Saturday, June 29, 2019

Your Guide To Easy Reading

And Lo! An index was born!

!New! posts will be marked accordingly in there respective categories.

Leave a question or comment and I will get back to you.

Be seeing you,
Sam

And so should you!


FICTION 

Potatoes are what we eat. Potatoes are what we ride


HISTORICAL

Voyager 1 fires thrusters silent since Jimmy Carter was President  !NEW!
For Those Lost, Those Hurt, And Those Who Fight 
Romancing the (Rosetta) Stone
Total Eclipse (of the heart) 2017
Will the real Rosie the Riveter please stand up? 
The World is But a Stage(coach) for Mary
Words Have Meaning
Of What Weight is a Piece of Infinity?  
Planet X, you say? 
Home(stead) for the Holidays
Local necropolis, er, cemetery. 
Local necropolis, er, cemetery. PART 2 
When Superman fought the KKK  
iVon Daniken 
How Fast The Great Pyramid



BEWARE OF MY BRAIN

Hello Kitty and the Vermont Comic Con 
Wise Words, Parallel Worlds 
Happy Fourth of July (with a few well deserved shout-outs) 
Of Life and Gratitude (not my usual kind of post)
I Am the Terror That Croaks in The Night
Predatory Remains of the Calcium Kind
My Everyday On This Planet 
Welcome to Night Vale, the All Hail tour 2017
What If Storms Fell Up?
Happy New Year 2017, Humanity!
We Want Your Business
STOP READING THIS BLOG 
Baby It's Cold Outside
Did You Hear That?



INTERVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS THAT NEVER HAPPENED

Robert Clotworthy: You Know His Voice 
The 12,500 yr old Interview. Kind of…  
So this guy walks up to me at a con…  
This Interview Would Have Been Bullshit  
Here’s to hope! 
Strongarm Interview 3: Dr. Steel 
Strongarm Interview #2 Smeff 
Strongarm Interview: John "Widgett" Robinson



STUFF YOU MAY FIND INTERESTING

The Nightmare Before Christmas on Broadway?  !NEW!
Proof of Time Travel. YOU CAN RELAX NOW! 
Touch My Anchor and I'll F*#% You Up! 
Slowing It Down
Where is your center?
My Captain America Shield is done!
The Circle of Internet Life
Cooking With Vsauce
Geek Moms and Geek Dads  
Hail! Our new Alien rulers!  
WALL-E you look at that! 
TAKE MY MONEY. LEGO® Scooby-Doo Sets and...YOURS?!



IT INVOLVES ME FOR SOME ODD REASON

My First Renn Fest! Huzzah!
From Bellicose to Vericose
Putting the Mental back into Mental Illness 
Dear Sump Pump 
Sam's Presidential Campaign Updates
If I am elected your President  
Sam for President? 
You Can't Go Home Again
Kill It With Fire!
I'd buy that for a dollar!    
A Retinue of Reviews 
Beauty and the Beastmaster 
Six months of insurance sales hell 
Visiting Hours. A true ghost(?) story.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Frosty the Snow Golem

 That's a +5 Pipe! Use Burning Hands! USE BURNING HANDS!

Man, I loved the Burning Hands spell. Meme from Yours Truly.
 
He was a golem. You know he was a golem. Thank God the kids didn't put the hat on a pile of rocks, or an old car, or a scarecrow. I suspect the story would have had a very different ending...

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Voyager 1 fires thrusters silent since Jimmy Carter was President

Copyright NASA


November 4th, 1980. Ronald Reagan defeats incumbent Jimmy Carter to become the 40th President of the United States

November 8th, 1980. Voyager 1 fires its trajectory correction maneuver thrusters (a secondary system called TCM's for short) to tweak its Saturn pass-by after launching on September 5, 1977.

Copyright NASA
 
November 28th, 2017. NASA attempts to fire up the TCM's after 37 years of silence only to learn THEY WORK! After BILLIONS of miles in space exposed to dust and radiation and solar winds THEY WORKED! I'm lucky if my riding lawn mower starts on the first try after a single winter. And that's after a three-hour prep.

Here's some of NASA's press release. Click >>  Voyager  << for the full piece.

