Saturday, August 28, 2010

Copper clad Zinc

Well I sure didn't know they were redesigning the penny. Kind of embarrasses me too, because I'm 'sposed to be all out in front, cutting edge on stuff, you betcha. But somehow they slipped this one past me, and now the back of a US penny looks like a Chuckie Cheese token.

I suppose it was done to make counterfieting more difficult, something like that.

Maybe I can recover my lost sense of info-omnipotence with a story that's not in the news much...

While everybody is whooping it up about Ground Zero Mosque and Michelle Obama's vacation, a bill is plodding through legislative channels, called FSSA.

If enacted, it will give FDA authority to regulate food supplements. I know, you thought the FDA already had that power. But they don't, not really.

Like, some people take bee pollen pills. Don't laugh, it's true! And other people take fish oil pills. These substances are considered food. We have Federal employees who are supposed to ensure bee pollen pills (by the way, they do know that bees don't make pollen, don't they? The pills should be correctly called 'flower pollen pills' or something) are produced under hygenic conditions and don't contain lead or ebola or anything. There's also a line that food supplement marketers can cross, where the FDA won't let you claim ginseng extract cures leprosy for example.

And when something goes wrong, very wrong, there are regulatory channels to pull a substance from market immediately, as like happened with ephedera a few years back.

Other than that, all these substances are considered food, and food's treated quite differently than drugs. That is why it's the FDA after all...

That would change if DSSA becomes law. Under DSSA, food supplements would go through an FDA approval process, much like drugs currently do.

I actually don't think it will pass, because there's a lot of money on the line here. Look? Whatever noble intent DSSA may have, one must observe the law of unintended consequences. Another big Federal bureaucracy, food supplement people lobbying Congress people for help clearing hurdles, opportunity for more corruption.

If it's made from food, and it's not poison, you should be able to buy as much as you can afford, and gobble up as much as your stomach will take.

All my adult life I've been trying to get people to think critically, with mixed results to say the least. Look? If there was a pill that enlarged breasts or penises, do you think the company making it would need to spend millions in advertising? Nope, I don't think so either.

You could hire another 100,000 new federal bureaucrats. It'll get you another 1,000 Washington lobbyists too, but what did you accomplish? Did you banish illogical hope from the human heart?

There will always be people who want desperately to believe certain things are true, and there will always be people who exploit illogical hope. About the best we can do is keep a lid on the flagrantly fraudulent claims, and make sure nobody's selling poison to suckers. We're already doing that, so I don't see a need for DSSA.

It probably won't pass any way, because a lot of money is on the line. Campaign contributions for Senators who oppose it.

But I don't have time to think about that. My Doctor said I should take a zinc supplement, so I'm going to swallow a penny each day.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Getting Behind

Time flies by when one is actually employed, huh? But I said I was going to post twice a week, and twice a week I shall! I'm committed! Actually I probably should've been committed long ago, except we mostly don't put crazy people in the big cookie jar place anymore.

I think what we do now is give them a shopping cart and assign them a street corner. Something like that.

Now, there's another peeve I have with modern technology? Makes it harder to spot crazy people. Yep, there's that little earpiece now, and you can walk around all day appearing to be in conversation with your inner demons, but you're totally sane; just on the phone is all.

Tell ya, now we're down to one last lunatic identifier, and it's the shopping cart.

But I mostly like modern technology. You can watch on your computer, some wellhead a mile under the Gulf of Mexico just spewing crude oil to beat the band. Can't do a darned thing about it, but you can watch it!

And there are these miners trapped in Chile. About two thirds of a mile underground I believe. Saw them on TV this morning. I think probably they'll have a 24/7 webcam going in the near future. They should be out by Christmas, and I think somebody is missing a million dollar idea here.

It's just a whole lot better than 'Survivor' or 'Amazing Race' or whatever the heck TV has running at the moment. Just shoot some contracts down the little tube... uhm, David? How could they get the signed contracts back UP the tube?

Don't bother me with details! I'm a big picture guy here! Get these trapped miners signed, and we'll run them 8:00pm on Wednesdays. America's first 'reality' show what IS reality!

