PAgent’s Progress

Words Are My Favorite Toys

May 17th, 2006

They’re Made Out of Meat

Here’s a film based on a short-short speculative sci-fi piece by Terry Bisson. It won the Grand Prize at the Science Fiction Museum’s SF Short Film Festival in Seattle this year.


After seeing this over at Video Wombat, I knew that I’d read the short story before. Not surprising, since it was a 1991 Nebula award nominee.

If YOU want to read the original short story, you can read it here.

And you can see the list of the other 2006 SF Short Film Festival winners here.

May 17th, 2006

Verbal Intelligence Test

How are your word skills? How about taking a little test to see how your vocabulary stacks up?

Verbal Intelligence Test

Your overall percentile is 94% which means you scored higher than 94% of the people who have taken this test. The internet population tends to be more intelligent so your percentile might be higher if the test taking sample was perfectly random.

I’ll let you in on a little secret — I guessed at more than a couple of them.

May 16th, 2006

Pop Music is Crap. Literally.

Have you ever listened to Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl”?

It’s got a catchy beat, and you can dance to it, as they used to say on American Bandstand. I’ve heard it more than I maybe have wanted to on various radio stations. I always thought Toni Basil did the faux cheerleader thing better with “Hey Mickey” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go ask your parents).

Out of curiousity, I pulled up the lyrics for Hollaback Girl the other day, and found out why it always sounded a bit disjointed to me when I heard it on the radio. You see, in order to play that song on the airwaves, they have to edit, cover-up, or otherwise bleep the word ’shit’ an astonishing thirty-eight times.

Don’t believe me? Here are the lyrics:

Uh huh, this my shit
All the girls stomp your feet like this

A few times I’ve been around that track
So it’s not just gonna happen like that
Cause I ain’t no hollaback girl
I ain’t no hollaback girl

A few times I’ve been around that track
So it’s not just gonna happen like that
Cause I ain’t no hollaback girl
I ain’t no hollaback girl

Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit

I heard that you were talking shit
And you didn’t think that I would hear it
People hear you talking like that, getting everybody fired up
So I’m ready to attack, gonna lead the pack
Gonna get a touchdown, gonna take you out
That’s right, put your pom-poms down, getting everybody fired up

A few times I’ve been around that track
So it’s not just gonna happen like that
Cause I ain’t no hollaback girl
I ain’t no hollaback girl

A few times I’ve been around that track
So it’s not just gonna happen like that
Cause I ain’t no hollaback girl
I ain’t no hollaback girl

Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit

So that’s right dude, meet me at the bleachers
No principals, no student-teachers
Both of us want to be the winner, but there can only be one
So I’m gonna fight, gonna give it my all
Gonna make you fall, gonna sock it to you
That’s right, I’m the last one standing, another one bites the dust

A few times I’ve been around that track
So it’s not just gonna happen like that
Cause I ain’t no hollaback girl
I ain’t no hollaback girl

A few times I’ve been around that track
So it’s not just gonna happen like that
Cause I ain’t no hollaback girl
I ain’t no hollaback girl

Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit

Let me hear you say, this shit is bananas
B-A-N-A-N-A-S
this shit is bananas
B-A-N-A-N-A-S
Again, this shit is bananas
B-A-N-A-N-A-S
This shit is bananas
B-A-N-A-N-A-S

A few times I’ve been around that track
So it’s not just gonna happen like that
Cause I ain’t no hollaback girl
I ain’t no hollaback girl

A few times I’ve been around that track
So it’s not just gonna happen like that
Cause I ain’t no hollaback girl
I ain’t no hollaback girl

Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit
Oooh, this my Shit, this my Shit

What the hell?? Why would you even play a song on the radio when you have to delete thirty-eight words in order to avoid the FCC hammer? More importantly, why would you WRITE such a song? Is this an example where Ms. Stefani needed to demonstrate her ’street cred’?

My ten-year-old girl LOVES this song. She wants me to turn it up everytime it comes on the car radio. Thank God she doesn’t run out and buy her own disks yet. I guess I will have to prescreen CDs for her for a couple of years. I guess that makes me old-fashioned. I don’t want her bouncing around singing that kind of shit (ha! Get it?).

And the gap between me and what is popular continues to widen at an ever-increasing pace.

Gah! I’m getting too old, too fast.

May 16th, 2006

Portland’s Living Lunch Room

The weather is wonderful today. Sunny blue sky with a strong breeze, and a temperature of about 80. I decided to eat lunch outside for a change.

I ducked into Elephant’s Deli for something to drink, and noticed that they had Coke Blak. I have been meaning to try it, so I grabbed a little 8 oz. bottle of the stuff. Then I got a Big Bowl with everything from The Whole Bowl. (Do you think my body is craving brown rice and beans after all the ribs I’ve been eating? It’s possible.)

I sat on the steps in Pioneer Courthouse Square, in the sun, and ate my lunch. The sun was hot on the back of my neck, and soon I could feel little trickles of sweat running past my ears, down my ribs, and at the backs of my knees. If I stayed there long enough, I would be soaked.

I finished lunch and opened the Coke Blak. Meh. It tastes like Coke with coffee syrup added. Not spectacular and a bit too sweet. If you want to try a close approximation, I think you could mix a regular Coke with a bottle of Bibicaffe┬┤, and it would be close. Although probably not as sweet.

The fountain in the square generated enough white noise to drown out everything but the Trimet buses that roared by periodically. Unfortunately, it couldn’t drown out the smells around me. Between the hot grease smell coming from the hamburger cart and the cigarette smoke coming from everywhere, I got a bit queasy. Bleagh.

But I stayed there a while, and scribbled in my Moleskine. I’m trying to find the discipline to write in it more often. I don’t think that what I write is that important, necessarily. I just want to know that I’m putting pen to paper.

Once I was feeling good and hot, I decided to head back to the office. Of course, getting back to the office meant I had to dodge Mercy Corps volunteers and Petition Signature Gatherers, in addition to the usual panhandlers on every corner. Which is one of the reasons I don’t eat outside more often.

May 15th, 2006

A Unique Visionary

I want to spend a moment bringing your attention to an underappreciated genius. Laboring tirelessly in sunny Puerto Rico, inventor John Quincy St. Clair has been quietly developing technology that could change the world as we know it.

Mr. St. Clair has filed patent applications on a series of astonishing inventions:

***
Patent Application Publication No.20060072226
Remote viewing amplifier

Abstract: An apparatus which enhances the ability of a person to perform remote viewing by connecting the human spiritual eye to the tetrahedral geometry of subspace.

Patent Application Publication No.20060071122
Full body teleportation system

Abstract: A pulsed gravitational wave wormhole generator system that teleports a human being through hyperspace from one location to another.

Patent Application Publication No.20060070371
Electric dipole moment propulsion system

Abstract: A spacecraft propulsion system utilizing a rotating octagon of trapezoidal electrically charged flat panels to create an electric dipole moment that generates lift on the hull.

Patent Application Publication No.20060044139
Internet accessible mail box system

Abstract: An Internet-embedded mail box system which transmits mail and package delivery information to a central server that can be accessed by wireless communication devices to determine if any mail is ready for pickup.

Patent Application Publication No.20060038081
Electric dipole spacecraft

Abstract: This invention is a rotating spacecraft that produces an electric dipole on four rotating spherical conducting domes perturbing a uniform spherical electric field to create a magnetic moment interacting with the gradient of a magnetic field that generates a lift force on the hull.

Patent Application Publication No.20060014125
Walking through walls training system

Abstract: This invention is a training system which enables a human being to acquire sufficient hyperspace energy in order to pull the body out of dimension so that the person can walk through solid objects such as wooden doors.

Patent Application Publication No.20040164824
Hyperspace energy generator

Abstract: This invention is a braided gold wire coaxial cable of micron size which generates hyperspace energy by coupling to the tetrahedral geometry of subspace, dimension and the Planck mass.

Patent Application Publication No.20040102810
Hyperspace torque generator

Abstract: A hyperspace torque generator which comprises a flat bifilar magnetic bucking field electrical coil, crystal ball, lever arm and frequency generator for producing a linear flow of hyperspace energy at right angles to a rotating flow of astral chakra energy.

Patent Application Publication No.20030230675
Rotor inductance propulsion system

Abstract: The invention is a spacecraft having a circular, domed hull around which dual electrically-charged rotors one above the other are counter-rotating on the edge of the hull. Embedded in the hull are three solenoids which create a positive vector potential at the rotors. The surface charge density times the radius times the vector potential times the area of the rotors creates an angular momentum in the vertical direction. This angular momentum produces a positive spacetime curvature over the dome of the hull and a negative spiking spacetime compression over the rotors. By machining circumferential grooves of decreasing height along the radius of the rotor, a negative surface inductance is generated. This negative inductance gradient times the negative spacetime compression time the rotor current density squared times the rotor area squared is a positive lift force on the spacecraft.

