Friday, April 27, 2007

Soaring Like a Hawk(ing)

Stephen Hawking... world-renowned physicist... man with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS)... pseudo-space traveler...

I've got a lot of respect for this guy. He's a genius, with a level of intellect that rivals Albert Einstein. And not only is Mr. Hawking a mastermind, he's got a unique ability to translate his vast knowledge from physics-speak to something that mere mortals can understand. The guy's brilliant.

There are a lot of folks out there who are calling him a hero because he's able to carry on despite being almost completely unable to move, and so forth. That in and of itself isn't heroic to me;I think the word hero is used far to indiscriminately in today's society. With that said though, I do have additional respect for the man as a role model, because he appears to live a full life despite his disease.

Yesterday, Hawking got the opportunity to do something that few people - regardless of their physical ability - have the chance to do. He got to be weightless. What an apt reward for a person who has advanced mankind's knowledge as much as Mr. Hawking. What a cool experience for him as a person. I still say that hero is too superlative, but role model is a completely appropriate term.

Mr. Hawking, you deserved it! Thanks for your knowledge, and thanks for serving as a role model for others.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Green-Thumbed Geek

Check out the new pot for the plant at my desk at work.

Kind of fitting for a computer geek, don't you think?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bad Poetry

I've recently started reading The Hatemonger's Quarterly, which is sponsoring its Fourth Annual Horrible College-Student Poetry Competition. I may not be a college student, but I'm certainly not a poet. With this in mind, I have deftly crafted my, um, submission for the contest. Yes, that's the title of this little ode.


I'm a bad, bad poet,
A dirty, dirty, writer.
Please spank from me
My delusion of adequacy.

What do you think? Can I win?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Classical Mystery Tour

Last night we went to see the Classical Mystery Tour, a Beatles tribute band. The family was accompanied by our neighbors... their daughter is close friends with our kids, and we've become friends in our own right over the last few years. The neighbor family adults are big Beatles fans... they named their boy after one of the Beatles.

At first I was a little skeptical about the concert. I like the Beatles and thoroughly appreciate what they've contributed to music, but I've never considered myself a Beatles fan. (I've always had a much greater appreciation for The Rolling Stones.) By the end of the second song though, my skepticism had completely evaporated, and through the magic of music, I was transported to a time and place that I could never hope to visit in reality. By the way, we were in the second row, center, for the concert, and it was a theatre setting, with comfy seats and alcohol served. Definitely a concert for baby boomers. It allowed the boomers to relive their youth while still catering to the reality that their bodies would be much more comfortable sitting down. But enough about the venue, let's talk about the concert.

The orchestra opened up with a brief medley, and then the fab four came on, complete with the black suits of the early era. As the show progressed, the band changed clothes and wigs (and moustaches as necessary) to reflect the evolution of the original Beatles. The band performed music that was written after the original Beatles broke up, creating an interesting disconnect.

The orchestra was heavily used, and it was a great way of giving the local symphony some exposure. The set list was an awesome compilation, spanning everything from the early years through their solo careers.

A few of the songs...

By the end of the show, the fans were standing up, clapping their hands, and singing with the band. Their was one die-hard Beatles fan who wore his Sgt. Peppers-style jacket, and several who were decked out in their hippie-garb. As I mentioned at the outset of today's post, I've enjoyed Beatles music, but had never considered myself a hardcore fan. I think I'll be re-evaluating my position. If you ever have a chance to see Classical Mystery Tour, I'd heartily recommend that you take advantage of the opportunity.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Mrs. Evan and I had a debate about Imus being fired for his stupid Rutgers comment. My position was (and is) that society is too sensitive, and we need to get over ourselves. People are dying all over the world -- from violence, from hunger and from disease -- and here in America, we're worried about a stupid insult.

For the purpose of self-disclosure, I want to point out that I've watched Imus a couple of times, and I kind of liked his cantankerous, no-punches-pulled demeanor; but I'm not a fan per se. I also agree that his quip was colossally stupid and insensitive. At the end of the day though, I think it was an idiotic remark and the tree-hugging, politically-correct crowd got all worked up for the wrong reasons.

My wife looked at things somewhat differently. In fact, she completely disagreed with me, and said that Imus deserved to be fired. I said "Look, the guy made a stupid, gargantuan mistake."

