Sunday, July 29, 2007

Notorious Nobodies On the Web .....

From Frank, at Books, Inq., comes a link to this essay by Bryan Appleyard , which states, "the truth is, for the moment, that nobody knows what will happen next. Either we will get more narcissism and self-promotion, enhanced by ever more exotic technology, or this will turn out to be a phase. The blended iPods, the vacuous or weird web celebs, will come to be seen as the florid birth pangs of a technology that, in its highest manifestations, will succeed in bringing the world together. Human nature being what it is, however, there are good reasons to be sceptical if not downright pessimistic." ..... read the essay for yourself, and tell me what you think.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Up In the Sky ..... It's a Bird ..... It's a Plane .....

It's a blogger! ..... West Texas' very own Jimmy Patterson of Sticky Doorknobs is sitting in a small cage affair, set atop a 30-foot Genie scissor lift, in the H-E-B parking lot. He'll be doing it July 28-29, for 24 hours ..... and he'll be blogging the entire time.

It's his participation in
Blogathon 2007, and he's raising funds for Midland Fair Heavens. For this effort, he's posting to a special blogathon page here. I plan on contributing ..... and I hope you do, too.

I usually get my weekly grocery shopping done on Saturday mornings, at H-E-B, and I planned on looking Jimmy up - literally ...... and I was not alone. Younger Son was with me, and is still considering Jimmy's offer of a ride on the scissor lift in return for a donation. Also stopping in at that time were Eric of Fire Ant Gazette and HLB, Janie of Sounding Forth, and J.P. of Bleu Chocolate.

Der Tag .....

Today's the day it begins ..... West Texas blogger Jimmy Patterson of Sticky Doorknobs will be sitting in a small bucket, suspended from atop a 30-foot Genie scissor lift, in the H-E-B parking lot, July 28-29, for 24 hours ..... and he'll be blogging the entire time.

It will be his participation in
Blogathon 2007, and he'll be raising funds for Midland Fair Heavens. For this effort, he'll be posting to a special blogathon page here. I plan on contributing ..... and I hope you do, too. I usually get my weekly grocery shopping done on Saturday mornings, at H-E-B, and I plan on looking Jimmy up - literally.

Friday, July 27, 2007

What We See, and What We Get .....

A couple of web design-related posts on the West Texas blogosphere ..... Eric at Fire Ant Gazette pays a visit to Swindoll's Church Website ..... and Justin at Just In Time asks if you're a Design Activist or Design Delinquent .....

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Good News, Everyone! .....

From George at Sleepless in Midland comes this alert that new episodes of Futurama are on their way to the small screen via broadcast and at least one direct-to-DVD movie.


George offers a couple of nomination for 'Best Lines to Date' ..... here's mine (from Season 3, "Insane in the Mainframe") .....
Leela: "That's it, I'm going to show Fry he's human, the way only a woman can!"
Professor: "You're going to do his laundry?"
('smack' SFX as Amy slaps the Professor)

And here's my own query ..... my ten favorite episodes. What are yours?
"Space Pilot 3000"
"Hell is Other Robots"
"Xmas Story"
"The Deep South"
"Parasites Lost"
"Amazon Women in the Mood"
"The Luck of the Fryrish"
"Insane in the Mainframe"
"A Tale of Two Santas"

"Roswell That Ends Well"
"The Sting"
"The Farnsworth Parabox"
(Okay, so it turned out to be thirteen ..... bite my shiny metal ass!)

By the way, here's a great link for all things Futurama

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Comments de Tour de France, Partie Deux .....

The following was composed just before this report about Tour de France favorite Alexandre Vinokourov. Now come this report about Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen. I am only getting around to publishing it now, and it will probably be my last post about the Tour de France.

A Tour without Lance has had plenty of competition, plenty of excitement, plenty of drama, plenty of appeal ..... TDF with Lance Armstrong was great ..... TDF without Lance Armstrong is great.

