takes himself WAY too seriously.  I'll try to update this evening, less gloomy than I've been lately.  ;-)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Be still, my heart. :-)

... Notice from Social Security.

This year (2016), it didn't increase by a single penny, staying at the level it was the year before.

NOW, it  "... will increase by 0.3% in 2017 because of a rise in the cost of living.".

(Not THREE percent, but THREE TENTHS of a percent.)

Now, in truth, it does NOT actually say that the cost of living rose only 0.3%, BUT, that sure SEEMS to be the implication.

I have NO idea what planet they are thinking of, but it damned sure isn't the one we're living on.

Obviously, THIS is a VENT.  :(

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Wednesday, November 09, 2016

TRUMP ... UPDATED 02 DEC 2016


From ibtimes.co.uk

At first, I didn't take him seriously.

But, the more I actually listened to HIM (rather that what other people were SAYING about him), the more I liked and RESPECTED him.

He's NOT an ideologue. What I saw was a business man, passionate about making things WORK. In THAT regard, he reminded me of Reagan. I soon found myself solidly in his corner.

Last night (08 NOV 2016), I hit the sack just before midnight, very worried because he was not quite there yet.

Around 0130, I woke up, got up, and checked ABC News' website, just in time to see Trump's electoral vote totals go past the 270 needed for victory. Just ten minutes later came the announcement that Hillary had called Trump, to concede.

With the knots in my stomach finally loosening, I felt better than I have in a loooong time.

After EIGHT SOLID YEARS of varying degrees of despair, I now actually have HOPE for the future of this country.

Trump will have a LOT on his plate when he takes office in January.

We shall see, But at the moment I stand with my feeling about who he reminded me of. I truly believe that we have managed to find, and elect, ANOTHER REAGAN.

And I am just FINE with THAT.  :-)

UPDATE 02 DEC 2016 - A letter from Ed, posted in Jerry Pournelle's post  https://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/em-drive-speed-of-light-and-other-science/ made THESE points ...
"I think most observers don’t get that when you base your decisions on values, you make decisions this way. You try one thing on for size – it doesn’t fit, so you toss it away and try on something else, something different. Eventually you zero in on what you want. This is not ideology-based or strategy-based decision making. This is making decisions based on values."

"The problem with ideology-base decision-making is that they make as many mistakes but they don’t correct them. We had many years of not correcting mistakes.  I like Trump’s way."


That perfectly describes what I meant about Trump not being an ideologue. and why I feel such hope with him in charge.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"NEVER tell a soldier ... (Updated 28 JUN 2016)

... that he does not know the cost of war."
~Alan Rickman as Lt. General Frank Benson in Eye in the Sky (2015)




One of the official trailers on youtube

Caught this yesterday (26 APR 2016), mainly because it starred Helen Mirren (I'd watch almost anything with her in it), and discovered that her co-star was Alan Rickman (in his last performance before his death from pancreatic cancer on 14 JAN 2016 --- see "... and call off Christmas!!!" )

He picked a fine movie to go out on; a wonderful performance in a truly intelligent film.  He will be truly missed

The questions raised in this movie just don't have any good answers.  It will probably be gone from theaters in another week ot two, but I've seen a July 28 release date for DVD and Blu-Ray.

Update 28 JUN 2016:  That release date above was wrong. It's being released June 28 - TODAY.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

"... and call off Christmas!!!" - (R.I.P. Alan Rickman - 14 JAN 2016)

There actually was something really good in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).

That something is Alan Rickman, as the Sheriff of Nottingham.

In my previous post, I kinda dumped on The Syfy Channel a bit, for the inclusion of distinctly non-science fiction items in its lineup, including that movie.

(In a conversation with a clerk at Barnes & Noble, I learned that a writer, asking one of the people running The Syfy Channel about why they had changed their name from The "Sci-Fi Channel", was told that "Sci-Fi" is considered shorthand for "Science-Fiction", implying that would be the content;  whereas "Syfy" is in fact just a totally meaningless bit of noise, and gives them license to schedule whatever they wish.  Okay ... )

Back to Alan then.

Of all the people in this movie, he alone appears to be actually having fun, being so deliciously nasty.

After the Sheriff  has said he'll cut out Robin Hood's  heart with a spoon ...
Guy of Gisborne: "Why a spoon, cousin?  Why not an axe?"
Sheriff: "Because it's DULL, you twit.  It'll hurt more."
(Said with a sneer that only Alan Rickman can manage; he has an absolute lock on that.)

Sheriff: (to a wench"You.  My room.  10:30 tonight."
Sheriff: (to another wench"You.  10:45 ... And bring a friend."

