Saturday, July 31, 2004

Marlena Wray 

Somewhere in her forties, her look is tough and wise, but also stylish and pretty, like a weather girl who could drink you under the table. Born in Illinois, then raised in Texas and Arizona, her parents fought with her about playing music, seeing the lifestyle as full of drugs and debauchery. She bought her first instruments with baby-sitting money and taught herself to play drums while learning three guitar chords off of a television show. She worshipped at the altars of The Beatles, Creedence, and Jefferson Airplane. When she was old enough she hit the road, touring with lounge acts as a drummer, playing in Holiday Inns and Ramadas.

We saw her tonight at the Wishing Well, a bar in the north Portland neighborhood of St. John's (Spine's 'hood). She is a one-woman show: guitar, keyboard, drum machine, sequencer. She plays the classics and imbues them all with her own special something. She is kitchy and completely sincere at the same time.

is the article the above quote is from.


The Blue Moon Isn't Really Blue 

Spine had a little shindig over here at his place tonight and we all got to talking about the imminent blue moon that will rise tonight at sunset. This led to the inevitable question: just how often does a blue moon occur ("once in a blue moon" is not an acceptable answer)? So I got up and grabbed my trusty iBook, which was conveniently logged onto Spine's 802.11 network and looked it up and I discovered something amazing. A "blue moon" is not actually the second full moon that occurs within a month, as I (and most people, apparently) have always believed. According to Sky & Telescope Magazine, the actual historical definition of "blue moon" is "the third full Moon in a three-month season containing four." But in 1946, S&T erroneously reported the second-full-moon-in-a-month definition and the meme stuck. Using the real, historical definition of the term, blue moons actually occur much more frequently than the commonly held definition of the phenomenon. Here is S&T's page describing the history of the gaff. Don't you feel enlightened?

Friday, July 30, 2004


The title of this post expresses how I feel about having been lax in my Candleblog updating duties. It's been a busy few days touring all over the Pacific Northwest. Thank you Dan and Ntodd for not leaving the blog a desolate wasteland of wordlessness.

The title also happens to be the word spoken most frequently by the inhabitants of British Columbia. Those are some polite fucking people.

Vancouver was realy fun. Hummuspants has found a very nice home. It's a big city, but very comfortable. And the sushi... did I mention the sushi? Well, it defies texual description, so just imagine it. mmmmmmmm.

I intend to write more thouroughly on this topic, but one of the Vancouver highlights was a fireworks display. I was in Florida on the Fourth of July and my brother asked me if I wanted to go see a fireworks display and I explained that fireworks aren't really my thing. I mean, they're okay and everything, I've just never been one to to "ooh" and "ahh" over them. I told him that for a fireworks show to really impress me it would have to be the most amazing, ridiculous, phantasmagorical pyrotechnic display in the world. Well on Wednesday night Vancouver hosted China's entry in the HSBC Celebration of light, the world championship fireworks competition. I was... well, I was impressed.

We're back in Portland now and I still don't have much blogging time, but I should be able to resume some semblance of regularity. I also have many photos to share so stay tuned!

Welcome To iPod Reality, Really, Real 

According to this story on the BBC new site:
Real said it had created a program to mimic Apple's protection software which only allows tracks downloaded from iTunes stores to be played on iPods.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

James Kochalka Interview 

The Onion has an interview today with Vermont-based artist James Kochalka. His best and most famous Sketchbook Diary entry: the one starring Candleblog proprietor, Bill.


Namtheun Intensifies 

It's a mighty big typhoon.  The quote is from this story the NASA Earth Observatory:
Early on the morning of July 27 (Japanese local time), the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM) satellite flew directly over the heart of Typhoon Namtheun. The storm, with sustained winds blowing at 105 knots (121 miles per hour), is threatening the southern islands of Japan.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

"In Canada... you'll feel welcommmmmmme" 

Yesterday we went to the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (see last post for a link) and it was, well, how should I put this... fucking awesome!!!!!!! I will devote an entire post to this experience when I have more time. We were able to take a few pics before security told us we couldn't do that anymore. If you are a sci-fi geek and ever find yourself in Seattle, it's well worth the $13.

After a lovely evening out in Seattle last night with Ann, Dave, Spine, Ellory, Nick and Moon--dinner, drinks, political talk, many jokes--we drove north this morning to Vancouver. No hassles at the border, but we did hear the sounds of distant bagpipes, which we thought seemed appropriate. Emily and I spontaneously began singing "In Canada" by songstress B.J. Snowden. It was special.

Vancouver makes a very good first impression. Sean's apartment is small but has a great view of part of the city. We will eat sushi tonight--I'm very excited about that, let me tell you. First we will go on a little walk and explore the environs. Tomorrow we'll check out Stanley Park and some other sights. Yay! We are in Hummuspants' 'hood and we feel happy.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Seattle in our sights 

Emily, Spine and I are heading up to see all thye grunge rockers today. We will also see Ann, Dave and maybe Nick. Sci fi museum, dinner, drinks, space needle, a guided tour of Courtney Love's track marks (not necessarily in that order).

Sleep has made me feel human again.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Safe and Sound in PDX 

Despite our having travelled in standby "SR4" mode, we were able to make both of our flights without a hitch and we are securely in Portland with Spine (thank you Mr. Guzmán). We are dog-tired (Emily naps as I blog) but we are looking forward to a lovely dinner with some old and new friends out tonight followed by some drinks. Apparently every restaurant in the state of Oregon is closed on Sundays (I exaggerate). I'm sure we'll find nice spot for some eats.

Tomorrow we drive north to Seattle to see some more peeps (that's slang for "people," we're not driving to Seattle to see little yellow marshmallow chicks).

Mr. Guzmán, Mr. Luis Guzmán 

Once on a flight from Burlington to San Francisco, I shared the first leg of my flight with Trey Anastasio, the guitarist/singer/songwriter from Vermont super group, Phish. Trey and his wife sat across the aisle from me and we chatted a bit. I felt at the time that seeing a celebrity so early in my long trip must have been a positive omen. The trip was fine, the flight safe and enjoyable.

Sometime later I was again flying out west and before my flight I stopped to have lunch at Café Piccolo, a hip little joint with amazing mac-n-cheese in Burlington’s south end that Emily and I frequent. Again, there was Trey. It was not surprising to see him having lunch at Café Piccolo since his office is in the same building. Still, I took the sighting as an omen and again my trip was safe and fun under Trey’s guiding influence.

Today, as Emily and I were in line at the ticket counter in Burlington, we were shadowed by indy film star Luis Guzmán, who was flying United’s friendly skies with a brood of three young-uns. Luis looked relaxed and inconspicuous in his ball cap and blue jeans—just a dad and his kids going on a trip. I feel safer knowing that Luis is up here in the air with me somewhere, having originated from the same warm embrace of Burlington International Airport.

--Blogged from EWR Concourse C, awaiting our boarding passes


Heading Out 

In 5 hours Emily and I will go to the airport and begin our journey westward. We will be in the Pacific NW for about ten days so if anyone needs to reach me, you should email me at billsimmonathotmaildotcom. I will be checking my other email addresses periodically, but I will try to check hotmail daily. You can also leave messages in the comments here as long as they're not too private (wink wink). Now I have to go catch a few scant hours of sleep before I enter travel mode. I hate travel mode.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

E. Pleb Neesta 

So tonight I am on a mission. We can't leave for Portland until Sunday as it turns out, so I am working on the candleblog redesign and one of the things I am doing is creating little icons for the various topics covered at candleblog (you'll understand when you see the redesigned site). anyway, I needed a good image that conveys the concept: "nerd." Needless to say, I found many appropriate images on the world wide web, but this is the one I wanted to share:

Live long and prosper.

Friday, July 23, 2004

He ain't no Donnie Osmond 

For those of you living under an indy film rock, spooky/funny/"quirky"/cult fav, Donnie Darko is being re-released with a bunch of added footage. Here, deconstructs the set-in-the-80s teen pshycho-drama... thouroghly. As always, either subscribe to salon (do it!) or get a free day pass to read the whole article.

Also, check out DD's fantastic flash site.

via Backwards City

Do You See Spots Before My Eyes? 

