athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
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What's the first major news event that you remember hearing about as a child? Where did you learn about it? How did it impact your world view?

The Vietnam War wasn't really an event when I was a child: it was simply another fact of existence. It was always there, always part of adult conversation, always part of my father. I don't actually remember the period that my father was in Vietnam, or even when he came home, but for as long as I can remember, his time there has been one of the defining attributes of his personality.

The first event -- or series of events -- that I really remember as news stories would have to be the Apollo flights, and I learned about those by having my mother bundle me up in front of the TV and watch every single manned flight.


Let's see if LJ will recognize its own template if I cross-post from DW...
athelind: (Default)

First Superman Comic Sells For Record $1 Million



I dread work this week; odds are far too high that at least one bozo will come in every night, all excited about this, and wanting to talk about comics and collectibles as "investments".

He won't want to buy things, per se. He'll want my advice. What should he look for? What should he buy? What's the best return on his money?

How can he make a quick buck?

Your Obedient Serpent is honestly sick to death of comic books, superheroes, and pop-culture ephemera, but he'd still rather deal with people who read and enjoy these things than someone who bumbles in asking questions so clueless they defy an answer, simply because he's heard about someone who made huge returns on stuff that he's always dismissed.

How can you make a quick buck in the comics market? You can't. It took seventy godsforsaken years of carefully babying a fragile bundle of crappy, high-acid paper, starring a character nobody in the industry thought would catch on, to get that ten-million-fold return on Action's 10¢ cover price, you idiot.

Resolved: I am going to do my damnedest to sell these sleazy fools every worthless piece of crap I've got in the store, every random Big Event Comic, and most especially, every High-End, Hard-Sided, Nitrogen-Filled Comic Preservation Device I can dig up.

Because that's the real answer to the question. How do you make a quick buck in comics? By selling crap to the gullible.

Barnum was right.


athelind: (Default)

Better Off Deadbeat



Craig Cunningham is suing abusive credit companies and bill collectors.

It's one of those framing issues: "oh, no, he's trying to weasel out of debts he racked up, fair and square" -- but, you know, we've all been manipulated into this debt-based economy anyway. We're expected to play nice and be cooperative and toe the line, while they don't even see fit to follow the rules that already favor them.

The only way that's gonna change is by telling the bastards to take a flying leap. And sometimes, that takes another bastard to lead the way.

More power to ya, Mr. C -- and back to you, Howard.




For the record, I'm not seeing this as some kind of easy way to deal with my own economic woes;
for one thing, I don't have a whole lotta debt right now, myself. This just pleases me.

athelind: (Default)
Most of the news outlets are nattering on and on about Apple's new tablet as today's top story.

NPR, however, knows what's really important.


athelind: (Default)

Upper Mismanagement


Quick Summary: American manufacturing is in trouble in part because American business schools focus almost exclusively on finance, rather than production.

-- found via Boing Boing.



This thesis jibes with my impressions -- or perhaps it just plays into my prejudices.

You see, I've never really believed in money. I never have. I know it only has meaning and value because everyone agrees that it has meaning and value, and I've always found it difficult to buy into the consensual hallucination.

I design games for fun. I model real systems for a vocation. When I look at the financial world and derivative markets and all the rest, it all looks a lot more like the former than the latter. It's made up. It's arbitrary. And it bugs the hell out of me that, over the course of my lifetime, the people playing these made-up number games have managed to arrange the world so that their Game is somehow the Only Important Thing. no matter what else you do, no matter what else you know, you have to play their Game to have any measure of stability or security in your life.

And yet, they have no reciprocal obligation. If you have solid, useful, tangible knowledge, you also have to know their rules at the most basic level, and the more you pick up, the better off you are -- but if you focus on nothing but the Game, you have distinct advantages, economically, socially, and politically.

And, adding insult to very real injury, they constantly pat themselves on the back for being "hard-nosed" and "practical" and "only looking at the bottom line".

In short, they're Munchkins.