I was happy to see the trapped miners on TV this morning, and that's good idea from the Chileans, consulting with NASA on the psych stuff. There's just one little thing I don't really understand about what the rescue authorities told the miners?

They cautioned them not to get fat, because they might not fit in the escape shaft being drilled now. OK... aren't you folks who are telling the miners not to get fat, the same people who are sending them rations?

I mean, like what? Is the Under Assistant Secretary for Chilean mine rescue on the phone with them saying, "Don't get fat else you won't fit in the escape tunnel... want some more candy bars?"

Now you know what would make a really scary story? They're all down there, and one by one they start getting murdered. That would TOTALLY make a great horror movie!
I don't believe any such thing is gonna happen down there in Chile though. I watched the entire trapped miner video, and didn't see a shopping cart, so I think they're OK for now.

Monday, August 16, 2010

ELVIS: All American

Yep, I look good in a suit; no doubt about that. Now here's a handy tip for job seekers in this uncertain economy. All employers do drug testing these days, but don't bring a urine sample to your first interview. To some HR people, this comes off as a bit too eager.

Well, this week is the time to observe; Elvis is still dead, and yet very much alive. Turnout for this year's Graceland remembrances appeared strong as ever. It's impossible to draw a graph for future interest in Mr. Presley. While it's true that Valentino's grave doesn't get many visitors anymore, each cultural phenomena is a unique energy system, with its own unique attributes.

I've never toured Graceland, out of respect for the reverential. I just wouldn't want to try to keep a straight face that long. It'd be disrespectful to those who feel bonded with Elvis, for me to bust out laughing.

Elvis, I actually dig Elvis a lot. His final years appear incredibly lonely and sad to me, but I like a good yarn, and nobody could make up an Elvis, except Elvis.

Incredibly talented. I really can't say whether he was a better singer or dancer or actor. Yeah, actor! "Flaming Star" and "King Creole" are fine performances. "Loving You" is just great acting. Even "Kid Galahad" where you could already see beginnings of the Elvis formula movie, the boy held up well in an all star cast.

The later gaudy excess, it gets a pass with me. This is what happens when hillbillies get filthy rich overnight. To study a system, consider its extremes...
Elvis was about the poorest hillbilly who ever got the filthiest rich the overnightedness, and there ya go! That's what it looks like, OK?

All these kinds of cultural phenomena require a potluck of time, space and person. And that all came together in Elvis. I actually believe part of the enduring appeal is what a quintessentially American story his arc represents.

People still believe that anybody can make it here, with talent and some luck. That's a very new concept in human history, and still has little traction in places most of the Earth's population dwells. I shall now invent a brand new word!!!

Ameritocracy: The belief that one can rise as high as his talents enable, with only a modicum of pure dumb luck.

Now some may argue, such a belief is outdated in 2010. Why anybody would argue with ME, the smartest unemployed person in this whole dang country, I dunno, but they may.

Because as Yogi Berra once said, or probably thought about saying? "Just when you expect it least, the inevitable happens."

It may feel in 2010 like the cards are stacked. But it might've felt like the cards were stacked in 1903 when two bicycle mechanics changed the world. It might've felt the same to Henry Ford with his crazy idea to take automobile from luxury item to mass produced consumer item. And I bet it felt that way to young Elvis in the early 1950's. Probably the cards have always been stacked, but there's always a way to start a brand new game with revolutionary rules.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ms. Patricia

Didn't Patricia Neal do some kind of coffee commercials, back in the 1960's or something? I'm fairly sure she did. Maybe it wasn't coffee. I remember Madge 'you're soaking in it' Manicurist hawking dishwashing liquid. And I recall friendly Mrs. Olson showing up at folks' homes with a bag of grocery and Folger's coffee.

And there was Cora too, played by Margaret Hamilton, former OZ witch and allergic to water, but not coffee apparently. Maxwell House maybe?

Was also a 1960's coffee commercial where a woman privately wondered, "Hmmm. Jim never asks for a second cup of coffee at home." This was back in the era where wives stayed darn near deranged every waking moment, worrying how they could better serve their man. Little known fact? That's why Valium was invented.

I'm sure no expert on the 1960's really. I was mostly a little jug eared kid. Only thing I know for sure about the era? Was I on that island, my agenda would've been clear:
1. Kill Gilligan
B. Fix that hole in the boat

Uhm, what was I gonna type about? Oh yeah! Patricia Neal! One of the greatest actresses of Hollywood's golden era passed this week. I won't dwell on her personal life. She was an artist, and female screen artists rarely get treated appropriately.

Look here? You think Kate Hepburn was a great actress? PISH! Kate played two roles; funny Hepburn and serious Hepburn. Her entire career she played Kate. Patricia Neal was a great actress. Also Barbara Stanwyck. I could name some other women, but you wouldn't know who I was talking about.

My favorite Neal performance will always be "In Harm's Way." Back off you Cinemaniacs! Yep, Patricia was wonderful in "Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Fountainhead" and "Hud." Also great in "Face in the Crowd."

In her pairing with John Wayne for Preminger's "In Harm's Way" we get a great performance in a history hinge movie.

That film puts Wayne with a woman who's his equal in toughness. Quite a departure. Relationship between those two middle aged lovers is most interesting thing in the film. It's actually very 2010, the way those two fumble at each other, the pragmatism mingled with desire and past baggage.

I don't know of a movie where Patricia Neal didn't play a strong woman. That's very odd for the era. Lots of strong women characters, but they always come to ruin. Girls who don't worry why Jim doesn't ask for second cup of coffee at home? Well, they are asking for Karma.

Patricia Neal always played strong women. Maybe because she was a strong woman, and wouldn't take subservient roles. She was a great actress.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wacky Week in the News

I was visiting a blog the other day doing some research on the Papin sisters (think Lizzie Borden, except two of them and more vicious) and I must admit that blog is a LOT more sophisticated than mine! Oh yeah! It had advertisements where you can donate to charity, or click something and see video, and who knows what else.

Right now, I'm kinda more interested in securing gainful employment, but in the future? I might fancy up my blog some too! Must be a 14yo kid somewhere in this subdivision could help me with that.

But to the news... "Pantless man caught with armless Mannequin" another masterpiece of evocative headline writing there, you betcha! And why are they called 'pants' while 'bra' is singular? Uhm, David? Don't be recycling George Carlin jokes? We're doing the news here!!!

Former Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens went to see Jesus this week. Though not having the tenure of the late Senator Robert Byrd, Stevens was a formidable equal in delivering home state pork projects. All of Alaska's history, has only had 7 Senators. Easy to forget such things. When Alaska was made a state, "I Love Lucy" had already been on TV about eight years. Oddly? Former House mover & shaker Dan Rostenkowski passed this week too. Quite a guy with the pork too, that Dan.

So anyways? Byrd, Stevens, Rostenkowski all dead now? I expect to see a mysterious earmark slipped into 2011 budget to repave the streets of gold. Some cynics might say more like Ice machines for Hell, but? I'll continue to hope for the best of everyone.

Scientists revealed this week, they've discovered a Sponge that shares 70 percent genes in common with humans. I've found some of the sanctimonious pontificating rather amusing. Times like this (and there are many) I always privately speculate. What fascinating personal habits (if u know what I mean?) must one have, that they'll grab a Sponge and say, "See? See? This proves there is no such thing as moral absolutes!"

What in the heck are such people up to, that they must sacrifice true Scientific discipline that has given humanity so much, in favor of Voodoo logic advocacy. If a Sponge has 70 percent same genes as I do, does NOT mean there is no God.

See, I used to design Locomotive radiators. Don't talk about it much, as I don't wish to get the womenfolk riled up hormonally, if ya know what I mean? Though not considered as sexy as International jewel thieves, Radiator designers are on the scale of sexy, fer shure. Last time I checked, right between Accountants and Funeral Directors actually. Nothing to sneeze at, I know!

A locomotive radiator sits on the top. Any given moment of operation has about 50 gallons of water in it, weight of water approximately 450 lbs. Locomotive stops, water must be totally gone from system in under 120 seconds. This because sometimes locomotives stop in Canada in the winter, and no railroad line uses antifreeze.

Designing radiators is a manly trade, which explains why it's ranked slightly higher than Funeral Director on girl sexy-meter. Point is?