I know that you know that sunspot group 652 is not only big but is currently inundating the earth with a tremendous solar wind (auroras in progress!).  Yesterday, on a drive into NH in the early morning, the sun was trying to show through a heavy fog bank.  I found that if I stopped the car at the right spot, the fog was thick enough to give me a perfect naked-eye view of the sunspots - clearly and easily visible to the eye.  They are big.  Here's a picture that looks exactly like it looked to me (image on lower left). 


Flip. Flop. 

No, I'm not talking about George "I'm a war president; I'm a peace president" Bush or John "for the war, against the war" Kerry. I'm talking about the youth of America. I went to a minor-league baseball game last night, and I discovered that lots of college-age kids go to these things as social events. They hang out near the front gates, drinking beer and wondering if maybe they should try out for Elimidate. But what really struck me, once my friend Pete pointed it out to me, was the incredible proliferation of flip-flops on the feet of these young folks. This was old news to Pete; he'd observed the trend months earlier. I had not. And looking around, I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed it before. Everywhere I looked, flip-flops. Flip-flops on girls. Flip-flops on guys.

I formulated an ad hoc analysis of the trend: college-age kids pride themselves on not caring about much of anything; hence, flip-flops are a natural choice because they involve less effort and intention than any other type of footwear.

Pete said he was annoyed that flip-flops are so popular, given how impractical they are. I agreed, though I felt he was missing the very point of their appeal. "Yup, it's ridiculous," I said to Pete as the young people flipped and flopped past us, in no hurry to get anywhere. "Maybe I need to get a pair."


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Women in Waders 

That's right. Women in waders.


Required Reading 

Read this interview with comics genius Alan Moore. Get a free day pass from Salon to read it if you are not a subscriber.



Backwards City is a new favorite blog of mine and has been providing a lot of fodder for Candleblog of late. It doesn't hurt that it appears alphabetically first in my blogroll so it is usually the first place I go in my daily blogaround. Anyway, go here. Isn't it cool? It also works very nicely as a stereogram.

A New Post 

Greetings Candlebloggers. I haven't posted anything in a while becaue I have been spending my web-time persuing the elusive goal of a Candleblog redesign. The jury is still out on the new design and I have nothing to show you yet but stay tuned. I expect that within a month or so there will be a whole new blog in town (read: not an I power Blogger blog).

Other news: Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) is hard at work on a new film called The Life Aquatic. According to
Preproduction is under way on the new film from writer-director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums), but little is known of the plot. The story revolves around an oceanographer, his crew of eccentrics, and the oceanographer's estranged son.
The two really interesting bits of information are the addition of Bud Cort (Harold from Harold and Maude) to the cast (I have long thought of Wes Anderson as an artistic decendent of Hal Ashby's), and that Noah Baumbach (writer/director of Kicking and Screaming, Highball and Mr. Jealousy) is the co-screenwriter on this film. I can't wait. This is a confluence of some of my favorite creative people in film. It will also star Owen Wilson and Bill Murray (of course) along with Anjelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Stormare, Wally Wolodarsky, Willem Dafoe and Cate Blanchett. The scheduled release date is Christmas.

Also: Emily and I are flying out of here Saturday morning and going to stay with Spine in Portland, OR for a week or so. While there, we plan to drive up to Seattle and Vancouver and visit some other folks including one DJ Hummuspants. We are greatly looking forward to it. Do not fear however, as I fully intend to blog my way across the Pacific Northwest. In fact, we will be borrowing (and perhaps ultimately purchasing) Reba and Ron Zombie's digital SLR camera so you can expect a little photoblogging of the journey as well. We are SO 21st Century!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


Is Candleblog appearing weird to anyone else? Dan and I mucked with te template last night for an hour but we didn't save any of our edits and it was all fine and good after that... I even checked in and made that Goth post several hours after our tweak session and everything was fine. WTF??? (I find myself asking "WTF" a little too often in relation to blogger).

I'll run around the studio now and check Candleblog on other various browsers and platforms. How's it looking to y'all?

UPDATE: For some reason, the formatting Dan employed in his post below made the whole blog appear kind of wonky. As soon as I removed the html in his post, the problem was fixed. I have restored the post, but with simpler formatting and everything seems to be fine now. Thank you for your patience.


Plateau De Beille 

Stage 13 (July 17): Arguably the most up-and-down of all the stages and a chance for the climbers in the King of the Mountains competition to make their mark.
This was from the caption to a route profile graphic of this killer part of the Tour on the bbc at this link. I also noticed that the IKONOS satellite has in image from above of this last stage here, described as follows:
Along the way the road ascended six different climbs (and descended five), for a total of 4,160 meters of elevation gain. The final climb of the day was the fearsome Plateau de Beille—15.9 km of climbing at an average gradient of 7.8 percent (and a maximum gradient of 9.5 percent) for an ascent of 1,240 meters. To put this in perspective, there are no paved roads this steep and long in the United States.


I didn't even listen to The Smiths... much 

And yet I am a...

according to this cute high school stereotype quiz. I must be getting old because "goth" wasn't even a known stereotype back when I was in high school. I was a geek, but not like a computer, pocket protector kind of geek, more like the smart social outcast that no one notices very much sitting quietly in the back of the class... thinking... about stuff... and junk.

I now re-direct you to this very early Candleblog post. enjoy.

via Silly Old Bear

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

mmm... cameralicious 

The Online Sun:
THE new Willy Wonka film was in the goo last night — after a £300,000 camera was dropped into a giant vat of “chocolate”.

It plunged in after a technician failed to secure the wire-held camera.

And the crew watched in horror as it plunged into the 3ft-deep tank.

The disaster has delayed filming of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, which stars Johnny Depp as sweet factory boss Willy Wonka.

Insiders say the bill, including paying staff to stand idle, could top £500,000.

One revealed: “When the camera fell it was like a slap-stick scene straight from the movie. A team of riggers had come in specially from the States to set it up over a vat of synthetic chocolate.

“But someone made a mistake and it wasn’t secured properly. The production team didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The camera is probably beyond repair.”

The film of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book also stars schoolboy Freddie Highmore, who plays Charlie Bucket, and Helena Bonham Carter.

None of the actors were present when the accident happened at Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, Bucks.

A spokesman for the film said: “Technical tests were being carried out to see how close the camera could be moved to the chocolate. A camera did go into the liquid owing to a mechanical fault.”
The first real film set I ever worked on was a 16mm short that a friend of mine was making in San Francisco in 1995. I was a PA (production assistant) and a dolly grip. We were shooting inside a famous San Francisco landmark location--everything that surrounded the crew was extremely expensive.

(We were in the first house on the left.)

Anyway, one of my jobs was to help assemble the tripod and jib arm on which the camera would rest for one of the more complicated boom/tracking shots. The shot was in the parlour of the house and one of the three of us assembling the contraption made the horrific mistake of not anchoring the center-piece of the tripod legs to the deck of the dolly. The camera was placed in position and the counterweights were added. As soon as the DP tried to move the camera, the whole kit and kaboodle came off the dolly and it took five large men to keep the several-hundred-pound apparatus from crashing into a very expensive looking grand piano. Disaster was narroly averted. Okay, lesson learned. Whoever was responsible for the Willy Wonka incident was not so lucky in his lesson.

20 years later... 

...the 578,000 victims of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in India will finally be compensated. $330 million, to be exact, which works out to less than $600 per person. Unfortunately, when the award was decided in 1989, the number of killed and injured people was thought to be about a fifth of what we now know it to be. The Indian government has had the money all this time--Union Carbide paid up in '89--but it took an Indian Supreme Court ruling yesterday to conclude that maybe it's time for the people to get paid.


Lance Rocks! 

Lance is kicking ass (from this story on the BBC news site):
Lance Armstrong has moved back into the race lead after a dramatic victory on stage 15 of the Tour de France.   The Texan had gone into Tuesday's stage 22 seconds behind race leader Thomas Voeckler but easily overhauled the Frenchman in a tense finish.  


It's poetry. The poetry of spam. 

This poem was lovingly handcrafted from spam found in my Yahoo spam folder. The title and each line of the poem represents a spam subject line in its entirety.

narcissist crisp eagle

Jfspine, beautiful gals strip down for you
blood clot onlookers inside
Be great
She will smile tonight
Feel great
re. the grey veil fleeing
Kara, is this the correct address?
The Lowest Just Got Lower
Dave did it, so can you
from Bob (your school friend) inhibited
gomlike kravy
All For Your Pets
Re: to his visitor, 'though,
SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT: jerk it in here.