Patent Application Publication No.20030209637
Rotating electrostatic propulsion system

Abstract: This invention relates to a spacecraft propulsion system utilizing thrusters comprised of a motor-driven electrostatically charged cylinder rotating within an electrostatically charged annular ring for the purpose of creating a spacetime curvature stress-energy tension in the horizontal direction. The thrusters are augmented by magnetic vortex generators, either embedded in the cylinders or located above each thruster, for the purpose of increasing the permittivity of space by permeating each thruster with low density hyperspace energy generated by a wormhole created between our space and hyperspace. A combination of three thrusters mounted on the underside of the hull of the spacecraft provide thrust and yaw motion control.

Patent Application Publication No.20030209635
Electric dipole moment propulsion system

Abstract: This invention relates to a spacecraft propulsion system utilizing a rotating octagon of trapezoidal electrically charged flat panels to create an electric dipole moment that generates lift on the hull. On the interior side of each panel are electrostatically charged rods which produce a planar electric field that emerges from holes in the panel to form an ellipsoidal potential energy bubble on the outside of the hull. The rotating hull dipole moment generates a magnetic moment which, together with the magnetic field gradient developed by the rotating electric field of the electrostatically charged panels, produces said lift force. The potential energy field is enhanced by using a double cladding of hull material with different ranges of permittivities.

***
The USPTO has as of yet failed to issue even one of Mr. St. John’s patent applications. The breadth of Mr. St. John’s vision therefore remains unappreciated, as he is clearly a genius of unimaginable abilities.

Or he has access to some really excellent weed.

Folks, you need to read through some of these documents. This is way better than reality television. For example, from the ‘Remote Viewing Amplifier’ application:

“Moving to a larger picture of things that are happening in the galaxy, I was able to make contact with the Pleiadian Federation which is located about 400 light years from earth. The Federation is a group of over one hundred intelligent beings that were brought to the Pleiades from around the galaxy. One member of the Federation calls itself the Intelligent Insect Beings. They are the ones who fly the black triangles over Belgium and France for the purpose of evacuating human beings back to the Pleiades for relocation on a planet called Earth II. The reason for this evacuation was that it was not known if it would be possible to win the battle of Revelations, which would take place about two years later here on earth.”

Just, wow.

May 14th, 2006

Makes me feel like I’m in Kansas City

I don’t want this to turn into a BBQ blog, just like I didn’t want it to turn into a strictly parenting blog. Nevertheless, I have to tell y’all about my first major foray into slow, smoky BBQ. I started with four racks of ribs — three racks of babyback ribs, one rack of spareribs. I mixed up a big batch of dry rub yesterday, and applied it to the racks, then put them in the fridge overnight.

Then I mixed up a batch of Kansas City-style sauce. Kind of tart, with lots of molasses flavor.

This morning, I started up the Traeger with a mix of oak and hickory pellets. I was shocked to discover that, as big as the grill was, there was no way I was going to fit all four racks on it. Fortunately, the wife had picked up our smoking rack, so I had plenty of extra space.

I started the ribs off at around 250 degrees, and gradually backed them down over the course of the day to about 190, where they stayed for the rest of the afternoon. Every time I checked on them and turned them over, I gave them a light mist with apple juice, to keep them moist. The last time I turned them over, they started to fall apart, so I gave them another hour and called it good.

Oh, yeah.

Dinner was ribs, with the Kansas City-style sauce, some baked beans I doctored up special and cooked slow in the oven, and fresh pineapple.

And it was goooood. Tender, tender meat falling off the bone. The ribs had a pronounced pink ’smoke ring’ in the meat. Oh yes, I love my grill. Maybe I’ll do a brisket next….

May 12th, 2006

Descent to Titan

As an inveterate sci-fi fan, I have probably spent more time than most imagining what it would be like to land on other planets. What it would be like to pilot a spacecraft through a turbulent atmosphere, to touch down on a surface that had never been visited before, to see things that no one had ever seen before.

The Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn included landing the Huygens probe on Saturn’s moon Titan. The Huygens probe made its 147-minute descent to the surface of Titan on Jan. 14, 2005. NASA, the European Space Agency and the University of Arizona have recently released a movie, based on data recorded by the Huygens’ cameras, of what the probe ’saw’ during the descent.

This is a record of the most distant touchdown ever made by a terrestrial spacecraft.

When I watch the probe drop through the thick atmosphere of Titan, when I watch the moon’s features resolve into river beds and drainage channels, and then to a soft riverbed studded with water ice boulders, it gives me chills. It puts a lump in my throat.

