Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "Withered Hope" from The Else (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: There's no getting around it, today I was a sad sack. There's naught for it but to pick myself up and try to do better tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Stars My Destination
The devil take Norm Augustine, today is a day to celebrate. Rejoice, gentle readers, for this day of days has seen… the flight of the Ares! The Ares I-X Development Flight Test: & To paraphrase Master Qui-Gon Jinn, we've taken our first step into a larger world. Yippee!

And let us not overlook the Spaceman's perspective.

One week ago—Wednesday, 21 October—I attended a most unusual event, a basketball game between two distaff athletic clubs, neither of which is dedicated to basketball: a roller derby team and a cheerleading squad. It was exactly as ridiculous as you'd imagine, the derby girls prevailing by a final score, after four eight-minutes quarters, of 11-10.

Last Friday—23 October—I fielded an invitation to make a grand tour of various haunted houses in Genesee & Oakland Counties, but declined on what I thought were solid grounds not inconsistent with Project MERCATOR's goals and precepts. Staying in that evening was a mistake, even if made for the best of reasons. My parents and I were due to depart for Ohio the next morning, and I do not find travel restful. It's fun, exciting, and even gratifying, but never restful. So, instead of staying out to all hours of the night, I thought I'd catch a quiet night of television. Alas, my father was in rare form, going well out of his way to be unpleasant and grating. So petulant was he that instead of watching either Stargate Universe or Dollhouse at nine o'clock, he preferred to wait and watch them on the D.V.R. starting at ten so as to be able to fast forward through the commercial breaks. Waiting to start the evening at ten o'clock? That's a criminal waste of the evening, and adding insult to injury I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that not only do I not like Stargate Universe, I think I hate it.

Meanwhile, I received several text messages from my haunted house haunting pals, who were having a whale of a time. Around midnight they invited me to join them at a Coney Island, but by that time I was a miserable cuss and decided that turning in early was the only way to salvage any of the night's already squandered value. This two was a mistake, because swapping a few hours of sleep for some smiling faces probably would have been a good bargain. So, last Friday goes down as the second and so far greatest failure of Project MERCATOR. As ever, failure is more instructive than triumph.

"If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right."

This Monday—26 October—I was engaged in a frustrating, though ultimately successful, attempt to make a short video for a club to which I belong, essentially an elevator pitch for our club for entrance in a contest that could net us a few hundred clams to put toward various club purposes. This was not a MERCATOR project, but it was a bit like herding cats (an overused expression, I know, but so apt in this case). I had to be in charge or organizing several things at once, but without any authority to make decisions or boss people around; so, I had to cajole, and I find cajoling to be both excruciating and exhausting. At last we finished, and repaired to a local sports bar/buffalo wings chain, finally meeting the standards of Project MERCATOR. We laughed, the six of us shared two sampler plates, we made fun of the drunken douchebag businessmen at the next table, and I managed to make it home on the right side of midnight, given that this was a Monday night. I'm convinced I'm still feeling the ill-effects of Monday-Tuesday's lack of sleep, but after shooting the video a bit of frivolity was most certainly called for.

What will this coming weekend bring? I'm going to a ska show(!) on Halloween, in costume. I do not know what if any festivities Friday might bring, but I've learned the lesson of the previous Friday and stand ready to accept whatever invitations come my way. (So odd to have people around who actively want me to come out and socialize with them; it's been years since that was regularly the case, and it's taking a period of some readjustment.)

So cool: sea monsterlink. I am disappointed, however, that the B.B.C.'s headline writers chose this moment to exercise tasteful restraint; I think we all know that the headlines for this story should have included the phrase "colossal fossil."


Perchance to Dream
Yesterday morning, I dreamt of driving Lumi through an unfamiliar subdivision in the dead of winter. The road was a sheet of ice and all the houses were obscured by monstrous snowbanks. I lost control around a corner and Lumi ended up rather improbably on top of a snowbank, flipped over onto her roof. (I hadn't the velocity for such a leap; so, how did Lumi end up so far off the ground? Stupid dream non-logic.) More improbably still, I possessed the strength to lift Lumi off her snowbank perch, right her orientation, and set her on the ground. From there, though, a degree of reality set in and I had to face the fact that Lumi had sustained extensive damage. I awoke before anything so mundane as summoning a wrecker occurred. But, by Janus, that snow was beautiful! I cannot wait for the advent of winter.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
The Articles, "Ska's the Limit" from Flip F'real (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Because Joel Rash of the Flint Local 432 predicts we're a year and a half away from the next ska revival. I wonder what "fourth wave" ska will sound like, and from whence it will come….

Dienstag, 27 Oktober
Green Day, "Song of the Century" from 21st Century Breakdown (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I don't even necessarily like "Song of the Century," but all day long I kept repeating over and over again the incorrect lyrics, "It's the song of the century." Irksome, that.

Montag, 26 Oktober
The Rolling Stones, "Paint It, Black" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: We heard "Paint It, Black" during yesterday's drive home from Ohio. I remarked, "This is a great song," which elicited a nod of agreement from my pop. It would have been Sunday's R.B.D.S.O.T.D., but I needed to celebrate having once again eluded Ohio's necrotic grasp and returned to the sacred soul of Michigan.
The Stars My Destination
Godspeed, Ares I-X: test flightlink.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Explorers Club
No. CLIII - Theseus, Part I: versus Medea & myriad monsters to claim his birthright, versus the Labyrinth & the Minotaur, the betrayal of Ariadne, and the black sails.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
John Linnell, "Michigan" from State Songs (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Don't hold us back, don't hold us back, we must eat Michigan's brain!"