And yeah, the idea that their inbred, detached-from-reality number games have eviscerated the economy, leaving nothing but a hollow shell, a junk-bond paper tiger, a ghost made of numbers -- that makes perfect sense to Your Obedient Serpent.

On the other claw, as valid as these points may be, at this juncture in my life, I am forced to ask: Hey, Athe, how's that workin' for you?

I need to reassess my own attitude toward their razzin' frazzin' Game, and my own participation in it. Right now, when someone says "investment" and "mutual funds" to me, what I hear is "gambling" and "scam" -- and that's not useful.


athelind: (Default)

True Life Adventures: The Dance of the Hours


Artist's Conception
Crocodile "dances" across a "troupe" of hippos. It doesn't end well.



athelind: (Default)

Fed Official Sees High Unemployment For Years

-- Associated Press, via NPR

You know, this actually makes me feel better about the job market in the near future.

Remember the Clinton Boom? (I know it's hard, but it really wasn't that long ago!)

Most "official government reports" of that period just foresaw the good times rollin' along. The few who saw the boom as part of a boom-and-bust cycle were dismissed as Chicken Littles. Same with the housing bubble that ranged through both the Clinton and Bush years.

In the same way, the government officials who currently insist that Recovery Is Just Around The Corner sound impossibly optimistic, seeing unicorns and rainbows in every little upward jig of an isolated economic indicator. Not only don't they convince us, they don't even sound like they've convinced themselves.

Official statements like this one sound so much more plausible. They're rooted in the "common sense" observations every one of us makes every day. They're logical extrapolations of the future from current conditions.

Just like those glorious predictions of the Infinite Boom.1

Because, you see, deep down, nobody really believes in change. They don't believe that things will ever be different. They find it hard to believe, in their hearts, that things ever were different, even if they experienced it themselves.2 My parenthetical comment above, about the Clinton Boom? 'Fess up: it's getting harder and harder to remember those times as genuinely prosperous, isn't it? Instead, it's just the top of a downward slope, not so much "better" as "where 'worse' started".

Don't read too much into this post, really. It's just an early-morning knee-jerk reaction to a headline article. Semantically, it boils down to, "hey, the government says this, so it must be wrong."

I suppose that's as good as any other method of economic prediction.


1Somewhere along the line, as Boom shifted into Decline and from there to Bust, the treatment of the "Technological Singularity" in speculative fiction shifted from "The Rapture of the Nerds" to the geek equivalent of Left Behind. See Accelerando, by Charlie Stross, for a good example of the latter.

2This is, of course, the root of Global Warming Denial.


athelind: (Default)

Struck at 75 mph, this coyote rode from the Utah-Nevada border all the way to Sacramento wedged behind the grill of a Honda Fit.

Despite the impact and an 8-to-10-hour drive, he suffered no broken bones or internal injuries -- proving that at least some coyotes are every bit as durable as Chuck Jones told us when we were kids.

Four days later, he escaped from a kennel,

There's a slide show at the NBC Bay Area site. It's amazing.

In a later interview, the Honda was quoted as saying, "Beep beep."




On a related note, I got the Grape back today. The shiny new headlight on the starboard side makes the old port side headlight look sorta grungy. There's a crack in the Ford medallion, but that's the only remaining evidence of that impact.

I have appointments planned for tomorrow, but the Santa Cruz Resume Jaunt will take place on Friday.


Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] wingywoof for the coyote story. Thanks to Kuykendall's Auto Body & Frame for the car repairs, and thanks to [livejournal.com profile] hinoki for sending me there.
athelind: (Default)


(There should be an embedded graph, above. If you don't see it, here's a link. If you do, please let me know in the comments, because it's not showing up in either FireFox or Epiphany.)

But wait, it gets worse:

According to official statistics, the unemployment rate in the United States is now 9.8 percent. But those statistics understate the severity of the jobs crisis. The official statistics do not include the 875,000 Americans who have given up looking for work, even though they want jobs. When these "marginally attached" workers and part-time workers are added to the officially unemployed, the result, according to another, broader governement measure of unemployment known as "U-6," is shocking. The United States has an unemployment rate of 17 percent.

And even this may understate the depth of the problem. By adding the 3.4 million Americans who want a job but have not looked for one in over a year, businessman, philanthropist and Obama advisor Leo Hindery Jr. infers an actual unemployment rate of 18.8 percent. In other words, nearly one in five Americans is unemployed or underemployed.


I know, this isn't really news. A lot of people have mentioned the current economic situation in comments on my recent Jobquest! posts.* I'm just posting it here for future reference.


*Please note: this is not "reassuring", thank you very much; it just adds to the stress.
athelind: (Default)
In 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit, I was in the United States Coast Guard, stationed at Coast Guard Group Monterey. Group Monterey (or Station Monterey, as it's called these days) is at Breakwater Cove, more or less at the other end of Cannery Row from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I was flopped on my bed, lazing around with the TV on after a long workday, waiting for the evening meal. October is when Monterey gets its brief glimpse at summer, so I'd doffed my uniform and was in my skivvies. I wasn't watching the World Series; a rerun of The Facts of Life had just started, and I was on the verge of grabbing the remote when things started shaking.

My reaction:
  1. Hm. Quake.
  2. Huh. It's still going.
  3. Holy Shit! It's the Big One!

Somewhere around 2.5, the reflexes of someone born in California and raised with earthquake drills through childhood kicked in, and I was under the table. The table, it should be noted, was Military Barracks Furniture, and probably sturdier than most houses: the legs were 4x4s. If the floor had dropped out from under me, I'd have been in some trouble, but if the ceiling had gone, I was, quite literally, covered.

When the shaking stopped, the power was out. I threw on some clothes -- I can't remember if it was my uniform or my civvies -- and ran downstairs to see if I was needed anywhere on base. I wasn't, so I jogged down Cannery Row at a good clip to assess the damages, particularly at the Aquarium; those big glass tanks were a particular concern, and I figured someone from an emergency service should look in on them.

The Aquarium was fine, as it turned out, and the docents were evacuating the tourists very professionally; power was out all up and down the row, and, in fact, in most of the town.

On the way back, I checked out the Marina, right by the pier; again, no serious damage, but the currents on the harbor were visibly off, twisting and turning and flowing the wrong way.**

Eventually, we heard from our engineers. Several of them had driven up to Alameda on a parts run. Before getting on the freeway, they'd stopped at a convenience store to get drinks for the long drive home -- and that's where they were when the quake hit. They stepped outside to see the section of Interstate 880 that they were about to take... collapsed into a sandwich.

The electricity was out for the next few days in Monterey; as a result, our commander shrugged and declared liberty for everyone but the watch crews, since the rest of us couldn't do much of anything without power tools. We had a generator to keep the Operations Center running, and it had enough juice to spare for the mess hall, as well.

I felt kind of bad, really: most of the coast was in chaos, and I got a long weekend and never even missed a hot meal. Even the duty days were surprisingly light; not many people go pleasure boating after a major catastrophe, and even the professional fishing fleet was taking a few days of downtime.

The aftershocks kept coming, though, for a couple of weeks, and we'd all get hyperalert when they did -- or when a truck rolled by. In fact, I was exceptionally vibration-sensitive for several more years, well after returning to civilian life and moving to Oceanside, in San Diego County -- just long enough to get jolted awake by the barely-perceptible fringes of the Landers quake in 1992.


*A decade later, taking Geography/Hydrology at CSUMB, I realized just what kind of underwater avalanches the quake must have triggered in the Monterey Underwater Canyon.
athelind: (Default)
I have to say, I'm pleased by this speech, and this slogan.



Goodness knows, I'm trying to find myself a mop. Where do they hide the damned things?


athelind: (Default)
Am I missing something?