Pistol en Paris 

Vermonter, multimedia virtuoso, and former chainsaw of Babylon Pistol Stamen has landed an amazing opportunity to live and work in France and India. He's started a blog to document his experiences. He probably couldn't be any less homesick, but stop in and say hello anyway.


Monday, July 19, 2004

You're No Good (Linda Ronstadt!) 

July 19, 2004 | LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Singer Linda Ronstadt not only got booed, she got the boot after lauding filmmaker Michael Moore and his new movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" during a performance at the Aladdin hotel-casino.

Before singing "Desperado" for an encore Saturday night, the 58-year-old rocker called Moore a "great American patriot" and "someone who is spreading the truth." She also encouraged everybody to see the documentary about President Bush.

Ronstadt's comments drew loud boos and some of the 4,500 people in attendance stormed out of the theater. People also tore down concert posters and tossed cocktails into the air.

"It was a very ugly scene," Aladdin President Bill Timmins told The Associated Press. "She praised him and all of a sudden all bedlam broke loose."


105 my high score so far. This game is hard, but addictive. Hint: use the arrow keys.

via Metafilter

Daily Show Humor 

In a comments section in a below post this Daily Show graphic was mentioned and I just found it over at bOING bOING so I thought I'd reproduce it here for a chuckle. Inspired by a stupid remark comparing homosexuality to sex with a box turtle (only in his notes, it was apparently never actually said) by Texas Senator John Cornyn, it goes: two straight parents are better than one straight parent, which is still better than two gay parents, which is equal to a man screwing a turtle.


Sunspot 0652 

This one is a biggie and it's coming around to face us. With any luck the Earth will soon be bombarded with solar material and we'll get some nice auroras. The image below is from today taken by SoHO.


Request for some help with blog-tweaking 

Are any Candleblog readers snappy with the html? I am putting out a general request for some assistance tweaking the look and functionality of Candleblog. I'd rather tweak the existing template than chuck it out and start all over and the changes I have in mind should be fairly straight forward, but they are beyond my skill level and every attempt I have made has been disasterous. Allow me to describe what I'm looking for w/r/t changes:

Mostly, I would just like to mirror the right hand sidebar on the left side of the screen and leave the blog posts in the center. That way I can spread my links and profiles and buttons around a bit. I like the functionality of Dohiyi Mir, for example, but I want to maintain the simple style that Candleblog currently has.

NOTE: I just spent 20 minutes making a photoshopped mock up of what the blog would sort-of look like only to find that blogger's "upload image" function is not working. I'm sure glad blogger is a free service--I'd hate to have to go through all the hassle of demanding my money back. grumble grumble.

I may also want to do some color tweaking, etc., but that stuff I can mostly figure out on my own.

Anyone? Bueller?

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Run Sardine Run! 

Okay, if you don't know anything about the sardine run along Africa's east coast, check out this BBC photo story.  The volume of sardines, the role of dolphin, the adaptation of various species... holy heck - no wonder the BBC called this "one of the biggest marine events on the planet".
Great Ceasar's Ghost!


You just don't hear about stuff like this in Vermont 

My family is divided. Half of us, my mom and myself, live in quiet, liberal, pastoral Vermont. The other half, my brother and my dad, live in the state where this happened.

To be fair, domestic abuse certainly does occur in Vermont. Wildlife is not usually involved, but it does happen.

via die puny humans

Found Photos 

Beware: This will take up most of the rest of your day.
DISCLAIMER - these were found by doing a search using p2p programs. people share their own personal digital photos in their shared folders, i'm thinking they put them there for friends or family to download or just select their whole my documents folder as shared.


Saturday, July 17, 2004

17 Years Ago... 

July 17, 1987 was the day that Spine drove our friend Andrea and me under a tanker truck on I-88 near Oneonta, NY. Andrea's white Chevy Nova was a goner, she had a mild concussion and Spine was... well, he was scarred for life. I remember laughing uncontrollabley with Spine in the back of the ambulance, realizing how tantilizingly close to death we had just come. Then came the long, lonely bus ride back to Burlington--tails placed squarely between our legs. It occurs to me now that I was 17 years old 17 years ago. Maybe I did die on that day and the ensuing 17 years has all been one big moment-of-death experience. Whoa. I definitely shouldn't have had that last bong hit.

UPDATE: Spine adds these thoughts about that day half my life ago:
I had forgotten the date. I'm glad to know it again, because that
accident is still among the most important events of my life. I think
about it often. It's come up in therapy more than once. It's something
that I always reveal at some point to people I become close to, and
when I do I'm stunned anew by the terrible realization of how close I
came to having my life snuffed out at 16. And then I think about how
close I came to killing my friends, too, and the thought of it is so
painful that I wonder why the accident doesn't haunt me even more than
it does. Neither Bill nor Andrea treated me any different after the
accident, and in fact, no one did. I didn't get in trouble with my
parents--no serious trouble, anyway. They were probably just glad to
have me back alive, and the fact that they never saw the car or my open
wound probably made the accident somewhat abstract for them. I guess
I'm glad they don't know how utterly terrible it was. I sometimes
wonder, though, whether the lack of any real consequences from the
accident caused the trauma to recede, still potent with unresolved
questions and fears, into my unconscious mind.

For a long time, I described it as a freak accident. That I was passing
the tanker, and our car was either blown toward or sucked toward the
truck, and when I tried to turn away I overcorrected and ended up under
the truck's back tires. It was years before I could admit to myself and
others that the accident happened because I wasn't paying attention. It
was entirely my fault.

I was so detached at that age from personal responsibility and
self-respect. Typical for a teenager, perhaps, but I had it bad. I wish
I could say that the accident imbued me with an appreciation of my own
mortality, but I had several more years of recklessness ahead of me.
When I describe those years to people who didn't know me then, they
have a hard time believing it. I've mellowed out--at least where the
physical safety of myself and others is concerned. I no longer feel the
need, for example, to pass three cars at a time on a winding country
road--a need that resulted in another totaled car, about a year after
the first one.

In sum: I am very sad that I got myself and my friends into a terrible
accident and scared my loved ones. I am very, very happy that I didn't
kill Bill or Andrea or, to a lesser degree, myself. And I'm delighted
that it was I who walked away from the wreck scarred for life, while
Bill and Andrea were unhurt.


35 Years Ago... 

102:45:57 Duke: We copy you down, Eagle.

102:45:58 Armstrong (on-board): Engine arm is off. (Pause) Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

102:46:06 Duke: (Momentarily tongue-tied) Roger, Twan...(correcting himself) Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot.

102:46:16 Aldrin: Thank you.
Apollo 11 Lunar surface Journal.

Historic Headline.

Debunking the Apollo hoax claims.

via Metafilter

UPDATE: July 16th is actually the anniversary of the Apollo launch. The anniversary of the landing is July 20th.

59 Years Ago... 

At time T = -45 seconds I lay prone facing Zero wearing ordinary sun glasses and holding in one hand a stop watch and in the other the welding glass issued by the stockroom. I watched the second-hand until T = -5 seconds when I lowered my head onto the sand bank in such a way that a slight rise in the ground completely shielded me from Zero. I placed the welding glass over the right lens of my sun glasses, the left lens of which was convered by an opaque cardboard shield. I counted seconds and at zero began to raise my head just over the protecting rise. During this motion the gadget went off while I was looking at it or possibly a small fraction of a second before. What I saw first was a brilliant violet glow entering my eyes by reflection from the ground and from the surroundings generally. I had not raised my head quite enough to provide a clear vision of Zero. Immediately after this brilliant violet flash, which was somewhat blinding, I observed through the welding glass, centered at the direction of the tower an enormous and brilliant disk of white light. The sensation lasted for such a short time and the light was so great that I cannot be sure of the shape observed. I remember it only as a well-marked vaguely round pattern. This disk was a true white in color, even through the welding glass which makes the sun's disk distinctly deep green. On subsequently looking at the noon sun through these glasses I have been led to estimate this initial stage of the gadget as corresponding to a color much whiter or bluer and a brightness several times greater than that of the noon sun. I felt a strong sensation of heat on the exposed skin of face and arms, lasting for several seconds and at least as intense as the direct noon sun.