"On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA's Deep Space Network.

Lo and behold, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, they learned the TCM thrusters worked perfectly -- and just as well as the attitude control thrusters.

"The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test. The mood was one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all," said Barber, a JPL propulsion engineer."

NASA is trying to extend the work life Voyager 1 by a few more years. Adjusting the orientation of the probe -via the thrusters- will bring its antenna dish back into proper alignment with Earth to improve the probe's data stream. FROM 13 BILLION MILES AWAY. I LOVES ME THE CAPS LOCK KEY! For the full mission history visit NASA's Voyager 1 Mission Page.

Keep this in mind, this probe and its sister Voyager 2 were launched in September 1977 using late 60's/early 1970's tech. The people who made these had 8-track players in their cars, wore bell bottoms, and still managed to hit multiple targets over 746 million miles away (1.2 billion km) away. For my younger readers, let me put September 1977 into historical/pop culture perspective.

By September:

* Star Wars is six months old.* Apple as a corporate entity is ten months old.
* Jimmy Carter has been President for ten months.
* Tandy's TRS-80 home computer hits the market that same month.

That same year:

* January's television viewers tuned into a new mini-series on ABC called Roots.
* March saw humans finally realizing Uranus has rings.
* April's music scene sported the debut album of a group called The Clash.
* May saw the opening of both Chuck E. Cheese and Space Mountain.
* July saw a twenty-five-hour long power outage in New York City. That did not end well.
* August saw the Space Shuttle Enterprise make its test flight, SETI picks up the "Wow!" signal, and Elvis dies, er, fakes his own death.
* September saw the drafting of the Interpol copyright warning we see at the beginning of movies.
* October sees the effective wiping out of smallpox.
* December saw the first children's cable channel called The Pinwheel Network. You know it today as Nickelodeon.

The Walkman and Pac-Man? About two-years down the road in the future. You get the idea.

Let's take a little tour thanks to the Voyager, and by extension all the men and women who made it possible.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Nightmare Before Christmas on Broadway?

copyright Disney
The Nightmare Before Christmas might not sit with Rudolph on the top of Holiday Special Mountain, but based upon a 92% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes and its ever present presence on Hot Topic shelves it is not far behind.



Tim Burton penned the original poem that grew into the 1993 Bass-Rankin inspired stop-motion classic, with fellow artisan Henry Selick as director. Burton has said the seed of the tale came from watching how marketing for Halloween and Christmas has increasingly collided with each other despite their two month separation. With striking visuals, a solid script well voice acted, awesome music and...what am I doing?! This is a movie whose title gets 15.9 million hits on Google. It has been made into video games. It has been translated into at least a dozen languages. Disney transforms its Haunted Mansion attractions into Halloween Town every year! Is there anyone reading this post who DOESN'T know of this film?

Okay, if you haven't then watch the original trailer and accompanying song to decide if this tale of 'being true to yourself' might worth your time. Both clips copyright Disney and so on and so forth.





For those who are familiar with the movie, have you ever thought about a live action version? I know that might sound like a stretch because I know it never crossed my mind.

Good for you, Han. Disney owns you too, ya nerf herder.


But! If The Evil Dead, Spider Man, Monty Python (Spamalot), Heathers, Lestat, The Adams Family, and Carrie can make the awkward, sometimes painful leap to the stage than why not a work already filled with spectacle and music? Why not, indeed. And it might look something like this....


Granted this is a concept piece, but I think you can see it has legs. Matthew Patrick Davis stars as Jack Skellingon with Nicole Hawkyard* as the all too briefly seen Sally. The video comes from Matthew's YouTube channel which states he and Nicole developed the production as fans to the original. Not everyone I've shown this too liked it, but most did. Those who didn't largely stated there was no need to present the source material differently. I get it that. I do. It wasn't the performance, it was that it was being performed differently. Fair enough. I have my own favorites I never want touched, as you probably do. On the other hand I say, "Well Done!" The creators took source material they liked and tried to manifest it well. Jack doesn't look like the "I like turtles" meme kid. I respect that.

Good for you, Cap. Disney owns... oh, you get the idea.
Back to the point: Watch the video with an open mind and try to appreciate the work and its spirit.  Can't ask anything more of you than that, gentle reader.

Be seeing you.

Sam



*Matthew and Nicole have IMDB pages highlighting some of their work if you want to see what else they've done.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rest Stop - Horror flash fiction




I freely admit my vision was rounded by fatigue and my thinking muddled with the distance I had traveled that night, but there are things under heaven and earth whose form and being can cut to the soul of a man despite, or perhaps because of, his clouded perceptions. I steered my vehicle into the rest stop seeking respite from the road and to flex my aching limbs when my dimmed senses told me mine was the only car present. A not-so-uncommon occurrence, as any practiced traveler of rural New York byways will confess, but for some reason there was an odd discomfort at this discovery. I brought my vehicle to a stop and proceeded to exit. No sooner had I opened my door when the uneasiness suddenly increased. (With hindsight, I now place the strange discomfort in the realm of an ancient danger sense; a forgotten attribute from a time when man was vulnerable to threats beyond those of tooth and claw.) I wish I could blame my not fleeing on a tired mind, but honesty compels me to confess my pride would not allow me to act like a frightened child in a dark hallway. And so, I stepped out. The lights struck me first. They seemed to be casting only half their potential, but the shadows around me were full and sharp. Even the size of the restrooms seemed diminished somehow. It was as if the light was passing through something foreign it was unaccustomed to.

This is stupid, I chided myself. Stop it!

However, when the sound of the passing traffic fell upon my ears for the first time after taking several steps I felt real fear. The noise should have seemed only a few dozen yards away. Instead is sounded miles in the distance. I was instantly seized with a horrid sense of isolation. Not merely of being alone, but of being beyond reach. 

Run! Flee! Flew through my mind as impulses without words. I stepped back toward my vehicle when motion caught my eye. I looked around never halting my retreat, frantic to find the unseen source, but saw nothing. Only when I felt the cool comfort of ordinary metal behind me did I turn. And thus, nearly died. For when I turned I met the gaze of a creature perched upon the roof of my car! Its dark thick-ridged body moved with small ripples from under what I think was skin. The worst of it was not the three legs it squatted upon, nor even the two-clawed pseudopodia that darted and swayed toward my face. 

It was its eyes.

They shone with a dull bluish glow. They were almost square and set far apart as the singular feature of its broad, rounded head. They were fixed. They were intelligent. They saw me

I screamed a guttural terror so great it felt my head would not contain it. The creature watched unmoved for an eternal instant before suddenly flowing up into the air without any visible means. As my eyes followed the apparition upwards a second sight sent me reeling. Indeed, it was this subsequent image that filled me as I sped away forever from that cursed spot, for when my thoughts are not staring into those glowing eyes they are fixed upon a night sky with two moons.

Monday, October 2, 2017

For Those Lost, Those Hurt, and Those Who Fight

It's my birthday. I turn 48 today. I was going to post a list of fun accomplishments by fellow 48'ers, such as how William Shatner was 48 when Star Trek The Motion Picture came out in 1979 or how Hugh Jackman was 48 when Logan came out in March of 2017. Hugh, by the way, is one year and ten days older than I. Neat!

But then you and I awoke to news of Las Vegas. The pain and the heartbreak is still unfolding. Many are dead and many, many more are hurt. Why? No one knows at this time. And is there a GOOD reason for it all to happen? No. There isn't. There can't be.

People are lining up to donate blood in Vegas as I type this. Families are learning the fate of loved ones as I type this. Politicians in both aisles are trying to steer the narrative and draft fund raising emails as I type this.

People die everyday. Always have and always will. THAT IS LIFE even on good days. But that doesn't mean the how of the death is unimportant. It actually makes is very important. You know what I mean. It also makes the HOW OF LIVING even more important. It necessitates decision making, life building, and relationship building as the most important things in all of existence. Why? Because existence is all we have. No one gets out of here alive. Just accept it and let the stress go. Hug the people you like and avoid the people you don't. Move toward what is important to you and avoid what is not.

"Less suck, more awesome." as someone once said.

To all of humanity, I wish you well. I wish you clear thoughts, kind intentions and worthwhile friends. I wish you peace and strength. I wish you fortitude to never forget the world is ours to make for the better.To those who have the scars of battle big and small. To those who bring laughter and wit and light into the world.
I thank you.



To those we want near, but can never have again: We will never forget you. 


If you ever need a hug. Here it is --- Big Bro Hug!   It will always be here for you. 

Be well, gentle reader. 

-Sam


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Romancing the (Rosetta) Stone



The Rosetta Stone. Picture used with the permission and courtesy of the British Museum. (C) Trustees of the British Museum. I have a link to the translation at the end of the piece.  


A brief summary of the story of the Rosetta Stone.




Napoleon kicked off his Egyptian/Syria campaign in June 1798, roughly speaking, with the naval invasion of Malta. The idea for his personal National Lampoon’s Egyptian Vacation came out of POLITICS AND ECONOMICS. (There’s a lot to that point, but honestly, I don’t want to get into it because that’s not the purpose of this post. It is pretty interesting -like most of history- and the French vs British/Ottoman Empire dynamic had severe ramifications some argue are still haunting us today. I wholeheartedly recommend starting your own education on the subject.) 

Where were we…ah yes! A couple of things about Napoleon. 1. He was not short. That’s a complete myth. He was about 5’ 6.5” or 7” tall. Average height for his time. Blame British political propaganda and differences in measurement systems for this nonsense. For context, he would have stood eye-to-eye with Tom Cruise. 2. He liked science*. Remember, he was born in the latter period of The Enlightenment or the Age of Reason. (Now I have Thomas Dolby’s Valley of The Mind’s Eye in my head. Love that song.) So, when he wanted to go Walking in Memphis he brought scientists, historians, and engineers. Granted his army would have had engineers anyway like most large, modern military forces, but these men were also products of their Age. Thus entered Lt. Pierre-Fran├žois Bouchard.

July 19ish, 1799 found Bouchard in modern day Rashid, known then as Rosetta, set with the task of refurbishing a small fort. During the work Bouchard noticed a thick, broken stone embedded in one of the walls. It was covered with writing. That in and of itself was not rare, nor even uncommon in Egypt. Recycling stone from older constructs into new ones was a time-honored practice. What caught his eye, and what could have been easily overlooked or ignored by others, was that part of the writing was in Greek. Bouchard was educated. He knew how to read Greek. The rest of the visible text consisted of Hieroglyphic and Demotic. Two of the several scripts ancient Egyptians used for writing. Here’s the bit that grabbed him by the short and curly fries: it said the message was written in sacred, native, and Greek characters! That meant it was the same message written in Hieroglyphs (sacred script), Demotic (native or average Jane/Joe script), and Greek because the Greeks ruled Egypt when it was carved. Bouchard thought this stone (This Rosetta Stone) important so he let his superiors know about it and what made it special. Good job, Bouchard!

Flash forward a few years. Napoleon lost the war and the Rosetta Stone sits in England eating kippers. Dozens, if not hundreds, of copies of the inscription are made via ink rubbings. They are scattered to the academic corners of Europe with a speed not seen again until the advent of cat videos, leaked celebrity nudes, and political memes.

Thanks, whomever made this. Damn, Agent Smith. You are creepy.




Lots of people worked on the puzzle of Hieroglyphs, though one person is generally given credit for opening the flood gates of time. Having said that, we’re talking about HISTORY. History is a story requiring constant poking with pointy sticks to make sure the plot stays solid. Furthermore, it must be accompanied by thorough delousing to keep the characters free from parasites. There is still some academic debate over how to weigh the contributions of those involved. For example, the sources I used (including but not limited to: Wikipedia, Bob Brier, Ph.D., the BBC, online encyclopedias, and book excerpts from the late 1800’s by E.A.Budge) had conflicting accounts of varying degrees of who did what and how and when and with what! Again, there is someone who gets the primary credit for cracking Hieroglyphs but there was an unaffiliated, unorganized group effort at work so to give 100% credit to only one person is simply not accurate. Therefore, I will present the two people I think deserve most of the credit. Spoiler Alert: I tend to agree with Dr. Brier. 