This is what it means to be a spacefaring species.


May 11th, 2006

Buyer’s Remorse?

I fired up the pellet grill again tonight, this time with a mix of alder and hickory pellets. We had some ears of corn, the first of the year, and we took the silk off them, buttered them, then tied the husks back around them. I put them in cold water to soak the husks.

While the corn was soaking, I gently shaped some patties from ground beef, and seasoned them with a Paul Prudhomme seasoning mixture, garlic powder, and Lawry’s seasoned salt.

Once the grill was good and hot, I put the corn on the grill to steam. Once the corn seemed done, I took it off, turned the heat up, and put the burgers on the grill.

At a higher temperature, and with the burgers cooking, the grill started throwing off some yummy smelling smoke. I flipped the burgers over, and turned the heat down just a touch.

When I took the burgers off the grill, they were so juicy they were dripping, and they smelled wonderful. We slapped them on buns and dived in. My daughter, who says she hates hamburgers, started making yummy noises. My son, who likes hamburgers, had his mouth full. And my wife, who usually only likes hamburgers that are bleeding, said it was delicious. And the corn, the corn was terrific as well.

So, am I suffering from buyer’s remorse? Did I spend too much on that fancy pellet grill?

Oh, HELL no. If I can keep turning out dinners like that, it was money well spent.

I can’t wait to smoke me some babybacks.

May 10th, 2006

Overheard in PDX

I have long appreciated Overheard in New York and Overheard in the Office. I am positively overjoyed to announce that a fellow named Rich has started an “Overheard in PDX” blog.

W00t! Portlanders are funny!

May 9th, 2006

Boy Meets Grill

I have always loved cooking. And of the many types of cooking, I have particularly been fond of grilling and barbecue. When I was an undergraduate, I bought a Weber Smokey Joe mini-kettle and used the hell out of it all the way through graduate school. Then, when the wife and I got married, my folks gave us a Weber Genesis gas grill as a wedding present.

I like Weber grills. They’re well-made, they last a long time, and they work. I liked our grill, because I could come home, fire it up, and be ready to grill chicken in about ten minutes. Turn it off, and you were done.

But, as any grilling enthusiast can tell you, nothing tastes like charcoal. You need the smoke to really get that ‘cooked on a fire’ flavor. So, I got a little Luhr-Jensen smoker. I made many batches of beef jerky, smoked some salmon, and added flavor to chicken breasts, steaks, and pork butts. But I still had to finish cooking on the Weber.

A couple of years ago, some friends invited us over for dinner. I walked out on their deck and saw a big black grill leaking wonderful-smelling smoke. It was our friends’ new Traeger wood pellet grill. What a concept. An auger delivers hardwood pellets to a firebox, which heats the grill. Turn it up high, you can grill. Turn it lower, you can roast. Turn it way down, and the whole thing becomes a hot smoker. You can select pellets that are 100% oak, cherry, mesquite, hickory, apple, alder, etc.

I wanted one.

But they weren’t cheap. And our Weber still worked fine. So, I filed it away in the back of my mind for ’someday’, and tried to forget about it everytime I fired up the old reliable Weber.

Well, someday finally came. The wife and I picked up our new Traeger pellet grill last weekend. Along with the grill itself came a recipe book, a Traeger ballcap, and two 20 lb bags of pellets. I chose alder and hickory. We got it home and I assembled it. Monday night I fired it up to 350 degrees for 45 minutes to season it. And tonight, it was time to cook.

100% alder pellets

For our first meal from the grill, I got a couple of young chickens, spatchcocked them, and applied a dry rub. Then I put them on the Traeger. The biggest adjustment I’m going to have to make is the difference between direct heat and purely indirect heat. The Traeger’s indirect heat means it’s almost impossible to burn your food. On the other hand, all my mental estimates of how long it will take to cook something are now obsolete.

Note: That’s a stack of two butterflied chickens, one on top of the other.

The chicken turned out a beautiful, golden brown, incredibly moist, and very tasty. Unfortunately, it was still a little bloody at the joints. Damn. Well, next time I’ll know better. The kids still scarfed it down like they were starving. I was pleased to note that it didn’t have more than a nice background flavor of smokiness. If you want to really add smoke flavor, you just need to turn the heat setting all the way down to ’smoke’. Otherwise, you just get a nice touch of hardwood flavor as you cook.

Yes, it was expensive, but I anticipate using it a LOT. With the digital thermostat you can bake in it easily. Wood-fired pizza, anyone? How about a skillet full of hot cornbread to go with your BBQ brisket?

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.