Thursday, August 31, 2006

Already? Really?

Hmmm... only one day left on the lifeclock. Anyone know the way to Sanctuary?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Everything You Learned In School Was Wrong #2: The Brontosaurus

If you were poll the random "person on the street" about their knowledge of dinosaur names, or their favorite dinosaur, chances are that most folks would name the Tyrannosaurus Rex. But after the mighty T.Rex there would be quite a lot of folks who would name the Brontosaurus (thunder lizard). The massive swamp-dwelling herbivores have been one of the staple dinosaurs for appearance in schools and popular culture for years, starting from when it was first discovered and named in the late 1800s. The gentle giants that all the kids love. So popular the Post Office chose it as one of the four dinosaur stamps they released in the 70s.

The problem is... there's no such thing as a Brontosaurus. It's been removed from books and museums because, despite everything we've heard about the mighty Thunder Lizard, it actually never existed. In fact, the guy who discovered it mis-identified the fossil skeleton he found when a mostly complete skeleton was found with the wrong skull in 1879. In actuality, the skeleton he found was of a species he'd already discovered and named two years earlier - the much lamer-sounding (though perhaps appropriately named) Apatosaurus (deceptive lizard).

The goof was actually discovered and published in 1903. So why are we still calling it a Brontosaurus more than 100 years later? Well, the correction was first published in Geological Series of the Field Columbian Museum , which from the name you can probably determine is a pretty obscure journal, even if you're NOT familiar with geological study. The catchier name also was used as the mascot for the Sinclair Oil Company for many years, and was, as previously mentioned, even listed on a US Postage Stamp. So people know Brontosaurus.

In practice, most folks recognize Brontosaurus as a synonym of the scientifically correct Apatosaurus, and geologists generally have more important things to worry about than this little misnomer.

But that still doesn't change the fact that your teacher was wrong.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Everything You Learned In School Was Wrong #1: The Solar System

Quick - what's wrong with the above picture? It's a diagram of the Solar System - the kind of thing we've seen in our textbooks and used for...oh, about the past 75 YEARS. Nine planets in the Solar System - just one of those givens we all know and love. But yeah, as you've probably heard, it's now out of date.

So what changed? Was a new planet discovered? Confirmation of a tenth planet, newly discovered? No, not so much. Instead, "they" (the IAU) voted today to change the definition of a planet. Yes, you read that right, change the definition of a planet. APPARENTLY scientists have been pretty unhappy about Pluto being included in with the rest of the planets for quite some time now. It's too small, too barren, it's got a funny orbit... it doesn't fit in with the cool kids. And what do we do with things which don't fit in? Why, ostracize them, of course! We give it the astronomical equivalent of making it ride on the short bus, out of sight and out of mind for all the normal kids. So, thanks to the eggheads, Pluto is now no longer a planet. Instead, it's newly demoted to a new "dwarf planet" status, which it'll have to share with at least two other things, with quite a few other likely candidates soon to join it, pending "approval". They resolved the following:
The IAU...resolves that planets and other bodies in our Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:

(1) A "planet" [1] is a celestial body that: (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

(2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that: (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape [2], (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.

(3) All other objects [3] except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies".

This whole process the IAU has been going through for changing the definition of a planet actually went through several stages... at one point it was even seeing more likely that we'd have TWELVE planets instead of 9. Or even more than 50! Obviously that'd never work... so instead we LOSE a planet.

Needless to say, the backlash started pretty quickly. There's bumper stickers, shirts, and some good stuff in a Worth 1000 photoshop contest. I'm sure more is already on it's way.

Still... this isn't the FIRST time that Pluto's gotten the short end of the stick anyway - so this shouldn't come as THAT big of a surprise. After all, among the whole group, he was the only one who couldn't walk upright, wear clothes, or speak English....

Good Advice

So in between calls, I spent the better portion of the morning so far typing up a post, only to have Firefox crash and lose it all. Bastards. The funny thing is that several times I thought about pressing the little "Save as Draft" button and skipped it, figuring I was almost done. Save and backup your work kiddies!!

For what I lost, it's something I really want to write about, but for now it'll have to wait - phone shift is over and there's more work to be done.

So for now, I'll just share this good bit of advice:

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Stupid RoadRunner

So I was actually in the midst of crafting up a new blog last night when RoadRunner decided to go down. It had been working fine all evening (well, as far as I know - I was only using it sporadically), but then as I'm pulling up another page as reference - poof there goes teh Intarwub.

