Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Earps Always Know

Quote for the day: from Wyatt Earp.

One of my favorites from the too-long biopic starring Kevin Costner. Spoken to Wyatt by his father, played by Gene Hackman:

You know this land is full of people doing wicked things to each other.

I gotta tell you something Wyatt. I told your brothers when they went off to fight, and I suppose the time has come for you. You know I'm a man that believes in the law. After your family, it's about the only thing you've got to believe in. But there are plenty of men who don't care about the law. Men who'll take part in all kinds of viciousness, and don't care who gets hurt. In fact, the more that get hurt the better. When you find yourself in a fight, with such viciousness, hit first if you can, and when you do hit, hit to kill. You'll know. Don't worry. You'll know when it comes to that. The Earps always know.
Heck, even the trailer's too long--more like a short film. ;-) But it did include part of that quote.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Blackberry Sync: Unable to Read Application Data

Okay, if you don't own a BlackBerry, you should just skip this post. If you do, tuck this away in some corner of your brain. I am not the first person to have this problem, and won't be the last.

I try to sync my BlackBerry every day. Sometimes it's not that often. But usually, the process goes smoothly. Not today. Today, it kept hanging up at record 1958 of 1985 in the Address Book, and then shutting down.

I tried everything I could think of to fix this. Probably wasted about a hour or more, while multi-tasking on other things. Finally did a Google Search for the text in the title and found a number of entries on the CrackBerry forum. People had quite a few different suggestions, but there was one, fairly simple, that more than one person said worked to fix this. I tried it, and it worked for me as well.

So, if you ever have this problem, here's a copy of my own post to the forum:

Worked for me also, after trying a variety of other things, including an "Inbox Repair" in Outlook, computer restart, Blackberry restart, etc. What finally worked was creating a fresh backup file using Blackberry Desktop Manager, Backup and Restore, then using the Advanced Options to delete the Address Book files from the Blackberry, then opening the fresh backup file and adding the Address Book back to the Blackberry. Next sync attempt worked like a charm.
Just file it in the nice-to-know box until you need it. Doc

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Star Trek: Humor and Problems

Okay, personally, I have a hard time believing it's been nearly three weeks since I saw the new Star Trek with old and new friends at the IMAX in Raleigh. Very shortly after my seeing it, friends made sure I also saw The Onion's take on it. It's a hoot--even more so if you've seen the movie, and still more so if you've seen all the others and are a long-time fan. Enjoy. (More of my thoughts on the movie are below the video.)

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

So, my recommendation: SEE THE MOVIE. IT ROCKS. But that said, I still have to say that it's far from free of the paradoxes that tend to haunt any fictional effort in the realm of time travel. What follows is more for those who've seen it than not, so I'll warn you now, though I don't think knowing the whole plot in advance would spoil anything, nonetheless . . . SPOILER ALERT!

I think it's fair to say that J.J. Abrams gave himself license to start with a clean slate by undoing almost all we know about the genesis of the Enterprise's crew. Fair enough. Suffice it to say that most of what you know about the series, you can more or less kiss goodbye. This is an alternate timeline/universe.

Here's how that works. The movie opens on James T. Kirk's birthday. Literally, the day of his birth. Whereas the old character that Shatner brought to life grew up with his father still alive, this one takes his first breath just as Dad sacrifices himself to save the rest of his ship's crew. Thus, right off, old Trekkies know we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

The simplest way to lay out the plot is chronologically, so far as is possible, since "before" and "after" begin to lose their meaning when you mess with the fabric of time. (If I've screwed this up, feel free to let me know in the comments.)