My family's visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, last week included a bicycle trip for elder son and I, pedaling a pair of rented bikes up Cerro Gordo Road to the head of a canyon and a national forest, then down Canyon Road, back into town. The trip up was a bit of bike-and-hike for me ..... and I have a tremendous respect for how the TDF riders have handled the mountain stages of the race.

All in all, I think
Versus has done a great job covering the tour.

I think one of the hairiest jobs in sports would be driving the cars or motorcycles that accompany the riders along the race course.

Other sports associations, such as the National Basketball Association, have boasted about the physical and emotional closeness of the fans and the players ..... but that's NOTHING compared to the fans lining the route of the TDF ..... although I realize that closeness also has its drawbacks.

Dang Books! .....

Great, just GREAT! I go and read a book ..... and now I have to read another ... and then another!

It started earlier this year, with a stop at
The Book Nook, a store for used books and records operated by The Friends of the Midland County Public Library . Completely by accident, I came across a copy of "Fifth Business" by Robertson Davies. I had only read one other book by Davies ("The Rebel Angels") ..... but what a read that was!

So, I bought "Fifth Business" and took it home ..... though I didn't get around to reading it for a few months ..... and what a read THAT was! Some have called it Davies' best novel ..... me? ..... I would put it behind "Rebel Angels." But it was certainly good enough to make me want to read more ..... and it looks like I'll have to ..... because it turns out "Fifth Business" is the first installment of Davies'
Deptford Trilogy.

I want to know what ultimately becomes of Dunstan Ramsey and Paul Dempster, and the legacy of Boy Staunton ..... and now I'll have to read two more books to find out.

Dang Books!

Award for 'Best Continuing Coverage and Commentary of the Ongoing Menchaca Saga .....

Goes to George, at Sleepless in Midland ..... start at the top, and scroll down; or go directly to his "Life in the Tall City" category. Wallace, at Streams (but, curiously, not at Mean Street Kick Ass, also puts his two-cents in .... though he, like every other taxpayer in the Tall City, will be expected to pony-up a little more than that to adequately compensate the former city manager on the occasion of his departure.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Beckhamania .....

When I was a youngster, it was 'Beatlemania,' as America was swept-up by a British invasion ..... now, another Brit has landed on our shores, and America - including our own humble home - has been swept-up by 'Beckhamania.'

David Beckham, a star of England's legendary Manchester United and Spain's Real Madrid, and a longtime mainstay of England's national team, has now taken the field in America, as part of Major League Soccer's L.A. Galaxy.

Reactions in the sporting press are varied - from wild enthusiasm to wide yawns - about his move to America, and what impact the move might have on Major League Soccer, and the sport in general, here in the United States.

Reactions in the celebrity press have been, almost without exception, ecstatic. While pundits will examine the stats and debate the Becks athletic status, there is no doubting his celebrity status .... that and being married to Victoria (aka: 'Posh Spice') has guaranteed them a spot on the 'A List' in southern California, which the couple now calls home.

Just look at the pre-game show on ESPN the other night, when the L.A. Galaxy took on Celtic in a 'summer friendly' that would be Beckham's American playing debut. Even by ESPN standards, the pre-game was positively gushing. And the game itself included frequent tosses to interviews with celebrities in the stands (mostly talking about the Becks and the impact), and shots from the 'Beckham Cam.'

The impact has been felt even here, in West Texas ..... at least, in our home. Elder son is a soccer player ..... and through him, I have learned to become a soccer enthusiast. He's first-and-foremost a Man U fan, which includes owning a share of stock in that team. As for MLS, he's an FC Dallas fan, but he also loves L.A. ..... in fact, the first MLS game we ever saw together was the 2005 MLS Cup, when L.A. defeated the New England Revolution. When the news came that Beckham was coming to Los Angeles, there was talk in our house about what he'd do on the field in conjunction with two of elder son's favorite players, Landon Donovan and Cobi Jones.

He already has a new Galaxy home jersey, complete with Beckham's name and #23 ..... one of more than 300,000 sold in just the first week they were available ..... one indicator of 'the impact.'

Another indicator of the impact can be found in ticket sales ..... one of the games we got as part of a mini-season-pack from FC Dallas was a 'Super Liga' match with the Galaxy ..... which was already going to be a good game, but will now have the added attraction of Beckham. Earlier this week, a member of FC Dallas' front office told me that only 2,000 (out of 20,000) tickets remain for that game at Pizza Hut Park, in Frisco, Texas, and they are planning on adding bleachers to the stage at one end of the complex, for added seating ..... a packed house is almost unheard-of for a regular season game.

He also told me front offices for other teams around the country are also getting calls, asking about games with the Galaxy, asking about games with Beckham ..... and ticket sales are up around the league.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

E-Hanging With Jimmy .....

I'm waaaaaaayyyyy late in this, but I need to add my two-cents (and a little bit more, if I can reach further down under the sofa cushions).

West Texas blogger Jimmy Patterson of Sticky Doorknobs will be sitting in a small bucket, suspended from atop a 30-foot Genie scissor lift, in the H-E-B parking lot, July 28-29, for 24 hours ..... and he'll be blogging the entire time.

It will be his participation in Blogathon 2007, and he'll be raising funds for Midland Fair Heavens. More information here.

A Warning To All My Probationer Friends .....

Spookyrach, at Skewed View, recommends that you "Think Before You Dial" .....

Friday, July 20, 2007

XM Moment: Good Lord, Have Pity On Me .....

Stuck in the driveway, again, with another 'XM Moment' (what I used to call 'NPR Moment' before the advent of satellite radio). This time around, it was "Junk Food Junkie" by Larry Groce. You can listen to a 45-second clip of the song here, at Mad Music Archive, and read the lyrics here at

I'm a longtime fan of Texas-native
Larry Groce, and have listened to him for years on public radio's Mountain Stage ..... "Junk Food Junkie," released back in the mid 70s, was my introduction to the man and his music.

School Daze .....

For me, one of the more interesting stories in today's Odessa American is this one by Elaine Marsilio, reporting that Renda Berryhill, a member of the Ector County ISD Board of Trustees said she plans to remain in office ... even though her family has moved out of the Odessa High district she represents. The report goes on to state that the decision to move outside the district she represents, is so Berryhill's son may attend Permian High, and play football with the Panthers.

Nothing earth-shattering here ..... this is just the latest variation on a story that crops up often in the news, and we've had other variations of this theme on a number of occasions, here in West Texas ..... Fort Stockton, Odessa, Midland, the Panhandle ..... school board, city council, U.S. Congress.

But this one has some different, and disturbing angles for me. I recommend you read the whole story to learn how the system might be 'worked' to someones advantage ..... or to the advantage of a 'pair' of someones ...... "Jamie Berryhill also remarked that he and Renda might use both their properties — the leased home on the east side and their Mission Messiah shelter on West Second — to run for the school board for separate districts in the future. "

Another point of interest is that some of the views offered in the article are from someone who was perfectly comfortable with occupying a leadership position in Odessa's public school system, helping direct every facet of its operation - while sending her child to a private school in Midland.

I'd like to know what YOU think.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I Wonder .....

On the heels of an announcement from a group called The New 7 Wonders Foundation about the 'New 7 Wonders of the World' comes this post from Eric at Fire Ant Gazette, seeking your nominations for the 'Seven Wonders of West Texas.'

There were already plenty of good nominations for 'West Texas Wonders' by the time I checked in .... to those, I would like to add my own nominations for man-made wonders .....

1. The Chinati Foundation's main complex, on the old airbase grounds south of Marfa.

2. The complex of once-spring-fed pools and canals of Rooney Park, in Fort Stockton.

3. The Sibley (?) Mansion of Alpine.

4. Kokernot Field, also of Alpine.

5. The million-barrel oil tank outside of Monahans.

6. And the courthouses for Presidio, Jeff Davis, Crockett and Pecos counties.

Hello, Boys ..... I'm Baa-aack! ..... Again .....