"Yes," she replied. "And if you or I made a huge mistake at work, we could expect to get fired too." She won the argument with that point.

With that said though, I think that Imus is being judged a little harshly. Though I now agree that he did probably deserve to lose his job, I really think his comment was a by-product of being an abrasive, cranky old man, and not racially related. When he realized what he said, he quickly apologized, and I believe that he honestly regretted his words. Imus' screw-up wasn't even close to what Michael Richards did.

In the end, I guess my whole issue with the Imus issue is that we, as a society, are heading for an Orwellian form of wrong-speak and wrong-think. What do you think?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Favorite Time of Day

Some people are morning people, others look forward to the end of their work day. Some are night owls, and a few can only look forward to weekends. I like the end of the day, specifically the period of time from when I start putting the kids to bed until I fall asleep myself.

The family has a pretty stable routine at the end of the day. We eat relatively late (7:30 to 8:00PM), and that's when it's time to wind down. During and after dinner, we chat (sometimes with the TV in the background), the kids do homework and shower. Then it's time for my wife and the little 'un to read for a while, as I hang out with the older kid. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we play, sometimes she sits on the computer and completely ignores me. (She is a teenager, you know.)

When it's Little 'Un's bedtime, my wife and I switch. I hang out with the little one, and the Mrs. hangs out with the big one. The result is that each of has a little one-on-one time with each kid, every day. After the kids are in bed, the wife and I take a little time to talk. (Heck, sometimes it's the only chance we have!) In every case, it's a chance to be there with and for each person in my family. Sometimes we just hang out. Sometimes we have serious discussions. Occasionally we argue. But it's time with the people I care about most.

And when that's done, as I drift off to sleep, I reflect on the day. If it was a good day, I thankfully reflect. If it was a bad day, I thank God that it's over, remember that tomorrow is a new day, and keep in mind that I need the occasional bad day to truly appreciate the good ones.

What's your favorite time of day?

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Bike Bling

With it being too cold to do any riding this weekend, I decided that it was time to add a little bling to my bike. Yesterday I added a backrest and a small windshield. I bought the backrest so the kids can sit back and enjoy the ride without having to worry about falling off the back, and the windscreen should make for more comfortable highway riding. The best part was that I paid about $150 less than I expected to spend.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

It's All Greek to Me

I suspect that you've all heard about the Greek cruise liner Sea Diamond striking some submerged rocks and sinking about a quarter-mile out from Santorini Island. According to this article by the Associated Press, six people have been arrested as a result of the accident. The article quoted a Merchant Marine Ministry spokeswoman as saying that the boat's captain, chief mate, second mate, third mate, chief cabin steward, and housekeeper were taken in to custody.

I don't quite get the logic here. I completely understand the captain and (first) mate being arrested... I can also understand bringing the second and third mate in, but the chief cabin steward and housekeeper? That's a little mind boggling. How could these two have conceivably had anything to do with the boat's sinking? Here are a couple of possibilities...

How it could be the Chief Cabin Steward's fault:
(Chief Cabin Steward's voice comes over the loud speaker) Okay guests, we're going to mess with the captain today. We're all going to run from one side of the boat to the other to see if we can tip it over. We're all going to start out on the port side, and then when I count to three, we're all going to run to the starboard side as fast as we can. Okay, ready everyone? One... Two... Three!!
(Loud screeeeeeeeech as rock breeches the metal hull): Uh-oh! I guess that wasn't such a good idea.

How it could be the housekeeper's fault:
I'm really tired of them not paying me what I'm worth. Well, I'll show them... I'm going to run every washing machine at once, and each load will be unbalanced. The combined centrifugal force of all of these unbalanced washing machines will send this ship careening into submerged rocks. Then they'll see who's "just a housekeeper!" Mwa-ha-ha-ha

I think the Merchant Marine Ministry has it all wrong. This accident reeks of the nefarious Dr. Katonian.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Isn't This a Little Counter-Intuitive?

By now you may have heard that the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James T. Conway, has implemented a ban on "extra-large tattoos below the elbow or below the knee," because these tattoos are "harmful to the Corps' spit-and-polish image." Am I the only one who thinks this is a foolish policy?