Late in the universe and timeline of the old Trek series, the sun of the Romulan homeworld supernovas. An aged Ambassador Spock is dispatched with all due haste in the Federation's fastest vehicle, a ship of Vulcan design, with a store of "red matter." His mission, deposit an appropriate speck of the red matter in the center of the rapidly expanding star, where it will form a singularity (read: black hole), stopping the expansion of the star before Romulus and its entire population is destroyed. Spock seeds the supernova with the red matter, creating a black hole at its center and causing it to collapse back in upon itself, but not before Romulus has been consumed by its rapidly expanding sun. Sucks to be a Romulan. And especially to be a Romulan miner named Nero, who somehow arrives home just in time to witness Spock's spectacularly late arrival and wasted effort, and then somehow blames Spock for the demise of Romulus and the death of Nero's family. I wish I'd been paying better attention and made better note of Spock's tongue-in-cheek description of Nero as an "extremely troubled Romulan," or something like that. (Help me out here guys.)

Anyway, Nero and Spock each are sucked into the singularity and emerge in an earlier time. Sucked in separately, seconds apart in the one universe, they emerge separately, some 25 years apart in the other universe. Nero has emerged some 70 years or so before the supernova, on the day of Kirk's birth. Nero must wait for some 25 years before Spock emerges to face Nero's fury. Still, even Spock emerges some fifty years before the Romulan homeworld is destroyed. The initial action takes place when pissed off Nero, just emerged from the singularity, encounters and destroys the ship on which Kirk's father is serving, with his pregnant wife. And so on.

The rest you can go enjoy, but I'm going to point out a number of problems with this plot. So, if you haven't seen it, go first and read this later, because, honestly, unless you're mind is functioning at warp, most of this is not going to occur to you while you watch it--you'll be having too much fun to worry about crap like the potentialities and paradoxes of time travel.

Problems (of physics, logic, and so on):

PROBLEM 1: Who dreamed up the idea of creating a black hole at the center of a star going supernova as a solution to the problem?

  • Last I checked, the theory was that black holes form naturally at the center of a supernova as the remaining mass of the star collapses in on itself. So, what Spock is supposed to create should already exist.
  • Worse yet, collapsing the star upon itself via the artificially created black hole solves the problem how? The star, aka the sun of the Romulan homeworld would then be, not gone exactly, but a black, unseeable "singularity" in the darkness. True, the mass and center of gravity should remain the same, leaving the orbit of Romulus largely unaffected, but dark and cold and barren. Not even mushrooms would grow to feed the darkened, rapidly cooling and dying planet. I suppose it might buy time for an evacuation, that's all though.
  • Still worse, there's the question of why creating a black hole at the center of the star should pull anything back into it. Somehow, red matter must itself be incredibly dense, ready to implode into infinitude at any moment; otherwise, there is only the original mass of the star to work with, and thus, only the original total gravity. That is, everything expanding away from the star's already imploded center is at greater than escape velocity already. To be effective, the created singularity would need an expanding event horizon. In truth, they seem to have gotten this right--it's how Spock and Nero are sucked in. Red matter. Cool stuff. I'll give them that one. My immediately preceding point still holds though.
PROBLEM 2: What, exactly, has Nero been doing for those 25 very real years he needed to wait for Spock to emerge on this side of the singularity? Here's a few thoughts:
  • Clearly, he's had his all his communication gear turned off, so that he would have heard none of the communications emanating from his still intact homeworld (remember, the time where Nero emerges, the supernova is a good 70 years away yet).
  • Clearly, there's some sort of spatial dislocation to match the temporal one, otherwise shouldn't Nero have emerged near the original sun and in the solar system of Romulus?
  • All of which is to say, just WTF has Nero been doing with the first 25 years of some 70 he has available to warn the Romulans of the impending disaster? How has he escaped the knowledge that Romulus still exists? He is one very target-fixated dude. Ambassador Spock called that one.
PROBLEM 3: Okay, so Nero's a doofus and an idiot (despite being commander of a highly advanced mining vessel), but there are all kinds of other brilliant people around, including not one, but two, count 'em, TWO Spocks! "And this is a problem, how?" you ask.
  • Well, at least one of these guys is going to use the knowledge of the impending disaster to prevent the worst effects of it. That is, to warn the Romulans well in advance that their star is developing a somewhat difficult personality. (Nevermind PROBLEM 4: that a star doesn't just up and decide to supernova one day. The changes in a star leading to that cosmic event take place over eons, not weeks. Whatever.)
  • Still don't see the problem? Well, what happens when, with at least 45 years warning, our intrepid young adventurers save the population of Romulus by relocating them elsewhere (something you'd think maybe Nero would've done), and voiding the reason for Nero's anger, Ambassador Spock's mission, etc, etc? How many timelines/universes can exist in parallel?
  • I'll answer that: an infinite number. So, really, this problem isn't a problem in terms of paradox. I don't think it'll upset the loop. The loop won't exist. Romulus will be saved by others than Nero, and the younger Nero of this timeline will have no reason for anger, nor opportunity to meet his older alternate self as Spock does. (Spock's implication to Kirk of universe-ending problems resulting from the meeting of the two Spocks needed only a reference to "crossing the streams" in Ghost Busters to be perfect.)
I cannot be the only person who emerged from the film pondering these problems. Again, I still enjoyed the heck out of it. But that said, The Matrix, a largely paradox-free contemplation of virtual reality remains the best sci-fi film of my lifetime, at least IMHO.