Been away from the keyboard for the last few days, enjoying a trip through the Land of Enchantment. I'll get to posting about that trip, later today.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Genuine First Lady .....

Sad news greeted me when I arrived home yesterday evening, after a day on the road and beyond the reach of any good radio news ..... former First Lady Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson was dead. Mrs. Johnson died of natural causes at her Austin home Wednesday, at age 94.

A long life ..... and it would be hard to imagine a fuller life. Here is her
White House biography. Needless to say, there are a lot of reports in the news about her passing ... I especially like this one by John Burnett of National Public Radio ...... a good report (you can read it or listen to it) as well as a number of photos, related stories about Lady Bird that aired on NPR over the years, and - best of all! - a number of audio recordings by the former First Lady.

Locally, Eric comments on her passing with
this post at the Fire Ant Gazette. So does Wallace, with this post at Streams. I'm sure other will be showing up later today.

I have to admit, my first impressions of Lady Bird Johnson were based in large part on my impressions of her husband ..... and those weren't entirely favorable. I was a youngster back east, and felt as my parents did, that LBJ was some kind of rascal ..... which would have made his wife 'Mrs. Rascal.'

Time has shown me just how wrong first impressions can be. She proved to be a real lady, a class act, a staunch champion of the underprivileged, an advocate for the environment, a quiet woman of conviction and a good wife ..... even if her husband WAS some kind of rascal.

Three years ago, elder son and I were in Austin. He was part of a group of Midland school children being honored by the Texas Council on Environmental Quality for their campus gardening project. In our spare time, he and I drove out of the downtown to visit the
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center ...... established to introduce people to the beauty and diversity of wildflowers and other native plants, and to bring life to Mrs. Johnson's vision in its public gardens, its woodlands and sweeping meadows as well as in internationally influential research. We walked the grounds, visited with staff, and got our hands a little dirty in the process.

It's a wonderful visit, and I strongly recommend it to you all ....... as I strongly recommend saying 'Thanks' to the woman whose vision made it possible.

RELATED NOTE: Tuned in the ten o'clock news on television last night. I was surprised - and a little miffed! - that they did not lead with the story of Johnson's passing. IMHO, it was the day's top story - period.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dog-Gone It .....

This is NOT what Underdog is supposed to look like ..... I don't care what Disney thinks. Trailers for their new film are now showing, but they haven't piqued my interest ..... and I LOVED the old cartoon series.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Comments de Tour de France .....

On all matters related to cycling in general, and the Tour de France in particular, I tip my funny little helmet to Eric at Fire Ant Gazette ..... but I will make these observations from a decidely sedentary perspective .....

It would be hard to imagine something more dramatic than Fabian Cancellara of the CSC team, coming up near the very end to win the third stage, and retain the leader’s yellow jersey for the fourth day running ..... but the Tour is still young, and there's plenty of opportunity ahead for 'something more dramatic.'

The second stage featured a major spill, and more than a few cyclists crossed the line favoring a sore arm, shoulder, ribs, whatever ..... I thought a particularly touching scene was one rider coasting alongside a teammate (sorry, don't know which team it was) whose arm was clutched close to his stomach, guiding his bike with one hand while the other rested on the back of the the injured teammate, guiding him across the finish line for that stage.

What a difference a camera angle can make! The view of the race is entirely different when viewed from overhead as opposed to being viewed from the front, from a distance.

Monday, July 09, 2007

С днем рождения .....

... to the Автомат Калашникова образца 1947, a gun that made Mikhail Kalashnikov a household name worldwide. I don't usually post much about guns ..... but this one is different. The AK-47 Assault Rifle in many ways became something of an icon of the Cold War, a symbol of the global conflict between the United States in the West and the Soviet Union in the East. Cheap and easy to maintain, with zillions of them produced and shipped worldwide, it is perhaps the single-most-recognizable firearm in the world ..... it would be hard to find a day, any day, where a television news broadcast, does not include a story from some troubled corner of the globe - chances are someone, somewhere in the video is carrying and/or shooting an AK-47.

In a program on the
Military Channel, experts were asked to pick the "Top Ten Combat Rifles" ..... their selection for #1 was the AK-47, calling it "a firearms legend that has probably inflicted more lethal results than any other single weapon system ever produced."

Also, check out this post on WorldBlog by NBC News Producer Yonatan Pomrenze. The ensuing discussion of the AK-47 (and a number of gun-if-not-story-related issues) makes for interesting reading, as well.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

For Those About to Rock .....

... we salute Jim and this post at Serotoninrain.

Leftovers on Top Chef .....

HUT levels being what they are on a holiday week such as we've just had, I'm not surprised that Top Chef opted to NOT air a new episode in what would have been the fourth week of the third season. The series airs Wednesday nights at nine o'clock (central) on Bravo TV.

That's not to say the show - or, at least, one of its stars - hasn't been in the news lately ..... but I'm looking forward to getting back to the cooking next week.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, ou la Mort! .....

I apologize for not getting to this earlier in the week, as the United States celebrated 231 years of independence ..... and we weren't the only ones to mark that very special day.

July 4, the anniversary date of the independence of the United States, is also an historic date for France. France supported the American Revolution and was the first country to recognize America's independence. This year also marks the 229th anniversary of the 1778 treaty of friendship between our two nations. My great(x5)-grandfather William was a soldier in the Continental Army during the revolution. We have few details about his service, but there is a chance that he had some contact with the French during that service.

Maybe he did, maybe he didn't ..... but my family's gratitude - and that of our nation - to the French remained long after the guns were silenced. "Lafayette, we are here," General John Pershing (or, actually,
Colonel C. E. Stanton) proclaimed on July 4, 1917, as the American Expeditionary Force (including my great-grandfather Robert, and my grandfather Fred) took the field against the Central Powers in World War I.

America would make an even greater contribution to freedom in France - and all of Europe - in the 1940s (without my family this time ... they were all in the Pacific), during World War II ..... and the French have not forgotten.

"Whatever circumstances and differences of views this friendship might have gone through, we want to reaffirm strongly this profound feeling. We cannot, do not, and will not ever forget the ultimate sacrifice American heroes made during the two World Wars to liberate France," said a group called
The French Will Never Forget. "To show our gratitude and demonstrate again this feeling, we have launched an unprecedented initiative, a symbolic gesture to lay by July 4 a red rose on each and every one of the 60,511 graves and 11 Missing In Action monuments of Americans fallen in France during World Wars I & II."

Observances this year also included a human message-chain, spread across the beaches of Normandy.

So, I am presented with a choice ..... I can ride the wave of the political chic in Washington and West Texas, blast France and others who did not join the Iraq War, and insist on having Freedom Fries with my burger ..... or I can tip my hat in gratitude to the Marquis de Lafayette and others who risked life and limb, family, fortune - and, ultimately, their monarchy - in service to America's independence.

Vive l'indépendance ..... vive l'France!

Friday, July 06, 2007

The View From Outside .....

I remember an evening, twenty years ago or so, standing next to a hotel's vending machine and ice dispenser, visiting with a number of recent arrivals to the Tall City, as they took stock of the land and the community in which they would now be living .....

"Can you believe this place," one asked.

"Small town," said another. "Way too small."

"I'm going to fly my family in at night, on a late flight," said a third, "try to ease them into all this."

They were employees of a major oil and gas company which had recently closed its Denver office, consolidating personnel and operations in its Midland office. I listened with interest ..... my favorite landman (an employee of that same company) and I were also recent arrivals, from Dallas. But in our case, we had lived in Midland before, and we were happy to be back.

I suspect that, given some time, many of those from Denver came to know this town and its people better, and to appreciate them.

I also suspect that many natives - or longtime residents - of West Texas and southeast New Mexico, may not have any real sense of how Midland looks to those who live elsewhere ..... no real appreciation for the view from outside.

These are thoughts that come to mind as I read the flurry of posts and comments that lit-up West Texas' portion of the blogosphere in response to
this column in the Austin American Statesman by John Kelso. Among those weighing in on the topic were Eric at Fire Ant Gazette, Jimmy at Stick Doorknobs and Ospurt at Jessica's Well.