Get your pointy sticks ready.


Thomas Young (and the Restless). England. 1814


But what are Hieroglyphs, anyway? There was ongoing debate at the time over whether they were a type of alphabet or picture writing. Thomas was a doctor by training. He also enjoyed physics, languages, optics, and listening to Europop. That last one surprised me, too. Anyway, Thomas knew there was an idea floating about that the oval cartouches (from the French word for bullet) might hold the names of kings. So, given the Rosetta Stone was about Ptolemy V, then how could it be picture writing? The symbols within the cartouche were not unique. In fact, they were common glyphs found many times spread out on the Stone amongst the others. That implied they might be letters. That then implied that if it was treated like a substitute cipher (my words) starting with the letters in Ptolemy’s name as a basis, then perhaps the remaining symbols could be matched with their Greek and Demotic counterparts. Such was his thought. Turned out, Young was correct. He was able to figure out what several glyphs sounded like (based on their Greek counterparts) while expanding a bit about what was known about demotic. Sound is important! (For the record, Demotic comes from the Greek root words ‘demos’ from which we get democracy.) Tommy Boy is better known for his work on the fundamental understanding of light and color. Just saying.


Jean-Fran├žois Champollion. France. 1822. 

By all accounts, Champollion was an extremely gifted thinker and linguist. He had a solid grasp of several languages including an ancient language from Egypt called Coptic. For background, Africa contains some of the oldest Christian populations. Perhaps you’ve heard that a small church in Ethiopia holds the Holy Grail? Yeah. That’s a real, centuries old claim by a real, centuries old church. That’s how far back Christianity has roots in Africa. Coptic was and is a language used by Christians in Egypt largely in religious services. It took Egyptian words and wrote them out in Greek using their phonetic equivalents. (This is a simplified explanation, obviously.) So, while Young cracked the walls around what some Hieroglyphs and Demotic letters might sound like and mean, Champollion tore them down and used the debris to build a comfy patio. I must give him props for the difficulty of his work. He took what was known about Egyptian languages and scripts then painstakingly cross referenced possible meanings/translations while comparing possible pronunciations with words from Coptic which could then be compared to Greek and some Arabic- which he was also proficient in. AND! He was only 19 when he started this! 1822 rolled into town to find him gathering his work into the first comprehensive guide to Hieroglyphics. Corrections were made in the following years as more examples of multi-script steles were found; however, it was his own work which made these corrections possible. Ergo, Champollion is considered the Bruce Lee of early Egyptology.  
 


Sounds about right.




In conclusion: the Rosetta Stone was a gift to Egyptian tourism surpassing even the oversight of the tomb raiders who missed King Tutankhamun’s condo made of stona. It boosted awareness of Egyptian culture worldwide giving birth to the Ankh Necklace industry in order to feed the voracious jewelry needs of countless students, hipsters, New Age guru’s, hippies, and Neil Gaiman fans. Without it, Dr. Zahi Hawass might never have had his fiery exchanges with Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval. I shudder to think of all the Robert Clotworthy (2) voiced ancient alien theories we would have lost had Bouchard turned his gaze at the wrong moment.

In conclusion again: Thanks to the hard work of many and the sharp eye of one the larder of human knowledge received a shipment of discontinued product feared lost forever.

And in final conclusion: Everything you see, hear, touch, and use has a story. Every name in every poisonously boring history text has a story behind it. Better still, everything in history is STILL HAPPENING. That means you, gentle reader, are a cause and an effect. Be a good one. 

Be seeing you, 
Sam 

*http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/napoleons-lifelong-interest-science-180964485


The text, carved in 196 B.C. is a gushing ‘thank you’ note to the local Greek ruler Ptolemy V for giving a tax-break to the priests and a few other good works. Or put another way: a special interest group snuggling up to the government. See? There is nothing new under the sun. Tax-breaks in 196 B.C.In all seriousness, it is very poetic. 
https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/ancient/rosetta-stone-translation.asp

Want to hear Coptic? Here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2uUpAQaz4w 

(2) Read my interview with Robert here ----> http://strongarmlabs.blogspot.com/2017/02/robert-clotworthy-you-know-his-voice.html