Saturday, September 29, 2007


Magical Mystery Tour, Part Two

So we jettisoned the Oracular Tour Generator last time when it tried to direct us into a complete circle. Fortunately, we were far enough along the way to start winging it, so wing it we did. We breezed on past Reno, and decided to go north on Highway 395. Generally speaking, I suppose you could say it runs north-south along the Sierra Nevada mountains. I picture this stretch we're following as being slightly on the eastern side of the range. You'll notice from this pic that we're seeing more desertishy scrubland, rather than the high pine forests on the western slopes of the Sierra:

Here's a straight ahead shot of some bare rock. Looks like iron in them thar hills:

Here's an interesting look at a feature that I'm not sure the name of. When I look at it, all I can think is that the Grand Canyon must have started out like this millions of years ago:

There is iron in them thar hills:

I devoted several pics to this, the most beautiful rest stop in California, possibly the world:

It's at Honey Lake, and I are here:

The sage grouse struts around in this area, it seems:

In this larger pic, Honey Lake is near the left edge, just about halfway down. Kind of looks like a butterfly. It's is one of several remnants of a much larger lake, Lake Lahontan. Pyramid Lake and Walker Lake are also remnants of Lake Lahontan, which covered 8,000 square miles at the end of the last ice age. Which ended, by the way, without the help of any industrial greenhouse gases, some 13,000 years ago. Almost as if there are natural and perfectly normal cycles of cooling and warming:

The Red-Tailed Hawk, the American Kestrel, and the Turkey Vulture, are all apparently common to this region:

As it turns out, we're in the Shasta Valley, and the dominant shrub is the silvery-gray sagebrush:

I wasn't sure if a pic would capture it, but it did. When you look out toward Honey Lake, It looks kind of foggy, dusty, brownish. It was almost like an optical illusion, as if there was some sort of mini-sandstorm going on down there. It did not look like I was looking out at a body of water. Maybe that was part of the decision to call it Honey lake:

Next stop: Susanville, where we spent the night on day one.

PS- If you are really interested in the text of any of those placards, let me know, and I will try to piece it together.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Magical Mystery Tour, Part One

Well everything seems to have found it's place, and we're ready to begin. There are too many pics each day, so the days have been divided into more manageable segments. Today's segment sets up the trip and gets us near to Reno, Nevada.

We called it the Magical Mystery Tour because Miss Tori and I frequently have problems deciding what exactly we want to do. Sure, we want to go on a trip for a few days, but where? Where, where, where?

Since I enjoy doing puzzles and categorizing things, I put my little mind to work making a system. The end result was the Oracular Tour Generator:

This simple deck of cards would tell us where to go, or where not to go. Say we're on a highway, and we come up to an exit to another highway. We pull a card to see if we stay on the original highway, or take the new highway. If we do take the new highway, which direction would we go?

Our first decision was which of two local highways we would start out on. This first draw needed its own special rule modification:

Five of diamonds. Highway 99 north it is!

Can you see how tedious it would be to keep showing you every card? Yeah. Suffice to say, we continued north on 99, above Sacramento to around Yuba City/Marysville. We had a lot of in car pics on this trip. Those little knobby things you see may very well be the Sutter Buttes:

We left 99 to travel east on Highway 20. Some random wilderness:

Here's the Seven Mile House. Why seven miles? I have no idea. Put me some knowledge in the comments.

Here we have the Yuba River:

Here we are looking left:

and a little more central:

and a little to the right at Emigrant Trail:

Yeah, I can't see it either. What I can see is that Joe loves Melissa 4 life, and that they were there just a couple of weeks before us:

I wish I knew more about Emigrant Trail. What a coincidence! Mr. and Mrs. Fluke sponsored a plaque that tells all about it:

At this point, we're still going east on Highway 20, and we were getting close to Interstate 80. The Oracular Tour Generator said we should take I-80, and go west. If you're familiar with this area, you'll recognize that the great and powerful Oracular Tour Generator is just about to drive us in a big fat circle. West on I-80 takes us right back to Sacramento. Well, pardon my French, but screw that noise. I had to make a command decision. Just a few hours into our four day trip, we jettisoned the tour guide. We're going east! We're such rebels! We're practically anarchists! Kinda like the jerks who stole this plaque:

that probably described this here lake. Looking at the map and searching my fuzzy memory, it's possible this is Donner lake. The plaque probably told how the Donners used water from the lake to boil their frozen compatriots before eating them:

We'll end this post with a couple of shots, possibly just before we got to Reno:

and possibly just after we left Reno, heading north on Highway 395:

We had no time to stop in the biggest little city in the world. Besides, we saw it last summer, when we got married there. Our anniversary was just two days before this picture was taken. Happy anniversary sweetie!

