Monday, March 31, 2008

Space Trash - Parts 1 And 2

[A special tip of the "After Midnight" baseball cap (which may be available by the end of this year; if you're interested reply in the "Comments" section) to the fabulous crew at Reuters News Agency, whose juxtaposition of two similarly-themed item jogged Your Host's brain cells into action]
There was, if my memory serves me right, a TV series [or maybe just a pilot, although I seem to remember more than one episode] about a company that basically existed to gather abandoned parts of spacecraft and satellites from outer space [The big thing that made it memorable was that the producers somehow convinced Andy Griffith that the project was worthy of his time [At any rate, it didn't take up much of it; it was cancelled after (I think) a few showings]. More's the pity ["more's the pity"? what the Hell kind of phrase is that to drop into one of these Reports From The Squalid Heart Of The Internet? I must be shooting for one of those "blog awards" you hear so much about...] that the show, and of course, the company depicted, were nothing more than fiction. They could have picked up some salvage dollars grabbing two items out of space, before they landed on Earth, forcing innocent reporters out of bed to report on them, and not-so-innocent bloggers like myself to trash the trash.
-Case # 1/ A Russian shepherd is suing that nation's space agency for one million roubles [Barney Roubles?], or about 42 thousand US dollars. He claims a 10-foot casing, fresh from a Russian launch, dropped on his land, nearly taking out an outdoor toilet in the process. The shepherd's sister, who seems to be his media rep, notes that her brother has vision problems, so he didn't see the metal fall. But when he got up the following morning, she said he realized that his biffy nearly went the Way Of All Flesh [or outdoor outhouses struck by quickly-moving hunks of space junk]. The sister says the amount of the suit comes down to the great amount of stress he suffered [I could go along with that; if a hunk of metal nearly crushed my outhouse, I don't know what I'd do. Could I ever go back? I'm not sure].
Of course, I must note that the region where the incident occurred is sort of a dumping zone for Russian space craft. Residents of nearby villages say they are forbidden to visit certain places in their village during space launches, and that pieces of rockets regularly end up crashed there. A spokesperson for the Russian Space Agency notes that it does pay compensation, but only if the Russian courts award damages [according to a prominent Russian newspaper, that's happened only once since the end of communism - a 2001 case where the unfortunate property owner received 10 thousand roubles [Amount in US dollars unknown - but it can't be much, since it takes a million roubles to get to 40 thousand US dollars]. And considering the speed at which the Russian courts are said to turn - very slowly - the shepherd might be better off selling the space leftover to a collector or for scrap. He'd see the money sooner, that's for sure.
-Case # 2/Another region famous as a space junkyard is Australia, most famously in 1979, when the Skylab spacecraft returned to Earth. A town council near a crash site ticketed the US for "littering" [I see their point], and then-US President Jimmy Carter apologized to the island nation for the crash. Another piece of flotsam from the stars landed in Australia's Northern Outback [no, NOT a restaurant] recently, and its discoverer seems much more sanguine over the matter. It took him almost a week after finding it to begin inquiries, and he hasn't expressed, at least in public, any interest in lawsuits. Then again, it didn't come within an eyelash of crushing his biffy.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

...And Who'd Believe It?

Nearly as unbelievable as the above image is the following [Caution: before viewing, take a seat, make sure you've taken your heart medicine, and prepare to be amazed!]
You Are Fairly Normal
You scored 70% normal on this quiz

Like most people you are normal in some ways...
But you aren't a completely normal person. You're a little weird too!

Why You Are Normal:

You eat the frosting first

You prefer your friends to your family

If given the choice, you would choose to have more money over more time

You rather be screwed over than screw someone else over

You'd rather have rats than cockroaches in your home

Why You Aren't Normal:

You would rather be a movie star than an astronaut

You know a little about many subjects

You prefer non fiction to fiction

You don't keep up with your horoscope

You prefer the moon to the sun
You know, I cant think of anything to add...
-Mike Riley

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cold Cuts Platter

I don't know what it is about March. For some reason, I'm putting together posts on several subjects [usually these presentations have a theme, humorous points, and, ideally, a slick finish] this months. But, several forces are pounding on the door and, like the landlord [if your luck is bad] or the pizza delivery man [if your luck is good], they must be dealt with. Hand me my mace, Woman I Love. And don't wait up for me. This may take a while...

- Meagan was at church for Easter Sunday! Her parents were able to sign her out of the hospital for the day, and brought her to the main service. I'm no doctor, but she seems to be fairly responsive, and beginning her long recovery. It was a nice miracle, to go along with the bigger one we were commemorating.

- Thanks to Hulag [] for adding me to his "Great Wall Of Reciprocal EntreCard Droppers". Check out his site for a clever presentation of 'Carders who, like myself, try to visit everyone who visits them. (I've considered adding a "U Drop/I Follow" badge, but I reserve the right to not respond, if I'm busy, say, or during the weekend [when I'm usually not on the computer]. I don't think it's fair to say you'll respond, unless you intend to as often as possible. That said, I am in favor of reciprocal drops, as long as the dropper at least looks at the site s/he is dropping on.

- As an interested observer [and a Blogger user], I find myself very concerned about an apparent new policy at "Big B"; namely, dropping blogs that are using non-Google ads. I'd have to be a lawyer to understand every word of the Blogger Rulebook, but I don't deny they have the right to do this. What I wonder about, though, is how long Blogger bloggers [they must be a more graceful way to put that, but I don't know how] are going to put up with it. With the exception of my EntreCard, I choose not to use any "monitization" features on my sites [and I have some doubts as to how much money is on the way to 'Carders; see my other blog: , where I've written a three-part consideration of the soon-to-be-implemented EntreCard "purchase" policy]. But I do believe that every blogger has a right to operate his or her blog as they see fit. Host sites that will not acknowledge this right may find themselves deserted, or worse, populated entirely by old cranks like me [along with the infamous sites that include "wish lists". There's something about 13-or 14-year-old girls (and boys) posting sites that seem to be little more than "come-ons" for "Sugar Daddies" to make their wishes come true that just creeps my ass out, big time. I'd rather see them go than the commercial blogs]. If, on the other hand, Google [owner/operator of Blogger] is simply looking for a percentage of money made on their blogs from non-Google sources, I can understand that. After all, Google provides a free hosting service. If people are using the free service to make money, the site should receive some form of compensation. But I have yet to find any notification/warning/request for discussion from Google anywhere in the Blogger site. Blogger has what I think is an unfortunate reputation as unfriendly to money-making sites. This will not help. (Perhaps the ultimate answer would involve the creation of a separate tier of money-making blogs. A lot of bad feelings have been raised by the current "blog raids". But I don't believe it's too late to mend the rifts.) Google is, without question, powerful. Time will tell if they can also be reasonable with a group of blog creators who are, for the most part, small businesspeople.
-Mike Riley

PS: Happy belated Easter! [I'm not a complete crank this week. It just looks that way...]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Ministry Of Cartoons

What is it about Japan? Don't get me wrong; I bear no grudge for previous military actions, nor do I carry [I think anyway] any prejudice against Japanese people. But some days, I just don't "get it". Take their TV game shows [if you never have seen some of the more unusual examples, search YouTube. It'll be worth your time, I promise]; better yet, explain this:

[I'm not exactly sure what "overseas safety" means to Japan, but it seems only appropriate to begin this report with an image of the nation's Ambassador for Overseas Safety, Astro Boy. For those unaware, he starred in a cartoon series for much of the 60's, went into a period of decline, and has since been "rehabilitated", to the point that a live-action version of his adventures is in the works. Who knew?]

As much of the World's loopiness does, it got me thinking. Why not use cartoon characters to serve in political offices? They're probably at least as amusing as the humans they'd be replacing. As cartoon stars, they are already known in other countries. Nowadays, only a few cartoons are made each year, so they're available. Therefore, without further ado, This Page's nominees for key ambassador roles [subject to Congressional approval]:

Ambassador for World Financial Issues: The Politics Of Cartoons requires conflict; therefore, one party [oh, let's call them, say, Democrats] nominates:

beloved icon Daffy Duck. He is a coward. But he's a greedy coward. Who better to talk up American financial interests on the International stage? Well, the other party [Republicans, perhaps?] suggests:

Donald Duck [no relation]. The GOP praises his years of work with Conservative business icon Scrooge McDuck, and sees him as an aggressive defender of "the American Way of Life"...

Ambassador for Peace: The Dems bring their power hitter up to the plate:

perhaps an odd choice at first, given his history of "cartoon violence" in the movies. On his behalf, though, he is usually not the first animated character in the scene to throw a punch, he tries to solve most problems with conversation, and, when war needs to be declared, he verifies that the Other Combatant is aware of the circumstances before taking any action.

Bosh, say the Reps, who offer:

Mickey Mouse, star of his own cartoon series for the past 80 years! [although any creature who would happily wear that tuxedo has a major problem, stardom or not] Mickey's reputation of "going along" with what Whoever-In-Charge comes up with may make approval "problematic", despite the benefits he brings to the table [In a related story, rumors that Yogi Bear may end up replacing Smokey T. Bear as Ambassador for Fire Safety could not be confirmed as of publishing time].

-Mike Riley [filling in for Foghorn Leghorn]

Monday, March 17, 2008

Leftovers - Your Best Blog Value!

As you can tell from the title [and our illustration], this is a posting of several small matters. Individually, you'd feel cheated; together, a potpourri of mediocrity! (By the bye, if you do a "Google Images" search of "leftovers", there are 240 thousand images to choose from! It seems more than any person could ever need, but who knows?)
- First of all, an update on Meagan, who was the subject of I wish I could say the news was more spectacular, some kind of rapid recovery, or something like that. No, the victories are small and slow. The best news of all is that she's continuing to recover. Thank you again for your prayers. Please continue to speak to whatever Higher Power you subscribe to...
- Map Widget Update: remember Well, I check on it periodically and, while North America is still home to a majority of our readers [or at least those who click through, picking up EntreCards], per capita, I seem to be drawing a crowd in Oceania! Oz and NZ rock!
- Today [depending, as always, where you stand vis a vie the International Date Line] is St. Patrick's Day. In honor of this fact, the "Video Of The Week" [below, in the right-hand column] is of course der Bingle (Surprise fact: the lyricist of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" [and more than a few other "Irish" songs] was Buffalo, NY native Chauncey Olcott, who produced several "Irish"-themed shows for Broadway in the late-19Th - early-20Th century). Enjoy, but please drink responsibly!
-Mike Riley

Monday, March 10, 2008

Who's Number One?

(Warren Buffett, current holder of the title, "World's Richest Person", pays homage to Marcel Marceau by performing the classic mime piece, "Billionaire Inside A Small Box")

Not that I waste a lot of time on matters like this, but it has been pointed out that, after 12 or 13 years atop the listing of "World's Richest People", Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been replaced by super-investor Warren Buffett. Indeed, Gates has dropped to Third in the rankings, following Buffett and Mexican telecommunications magnate "Carlos Slim" Helu [maybe it's just me, but, if I were to become a potential investor in the Helu empire, I'd be concerned that the man running the show chose to call himself "Carlos Slim". Sounds more like a potential player on the "World Poker Tour", if you know what I mean. For that matter, "Bill" Gates doesn't sound all that secure, either]

According to the good folks at (the source for this posting at;, Gates may well have held onto the coveted top spot, except for an ill-fated effort by Microsoft to purchase mega-Internet portal Yahoo! [proving once again that even the world's richest people have to be careful what they buy].

Let it be noted that those who follow Buffett's investment choices profit, too. Late last year, his investment company, Berkshire Hathaway [the second name selected in honor of Jane Hathaway, plucky secretary to Mr. Drysdale on TV's "The Beverly Hillbillies], was worth USD$150, 000 per share, before dropping to its current level of around USD$111,000 per share [I wish my "portfolio" (and I use that term extremely loosely) would "drop" to that level!].

Of course, no human being could spend that kind of money in a lifetime. Buffett has, in the last year or so, begun transferring his wealth to the charitable foundation operated by Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda. A brief listing of some of his many charities follows:

-Computers In Schools

-Computers In Rest Rooms

-Hiring The Homeless To Go "Nyah-Nyah" At Yahoo! Users

-The Foundation To Assure That Bill Gates Is The Richest Person In The

World (Hey, waitta minute!)

-Mike Riley

P.S.: Check out the "Video Of The Week". [It's not the version I wanted to put there; Cohen's original is at But, for various reasons, I can't embed it. The "Alternate Version" isn't bad, though. But check out the original. Maybe the best thing he's ever done...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

If you're a reader of a certain age [40 and over would be about right, I think], you may remember a series of comic books based on great works of literature. They were sold under the name Classics Illustrated, and, while no new ones have been produced in years, many of the older books are still available as reprints. I knew a few people who used a C I version of a classic to get at least a rudimentary idea of the story line of books they were unwilling or unable to read on their own. It has been said [by no less an authority than] that it's at least theoretically possible to get a passing grade on tests in many classics JUST by reading the comic book version.
I guess it was only inevitable, then, that the current generation would want the Great Books converted into something that will fit in a back pocket. And nowadays, even the immortal summaries created by Cliff's Notes are too much work. Thus, Cliff [or whoever handles such things for him today] has created a combination of his work, and those comic books of our youth: a line of manga [Japanese-style] comic books, re-presenting the plays of Shakespeare [if you live anywhere near Stratford-Upon-Avon in England, you've no doubt heard the rumbling, grinding sound. It's someone spinning in his grave. Wanna guess who?]!
If you don't believe me [and, Heavens, why wouldn't you?], visit:
(For those too lazy to do even that, we present the Cliff's Notes version of the Cliff's Notes web ad) These new manga comics, according to the previews, feature
"[p]assion and poison. Deception and revenge. Betrayal and assassination. Ambition and murder. Politics and greed. Plots and counterplots. Supernatural visitations and evil manipulation. Packed with drama, excitement, and emotion, Shakespeare's tragedies are a natural in the fast-paced manga format." [I guess all those years we've spent putting them on stages and acting them out has been just a waste of time...] In good news for today's functionally-illiterate students, "[t]ext is greatly abridged, so reading these isn't tedious torture." [Wait a minute, methinks Shakespeare's Spinning Remains have picked up speed!] Maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy, but trying to appreciate Shakespeare without the words seems like trying to appreciate water without the hydrogen.
In an interesting move, "these books read front to back and right to left, the way you're used to reading." [The front to back part works for me, but, the last time I checked (probably more recently than the intended audience for these travesties), we read left to right.]
Look, I'm interested in any artist's interpretation of a great story. And, let's face it, like many playwrights past and present, the one-time glove-maker wrote more than was necessary. But taking Romeo And Juliet and Hamlet, and turning them into fodder for Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim", is just wrong, wrong, wrong! Did I say it was wrong? [a big shout-out for that line to TV Judge David Young]
The sad part is, Shakespeare himself probably would have loved it...
-Mike Riley

Monday, March 3, 2008

Suri, Poor Suri

Writing a blog, like having the powers of Spider-Man, brings with it great responsibility. Not that I'm allowed to swing by web across the skies over Buffalo, the Manhattan of Upstate New York (besides, there are really big gaps between the buildings here; Urban Renewal 2.0 hasn't gotten here yet. And have I mentioned that I get airsick? Dramamine won't work here, I suspect), but there is an obligation, as the Author Of Record here, to be as accurate and honest as an habitual liar like myself can be.
In that spirit, I am sitting here with the current issue of Star, a notorious gossip magazine. The cover this time around is focused on Suri Cruise, specifically "Suri's Strange World"! A title like this naturally brings forth a question or two:
- Does Suri live on a planet besides the Earth? (Well, no. She resides with her parents on Terra Firma, just as you and I do [unless, of course, you're using an Alien-Human converter to enjoy this entry. If you are, stay with me on this one. It gets interesting...]
-Why is Suri's world strange? (Well, to begin with, her parents follow a set of beliefs its practitioners call "reasonable", but many other people call plain loony. If you really want to pursue this line of reasoning, Google "Scientology" and judge for yourself.)
The article goes on to give some examples of why Suri's world is so "strange". She, as are her older step-siblings, is being raised in the beliefs of Scientology. And whose parents, comfortable in their belief-system, didn't raise their children in that belief system? [Granted, the Cruises have no employees dealing with Suri who aren't Scientologists, but such actions are not unheard-of from those of other belief systems]
According to the "report", Suri is not allowed to watch TV! I could argue for some television on the basis that some historic events are worth watching. But, given the state of current TV [and who better than Hollywood "insiders" to know what's going on?], I can't really blame Tom and Katie on that one.
Further, Suri is not allowed to eat Happy Meals! [Friends, as an obese over-consumer of fast foods, I don't see that one as a problem. I have no children, but I certainly have friends who do. Many of them swore up and down that their children would eat no processed sugar or flour, until they were lost to their first view of that Lovable Hamburger Clown who shall otherwise remain nameless. Granted, Tom does not allow Suri to watch TV, but the minions of the LHC are Legion, and their powers of persuasion Undeniable...] If the 21-month-old ever has a desire for an iPod, her father will select the music. Reading this coolly, as I hope you consume every word on this page, does that sound so bad? People, he's being responsible!
This has put me a difficult position. It must be a Leap Year. I'm giving Tom and Katie Cruise "props" for being reasonably good [if more than a little over-cautious] parents.
Maybe they took Kevin Federline's correspondence course?
-Mike Riley