And oh yeah, that "space jump"? I so want to do that. (Should I mention that without pressure suits, their blood would have boiled the moment they left the shuttlecraft at any altitude considered "space"? PROBLEM? No? Well, okay, I'll let that one go then.

Peace. Out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Funny, and Not So Much

Two videos arrived today. One I laughed pretty hard at:

Joe Cocker

Translation of Joe Cocker Woodstock Performance

Finally, after 40 years, someone has opened the vault and revealed the answer to a question that has clawed at our brains since the 1969 Woodstock album was released:

What the hell were the lyrics to Joe Cocker's version of 'A Little Help From My Friends'?

He was so wigged-out and loopy on a multitude of drugs, no one has been able to understand his garbled, mush-mouth version......until now!

Click here for the lyrics...
Hat tip: Con


The other, I came to more circuitously. It would be funny, but only if it cheers someone who seems to think I was unclear about a pending change in my own status. (And no, technically, by the video below, I did not break any rules.) Still, one more tip regarding FaceBook:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Adventures in Toilet Training

I had girls the first time around. They had a stay-at-home mom. If there were challenges like this, I didn't know about it.

  • Challenges like a young lad marking his territory . . . in the house . . . sister and friends giggling to watch.
  • Or stopping in someone else's lush green lawn, midway through a walk around the block with the dog and announcing, "I pee pee!" So we see. Even for a tiny man, the whole world is a urinal.
  • Or setting him on the toilet after an announcement that he needs to be there and turning my attention back to something in the kitchen, and minutes later, hearing the rattle of an empty toilet paper roll that I distinctly remembered being a new roll only minutes before. I arrived to find him reaching between his legs to press down the fluffy white mass now swelling in the toilet. As I set him gently on the floor, sort of chuckling to myself, the ever task-focused and thorough young gentleman immediately ran to the back of the toilet and already had both hands on the flush handle as I said, "Noooooooooo!" and reached out to prevent disaster. Jet Li's lighting grab and disassembly of an opponent's 9mm pistol have nothing on the speed with which my thumb flew under the handle to counter the full weight of an almost-three-year-old.
  • Or stepping away to give him a moment of privacy the next day, then hearing the flush, and flush, and flush, and flush, and stepping back to find the left hand on the flusher and the right playing in the swirling water. Inquisitive minds want to know: where does all that water go? We buy hand sanitizer like Jay buys milk.
Days, mere days. I have blog fodder coming out my ears; I just don't have time to write.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Temporal Black Holes

Wonder why I haven't blogged much since I moved to Georgia? I have crossed the event horizon of a particularly massive Temporal Black Hole.

Temporal Black Hole

Origin: From Temporal (of or pertaining to time) and Black Hole (an area of space-time with a gravitational field so intense that its escape velocity is equal to or exceeds the speed of light; thus, not even light can escape from it).
First known use: circa 1989 (by someone now known as "Doc," to describe a frequently observed phenomenon in his own life).