Good designers do 'Save as' and modify existing design for new application. A fundamental formula is understood at the very start. Works with Train radiators. Probably works about the same with Sponge DNA, I should think?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Calculated Risk

Infectious disease, fascinating subject really. Like the eradication of Smallpox for instance? Couldn't have happened without Lady Montagu, Edward Jenner, and Western Civ charity, tech and money.

But the real turning point in fighting Smallpox? It was the shift away from mass inoculation programs, to outbreak targeted quick response. That pivotal strategy came from a young Indian Health Service worker. He said, "In my village, when a house catches on fire, we don't throw water on ALL the houses." Very clear thinking there.

Yet the end wasn't known when the new strategy was proposed. Trying it meant risk.
I wasn't gonna type about Smallpox though...

Ya got this malaria thing. Kills LOTS of people in Africa, South America and Asia, even with liberal use of DDT. Oh yeah, you thought DDT was banned worldwide? Naw! They spray it on houses in rural India. Helps a lot, but not a perfect solution.

Now some scientists in AZ have engineered a mosquito that can't be infected by the malaria parasite. They think they can introduce into the wild in sufficient numbers where the old fashioned mosquito will quickly be bred out of existence.

Frankenbug to the rescue!!!

Well let's round up the usual suspects, while the giants of science are busy popping champagne corks...

I'm a product of midnight Creature Feature, so I KNOW about unintended consequences of Science. Nuke tests in the desert get you... giant ants, giant Gila Monster, giant Tarantula, and the Amazing Colossal Man. That's just in the US. You don't EVEN want to know about Nuke after effects in Japan!!! I bet homeowner's insurance rates skyrocketed in Tokyo in the 1950's.

But I also know about Kudzu, and Australian cane toads. I know the well meant intentional introduction of species can get way out of hand. And my time with Charles Fort has given me a healthy skepticism about unwarranted certainty from Scientists, who since Hiroshima have become our cultural high priests.

And one reason our culture was so outraged at the Gulf Oil leak is because
post-Apollo generations have come to believe our high priests won't let us down.

I trust the fathers & mothers of Frankenbug to insure they haven't accidentally engineered a mosquito that won't host malaria, but will carry HIV or Ebola quite well. Yet, they can't test Mosquito 3.0 for its interactions with pathogens that haven't been identified yet, huh?

Oh, I'm not sitting in the seat of the 'Cautioneer' here, just sayin' is all. Might as well get the hippie take articulated while I'm at it...

"Dude, this is SO wrong interfering with Nature! It's evil putting things where they don't belong, interfering with the beautiful, perfect balance of nature. We should just do treated nets. Mosquitos are people too you know!"

Well, it'd be dismissive to remind the hippies that marijuana ain't exactly a native species in northern California, but that's too easy. It's an entire mindset that merits honest challenge.

Nature mostly wants to kill you. That's Nature's job. Mosquito nets are wonderful. Bill & Melinda Gates, Bono, post-WH Laura & GW Bush are to be commended for their efforts. Of course personally, I wonder why they don't establish factories in affected areas, teach people tech to make their own nets.

A dirty secret about the nets? Even IF you can get primitive, superstitious cultures to accept these nets prevent Malaria? The nets always go first to the adults, because they're the producers. Many parts of the world, life is hard and life is cheap.

This is the part of the blog where I either have to smart off about Billy Jack movies or declare a position. All right then, I'm pro-Frankenbug. It's a real risk, introducing an engineered species. The biosphere, despite what hippies like to think, is never static. The tiny Malaria parasite has a speck of the Eternal in it too, and a system exists possibly enabling it to launch an assymetrical response.

Humans were given brains for a reason. To use them while walking humbly before God is about the best we can manage. Many many thousands die every year from Malaria.
Observation leads to theory leads to experiment leads to sober decision.

Was it mine to say, I say a good chance to eradicate Malaria? Turn loose the Frankenbugs. History can damn me for what I didn't know. Whatever comes can't be worse than a Billy Jack movie, right?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Art and Life

I feel sorry for that Dr. House. Every time I'm walking thru a room and his show is on? He's either suffering some dread health problem, or getting fired, or both. I bet Obamacare is somehow to blame.