It should be noted that my eyes were adapted to twilight or perhaps even to somewhat brighter light because of the use of the radio dial light I had made just previous to the T -45 second signal.
Eyewitness accounts of the Trinity test.

via Metafilter

Friday, July 16, 2004

I, Robot 

So this afternoon I went to go see the film that was "suggested by" Isaac Asimov's seminal collection of robot short stories, I, Robot. The stories in the book are all mysteries involving robots and Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics, which are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Usually the stories involved some combination of events whereby the Three Laws were either circumvented or conflicted resulting in a robot behaving oddly or malevolently. "Robo-psychologist," Dr. Susan Calvin would then try to determine what went wrong. Calvin, a dry, intellectual scientist in her 40s, was the protagonist in most of the stories. In the film, she's smokin' hot and played by sexy Bridget Moynahan. The actual protagonist is Will Smith, who plays a renegade, luddite cop who is "predjudiced" against robots.

In fairness, the film does contain some of the spirit of Asimov's original stories--the Three Laws, robo-psychology, luddism--but ultimately it is a typical Hollywood sci-fi action film, corny dialogue, surprise twist and all.

I, Robot is also guilty of one of the most annoying aspects of most recent Hollywood sci-fi movies. It's a pet peeve of mine, but I hate it when they set these films just a few years into the future and then introduce radical sci-fi elements. This film is set in 2035--a scant 31 years in the future--and yet Chicago, where the film takes place, is almost unrecognizable due to all of the amazing new skyscrapers and futuristic transportation modes. Do you know how long it takes to build a major skyscraper? Even if they started right now they could not change the Chicago skyline so dramatically in a mere 31 years. Gas-powered transportation is an antiquated thing of the past and all automobiles travel at fantastic speeds by auto-pilot. Most egregious of all is the intense level of AI that is required for this story to work. The level of AI they are depicting is at least 100 years in the future if it comes at all. This film should have taken place in 2135--then I could have suspended my disbelief a bit more gently.

UPDATE (further reading): Backwards City points to this page, which has several articles deconstructing Asimov's Three Laws.


The upgrade to Firefox 0.9.1 fixed the Blogger issues I was having. Thanks to Ben from Hey, you for the advise.

I just watched I, Robot and I have some thoughts about it but we're going to check out a new Mexican joint tonight so I'll have to write about it later.

Talk about bargains! Here are some domain names that have recently sold on eBay for $.01. I wish the new proprietors much success in their online business ventures.



Ok, now I have no tools at all on my "create post" page at blogger. WTF is going on over there? All I have now is a title field, and a post field--no link button, spell check, italics, bold or preview. I'm on my G4 at home using Firefox. I checked and IE is the same way. Safari did show a spell check and image upload button, but that was it. This is becoming annoying.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

My job... 

... just keeps getting more and more interesting. This is a former channel 15 producer that just emailed us about producing more shows. Stay tuned, fellow aliens! See also his other site, The American Register. True land of the home stuff.

Here is his email (he's sending it to "various access studios" so I don't think I'm abusing his privacy):
I'm an internet publisher who who is being censored and I would like to produce investigative news programs on access tv as an alternative.

I would also like to instruct people on tv show production so that their shows look professional and interesting__as mine.

My story is very interesting in that I am one of the few internet publishers who is a former NASA scientist and who is being kept as an exile on the streets.

My investigative news magazine is about those people in society that we are not supposed to talk about__the Republicans? Well, yes, sort-a. I research the existence and agenda of the CIA-Alien Race and how they have changed our society from a democratic society to a society of machine-like slaves. I research all of American culture and analyze from the point of view that this country might actually be an amusement park for aliens and that we humans are part of that, shall we say, amusement.

If you are interested in having a "real" person at the studio then contact me and offer me a position. The money isn't important. I can produce a show that is very controversial, very real, and teach people the power of television.

Hope we can work together,

Sincerely Yours,

Wayne E. Manzo,
From the nasty hive streets of Columbus, Ohio



This is a Firefox test. I am using the html interface (most similar to the old blogger interface) to see what happens. Wish me luck.


Okay, so I just wanted to make a post about this site, which lists all of the things that are "the new black." So I went to the blogger page that lets me create a post and was trying to think of a pithy title and what do I see? Blogger has a brand new posting interface! I can now change fonts, sizes, colors, I can add bulleted, or numbered lists, and much more. This is a significant upgrade. Blogger is getting sophisticated and shit.

memepool is the new black.


Hawking Loses Bet 

BBC News:
The world-famous physicist addresses an international conference on Wednesday to revise his claim that black holes destroy everything that fall into them.

It appears black holes may after all allow information in them to escape.

His new findings could even help solve the "black hole information paradox", a crucial puzzle of modern physics.

Hawking has not yet revealed the detailed maths behind his results. But vague details about the new findings have leaked out from a seminar Hawking gave at the University of Cambridge.

Gary Gibbons, another physicist at Cambridge who attended the seminar, said Hawking's newly defined black holes do not have a well-delineated "event horizon" that hides everything in them from the outside world.

'Possible solution'

"It's possible that what he presented in the seminar is a solution," Professor Gibbons told New Scientist magazine. "But I think you have to say the jury is still out."

Hawking's own work was responsible for generating the black hole information paradox.

In 1976, he calculated that once a black hole forms, it radiates energy and starts losing mass. This "Hawking radiation" gives no information about matter inside the black hole and once the black hole evaporates, all information is lost.

But this runs contrary to the laws of quantum physics, which dictate that this information can never be completely lost.

The physicist argued that the extreme gravitational fields of black holes overturned these laws.

Hawking's new black holes never completely destroy everything that falls in. Instead, they continue to emit radiation for extended periods, and eventually open up to reveal the information within them.

The U-turn could cost Hawking an encyclopaedia. He and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, of California Institute of Technology, made a bet on the theory with an oppenent of the idea, John Preskill, also of Caltech.

Hawking and Thorne are expected to present Preskill with an encyclopaedia of his choice.
via die puny humans

Tulsa, OK Online Community Television Museum 

Every city of reasonable size has a history of locally-produced programming. As soon at TV became a common household appliance, local TV stations began producing their own programming--news (of course), variety, talk shows, etc. These shows varied from city to city, but also had some elements in common. The arrival of public access in the 70s and 80s increased the number of these shows dramatically. It's still unclear what effect the vast ballooning of cable networks and digital technology will ultimately have on community-based tv, but in the meantime, here is an online museum of locally produced tv in Tulsa, OK.


New Sky Captain Trailer 

My nerd senses are tingling. Here.

via Backwards City

What is it with these people? 

Jerry Falwell compares gay marriage to slavery.

Grover Norquist compares the estate tax to the Holocaust.

And, of course, Rick "I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts" Santorum compares homosexuals to people who have sex with animals.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Bill: Bound For Gitmo 

So I have a daily visitor from someone who has an "" IP address. She/he generally spends about 5 or 6 minutes a day looking at Candleblog. Whoever you are, please email me to reassure me that my Barbie-in-a-blender and astronomy nerd posts aren't provoking a military investigation!

Actually, if Candleblog was under investigation it's unlikely that the authorities would use an obvious ISP like the army. Though it was only a few years ago that Vermont state troopers stopped putting the bright red state license plates on their "unmarked" cars, so who knows?

The Incredible Hulk's Blog 



National Barbie in a Blender Day has launched an official site for the National Barbie-in-a-Blender Day project, at Users are invited to submit artistic pieces inspired by Forsythe's "Food Chain Barbie" series to for the site's upcoming gallery of submitted work.
Link. via bOING bOING

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Compare and contrast 

When the Democrats need someone to run for office in a pinch, they ask Walter Mondale or James Lautenberg. When the Republicans need someone, they ask Mike Ditka.


Ditka says: "I've got to be firmly convinced in my mind that I really think I can make a difference [before deciding to seek the Republican nomination]. ... If I'm just going to be another schmuck up there in Washington then it wouldn't be fun for me."

Ditka means: "If I do this thing, do I get to be the star of the Senate? Will my colleagues dump Gatorade over my head after I cast a vote?"

Update 2: Ditka has decided not to run, and the magnitude of the Senate's loss is becoming clear. Here's Ditka on gay marriage:
"What's the matter with right and wrong? Talk about right and wrong. It's either right or wrong. There's no in-between," Ditka said. "And I'm not going to change, and you're not going to change me, no matter if some judge in the state of Massachusetts or the Supreme Court says it's right. It's not right. Wrong is wrong."

