May 2001 Archives

So Long, Douglas. Save Me A Seat At Milliway's.

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By now, you've no doubt heard of the untimely death of Douglas Adams last Friday of a heart attack. [ Slashdot | BBC | New York Times ] I wanted to headline this The Lights Went Out In His Eyes For Absolutely The Very Last Time Ever, but DNA's own website beat me to it. My second choice, Hopefully He's Just Spending A Year Dead For Tax Reasons? Saw three different posts in the Slashdot thread mentioning it. He lives on, after a fashion, with the BBC now managing The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

My sense of humor was shaped by HHGG, Monty Python, Saturday Night Live, and M*A*S*H (in roughly equal parts). I first encountered HHGG when I was in high school, in the summer of 1981 on WMUK, Western Michigan University's NPR station. I think the first episode I heard was Episode 3 (the gang lands on Magrithea). Fortunately, my brother had taped the first two episodes so I could catch up. I was hooked. I taped all the subsequent episodes, then the first two again when the series was rebroadcast. I listened to the tapes many many times over the years until they were so worn as to be almost unlistenable. One of my all-time favorite Christmas presents was a copy of The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts, if for no other reason than it allowed me to decipher all the lines I couldn't properly hear from the tapes. Much later, I bootlegged a friend's copy of the show, available as a six-tape set from The Mind's Eye (whose web site I can't find right now). The interesting thing there is that each episode has about thirty seconds of material that wasn't on my version, which is strange when you consider that my NPR version didn't have commercials either and thus no reason to chop stuff out to make room.

One of the things that was supposed to come along Real Soon Now was a Hitchhiker's movie, and the reason it was taking so long was that Adams had creative control and wanted to make sure it was done properly. Now, I fear, the movie will get made anyway. I predict Marvin will be portrayed as a wisecracking ferret with a heart of gold (ahem) and voiced by Billy Crystal.

And to top it all off, we had to have our 15-year-old cat put to sleep yesterday. This is shaping up to be an absolutely superb week.

NASA chief Daniel Goldin says we'll send people to Mars within 20 years. Better make sure they bring tribute for the King, or who knows what horrors will befall them?

I don't know which surprises me more: that this guy would dare to anger the coffee gods, or that he got the administration to buy into his scheme. Oh, wait. It was "performance art".

And speaking of the election, we have yet another report that Bush would have won the election if all the "boo-hoo, I messed up my ballot and double-voted" votes were counted for Gore. Once again, people: if you punch two different candidates in the same race in a punch card ballot, and you don't request a new ballot to replace the one you fscked up, too bad!

I will never think of a browse-all-you-like-in-our-comfy-chairs megabookstore the same way again. Not after this. Thanks to Adam Kempa for the story.

Tinfoil Hats Are So Last Season...

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Saw an interesting show on MSNBC yesterday. MSNBC Investigates: Back From The Dead featured near-death experiences and possible explanations, both scientific and spiritual. The part that got my attention was a segment on experiments conducted by psychologist Dr. Michael Persinger at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. Apparently, the presence of certain electromagnetic fields near the brain can induce basically all the things normally associated with a near-death experience: floating, bright light, tunnel vision, childhood memories, deific/satanic visions, the whole bit. If a small college in Canada can come up with this, imagine what the uncounted resources of the Black Helicopter folks can accomplish. It's only a matter of time before the Orbital Mind Control Lasers become a reality. As usual, the conspiracy theorists are way ahead of me on this one, as they are certain the concept has long since been weaponized. Not to worry, though. The tinfoil hat crowd has you, um, covered. This year's de rigueur fashion in Personal Electromagnetic Protection is a modified water polo cap.

Quick take, from LangaList: Man, those MIT folks have taken the fight against dictionary password attacks to a whole new level.

Joe Brancatelli's Tactical Traveller column on this week lists a few websites commemorating defunct airlines (mainly, ones bought out by other airlines). I'm fascinated by air travel in general (don't ask), and by the history of air travel in particular, so I checked some of them out. The most interesting one I saw was a memorial to Pacific Southwest Airlines, and was pretty well done, right up to this cryptic comment on the last page: "The Webmaster honors the memory of the 42 victims of the crime committed aboard PSA flight 1771 on December 7, 1987." Naturally, my curiosity was piqued. After a brief Googlizing, I found this page explaining it all. Then I found this one, which takes a decidedly different look at it. All I can say is that I'm glad flight crews pass through security checkpoints now. Anyway, that trail eventually leads all the way back to The Wacky World Of Murder. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go take a shower.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

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CNN reported this morning that John Glenn isn't too happy with Dennis Tito's vacation on the International Space Station (now, inexplicably, named 'Alpha'). Glenn told CNN it would be like the U.S. paying for most of an expensive lab on Earth, and another partner "placed a Greyhound station or hot dog stand on one end." OK, now it's my turn in the Metaphor Game: Taking a septugenarian senator and way-long-retired astronaut and Shuttling him would be like replacing Peyton Manning with Johnny Unitas. Oh, wait. Glenn already did that. Huh. My bad.

Or could it be that there were more pragmatic reasons for Glenn's flight? And one more thing--has anybody ever heard from the other people on board that Shuttle? Maybe the ten-day-mission was a cover-up, and the truth has been suppressed.


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