Archive for October, 2006

October Happenings

October 27, 2006

When the weather was warmer, we went bicycling, covering almost 50 miles in six weeks’ of rides, mostly on the bike trails from the National Airport to Falls Church. But unless it gets warm again soon, it looks like we’ll fall 30 miles short goal of 100 miles for the season. It’s just as well, my bikes needs new brake pads.

We went to see The Guardian, which was a good drama. This and Butterfly Effect show that love him or hate him, Ashton Kutcher really can act. Of all the branches of the military, I’ve always had the most respect for the Coast Guard, which is why Evelyn and I wanted to see this film, and we weren’t disappointed. Taut drama and adventure combine well with solid characters and acting and some very impressive wave tank work to create a good heroic struggle between man and nature. Just three things I’d change. 1) Cast different women for supporting actresses. The women who played Costner’s and Kutcher’s love interests looked disturbingly similar! "Hey, isn’t that Costner’s ex-wife that Kutcher’s hitting on in the bar?". Kutcher’s girl looked about ten years older than him, in a creepy way. 2) Drop the love interest tangents altogether. The film appeals to Coast Guard veterans and fans, but that’s about it. Nobody watches these kinds of films for romance. The tangents are just filler in between the scenes I cared about, and The Guardian would have been more interesting with this filler excised. 3) They missed the perfect spot for an ending right at that final voiceover. Had the movie faded to black right there like they did and just stopped right there, it would have been a great finale, but it keeps going for about a minute, which is a minute too long. I hope the DVD lets me bypass that last bit. (Return of the King had the same problem an unforgivable *four times*!) Aside from that, I’d give the film a solid 7 of 10.

We visited the National Portrait Gallery last weekend, which just reopened after 6+ years of renovation. I did not expect to read that much. Nor was I expecting such a history lesson. I went for the art, not the text! I really tried NOT to read, but it’s hard to look at a portrait without asking "Okay, who is this?", drawing my eyes toward the text description. We only covered one third of the place, and we look forward to going back someday to view the rest of the exhibits.

I tried out two new games this week, Zarcana and Mythos. I’ve only played one game of each so far, ot enough to pass strong judgement of them yet. Mythos is neat (and faster than I expected it to take), but I think Zarcana has more staying power. We’ve also been enjoying lots of Naval Battles and Volcano lately, both of which are very good games.

Today in Alternate History ran my article last Friday. Don’t worry if you missed it… you can read it here.

Nifty Wikipedia Thing: the Sarawak Chamber

Music of the Moment: "Tremolo" by My Bloody Valentine

What I’m Reading: "Lost Chance in China: the World War II despatches of [U.S. Foreign Service agent in China] John S. Service"

An Obituary for the Twentieth Century

October 18, 2006

(I wrote this two years ago, for an intra-company newsletter that was never published.   Enjoy!)


Twentieth Century, world-renowned soldier, artist, inventor, and philanthropist, passed away yesterday at the age of 99.  He is survived by his son, Twentyfirst.

Twentieth Century was born on January 1, 1901 in a small cottage in a town outside Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary.  He was an only child, and was home-schooled by his father, Nineteenth Century, from whom young Twentieth developed his interests in inventing, fine arts and medicine.  A child prodigy, Twentieth astounded the world in 1903, when, at the tender age of 2, he constructed the first heavier-than-air flying machine.  Less than two years later, Twentieth published his first major scientific paper, on his Theory of Special Relativity.

            During his adolescence, Twentieth began a lifelong involvement with the military.  After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand near his hometown, he quickly enlisted, lying about his age to enter the army.  He joined the Air Corps, and was one of the few pilots to survive the war.  Recognized on both sides for his commendable bravery, Lance Corporal Century was decorated by the highest awards that the nations of Germany, Italy, Russia, France, the Ottoman Empire, and Japan could bestow.  However, his experiences in the Great War left him melancholy, and he drifted aimlessly.  His travels led him to Russia, where he became a great champion of the Communist movement, much to the ire of his Western colleagues.

