I’m not a biker, and I quit watching George Lucas after The Empire Strikes Out, but I have to say that these motorcycle leathers are kinda cool. Utterly ridiculous, but in a cool way.


Not your ususal Swiss army knife:

This is an excellent tool, but you need to be aware that the time jump utility (tool #713, first control panel on the right when leaving the French restaurant on level 3 through the rear exit) is somewhat limited. I spoke with the telephone support, and they told me that recent models are unable to travel back in time past their manufacturing date. Apparently, they overlooked one aspect of the time travel equations in the early models, and some owners are now stuck in previous ages, unable to return because their knives cannot generate enough power to overcome the energy gradient to the present. If you’re looking to buy one of these knives for its time travel capability, you may be better off considering a different model.


Planning to vacation in the Ukraine?

A friendly hint, when arrested, put on your most unintelligent tourist expression, just talk a lot in a friendly manner in any language except Russian, after a while they understand that they you will not give them you hard earned cash. They might though beat you up and just take it, but that rarely happens unless you go into the suburbs.

Oh, and “[t]he ‘Dong’ in the side of the car is just the Ukrainian way of greeting tourists.”


The Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar.


10 Myths About Introverts.” A useful companion article to the classic “Caring for Your Introvert.”


Some of these via the Rat, AoSHQ and the Anchoress.

Alternative animation

Ubu on $369.98 ($498.98 retail):

I refuse to apologize for bittorrenting any longer, and I refuse to feel guilty, and I refuse to buy any series from anyone, anywhere at that price. Burn in hell, Japan.

If that is indeed what purveyors of anime have planned for us, and if they do finally succeed in eliminating torrents and downloads, then anime will be dead outside of Japan. However, there are other places where good animation can be found. France, for instance. Recently I made the mistake of browsing amazon.com and found both The Triplets of Belleville and Persepolis for $7 each.

Belleville was as good as I remembered, though I had forgotten just how fat the Americans were. Here are a couple of excerpts showing the eponymous triplets in their prime and in the movie’s present.

Madame Souza, who plays the bicycle wheel in the second clip, is one of the great heroic animated characters. She would have been serious competition for Balsa in the current poll had The Triplets of Belleville been a Japanese movie.

Persepolis is a girl’s-eye view of the Iranian revolution, with an sojourn in France. Despite its subject matter, it’s often quite funny.

I highly recommend both movies.

Other bargains I spotted include Chicken Run and The Corpse Bride, each for $5. I also found a two-disc edition of Coraline for $7 at the grocery store. It includes two pairs of red/green 3D viewers.


Looking for Christmas presents for youngsters? Petite Princess Yucie is on sale at RightStuf for $10. This is an excellent price for a very good series. (Here’s Steven’s review, with which I concur.)

Princess Tutu is on sale for $15, also a good price for a very interesting story, though not as suitable for young viewers.


Both Jonathan Tappan and J. Greely have been posting pictures of their recent trips to Japan. Visit their weblogs and see.


Newt Gingrich has an idea for enhancing American defenses.


Hot stuff:

What really happened to Gollum and the ring in Mt. Doom?

A spectacular recent video of Kilauea in action.

Jeepers creepers

Two weeks’ accumulation of curiosities and silliness.

I recently discovered that Tex Avery’s documentation of the big, bad wolf’s remarkable courtship behavior is available at the Internet Archive.

[flowplayer src=’http://www.archive.org/download/RedHotRidingHood_557/BannedCartoons—texAvery-RedHotRidingHood1943.mp4′ width=640 height=480]

More of Avery’s research can be found here.

Continue reading “Jeepers creepers”

Miscellaneous notes

I discovered this downtown this past weekend. I’m not sure what it is, but because it is big, prominent and ugly, it’s probably art.

Some perhaps not-unrelated art news.


Chinese science education might not be quite as rigorous as thought.


… Studio 4C has taught me that, if it’s pretty enough, I won’t mind if it’s nonsense


Election notes:

I like his attitude.

End post-mortem discrimination.


For guitar aficionados, a proposition from a thread on Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton:

Roy’s playing: like a funeral. Danny’s playing: like a carnival.

If Buchanan’s playing is funereal, it’s one hell of a service.

Bonus video: a twelve-year-old Joe Bonamassa plays Gatton’s telecaster.


The idea of a maid café is a bit creepy, but this one might be worth visiting for its name.

(Via dotclue.)


A couple of notes for volcano watchers:

There’s a natural jacuzzi near El Hierro in the Canary Islands.

Nyamuragira in the Congo is putting on a nice display of lava fountains.


Good grief

I made trip out to Virginia last summer. While there, I experienced my first earthquake since my year in San Francisco decades ago, and my first hurricane since Agnes in 1972. A few minutes ago the house shook for 30 to 45 seconds. It wasn’t as strong as the Virginia quake, where I was near the epicenter, but it was unquestionably an earthquake, the first I ever felt in Kansas. Should I expect a hurricane here in the near future?

Update (Sunday evening): I just felt an aftershock. This one was weaker than Saturday’s and only lasted perhaps ten seconds.