Me? I understand where Kelso is coming from. I don't agree with all that he says ..... but I remember my first impressions of Midland and the Permian Basin - nearly 25 years ago, when we came here from Albuquerque. New Mexico - and some of those impressions were similar to some of Kelso's.

But I'd also learned not to trust first impressions of something as large and generalized as an entire community. It comes, I guess, from growing up in a military family, and changing hometowns - and home states! - every twelve-to-eighteen months or so. After a while, you discover things that aren't conveyed by a chamber of commerce billboard, or lack thereof ..... after a while you come across many things - both expected and unexpected - that you love and/or hate about Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Quantico, Virginia; Cherry Point, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Bakersfield, California ..... or Midland, Texas.

The idea is to give them a chance ..... and for them to give YOU a chance. And that is where Kelso and I part ways ..... I really wish he displayed some knowledge of his target before taking aim. Over the years, I've heard some great, deprecating jokes about West Texas, its climate, its communities and its people ..... and the best ones were told by natives. I honestly hope that our city and our chamber take the high road, and put together a visit for the man and his family.

It might help ..... I can still remember the day it would have taken an 'arrest' to have made me pull over and stop in the Tall City for anything more than a tank of gas. And - trust me on this - ENVY had nothing to do with it.

Hello, Boys ..... I'm Baa-aack! .....

Been away for a couple of days, on a trip that was NOT helped by the weather in north Texas ..... I'll get back to posting tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dodging Bullets .....

Today, if you should bump into spookyrach at Skewed View, be careful asking her how her Monday went!

Blast From the Past .....

It's a day such as this where many of you might wish you were not fully employed, at least for a little while ..... a day long "Twilight Zone" marathon on the Sci Fi Channel.

I just finished watching the 'Printer's Devil' episode in which a desperate publisher sells his soul to the Devil in order to keep his bankrupt newspaper going. The Devil creates events in town for great stories, scooping the competing newspaper at every turn. But the publisher is unhappy with the situation and he later tricks the Devil and wins his soul back ..... with the help of his linotype.

An honest-to-gosh
linotype! One way someone in the print media can date themselves is whether they have seen one only in photos or museum exhibits, or whether they actually sat down and used one ..... me, I'm with the latter. In high school, our shop classes offered a variety of experiences, including setting type and printing. It was great experience, and it gave me some appreciation for the business ..... but, by the 1970s, it was already disappearing - after all, the machines had been around for nearly a century by then.

We also learned to set, block and print from type by hand ..... and don't get me started on computer class, which involved punching holes through cards with one console, then reading and sorting them into data sets in another console to arrive at answers.

Getting back to that 'Printer's Devil' episode, Robert Sterling and Patricia Crowley get top billing .... but for me, the real star is Burgess Meredith as the ink-stained Devil. Meredith would show up in a number of Twilight Zone episodes, including one of my favorites, 'The Obsolete Man.'

Heinlein's Hundredth .....

From Frank, at Books, Inq., comes a reminder that this Saturday, July 7, will mark the centenary of author Robert Heinlein, born in 1907 in the town of Butler, Missouri. He grew up in nearby Kansas City, which is hosting a centennial celebration this weekend.

It's hard to imagine a single writer whose individual works have been embraced my more divergent groups than Heinlein ..... whether it was "
Stranger In a Strange Land" by the counter-culture and emergent New-Agers, or "Starship Troopers" by the military and the neo-conservatives, or "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" by the libertarians.

There are some clues to how or why that can be, by learning more of the man behind the words. Wikipedia has a good
biography about Heinlein with A LOT of links for further study, and there is also a website maintained by The Heinlein Society, a non-profit group founded by Virginia Heinlein on behalf of her late husband, to "pay forward" the legacy of Robert A. Heinlein to future generations of "Heinlein's Children."

Or you can read his books ..... what better way to grok a writer?

Monday, July 02, 2007