Look, tattoos are a part of military culture. I got my first tattoo when I was eighteen years old, just a couple of months out of boot camp. And I know dozens of men and women who expressed devotion to their beloved Corps by getting their skin inked... with the eagle, globe and anchor... with the bulldog... with our motto of Semper Fi (always faithful). Now the Commandant is trying to restrict this practice?

In addition to that, tattooing is an art form that has gone mainstream. Tattooing is no longer something that makes you tough, a rebel, or an outlaw. Tattooing, along with body piercing, is virtually a right of passage for today's youth. And the Corps wants to restrict this form of self-expression? Shameful.

Look, we've got an all-volunteer military... volunteers who know that if they enlist, they are almost guaranteed to end up in Iraq or Afghanistan, where they will likely be shot at, and possibly die. It's no secret that our military has been struggling to get and keep the manpower necessary for sustained operations overseas. It's bad enough that these kids can enlist at 18, but can't drink until they're 21, now the commandant wants to add one more nail to the recruiting coffin by restricting tattoos? Sorry general, I have to respectfully disagree with your decision.

I understand the Commandant's "spit-and-polish" statement, but there's something he's overlooking. Marines are first and foremost warriors. And there's something just a little intimidating about a foe covered in ink. The spit-and-polish statement doesn't really fly with me, because the dress uniform covers the areas where he's banning these tattoos. General Conway, if you want spit-and-polish, don't ban the ink, mandate long sleeves.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A Vivid Memory of an Event Long Past

In the Spring of 1988, I received orders to the Persian Gulf, to participate in Mine Sweeping operations. This was during the Iran-Iraq war -- before most Americans had heard of either country. The Iraqis (at least I think it was the Iraqis) had laid several mines in the water, hoping to get the upper hand in the long-standing stalemate between the warring nations. The problem was, this was having a disruptive effect on commerce -- namely oil -- flowing from the gulf, so we sent a small contingent to sweep for mines and to escort neutral vessels through the gulf.

I was stationed aboard the USS Dubuque, which was home ported in Sasebo, Japan. I was ferried from San Diego, CA to Okinawa, Japan on the USS Tuskaloosa, where I met up with the Dubuque. After boarding the Dubuque, we headed through the South China Sea on our way to the Persian Gulf.

After spending several weeks crossing the Pacific, what struck me most about the South China Sea was how calm the water was. The water was like glass, and it seemed almost sacreligious for the hull of the Dubuque to disturb the serenity.

On a day that initially didn't seem unordinary, I heard the engines stop, and I went topside to see what was up. A couple of hundred yards off of the stern, I saw a small wooden boat with far too many people on it... a boat full of boat people.

I remember how happy they were to see us... the shouting, the waving, and them jumping from their ship, swimming toward ours. Some of those who jumped ship and reached ours, began climbing the ropes we had over the side. The personnel guarding the ropes apparently had orders not to let the boat people board, and they shook the ropes as people climed. By the way, it was quite a distance from the water line to the main deck... 50' maybe. I saw people finally fall after making it about halfway up. I remember seeing one guy drop into the water and not resurface. Several minutes later, I finally found his body floating off of the stern of our boat.

In the end, we didn't pick up these boat people. I don't remember exactly what the Captain said, but it was something to the effect of "This is the Captain speaking... This is one of the most seaworthy boat people boats I've ever seen, so we're not picking anyone up. We've given them food and water, a map and a compass, and instructions in Vietnamese. They'll be fine." I was angry that we didn't pick them up, but I was a lowly Lance Corporal.

As is always the case, rumors abounded... we gave them food and water, but no can opener... the Captain was in a hurry to get to war, which is why we didn't pick them up... The XO (second in command) saw them the previous night but passed them by, and it was the Skipper who ordered us to turn around and attend to them...

Several weeks later, we heard that the boat people had made it to the Philippines, but not before running out of food and water a second time. They had to resort to cannibalism in order to survive. The Captain of our boat was gone almost immediately after that.

Almost 20 years later, someone has made a film about the event. I haven't seen or heard anything about the film itself, but I did read someone's paper about what happened that day. The paper doesn't cite any sources, but it does coincide with what I remember. I am not taking it as gospel, but it seems substantially accurate. I'd highly recommend the paper, which may illustrate why I remember this event so vividly.