No wonder the Republicans wanted this guy.


The Question That Needs to Be Asked 

"Is President Bush a Homo?"

via Metafilter

The Center For Cartoon Studies and Related Ephemera 

It will open in White River Jct., VT in the fall of '05.

via Fluid Motion via UV Scene

This is only the beginning. 

Yahoo News:
Afraid of Fines, PBS Bleeps Words in Dreyfuss Show

By Barry Garron

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Three foul words, including the F-word, have been bleeped from a new PBS drama, much to the chagrin of Richard Dreyfuss (news), its star and executive producer.

Dreyfuss and fellow executive producer David Black, a veteran TV writer, said that they reluctantly agreed to abide by new Federal Communications Commission (news - web sites) language standards, but only to keep PBS, producing station KCET/Hollywood and other public TV stations from being slapped with onerous fines.

The drama, "Cop Shop," which also stars Blair Brown, Rosie Perez, Rita Moreno and Jay Thomas, is to air Oct. 6 as the latest edition of the "PBS Hollywood Presents" series.

Dreyfuss and Black spelled out their reasons for the compliance in statements read at the outset of a session Friday at the TV critics' summer press tour in Century City. Each also criticized the political pressures that led to the bleeps in the two-part, 90-minute program.

"The new FCC (news - web sites) regulations represent an unacceptable assault on our First Amendment rights, on everyone's First Amendment rights, an act unworthy of a free country, an act of censorship," Black told the critics. To underscore the irony of the required bleeping, Black added: "As for the word 'f---,' I stand with Vice President (Dick) Cheney, who recently used the word on the Senate floor and who said sometimes you have to use it unapologetically because it makes you feel better afterwards."

Dreyfuss, speaking via satellite from New York, where he is starring in "Sly Fox" on Broadway even as he battles pneumonia, called the required deletion of the words "a real-world moral and ethical battle with grimly wrongheaded un-American types who play pick and choose when they define our freedoms of speech and religion as it fits their particular political needs."

He added: "Officeholders should remember that we are not children and shouldn't be patronized or protected from ourselves."

In the past, PBS often produced two copies of controversial programs, with and without possibly offensive language. That let each of the 349 public TV stations decide for themselves which version to run.

Coby Atlas, PBS senior vp and co-chief programing executive, said new FCC rules have removed this as an option.

"Would we be able to green light today what we were able to greenlight yesterday? That's the million dollar question," she said. "I want to say we would and I want to say that we would work with the filmmakers and the creators to figure out how to do this."

PBS can't risk heavy fines that might be imposed if the FCC considers language to be indecent, said Mary Mazur, senior exec producer of the series, the last production of which was "The Gin Game" starring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. "We're obligated to err on the side of caution and we're obligated to not put our member stations in harm's way."
via die puny humans

A Hot Summer of Cool Political Docs 

At our local art movie house right now there are three anti corporate/anti right-wing media documentaries playing: Fahrenheit 9/11 (of course), Supersize Me and Control Room. This summer has also seen the release of the anti-corporate, The Corporation and my friend Deb's Howard Zinn profile, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train. Most recently is Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, a documentary uncovering the depth of the right wing bias at Fox News. Salon has a great review of the film (get a free day pass by watching an ad) and here is a link to a story about Fox's response.

Will this deluge of information actually make a difference? I guess we'll see in November, but it's hard to have hope when the numbers are so scary.

The Spine 

I just bought and listened to TMBG's new album, The Spine. As always, it rocks. Flansburgh's songs are really good and Linnell's songs are fucking brilliant. After my first listen, I am particularly enamoured of the first track, Experimental Film. Here are the lyrics:
The color of infinity inside an empty glass
I'm squinting my eye and turning off
And on and on and off the light

It's for this experimental film
Which nobody knows about
And which I'm still figuring out
What's going to go in my experimental film?

Yeah--you're all gonna be in this experimental film
And even though I can't explain it
I already know how great it's

I already know the ending it's
The part that makes your face implode
I don't know what, what makes your face implode
But that's the way the movie ends

And in my experimental film
Which nobody knows about
But which I'm still figuring out
Your face implodes at my experimental film

UPDATE: Candleblog regular Ron Zombie has pointed out that TMBG has teamed up with to make a flash-video for Experimental Film. Yay! I love it when my pop-cultural heroes decide to collaborate! Here it's.

Fame And Fortune 

The Burlington Free Press has an article today about the 251 Club's 50th anniversary, and Stef and I are in it!


Monday, July 12, 2004

Land of the Home: Double Labyrinths Are Different 

Danville, Vermont (my home town) is host to the American Society of Dowsers. It's really the international center of dowsing. This article appeared in the May, 2004 issue of the local North Star Monthly:

This file contains the full text of the article (with omissions marked "[...]"). I didn't post it to make fun of dowsers - I posted it because ... uh ... I can't really describe it.


The Forbidden Library 


via Metafilter

Funny political flash cartoon 

I found this through Metafilter. As they say, most of these political flash things leave me cold, but the guys at Jib Jab are pretty funny and they demonstrate their humor prowess in this cute little cartoon.

NYTimes on comics 

Every couple of years, some newspaper or magazine runs an article about how comic books aren't just for kids anymore. The latest one is from this Sunday's NYT Magazine. It's over seven thousand words long! I haven't read the whole thing yet, but it looks like a great intro to the "graphic novel" genre. There's also a good group photo of Seth, Chester Brown, Adrian Tomine, Speigelman and Joe Sacco. Don't miss the slide show with audio commentary by the cartoonists.
Read the NYTimes piece (free registration required).

There was a minor flowering of serious comic books in the mid-80's, with the almost simultaneous appearance of Art Spiegelman's groundbreaking ''Maus''; of the ''Love and Rockets'' series, by two California brothers, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez; and of two exceptionally smart and ambitious superhero-based books, ''Watchmen,'' by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and ''Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,'' by Frank Miller. Newspapers and magazines ran articles with virtually the same headline: ''Crash! Zap! Pow! Comics Aren't Just for Kids Anymore!'' But the movement failed to take hold, in large part because there weren't enough other books on the same level.

The difference this time is that there is something like a critical mass of artists, young and old, uncovering new possibilities in this once-marginal form, and a new generation of readers, perhaps, who have grown up staring at cartoon images on their computer screens and in their video games, not to mention the savvy librarians and teachers who now cater to their interests and short attention spans. The publicity that has spilled over from movies like ''Ghost World,'' originally a graphic novel by Dan Clowes, has certainly not hurt. And there is much better distribution of high-end comics now, thanks in part to two enterprising publishers, Drawn and Quarterly in Montreal and Fantagraphics Books in Seattle, which have managed to get their wares into traditional bookstores, not just the comics specialty shops. Some of the better-known graphic novels are published not by comics companies at all but by mainstream publishing houses -- by Pantheon, in particular -- and have put up mainstream sales numbers. ''Persepolis,'' for example, Marjane Satrapi's charming, poignant story, drawn in small black-and-white panels that evoke Persian miniatures, about a young girl growing up in Iran and her family's suffering following the 1979 Islamic revolution, has sold 450,000 copies worldwide so far; ''Jimmy Corrigan'' sold 100,000 in hardback, and the newly released paperback is also moving briskly.
UPDATE: Here is an interesting string of comments about the article at Metafilter.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

We're # 5! 

Candleblog is the number five Yahoo search result for the phrase "silicone repair kit."

"This is the kind of spontaneous publicity I need!"
--Naven R. Johnson

Rainbow Primates 

Amy L. sent me this link. The subject of her email was "Holy Jesus."
My Primate means more to me, than anything,
She's the wish I'd once dreamt,
She is an Angel, sent by God,
To ease my heart's lament.

She's my little angel, my prize,
The gleam within my eyes,
I love her more than anything,
And I hate it when she cries.

I love my little monkey with all my heart,
She's an Angel from above,
She has given me more than I can give,
She taught me how to "love".