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Finally, The Magical Mystery Tour!

Well, it would have been, but who knew it would take two or three hours just to go through and cull the outtakes, make notes, retrace the route on a map, and research one fatality?

At least it's been divided by day. Even then, it could be a little long. The four day trip had 41, 35, 53, and 81 pics respectively. I'll probably need to divide the days down into manageable segments.

Still, we're a lot closer than we were before. I'll even give you a little taste from day three. I don't think it likely that you'll be able to identify what this is a picture of:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


There's No "F" In "Student Athlete"

Many of us are familiar with the experience of an athlete or coach coming up and asking if there is any way that little Billy can raise his grade.

Many of us may even be familiar with this happening with a student who was in our class in a prior year. Now that billy is a senior, he needs to make sure he has all C's for his NCAA paperwork.

Some of you may even be at a school where you cannot be sure that the administration will support you if you decide not to make the change.

Recently, another teacher informed me of a new technique that is seemingly intended to help athletes slip through the system. Perhaps it is inspired by this story, posted by Joanne Jacobs, about an Oakland charter school.

Billy the athlete is a real turkey. He's the sort of spoiled, coddled jerk who thinks he is doing the world a favor by virtue of his mere existence. He'll kiss your butt to try and get something out of you, and curse you out if he doesn't get it. I cannot speak to whether or not he suffers from Eddie Murphy Syndrome.

Billy needs at least one of his previous teachers to change his grade from last year. Billy is also having major difficulties, including cheating, with passing at least one of his core classes this year. Billy has known about his problems with his current teacher for some time.

We just had progress reports. Here is some background on progress reports:

If a student is added to your class in between the time the progress report forms were printed and the time they are due, you may pencil in the name of the student and still give him grades and comments.

After the reports are processed, but before they are printed and mailed home, teachers are given a summary copy to check for mistakes. There is a window of a day or two to report any necessary changes.

In our district, a student cannot be given an "F" on the report card unless he has been given a progress report that includes the comment "In danger of failing."

All clear? Then let's continue.

Billy has been with his current teacher all year. Billy's current teacher notes that Billy's name does not appear on the progress report scan forms. Again, Billy was not added in the past two or three days. Billy has been with his teacher from the beginning of the year. Knowing Billy's overall situation, and how athletes with poor grades are sometimes handled, you, and I, and Billy's current teacher might not be without justification in wondering if there might be some rotting fishiness in a certain nordic country that rhymes with "pen dark."

My first thought on hearing that Billy's name wasn't on the form was that someone hoped that Billy's teacher wouldn't notice. That someone hoped the teacher would just go down the line, filling in bubbles, without realizing that a student was missing from the list.

Billy's teacher went to the progress report lady and pointed out that Billy's name was missing. She told him he should write it in, and that is just what Billy's teacher did. Problem solved!

Except it wasn't. A few days later, the report summary comes out, giving all of us a chance to check for mistakes. Well, Billy's teacher has his radar up, and not without reason. When he checks for Billy's name, imagine his shock upon discovering that Billy is nowhere in sight. Even though Billy's teacher filled in the form by hand, in front of the progress report lady, Billy was not listed as getting a progress report.

Without that progress report, Billy cannot fail. Billy's teacher, running short on available avenues, decided to visit the principal and express his concerns. The principal tells Billy's teacher that he will look into it. Problem solved!

Or was it? We may never know, since Billy's teacher is no longer Billy's teacher. Billy has been switched to another class. Of course, Billy's new teacher did not have a chance to fill out a progress report. Without that report, Billy is not allowed to fail.

I think it may be my mission in life to track down the elusive hand-written, triplicate carbon, mailed personally by the teacher with a stamp and everything, backup progress report form, just to thwart any potential injustice that this kid may be trying to pull off, with who knows whose help among the coaches and administration.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Carnival of the Insanities

Check out the Carnival of the Insanities every Sunday for some fun, wacky, and just crazy stuff from all over the web.

Enjoy some good links, and send some in yourself. You don't even have to limit yourself to Sundays, Dr. Sanity is there all week.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Rejected X-Men: Behind The Mutation

The X-Men. You may know them as the superhero team whose greatest power is the power of allegory. You see, the X-Men symbolize the losers, the unwanted, the strange, the different, the minority.

Every time someone calls an X-Man a mutie or a freak, we're reminded that people call gays freaks too. Every time some mutant whose only power is to change colors gets a beatdown from ignorant normals, we're reminded of how whitey thumps on people with black, or brown, or yellow skin.