Headlines are always fun. Sometimes they can be poignantly evocative, even though topic is sad. A real good one from this week? "Naked man beaten outside Bar."

But my brand new fave headline is... "Superman saves family from Foreclosure." Yeah, they were about to get evicted, packing up from home that'd been in family more than fifty years. And down in the basement they found a box full of Billy Jack movies!
Naw that's not it! They found a box of comic books. And there he was, Superman no. 1 from 1938; est. auction value $250K.

Sweet human interest yarn; authenticity already verified, should sweep the major news organs soon.
I bet this story will lead to LOTS of basements & attics getting a long overdue cleaning, I betcha!

And it kind of reminds me of George Weller. In retirement, George spent many days in his old recliner bitterly regretting loss of his greatest journalism work in post-nuke Japan. Army censors destroyed his dispatches. All that time, and eight feet above George's head was a steamer trunk up in the attic, full of the carbon papers on those dispatches.

In Engineering, one considers a system by imagining its extreme boundaries. That means in most every human life there is some form of comic books and carbon papers.

Not everybody gets to run around post-nuke Japan. But many people think they've been robbed of something, when a quite serviceable form of what was lost lies well within reach.

Not everybody has Superman no. 1 in their basement. But many people have something of wonderful usefulness nearly in hand through good times & bad, just waiting to be found.

Y'know, somebody put that comic book in that box. But some hand had to pull it out of the box. In the emotions attending losing one's home, I can easily imagine the Man of Steel could've ended up in a dumpster, huh?

So it takes a forgiving heart to look for carbon papers in the attic. Takes a hopeful heart to recognize a comic book in a basement full of junk.

Now I got to get details on "Naked Man beaten outside Bar." I sure hope it wasn't Dr. House; he's already got enough problems.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The straight Dope on Boris

Really? If you're around my age and grew up in the United States, Paul Frees is all over you. Yes, Paul was the voice of ever-frustrated spy Boris Badenov, but he was a lot more than that!

Let's put something in context here (which is SO unlike me, get right down to it) about Paul Frees? He had a vocal range of four octaves. Me, former professional musician/singer/trouble maker, I got about 75 percent of an octave here.

Paul was very gifted. But let's focus on his deliverables? Aside from being the voice of Boris Badenov... do you remember Jolly Green Giant commercials? Remember that 'Little green sprout' character? That was the voice of Paul Frees. 'Lil Sprout' never came off as a raging heterosexual to me, but I could be wrong about that.

And if you're old enuf to recall the moon landing, you've been to a theatre or a drive-in where Paul Frees narrarated the coming attractions...

"He found himself on a strange alien world where Apes are the masters, and humans are caged! Don't miss Charlton Heston in 'Planet of the Apes'! Also co-starring some really cute chick in a fur bikini."

Paul Frees did a lot more than that though. Thirty years dead, he's still the narrator at many Disney theme park attractions.

Now, in Billy Wilder's most commercially successful film "Some Like it Hot." Well, Paul Frees of the deep authoritarian coming attractions voice? He also dubbed female voice of Tony Curtis in drag. Don't ask me why Tony was in drag, just watch the movie?

Talent, that gets one admiration. But one's passion is what draws enduring love. Paul Frees single handedly tried to save the world from Beatniks. Yep, self-written, self-directed, self-financed, Paul Frees (aka Boris Badenov) made a movie considered a classic by people who don't really know what the word 'classic' actually means.

Clearly the film was made with passion, but not much ability. Mr. Frees attempted to warn unsuspected Western Civ about the dangers of poncho wearing, bongo beating, finger snapping, poetry reciting degenerates. In Mr. Frees' 1960 tour de force (that's french for load of crap) effort "The Beatniks" a sordid tale is told.

There aren't actually any Beatniks in the movie. More overgrown juvenille delinquents I'd say. The soundtrack does have lots of bongo playing in it though; quite annoyingly really.

Paul Frees tried to warn us about Beatniks. Let the beatniks in, next thing you got hippies. Know what comes after that? Yep, that's right. Billy Jack movies.