Upon hearing from a scribe about the relationship Robin Hood has with the people...
Sheriff: "Just a minute. Robin Hood steals money from my pocket, forcing me to hurt the public,  -- and they love him for it?"
The scribe nods.
Sheriff: "That's it then.  Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings,  -- and call off Christmas!!!"

One thing I'll always wonder: Was that last parting shot scripted?
Or, was Rickman on a roll at that time and he just ad-libbed it?

At times, he seems to be in an entirely different movie than the rest of the cast is, and almost succeeds in making this bloated epic truly watchable.  Unfortunately, as with Ian McShane in the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, he can't do the job all by himself  (although he does what he can). 

What put him on the map was his role as Hans Gruber (one of the all-time great villains) in Die Hard  (1988), opposite Bruce Willis...

Problem with getting on the map that way is the danger of typecasting.  In Quigly Down Under  (1990), opposite Tom Selleck, he played a villain with a mustache almost fit for twirling.  He seemed to be at the top of any list for playing a back-stabbing, conniving SOB, and got quite a bit of work as such.

But, that's not the only side to him.  Right after "Quigly", he appeared in Truly Madly Deeply (1990), wherein he was a ghost hanging around his girlfriend who really needed to get on with her life, but found it a bit difficult with him and his ghost friends around all the time, watching videos (what else do you do with all that time in the afterlife?)  It was a sweet, warm role totally unexpected for the guy who played Hans Gruber.

His latest work has been as Professor Severus Snape, the "Darth Vader" of the Harry Potter series...

He's actually the most tragic figure in the story, very multi-layered (Yes!  I'm quite aware that I use that phrase a lot;  I'm drawn to characters that rate it).  Rickman succeeds in the challenge of taking a character you've learned to hate, and making you almost weep for him near the end of the last movie.

What can I say?  The man is simply so damned good.
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UPDATE Thursday, 14 JAN 2016:  I've just learned that Alan Rickman has left us today...  

...  FAR TOO SOON.  Rest in peace, Sir.  :-(

frown emoticon(Originally published 2102 CST 08 AUG 2011)
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Monday, December 14, 2015

"He WON the ones he HAD to."

... Bottom line reply of a couple of British historians on George Washington's military prowess, in response to an argument that, "He LOST more battles than he WON."

I suspect that North Vietnam's General Võ Nguyên Giáp would have understood PERFECTLY. 


During our Bicentennial in 1976, CBS ran a number "Bicentennial Minutes" (short educational American television segments commemorating the bicentennial of the American Revolution). 


In one of them, U.S. Army Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr. talked of his participation in the Paris Peace Talks, in 1973, as part of the delegation negotiating our withdrawal from Vietnam. At that time, he felt deeply humiliated at being party to what amounted to a surrender on our part. 


He recalled that one time, when leaving the conference room, he tore into one of the Vietnamese delegates, "You know, you never beat us on the battlefield". 


Instead of the argument he was spoiling for, what he got in return was, "That may be so, but it is also irrelevant."


He acknowledged THAT to be "the shortest, most succinct lesson in strategy I have EVER been privileged to hear".


Recently, on The History Channel, I came across Washington the Warrior (2006), (which I now have on order from Amazon). This is an uttelry fascinating look at our first Commander in Chief, which I cannot recommend too highly. There is NOTHING stuffy or boring about him.



To go along with that I would also recommend The Crossing (2000), about Washington's crossing the Delaware to attack a Hessian brigade at Trenton, New Jersey, at a time when his army was almost disintegrated from lack of supplies and support, figuring that the Hessians had everything he was in need of.




Hunt these up and enjoy History at its' best.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

The Accountant

"Since the birth of time, humanity has endeavored to restrain evil men in prisons. But since Cain fled the murder of his brother, evil men have fled the walls of punishment.

"So, it doesn't matter if you're a badass motherf****r on the run, because you think you're better than everyone else, and somehow entitled to do what you gotta do.


"No. Because, you see, badass motherf****rs are never fast enough. In the end, they will all be accounted for."

~The Accountant (Satan's Accountant) in the movie Drive Angry (2011) ...


... a movie I truly love, but am hesitant to recommend.  You see, it is R rated for a reason. There are scenes in it that pretty well qualify as porn. But if you can get past that, you'll find that The Accountant more than makes up for that.


John Milton (Nicholas Cage) escapes from Hell (in a black Buick Riviera) to go after some men from a Satanic cult, who have murdered his daughter and taken that daughter's baby to be used as a human sacrifice when the moon is full in a few days.


Milton is pursued by The Accountant (William Fichtner, dressed like a lawyer of coarse :-) who, while never forgetting his primary mission to bring Milton back, decides to help him recover his grandchild when he learns what the cult has done and is preparing to do.




In the third scene of that clip, two young stoners happen upon a crashed car and wonder if anyone is inside, when the door flies off (kicked by The Accountant who was inside) and knocks down the Second Stoner. That scene starts when The Accountant emerges ...