Samstag, 24 Oktober
William Shatner, "You'll Have Time" from Has Been (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "Why did I waste it? Why didn't I taste it?"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Holy Mother Church
In a week when the Church of Sweden, a branch of the insidious Lutheran heresy, decided that conformity to the constantly shifting standards of 21st century humanism is more important than devotion to the Christ, I am glad for a reminder that with Europe almost hopelessly fallen into godlessness and paganism, Africa is increasingly a beacon for all of Christendom: bishoplink. Let us hope the bishops' call helps to give the peoples of Africa the governments that they deserve.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Blues Brothers, "Going Back to Miami" from Made in America (T.L.A.M.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I carried a girl in my arms for, ballpark, about a hundred horizontal yards today, interrupted by an interlude in an elevator, still lifting her. Not piggy back, in my arms, like a bridegroom carrying his bride over the threshold of their new home. Sure, she's skinny, but also tall. In any event, it damn near killed me, but I did it, and had an S.K.P. Machine moment along the way. Almost to our destination, my conscious mind decided to set her down, just for a spell. But something within me refused. It didn't harangue, it didn't insult, it wasn't even angry; a voice chockablock with cold, steely determination simply said, "No." No, I wasn't going to set her down short of the finish line. So, I kept carrying her, over a hundred awkwardly-balanced pounds, cradled in my arms. Fortitudine vincimus.

Yeah, it was a weird day.

The Queue
I cannot say how long this book holiday will last, but it can't be more than some short span; the pull of the page is too potent to postpone in perpetuity. And it's not as if I won't be reading daily through titanic academic tomes during this time "away" from books. I'm not sick of books, I just need a chance to catch my breath. And all too often absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Karen E. Olson, The Missing Ink
Agatha Christie, Murder Is Easy
Agatha Christie, The Witness For the Prosecution and Other Stories

book holiday

Agatha Christie, Crooked House
P. G. Wodehouse, Mike at Wrykyn & Mike and Psmith
Agatha Christie, Passenger to Frankfurt

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Hackensack" (live) via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Stars My Destination
Just under one week until the first flight of an Ares rocket, the Ares I-X (the next generationlink), and approximately four weeks until the next flight of the Atlantis (star treklink). "Go Ares I-X!"

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Fountains of Wayne, "Sick Day" from Fountains of Wayne (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: It doesn't matter how many scores or hundreds of times I've heard "Sick Day," I never, ever get sick of these lines:

"She's a hell of a girl,
She's alone in the world,
And she likes to say, 'Hey, good-lookin'.'"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pluto's astronomical symbol is a monogram of the capital letters P and L, both for the first two letters of Pluto and the initials of the influential astronomer Percival Lowell. Since the shame declassification of noble Pluto as a "dwarf planet" three years hence, those letters have taken on a new significance: Pluto Lives!

This has been a communication of the Pluto Restoration Front.

I received a text message tonight just after ten o'clock asking me if I'd like to join my new pals for, "A short interlude from studying…." Fortunately, I was able to decline with sufficient craft to merit a further text message, translated from text pidgin into standard English, "You are missed." Moderation is our watchword.

Operation AXIOM
There was no occasion of any particular significance today.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
They Might Be Giants, "The Mesopotamians" from The Else (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "And no one's ever heard of our band."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Both Saturday night and tonight, I partook of outings that had no more than an hour's advance planning. At the risk of sounding like Roger Murtaugh, this spontaneous cack is going to be the death of me. Fear not, I have taken note that too much socialization can be just as corrosive as too little. Going forward, moderation must be Project MERCATOR's watchword.

It's a good news/bad news situation. My waistline is shrinking after the summer's bloat, and I am now between two holes on my belts. This is progress, but not without its cost. The hole I'm moving away from is now a tad too loose when I stand up, and the hole toward which I'm moving is a tad too tight when I sit for extended periods. Sure, I could use the hole punch on my Swiss Army Knife to bore the Goldilocks hole, but I prefer to keep my belts as they are, and let the existing holes function as benchmarks.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The Soulutions, "Do Right" from Rice Capades (T.L.A.M.)


"Be good, do right,
Be kind to that beautiful girl.
Hold her close, tell her why
That you want to be a part of her world.
Don't be scared, do be fair,
Try to laugh about the worries and cares.
Give a laugh, give a smile,
Don't be cruel to that beautiful girl.

And if things aren't right
Don't hold on to her.
And if she loves some other guy,
Watch what you say to her.
Remember that you love her, and…

Be good, do right,
Be kind to that beautiful girl.
Be good, do right,
Be kind to that beautiful girl.
Be good, do right,
Be kind to that beautiful girl.
Be good, do right,
Be kind to the most beautiful girl in the world."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Explorers Club
No. CLII - Perseus & the rescue of Andromeda.

Medusa, and by extension her slaying by Perseus, was the subject of a previous episode of "The Explorers Club," No. XLIV: Wayback Machinelink.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
The Toasters, "Thrill Me Up" (live) from Live in São Paulo, Brazil (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Because I watched today's thrilling Brazilian Grand Prix… live from São Paulo, Brazil!