So instead I'll cut my fair recap really short. We went twice, enjoyed both trips, weather cooperated for the most part. First trip with Jeremy, Irene & Alaina, second trip with Amy's Mom & Shari. Good times. Highlights:
  • FOOD: Ohio Food Pavilion gyros, corn nuggets, sweet potato fries, roast corn-on-the-cob, deep-fried oreos, lemon shake-ups
  • Art show (with an AWESOME huge painted "Periodic Table of Phobias", complete with key.
  • Cool custom name-sign to hang on Evie's wall
  • Butter cow, butter Browns & Bengals mascots
  • Amy toting Evie around in the Baby Bjorn for the first "real" time.
So yeah, fun stuff. Outside of the fair, I DID have more to talk about, but you know - stupid Internet. So instead, some links:
  • Courtesy of Laurie, a blinged-out cat. That's just weird man. He needs a litterbox with spinners and he's all set.
  • From BoingBoing, NASA Can't Find Moon Landing Tapes. (full article here) REALLY? I would think that's the kind of thing you'd consider pretty damn important. Maybe they should've opted for somewhere more secure than under Neil Armstrong's bed when going for the proverbial "safe place". Why weren't they in the Library of Congress? What this actually made me think of was the whole "Apollo Moon landing never happened" conspiracy theory. I'm DEFINITELY not an ascriber to that theory, but I'm sure this story will lend them some more arguing power - after all, the original high quality film is "lost", so you can't see the bad set pieces. Right? Anyway, it also reminded me of the really cool movie Capricorn One (though it was Mars in question there).

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mitchell's Ocean Club

So back in May I used the comments form on the Cameron Mitchell web site to pass along my concerns about the planned overhaul to my favorite CM restaurant, The Ocean Club. I actually DID hear back from someone, and she offered to invite me to one of their practice nights before the reopening... of course I accepted and Amy & I took them up on it! I believe last night was their first "large" practice night, with two more coming during this week before the official reopening this Wednesday (8/9).

Very noticable change right away -- they put a small waiting area/lounge over the Easton ground-floor exit right there, with a huge wood-paneled sign for the place. Here's their new logo (from the CM web site):

Inside, the layout is almost exactly the same as before - host/hostess stand in the same place, bar in the same place (and shape), slightly raised seating area to the left, and main dining area beyond the bar. The DID add a really nice outdoor patio running along the outside of the place (above the entrances to the various Gaps on the outside there) - which is supposedly going
to be heated in the winter for use year-round. There's also a piano just beyond the host stand (with mic), to suit the new "piano club" feel. Though the lay-out and shape are the same, the DECOR is completely different. Gone are the bright blues and ocean-style theming, all replaced with wood paneling (a medium shade, not TOO dark), a rock-wall, a white curtain illuminated with color changing lights around the bar (think "M"). Overall, the look is very "high class steakhouse", not "fusion seafood".

Which makes sense, because (as you might've noticed in the logo), steaks are now featured in the menu just as prominently as seafood, possibly even moreso, and the entire menu has been expanded and restructured around that. The PRICES have increased accordingly as well. It's now in the M - Mitchell's Steakhouse pricerange, going from "moderate" to "expensive". Steaks (and the "Chef Creations") fish items are now served a la carte, and there are separate potato and "accompaniments" sections for side dishes. Thanks to that, where before two could eat a 3 course meal and get out for maybe $60, now you're looking at upwards of $100 instead.

For appetizers, we opted for one of the new choices, a Wisconsin Aged Cheddar Fondue. It was served in a white crock with a tealight burning under it to keep it warm, and french bread, carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and chunk salami for dipping (using provided fondue forks naturally). From watching the servers coming out of the kitchen, it seemed like this was a pretty popular appetizer last night - pretty unique (even though The Melting Pot is also at Easton, but outside of that setting...) and very tasty.

They have a pretty good selection of salads - Amy had the "signature"; salad, which is includes apples & walnuts like the signature salads at many other CM restaurants, with a slightly different dressing than elsewhere. I had the french onion soup w/ brandy aged swiss. Both were just "ok" - good, but nothing to write home about. On the soup-side, stick with the she-crab bisque (making it's return).

For entrees, they have about 8 or so "chef's creations", then a featured fish (7 or 8 different types of fish) and steaks (7 or 8 different cuts, including prime rib). The steaks seem pretty similar in price, cut and preparation as Mitchell's Steak House. It's been awhile since i've been there, but I wouldn't be surprised if the fish options were similar to the Fish Market - in a lot of ways the new Ocean Club feels like a mix of the two. Gone are almost all of the Asian fusion menu items featured fairly prominently at the old Ocean Club - the sole returning entree is a slightly fdifferent take on the Ginger Crusted Salmon (which happened to be possibly my favorite dish at any restaurant anywhere). The salmon (and crust) is exactly the same (though a larger cut of salmon), and the sauce is exactly the same (thankfully - it's incredible) - though with the larger cut of salmon there's not quite enough on the plate now... our server was kind enough to bring me a bit extra when I asked. It's not served on sticky rice any longer (presumably to get you to pony-up for one of the potatoes or other sides), though it does come with stir-fried snap peas instead of the broccoli. I'd be OK with the peas, but I REALLY miss the rice - the sauce is so good and the rice was able to further highlight it. Amy had the petit filet, which was quite good - as I said, pretty much like Mitchell's.

