Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Around here, we think of hardware as equipment, often useful, which is electronic and which often contains internal microprocessors, or is designed to be connected to other devices which contain microprocessors. In short, computer equipment. Geek stuff.

But there is an older definition of hardware -- nuts, bolts, nails, screws, mysterious stuff made of wood and metal and plastic, an enormous assortment of utilitarian goods, tools to manipulate these things in the physical world. Hardware is sold in hardware stores, places sacred to those who would build or make or fix or otherwise affect the sharp corners and shredded splinters of reality.

Which brings me to the point of this post: a big recommendation for the blog of Howard, a hardware store worker who has a penchant for hardware haiku. Howard's view of people and the world, filtered through the lens of the hardware store, provides some interesting, indeed fascinating, reading. His recent post about the musician is a flash of insight into how need and misconception juxtapose and result in incomprehension and anger:
A musician accosts me by the glue
at least I think she's a musician
judging by the two guitars she has on her back.
"I just need a small piece of wood cut for me."
I explain that we're a hardware store and not a lumber yard.
"Lumber yard?" she's distressed.
I do my best to explain that we can't just carry one type of wood,
if we have the piece she needs then we need to carry the piece
everyone needs
and we're a small hardware store.
She doesn't understand the concept
so I put it in its simplest terms:
In for a penny, in for a pound.
She doesn't seem to like my answer and leaves in a huff.
I hope she writes a song about how hardware stores break hearts.

Full disclosure -- I know Howard and see him a number of times a year. Therefore, I am not unbiased. But I ask you this -- how can you not respond to something like this?
A guy walks into a hardware store
with an incredible black eye.
"I need a pair of safety goggles."
Er, isn't it a little too late?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy 100th Birthday, Akira Kurosawa

Today -- the 100th birthday of filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (March 23,1910 to September 6, 1998), who among many other films, made The Hidden Fortress, a movie that clearly influenced Star Wars.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bad News

I have been depressed for the last couple of days by the news that our friend Peter Watts was convicted when his case went to trial this past week. David Nickle has an excellent article as well as a follow-up piece on his blog. BoingBoing also had coverage, including some cogent cultural commentary. And Peter himself proves what a totally classy guy he is with his own blog post.

Some problems can't be solved. At least by me or anyone I know.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Online Q&A Tomorrow at "BItten By Books"

Jill is on the Bitten By Books website tomorrow (2010 March 3), participating in a Tesseracts Thirteen on-line Question and Answer session from noon to midnight (with some breaks).

If you RSVP to the event, you will get 25 entries to their contest (details on their website), but you have to let them know that you RSVP'ed when you submit your question.

Note -- As of approximately 11:30am today, a little over 24 hours before the scheduled start of the event, the Bitten By Books server seems to be intermittently down (or at least unavailable) no doubt due to hordes of fans rushing to sign up for the opportunity to ask Jill questions :-)

UPDATED on 2009 March 4, 1:45pm -- it turns out that the online Q&A ran from noon yesterday to midnight tonight, not last night. Still more than 10 hours to go, and Jill has even contributed a prize to the contest.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Day of the Rapture is Coming

...and it is May 21, 2011, only about 15 months away. At least, according to the mathematical model developed by Harold Camping of the Family Radio media organization of California. Of course, Mr. Camping has been wrong before -- his original calculations showed that the Rapture would occur on September 6, 1994. He and his followers were disappointed, although Mr. Camping has spent the intervening years increasing the reach of his media company, and presumably refining the accuracy of his biblically-driven calculations.

This is a wake up call to those of us less certain of our virtue in the End Times, especially after our earlier remarks about Pat Robertson must surely have condemned us to be among those Left Behind. Mr. Camping's definitive prediction means we will have the next 15 months to polish and fine tune our post-Rapture business plans.

Earthquake in Chile

A massive earthquake, magnitude 8.8 on the Richter scale, hit Chile on Saturday morning. (LINK to USGS summary).

View Chile earthquake in a larger map

As of this writing, Chile has not requested international aid. Unlike Haiti, Chile is more developed, and has more infrastructure to be able to deal with this event, which nonetheless has been described by the Chilean government as a "catastrophe".

Despite initial, obviously satirical reports, Pat Robertson has not made any statement as to the cause of the Chilean earthquake, now known to be the 8th most intense earthquake in recorded history.

UPDATE - I have heard radio commentary that describes the Chilean earthquake as the fifth, and not the eighth largest ever recorded. More than 500 times the energy of the Haitian earthquake was released. Some deaths occurred due to a tsunami generated by the initial event. Chile contains important sites for astronomical research (where SN1987A was discovered, for instance) including the Las Campanas site where the University of Toronto and other institutions maintain facilities. It is not know what effect, if any, the earthquake has had on telescopes and related hardware.