1. An area of space-time with a temporal field so dense that not even a nano-second can be saved from it. (Traditional clocks passing within the event horizon of such a field have been known to spin so fast the hands cannot be seen, or else, fly off, or simply vaporize. Digital clocks continue to count in proper sequence, but so fast that the numbers appear as solid or mildly flickering 8's. An entire day can pass in what seems only seconds.)

2. Any child under the age of five (possibly seven, eight, maybe even nine), regardless of gender.

Sure, he looks harmless enough, but that blur around the edges of the photo is wholly the effect of a warping of space-time. I swear I was holding the camera still.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Quote for the Day: McCarthy

The arc of the moral universe is indeed long but it does bend toward justice.
I've always attributed this to Cormac McCarthy, because I first came to it in The Stonemason, but it turns out it may have originated much earlier with a Unitarian Minister named Theodore Parker (see this), and is frequently misattributed to Martin Luther King. I suppose, then, it was appropriate for McCarthy to place the words in the mouth of the gentle, faithful, black, master mason (more operative than speculative) grandfather in his play.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

TOT: Time on Tee

Normally, TOT means Time on Target. We use it a lot in the military. Get there early and you risk getting "softened" with the target. Get there late, and you risk missing the "fun." I think in this case though, we're going to call it Time on Tee.

Judging by the Senior Navigator and HALO jumpmaster wings on the BDUs this particular golfer is wearing, I've a good idea the person so rigged (I would love to see the text for the JMPI on this) is also the person I received the photo from.

You've got to admit, this would really come in handy for those shotgun starts somewhere on the far reaches of the back nine. Much more fun mode of transport than a long cart ride. Enjoy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Thoughts for the Day: Bach and Hammarskjöld

First, a correction. I had narrowed the author of the quote I had in mind on Monday to two people--vastly different people, but either capable of the quote I was remembering. I guessed wrong. It was Richard Bach, writing in Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, who said:

never to be
ashamed if anything you do
or say is published
around the world--
even if
what is published
is not true.
But my own book of markings, which borrows even its title from Hammarskjöld, is filled with his writings, and among them, one seems particularly apt today:
Your position never gives you the right to command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others can receive your orders without being humiliated.
I pray never to forget that.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another Look at Social Networks

Getting the word out.

From yesterday's Inside Higher Ed:

Not long ago, a woman I know got a phone call from a sibling who reported that one of their sisters had died a few hours earlier. It was painful news, if not unexpected given the sister’s long illness; the call was part of a narrative of grief that had been taking shape for a while. But in telling me about it, she also noted an odd and slightly awkward detail. She’d actually learned the news a bit earlier, on Facebook and via Blackberry, where it had been announced in a “status report” from her sister’s daughter. . . .

An individual’s death is a rip in the social fabric. And communication among those closest to the deceased involves more than transmission of the news. It is process of patching up what remains of that fabric, a reinforcement of bonds. By some implicit rule, we take it as a given that family will get the news before it is available to a world of strangers. Not that things always happen that way, of course, but the exceptions are felt as such.
The full article is here, and it's an interesting consideration of the ways in which our modern communication tools are affecting the rules of social interaction.

Nor is it coincidence that I would open and read that yesterday morning. Despite my recent musings about matching the right information to the right venue, I find that I've failed to do so. A family member was upset at me only yesterday because a major event in my own life that I thought I'd kept her informed on, I apparently hadn't. No death involved, but a milestone of similar magnitude nonetheless. Mea culpa. I learn. I'll do better.

Parents and Facebook

On a related note, I pointed out two months ago that the face of Facebook was aging. A consequence of that has been the issue of how much of a young person's life should be open to the view of his or her parents. Happily, that's never been an issue in our family. From the outset, I've been a part of the social network of my daughters. It was one of the prices of being allowed on the internet from our home.