Apparently, "striving for nuclear disarmament" by rattling sabres at Iran and North Korea, "supporting international bodies" like the WTO, the World Bank, and other corporate bulwarks, and "rekindling hope" by Not Being George Dubya Bush qualifies a man for the Nobel Prize, despite what Your Obedient Serpent perceives as a continuation of all of Bush's most rephrehensible policies, at home and abroad.

Okay, not all of Bush's policies. President Obama isn't actively rude to other countries.

But, ten thousand thunders! how is it that I find myself inclined to agree with Neocon Republicans and Taliban members about this?

If Reagan was Teflon, Obama is Kevlar. His opponents are so reprehensible that I wind up aligning myself with him simply to distance myself from them. It's like he generates a Godwin Deflector Field: I'm gonna stand over here, with Barry, so none of The Stupid gets on me.

Seriously, I know there are non-North Americans reading this. What's your perspective on the President and the Peace Prize?



Update: [livejournal.com profile] rodant_kapoor has his own take on what this represents, and it does make sense, from a certain point of view.



Update: [livejournal.com profile] circuit_four has another good take.

Good stuff is popping up in the comments here, as well; thanks, gang!



Update: [livejournal.com profile] rikoshi makes some good points On Obama.

And that guy in the Oval Office had was as astonished as anyone else, it seems.



Update: Meanwhile, The Washington Post puts it all in perspective by pointing out that the Peace Prize has also, historically, been awarded for "aspirations". (Of course, those who have a medical background know that if you aspirate something, you may choke on it.)


Most of these updates are for my own future reference, but also for interested readers.
athelind: (Default)

NPR: Government Eyes Crackdown on Texting And Driving



Okay, I can understand the argument that using a hands-free phone shouldn't be any more distracting than conversing with a passenger actually in the car -- I can poke several gaping holes in the logic, but I can understand it. I acknowledge the need for those "I promise not to play with the touchscreen while driving" disclaimers on the various HUDs that new cars have.

Texting while driving, though... glancing at messages is bad enough, but actually sending them when you're behind the wheel?

Why is this even an issue? Why is it common enough to be an issue? This should be something that crops up once or twice on the "News of the Weird" or, preferably, the Darwin Award sites -- something that is so flagrantly, suicidally idiotic that most people have to stifle a morbid laugh about it.

It shouldn't be something that's common enough to need a "Government Crackdown".

It's taking your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel. Don't people listen to The Doors?

Why not read the news while you drive, or take a frakking nap? Hey, next month is NaNoWriMo -- why not write a novel?

Arrrrgh.


athelind: (Default)
In the wake of columnist and Nixon speechwriter William Safire's death, here is the speech that he wrote for the President to read in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.

It's surreal to read this today; earlier this morning, I found the lyrics to "The Green Hills of Earth" running through my head:

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.


Strange to think what might have been, and, thankfully, was not.


Does anyone know where to find MP3 or video of a decent filksinger performing "Green Hills of Earth"? The only ones I could find today were, frankly, terrible.
athelind: (Default)
Boy, if I were a Revelations-Apocalypse-Anti-Catholic Fundy Conspiracy Prophecy Nut (or at the very least, Alan Moore and Steve Bissette), I'd milk this for all it's worth:



I mean, creepy, crawly spider scuttling all over the man many have dubbed Pope Palpatine? If I didn't like spiders, I'd be having a field day!

As it is, however, it just makes me go "awwwww, how cute!"

athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)


It's a song about the loss of innocence... and we've all lost a little today.

Good night, Mary.


athelind: (Default)
I'm posting this link in part for my own benefit, for easy reference in the future:

“Mister Taxy” Is A Friend Of The Rich.


In which MGK makes it clear that the biggest beneficiaries of tax dollars devoted to social infrastructure are, in fact, the wealthy.

Excerpt:
The level of income inequality between the poorest and richest is the greatest it ever has been in human history. On the one hand, that kind of sucks; on the other hand, it’s amazing. There’s a reason that feudal lords in the Middle Ages weren’t as comparatively rich as modern tycoons, and it’s not because of technology: it’s because they don’t have to spend money on keeping people alive and healthy and generating value and furthermore able to generate the best possible value, because the government does that for them, and frankly does it better than individuals could anyway.



athelind: (Default)
The news in my last post has a lot of people worried about Marvel getting "Disneyfied". Funny, that hadn't really occurred to me.

I'd hate to see the intelligent, thoughtful storytelling of recent years compromised by a company who didn't respect the years of development and history of these characters. I'm not sure the store where I work could survive without merchandise aimed at the mature, sophisticated sensibilities of the modern comics audience.

I know, I know, when people hear "Disney", they still automatically think of the "wholesome" Mouse Factory of fifty years ago, as if the company had no idea how to tell exciting, entertaining action-adventure tales. But, seriously, folks: the modern Disney megalopoly has its tentacles in a lot more than happy, sappy, saccharine kiddie stuff. When I hear "Disney", I don't hear "Cartoon Company" anymore. I hear "Entertainment Powerhouse".

When I mentioned the effect this might have on the Marvel Studios movie series, it was almost entirely wondering if that side of the business would see a cash infusion that would re-accelerate the filming schedule (which has been pushed back a couple of times from the original plan of two big-name superhero pictures a year for three or four years).

Edit: [livejournal.com profile] cpxbrex pointed out that Marvel owes its recent barrage of movies to "complex financing", and that this may have something to do with the acquisition deal.

A lot of folks, on the other claw, are worried about them somehow compromising the integrity of the properties.

Personally? I think that the megacorp that gave us movies like No Country for Old Men and Miracle at St. Anna won't bat an eye at Tony Stark's antics.


Edit: Since none of the other comics blogs I read have mentioned this at all, I've combined the last two posts into a single post on my comics blog, Kirby Dots & Ditko Ribbons. Scooped! You are all so totally scooped! Like Raisin Bran, you're scooped!
athelind: (Default)
That headline again:

Disney. Buys. Marvel.


Tempting as it is to just follow that with "'Nuff said", I have to wonder....
  • How will this affect Marvel Sudios and their ambitious "Avengers Cycle" movie plans?
  • Will Disney cancel the Gemstone Comics license, and start releasing Disney titles using Marvel's production and banner?
  • Conversely, will that matter if both companies continue to ignore newstand and grocery store distribution in favor of the hard-core fandom's boutique market?
  • What does this mean for Kingdom Hearts and Capcom vs. Marvel?
  • Will there be an even more vigorous crackdown on Marvel fanfic and games with "Character Creators" that let you "duplicate Marvel intellectual property", like City of Heroes and Champions Online?
  • Will Howard return to his original character design? Will he turn out to hail from Duckburg? Will he lose his pants?

If this doesn't fall through, it'll bring a symmetry to the comics world: both major comics companies will be owned by massive global media juggernauts.

Strange days indeed.

athelind: (Default)

YES!




YES! YES! YES!



Thank you, Congressman Frank! This is your Crowning Moment of Awesome.

This is exactly how these crazy bullshit lies should be met -- must be met. It's "vile, contemptible nonsense", all right, and we need more people to come right out and say it.


Thanx to [livejournal.com profile] cargoweasel and [livejournal.com profile] circuit_four
athelind: (Default)
I just spoke to my mother on the phone, and she had her own memories of the landing.

"We all sat up and watched every minute of the landing. People asked me later, 'how could you let your children stay up until all hours like that?' And I'd answer, 'how could I not?'"
athelind: (Default)
I've missed too many of these, I fear. For the fortieth anniversary of man's first landing on another celestial body, I started planning more than a week ago. Rather than lean on my usual hymn to the Apollo astronauts, I was going to post footage of Walter Cronkite, and his reaction to the landing. On Thursday, the avuncular delivery of The Most Trusted Man In America was a significant part of my post reflecting back on the launch of Apollo 11. I even uploaded a special icon for the occasion.

And then, on Friday, Mr. Cronkite passed away, making my plans both more appropriate and more poignant.

Back to you, Walter.







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