Archive for April 2009

Some Questions Best Left Unanswered

April 15, 2009

cant-hear

What unspeakable things did Jabba the Hutt make Princess Leia do, when she was kept on a chain, as his slave?

Which Yoko Ono songs weren’t considered quite good enough to get on the Double Fantasy Album?

What’s in hot dogs?

What things did George Bush really screw up, so baldy, that we’ll never hear about?

What’s your parents’ sex life like?  (Ewwww…!)

…what about your grandparents?    (Double Ewwww…!)

What else can be deep-fried, besides cheeseburgers and Mars Bars?

How many voters can’t even locate their own state on a map?

What age was Céline Dion, when her manager, René Angeli, started to have the hots for her?

Just how painful is hemorrhoid surgery?

Just how much more of an S.O.B. can Eric Cartman become?

How far would Betty be willing to go, in order to get Archie to like her more than Veronica?

Forget the fluorescent blue water…what do soiled napkins really look like?

What will upset today’s kids, 25 years from now, when their kids want to shock them?

What happens if you drink an entire quart of cream?

How did Wilma ever manage to deliver Pebbles? (My God…have you seen the SIZE of that kids’ head?)

Exactly what did the Perfessor from Gilligan’s Island get his PhD in?

What sick sonnovabitch came up with the recipe for raisins and glazed lima beans?

What was that crunchy, unidentified tidbit at the $7.99 Chinese buffet?

If Oprah can’t even pump her own gas, what else doesn’t she know?

What TV shows did Fox TV reject which never saw air-time?  (As opposed to the high-quality programming they broadcast right now.)

What kind of idiot would pay $50 for bottled water?

How do all the Smurfs deal with the fact that there’s only one Smurfette?

How did the pioneers cope 200 years ago, in log cabins with no running water or toilet paper?    Especially when they got the stomach flu?

How close have we ever come to another 9-11 without realizing it?

What the hell did the dog just eat, that he’s trying to hide from us?

Does Bob Dylan deliberately sing that way just to mess with us, or is he really, honestly trying?

How much time do we waste each day on Twitter?

Not Basil!

April 14, 2009

I’ve been working on my kids’ book, improving the sketches, and starting to develop some characters.  Here are a few of my latest snippets about Basil.

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When most dogs bark, they go “Yap! Yap!”, “Woof! Woof!” or “Bow! Wow!”

some-dogs-bark

Not Basil!   When he barks, he goes “Nee! Nee!”

And when he does,  it makes Mr. McGarnaggle’s car alarm go off next door, and he screams at everybody.

basil-nee-nee-beep

Most dogs enjoy going for car rides.

some-dogs-like-to-go-for-a-ride

Not Basil.  He gets so excited, he’ll jump around the car so much, and smash the windshield.

basil-dog-park

And when he does, it costs Dad a lot of money to fix it.

Of course, Basil is okay.  But that’s the fourth windshield he’s broken.

basil-broken-windshield

Dad says Basil is a sometimes few bricks short of a full load.  I don’t know what that means.  Maybe that Basil isn’t always smart.

Perfessor Friar Applies the Brakes

April 13, 2009

Every once in a while,  I’ve heard people ask the following question, something along the lines of:

“Why don’t’ they stick a windmill on top of our cars?  Then when we drive at 60 mph, it would cause the blades to spin, which we could hook up to a generator.   This could make electricity, which we could store in a battery, to power the car.”

Ummm….that would be called a Perpetual Motion Machine, and those only exist in Lah-Lah Land.

Remember as kid, how difficult it was to pedal your bike when it was hooked up to one of those cheezy night-light generators?    Suddenly, it’s a lot more work.

Same thing would apply to your car.  Spinning a windmill takes work.  It would slow you down, acting as a big brake.   You’d end up burning far more energy in gasoline than whatever you’d gain back from any electricity you’d made.

But what if you had a special high-efficiency windmill blades?   What if you had almost perfectly frictionless windmill bearings?

Nope.   Still wouldn’t work.

Even under the most ideal conditions, you wouldn’t even break even.    You’d ALWAYS burn more gasoline with a windmill-generator, than without.

Nature says there’s no such thing as a Free Lunch.

Thank the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics for that.

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Let’s continue the discussion on cars and braking.

What if, instead of a windmill on your roof,  your wheels were connected to an electric generator, that only turned on when you applied the brakes?

This is a whole different story.

When you braked,  the kinetic energy from your car’s mass and speed would now be converted to making the generators spin and make electricity.    This would slow down your car (just like the windmill on your roof would), and THEN you could store this energy in a battery for later use.

Don’t worry, though.   This doesn’t violate any Laws of Thermodynamics.    Remember, there’s no such thing as a Free Lunch.

When you’re cruising on the highway, you’re burning the same amount of gas, regardless.   But it’s HOW the braking is applied, that makes the difference.