Samstag, 17 Oktober
The University of Michigan Marching Band, "M Fanfare" from A Saturday Tradition (T.L.A.M.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Formula Fun!
Similar to the case in Suzuka a fortnight ago, during qualifying the the Japanese Grand Prix, rain washed out much of the qualifying session at Interlagos for the Brazilian Grand Prix. However abbreviated, though, qualifying did go ahead and the grid for tomorrow's start is set, with some big surprises and potential championship implications. To remain in contention for the World Drivers' Championship, Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) needed to finish first or second in tomorrow's grand prix; while still technically possible, the chances of this are remote as Vettel had an absolutely miserable qualifying, failing to get out of the first round, and will start from 16th on the grid. Championship leader Jenson Button (Brawn) hardly did much better and will start 14th, but with a sixteen-point lead over Vettel, Button can weather a failure to score any points and still keep his Drivers' Championship alive. So, with Vettel essentially eliminated, Button's only real competition for the season title is his Brawn teammate, Rubens Barrichello. And the only Brazilian driver on this year's grid after the horrific shunt that ended Felipe Massa's season, how did he do in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix? Barrichello, fourteen points behind Button, is sitting on pole position, P1 for the start of tomorrow's race! A Brazilian on pole in Brazil, the crowd is going to go absolutely nuts tomorrow! The way the ten grands prix I've watched since May have gone, it is extremely unlikely that either Button or Vettel will score a single point (an eighth place finish). Barrichello is far from guaranteed a win and the ten points it would net him, but, should he prevail tomorrow, not only would be win his home grand prix, but he would enter the final race of the season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, only four points behind Button.

The 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix, live tomorrow at 12:00 P.M. noon on Speed (and Speed H.D.). Give Formula One a try, gang, you'll be glad you did. Tomorrow! Live! Tomorrow! Woo hoo!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Purdue 26-18 Ohio State

Thank you, Purdue! Ha ha ha ha ha, death to the hated Buckeyes! (Or at least defeat.) There's nothing in the world wrong with enjoying the suffering of your enemies, especially in light of next weekend, which I will spend in Ohio, much to my chagrin. So, thanks and congratulations go out to the ill-starred Boilermakers. What a win!

The Victors: Michigan 63-6 Delaware State
5-2, Big Ten 1-2

I'm glad Delaware State didn't get shut out, because when the score was 42-0 I just didn't like what was happening. I'd love to beat Ohio State 70-0, but heading in that direction against such an outmatched opponent didn't feel right. That's not the Michigan way. So, I was glad when Rich Rod sent in the devil Sheridan at quarterback, as guaranteed a way to stop the offense of the valiant Wolverines in its tracks as you could find. Okay, so now the valiant Wolverines have had what amounts to a high-stakes scrimmage before tackling the back half of the Big Ten schedule. If we can avoid the self-destructing mistakes we made against Iowa, we've got a halfway decent football team on our hands, a year or two ahead of schedule. Of course, that's a big if against the ferocious Nittany Lions, but I believe in the valiant Wolverines.

Go Blue!
On Saturdays, I wake up to the dulcet tones of Click & Clack on Car Talk. Alas, this week I woke up to the cacophony of harpies screeching for money. Man alive, I hate N.P.R. pledge drives.

Perchance to Dream
I awoke Friday morning to the realization that I'd been having a nightmare. It wasn't a nightmare in the televisual sense, wherein the hero encounters something that foreshadows the dramatic peril to come, nor in the sense of being an unrelentingly grim augury of real life peril, a nightmare in only that it was deeply unpleasant and gave me the willies. In the dream, I was doing combat with a giant, metallic purple beetle. It wasn't giant as in the size of a mastodon or a house, that would almost have been preferable, but giant in that it was the length of my fully extended hand. *shudder* The purple horror flew about me with a speed and agility that defied its size. I faced the dread beast armed with a rubber mallet from the garage; yes, in my dream, though I felt myself in the full grip of a mind-killing panic, I retreated to the garage not for safety, but to arm myself and to return to slay the monster. And slay it I did! The beetle flew around me almost too fast to track, and I swung the mallet blindly again and again. In time, purely by chance, I landed a solid blow, leaving the beetle immobile and gravely wounded hanging from the mallet. After some twitches indicated the fell beast was not yet slain, my father took the mallet, lowered it nearly to the ground, slid the beetle off the mallet with his foot, and stepped on the purple terror, crushing it with a satisfying crunch.

I remember precious few of my dreams, too few to waste my time on verdammt nightmares. You hear me, randomly firing synapses? Nein!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Formula Fun!
The penultimate Formula One race of the year is upon us, the Brazilian Grand Prix! Coming into this weekend, three men are still in contention for the World Drivers' Championship: Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello of Brawn Grand Prix, and Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing. Button won six of the first seven grands prix of the year, but has finished no better than second in the eight races since; he leads his teammate Barrichello by fourteen points and Vettel by sixteen. Barrichello is, at thirty-seven, the oldest man in the F1 grid; winner of two grands prix so far in '09, he has never won the World Championship, nor won at Brazil, his home grand prix. Vettel, winner of three grands prix this season, is in only his second full Formula One season and, should he prevail, would become the youngest ever World Champion.

With only thirty-six possible points remaining in the World Constructors' Championship, Brawn leads Red Bull by thirty-five and one-half points. Brawn need only score a single point—eight place—to claim the title; to remain in mathematical contention, Red Bull needs Vettel and his teammate Mark Webber to finish in first and second places (in whichever order), and for Brawn not to score a single point. Really, Brawn have already won the Constructors' Championship, they just need to dot the I's and cross the T's and collect their trophy.

The last two World Drivers' Championships have been decided by the last grand prix on the calendar, and by only a single point: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) over Felipe Massa (Ferrari) in '08 and Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) over Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) in '07. In both seasons, the Brazilian Grand Prix was the finale to the F1 season. There is every chance that Brazil will once again determine the Drivers' Championship, but I am hoping against hope for the stars to align so that the '09 Champion won't be decided until this year's finale, the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in a fortnight's time.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Before Abu Dhabi comes the Brazilian Grand Prix that may decide everything. And before the Grande Premio comes tomorrow's all important qualifying sessions. The 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix! Button, Barrichello, Vettel, or any one of the seventeen other men who will be vying for the center spot on Sunday's podium? This is going to be great!

Brazil is a wonderful country, yes, a wonderful country full of wonderful people.

The Victors
It's time to put an end to this two-game slide, time to get back to putting checks in the win column. It's time to stop saying we lost and time to start saying the valiant Wolverines won. It's time to be victors.

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Less Than Jake, "Short Fuse Burning" from Anthem (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: "I forgot who I used to be."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I brown bag my lunch. I don't technically brown bag it, I pack my lunch in a wicked sweet Blues Brothers 2000 tin lunchbox, but "I lunchbox my lunch" is pap; regardless of the container, "brown bag" is the appropriate verb for bringing your lunch from home. So as not to ferry my lunch about all morning, I keep it out in Lumi. So as neither to ferry the empty lunchbox about all afternoon nor to make another trip out to the parking garage after I eat my lunch, I prefer to eat in the parking garage. And though the weather is rapidly growing too cold to continue doing so, I prefer to eat on a bench set up as a smoking area rather than sitting behind Lumi's wheel. As I was unpacking the lunchbox today, a passing motorcar honked at me. How do I know the honk was directed at me? Because when my head snapped up I saw the driver waving to me as he or she slowly rolled past. He or she? I saw the wave, but the glare of the window and the non-transparent solidity of the door post conspired to obscure the driver's face. I suspect a distaff personage, based on subtle, almost subconscious visual clues and body language, but I cannot say with any degree of certainty whom it was who found the spectacle of me sitting on a cold bench carefully unpacking my boxed lunch so thrilling.

This curious little scenario added a dash of color and a glimmer of silly fun to what was otherwise a long, wearying day. Neato mosquito!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." from Illinois (T.L.A.M.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I find Joel McHale's acerbic brand of humor quite entertaining, and I find his reality-T.V.-based The Soup to be a worthy successor to Greg Kinnear's Talk Soup. That may not sound like much to you, but Talk Soup and Kinnear's humor were hugely important to me between the ages of twelve & fourteen—the darkest depths of adolescent awkwardness & alienation—and are fondly remembered even now. So, I elected to give McHale's new ensemble sitcom Community a try, and I rather enjoyed it.

Last week's episode, however, stated bluntly that the first three Indiana Jones movies were great, but that the fourth, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, was terrible. My ire was roused, but I was going to let it go until the same "joke" was reprised at the end of the episode. And that was that. Let us hope Community is canceled sooner rather than later, and that misfortune drives the writer(s) of the offending episode to both a bad end and an early grave. I will not suffer insults to George Lucas, not from pissant, puerile sitcom writers.

Attention: Jerks at the Peacock Network, the Great Horned Owl is not amused.

A follow-up to yesterday's item: Muscovylink. I've several questions for Secretary Clinton: if the Russians truly acknowledge the threat of Iran's atomic ambitions, why is it that they have publicly proclaimed their opposition to any sanctions against Tehran? Do those sound like the actions of a nation that has genuinely recognized the threat Iran poses to the whole of the civilized world, or the disingenuous machinations of a nation that is playing yourself and President Obama, in the Penguin's memorable phrase, "like a harp from Hell"? Since you know so little about the Russian Federation that you can't even pronounce the name of its president, what confidence can we have that those tricky devils aren't pulling the wool over your preposterously naïve eyes?

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Sufjan Stevens, "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!" from Illinois (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Which will happen first, Sufjan Stevens completes the remaining forty-eight albums in his fifty-state initiative (anyone get that reference?) or John Linnell releases a second volume of State Songs? In neither case would holding your breath be advisable.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Whilst out and about last evening I had the first Guinness of the Fall, even though at home I'm still stocking Grolsch. Memorial Day and Labor Day provide bright, shiny lines for when to switch to and away from Red Stripe, but no such convenient demarcations exist for Guinness and Grolsch. Mayhap I should devise and impose some? I'll give the matter some thought and report back if I decide in the affirmative.

In any event, I'll credit the evening as a success on two counts: {a} I both enjoyed myself and, so far as I could tell, proved good company to others, thus satisfying two objectives of MERCATOR: successfully fighting my antisocial nature and putting myself in position to engender further invitations. {b} I discovered that it can be quite fun to socialize with my professors. And, truth be told, though the main object of both Friday's and yesterday's outings was to ingratiate myself to my fellow students, the more interesting conversation was to be found at the professors' end of the pushed together tables around which the eleven of us were gathered. It must also be said that I don't want to sleep with any of my professors; so, I kept an ear on the conversation at the students' end of the tables and piped in whenever it seemed to my advantage.

The Dark Bastard would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that girls only like me when they think of me as a friend-cum-eunuch, amusing and asexual. Not for nothing do I call him a bastard.

Operation AXIOM
Project MERCATOR does have its price, it must be noted. Not only does Operation ÖSTERREICH suffer, but so too does Operation AXIOM. Yesterday was Columbus Day, the five hundred seventeenth anniversary of Christopher Columbus's first landing in the New World, and I did naught to mark the occasion without which almost everything that I love would be impossible. Had the New World not been discovered when and by whom it was, there is no telling what effect that might have had upon history. Where would the world be without the beacon of the United States? Where would Holy Mother Church be without the vast populace of the continental Americas from the Rio Grande to Cape Horn? The world would be unrecognizable without the Admiral of the Ocean Sea's voyages of discovery, and it was perilously near to unforgivable of me to allow the anniversary to pass unremarked upon. Columbus Day, everyone, let's have a round of cheers.

Hip hip! Hurray!
Hip hip! Hurray!
Hip hip! Hurray!

It's true, there was no quid pro quo between Presidents Obama and Medvedev over missile defense and Iran. That would imply, and quite wrongly, that the United States gave something up in order to get something from the Russian Federation. With friends like theselink. Instead, President Obama gave the Russians exactly what they wanted and they've given us less than nothing in return. Yep, no quid pro quo in sight.

When the Islamic Republic of Iran has a nuclear arsenal and uses it to destroy the State of Israel, I request each and every one of you who voted for President Obama to pause for a few moments to reflect upon the fact that you voted to stand by idly, to allow Iran to wipe Israel off the map in an atomic holocaust. You will no doubt insist that you didn't want that to happen, but the fact will remain that you voted for that very tragedy to come to pass, and I hope that knowledge will haunt you the rest of your days. Until then, I hope you're enjoying the parade of horrors.

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Less Than Jake, "Just Like Frank" from Losing Streak (T.L.A.M.)

Montag, 12 Oktober
Smash Mouth, "Beer Goggles" from Fush Yu Mang (T.L.A.M.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"The Explorers Club" is back on schedule for the first time since October! And in the nick of time, with the Club's third anniversary looming.

The Explorers Club
No. CLI - Bellerophon & Pegasus versus the Chimera.

Jules: "Sorry, Shawn, no time for your tomfoolery and silliness."
Shawn: "Actually, we—"
Jules: "That also goes for your nonsense, malarkey, and shenanigans."

Formula Fun!
The most accessible Formula One grand prix of the 2009 calendar will be run next weekend, the Brazilian Grand Prix/Grande Premio do Brasil from Interlagos in São Paulo. The only race in the Western Hemisphere in '09, the Brazilian Grand Prix will start next Sunday at 12:00 P.M. E.D.T., noon. Interlagoslink. No tape delay, no getting up early or staying up late, this will be the first grand prix that I watch 100% live. I've developed a successful routine to prevent inadvertently learning grand prix results via the internets, and most of the races I've watched have been videotaped live broadcasts, but sport it meant to be experienced live, in the moment, as it happens. For that reason, this race is going to be rather special to me, and even more so because it is the best chance I shall have to share with my friends my newfound love for the Formula One World Championship.

A year hence, I had next to no interest in motorsport, and had never watched a complete race in my life. I'd been taken as a youngling to one N.A.S.C.A.R. race at the Michigan International Speedway, but all I remember of the experience is that it was deafeningly loud and that I'd hated every minute of it. I make no guarantees that any of you will like F1, but I've found it to be both tremendously exciting and dazzlingly addictive. I invite you all to give the Brazilian Grand Prix a try. Who knows, you might discover something you'll genuinely enjoy. (I don't call these posts "Formula Fun!" solely because it's a convenient pun, it's also spot on.)

12 noon on Sunday, the 18th of October, on Speed (and Speed H.D.), the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix. The grands prix vary in length of track and number of laps, but the longest race I've seen lasted just over two hours; so, the checkered flag should fall by two o'clock Eastern. Are you in or out?

Friday's outing was more successful and enjoyable than I'd anticipated. Score! This evening's Flint City Derby Girls bout was a rousing good time. All in all this was a grand weekend for Project MERCATOR, but it's not quite done: tomorrow evening I am scheduled to carouse, at least briefly, with many of the same crew from Friday. The final leg of a triumphant MERCATOR triple crown? Fingers crossed.

Project MERCATOR's boom times have come partially at the expense of another branch of CADMUS, Operation ÖSTERREICH. Friday's frolic prevented me from exercising then and Monday's malarkey will keep me from exercising then; so, today was the day, the first time I'd run since last Wednesday (7 October) and the last time I'll run until next Wednesday (14 October). And it felt fan-freakin'-tastic! I ate up all three stints and was all set to go on to a fourth, but stopped for fear of overdoing it and setting back what little progress has been made.

I can feel it, I'm flirting with a swagger.

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The University of Michigan Marching Band, "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" from A Saturday Tradition (T.L.A.M.)
The Victors: Iowa 30-28 Michigan
4-2, Big Ten 1-2

We committed five turnovers: two interceptions that stand as bitter reminders of just how inexperienced true freshmen Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are; a fumble by Forcier that should have been accompanied by "Yakety Sax" (the fast, boisterous music made famous by The Benny Hill Show); a fumble by Brandon Minor that again made me misty for the glorious, sure-handed days of Mike Hart; and a muffed punt by Greg Mathews that looked like it came straight out of the horror show that was 2008. And yet despite all this rampant ineptitude, we lost to the No. 12 team in the country, on the road, by a scant two points. And we had a legitimate chance to drive down the field for a last-second, game-winning score. None too shabby considering the extraordinary efforts the offense made to hand the game to the tenacious Hawkeyes.

That said, the offense still made that extraordinary effort to hand the game to the ultimately victorious tenacious Hawkeyes. Why? For the love of Bennie Oosterbaan, why?! And as a result we lost a game that we had every chance in the world to win. We are quite simply not a good enough football team to throw away golden opportunities like last night's. In the back half of the season, I fear we shall have ample reason to rue yesterday's squandered chance. Clenched your teeth, make a fist, and hiss it with me, "Blast!"

Go Blue!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Victors: 4th Quarter, 12:56 Remaining
Iowa 30-21 Michigan

We are making a forthright and determined effort to lose tonight's game. If giving the opposing club ample opportunities to runaway with the game was the object of football, we'd be ranked in the the top ten of every poll. On a related note, I hope Greg Mathews gets mauled by a puma.

The valiant Wolverines have given up on themselves and on us fans, but I'll never give up on Michigan. Go Blue!
The Victors: Halftime
Iowa 20-14 Michigan

Two thoughts, a statement and an invitation, both addressing the same issue, with both overlapping and conflicts points. {a} We simply are not good enough to commit these kinds of boneheaded errors and have a chance of victory. {b} Imagine how good we could be if we weren't so dedicated to turning the ball over.

Go Blue!
The Victors: 1st Quarter, 5:55 Remaining
Iowa 10-7 Michigan

On our first offensive play from scrimmage, I saw Forcier give up on the run and go into his dive way too early. On the whole, encouraging him to be far less reckless with his body is a good thing, but in this case he badly misjudged the time remaining before contact with the stout Iowa defense and the distance he needed to get the first down. I had a premonition of doom and thought ruefully, "He was so close, he easily could have gotten the first down. Oh, I hope this doesn't come back to bite us." On second down, we committed an offensive holding penalty. On third down, Forcier threw a monstrous interception, setting up the tenacious Hawkeyes for the go-ahead score. Lousy premonition of doom. Lousier still, the ensuing doom.

Go Blue!
The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the day
They Might be Giants, "Nightgown of the Sullen Moon" from Then: The Earlier Years, Disc Two (T.L.A.M.)

Freitag, 9 Oktober
The Ting Tings, "Shut Up and Let Me Go" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Donnerstag, 8 Oktober
MxPx, "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)" from On the Cover II (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: That I like "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg," both the original by The Ramones and MxPx's cover version, does not mean that I agree with the song's inherent, and ridiculous, criticism of President Reagan. Not all criticism of President Reagan was ridiculous, but that in "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg" most certainly is.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Science! & Project MERCATOR
In the finest tradition of N.A.S.A.'s Deep Impact mission, which sent a washing machine-sized impactor careening into the comet Tempel 1, the L.CR.O.S.S. probe has given the Moon one heck of a wallop: kamikazelink. Who says that science can't be about smacking the snot out of everything in sight?

There was a live viewing of the dual impacts (L.CR.O.S.S., preceded by the Centaur rocket on which it rode into the heavens) at the Longway Planetarium this morning. I only found out about the viewing yesterday, on a flier that I easily could have missed. Oh, I was dearly tempted go both, both in pursuit of my love of astronomy and in accordance with Project MERCATOR, but 6:30 A.M. is just too early on a Friday. Thursday is my longest, most punishing day of the week; Friday is the day I sleep in latest, recovering. Had it been any other weekday, up to and including merciless Thursday itself, dawn would have found me seated in the Planetarium marveling at the beautiful sight of N.A.S.A. knocking the Moon's socks off (hooray for new episodes of MythBusters!) with a robot and a rocket, all in the name of science.


I will be going out this evening pursuant to Project MERCATOR. I don't want to go, but that's rather the point of Project MERCATOR, to fight the corrosive tendencies of my nature. Plus, though I am dubious as to the outing in question, I do wish to cultivate social relations with my fellows for the evening, and pulling my traditional monk routine won't advance that cause. So, it's time to take one for the team (the team being not just me, but Future Mike, too).

Of All the Souls in Christendom
Also yesterday, I was packing up my rucksack to leave the library, where I'd been sitting studying in the lengthy interval between an Econ Club meeting and my afternoon/evening classes, when for no conscious reason which I could divine I withdrew from Big Red the pocket Gideon Bible—the New Testament, plus Proverbs & Psalms—I keep alongside my Red Cross rescue mask. I opened up the gift of the Gideons to a random page and read, the Epistle of James, Chapter 5, Verse 8:

"You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand."

And please forgive me if this sounds presumptuous or boastful, but it seems clear to me that some agency of the Almighty, the Holy Ghost Himself or an angel of the Lord, whispered in my ear, wanting me to read James 5:8. Oh dear, I hope there wasn't some additional action James 5:8 was supposed to prompt me to take, because if so I've rather dropped the ball. Crumbs!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Explorers Club
No. CL - The H-4 Hercules, unfairly and inaccurately maligned as the "Spruce Goose."

Back on track today, with full-length first, second, and third stints. I maintained the same middle-stint speed as on Monday, but with slightly less incline; lest you reproach me mark that I did increase the speed of the level stints. And the faster pace seemed a stimulant. It is the most curious of phenomena that an increase in speed can cause a seeming decrease in effort, almost as if I've stumbled into something akin to a running resonance. I look forward to Friday and am hoping for a satisfactory conclusion to this second week of Operation ÖSTERREICH's resumption.

(insert inspiration declaration here)!

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Paramore, "Brick By Boring Brick" from Brand New Eyes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: By Apollo, I love Hayley Williams's singing on "Brick By Boring Brick." Such peculiar enunciation!

Dienstag, 6 Oktober
MxPx, "Unsaid" from The Ever Passing Moment (T.L.A.M.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

A pretty girl tantalized me with a journey for crêpes today, but true to the definition of "tantalize" no crêpes were to be had. Where's my crêpe, woman?!

I didn't quite bonk today, but I did take a step in the wrong direction after Thursday's and Friday's runs. My legs were on fire throughout the uphill middle stink of my run; I got through it, but when it came time for the third and final stink back on level ground there wasn't any get-up-and-go left in my legs. Fiddlesticks! It could be the two-day layoff, it could be that I tend not to get much sleep between Sunday night and Monday morning, or it could have just been a bad day at the gym, an inexplicable phenomenon that is undeniably real. Or, you know, as I mounted the stairs up to the cardio room I ran into a guy with whom I've had a couple of classes as he was coming down and we stopped to chat for a few minutes; so, I could always blame him.

Curse you, Cal, curse you!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Lorene, "28" via iTunes (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: I suppose this song is meaningless to me now that I'm thirty and the youthful exuberance of twenty-eight is only an increasingly fuzzy memory. O the ravages of time, o woe is me! "28" is the beautiful kind of melancholy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Explorers Club
No. CXLIX - The Imperial Airship Scheme, highlighted by the design competition between the R100, the "Capitalist Airship," and the R101, the "Socialist Airship."

Formula Fun!*
My Formula One fandom took a big step forward today: I was enraged by an on-track occurrence and the effect it had on the results of the grand prix and the standings for the World Championship. Hurray, I'm emotionally invested!

A little background will be necessary. After fifteen of seventeen rounds of the '09 season, only three drivers remain in contention for the World Drivers' Championship—Jenson Button & Rubens Barrichello of Brawn and Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull—and only two teams in contention for the World Constructors' Championship—Brawn and Red Bull. Coming into this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, Button had a fifteen-point lead over his teammate Barrichello and a twenty-five-point edge over Vettel. A driver can score a maximum of ten points in any grand prix; so, with three rounds left in the season thirty points were up for grabs. Button owns the tiebreaker of most grand prix victories and was in position to wrap up the Drivers' Championship if he scored five points more than Barrichello and wasn't outscored by Vettel by five points (Place - points):

1st - 10 points
2nd - 8
3rd - 6
4th - 5
5th - 4
6th - 3
7th - 2
8th - 1

Vettel was indomitable all weekend, setting the fastest time in all three rounds of qualifying, sitting on the pole position for the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, and leading all fifty-three laps around the Suzuka Circuit. But, in standard sports parlance, his fate is not entirely in his own hands. Whether the World Championships would be decided rest upon Button's & Barrichello's finishes.

Sebastian Vettel pilots his RB5 for Red Bull Racing.

Qualifying was a more chaotic process than in any other grand prix I've yet seen, with no fewer than four separate shunts (crashes) and multiple red flags. Overnight, numerous penalties were accessed and the starting grid this morning was vastly different than that set yesterday in the truncated qualifying sessions. Vettel remained on pole, Barrichello started from sixth, and Button from eleventh; if no positions changed during the Japanese Grand Prix, Button would finish out of the points. In the early going, Button was stuck at tenth in the running order, stuck behind a fuel-laden Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren) and Adrian Sutil (Force India). Sutil made a move to pass Kovalainen, diving to the inside around a right hand chicane; the two cars drew alongside, but as they dove into the immediately following left hand chicane Sutil tried to go too far inside, almost driving Kovalainen off the track; Kovalainen had no choice but to hold his ground and try to push back; their wheels struck and Sutil spun out right in front of Kovalainen. As Kovalainen braked to swerve around Sutil, whose car was now parked perpendicularly to the flow of the circuit, the trailing Button was able to steer around Sutil's car without braking, leapfrogging both Kovalainen and Sutil into eighth, the final points-paying position. And then came the moment that sparked my fan epiphany: my hands flew to side of my head and I ejaculated a tormented whisper, "No!" I do not have a team I claim as my own, but I do not want Brawn to win the Constructors' Championship; nor do I want a Brawn driver to win the Drivers' Championship.

From front to back: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Jarno Trulli (Toyota), Nick Heidfeld (B.M.W. Sauber), Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari), Rubens Barrichello (Brawn), Nico Rosberg (Williams).

It's not that Brawn use Mercedes engines. Sure, that precludes me from rooting for them, but it doesn't require me to root for anyone else just to spite Brawn. Yet that's where I am, I'm willing to cheer for any of the other nine teams—even Renault—to spite Brawn. There is no guarantee that Button wouldn't have worked his way past Kovalainen and Sutil, especially Sutil, who hit the pit lane before either of the other two, but it would have been a mean feat of driving to pass Kovalainen, whose K.E.R.S.-equipped McLaren has an added power boost that gives it phenomenal defense prowess, and whose fuel strategy allowed him to go deeper into the race than Button. So, without Sutil's miscalculation, Button may well have finished out of the points. As it was, he finished eight, gaining only one point and losing a net one point to the seventh-finishing Barrichello and a net nine points to 2009 Japanese Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel. Absent a significant act of contrition, I'll never forgive Sutil, even though all he was trying to do was hoist himself into the points; aiding Button was only an unintended side effect of Sutil's failure.

To be continued…

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
Semisonic, "Gone to the Movies" from Feeling Strangely Fine (T.L.A.M.)

*I doubt anyone besides yours truly cares about such housekeeping details, but I'm experimenting with a new title. I came up with "This Week in Motorsport" off the top of my head, it wasn't the product of an intensive vetting process, and while it holds for me an undeniable charm, I'd be remiss if I didn't put in my due diligence in searching for a blockbuster title.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Victors: Michigan State 26-20 Michigan (O.T.)
4-1, Big Ten 1-1

Today's loss to the dastardly Spartans is not nearly so bitter a pill as I'd have thought it would be. I am thrilled and flabbergasted that we were able to tie the game up at the end of regulation and force overtime time before freshman sensation Tate Forcier's freshman mistake brought the enterprise to a bad end. Live by the froshie, die by the froshie, but let there be no doubt that I still echo MGoBlog's brilliant Star Wars-inspired line about our true freshman, nineteen-year-old Q.B.: "The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Forcier."

My parents are hosting their pinochle club's floating monthly game this evening; so, we're giving the house a thorough cleaning. (I don't understand why people always want to make their homes look as though no one lives there when they entertain their friends, but that's neither here nor there.) Consequently, I paid only minimal attention to the first half as I vacuumed the whole house (except the water closets and basement). Immediately after the game, I suited up in jeans, a long sleeved T-shirt, work gloves, and boots and set about trimming the front bushes. We've had rain for most of the last two days and conditions were adjudged by all too wet to risk using the electric hedge clippers; so, I hacked at the bushes the old-fashioned way. I didn't do a full trim, I neither leveled off all the tops nor squared off all the corners, nor crawled behind the bushes to clip right up against the outside wall of the house, but I got rid of all the bright green shoots and did quite a bit to clean up the general appearance of the bushes. And I tell you, dear readers, it was rather therapeutic. After the loss, hacking away at something green, giving vent to my frustration through the hedge clippers, was the best remedy in the world. I've already moved past most of the bitterness of the defeat and am looking forward to next week's game against the tenacious Hawkeyes of the University of Iowa!

And to any dastardly Spartan reading this, I leave you with the last words of Vigo the Carpathian, uttered just before his head died, "Death is but a door, time is but a window. I'll be back!"

Go Blue!

The Rebel Black Dot Song of the Day
The University of Michigan, "I Want to Go Back to Michigan" from A Saturday Tradition (T.L.A.M.)

Commentary: Today's R.B.D.S.O.T.D. was selected before kick off and so is not meant to signal a specific desire to return to the friendlier confines of Michigan Stadium after a disappointing afternoon in Evil Lansing. "I Want to Go Back to Michigan" is just a great little ditty (thirty-four seconds long).
The Victors
And now resumes the annual internecine struggle for the soul of the State of Michigan. Which shall triumph, the light of knowledge as represented by the valiant Wolverines of the University of Michigan or the darkness of ignorance as embodied by the dastardly Spartans of Michigan State University? Which will carry the day, bold audacity or cringing fearfulness? No man can say for certain until time expires, but I hold with the valiant Wolverines.

Go Blue!

Friday, October 2, 2009

This Week in Motorsport
This afternoon, I opened up Lumi's truck and Big Red, my backpack, and exchanged some papers between the two. Though it was not at that moment raining, the sky's spigot had been open not too much earlier and droplets ran off the hatch to Lumi's trunk and right onto my papers. At that moment, amidst the black thunderclouds inside my head, I'd have preferred that it never again rain anywhere on Earth, the devil with the consequences! That initial squall of rage soon passed, but, man alive, I hate rain.

I've hated rain almost my whole life, but last weekend it added insult to injury by washing out the Petit Le Mans. Last weekend's (Saturday, 26 September) twelfth running of the Petit Le Mans from Road Atlanta was an event I'd been looking forward to for months, not quite since the 24 Heures du Mans in June, but since not all that long after. Why? Because the Petit Le Mans is one of only three races in which the Audis and Peugeots compete head to head, at least as far as I am aware: the 12 Hours of Sebring, the splendorous twenty-four hours around the Circuit de la Sarthe, and the Petit Le Mans (10 hours or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first). So, though I've enjoyed the other American Le Mans Series (A.L.M.S.) races I've watched, Petit Le Mans was my only chance to sate my Le Mans fix until the 12 Hours of Sebring in January. I watched the start of the Petit Le Mans and then skipped most of the early hours of the race to watch the frankly more important Michigan-Indiana football game. (I'm growing to love various kinds of motor car racing, but I love college football more than any other sport in the world.) By the time the valiant Wolverines completed their heart-stopping victory over the wily Hoosiers, the Petit Le Mans was under a red flag—all drivers return to the pit lane at once—due to heavy rain and standing water on the circuit. The delay was expected to be half an hour, an hour at the outside. Eventually, because rain falling on a racing circuit without any race cars does not make for good television, Speed switched to a rebroadcast of the A.L.M.S. race from Mosport from several weeks hence to fill the dead air. In time, with the clock still ticking and the rain still falling, the Petit Le Mans was called, with Peugeot scoring another win over Audi, but in highly unsatisfactory fashion as far less than 50% of the race had been run. Cursed rain.

Then today, persistent rain all but washed out the first televised practice session for the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix. The mighty Suzuka Circuit is spoken of as one of the legendary F1 race courses—in the same breath as the streets of Monte Carlo, Spa, and Monza—but I didn't see enough to begin to understand the majesty. I taped Speed's ninety minute live broadcast of Friday practice (though because of the extreme time difference between Japan and the Eastern Time Zone, the early afternoon practice session was aired at 1:00 A.M. Thursday Night/technically Friday morning), but aside from a few misty laps in the closing minutes of the session, I taped an hour and a half of Speed's excellent announcing talking over shots of a rain-soaked race course and the diehard Japanese fans cowering in plastic ponchos and under umbrellas.

The rain stopped almost precisely as soon as the practice session ended. Verdammt rain! It's like it's taunting me.

Yesterday's news
Two in a row, and today I ran 50% longer than yesterday; 50%'s not so impressive, I'm still playing catch up, but already I feel at home again in the locker room. Curiously, five of the eight treadmills sported signs proclaiming, "Temporarily OUT OF ORDER, Service call has been placed." I know there's got to be a good joke in here about my elephantine bulk, but I used the same treadmill today as yesterday with no apparent ill effect to the machine. I didn't sprint the last minute, but I did increase my rate by 20% for those last sixty seconds.

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,"

"We're in now now."
Today made for three in a row, but it wasn't as strong an effort as yesterday. I ran for the same duration, and used a higher speed at the same incline during the middle sector (first and third sectors are run on a level surface), but didn't have the energy to "sprint" the last minute. This may have something to do with what I ate—breakfast and lunch on Thursday, lunch only on Friday—or it may be that after three consecutive days I was more exhausted than after only two. In either event, there is a hectic weekend ahead; so, I shan't get back to the Rec Center until Monday. Also, the scheduling anomaly that allowed me to run on Thursday and still get home only a little after 7:00 P.M. won't repeat; instead, I'm targeting a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule.

Will I choose next week to give the One Hundred Push Ups another try?

The Rebel Black Dot Songs of the Day
Mustard Plug, "On and On" from In Black and White (T.L.A.M.)


"By now, you think it's over,
Countdown, it's getting colder,
Come on, tell me it's over,
Goes on and on and on and on again."

Donnerstag, 1 Oktober
Mustard Plug, "Puddle of Blood" from In Black and White (T.L.A.M.)