More hot stuff

Robert Stacy McCain is angling for the ambassadorship to Vanuatu. Charles G. Hill mentions a few facts about the islands, but omits why I hope someday to visit them: there are numerous active volcanoes, including Yasur and Ambrym. The former has exhibited constant strombolian and vulcanian activity for hundreds of years, and is considered to be perhaps the most approachable of erupting volcanoes. The latter is one of the very few places on earth where you can find active lava lakes. ((The others are Kilauea in Hawaii, Villarica in Chile, Erta Ale in Ethiopia, Nyiragongo in the Congo and Erebus in Antarctica. To my knowledge, there are no lava lakes in Indonesia, Japan or Kamchatka, despite the intense vulcanism of those regions, or in North America.)) There are many videos on YouTube of the violently churning lake in Marum crater in the Ambrym caldera; they put me in mind of Mt. Doom immediately after Gollum returned the ring to its source.

32 words of storage and other words

Computer science in 1958.

Godzilla: The Musical.

Via the author of the preceeding, a “live”-action realization of Edward Gorey’s The Gashleycrumb Tinies.

One of Gorey’s other works is The Inanimate Tragedy. Here’s an inanimate horror story in one photograph.


Life continues to be insane. ((A special award goes to the TSA agents who, mindful of the deadly threat posed by frail octogenarians, patted down my parents on our flight out here last week.)) Perhaps by October things will return to what passes for normal, but don’t count on it. Activity at this weblog will continue light and spasmodic.

The wrong place

Yu Muroga was a Japanese delivery man. He was doing his round when the earthquake occurred on March 11th 2011. Like most people in the area, he did not feel under the threat of the tsunami as he was driving far from the coast. That’s why he kept on driving and doing his job.
The HD video camera on his dashboard did not only film the tremors but also the moments after the earthquake when several drivers were trapped by the tsunami waters.
The video camera was recently found by the police next to the passenger’s body.

Click on the quote above to see the video.

(Via a comment at Eruptions.)

Sicilian fireworks

Etna is doing its thing again. Watch the show here.

We might see some nice lava fountains tonight. According to vulcanologist Boris Behncke about 40 minutes ago, “It’s still quite modest Strombolian activity as of now, and might still take a few hours to reach its culmination – however, the increase in volcanic tremor amplitude is accelerating.”

Update: The show’s over for now. Here’s a video of the eruption.

Update II: Here’s another video:


Mt. Etna in Sicily is putting on a brilliant show today, which you can watch here. (You’ll need to refresh the page every five minutes or so.) See Eruptions for commentary. (Scroll down to the later comments.)

Update: The show’s over for now. According to Boris Behncke, a vulcanologist in Sicily, “This has been a typical lava fountain from the Southeast Crater (that is, the vent on its east flank which seems to have completely taken over the job from the old vent at its top), with jets rising 300-500 m – maybe a bit more – and lasting for little more than one hour.”

Everything you ever wanted to know about Mt. Etna: here, here and here.

Update II: For those who missed the show, here’s a video:

Java dawn

Gunung Merapi in Indonesia is beginning an eruption, and there are indications that it could be major — bad news in that densely populated region. I’ve been keeping an eye on the webcam (you will need to refresh the image every 30 seconds or so), ((Link removed — some creeps hacked the website.)) and I grabbed a few screencaps of the mountain in the early morning light. See the comments at Eruptions for discussion of the activity.

Update: Merapi did indeed erupt. There’s much discussion and many links here and here.

Update II: The eruption is turning out to be every bit as bad as feared. The best source of information remains the Eruptions weblog. Reuters pictures of Merapi, and also of Anak Krakatau (Krakatoa, Jr.), can be viewed here.

Update III: Here’s a regularly-refreshed link to the Merapi webcam. The camera has a good, close view of the mountain, which means that the image is frequently obscured by ash on the lens.

Update IV: Some very good pictures here.

Continue reading “Java dawn”


People who are fascinated by volcanoes (Erik?) will be interested to know that the Réunion mountain Piton de la Fournaise has begun its anticipated eruption (Google translation). It’s located on the opposite side of the planet — i.e., it’s night there when it’s day here — but the glow is clearly visible in the webcams. Piton is known for Hawaiian-style eruptions, with lots of nice, photogenic lava (scroll down a bit).

Incidentally, you can keep tabs on Hawaii’s Kilauea here. The best viewing time is just before dawn on the big island (around 11 a.m. here in Kansas). Check Erik Klemetti’s Eruptions weblog for breaking news and much more information about vulcanism around the world.

Update: Grrr. Now that it’s daylight in Réunion, it looks like the cameras are all on the wrong sides of the mountain. There are some photos here and here.
Update II: Here’s a video.

Welcome to Mordor

Here’s where this was shot. As far as I can tell, this is for real, though the people probably look closer to the hot stuff than they actually are because telephoto lenses compress distances.

The New Zealand mountains Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe were Peter Jackson’s stand-ins for Mt. Doom, but the video above is closer to my mental image of Tolkien’s volcano. (Tolkien is said to have modeled Mordor on the perpetually erupting Stromboli.)

Explosive action

Nothing worth watching on television? Eyjafjallajökull not doing much these days on the rare occasions when it’s not hidden by clouds? Take a look through the Sakura-jima webcam. When the weather is clear, you probably won’t need to wait long to see a nice column of ash burst out of the crater. Sakura-jima has been almost continuously active since 1955.

You can control the camera, by the way. Click on the box with crosshairs at the bottom right of the viewer and wait for the countdown to end. The bar to the right of the picture controls the zoom, and the little box under the picture controls where the camera points.


A different sort of video: Arthur C. Clarke, Benoit Mandelbrot and the Mandelbrot set, with a soundtrack by David Gilmour. (Via Steven Riddle.)