With conventional braking,  ALL your kinetic energy is converted into friction on the brake pads and is lost as heat.    All that speed you had, all that gas you burned to get there…Pffft!    Gone! …Never to be re-used again.   And now the atmosphere is slightly warmer.  (Al Gore is crying, as we speak.)

But with electrical-generator braking, the one big difference is that you’d at least recover SOME of your kinetic energy back as electrical energy.   You wouldn’t be creating any more energy, you’d just be wasting LESS.

Which is a huge improvement from before.

This is what’s known as  regenerative braking.

Hybrid cars use this technology.

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The Lonely Blogger

April 8, 2009

lonely

Are there ANY other bloggers out there who  ….

…don’t think Twitter is more important than the Second Coming?

…fail to see the difference between a “Link Post” and a “Blog Carnival”?

…think a “meme” nothing but a glorified  chain letter?

…just for today, don’t feel like Saving the Planet?

…aren’t Life Coaches?

…really couldn’t give a flying fox fart when another blogger announces they might skip a couple of posts?

…don’t necessarily think that absolutely EVERYTHING George Bush ever did was 100% wrong?

…haven’t self-actualized yet? (Or are instructing everyone else on how to?)

…are actually happier with MORE money, than less?

…dislike Crunchy Granola?

…want to know what someone’s actual tax return looks like, when they claim they’ve earned “six figures” by blogging?

…think we don’t fully understand Global Warming yet, and that we should continue to examine both side of the argument?

…don’t understand the appeal of quitting a well-paid 9-to-5 cubicle job, in exchange to being being your own boss, working 70-hour weeks and starving?

…believe that self-improvement and inner peace can’t readily obtained by simply reading someone else’s “how-to” list?

…think Chat Rooms basically accomplished the same thing that Twitter does, only they did it 10 years ago?

…drives a car, eats red meat, and uses plastic grocery bags?

…thinks of “Social Media” as just fancy words for vegetating in front of a computer screen, and chatting to strangers we’ll never meet?

…doubt whether our lives can be changed by merely reading a few selectedwords from some famous person?

…don’t feel like paying $150 for an E-book that will be obsolete in 6 months.   Especially if you can get a similar hard-copy at a regular bookstore, for a fraction of the price.

…wonders that if we all want to earn a living sitting at our computers typing to each other, who will actually be out there farming the fields, maintaining the infrastructure and running the country?

…don’t want to be lectured to, inspired, or enlightened, but just want to be entertained?

How to be a Nouveau-Riche Yuppie

April 7, 2009

yuppieIf you’re unhappy and sense a spiritual void in your life, buy another expensive toy. That always helps.

Hire someone to do a major house renovation that you don’t even need.   Then proudly show it off to your friends, as if you had actually accomplished this work yourself.

Fill your kids’ every waking hour with pre-scheduled activities like soccer, volleyball, Tai-chi, karate, origami, and God knows what else.   You can have your Quality Time together while you’re rushing them around town in your mini-van to meet all their appointments.

Have a Kitchen Island.

Join Direct Buy, so you can pay $800 for that rug that normally costs $2400.

Book all your summer weekends months in advance, so that nobody can ever drop by on a Saturday for a spontaneous visit.

Start drinking wine.   If you must consume beer, at least make it the imported kind.

Stainless steel everything, in your kitchen.

Since you don’t have time to parent and monitor TV use, only allow your kids to watch lame-as PC cartoons like Dora the Explorer or Caillou.

Own a huge house, big-screen TV, three lap-tops, two cars, eat out five times a week, and only take vacations that involve getting on a plane.  Then tell everyone how it’s impossible to live on one income, and that’s why you both have to work.

Put cranberries in your salad.

If anyone asks you how things are going, tell them “Busy!” and be proud of it.

Give up motorized sports for the human-powered kind (i.e. sea-kayaking versus motor-boating, cycling versus driving your ATV).

Get rid of all your flannel outdoor clothing, and replace it with Goretex.

Start eating Thai and Indian food.

Shun low-brow humor like South Park, Family Guy or Trailer Park Boys. (It’s so awful, they just swear too much!)

Buy a $450,000 home in a new sub-division, where the houses are packed so tight you can’t even fit a lawnmower between them.

Own no sunglasses that cost less than $150.   Wear them on top of your head indoors.

Have only two kids, max.   Anything more, and you lose your Yuppie status.

Develop a taste for Brie.

Buy a $2000 front-loading washer to reduce water consumption.  Preach to everyone how you’re saving the planet, then fly 12,000 miles to an Eco-Tour vacation, for your own amusement.

Neglect your life-long friends who can’t keep up with your nouveau-riche lifestyle.   Better to focus on collecting as many shallow acquaintances as you can, who are closer to your socio-economic class.

“If you’re going to be making the big bucks, you’re going to have to put in the long hours”. Remember these words, and live by them.  This will guarantee your success and happiness.

Probably.

Perfessor Friar’s Random Bits of Science Trivia

April 5, 2009

In 2005, we landed a probe on the surface of Titan, which is one of Saturn’s Moons.