First Stoner:  "Jesus!"

The Accountant:  "-Carpenter. And despite what you've heard, prefers short hair."
Second Stoner:  "You almost fuck**g killed me, man."
The Accountant:  "Not even close. I won't see you again until you're 73."
(to the First Stoner):  "You, I'll see in three months."

It's rare for Nicholas Cage to be upstaged in a movie he's starring in (the best example I can think of being "The Rock", in which he's partnered with Sean Connery) but Fichtner so owns this movie that when he's on scene, the other actors might as well have stayed home.


Now, in truth, WITHOUT Fichtner, I would have classed this movie as VERY mediocre.  But it DOES have him, and that makes all the difference in the world. 


I first saw him in "Heat", where he's mob boss Roger Van Zant, who was the owner of a lot of bearer bonds stolen by Neil McCauley (Robert de Niro). When a deal is made for him to buy them back for an amount that would be covered by insurance money, he double crosses McCauley with an ambush (figuring that the LAST thing he needs is for punks on the street to think it Ok to steal from him). After surviving that ambush, McCauley phones Van Zant to tell him, "Forget the money."

van Zant: "Forget it?!!!  What are you doing?"
McCauley: "What am I doing?  I'm talking to an empty phone.  Because there'a dead man on the other end of it."

Fichtner has been in "Contact", "The Perfect Storm", and many others, and always first class.


But, he appears to be having a real blast playing The Accountant, and admits to exactly that in one of the interviews on the DVD.  You could make a really fine movie just devoted to this character, and I suspect he would be just fine with that.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Six times

When asked by the arraignment judge, “Why did you shoot the man 6 times?"

The woman replied under oath, “Because, when I pulled the trigger the 7th time, it only went click.”


Found on facebook ...

http://www.iamatexan.com/2015/10/21/this-is-why-you-dont-mess-with-texas-women/

Sadly, the article ends with ...


(Yes, this is a joke. Sort of. Don’t think you can get away with purse snatching in Texas. You can’t. Our women are well-armed, know how to defend themselves, and beautiful. And it’s Texas – the law is on their side.)


Oh, Well. New Texas Urban Legend is born. :-)

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Survivor

Apologies to all for my recent whining, posted at the beginning of my "The Martian" post ...
----------------------------------------------------------------
Thanks to my accident just before Memorial Day, I don't get out to movies as often as I used to, or as often as I would like. My current situation (inoperable car, not a snowball's chance in Hell of obtaining the funds to make it usable, being half crippled and sometimes barely able to walk a couple of blocks to a bus stop) makes that arduous and painful.
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Some of you know that I am definitely in a "down" right now, but I DO have options.


If I can make it to March, without doing anything drastic and final from pure despair, I might be able to do something about that car, which will be a true Godsend. Because of my age, and my income status, I will very likely get ALL of my Federal withholding tax returned, which looks like it will be a bit over $1200.00. I'm confident that THAT should be enough.


Additionally, the absolutely CRUSHING financial position I'm in right now could be relieved by doing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. I'm not real keen on THAT, as it involves the MOTHER OF ALL PAPERWORK.


But, as an alternative to my final option, it is definitely on the table.


I've had major ups and downs before - a LOT of them. And I'm STILL here.


About thirty years ago, I had such a deep bout of severe depression, I had to see a shrink to avoid losing my job.  Now, she was only doing her job, trying to lift me out of the funk I was in, when she told me that she "saw a survivor. You pulled up stakes and moved halfway across the country to start a new career. Wimps don't do that.".


I treasured that. I HAVE to survive this; if for no other reason, than to avoid proving that lady wrong.


Wish me luck  And, Thanks.  :-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

War of Worlds Musical

Watching the episode of "Fargo"  I recorded last night, I found a bit of THIS music in it. Sadly, this album appears out iof print; Amazon.com listed ONE new CD at $265.00. If you're interested, you may have no alternative to downloading the music. ...
JEFF WAYNE'S MUSICAL VERSION OF THE WAR OF THE WORLDS - PART 1 - THE EVE OF THE WAR - HQ

Narrated by Richard Burton, this is truly an amazing album, well worth the trouble of finding a download of the full album, if that's the ONLY way you can check it out.

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Friday, October 02, 2015

Riders on the Storm ...

... by Jim Morrison and The Doors.


The things you come across when you're looking for something else. While searching for a good video of "Riders on the storm", by Jim Morrison and The Doors, I found THIS piece by Ray Manzarek, keyboardist of The Doors, about how "Riders" came to be ...


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Saturday, September 19, 2015

If you remember THIS song, ...

... then, BOY, are you OLD.  :-)


While the video is obviously of fairly recent vintage, the song by The Four Lads was a #1 hit in 1953)
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