Those poor X-Men. Of course, in the midst of all this sympathizing, we should also remember that the X-Men are also hoity-toity elites. While they talk a good game of how you're supposed to accept everyone, and you shouldn't treat someone differently just because they're different, they don't really walk the walk.

They're more like Al Gore, flying a gas guzzling private jet from his mansion to some big conference where he'll give a speech about how everyday schlubs like you and me have to live in a mud hut and walk everywhere to control CO2 emissions.

In real life politics, these types are referred to as limousine liberals. I think Richard Jeni once noted that these are the sorts of liberals who plan to solve all the world's problems even if they have to spend every last dime of your money to do it.

So let me ask you: do you see a lot of normal humans on the X-Men? What? You mean they have to be mutants? Wow. A group of elites who won't let most people into their little club. Sounds real welcoming. There are even plenty of mutants who don't get in:

Real name: Helga Alpenhausen.
Hero name: "Van Dyke"
Powers: Able to appear rather more mannish than the typical female. Actively cultivated prehensile chin whiskers can do piercing damage to opponents. May also be used to swing teammate "Blue Skittle" over distances, up heights, or at opponents (see below).
Secret hidden power: Prehensile chin whiskers may act as fabled French tickler during super secret midnight missions.
Special attack: Twirling around in circles, Van Dyke's chin whiskers can be used to whip opponents into helpless submission.

* * * * * * * * * *

Real name: William Armstrong
Hero name: Blue Skittle
Powers: Enhanced sense of balance and agility allows rapid leaping and jumping attacks. Very hard to hit.
Secret hidden shame: After being rejected by X-Men, Blue Skittle was also rejected in favor of Puck at an early tryout for Alpha Flight.
Special Attack: A hurricane of tiny fists.

* * * * * * * * * *

Real name: Who names a turtle? There's like a million eggs there.
Hero name: Gemini Cranium
Powers: Hard shell protects from most damage types.
Secret hidden genitals: Unlike "Big Al," Gemini Cranium doesn't "know where his dick is."
Special Attack: Does double damage against leafy vegetation.

Don't they count? Don't they matter? Aren't they just as oppressed and put down as any other mutants? And yet here they sit, rejected by those bigoted X-Men.

Have the X-Men no shame? Have you no sense of decency, X-Men, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Go Ahead And Warm The Globe; The Life You Save May Be Your Own.

Instapundit notes here that Jonathan Adler has written a review of Bjorn Lomborg's new book COOL IT: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming. The review can be found at National Review Online here.

I happened to read another bit about this book, an excerpt in Discover Magazine. In it, Lomborg looks at the European heat wave of 2003, and the 35,000 deaths that spanned several countries. England alone suffered 2,000 heat related deaths. Isn't global warming terrible!

Well, maybe yes, maybe no. One summer does not a year make. There's always winter to consider:
However, the BBC recently ran a very quiet story telling us that deaths caused by cold weather in England and Wales for the past years have hovered around 25,000 each winter, casually adding that the winters of 1998–2000 saw about 47,000 cold deaths each year.

The BBC story can be found here.

The biggest study in Europe on heat and cold seems to show that the deaths from increased heat would be offset by an even bigger decline in cold-related deaths. In England alone, ten times as many would live because of a warmer winter, than would die because of an equally warmer summer. These numbers are based on an increase of 3.6 degrees F.

This is Lomborg's second book to take a skeptical look at what we are often told is a complete and total consensus on global warming. Considering some of the hysterical attacks he has faced for his opinions, one might legitimately wonder if "consensus" isn't the Newspeak term for "cult."

Monday, September 03, 2007


To Protect And Serve

Ok, sure. Like the rest of you freedom lovers, I was a bit bothered by the idea of government monitoring of internet usage. Of course, that is probably relatively minimal here in the US, but in a place like China, it may very well be relatively maximal, if I may coin a phrase.

More disturbing was the idea that supposedly enlightened western companies would play a part in helping China to track down dissident types who used the internet in China. Companies like Yahoo. In fact, just a few days ago, a suit was filed against Yahoo for this sort of behavior. The same article on the lawsuit also notes that Microsoft and Google also assist China in its efforts at internet censorship and monitoring.

Why, it's the sort of thing that would stoke the fires of outrage! That is, until I saw this:

These eminently huggable icons (available soon as plush toys, made in China!) are the Beijing Internet police. This image shows up every half hour on Beijing servers to let you know that someone's watching, but they're so dang cute, you don't really have to worry about it.

You've gotta hand it to them. Being arrested is a lot easier to take if you're being busted by a hot babe:

Or a hot stud, if that's your preference:

You have the right to remain sexy!

(The sad thing is, I'm not even sure where this post went off the rails)

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