            In 1921, Twentieth began his great patronage of modern art.  He hosted, sponsored, and financed galleries and exhibitions of up-and-coming painters, sculptors and craftsmen.  With his benevolence, an art movement once scoffed for being ridiculous quickly became mainstream, inspiring Art Deco, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and a whole new generation of graphic arts.  Modern art became a cultural phenomenon, earning significant critical and financial success.  Solomon R. Guggenheim, inspired by Twentieth’s initiative, opened his famous Museum in 1937 to continue the legacy of modern art.  However, modern art drew great disdain from the more conservative artistic community; Aldous Huxley referred to Twentieth and his associations as “monstrous”.  Twentieth’s own father strongly disapproved of this ‘new style of geometric doodles’.

            However, the art community suffered under the Great Depression.  Twentieth desperately attempted to keep his patronage strong, but he soon recognized the movement would survive without him.  With the outbreak of World War II, Twentieth joined the U.S. Navy, serving with the Pacific Fleet.  Risking life and limb, he daringly rescued two downed pilots during the Battle of Coral Sea.  Again, he was heavily decorated, and again he was appalled by the loss of life.

Thus it was natural that Twentieth begin his medical career.  He volunteered as a test subject for Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, proving invaluable in that research endeavor.  Twentieth quickly specialized in space medicine, devising medical programs and experiments for the early manned space programs.  His greatest challenge came when he assisted Dr. Christiaan Barnard in the first heart transplant, in 1967.  His efforts were rewarded in 1972, when Twentieth walked on the moon, accompanying Apollo 17 as senior flight surgeon.

Retiring after a crescendo of successes, Twentieth decided to do for classical music what he had done to art.  He single-handedly invented Minimalism, the philosophy of reducing music down to the most basic form of repetitive notes.  His first and last symphony, “Ad Nauseam in D Major for Kazoo, Zither, and Accordion” received besmirching reviews, and became critically loathed. One presentation of “Ad Nauseam” was fortunately aborted when the conductor developed acute carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of the tedious baton gestures.  Twentieth was emotionally distraught from the critical failure of his compositions.  He became disillusioned with the classical music community, which increasingly shunned Twentieth as pretentious.

His next move was what many consider an act of retaliation.  At the behest of his protégé Andy Warhol, Twentieth embraced the world of pop culture.  Twentieth began writing television sitcom scripts, notably for “M*A*S*H” and “Welcome Back, Kotter”.  He also contributed his hand in the design of many of the movie posters of the mid-1970s, a cameo reference to his modern art sponsorship days.  His influence in the mass communication world began to grow.

His role in the television industry served as a segway into his business endeavor.  From his vantage point in telecommunications, Twentieth foresaw the rise in consumer electronics, particularly in microprocessors.  He invested heavily in fledgling Japanese manufacturers and American computer corporations.  Within ten years, he had become a multi-billionaire through the Tokyo Stock Exchange.  Without his capital investments, companies like Apple, Toshiba, Microsoft and Sony would have remained in obscurity.   Twentieth donated much of his profits on various environmental charities; he nobly bankrolled the cleanup of twelve miles of polluted Alaskan coastline in 1989.

Twentieth Century died suddenly of a heart attack while attending holiday festivities with friends in New York’s Times Square, on December 31st, 2000; tragically, his 100th birthday was only minutes away.


A Civic Service

October 3, 2006

For those of you in my congressional district:

U.S. Senate:
George F. Allen, incumbant
James H. "Jim" Webb
Glenda Gail Parker

U.S. House of Representatives:
James P. Moran, Jr., incumbant
James T. "Jim" Hurysz
Tom M. O’Donoghue

Arlington County Board:
Christopher E. Zimmerman, incumbant
Mike T. McMenamin
Joshua F. Ruebner

Arlington County School Board:
Sally M. Baird
Cecelia M. Espenoza

For those of you in the United States outside of my congressional district… know your candidates! Find out who’s running and do your own research! An informed voting populace is the keystone of a democratic republic, so use the most powerful political tool ever devised, the Internet, and do your civic duty! Election day is Nov. 7th… you have 35 days left.

Relevant to the above topic, you should also know where your tax dollars are going.

Speaking of spending money, I think you will enjoy these three YouTube videos.

Nifty Wikipedia Thing: Chess Boxing

Music of the Moment: "Pancreas" by Heywood Banks

What I’m Reading: "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley