Monday, March 2, 2015

Quote of the day

From Wirecutter, reminiscing about a childhood visit to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany.

The high point of that particular tour came when we were in one of the sitting rooms and the tour guide pointed out a small silver and crystal table and mentioned that it was “priceless”. ****ing priceless. It could never be replaced. I had never ****ed up anything over a hundred bucks before, much something less priceless, and a national treasure no less. As I was mulling this over in my head, Pops looked down at me and said “Don’t even think about it, Boy. These are Germans and they were gassing people for less just 20 years ago.”

There's more at the link.


Baby elephants are cute!

I've helped to feed baby elephants in the Kruger National Park when I was very much younger.  The youngsters had typically been rescued after their mothers had been killed by poachers, or collided with trucks on roads through the bush.  They were brought to Skukuza, administrative headquarters of the park, and hand-reared whenever possible.

It was a lot of fun (and sometimes rather painful) feeding them.  The usual container was a 2-liter Coke bottle, fitted with an outsize rubber nipple and filled with a heady mixture (varying according to the animal's age) of milk, ProNutro, mashed banana and a few other goodies the vet reckoned were good for itty-bitty elephants. When they saw you coming bearing this cornucopia of pachyderm goodness, they'd start trumpeting (very shrilly and childishly) and swaying furiously with excitement. They'd latch on and drink like mad (the older ones using their trunks to hold the bottle up so that everything ran down into the nipple).  When they'd finished, they'd hopefully prod you to see if you had another bottle. When you proved empty-handed, their next instinct was to play. More than once I've turned around to hand the empty bottle to an assistant, only to be flattened by a playful love-tap from a six-week-old, three-hundred-pound infant elephant.  As I picked myself up painfully from the ground it would be dancing around, daring me to turn around again so it could have another go!

With that in mind, here's a fun video from the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand.  Watch it in full-screen mode for the best results.

I think I recognize the mischievous gleam in that young brat's eye . . .  Just don't take it home with you.  Your furniture and fittings would never survive!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Filipino puns

An online acquaintance and author, who writes under the pen name 'Shadowdancer' on various blogs and forums, has put up a fun discussion about puns about food and restaurants in the Philippines.  Not being averse to the occasional pun here and there, I found it very entertaining.  Seeing how puns work in foreign languages is always interesting.  Here's an excerpt.

Some of these are easy to understand if you’ve been exposed to the accent of English-speaking Filipinos, while some will need translating, so bear with me when I have to explain the jokes.

Bun of Brothers - a burger place. Do they break bread with strangers too, I wonder?

Nacho Fast  – a snack stall shop pulling fast ones! How cheesy, natcherally.

OBEERTIME  – what you need, clearly, after too much overtime.

PorkBarrel Grill and Restaurant  – do we have senators and governors visiting here frequently?

You Food – (burp)cast yourself  – … From the Net and back again…

Adobo Putoshop  – groooooooooooooooan Adobo, which is a Filipino stew, and puto – steamed rice cakes

Hijo de Pita – makes sense if you know a little Spanish.

There's more at the link.  You'll find Shadowdancer's books listed here.


Doofus Of The Day #818

Today's award goes to an inebriated Indian gentleman (?).

Saying an endearing 'hello brother' to an elephant nearly cost Mandiram, 40, his life. The pachyderm did not take kindly to his greeting and flung the man a few yards away. The man escaped with minor injuries to his leg.

. . .

Eye witnesses say that the man suddenly appeared in front of the elephant in an inebriated state and saluted it. He had then shouted to passersby that lord Ganesha had come to see them. The mahout told him to stop harassing the animal, but Mandiram, perhaps emboldened by the liquor he had consumed, clung to the elephant's trunk and said, `Hello brother, how are you?'

The animal, apparently agitated, lifted him with its trunk and flung him at an autorickshaw standing nearby where he fell to the ground. The animal then ran after him and attempted to trample him and prevent him from getting up. The mahout swung into action and brought the animal under control.

There's more at the link.

Definitely some very effective non-verbal communication there.  It should have been verbal, though.  I mean, after all, a trunk call was involved . . .


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mike Williamson and his fans have some fun

Novelist Michael Z. Williamson and his fans have put together a great list of responses to an emergency.  Some of them are side-splitting.  A few examples:

A man is drowning 50 feet from shore.

  • A Green laments that the man will die and deserves it since he's polluting the water.  Then the Green will demand the lake be off limits so further drownings don't hurt aquatic animals.
  • The EPA will agree with the Greens and fine the man's family, then declare the lake a wetland and refuse to allow removal of anything, including his remains.
  • A homeopath will grab a tube of the water, dilute it 1:10,000 and sell it as a cure for drowning.
  • Greenpeace will insist the man has "Water privilege" and he should be grateful to live in a nation where it's possible to drown.
  • Eventually some decent person who will strip off, dive in and rescue the guy. Once ashore, they'll find their wallet, watch, and cellphone stolen, and get arrested for indecent exposure.  Then the state will sue them for not being licensed for water rescue.
  • His Congressman will introduce "The Safe Parks and Ponds Act" which will cost $5 billion, result in three agencies writing five different safety standards that are resolved after 7 lawsuits reach the Federal courts, but the rider ban on home-farming of turnips will remain.
  • North Korea issues a statement condemning the drowning as a Capitalist propaganda ploy and claims that every year, a thousand thousand North Koreans drown far more skillfully.

There are many more at the link.  Enjoy!


Happy dance!

My latest novel, 'Stand Against The Storm', continues to climb the charts at  It's now at #2 in the 'Hot New Releases in Space Opera Science Fiction' list.

It's also at #4 in the same list for military science fiction, and at #7 in science fiction overall.  Those are the highest rankings I've ever had in 'Hot New Releases'.

Thank you all very much for your support.  Color me happy!


Strange that one so young sounds so evil

I had to smile at this video of a Russian baby who's learned to deliver a really evil laugh.

I can't imagine what it's going to sound like as he grows up!


Friday, February 27, 2015

A Japanese carrier pilot in World War II

The good people at Vintage Wings of Canada have published an excerpt from an e-book by Jūzõ Mori, a Japanese torpedo bomber pilot who fought in China and the Pacific before and during World War II.  Its English translation is titled 'The Miraculous Torpedo Squadron'.

The Vintage Wings article is an excerpt describing how he bombed Midway Island during the eponymous battle.  Here's part of it.

On we went, our engines purring contentedly. After about fifty minutes the island of Midway began to take shape on the horizon ahead of us. The Zeros dropped their external fuel tanks to ready themselves for action. Suddenly, one of the dive-bombers in front of me burst into flames and fell from formation. An enemy fighter had nailed him. Shit! They were up there waiting for us! Six of the Zeros behind us immediately shot to the front of the formation. In another ten minutes we would be over the island. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a vicious dogfight underway, but we kept right on going.

Looking over my shoulder I could see that Hosoda had a death-grip on his 7.7mm machine gun, ready to ward off enemy fighters.

“Here comes a Grumman!” he yelled. I looked back to see flame spitting from the fighter’s six guns. It looked like the leading edge of his wing was on fire. The Grumman seemed like a very small machine to be crossing swords with our imposing and stately attack planes. We tightened up our formation so as to be able to better concentrate our fire. Then all we could do was wait for the Zeros to come to our rescue. For some reason, none of them did. Hell, we still had to carry out our attack. If we got shot down now it would all be for nothing.

Suddenly a Grumman appeared in front of our formation. Crap, now we’re done for, was all I could think. They knew we didn’t have any forward-firing guns, so they made frontal attacks. When they couldn’t knock us down from the front they came at us from below. Before I knew it there was another one shooting at me from the left. Damn, I hated their guts but I had to give them credit, they came to fight. Now we’re finished, was all I could think.

That thought had no sooner formed than a Zero flashed over the top of us like a bullet. Yaré! Go get ’em!

Nakajima B5N 'Kate' torpedo bomber, the type flown by Jūzõ Mori

We now peeled off in our dive. There was a lot of anti-aircraft fire coming up at us but the shells were all exploding away from us. You’re never going to hit us with that lousy shooting, I thought.

At the center of the island was a single runway running east and west. To its right, on the island’s north side, were three hangars; to the left was a lot of greenery that looked like a pine forest. That’s where the AA emplacements seemed to be, as I could see the flash of gunfire between the trees.

Our six planes in the third section dove down from the east side of the island from an altitude of 12,000’. The dive bombers were dropping their 500-pounders on the hangars, causing huge fires to erupt.

Ichiro Tada, the rear gunner in the flight leader’s plane, raised his right hand straight up in the air. We were on our bomb run. It seemed to be taking forever but we only had about ten seconds to go before release.


On the signal from the lead plane we all released our bombs at once. Freed of the heavy load the engine suddenly began to run more easily. Looking down to see how we did I could see the first four bombs detonate in quick succession right on the runway. Number five went into the pine forest next to the runway, as did six and seven. Nuts, I thought, they missed. Just then a huge explosion erupted from the forest and all the AA fire stopped. Luck of the draw — sometimes you screw up and it works out in your favor.

There's more at the link.

The book looks interesting enough that I've bought my own copy.  It promises to provide a new perspective on Japanese carrier operations during the Second World War.


Ye Gods and little fishes . . . !!!

The French edition of The Local reports:

Truck driver Noël Jamet, 48, is better known in farming circles as "Nono". But he's better known still for dressing up in pink, strapping on pig ears and a pig-nose, and then using a microphone to do pig noises to the best of his ability.

And judging by his six consecutive titles, he's an expert.

This year, he walked onto the stage at the Agricultural Fair (Salon de l’Agriculture) at the Porte de Versailles in Paris and told the crowd: "I'll give you a good show - here comes the birth of a pig, breastfeeding, and then its death".

There's more at the link.  For your artistic and cultural edification, here's the 'performance'.

Verily, the mind doth boggle . . .


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Of students, their grades, and their just deserts

Courtesy of a link provided by CenTexTim, we find an article titled 'Dear Student: No, I Won’t Change the Grade You Deserve'.  It begins like this.

... plenty of professors have told me that when many of their students get to college, they lug into the classroom a sense of academic entitlement—a belief that their papers and exams should be graded on how hard they’ve worked, not how well they’ve mastered the material. When they don’t receive the grades they think they deserve, many take the matter up with the graders.

When that happens, one thing becomes clear: Their feelings about the quality of their work often don’t match the reality of their performance. Instead of seeing their grades as a reflection of how well they interpreted or executed their assignments, some students will come to a different conclusion: The assignment was too difficult. Or my professor doesn’t get me.

The author goes on to quote letters written to students by a number of professors, explaining (in astonishingly polite ways) why they aren't going to revise their grades.  Here's just one example out of many.

Dear Student Who Must Be Out Of Their Mind:

I hope all is well with you. Are you, by any chance, related to the student who failed my class and asked that I give them an A because they “liked the class so much?” I’m just asking because this question you’ve posed is just as silly as that one.

Pursuant to the detailed rubric provided for the assignment that we reviewed in class, the work you did on this paper was questionable. What you turned in was riddled with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and formatting inconsistencies. Your paper didn’t respond to the prompts for the assignment at all and didn’t even reference the provided course content, let alone go beyond it in any meaningful way. The grade you received is reflective of the fact that what I got was a mash-up of poorly constructed sentences and last minute fooleywang.

And for real, I need you to focus less on the grade and more on the learning. Here’s the thing: had you focused on learning and on effectively completing the assignment, you would have gotten an A. Instead, you’re out here so focused on the grade that your submitted work was well below my expectations and your abilities.

Get your shit together. Please and thank you.


Dr. “I know you didn’t just come to me with this foolishness” Amin

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.  Entertaining, but simultaneously infuriating!

I'm afraid I'm completely out of touch with this sort of attitude.  I can't even begin to understand it.  I completed four university qualifications;  three degrees and a post-graduate certificate.  Every one was paid for out of my own pocket;  every one was completed through distance education and part-time study (because I couldn't afford to study full-time);  and every one required that I submit a certain number of assignments and projects for every course and module.  If my grades weren't up to scratch, I didn't even get to sit the examination, much less pass that subject!

Where the hell do students come from today with this "I'm entitled!" bull?  If I'd tried any of that nonsense, I wouldn't have had to worry about my professors.  My own father would have taken the time, trouble and expense to travel to wherever I was, just so he could save them the trouble of kicking my backside back into line!  Seems to me someone should motivate a lot more fathers to do likewise . . .


Another identity crisis?

Following the canine chicken, here's a husky/baby cross (well, that's what it sounds like!).

All together, now:  Awwwww!