Thursday, June 21, 2007


Okay, first I was going to title this post "Nerdfest," because it's nerds who are scientifically-oriented, social misfits and geeks who are circus performers who bite the heads off of live chickens. But after consulting, I find that, while "geek " does have its basis in circus lore and describes a "peculiar person," nerd can be a "foolish person," but nowhere does it say that a geek is stupid. And so I hope that makes me a geek and not a nerd.

Got that? OK. And YES, I know that language is constantly changing and YES I know that dictionaries can't possibly keep pace with the changing American vernacular. Argotnaut.


A couple days ago I saw an article on regarding an upcoming celestial event. The International Space Station and the Space Shuttle were going to be visible together in the night sky. The Shuttle had just undocked from the ISS so they were going to be traveling as a close pair across the heavens. (Close meaning about 10 degrees, which for the astronomically challenged reader means roughly the width of a fist held at arm's length). Those who know me are aware that I've been an astronomy geek since about, oh, birth, as the previous sentence suggests. So I couldn't pass up a chance to run out into the back yard and look up like a little kid.

The article was kind enough to contain links to sites designed to help observers find out when the pair would appear in their local skies. This site is the one I used and it's very cool.

So at the appointed hour (10:34 pm), my lovely and equally geeky wife and I went out and watched as the two star-like points of light chased each other, gliding purposefully through the celestial vault, over the tea house and behind the swaying bamboo trees silhouetted against the gently glowing summer night sky. Their journey took just three minutes, and then they winked out above the southern horizon and were gone, off to visit the skies over Mexico, then Latin America, and then the bottom of the world.

Sometimes it's great to be a geek.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lovely Creatures

I saw this flower on a walk the other day and had never seen anything like it:

Guess I'll have to dig around for our "Flowers of the Northwest" book and see if I can find out what kind of flower it is. Sure is something, though...doesn't even look real.

Also too cute to be real was this guy I saw recently at the vet:

He was tiny and had food on his nose. He was available to a good home, but that was all I needed after finding out my cat Cookie is going to have to undergo Iodine 131 therapy. Cookie's prognosis is good: his kidneys are in great shape and he's in otherwise excellent health. But it's still going to be a costly and inconvenient procedure. So no, we're not really in the market for ANOTHER pet right now, thank you. But he sure was a cute little dude, and if Argotnaut had been with me, we may have had another member of the household. But as lovely as he was, Kitty I'm sure found a good home.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Three hunnert" old and new

The mighty Laurelhurst Theater has been having a '60s film fest of sorts during the last few weeks, which has given me the rare opportunity to see some of the favorite films of my yoot on the big screen. Those of you who grew up in the Chicago area during the 60s and early 70s may remember as fondly as I the venerable "Family Classics" with Frazier Thomas that aired on Sunday afternoons on WGN -- or, and one must adapt an "old man voice" here: "in my day it was just channel 9." Apparently, Frazier picked out the films himself that he thought would be good viewing for the kiddies, and ran them in heavy rotation. So I had the chance to get to know some great films that were made before I was born, like "War of the Worlds" and "The Time Machine." Fortuitously, the films the Laurelhurst is playing intersects nicely with the Family Classics films, so I couldn't pass up the chance last Saturday to see "Mysterious Island," the film that first made me recognize the importance of a kick ass film score, and yesterday the unassailable awesomeness that is "Jason and the Argonauts," both on the big screen. Actors? Directors? Pffft! Who cares when you have the legendary Ray Harryhausen doing the special effects, and the even MORE legendary Bernard Herrmann doing the music? Blissful, I tells ya!

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned how much I liked the movie "300," despite its pedestrian script and flagrant historical inaccuracies. I based this opinion largely on its jaw-dropping visual style. But watching "Jason and the Argonauts," which was made in 1963, made me wonder how well "300" would hold up in 40 years. I mean, answer this question:

Who's the bigger bad ass?

I gotta say, I think it's the guys what ain't got no skin. But it does make one wonder if the ubiquitous, push-button nature of CGI has robbed film of some of its magic. Or maybe I'm just getting older and the final product means more if I know that some old dude in his garage took 4 months to produce a fight with skeletons that only lasted two minutes on screen. I guess it's just the heart involved. You can feel the passion in "Jason and the Argonauts." Passionate CGI, well, perhaps that's just a little bit harder to render.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


OK, first, the title of this post comes from an article I read once by one of Prince's sound engineers. The article still makes me laugh/cringe.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago we cleaned out/up the garden and put in some new plants -- my first attempt at...GARDENING! The weather has been mostly sunny and warm since, and after watering on alternate mornings, things are starting to look pretty good already!

My planting choices were entirely practical -- stuff we would eat, not just look at. So we have green beans and corn!

Strawberries! (a few of which I suspect have already been eaten by "Masky," an interloping raccoon we've seen from time to time).

Tomatoes and peppers! Planted in hopes of, later in the summer, making some homemade salsa, plus perhaps some pasta sauce seasoned with thyme, marjoram, oregano and basil that we are also growing in the garden.

I'm sure a lot can go wrong between now and harvest time -- I fear if the corn comes up well I'll have to have Buddy and Pepe sleep in the garden at night to discourage Masky's nighttime visits. But so far so good!