Monday, September 29, 2008

News You Can't Make Up - Part the Nth

via William Gibson:

A US Illuminati black op to seek, locate and disarm a Soviet nuke disguised as a blue plastic cow sculpture ended in failure when the special agent charged with the task got stuck in an air duct in Knoxville Museum of Art, and was obliged to call for traditional law enforcement assistance.

According to Knoxville's WBIR, 25-year-old Richard Anthony Smith rang 911 at around 4.30am on Wednesday to alert the authorities to his predicament. When officers arrived, they found him trapped in said duct about 45 feet below the roof, having "repelled [sic] from a CH2 Huey"* onto the museum. Smith simply said: "Mission failed."

Once extricated, the spook - dressed in "camo top and bottom, black shirt and green hat" - elaborated that he was in fact a "special agent with the United States Illuminati, badge number 0931" ordered by "Director Womack" to "defuse and confiscate a Soviet-made MERV6SS-22AN warhead, with 14.5 kg of enriched uranium and a plutonium trigger, capable of delivering a 40-kiloton yield".

Full story here which also includes my favorite part - that after becoming stuck in the duct, Gibson received another call from "Director Womack" advising that he had made a mistake, and the cow sculpture was actually in Memphis.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

City By the Bay

Another podcast series, as Leo LaPorte likes to say, is in the can, this one from Oracle OpenWorld (OOW) in San Francisco, which is where I've spent my last week.

OOW surprised me by its size - over 43,000 in attendance, according to reports. It was kind of like a Comdex, the super-technology show in Las Vegas which I used to work regularly in the `90s.  Blocked-off streets, packed sidewalks, hotel lobbies so crowded that it was hard to move through them.  This all in San Francisco, so outside of the influx of the 43K technophiles, you also had the early Fall turistas on the streets.  San Francisco is probably one of the best cities in the world to visit in the Fall if it isn't raining, and nary a drop did we see that week.  Weather was mild and in the mid-70s during the day, mid-60s at night.

I haven't been in the City for the past eight years.  In fact, I haven't been much of anywhere in the past eight years.  I've traveled more in 2008 than I have in the previous eight combined.  I was pleased to find that few of the personal landmarks I remembered had changed.  I was able to hit Napa Valley Wines and take care of our holiday wine needs in one fell - albeit expensive - swoop.  Vy's Jewelry was still in the same location in Chinatown, so Peggy got a present for being abandoned with two unhappy cats as I worked and played out west.  I went back to one of my all-time favorite sushi places, Sanraku on Sutter, and found a new favorite, Colibri Mexican Bistro on Geary, which I highly recommend - I had one of the best meals of my life there, undoubtedly oiled by two margaritas with blue agave tequila.

I didn't get to Kayo Books or Hunan Home, or John's Grill, which would have pretty much rounded up Fred's Cooks Tour of S.F., but given I produced and engineered a dozen podcasts over a four-day period, I was pretty pleased that I got in as much personal time in as I did.

I have a love/hate relationship with San Francisco.  It's one of the great cities of the world.  If you like walking around as much as I do, it's a perfect place to visit.  But, the armies of street people/homeless/bums/winos/panhandlers can get me down, especially when San Francisco is on the tolerant side of the pendulum, as it seems to be now, and essentially leaves them alone just as long as they're not aggressively scaring away the tourists. So walking can become similar to running a gantlet.  You shake the head and stare straight ahead, and hurt inside, trying not to wonder about their stories.

But that's the down side.  The up side was that it was a great trip - a good job done well in a beautiful, intriguing city.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

How Heinlein Responded to Fan Mail

Click on the image for a readable version.  Not a problem that I have, although I do get the occasional cranky email asking why I didn't answer someone's earlier email, and most of my responses to Dreamtime email are a canned version of "Thanks for the kind words."  But it's interesting to see how RAH handled the situation.  Harlan Ellison used to send a pre-printed postcard, as I remember, which said in a florid pseudo-Chinese style something to the effect of  "if I spent the time replying to how much you enjoyed [insert title here], I'd have less time to write the stuff you enjoy. So forgive this canned response."

I think my favorite of the group is the terse, "Please do not write to me again."

via Kevin Kelly

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Not Vetting Sarah

From the usual gang of idiots over at Mad magazine.  I was (almost) willing to forgive Palin anything until the polar bears.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


We're back from our annual Labor Day vacay, this time taken way up North at Beaver Cove, Moosehead Lake, Maine, where men are men and spend most of their time lazin' on the deck.

Peggy and Fred took a 3-hour cruise on the steamship Katahdin - highly recommended - which covered less than half of the 40-mile Moosehead Lake.

During his tour narration, our captain noted that the lake trout population, known locally as "togue," had been virtually wiped out because some idiot - or group of idiots - had introduced Yellow Perch into the lake. When I was a kid in the `60s, it wasn't unusual to catch a dozen or more togue in one day's fishing. Tragically, all gone now, and probably not to come back.

While visiting the quarterdeck, I mentioned to the captain I grew up on Sebago Lake, the second largest lake in Maine. "Oh, that pond?" the captain grinned at me.

We found that the only direct route to Moxie Falls involved a route that personified the phrase 20 miles of bad road. About 5 1/2 miles in on a badly rutted, washed out road with large rocks poking out just waiting to take out things without which our long-suffering Murano would probably not run, we met a beat-up pickup heading in the opposite direction. "You can't go down there, the road's terrible," the driver called.. "You couldn't make it without a 4-wheel drive. Where you headed?"

"Moxie Falls," I replied. "Maybe, I should turn ..."

"We're going right by it," he interrupted. "Follow me." And with that he sped off on another road that led off God Knows Where which a) was even worse than the one that we were on and b) our GPS, which had gamely sent us down the original road didn't even recognize as a road.

In fact, the GPS - which we've anthropomorphized with the name "Tommy," gave up trying to navigate us, except to point an arrow at where we had been, apparently in the hope we'd recover our senses and return to Known Territory. Which we eventually did after about a mile or more of following the Mad Mainer, who blasted along the road at upwards of 40 miles an hour as I crawled over ruts and rocks. As his dust trail disappeared into the trackless wastelands, I found a spot to turn around, not an easy thing to do, and headed back to where Tommy's arrow pointed. After a long long long time, we finally made it back to the point where Tommy was willing to acknowledge that there was a road there, such as it was, and then only had to spend another 5 1/2 miles crawling back out to the paved road.

We'd finally make it to Moxie Falls the following day after Peggy plotted out a circuitous route that covered about 60-odd miles to a destination that was about 20 miles away as the crow flies but, by God, had the benefit of being entirely upon pavement.

Moxie Falls is very beautiful, if a little difficult to visit.

We also found the lodge my family stayed at during our regular visits to Moosehead in the `60s - Maynards. Already old when I first came there, Maynards was established in the early 1920s, the place is virtually unchanged in 2008, the only noticeable difference that I could find is that the cabins now have a full bath. Back in 1964 it was an outside shower and an outhouse.

And we did many other things, the things you do when you're on vacay in the Great North Woods: We visited Kamp-Kamp, the largest store in Greenville, Maine where Peggy longed for moose antlers and Fred for a set of Classic Illustrated Comics that could have come straight from my bunk at Maynards. We bought hand-picked blueberries and blackberries and fresh-baked goods for dessert every night. We hiked the Lily Pond State Park, read about local things in the local paper - including the kids fined for leaping jay-naked off the Black Frog restaurant dock.

And mostly we relaxed, 'cause that's what it's all about.