But for some kids, especially those whose online personas are anything but laudable, the presence of their parents on Facebook has thrown a kink into the normal stretching of the wings that takes place for almost all college students in their first year. I can't imagine conducting myself in such a way that I would have been ashamed for my parents to know what I was up to, nor do I think my daughters have that problem. (Of course, academe being my world, my threshold of shock, my expectations, and my tolerance are all fairly accommodating. The disaster that resulted from my oldest daughter's accepting one of her older relatives as a "friend" wasn't all that funny to anyone but me.) I certainly had plenty of friends in college for whose parents ignorance was bliss. And I know all too well from the use to which I've put Facebook as a college administrator, those online alter egos can be all too telling.

The conflict which often ensues is the topic of the following interesting piece from last night's CBS Evening News. Enjoy.

Update [5/21/09]: I've removed the embedded player because it automatically started the video every time the blog was loaded. If you'd like to view the video, you'll find it here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Find Me, Friend Me, Follow Me, Connect

It's overly easy these days to lead a more public life than most of us ever dreamed we could, or would, or could or would want to.

Long ago, I copied a saying from Markings, by Dag Hammarskjöld, to the effect that one should live every day so as never to be embarrassed if what you do is published in the newspaper. (If I had the book to hand, I'd quote it, but alas, most all my books are, once again, in boxes.) [Update: if I'd had the book to hand, I'd have realized the quote I was thinking of was from Illusions, by Richard Bach. I knew it was one of the two. Guessed wrong.] Today, much of what we do each minute is published on the internet. Today, we publish it ourselves, through MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, and so on. And what some people tell of their own lives, and proudly, our parents would have blushed to whisper. We can, if we choose, broadcast our location through GPS-enabled phones, for a few close friends to follow, or for all the world. Don't look for me to do that any time soon.

There's nothing in my life so scandalous or interesting that I would be embarrassed to have it published. (I've tried, for most of my life--not always successfully, I'll admit--to live by Hammarskjöld's advice, and more of it than the snippet above.) But I believe there are occasionally blurred, but mostly distinct lines between the things that would interest the readers of this blog and most of my "Friends" on, say, FaceBook. (Yes. I have a FaceBook account. I have daughters in high school and college. I was the Deputy Inspector General at a four-year college. But, if you're a long-time reader, you know all this.) For my friends and family, it may be enough simply to know that I saw Star Trek last weekend. For many readers of this blog, that event only has significance if I have something to say about the experience. (I will. Be patient.)

My life feeds this blog. Whatever contemplations you find here, whatever insights to human nature, whatever advice on relationships, whatever reviews of food, entertainment, or consumer goods--all those thoughts have their genesis in my life. Yet, my life per se, is not what this blog is about. This blog is about Life in more general terms--Life with a capital L.

All of this, really, is in response to readers whose curiosity was piqued by recent comments about my current travels or upcoming relocation. While this blog is not exactly anonymous--most of its readers know the author in some form, or at least feel that they know enough about the author to properly weigh his words--it has a thin facade of anonymity, or of pseudonymity, that has not fully exhausted its value. If only for myself, I'd like to preserve the illusion that the things I say here, at least sometimes, have a weight of their own, independent of any of the people the author is.

The "Doc" who authors TheyRodeOn, the "Doc" who will not let you escape his reach in freefall, the "Doctor" who lectures from podium and windowsill and makes sleep-deprived cadets stand in their chairs for nodding off in his literature or composition classes, and the friend, father, and brother whose blog some don't know exists are all one and the same and yet not. So, if you want to know what's going on with any one of me, you'll need to pick a level to drill down to, a window to peek in through. The deepest insights will always be here, and sometimes, the root causes as well. The mundane is out there to be had, just not here. Find me, friend me, follow me, connect. The view changes depending on which window you choose. The same heart drives them all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Tribute to Moms

Recently, I had the fun of being cc'ed on an exchange between a young mother and her aunt. Today's the perfect day to share that exchange, only slightly altered to protect the innocent. ;-)

First, the aunt sent the following:

Just in case you are having a rough day, here is a stress management technique, recommended in all the latest psychological journals. The funny thing is that it really does work and will make you smile.