The dessert options are pretty typical for a CM place - creme brulee, a cake or two, etc. They DO have Baked Alaska which is one of those classic desserts that you really don't see offered much these days, so that's cool. We split the "Georgia Peaches & Cream" - like a warm peach crisp served a la mode.

In all a very good experience, and I'd recommend the place. I do miss the funky ocean-themed decor, but the new look suits the new price point very well. I'm not sure the mall will be able to support ANOTHER restaurant in that price range (on top of Smith & Wollenski's and Melting Pot is only one notch down), but we'll see. As for the menu, it's larger than before, and very high
quality, though I really do miss the Asian fusion focus.

Final Score.... I'd say 4/5.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I [heart] Perpetual War

Fear is your new god. In a post-Cold War age when the threat of Global Thermal Nuclear War is no longer hanging over everyone's heads, how do you keep the masses in check? Peak Oil. Global Warming. Pandemic Flu. Terrorism. Perpetual War.

There are real problems and imagined problems. Plenty of real things to worry about... but the sensationalism and fear-mongering used to keep things in people's faces (not to mention get ratings for the media outlets) is just ridiculous.

Meanwhile, our government uses these to tighten the reins:
- US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the US government could "indefinitely" hold foreign 'enemy combatants' at sites like the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"We can detain any combatants for the duration of the hostilities," said Gonzales, speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"If we choose to try them, that's great. If we don't choose to try them, we can continue to hold them," he said.
(emphasis is mine. Rest of article is here.)

Yeah. It's that italicized bit which really gets to me. Cause see, how DO we know when the "Global War on Terror" is over? What exactly are the victory conditions? Because I'm pretty sure there's been terrorism in some aspect or another for, oh I don't know, ALL THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. Or at least acts which could easily be portrayed as terrorism. Patriotism or Terrorism - depends on which side wins, right? That's what's so 1984 about all this... it's Perpetual War. Keep the hostilities going forever and that way you don't HAVE to worry about silly things like personal freedoms, civil rights, etc... because National Security comes first... and the people are scared enough to agree that it SHOULD come first.

It makes me so crazy...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

More TV: Superheroes, Psychics and Rock Stars OH MY!

So yes, I did watch the first episode of Who Wants To Be A Superhero? on Sci-Fi. I have to say I wound up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I might. I was primarily watching for the train-wreck effect, and there was definitely some of that ("Cell-Phone Girl?!?! That's the best you could come up with? Even Fat Momma is more creative!) -- but the "test" they put them through I thought worked out really well. It definitely fit with the whole idea of being a superhero, so that was cool. The contestants (characters) are pretty widely varied -- some good ones there, like Major Victory (campy goodness), Nitro G (great costume), Lumeria (cool name), as well as the lame (the aforementioned two, plus Iron Enforcer, AKA "big buff guy who takes his shirt off). The elimination ceremony thing was pretty cool too. I have a feeling this show will walk the line between interesting and lame, but I'll stay with it as long as it doesn't stray TOO deep into the lame. If you missed it and you're interested, they've got the entire first ep free (without commercials) up at Sci-Fi's site (see the link under "What's New" currently mentioning it on Sci-Fi Pulse).

Awhile back Kevin at work talked about a new show he'd seen on USA and recommended - Psych. The premise is that the guy's dad was a cop and while he was growing up drilled him with memory tests and forcing him to notice and recall the most minute details, basically instilling him with an insanely overpowered eye (and memory) for detail. He solves several cases for the police through details he notices on news reports, and they bring him in for questioning/possible arrest because they figure only someone "inside" could've known these things -- not believing that he could possibly just notice. To get out of being arrested he tells them he's a psychic, and he winds up working with the cops as a psychic, bringing in his friend. The two of them are HUGELY funny, and the premise works out really well. I can't recommend this show highly enough.

Yes, despite my doubts I AM still watching Rock Star: Supernova. Now that I'm finally getting more performance episodes under my belt I'm firming up my thoughts on the performers. I still think Dilana is near the front of the pack, though I think her vocal range may be a bit limited, and that combined with her lower, gruff voice may hurt her in the long run.
Lukas has the look, and seems strong but he just comes off as a wierd little troll, and his limitations are starting to show through too. Most of the performers are really off-and-on, but the ones I'm keeping an eye on are: Dilana, Storm, Toby and Magni. Several of the others have had some GREAT performances, but have tanked heavily at other times. Zayra, Jill and Patrice all need to GO. They're not doing anything other than making my TV cry every week.

Still looking forward to a NUMBER of shows coming this fall. I have NO idea how we're going to be able to fit them all into the schedule (the answer is: we probably won't), but still - I really hope to catch some of them. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, the first eps. of two of them are already available: Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip and Heroes. Watch them QUICK if you're interested, they probably won't be there for long. Read more about leaked Fall TV (and other online TV resources) at the most recent Livin' In Cowtown blog.