Just think of what this involves, for a moment.

Saturn is almost a billion miles away. When you look at it in the sky, it’s an orange dot of light.

And somewhere around that dot of light, is a SMALLER dot of light orbiting around it, that we can’t even see with the naked eye.

Now, imagine firing a gun at 10 times the speed of a bullet, almost 7 years in advance, to try to hit that moving dot around the dot.   Because that’s basically what they did when they launched the Huygens space probe.

Only imagine firing the gun from the surface of a rotating sphere (Earth), which itself moves around the sun. So does Saturn, at a different speed. And Titan moves around Saturn.

Yet NASA managed to compute the right trajectories, and apply the right braking with retro-rockets, so that the probe not only achieved a soft landing on Titan, but managed to send back pictures.

When our grandparents were born, computers didn’t’ even exist, and rockets couldn’t even travel more than a few miles, let alone go into space.

That’s pretty amazing, when you think about it.

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The coldest temperature in the deepest nether-regions of intergalactic space is about 3 degrees Kelvin (-270C).

That’s three degrees above absolute zero (which is as cold as anything can ever get).

But why 3 deg K? Why doesn’t it get colder than that?

Because the 3 degrees is the fossil remnant of the Big Bang:   the huge explosion that was believed to have created the Universe at the Beginning of Time.

The fireball from the Big Bang was intensely hot at first.  But over billions of years, the Universe expanded, and everything cooled off, to the point of where we are today.

But there’s still that remaining 3K of heat left over, that’s present throughout the entire fabric of the Universe.  This is what’s know as “background radiation“.

Though in the laboratory, we’ve managed to get temperatures colder than this, approaching Absolute Zero to within 0.0000000001 of a degree.

So basically, here on earth, we puny humans, with our tiny, insignificant experiments, have created what is the coldest known temperature in the entire Universe.

Not bad, eh? …for hairless apes who only learned to write 6000 years ago!

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By the way, it’s impossible to reach Absolute Zero, exactly.  You can come close to it, but you’ll never quite get there.

It’s not like we eventually can, if we develop technology and design a better way to freeze things.

Nope.  It’s just impossible.

The Laws of Thermodynamics imply that at Absolute Zero, all atoms stop vibrating.   There is zero motion, all particles are in fixed positions.

This violates the Heisenberg Uncertainty Princicple.  The laws of Quantum Mechanics do not allow us to simultaneously know where a particle is and how fast it’s moving (or not moving).

If it sounds complicated, it IS.  I wont’ bore you with all the details.

But just remember, that Absolute Zero is impossible.

Because that’s just the way the Laws of the Universe work.

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It’s fasciniating the way things are quantized at the sub-atomic level, where events take place in discrete steps.

Take electrons orbiting around an atomic nucleus, for example.

Say an electron absorbs some energy. This might kick it up to the next higher orbit around the atom. If this electron loses energy, it would drop back down to the lower orbit from where it came.

But the thing is… the electron can only jump from one orbit to the other. It’s Either-Or. There is no going in-between the orbits.

That would be like the equivalent of someone trying to push you up hill in a wagon.

Imagine if the wagon could only be in two places: at the top, or at the bottom. There would be no such thing as half-way up the hill, or 7/8th up the hill, etc…

Fortunately, things dont’ work this way in our everyday life.

On the human scale, any quantum effects are so incredibly tiny that everything appears to take place smoothly and continuously.

Early Sketches

April 3, 2009

I’ve always liked drawing cartoons, ever since I can remember.  I don’t know exactly when I started, but I came across this musty old picture when I was going through some papers today.

This is dated November 1970.   It had to do with the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.  I was a big fan of the show at the time. (I still am).

I was in Grade 1, and I vaguely remember drawing this.  But I guess this picture was significant enough that my Mom saved it.   And my Dad (I think) wrote on the back, transcribing my enthusiastic description of each picture.

So here’s my old artwork, as described by myself at age six.

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1.  Coyote in special designed boat-car with guns.   (“HMP”  means miles per hour).

roadrunner_1

2. Coyote shooting special bullets at the Road Runner.  Breaks the speed sign, purple paint falls off, misses Road Runner. Bullets ricochet off the sign and aim back at the boat.  Road Runner doesn’t sink because he runs too fast.

roadrunner_2

3.  Broken sign.  Coyote knows the boat is doomed, therefore waves bye-bye.  Meanwhile the Coyote was televised.

roadrunner_3

4.  Road Runner standing on-shore and dries himself with towel.   Coyote tries to swim to shore.  Notice his anger – teeth are showing.   Shark is attacking coyote, but doesn’t get him.

roadrunner_4

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Don’t ask me WHY I drew this.  At the time, I’m sure it made perfect logical sense to me.

But almost four decades later, I’m still drawing, and I still love the Coyote and the Road-Runner.

God Bless you, Chuck Jones.


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