Picture yourself lying on your belly on a warm rock that hangs out over a crystal clear stream, and you're naked.

Picture yourself with both your hands dangling in the cool running water.

Birds are sweetly singing in the cool mountain air.

No one knows your secret place.

You are in total seclusion from that hectic place called the world.

The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.

The water is so crystal clear that you can easily make out the face of the person you are holding underwater.

There! See? It really does work. You're smiling already.
Funnier still was the response:
I could use this little meditation you sent below, Aunt Libby. Here was my day:

I was angry because I lost a potential client today and it would have been a very nice check. Then I came home, pilled the dog, took the dog with me to get Jack from school because she gets lonely and had been in her kennel all day. She might pee in the house otherwise. I then took Jack and Emma for coffee and flower-buying, got home to find that the dog barfed all over the back of the car (choose your battles) because I gave her the pills on an empty stomach, Jack cried because I was outside cleaning it up, so I brought him out so I could finish without having to deal with his crying. We came inside to cook dinner and do homework. Jack was dancing in circles loudly and I was trying to read a webpage aloud to Emma over all his yelling, then he wet his pants and had to change clothes. He wanted my help only and refused to cooperate with his sister. More yelling, this time, not playful yelling. Naked Jack. Finally Dressed Jack. Dog distressed because Jack was too loud for her to eat in peace and his toys were in the way of her dish. Finally dinner, then outside again. We tied the dog to the porch. Planted flowers with Emma, Emma was dancing around in a panic over ant piles, I was coordinating kids, digging, and spoons (we have no shovels). Meanwhile, the dog knocked over flower pot on front porch and it turns out to be ant-infested. Ants everywhere. Soil everywhere. Plants knocked out of the pot. Bad Husky! In the middle of all of this, Jack peed in his pants AGAIN. He was standing on the porch naked from the waist down and flagging his underwear over his head yelling, "All DRYYYYYYYYYYY!" while neighbors walked by-- one of them was pregnant. I told her, This will be you. We finished planting. Emma went to water the new flowers we planted and got the dog's leash tangled in the hose. In the middle of all of this, I start using "Damn!" and you can imagine why. Untangled the dog, convinced Jack to get his own clean underpants on, took the hose from Emma who wanted to turn this into a Wet and Wild Water Event as opposed to Help Mom Before She Shoots Us Event. Finished watering the plants, cleaned the porch, and restored the pot to an upright position, scolded the dog who took a major clue and found a place to lie down and watch the action, rounded up the kids, walked the dog for her nightly poop. Jack walked holding his penis the entire time and when we ran into a neighbor, moved the grasp from his penis to inside his underwear (he just had on that and a shirt by that point) and proceeded to pull out a massive wad of Husky hair from between his cheeks, I don't know how. I just don't. We made it back to the house, ran the bathwater, children's father called four times in a row because he is a pain in my @#$ and refuses to believe that ONE phone message might actually be enough, Emma had left the shampoo bottle on its side and it congealed in a big sticky mess in the tub, Emma left god-knows-how-many messages for Chris while I am bathing Jack-- (apparently she learns this trait from her father??) kids in bed, Mom tired, dog sacked out in the hallway like she did all the work.

The scary part? This is pretty much EVERY day. Some kind of chaos, every day.
Thank God for Moms! It's a wonder they allowed us to live or didn't just sell us to the highest bidder.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I Want a Cheeseburger

Hey, I laughed. So I thought I'd give you a funny before I go all serious on you. I'm finishing grades, making another five-state road trip, and moving from one state to another :-D over the next 10 days, so the blogging may be light. But when I return, I intend to begin installments of a very serious story about abuse of power and what happens when the people who are supposed to prevent that are co-opted by an old-boy network and become part of the problem. You won't be bored. More likely, you'll be outraged. I am. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, have a cheeseburger: