Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How I Met Al

When I poked into Joe's Americium Barium Grill, I wasn't looking for Mr. Uminum, but he fixed me in his steely gaze. I felt my spirits zinc. He was tall and bronzed, and spoke in a tinny voice. "If I had a nickel for every time you coppers have the brass to come here looking for me ..."

"Ore ..." I interrupted. "I might be looking for that missing mineral shipment from Bolivia, but that's none of your bismuth."

"I oughta fill you full of lead..."

Ironically, he never finished that thought.  A sudden power surge forced us both to reboot.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The 1%

There was a great graphic in XKCD yesterday, depicting the scale and distribution of money in the U.S.  However, because of it's scope and completeness, it may have obscured one issue which is at the heart of the whole Occupy Wall Street movement.

According to Forbes (quoting UC-Santa Barbara professor G. William Domhoff), the top 1% of the country controls 42.7% of the financial wealth, which looks something like this:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

From Paper to Pixels ...

Storybooks then ...

Storybooks now ...

(Go to the Web site to get the effect.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011


In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry and his friends visit the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic.  Part of this office is taken up by a vast storeroom in which prophesies are kept in glass spheres, like the proverbial crystal ball.  Like memories that get replayed in a Pensieve, the prophesies appear, in the movie at least, as wisps of smoke.

What would be immensely valuable to humankind would be the ability to keep ideas archived and available for immediate consumption. After all, in the long run, the only thing of value our species has produced is ideas, and perhaps the occasional realization of some of them. Some ideas are captured in objects that represent them ... buildings, machines, works of art.  But many are stored only in the limited transcriptions into books, musical scores, recordings, etc. These require time and some amount of cognitive effort to transmit their contents. You have to read a book or watch a movie or listen to music. Who's got time for that?

Mort Gerberg defined a cartoon as "instant communication of a funny idea."1  Of course, technically it's not instantaneous if you have to read the dialog or the caption, but it's probably as close as we've been able to come. So I think we should place greater value on cartoons as the ideal medium for preserving our culture and intellectual heritage.

And, needless to say, we should honor cartoonists above all others.

1Gerberg, Mort, Cartooning: The Art and the Business.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Out Of Your Way

There are two kinds of people in the world: human beings, and airline passengers. The first group occasionally smiles, relaxes, and seems to enjoy itself. The second group looks like the bedraggled, snow-covered protesters at Occupy Wall Street, but with less optimism. At least the protesters have some room to spread out.

Look at it another way: Even meat eaters often balk at consuming veal because of the inhumane (inanimate?) way the calves are treated. The calves are kept in pens so small they can't move for their entire lives, so they won't develop any muscle tone which might make the veal chewy. Yet airline passengers are confined in the same way for many hours at a time. Travelers are also herded like cattle, and given a good deal less to eat. No wonder they're moist and tender at the end of a long trip.

In short, I'm proposing a new organization ... P.E.T.A.P. - People for the Ethical Treatment of Airline Passengers. Hmm. Maybe we can get some celebrities to pose naked for us.  I mean for ads, of course.

In Edward Albee's play, Zoo Story, the character Jerry says, "Sometimes it's necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly." I'm not quite sure what he means by that, but I think it has something to do with air travel. Or not. I don't know. I read the play a long time ago.

The point is that even with all our modern technology, we still have to endure horrible conditions in order to travel by air. I think I speak for a lot of us. We are searched, corralled, herded, confined and forced to listen to seat belt buckling instructions.  And we can't even use my cell phone.