The Dots Never Existed 

MSNBC article via Metafilter

The more he read, the more uneasy he became. In early February 2003 Colin Powell was putting the finishing touches on his speech to the United Nations spelling out the case for war in Iraq. Across the Potomac River, a Pentagon intelligence analyst going over the facts in the speech was alarmed at how shaky that case was. Powell's presentation relied heavily on the claims of one especially dubious Iraqi defector, dubbed "Curve Ball" inside the intel community. A self-proclaimed chemical engineer who was the brother of a top aide to Iraqi National Congress chief Ahmad Chalabi, Curve Ball had told the German intelligence service that Iraq had a fleet of seven mobile labs used to manufacture deadly biological weapons. But nobody inside the U.S. government had ever actually spoken to the informant—except the Pentagon analyst, who concluded the man was an alcoholic and utterly useless as a source. He recalled that Curve Ball had shown up for their only meeting nursing a "terrible hangover."


Saturday, July 10, 2004

"I dreamt of being smothered." 

That friend of Spine's friend is at it again, this time she re-creates one of my all time favorite films, Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece, Alien. As always, this 30 second version is re-enacted by bunnies. Angryalien, indeed.


I’m sitting in the Tampa terminal and I have a few minutes before my flight to JFK begins boarding so I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts about this airline called jetBlue.

This is one efficient freaking airline. Let me explain my a bit about my experience flying from Burlington to Fort Meyers last week:

Burlington’s jetBlue franchise only flies to New York’s JFK so that was the first leg of the trip. The flight was on time and landed on schedule to the minute. As soon as I left the plane at JFK, I walked briskly to my connecting flight’s gate—only one concourse away—and arrived just in time to hear the final boarding call for my flight. I walked off the people-mover sidewalk, right up to the gate agent, and handed him my boarding pass. I sat down in my seat, they went through the safety stuff and we were in the air. I’ve had close calls like that before because my first flight was delayed, but jetBlue booked my flight with only a few minutes of on the ground time. My flight from JFK to Fort Meyers arrived 19 minutes ahead of schedule. They are on the ball and here are a few tricks they use to limit their ground time and keep their flights in the air:

First of all, I think they must pay their ground and flight crews a little something extra because I’ve never encountered such, well, competence in an airline before. Everyone from the guy at the curbside who checked my bag to the gate agent who chatted me up about my iBook to the flight attendant who gave me an extra pack of almonds was really on the ball. Secondly, they prepare the cabin for the next group of passengers while they are still in the air—saving precious minutes that would otherwise be spent on the ground. Thirdly, when it’s time to exit the plane, they open up the front door for jet-way access to the terminal and they also open the rear door so the back half of the plane can exit via the ground. That way, they can deplane the passengers twice as fast. They also don’t use those cumbersome carts for snacks and beverages—they just have the flight attendants roam the aisle with trays and cover more ground faster that way. (Blogging from the air now.) JetBlue never overbooks its flights, a technique for ensuring no empty seats practiced by all other airlines.

Emily’s dad is a pilot of Continental so I’m sure we will fly that airline for many of our personal trips, but if we’re paying full ticket price and if they go there, jetBlue will get my patronage from here on out.

Supposedly jetBlue offers free wifi in the JFK terminal. If so, I’ll publish this entry when I land.

--Bill @ 39,240 ft. crossing the border over Georgia

7:49 pm
Yup, they do not lie. Free wireless. Good thing, since I will be here for 2 hours. I like the NYC airport crowd better than the Tampa one. Even here in the airport I can sense that no bullshit New York-ness attitude. I can tell I'm closer to home.

Fun With Portland Community Media Folks 

So tonight's party at the Florida Aquarium was interesting. I had never before had the experience of strolling through a full-on wildlife museum with a mixed drink in my hand. There is something to be said for staring at the eyes of a 1000 pound "goliath grouper" through a 1/4 inch of plexi-glass while intoxicated.

The wildlife exhibits became a sort-of refuge for those of us at the party who were not interested in DJ-choreographed line-dancing to pop music. The noise from the speakers permeated the entire museum save for the sanctuary of the wildlife exhibits--so we humans with dignity had to join the fauna for some sanity.

While hiding from the annoying activities downstairs, I ran into some very nice folks from Portland Community Media and I ended up spending the rest of the evening with them, drinking and talking media, law, drugs, marraige, music... you name it. Since Emily and I have plans to be in Portland in a few weeks, I think I will have to poke my head in their studio and say hi. Michael is a lawyer who serves on PCM's board, Emily is a "playback technician" (it astounds me that PCM specializes their departments so specifically--at VCAM we all do everything), and Ray is an engineer. I also met and talked with an access guy from Tacoma, Washington and a fascinating (and extremely well-dressed) couple from Amsterdam. Tonight was the most fun I've had at the conference yet. I wish I'd met these folks two days ago.


I fly home tomorrow evening, if everything goes according to schedule.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Notes from the ACM conference 

At today's luncheon and awards ceremony I was seated one table away from Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. She was there to receive the George Stoney Award, and her speech was inspiring. She had been doing community radio in NYC when in September of 2001, she agreed to try simulcasting on Manhattan's Neighborhood Network public access tv station "as long as it didn't introduce a hum into the signal." The next day, the 9/11 attacks happened and Amy Goodman was the closest-to-ground-zero national broadcast of the event (it went out over the Deep Dish tv network). Since then, Democracy Now has spread all over the country on indy media outlets. Amy Goodman appears almost daily on one show or another on VCAM so her face was very familiar to me. She got a thunderous standing ovation. She's a heroine of community and independent media and journalism.

Karen & I went out last night and saw King Arthur. Stellan Skarsgård plays the Saxon heavy and he is so cool. The film was much better than I thought it was going to be. The "Arthurian" parts are stupid, but it's not a bad fictional account of a Saxon invasion of Briton. I'll have to check with Emily on the historical accuracy meter, but the Roman wall looked much as it did in the one documentary I watched about that period. Maybe I've been away from my girlfriend for too long, but the other reason I enjoyed the film was Keira Knightley. -insert sound of sexy tiger growl/purr- It's funny, because while I thought she was "pretty" in Pirates of the Caribbean and Bend it Like Beckham, I never thought of her as the total hottie she is in King Arthur. Must be the Florida heat.

Today we're going to try to rent a car and go into St. Petersburg to the Dali museum. I saw a Dali exhibition in Montreal in 1988 and was pretty blown away. This should be interesting.

Home tomorrow night.

UPDATE: They were all out of rental cars so no Dali museum. Instead, we took the trolley around through the historic Ybor City area (historic cigar manufacturing town). Unfortunately, we did it at 3pm and it's pretty much all night clubs. I stopped in a shirt store and found some really lovely silk shirts... that cost $110 a piece! No shirts for Bill today. So we're back at the hotel (the air conditioning really messes with my sinuses but it's a hell of a lot better than the heat!) and awaiting tonight's party at the Florida Aquarium.

Thursday, July 08, 2004


I spent an hour and a half this morning talking to the folks at the Newtek booth about replacing VCAM's old analog control room with a VT3. Rob (my boss) and I have been talking about it for some time--at least since last year's NAB--and I am now pretty much totally convinced it is the right move. The VT3 is a Windows-based live video switcher, non-linear editor, character generator, digital disk recorder and 3D effects generator. It is the proverbial bomb. Our educational access brethren at RETN just bought one and our plan was to wait and see how it integrates into their control room environment, but after today I am going to recommend to Rob that we just jump in and do it. The biggest drawback I can see is that we will have to dramatically redesign our control room's physical layout and wiring, but that's ultimately a good thing--it's nice to turn everything upside now and again to freshen our perspective. I'm psyched.

I also spent a good portion of the day learning about global media consolidation and how individual voices and free speech are in a pretty desperate place. There are a lot of really smart, dedicated people here. There's so much information, it's a shame there's only this weekend--I will miss a lot more than I will see.

Oh, and as I was perusing the Alliance for Community Media table, I struck up a conversation with the ACM staffer who was minding it, and it turns out I'm friends with his sister! Laurel Chase used to live in Burlington but now she's in the DC area in graduate school. We used to run in the same social circles and she appeared naked on TV with me once (during the now infamous "all-nude" episode of our old show, Studio 8 Uncensored). Small world.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Marriot Waterside Hotel 

I'm in Tampa now at the Waterside Hotel & Marina.

My brother drove me from Naples to my dad's place and my dad drove me the rest of the way up to Tampa. We had a flat tire on the way here and the side of the highway reeked of something god-awful.

I have internet access in my room for an additional charge of $10/night so you can expect daily (at least) blog entries from me during my stay (someday universal free wi-fi will be a reality). My co-worker Karen won't arrive until tomorrow so for now I am on my own. I have no idea what time the conferernce starts tomorrow or where to go, so I'll have to do some research online tonight. I may order room service (just did to get it under the wire--club sandwich and soda). I'm on the 18th floor. If I get bored later I may go a-wandering.

More later... I have to put on pants before room service gets here.

Bill Simmon Gets His Cheese Thing On 

Well, it was bound to happen. Sooner or later Bill had to finally move with the movers and shake with the shakers and make things come alive in the dairy case. Here's what happened: Cabot Cooperative Creamery, Inc. (also known as "Cabot Cheese") decided to make a "Nacho" flavored processed cheese. The problem was that some factions within the company worried that the Cabot brand would be diluted (Cabot makes internationally top-quality cheddars) while others considered the fact that a cheese that has superb flavor, stability in the fridge and excellent melting properties would sell widely. I asked Bill a presumably hypothetical question about his perspective on the matter and he clearly and unambiguously stated that he was exactly the demographic that, when buying processed cheese, would prefer to buy a top-notch processed cheese rather than, say, Velveeta. I took that information back to Cabot and passed the anecdote around to many people in the marketing and new products groups. The effect was, and is, that this product is now available in 8oz bars across the US beginning this month.... Okay, they had already committed to the first production run by the time I told the "Bill" story ... and they had already done market testing and had "Bill" answers everywhere ... and my telling of the anecdote wasn't that funny or inspiring ... but one woman said "Great - that's exactly why we're making it." So anyway, Thanks Bill.


General Relativity and the Triplets of Bellville 

When I saw the movie "Triplets of Bellville" I noticed in the opening credits that the animator had included Einstein's equation of the curvature of space in the frame of the "theater" scene. I mentioned it to friends, but nobody had noticed it. Apprently, it was not unnoticed by the American Physical Society in this story. I picked up the story today on the "Preposterous Univers" blog. See this link for more on the Triplets of Bellville Einstein equation issue.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

A Tiny Smudge and a Brush With My Deepest Fear 

We got Rob's 10 inch dob out last night to check out the sky (no jokes please). The waning gibbous moon had arisen at about midnight, which totally harshed our star-gazing mellow. The moon itself was quite cool. If you've never looked at the moon through a decent telescope, you should. It becomes instantly and viscerally clear that you are looking at another world. Then we started hunting some deep-sky objects but the light from the moon made this a difficult task. We found the North American nebula to be far too diffuse to see and we failed to locate the Lagoon and Trifid nebulae altogether, although we plan to try again tonight before moonrise. We did locate the easy Andromeda galaxy, but because of the moonlight, it was just a tiny smudge--made a bigger smudge with higher-power eyepieces.

As we walked the path through the everglades woods to the telescope sight, Rob stopped in front of me, said "shit," and started brushing himself off. I asked what was wrong and he said he had walked through a "banana spider web." He said he felt the spider run across his face. We looked around with the flashlight but couldn't find the thing. "Great," I said, "that's just what I wanted to hear." We walked the remaining 50 or 60 feet to the scope area with one hand held out in front of our faces in case we had any other close encounters. On the way, Rob related tales of giant spiders he had seen on his property and the scorpions that lived in his mailbox.

Kerry/Edwards '04 

So Kerry picked the senator from North Carolina after all...whew. There was some heavy speculation in the last few days that Kerry had settled on Gephardt--a prospect that was making many observers miserable.

I'm happy with this happy as a Dean guy could be, anyway. I look forward to seeing Edwards back on the campaign trail.


Monday, July 05, 2004

Dean but not forgotten 

Entertaining article about Howard Dean in New York magazine.

[T]his is a strange time to be Howard Dean, a man who had the nomination seemingly within his grasp and then lost it all, running through more than $50 million without winning a single contested primary. Rather than poring over polling data and vetting potential running mates, he’s pondering offers for celebrity endorsements: So far, Dean has turned down TV ads for a submarine-sandwich chain and come close to doing an Herbal Essences shampoo commercial. “I drove my staff crazy with the Herbal Essences ad,” Dean says. “I wanted to know everything about it.”

That's pretty funny. Isn't Herbal Essences the shampoo brand whose ads feature women brought to orgasmic states of ecstasy while using the product? If so, I've no doubt that what Herbal Essences had in mind was Howard Dean in the shower, lathering up and letting go a mighty, shampoo-induced "Yeaarrghhh!"


My Cold is Back 

But now it's in my chest. Coughing a lot. Took an expectorant, we'll see. My whole family smokes, which doesn't help. Oh well, I will endeavor to persevere. Stay tuned... talk amonst yourselves. -cough-

Who prunes it? 

This place should be fake, but it's not.

Okay, so that's a computer-generated image. But they really did build this thing. It's called "The Palm," and it's located just off the shore of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Each "frond" of The Palm is lined with multimillion-dollar villas and sandy beaches. Check out the marketing video. It creeped me out in a way that is difficult to describe. I would really like to know who's buying these places.


Sunday, July 04, 2004

Transcript of Saddam's first day in court 


via Metafilter

The Three B's 

So I'm in Florida staying with my brother, Rob, and last night he takes me out to see some friends of his who are playing an impromptu hard rock gig at this little NASCAR-themed bar called The Three B's. This place has put an image of Dale Jr. on every visible surface and his racing number, "8," wraps around the joint on a checkered pattern. The only art anywhere in this bar is either NASCAR-related or a Budweiser advertisement--except one piece...

In the men's room is a framed poster of some blonde, bikinied, silicone-enhanced amazon. In the bottom corner of the poster is a notice entitled, "Funny Ha Ha or Funny Queer?" The notice was a sort-or sarcastic news article about the history of vandalism that this poor poster had been the recipient of. The author of the notice warned that any future tampering would result in the door being removed in the style of the "Collier County Jail." The note was funny, not so much in the way intended, but in its obvious homophobic overtones and extreme (over) use of apostrophe's.

So anyway, there was this one patron at the bar, an older, blonde gentleman who had clearly been drinking for some time. He wore a pink oxford shirt and sported a mustache, ala Dale Sr. He moved slowly about the bar, staggering slightly, and when he would pass either Rob or myself, he would gently touch us--as if attempting to steady his drunken legs--but in a light, almost caressing way. He gently raked his hand across Rob's back and the look Rob gave me told me that he found the experience a little odd. He walked past me twice and stroked both my back and my hand.

So here's the funny thing: I have hung out in lots of bars--straight bars that are gay-friendly, gay bars, rough townie bars, college bars--and I have never experienced such an obvious "hint." It was like a wink in a men's room (another thing I've never actually experienced), and it occured in a south Florida NASCAR bar! WTF?

Anyway, we're off to see my dad and meet my new step mother this evening. More fun stories later, I'm sure.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Off to Florida 

Tomorrow I'm flying down to south Florida for a week. I expect I'll be able to do some blogging from the road, but if things slow down around here, that's why. If anybody needs to contact me over the next week, you should probably use my Hotmail account: billsimmonathotmaildotcom. I hope everyone has a good Fourth and I'll post again from the sweltering heat and thunderstorms.

Friday, July 02, 2004

The most what? In a what? 

But Dean already has my info.

I'm joost keeding, Meester Kerry! Love ya, man. Really.

Off to Seattle for the weekend. Happy Fourth, my fellow Candlebloggers.

Pop quiz, hotshot 

From the description below, see if you can guess what this eBay hawker selling?
Practically new. Less than 10-months old!

1. It is a 2003 Body-5/ Head 4 model
2. Face-X System
3. Neck bolt!
4. All 3 entries.
5. Very clean and well-maintained doll.
6. Tanned skin, natural lips, brown eyes.
7. Softer silicone and better durability than older models.
8. One of the seamless dolls rather than the older models.
9. I am the only owner
10. Doll has no odors.

I will also add:

1. Silicone Repair Kit from Abyss
2. Two tubes of Silicone Adhesive -- both from Abyss
3. A complete Cleaning Kit
4. Shoes, Bra
5. Thong, Teddie, Panty Hose, with Rose display
6. Original Wig (pictured)
7. the original Shipping Crate with combination lock.

No tears on body (knees, elbows, neck, hips, etc) or face (lips, eyes, ears). There have been some slight vaginal tears but I have repaired them. All owners have to repair their doll from time to time. Nothing big. No major surgery ever performed! The wires inside the fingers are dislocated but this has happened to almost every doll. Other than these two things the doll is in perfect condition! No dents, no texture marks, no flat areas, no breast tears.

So long, Don Corleone 

Marlon Brando, dead at 80. I did a quick search for "brando" in Google Images, hoping to find a nice photo to include with this post. But there were too many to choose from. So I'd like to share some of the best results.


Land of the Home: Dan cops a 'tude. 

I sent this email this morning after a coworker in IS at an unnamed client of mine started publicly bad-mouthing (via email, with a long cc list) a project nicknamed "Yank" that I just initiated. I love working in IS.

TO XXXX: I need to be quite clear on a few points surrounding your emails on the Yank project. My frankness is necessary, though I must admit I prefer not having to deliver this kind of message:

1 - your choice of a pessimistic and argumentative thread (with the entire group on the cc list) deflates enthusiasm for the rest of us. it's hard enough to develop momentum with a constructive initiative without having you stab at this thing like a crazed serial killer. With the changes in the acct. dept and the conversion to the new whse, and the budget project and so on, we're all short on time and energy. save the debate about the validity of the group for an offline discussion with me, Jime [our boss], Jim and me, Bill Cosby or Napolean.

2 - please accept the fact that you may have no clue as to the value of this project and that is either because:
- it has no value (see #1 above)
- I didn't do a good job of justifying the project (see #1 above)
- or you really have no clue.
I have to trust Jim [our boss] to judge the value of the YANK group to IS and prefer that he alone rein me in when he sees probable cause. i don't trust your judgement and find your behavior inappropriate and subversive.

3 - by attaching a spreadsheet to my original email i clearly distracted you from reading the body of the email. you can either re-read the email or just simply don't attend the meetings. it's bad enough that i have to take the time to write this email, let alone repeat what i've written twice.

4 - your suggestion that this group is going to suffer from corrupting power-plays, ego-driven control freaks and arbitrary, evanescent agendas raises a huge concern on my part: not the realization that you have, through the wisdom of your years, earned a learned perspective on management dysfunction but a concern that your presence will be destructive to the creativity and opportunity of the group.

5 - i have to consider that the vehemence with which you are approaching your citicism is a symptom of manic behavior coupled with the paranoia that this group is composed of psychic vampires who will sap you of your precious mental fluids. i cannot assure you that this is not the case. in fact, i can go so far as to hint that there is some truth to that. your knowledge and data stores are seen as a commodity and your physical body is viewed just an autonomous operator. without the opportunity to plug you into the Acme 2000 Volt Absorbatron™ PsychoVac for periodic 'backflushing', the vampires will starve and the empire will collapse. you can save yourself by staying as far away from the YANKS (y=v, a=a, n=m, k=p, s=s: yanks = vamps) as possible or you can join us and be sucked dry and thrown away like a juiced orange rind.




Good Comeback 

So I was going to do a post about Pitchfork Media's recently released list of the top 100 albums of the seventies, but then I looked at the comments at the Metafilter thread about the list and instead I just want you to read the first one:
I live in the northeast. If I want an irrelevant opinion from an obnoxious hipster, I can stop someone on the street.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:08 AM PST on July 1
That's pretty funny. There are some other good comments too. Check it out.


Disney to Release Patriotic Counter-punch to F911 

I heard about this film a couple of weeks ago from a guy I know who's in it. George Woodard is a Vermont dairy farmer and part-time actor who I took a film production class or two with when I was in film school. He sent out an email mentioning that he was in this film called America's Heart and Soul that Disney was releasing. He downplayed it a lot, like it wasn't going to make a big splash or anything, but it looks like Disney is grooming it to be a counter-assault to Michael Moore's F911. Here is an excerpt from George's email:
I've had the privilege of being part of a film called "America's Heart and Soul". They filmed me and my son Henry here on the farm a while ago and put it in this film along with the stories of other people from all over the US of A.

I saw a preview of the film a few weeks ago and it is really something. You'll recognize people just like yourself, like your neighbors... I'm awful proud to have been a part of it, so much so that I'm actually stickin' my neck out and letting you all know about it.


It's not one of those high profile films with big stars and a lot of is just a great film about America and I hope you can find some time to go see it when it comes out. If you don't know where it's playing go to the website ( and you should be able to locate a theatre...or call 1-888-Disney6.
Disney is claiming the film is apolitical and no anti-F911 message is intended, but given the timing and all of the controversy w/r/t Disney and F911, that is simply not believable. I watched the trailer and this film appears to be a much more deeply devious piece of propaganda than Moore's polemic. Here are some interesting links I found through Metafilter:

SF Gate article

Financial Times article review

Is that the Hubble Space Telescope monitoring the "galactic bulge" or are you just happy to see me? 

The Hubble Space Telescope may have discovered as many as 100 new planets orbiting stars in our galaxy.

Hubble's harvest comes from a sweep of thousands of stars in the dome-like bulge of the Milky Way.

If confirmed it would almost double the number of planets known to be circling other stars to about 230.

The discovery will lend support to the idea that almost every sunlike star in our galaxy, and probably the Universe, is accompanied by planets.

'Most significant advance'

Steven Beckwith, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, told BBC News Online: "I think this work has the potential to be the most significant advance in discovering extra-solar planetary systems since the first planets were discovered in the mid-1990s.
Read the rest of the story here.

via Metafilter

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Future Soundtrack for America 

They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh is organizing a CD recording featuring a bunch of nerd-rock bands playing on behalf of Here's a link to a Billboard story about it.

Thanks Reba!

Important News for Us Diet Coke Heads 

Artificial Sweetener May Disrupt Body's Ability To Count Calories, According To New Study

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Choosing a diet soft drink over a regular, sugar-packed beverage may not be the best way to fight obesity, according to new research from Purdue University. But the researchers said this doesn't mean you should grab a regularly sweetened soft drink instead.

Professor Terry Davidson and associate professor Susan Swithers, both in the Department of Psychological Sciences, found that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the body's natural ability to "count" calories based on foods' sweetness. This finding may explain why increasing numbers of people in the United States lack the natural ability to regulate food intake and body weight. The researchers also found that thick liquids aren't as satisfying – calorie for calorie – as are more solid foods.

Based on the research, Davidson and Swithers suggest paying more attention to calories consumed and engaging in regular exercise to battle the bulge.

The Purdue's researchers' study, "A Pavlovian Approach to the Problem of Obesity," appears in the July issue of International Journal of Obesity. Davidson and Swithers, members of the Ingestive Behavior Research Center at Purdue, suggest that being able to automatically match caloric intake with caloric need depends on the body's ability to learn that the taste and feel of food by the mouth suggests the appropriate caloric intake. Much as Pavlov's dogs learned that the sound of a bell signaled food, people learn that both sweet tastes and dense, viscous foods signal high calories. This learning process begins very early in life and perhaps without conscious awareness, according to the researchers.

"The body's natural ability to regulate food intake and body weight may be weakened when this natural relationship is impaired by artificial sweeteners," said Davidson, an expert in behavioral neuroscience. "Without thinking about it, the body learns that it can use food characteristics such as sweetness and viscosity to gauge its caloric intake. The body may use this information to determine how much food is required to meet its caloric needs."
The rest of the story is here.


Cassini snaps one 

Bill's still asleep, so I'll post this new photo of a portion of Saturn's rings taken by the Cassini spacecraft. This shot shows the sunlit side of the rings.


Separated At Birth? 

On the left, Saddam Hussein in court today. On the right, Sybok from Star Trek V.

The Photoshopping of the President 

Interesting Salon story about the use of Photoshop for political satire. (Not sure if it's premium content or not; if it is, you may have to watch a brief ad before you get access to the article.)

I love Photoshop. I know a few cool tricks, but I've only scratched the surface of what can be done with that application. I should learn more. I've had the urge since I was a lad to manipulate images in amusing ways. Bill probably has a few of my early X-acto creations somewhere in a box. I enjoyed making delicate slices on a magazine ad or photo and introducing new elements to the composition by sliding them into the tabs. It was kind of exhilarating, too, because there was no "Undo" or "Delete History" option.