Sidereal ramblings

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Encounters with Mammals

Just a few minutes ago, on my (almost) daily bike ride around town, I was up on Summit Drive, which is pretty much the edge of town in that area -- the backyards of the houses on my right (as I ride south) give way to cornfields beyond. Suddenly, in the front yard of one of those houses, I see three fairly good-sized deer. I'm not a hunter, nor much of a nature person, so I couldn't tell you much, but I think it was a female and her two young. When I rode past them on the street, they couldn't have been more than ten feet from me. They looked at me strangely.

Earlier this morning: a less than pleasant encounter. Sleeping on the couch, I heard a noise. In my half-awake, half-dreaming state, I thought it was something outside, maybe scratching on the screens. There's a cat which wanders our neighborhood at night, and I thought either it or my cat was about to have an encounter. Coming a bit more awake, I thought the sound might be coming from the fireplace. My cat was sitting in front of the fireplace, looking at it, and then as I got up off the couch, I saw him run away. ("Scaredy cat" may have been coined especially for my cat.) Flicking on the light, I saw that once again my home had been invaded by a bat. About a month ago, I came home late one night to find a very large bat flying circles around my living room. Opening the front door wide, and with the aid of my tennis racket (at least it's getting some use), I managed to drive it out without (I think) killing it, though I may have injured it a little. This morning's bat was much smaller and I'm afraid I killed it getting it out. (I used my backhand this time with the racket, and as any of my old tennis partners will attest, I had a wicked backhand in my day.) Needless to say, it freaked me out a bit. Two bats in a little over a month, after seeing none in the past four summers? After my little "adventure" I went for a short walk around the neighborhood; I was so full of adreneline and drenched with sweat that I didn't think I could sleep. After the first one, every little noise or movement had me jumpy for weeks, so I'm guessing that'll be the case again here for awhile. I just hope it's the last one.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

So Long, Pluto!

It would appear that an international gathering of astronomers will vote soon to eliminate Pluto as an official planet in our solar system. It all depends on the definition of the word "planet." I know a lot of people probably couldn't care less about this, but I've been following the story for awhile now. And I've come to the opinion that Pluto should not be considered a planet as the other eight planets in our solar system are. It's vastly different than the other eight -- which all have their own idiosyncracies and are not much like one another -- and there are many other bodies in space similar enough to Pluto that including it as a planet would necessitate the inclusion of them as well, giving us a current count of maybe 12 planets and eventually hundreds. No good. I'm content with having only eight official planets in our system.

The one thing that does worry me is if the alien inhabitants of the planet Pluto take offense at this and start some kind of interplanetary war with the rest of us. That would suck.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sophomoric Humor -- But in a Good Way

While I tend to think of a lot of things as funny, and I enjoy a good comedy on film, though I'm more likely to appreciate the subtle or absurdist than the mass-market drivel, I have a bit of a problem with prose humor. A lot of times I'll read something and kind of smile or maybe even chuckle once, but more likely, I'll think, "That's funny." Over the last few days, I read a novel titled 10th Grade by Joseph Weisberg. (And that's a pretty quick read for me; I'm not an especially fast reader.) The novel is written in first person from the perspective of a high school student experiencing his sophomore year. And it's written in much the way a high school sophomore might write it -- loads of run-on sentences (shades of James Joycean stream-of-consciousness), very little punctuation, and seemingly pointless diversions. And it is one of the most hilarious things I've ever read. I was laughing out loud a lot (especially during the early parts of the book; its main failing, I think, is that it tends to lose some steam toward the end). I found myself going back and rereading passages, often aloud (which is a bit strange when one is all alone in one's house), just for the pure enjoyment of them. At one point, I know I had to put the book aside for a few moments 'cause I was laughing so hard. It took me a couple of tries to go back to it that time before I was able to without guffawing. I would highly recommend this novel, especially for anyone who deals with high school students, or who was one himself (or herself, I suppose, though I'm sure this book will appeal more to males than females). Be advised that there is some profanity (the 15-year-old narrator likes to drop the f-bomb), a lot of talk about sex (he's obssessed with "tits"), and some drug references (pot smoking). But I repeat: one of the most hilarious novels I've ever read.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Trade Paperback Surplus

One of the good things -- perhaps the only good thing -- about the Chicago Wizard World Comic Convention this year was that it seemed like every other dealer who was there had boxes and boxes of half-price trade paperbacks for sale. One of the things I look for at cons and dealer shows is half-price trades; I came home from Chicago with about a dozen more. (For the uninitiated, trade paperbacks are sometimes originally published stories in a lengthier format, but are most often collections of storylines first published as regular comic books, usually somewhere between four and twelve issues. We even had a discussion while in Chicago about the ideal number of issues to collect into a trade paperback -- these are the kinds of things we talk about.) I've been buying trades for a long time, though I generally prefer reading comics in the traditional 32-page format -- probably more from habit than anything else. Anyway, as I was putting my new purchases away when I got home, I realized that I was running out of room on the shelves where I've been storing my trades. While I don't want to make an accurate count, I'm sure I have well over 100 at this point. I keep buying them, but I don't make time to read them. So, I decided the other day that I should try to read one trade a weekend. If I do that between now and next summer's Chicago convention, I should be able to read about 50 of them. Maybe then I can feel a bit more justified about buying a bunch more.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Road Problems

I have complained before on this blog about the resurfacing work (or lack thereof) on the street in front of my house. Let me add one more bit. I woke up this morning around 9:30 to the sound of steamrollers and the smell of fresh tar. They put down another layer of tar on the street, apparently the final touch. I sure hope it was the last one. My problem was they didn't bother to tell me they were doing this ahead of time. (If you check my blog entry for July 17, you'll see they told me then they'd be finished in a "couple of days.") My street has been blocked off for the past couple of months, literally the entire summer. For about a month, I parked my car across the street in the school parking lot, not knowing when they'd be working on the street. I gave that up awhile ago. Out of the garage, the car gets incredibly hot sitting in the sun, especially in the 90-100 degree heat we had awhile back. So my car was in the garage this morning. I was told -- when I asked the guys who were working out there -- that I could drive on the street "in a couple of hours." The problem with this was that I had volunteered to help take admissions at the Martin County Fair this morning starting at 11:00 a.m. for a couple of hours. No car. Fortunately, the fairgrounds aren't that far away, so I just biked it out there. But how inconsiderate. There are three houses with driveways on this block. I wouldn't think it would be that difficult to just knock on a couple doors and let people know that the street wouldn't be accessible from our homes for a couple hours.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Monster of a Movie

Saw the movie Monster House tonight. While ostensibly marketed as a children's film, this is an excellent fantasy/horror film. Sure it's animated and the main characters are young teenagers (or tweens, more likely), but it's not simply a children's film. The 3-D animation is excellent, and more importantly, there's a really good story behind it. It's an interesting story, cleverly written. I found myself enjoying this as much -- if not more -- than any film I've seen this summer. I'd highly recommend parents taking their kids to see it; I think both the kids and the adults will enjoy it.

Great lines from songs 1

From John Hiatt:
Always thought we'd make it here, but here keeps movin'.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Lady in the Water, Man in the Theatre

I went to see the new(est) M. Night Shamaylan movie, Lady in the Water, this afternoon. While this movie has been out for awhile, it just came to Fairmont today. I went to the first showing, a two p.m. matinee. I was the only person in the theatre. Though I certainly enjoy that, in another way, it's kind of sad. I wonder how the theatre can afford to continue showing matinees like this when almost no one shows up. Maybe it was the movie itself, though Shamaylan has a following that I think wouldn't listen to reviews. By the way, all those reviewers who panned this movie? They were being a little too kind. Unless it was supposed to be a comedy...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

30 Days

If you haven't seen any of this FX series, created by Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame, you should check it out. The basic concept involves taking someone with a particular viewpoint or type of life, and having them live for 30 days in something quite different from what they're used to. For example, the first show of this season had a border-patrolling "Minuteman" living with a family of illegal immigrants. Tonight's show had a woman who was an atheist living with a family of Christians. I found this especially interesting. Anyone from atheist to Christian should see it. Saturday, FX is running a marathon of shows from last year and this, seven hours in total. I think the "Atheist" episode airs at 1:00 p.m. I'd be interested to hear what others think of it after having seen the show.

U2 + 30 years

I was listening last week to the most recent U2 album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, and watching the accompanying DVD that came with the initial release, a mini-documentary on the making of the album. And I was struck by a thought. (Really; it came at me out of nowhere and I couldn't avoid it.) Even neglecting the popularity of U2 (and they have, at various times, been the biggest band on the planet), I can't think of another band that's been together as long as they have been without any personnel changes. They formed the band (about) 30 years ago when the boys were in high school (or whatever its Irish equivalent may be), and have been U2 ever since. That's a long time to be with anyone. Most bands don't last anywhere near that long, and those that do often undergo numerous changes in personnel.